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Canada’s Stone Cold Success with Immigration
By Heath Shive
Natives versus newcomers! It’s an ancient dynamic. Immigration usually meant invasion, in the Old Days. And in the Modern Age, some still feel that way, all over the world.
But one country found “the sweet spot.”
Jonathon Tepperman wrote a book entitled The Fix: How Nations Survive and Thrive in a World of Decline.
In the book, Tepperman uses Canada’s immigration policy as an example to the world. But he is not shy about why Canada adopted its policy – which had a lot less to do with political enlightenment and much more to do with cold, hard political engineering.
To the fix!
A Cold Truth of the Great White North
More than a half century ago, Canada was experiencing economic growth, but it had problems filling the jobs.
At that time, Canada was economically healthy, but politically the nation seemed to be falling apart. The separatist movement for an independent Quebec was stronger than ever. And regionally, Canadians were affiliating almost as strongly with their American neighbors – “Nova Scotians with New Englanders, Manitobans with Minnesotans, Alberta cowboys with Montana ranchers” – as they did with fellow Canadians.
To solve the shortage of labor in the country, Canada formally abandoned ethnicity as a basis for evaluating immigrants in 1962 – becoming the becoming the first country in the world to do so!
But the audacious Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau went a few steps farther with a new super-charged immigration policy. Trudeau thought that immigrants were key to Canada’s future…and unity.
Unity…by immigrants? How? Immigrants – once integrated – were more likely to identify with the central government, and greater national identity meant a weaker regional identity (e.g., a separatist Quebecois).
And a large flow of immigrants meant a much needed population surge for the 2nd-largest country on earth!
There’s a Catch
“Open arms” did not mean “open border.” Immigration was given a greater governmental focus, but that meant greater stringency for a greater number of regulations.
Only certain immigrants would be let in. As Tepperman writes, “Henceforth, all independent applicants for residency – regardless of birthplace or race – would be assessed by assigning them points on the basis of nine criteria, such as education, age, fluency in English or French, and whether or not their skills fit Canada’s economic needs.”
Only immigrants who were fluent, educated, and skilled were allowed.
No fluency in English or French? No skills? Criminal record? Stay out.
Even in Canada, there's no "free lunch."
In a speech in October 1971, Trudeau promised that his government would support all cultures – small or strong. But immigrants had to demonstrate “a desire and effort…to contribute to Canada.”
National integration did not have to mean cultural assimilation – and thus cultural pluralism is born.
And in Canada, it works great. Tepperman mentions that, today, over 20 percent of Canada’s citizens are foreign-born – more than twice the number in the United States.
(Note: Only 6% of Canada's immigrants are undocumented, whereas around 1/3 of America's immigrants are undocumented. This is the result more of geographic isolation than utopian success.)
Canada's policy was not about being “nice.” This was a practical and successful way to make Canada bigger and better than ever by making sure that the better and stronger immigrants went north…instead of somewhere else.
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Tepperman, Jonathon. The Fix: How Nations Survive and Thrive in a World in Decline. Tim Duggan Books, 2016.
Hello! My name is Heath Shive, content manager at ScholarFox. I'll be the author of most of the blog posts. I'm a former geologist and currently a freelance writer. The world is complex and seemingly crazy. Good! Because when you love to learn, you'll never be bored.