March 2, 1998
Comments on Immigration Legislative Review
Note: References are to
Not Just Numbers on the
Citizenship and Immigration website.
The comments that follow come from several sources: (i) from my
experiences as a member of the Board of Directors of the Regina
Open Door Society, (ii) from my academic work as a member of the
Sociology Department at the University of Regina, (iii) from a
study of newcomers to Regina who arrived in Canada as refugees,
and (iv) from my personal experiences. My hope is that the comments
I make will be considered in a positive light, with a view toward
assisting Canada improve its approach to immigration.
In addition to detailed recommendations, Not Just Numbers
raises many theoretical and general issues concerning immigration
and integration. As someone who has been involved in research
and study on immigration, and not so directly involved in implementation
of policy or working directly with immigrants, my comments are
primarily concerned with the overall approach to immigration and
As an initial comment, I am pleased to see the attention that
the panel has given to a very broad range of issues related to
immigration. In my view, many of the recommendations would go
a long way toward improving the practice of immigration policy
in Canada and would benefit Canadians. In particular, the emphasis
on issues related to immigrant integration and citizenship is
a very welcome aspect of Not Just Numbers (Introduction,
R1, and Ch. 4), one that is long overdue. The recognition of the
contribution that immigrants can make to Canada (Ch. 6) and the
understanding of the importance of protection in Canada's immigration
policy (Ch. 7) are important contributions that Not Just Numbers
makes to the discussion of immigration policy.
At the same time, I have a number of criticisms of Not Just
Numbers and these are discussed below. In addition, I make
a number of comments concerning the manner in which immigration
and integration are discussed, about the structure of immigration
policy, and concerning the role of immigration research. These
comments and critique follow.
1. Contributions of Immigrants
a. History. Most of the current population of Canada
is composed of immigrants or descendants of immigrants. While
everyone is aware of this, the historical significance of this
is sometimes forgotten. A considerable part of the identity of
Canada is that we are a land of immigrants. Those of us who live
in western Canada, where immigrants in the last one hundred years
formed the basis for the bulk of the population, are especially
aware of this. Immigrants have played an extremely important role
in making Canada what it is now, and immigration should continue
to help build Canada and continue to form a key part of Canadian
b. Multiculturalism. Issues of integration and citizenship
are highlighted in Not Just Numbers, but there is little
mention of the manner in which Canada has become multicultural
or the contribution of multicultural practices and policy. While
there is still a long way to go in pursuit of the goals of multiculturalism,
in the thirty years since multiculturalism became part of official
policy in Canada, great strides have been made. There has been
development and general acceptance of the goals of understanding,
appreciation, harmony, and equity among those of diverse backgrounds.
Multicultural principles, policies, and programs are often taken
for granted, but compared with fifty years ago, when an policy
of assimilation dominated, Canada has become a much more open
and progressive society, and Canadians have become more caring,
tolerant, and accepting of diversity. Multiculturalism has become
an essential ingredient of Canadian society and identity. Further,
it is a concept and approach that was pioneered in Canada and
has become a Canadian contribution to the world. We should not
allow concerns over a few problems related to immigration to obscure
and sidetrack these positive developments.
c. Labour Force. The Canadian born labour force has often
been supplemented with immigrants. Immigrants who came to Canada
have filled skill shortages, have done work that Canadian born
workers may have been reluctant to do, and have made long term
contributions to the Canadian economy. While job growth has not
been as great as most Canadians would like, and while unemployment
rates are unacceptably high, immigrants do not bear responsibility
for these problems. Immigration has often been very responsive
to economic conditions, as those who contemplate coming to Canada
are quick to learn when are where there are jobs. In this connection
I find it encouraging that Not Just Numbers recognizes
the "longer-term benefits of economic immigration" (last
paragraph of section 6.2). It is my hope that immigration policy
can continue to take this medium to long-term approach, looking
at the continued benefits immigrants can make to the Canadian
economy and society.
d. Economic Contribution. When discussing immigration,
one factor that is often overlooked is that immigrants generally
arrive in Canada as adults, ready to contribute to the Canadian
economy and society. Canada does not pay for the upbringing, socialization,
education, and training of immigrants but, with no initial cost,
gains the advantage of the labour, ideas, and civic participation
of immigrants. This is sometimes forgotten when considering the
initial costs, such as language training, settlement assistance,
and job retraining - costs usually associated with the first year
or two after arrival. In a cost-benefit approach, the latter costs
are dwarfed by the benefits that Canada obtains by being able
to accept and integrate immigrant adults. The benefits to Canada
are likely greatest for highly skilled immigrant workers, especially
since these often help Canada meet labour market bottlenecks,
but most immigrants come ready to work and contribute to Canadian
society. I encourage those responsible for immigration policy
to remember the above - a single-minded focus on costs associated
with the period just after arrival obscures the benefits that
immigrants bring with them.
2. Integration and Active Citizenship
a. The Concept of Integration. The authors of Not Just
Numbers introduce the issue of integration into a discussion
of immigration policy and practice. The panel is to be commended
for tackling this issue and connecting it with community participation
and citizenship. Potentially this is one of the most important
issues in Canadian society - with immigration leading to changes
in population structure and constituting a key aspect of the structure
of Canadian society in the future. However, it is on this very
issue that I view Not Just Numbers as being misleading
and without a progressive approach to the understanding of Canadian
society. This problem may emerge because there are multiple meanings
for integration and the processes that accompany integration and
citizenship are complex.
First, consider some of the meanings that integration might have:
While Not Just Numbers argues that active citizenship and integration does not mean assimilation, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish how it might differ. While the recommendations in Not Just Numbers do not prohibit ethnic cultural practices and various forms of integration, if instituted, Recommendation 31 would leave immigrants little time and energy to participate in their own culture.
Integration is a slippery and problematic concept, especially in a diverse society. Consider a few examples of the diversity we have among Canadians who were born in Canada:
Are we to argue that people in these groups are not integrated
or are not active citizens - even when they are unemployed or
do not vote? These are all Canadians and they make contributions
to Canada, each in their own way.
In a contemporary democratic and liberal society there are many
different ways in which people belong to society - some of the
differences among people are lifestyle choices and others may
represent a variety of ascribed cultural patterns. Integration
may be a concept that is easier to associate with a relatively
homogeneous society than with a more diverse society. When there
is great diversity, difference, and inequality in society, for
newcomers there will be many routes to becoming part of that society,
and many positions and places that newcomers will integrate into.
Some immigrants may never find a single place, but may always
have to perform a balancing act - for example, making an economic
contribution to a country where they barely know the language
and do not understand the customs and practices. But is this of
any less benefit to Canada or the immigrant?
Integration can also be associated with many different strategies
and combinations of retention of original culture and practices
and participation in the economic and civic affairs of the new
country. Historically there have been many routes to integration.
Witness the different ways that Italian-Canadians, French-Canadians,
Ukrainian-Canadians, Hutterites and Mennonites, Jewish-Canadians,
and British-Canadians have taken in becoming Canadian. Yet most
Canadians would agree that individuals in these groups are integrated
b. The Concept of Active Citizenship. If integration is
a difficult concept, active citizenship is even more problematic.
As far as I am aware, we do not have different citizenship requirements
for different people born in Canada, although there may be some
provincial differences and some First Nations people have somewhat
different rights. While many of us wish that all citizens would
"be more informed, responsible, and committed to citizen
participation in the public sphere of politics and in the private
sphere of community, home and family," it would seem unreasonable
to apply this high standard to newcomers when it is not applied
to citizens born in Canada. Further, how do we "demonstrate
that an individual has achieved a degree of integration into the
Canadian community" when we are unsure which community this
is or exactly what integration means? If there is suspicion that
some newcomers do not pay their "fair share of the cost of
public services," inequities in the tax structure should
be corrected, and it may be found that some corporations and well-off
Canadian-born individuals do not pay their fair share. (Quotes
in this paragraph are from Not Just Numbers, Section 4.7).
There may be little argument against requiring three years' residence
as a reasonable time requirement for citizenship, and requiring
that applicants for citizenship should know something about Canada
and have some knowledge of an official language. But the other
requirements of Recommendation 31 could prohibit some valuable
newcomers from obtaining Canadian citizenship. The reason for
the age requirement is not clear - surely we should encourage
the children of newcomers to belong to Canada by becoming citizens.
Fiscal responsibility may seem to be a reasonable requirement.
But the stipulation that an individual file income tax in order
to qualify for Canadian citizenship would appear to discriminate
against students, stay-at-home parents who wish to care for young
children or a disabled family member, and perhaps against other
newcomers. Similarly, most of us would agree that newcomers should
not be criminals, but there are many possible ways of violating
the law - would we deny Canadian citizenship to those who did
not pay a single parking ticket? And to put the onus on newcomers
of being able to "demonstrate that they are in compliance
with Canadian laws" (4.7, p. 8) seems like an overly strong
requirement. If someone asked me to demonstrate that I was in
compliance with Canadian laws, I do not know how I would do this
- it is probably an impossibility.
Finally, as is the case with any set of regulations, one way of
dealing with perceived abuses is to deal with the few who abuse
the rules. Adoption of very restrictive and tough overall rules
as a means of dealing with a few alleged abuses is often an inappropriate
way of dealing with problems.
c. Integration in Prairie Cities. A different issue, and one that does not appear to be addressed in Not Just Numbers is the different patterns of integration for immigrants to different areas of the country. While medium sized cities, such as those on the Prairies, are given no special attention in the report, it is the view of many of us who live in these cities, that immigrants have generally integrated very well into these cities. Factors which would appear to contribute to this include:
Some newcomers to Prairie cities also leave for larger urban centres,
but this may be as much a reflection of anticipated job opportunities
and ethnic networks in these larger centres as dislike of the
smaller Prairie cities. Certainly the Saskatchewan agencies that
work with newcomers have found that those who stay in the Prairie
cities integrate quickly into the economic structure of these
cities, and large numbers do become "active citizens"
in the sense used in Not Just Numbers.
When considering where to locate those seeking protection in Canada,
and when recommending places for newcomers to locate, those responsible
for immigration policy and practice should take a more careful
look at Prairie cities. It may be that the immigrant experience
in these cities is fairly close to the ideal espoused in many
of the arguments presented in Not Just Numbers.
d. Issues Related to Time and the Second and Subsequent Generations.
In Not Just Numbers there are conflicting views concerning
the element of time. In terms of integration, Section 4.1 states
that "it may take several generations to complete" but
a few pages later in Recommendation 29, it is implied that three
years should be a standard for active citizenship and, presumably,
integration. It is not clear what the three year limit (while
renewable) on landed immigrant status is expected to achieve.
In fact, the whole aim of Section 4.6 is unclear. The view that
individuals who are landed immigrants cannot make a long-term
contribution to Canada seems mistaken. Many landed immigrants
have lived for many years in Canada and, apart from being unable
to vote, are among the most active participants (not citizens)
in Canada. Further, why someone should necessarily commit himself
or herself to Canada by cutting off ties to other places is unclear.
If there is some good reason for this, then this should be made
clear. But the arguments of Section 4.6 seem primarily based on
anecdote, do not have solid research data behind them, and are
not well constructed or persuasive.
A related issue is what happens to newcomers over time. Many immigrants
initially find it difficult to feel or become a full part of Canada,
and some leave Canada after a short time. But for the majority
of immigrants who settle in Canada and become part of the Canadian
social fabric, the commitment to Canada generally increases. As
the Canadian political philosopher Will Kymlicka points out in
Multicultural Citizenship it is difficult to change cultures,
and people have a strong attachment to their own culture. But
at the same time, integration usually means that only some aspects
of an original culture are retained, and newcomers are gradually
absorbed into and become fuller parts of Canadian society.
The children of immigrants seem to have fewer such problems, and
from the point of view of their parents, may become too integrated
into Canada, and much too quickly. Not Just Numbers
pays little attention to children, but it these children and their
children who represent the longer term outcome of immigration.
In North America, the historical record is clear - children quickly
learn the dominant language and become part of the dominant culture.
While these children may retain aspects of their ethnic heritage,
they have no trouble becoming full citizens, in much the same
way as do children of Canadian-born parents. When considering
the integration and active citizenship process, policy makers
must take note of this. Where there are questions about the ability
of the newcomers themselves to integrate and become active citizens,
such doubts disappear when considering second and subsequent generations.
e. Conclusion. My comments in this section have primarily
been aimed at what I perceive to be weaknesses or misleading arguments
concerning integration and active citizenship. I would suggest
that the proposals in Chapter 4 aimed at tightening the
regulations to deal with some instances of alleged abuse, are
not in the best interests of Canada. In terms of a positive recommendation,
immigration policy should be aimed at maintaining a relatively
steady flow of immigrants into Canada, looking toward the medium
to long-term benefits provided by these immigrants. Landed immigrant
and citizenship regulations should reflect the diverse routes
that immigrants have taken toward integrating into Canada.
A major conclusion emerging from Not Just Numbers is that
knowledge of an official language is to be required of most newcomers,
or a financial charge must be paid by the newcomer. The authors
of Not Just Numbers urge immigration policy to be based
on solid research, but on exactly what evidence the official language
recommendation is based is not clear. Section 4.4 refers only
to comments that were heard by the panel. While there is no doubt
that knowledge of an official language is important for some forms
of integration, some newcomers will need knowledge of an official
language more than others. In addition, some can learn the new
language fairly quickly. In the study of refugees in Regina that
I conducted in the early 1990s, the general feeling was that one
year of English language training would be sufficient for newcomers.
If the cost of providing this language training is balanced against
the benefits noted above in item 1.d., the cost of such training
is fairly minimal in the larger picture.
The requirement that newcomers know either English or French is
certainly alien to the multicultural heritage of the Prairies.
Immigrants to the Prairies were predominantly non-English speakers
when they arrived, and many were slow to learn English. By the
second and certainly by the third generation, everyone spoke English.
The second and subsequent generations of immigrants to the Prairies
have integrated well. For example, in the classes I teach at the
University of Regina there is a great diversity of ethnic backgrounds,
with many Central and Eastern European names mixed in with British
and other names. The original lack of knowledge of English does
not appear to have hurt subsequent generations.
In Not Just Numbers there are some confusing statements
concerning knowledge of official languages, and this makes it
difficult to know exactly what is being recommended. Recommendation
26 argues for language testing, but does not indicate what will
be done with the test results. Recommendation 35 says that there
should be a tuition fee that reflects the cost of basic language
training, but does not say what this fee would be used for. Would
those who pay the fee be required to take classes and learn French
or English? If so, note that it may be difficult to force people
into classes and even more difficult to force people to learn
English or French. If the fee is paid, will newcomers have to
pay tuition again once they enroll in language training?
A further issue related to languages is language training for
those who arrive through protection legislation, that is, refugees.
Presumably, their language training would continue to be supported
financially by government. But I fear that the general principle
of requiring immigrants to pay tuition for language training might
eventually spill over into a similar requirement for those who
have come to Canada for protection.
In summary, there are many problems that could develop if requirements
concerning knowledge of English or French are very stringently
enforced in the future. While some preference might be given to
those independent applicants who are familiar with one of these
official languages, if applicants are judged to be worthy of being
allowed entry into Canada on other grounds, a few months of support
to assist in learning an official language seems like a minimal
cost for Canada. The same can be said for the family sponsored
In the study of newcomers who had arrived as refugees in Regina,
one of the major complaints that these newcomers had was that
foreign credentials and experience were often not recognized by
professional associations or employers. It is encouraging to see
that Not Just Numbers has addressed this issue in Recommendation
27. While this recommendation is commendable, given that the council
that is to work on this issue has not been established and is
only now being proposed, this problem may not be addressed very
In remote areas and in some of the small towns and rural areas
of the Prairies, there is a shortage of qualified health personnel
and there may be skilled labour shortages in a number other occupations
and professions in these same areas. In some cases, these problems
could be met by streamlining the procedures for providing credentials
to newcomers, in return for promises that these newcomers will
serve these areas for a period of time. This would appear to be
a practical procedure, one which would benefit people in these
remote or rural areas and provide a means of integrating newcomers,
thus benefiting both sides.
There are many complications in dealing with the credentials issue,
not least being the fact that the various levels of governments
do not directly control many of the procedures for providing credentials.
But since one of the major concerns of Not Just Numbers
is that newcomers take on active citizenship and make an economic
contribution to Canadian society, it would seem important to address
this issue quickly.
A related issue is the lack of Canadian experience among those
who are entering the Canadian labour force for the first time.
In conversations with immigrants, I have repeatedly heard that
one of the main obstacles to getting a job is that employers do
not see any Canadian experience on their record. Again, this is
a problem that governments may have difficulty solving, since
they have no direct control over employers, and at most can try
to persuade employers to take a different approach.
Agencies such as the Regina Open Door Society and employment training
and placement programs can assist here, but they need funds to
establish such programs. In Regina, when such programs have existed,
they have been very successful - often leading to long-term employment
of newcomers who participate. Federal, provincial, and municipal
governments could all assist newcomers by providing training programs
which would provide temporary initial placement of the newcomers
in jobs. This would provide newcomers with some Canadian experience,
familiarize employers with the newcomers, and allow for fuller
use of the abilities that newcomers bring with them. While such
programs might appear to be costly in budgetary terms, in terms
of overall economic impact there seems to be little doubt that
everyone would benefit from more programs of this sort. These
programs should be thought of as investments that will create
returns in the form of more efficient and productive use of the
working abilities of newcomers. The process of integration and
active citizenship would also be greatly assisted through this
5. Protection and Immigration Legislation
The development of separate protection and immigration legislation
could be a positive development, which will allow the separate
objectives for each of the ways that newcomers arrive in Canada
to be more clearly organized. The procedures outlined for determination
of who should be protected could work out well, although the lack
of an appeal process (Recommendation 92) could cause problems
for some individuals and families in need of protection.
Canada should continue to play a major role in protection, as
it has done historically. Given the great need for protection
in the contemporary world, my hope is that Canada will find it
possible to expand the numbers of individuals accepted, especially
those who are selected abroad and sponsored by the government.
(There were less than 10,000 from this group in 1996).
My concerns relating to the discussion of protection are twofold:
(i) what happens to those afforded protection after landing in
Canada, and (ii) how are settlement and integration issues to
be organized? Many of the needs of immigrants and of those who
seek protection in Canada are very similar in the period after
arrival - landing fees, language training, obtaining Canadian
credentials, family reunification, and integration into Canada.
By separating these two groups, a two tier system for treatment
of newcomers could be established, one that would cause resentment
and confusion among the newcomers. In addition, new policies directed
at independent immigrants - requiring knowledge of an official
language, limited language training, and somewhat more rigorous
policies with respect to sponsorship - could gradually spill over
and be applied to those accepted for protection in Canada.
What occurs following landing in Canada relates to the role and
work of agencies such as the Regina Open Door Society. My hope
is that settlement agencies of this sort will continue to be supported.
Such agencies are able to welcome newcomers, assist with the settlement
process, and begin the integration process. These agencies have
made a great contribution within the Prairie cities, and some
have recently been recognized in Citizenship Awards.
In Prairie cities, core funding of settlement agencies could help
to produce greater budgetary stability for these agencies. Directing
larger numbers of government sponsored newcomers to these cities
could also assist these agencies and immigrant communities. The
record of the settlement agencies on the Prairies is very good,
and government sponsored refugees have settled and integrated
well on the Prairies. With improved core funding and more newcomers
being directed toward cities such as Moose Jaw, Regina, Saskatoon,
and Yorkton, a province like Saskatchewan could make a greater
contribution toward protection and citizenship than it has in
the recent past.
