We need immigrants!

Posted 11.01.16

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | There are few villages and towns across West Quebec which are not in decline. Given the exhaustion of our forest resources, the marginality of tourism, the lack of infrastructure (even the internet!), the flight of younger generations to the cities, given all this, is there any wonder that Outaouais towns are almost zombie-towns?

The political parties (maybe not the Conservatives) all promise to fix this problem, but they all seem to have rather nebulous road maps to revive our region's economy. Maybe the Conservatives are the truthful ones here, admitting that there's little Ottawa or Quebec City can do about the rural areas (without a major pivot to their problems, away from concerns for the urban areas and the corporate economy -- but the rural zones don't have the population numbers to justify such a priority-shift).

This seems a problem right across Canada, and any Canada-wide (or Quebec-wide) problem ought to be worth the politicians' attention, especially when there appears to be a long-term solution right at our doorstep: immigrants.

Struggling rural towns need population, private investment, fresh ideas, new energies, new blood. We need new skills -- and new markets. Immigration seems a no-brainer here, since migrants come in all sizes, ages, skills, and experience. They appear to have great work ethics and a willingness to take risks (look what they've just gone through). Migrants could bring to our towns both the skills, investment, and entrepreneurship -- and the markets -- we need.

So our own task is two-fold: we have to get over old fears that migrants will take jobs away from residents or will bring cultural practises and beliefs which run counter to our national beliefs. First, there aren't jobs for them to take. They will bring jobs, by creating them. They do, in fact, hire local people.

The issue of cultural accommodation is a difficult one, especially in Quebec. It's one that requires good will, as well as intelligence and patience. It won't be solved in a day (or in an editorial). What's necessary first is a will to reach a compromise.

The real problem is how to keep new citizens in small towns. It seems, understandably, that they gravitate toward their own populations with their own churches, schools, and cultural organizations. Certainly, any hostility toward them will encourage their departure; of course, we don't want to compromise our own beliefs and practises. But couldn't we do more in terms of welcoming them?

Many towns have done so -- banding together to provide homes, language instruction, orientation, and so forth. Our towns are full of vacant homes! Our commercial and industrial areas are vacant. Rural schools are closing for want of pupils. These facilities are waiting for migrants! There's no one else.

So isn't it time for governments, especially municipal and MRC levels, to clearly lay out this problem and seek solutions and plans to accommodate these saviours of our rural economies, schools -- and our own futures?


Copyright © 2016 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/11.16