Donald Trump is on another rampage about migrants and illegal immigrants, but don’t expect Justin Trudeau to start talking about laying out the welcome mat here – hopefully he’s learned the lesson from the last rush of bogus migrants arriving at our border.
And, in an election year no less, Canadians are becoming increasingly concerned about the number of immigrants to this country. A new Leger poll shows 63 per cent of us want the government to reduce immigration, concerned that Canada can no longer integrate them.
That’s in keeping with an anti-immigration trend that’s emerged in the last few years, the result of large waves of immigration, troubles resettling refugees and the tens of thousands of fake asylum seekers who showed up following Trump’s clampdown and Trudeau’s welcome message.
Concerns about dubious claimants at the border, a wave of refugees and wider issues of terrorism, coupled with longstanding economic woes, have driven a change in public acceptance for immigration. The two-thirds now worried about immigration levels represent a significant rise from polls last year that put the number at about half, itself a big increase from five years ago when just 33 per cent of Canadians were concerned about the number of immigrants.
Over the last four decades of tracking Canadians’ attitudes to immigration, the level of support for cutting immigration levels has averaged about 25 per cent. The latest trend is sharply upwards, though it remains to be seen if impressions will eventually return to historic levels. That may be unlikely given that Ottawa is looking to boost immigration further still, with a target of 340,000 people by 2020.
Note, too, that attitudes are hardening even towards refugees and humanitarian cases. About 40 per cent of Canadians want the government to lower the number, with about a third wanting to maintain the status quo.
Chances are pretty good we’ll see additional backlash from the federal government’s plan to boost the number of immigrants and refugees coming into Canada.
The current course comes at a cost, short- and long-term.
One of the most talked-about problems with immigration is rising real estate prices, particularly in markets where immigrants are prone to form enclaves, Toronto and Vancouver. That boosts house prices and keeps younger Canadians out of the market.
Increasingly, these enclaves can lead to cultural issues given the changing demographics of immigration in the last few decades. Certainly the inherent problems are exacerbated by today’s political climate – it’s not just immigrants, but the types of immigrants – but in the longer-term there could be major conflicts of the type we see growing in Europe, which has been ahead of us on the curve. Their current problems are the ones we’ll face before too much longer given the level of immigration we’ve adopted.
Can we discuss immigration without sinking into accusations of racism and xenophobia? Probably not.
Does that mean we shouldn’t have that discussion? Certainly not.
While Canada has done a better job of integrating newcomers into its population than have countries in Western Europe, many of the problems could surface here.
Canada’s immigration is the highest per capita level in the world. Government officials, however, can provide no good reason for doing so. We continue to hear that immigrants are needed to offset an aging population or to counter declining birthrates or to provide skilled workers or to provide people to do work Canadians don’t want to do … and the list goes on.
Few of the economic arguments stand up to scrutiny, however. And Canadians aren’t buying into the platitudes any longer, today’s World Refugee Day notwithstanding.