Jason Kenney, the nation’s portly minister of immigration, proudly announced this week that in the year 2010 Canada welcomed over 280,600 immigrants to the country; the largest one-year total in almost six decades.
At a special celebratory press conference, Minister Kenney gave the standard political justification for the high numbers he worked so hard to achieve, declaring that “Canada’s post-recession economy demands a high level of economic immigration to keep our economy strong.”
His words inspired me to write the following letter to the National Post, which was printed in Tuesday’s issue:
For how long must we sit idly by and listen while politicians such as Minister Jason Kenney spout worthless bromides about how Canada must continue to increase its immigration rate in order to “improve our economic performance,” or whatever the latest talking points are.
While certain types of immigrants can theoretically help grow the Canadian economy by providing needed skills or talents, the actual statistics show that such “economic” migrants only comprise a minority of our overall immigrant take in. Far more immigrants enter the country as sponsored relatives of existing ones, or as charity case refugees, neither of which category serves much obvious economic purpose.
This obsession with continuously raising our immigration rates is politics, pure and simple. Since the Tories know they’ll never win a majority government with the present Canadian population, their only hope for future electoral success is, to quote journalist Peter Brimelow, “dissolving the people and electing a new one.
Canada is said to be the single most generous nation on earth when it comes to open-doors immigration, and one of the great lies of Canadian politics is that this policy serves any coherent economic purpose. As I noted in my letter, though Canada does target the admission of so-called “economic class” immigrants who come to this country bringing useful skills or accreditation, the majority of immigrants welcomed to Canada have no obvious economic benefit whatsoever. This becomes obvious after even a quick peruse the 2010 numbers on the department of immigration’s own website.
Of the 280,636 folks who came to Canada last year, 170,536 of them, or about 60%, were simply relatives of other immigrants; either sponsored latecomers joining family members already settled, or those brought along at the time as spouses or “dependents.” Another 8% were refugees, and 3% were “other”(?), meaning the grand total of people brought into Canada for the explicit purpose of improving the Canadian economy, as Kennedy alluded to, only comprised about 29% of our overall immigrant take-in.
And obviously in a welfare state as generous as Canada’s, it’s an open question as to whether or not the economic gains brought by economic class migrants are even substantial enough to cancel out the net losses brought by their frequently far-less productive collection of tag-along “dependents.” Indeed, the depressing fact remains that the government of Canada does not even bother to crunch these numbers at all, so impolite is the matter considered. So when a political espouses the “need” for economic immigration, you can rest assured that he’s simply spouting stale truisms that “feel right.”
Canada’s immigration hustle is a bit different than the one in America, which, for all its obvious faults, does at least have a sort of twisted, exploitative economic logic to it. Lacking a third-world border for people to stream across, the Canadian immigration model is far more voluntary — and thus political — in nature. Immigrants are brought into Canada largely because it is politically popular with other immigrants to do so, a generosity which politicians can then giftwrap and market in exchange for partisan loyalty.
In an era where the Canadian political discourse is becoming increasingly vacuous and boring, immigrant communities from Asia, Africa, or the Middle East can often prove far easier to rally to the polls in large numbers. Through shallow tactics such as ethnic candidates, pandering speeches, or, of course, promises of an ever-laxer immigration policy to bring over more friends and relatives, immigrants can be easily motivated to perform the civic duties that Canadians have grown too cynical for.
For a long time, such strategy was a hallmark of the Liberal Party, and routinely criticized by conservative leaders, including Stephen Harper. But now, surprise surprise, the Conservatives have found the same tactics work just as well when employed for their side. Kenney in particular has taken immigrant pandering to a new level, often loudly announcing that immigrant “outreach” must be one of the cornerstones of future Conservative electoral success.
Amidst all this, the Canadian public (remember them?) have continued to tell pollsters the same things they’ve always said: we don’t want immigration to increase. An Angus Reid poll taken this fall found that only 16% of Canadians said they wanted to see immigration increase, with 39% instead saying they wanted it to stay the same and 38% saying they wanted to see it decrease. Yet up it has steadily gone anyway, especially during the 1990s and 2000s, as we edge ever-closer to importing a full 1% of our population every year.
Now immigrants themselves are obviously fun and lovely people, and one can’t live in a vibrant multicultural city like Vancouver, as I do, without having some appreciation for what imported diversity can bring. But still, the fact remains that Canada’s 21st Century immigration policy is one of the most sweeping, transformative, and culturally and economically uncertain projects ever undertaken in this country’s history, and one that is occurring for primarily political reasons in open spite of public sentiment.
Contrary to popular opinion, one doesn’t have to be a bigot to find this a troubling trend for the future of Canadian democracy.
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