Immigration Policy in Canada: History, Administration and Debates

Feature by Jay Makarenko || Aug 12, 2010

A geographically large country with a relatively small population, Canada has traditionally viewed immigration as a key instrument of population and economic growth. Over its history, however, immigration priorities and strategies have changed significantly, from an open border approach in Canada’s early history, to policy that could be characterized as explicitly discriminatory, to an economically focused approach. This article provides an introduction to immigration policy in Canada and explores immigration in the context of Canadian federalism, with specific focus on its history, key legislation and agencies in this area, and current issues/debates.

Immigration Policy and Canadian Federalism

Federal and provincial overlap in a key policy area

History of Canadian Immigration Policy

An overview of historical changes in federal immigration policy

Administration of Canadian Immigration Policy

Key federal immigration legislation and agencies

Debates on Immigration Policy in Canada

Discrimination in immigration policy, support services for immigrants

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Immigration Policy and Canadian Federalism

Federal and provincial overlap in a key policy area

Immigration as a Concurrent Power

Under Canada’s Constitution, immigration is recognized as a “concurrent power,” meaning that jurisdiction is formally shared between the federal government and the provinces. Under this framework, the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over “naturalization and aliens,” which enables it to determine the number of immigrants admitted to Canada, and the criteria against which they are selected. In this context, the federal government has introduced key legislation, such as the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which outlines federal approaches to these immigration issues. The federal government, however, has collaborated with the provinces to establish immigration goals and policies, though the level of cooperation has varied at times. In this regard, some provinces have more actively participated in immigration policy than others; the prime example, beginning in the 1960s, is Quebec. With a distinct French language and cultural heritage, Quebec has established its own department of immigration and has negotiated several agreements with the Government of Canada regarding immigration policy, criteria, and targets (see below for more information).

The provinces also enjoy key powers over immigration policy that are associated with the role they play, through constitutional jurisdiction, in the provision of social services and education. As such, the provinces play an important role in immigration settlement services, such as housing, job training, and language education. The federal government also participates in this field through programs and services funded by the Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the responsible federal department.

Quebec Participation in Immigration Policy

With the Quiet Revolution and growing national self-determination in the 1960s, the Government of Quebec took a much more active role in immigration policy. In this context, immigration to the province came to be perceived as a tool to strengthen the francophone nature of Quebec society, in addition to being a means of maintaining population levels in the face of declining birth rates. In 1968, the province established its own immigration department.

Quebec’s control over immigration matters relating solely to Quebec was secured in the 1990s, with the signing of the Canada-Quebec According Relating to Immigration and Temporary Admission of Aliens. Under this agreement, and through subsequent renegotiations with the federal government, Quebec assumed control over setting its own annual immigration targets, enjoys sole responsibility for selecting immigrants that settle in the province (with the exception of refugees and family reunification classes), and has independent offices abroad for recruiting, screening, selecting, and screening immigrants. The Government of Quebec is also responsible for providing settlement and integration services to new immigrants to the province, with partial federal funding support.

Participation by Other Provinces in Immigration Policy

While the remaining provinces do not participate in immigration policy to the same extent as Quebec, they do play an active role in its administration. Between 1998 and 2002, the federal government signed several agreements with individual provinces, many of which include a Provincial Nominee Program. Under these programs, provincial governments are able to identify and nominate an agreed-upon number of potential immigrants to their provinces. As such, each province has been able to develop its own immigration-related goals and strategies. Further to this, Manitoba and British Columbia have signed agreements giving them sole responsibility for providing settlement and integration services for new immigrants. Under these agreements, the two provinces design and deliver programs and services for immigrants that settle within their respective borders, with partial funding from the federal government. The federal government has also committed to provide funding to support other provinces in delivering such services.

History of Canadian Immigration Policy

Overview of historical changes in federal immigration priorities and policies

Early Canadian Immigration Policy

Following Confederation in 1867, immigration policy was a priority of the new federal government. Attracting a large influx of immigrants was viewed as a key economic strategy to bolster national demand for domestic goods and stimulate the nation’s small manufacturing sector. In addition, Canada looked to immigrants to settle the largely unoccupied lands in the west as a means of securing national sovereignty in these areas.

