Canada to Welcome More Immigrants in Bid to Boost Economic Growth

By Paul Vieira Features Dow Jones Newswires

Canada pledged on Wednesday to raise annual immigration levels by more than 10% by the decade's end, saying the country is prepared to take a different course from its developed-world peers in order to fuel economic growth.

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Canadian Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the country would accept 310,000 new permanent residents next year, up from an estimated 300,000 this year. That intake is set to gradually rise to 340,000 by 2020, or roughly 1% of the population.

The announcement contrasts with the vision of U.S. President Donald Trump, who on Wednesday reiterated his intention to limit immigration after a terror attack killed eight people in New York City a day earlier. Mr. Trump also called for an end to a visa lottery program.

In the U.K., unease over immigration from the EU was a driving force behind Britain's Brexit vote, and reducing the number of new arrivals has become a key goal of the government's Brexit policy. In Germany, a party that wants to limit European integration and cut back on immigration won a foothold in Germany's parliament in September elections.

About 58% of the newcomers would arrive through economic programs that grant permanent residency to people with sought-after skills.

Between 2018 and 2020, the country also envisions accepting between 25,000 and 32,000 refugees each year as part of the total, according to government documents.

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Mr. Hussen, himself once a refugee from Somalia, said Canada was taking a different approach to immigration from its developed-world allies.

"There are more and more countries are closing their doors to people, to talent, to skills and those seeking protection from persecution," Mr. Hussen said at a press conference in Toronto. "We are emphatically and un-apologetically taking a different approach."

He added immigrants stand to be "economic difference makers" for Canada as its population ages.

Canada's push to boost immigration levels comes as the country faces increasing tension over the issue. An influx of asylum-seekers into Canada from U.S. in recent months sparked some anti-immigration protests and has strained police and humanitarian resources along Quebec's border with New York State.

In the first three quarters of 2017, Canadian border and immigration officials processed 35,755 asylum claimants, making this year already the busiest in at least five years.

Many of those asylum cases involved people crossing overland into Canada from the U.S., either because the U.S. had denied their bid for asylum or they feared deportation under an immigration crackdown by the Trump administration. The influx unfolded after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a message on social media in January saying Canada "will welcome" those fleeing persecution, just as the White House just as the White House tightened entry into the U.S. from a handful of Muslim-majority countries.

But in recent months, with tension mounting over a surge of Haitian asylum seekers into Quebec, the Liberal government rejigged its message, warning entry into Canada didn't guarantee automatic settlement.

Recent Canadian census data suggest that between 2011 and 2016, Canada's population grew 5% to over 35 million people, the fastest among Group of Seven industrialized countries, with the bulk of that growth fueled by immigration. Overall, more than a fifth of the Canadian population was born outside the country.

Write to Paul Vieira at paul.vieira@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 01, 2017 19:46 ET (23:46 GMT)