For people like newcomer Eduardo Garza, who moved to Canada from Mexico and now resides in Halifax, the political landscape that immigrants face has changed considerably.
As a newcomer, Garza admires the welcoming spirit of Canadians that helped him settle, but also feels worried about the ability of the country to handle such a high influx of people, and what this might mean for people like him, who have established a presence in Canada.
In November, the federal government unveiled its Immigration Levels Plan, which aims to welcome, according to IRCC, 485,000 new Permanent Residents in 2024 and 500,000 per year in both 2025 and 2026.
It is expected that yearly new arrivals will stabilize at this number from 2026 onwards.
In principle, this alleviates several challenges, including the country’s dwindling labour force, which, partly, owes to Canada’s aging population. Immigration is seen as a way to mitigate this and boost population growth.
Garza, who spent time living downtown Vancouver and Toronto before moving to Nova Scotia, has seen the growing numbers of homeless people that overcrowd the core of most major Canadian metropolitan areas, many of them immigrants.
He reminisces about his early stages as a new Canadian, and thinks it’s harder for new generations to get started on the right foot.
“Unless they come with vast resources, newcomers face a lot more problems that I didn’t have. Affordable housing is number one.”
Lack of support mechanisms
A considerable part of newcomers’ struggles come given that, as part of Canada’s workforce, they are still largely underutilized.
An RBC report found that 54 per cent of immigrants who studied outside Canada are performing a job below their preparation level, something that affects not only their financial capabilities but also, ultimately, their self-worth.
StatsCan research also found that 63 per cent of newcomers to the area reported a very solid sense of belonging, ranking 10 percentual points above British Columbia.
Lisa – who is only being identified by her first name due to the nature of the work she does – resides in St. John’s and aims to foster this sense of belonging by often hosting refugees in her two spare bedrooms while they build a foundation to have somewhere to go.
Right now, two men from the Middle East and one from Eastern Europe live there.
She points at one of them, irate with the ongoing hurdles he has had to navigate.
“For example, this young man. He has a degree. No offense, but he shouldn’t be lining up to fight for a minimum wage job,” Lisa said, underscoring that she considers herself to be entirely “pro-immigrant,” but questions whether the current program works, and whether it is wise to keep letting people in when they do not get the opportunities they’re promised.
“I feel like, what is the purpose of bringing these people here, if we can’t help them?” she said.
“To think about bringing 500,000 more individuals when we can’t even support the ones who are already here, and that is causing a whole new set of problems, including for them, is that really helping? I would think twice about that.”
Ongoing concerns – such as the rising cost of living, housing challenges, and the strain that the health-care system is under – are increasingly fueling an anti-immigrant sentiment nationwide.
A poll by Abacus Data found that two out of three Canadians consider the nation’s immigration targets to be “too high,” and two out of five said it was “way too high.”
These findings are in line with a study conducted by the Environics Institute, which found that affordable housing, something that in 2019 was not an issue and received zero percentual points, now stood at the second most-pressing issue, mentioned by 14 per cent of Canadians and only below the inflation/cost of living category.
In response to the question: “Overall, is there too much immigration to Canada?” the number of those who agreed — regardless of political affiliation — jumped from 27 to 44 per cent, with the main reason cited being that “they drive up housing prices.”
It is noteworthy that the tally of those who said “agree” increased for the main three political parties: Conservative (from 43 to 64 per cent), Liberal (from 18 to 29 per cent), and NDP (from 12 to 21 per cent).
In line with global trends
Michael Byrne, a housing analyst and lecturer at University College Dublin, recently published on Substack that housing affordability issues have been a key driver of anti-immigrant rhetoric in places like Ireland and the Netherlands.
He wrote, “Perceived competition for housing is a particularly likely focal point for anti-immigrant sentiment, primarily because the dynamics of housing supply make it prone to bottlenecks and because at least some housing is allocated by the state.”
These two nations, that were previously seen as incredibly welcoming, have both experienced recent clashes, including the Dublin riots.
Fear becoming more prevalent
While Canada still seems far from such a drastic scenario, numbers show that fear is slowly becoming more prevalent, and the worse the problem gets, the more likely it is that immigrants will be the scapegoat.
“I mean, take a walk around any downtown,” Garza says.
“It is hard to see. And I think when someone says, ‘I don’t want more immigrants,’ maybe what they are saying is, ‘I don’t want to see that,’ or, ‘I don’t want the possibility of that happening to me,’ so I don’t see this sentiment going away for as long as that fear prevails.”
Javier Ortega-Araiza has multiple global experiences as a storyteller and social entrepreneur having travelled to over 30 countries. Now based in Toronto, he is a published author in both English and Spanish."