In 1869, the federal government passed the first Immigration Act, establishing the basic framework of Canadian immigration policy. In theory, the first Act pursued an “open door” policy, providing very few restrictions on who could immigrate to Canada, with the only exception being criminals. The Act did, however, place some barriers on persons with disabilities, the ill, and the poor. Those who were blind, deaf, insane, or infirm were recorded as such by the ships transporting them. If an individual posed a threat to public safety due to disease or illness, s/he was required to post a $300 bond upon entering Canada. For immigrants that were deemed destitute or poor, the ship’s captain was required to pay a sum of money equal to the travel and initial living expenses for those immigrants. Finally, the Act set out the specific conditions for transporting immigrants to Canada.

In addition to passing the Immigration Act, the federal government also opened immigration offices in Great Britain, continental Europe, and the United States. The purpose of these offices was to advertise Canada as destination for migration and to help facilitate the process for immigrants. The federal government also passed the Dominion Land Act to attract immigrant settlers to the west. Under the Act, free land was provided to male immigrants if they agreed to cultivate the land and build a permanent dwelling within three years.

While the Canadian government adopted an “open door” policy in theory, early immigration policy was highly discriminatory in practice. Through its immigration offices, the federal government focused primarily on attracting farmers and labourers, discouraging urban workers, artisans, and tradesmen. Moreover, the emphasis was on immigrants of Caucasian ethnicity, and preferably of European or American nationality. One of the most blatant forms of discrimination was the 1885 Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act. During the early 1880s, the federal government assisted in bringing thousands of Chinese workers to help construct the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). Following the completion of the CPR, however, the federal government moved to restrict any further Chinese immigration by imposing a large tax on each individual immigrant, in addition to denying them Canadian citizenship. Restrictions on Chinese immigrants were enforced until 1947; no other ethnic group was ever targeted this way in Canadian history.

Immigration Policy and the First World War

During the First World War, the federal government imposed greater restrictions on immigration to Canada. Under the auspices of national security, the government suspended all immigration from enemy nations, including Germany, Austria, and Hungary. In addition, residents from those nations already living in Canada were recognized as enemy aliens under the War Measures Act, 1914. As a result, these residents were required to register with the government and carry identification cards, and were prohibited from joining any associations or movement deemed unlawful by the federal government. Many “enemy aliens” were also placed in internment camps or involuntarily deported from Canada. In 1917, the federal government further introduced the Wartime Elections Act, removing the right to vote from any “enemy alien” who had received citizenship after 1902.

The federal government’s tighter immigration policies continued after the war. This was due to a number of factors. Early policy in Canada had viewed immigration as a strategy for economic growth and, in so doing, had adopted an “open door” approach. Following the First World War, however, Canada faced significant political and economic uncertainties, such as the rise of communism, organized labour movements, and the Great Depression. Accordingly, the federal government adopted a more exclusionary immigration stance, with the goal of encouraging social harmony and control by excluding immigrants of certain ideological, religious, or ethnic backgrounds. Also fundamental to this way of thinking was the notion of protecting Canadian workers from losing their jobs to “cheap” foreign labour.

In 1919, a new Immigration Act was introduced, providing the federal government with new powers to exclude specific groups from immigrating to Canada. Section 38 of the new Act allowed the government to limit or prohibit the entry of undesirable races or nationalities. Under Section 38, the federal government prohibited the entry of nationalities that had fought against Canada and Britain in the war, including those from Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Turkey. The government also used Section 38 to prohibit the entry of Doukhobers, Hutterites, and Mennonites, due to their particular religious practices. Section 41 of the Act further allowed the government to deport anti-government and business activists. Overall, the government’s primary concern was the rise of communism and socialism following the Russian Revolution, and its impact on organized labour movements in Canada.

Immigration Policy Following the Second World War

In the 1940s, attitudes towards immigration began to change. Following the Second World War, Canada experienced unprecedented economic growth, which alleviated concerns over Canadian workers losing their jobs to cheap foreign labour. In addition, egalitarian ideas such as the welfare state and multiculturalism began to take hold in Canadian society, fostering greater toleration of different ethnic groups and raising concerns over racial and religious discrimination. With regard to immigration, in the post-war period Canadian policymakers again began to view immigration as a tool for economic growth. In 1947, the federal government removed the ban on Chinese immigrants. In1951, the Senate Standing Committee on Immigration and Labour tabled a series of reports on federal immigration policy, urging the government to move away from its traditionally restrictive stance on immigration and to return to a more open door policy.

