Migration has been a fundamental part of humanity’s history. For various reasons, humans wandered across this planet to find food and security, a process that continues to this day. The evidence of this is within the histories of our countries, and, today, we can even find this in our DNA. In short, we live in heterogeneous societies, as we all have a migrant story.
This is an important fact to remember, for we have been hearing the demagogic rants against refugees and asylum seekers for a while now. These are designed to play upon our fears, heightening a sense of xenophobia, all for the political advantages of a few, offering us a scapegoat for our woes, while distracting us from their true causes. This has been a tried-and-true practice throughout the history of mankind – the blaming of newcomers, for which Canadians have been susceptible to, as are all peoples.
The most recent example has been the railings by the Conservative opposition against the Liberal government for the lack of border security between Canada and the U.S. After the U.S. changed some of its domestic policies, there was an increase of persons crossing into Canada through means that contravened our policies on immigration. The government’s response was to create a new ministry – Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction – with Bill Blair as the minister, as he is a former police officer, and the message being conveyed is that this government will be tough on illegal activities. But is this a futile endeavour?
Canada has some strong immigration policies, being a difficult country to immigrate to, and many people are turned away when they apply through official channels. Though we are in desperate need of immigration to maintain our economy, we are very selective on who can come to this country: those who migrate here must bring something we need. So, it is usually the educated and the wealthy that eventually pass Canadian screening, which implies that those who come to Canada through unofficial channels are poor, with little other choice.
As indicated above, we need immigration to help us grow as a country, as we have a diminishing birth rate; there is a benefit to the process of human migration, which is being ignored. There are parts of Canada, namely in the Maritimes, that desperately need to increase their populations. There is a need to have more people in our workforce to help maintain our social security programs, such as the CPP. So, this process of migration, just like the internal migration that has helped Alberta grow, offers us an opportunity to grow as a nation. If we look at this from a positive perspective, there is a reciprocal benefit to all: those migrating to Canada, seeking refuge, bring to us a security that we also need, highlighting the strengths of a diverse and welcoming society.
John Kennair is an international consultant and doctor of laws who lives in St. Albert.