James Bisset on immigration

Too many immigrants?

Chinese in Vancouver
The following Vancouver Sun article is written by James Bissett, former Canadian Ambassador to Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Albania, and High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago. He’s also a member of the right-wing think tank the Canadian Centre for Policy Studies. (In another bio that I found, Bissett was described as follows: “He spent 37 years as a Canadian Public Servant in the Department of Citizenship and Immigration and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed head of the Immigration Foreign Service in 1974 and became Assistant Under-Secretary of State for Social Affairs in 1980. In the early ’70s he served at the Canadian High Commission in London England.”)

In another recent paper published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Studies titled “Domography is Destiny“, Bissett argues that Canada should limit the number of immigrants coming in every year. He also believes that Canada should be able to choose immigrants according to job market demands rather than accepting all immigration applicants who are qualified under the current system. His point-of-view reminds me of the fundamental idea of the recent Tory effort (Bill C-50) to give the minister of immigration almost absolute power to choose who should be allowed to immigrate to Canada.

Bissett went a step further in his paper suggesting that future immigrants should be checked on whether they share similar cultural belief and values of Canada:

In addition to medical, criminal and security checks, prospective immigrants should be interviewed to determine if they hold strong beliefs that make would make it difficult for them to adjust to life in Canada and embrace our basic values such as the rule of law, freedom of speech and religion, separation of church and state, tolerance of others, equality of women, etc. Those who cannot live by these standards should not be accepted. It is wrong to bring to Canada people we suspect will not adjust or integrate into our society.

We all understand there’s a wish among some Canadians – Conservative or not – that the world would be perfect if Canada accepted more whites than immigrants of colour. Since it’s politically incorrect to publicly admitting to this wish, Bissett and alike turn to suggest “picking people with similar culture” as immigration criteria. But the meaning behind this is clear … that European and American share more “similar culture as ours” than non-whites.

Bissett argues that immigrants don’t bring much economic value to Canada, but they pose great pressure on our welfare net. People like Bissett and Lee Richardson think immigrants other than whites are prone to be poor, “don’t have the same respect for authority or people’s person or property” and that immigrant groups are “special interest groups”.

I don’t like arguments like these. But I have to realize that these views are picking up steam in the Canadian society, especially the mainstream media seem to be siding with such views (For instance, the Lee Richardson story was no where to be found in the main newscasts of CTV and Global TV). As an immigrant of colour who loves Canada more than anywhere else in the world, I feel very uneasy.

I would like to invite readers’ input into this sensitive topic.

BTW, thanks Expat HK Boy for alerting me to the following article.

The truth about immigration is that costs exceed benefits

James Bissett, Special to the Sun

Monday, September 29, 2008

We sometimes complain about politicians who don’t do what they promise to do after they get elected. Ironically, it is sometimes much better for the country when some of these promises are broken.

Let’s hope, for example, that the promises made by our political leaders to raise immigration levels and provide more money for immigrant organizations are not kept. Either our political leaders do not know that Canada is facing an immigration crisis or they care more about gaining a few more so-called “ethnic voters” than they do about telling the truth about immigration.

Canada is taking far too many immigrants and the leaders of all the parties are promising to take even more. There are already close to a million immigrants waiting in the backlog to come here. They have all met the requirements and by law must be admitted. There is also a backlog of 62,000 asylum seekers before the refugee board and even if these are not found to be genuine refugees most will be allowed to stay. In addition, there are between 150,000 and 200,000 temporary workers now in the country and here again it is unlikely many of them will ever go home.

Despite these extraordinary numbers, the Harper government wants to raise the immigration intake next year to 265,000. The Liberals and the New Democrats have said they want even more, as much as one per cent of our population, or 333,000 each year.

These are enormous numbers and even in the best of times would place a serious burden on the economy and on the already strained infrastructure of the three major urban centres where most of them would end up. Let’s face the facts — when there is a downturn in the world economy and dire predictions of serious recession or worse this is not the time to be bringing thousands of newcomers to Canada. In July of this year, Ontario alone lost 55,000 jobs. So what is the rationale for more immigration? The fact is there is no valid rationale. There is only one reason why our political parties push for high immigration intake and that is they see every new immigrant as a potential vote for their party. This is not only irresponsible it borders on culpable negligence.

There are few economists today who argue that immigration helps the economy in any significant way. Studies in Canada since the mid-1980s have pointed out that immigration has little impact on the economic welfare of the receiving country and similar studies in the United States and Britain have reached the same conclusion. Comprehensive studies by George Borjas, the world’s most renowned immigration economist at Harvard University have shown that immigration’s only significant impact is to reduce the wages of native workers.

Our politicians justify their desire for more immigrants by raising the spectre of an aging population and telling us immigration is the only answer to this dilemma, and yet there is not a shred of truth to this argument. Immigration does not provide the answer to population aging and there is a multiplicity of studies done in Canada and elsewhere that proves this. Moreover, there is no evidence that a larger labour force necessarily leads to economic progress. Many countries whose labour force is shrinking are still enjoying economic buoyancy. Finland, Switzerland and Japan are only a few examples of countries that do not rely on massive immigration to succeed. Productivity is the answer to economic success not a larger population.

Most Canadians assume that our immigrants are selected because they have skills, training and education that will enable them to enhance our labour force but only about 18 to 20 per cent of our immigrants are selected for economic factors. By far the bulk of the immigrants we receive come here because they are sponsored by relatives or because of so-called humanitarian reasons and none of these have to meet the “points system” of selection. This is why over 50 per cent of recent immigrants are living below the poverty line and why they are not earning nearly the wages paid to equivalent Canadian workers.

It also explains why a study published this year by professor Herbert Grubel of Simon Fraser University revealed that the 2.5 million immigrants who came to Canada between 1990 and 2002 received $18.3 billion more in government services and benefits in 2002 than they paid in taxes. As Prof. Grubel points out, this amount is more than the federal government spent on health care and twice what was spent on defence in the fiscal year 2000/2001. Isn’t it time our party leaders were made aware of this study?

In the discussions about immigration we never hear from our political leaders about the serious environmental problems caused by the addition of over a quarter of a million immigrants each year. Most of our immigrants are coming from developing countries of Asia where their “ecological footprint” is tiny compared to the average Canadian but within months of arrival here, the immigrant’s footprint has increased to our giant size. We have already experienced the impact mass migration has had on the health, education, traffic, social services and crime rates of our three major urban centres. It may be that cutting the immigration flow in half would do more than any gas tax to help reduce our environmental pollution.

If immigration is to be an issue in the election campaign, then let us insist that the real issues be discussed and that our politicians contribute more to the debate than promising higher levels and more money to immigrant groups.

Canadians and immigrants deserve better.

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1 Response

  1. Drucill says:

    We must receive and serve our scribbler very well. How many producer are there in the family?

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