Friday, April 10, 2009


I continue to be dismayed at the ignorance about Canada's carrying capacity evidenced abroad even by people who are involved in population control issues. This essay by the President of the Population Institute of Canada, the very able and forceful Madeline Weld, presents a pretty comprehensive overview of the negative economic and ecological impact of mass immigration on my country. I care about the world, but sorry folks, I am an eco-nationalist first and foremost. Keeping our "excess" biocapacity intact is our right, and also offsets the many countries in the world in an ecological deficit. Please read this carefully, and have it ready for anyone who thinks that Canada is just a big empty place in need of a whole lot of people to fill it up and unlock a treasure trove of resources. Tim Murray
Canada's Policy of Mass Immigration: Hoary Myths and Unasked Questions By Madeline Weld

Per capita, Canada takes in more immigrants than any other Western country.
In 1990, Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservative government began to take
in about 250,000 immigrants each year, regardless of economic conditions.
This policy was continued by his successors, both Liberals and
Conservatives. Canada has taken in over 4 million newcomers since it was
initiated. It has had major impacts on our cities, on our society, and on
our environment.

But try finding a good discussion about immigration. An actual discussion
that is, where people assess immigration policies from different
perspectives. The vast majority of media coverage treats our current policy
of "mass immigration" as morally unassailable or as something we just have
to accept, like the Earth orbiting the sun. No national leader has ever
questioned the policy. At the time of writing, with an election in the
offing, the leaders of 3 of the 4 national political parties(Conservatives,
Liberals, New Democrats) are calling for an increase in levels of
immigration. The Green Party essentially ignores the issue; its leader says
the Alberta Tar Sands are a much more serious problem, and has previously
said that immigration produces economic benefits and promotes diversity.

Let's crunch a few numbers. While our intake of immigrants and refugees has
been a bit less than 1% of the population (now 33 million), that figure is
often cited as a target. In fact, Liberal immigration critic Maurizio
Bevilacqua is proposing to immediately increase intake to 330,000 a year. An
intake of 1% of the population leads to a doubling time of 70 years. That
means that Canada's population would be about 66 million in 2078 and 132
million in 2148. How would the infrastructure of our cities cope with such a
population and what would be the environmental impact?

In our free and open society that prides itself on free speech, one
shouldn't ask such questions. In his 2004-2005 annual report (released
November 2005) and at a news conference relating to it, Ontario commissioner
for the environment Gord Miller addressed the impact of 4 or 5 million more
people in southern Ontario a few decades hence. "This is a vast number of
people settling in an already stressed landscape. Will the resulting demands
for water, sewer systems and roads leave our natural heritage areas intact?
Will there-be enough natural lands left over to support biodiversity?" his
report asks. Miller was immediately accused of being anti- immigrant. He was
asked by reporters whether he was calling for a curtailment of immigration.
When the answer was no, he was asked whether he was saying that immigrants
should move to northern Ontario (no), whether the era of the single family
home is over and whether immigrants shouldn't dream of having their own
house (no). Though he'd said earlier that it wasn't his job to dictate where
people should go, after some hounding he told one reporter that immigrants
could move to northern Ontario as a solution to the Greater Toronto Area's
overcrowding. This clip was played multiple times on all local news
channels. The CBC aired a response by city councillor Maria Augimeri
calling for Miller's resignation. Said Miller, "If people actually read the
report, [they'll find that] the only thing in it about immigration is that
it's another element of population growth and that it's under federal
control. That's it" (1)

The character lynching endured by Miller for daring to address the issue
of rampant population growth in southern Ontario is revealing of the state
public discourse (if we can dignify it with that name) on immigration in
Canada. First his accusers felt no obligation to offer a single fact-based
refutation to the concerns he expressed. Second, he himself did not dare to
suggest a reduction in immigration, although that would have been totally
reasonable based on the
environmental impacts of population growth described in his report. Third,
if people from northern Ontario are leaving for economic reasons, does it
make sense to send immigrants there? And fourth, if high population
density has already caused extensive environmental damage in southern
Ontario, is it a good idea to go down that route in northern Ontario which,
based on climate and agricultural potential, is less able to support a
large population?