These changes in social attitudes, however, were slow to manifest in immigration policy. In 1952, the federal government passed a new Immigration Act, which continued many of the previous discriminatory practices. The new Act set out “preferred classes” of immigrants, including British subjects and citizens of France and the United States, and Asian immigrants who wished to reunite with immediate relatives in Canada. The Act further discriminated against Asian immigrants without immediate relatives in Canada, gay persons, and persons with mental disabilities. In addition, the Act provided the federal government with the discretion to exclude or limit immigration of groups for social or economic reasons.

The 1960s, however, saw several key reforms to Canada’s immigration policy. In 1962, the government tabled regulations virtually eliminating racial discrimination as a major feature of immigration policy. As such, prospective immigrants could no longer be denied entry to Canada on the basis of colour, race, or nationality. In 1966, the federal government tabled a White Paper on immigration, recognizing immigration as a major contributor to the national goals of population and economic growth. Nevertheless, to prevent high levels of unskilled immigration to Canada, the paper recommended a preference for immigrants with skills that would be valuable in the Canadian labour force.

The shift to an emphasis on skilled immigrants continued with the introduction of a Points System in 1967. Under this system, there were no quotas or restrictions on the number of people who could immigrate to Canada. Instead, prospective immigrants were required to pass a points test based on a number of qualities. These included whether they knew English or French (Canada’s two official languages); had arranged for employment in Canada; had a relative or family member in Canada; had proper education or training; and were immigrating to an area of Canada with high employment.

In 1969, Canada signed the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (and its Protocol). The term “refugee” is commonly used to refer to a particular class of immigrant; specifically, those who are forced to leave their home country due to war, political prosecution, or natural disaster. While Canada had previously admitted refugees on a case-by-case basis, it had not formally recognized refugees as a class of immigrants until 1969. Even after signing the UN Convention, however, the federal government did not institute formal procedures for determining claims to Convention refugee status until 1978, when amendments to the Immigration Act were introduced.

Contemporary Canadian Immigration Policy

Beginning in the 1970s, the federal government undertook a broad review of immigration, commissioning a study to provide factual background on policy issues and to furnish new policy options. During this study, the provinces and other stakeholders were invited to submit briefs. The result was a 1975 Green Paper on immigration, which proposed to move away from the practices developed under the 1952 Immigration Act and the 1966 White Paper. Generally speaking, the Green Paper welcomed ethnic diversity and continued to emphasize immigration as a tool that could help Canada meet its labour needs. Iinstead of focusing simply on skilled immigration, however, the Green Paper further recognized the need to draw immigrants willing to settle in more remote, less populated areas. Following the Green Paper’s release, a Special Joint Senate-House of Commons Committee was created to stage public hearings on immigration policy, and to provide recommendations on new legislation.

In 1976, the federal government subsequently introduced a new Immigration Act, which involved broad reforms and set the basic framework for Canada’s contemporary immigration policy. A key element of the new Act was the requirement for greater planning and provincial consultation in immigration policy. Under the Act, the federal government was required to set targets for the number of immigrants it would admit each year, and to consult with the provinces regarding planning and management of provincial immigration.

Another important innovation was the introduction of new categories of immigrants. These included:

  • Independent class: individuals applying for landed-immigrant status on their own initiative
  • Humanitarian class: a) refugees (as defined under the United Nations Convention on Refugees), and b) other persecuted and displaced persons not covered under the UN Convention
  • Family class: including the immediate family, parents, and grandparents of individuals already living in Canada
  • Assisted relatives class: distant relatives who were sponsored by a family member in Canada and who met some of the selection criteria of the independent class

The 1978 Act represented the first time that Canada had formally recognized refugees as a legitimate class of immigrants to Canada. Moreover, under the new classifications, the Point System only applied to the independent class (and partially to the assisted relatives class). As such, immigrants applying under the humanitarian or family classes were not required to meet the Points System.

In the 1980s, the Immigration Act was further amended to include a fifth immigration category: the business class. Under this classification, individuals could immigrate if they were willing to bring significant financial capital to Canada to start a business or invest in the domestic economy. This new means of immigration has been used extensively by immigrants of Chinese origin, particularly during the period leading up to the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China. Between 1983 and 1996, approximately 700,000 Chinese business people, mainly from Hong Kong, immigrated to Canada, bringing billions in investment funds.

