Download abridged MIPEX III Canada in French (pdf)


One in 5 Canadian residents is born abroad. Despite the economic crisis, Canada maintained its longterm immigration vision. Between 200-250,000 permanent residents have immigrated each year since 1990. 61 % are ‘economic class’ migrants and their families, while 26 % are ‘family class’ immigrants sponsored by Canadians and permanent residents. In 2009, there were 643,293 temporary residents, who are mostly international students, humanitarian cases, and increasingly workers.

Government is working to better implement immigration policies and address unintended consequences. Refugee system reforms may fast-track procedures, while increasing integration support and resettlement. 2009’s Citizenship Law protects the value of citizenship by limiting it to one generation born abroad.

Migrant workers and families benefit from the third-best integration policies in the 31 MIPEX countries. Traditionally, they start their lives in Canada with near equal opportunities and an encouraging path to citizenship. According to a new MIPEX strand, schools in major immigration provinces are some of the best prepared to help all students live and learn in a diverse society. Canada increased its score by 1 point by committing to better recognise foreign qualifications.

Timeline - What's Changed

0 February 2008
Immigration procedures
Amendments to Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to expedite processing of applications.
0 September 2008
New Canadian Experience Class
Avenue to permanent residence for temporary workers and international students with key skills.
0 April 2009
Access to nationality
Amendment to Citizenship Act.
+4 November 2009
Labour market mobility
Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications.
+3 November 2009
Long-term residence
Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications.

Key Findings

  • Canadian and US governments have strongest commitment to anti-discrimination and equality. 
  • One of best policies to attract permanent migrant workers and their families. 
  • Canada now committed to Pan-Canadian Framework to improve assessment and recognition of foreign qualifications. 
  • Canadian schools 2nd best at targeting needs of migrant pupils. 
  • Multiculturalism policy improves political participation of immigrants and diversity education for all Canadians. 
  • No local voting rights before becoming Canadian, unlike in 19 MIPEX countries, despite grassroots movements in Canada and US. 
  • New citizenship test and guide is most professional of all countries. 

Score Changes

Areas of Integration

  • Show Labour Market Mobility

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    Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications

    This 2009 Framework recognised that migrants face extra barriers to get their foreign degree recognised, because procedures were designed for Canadians educated in Canada. Federal, provincial and territorial governments committed to work together and set key principles, benchmarks and implementation strategies. Canadian and international-trained applicants will now be treated equally and enjoy better procedures across all jurisdictions, including for regulated professions. For some new proposals in other countries, see FR, DE, LU and PT.

    Migrant workers and their families have some of the best labour market opportunities in Canada – far better than in Europe on average or the US. As in most countries attracting high labour migration, foreign residents and nationals have the same right to work in any sector, start a business and use public job services. All have the same working conditions and access to social security. But they may find that their specific problems as newcomers trained abroad are addressed on the labour market in Canada, as in most countries. They may soon have an easier time in Canada getting a job that matches their qualifications (see box). 

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    More workers, more families

    Canada’s high scores on labour market and family reunion are linked as in other labour migration countries. One reason Canada attracts migrant workers is that all permanent residents can sponsor their families, if they have basic means to support them. Immigration law recognises their spouse, common-law or conjugal partner, of the same or opposite sex. Their family can also include minor or adult children, parents, grandparents and dependent relatives, including orphaned minors. Families have equal access to the labour market, just like all other permanent residents.

    Canada tries to give most of its foreign residents a secure family life as their starting point for integration. Canada recognises many types of families and gives them equal rights as their sponsor. Economic and family class migrants enjoy a better-established and stable system. In comparison, many European countries are just introducing basic residence security and rights and some similar conditions. Canada’s weakness is the backlog, which has applicants waiting for years without knowing when they will be reunited with their family. Canadian authorities have tried to fast-track and prioritise certain files. Legal time limits on procedures exist in 20 of the 30 other countries surveyed. 

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    Ranked 2nd after SE, Canada has best practices across the country to address the new needs and opportunities that immigrant students bring to schools. All children in the country, regardless of their status, have the right to an education. When newcomers arrive in most provinces, students have their prior learning assessed, while parents and children receive a full introduction to school life. Barriers to access only arise when undocumented students want to go to university. Provinces could consider more targeted measures if migrant children are not achieving or participating like peers with similar abilities and social backgrounds. In leading countries like the Nordics, US, and NL, migrant children increasingly benefit from programmes to start and stay on academic tracks.

