The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Immigration

We let in 10 million foreigners over 30 years -- it's wild insanity. No country can handle that invasion.
- Jean-Marie Le Pen (National Front leader, France)

We did.

One-tenth of our population arrived as newcomers to our shores in the two decades during and after the second World War: in fact, without this steady migration, our population would actually be declining. Even today, permanent residents continue to number a fairly steady 1% of our population (with occasional spikes). Thus it becomes evident why, by far, the majority of my encounters with my fellow Canadians are with either first or second generation immigrants, across a wide, wide diversity of cultures. Not only are they very much not a drain on our economy (as Le Pen would have it), they constitute among the most economically productive sectors of our society.

Our immigrants are welcomed. Our immigrants are our strength.

It is all too true, however, that although we actively seek immigrants with valued skills (one of three categories of immigrants we take in, the other two being family and refugees), we do not manage to assimilate them into our society as well as we might. Qualified doctors and engineers should not be driving taxicabs for a living -- yet they do, because they have to. Language is one barrier: and that part has to be on the immigrant him- or herself to learn, there being just no way around it. But the second, the jumping through qualification hoops until the Canadian government is satisfied that the newcomer's skills match Canadian standards: the system here needs an overhaul.

If we cannot fast-track anyone with the appropriate trade skills (and language skills as needed) through the qualifying internships and/or tests: what business do we have inducing them into a Canada where their skills will not be appropriately valued?

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