My second, and related, concern is that establishing separate
legislation for the two types of newcomers could lead to a two
tier system for newcomers. To some extent this already exists,
with the different categories of immigrants under the Annual Immigration
Plan. In the Introduction to Not Just Numbers, it is recognized
that there would need to be "necessary links
the protection program and those programs relating to immigration
and citizenship matters." (p. 1 of Introduction). But I do
not find these links spelled out very clearly or completely in
Not Just Numbers. As noted above, many of the proposed
changes in language training and sponsorship could spill over
from the immigrant group to those seeking protection. After all,
those seeking protection constitute less than 15 per cent of all
newcomers, so numerically speaking those seeking protection could
get lost in the shuffle.
In terms of specific problems, the principle of having to pay
for language training might make some sense for some independent
immigrants, but surely it makes no sense for those seeking protection.
Yet the principle established for immigrants could easily begin
to be applied for those seeking protection. The landing fee, presumably
aimed primarily at immigrants, is to be applied to those seeking
protection (Recommendation 114). The question of payment for medical
examination is dealt with in Not Just Numbers, but again
the principles here could easily change. Further, at the present
time it is very difficult for those who arrived in the refugee
category to sponsor other family members. Making sponsorship procedures
more rigorous would make it almost impossible for those who arrive
under protection legislation to sponsor other family members for
many years following arrival in Canada.
In summary, I urge policy makers to very carefully consider the
effects of the separation of immigration and protection legislation.
On balance, such a separation might improve the ability of Canada
to play a major role in protection, and expand the numbers who
arrive in Canada through this route. But at the same time, there
are many potentially negative implications of such an approach
- life could become difficult for those who arrive through protection
legislation and resentment could be created with a two-tier system
of language training and other settlement and integration services.
The result of these could be to reduce Canada's ability to provide
At several places in Not Just Numbers there are recommendations
that future policy should be founded on a solid research base.
As a researcher myself, I am in general agreement with this approach.
However, the manner in which Not Just Numbers lays this
basis is of great concern to me. The problem is that the panel
puts the onus on researchers to develop proof of positive effects
before regulations are developed and adopted. While this might
be an appropriate standard of proof for use of prescription drugs,
which can be carefully tested, this is an overly high standard
of proof for immigration research. Some of the problems associated
with research on immigration are lack of data, lack of clarity
by policy makers and practitioners in identifying research goals,
the long-term nature of integration, and continually changing
social and economic conditions.
In terms of data, immigration researchers still have little or
no data on the children of immigrants, the so-called second generation.
Censuses and surveys do not allow identification of these individuals,
yet these people are the people who might be expected to more
fully integrate into Canadian society. While Section 4.3 notes
that the Longitudinal Immigration Database (IMDB) will provide
more complete information, this data base is not yet available
to most researchers, and analysis of these new data sources will
take time. Given this lack of appropriate data, it is unreasonable
to base immigration policy on data that are only now being developed.
Research on the long history of immigration shows that most immigrants
or their children have integrated well into Canadian society,
and it is not clear why there should be any change in this.
In Not Just Numbers, several priority research areas, such
as sponsorship (Section 5.3) are identified. Each of these areas
deserves further research and now that a research agenda has been
identified, immigration researchers can begin work on these topics.
But this research will take time, especially where the data are
not yet available (see Section 4.3).
The long-term nature of integration and changing social and economic
conditions make it difficult to make definitive conclusions concerning
appropriate immigration procedures at any point in time. Consider
my ancestors who were Pennsylvania-Germans who came to Upper Canada
in the early 1800s, speaking German. They were farmers and for
several generations until the First World War, continued to speak
German. They were not very well integrated into the urban English
speaking culture that emerged in Ontario. But they contributed
to the development of Canada, provided agricultural products,
and beginning in the 1940s, began to integrate into urban Canadian
society. Now the descendants of the original Pennsylvania-Germans
can be considered to be more or less fully integrated, active
citizens of Canada. Exactly what conclusions a social survey or
immigration researcher would have made concerning this group in
1870 is not clear. At best a researcher at that time might have
considered this group of Pennsylvania-Germans to be oddities,
with little chance of ever becoming active citizens. In a similar
manner, current research on Eritrean-Canadians or Vietnamese-Canadians
is not able to anticipate the likely path that these groups will
follow in future years. It may be, for example, that in 2026 Samira
Boutros, the Canadian Prime Minister, will welcome the return
of the Brandon rink from the Olympics with a gold medal in women's
curling - won by the team of Nguyen, Amani, Biryani, and Martinez.
