Dubai: Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations are more than just an excuse for Canadians to light some birthday candles and gather for a big party.
The July 1 anniversary on Canada Day marking 150 years since the forming of the Confederation recognised a country built by immigrants migrating to Canada for more than a century and a half.
According to the Canadian government, “Canada has long been, and continues to be, a land of immigration. Since Confederation in 1867, more than 17 million immigrants have come to Canada.”
In an interview with Gulf News during his first recent visit to UAE, Ahmad Hussen, Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, said Canada has long viewed immigration and cultural diversity as a strength.
Asked why, amid rising nationalism around the world Canada embraces immigration as a net benefit, Hussen said immigration is a fundamental underpinning of Canadian society to counter an ageing population, low birth rate and lack of skilled workers.
Canada is a mosaic that welcomes cultural traditions of other countries.
The federal government which is responsible for immigration consults with the provinces and [asks] ‘how much do you need, what is the right mix? How many would be refugees?”
- Ahmad Hussen, Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
“One, we’ve done it [immigration] for a very long time,” Hussen said. “Second, is because we have a process ... that comes after consultations with different groups — with academics, with business groups, with ordinary Canadians. The federal government which is responsible for immigration consults with the provinces and [asks] ‘how much do you need, what is the right mix? How many would be refugees?” Hussen said.
“The government plays a leading role but because it’s planned, managed and it’s orderly, it’s well thought out, the public tends to support that because they know the numbers that we land are based on input from them and it’s based on analysis that is based on the best interests of Canada,” said Hussen, a refugee who immigrated at age 16 to Canada from Somalia.
The rate of immigration to Canada has been steadily increasing every year since the 1950s, said Statistics Canada.
The influx has helped Canada’s population remain stable amid lower birth rates.
According to Statistics Canada, “by 2011, the National Household Survey estimated the foreign-born population at 6,775,700, representing 20.6 per cent of the total population. This was the largest proportion since the 1931 census.”
In 2016, Canada recorded its highest infusion of refugees in four decades, according to Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
As many as 46,700 refugees were taken in by Canada in 2016.
Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR representative in Canada, told CTV News in April the record number was a “tremendous achievement.”
“We are very delighted that last year such large numbers (of refugees) were able to be resettled,” Beuze said.
The majority of refugees last year in Canada were from Syria with 33,266 fleeing their war-torn country, the UNHCR said.
Statistics Canada noted that other “record levels of immigration have been registered during political and humanitarian crises, including in 1956 and 1957, when 37,500 Hungarian refugees arrived in the country, and in the 1970s and 1980s, when a large number of Ugandan, Chilean, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian refugees came to Canada.”
“Since the early 1990s, the number of landed immigrants has remained relatively high, with an average of approximately 235,000 new immigrants per year,” Statistics Canada said.