The subject of immigration to Canada is addressed from an almost completely
ideological and emotional perspective with no serious analysis of the real
benefits versus costs to Canadians. It is based on the paradigm of
perpetual economic growth and all tied up with our official embrace of
multiculturalism and diversity as well as our feelings of guilt for real and
perceived wrongs toward immigrants in the past.

Because the policy of mass immigration to Canada, pursued or endorsed by all
national parties, supports a veritable industry and because this misguided
policy has insinuated itself into our concept of ourselves as a tolerant
society such that those who challenge it do so at their own peril, dots
whose relationship to one another should be blindingly obvious remain
unconnected in the media, in public discourse, and in government policies.

It is not only political parties who can't connect the dot of bringing in
over one million newcomers every four years to the dot of trying to reduce
Canada's greenhouse gas production. The silence of environmental
organizations on the relationship between population growth in Canada and
greenhouse gas production and other environmental effects has been
deafening. In their mail-out literature soliciting donations, environmental
organizations either completely ignore population growth as the driver of
urban sprawl, habitat loss, species extinction, water shortages, gridlock,
and other problems they are allegedly concerned with, or treat it as
something inevitable. I have never received a letter from any organization
questioning the government policy of relentlessly promoting the growth of
Canada's population through immigration.

Evidence for this cognitive dissonance is provided by the fact that
environmental organizations nominated Mulroney as Canada's greenest prime
minister for his efforts to reduce acid rain and greenhouse gases, and
ignored the fact that he initiated the "tap wide open" immigration policy
that has been pursued to this day and has put the rate of Canada's
population growth on the fast track (2).
Because we live in what I call an
age of hysteria, I feel compelled to emphasize that the aim of this article
is to analyze Canada's policies on immigration. It doesn't mean that I am
anti-immigrant, that I want to entirely shut the door on immigrants and
refugees, or that I think people from other cultures and ethnic backgrounds
are less worthy as human beings. I am saying that, for about two decades,
Canada has been pursuing a policy of increasing its own population by
something approaching 1% each year through immigration, that this policy is
having a major impact on Canada's environment, economy, and society and
that it should be subjected to public scrutiny and discussion. Boosterism,
emotional appeal, human interest stories, and unsupported statements about
our need for immigrants should not be allowed to sideline a factual analysis
on the impact of continuous very high levels of immigration on Canada.

What I propose to do with this analysis is to (1) briefly look at the global
and Canadian realities in terms of the impact of human population growth on
resources and the environment, (2) list the principal arguments used to
justify Canada's current immigration policies, and (3) examine how those
arguments hold up to scrutiny.

1. Human population growth and the environment: globally and in Canada

Something is amiss with the state of planet Earth. Human activity is
bringing about the sixth great extinction of species, with the current rate
of species extinction estimated to be 1000 times above background level.
About 50% of the world's forests have been cleared and 25% of coral reefs
have been destroyed. Over one billion people lack access to clean water, a
number that is anticipated to rise steeply. All the world's fisheries are
being fished at or beyond capacity and the number of large fish caught has
declined by 90%. Despite the fact that much more land has been put to
agricultural use in recent decades at the expense of wildland, the number of
people that must be fed per hectare of arable land has risen from 4 in 1950
to 8 in 2000 and is anticipated to be 14 in 2050. Humans have in some way
impacted about two-thirds of the global land surface outside of Antarctica
(and one could say that it has been impacted by climate change) and 41% of
the oceans' area have been strongly affected by human activities relating to
climate change, fishing, pollution and shipping. Human activity through the
use of fossil fuels is driving climate change. We are running out of said
fossil fuels and there is no alternative energy source with the density and
versatility of oil. Yet, much like immigration levels to Canada, the annual
increase of about 80 million people and the projected human population of
9.2 billion are accepted as an inevitability.

