The subject of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers has been dominating conversations in the last few years and it will likely become a federal election issue this year.
It is worth reflecting on just how many immigrants came to Canada in the past, making our country what it is today.
All the time there are people from around the world officially applying to come to Canada as landed immigrants. They start this process in their homeland. The criteria to be successful has changed over the years and there is a limit to the number granted each year. The applications are costly, the process is expensive and you pay your own way to Canada and are expected to be self-sufficient here.
Others are officially accepted as legitimate refugees before they even get on an aircraft to come to Canada. The most obvious example would be the Syrian refugees that the federal government sponsored to come about three years ago. Some Syrian refugees were privately sponsored but all came with legitimate documents to live in Canada.
The third category would be asylum seekers who arrive without warning asking to be allowed to live in Canada for a variety of reasons. Some declare their lives are at risk in their home country. The people who arrive in Europe on boats from Africa would fall into this category.
People who have crossed from the U.S. into Canada, without going through a controlled border crossing, have raised the issue of already being in a safe country and therefore did not “need” to seek asylum in Canada. Leaving your country of birth and settling somewhere else is difficult, especially if it means having to learn a new language.
The solution then, many “experts” say, is to help the countries from which people are fleeing so that they do not feel the need to leave.
One of the problems with that argument is that effective change can’t be “dictated” unless you are in favour of colonial power.
Peacekeeping forces have been in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since its independence more than 60 years ago and they have not succeeded in bringing peace. Last year the United Nations voted to extend the mission of 17,000 peacekeepers in the DRC.
For the majority of Canadians who have not spent time in underdeveloped countries is it hard to imagine how things can’t be improved for the local population so they will not want to leave.
Not all cultures are like Canada’s and not all people want to turn their own country into another Canada – they have their own distinct identity. Things are often done differently at every level with corruption at the highest level playing a big part in the quality of life and amenities citizens enjoy – or not.
Employment and a reasonable income is the trigger for some to leave their homeland with the hope of being able to financially support the family they leave behind. There are, of course, the tragic situations where people are fleeing for their lives.
In other situations immigrants have valuable skills that Canada is desperate for. Less than 10 years ago many could not find a family doctor. An influx of physicians from South Africa, at great personal financial cost to apply and receive landed immigration status and the right to practise medicine here, has totally turned that situation around.
There are also immigrants locally who would dearly love to have their extended families join them here. Applications to make this happen are expensive and the process seems endless.