Canada immigration: Why are immigrants leaving in record numbers?

A Canadian flag flies in front of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, March 22, 2017. — Reuters

The number of immigrants leaving Canada has seen a “record spike” in recent years, a new study has found.

The report from the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC), The Leaky Bucket, finds that growing numbers of immigrants to Canada are deciding to leave rather than stay.

The report finds onward migration, of immigrants leaving Canada, has been increasing slowly for decades but suddenly surged in 2017 and 2019 — the most recent period of available data.

The report also finds the risk of onward migration is particularly high between years four and seven following arrival in Canada.

“As Canada relies more and more on immigrants to fill acute shortages in key sectors like housing and healthcare, our ability to retain them is becoming a matter of vital national interest,” said Daniel Bernhard, CEO of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship.

“Simply put, if Canada cannot deliver for newcomers and help them become Canadian in their passports and in their hearts, we may soon be discussing our prosperity in the past tense.”

“Canada’s future prosperity depends on immigration,” said Stefan Fournier, Executive Director at The Conference Board of Canada. “Our research in this area shows that immigration leads to economic growth, improves the worker-to-retiree ratio and eases labour shortages that add to inflation. But as our research shows, attracting immigrants is only one part of the equation, we also need to retain them once they’re here in Canada.”

How to stop immigrants fall out?

The report recommended that the Canadian government begin monitoring the onward migration rate and invest in programmes like the ICC’s Canoo Access Pass, which make the critical early years of immigrants’ time in Canada more enjoyable, driving retention to the benefit of all Canadians.

The government should support further research to help stakeholders understand settlement needs and which initiatives can ease immigrants’ transitions to life in Canada, it recommended.

“Support employers to recruit, hire, and retain immigrant workers. All three levels of government can provide tools and training,” the report said.

It added that the government should invest in infrastructure. As Canada seeks to increase its population, all levels of government need to plan for increased infrastructure including housing and healthcare.

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