Traditionally, Canada has thought of itself as "underpopulated." The idea
that a country or area is underpopulated is primarily a reflection of human
anthro-pocentrism. The perception of Canada as underpopulated persists
despite the fact that Canada's population increased six-fold during the
twentieth century (compared with "only" a four-fold increase in the world
population). People still refer to Canada's "vast open spaces" as if the
best thing that could happen to these vast open spaces would be to fill them
with people. But putting humans there would require a great deal of energy
to heat their houses and to transport their food-as little could be grown
locally and hunting can support only a small population. Furthermore,
immigrants don't go to those mythic vast open spaces- almost all settle in
Canada's twelve largest urban centres, and in particular in Toronto,
Vancouver, and Montreal. The habitable parts of Canada are already
experiencing serious problems associated with their rapid unplanned growth:
urban sprawl, loss of inner city greenspace, garbage disposal problems,
traffic congestion, and smog. The Ontario Medical Association estimates that
there are close to 6,000 premature deaths and 17,000 hospital admissions in
Ontario each year caused by
smog. Energy sufficiency in that province is also a concern and future
shortages are anticipated.

Environmentally, the trends in Canada are going in the same direction as
those globally. The most recent appeal (August 8, 2008) sent to me by Nature
Canada says that during the last 40 years, the populations of common terns,
boreal chickadees, and evening grossbeaks have dropped by 71%, 70%, and 78%,
respectively. The letter also says that of the 428 species of birds that
regularly breed in Canada, 60 are at risk of extinction. Overall there are
now close to 500 endangered species (plants, fish, reptiles, mammals, birds)
in Canada. But we're not just paving over wildlife habitat, we're paving
over our own food supply. The amount of class 1 farmland in Ontario
converted to urban use increased from 6% in 1971 to 11% in 2001, the
comparable numbers in Alberta are 2% and 6%. Furthermore Alberta, which is
now destroying its environment at a breathtaking pace in the mad extraction
of tar sands oil, might be facing much more severe drought conditions
through global warming and may lose much of the glacial melt that currently
irrigates its agricultural land. Water shortages on the prairies caused $5
billion in economic damage in 2001. The western pine beetle has devastated
British Columbia's forests and has crossed the Rockies into Alberta. The
east coast cod fishery collapsed and other fisheries (fish and crustacean)
in Canada are showing signs of stress. Climate change is anticipated to
affect all aspects of the Can-
adian economy but to have the greatest impact in the north, where its
effects are already being felt most strongly.

From an environmental perspective-Canadian and global-there is absolutely no
evidence that Canada is underpopulated.
Canada is one of the highest per
capita users of energy and producers of greenhouse gases in the world.
Bringing people to Canada from almost anywhere else in the world increases
their carbon footprint even if their relative standard of living in Canada
is low.

Canada's leaders know, or ought to know, that the pursuit of growth is
harming Canada. In 1998, I came across a newspaper clipping from 1991
describing a confidential government document which said that environmental
degradation in the Third World was so severe that North-South conflict over
the issue is virtually certain, that global warming would have devastating
consequences globally and in Canada, and that Canada could expect to have
increasing numbers of environmental refugees. The article said the document
was prepared by the "Canadian Intelligence Committee" with input from
Environment Canada, the Defence Department, and External Affairs. My quest
to obtain the document is a story in itself. After months of futile
enquiries at the departments named, I was directed to the Privy Council
Office. My Access to Information request was rejected by the PCO.

Following a complaint with the Information Commissioner's office, I obtained
a copy that was about one-third blanked out. Fortunately I had a diligent
officer, and finally, in December 2000, he obtained a copy of the document
that was only about 10% blanked out. The confidential document was called
"The environment: marriage between Earth and mankind" (3). The letterhead
on the first page (deleted in the first release) indicated it was from the
Intelligence Advisory Committee. As my Information Commission officer had
predicted, the report, while blunt, contained very little information that
an interested person would not be able to find from publicly available
resources, including the inter- net.

The report states that "Controlling population growth is crucial to
addressing most environmental problems, including global warming" (p. 9).
The report says that with the emergence of global environmental problems
which threaten their own self-interest, developed countries will have to
engage in policies in which resources are transferred to developing
countries to promote environmentally sound development. "This can be seen as
one aspect of paying the bill for our past environmental damage caused by
rapid economic growth" (p. 11). With respect to Canada, the report says that
"It is, because of its harsh climate and long distances, the most
energy-intensive of the free-market industrialized nations. Canada is
endowed with vast water resources, but with 90 percent of its population
concentrated within a band up to 100 miles of the USA border, water
resources in these areas are already being utilized to their fullest.

