Log Cabin Chronicles


Who gets to immigrate
to Canada?


lucienne Robillard, the Westmount member of Parliament who serves as federal Immigration Minister, is sitting on a powder keg of an issue regarding the future immigration of people to Canada.

Robillard recently finished criss-crossing the country, holding public hearings to get a feel for public reaction to a recent report from a federal government-appointed panel that advocates an overhaul of the current immigration system. Reaction has been swift in condemning both the report and the consultation process itself.

Three of the most contentious recommendations of the 172 made in the report were requirements that immigrants be fluent in either English or French, have at least two years of post-secondary education, and be between 21 and 45 years old. There are numerous countries, like China and India, where potential immigrants would face serious challenges meeting the language requirements. Those challenges would increase if their education ended before university.

By accepting people from such a narrow age range, the Canadian government would be preventing many people from bringing their parents to Canada after they had become established here. There are many Quebecers of Greek, Italian, Jewish, and British heritage who would have been mighty distressed at what the government is trying to do now if it had occurred earlier this century.

The fact is, countries like the United States and Canada have a good standard of living today because of their immigrants, of which we all are, either directly or by descent, save for people of native origin. Westmount would never have existed were it not for the British and Scottish businessmen who built homes and enterprises in Montreal in the 1800s. Montreal's Jewish community, long a leader in the city's cultural and business life, owes its predominance to the hardy immigrants who deserted eastern Europe for a better life in North America beginning more than 100 years ago.

Canada's heralded multi-culturalism, where we can be French-Canadian, Asian-Canadian or any other hyphenated Canadian, allows us to partake in the Canadian identity while holding on to a heritage which makes us all distinct (in the best sense of the word).

To her credit, Robillard has said she has some reservations about some of these recommendations. Judging by what the public at large, and especially the cultural communities have said about the panel's suggestions, Robillard would do well to revise the report. It should give the impression of a well-thought-out plan rather than the first draft of an immigration policy paper of the Reform Party, which has been widely vilified in the press for the thinly-veiled racist opinions of some of its sitting MPs, a brush stroke Robillard and the Liberals would rather not be painted with.

Robillard, in fact, has promised to hold more public hearings after changes to the legislation are introduced. Those hearings will hopefully include the Chinese community, who were not one of the 21 organizations allowed to speak at the hearings held in Montreal last week.

It's hard to justify why the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Montreal was allowed to voice its opinion but the a group representing the most populated country in the world was not. This is proof of the power, even if somewhat muted, the Catholic church still wields in La Belle Province.

Anyone who has an opinion on the federal government's immigration policy should call Immigration Minister Lucienne Robillard at 283-2013 and let her know what it is. After all, if not for immigrants, we wouldn't be Canadians living in the greatest country in the world.

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Copyright © 1998 Leo Gervais/Log Cabin Chronicles/3.98