Wednesday 16 May 2018

IMMIGRANTS:  Where in Canada shall we put them?

Many of Canada’s cities are being swarmed with immigrants to the extent that eventually, they will outnumber citizens born in Canada. There is a widespread fear in many western nations that ethnic diversity is eroding support for the welfare state that we as Canadians enjoy. In this article I will point out such fears in the Canadian context.

An in-depth analysis of public attitudes currently finds very little tension between ethnic diversity and public support for social programs in Canada. At first glance, then, Canadians seem to demonstrate the political viability of a multicultural welfare state. But this pattern reflects distinctive features of the institutional context within which public attitudes evolve. But that is because so far, our policy of supporting refugees and immigrants hasn’t yet taxed the federal, provincial and communities to the point of causing financial hardships to everyone else living in Canada.

My concern is that if our country becomes overwhelmed by an influx of immigrants, the monies diverted to their support will be diverted from the monies planned for repairs to decaying  infrastructures, building more schools  and carrying for our citizens and those who have been accepted as residents and immigrants already living in Canada who are in need. This dilemma will increase the danger of greater tension between diversity and redistribution in the years to come. Already there is a widespread fear in many western nations that ethnic diversity is eroding support for the welfare of those in those countries.                                                   

Now I am aware that Canada is a very large country but unlike the United States, Canada doesn’t have as many cities and towns where immigrants can live in.

While the mathematics of population growth is simple, the dynamics behind what drives demographic changes are more complex.

In recent times, the contribution of natural increase (births) to population growth has waned as the Canadian population aged and fertility rates declined.  Today, our natural increase accounts for less than one-third of Canada's population growth and has ceased to be the major player in the equation. However, that can change if there is an enormous influx of immigrants flooding into Canada.

Meanwhile, migration does increase and for this reason, it plays an increasing role in Canada's population growth. Migratory increase currently accounts for about two-thirds of Canada's population growth. 

Statistics Canada projects that immigration will not only continue to be a key input of population growth in the coming years—without it, Canada's population growth could be close to zero in 20 years, as the population continues to age and fertility rates projected to remain below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman.

This is evidence that Immigrants are currently welcomed in Canada and for obviously good reason. The problem that Canadians must deal with however is; where should we place them?

Three periods in Canada's history were characterized by strong population growth: 1851 to 1861, 1901 to 1911, and 1941 to 1961.

First, prior to Confederation, there was strong growth during the 1851 to 1861 period of 2.86% per year, on average, when fertility levels were high and large numbers of immigrants were settling in the West.

Second, in the early 20th century, fertility was still relatively high, averaging almost five children per woman. In addition, between 1901 and 1911, more than 1.2 million immigrants to Canada—mostly from Europe—generated what was then a record migratory increase. Between 1901 and 1911, the population increased 2.98% a year on average, the highest growth on record. Further, the second factor included a steady rise in the number of deaths, partly due to population aging. As a consequence, migratory increase had taken on an increasingly important role in population growth.

Third, a period of strong population growth occurred following the Second World War (2.67% per year on average). A significant rise in fertility resulted in the post-war baby boom, which continued until the mid-1960s. Fertility rose from 2.6 children per woman in 1937 to 3.9 children in the late 1950s—a level not seen since the beginning of the century. Immigration was also particularly high during the 1950s. In 1957, for example, against the backdrop of the Hungarian Revolution and the Suez Canal crisis, Canada received more than 282,000 immigrants.

Population growth caused by natural increase began falling in the late 1960s as a result of two factors. The first was a rapid decrease in fertility in the late 1960s and 1970s, which has remained at a fairly constant level since then. By 1976, fertility had fallen to fewer than 1.8 children per woman.  In the latter 1970s, my wife gave birth to two daughters.

The late 1990s was a period of transition, with some years being characterized by higher natural increase, while in other years, migratory increase was greater.

