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Friday, May 6, 2011

I'm back, look at me talk about immigration

You may have noticed that I have been absent for some time (then again, you may not have noticed this at all). This was for several reasons:

1) I was busy
2) I was bored
3) I was blogging about the election over here.

Blogging about the election (and the fact that people actually read my blog! 1500 hits over the course of the election!) I think really improved my blogging skills because I HAD to blog anytime something interesting and new happened. 100 posts over the course of the election—that is A LOT.

Anyway, so I’m back. And I think the blog will be going through a bit of a redesign. Also I may actually blog lots now that I have a job where I can spend mornings taking copious breaks to read the news while waiting for people to ask me questions.

So here is the game plan: reblog some of my favourite posts from my election blog, and write lots of awesome posts from here on out!

Let’s start now. Okay. So I read this morning that accepting 100 000 more immigrants a year may or may not help Canada. Actually the entire article seemed quite ambivalent on the issue:

Canada already takes more immigrants per capita than any other nation.
But these analysts want Canadians to think about welcoming 350,000 newcomers a year, instead of the current 250,000.

They say immigration policy is a potential “tinderbox” which could turn into a Canadian cultural “inferno” if the numbers on it turn bad — for either native-born or newcomers.

We only take 250 000 immigrants a year and that’s more immigrants per capita than any other nation? Pah. Pah, I say. You know what was a good year for immigration? 1913, Canada’s all-time immigration high. In that year, Canada accepted over 400 000 into a population of less than eight million. Yeah. And the sky didn’t fall, and there were no infernos whatsoever.

On to what the economists have to say:

Although their “shock” scenario of 100,000 more immigrants is controversial, York University’s Tony Fang and the University of Toronto’s Peter Dungan and Morley Gunderson generally say immigration is an economic positive.
Indeed, the economists go further than most politicians.

Their news release boldly states 100,000 more immigrants per year would boost the gross domestic product and add to government coffers by stimulating buying and especially pumping up housing prices.

However, the body of the 34-page report — titled The Macroeconomic Impacts of Canadian Immigration: An Empirical Analysis Using The Focus Model — is less confident than the news release.

The scholars quietly admit in their paper that many of the hundreds of immigration studies they analyzed from around the world reached “mixed” conclusions on many fronts.

For instance, the report tentatively concludes that immigrants generally don’t use taxpayer-funded social and health services more than “domestic-born” residents.
However, the authors concede immigrants, especially more recent ones, may more greatly rely on unemployment insurance the longer they are here.

And even though the news release makes it seem 100,000 more immigrants would benefit Canadian total GDP, the body of the analysis quietly acknowledges per capita GDP could slightly shrink.

Just as importantly, the authors acknowledge many new immigrants are feeling battered. More recent arrivals are having a “difficult time economically assimilating” and are “increasingly falling into poverty.”

I had a Canadian Studies prof who used to say that every immigrant to Canada created three jobs, but he was also a pro-multiculturalism Marxist former hippie, so. Take from that what you will.

Those 1913 immigrants were as poor as church mice (or poorer), often living in tenement houses with all 13 children sleeping in the same bed. Of course, back then Canadians thought that their houses were quite unclean, which meant, obviously, that they were morally bankrupt and therefore undeserving of charity. But still.

I went to a high school with a very large population of New Canadians. So large, in fact, that we didn’t really think of them as New Canadians, or immigrants, or what have you. We were all people who were in the same classes and we had all been born in different places. I could write a math test next to a girl born in Somalia, do a drama presentation with a guy born in Iran, have a locker in the middle of a chatty group of Koreans, and chat on the bus home with friends born in China. (The Koreans were always known as Koreans because they had mostly only been in Canada for a few years and always talked to each other in Korean. Most of the other kids weren’t actually known as a group by nationality, unless you count the catch-all term “Asians.”

One thing I learned in high school, having classmates and friends who had left another country to come here, is that they all had super-impressive parents. Well, you kind of have to be impressive to meet the immigration standards. The people I went to school with had parents who had been heart surgeons, lawyers, academics. And then they came to Canada and discovered that, for the most part, even their high school diplomas didn’t count here.

Can you imagine how frustrating it must be? To come from a profession you enjoy, one that gives you prestige and a certain standard of living, and then be told that you have to do all of your education over again? And you can’t afford that, you spent all your savings getting your family to your new country—you can’t afford to go back to school, you have to work. You sacrificed everything to get your family out of your dangerous homeland, God damn it, and you’re going to give your kids a decent standard of life if it kills you.

Many of my friends’ parents owned and operated restaurants (often either shawarma places or fast food franchises). It was something they’d had to work up to, at the beginning, but at least it was something that was more interesting and challenging than driving and taxi, and didn’t require years and years more formal education to get a little slip of paper saying “you are qualified for x.”

So where am I going with all this? I’m not entirely sure since I seem to have lost track of my initial point.

Ah. No. Got it. We’re good.

Maybe instead of seeing New Canadians on unemployment as a disincentive to high immigration rates, we should see it as a fundamental problem with the way we integrate these New Canadians into our society.

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