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Let 'em in!

Give me your tired, your poor.

People walking

These words have served to welcome generations of immigrants to the U.S. Increasingly though, Canada is becoming the destination of choice. But the numbers it has welcomed in the past will pale in contrast to those we can expect to hear knocking on our door in years to come.

Natural disasters, food and water shortages, and desertification linked to climate change – to which the wealthiest countries are the greatest contributors – often manifest as civil instability. Widespread domestic conflict will push people out of their homes just to live. This shift can best be described as “survival migration.”

Together these factors will ensure that Canada, a nation built by immigrants, will be asked to receive an unprecedented number of immigrants and refugees in the next 100 years. Unfortunately many of our immigration laws, settlement policies – not to mention public opinion – are just not prepared for these changes.

A recent Supreme Court of Canada case helps illustrate. In Kanthasamy v Canada, the Court dealt with humanitarian and compassionate grounds under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. What was ostensibly a residual catch-all category for exceptional cases falling outside the categories created in the Act has now been expanded to include a more flexible application of “unusual and undeserved or disproportionate hardship.”