Since 1999 and the beginning of this current century, population growth in Canada has consistently been driven mostly by the migratory increase. About two-thirds of current population growth is the result of migratory increase, while natural increase of those already in Canada accounts for the remaining one-third.

According to all scenarios used in Statistics Canada's most recent population projections, natural increase is expected to continue to decline in the future decades. This is largely the direct result of a projected increase in the number of deaths while the projected number of births would remain fairly constant.

Population aging will accelerate between 2011 and 2031. In 2026, the first of the baby boomers will reach the age of 80—an age typically associated with high mortality. As a result, the growth in the number of deaths will increase.

Based on the medium-growth scenario, migratory increase could account for more than 80% of Canada's population growth beginning in 2031. Without a sustained level of immigration, Canada's population growth could be close to zero within 20 years.

However, I am convinced that Immigrants and Refugees alike will continue be accepted into Canada.

And now to the question in the heading of this article—where shall the immigrants and refugees be placed when they are accepted to live in Canada?

The Greater Toronto Area (the largest in Canada) covers an area of 7,124 square kilometres—2,751 square miles. In that area, there is the city of Toronto and sixteen surrounding towns. From the air, the GTA looks like an enormous city. The GTA has as many as three million people living and working in it. It is bursting at the seams so to speak.  

Ethnic enclaves is a term sociologists use to describe areas with a concentration of a particular ethnic group and a cluster of commercial and institution activities that have been part of Toronto’s history ever since the presence of immigrants in Canada, though they were known by the less flattering term “ghettoes.” It is the common language, heritage, upbringing and cultural understanding (and unfortunately, sometimes racism and discrimination by others) that bring immigrants of the same background together, for comfort and support from each other. Also family ties will determine where immigrants tend to go to.

The Toronto’s Jewish immigrants started living in “The Ward” (from Queen to College Street and Yonge Street to University Avenue. Now they are primarily living north of Eglinton Avenue in the Bathurst Street area. The   Chinese congregated near Elizabeth and Hagerman Street with Greek Town setting roots on the Danforth Avenue and Little Italy on both sides of College Street. The growth of the Filipino community and emergence of Toronto’s Little Manila at Wilson Ave. and Bathurst St., a Jewish neighbourhood with many Filipino live-in caregivers, is no coincidence.

In recent years, the federal government’s stronger emphasis was on attracting skilled immigrants with a university education, language skills and temporary foreign workers such as live-in caregivers certainly favour migrants from the Philippines, which has been Canada’s top immigrant source country since 2010.

However the federal government is aware that Toronto is being over burdened with the influx of immigrants so it has been advocating regionalize immigration by encouraging newcomers to settle outside of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver (Canada’s three largest cities). The Provincial Nominee Program was set up to draw immigrants to less populated provinces. Subsequently, as to immigrants moving westward, it resulted in an increase0f immigrants moving to three of Canada’s western provinces. This amounted to double in Alberta, triple in Manitoba and increase fivefold in Saskatchewan in the last decade.

The Canadian Charter of Rights makes it clear that Canadians and those who are officially classed as residents can move in any part of Canada they choose unless a court orders otherwise.

However, immigrants aren’t initially covered by that protection so the Department of Immigration can make a determination as to where the newly arrived immigrants initially can go to live. When they become recognized as permanent residents in Canada, they can move anywhere they wish to live.

With Canada’s rural communities struggling to fill labour gaps and reverse population and economic decline, more opportunities in smaller cities and towns should be made available to newcomers who come to Canada. This way, our smaller cities and towns will enlarge without the larger cities becoming over populated.

By mixing and matching  newcomers with smaller communities and rural employers through partnerships with immigrant settlement agencies, if successful, it could be a new way for Canada to spread the benefits of immigration and ease the pressure on big cities in absorbing newcomers, which currently have  more than three-quarters of immigrants who settle in just seven Canadian cities.

Of course, if immigrants and refugees have families already in the large cities, they should be allowed to join them in those cities.

No comments: