Table 1




Migration patterns

Post WW2 arrival of displaced/forced migrants from eastern Europe, followed by large numbers of guest workers in 1950s-1970s, followed by asylum seekers and migrants from disintegrating socialist countries in 1990s.

Between 1950s and 1980s immigration predominantly from Europe (UK, Italy) and the US. From 1980s onwards, increasing numbers of arrivals from Asian countries. In the 1990s, immigration rates were at their highest and three quarters of new arrivals were 'visible minorities'.

Significant post WW2 immigration from ex-colonies in South Asia and the Caribbean as well as from Poland and Ukraine, fluctuating over time with changing immigration rules. Fluctuating numbers of asylum seekers since 1990s. Significant European migration since EU expansion, notably from Poland, but often temporary.

Population diversity*

A large and long-established population of migrant background (20% of total population). Numerically, people of Turkish citizenship are by far the largest migrant group. Migrants from non-European countries are gaining increased attention in recent years.

Around 20% of the total population was born outside Canada. The 'Chinese' are identified as the most populous 'visible minority' (25% of whom are Canadian-born).

Latest estimates show 16% of the population belongs to an ethnic group other than 'White British', and 11% were born outside UK. Largest enumerated ethnic groups are 'Indian' and 'Pakistani'. India is most common country of birth outside UK, followed by Poland.

Policy orientation

Reluctance to embrace an ethnically diverse identity at policy and societal level [27]. A history of firmly anti-immigration policy orientation. Citizenship based until 2000 on parental heritage rather than country of birth. Persistent resistance to dual citizenship [28]. Recent years, significant tensions and divergent political agendas [29].

Immigrant ancestry and multiculturalism are hallmarks of Canadian identity [30,31]. Successive governments across the political spectrum have encouraged immigration and high levels of naturalisation [32,33]. Points based system for accepting migrants since 1967. More recent policy interpretations of multiculturalism emphasise the importance of attachment to Canada and active citizenship, as opposed to maintenance of cultural distinctiveness [28].

Long recognised itself as an immigrant-receiving and multi-ethnic country [34,35]. Self-perception of a strong legal and policy race relations framework. Critics argue that race equality legislation and policy conflict with that relating to immigration control, citizenship, cohesion, as well as foreign policy [36,37]. Significant backlash against multiculturalism in past decade, though consistent policy concern with diversity and equality (despite limited evidence of progress towards a fairer society) [38].

Migrant/minority rights and welfare

Persistent discriminatory treatment of migrants categorised as not ethnic German by state institutions as well as within housing and employment sectors [39]. Low rates of naturalization [28]. Poor socioeconomic indicators among most immigrant groups, particularly Turkish [28]. Some significant recent intervention to recognise and address needs of immigrants [40].

Generally acknowledged success in accommodating diversity [28]. Extensive programmes and resources directed towards 'integration' initiatives [28]. But, veneer of tolerance and celebration of diversity masks structural barriers to economic and social wellbeing of non-European migrant groups who have higher levels of unemployment and lower income than other groups [31].

Introduction of additional requirements for citizenship in 2000s. Relatively low naturalisation rates. Recently characterised as having a 'weak' integration policy [41]. Persistent socioeconomic disadvantage among migrant and minority groups, particularly those categorised as Bangladeshi and Pakistani [42]. Evidence of continued high levels of racial discrimination at institutional and inter-personal levels [28].

Societal discourses

Public fears of threat to identity and economic welfare. Significant public suspicion of Muslims [43]. Mass media stereotyping and pathologising of migrants, particularly Muslims [44].

Harsh criticism is levelled at government approaches to multiculturalism that are seen to ignore the hierarchies of power and opportunity that perpetuate poor welfare outcomes for racialised groups [45-47]. Significant concerns about cohesion and Canadian identity expressed by some sections of the general public, particularly among Québécois, though broadly positive public opinion towards immigration [48]. Surveys suggest high levels of racial discrimination in society, particularly among some groups [49]; Racism is increasingly recognised as a critical issue by policy makers [50].

Widespread public concern that immigration levels are too high posing threats to identity and economic opportunities [28]. Media contributing to misinformation and negative stereotyping of migrant/minority communities. Islamophobia a particular problem [51-53].

* Given the divergent categorisation and labelling of migrant and minority groups across the three countries we adopt here the country-specific conventions for describing diversity.

Salway et al. BMC Public Health 2011 11:514   doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-514

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