March 29, 2005: We Need To Determine Which Immigration Policies Work And Which Ones Don't
We need to determine which immigration policies work and which ones don't
Special to The Vancouver Sun
March 29, 2005 Page A13
While Canada has on the whole done a fairly good job of integrating
newcomers from around the world into Canadian society, some serious
questions need to be raised about the soundness of the immigration policies that underlie the demographic changes predicted by Statistics Canada.
The expectation that visible minorities will become majorities in Vancouver and Toronto by 2017 will come about entirely because of our present immigration policies. Canada has the highest per capita intake in the world and Ottawa's objective is to raise it even further.
Some of the issues that should be discussed are as follows:
– While carefully selected and targeted immigration policies can be
beneficial to Canada (we need, for example, more doctors in the short to medium term to meet shortages), current policies and poor selection
standards are not serving well the needs of either Canadians or newcomers.
The economic performance of recent immigrants in the past two decades has on average been well below that of either those who came earlier or of people born in Canada. The result is that poorly designed immigration policies are costing Canadians billions of dollars a year and are disappointing thousand of newcomers whose expectations have not been met.
– Immigration may temporarily slow down the aging of the population caused by the decline in the fertility rate and fact that people are living longer. Because newcomers tend to have families just as small as Canadians not long after their arrival, however, we would need to constantly keep increasing the numbers of new arrivals to reduce significantly the phenomenon of population aging. Based on United Nations projections, we would need to quadruple our population every 50 years — clearly an impossibility. Other countries have found ways of dealing with the aging of their populations without resorting to large-scale immigration.
– With current immigration policies the population of the Vancouver area will increase by 50 per cent in the next two decades. This growth will bring with it few benefits to most of the people already here, but will almost certainly exacerbate problems in such areas as traffic congestion and demands on health and educational facilities.
– While new arrivals provide most of the increase in the size of the
Canadian workforce and are expected to become the sole source of such growth in the future, studies in both Canada and other countries show that an expanding workforce is not required to maintain and increase our prosperity. Such success relies rather on sound economic policies and effective use of the existing workforce.
– Most Canadians agree that the increased diversity created by recent
newcomers has enriched our society. It would be wrong, however, to assume that an endless increase in diversity is necessarily a good thing –particularly if the accompanying population growth brings with it no economic or demographic benefits to the people already here. Some European countries are now finding that they have gone too far in encouraging unlimited diversity and are facing serious social problems and negative reactions towards immigration.
Canada has achieved an impressive level of diversity and should concentrate on ensuring that newcomers already here are integrated successfully into the economy and Canadian society.
The changes in Canadian society envisaged in the Statistics Canada
projections are not, in fact, inevitable or carved in stone. They are the direct result of the immigration policies created by the federal government–and these can be changed.
Martin Collacott served as Canadian ambassador in a number of countries in Asia and the Middle East.