“We do”, according to the panellist of a public forum held at Okanagan College in Salmon Arm sponsored by the Shuswap Inclusion Project to eliminate racism and hate and funded by EmbraceBC.
Dr. Chris Clarkson, chair of Okanagan College history department, presented an overview of Canada’s history of immigration. He documented how changing immigration policy has always been customized to suit Canada’s changing needs. First there was the importation of thousands of Chinese workers to help build the national railway costing numerous lives. Chinese immigration was prohibited the year the railway was completed. Then there was the western settlement initiative targeted at attracting European and American settlers. Legislation allowing only for immigrants who came by way of a continuous voyage was implemented to keep out British subject from Asia. Meanwhile legislation allowing for individual not suited for the climate was used to bar African Americans and others. While the current point system is more transparent and subject to being challenged, the emphasis on skilled workers and investors continues to promote a policy that is focused on Canada’s needs over that of potential immigrants.
Tina Marten, graduate sociology student from UBCO, focused on recent immigration to British Columbia. Since 2006, two thirds of BC immigrants were selected for their skills and ability to contribute. This is part of a continuing trend. Family class and refugees admitted reduced by 14.3% in 2010. Overall 66% come from Asia, 13% from Europe, 10% from Africa and the Middle East. 70% of new immigrants could speak English. Of those arriving, 79% were of working age, 55% had a university degree, and 22% has other forms of training. Marten maintained that Canada needs immigration because of our aging population and shrinking birth rate. This need is even greater in areas like the Okanagan-Shuswap where young professionals are being lured away to metropolitan areas.
Bernie Desrosiers, of Shuswap Settlement Services, concurred with Marten’s labour needs assessment but added that immigration also contributes to the health of the other three generators of economic wealth, land, capital and entrepreneurship. Whereas Canada’s resource property is fixed, it knowledge property is subject to change. Nearly one third of the scientist engaged in research and development in Canadian universities were born abroad. Many of these discoveries allow for innovations that make previously uneconomical business ventures profitable. Furthermore, investment immigrants bring with them considerable sums of money that funds the start of new businesses and enhances consumer demand creating an expansionist economy. Finally, immigrants bring with them different ways of doing things which, when combined with that of other cultures, creates an entrepreneurial culture that is dynamic and innovative.