Modern Canadian Immigration Policy To 1996 Essay

Modern Canadian Immigration Policy To 1996 Essay, Research Paper

“Immigration is necessary for Canada’s growth. At the same time, we must be sensitive to the need to balance our demographic and economic needs with our capacity to settle and absorb immigrants.”(1) Immigration has played a major part historically in the growth of Canada s population. Between 1901 and 1911 alone, Canada received over 1.5 million immigrants, representing 28 percent of Canada s total population at the time.(2) Recently, however, Canada s immigration policies and practices have come under scrutiny and criticism, as increasingly larger numbers of people begin to question whether our current progressive immigration policy is beneficial in the long run for Canada and Canadians. Essentially, Canada has begun to question itself whether its current restrictions on immigration are sufficient. Although Canada s current immigration policy does include many processes for screening out so-called “unwanted” immigrants, it should be argued that it is as of yet still not providing us with a reasonable system for ensuring that the influx of immigrants to Canada will not adversely affect the economic and social stability of the country. Although the current system does provide a good foundation for future immigration policies, and does incorporate many good ideas, it still needs to further strengthen many of its restrictions on immigration into the country. Immigration should be limited to those who possess the human capital necessary to adjust quickly and independently to the needs of Canadian society and the job market.

Throughout its history Canada has maintained numerous immigration policies, many not surviving the life span of the government under which they were created. Yet these policies, although highly restrictive, were not in the best interest of the country, many established to protect the individual interests of the current government, or in an effort to maintain the government of the time s essentially racist conception of Canada. In fact, it wasn t until 1962 that Canada s essentially all-white immigration policy was abolished.(3) In 1976 Canada adopted a points-based system, where potential immigrants were assigned various points based on such things as age, education, and net worth. This system was designed to prevent immigrants from being barred entry into the country based on race, religion, or creed. Essentially, those immigrants with sufficiently large personal savings, or with jobs skills listed under the government s General Occupations List, would be awarded more points, thus increasing there chance of being granted admittance into the country.(4) (This system does not apply to some sponsored immigrants, as discussed later.) Recently, the government has adopted new policies to bring this system up to date. Under current proposals, new immigrants would have to demonstrate fluency in one of the official languages. As well, points would no longer be given out based on a potential immigrant s occupation, but their occupation must still appear on the new National Occupational Classification in order for them to qualify for entry. The new system essentially places more responsibility on visa officers abroad to assess an applicant’s eligibility.(5) One of the more important concerns with these new policies, however is whether the officers will receive sufficient training in assessing these factors, and whether the requirement for interviews will increase. The government would have to ensure that such training was given. Other concerns with immigrants coming to Canada in the past involved the issue of health and security. It has almost always been Canada s policy not to allow involents, or those not capable of caring for themselves physically or financially, to enter the country as immigrants. Canada also requires potential immigrants to obtain documentation from their local law enforcement agencies to prove that they are without a criminal record. Yet the concern expressed in the past, and still today, is that both medical and security certificates can be obtained quite easily in many countries, often through the mail. Bribery has often been used in the past in many less scrupulous countries to obtain documentation, and many other countries simply do not have the law enforcement capabilities or records to verify a persons criminal records. Canada needs to adopt a much harsher policy in this respect. Immigrants who are discovered to have obtained documentation in such a manner should be immediately deported. The Constitution may have to be amended to ensure that Parliament can ultimately control entry into Canada, and, in the interim, the “notwithstanding” provision of the Charter could be used to ensure that this is the case.(6)

