Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday August 19, 1999
The Real Problem in Immigration
It’s a political non sequitor. Some federal Liberals are pushing for much higher immigration quotas to address Canada’s growing labour shortage. Of course we need more immigrants to join our workforce and society, but increasing the target won’t accomplish that goal. What makes the authors of this idea think that higher targets will be met when we repeatedly fall drastically short of the current target of 225,000 immigrants per year?
Before any numbers are increased, the government must repair or replace inefficient and broken policies and systems that hinder effective and humane immigration application, re-settlement and training. Or, as Vancouver -based population researcher David Baxter, puts it: “We certainly don’t need them (more immigrants) this instant, and if they did it right now, it wouldn’t have any impact anyway because the pipeline is really congested.”
There is no doubt that within the next decade Canada will need more immigrants to replace our aging workforce. Population experts predict that by 2003 the nation’s death rate will exceed the birth rate. Aside from being a matter of economic survival, increased immigration brings the less tangible benefits of social and cultural enrichment, not to mention fresh ideas and energy.
But the sad fact is that our government is already struggling to deal with the 170,000 newcomers that arrive here every year. Settlement programs and services for immigrants and refugees are taxed to the maximum. Prospective immigrants often wait two to three years while applications make their torturous journey. Families often wait for similar periods while their relatives struggle to bring them to Canada. The federal department of citizenship and immigration is overworked and underfunded. Case workers are overloaded and burned out.
And how many times do we find immigrants working in jobs they are hugely overqualified for because licensing and regulatory bodies deem their professional credentials to be worthless? We have a critical shortage of nurses, but foreign-trained nurses are working in the service industry. Engineers, doctors, and dentists are driving taxis when they would be more productive and happy in their chosen professions.
So, to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan and to her colleagues dancing around the idea of increasing targets, we say: Get your priorities straight. Overhaul the department, ensure it is cost-effective and has adequate resources. Streamline the application system and ensure families can join their loved ones in a reasonable time. Deport those who need deportation. Work with professional accreditation groups and the provinces to ensure foreign-trained workers have access to skills upgrading programs. Do all this, and then report back to Canadians that you’ve repaired the immigration system. Only then should targets be increased. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial, A10, 8/19/1999)