Myth: Refugees in Canada receive greater assistance from the government than Canadian pensioners.
Fact: Refugees receive limited, if any, social assistance from government authorities.
A chain email, claiming that refugees in Canada receive more assistance from the government of Canada in income assistance, more than pensioners, has made the rounds for several years. The misleading information is based on a letter published in the Toronto Star and it has been debunked over and over by the federal government and the Canadian Council for Refugees.
The Canadian Council for Refugees, on its website, provides the following information about refugee claims and assistance.
- Refugee claimants and refugees recognized by the Immigration and Refugees Board receive no special income assistance. They may, however, be entitled to social assistance like other refugees, but that is even subject to provincial regulations.
- Government assisted refugees can access some financial assistance from the federal government through the Resettlement Assistance Programming (RAP), for one year maximum, and is received only if they do not have their own financial resources or income. The RAP depends on the size of the family and is tied to social assistance rates. For example, as of October 15, 2018, a single person may receive a maximum one-time allowance of $905, plus a $564 loan for house rental and telephone line deposits.
- Privately sponsored refugees are not entitled to government assistance (including provincial assistance) during the period of their sponsorship which is usually for one year after arrival in Canada.
The truth of the matter about refugees is that “most of the listed benefits are one-off payments and, not monthly stipends, and these benefits are for a family of five rather than a single individual.”
The Syrian refugee crisis, now in its 11th year may have fueled the speculation. Operation Syrian Refugees began in November 2015 and as of October 31, 2020, 44,620 refugees with 21,745 of them being government-sponsored, were welcomed to Canada on humanitarian grounds. The large number of refugees admitted into Canada may have been responsible for the implied objection to accepting more refugees.
For the past decade, the Canadian government has been doing just that. It has already slashed health and settlement programs, with a further $10 million in cuts on the way. This may, however, not be necessary going by statistics which reveal that rather than cost the government money, refugees are financing the government through tax payment. Between 1979 and 1981, Canada accepted 60,000 “boat people” from Southeast Asia. Within a decade, 86% of those former refugees were working, healthy and spoke English with some proficiency, achieving the basic criteria for success set out by academic, Morton Beiser in his landmark study of their integration into Canadian society. They were less likely to use social services and more likely to have jobs than the average Canadian. One in five was self-employed. They were not a drain on the taxpayer—they were taxpayers.
This mirrors the experience in Germany, where a 2012 study found residents with foreign citizenship paid $218 billion more in taxes than they received in social benefits. German officials have been smart to cast their willingness to accept a half-million asylum seekers each year as not just a humanitarian gesture, but as wise economic policy. “We will profit from this, too, because we need immigration,” said Andrea Nahles, the country’s labour minister (2013-2017)
Like Germany, Canada has a rapidly aging population. To sustain our economy and standard of living, we’ll need to attract 350,000 immigrants annually by 2035, up from 260,404 in 2014, according to a Conference Board of Canada report.
In terms of giving to society, more than 1 in 4 people employed in the social assistance sector were born outside of Canada, as were nearly 1 in 5 working in social advocacy, civic, social, and giving-related organizations.
Between 2006 and 2016, there was a 58% increase in the number of foreign-born social and community service workers.
Newcomers are also giving back. On average, immigrants donate more to charity than Canadian-born citizens. When asked why they make financial donations, immigrants said the top 3 reasons were: compassion towards people in need; personally believing in the cause of the charity; and to make a contribution to the community. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants volunteer their time to charitable causes across the country each year. In fact, nearly 40% of immigrants aged 15 and older are volunteers and these cannot be quantified in monetary terms.
The blame on refugees draining the system is not just a myth, it is a completely inaccurate assumption.
By The Editorial Board.