A new report reveals that the number of new immigrants to Canada who went on to become citizens declined dramatically in the new millennium.
The new study by Canada’s former citizenship director-general Andrew Griffiths finds that the percentage of Canadian immigrants who became citizens declined from 79 percent to only 26 percent during the period of 2000-2008.
The study arrives at a time when immigration has become a ‘hot button’ topic within the Canadian political discussion, particularly in the wake of recent major reforms to Canada’s immigration laws; in addition, it is widely anticipated that the Conservative government will call a national election before year’s end, and that immigration will be one of the key issues during that election.
According to the study, one of the main reasons for the dramatic decline in the number of new Canadian citizens may be the increasing difficulty for immigrants to obtain their citizenship. The study, entitled Multiculturalism in Canada, is critical of the new immigration laws and states that changes to the laws have “made it harder and prohibitive for some to acquire (Canadian) citizenship, turning Canada into a country where an increasing percentage of immigrants are likely to remain non-citizens.”
Based upon government data, the study found that the rate of new immigrants who became Canadian citizens increasingly declined in the first eight years of the new millennium; in fact, in 2008, only 26 percent of permanent residents within Canada had acquired citizenship, compared to 44 percent just one year earlier and a whopping 79 percent who arrived in 2000.
According to Griffith, the citizenship numbers from 2008 are the most reliable indicators of the impact of the current Conservative government’s immigration policies; the Stephen Harper Conservative government was first elected to office in 2006.
Not surprisingly, the government rejected the view that their immigration policies have negatively impacted the number of immigrants who become citizens. A spokesperson for Citizenship & Immigration Canada (CIC) pointed out that Canada still has “one of the highest naturalization rates in the world”, and that 86 percent of permanent residents go on to receive their Canadian citizenship.
The CIC spokesperson said one explanation for Griffith’s findings of a steep decline in citizenship for immigrants could be that he was not taking into account “permanent residents who are not yet citizens because they have not yet met all the requirements of obtaining citizenship.”
Griffiths, the author of the study, retired from his position with the government in 2013 and said he actually understands “the rationale” behind the changes made to the immigration law by the Conservative government. However, he said he worries that the recent changes to immigration rules “creates excessive barriers” for Canadian immigrants who wish to become citizens.
Griffiths added the decline in obtaining Canadian citizenship varied based on the nationality of new immigrants; for example, immigrants from the Caribbean experienced a 20 percent decrease in obtaining citizenship, compared to South Asia and Southern and Eastern Africa immigrants whose rate of citizenship dropped by 15 percent.
Among the recent changes made to obtaining Canadian citizenship were increases in processing fees for individuals from $100 to $530, with an additional $100 “Right To Citizenship” fee also required to complete the citizenship process.
A proposed new Canadian law would give the country’s immigration officials access to personal information of permanent residents and citizens that is garnered from other government agencies. The law, which would allow officials from Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to share information from other government agencies, is intended to help CIC enforce Canada’s immigration laws.
The agencies that would be permitted to share personal information include border enforcement officials, Employment and Social Development Canada, Revenue Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and other provincial and federal agencies.
One of the key aspects of the plan would be to allow immigration authorities access to information from Revenue Canada—the nation’s federal tax agency. According to the government, this access would be granted in order to identify “possible false representation…and fraudulent information” that was presented by citizenship applicants to immigration officials.
The Canadian government believes that this new law is vitally important to its efforts to crackdown on immigration fraud, validate citizenship for those applying for government services and authenticate the identity of immigrants and others who take part in Canada’s immigration process.
Most observers believe that immigration will play a large role in Canada’s next federal election campaign, which is widely expected to take place before the end of the calendar year.
Last year, the Conservative government passed sweeping new immigration legislation, that tightened the laws for foreign workers seeking both work visas and/or permanent residency or Canadian citizenship. Critics of the law—and the government—say that, much like this new proposal, last year’s new regulations represent a fundamental shift away from Canada’s traditional view of immigration; critics charge that the government now approaches immigration almost solely as an economic, rather than a humane, issue. As a result, they say, it is much more difficult for many foreign applicants to meet the new requirements to obtain either work visas or permanent residency.
However, despite tightening the rules regarding the admission of immigrants under ‘refugee status’, recent statistics appear to indicate that Canada continues to admit a growing number of immigrants as refugees. Almost half of the 19,960 refugee claimants to Canada processed in 2014 were approved, a considerable jump from the 38 percent of refugee claims that were approved the previous year.
One reason for the increase in the acceptance of refugee claims could be that Canada’s Immigration & Refugee Board is actually running two parallel review systems, one dealing with backlog files under the earlier, more lenient rules, and the second under the more recent, restrictive law. Even government critics acknowledge that the new system—which was designed to be more restrictive in accepting refugees—has yet to actually make that type of impact on the number of refugees accepted.
Not surprisingly, the Canadian government is touting these results as an example of their new laws being both fair and firm. A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said the minister was “pleased with the results of the (refugee law) reforms, so far.”
