Weekly Bulletin – 2004, September 8

Throwing Open Canada's Borders to Young Immigrants and Refugee Children: Who Will Be Able To Afford Looking After Them Without Substantial Government Assistance?

Dear Mr. Martin and Fellow MP's:

Recently, Tom Kent (a former social policy guru for the Liberal party), suggested that Canada throw open its borders to young immigrants and refugees, especially child refugees, to offset gaps caused by the country's aging population.

According to a Vancouver Sun article, Mr. Kent made the following points:

(1) In the early 20th century, Canada needed farmers. Later, Canada needed skilled workers. Now, it needs youth.

(2) It is wrong to think that general immigration will answer the problems of an aging population if the average age of the immigrants is not much different from that of Canadians now at work.

(3) A youth-heavy immigration policy would be more costly because Canada would have to pay for the upkeep and education of children, but such a policy would pay off in the long run.

Mr. Kent is correct in his statement that current immigration will do almost nothing to solve problems caused by an aging population. He is also right in saying that the reason is that the average age of current immigrants is not that much different from that of the current Canadian population.

And Mr. Kent is also correct in his statement that bringing in large numbers of young people would change the age composition of Canada.

However, as demographers have repeatedly stated, the aging issue is not a cataclysm that will occur tomorrow. And, as federal research has stated before, it would be preferable to encourage an increase in Canada's own fertility rate. The big questions that have to be asked about Mr. Kent's suggestion are the following:

(A) “If Canada is going to bring in large numbers of young people, won't foster parents be required for these young people?

(B) “Won't these foster parents face the same major affordability difficulties that have caused Canada's fertility rate to sink to its present level (1.5-1.6)?

(C) “If affordability is a major concern with having children now, won't the affordability of looking after young immigrants or refugee children cause prospective foster parents to decline the chance to become foster parents?”

The difficulties that prospective parents face, as Murray Dobbin (author of “Paul Martin: CEO For Canada”) points out in a Toronto Globe and Mail article, are the following:

(1) “The conditions of work in this country have become so onerous and stressful, and the economic security of families so tenuous, that many couples are deciding not to have children at all, or are delaying the decision as long as possible.”

(2) “Families are also relinquishing the care and guidance of children to daycare and extended school programmes. Family life is limited or non-existent.”

(3) “The pressure of the workplace is a huge factor for ordinary workers—and here it is a direct result of all Canadian governments'
promotion of a concept called 'labour flexibility' “(abandoning traditional Canadian government policies that tried to guarantee full employment and a strong social safety net, and deliberately maintaining unemployment at a high enough level to keep inflation at from 1 to 2 per cent).

(4) “Nothing cools labour's demands for better working conditions more than a long bout of high unemployment. But it also, for those affected, puts any thought of having children on the back burner.”

The concluding question seems to be: If we want to change the overall age composition of Canada's population, should we have incentives for foster parents of immigrant/refugee children or incentives for parents of Canadian-born children?

Best wishes,
Dan Murray
Immigration Watch Canada