Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Immigration, Integration and Welcoming Communities: Neighbourhood-Based Initiative to Facilitate the Integration of Newcomers in Calgary

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Immigration, Integration and Welcoming Communities: Neighbourhood-Based Initiative to Facilitate the Integration of Newcomers in Calgary

Article excerpt

Introduction

As an immigrant society Canada has a long and rich history of immigration. As such, immigration has played an important role in transforming Canada into an ethno-culturally diverse and economically prosperous nation. The driving forces behind immigration are social, political, economic and demographic. As the globalization of migration intensifies, Canada has joined an international competition for the most talented, skillful, and resourceful workers. More recently immigration has been promoted as a solution to help Canada ameliorate its aging population and labour shortages in a global economy. Despite a rich immigration history and the strategic role that immigration continues to play in shaping the country's future, Canada's immigration system today is plagued by at least three prominent issues. First, immigrants are unevenly distributed across Canada. Between 2006 and 2011, the vast majority (90%) of recent immigrants to Canada found homes in four provinces--Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta. With respect to destination cities, they tend to choose one of the country's 33 census metropolitan areas (CMAs). Of note, 62.5% of recent arrivals settled in the three largest CMAs--Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, which had slightly over one-third (35.2%) of the nation's total population (Statistics Canada 2013). It is projected that between now and 2031, new immigrants, particularly members of visible minority groups, will likely continue to settle in the country's large urban centres (Statistics Canada 2010). Because of the imbalances created by the uneven distribution of immigrants, we have witnessed the emergence of Canada's "new solitudes" which are dividing the country into multicultural metropolitans and mono-cultural others. Meanwhile, high concentrations of recent immigrants put pressure on the host communities to provide adequate housing, employment, education, and social services to assist new arrivals with their settlement and integration. Despite the fact that metropolitan municipalities are primary recipients of immigrants to Canada, they almost have no formal role in developing immigration policies and programs.

A second issue concerns the model of immigration governance in Canada. Despite the constitutional provision for the sharing of powers in the governance of immigration, until recently provincial and municipal involvement in immigration policy has generally been minimal (Tolley, Biles, Vineberg, Burstein and Frideres 2011). While provincial governments are becoming more active in the selection of immigrants through provincial nominee programs and temporary foreign worker programs, municipalities still have limited jurisdictional authority with neither mandate nor funding to provide immigration support services. With the exception of Toronto, which has a special limited role by virtue of the Canada-Ontario-Toronto Memorandum of Understanding on Immigration and Settlement that bestows an explicit special consultative role upon it, large cities are primarily left or kept out of the current model of immigration governance (Tolley 2011). At the same time, municipalities are often called upon to address a growing number of challenges facing newcomers to their communities. This has created a disconnect between the federal governments powerful role in immigration selection and the reality that settlement and integration occurs in communities. Recently municipalities have expressed interest in taking a more active role in developing their own programs to attract and retain immigrants (Federation of Canadian Municipalities 2011). It seems clear that we need a new approach to immigration governance involving coordination between federal, provincial and municipal governments in Canada, as immigration and integration are not stand-alone issues and they require the involvement of more than one level of government.

A third issue facing Canada's immigration pertains to how research about immigrant settlement and integration has been carried out in the past. …

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