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    Read a good article about immigration?

Whatever happened to good days and good news. We are bombarded daily by stories of the failing European economies, the downgrading of the American credit rating, the 2,000 point fall of the Dow, floods in Asia, threats of an economic depression, street protests in Greece, riots in London, and a seemingly never ending trail of bad stories about immigration. Wow, it is enough to make a grown man cry.

Just this past Saturday I read an article in the Winnipeg Free Press entitled “Immigrants a Burden, Canadians say in Poll.” Just below this striking headline, in a smaller less conspicuous font, the staff writer qualifies his/her remarks by stating, “Academic says view a misconception.” If you are one of the fortunate persons who read the subtitle or actually read the article you have one impression. However, there are many readers who glance over the page and, after reading only the first headline, read on the same page, just to the right, another article entitled “Human-smuggling bids foiled: Kenny.”

It is important to note that someone just reading the headlines, or reading the second piece on smuggling, would come away with a very negative view of all immigrants. The cursory reader would take note that most Canadians think immigrants are a burden and that our federal immigration Minister (if they match Kenny with Jason Kenny) praises the government’s successful efforts to keep more of these burdensome people out. Of course, the facts are different but the bad impression has already been made. Are immigrants really burdensome? The government does have a responsibility to protect Canada’s shores from human-smuggling operations, which we all acknowledge, but this is not my purpose for writing today. Rather I would like to focus the reader’s attention on the first article about Canadian opinions about immigration.

The worldwide poll everyone is writing about is the one released by Ipsos just last week. The results are that 56 per cent of Canadians polled think immigration has put too much pressure on public services in Canada. In other words, these respondents think that immigrants are abusing the public services of Canada. The findings reveal that most respondents are supportive of highly educated, skilled immigrants but have a less favourable view of the sponsorship of older immigrants, not intended for the labour force.

The overall opinions of Canadians, within the 17,601 respondents from 23 countries, was that 40 per cent believe that immigration has a positive impact on the country, while 35 per cent believe that immigration has a negative impact on the country. This picture is not that bad compared to respondents from other countries. The strongest negative attitudes about immigration were expressed by respondents from: Belgium (72%), South Africa (70%), Russia (69%), Great Britain (64%) and Turkey (57%).

The sub heading in the Free Press article references the work of Professor Jeffrey Reitz of the University of Toronto who is an expert in immigration and pluralism. He writes to correct the false impressions of the 56 per cent of Canadian respondents. “Immigrants are actually helping us pay for these things, not the other way around,” he said, using research that shows that immigrants use social services less than Canadian-born citizens and make a positive fiscal contribution to the country. He also adds his words of support to a return to the Canadian immigration emphasis upon bringing in the most highly skilled and educated immigrants (the human potential model used by previous Liberal government). (See: “Taxi Driver Syndrome” )

Reitz is one of many persons who have expressed concern about the current changes to immigration introduced by the Harper government that emphasize immediate labour market connections and increased use of temporary foreign worker permits. The negative impact of this change in emphasis can be seen in many areas and especially as it relates to OFWs in Canada. How many temporary foreign workers, many from back home, have been left without jobs or status in places like Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec? There is now an increasing number of “TNTs” (tago nang tago) who exist without legal status or work permits. Filipino OFWs who came to Canada in search of a better future are becoming part of a significant number of undocumented workers in Canada, an underclass with an uncertain future. Professor Reitz’ findings and those of studies in countries like Australia, which have provided a model for the Harper government, show that less-skilled immigrants, originally admitted on temporary visas such as work permits with prearranged jobs, have higher employment rates than other immigrants upon arrival, but within a short time fall well behind other immigrants with advanced education. In the medium term “it is immigrants with advanced education who actually have higher employment rates” and in the long term “integrate more effectively into society.”

The Free Press provided yet another article on the subject on August 10, 2011 entitled “Making immigration work well,” where the editorial writer challenged the anti-immigration lobby to stop blaming immigrants for crimes, cultural tension and abuse of the social service system. He correctly pointed out that new immigrants are just what our country with it’s declining birth rates needs. On the one hand he cites what many readers know first hand; that many well educated newcomers are earning considerably less than native born Canadians with a similar education, but concludes that this gap disappears “with successive generations.” The writer praises Manitoba’s success: “immigrants here are employed at higher rates than in Canada generally – is derived from a keen understanding of what the economy needs and that tailoring of settlement programs to ensure that language and skill training supports the determination of newcomers.” All those who work in the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program and those who depend on the program should nod their heads in collective approval. As a province we all deserve a collective pat on the back.

Maybe things are not all that bad after all. Perhaps this is because I choose to quote from the Winnipeg Free Press, with it’s refreshing liberal bias and not the Winnipeg Sun who are more supportive of the PC government and less likely to say kind things about immigrants. My purpose, as always, is to educate the reader and make them aware of what is being said around them. Just hearing that 56 per cent of Canadians thought that immigrants misuse the social services in Canada should be a seen as a challenge. We must ensure that misinformation and ignorance about immigration is challenged. My sympathies and support are with the 40 per cent of Canadians who Ipsos polled, who believe immigration has a positive impact on Canada.

Michael Scott BA (Hon), MA, is a 30-year veteran of Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program who works as an immigration associate with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. He can be reached at 838 Ellice Avenue in Winnipeg, (204) 783-7326 or (204) 227-0292. E-mail:

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