    Generally, the education systems in Canada and the Nordic countries are able to address immigrant students’ specific needs. Those with language difficulties can master English or French because they have the right to high quality second-language courses. Provincial governments tend to provide extra training for teachers and funding per student, and sometimes extra guidance or support. Authorities need to collect and use better harmonised data to improve how these courses, funds and support target needs.

    All students in Canada slightly benefit from the country’s multiculturalism policy. Most learn in school about how to live in a diverse society (as in BE, NO, PT, SE UK). Students with an immigrant background can learn about their ‘heritage’ language and culture, either during the school day or afterwards. Individual schools decide whether or not to adapt their foreign language offer and school schedule so that all students could learn about the language and culture of their immigrant peers. Few provincial policies try to diversify teacher recruitment (e.g. DK, DE, NO, NL, UK) or address potential ‘white flight’ (e.g. DK, CH, UK, US). Even so, only students in Sweden benefit from such favourable new opportunities and intercultural education as in Canada.

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    Before newcomers naturalise, they can participate in civil society in Canada as in Europe, but not in democratic life. All people in Canada enjoy freedom of opinion, association and assembly. Under the Multiculturalism Policy, the government funds and supports immigrant associations in order to reach out and develop lasting relationships with new communities. However, these leaders do not have the chance to inform integration policy through immigrant consultative bodies, which MIPEX finds in 14 European countries and leading US states and cities. Grassroots movements in the US and Canada (e.g.‘I Love Toronto’) are mobilising city leaders behind local voting rights for newcomers, which 18 EU Member States have extended to their non-EU residents.

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    ‘Canadian Experience’ Class

    Canada’s potential permanent residents come from both abroad and inside the country. Since 2008, ‘Canadian experience class’ migrants are temporary foreign workers and international students who lived in Canada for a year. With the skills need in key occupations, they have facilitated access to permanent residence.

    Most of Canada’s permanent residents arrive in the country with equal rights and some residence security at the very start of their settlement process. In most EU Member States, non-EU residents must wait 5 years to obtain equal opportunities to integrate. In the US, few immigrants can apply for a Green Card, which lacks key provisions on residence security or rights. In Canada, potential ‘economic class’ migrants (see box) must meet some selective conditions, according to Canada’s immigration points system. They have many means to prove proficiency in English or French. Family members and refugees are automatically eligible for permanent residence. Again, the backlog is the major weakness in the procedure. 

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    Canada’s citizenship test: keeping the conditions for success

    Immigrants receive the support they need to acquire a basic knowledge about Canada and either French or English. The revised test and study guide, Discover Canada, focus on the rights and responsibilities of being a Canadian citizen. Canada also provides independent citizenship judges who review approximately 180,000 applications each year, administer the free citizenship test, and maintain the integrity of the process. They also fill symbolic roles leading citizenship ceremonies and acting as citizenship ambassadors in public.

    Nearly all Canada’s residents who see their future in the country are encouraged to become Canadian citizens. It scores 3rd after PT and SE. As in all other traditional settler countries (e.g. US), immigrants and their children have a clear path to citizenship. Many MIPEX countries are also reforming to accept dual nationality (18 total) and some birthright citizenship (15). In several, newcomers who meet the legal conditions for naturalisation can apply after a few years’ residence; in Canada, it’s 3 of the last 4. Canada has the most professional citizenship test of all MIPEX countries (see box). Naturalising citizens are only slightly insecure in their status, because discretion is limited and judges have full oversight. 

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    Aiming for equality

    All Canadians learn about their rights through public campaigns and dialogues. Everyone in the private and public sector must refrain from discrimination, while those at federal level take the lead through ‘employment equity’ programmes. Since 1986, these programmes are required and monitored to see whether they help groups such as women and visible minorities get out of their chronic conditions of disadvantage in the labour market. For other effective equality policies, see SE, UK and US.

    Canada’s deep commitment to equality helps newcomers and visible minorities obtain equal opportunities in practice. Federal, provincial and territorial human rights codes protect victims of many types of discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, race, religion, nationality, or several grounds known as ‘intersectionality’ (see also UK, US). All Canadians benefit from the ways equality is mainstreamed across government (see box). Canada and the US established the strongest anti-discrimination laws and equality policies, while most European countries are introducing, improving and starting to use theirs. Canada’s rather average enforcement mechanisms could be improved based on innovative practices on situation testing, ‘victimless discrimination’, or sharing the burden of proof (e.g. BE, FR, HU, SE).