Unlike the United States, which has long relied on immigrants to fill unskilled jobs, Canada’s immigration program selects for specific qualifications, mitigating the criticism that newcomers “steal” jobs from workers, one which has long fueled anti-immigration rhetoric south of the border.
But Canada’s new numbers also include an increase in the number of refugee admissions, from 43,000 a year today, to 51,700 by 2021, and this could prove more controversial. The question isn’t the numbers per se, but the means by which refugees make their claim. The situation at the Canada-U.S. border, where thousands of claimants have walked across at illegal checkpoints, has strained the refugee determination system to the breaking point. The wait time for hearings has stretched to 18 months, during which time claimants remain in the country and receive government benefits, including housing, which has been provided through a patchwork of college campuses, hotel rooms, and in Montreal, even cots in the hallways of the city’s Olympic Stadium.
In Ontario, the situation is even more dire. In June of this year, Toronto Mayor John Tory pleaded with the federal government for $60 million in aid, citing data from Toronto city staff that showed 3,300 refugees were spread across the city’s homeless shelters; Ottawa offered $11 million. In the nation’s capital itself, a survey conducted in April found that one quarter of that city’s homeless population were refugees.