Canada: Why the country wants to bring in 1.5 million immigrants by 2025

Canada is betting big on immigration to fill the gaps in its economy left by aging Baby Boomers leaving the workforce - but not everyone is on board with bringing in so many people from overseas.

Earlier this month, the federal government announced an aggressive plan to accept 500,000 immigrants a year by 2025, with nearly 1.5 million new immigrants coming to the country over the next three years.

The plan would see Canada welcoming about eight times the number of permanent residents each year - per population - than the UK, and four times as many as its southern neighbor, the United States.

But recent polls show that there is also anxiety about the welcome in so many new arrivals.

Canada is betting big

For years, Canada has tried to attract permanent residents - immigrants who have the right to stay in the country indefinitely but are not citizens - to keep its population and economy growing. Last year, the country admitted 405,000 permanent residents - the most in its history.

The reason is, in some ways, about simple math. Like many western countries, Canada has an aging population with a lower birth rate. This means that if a country wants to grow, not shrink, it has to bring in immigrants.

Immigration already accounts for nearly all of the country's labor force growth, and by 2032, it is expected to account for all of the country's population growth, according to a government news release.

Earlier this month, the government announced that by 2025, it hoped to bring in 500,000 new immigrants a year, up about 25% from 2021 figures.

A unique place in the world

Currently, about one in four Canadians comes to the country as an immigrant, the highest among the G7 nations. Compare that to the US, which is colloquially known as the melting pot of the world, where only 14% are immigrants.

The UK also has an immigrant population of around 14%.

Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said these numbers don't mean the UK is lagging behind on immigration, but that Canada is a bit of an "outlier".

The UK, a small island with twice the population of Canada, already has a high population density, while Canada, which has a population of over 38 million and one of the world's largest landmasses, has room to grow.

"Generally Britain doesn't have the goal of increasing population in the same way that Canada does," he said.

Geoffrey Cameron, a political scientist at McMaster University, said that while many countries, such as Canada, are facing lower birth rates and aging populations, the success of the immigration system depends on popular support.

"The limiting factor for most countries is public opinion," he said.

In the US, where the number of migrants entering the country through the southern border has reached an all-time high, there is overall concern about having more immigrants than jobs.

Pre-Brexit, a wave of EU migrants from eastern Europe moving to the UK created a backlash against migration. But over the past few years, Sumption said, popular opinion about immigration has increased, in part because people believe the country has better control over who enters than before.

Canada, meanwhile, has historically had very high support for immigration.

"I think part of the reason is there is a degree of public confidence that immigration to Canada is being properly managed by the government and also being managed in a way that serves Canadian interests," Cameron said.

But that doesn't mean that there aren't immigration problems.

In recent years, the influx of migrants at the US border has caused some controversy, and the emergence in 2018 of a new far-right party, the Canadian People's Party, maintained a topic in national conversation ahead of the 2019 federal election.

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