Missing the Point
In a recent speech, Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended the need to keep Canadian borders open against calls that immigration was breeding terrorism in Canada.
As if we have a choice.
The debate is no longer about whether Canada should remain open to immigration. That debate became moot when Canadians realized that low birth rates and an aging population would eventually lead to a shrinking populace. Baby bonuses and other such incentives couldn’t convince Canadians to have more kids, and demographic experts have forecasted that a Canada without immigration would pretty much disintegrate as a nation by 2050.
So, if Canada needs immigration to avoid becoming one giant nursing home before going gently into that good night, why are we still acting as if closing our borders is a viable policy option? Instead of debating a non-issue, Canada needs to focus its energy on the real challenge: preventing the ghetto-ization of our immigrant communities.
As much as some people might prefer to receive immigrants from England and France, the reality is that those most likely to want to immigrate to Canada come from non-Western cultures. The success of Canada as a nation depends on our society’s ability to avoid marginalizing those cultures that seem different from the mainstream. Integration will not occur without meaningful opportunities for Canada’s immigrant population to participate in our economic, cultural, and political institutions.
Accomplishing this integration and avoiding the problems of ghetto-ization may be a challenge, but it is a worthwhile one. Given Canada’s demographic realities, the only serious immigration debate to be had is how best to address this challenge. However, as long as our Prime Minister and others find it necessary to focus on rebutting calls to close the borders, valuable energy is being wasted. Like paying bonuses for babies, closing the borders is an outdated concept, and Canada’s politicians would be wise to steer clear of this retro debate.
Blog written by David Cohen on Friday, June 23, 2006