Immigration essential for Canada
Immigration has been and will continue to be an important asset for Canada. With a relatively small population of 30 million over a large land base – and many rural areas such as St. Paul struggling to attract and retain professionals - immigration is the only answer for some of Canada’s labour woes.
There are people like Frank Stronach and Robert Herjavec who left their home countries to make a life in Canada. These are immigrants who’ve amassed great personal wealth and business capital in this country and who’ve created more wealth and jobs for Canadians as a result.
Yet in his speech to residents at a town hall in St. Paul, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney made the point more than once that 80 per cent of Canadians don’t want to see immigration levels rise, that changing immigration levels would be “dumb.” On the whole, Kenney’s direction on the immigration file has made sense. He’s created a point system that will give more points to younger people with language proficiency who have prearranged employment, people who will likely be able to assimilate more quickly and contribute to the Canadian economy. He has also taken the difficult but probably unavoidable step of closing 100,000 files to clear up a backlog of immigration requests. It is a brutal move to make, dashing the hopes of people who have been waiting perhaps as long as five or six years to move here, and seriously corrodes Canada’s credibility. Hopefully, these people will not cross Canada off their lists and will reapply under the new points system, and hopefully, Kenney’s work will make it easier and faster for immigrants and foreign workers to apply, move and start work in Canada.
But his comments that changing immigration levels would be “dumb” almost makes it sound like Canadians don’t want to see immigration, which in turn sounds xenophobic and narrow-minded.
He touted the Temporary Foreign Workers Program as well, which raises questions of its own. There is no doubt the program has been a boon for businesses across Alberta and in St. Paul, which suffer from chronic labour shortages. Businesses should surely be glad about the Harper government’s move to speed up the program, with businesses now able to bring in people with just 10 days notice and pay them 15 per cent less than a Canadian would earn. The government’s actions should turn a multi-step six-month process into a 30-minute process, Kenney said in St. Paul.
But the program is not without problems; there are many cases where some unscrupulous employers take advantage of foreign workers, not paying overtime, not honouring commitments, deducting ‘hiring fees’ from workers’ cheques and more. Is it really fair to expect people to relocate from their home countries and work as second class labourers without their time and effort giving them an easier path to permanent residency?
Canada should strive to recruit the bright minds and driven people who will benefit this country as a whole.
Amongst developed countries, there is and will continue to be a competition to snare skilled immigrants. Canada has to sell itself in order to attract these future Stronachs and Herjavecs. If immigrants feel that the attitude of Canadians is that they’re not wanted, that their applications to come here, after years and years of waiting, are up in smoke, then they may as well turn their backs on Canada as well, taking their skills and abilities with them to other countries. Our country would be the poorer for it.
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