Our home and native – and adopted – land [diversity]

TheStar.com – Opinion
Published On Sun Mar 14 201.  By Haroon Siddiqui, Editorial Page

If you don’t like non-whites, Statistics Canada has given you more reason to grumble. But if you are among the overwhelming majority of Canadians who have adjusted well to our demographic diversity, indeed see it as a defining feature of our nation, take a bow.

Statistics Canada’s population projections to 2031, released Tuesday, showcase what is perhaps the most ambitious and successful experiment in heterogeneity in human history. The population of visible minorities is expected to rise from one in every five Canadians to to one in three – potentially 14.4 million. The largest group, as now, would be South Asians.

The Toronto CMA (census metropolitan area, Oshawa to Burlington) would be nearly two-thirds non-white – 5.6 million. Among them, South Asians would have tripled to 2.1 million. Chinese would be 1.1 million. Vancouver also would be almost two-thirds non-white. But, in a flip of Toronto, the largest group there, as now, would be the Chinese, followed by South Asians.

Montreal would continue to lag in diversity. Only one in three would be non-white. Blacks (mostly Haitians, like Michaëlle Jean) would double to 381,000.

While immigration would remain a big-city phenomenon, mid-size cities would change as well. “VizMins” would double their numbers in Barrie, Guelph, Hamilton, Kitchener, Oshawa, Peterborough, etc.

It is a tribute to our national character that this “browning” of Canada has not attracted racist hand-wringing. Contrast this with the scaremongering in Europe about Arabs/Muslims, portrayed as the advance guard of “Eurabia.” The few Canadians who do relate to that will find fodder for their phobia in the StatsCan figures:

As the population of non-whites grows at eight times the rate of the rest, the Arabs among them (including Christian Arabs) would climb to 1.1 million. In Montreal, they’d triple to 367,000. Across Canada, Islam would remain the fastest growing religion. Muslims would triple from 2.7 per cent of the population to 6.8 per cent. They would constitute half our non-Christian population.

So what? Race, religion, colour and ethnicity have always defined some parts of our multiple identities (aboriginals, Catholics, Chinese, Germans, etc.).

Similarly, there have always been two Canadas – urban and rural. What is different today is that most non-whites live in cities. But why should that be of greater concern than, say, the Ukrainians and Poles tilling the Prairies in earlier generations? The lament about “two Canadas” in the context of colour is misguided. Ditto the worry over “ethnic ghettoes.” Do we have “white ghettoes”?

Meanwhile, some Quebec politicians are getting hysterical about the handful of women covering their faces in a niqab. As long as such women show their faces for security and other identification purposes and obey the law, who cares? The anti-niqab campaign is wrapped in the tinsel of gender equity but is as authoritarian as other male attempts at controlling women, and just as destructive.

Far more relevant are issues of economic integration and their impact on our GDP.

Today’s immigrants and visible minorities are better educated than the native-born and also much younger – meaning more of them are in the working age group and driving our economy.

Our common good rests on ensuring that they reach their full productive potential. Removing systemic discrimination is not just an issue of equity and human rights but enlightened self-interest.

Wendy Cukier, associate dean of the School of Management at Ryerson University and founder of its Diversity Institute, notes that “tremendous progress” has been made in combatting overt discrimination. Yet subtle systematic barriers remain, as three of her institute’s studies showed.

Despite higher education, immigrants continue to suffer higher rates of unemployment and lower rates of pay. Another study of 17,000 middle managers showed that non-whites are significantly less satisfied with their career progression and find that promotion processes are not fair and transparent. Another study shows that visible minorities, already nearly 50 per cent of the GTA, are barely represented in senior positions: only 5 per cent of corporate leaders and 13 per cent of the 3,257 senior leaders in both the public and private sectors.

The federal government, which employs 260,000 people, has a sorry record. Visible minorities, 12.6 per cent of the qualified workforce, constitute 10.3 per cent of the federal payroll, and remain clustered at the bottom.

By contrast, Ontario, which employs 65,000, is the only province with a diversity officer to push proportionate representation of qualified candidates. A staff survey, filled out by as many as 41,000 employees, showed that visible minorities are indeed well represented but not in the senior ranks. Shelly Jamieson, secretary of the cabinet and head of the civil service, says that “a strategy is in place” to change that.

Ontario was also the only province to appoint a Fairness Commissioner to ensure that the credentials of internationally trained professionals are evaluated fairly and quickly. Jean Augustine has oversight over 38 self-regulating professions, 22 of them in the health field. She reports progress in 16 – among them those regulating engineers, dentists and pharmacists.

Such initiatives are what we need as a nation, not cultural warfare on each other. The Canadian-born and the foreign-born are all in this together, here in our home and native and adopted land.

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