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…