Monday, December 12, 2005

Second Thoughts On Immigration?

When the Globe and Mail begins questioning our immigration policy, you can sense a sea change coming in the attitudes of the governing classes who have profited from it:

Census data now shows that better-educated immigrants are not doing as well as their less-educated counterparts did a generation ago. The reduced value of their work -- because Canada fails to recognize their qualifications -- robs the economy of as much as $3.4-billion a year, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

Another problem is geographic concentration: 80 per cent of all immigrants settle not in Halifax, Winnipeg and Calgary, where more labour is needed, but in congested Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. Moreover, these clusters are turning into ethnic ghettoes. Today, there are 254 distinct neighbourhoods where immigrants from one ethnic region comprise at least 30 per cent of the population.

Finally, Canada's mix of carefully selected immigrants isn't what we pretend it is. Despite the rhetoric, there are many more family-class immigrants than skilled workers. Allowing immigrants to re-unite with family members is a sound idea, but if they overwhelm the system, they drain the economy.

Yet in spite of these many challenges, immigration is not likely to be a hot-button issue during the election campaign. Politicians know there is no gain to questioning immigration -- and much potential to lose coveted immigrant votes in big-city ridings. In the early 1990s, the old Reform Party was branded "racist" for suggesting that immigration levels be lowered from 250,000 to 150,000.

Yet this is a crucial time to ask the question. Notwithstanding its fans in Europe, has Canada's immigration model outlived its usefulness? Is the country getting the immigrants it needs?

Do you get the impression that their editorial board is secretly afraid that what's happening in Paris and Sydney will happen in Toronto next?

This city has all the ingredients necessary for an insurrection: huge immigrants ghettoes full of unemployed, underemployed and disillusioned people; armies of young men raised without a stable, intact family influence and turning to gangs for the male leadership their absent fathers don't provide; government policies that play a cruel bait-and-switch, luring immigrants with promises of good jobs and sending them to do the scut work instead; a policy of multiculturalism that discourages assimilation into the greater community while exposing them to a crude, aggressive pop culture; a social service and education system dedicated to the proposition that no one is to blame for his own problems.

Today, most of us are secretly relieved at the fact that, as in Jane-Finch and the Tamil gangs, they tend to kill only each other. But one day, when their numbers are a little greater, their anger a little deeper and their confidence a little higher, they will take their fight to the streets of Rosedale and Forest Hill.

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