Canada has an obligation to ensure adequate infrastructure and services to match growing immigrant population

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By Balwant Sanghera

Canada’s housing crisis and high cost of living are at the top of the mind for most Canadians. Despite that, a recent survey of 87 countries has determined that this country is the second best to live in the world. Canada came second to Switzerland.  

This is a very positive development for Canada and a feather in its cap.

Since the pandemic, Canadians have been preoccupied with two major issues -housing and high cost of living. Both of these issues have affected a vast majority of Canadians.

Some of our political commentators and leaders are pointing fingers at the increased levels of immigration. There is no doubt that immigrants are the lifeline of Canada. Along with the First Nations, this country has been built and developed by immigrants. However, there comes a time when a nation has to have a closer look at some of these concerns.

In 2015, Canada’s target to bring in new immigrants was 315,000. This number has gone up steadily. By 2025, the federal government plans to bring in 500,000 new immigrants. Certainly, in view of our low birth rate and aging population, we do need new immigrants.

However, because of the housing crunch, and inadequate infrastructure, the government needs to take a closer look at these numbers. Our current and former immigration ministers have also hinted at capping our immigration numbers. Another report by a prominent firm has found out /reinforced that a vast majority of new immigrants prefer to live in the already overcrowded urban centers.

 The report done by the national polling firm Leger for the Metro Vancouver Regional Planning Committee is very timely. It is no surprise that a vast majority of immigrants prefer to live in urban centres.  This is natural as the urban areas have easy access to crucial services like healthcare, daycare, social services, schooling, places of worship and members of their own communities etc.

Thus, the federal government in particular needs to have a serious look at the number of immigrants under each category it approves to settle in Canada. At the same time, it needs to work with the provincial and municipal governments to encourage new immigrants to settle in remote areas and small communities and provide appropriate services in those areas. It may have to offer incentives to new immigrants to settle in the outlying areas away from the urban centres. This is not an easy task. But it deserves consideration.

 In view of the multiple problems Canada and its urban centers are experiencing, our federal government needs to take a closer look at all of its options that will facilitate things for Canadians- both urban and rural.

It is a matter of great pride for Canadians that Canada is one of the most favoured destinations of potential immigrants from around the globe. However, the government also has an obligation to ensure that it has adequate infrastructure and services in place in order to meet the needs of all of its residents and that of the potential immigrants to Canada.

(Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist)