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April 2003, Volume 10, Number 2

Canada: 18 Percent Immigrants

Canada released 2001 Census data that showed that 5.4 million residents, 18.4 percent of 29.6 million, were born outside Canada; this is the highest percentage since 1931. Australia has a higher percentage of foreign-born residents, 22 percent; in the US, 11 percent of residents were born abroad.

Some 1.8 million immigrants arrived in Canada between 1991-2001, and 58 percent came from Asia; 20 percent from Europe; 11 percent from the Caribbean, Central and South America. Canada in 2001 had 13.4 percent or four million "visible minorities." Mainland China was the single biggest source of immigrants in the 1990s, with 85,000 arrivals, followed by 80,000 from India and 55,000 from the Philippines and Hong Kong.

Most of the immigrants- 73 percent- settled in Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal. In Vancouver, 49 percent of residents are immigrants; in Toronto, 43 percent. In Miami, 40 percent of residents are foreign-born, in Sydney and Los Angeles, 31 percent each, and in New York City, 24 percent.

Between 1901 and 2000, some 13 million immigrants arrived in Canada. Before 1961, the top five sources of immigrants were Britain, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland. In the 1990s, they were mainland China, India, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka.

Some 250,346 immigrants arrived in 2001, including 153,000 economic immigrants (65,700 principals admitted under the Canadian point system); 66,600 family unification immigrants; 27,800 refugees; and 2,800 other immigrants. Since June 2002, more weight has been placed on education and competence in English or French: studies show that in 1998, immigrants who arrived after 1985 worked 14 fewer weeks and earned 30 percent less than other Canadians.

In Canada, provincial governments have influence on immigrant selection- eight of the 10 provinces have signed immigration selection agreements (not Ontario, and Quebec has had its own selection agreement for decades). However, only 1,274 people, including dependants, were selected under provincial selection schemes in 2001. Immigration Minister Denis Coderre talks of a shortage of "one million skilled workers" over the next five years, and wants to give newcomers provisional immigrant visas, valid for three to five years, if they move to labor-short destinations and fill jobs. After completing their probation, they could become regular "landed immigrants."

Almost 60 percent of adult immigrants arriving in Canada in 2000 had a post-secondary degree, compared with 43 percent of the existing population. Nevertheless, many newly arrived immigrants have a hard time finding jobs in Canada.

Canada's Immigration Act allows immigrants who are not Canadian citizens to be deported if they are convicted of an offense punishable by at least 10 years in jail, even if they do not serve a sentence.

The US allows Canadian citizens to enter without visas, and has in the past also allowed landed immigrants in Canada to enter the US without visas. However, beginning March 1, 2003, landed immigrants in Canada between ages 18 and 60 from 50 Commonwealth countries, including India, Pakistan, and South Africa, need visas to enter the US.

Tom Blackwell, "18.4% of Canadians born elsewhere: Face of Canada changing dramatically," National Post, January 22, 2003.