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A recent study shows that Canada's high immigration flows during tough economic times has contributed to the poor performance of newcomers over the past 30 years.

"During recessions, economic outcomes deteriorate more among recent immigrants than among the Canadian-born," wrote Arthur Sweetman and Garnett Picot in a paper published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy, a Montreal-based think-tank.

 Reducing immigration during recessions probably would improve the overall performance of immigrants and reduce the damage and stress of job hunting and unemployment, Sweetman and Picot argue.

The proposal was one of a number made in the IRPP paper to improve the weak economic performance of immigrants relative to other Canadians over the past three decades, though the authors noted that some of these measures have been initiated already in recent years.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney believes the main argument of the report. 

"I think the findings confirm what I've been saying" about the struggles of recent immigrants, said Kenney, who has announced a number of initiatives to promote the selection of immigrants who meet the Canadian economy's needs. "This is why I'm saying we need transformative change."

 Canadian immigration flows used to rise and fall based on Canada's economic performance, but that changed in the late 1980s under Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservative government. The policy of bringing in roughly a quarter-million immigrants and refugees each year continued under subsequent Liberal governments and under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, despite the recession of 2008-09.

Key points in the report include:

  •  Canada has one of the highest intakes of immigrants in the world, with a per capita rate double that of the U.S. rate, even after taking into account the flow of illegal migrants. 
  • Data from the 2006 census show that immigrants are earning 60 to 70 percent of the wage earned by the average Canadian-born worker in their first few years in the country.
  • The age profile of immigrants has accentuated rather than alleviated the demographic bulge of Canada's baby boom.

NumbersUSA President Roy Beck criticizes American and Canadian politicians for not addressing important immigration issues, while think-tank reports prove otherwise.

"It is interesting to see even Canadian officials providing some reaction to a concept that has gotten nothing but silence from U.S. politicians," NumbersUSA President Roy Beck said.  "The concept is that a government shouldn't be importing more foreign workers when its existing workers are suffering high unemployment.  But American and Canadian immigration policies are on auto pilot.  In the U.S., our government has given out more than a million new permanent work permits to immigrants every year of the last four years of sky-rocketed joblessness."

Read the full story in The Montreal Gazette.  

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