MOST people “would give anything to trade places with you,” Dwight MacAuley, the province of Manitoba’s chief of protocol, tells his audience. No one disagrees. In a packed hall in Winnipeg’s century-old train station, 86 immigrants from 31 countries are becoming citizens of what Mr MacAuley characterises as one of the “greatest, freest, richest nations that has ever existed”. Some crowned with turbans, others with hijabs, they sing “O Canada” and take the oath of citizenship in English and French. A local member of parliament, Robert-Falcon Ouellette of the Red Pheasant First Nation, drums an honour song. A Mountie in red serge stands at attention; afterwards he poses for pictures with the new Canadians.
Some 2,000 such events take place across the country every year. Fresh recruits keep coming (see chart 1). Canada admitted 321,000 immigrants in the year to June 2016, nearly 1% of its population; typically 80% of them will become citizens. It is contemplating an increase to 450,000 by 2021. A fifth of Canada’s population is foreign-born, nearly twice the share in America.