Immigrants are said to cost Canada too much!!

By Véronique Malka, Canada-US immigration lawyer

On May 17, 2011 the Frasier Institute, a public policy Think Thank in Canada, published a study about immigration claiming, as its headline, that immigrants to Canada cost the country 23 Billion per year. The report says newcomers pay about half as much in income taxes as other Canadians, but absorb nearly the same value of government services, costing taxpayers roughly $6,051 per immigrant and amounting to a total annual cost of somewhere between $16.3-billion and $23.6-billion.  This report is being criticized already as telling only one side of the story.

From my perspective, the study is flawed in that it groups all immigrants to Canada.  As an immigration lawyer, I see first-hand how there are many different types of immigrants to Canada.  You have the skilled workers who come to the country though a very narrow and carefully designed selection process, often with a job secured already.  These newcomers have money saved up, are well educated, and begin to pay taxes and integrate to Canadian society immediately.  Their children, whether born abroad or in Canada, can be expected to follow in their parents’ footsteps, which means to secure college education and go to work.  Thus, this trajectory does lend itself to the argument addressed by the Frasier report that children of immigrants are expected to “pay” Canada back for their parents’ reliance on the system.

On the other hand, another major category of immigrants to Canada are refugee claimants.  These immigrants, which Canada has an obligation to accept and subsidize (at least preliminarily), may or may not have a high level of education.  They often come from war-torn countries, where most of their recent years were spent in political activism, leading them to fear for their lives and flee their native land.  Upon arrival to Canada, these newcomers are immediately heavily reliant on the social system, from shelters to house them, to cultural centers to orient them, they take English or French classes, and even seek medical care to help them recover from their possible injuries.  They land in a completely new social order, adapting to the racial discrimination of the modern west, all the while trying to make a new life for themselves.  This often results in them not working and relying on welfare.  Should they work, they end up in low level blue collar jobs that may not rely on basic language skills (e.g. pumping gas).  Unlike the children on skilled immigrants, children of refugees may not necessarily be expected to go far beyond their parents’ accomplishments in Canada, nor repay the country for its help.

I believe that any study looking at the impact of immigrants to the economy and social landscape of Canada must distinguish between the different immigrant streams.   Very different and surprising findings could result from this approach.


May 25, 2011 |
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