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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OPINION: Norway, it’s time to accept cabin trips are more stressful than we let on

Cabin trips are fantastic, but they come with more stress and effort than we'd all like to admit, writes Frazer Norwell. 

OPINION: Norway, it's time to accept cabin trips are more stressful than we let on

It’s the Easter holidays in Norway, and as many as 1.2 million Norwegians are expected to pack up their cars and head to the mountains, according to newswire NTB. 

In recent years, thanks in part to the pandemic, Norway’s love affair with the humble cabin has intensified thanks to flexible home offices and travel restrictions. 

Demand, sales, and prices have soared over the last few years, giving a new meaning to the term cabin fever in Norway. 

For the uninitiated, the cabin trip is one of the quintessential Norwegian experiences. It makes sense that a country with such an abundance of stunning scenery and love for the outdoors active lifestyle would have such a deep connection to the concept of the cabin trip. 

READ MORE: Why Norwegians are so passionate about cabin retreats

Cabin trips are great, it’s coming up to almost five years since my first trip to Aga in Hardanger, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone that doesn’t see the appeal in Norway, both among the locals and international community. 

The issue is that we’ve all been lying to ourselves a bit and we should come clean and admit that they are a lot more stressful and maybe not as quaint and charming as we’d all like to believe. 

Cabin trip in Hardanger

Cabin trips are great, but they also involve a lot of hassle, argues Frazer Norwell, pictured above on a cabin trip in Hardanger almost five years ago. Picture: Frazer Norwell/ The Local.

The romanticisation of cabin trips paints the process as exceedingly simple. You load up the car at a whim, head out of the city and hole up in the mountains with your loved ones, wearing hyttegenser, playing board games, bonding with one another while escaping the stresses of modern life. 

You’ll feel, free, relaxed, and unconcerned with the troubles of day-to-day life. This feeling is unrivalled once you get to that point, but so much stress, thinking and preparation goes into making it happen, you’ll wonder whether it’s all worth it. 

Getting to the cabin is easier said than done, especially during Easter. You’ll spend half a week stressing over what the traffic will be like, whether everything is packed, and what to pack. 

Then there are the other practicalities that the depiction of the easy-going cabin lifestyle tends to overlook, too, such as emptying and cleaning out your fridge before you leave and wondering whether you’ve packed enough food or toilet rolls as the nearest store will be 45 minutes away. 

Even then, there are more existential worries to consider. Cabins are big business in Norway, and the price for one in a popular area is fast approaching what it would cost for a small flat in Oslo or Bergen. So some may be left wondering whether they are using it enough for it to be a worthwhile investment. 

The cost to rent the cabin for a week can come close to the price of a holiday abroad. However, it would be more than fair to argue one that a cabin is a much more eco-friendly option, and two, they help boost local economies. 

As an example, cabin tourists contribute 1.8 billion kroner every year to the local economy of one of Norway’s most popular destinations, Hemsedal, managing director of the town’s tourism board, Richard Taraldsen, told The Local previously when describing their importance to the village. 

Even once the existential and logistic concerns have been addressed, there’s the cabin trip itself. Many won’t admit it, but we’ve all fretted over who we’ll be sharing the cabin with, and whether you can pretend to enjoy their company for more than 45 minutes while being expected to play the same board game with missing pieces over and over again. 

It’s not just the people you’ll be spending time with inside the cabin that you might find hard work; you may, like me (a natural curmudgeon), want to go out of your way to avoid other “cabin people”. 

Much like how many dread bumping into people of the same nationality on holiday, those on a cabin trip tend to avoid their fellow cabin dwellers. 

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, there can be a bit of a caricature of the typical cabin family. They pull up in their Tesla’s, the fathers with the Oakley sunglasses and headbands that never get taken off, even indoors, the kids, ungrateful and glued to their screens and the mothers, who wear their Moon Boots well into May, also wearing a constant pout on their face. 

It’s a stereotype that most nice, pleasant cabin owning families are unfairly slapped with by locals in parts of Norway where cabin owners outnumber the locals during peak times. 

The second reason for wanting to avoid others on a cabin trip is that it can ruin your own experiences and perception of what makes a cabin trip special.

The memories you make on a cabin trip, the remoteness of your surroundings, the laughs and jokes you share over a board game while accusations over whose cheating bounce off the walls, are a part of what makes a rural getaway in Norway feel special, and ultimately, unique to you.

A cabin in Bodø

Pictured is a cabin in Bodø. Photo by Secret Travel Guide on Unsplash

Seeing so many others on the same trip can almost threaten what makes such a personal-feeling experience so special in the first place, similar to reaching the top of Trolltunga and seeing a queue of other tourists waiting for a picture. 

Still, for so many, myself included, once you step through the threshold, finally get the place warm, and unpack your bags, you’ll eventually feel at ease. Then after you’ve thrown together dinner, fished out the mismatched cutlery, set up an out of office email, the magic of the cabin trip will start to rub off on you. 

After the driving, organising, shopping, packing, scrutinising the guest list and doing mental gymnastics to justify the cost, you’ll soon realise why the country getaway is one of the great Norwegian pastimes. 

With all that being said, maybe it’s time we stopped pretending that the cabin trip, as infinitely enjoyable as it is, is easy to throw together and start appreciating the hard work that goes into making it such a fantastic time and recognise that it adds to the experience.