Sunday, October 30, 2016

A ‘short moratorium’ on immigration isn’t racist


A ‘short moratorium’ on immigration isn’t racist

 


Canadian citizenship ceremony
File photo - A woman holds a Canadian flag during a citizenship ceremony at Pearson International Airport on Monday June 30, 2014. Jack Boland/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

Suggesting a “short moratorium” on immigration in my last column seems to have provoked some readers into thinking I am a closet, anti-immigrant racist.
I was not suggesting building a wall around Canada!
My point was that the newcomer skills Canada needed in the past are not the kind we need in future.
In its infancy, Canada needed farmers, settlers and labourers, young and hardy enough to till the land and toil to build Canada and move it into the 20th century.
Today, we need to carefully consider the skills and education required to supplement and complement the employment needs of modern Canada, without threatening the existing socioeconomic order.
Now, we need brains more than brawn.
We should be discriminating, yes! But racist? No!
As the son of immigrants from China and Britain, with older Chinese immigrant relatives in my family, I would be unwelcome at our gatherings if I were an anti-immigrant racist.
So far, I have not been ostracized by family, friends or colleagues at the Mon Sheong Foundation, the well-known and thriving GTA seniors’ care charity, operating facilities that offer a continuum of services primarily for Chinese Canadian immigrants.
We need immigrants because our population is aging and our kids are uninterested in having the large families that were typical of previous generations.
The current and emerging financial stresses on our health care and social services systems are unsustainable without importing a younger, educated demographic group, with more than a passing acquaintance with one of our official languages — especially English — so that our educational system is not further stressed either.
As Tom Milroy, Managing Director of Generation Capital Ltd. and a founding member of the Century Initiative (a pan-Canadian organization consisting of business, financial, academic and social service representatives), wrote in an Oct. 10 Globe and Mail column, we need to “get bigger — a lot bigger — between now and the end of the century” to maintain “our remarkable standard of living.”
Naturally, well-screened refugees have to be an exception. And, our dense urban centres need special consideration to deal with various, long-term infrastructure demands.
This view was echoed in an article in the Sing Tao Daily, a widely-read Canadian Chinese-language newspaper.
Hoy Fung Yeung, president of the New Chinese United Association, emphasized that a “slow incremental increase” toward the “much bigger” population target can be “digested (absorbed) over time.”
Yeung, having read the recent Conference Board of Canada report, further emphasized that he and his association, as well as other groups consulted by the federal government over the summer, realize and emphasized that an incremental increase in immigration would help allay the fears of some Canadians that their livelihoods would be negatively impacted by a massive increase.
He also fully appreciated the fear that our existing social safety net, already considered inadequate, would be weakened and needs to be addressed to Canadians’ satisfaction before moving forward.
Yeung hopes the views of the Chinese Canadian groups consulted will be integrated, with additional input, and that everyone can work together to minimize differences, enhance mutual understanding and achieve the very similar goals and aspirations of both new and long-established Canadians.
We seem to be all singing from the same hymn book, except for the issue of family reunification.
In Canada, attachments to the extended family have diminished. Not so in many minority communities.
Although starting to erode in modern China, the Chinese, not unlike Jews and Italians, traditionally venerate their elders.
However, the primary consideration in family reunification policy must be its impact on Canada. This will require sensitivity and dexterity.
My “short moratorium” suggestion was just a caveat, recommending a pause to reflect and get this right, not to incite anti-immigrant sentiment.