Polluted water has become an everyday concern. .. Although Canada's
population is not large in world terms, its concentration in various areas
has already put stress upon regional environments in many ways.
Canada can
expect to have increasing numbers of environmental refugees requesting
immigration to Canada, while regional movements of the population at home,
as from idle fishing areas, will add further to population stresses within
the country." There are chapters painting a bleak picture of the
environmental situation in different countries and regions of the world.

There is no way that a reasonable person could interpret the report as
promoting population growth in Canada, through immigration or otherwise.

2. Arguments used to justify Canada's immigration policy

The arguments used to justify Canada's immigration policy are ultimately
based on growth - the sacred doctrine of our economic system. Like all
sacred doctrines, the paradigm of perpetual growth which has guided Western
economies for a few centuries is not receptive to challenges based on
facts. So when in 1972 a document was published challenging the idea that
there can be infinite growth on a finite planet, it was met with resistance,
and ultimately sidelined. The document,
commissioned by the Club of Rome, was called The Limits to Growth (4). Using
computers (a novelty at the time), Limits to Growth (LTG) examined the
evolution of the whole world's economy using a mathematical model that kept
track of a large number of variables and their interactions as the system
changed over time.

Based on a number of scenarios with different assumptions, LTG's authors
concluded that, unless specific measures were taken, the world's economies
would collapse within 100 years (i.e, by 2072). About 10 million copies of
LTG in 30 languages were sold. Despite creating a big stir, LTG's message
ultimately ignored. According to an article by Bardi (2008), the Italian
economist Giorgio Nebbia identified four primary sources of resistance:
those who thought that the message threatened the growth of their businesses
and industries; professional economists who saw LTG as a threat to their
dominance in advising on economic matters; the Roman Catholic church; and
the political left in the Western world, who saw LTG as a scam of the ruling
class (5). The message of LTG was distorted and ridiculed. Conveniently for
LTG's detractors, the oil crisis of the early 1970s, which helped get LTG's
message across when it was first published, seemed to be over by 1980.

Canada's blind adherence to the growth doctrine is reflected in the fact
that all administrations have ignored the findings and recommendations of
the confidential document prepared for Mulroney's Privy Council. The denial
of the concept of limits is reflected in the term "sustainable growth," a
mutation of "sustainable development." One even hears the argument that the
environment must be protected so that economic growth can continue. And one
way to promote economic growth is with population growth. Since Canadian
women are falling down on the job, producing on average only 1.5 babies, we
are told that we have to turn to immigration.

The economic arguments for immigration are repeated often and emphatically
and totally without analysis. They seem to be meant to scare us into
acquiescence. How can we question Canada's immigration policies when our
country is facing a looming labour shortage (the alliteration itself has a
fine ominous ring to it). We are warned that by 2011, a few short years
hence, ALL (!!) labour force growth in Canada will be due to immigration.
Nobody explains why it is essential for the Canadian labour force to keep
growing-it seems to be taken as a given that it will be a disaster if it
doesn't. Another favourite bugaboo is Canada's aging population-soon there
will too many old people supported by too few working people. The buzz word
here is the dependency ratio, the number of people not working (including
children and retirees) over the number of people in the workforce.

3. Assessment of the arguments used to justify Canada's immigration policy

The widespread perception that there would be no population growth in Canada
without immigration is false. Women of the baby boomer generation have small
families, but they constitute such a large cohort that population growth in
Canada would continue until 2030 in the total absence of immigration. Of
course, the rate of growth would be much lower. And that's not good enough
for developers, bankers who like mortgages, and others who benefit from

No one says specifically that more people would benefit the environment.
When our alleged need for immigrants is being promoted, the arguments given
are always economic ones or fuzzy ones, like promoting diversity. The
economic arguments implicitly assume that the economy is separate from the
environment. In fact, as pointed out by economist Herman Daly, it is a
"wholly owned subsidiary of the environment." But if we go along, for the
moment, with the fiction that we can "save the environment" in the face of
continuing population and economic growth, how do the economic arguments
stack up on their own merits?

