Ismail: Canada welcomes record number of newcomers. Now what?

Raises many of the needed issues but remains fixed on current and planned levels as well as uncapped temporary residents. As I have argued before, unlikely that Canada will be able to address its housing, healthcare and infrastructure needs given these numbers.

And it is striking that IRCC has not published any data on the use of settlement services since 2016, even though the government spends over one billion annually. The only semi-public data we have are web enquiries which are low, between 10-15,000 per month, about a third of pre-pandemic levels:

Canada announced recently it had reached a significant milestone: welcoming over 30,000 Afghan refugees to the country since 2021, putting it on track to resettle at least 40,000 by the end of 2023.

Newcomers are critical in shaping the nation’s economy, particularly given the ongoing challenges around an aging population and persistent post COVID-19 labour shortages.

In 2022, Canada welcomed 437,180 immigrants — the highest on record, according to Statistics Canada. Further, the government announced a plan to welcome 1.5 million more by 2025.

Despite the need and the numbers, we continue to hear stories of highly skilled and foreign-trained newcomers facing challenges in transitioning to life in Canada.

The concept of the “Canadian Experience” is still a stereotype for some employers and creates barriers to joining the labour market and expediting the settlement process. Additionally, the costs and availability of housing are major issues — as it is for many Canadians. While efforts are being made by the government and settlement services to encourage newcomers to settle outside of major urban centres, there is a lack of vital support in those areas.

While some may see newcomers as a burden on our system, the numbers prove that to be the opposite. Data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) shows that refugees join Canada’s middle-class within five years of their arrival and, over time, pay more in income taxes on average than they receive in public benefits and services. 

When it comes to home ownership, 65 per cent of refugee families who have been in Canada for 10 years or more live in homes they own, compared to 70 per cent of Canadian born citizens.

As Canada welcomes more people from around the world, the need for infrastructure to support the growth in our housing markets, schools, and health care systems, is critical. The appropriate funding and management of this growth needs to be considered by all levels of government, and support from various organizations, like Polycultural Immigrant and Community Services, is paramount.

Between 2021 and 2022, Polycultural’s Afghan Initiative Program supported over 7,000 government-assisted refugees who were brought to Canada under the emergency evacuation initiative. And the organization has also provided settlement and housing supports to nearly 1,500 Ukrainian temporary residents under the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel. Overall, over 30,000 immigrants were supported by Polycultural over the last year.

Polycultural works with Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), provincial, regional, and local partners to address the needs of the refugees, including providing employment services, language classes, access to health care, and support in finding housing.

By 2036, up to 30 per cent of the country’s population will be immigrants. The government and its partners should continue to aid newcomers and advocate for the funding and investments that enable Canada’s newest citizens to truly thrive in their new home.

Marwan Ismail is the executive director of Polycultural Immigrant and Community Services, a charitable, non-profit, community-based agency.

Source: Canada welcomes record number of newcomers. Now what?

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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