Integrating immigrants – Canada is third, but we can do better (MIPEX)

March 4th, 2011

“While policymakers may change their messages from day to day and create a lot of news in the press, we actually see that making a policy or legal change takes a substantial amount of time. It then also takes time to implement that policy and then see the actual effects on immigrants’ opportunities in society.” Thomas Huddleston – Policy Analyst, Migration Policy Group

On February 28, Maytree hosted the Canadian release of the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX). This was the third MIPEX release of data that compares Canada to 30 other countries (mainly EU & the US).

Canada scored third, which is worth celebrating. But, as with all data, scratching below the surface tells us that we have areas for improvement. You can view the recording of the online press conference below.

Featured speakers at the MIPEX press conference were Jan Niessen and Thomas Huddleston of the Migration Policy Group (Brussels), Howard Duncan of the International Metropolis Project & Jack Jedwab of the Association of Canadian Studies (Canada).

Here are the major points our webinar speakers discussed, some key data and links to more information.


MIPEX is the Migrant Integration Policy Index. Researchers reviewed 148 policy indicators in seven policy areas, covering 27 EU member states, Norway, Switzerland, Canada and the USA. Policy areas are labour market mobility, family reunion for third-country nationals, education, political participation, long-term residence, access to nationality, and anti-discrimination. Future reports will include Japan, Australia and New Zealand. For a quick visual overview of the new report, watch this MIPEX online tour, which covers some background about the report and the major, interactive features of the MIPEX website.

Why MIPEX is important

Howard Duncan of the Metropolis Project commented how the policy areas covered by MIPEX are increasing in importance around world. There has been much anxiety recently related to immigrant integration, and how it differs from multiculturalism (especially in Europe). The European dichotomy between integration and multiculturalism is not as evident in Canada. To illustrate, Howard mentioned that Canada just recognized the 40th anniversary of official multiculturalism policy.

Howard went on to say that competition for migrants will be won or lost based on integration policies countries implement. With that in mind, countries are taking immigrant integration more seriously than ever before, but they’re also struggling and looking for help and advice.

Within the policy indicators and theme areas, MIPEX seeks to answer this key question: do all residents have equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities to help them improve their integration outcomes? It’s important to point out that this report is a discussion of policies, not outcomes, although the likelihood of outcomes is taken into account.

What can you do with MIPEX III?

  • Analyze seven policy areas which shape a legal resident immigrant’s journey to full citizenship;
  • Examine how policies compare against the standard of equal rights and responsibilities for migrants;
  • Find out how one’s country’s policies rank compared with other countries;
  • Track if policies are getting better or worse over time;
  • Dig into real examples of how to improve policies; and
  • Use it to design and assess new laws and proposals on an on-going basis.

The key findings include changes since MIPEX II. Comparative data is available in the Play with data section of the MIPEX site. You can also view country-specific reports. Start with how Canada did

Where Canada leads

Canada has improved because of increased policy work on foreign credential recognition. Canada leads in labour market mobility, family reunion (but because of our backlog issue we scored the same as MIPEX II). Canada and the US have the strongest anti-discrimination laws and equity policies. European countries are catching up in anti-discrimination. It is important to note that MIPEX measures integration policies (not outcomes or actual status) up to May 31, 2010. Time will tell if recent issues and legislative direction in Canada (such as changes to family reunification) will have an impact on our position in these standings.

Where Canada is weak

While Canada is generally strong, it is weak in some areas. We know that immigrants face challenges on the ground. MIPEX points to the following important areas where Canada could improve:

  • The need to remove the large backlog for processing immigrant applications; in 20 countries under study, there are legal time-limits to do so;
  • The recognition that non-citizen residents should be given the right to vote in local elections; 18 EU Member States have extended this right to their non-EU residents; and
  • The importance of giving leaders of immigrant associations the chance to inform integration policy through immigrant consultative bodies; 14 European countries and leading US states and cities have formal structures in place to seek the views of newcomers.

Our policies, in terms of legal framework, are generally free of discriminatory approaches. But, we can’t divorce this from the day-to-day experience of newcomers in Canada.

Webinar Q&A with: Jan Neissen, Thomas Huddleston and Jack Jedwab

How could the Canadian government respond to this report, especially in areas where we’re weak?

There is some value in debate being organized on issues about political involvement and engagement. We need to do more work around policy involvement and engagement of immigrants in Canada.

Has health policy been considered for MIPEX?

Such a comparative study moves slowly, but has expanded from four to seven policy areas. It would take time to determine proper research questions. For example, what, specifically, would we want to cover regarding health? Some aspects, such as anti-discriminatory access to services are covered indirectly.

This is the third year. How did Canada do compared to previous years? Did this study take into account some of the more recent policy shifts in Canada?

Research reflects the situation as of May 31, 2010. Canada only went up one point because of the pan-Canadian framework on credential recognition. Researchers recognize that this is a massive undertaking. Very few other countries have been doing this kind of work on credential recognition. Changes after May 2010 will be factored into the next MIPEX study, in two years time.

What were your findings of how well new Canadians (and immigrants elsewhere) fared in the job market?

The study looks are legislative framework, not actual labour market integration, unemployment rates, etc. This type of information is available from Canadian Census data, and other reports. However, the study encourages dialog around these issues, including expert exchanges between countries.

Which of the MIPEX indicators is most useful to addressing issues of immigrant integration in local communities?

Integration is not uniquely local, national policies are essential. Cities do have a big stake. MIPEX can be used to review national policies. Cities can lobby national government to enhance policies. When a legal framework is in place, support is delivered locally. Cities can create targeted measures, develop the systems, work to get funding to implement, work with local actors.

[In Canada] Education is an example of provincial responsibility, which needs support nationally for even support across the country. National and local connections do exist. Stakeholders can decide on the importance of a particular area and do their own weighting. Play with MIPEX data at

Will MIPEX look at the gap between legal structure/policy framework and social and economic integration of immigrants in reality?

Yes. It is important to determine how good policy translates into good outcomes. This will be looked at during the upcoming Metropolis conference and other gatherings. Future plans include to connect policy inputs and policy outcomes.

Source: Maytree Conversations (February 4, 2011).

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