Seeking Immigration Review, New Centre Focuses On ‘Moral Contracts’

Seeking immigration review, new centre focuses on 'moral contracts'

John Ibbitson
Ottawa From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Sep. 27, 2010 10:25PM EDT
Last updated Tuesday, Sep. 28, 2010 7:48AM EDT


Political correctness is stifling debate over a dysfunctional and dangerous immigration system, some influential political thinkers have concluded, and they mean to get that debate started.

Poll : Should the federal government review Canada's policies on immigration and multiculturalism?

Results & past polls
89% 414 votes Yes

11% 49 votes No

The Centre for Immigration Policy Reform, to be officially launched Tuesday, will push for a federal review of immigration policy, and of the multicultural assumptions that underpin the Canadian social contract.

Canada is not a bingo hall, said Gilles Paquet, professor emeritus of governance at University of Ottawa who is on the centres advisory board. When you come to this country, I expect you to abide by a number of things.

Others who have lent their name to the centre include Derek Burney, former chief of staff to Brian Mulroney and an architect of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement; James Bissett, a former director general of the of the Canadian Immigration Service; and Peter White, former Hollinger newspaper executive and publisher of Saturday Night magazine.

We want to get information out there and we want more public debate, said Martin Collacott, a fellow at the Fraser Institute, a conservative think-tank, who is on the new centres board of directors. And we would like to do it within the mainstream rather than leaving it to extremists at the ends of the spectrum.

Ideally, the new centres advocates hope, the debate will prompt a federal review of immigration policy and multiculturalism.

Immigrant incomes have been steadily declining, in relation to the rest of the population, since 1980, according to data compiled by Munir Sheikh, the former chief statistician who resigned last summer in a controversy surrounding the long-form census, and who is not affiliated with the new centre. Each new cohort performs worse than its predecessor.

The new centres website ( states that only 17 per cent of immigrants are fully vetted for their job and language skills. Many others are parents and grandparents brought over under family reunification programs, draining rather the contributing to government coffers.

Others arrive at airports or border crossings claiming refugee status. U.S. concern over what it sees as Canadas lack of proper vetting of immigrants and refugees has led to stricter controls at the border.

And critics fear that many of Canadas new arrivals fail to assimilate the Anglo-French cultural assumptions equality, rule of law, separation of church and state that are the foundation of Canadian culture.

There are certain moral contracts that are very important, said Mr. Paquet. What should be these moral contracts? What should be our mutual expectations? I dont know what the content is. I just want to talk about it.

Thomas Mulcair, Quebec NDP MP and deputy leader, says he is very disturbed by these arguments. “This country was built by immigrants, he told reporters, … thats what the backbone of this country has always been.

This whole conservative notion of attacking outsiders, saying that immigration is somehow an outside threat, thats unCanadian, he said.

At 250,000 or thereabouts a year, Canada takes in more people, per capita, than any other nation. Popular support for immigration is so strong that all four political parties embrace it, and embrace as well the multicultural principles that encourage new arrivals to preserve their culture while also integrating within Canadas.

But, in Quebec, the Bouchard-Taylor Commission explored to what extent the province should accommodate immigrants, while the Charest government has introduced legislation banning the niqab and other face coverings from public-sector venues such as schools, hospitals and government buildings.

The purpose of the centre is to broaden that debate and make it a national conversation, said Mr. Collacott.

Immigration has done a lot of positive things for Canada, he said, but there are some serious problems with the system.


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