Of all the immigrants coming to Canada, most fall under the skilled worker category. These are immigrants who posses work skills which are deemed wanted by the Canadian government s National Occupational Classification. Such skills often include technical skills, in the fields of science and medicine, but also quite frequently labour skills, to fill labour gaps that the current Canadian population either cannot or is unwilling to fill. It has always been the current Liberal government s policy to limit immigration to Canada to 1% of the current population(7), but does this hold in practice? In 1997, the Canadian government plans to accept 82-90 thousand skilled worker immigrants(8), a number which supports the 1% theory. But in 1996, the Canadian government planned to accept a maximum of 73,000 skilled worker immigrants, but has currently accepted nearly 86,000, a difference of 13 000.(9) In 1995 the plan was for 61 000, but the government ended up letting in 81 034 skilled worker immigrants.(10) The Canadian government needs to adopt a system of quotas which it is both willing to support and enforce, since the Liberal s do not appear to be enforcing their one-percent philosophy. The Reform Party of Canada has suggested in their Blue Sheet that immigration levels should be established at a maximum of 150 000 (for all immigrant groups. A figure slightly less then the Liberal 1%) per year in any year where the unemployment rate exceeds 10%, with increases in immigration as the unemployment rate falls below 10%. Such a system would be more reasonable than the Liberal s one percent, since it would ensure that in times of high unemployment, that the potential exists for Canadians to get any new jobs, as opposed to them possibly being filled by cheaper immigrant labour. It also takes into account the fact that Canada may not need so many skilled worker immigrants, since it already has a sufficiently large skilled workforce already in place. To allow so many immigrants in without a scheme similar to that of the Reform Party s may in fact be causing the increase in unemployment. Yet, like the Liberal philosophy, this policy would require a system to prevent the quota from being exceeded. A simple policy would simply stop accepting immigration applications once the quota has been reached. Any immigrants turned down after this point could always reapply in the following year.

Business immigrants are one of the other group classifications under Canada s current immigration policy. Business immigrants are divided into three groups, the “Self-employed”, the “Entrepreneur”, and the “Investor”. The “Self-employed” immigrant is defined as “an immigrant who intends and has the ability to establish or purchase a business in Canada that will create employment opportunity for that person, and will make a significant contribution to the economy, or the cultural or artistic life of Canada.”(11)

The “Entrepreneur” is required to “establish, purchase or make a substantial investment in a business in Canada that will make a significant contribution to the economy.” The business must create or continue at least one job in Canada for a Canadian citizen or permanent resident other than the entrepreneur and dependants. The applicant must also intend and have the ability to provide active and ongoing participation in the management of the business. (12)

The “Investor” immigrant must “have accumulated a personal net worth of $500,000 or more” and must subscribe “in any one of three investment levels”, which currently range from a minimum of $250,000 to $500,000, for a period of 5 years.(13) The number of business immigrants coming to Canada has never been high, and has always fallen within the ranges planned by the federal government.(14) In fact, business immigrants have almost always benefited Canada and the economy in some way. Investor immigrants arriving in British Columbia between 1986 and 1992 contributed almost $276 million to the local economy, and created an estimated four jobs per investor. Because Canadian regulations require business immigrants to hire Canadian employees only up until and including their fifth employee acquisition, most of these new jobs were guaranteed to include Canadian workers.(15) Between 1987 and 1990, the 11,000 entrepreneur immigrants which arrived in Canada brought an estimated $14.3 billion with them

and created an estimated 48,000 jobs.(16) These figures would suggest that Canada should in fact encourage increased business immigration, provided these immigrants continue to meet the definitions above, and provided they continue to create jobs. Yet the policy should also ensure that business immigrants meet strict economic conditions. On such idea would be to ensure that all business immigrants can prove a net worth of at least $250,000. As well, the policy should be designed to prevent business immigrants from being admitted who could potentially establish a business in conflict with the local economy. It would do Canada no good to allow an immigrant to start a business which could potentially put other, established businesses out of business, increasing the unemployment rate. Unfortunately, the current immigration policy includes very little to prevent this from happening, a policy which should be changed if it is to keep the best interest of Canadians in mind.