As a result of reforms to Canadian immigration policy in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, the nature of Canadian immigration has changed significantly. Between 1900 and 1965, Europe (in particular, Britain) was the primary source of immigrants to Canada. By the end of the century, however, Asia represented the largest region of origin for new Canadians. Other areas, including Africa, the Middle East, and South and Central America, have also become important sources of contemporary immigration.

In 2001, the federal government introduced the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, replacing the previous 1976 Immigration Act. This new legislation retained much of the previous legislation’s framework, including the basic family, refugee, and economic classes of immigrants. The Act, however, did tighten eligibility requirements for refugees, skilled immigrants, and business immigrants. Importantly, it extended family entitlements to same-sex and common-law relationships, allowing individuals united under such relationships to bring their partners to Canada.

The 2001 legislation also provided the government with new powers to deal with terrorism following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. This included broadened powers to arrest, detain, and deport landed immigrants on the suspicion they might be, or could become, a security threat. In 2002, the issue of security further led to the Canada-United States “Safe Third Country Agreement,” with important implications for refugees and asylum seekers. Previously, refugees seeking to immigrate to Canada could enter the United States (US) on a travel visa and subsequently claim refugee status at the US border (and vice versa for refugees seeking to immigrate to the Canada). Under the new agreement, however, refugees were only permitted to make refugee claims to the country of initial entry. The purpose of the legislation was to prevent individuals in the US from leaving, and possibly escaping US authorities, by making a refugee claim in Canada (Canadian Council for Refugees, 2009). Other key forms of Canadian-American cooperation in the area of security and immigration include ensuring the compatibility of immigration databases of both countries, and creating of joint immigration-processing facilities.

Canada-British Columbia Immigration Agreement

In April 2010, the federal government and province of British Columbia announced a new inter-government agreement on immigration (formally referred to as the Canada-British Columbia Immigration Agreement). Under the new framework, British Columbia secured greater influence over the selection and settlement of immigrants to the province. In addition, the federal government agreed to transfer $114 million to the province to support provincial settlement and integration services.

For more information on the Canada-British Columbia Immigration Agreement:

Amendments to Canada’s Refugee System

Also in early 2010, the federal government announced reforms to the system by which refugee class immigrants entered the country. Referred to as Bill C-11: The Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the new legislation will increase the number of new refugees accepted to the country and provide more funding to aid in their integration into Canadian society.

The legislation further aims to speed up the approval system for refugee claimants and reduce the large backlog of claims that developed (claimants often have to wait up to two years to have their claims processed). The new system would sort refugee claimants into two groups: those from “safe” democratic countries and those from “dangerous” countries. Claimants from safe countries will be fast-tracked under the new system. The legislation is also intended to limit the number of fraudulent claims by immigrants seeking easier access to Canada by claiming refugee status.

In developing the new refugee claims process, the Conservative government negotiated with other opposition parties in order to ensure its support. Following its passage in the House, the legislation was reviewed by the Senate, which eventually voted in favour of the bill in June 2010. The Senate did, however, add a qualification that the new system should be reviewed in three years so as to ensure that it was operating effectively.

For more information on the new refugee claims process:

Administration of Canadian Immigration Policy

Key federal immigration legislation and agencies

Legislative and Regulatory Framework

Canadian immigration law includes both statutes and regulations. Statutes are legislation enacted by Parliament. In the area of immigration, key statutes include the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act, and the Citizenship Act. Regulations, by contrast, are rules and procedures formally adopted and amended by government agencies under the authority granted to them by statutes. Key sets of regulations in the area of immigration include Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations and Citizenship Regulations.

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (and its related regulations) sets out executive authority over immigration policy. In this context, the Act recognizes the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration as being responsible for the Act’s administration. The Act also recognizes that the minister and cabinet may make any regulation relating to the Act and immigration practices. The Act and its regulations also establish the basic requirements individuals must meet to immigrate to Canada, and the requirements for remaining in the country. Other key components of the Act include: the outlining of procedures and bodies specific to the refugee class of immigrants, the establishment of an appeals process for denial of immigration claims, and measures for the Act’s enforcement.

The Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act is federal legislation formally establishing Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the responsible federal department, helmed by the Minister of Immigration and Citizens, and the lead federal agency on immigration policy and practices. The Act further outlines the powers, duties, and functions of the department and its minister (see below for more information).