7. Economic Immigration
This section contains a few miscellaneous observations on Chapter
6 of Not Just Numbers. First, while the point system
is undoubtedly flawed, it does appear to have worked fairly well
over a thirty year period. Before scrapping the current system
and replacing it with a system that is considerably different,
it would seem advisable to determine exactly how it should be
revised. Several times in Not Just Numbers, immigration
policy makers are urged to base new legislation on data and sound
research. Yet when I read Section 6.5, I find a list of qualities
for immigrants laid out, without any clear research base for this
list. The items noted in Section 6.5 (ii) and (iii) constitute
a plausible set of characteristics for immigrants, but there are
other characteristics and lists that are just as reasonable. I
would like to know how the authors of Not Just Numbers
settled on these characteristics.
The notion of "personal suitability" is downgraded in
Not Just Numbers (Chapter 6, p. 5), yet one of the main
characteristics immigrants bring with them is the ability to apply
themselves, be adaptable, and learn quickly - these may the real
keys to success in terms of integration and contribution to Canada.
In this context, a more general set of employability criteria
(which the authors of Not Just Numbers seem to reject)
could conceivably be more appropriate than the specific items
proposed. In a world of rapidly changing technologies, downsizing,
and shifts in production, specific labour market requirements
can change very rapidly, and few forecasters are able to predict
such changes. A system of screening with a general set of selection
criteria may of greater advantage to Canada than the more specific
criteria laid out in Recommendations 47 through 52.
As a further note, it is unfair to group skilled workers with
entrepreneurs and investors (Section 6.5, p. 6, Official Language
Ability). Unless there is a misprint, the data do not support
the argument. According to this section, over half of entrepreneurs
and investors are not familiar with an official language, whereas
only 6 per cent of skilled workers have no such knowledge. Surely
these numbers negate the argument made here. But, more importantly,
there is a basic difference between the two categories. The entrepreneur
and investor categories are of fairly recent invention, have been
controversial, have not worked well, and are not in the best interests
of the whole country. The establishment of these categories may
have originally been viewed as a way of getting some quick money
- a foolish hope for national policy. In contrast, the skilled
worker category has been a cornerstone of immigration policy since
1967, was an essential feature of immigration for the last thirty
years, helped make Canadian immigration policy less discriminatory,
and generally has served Canada well.
In summary, there is much useful information and many worthwhile
recommendations in Not Just Numbers. There are also a considerable
number of recommendations that, as I have pointed out, need some
more clarification and consideration. In general, I support the
view that immigration policy should be based on solid research.
But at the same time, much of the data and research are not yet
available. As a result, I encourage policy makers to move cautiously,
and urge them not to assume that they know what the research will
conclude before the research has been conducted.
There are many ways in which Canada's immigration policy can be
improved. Listening only to those who look on immigration as a
problem will not improve it. It is also necessary to talk to Canadians
from a wide variety of backgrounds and to immigrants, to listen
to those who work with immigrants, and to continue to adopt an
expansive and progressive view of what Canada is and can become.
It is encouraging to know that the federal government is holding
these hearings and I trust that an improved immigration policy
will emerge - on that will better serve the country as a whole.
March 2, 1998
Regina Open Door Society
1855 Smith Street
Regina, Saskatchewan, S4P 2N5
Department of Sociology and Social Studies
University of Regina
Note: This paper was prepared for presentation to the Public Consultations on Legislative Review in Winnipeg on March 2, 1998. A snow storm prevented the representatives of the Regina Open Door Society from attending these consultations and the paper was sent to Ottawa as a written brief.
Last edited on March 2, 1998.