One of the other larger groups admitted into Canada are sponsored immigrants. Sponsored immigrants are essentially those who have family already in Canada and can get those family member s to sponsor their immigration application. The Liberal government encourages family relations and development, as it sees family and family life as a necessary facet of an immigrant integrating into Canadian society.(17) With this goal in mind, the current government encourages immigrants to sponsor their family members, provided those members meet the same health and security restrictions applied to all other immigrants. Statistically, the number of sponsored immigrants arriving in Canada has gradually declined in proportion to the number of immigrants arriving in Canada, to the point where the number actually arriving rarely reaches the maximum number of sponsored immigrants planned for by the government.(18) Yet despite this proportionate decline, the number of sponsored immigrants arriving is still significantly high (About 63,000 in 1996(19)). The problem lies in what is classified as family. The government defines family as being a spouse, any dependent children under 19, any sibling under 19, or any parent or grandparent.(20) Recently it has been suggested that the government limit sponsorships to include only spouses, minor dependent children, and only aged dependent parents, and idea supported by the Reform Party and some Liberals. The presence of an immigrant s immediate family can play have an important social impact on how that immigrant integrates into Canadian society. To prevent an immigrant s immediate family from coming to Canada with them without reasonable cause would not be humanitarian. However, Canada does not need to be, nor wants to be, a place where every immigrant can hold their family reunions. Siblings of the immigrant, and independent relations, should be forced to apply for immigration through the regular channels.

The other group of immigrants frequently admitted into Canada, and the ones that receive most of the media attention, are refugees. Statistically, Canada has accepted 26,000 refugees so far in 1996, and plans to accept 32,000 in 1997. Of the ones admitted in 1996, half were landed immigrants, the remaining either government or privately sponsored.(21) Since World War II, Canada has resettled or granted asylum to over 800,000 refugees and other people in need of humanitarian solutions.(22) The Liberal government has always maintained that Canada should accept refugees out of a humanitarian desire.(23) Other parties, such as the Green Party, have even suggested much more radical approaches, arguing that Canada should ONLY accept refugees, and no other form of immigrant.(24) Such arguments, however, fail to take into consideration Canada s economic needs and capabilities. Although the acceptance of refugees does strengthen Canada s image as a humanitarian country, one must still remember that the thousands of refugees accepted into Canada must still be placed in such a way as to become contributing, productive members of society. Too often Canada has accepted unskilled immigrants, immigrants who eventually end up on our country s social assistance program. As well, Canada has also been known to accept refugees who would not even classify as such according to the United Nation s strict policies.(25) To prevent this from happening, Canada must adopt a policy the adheres strictly to the United Nation s definition of a refugee, so that it can ensure it is only accepting legitimate refugee claims. It must also develop a system to guarantee that incoming immigrants can be quickly placed in Canadian society and integrated into the workforce. Many of the unskilled refugees accepted into Canada each year often end up on social assistance. For this reason, it has been suggested by some, including the Reform Party, that before one can qualify for social assistance or health care, one must first become a full Canadian citizen. It has also been suggested that Canada should screen potential refugees, and only choose those who have the skill or potential to rapidly adapt to Canadian society and the job market.

It was originally stated that immigration has always played an important role in Canada s history, and it should continue to do so. But immigration must be limited to those who possess the human capital necessary to adjust quickly and independently to the needs of Canadian society and the job market. Canada should strengthen their restrictions on immigration by providing a stricter and more effective way of filtering out security or medical threats, by enacting the new proposals to ensure that potential immigrants are fluent in either of the official languages, and that they have a needed occupation according to the National Occupational Classification. Canada should also provide better training for visa officers abroad in order that they may better assess an applicant’s eligibility for immigration. Other restrictions Canada should impose include a much tighter and enforced quota system for skilled worker immigrants, based on Canada s current employment needs, they should encourage business immigrate immigration, and they should limit who an immigrant can sponsor for similar immigration. As for refugees, Canada must adopt a policy more consistent and similar to that of the United Nation s, a policy that can much better determine which refugee applications are legitimate, and which are not. It should also guarantee that all refugees have the potential to quickly integrate themselves into the workforce so that they may become economically independent. All of these proposals are for the economic and social benefit of Canada and Canadians. Although immigration is a vital role in our development, we must also ensure that Canada puts Canadians first, and ensures that immigration will not adversely affect the existing economic system, by either causing increased unemployment, and/or increased use of social programs. The immigrants Canada accepts should be those with the best potential to adapt to our society and become independent, and those with the best potential to give something back in return.


