What does Canada’s 100 million policy mean for migrants and the world?

January 11, 2023

What does Canada’s 100 million policy mean for migrants and the world?

In October 2016, Canada stunned the world by announcing its ambition to grow its population of 36 million (at that time!) to 100 million through a series of immigration-friendly initiatives. This is one of the most ambitious migration policies of any nation at any time in human history. Reaching 100 million citizens would nearly triple their present population and involve huge social and structural changes.

Canada may be the second largest country on earth, but even so, where are all these migrants going to come from? Where will they live? What roles will they take up in the economy? In today’s post, we’ll explore all these questions.

Why 100 million?

Canada, as a nation, was built by migrants flocking to the Great White North in search of a better life. Canada is currently in the midst of its fifth wave of large-scale migration, a wave kick-started by the 1976 Immigration Act and that differs from previous influxes, which saw migration mostly from Europe and the United States, instead seeing large numbers of migrants arriving from all over Asia, particularly the Philippines, China, and India.

In line with the government’s “100 million citizens” policy (also known as The Century Initiative), the current wave of migration continues to grow. The Canadian government recently announced that the country would be looking to add 1.45 million migrants in the next three years.

So why is Canada in such immediate need of migrants? The answer lies in the country’s life expectancy and birth rate. Canadians are living on average to the age of 82; eleven years longer than in 1970. This is compounded by the fact that a society needs a birth rate of 2.1 per woman to replenish itself. Canada fell below this figure in 1971 and is currently hovering around 1.5 births per woman.

Simply put, Canada’s population is ageing, and with 300,000 Canadians retiring every year, this has led to labour shortages. The immigration ministry is well aware of these numbers and has bluntly explained that, “Canada needs more people.” In the view of officials, 100 million is the key number if Canadians want to maintain a high quality of life in 2100.

Canada 2041

Given 2100 is so far into the future, the Canadian government has instead put together a projection of what they believe Canada will look like in 2041. This is a crucial year in official projections, as migrants and those born to migrant parents are expected to account for a majority of the population, with 1 in 4 Canadians being born in Asia or Africa.

Cities like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver will need to transform to accommodate this growth. The government expects current diaspora communities to simply expand with new migrants joining established diaspora communities in a range of cities. So, Toronto will boast a Southern Asian community that will account for almost 40% of the urban area, Montreal’s Arabic population will more than double, and in Vancouver, the Chinese population, depending on birth rates, could reach 950,000.

So, will this result in huge urban centers? Well, over the years, various suggestions have been put forward to populate the arctic region or create a Mid-Canada corridor. However, due to excessive costs in housing and infrastructure, these seem unlikely. In 2017, 39% of migrants settled in smaller cities around larger ones, and the Century Initiative envisages that Canada will need to become a nation of mega-regions; regions formed around a city of 5 million that produce $100 billion in goods and services.

Given the scale of the proposed migration, migrants will work across a whole range of sectors but recent trends suggest that transportation and warehousing, food and accommodation, and professional services are the areas that will see the most immediate impact from increased migration. In addition to propping up the healthcare system, these projections also anticipate that this migration plan will eventually add 1% growth per year to Canada’s GDP.

What are the wider implications for the world?

Currently, 173 countries receive more in remittances from Canada than they do in international aid. Such an ambitious migration plan is bound to propel the impact these remittances have to new heights. In 2019, remittances from Canada totaled $8.76 billion; 23% went to the Philippines, 15% to India and 4.5% to Pakistan. Increases in these numbers could help families in those countries make strides toward a better everyday life by investing in healthcare and education. Employing migrants from these countries is particularly significant, as remittances make up almost 10% of the Philippines’ economy and the importance of remittances in both India and Pakistan has increased considerably in recent years.

However, it is not simply migrants from these three countries that could benefit from Canada’s migration plan. In a recent interview with the New York Times Bernard Thompson, a mayor in the Quebec region, recently went as far as to say, “we now want as many migrants as possible”. The 1991 Canada-Quebec immigration accord rules that the region must be home to 20% of the population, and that Canada must protect the French language. In practice, this means that the state must increase the French-speaking population, creating additional opportunities for migrants from French-speaking regions of Africa.

Currently, only 2% of Canada’s remittances go to the world’s poorest nations, but new immigration corridors between Canada and sub-Saharan Africa would likely go a long way toward increasing the volume of Canadian remittances that make their way there. Canada may have been built by migrants, but the benefits of tomorrow’s Canada will be felt by migrants and their families across the entire globe.

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