I think that nobody would deny that the Fraser Institute, based in
Vancouver, British Columbia, is focused on the economy. It may therefore
come as a surprise that some of the best arguments demolishing the reasons
usually offered to justify Canada's very high intake of immigrants have come
from the Fraser Institute. Fraser Institute Fellow Martin Collacott has
written a number of papers on Canada's immigration policy, including
"Canada's immigration policy: the need for major reform" (2002) and "Is
there really a looming labour shortage in Canada, and if there is, can
increased immigration fill the gap" (2003). (Papers from the Fraser
Institute can be found by following the links at

The following are some of the relevant pieces of information assembled by
Collacott in his papers:

a 1991 study by the Economics Council of Canada found that in the past
century, the fastest growth in real per capita income occurred at times
when net migration was zero or even negative;

a 1989 report issued by Health and Welfare Canada called Charting Canada's
Future noted that, according to the OECD, there was no correlation
whatsoever between population growth and economic growth in its 22-member

a 2000 United Nations study concluded that immigration can only serve as a
tool to arrest the aging of the population if carried out at levels that are
unacceptably high and ever-increasing;

Statistics Canada released 2001 census data in July of 2002 showing that the
population was aging and that immigration, even at very high levels, would
have little impact on the average age of the population;

a 2002 survey by the Canadian Labour and Business Centre found that only a
very small percentage of managers and labour leaders in the public and
private sectors regard the hiring of foreign-trained workers as very
important in resolving the problem of a specific shortage of skills from
time to time, instead they looked overwhelmingly to solutions involving the
existing workforce, such as upgrading the skills of current employees,
hiring young labour market entrants, and phasing in retirement policies.

Things have not changed since the above studies were published. According to
Statistics Canada's analysis of the 2006 census, the median earnings of
Canadians (in inflation-adjusted 2005 dollars) have increased by 0.1%
since1980. Not only that, but the earnings of the poorest fifth fell
dramatically in that time, by 20.6%, while the top 20% of earners saw their
incomes rise by 16.4%.

The finding that population growth through immigration does not translate
into economic benefits was also made by a cross-party committee of the
British House of Lords (Lords Economic Affairs Committee), which published
its findings in March 2008. The House of Lords' panel said that the British
government's claim that immigrants were boosting the economy was a
misleading measure, and that a better one would be the impact on income per
head of resident population. The Committee said that some groups, including
the low-paid, young people seeking jobs and some ethnic minorities may have
suffered because of competition for work from immigrants willing to accept
low wages and poor working conditions (which is in agreement with US
economist George Borjas, who estimated that immigration reduced US workers'
salaries by 5% in 2006). The House of Lords Committee also predicted that a
continuation of the high rate of immigration would result in a 10% increase
of house prices over what they would have been without immigration by 2028.

In June of this year, I attended a one and one-half day conference on
immigration held in Montreal by the Fraser Institute. Virtually every
paper presented challenged the Canadian government's immigration policy.
Several speakers presented data showing that overall immigrants receive in
and benefits far more than they pay in taxes. (Milton Friedman's remark
"Mass immigration and the welfare state are incompatible" was cited by at
least 2 presenters.) Economist Herb Grubel of Simon Fraser University and a
Fraser Institute fellow calculated that the 2.9 million immigrants who came
to Canada between 1990 and the end of 2002 received $18 3 billion more in
government services and benefits in 2002 than they paid in taxes. Other
presentations addressed the fact that, despite the government's economic
arguments, only 20% of immigrants are selected on the basis of their skills,
the remainder are family class, refugees and humanitarian cases. Six million
offspring of the boomer generation will soon be entering the labour market
and may be facing stiff competition for jobs. In big city ridings, members
of parliament spend most of their time dealing with immigration questions.

To keep the dependency ratio at 0.2 (retirees/workers), one would need to
raise the population to 165 million by 2050, or take in 7 million immigrants
each year. Productivity will only increase if immigrants are more productive
than the existing population, but recent immigrants have been less
productive. The performance of recent immigrants has been deteriorating
according to the 2006 census and recent cohorts of immigrants haven't been
catching up to native born Canadians in their earnings. This could lead to
the creation of an economic underclass.

