Immigrants against immigration?

Since I came back from Barcelona, I’ve been active in a few immigration discussion groups. I share my experience as an immigrant to Canada and try to help others who are either planning to come to the White North or are recent arrivals. Overall it is a very rewarding experience that allows me to meet some very interesting people but once in a while a more controversial debate emerges.

There has been recently a discussion on the number of immigrants Canada welcomes on a yearly basis. While all of us in that particular discussion group have benefited from Canada’s open immigration policy, a number of people expressed concern over its impact on Canadian identity and quality of life. Others complained Canada lets in too many Chinese and Indians and that it has a negative impact on the country – someone blamed the Chinese for the high real estate costs in the West Coast and I’m not sure what they had against the Indians; there was some mention of too much cultural distance and that there must be some sort of “deal” between Canada and India since these people would hardly qualify as skilled workers. The words are not mine, let that be clear.

I was flabbergasted. How can an immigrant be against an immigration policy that, at its core, is not even that open? Most immigrants to Canada – including the Chinese and Indians above – must meet strict criteria regarding level of education, work experience and working knowledge of one of Canada’s two official languages. As for the Chinese and Indians, both countries have a huge population and both value education above most things so I wouldn’t be surprised if hundreds of thousands skilled workers from those countries applied every year to come to Canada.  But it troubles me that people would be suspicious. Is it because these communities are often very insular? Many feel they don’t make enough of an effort to integrate. But how much is enough? Do we want people to stop eating their traditional foods and to stop speaking their language when they are among people of their country of birth? Or wouldn’t it be enough that they obey our laws and respect the charter of rights? Besides, it might not seem that they are integrating enough but I’m sure that a Chinese person who has lived here for 20 years would have a hard time re-settling in China.

And what about the threat to Canadian identity? But if even Canadians haven’t decided what this Canadian identity consists of, how can it be threatened? I think the Canadian identity is simply a set of values – fairness, equality, social justice, tolerance, all values enshrined in our charter of rights and freedoms – and as long as new Canadians respect these values, I see no danger.  But it seems that the immigrants themselves have decided to defend Canadian identity… But what did they want? To close the door after they came in?

Sorry for the rant…

Author: guerson

Born and raised in Brazil, a Canadian stole my heart and took me to Canada in 1999. After seven years between Montreal and Toronto, we then moved to Barcelona, Spain, where I did research for my PhD thesis. This blog began as a chronicle of our adventures while living in Barcelona and exploring the old world and has acquired a life of its own after we moved back to Canada.

8 thoughts on “Immigrants against immigration?”

  1. It’s really incredible ! I don’t know the origine of these comments…but usually Brazilians are not used to multicultural contexts, they feel they are American and White (even if they are not white the most part of the time), and consider Indians, Chinese are not…but India was former British colony, they have much more to do with Canada than Brazil. There is no ONE Canadian identity , there are Canadian values as you mentioned and multiple identities and this is the strenght of multiculturalism. This debate you describe seems to be the same discussion that takes place in Quebec, and I the only thing I can say is that I am happy to be out of this ! Beijocas.

  2. Bizarro, não?

    Sinceramente, não entendo, mas fico pensando em um comentário de uma amiga que ficou seis meses estudando inglês em Toronto há uns anos. Ela falou que nunca tinha entendido o que era discriminação cultural até ir a Toronto.

    A “tese” dela é que esse tipo de separação só acontece onde você tem uma quantidade ampla de comunidades interagindo no mesmo lugar, mas, ao mesmo tempo, cada uma em seu mundo próprio…

    Bjs bjs

  3. Engraçado como cada um tem uma experiência diferente porque acho Toronto uma cidade tão livre de preconceitos.

    Quando se imigra as pessoas trazem consigo todos os seu valores culturais, dentre eles a discriminação.
    No meu prédio vivem em harmonia brancos, negros, indianos, chineses, vietnamitas e etc. No Brasil eu dificilmente teria um vizinho negro, aliás, negros só o pessoal da limpeza, os porteiros…é uma pena que essas pessoas não possam ter a mesma oportunidade que os “brancos”.
    Ainda temos arraigados os valores vigentes na época da escravidão no Brasil.
    :(

  4. Eu acredito que o que acontece em Toronto não é preconceito, e sim pós-conceito. Todo mundo vem aberto a uma nova experiência, mas nem todos encaram da mesma maneira depois que ficam expostos as diversas culturas.

  5. Lets face it Canadians don’t like immigration because
    its cheap labour. In the past 20 years immigration has
    been supported by the rich who control canada’s business
    and love the flow of cheap labour. Unions in this country
    along with the middle class wages have been destroyed. We are
    no longer a country that provides a decent wage to an immigrant. We are just giving these people a false sense of hope and a guaranteed wage of $10 an hour. Oh how these people
    are being fooled by this government.

  6. Paul,

    I don’t think it’s that simple. The government set policies for immigration but has less say in regards to the job market. At that label, it’s up to the immigrant to do his own homework and find out how is the market for his particular profession in Canada and how easy it would be to get a job in his area. Some areas, due to their nature, are more open than others. I personally know many immigrants who work with IT and had no trouble finding well-paid jobs in their areas without any Canadian experience or bureaucratic hassles. But if you are a doctor or dentist, it gets much more complicated.

    I belong to a few immigration sites and follow many blogs written by immigrants. It looks like there’s a period of adjustment in the beginning, where some might have to sign up to a co-op job in order to get Canadian experience, but overall it looks like the better they do their homework and prepare before coming to Canada, the quicker they settle in and find a decent job. Not a $10/hour kind of job but a full-time job in a big company with a decent yearly salary and benefits.

    I’m not transferring the onus to the immigrant and saying there isn’t a problem with difference in wages but I wonder if the increased gap in wages between immigrants and Canadians has to do more with the changes to immigration laws done in recent years, which have narrowed down the class of immigrants to allow only university-trained immigrants and no longer allow people in the trades, as well as changes to the job market, that demands more at entry level jobs. I have many canadian friends, trained at Canadian universities, who spend months looking for a job and get the same door-on-the-face excuse that sorry, they don’t have enough experience. I don’t see how an immigrant wouldn’t be similarly affected. But having lived in different countries, I still believe Canada offers more opportunities for people willing to put in the effort and prove they are capable.

    As for the plight of the middle class, it affects all, not just immigrants. It is very hard to generalize.

  7. Alexandra: The government controls immigration levels so they are in effect controlling the labour force. It’s a proven fact that immigration keeps wages low. Yes I agree there are some that do succeed, but the problem is we don’t let in the right people. The higher level society ie lawyers and doctors don’t
    want the competion because it lowers there wages. We need immigrates who will fill jobs that canadians don’t want and these are mainly in the lower paid jobs. Thats why immigrates
    end up with the Taxis jobs and part time jobs. The government
    has implemented changes to address this problem by being able
    to hand select the immigrates canadians need. WE don’t need
    all these highly educated people we need workers to do the dirty jobs, canadians want the good jobs. Statistics show that
    immigrates wages are falling. I’m just making this point as my parents could make a decent wage working in a factory, but today that is gone as are the manufacturing jobs in ontario. Why would the few that control companies want to pay these wages when they can go to china and pay 25cents on the dollar. I work at a manufacturing company that has gone from 600 employees to just over 100 in the past 3 years and we keep buying from China. We need to start worrying about ourselves and as far as immigration goes we would be better off trying to help other countries build there economies than bring them here.

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