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As Canadian governments pursue early efforts to bring down the country’s unprecedentedly high rate of temporary migrants, it’s not being taken well by the thousands of students and foreign workers who are effectively being told to leave.

Prince Edward Island has seen daily protests by foreign workers in its Charlottetown capital after the Maritime province announced aggressive cuts to immigration policy in an explicit bid to rein in rising housing costs and an increasingly overwhelmed health-care system.

In February, the province announced an immediate 25 per cent cut to its Provincial Nominee Program, a popular pathway for temporary workers to obtain permanent residency. As Premier Dennis King explained at the time, amid “challenges” in shelter costs and hospital wait times, “we need to do the best we can to manage the people that come into our province.”

Beginning last month, a standing protest of as many as 300 mostly Indian nationals on temporary visas has accused the P.E.I. government of discarding workers who they said had been led to believe were on track for permanent residency.

“We moved here with a lot of expectations, lot of interest in the province that we are going to grow together as one. But… they changed the rules and they eliminated us all out, like we were never here,” demonstrator Rupinder Pal Singh told CBC P.E.I. in early May.

Similar protests have broken out in Brampton, Ont., which is home to an estimated 70,000 people slated for deportation after the expiry of their temporary work permits. A “good enough to work, good enough to stay” rally in the city last week demanded visa extensions, and accused Ottawa of making false promises about access to permanent residency.

“The Canadian government greenlights employers and colleges to exploit hundreds of thousands of international students for profit,” reads protest literature.

“After using us for cheap labour, especially during COVID, they discard us.”

While all of Canada’s immigration streams have been dialled up to record-setting highs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the increase has been most dramatic for “temporary” migrants, a category mostly comprising international students and temporary foreign workers.

As of March, Canada was home to 2.7 million temporary residents — a number larger than the combined populations of both Saskatchewan and Manitoba. What’s more, this figure has more than doubled in just two years; in 2021 Canada counted just 1.3 million non-permanent residents.

Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been bullish in declaring that temporary migration is unsustainably high.

At an April housing announcement, Trudeau said temporary migration had grown “at a rate far beyond what Canada has been able to absorb” and needed to be brought “under control.”

He promised to “hold the line a little more on the temporary immigration that has caused so much pressure in our communities.”

Earlier this year, the Trudeau government authorized a 35 per cent reduction on student permits, arguing that an unchecked rise in foreign students had put “pressure on housing, health care and other services.”

Just this week, Quebec Premier François Legault is meeting with Trudeau to explicitly plead for a “rapid” reduction in temporary workers. The province now has 560,000 temporary workers, which Legault says has caused an “emergency” in its public services.

One factor that helped drive Canada’s explosion in temporary migration was the expectation among newcomers that a work or student visa was a surefire path to permanent residency.

Historically, a temporary work visa was a pretty good guarantor of eventually obtaining permanent residency. According to a January study by Statistics Canada, among migrants who came to Canada as temporary foreign workers before 2014, more than a third of them eventually obtained status as a permanent resident.

Even among those employed in “lower-skill occupations” (such as clerking at a Tim Horton’s), 39 per cent of them had obtained PR status by their fifth year in Canada — and the rate rose to 48 per cent for those working in “higher-skill occupations.”

But the Stats Canada study only covered the years 2010-2014, when temporary migration was a fraction of its current rate.

In 2013, 83,740 foreign nationals entered Canada as temporary foreign workers.

By contrast, in 2021 alone, Canada brought in 777,000 workers on temporary work permits, and 622,000 international students.

If P.E.I. is the first to experience political blowback at efforts to curb temporary migration, it’s in part because the province has experienced a spike in population more dramatic than almost any other province. According to a federal report released this month, the number of P.E.I. workers on temporary permits has quadrupled since 2015, rising from 400 to more than 1,600.

In just one year, the province tallied population growth of 3.7 per cent. For context, if P.E.I. were a country, it would be among the top three for population growth, just behind Syria and South Sudan.


The U.K.’s Financial Times has yet another headline documenting a new Canadian policy failure, Canada’s immigration model is coming under strain. This time last month, the newspaper also profiled Canada as a “breakdown nation” whose plummeting per-capita GDP was a warning to the rest of the developed world. If it seems weird that a U.K. paper seems so obsessed with the downfall of an anglophone cousin, one interesting wrinkle is that the Financial Times used to employ Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland as a deputy editor.

This is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the exact moment when he greeted a chorus of boos in Calgary on Friday with an audible “ha ha.” The venue was the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Big City Mayors’ Caucus. And the trigger was Trudeau saying that the carbon tax puts “more money in the pockets of eight out of 10 Canadians.”
This is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the exact moment when he greeted a chorus of boos in Calgary on Friday with an audible “ha ha.” The venue was the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Big City Mayors’ Caucus. And the trigger was Trudeau saying that the carbon tax puts “more money in the pockets of eight out of 10 Canadians.”Photo by Screenshot from YouTube/CPAC

Since we’re on the subject of Chrystia Freeland, she has continued to aggressively champion her controversial hike to the capital gains tax. The change doesn’t bring in all that much extra revenue, but Freeland’s chief argument is that without more taxes, Canada will descend into a third-world hellscape beset with internecine conflict. At least, that seems to be the gist of this quote delivered by the deputy prime minister at a Sunday announcement in Toronto:

“Do you want to live in a Canada where kids go to school hungry? Do you want to live in a country where a teenage girl gets pregnant just because she doesn’t have the money to buy birth control? Do you want to live in a country where the only Canadians who can buy their own homes are those with parents who can help with the down-payment? … Do you want to be in a country where those at the very top live lives of luxury but must do so in gated communities behind ever higher fences using private health care and airplanes because the public sphere is so degraded and the wrath of the vast majority of their less privileged compatriots burns so hot?”

Walk With Israel rally
An estimated 50,000 people attended a Sunday Walk With Israel rally in Toronto, making it one of the largest political rallies in recent Canadian history. The turnout certainly eclipses that for the hundreds of anti-Israel marches that have hit Toronto since October 7, the most disruptive of which often had no more than a couple of hundred.Photo by United Jewish Appeal

Oh, and today also marks exactly one week since a high-level intelligence report came out alleging that Parliament harbours “witting” foreign agents — a revelation that prompted the government to take no action whatsoever and refuse to release the names of the accused traitors. Today, the Liberal government seemed to back a Bloc Québécois proposal to simply toss the issue to the ongoing Foreign Interference Commission — although that would carry the notable awkwardness of MPs and Senators continuing to show up to work amid colleagues who may secretly be in league with hostile foreign governments.

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