What Are the Social Problems in Canada Today? By Veeno Dewan

Canada is indeed one of the best places in the world to live. A beautiful vast land rich in natural resources, abundant clean water, sufficient land mass, allowing 273.8 square km per 1,000 people, and an incredibly safe country to live. It has excellent universal health care, and Canadians have one of the highest life expectancies in the world. If you’re thinking of moving to the area, check out car & home insurance quotes at myinsurancebroker.com. Canada took the top spot in five attributes in the official 2017 Best Countries survey, more than any other country with the following qualities: respects property rights, trustworthy, religious freedom, politically stable and well-developed public education system. After Australia, Canada is considered the most favorable place to live. It comes within one point of the top spot on a 100-point scale according to the United Nations. However, Canada is not immune from having its social problems that need addressing. Some issues are uniquely Canadian such as Canada’s treatment of its First Nations people, the effects of globalization, climate change, world economics, and the change in the relations between the current US administration. Here are some of the main issues that confront Canada.

Housing

In recent years, Canada’s housing problems have exploded as surging house prices in Vancouver and Toronto reach the extremes, pricing out local buyers. Offshore money and both domestic and foreign buyers point the blamed for a housing speculation boom. There are now taxes on non-local buyers and regulatory changes to the mortgage rules and interest rates made to cool the housing market. What can federal policymakers do about it? Unfortunately, not much—because the core problem is a lack of low-cost, single-family homes in cities, driven in part by local and provincial government policies. Despite record low, interest rates in the last few years, house prices have risen to stratospheric levels. The solution does not lie solely in reducing foreign buyers. The lack of housing supply also needs to be addressed at the municipal level. Provinces like British Columbia has restricted home building on a large amount of land it has protected for agriculture (The ALR – Agricultural Land Reserve) around Vancouver. The result is rocketing land prices and cumbersome extra regulatory hurdles for building homes, condo, and apartments that (in Vancouver for example) can add almost $250,000 to the construction of a new house. New developments need always to include affordable rental housing to curb the housing crisis.

First Nations Rights

Canada has not lived up to its treaty obligations with the First Nations, based upon negotiations in the 19th century. Numerous studies show First Nations people in Canada are at the bottom of the social, economic scale with high rates of incarceration, poverty, unemployment, suicide, addiction, health issues, and other social problems. A legacy of racism and brutal efforts to assimilate in the past, have left First Nations people with a legitimate sense of grievance towards these injustices. The legacy of the forced school system, in particular, have wreaked havoc on the First Nations communities. The government has only recently accepted responsibility for what was done by Canada in the last two hundred years. Even today, issues such as proper housing, illness, and poverty are still considerable issues in First Nations reserves and communities that need more attention. First Nations are also at the forefront of environmental protests as industry such as oil, encroach on sacred traditional First Nations land. There are much more initiatives needed to be done in this area by the Federal and Provincial governments.

Wealth inequality.

Canada now has the most prosperous middle class in the world, but the growing gap between rich and poor has never been as wide until recent years. Growing inequality has become a fact of life although not as pronounced as in the United States. Canada’s ghettos are more likely to be wealthy immigrant enclaves rather than crime-ridden social projects. Still, Canada is subject to the same issues in many industrialized countries in the West that are contributing to growing wealth inequality. Stagnating incomes, the loss of traditional industries with permanent low-skill high-paying jobs, the growth of job-killing technology, automation, outsourcing, the explosion of e-commerce, a shift to the freelance, part-time and contractual employees are contributing to a less stable society when it comes to the job, and ultimately—a growing unequal society. The insecurity of prospects is the norm now, especially for the young. While baby boomers enjoy rising house prices and come off years of permanent, well paying full-time employment with benefits and fat pensions, the Millennial generation finds itself in the “gig economy” with low-paying unstable jobs, exorbitant rents, and little hope of ever buying a home on their own.

Fear of Immigration.

Canada, built upon the backs of its immigrant communities, has always welcomed immigrants like the U.S.A. However, unlike the U.S., Canada does not have the large racial issues that are rampant in the U.S. Diversity is celebrated in Canada by adopting a national policy of multiculturalism. Immigration is welcome in the country, with studies showing more than half of Canadians agreeing that their country should be more open to it. However, there is a growing perception in some Canadian provinces, Quebec in particular, that Canada allows in too many immigrants. Even though Canada has one of the most rigorous immigration selection processes in the world based upon the economic needs of the country and the skills of the applicants, the United Nations and official refugee organizations contend that Canada can take in far more numbers of refugees and immigrants than it currently does. Canada’s growing resistance to immigration tends to come from a place of misunderstanding, rhetoric, and misplaced fear. A recent surge of refugees across the Canada and U.S. borders following the draconian clampdown by President Donald Trump’s administration, have only stoked concern of too many foreigners entering Canada. The surge in asylum seekers spurred worries of massive unregulated immigration. The Federal and Provincial governments need to do more to explain why migration is positive for Canada.

The Rise of Racism and the Far Right

As rising nationalist groups specifically target Muslims and migrants particularly in Quebec, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has committed 23 million dollars in the national budget to counter racism. Far-right movements have gained grounds among many of Canada’s allies. The initial government funding will cover two years of support for multicultural programs and cross-country consultations on racism. Canada is worried that such ultranationalist movements could also harbor violent elements. In its annual public report on the terrorist threat to Canada in December, Public Safety Canada listed right-wing extremism as a “growing concern” for the first time. While much of the far-right activity concentrate online, the report said, there were risks for physical violence, highlighted in the 2017 shooting in a Quebec City mosque that killed six and injured dozens. In the latest data available, in 2016, police-reported hate crimes against Muslim population increased 40 percent compared to 2014. South Asian, Arab, and West Asian communities are also increasingly becoming the target. The country’s far-right ranges from small neo-Nazi groups too much bigger nationalist groups that promote anti-Islam and anti-immigrant rhetoric online, in demonstrations and at conferences. The government hopes its new initiatives will help stop the rise of right-wing extremism.

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