Tuesday, April 22, 2008


This is by columnist Greg Weston in today's Toronto Sun.

In the realm of mass misperceptions in this country, it is hard to find an area of government, public policy or politics more muddied by misinformation than the wonderful world of immigration.

Unfortunately, a population already infused with bad data is the perfect dupe for the kind of exaggerated claims being made by all sides in the current debate over the Conservative government's proposed immigration reforms.

The government isn't helping. For instance, the immigration department couldn't provide a simple demographic breakdown of the 900,000 people the government claims are in line to get into Canada.

In an effort to inject some cold reality to the increasingly heated debate about Canada's ethnic mosaic, herein some of the more popular immigration myths, and some inconvenient truths. Most of the latest available government stats are for 2006, and based on averages.

Myth: Visible minorities now make up about half the Canadian population.
Fact: The figure is about 16%, although that number is obviously higher in Toronto and Vancouver.

Myth: The largest number of newcomers are arriving from predominantly Muslim countries.
Fact: Chinese immigrants have outnumbered all other nationalities every year for the past decade, accounting for roughly 13% of all new permanent residents, followed by those from India (12%), PhiIippines (7%), Pakistan (5%) and the U.S. (4%).

Myth: The largest numbers of seasonal workers andtemporary immigrants come from Mexico and the Caribbean.
Fact: The biggest source of temporary labour in this country is from the U.S., almost 25,000 of them in 2006, followed by the Philippines (think nannies and the seasonal hospitality biz). Mexico is a distant third.


Myth: The largest numbers of foreign students enrolling in Canadian colleges and universities come from the U.S. and China.
Fact: There are almost 170,000 foreign students currently in the country on temporary visas to study at Canadian colleges and universities, with an annual turnover rate of about 60,000. In all but one year out of the past decade, by far the largest incoming group of students has come from -- drum roll, please -- Korea, accounting for about a quarter of all the foreign faces in our classrooms today.

Myth: Among the roughly 90,000 so-called "humanitarian" immigrants allowed into Canada annually, mostly to be reunited with family members already here, the largest numbers come from India, Pakistan or Africa.
Fact: The biggest group of humanitarian immigrants allowed into Canada in 2006 came from Mexico, almost 12,000 of them or about 13% of the total in that category.

Myth: Among the 80,000 refugee claimants currently in the country awaiting a decision on their fate, the largest numbers showed up at the border from either Africa or predominantly Muslim countries.
Fact: In 2006, the largest number of refugee claimants by a mile were Mexicans, followed by the Chinese and Pakistanis.

Myth: Once a married person gains permanent residence in Canada, the spouse and kids will be allowed in almost on the next plane.
Fact: It currently takes eight to 10 months to process applications by spouses and children to join their loved ones here.


Myth: Professionals and other skilled workers get into Canada faster than any other category of immigrants.
Fact: A fully trained foreign doctor will wait an average 68 months to enter Canada, roughly three times longer than a grandmother reuniting with family.

Myth: The fastest way to become a permanent resident of Canada is to show up at the border and claim refugee status.
Fact: The fastest way is to show up at the border with $400,000 to invest in your new homeland. The cheque will barely have time to clear the bank before the immigration department throws down the welcome mat. In total, roughly 2,500 newcomers buy their way into this country each year, about 60% of them Chinese.

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