Letter from Canada: Why Canada tops as a global destination for potential immigrants!
It's the butt of late night television jokes in the USA and is considered the land of the moose, the polar bear and freezing cold temperatures. But that hasn't stopped Canada from becoming the fastest growing and preferred destination for people around the world to make a new life in this country.
Canadian immigration numbers sourced for Moneylife reveal that the country has welcomed around 2,75,000 immigrants in 2018. And the lion’s share of those migrants is from India, over 60,000 persons making a bid to relocate here this year. Philippines comes in second with around 31,000 migrants.
" Our immigration system has helped make Canada the nation that it is today—one that is diverse prosperous and welcoming those in need," says Nancy Carron, spokesperson for Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada. In October 2018, the minister of Immigration and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen announced that its historic, multi- year immigration levels plan would increase the number of permanent residents to Canada each year. The plan, says Carron, is to increase the number of immigrations from 310,000 in 2018 to 330,000 in 2019, and further to 340,000 in 2020. She calls it the " most ambitious immigration levels in recent history”, and one that will support both, Canadian business and labour market needs, and foster economic growth in the face of slowing labour force growth and ageing populatio."
Canada, on its part recognizes that it is a country with abundant natural resources but is also facing an acute labour shortage. In many provinces, a growing older population and a huge cohort of retirees in the labour force makes it imperative to attract talent and labour from around the world.
Canada stands out in the Western world where "immigrant" has almost turned into four letter word. The USA, our nearest neighbor and the most cherished destination for immigrants is a prime example of anti-immigrant rhetoric. US President Donald Trump has been vocal in his ire and frustration about immigrants—whether they are highly qualified H1b workers from India, those from Muslim countries or its other neighbour Mexico. The USA, under Trumph, has been closing its doors on immigrants. European nations like France and Germany are seeing a right wing wave that is anti-immigrant, the United Kingdom (UK) with its Brexit issues still has to figure things out. Australia and New Zealand are no longer big draws as they were in the past. In most of these countries, potential immigrants are left with a sense of insecurity about where to make some kind of permanent life.
That leaves Canada with an abundance of opportunity. It is no wonder that cities such as Toronto and Vancouver have reported a doubling of immigration, even from the USA, in the last three years. Says Carron, “economic immigration in particular helps Canada stay competitive and attract talent from around the world; immigrants bring unique skill sets, innovative ideas and global experience which help our economy ".
Canada’s Express Entry (EE) program of 2016 offers a swift path to permanent residency for qualified people. It takes only a few months for qualifying candidates to acquire the Canadian permanent resident card (PR
card), which is akin to the US Green Card.
The Canadian Experience Class program (CEC) of the EE, meant for temporary foreign workers and foreign graduates with Canadian work experience has also attracted many Indian migrants. As against 1,800 Indians who became PR holders in 2018, the number jumped to 11,490 in 2017—a whopping 538% increase!
Another program that has gained favour is the Federal Skilled Workers Programme (FSWP). In 2016, (under the FSWP), 4,780 Indians received their PR cards. The number jumped 82.6% to 8,730 Indians in 2017. Between January and May 2018, a massive 12,090 PR cards were issued to Indians under this program.
There is perhaps no other country that welcomes immigrants from outside even if they do not have a job ready in hand" says IT software engineer Vikram Rangnekar who migrated from Silicon Valley, USA .
matches qualified IT professionals with Canadian job seekers and he says that a host of his friends from the US have made a life here in Montreal , Vancouver and Toronto.
One of the big draws for Indians is the multiculturalism of Canada. Unlike other countries, Canada celebrates diversity in a big way, especially in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s liberal government. His cabinet has a mix ministers from different communities, including a few Indian ministers those who were refugees. Canada was one of the few countries that has opened its arms to Syrian refugees—and welcomed them with jobs, government support and financial aid—this has been a matter of celebration as well as debate.
Part of the assimilation of various cultures is the diversity of food and places of worship, easily available and accessible to all migrants. I have already written about the abundance of Indian food available in Canada. It is the same with temples, mosques and gurudwaras for the Indians diaspora. For instance Mississaugua and Brampton, two big suburbs close to Toronto, have close to 25 places of worship for Indians, including Saibaba temples, Ganesh Temples, mosques and Gurudwaras.
Canada has also been a boon for Indian students who want to migrate and find that the US has closed its doors. Neighbouring Canada has education levels equivalent to those in the US so a big cohort of students is keen on converting their student visas to a full time permanent residentship after a few years. "This bodes well for students who see Canada as a stepping stone or a future for them settling in a western country, " says a source.
Good quality of life, very low crime rate and fresh air is the biggest draw for many people, as is Canada's free health care system. Every Canadian and PR card holder has the benefit of free health care—which covers everything from routine medical examination by a doctor, to a bypass surgery. Canada takes care of all costs, except routine dentistry ( which needs an insurance or out of pocket expenses). All consultation with specialist doctors is also completely free. That is one the single biggest draws and benefit for many people wanting to stay in Canada.
The socialist way of thinking is increasingly unique to Canada and shrinking pool of countries. Canada offers free schooling from grade one to grade 12. In some cities even extra curricular activities require a minimal or no fees. A world -lass library with access to thousands of books, DVDS and audios is free for kids along with a bunch of facilities.
Last, but not the least, is the fact that government take care of people in their old age. This means that every Canadian citizen who is over 65 and has lived in the country for at least 10 years can receive a maximum of $1400 ( as of 2018.) This amount would vary depending on their post retirement annual income and is adjusted annually by the government according to the Consumer Price Index.
Richa Majithia who is waiting to migrate to Canada puts it succinctly when she says, “One of the biggest reasons people migrate here is the quality of life they see for themselves and their children."
(Rakshande Italia is an Indian journalist, who immigrated to Canada in 2001 and has worked with several top newspapers in India and Canada. She can be contacted on [email protected]