This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Is Canada Exceptional When it Comes to Immigrants?

Without question, Canada is an exceptional place if for no other reason than that it has more immigrants per person than any other western nation. But Irene Bloemraad of the University of California, Berkeley has just authored a report for the Migration Policy Institute that shows a broader side of that exceptionalism.

            A frequently cited reason for this Canadian exceptionalism is the fact
            that a majority of Canada’s immigrants are selected through a points
            system that admits people with skills that are thought to contribute to
            the economy. This, coupled with the fact that Canada’s geography
            makes it difficult for unauthorized immigrants to enter, helps alleviate
            the concerns often expressed in other countries about illegal entry or
            immigrants becoming a drain on the welfare state.

But she argues that it goes beyond these reasons, despite their obvious importance. Canadian immigrants have strong community and governmental support for integration into society, while at the same time that Canadians are generally tolerant of multiculturism and diversity. To be sure, the high fraction of Canadians who are themselves of immigrant origin probably encourages this, but there is no guarantee that this would be the case. 
At the same time, Bloemraad notes that there are issues of religious accommodation, such as attitudes towards the wearing of head scarves in public by women. This is epecially true in predominantly francophone Quebec, which you may recall actually tried to secede from Canada a few decades ago.
           This is especially apparent in debates around the veil, which some
           Francophone elites interpret (as do some feminists in France) as an
           issue of women’s subjugation, while among Anglophone Canadians,
           it is seen more as a debate about freedom of religion.
As always, immigration is a phenomenon that raises a lot of fears, creates a lot of problems, and continually challenges a society's sense of integration. Thus far, however, Canada has coped considerably better than most societies.

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