Hamilton Citizenship Ceremony / Copyright: JOEY COLEMAN / THEPUBLICRECORD.CA

Newcomers to Canada are choosing to emigrate in search of better opportunities elsewhere, according to a new study from the Institute for Canadian Citizenship and the Conference Board of Canada. 

The trend of ‘onward migration,’ where immigrants arrive in Canada and then subsequently leave, has been steadily  increasing since the 1980s. 

The number of permanent residents who pursued citizenship within 10 years of their arrival dropped by 40% between 2001 and 2021.

On Tuesday, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship published a study on immigrant retention and found that many newcomers “may not be seeing the benefits to Canada.”

The study also made note of the potential risks that this problem poses for a country like Canada, which relies heavily on immigration to drive its economic growth and population. 

Newcomers to Canada face several challenges including a strained healthcare system, unaffordable housing, and underemployment. 

Disillusionment among immigrants is also a contributing factor in slowing down progress, despite Canada consistently setting new records for population growth.

“It’s a reflection on our broader society and more intractable failings that we have. If immigrants are saying ‘no, thanks’ and moving on, that’s a real existential threat to Canada’s prosperity,” said Daniel Bernhard, chief executive officer of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, a pro-immigration advocacy group, in an interview with Bloomberg

“We need to wake up and recognize that if we don’t deliver, people will leave. And if they leave, we’re in trouble.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been championing the importance of immigration as a means to ward off Canada’s declining economy due to its aging population. However, many believe the Liberals’ policies have led to rapid population growth which is only exacerbating the housing crisis and adding further strain to Canada’s healthcare system.

According to the report, spikes in the annual rates of immigrants leaving Canada were in 2017 and 2019, at 1..1% and 1.18%, respectively. 

Those spikes marked a 20-year high when compared to the annual average of 0.9% of newcomers who were granted permanent residence after 1982.

Overall, public support for high levels of immigration is down amongst Canadians, largely due to the lack of affordable housing. 

Between low public support from citizens regarding immigration and dissatisfaction from the immigrants themselves, the government will have to find the balance between being able to offer affordable housing and meeting the quota for skilled workers, which relies on immigration. 

“If Canada can’t reverse these issues and can’t provide these vital services and affordability, immigrants will leave,” said Bernhard. “We need to be working harder to make sure that they’re happy here, so that they contribute here, become Canadians and contribute to our shared success. We need to realize that on balance, immigrants may owe Canada less than Canada owes immigrants.”