WASHINGTON, D.C. — Canada is known to be a diverse nation, with refugee and immigrant populations creating strong foundations for the country. The UNHCR reports that more than 1 million refugees have immigrated to Canada since 1980, with many creating a successful life for themselves and their families.
Of all refugees in Canada between 25 and 54 years of age, only 9% face unemployment. This is similar to the 6% of Canadian-born citizens who are unemployed. In terms of income, adult refugees average $20,000 in their first year, with the number growing significantly over time. Tax data from 2014 shows that 23% of refugees earn $40,000 to $79,999, similar to the 27% of Canadian-born citizens.
About 51% of refugees in Canada obtain high-skilled work like positions in medical, engineering and designing fields. As of 2016, one-third of refugees have jobs requiring at least a high school diploma. Furthermore, 14.4% of refugees who have been in Canada for over a decade are entrepreneurs, creating job opportunities for Canadian-born citizens and other refugees. In fact, more refugees are entrepreneurs than other types of residents in Canada. Refugee children also have a higher degree completion rate than children born in Canada.
Refugees who have resided in Canada for over a decade exhibit a substantial rate of home ownership, with 65% of refugee households achieving this milestone. Furthermore, the highest “citizenship uptake” of all groups of immigrants are refugees, with 89% becoming Canadian citizens according to the UNHCR.
The Canadian government qualifies refugees into two subcategories: persons in need of protection and Convention refugees. In short, a person in need of protection seeks refuge from a credible threat of torture as defined by Article 1 of the Convention Against Torture, or a danger to their life within their country due to the risk of widespread unlawful prosecution that violates international standards and not caused by the country’s inability to provide proper medical care. A Convention refugee is a person seeking asylum in fear of religious, racial or other identity-related persecution.
Looking from a wider perspective, 18.6% of all immigrants in Canada come from India. As of 2021, the country admitted a total of 140,621 refugees, an increase of 8.07% from the previous year. India ranks sixth in origin countries of refugees migrating to Canada.
Given the high population of immigrants and refugees of Indian descent, numerous companies, organizations and institutions have specialized their focus on this region of the world.
The Borgen Project spoke with Sukhraj Boparai, an Indian-born Canadian citizen, who is the founder and principal consultant for Immitrust, an immigration consultancy firm in Brampton, Ontario. Beyond providing immigration services for people coming to Canada, he possesses the ability to “represent clients before the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) of Canada.” The office itself works to assist and represent those seeking asylum in Canada, by helping with Port of Entry claims, applications, case submissions for hearings, preparations for hearings and more.
Speaking on the value of refugees in Canada, Mr. Boparai says,
“Canada resettles refugees to save lives and to provide stability to those fleeing persecution with no hope of relief. Immigrants contribute to our economy, not only by filling gaps in our labor force and paying taxes but also by spending money on goods, housing and transportation. Bringing ambition and skill, they are a great addition to Canada, enriching the country economically, culturally and socially. Although they may at times face cultural differences, racial discrimination or xenophobia, refugees express a strong sense of belonging in Canada.”
Why Refugees Leave India
Mr. Boparai and The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada both note similar trends among those leaving India as refugees.
The first is political polarity. Intrinsic rivalries between political parties and their supporters can create enough animosity and aggression, especially on local, rural levels that a person’s safety is threatened. For example, Mr. Boparai notes that ruling political parties on a state-level control the law enforcement, thus removing state protection from a refugee.
The next big reason why many refugees leave India is race and cultural discrimination. The traditions of the caste system permeate throughout Indian culture, leaving many “lower-caste” citizens under the oppression of the “higher-caste.” This discrimination is generational, causing many to seek refuge in a country like Canada.
Another major reason Indian citizens become refugees is Religious Discrimination. India consists of religious minorities like Muslims, Sikhs and Buddhists. Many refugees come to Canada to avoid this persecution.
Uniquely, the discrimination of nationality is also prevalent in refugee cases. Although not as prevalent given a major cultural homogeneity, some ethnically diverse citizens of India face prejudice that may cause them to seek refuge.
Furthermore, numerous social groups also face substantial persecution or hardship that will cause them to seek refuge in another country. These include the families of the persecuted, people discriminated against for their sexual orientation, women experiencing domestic abuse, women forced into marriage, children of police officers (in areas of high terrorism threat), those experiencing physical or mental illness and abandoned children.
The Future for Refugees in Canada
The RAP offers vital and immediate help to government-assisted refugees, addressing their fundamental requirements. This support encompasses airport reception, temporary and permanent housing aid, guidance in enrolling for mandatory federal and provincial programs, community orientation including safety contacts, and introduction to their new city. Furthermore, refugees receive explanations of public transportation, Canada’s education and healthcare systems, local laws, customs and climate. Additionally, the RAP provides essential financial guidance covering budgeting, bank account setup, debit/credit card usage and basic life skills for high-needs individuals, along with referrals to other refugee programs.
Eligible refugees unable to meet basic needs receive income support, which involves a one-time household start-up allowance and ongoing monthly payments. The monthly financial aid aligns with provincial social assistance rates and can extend up to a year or until refugees attain self-sufficiency, whichever comes first.
By providing a safe haven for those fleeing conflict and persecution, Canada not only upholds its humanitarian values but also contributes to a sustainable solution to global poverty. The socio-economic contributions of refugees, when nurtured through comprehensive integration programs, can have a lasting positive impact on local economies, fostering diversity and innovation. As the world faces increasing challenges related to displacement and poverty, Canada’s proactive approach towards refugee acceptance sets a commendable example for other nations to follow. Embracing refugees not only enhances their lives but also enriches the fabric of society, creating a more interconnected and compassionate world that is better equipped to address the complex issue of global poverty.
– Sahib Singh