The Citizenship Act (and its related regulations) sets out the basic rules and procedures regarding Canadian citizenship. This is particularly important for immigrants who plan to remain in Canada permanently, with the goal of becoming full Canadian citizens. The Act and its regulations set out the rules by which an immigrant may attain Canadian citizenship, and the circumstances under which citizenship may be lost. Under the Act, an individual may only lose his/her citizenship if it is voluntary renounced or if citizenship was initially attained on fraudulent grounds. The Act further establishes the Oath or Affirmation of Citizenship, which must be recited by an individual prior to the granting of Canadian citizenship.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada

As discussed above, the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is recognized as the lead federal agency on immigration matters. This department is helmed by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, a senior minister in the federal cabinet. CIC was first created in 1994 with the intent of bringing the policy areas of immigration and citizenship under one single department. In 2008, the multiculturalism portfolio was also moved under the CIC umbrella, from the Canadian Heritage. This move reflected the contemporary nature of Canadian immigration — being highly ethnically and religiously diverse.

CIC’s stated mandate is as follows:

  • Developing and implementing policies, programs and services that:
    • facilitate the arrival of persons and their integration to Canada in a way that maximizes their contribution to the country while protecting the health, safety and security of Canadians;
    • maintain Canada’s humanitarian tradition by protecting refugees and persons in need of protection; and
    • enhance the values and promote the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship.
      • Advancing global migration policies in a way that supports Canada’s immigration and humanitarian objectives.

(Citizenship and Immigration Canada, July 2009)

In advancing these goals, CIC is responsible for a number of activities. These include the selection of immigrants and refugees according to federal statutes and regulations; the issue of visitor, worker, and student visas; the settlement and integration of immigrants and refugees once they arrive in Canada; and the processing of applications for Canadian citizenship (Citizenship and Immigration Canada, March 2009).

The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, an elected Member of Parliament and a senior member of the cabinet, is responsible for setting department priorities and strategies. In so doing, the minister often works in cooperation with the prime minister and other cabinet ministers. S/he is also assisted by the deputy minister, a senior public servant. The deputy minister also oversees the various department executives, responsible for specific areas of CIC’s activities. The department operates through its national headquarters and five regional headquarters and local offices throughout Canada and abroad.

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada

The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) is an administrative tribunal responsible for hearing and making decisions on a wide range of immigration-related issues and cases. An administrative tribunal is a decision-making body, established by the government, to decide administrative issues, rights, and cases in a more efficient and informal manner than a court of law. As such, the IRB does not make immigration policy, but simply adjudicates issues arising from the application of immigration law by the government. In this context, the IRB is the largest administrative tribunal in the Government of Canada. While the IRB reports to Parliament through the minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism is recognized in law as being independent of the minister, with the power to overturn CIC decisions.

The IRB is constituted by three divisions:

  • Refugee Protection Division: decides claims for refugee protection made by individuals already in Canada
  • Immigration Division: hears cases for foreign nationals or permanent residents accused of contravening rules for immigrants under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
  • Immigration Appeal Division: hears appeals of decisions made by CIC and other government departments regarding immigration. This includes appeals by individuals already in Canada who have been denied applications to bring family members to the country; appeals of removal orders in which an individual is being deported from Canada; appeals of permanent residents who have been accused of not meeting their residency requirements to stay in Canada; and appeals of decisions made by the IRB’s Immigration Division

In hearing immigration cases, the IRB’s divisions operate in manner similar to a court of law, but under far less formal constraints. Persons appearing before a tribunal have the right to be represented by counsel, be it a lawyer, licensed immigration consultant, or trusted advisor or family members. Arguments and evidence are presented to the tribunal, whose members act as impartial judges. The setting and procedures of a hearing, however, are very informal and evidence is not limited by technical or legal rules. Finally, in rendering their decisions, tribunal members are required to provide reasons, either in oral form during the hearing, or in written format following the conclusion of the hearing. IRB decisions are not necessarily final, and may be appealed to the Federal Court of Canada (and ultimately to the Supreme Court of Canada).

Canada Border Services Agency

A third key component of the administration of immigration policy is the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Established in 2003, CBSA provides border services and oversees the flow of persons and goods across Canadian borders. As it relates to immigration, CBSA is responsible for detaining persons deemed a danger to the public and for removing persons who have received a removal order according to Canada’s immigration laws. CBSA also engages in intelligence operations, providing surveillance of immigrants suspected of contravening immigration laws or who are suspected of being a danger to the public. While working in close cooperation with CIC, the CBSA is an independent agency.

