Celebrate Our Growth Through Immigration, And Our Ability To Control It

Statistics Canada estimates that the country’s population reached 40 million on June 16th, reflecting a rate of growth that has been accelerating for the last decade and is now well above 1%.

Canada’s growth is in sharp contrast with other advanced economies. The United States is growing at less than half Canada’s rate. France is barely growing at all. But for its large influx of Ukrainian refugees Germany would be stagnant. Japan is shrinking.

Canada’s immigration system has been effective. It seeks newcomers who have good prospects for success in our economy. Various provincial nominee programs target workers with needed skills. Cities, most notably Toronto, have built up large ethnic communities that provide welcoming context for newcomers arriving from their homelands.

Housing and health care have not kept up with the growth, but Canadian attitudes to immigration remain on balance positive, in part because many of them bring needed skills in health professions and construction trades. Without the immigrants the average age of Canadians would be growing at an alarming rate.

Canada is a leader in refugee intake. According to the 2021 Census there were 218,430 new refugees admitted as permanent residents from 2016 to 2021 and still present. Many of those refugees are privately sponsored by church groups and others who provide financial support and help with getting integrated. Close to 85,000 immigrants were recognized as protected persons in Canada and became permanent residents from 2016 to 2021 following an asylum claim in Canada for themselves or their family members.

Refugee claimants arrive uninvited on the borders of most countries, which are obliged to admit them while the validity of their claim is assessed. All arrivals file claims for refugee status, including migrants just seeking better economic prospects. The assessment systems are typically backlogged for years.

As a practical matter, the economic migrants move to places where they can find employment and shelter and never show up for a court date. The United States has more than 10 million undocumented immigrants. Last year there were more than 2.7 million migrant border crossings.

Europe receives a constant flow of asylum seekers from Africa, the Middle East, and as far away as Afghanistan, travelling across the Mediterranean in rickety boats, with recurrent tragedies.

Canada largely gets to choose who can be allowed in. Small boats cannot cross the Atlantic or Pacific oceans. Our only land border is with the United States. For many years the Safe Third Country Agreement has provided that migrants trying to cross in either direction to claim refugee status could be sent back to pursue their claim where they were.

That agreement was recently updated to include unofficial crossings, most importantly the one at Roxham Road in Quebec, where almost 40,000 asylum seekers had crossed in 2022. Supporting agencies in Quebec and elsewhere were overwhelmed.

That number was bound to grow rapidly as southern border states, also overwhelmed, shipped more and more claimants north. Shortly afterward, Canada and the United States announced the new agreement. On the same day that the 40 millionth Canadian was announced, Canada’s Supreme Court upheld the STCA.

The court’s 8-0 ruling confirmed that it did not violate the constitution’s Charter of Rights. Advocates including the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International Canada, and the Canadian Council of Churches are deeply disappointed.

The three organizations maintain that “the STCA is counter to Canadian values, in breach of international obligations, and stands in stark contrast to the overwhelming public support for refugees.” Further court challenges can be anticipated.

A judicial decision to invalidate the whole agreement would have drastic consequences. The US border protection services report more than 200,000 encounters with irregular border crossings in an average month. Most of them are able to remain in country while their case is being processed, which takes years.

Many of them, perhaps in the tens of thousands monthly, would appear at Canadian points of entry both official and irregular. Canada’s ability to support them with food and temporary shelter would be quickly overwhelmed.

Most of them would need deeply affordable housing, of which there is already too little. Backlogs in the health care system would lengthen. Canadians’ support for refugees and other immigrants would decline and slowly morph into resentment.

The advocates argue that there are occasional individual injustices in the present system because the “safety valves” available for eligible people to be exempted from return to the US are not operating properly.

If so, fix the valves. Don’t throw out the whole system which serves both countries well.


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