Canada is a land of immigrants.
A mosaic that embraces the differences in culture that make up the collage of Canadian identity. Or so I thought.
While working my nine-to-five this summer I was victim to a barrage of interoffice anti-immigration emails, which caused me to question where Canadians stand on the hot-button issue.
According to a recent study conducted by Angus Reid, 46 per cent of Canadians feel immigration has a negative effect on the nation.
How can this be?
How can a population of immigrants not be accepting of other immigrants?
The answer is easy enough to find. It’s in Ottawa and more recently right here in the city of the largest immigrant population in Canada.
Culprits such as Toronto mayoral front-runner Rob Ford, who said, “Enough is enough.”
In a speech on June 25, 2009, after declaring Pier 21 a National Museum of Immigration, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “No country in the world has benefitted more than Canada from free and open immigration. It takes a special kind of person to uproot and move to a new country to ensure a better future for your family.”
What a difference a year makes.
This summer, public outrage (along with a bulk of the emails I received) grew when a cargo ship carrying approximately 500 Tamil refugees arrived in British Columbia.
After Canadian and international media tracked its attempt in Australia and finally its arrival in Canada, Harper said that all refugees on the MV Sun Sea would be deported back to Sri Lanka, regardless of their refugee claims.
Moreover, Harper suggested that those detained from the ship were members of a terrorist group, the Tamil Tigers, and that immigration law would change to stop the arrival of illegal migrants.
According to Angus Reid, 48 per cent of Canadians support the Conservative government in wanting the Tamil migrants deported, regardless of their plight.
Harper has successfully adopted the “immigrants are scary” mantra and is using the landing of the MV Sun Sea to appear “tough on immigration” to appease (worried) Canadians.
On the other side of the coin, Harper’s Conservative government has increased the number of temporary workers allowed into Canada by 118 per cent in the last four years.
Under Temporary Foreign Worker Programs, thousands of immigrants are brought to Canada with few rights and no protections from our labour standards legislation.
To add insult to injury, of over 1,000 people polled across Canada, 44 per cent believe immigrants take jobs away from Canadians.
Moreover, according to the Conference Board of Canada, immigration is essential to being able to pay our aging population their pensions.
With the baby boomers retiring, the Conference board said that without an increase of at least 100,000 immigrants permitted to enter Canada each year, we wouldn’t have enough people to fill the jobs.
Politicians breed the fear that is evident in the surveys, turning immigrants into the scapegoats for a lack of social services, an increase in crime and a decrease in available jobs.
Apart from learning a new language, some newcomers face barriers getting their academic credentials and workplace experience recognized.
Some immigrants experience blatant racism and prejudice.
Interestingly, the majority of us are immigrants. Almost all of us are or are descendents of those who came to Canada seeking refuge or a new opportunity.
So instead of sending anti-immigration emails, encourage your politicians to stand behind the people that will be supporting them in retirement.