Dr. Alwin Spence

Some of the more interesting stories that one could listen to are those of immigrants. Many claim to have arrived here in Canada with absolutely nothing but the clothes on their backs. “Now look on us, from nothing to something.”
These success stories tell a lot. A win-win situation for Canada and the immigrant, and by extension the birth country. Returning benevolence, especially for many Third World countries, may rank high in that country’s GNI (Gross National Income).
Since the advent of easy transportation, people can go everywhere. Why do people leave their own birth country to settle temporarily or permanently in another?
The answer could be one of several reasons: to find employment, to study to improve educational credentials, to acquire a skill or trade, and often for the purposes of physical safety. People travel to places they believe will provide such opportunities. Canada does provide answers to these needs.

Immigration is a two-way street

A closer look at immigration allows us to compare it to a two-way street, where the immigrant contributes and receives, while the selected country also contributes and receives.
Recently, it was announced that an immigrant who arrived in Canada forty years ago and who received Canada’s hospitality, education and the opportunity to work, donated $15 million to her alma mater – Concordia University. Such an act benefits everyone. While this is not a typical example of an immigrant giving back, the formula is the same – so you receive, so you give in return.
Those who are negative in their view of immigrants and immigration are blind in one eye, unable to see the true contribution of the immigrant, but only what the immigrant takes. Let’s face it, the average immigrant comes with an obligation, not only to find work and take care of him/herself, but also to help family and relatives in his/her birth country.
These family members are often in desperate circumstances and need to benefit from what is often a minimum salary that this one person must share. Immigrants do take this responsibility very seriously and seek to endeavour to carry it out. So the new immigrant will work 24/7 to make ends meet not only for him/herself, but also for the extended family. Poverty often draws people closer and teaches people to share what little they have.
So who would wash the pots and pans in the restaurants, care for the children, pick the fruit and do other work on the farms? Who would drive the taxis, shuttling you from place to place? Who would take care of the babies, clean the houses, repair the shoes and work in the factories? Who would keep the bagel shops open 24/7, manually kneading the dough?
Who would do the many menial jobs in the hospitals and other service institutions? The answer is mostly immigrants. They serve in jobs that are low paying, often seasonal and part-time.
Most immigrants start employment at this base level. Oftentimes these menial jobs serve as a mere stepping stone for many who are also concurrently working and filling academic requirements in high schools, colleges and universities to upgrade their qualifications.
At times, even qualified medical doctors will drive taxis before they are accepted, if ever, to practice in their studied profession.
Success is the drawing force for the immigrant, as one is not expected to fail after leaving his/her country of origin for a better life in a new chosen place. So the boarding of planes, the soaring into the sky must be continued.

The student as immigrant

For most people, it was the intention to study and then return home to make his/her contribution to his/her birth home. Seldom is this dream carried out and often after graduation, or after becoming qualified, the student will seek employment here and make his/her contribution to this newly adopted country, now called home, often leaving aside the birth county.
There are other immigrants who, because of the ability to invest and possibly to provide employment for others, are often welcomed. There are also technicians and professionals who come and immediately begin to contribute to the country’s tax-base.
It is unfortunate that in spite of the urgent need for immigrants, that Quebec’s new government is planning to drastically reduce its immigrant levels by 10,000 per year. Instead of increasing this limit, it is introducing more stringent criteria, making it more and more difficult for some would-be immigrants to come here. Furthermore, many already established in Quebec will be faced with the hard decisions about whether or not to stay. Why should wearing a simple cross or hijab determine my suitability as a teacher.
At this time, in this very place where these laws are made, a cross is prominently displayed as the symbol of our heritage. Isn’t it ironic that as we witness the waning of social ills such as homophobia, and as a society we are beginning to respect differences, this new government is taking us backward and threatening to disrespect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which protects the minority from the majority. At times, I wonder what is the role of racism, prejudice and discrimination in these decisions.
Canadians in general will benefit from the exchange of the rich cultures immigrants bring. Without this exposure, human growth might be very narrow and myopic. Fortunately for Canadians, with immigration we all can have the opportunity for multi-cultural learning and exchange.
And after all, with the exception of the Indigenous peoples, are we not all immigrants or the sons and daughters of immigrants? New immigrants are no worse than those who came long ago. The evidence shows overwhelmingly that immigration leads to success, and this cannot be denied. So remove the roadblocks, increase immigration. Quebec will be a prime beneficiary.
By the way, the writer is also an immigrant who was helped by bursaries and scholarships. He has shared his knowledge for over forty years, teaching at colleges and universities. The students who have passed through his hands are today well placed in their lives. A win-win outcome for all, country and immigrants. Isn’t the Canadian mosaic for real?
Can we not all share in the food, talents and ability, dance, music, dress and folklore of the new immigrant? As a country, we can gain so much.

Dr. Alwin Spence is a retired professor and a Canadian by choice.