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IMMIGRATION

What can Scandinavia learn from Canada on immigration?

What can Scandinavia learn from Canada when it comes to immigration and integration, asks Trygve Ugland of Bishop's University in this analysis first published by The Conversation.

What can Scandinavia learn from Canada on immigration?
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greeting Syrian refugees at Toronto Airport in 2015. Photo: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP

As a wave of “Scandimania” sweeps the world, Canada is serving as an inspiration for Scandinavian countries dealing with the challenges of increased immigration and ethnic diversity.

Scandinavia has, for a long time, been portrayed as a model for other countries.

The international fascination with Scandinavia derives from a broadly shared impression that Denmark, Norway and Sweden have successfully combined private capitalism and economic growth, on the one hand, with state intervention and social equity on the other.

International observers have also noted that economic efficiency and social welfare in Scandinavia have reinforced each other. That's shown by consistently high rankings in international indices of competitiveness and happiness.

A few years ago, The Economist featured a bearded, horned-helmet-wearing Viking on its front cover, with the headline The Next Supermodel.

The overriding wisdom is that the world has a lot to learn from Scandinavia.

The Scandinavian model has also received substantial attention in Canada. Academics, journalists, politicians and leaders of non-governmental organizations alike continue to evoke Scandinavian solutions to Canadian and global challenges.

Canada no longer a 'policy borrower'?

Canada and the world have looked to Scandinavia on many issues. These include proportional representation, voter turnout, coalition governments, gender equality, education, environment and energy policy, welfare provisions and health-care delivery strategies – not to mention international humanitarianism and conflict resolution.

In contrast, Canada is usually described as a policy “borrower.”

But in the area of immigration and integration policies, the relationship has turned on its head. Canada is the policy lender; Scandinavia the policy borrower.

As immigration novices, Denmark, Norway and Sweden have been searching for inspiration and new solutions abroad. And the Canadian immigration and integration policy model is attracting avid interest.

In fact, the Canadian model has played a significant role in the Scandinavian reform process since the early 2000s.

In particular, Canada's positive view of “immigrants as a resource” has served to inspire new attitudes towards labour immigration in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

READ ALSO: How is Sweden tackling its integration challenge?

 

Canada's focus on skilled economic immigrants – a group that ostensibly integrates more easily in the labour market – has been held up as an alternative to humanitarian and family migrants. That phenomenon has contributed to a significant immigrant-native employment gap in Scandinavia.

However, the three Scandinavian countries haven't totally emulated the Canadian system.

Their immigration strategies, though focused on a Canada-style open and selective system, have differed from the original Canadian programs and policies. They've been adapted to domestic circumstances in a pragmatic fashion.

Still, the Canadian emphasis on immigrants' personal responsibility for integrating into the labour market – and society at large – has resonated in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

As has a greater emphasis on so-called activation — the transfer of responsibility to social service users for their productive role in society.

Inspired by Canada

Norway's adoption of citizenship ceremonies and the Danish points system for economic immigrants were openly transferred from Canada. The Canadian model also played a role in the acceptance of dual citizenship in Sweden.

The Scandinavian fascination with the Canadian model persists, and last year I was invited to talk about Canada's Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program to a Swedish audience in Stockholm.

My upcoming book, Policy Learning from Canada, soon to be published by Toronto University Press, has also generated much interest in Scandinavia.

The relevance of the Canadian model for Scandinavia is intriguing for several reasons.

First, it demonstrates that the Canadian model, a product of unique socio-political and geographic circumstances – including Canada's size, long history of immigration and early adoption of multiculturalism as official policy – can still be relevant to other countries lacking these underlying conditions.

As latecomers to modern immigration, the Scandinavian countries are clearly different from Canada. Still, the Canadian model is relevant for other countries lacking its unique circumstances, just as it is for Scandinavia.

Promotes Canada's image abroad

What's more, Canada's status as an international immigration model in Scandinavia shows that a country typically described in public policy literature as a “policy borrower” can become a “policy lender” for those that have traditionally served as policy exporters.

This challenges much of the established knowledge in the field. And it suggests that the active promotion of the Canadian model by successive federal governments in Ottawa has succeeded.

