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Health care improvements boost Canada to fourth in world for immigration integration

December 9, 2020

Canada’s position in an international report card ranking countries based on integrating newcomers has improved, in part because of better access to health care for asylum seekers as well as more health information and interpreters available to all groups.

The Migration Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) released its international scorecard Wednesday, ranking Canada fourth out of 52 countries. Sweden earned the top spot followed by Finland and Portugal. The last MIPEX report was released in 2015, when Canada ranked sixth. The new scorecard does not include data from 2020.

The index measures eight policy areas: labour market mobility; education; political participation; access to nationality; family reunification; health; permanent residence; and anti-discrimination.

Anna Triandafyllidou, the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration and Integration at Ryerson University, said Canada climbing to fourth position is a “significant achievement.” The research program Prof. Triandafyllidou leads is MIPEX’s reference point in Canada, and her team produced Canada’s reports in December, 2019.

Canada’s overall score increased by two points because of improvements in access to health care and also because of changes to the 2017 Citizenship Act which removed barriers for immigrants to prove residence and language requirements.

Of the eight policy areas that were evaluated, Canada’s highest score was in anti-discrimination, with the report saying that is because of its “world-leading laws and policies,” including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and policies on multiculturalism.

Canada lost some points because non-citizens cannot participate in local and national elections. However, Canada earned points because permanent residents can obtain citizenship and gain voting rights relatively quickly.

The report said that labour market mobility was the policy area in which Canada needed to make the most improvements because migrants without legal documents or with restricted temporary work permits face barriers to employment, which then limits their access to health care.

Prof. Triandafyllidou said Canada’s improved score is primarily because of better access to health care. She said the previous Conservative government’s move to restrict asylum seekers from certain countries from accessing health care in 2012 was discriminatory. The Liberals changed that policy in 2016, restoring health care access to all refugees in need. She said the score in health care is still not high because when migrants’ work permits expire, their access to health care is cut.

“There could be some improvements in, for instance, offering some basic health care to everyone present in the country, regardless of status, as some countries do, because access to health is a basic human right,” she said in an interview.

The methodology for determining country scores is based on a set of questions relating to a policy component of one of the eight areas. For each answer, there is a set of options and values from 0 to 100. These are then averaged for the overall score.

Canada scored 80 in the report card released on Wednesday. Its purpose is to determine and compare what governments are doing to promote integration and to help policy-makers implement improvements.

“Canada leads the other traditional destination countries in the Top Ten, with policies in most areas that are slightly more favourable than policies in Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.,” read the report.

It said Canadian policies encourage the public to see immigrants as “their equals, neighbours and potential citizens.”

Alexander Cohen, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said “the success of newcomers is a success for Canada.”

“When people get settled more quickly, they can contribute more quickly. It’s one reason why one in three businesses with employees in Canada are owned by newcomers, which has created thousands of jobs in Canada.”