PHOTO: A Leger survey commissioned by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship found that among new immigrants who would recommend not coming to Canada to other prospective migrants, the most important reason at 43 per cent was “current leadership/government.” PHOTO BY ASHLEY FRASER/POSTMEDIA
Canada’s self-image is that of a country welcoming to immigrants, where newcomers are tightly woven into the national fabric. But, results of a recent survey suggest that at least some new immigrants are souring on Canada. A Leger poll commissioned by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) found that 30 per cent of new Canadians aged 18 to 34 said they were likely to move to another country within the next two years. Even for new Canadians who are university graduates, the percentage of those saying they wanted to leave was 23 per cent. ICC CEO Daniel Bernhard said that he believes some new immigrants are experiencing a “crisis of confidence” in their new country. Ironically, while 72 per cent of new Canadians thought that Canadians as a whole don’t understand the challenges new immigrants face, only 54 per cent of Canadians shared this opinion.
One might object that a survey reflects opinions which may not necessarily correspond with the facts. However, data suggests that, at least in some important ways, new immigrants are faring worse than Canadians on average. The recently released Canadian Income Survey, 2020, finds that, while poverty rates have fallen in Canada over the pandemic, they are higher for visible minorities, many of whom are immigrants, at 8.0 per cent compared with 5.8 per cent for those who do not belong to visible minorities. In particular, the poverty rates for the three largest groups of visible minorities in Canada are higher than the national average of 6.4 per cent, with South Asians and Black Canadians at 7.5 per cent and Chinese Canadians at 9.6 per cent.
New immigrants are faring worse than Canadians on average
Both the survey and the recent poverty statistics suggest that all is not well with the Canadian myth surrounding immigration. With a government committed to aggressively raising immigration targets going forward, an obvious question is how successful this strategy is likely to be in a context where many new Canadians say they just aren’t making a success of it in Canada and in which many wind up in poverty, and even homelessness, as I’ve written about previously.
One of many challenges that immigrants face is that credentials earned abroad are not automatically recognized in Canada, and the process of having them certified as meeting the Canadian equivalent can take months, if not years. Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre, as part of his campaign platform, has pledged that he’ll work with the provinces and territories to speed up this recognition process and guarantee that immigrants will hear back in less than two month if their foreign credentials pass muster in Canada. This proposal could certainly help, although other challenges remain.
The possibility that some frustrated immigrants may choose to leave is not the only migration challenge Canada could potentially face in the coming months and years. There’s certainly ample hearsay evidence that many native-born Canadians are increasingly frustrated with a political and social culture far removed from their own ideological preferences. This came to the fore during the recent Freedom Convoy protests and the brutal “emergency” that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used to break up peaceful civil disobedience. In my reporting on the issue, I’ve met numerous Canadians who tell me they’re fed up with where they believe Canada is heading and, if possible, they would like to relocate either to the United States or even further afield. Ironically, many new Canadians who come from socially conservative cultural backgrounds are on the same page as many native-born Canadian conservatives in being acutely uncomfortable with the woke culture embodied by Trudeau himself. The prime minister has gone so far as to say that Canada is a “post-national” state with no distinct identity, a view which bewilders many immigrants seeking national pride in the country they’ve chosen as home.
The “crisis of confidence” alluded to by ICC chief Daniel Bernhard is not just economic but also cultural, social and political. It’s noteworthy that the Leger survey commissioned by the ICC found that among new immigrants who would recommend not coming to Canada to other prospective migrants, the most important reason at 43 per cent is “current leadership/government,” actually ahead of the high cost of living at 35 per cent, which in turn is more important than discrimination/racism at 19 per cent.
It’s increasingly clear that many Canadians, both old and new, feel a sense of malaise and discomfort both with the current state of the country and where it appears to be heading.