CANADA: Cracks Appear in Support for Immigration

Canada is internationally renowned for welcoming tens of thousands of new immigrants every year.  It”s expected that 300,000 new immigrants will arrive in Canada in 2016, a number that includes 25,000 Syrian refugees whose admission to Canada was fast-tracked by the new Liberal government.  Anti-immigrant sentiment is normally not a part of Canadian political discourse. However, Kellie Leitch, who is one of the candidates running to replace Stephen Harper as leader of the Conservative Party, made headlines recently by suggesting that prospective immigrants pass a “values test” before being allowed to settle in Canada. 

John McCallum, Canada”s immigration minister, condemned the idea saying that the Canadian government currently completes extensive security screening of prospective immigrants as well as providing settlement support to assist new Canadians to adapt to life in Canada.  He criticised Leitch for fomenting an “anti-immigration sentiment… that is brought to the fore…through anti-immigration rhetoric”.  Minister McCallum may well have cause for concern about overall support for immigration amongst Canadians.  The Toronto Star newspaper published a poll this month which showed that two-thirds of Canadians support vetting for “anti-Canadian” values. 

It is against this backdrop that Canada”s Parliament begins a fall session in which the politics of immigration will feature in the Trudeau Government”s agenda.  It is rumoured that Minister McCallum will announce a three-year immigration plan that will call for a significant increase in the number of immigrants to Canada.  It is expected that changes will be made to the Express Entry immigration program so that more foreign students and foreign workers will qualify for permanent residence.  Also, a parliamentary committee toured the country over the summer to gather views on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program which will likely lead to changes in that program as well. 

While only a small minority of Canadian political figures hold views like the ones expressed by Ms. Leitch, her comments were widely covered in the Canadian press. It is quite likely that the Trudeau government will face increased resistance from Canadians as the government looks to increase immigration levels.   

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