HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA – Officials and experts planning Canada’s economic recovery from the global pandemic see a large part of the solution in current and future immigrants.
Given the oversized role immigrants already play in the country’s highly pluralistic society, this conclusion may be inevitable.
Canada has one of the highest immigration rates of any country, with first-generation residents accounting for 21.9% of the population according to the last census in 2016. Asia is the largest source of immigration, followed by Africa and then Europe. Canada is also home to more than half a million foreign students.
The flood of newcomers – which before the pandemic was more than 300,000 a year – has been curbed by new stringent health travel restrictions. But with the long-awaited vaccines finally available to more residents, analysts are looking forward to reopening the immigration doors.
Harald Bauder, an immigration expert at Ryerson University in Toronto, told VOA that he believes immigration is necessary now more than ever.
“Immigration is really part of the solution to getting the economy going again as part of the recovery strategy,” he said. “How can we make up for the lost year? I have the impression that it will not be a bad year to come to Canada as a potential immigrant. “
Bauder added: “We are getting signals [from the federal government] that immigration will be part of the solution when this is over. “
The rationale for Canada’s promotion of immigration is based on a Government websitewhich states: “Immigrants contribute to our economy, not only by filling the gaps in our workforce and paying taxes, but also by spending money on goods, housing and transportation.”
Immigration also helps offset demographic changes. In 2019, the birth rate in Canada was the lowest ever recorded.
Still, the past year has been a difficult year for immigrants in Canada, many of whom have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, even if others have played key roles in maintaining public health.
“Immigrants have made a huge contribution to the pandemic economy through their work as essential and frontline workers and will continue to lead Canada through our economic recovery,” said Jennifer Watts, CEO of the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia.
“At the same time, many immigrants have been negatively affected by the pandemic, particularly those who work in sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, such as the hospitality and retail sectors.”
Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada’s opposition New Democratic Party, insists that the country’s economic recovery “must not fall on the backs of workers and families”.
“This pandemic has hit people hard across Canada,” Singh said in a statement to VOA. “It affected everyone, including newcomers to Canada and international students.”
Dr. Idil Atak, a refugee expert at Ryerson University, said the pandemic had created other obstacles for newcomers, including asylum seekers unable to obtain legal work permits while awaiting decisions on their applications for refugee status.
“As for employment, I noticed that there are currently problems processing work permits for asylum seekers because of the pandemic,” Atak said in an interview. “Asylum seekers living in Canada who are not yet refugees are usually entitled to work, but they need a permit to do so.
“During my research, I discovered that the deadlines for processing work permits are extremely long. I have spoken to some refugee attorneys who have clients who have been in Canada for two years but are not allowed to work due to the delays caused by the pandemic.
Atak also expressed concern about the impact of Canada’s travel restrictions on potential refugees.
“One of the things the Canadian government can do is explain that refugees coming to Canada are part of an important journey,” Atak said. “Of course there should be security checks and health screenings … but that is quite feasible to offer protection to asylum seekers in Canada.”
Despite Canada’s reputation as a diverse and inclusive society, many newcomers face an anti-immigrant mood.
Noah Khan is a Masters in Education from York University in Toronto. His research focused on anti-Asian hate speech online during the pandemic, which he presented at doctoral conferences.
A ‘mask’ for racism
Khan told VOA that his research was inspired by his own experiences, including an anonymous email that read: [student group] meet and from now on sandy. “Khan said he understood” Sandy “as” a racist insult to the people of the Middle East “.
“The pandemic has put a mask on racism that I didn’t even know it could wear,” Khan said.
“It is clear from the research that anti-Asian racism has increased, spread in new ways, has affected mental health in Asia, and has indicated a further decline in mental health in Asia based on the development of things.”