Conclusion :

One question that we should be asking is: Is all this growth really
improving the lives of Canadians? The economic arguments used to justify
Canada's immigration policy are contradicted by every major study and by
census data. A large percentage of immigrants from recent decades have not
succeeded economically. Only 20% of immigrants are selected on the basis of
their skills (most are family class and the definition of family is very
extensive indeed). Nevertheless, by seeking to attract the most educated
people from developing countries, we deprive those countries of the people
that could best promote development and in whom they may have invested many
resources (eg. by subsidizing their education). Canada's immigration policy
has an adverse impact on the environment, not only from the paving over of
wildland and farmland in Canada but from the net increase in global
greenhouse gas production caused by moving people to Canada, because in
Canada, their greenhouse gas production will almost always increase.

It is clear that Canada's immigration policies are not designed for the
benefit of ordinary Canadians, who are not even considered to be
"stakeholders" by the government. Canada's immigration policies are beholden
to the growth and immigration industries and designed to get the immigrant
or visible minority vote in swing ridings in urban areas. There is also
credible evidence that our immigration policy is influenced by organized
crime. Donna Jacobs of the Ottawa Citizen describes the struggles of
diplomat Brian McAdam to expose infiltration and corruption at the Canadian
consulate in Hong Kong in the early 1990s (6). The consulate was far too
cosy with members of organized crime gangs connected to the Chinese
Communist party, the Triads, who were buying visas and smuggling their
members to Canada. McAdam's reports to Foreign Affairs were ignored, and he
was eventually called back to Canada and eased out of his job. A joint CSIS
and RCMP investigation into Chinese criminals and the Communist government's
program of acquisition, espionage and political influence, called
Operation Sidewinder, was launched in 1995. It supported McAdam's
allegations. A few days after Sidewinder's final report was sent to CSIS in
1997, Sidewinder was shut down. CSIS disbanded the team and directed the
investigators to destroy every document. The Sidewinder team destroyed
hundreds of pages of McAdam's research, his books and his reports. The
Sidewinder team leader was demoted after submitting the report and resigned.

So far, immigration has never been a major issue in Canada. Despite the
evident environmental impact of Canada's immigration policy, the lack of
economic success of many newcomers, and the appearance of what might be
called an economic underclass, Canadians have not yet begun to ask serious
questions of their politicians nor to demand a more intelligent and
objective coverage from their media. It is time they woke up.



(1) Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, 2004-2005 Annual
Report, Planning our Landscape. The media reaction was described by Andrew
Athanasiu (Gord Miller says GTA can't take more folks; why is he getting
trashed?) in News This Week, vol. 25, no. 11, 28 November 2005.

(2) CTV Mednews Express. 2006. Mulroney praised for his green record as
PM. (April 20).

(3) Intelligence Advisory Committee (Government of Canada). 1991. The
Environment: Marriage between Earth and Mankind. CIE [Canadian Intelligence
Estimate] Chapter 11, May 1991. (This CIE comprises a series of papers
previously issued individually by the IAC.) The article that describes it is
by Paul Mooney, "The polluted third world," The Ottawa Citizen, 24 June

(4) Meadows, D.H, D.L. Meadows, J. Randers, and W.W. Behrens III. 1972. The
Limits to Growth. New York: Universe Books.

(5) Nebbia, G. 1997. Futuribili, New Series, Gorizia (Italy) 4(3): 149-182.
Cited by Ugo Bardi, in "Cassandra's curse: how 'The limits to growth' was
demonized", posted online 9 March 2008 on The Oil Drum: Europe.

(6) Jacobs, D. 2008. "The price of fighting for what you think is right"
(18 August, p. A2) and "One man's China crusade" (25 August, p. A4). The
Ottawa Citizen.

1 comment:

Northside Border said...

Immigration was a bad idea in the first place. Economic and social problems are worsened by immigration not improved by them. It doesn't make sense to go to China and Japan to solve domestic problems. 150,000 qualified professionals leave Canada every year and 300,000 or more immigrants from non-European backgrounds come over. Basically a loss of 1.5 million and an increase of 3 million or more in terms of ethnicity. If I wanted to live in India, I would. I don't. We are not a colonizing country and do not force our agendas on other countries.