Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only T&Cs apply

Find out more

Canadian policy on migration

Presenting the most recent position in migration policy from the Canadian government
Good afternoon, Professor. We’re going to talk today about Canada’s migration policy. So if that’s OK with you, we’re going to jump right in with the first question. So could you please talk to us about how has Canada’s policy historically dealt with migration? Yes, that’s a broad and challenging question to answer specifically. Isn’t it?
I think that– I mean, if you’re answering it from a critical or post-colonial perspective, the first thing that you would state is that Canada is a settler colonial country. And so first waves of immigration to then British- and French-controlled territory which became Canada was a settler colonial experiment, one of the main goals of which was to disenfranchise Indigenous people, and then thereafter to replace Indigenous culture with British culture. Moving beyond that, until the end of the Second World War, Canadian immigration policy with a lot of hangover thereafter was quite racist to keep out people of color and people from Southern and Eastern Europe, et cetera.
Moving on from that, Canadian immigration policy started changing quite dramatically with the goal of bringing in people in different employment categories or work categories. And as you start moving into the ’60s, ’70s, and more so in the ’80s, really focusing on bringing in skilled workers to meet the needs in the Canadian labor market. Where it stands today is that more and more of the immigration to Canada is based on skills profiles and a very stark differentiation between temporary and permanent streams for migration. And currently, there are over 80 different individual pathways for people to immigrate to Canada. Wow. But for permanent immigration, there’s four kind of big categories, under which there are several other types of immigration streams.
Those are family class immigration, so bringing in family members permanently, economic class, which is by far the biggest, humanitarian and compassionate grounds for people who are already here, and then humanitarian protection, which would be asylum and refugee resettlement. You mentioned before, until recently, talking about the Canadian case, there have been some changes. Could we talk about that briefly? Yeah, so I think there’s two pretty big changes that we would need to talk about. And again, can– putting Canada in the global context, say after 2015, would really matter here.
So the first and most politically sensitive is that Canada since 2004 has had something called a bilateral Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, which is much like the Dublin Regulations in Europe that states in the country where an asylum seeker first arrives is where they need to lodge their asylum claim and go through the refugee status determination process. Canada has a bilateral agreement with the US around that.
That was put in place because it was in the ’90s, this so-called border rush of people predominantly from Central America, although from around Latin America, coming through the US to claim asylum in Canada. It contains a so-called loophole, and that loophole is that it only pertains to official land border crossings. So that people who cross, again, in the European context, what would organizations like Frontex or the European Commission would call green borders– that’s just parts of the border that are between ports of entry– people can claim asylum.
That loophole was built in, A, because there was a real understanding that to have the STCA extend to the whole border would create a market for smuggling and likely increase the undocumented population in Canada. But it’s also not so much of a loophole because the Canadian Supreme Court, in a decision of the same decision, said that every person regardless of their citizenship status in Canada has the right to due process, including an oral asylum hearing. And that’s why we have our refugee status determination in the way that is now.
Starting in 2016, the Trump administration’s policy changes around immigration, which are myriad and well known and we don’t need to get into the particulars of them, pushed people to start looking for other options. And in late 2016 and early 2017, we started to see what for Canada was a large scale mixed migration flow over the border for people to claim asylum. And in– between 2017 and 2020, about 60,000 people claimed asylum at the land border, particularly in one spot between New York state and the province of Quebec.
And again, from a European perspective, that’s like a really paltry number, but that contributed to an overall doubling of asylum claims in Canada over 2015 and 2016, which was a significant political issue here. And that– it lead to burden shifting between provinces, between cities, billions of dollars in emergency expenditure, and for the first time, a populist party that absolutely tanked.
It turned out that public support was still robust, despite the politicization of this issue and discussion of a border crisis. But for the first time, a party that said end asylum, incarcerate asylum seekers on the border, and let’s stop it with multiculturalism, et cetera.

Presenting the most recent developments in Canadian migration policy with Dr. Craig Damian Smith

This article is from the free online

Why Do People Migrate? Facts

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now