[Translate to English:] Man die Skyline von Toronto vom Wasser aus. Im Vordergrund die Flagge von Kanada

Learning from Canada: Insights for German integration policy


With its origins in settler colonialism, Canada has fundamentally embodied an immigrant society since its early days as a modern nation in the 19th century. For a long time, the nation’s immigration policies were profoundly influenced by ethnic and cultural considerations. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the country introduced radical changes to its immigration policy that were driven by both normative values and economic factors. Since then, the policy has shifted toward economic criteria, largely disconnected from an individual’s place of origin. This transition was accompanied by the adoption of an official multiculturalism policy, aimed at acknowledging diverse cultural identities and ensuring inclusive well-being. 

Today, the Canadian government is targeting record-breaking levels in immigration. In 2022, over 437,000 individuals elected Canada as their new residence, with India, China and Afghanistan being the primary countries of origin. Notably, public support for the current immigration policy has reached unprecedented heights, as seven out of ten Canadians stand behind the current approach to immigration.

Political consensus and visible representation

A key factor contributing to widespread positive or relaxed attitudes on this issue in Canada is the presence of an enduring political consensus, nurtured over decades, around the notion that immigration brings benefits to the nation. Initially rooted primarily in economic considerations, this consensus has expanded since the early 1970s to include the recognition, protection and promotion of cultural diversity. The visible representation of diversity within political leadership has played a pivotal role in the success and credibility of this policy. Over time, the collective perception of Canadian identity has evolved to perceive the appreciation of immigration and diversity as societal norms and intrinsic components of the essence of Canadian democracy.

Investment in integration and civic resiliency

The firm belief that immigration, coupled with investments in integration and inclusive well-being, serves the domestic economy and society, lays the groundwork for Canada’s integration policy. Additionally, the ideals of equality and inclusion are consistently underscored within Canada. The Canadian approach to integration is thus markedly service-oriented, with a focus on dismantling barriers. Thanks to a nationwide, practical, yet regionally tailored service infrastructure, newcomers encounter minimal obstacles in accessing integration services. 

As the engagement with diversity unfolds primarily at the local level, cities and communities spanning the nation play a vital role in fostering social cohesion. Toronto, Canada’s most culturally diverse urban hub, has embraced its diversity with its official motto, “Diversity Our Strength,” seamlessly weaving it into the city’s identity. The city administration proactively engages in public discourse with the aim of nurturing civic resiliency. This endeavor involves empowering the city’s residents to navigate the continually evolving intricacies and diversity of their social milieu, cultivate meaningful relationships, and embrace change as an avenue of opportunity.

Integration facilitated by naturalization

Finally, the practical and foreseeable potential of obtaining permanent residency or citizenship, a prospect that expands opportunities for oneself and one’s offspring, stands as another compelling factor driving the integration of immigrants. This creates a motivating incentive for many immigrants to invest in education, training, entrepreneurship, or homeownership.

In Canada, an immigrant can typically apply for citizenship after three years of continuous residency under permanent residency status. In Germany, however, the current requirement is eight years of lawful residence, although recent reform plans by the current coalition government aim to align more closely with Canadian regulations. The ongoing discourse and exchange on immigration and integration between both nations offer an occasion to strengthen the partnership between these two democracies and mold diversity for the collective betterment of society. 

Policy Brief