Debates on Immigration Policy in Canada

Continued discrimination and support services for immigrants

Discrimination in Immigration Policy

As discussed above, Canada’s early immigration policy was highly discriminatory of certain races and religions. During the 1960s, however, any type of formal discrimination was effectively removed from immigration policy when the Points System was introduced. Under this system, individuals could not be denied immigration to Canada based on their ethnicity, nationality or religion. Determinations of who could and could not immigrate, at least as far as economic immigrants, were instead based on one’s education, skills, language, and employment.

Some critics of Canada’s immigration policy have argued, however, that the current Points System continues with discrimination, albeit in a more hidden manner. The system no longer explicitly discriminates on the grounds of race or religion. Nevertheless, the education, skill, employment and financial requirements of the Points System represent a barrier to many groups. Not all potential immigrants have the same opportunities to meet the education requirement, due to the fact that accessible education may not be provided in their home countries. The skills requirements, further, often discriminate against women, insofar as women’s participation in the labour force may also be limited in their country of origin. Some suggest that one of the more explicit forms of discrimination can be found in the investor or business immigrant category, which allows wealthy individuals to effectively buy access to Canada by bringing significant financial capital into the domestic economy. Such opportunities are only available to advantaged economic classes, and denied to those of limited wealth and income.

It is important to note that the Points System only applies to one class of immigrants. Individuals may immigrate to Canada under the family and refugee categories and, as such, are not required to meet thresholds of education, skill, language, or employment. The economic class, however, represents the largest category through which an individual may immigrate to Canada. In 2008, for example, Canada accepted approximately 250,000 immigrants as permanent residents. Of that total, 150,000 came to Canada under the economic class, 66,000 under the family class, and 22,000 under the refugee class (Citizenship and Immigration Canada, August 2009). Furthermore, while immigration under the family class does not depend on the Points System directly, the system can have an indirect affect in that individuals who seek to sponsor family members often first immigrated to Canada themselves under the economic category. In this sense, families who have members with high levels of education, skills, and potential employment opportunities in Canada enjoy a better opportunity of emigrating to Canada than other families.

Programs and Services for New Immigrants

Another issue regarding immigration policy centres not on the criteria for entering Canada, but the process of settlement once immigrants have arrived in the country. In this context, the focus is on programs and services provided to newcomers that facilitate their integration into Canada’s economic and social life.

Canada does not have a unified approach to providing services and programs for new immigrants. This is due, in part, to Canadian federalism and the fact that most social services provided to the general public, such as health care, education, and social assistance, are provided separately by provincial governments rather than the federal government. With regard to immigrant settlement and integration specifically, services and programs are often offered by the federal government, provincial governments, local and municipal governments, and by non-government organizations. These myriad of service providers often work independently of one another with little in the way of cooperation and policy integration.

At the federal level, the Government of Canada, through Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), is responsible for settlement services in most provinces and territories. Through federal-provincial agreements, British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec assume direct responsibility for the design, administration, and delivery of services. From a federal government perspective, CIC offers or funds programs focusing on language instruction, skills development, information and orientation, and initiatives to support social engagement and labour market participation.

Even with these programs, however, recent studies have indicated that new immigrants face a number of difficulties in their settlement into Canadian society (see Simich et. al., 2005). A key challenge is integrating into the economy and labour market, which oftenresults in high levels of poverty for new immigrants. This is due, in part, to the fact that foreign credentials may not be recognized (to practice medicine, for example); language barriers; and the stigmatization of visible minorities due to discrimination. Typically, newcomers also face mental health issues, such as stress and anxiety, due to financial insecurity, family separation, and discrimination.

Studies have also attributed deficiencies in services for immigrants to policy decisions made by governments, including a lack of sufficient resources and narrow service mandates due to government (funding) cutbacks. Studies have also suggested a lack of collaborative working relationships between service providers due to the many actors and jurisdictions involved, as well as increased competition between agencies and organizations for limited government funding. Accordingly, providers have advocated for increased funding support programs for immigrants, and greater coordination and information-sharing between actors and jurisdictions (Simich et. al., 2005).

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