The History Of Canadian Immigration
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Published: Mon, 15 May 2017
The History of Canadian Immigration is far from idyllic. Contrary to the myth cherished by most Canadians, immigrants were not always welcomed with an outpouring of compassion for the world’s downtrodden, oppressed and displaced. They were brought here to work and Canada was not about to coddle them. They toiled at back-breaking jobs ploughing farmland, laying railroad track, mining and cutting timber. They were sometimes shunned, patronized and exploited. (Malarek 1987)
“History repeats itself” goes the saying. Decades later, the situation is the same except that, I would say, immigrants are most welcomed now, particularly highly skilled ones. They come to Canada and the majority of them are still toiling at back-breaking jobs.
I decided to conduct this research after meeting many of my fellow co-workers who happened to be from my native homeland at my workplace (a call centre in Markham, Ontario) in the year 2005. I was a freshly landed immigrant, happy to have secured a “transit” job. I am using the term “transit” because I thought it was just a beginning, eventually I would land a job in my field(a teacher by profession, myself), but this hope was short lived. I was appalled to learn that people who were chief engineers, doctors, accountants … (the list is exhaustive) in Mauritius, had been working as call centre agents for the last 3-4 years at that same location.
I wanted to inquire into the myth and the reality of this phenomenon as it became evident that high skilled immigrants from Mauritius are underemployed in the Canadian workforce. Is Canada indeed gaining from these brains or are they simply brain drains for the sending country? The myth of securing a white collar job in Canada is short lived by the reality of the Canadian job market or rather the Canadian immigration system. The “The 2008 Canadian immigrant labor market: Analysis of quality of employment” (Stats Can) shows that more than 1.1 million workers aged 25 to 54 who had a university degree were working in occupations whose normal requirements were at most a college education or apprenticeship. The share of immigrants with degrees who were over-qualified was particularly prevalent among university-educated immigrants who landed within five years before the survey.
“A hundred years from now, I don’t suppose people will care all that much whether we legalised marijuana or not. But decisions about who you let into Canada will decide the kind of country we have 100 years from now on.” Richard Tait, chairman of Canadian Immigration and Population study, Green paper 1975. (Knowles 2007)
By the beginning of the 1980’s, Canada was considered one of the primary countries responsible for global brain drain. Already in 1976, 59% of it’s approximately 150 000 immigrants were from developing countries in Asia, the West Indies and Africa. The demographic characteristics indicated a predominance of young adults whose intended occupations reflected their high levels of education. (Tanner, p.35)
In an October 1999 speech, Elinor Caplan, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration at that time consciously said: “Our goal is to make Canada a place for brain gain, not brain drain.”(Tanner, p.39)
The situation was alarming as studies showed that many of the well educated high-skilled immigrants from developing countries were working in low -salary jobs such as taxi-driving or marketers. Furthermore, 29% of male immigrants aged 25-44 who had arrived in Canada since 1991 were still unemployed. Canada has been extracting high cost immigrants from underdeveloped and developing countries, but simultaneously has not been able to optimally utilize the human capital invited to the country. It is clear that skills which are the basis for entry under the actual screening system, are being considered as mockery. (Tanner, p.39)
Canada actively seeks to recruit skilled workers from abroad. Immigrants must be highly educated and have broad based skills. Prospective migrants are selected through a point system that targets people less than 45 years old. It is clear therefore that the point system is in itself is categorising people according to their brains. Applicants are evaluated before migration on a number of human capital characteristics such as occupational skills, academic qualifications and money. Currently, 67 out of an available 100 points are required for an applicant to be successfully admitted. Educational credentials are awarded up to 25 points, official language knowledge is awarded up to 24 points, work experience is awarded up to 21 points, and the remaining 30 points are earned based on age, adaptability, and arranged employment (maximum 10 points each).(Li 2003)
The Economic Class in Canada is designed to facilitate entry of skilled immigrants who are well prepared to adapt to Canada’s labour market and economy. Similarly, a study by Picot and Hou (2003) found that in spite of the purported opportunities created by the “knowledge-based economy,” having a university degree did not protect recent immigrants from the increased likelihood of being low-income, regardless of their field of study. Indeed, the largest difference in low-income rates between the Canadian-born and recent immigrants was among university graduates, particularly those with engineering applied science degrees. Skills discounting, which refers to the devaluation of foreign experience and credentials, is understood to have two main causes. First, employers likely have imperfect information on the migrant’s source country, especially as source countries shift from European to Asian and African. It is unrealistic for Canadian employers to know, or even take the steps required to determine, the quality of international educational institutions, the curriculum of those institutions’ academic programs, and the relevance to the Canadian labour market of the skills imparted to their graduates. In response to this uncertainty, Canadian employers may adopt a risk-averse strategy, giving preference to Canadian experience and accreditations.
