Conference highlights the role of immigrants in Canada’s growth
By 2024, immigrants could make up one-third of Canada’s population, Anil Arora, Chief Statistician of Canada told attendees at the Metropolis Conference held in Ottawa in March. And given Canada’s aging population, and dropping birth rate, immigration is Canada’s best bet for the country moving forward, Arora said.
For comparison, twenty-five years ago the ratio of immigrant population in Canada was one in six. Today it is one in four.
The conference, entitled “25 years of conversation on migration: our legacy, our future”, attracted close to 1200 Immigrant service providers, policy makers and researchers who came together to discuss emerging policy needs and to share information on successful practices of integration and inclusion as the number of immigrants grows. In November, the federal government announced that it anticipated bringing in 500,000 immigrants annually by 2025.
Not only has attendance to the conference grown over the years, but the conference continues to cover a wider range of issues, said Jack Jedwab, the president and CEO of the Association for Canadian Studies and Metropolis Institute.
“We think, and a majority of Canadians agree, that immigration is a key dimension of economic growth and has been for some time the single source of population growth,” Jedwab said. “Birthrates are not sufficient to support population renewal.
“During the pandemic we lowered immigration substantially and we saw population decline in some places,” he added. “This reminds us how immigration is important to population growth.
“ It is critical,” Jedwab said.
Jedwab said he was pleased to hear from the Minister of Immigration and their staff that consultations were under way on how to best adjust the system to further streamline the process of admission to Canada of new immigrants.
Lori Wilkinson, Professor of Sociology and Director at the University of Manitoba has been involved with the conference from the beginning when the University of Alberta in Edmonton hosted the first conference 25 years ago. She’d like to see more immigrants and refugees attend future conferences to enable attendees to hear first hand their experiences.
“It would be great to have the ground-up view alongside the eagle eyes view,” Wilkinson said.
The conference brings together Immigrant service providers, policy makers and researchers and is held in various parts of Canada. Besides discussions on how Canada’s identity is evolving, addressing the challenges around admitting refugees to Canada and challenges around Temporary Foreign Workers were also discussed.
John Lefferty, Director of Immigrant Services, from Lethbridge Family Services in Alberta was one of the attendees at the conference in Ottawa this year. It was his first time attending. For him the main takeaway was the fact there were discussions not just on immigration numbers and how to streamline the immigration process but also how to upgrade infrastructure and ensure growth to keep up with demand.
“One particular aspect that caught my attention was that Canada will need an additional three million homes by 2030 to accommodate its growing housing needs,” Lefferty said. “Equally important considerations are being given to the needs in the medical sector and employment sector in order to meet the ambitious plans that we have for the future.”
A poll conducted by Léger leading up to the conference found that 68 per cent of those surveyed had a positive attitude towards immigrants. When asked what made them proud of Canada, 11 per cent listed the country’s inclusiveness, and eight per cent said its multiculturalism and diversity.
Naser Miftari, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Canadian Media