Canada struggling to ‘absorb’ immigrants: report

August 12, 2017

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun |

Assimilation? Integration? Absorption?

There’s nothing like a dispute over words to get Canadians to pay attention – and in this case that might not be a bad thing.

This month Manitoba responded to two complaints by barring a driver from continuing to use his two-year-old licence plate “ASIMIL8.”

The word “assimilate” has been used to describe the process by which Indigenous people and immigrants could mix into the larger culture. Some Canadians consider it offensive, arguing it doesn’t allow room for cultural differences.

Assimilation has been largely superseded by the word “integration.” And now Canadian government immigration officials are talking about a new concept: “absorptive capacity.”

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada officials are digesting a significant report that defines absorptive capacity as “a two-way process that encourages adjustment on the part of both the newcomer and the receiving society.”

Indeed, the internal report, obtained under an access to information request, shows that immigration analysts are worried that the “absorptive capacity” of Canada is going down.

“Declining outcomes of recent immigrants have shown that integration is not automatic,” says the report, which surveys emerging problems with immigration flows and the pressure it’s putting on Canadian sectors.

While some Canadians behave as if it’s xenophobic to question immigration policy, immigration rates and their results, the sweeping in-house government report, titled Evidence-Based Levels and Mix: Absorptive Capacity, does exactly that.

The report, obtained by Vancouver lawyer Richard Kurland, shows integration of immigrants into Canada, despite relative success here compared to most countries, is faltering ­– in regards to housing, jobs, health care, education, religious tensions, ethnic enclaves and transit.

With Canada now accepting 300,000 immigrants a year, in addition to accommodating 700,000 international students and temporary foreign workers, the 2014 report, which has no listed author, recognizes real problems. It wants policy makers to adapt.

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