There is evidence to suggest that there is considerable variance in the quality of foreign earned credentials (Sweetman 2004). In some cases, while the title of the foreign credential may be the same as one conferred in Canada, that foreign credential’s actual contribution to Canadian labour market productivity is significantly less. This discrepancy certainly warrants caution from Canadian employers as it results in shocking waste of talent. It is now widely spread and acknowledged in the world that Canada is doing a poor job by not recognizing the skills and the work experience of high skilled immigrants. Basran and Zong (1998) showed that many foreign trained immigrants in professional fields experienced downward mobility in Canada and that an overwhelming majority of respondents attributed their occupational disadvantage to the problem of foreign credential devaluation.
On one hand the point system favours professionals but on the other hand, overseas immigration officers do not point out the obstacles newcomers face in obtaining employment in their field of expertise. Mark Stolarik, a university of Ottawa history professor claims that immigration officers deliberately mislead professionals by not warning them against the closed stops of many Canadian professions, especially medicine. This drawback not only has serious implications within these immigrants community but it also affects the Canadian economy. According to the Conference Board of Canada, the frequent failure to recognise the qualifications of present day newcomers robs the economy of as much as $ 3.4 billion annually. (Knowles 2007).
In light of the above, a study of the career path of highly skilled immigrants who left prestigious positions in the Republic of Mauritius for Canada; thinking that the pastures are greener here than there is sought. The research will also consider the effect of this abnormality in the family and the damage to the health of the main applicant.
Research Question and Hypothesis.
My general research questions are:
Do highly skilled immigrants find employment in Canada that matches their skills?
If immigrants are underemployed, does this represent a “brain gain” for Canada?
Do highly skilled immigrants leave behind prestigious positions when immigrating to Canada?
How far is the point system of immigration responsible for the deceit among the Mauritian immigrants in Canada?
Is Canada injecting money in her economy by forcing highly skilled immigrants to re-certify themselves?
My more specific questions will be:
Why do Mauritians immigrate?
What are the pull and push factors involved?
What do you think will be the job prospects in your field?
What if the Canadian pasture is not as green as expected?
I hypothesize that high skilled immigrants from Mauritius are being duped by the point system in place to qualify as potential immigrant to Canada. Looking at their underemployment in the Canadian workforce, they seem to have been a brain drain for Mauritius rather than a brain drain to Canada.
Research Design and Method
I will conduct my research as participant observer in employment agencies across the three metropolitan cities of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. These are the cities where majority of Mauritian immigrants settle with their families. I will also be conducting targeted interviews among highly skilled professionals. It will be necessary to do a comparative research in order to get a better insight of what is happening across Canada, this will help to eliminate biases to some extent. By extending the study throughout these three cities, I will be able to determine if Mauritians settled elsewhere, other than Toronto, are being favoured based on their ethnicity and language ability. I will point out here that Mauritians are multi ethnic (Muslims, Hindus, Anglo-Saxons, Jewish, Chinese, Negroes and Tamils).They are all officially bilingual (English and French).Anglo-Saxons of French descent and Negroes choose Montreal as their new home because they are the most avid French speakers in Mauritius and they carry the hope of securing a job based on their qualifications due to that advantage.. I will want to know if these people are encountering the same problem as their counterparts in Toronto or Vancouver .I suppose they might be luckier since Montreal is French speaking.
My research will be cross-cultural as I will be studying 3 samples of each ethnic group in each city. The research will be divided into 2 groups: those who are already in Canada and those who are applying for immigration to Canada. For that latter part, I will travel to Mauritius and I will carry my research there for a period of 10 days. My study in itself will last 12 months.
