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How Canada is turning from a dream destination to a nightmare



How Canada is turning from a dream destination to a nightmare

Student visas that led to work permits, permanent residency and then citizenship offered a straight and easy path to settle down in a Western country where Indians could enjoy a higher standard of life. In pursuit of this dream, hordes of Indian youth chose to head to Canada in recent years. But now the dream is souring. High property prices, lack of jobs and rising crime are rendering Canada into a nightmare. So much so, a high cost of living has triggered reverse migration from Canada.

Jobs crisis
Temporary residents and recent immigrants are driving up Canada’s unemployment rate, as record numbers of newcomers welcomed to the country to fill labor shortages are now struggling to find work, Bloomberg has reported.

The unemployment rate for temporary residents – including foreign workers, international students and asylum seekers – was 11% in June, according to Bloomberg calculations. Using comparable data, the unemployment rate for all workers was just 6.2% last month. Immigrants who’ve landed in the last five years are also having a hard time finding a job, with their unemployment rate reaching 12.6% in June.

“The biggest single weighted contribution to the rise in the unemployment rate has been from the temporary residence category,” Derek Holt, an economist at Scotiabank, said on BNN Bloomberg Television earlier this week.

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While the US has seen a widely-covered surge in authorized and irregular migration, the scale of the increase actually pales in comparison to Canada’s growth rate. For every 1,000 residents, the northern nation brought in 32 people last year, compared with fewer than 10 in the US.

Canada’s experience shows there’s a limit to immigration-fueled growth: Once new arrivals exceed a country’s capacity to absorb them, standards of living decline even if top-line numbers are inflated. The Bank of Nova Scotia estimates a productivity-neutral rate of population growth is less than a third of what Canada saw last year, which would be more in line with the US pace. So even as that record population growth keeps Canada’s GDP growing, life is getting tougher, especially for younger generations and for immigrantsCanada’s working-age population grew by a million over the past year but the labour market only created 324,000 jobs. The upshot: The unemployment rate rose by more than a full percentage point, with young people and newcomers again the worst hit.Unaffordable housing
Canada faces a housing affordability crisis as a rapidly increasing immigrant population has far outpaced the number of available homes, leading to increases in prices and rents. High inflation and 22-year high interest rates have also driven up mortgage costs.

While housing construction saw a surge during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, activity waned with the rise in interest rates. The government anticipates a shortfall of millions of homes by 2030 at the current pace of development, underscoring the urgency of addressing housing supply issues.

The opposition has slammed the government for being slow to build more homes and the crisis is seen as one of the reasons for a slump in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s polling numbers.

A few months ago, Trudeau launched a C$6 billion ($4.42 billion) Canada Housing Infrastructure Fund to accelerate the construction and upgrading of housing. Canada also announced adjustments to mortgage regulations, allowing first-time homebuyers the option to extend their repayment period from 25 to 30 years. By offering extended mortgage terms, the government aims to provide relief to first-time buyers, who have faced challenges in entering the housing market.

Last year, 50 to 100 students, mostly Indian, at Canadore College in North Bay, Ontario, Canada, found themselves homeless since they were unable to find accommodation they could afford. They had to sleep in tents on the roadside outside their college.

Loan burden
There are currently about 3 lakh Indian students, according to the Canadian Bureau for International Education. Many of these students take loans, ranging from ?20 lakh to ?40 lakh on average, to enrol in universities and colleges in Canada. However, the transition from campus to corporate life appears bleak.

With their Canadian dream nearly shattered, many students are even left vulnerable to self-harm.

With the gig economy also taking a severe blow, students who depend on part-time jobs — like waiting in restaurants, and working as couriers and store clerks — to sustain themselves in the country are experiencing heightened financial frustration.

Rising crime
Overrun by gangs, Canada has seen its crime graph rising. In March, a Toronto police officer suggested that residents leave their car keys by the front door to avoid a home invasion, seemingly to let criminals steal their vehicle if they break in, leave and avoid injuries, Global news had reported. Later, the Toronto Police Service issued a statement Wednesday confirming that an officer made the remarks at a recent community meeting. “While well meaning, there are also other ways to prevent auto theft motivated home invasions,” it said. In Toronto, home invasions and break-ins for auto thefts rose 400 per cent last year, the Toronto Police Service said.

The number of identified criminal organizations in Canada increased by almost a third between 2022 and last year, according to the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada, Vancouver Sun reported. The federal agency said in a report that 205 new organized crime groups were added to the list of 638 after being assessed and ranked by its analysts.

Of the groups reviewed, eight were assessed as national high-level threats, including four in Central Canada and four in the west. That was down from 14 high-level threats in 2022, but the international reach of the top-echelon groups last year was broader with connections in 72 countries, the report said.

Indian security agencies have pointed out how gangs of Punjabi immigrants, who are linked to Khalistani terror and international drug rackets, are thriving in Canada.

Reverse immigration
Immigration drove Canada’s population up at its fastest clip in more than six decades this year, as per Statistics Canada. But a reversal of that trend is gradually taking hold, Reuters reported in December last year. In the first six months of 2023, some 42,000 individuals departed Canada, adding to 93,818 people who left in 2022 and 85,927 exits in 2021, official data showed.

The rate of immigrants leaving Canada hit a two-decade high in 2019, according to a report from the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC), an immigration advocacy group. While the numbers went down during pandemic lockdowns, Statistics Canada data shows they later started rising again.

While that is a fraction of the 263,000 who came to the country over the same period, a steady rise in emigration is making some observers wary.

(With inputs from agencies)

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