Canada is unique in its view of immigrants

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Secure borders make for less tension

By Cazzy Lewchuk, Opinions Editor


Canada has a population of about 36 million people. About 7 million of those people are immigrants, and Canada takes in about 250,000 new immigrants each year. While it’s difficult to track the statistics, there are an estimated 100,000 illegal immigrants currently living in the country. The US has a population of 324 million, with 42 million immigrants and close to 12 million unauthorized ones, bringing in about one million new immigrant citizens each year.

Although our population is much smaller, it’s clear that Canada has a much smaller ratio of illegal immigrants. We also have a larger ratio of foreign-born citizens, especially in cities. Toronto is home to over 230 nationalities, with about half of the population being foreign-born, making it one of the most diverse cities in the world.

The major reason for less illegal immigration is simple geography. Canada only has one border, and it’s one of the most secure in the world. There are, of course, a few US citizens fleeing their country for a better life in Canada, although it wouldn’t surprise me if more were arriving due to certain political events. In comparison, over half of illegal immigrants in the US are from their bordering country Mexico.

Insecurity and fear of immigrants, especially undocumented ones, can lead to extremism and nationalism. This is quite apparent with the Trump administration, which ran a campaign based heavily on cracking down on immigration. Trump’s policies are well-known for being outrageous and ambitious. He has pledged to build an actual, physical wall across the US/Mexico border, and to perform “expedited removal” of millions of people living in the country illegally.

It’s not just the US that’s frustrated by immigration. A major part of the campaign to leave the European Union—which Britain voted “yes” on—revolved around reducing the number of migrants and securing the borders of the UK. European countries are much smaller than Canada or the US, and their borders are much less secure, particularly within the European Union. With the global refugee crisis, there has been an influx of immigrants across all of Europe, leading to a perceived threat from citizens not used to so many foreigners.

Naturally, many immigrants come from a much different culture than the country they’ve arrived in. They are not white, Christian, English-speaking, Westernized people. Many Western citizens are concerned with the new diversity threatening their culture or way of life, particularly in homogenous areas that have had very few immigrants in the past. Some even fear immigrants are more likely to be terrorists or break the law—as Trump has suggested many times, referring to Mexicans as “rapists and criminals” and putting out a travel ban on citizens from “suspect terrorist countries.”

Most of the worries that people have about immigrants are based on misunderstandings and false beliefs. Immigrants strengthen economies, bringing in much more money than they cost. They are no more likely to break the law than any other type of person. Unless one is of Indigenous descent, every Canadian is a descendant of an immigrant. The entire country was founded on immigration, and foreign-born citizens contributed—and continue to contribute—strongly to the culture of the Western world.

Still, I’m a Canadian from a city with a very large number of immigrants, and I value the society I’ve been exposed to as a result. Having this background can make it hard to empathize with those in the US who are fearful or resentful over the number of immigrants. If I was from an area with much less immigration and was accustomed to a less diverse culture, I’d be more likely to fear something that I don’t understand. If I noticed tension and citizens living undocumented in my own community, I might have a more negative opinion.