(1) Lucienne Robillard, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, in a speech made on October 29, 1996.

(2) The Liberal Party of Canada, “Immigration and Refugees,” in Red Book 1993 (1993)

(3) Department of Citizenship and Immigration, A Short History of Immigration to Canada 1869-1994 (1994)

(4) Ibid.

(5) Chris Elgin, New Developments in the Immigrant Selection Process,

(6) The Reform Party of Canada, Blue Sheet: Principles & Policies of the Reform Party of Canada – 1996-97 (1996)

(7) The Liberal Party of Canada, “Immigration and Refugees,” in Red Book 1993 (1993)

(8) Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Staying The Course: 1997 Annual Immigration Plan (1996)

(9) Ibid.

(10) Canadian Immigration Policy-What’s New?,

(11) Canadian Government, Canada’s Immigration Law. (Ottawa: Supply and Services. 1993)

(12) Canadian Government, Canada’s Immigration Law. (Ottawa: Supply and Services. 1993)

(13) Canadian Government, Canada’s Immigration Law. (Ottawa: Supply and Services. 1993)

(14) Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Staying The Course: 1997 Annual Immigration Plan (1996)

(15) Roslyn Kunin and Cheryl L. Jones, Business Immigration to Canada, in Don J. DeVoretz (ed.) Diminishing Returns: The Economics of Canada’s Recent Immigration Policy. (Ottawa and Vancouver: C.D. Howe Institute and the Laurier Institution. Policy Study No. 24, 268-292. 1994)

(16) Peter Li, The Making of Post-War Canada, (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1996)

(17) The Liberal Party of Canada, “Immigration and Refugees,” in Red Book 1993 (1993)

(18) Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Staying The Course: 1997 Annual Immigration Plan (1996)

(19) Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Staying The Course: 1997 Annual Immigration Plan (1996)

(20) Cohen Campbell, Canadian Immigration FAQ, dcohen/txt/faq.html

(21) Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Staying The Course: 1997 Annual Immigration Plan (1996)

(22) United Nations High Commission for Refugees,

(23) The Liberal Party of Canada, “Immigration and Refugees,” in Red Book 1993 (1993)

(24) The Green Party of Canada, 1993 Federal Election Platform Papers,

(25) The Reform Party of Canada,


Campbell, Cohen. Canadian Immigration FAQ. dcohen/txt/faq.html.

Canadian Government. Canada’s Immigration Law. Ottawa: Supply and Services. 1993.

Canadian Immigration Policy-What’s New?.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Staying The Course: 1997 Annual Immigration Plan.1996.

Department of Citizenship and Immigration. A Short History of Immigration to Canada 1869-1994. 1994.

Elgin, Chris. New Developments in the Immigrant Selection Process.

The Green Party of Canada. 1993 Federal Election Platform Papers.

Kunin, Roslyn and Cheryl L. Jones. Business Immigration to Canada in Don J. DeVoretz (ed.) Diminishing Returns: The Economics of Canada’s Recent Immigration Policy. Ottawa and Vancouver: C.D. Howe Institute and the Laurier Institution. Policy Study No. 24, 268-292. 1994.

Li, Peter. The Making of Post-War Canada. Toronto: Oxford University Press. 1996.

The Liberal Party of Canada. “Immigration and Refugees,” in Red Book 1993 1993.

The Reform Party of Canada. Blue Sheet: Principles & Policies of the Reform Party of Canada – 1996-97. 1996.

Robillard, Lucienne, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Speech made on October 29, 1996.

United Nations High Commission for Refugees.



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