A major shift in immigration patterns has been occurring in Canada in recent years, with a growing number of immigrants choosing to live in less populated areas of Western Canada.
A recently released study of immigration by Statistics Canada confirms that the booming energy sector in Western Canada has attracted a growing percentage of Canada’s new immigrants. The study was conducted prior to the recent steep decline in the oil industry, which has dramatically reduced profits and hiring within that energy sector.
Another surprising finding in the study is that Montreal—which had long seen a declining percentage of new Canadian immigrants—is undergoing a revitalization as an attractive destination for immigrants. The study found that in 2012—the most recent year studied—Montreal singularly attracted over 18 percent of the new immigrants to Canada.
Conversely, Toronto—which in 2000 had attracted almost half of all the new immigrants to Canada—saw its share of new immigrants drop to only 30 percent as of 2012.
Toronto, along with other major population centers in Ontario, has historically been the strongest magnet for new immigrants to Canada. However, during the Great Recession that commenced in 2008, Ontario—the manufacturing center of Canada—was the hardest hit province and sustained the most job losses. Statistics appear to confirm that, post-recession, immigrants are now looking elsewhere at other geographical options within Canada as their first choice for migration.
Even Ottawa, Canada’s capital city and historically a city that has been economically sheltered due to the preponderance of government jobs, has attracted less immigrants in recent years. According to the report, in 2012 only 2.4 percent of immigrants to Canada said Ottawa was their first choice—a full percentage drop from the year 2000.
As Ontario’s share of new immigrants to Canada declines, other Western Canadian cities have seen a rise in the number of new arrivals. The new report from Statistics Canada appears to indicate that major cities in Canada’s energy rich prairie provinces—Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta—have seen substantial gains in immigrant populations.
Until the recent steep decline in oil prices, Canada’s western provinces had been undergoing an energy-based economic boom, resulting in a shortage of both skilled and unskilled workers in the region. To help fill that void, many Canadian companies began recruiting foreign workers.
According to the Statistics Canada report, another factor determining where immigrants choose to live within Canada has been a shift in the ‘feeder’ countries—the nations from which recent Canadian immigrants arrived. As recently as 15 years ago, China and India were the two top source countries for Canadian immigrants—and immigrants from those countries tended to migrate to Toronto and Vancouver.
However, more recently the Philippines has surpassed China and India as Canada’s top source for new immigrants; the report also states that, unlike past immigrants to Canada, Filipino immigrants are settling in a wide array of cities across the country.
Immigration experts caution that the recent steep decline in oil prices—and the resulting economic downturn—may impact where new immigrants choose to locate within Canada over the next few years.
Refugees living in Canada who have arrived in the country over the last three decades have paid more in Canadian taxes than millionaire immigrant investors admitted under an immigration program that was cancelled last year.
Additionally, under the now defunct Immigrant Investor Program, few rich immigrant investors actually resided in Canada; those wealthy immigrants who did stay in Canada—the majority of whom were from Mainland China—declared very low incomes during their stay in the country. According to a report in the South China Morning Post, based on data provided by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), the average Canadian income declared by wealthy immigrant investors during the life of that program ranged between $18,000-$25,000.
In addition, only about 39 percent of the wealthy immigrant investors admitted to Canada under the old program actually declared any income at all. The primary purpose of the now-disgraced program—which even the Conservative government said was a failure—was to generate both income and employment within Canada. As these statistics prove, in actuality it did neither.
In stark contrast to that, statistics also reveal that 66 percent of refugees admitted to Canada during that same period —who often arrived with little or no wealth—were paying income tax in less than 10 years after their arrival. And while refugees’ annual income started out at only $17,500 per year, their earnings eventually reached $30,000 per year—close to the national Canadian average income.
There had been considerable criticism of the immigrant investor program over the course of the entire initiative. It was first introduced back in 1980, and continued to operate straight through 2014, until its cancellation last year by the Conservative government.
During its operation, the program was responsible for admitting more than 180,000 wealthy immigrant investors into Canada, the vast majority of who arrived from either Hong Kong or Mainland China. In its early years, the program required an investment in Canada of at least $400,000—that figure was later raised to $800,000.
However, critics pointed out that the program did little to ensure that wealthy immigrants made any long-term connection or commitment to Canada. And statistics indicating that the majority of those admitted under the program did not even establish a permanent residency appear to prove that criticism as valid.
Last year, the Conservative government also announced the introduction of the new Immigrant Investor Venture Capital pilot program, as a means of replacing the previously canceled program. Under the new initiative, wealthy immigrants to Canada will be required to have a minimum net worth of at least $10 million and must be prepared to invest a minimum of $2 million, with no guarantee of any return on that investment.
The Canadian government began accepting applications for the new program back in January, but it has not as yet announced how many total applications it has received. Some immigration observers believe that the more stringent financial requirements will discourage wealthy investors from immigrating—and investing—in Canada.