Canada: an unhealthy choice for immigrants?

TORONTO (CUP) — Immigrants to Canada are in better health than the average Canadian when they arrive, but their health falls to below average levels after some time here.

According to a recent Statistics Canada report, 97 per cent of immigrants rated their health highly after arriving, but over an eight-year period they report a shift towards fair or poor health.

Given this finding, one may think perhaps, that newcomers simply do not access health services when they are ill or have had less exposure and thus more vulnerability to health risks like viruses, a typically Western high-fat diet, or perhaps our notoriously frigid winters.

However, actual physiological factors like exercise, diet, and lifestyle are only part of the answer to immigrants’ deteriorating health upon moving to Canada. The other part lies in less quantifiable factors, things like getting a job, being able to practice in the career you have trained for, or having access to decent housing.

The mainstream media hails Canada as the land of opportunity and an oh-so-civilized haven from the wretched countries of the south. While Canada is a welcomed host for some newcomers, Canada is not always a safe place for immigrants.

Immigrants are twice as likely as the Canadian born population to live below the poverty line. As well, they face chronically high unemployment and barriers to professional employment in the form of foreign credentials or experience not being recognized.

As a result, immigrants may be forced to accept work in hazardous workplaces or may lack access to proper housing, where they experience more exposure to criminal activity, just to name a few challenges in this slope toward ill health.

Policy makers at all levels of government would be wise to facilitate a smoother acculturation and integration process for immigrants, and visible minority groups in particular. This would enable an easier transition for newcomers to the country, and would better utilize their talents and potentials.

Maybe then, Canada will be more deserving of its reputation as a saviour-state for immigrants.


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