E.g., 06/26/2024
E.g., 06/26/2024
Understanding 'Canadian Exceptionalism' in Immigration and Pluralism Policy

This report, part of a Transatlantic Council on Migration series on national identity, examines Canada’s striking openness and optimism towards immigration and multiculturalism. Juxtaposing the widespread and increasing support of immigration among Canadian citizens with growing anti-immigrant sentiment and opposition to multicultural policies across Europe and the United States, the author seeks to uncover the reasons behind this Canadian “exceptionalism.”

The author suggests that the economic orientation of Canada’s immigration system, which employs a points system to actively select immigrants with skills that are thought to contribute to the economy, alleviates worries about immigration being a drain on the welfare state and communicates a sense of control over immigration policies. She also raises the point that illegal immigration is not a particularly salient public or political issue in Canada, as its geography makes illegal entry relatively difficult. She argues, however, that economic selection and geography alone are not sufficient to fully explain Canadian exceptionalism.

According to the author, a key aspect of the Canadian pro-immigration ethos lies in the view that immigration helps with nation building. During the 1960s and 1970s, a time Canadians were searching for a sense of national cohesion that was neither British nor American, multiculturalism emerged as a distinguishing element of Canadian identity. Immigration, diversity, and equality continue to serve as points around which both native-born Canadians and new Canadians can rally, and this paradigm is reflected in government policies and institutions that promote permanent settlement and inclusive citizenship, as well as integration programs supported by public-private partnerships. Although Canada is not immune to fears of migration—as in other countries, new immigration flows have been prompting a certain disquiet—the report concludes that anti-immigration policies are unlikely to gain a foothold in Canada, where immigration and multiculturalism have become part of nation building and identity.


Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Immigration Policy, Economic Growth, and Geography

III. Immigration, Multiculturalism, and Integration Policy as Nation Building

A. Permanent Immigration and Settlement

B. Canadian Multiculturalism

C. Institutionalized Inclusion: The Charter and Integration Policies

IV. Conclusions