Indeed, Canada's international leadership role in immigration and integration policy is an effective way of promoting Canadian interests and values internationally, a central priority of Canadian foreign policy.

The ConversationThe Canadian model's future relevance for Scandinavia and elsewhere will largely be dependent on its pragmatic adaptation to changing circumstances, while producing benefits for both Canada and its immigrants.

Trygve Ugland, Professor of Politics and International Studies, Bishop's University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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CHRISTMAS

OPINION: If you can’t go home for Christmas, Denmark is a good place to be

After missing out on seeing his family for Christmas 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, The Local Denmark editor Michael Barrett got to try out Danish Christmas for the first time.

A Danish dining table on Christmas Eve.
A Danish dining table on Christmas Eve. File photo: Vibeke Toft/Ritzau Scanpix

We’d always planned to spend last Christmas in the UK. My daughter was born in March 2020, coinciding with the outset of the global coronavirus pandemic but, as worrying and uncertain as everything was at the time, we were sure it would have all settled down in nine months’ time. We started planning for her to spend her first Christmas with her grandparents, cousin and the rest of our extended family in England.

As we all know, this was far from how things turned out. The autumn and winter of last year saw spiralling Covid-19 cases across Europe and countries responding by introducing more and more restrictions, including on travel.

I’m not sure exactly when we conceded we’d have to cancel our plans to go to the UK for Christmas in 2020, but I do remember the look of resignation on my parents’ faces when I let them know. The writing had already been on the wall for a while by then.

Visiting my partner’s mother in December, I looked out of the window at the greying skies over Jutland, the dim lights of a distant Føtex store and the limp red and white pendants on flag poles as bare as the trees, and nothing felt familiar.

This was because, despite having lived in Denmark for almost a decade and a half, I’d never spent Christmas in the country. Every year I’d head home by the 22nd or 23rd, usually returning just before New Year to enjoy the rowdy firework displays in Aarhus or Copenhagen after a week of putting my feet up and savouring the familiarity and comfort of Christmas at home.

Denmark famously has its own Christmas traditions, comparable but certainly different to the British ones. I knew about them – I’ve exchanged information about national Christmas customs with many Danes over the years – but never witnessed them first-hand.

The big day came around quickly, not least because it all happens on the 24th, not the 25th.

Festivities did take a while to get going, though. Not until 4pm in fact, when ancient Disney Christmas special From All of Us to All of You, known in Danish as Disneys juleshow began on main TV broadcaster DR. Usually I’d have been watching an early-1980s David Bowie introducing The Snowman around now. A cup of warm gløgg (spiced red wine with raisins and almonds) was thrust into my hand, and I missed Bowie a little bit less.

After a couple more glasses of gløgg and wine, we sat down for Christmas dinner: roast duck, brown potatoes, boiled potatoes, gravy and red cabbage. It was of course already dark and a prolific number of candles were lit on the table and around the room, adding to the festive feeling of the star-topped tree, paper hearts and other decorations.

For dessert, we had risalamande, the popular cold rice sweet mixed with whipped cream, vanilla and chopped almonds and served with cherry sauce. By tradition, one whole almond is left in the dessert and whoever finds it wins a present, which is customarily a julegris, a chocolate pig with marzipan filling. This game is often fixed so that a child (or children) wins the prize, but the only child present was a nine-month-old and I ended up finding the almond in my bowl.

Then it was time to dance around the tree and exchange presents. Most of us had too much dessert, so it was a more sedate affair than I expected. After the little one was fast asleep we sat back on the sofas and had a couple more glasses of wine or maybe a few snacks.

It was all over before Santa traditionally lands his sleigh on rooftops and hops down British chimneys in the small hours of Christmas morning.

Danish families with young children often assign someone to dress up as Father Christmas and come round to deliver the presents to excited youngsters before dinner on Christmas Eve.

Maybe I’ll get the chance to audition for the role next year because our Danish-British family will be in Denmark every other Christmas for the foreseeable future – by choice, not restriction. I’m looking forward to it, because my first Danish Christmas gave me a better understanding of why this time of year is loved by so many Danes.

READ ALSO: My five favourite Danish childhood Christmas memories

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