On immigration, Canada bucks the populist trend

November 1st, 2018

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s annual report on immigration highlights the “immeasurable contributions” that generations of newcomers have made to making Canada great.

In a section called “Why Immigration Matters,” the report reminds us that immigration is “a central pillar of Canada’s success story” and has helped build Canada into a country that “celebrates multiculturalism and diversity, has a global reputation for welcoming people from around the world, and stands up for the most vulnerable.”

Newcomers, it notes, have high rates of education and help fill skilled labour shortages in areas like health, sciences and skilled trades that are vital to the “development of a strong and prosperous Canadian economy.”

Moreover, in a world where it often feels like civility is on the decline, immigrants are among Canada’s most engaged citizens, participating in charitable organizations and activities. In 2016, 32 per cent of immigrants volunteered and 61 per cent were members of social organizations.

“Immigrants are interested in and have a sense of belonging to their welcoming communities,” the report observes.

The story of Chetan and Roshni Bahl, an entrepreneur couple from India, stands out: After moving to Edmonton, Alberta, they started a business that feeds and cares for some of the city’s most vulnerable citizens. The couple, we’re told, “grew up in India learning that it was important to feed people and ensure seniors are looked after.”

The report also reminds us that immigration is an opportunity for Canada to give back to the world by upholding its international and humanitarian commitments to protect refugees and vulnerable persons. Opening its doors was a matter of urgency in 2017 as the number of forcibly displaced people reached unprecedented levels.

It’s certainly debatable whether Canada opened its doors wide enough in 2017, but what cannot be denied is the fact Canada remains a crucial alternative in a world where too many minds are narrowing to newcomers.

The importance of this alternative was touched on in a recent talk by Canada’s Minister of Science, Innovation and Economic Development, Navdeep Bains, who described it as Canada’s “value proposition.”

“Immigration policies really differentiate [Canada],” Bains said. “When you’re seeing the rise of anti-immigrant sentiments, populist politics, nationalism, and our brand in Canada is that we’re open — open to trade, open to investment, open to people — that brand, that openness is so critical.”

That’s a brand that the world needs right now. In a world of closing doors, the power of Canada’s determined embrace of immigration cannot be underestimated.

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