Canadian Immigration: A Comparison

(ESPAÑOL) The Canadian immigration history and processes might provide the U.S. the example it needs for its current migratory conundrums. Canada today has one of the highest immigration rates in the world. For the past two decades, it has admitted about 250,000 newcomers a year, with more than 20% of Canada’s inhabitants now being foreign-born.

Yet polls show that Canadians could not be happier about it. Polls have shown that two-thirds of them feel that immigration is one of Canada’s key strengths, and the same numbers favor keeping, or increasing, the current immigration rate.

This is despite Canada’s muddled history with immigration over the years. Even after World War II, Canada only accepted very narrow European demographics, with all other groups outright banned. The country suffered severe labor shortages under these restrictive policies, and in 1967 they dropped all ethnic criteria. Applicants for residency were assigned points based on nine criteria, such as education, age, fluency in English or French, and whether or not their skills fit Canada’s economic needs. Those who scored above a certain number got in, period. Nothing else mattered.

The effects of this change were dramatic. Between 1946 and 1953, 96% of immigrants to Canada had come from Europe. Between 1968 and 1988, that figure fell to 38%. Although the changes made economic sense, polls at the time showed that the majority wanted to continue excluding non-whites, while 67% opposed any increase in immigration. This came to a head when Pierre Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister, announced in October 1971 that cultural pluralism “is the very essence of Canadian identity.”

Faced with the potential secession of Quebec and constant bombings, Trudeau’s gambit was the most pragmatic way of keeping the province in the country without war. Thanks to his gambit, Canadians today rank multiculturalism ahead of hockey.

The circumstances are not the same, but when our country is struggling to find the right path, looking at our next-door neighbors might provide a better option than reinventing the wheel.