On the Canadian Immigration System

My friend from Texas recently visited Toronto, and we discussed his impressions, the contrast between our countries, and the immigration system. His thoughts inspired me to further investigate Canada’s immigration system.

Canada is known as a country that’s welcoming to immigrants. My family, many of my classmates growing up, and nearly all my friends are immigrants. Basically, everyone I know, including myself, benefitted greatly from Canada’s progressive immigration policy. 

Last year, Canada accepted half a million immigrants into the country, more than any other year. It seems that for many, the positive sentiment towards immigration is beginning to change. Everyone I know growing up, had nothing but great things to say about immigration even if you aren’t one. Now, I’m starting to hear the conversation change, that maybe our policy is too lenient, something I’m hearing even from other immigrants. 

Worldwide, in developed countries, the average age is climbing. The East Asian countries experienced tremendous population growth in the past half-century, but their repopulation rate is dwindling. China, South Korea, and Japan have fertility rates of 1.45, 1.11, and 1.39 respectively. In European countries, the number is also dwindling.  

Ideally, the average age of a population is low and the fertility rate is ~2.1 to ensure stable population growth. This is because when you have people begin to retire, the government can support them through a pension that comes from tax dollars. But if you have a high average age, there are more people retiring than the government can support. The young people, the workers, begin to get stressed, as they need to support the aging population. Pensions are reduced, taxes are raised, and quality of life begins to dwindle. 

So if you aren’t replacing your aging population through reproduction, how do you replace it? You turn to immigration. 

The big difference between Canada and the US immigration system is Canada’s merit based whereas the US is family based. The idea behind Canada’s immigration system is it takes the best of the best. The system is transparent, there are websites where you can calculate your chances of getting into Canada. If you’re young, if you speak English or French, if you are STEM-educated, these are a few examples of criteria that improve your chances. Many of my friends whose families immigrated to Canada were all either upper class or upper middle class I’m their home countries. 

The US immigration system, on the other hand, prioritizes bringing families together. If you are related to someone with US citizenship, it’s easy to become a citizen. If you marry a US citizen that’s another pathway to citizenship. The US does have the H1B system, but it’s a lottery that’s completely luck-based.

In theory, Canada’s immigration system makes sense: keep the population young via immigration and accept the best of the best. Though this sounds great in theory, in practice it has its flaws. We accepted 500,000 immigrants last year, and we’re going to accept 500,000 more this year but we don’t have the infrastructure to support them. We don’t have enough jobs for these highly skilled immigrants. And we sure as hell don’t have enough housing. Perhaps we are accepting more immigrants than we can handle. If that’s the case, we should accept fewer immigrants and work to improve the system before we increase the cap but I’m sure there’s much more nuance to it. Much of the discourse around this topic seems to scapegoat the immigrants rather than the system itself. 

Overall, I’m a proud Canadian and I’m proud of my country’s welcoming attitude towards immigration. My family, my friends, and many of my fellow Canadians had this country accept us with open arms and treated us well. I’d love for many others to have the same opportunity as me but I also want them to be supported and set up for success.

October 10, 2023

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