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October 2002, Volume 9, Number 10

Canada: Population and Immigration

Canada's population was 31.4 million in July 2002, but fertility is only 1.5, and the populations of many rural areas are declining. Most immigrants go to three Canadian cities: Toronto (53 percent), Vancouver (15 percent), and Montreal (13 percent). Some 51 percent of Canadians live in four major urban areas, the Golden Horseshoe in Southern Ontario (greater Toronto), greater Montreal, the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and the Calgary-Edmonton corridor.

Canada's federal immigration minister, Denis Coderre, has proposed that Canada do more to attract immigrants to rural areas, saying: "We need to create more magnets for immigration everywhere. It's a matter of population growth, labor supply, quality of life, the very future of our country." Under the proposal, foreigners would get three- to five-year work permits and, if they lived in rural communities, they could become immigrants after three to five years.

A September 2002 Fraser Institute study concluded that cities such as Toronto and Vancouver could have race riots without major changes to immigration policies, in part because newcomers are having a hard time raising their earnings. The study found, "While there is no evidence that any Canadian communities are on the verge of experiencing the tensions and riots involving immigrant communities that have taken place in a number of British cities in recent years, it would be folly to assume that such events could never happen in Canada." A government official called the report misleading, but many commentators said that the report called attention to issues that need to be debated.

Some 14,000 foreigners, 60 percent of those who applied for asylum in Canada in 2001, arrived via the U.S. However, a new Safe Third Country agreement allows the US and Canada to reject asylum applications filed at ports of entry on the Canada-US border, on the grounds that the application should have been filed in the US or Canada. Asylum applications in Canada were down in 2002, to 20,922 in the first eight months.

Some Canadian schools are appealing for provincial and federal help to meet the needs of immigrant and refugee students. Many have had no formal education, and have behavioral or medical problems. Educators say the shift of immigrant origins from Hong Kong, the Philippines or Taiwan, with well-educated parents, to mainland China and other Asian countries, with many more parents with little education, requires more "settlement services."

Clifford Krauss, "Immigrant Families Are Courted To Revive Canada's Hinterland," New York Times, October 2, 2002. Peter O'Neil, "MPs, groups endorse call for immigration debate," Vancouver Sun, September 24, 2002. Jane Steffenhagen, "Crush of immigrants prompts schools to plead for help," Vancouver Sun, September 17, 2002. Peter O'Neil, "Canada risks race riots, study warns," Ottawa Citizen, September 23, 2002.