Canada must toughen its immigration qualifications

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While many Canadians have been gulled into thinking that Canada has an essentially sound set of immigration policies, James Bissett, former director-general of the Canadian Immigration Service, knows better.

In a paper published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Studies, he exposes how self-serving politicians have saddled the country with an “arbitrary and chaotic immigration system” that serves neither new Canadians nor Canada well.

A large part of the problem is the staggering number of immigrants currently admitted to Canada. The annual total comes close to one per cent of the national population, as compared to just 0.4 per cent in the United States and 0.44 per cent in Australia.

“Too many new Canadians are not doing well,” Bissett observes. “Too many of them are living below the poverty line; too many of them cannot find jobs in line with their qualifications.”

The reason for these shortcomings is apparent: Only about 25 per cent of immigrants to Canada are chosen for their education, training or occupation. And to make matters worse, immigration officers are required by law to admit these skilled immigrants on a first-come, first-served basis, without regard for the requirements of the Canadian labour force.

This policy is patently absurd. To remedy the defect, Immigration Minister Diane Finley has introduced a bill into Parliament that would authorize immigration officers to give priority to skilled immigrants who can best meet Canada’s labour market needs.

That’s a good beginning, but even if this bill is enacted, Finley will still have no authority under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to determine the sheer volume of skilled immigrants that Canada requires under current economic conditions.

Instead, responsibility for deciding upon an optimal level of immigration for Canada will remain with the House of Commons standing committee on immigration.

“The pitfalls of this should be obvious,” writes Bissett. “Committee members are appointed in large part because they represent constituencies with large immigrant populations. This is analogous to assembling a committee made up of the heads of every commercial bank in Canada and assigning them the task of formulating banking regulations.”

So long as this arrangement prevails, Canada will continue to take in far more immigrants than the economy can readily absorb, especially as most immigrants end up in just three cities: Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

Bissett warns: “These cities have a combined population of about eight to nine million people and cannot continue to absorb 300,000 newcomers annually without experiencing serious infrastructure and social problems.”

Granted, prior to the First World War, Canada took in far more immigrants relative to the size of the national population without provoking any major crisis of integration. However, there is a major difference: The vast majority of those earlier immigrants were Europeans and Americans steeped in the culture of Western civilization.

Today, fewer than 20 per cent of immigrants to Canada come from the United States, the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe. More than 20 per cent have emigrated from the Middle East and Africa, and more than half from Asia and the Pacific.

All of these immigrants must undergo medical, criminal and security checks prior to admission. In Bissett’s judgment, that’s insufficient.

He contends that prospective immigrants should also be interviewed “to determine if they hold strong beliefs that make would make it difficult for them to adjust to life in Canada and embrace our basic values such as the rule of law, freedom of speech and religion, separation of church and state, tolerance of others, equality of women, etc. Those who cannot live by these standards should not be accepted.

“It is wrong to bring to Canada people we suspect will not adjust or integrate into our society.”

Will the Harper Conservatives act on Bissett’s sensible recommendations? Not likely. Like the Liberals and New Democrats, they are so loath to alienate the immigrant vote that they dare not initiate the kind of fundamental reforms to Canada’s immigration and refugee systems that are urgently needed to safeguard national security.

Latest posts by Rory Leishman (see all)

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