In the US, where the number of migrants entering the country through the southern border has reached an all-time high, there is overall a concern about having more immigrants than there are jobs.

Pre-Brexit, a wave of European Union migrants from eastern Europe moving to the UK created a backlash against migration. But over the past several years, Ms Sumption said, popular opinion for immigration has risen, in part because people believe the country has better control over who comes in than they did before.

Canada, meanwhile, has historically had very high support for immigration.


Why does Canada historically have a very high support for immigration? Most countries are wary of mass immigration, but for some reason Canada is still very much open for immigration with its government intending to accept a massive number of economic immigrants. What are some political, cultural and historical factors that explain this?

  • "overall a concern about having more immigrants than there are jobs." Comparing illegal migrants to legal immigrants is disparaging to those us whose first interaction with our new home nation was to obey its laws. Please update your post.
    – ouflak
    Commented Mar 13 at 16:46
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    Also, I don't think Canada has any higher tolerance for illegal migration than the United States or any other country. That's a BIG (and even dangerous for some) misconception. Over the years, I've seen some of those dramas play out when migrants thought something along the lines of what you're suggesting and found out painfully the hard way otherwise.
    – ouflak
    Commented Mar 13 at 16:49

2 Answers 2


One massive difference would seem to be that we don't have much of a land border illegal immigrants can get in through. There is a bit of a brouhaha when people started crossing illegally over from the US and claiming refugee status as "not arriving from a safe country". But that's, comparatively, not that high a flow.

Contrast that with the US or Europe.

So, given that our illegal immigration is much more under control, legal immigration hasn't seen the same kind of nativist pushback as in the US and, up till now, the idea that immigrants positively to the economy - in a nation built on immigration - has been popular.

What could be more ur-Canadian than a 2019 sports article reacting to legendary hockey announcer Don Cherry's dismissal for an anti-immigrant tirade, live?:

But somewhere along the line, through xenophobic undertones and outright discriminatory remarks, he grew to belie what it now means to be from this great country.

Canada is a nation built on immigrants. Its diversity, and the wide range of values, opinions, beliefs and circumstances, is what separates this nation. It is what makes it special.

This would be a somewhat typical finding, from limiting a search till before 2021:

In fact, surprisingly, Canadians have become more open, not less so. Over the past year, the Canadian public has become more accepting and supportive of immigrants and refugees, continuing a trend dating back several years but to levels not recorded in more than four decades of Focus Canada surveys. Strong and increasing majorities of Canadians express comfort with current immigration levels, see immigrants as good for the Canadian economy and not threats to other people’s jobs, and believe that immigration is essential to building the country’s population.

And, yes, Canada's 1.6 birth rate makes immigration somewhat necessary as well.

However, that is starting to change because of the - unrelated - incompetence of successive Canadian governments at managing housing prices and supply and people, not unreasonably, think that more immigration will make things worse.

Repeat the same search, "nation built on immigration poll canada", but don't limit to a few years back and the sentiment is quite different:

Canadian Public Opinion Shifting On Immigration

However, two-thirds – or 67 percent – of Canadians say that they oppose the aforementioned immigration targets. Moreover, two in five Canadians deem immigration numbers as “way too high,” and only 2% believe them to be too low.

Once that gets fixed, sentiment may very well revert to the norm, but for now it is souring a bit.

p.s. Yes, well, we could have programs to attract more skilled construction workers, but that's only one part of the problem in our housing snafu.

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    Most of Canada's housing issues are due to zoning and the top-5% buying up tons of secondary properties (I know people who own 3 properties in Vancouver, some very rich people might easily own 50). But no one has the courage to remove zoning rules (and adjacent bureaucracy such as public hearings) or to put a huge tax burden on secondary home ownership. Commented Mar 11 at 18:32
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    @JonathanReez Lemme repeat this 3x times: I agree with you, I agree with you, I agree with you. But that's orthogonal to my answering that housing has had a negative effect on Canadian immigration sentiment. And to the fact that until they get their thumbs out of their nethers and fix supply - which should primarily be via deregulation IMHO - extra demand will exacerbate housing issues. Commented Mar 11 at 18:39

Let me answer this historically.

Canada is a huge country, and for its size has a tiny population. Even discounting the far northern parts, its population density is very low.

When Canada was created in the 19th century, there was serious concern that the western and central parts (which were technically still British colonies but expected to join Canada eventually) had such sparse population that immigrants from the US could simply take up residence there without anyone being able to do anything about it, and in the long term cause them to be ceded to the US. Even in the relatively populous parts of Canada there was much uninhabited or uncultivated land.*

This let to a massive drive in the 19th and early 20th centuries to recruit immigrants to Canada. New immigrants were promised big tracts of land (big by the standards of European farmers they were hoping to attract). Recruiters were sent out to entice those of good British farming stock to take up residence (among other dubious tactics they described winters in Saskatchewan as "refreshingly bracing"). Success with British and Northern European farmers was mixed, but Eastern Europeans came in large numbers.

The upshot of all this was that for more than 100 years immigration was not only considered a good thing, but essential to the continuation of Canada. This has been an easy sell in a large and underpopulated Canada up until very recently.

*Footnote: The lands were of course inhabited by various aboriginal peoples, but that did not unfortunately figure in the calculations of those in charge at the time.


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