To get samples, I will target areas inhabited by different ethnic groups. This will be made possible by attending the community worship places on Sundays. Once I get 1-2 people, I will proceed by snowballing; this method involves contacting other people through a first set of known people. I will advertise my research project in strategic areas such as in the vicinity of immigrant help centres and schools. These will not be necessary in Mauritius due to its size and the familiarity with the island.
I will consult the Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Statistics Canada websites as well for a detailed analysis of high skilled immigrants’ employment.
Notebooks, audio and video recordings will be used during the entire process and a daily analysis will be done and recorded accordingly.
Ethical Considerations and Practical Problems
It goes without saying that ethics and piratical problems will be part and parcel of my research. I am speculating forward to raising painful memories amongst the immigrant groups, particularly those have had to sell all their assets back home to be able to afford the cost of immigration. I will point out that here that a family of four persons should have a minimum of $15000 Can (which approximately amounts to 450 000 Mauritian rupees, that is a considerable amount of money for the working class in Mauritius).In many a case, people either sell their property or borrow from others to afford the move, which is considered a matter of privilege that is not given to everybody. With this in mind, people might not want to go back home after realising that their degrees have no worth in Canada. How can they face their family and friends, what will they tell them and where will they live?
Another problem could be the fear of being recognised on television through the documentary, they do not want people back home to learn about their condition through me. They will not be willing to be interviewed by a citizen of their country for that purpose. Shame will definitely act as a barrier between us. While some will repulse me, others will accept to talk to me and by so doing; they will pretend to be happy. They will not be eager to show their suffering to people of Mauritius ever since their arrival, they will probably be lying about their job status by pretending to be working in their field of origin. People do not want to become a laughing stock of others they have left back, particularly those who might have been jealous with their “big move”. So, they will definitely not want to speak about their frustration and deceit.
Gender discrimination is another factor that can influence my research negatively. Mauritians have the habit of underestimating the capabilities of women; therefore I will expect my respondents to either not talk to me at all or show superiority complex towards me. They might want to make me feel low.
Others, who like the anonymity of the big city, will not bother to come forward to introduce themselves to me or even worse to participate in a TV documentary.
On one hand the fact that I am a Mauritian too, might push me to over identification, in the sense that I might be tempted to share my subjects’ problems by intervening. I might become emotional on witnessing their situation. On the other hand, I might hesitate to tell future immigrants about the under employment problem endured by Mauritians in Canada. I will be ill treated. They will take for granted that I will be discouraging them from moving or they might say: “What are you doing there then?”
By not saying anything to them, will I not be unethical in my research? Considering the above points, I am sure to be biased in my research to an uncontrollable extent.
For the purpose of this research, I will hold all of my information like names of people, names of cities and any information of sensitive nature in strict confidence. Pseudonyms will be used .I will be the one video recording my subjects and I will make sure their face appears as scrambled on TV.I will even try to use technology to modify their voices. These conditions will be discussed with them beforehand and by so doing, I will be protecting the identity of my respondents.
Campbell, C. M. (2000). Betrayal & Deceit: The politics of Canadian immigration. West Vancouver, BC: Jasmine Books.
The author goes analyses the sensitive issues around the Canadian immigration. He enumerates some of the myths of immigration, namely, the rate of annual immigration, low birth rate and immigration, need for a larger population, contribution of immigrants in the Canadian economy and job creation amongst others.
Kapur, Devesh & McHale John. (2005). Give Us Your Best and Brightest: The global hunt for talent and its impact on the developing world. Washington, D.C.: Center for Global Development.
The authors discuss the impact of globalization on migration around the world. They also talk about how talent hunt results in brain drain due to this phenomenon.
Knowles, Valerie. (2007). Strangers at Our Gates. Canadian Immigration and Immigration policy, 1540-2006. Toronto, ON: Dundurn Press.
The author gives us an insight of the beginnings of the Canadian immigration, the arrival of the European settlers and the Jewish settlers. She also talks about the post war boom and the implementation of the point system. She differentiates between the advantages and disadvantages of the system.
Li, Peter S. (2003).Destination Canada: Immigration Debates and Issues. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press.
It’s a book about the history of immigration and globalization and how the latter has created numerous opportunities for high-skilled immigrants, mainly in the U.S, Canada and Australia. It also talks about how these countries are benefitting from the mobility of these highly skilled professional immigrants.
Malarek, Victor (1987). Haven’s Gate: Canada’s Immigration Fiasco. Toronto, ON: Macmillan of Canada.
The author writes about how immigration has impacted the social and economic fabric of Canada. He discusses the crisis immigrants undergo and the position of politicians with respect to it.
Tanner, Arno. (2005).Emigration, Brain Drain and Development: The Case of Sub-Saharan Africa. Helsinki, Finland: East-West Books Helsinki, Finland and Migration Policy Institute.
The author gives an insight of how international migration is increasingly becoming a matter of selection. He shows how international and educated labour from developing countries to developed countries is considered a “win-win” situation. He writes about how this can have serious unintended impact for countries of origin.
Beine, M., Docquier, F., & Rapoport, H. (2008). Brain drain and human capital formation in developing countries: Winners and losers*. The Economic Journal, 118(528), 631-652. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0297.2008.02135.x
This journal article talks about the impact of brain drain on developing countries.
Chetsanga, C.J. (2003). An Analysis of the Cause and Effect of the Brain Drain in Zimbabwe. Harare: SIRDC
It is a research study carried out to inquire into why Africans (Zimbabweans) leave their country to settle elsewhere. The writer talks about how the Diaspora should play a role in reducing the push and pull factors triggering the desire to move.
Kabra, Nayan K. (1975).Political economy of brain drain. Reverse Transfer of Technology. New Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann.
Kabra discusses the effects of brain drain and how the latter can turn into reverse transfer of technology.
Oreopoulos, P. (2009). Why do skilled immigrants struggle in the labour market a field experiment with six thousand resumes? Vancouver, BC: Metropolis British Columbia. Retrieved from
The researcher investigates responses to job postings targeted by recent immigrants landed under the point system and that of non immigrants in an employment agency in Toronto. He gives the readers surprising results.
Please come, we need you. (2002). Economist, 363(8268), 36-39.
Reitz, G. Jeffrey. (2001). Immigrant Success in the Knowledge Economy: Institutional Change and the Immigrant Experience in Canada, 1970-1995, vol: 57 iss: 3.
Reitz examines the institutional changes associated with the emergence of a “knowledge economy “specifically the expansion of education and the changing labor market structure, shaped employment experiences of newly arriving immigrants to Canada over the period 1970-1995
Roisin, Anne-Christine. (2004, December). The Brain Drain. UN Chronicle, 41(4), 51-52, 57. Document ID: 809767831.
Roisin discusses the benefits and losses of skilled migration and the role of the government sand international bodies with respect to the phenomenon.
Schwanen, Daniel. (2000).Putting the Brain Drain in Context, 140 8001-824.
Somerville, Kara & Walsworth, Scott (2009). Vulnerabilities of Highly Skilled Immigrants in Canada and the United States, American Review of Canadian Studies 39: 2
Togman, J.M. (2005).The suffering of the Immigrant. International Migration Review, v. 39 no.2
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Galameau, Diane. & Morissette, René. (2004). Perspectives on Labour and Income.
Immigrants: Settling for less? Vol.5, no. 6
This online article talks about the hurdles of highly qualified immigrants with respect to finding an appropriate job in Canada. The writers discuss the factors influencing this state of things and make a comparison of these immigrants to their Canadian born counter parts.
Informal interviews have been carried out. Neighbours, friends and some close relatives have been informally interviewed with respect to the subject matter.
(Biles, Burstein & Frideres, 2008). Immigration and Integration in Canada: In the Twenty-first Century. Kingston, ON: Queen’s University Publications Unit.
(K. Dewalt, 2002; B. Dewalt, 2002). Participant Observation: A Guide for Field
Workers Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press.
Glazer, Myron.(1972). The Research Adventures: Promise and Problems of Field Work. New York: Random House.
Hellman, Judith, A. (2008). The World of Mexican Migrants: The Rock and the Hard Place. New York: The New Press.
Jankowski, Martin, S. (1991).Islands In the Street: Gangs and American Urban Society. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.
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