The future of Canada depends on immigrants

Posted on June 16, 2009 in Equality Debates, Governance Debates, Inclusion Debates – Opinion – The future of Canada depends on immigrants
Published: June 16, 2009. John Stewart, National Post

My roots are in poor, white, Anglo-Protestant, rural Western Canada. I grew up in a different Canada than this one. I remember how as a child I gawked at the first dark-skinned person I ever saw. I attended one of Preston Manning’s early speeches in Ottawa as Reform party leader 20 years ago. Nearly all my friends are white Anglos. I tend to vote Conservative.

And I want immigration. Recession or not, I’m not particularly worried about the competition for jobs. I’m much more concerned about the competition we face from Australia, Britain and the United States to attract the best immigrants. I don’t think the character of the country is being corroded — at least not by immigration in particular. I don’t think we can become safer from crime by reducing immigration (as a crime-correlated factor, alcohol is far more dangerous.

In fact, I think that advocating immigration should be on the Canadian conservative agenda. It fits just fine alongside the “small-c” standards like fiscal responsibility, sound school curricula, family values, national security and public order.

There is one overwhelming reason why I advocate immigration: I care about the future prosperity of this country. And that future prosperity depends on immigrants. They bring ready skills and better-than-average educations, and they start productive businesses. We need their skills today. Natural increase alone will not provide us with workers and taxpayers during my retirement.

Settlement and integration take time. We cannot wait until the recession ends — or until 2025 or 2030 — and then suddenly race to admit the workers we need. Recruiting good immigrants is a demographic investment that we must make every year, like investments in education, public health and infrastructure.

As for the rest of the small-c conservative agenda, I’m confident that immigrants and their kids are just as likely as my native-born friends to want fiscal responsibility, sound school curricula, family values, national security and public order.

How about cultural cohesion? Do I worry about diluting our country’s values? No. I’m sure my Protestant forebears of the 19th century fretted about being overwhelmed by French-Canadians and all their fellow Catholics arriving from Ireland, Poland, Italy and elsewhere, whose big families and (alleged) loyalty to the pope threatened to corrode British, Protestant Canada.

But who among my siblings and cousins worries about this now? If I began muttering that we let our guard down and allowed too many non-Protestants into Canada in the half-century following Confederation, my friends and family would think I’d lost my senses. And they’d be right. The Protestant-Catholic paradigm that dominated European political consciousness for centuries became irrelevant before my cousins and I were born. In 100 years, today’s cultural nationalisms may seem equally absurd.

Waves of newcomers built my country, a country that I want to prosper in the future as it has in the past. In a world of shrinking birth rates, immigration is the new strategic resource. We should all advocate it.

immigrationadvocatesmovement@ – John Stewart is a financial manager in Ottawa who is encouraging the formation of a national alliance to advocate for immigration.

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