There has been a remarkable consensus on immigration in Canada since the end of the Second World War, with governments and political parties of all stripes welcoming newcomers and the economic prosperity and vitality they bring to our country.
As I knock on doors and engage with our neighbours across Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound in preparation for the federal election this October, I’m very aware that this long-standing consensus is under stress, if not attack.
At a time when misinformation, fear-mongering, and even race-baiting about immigration are too easily spread by dishonest actors, the people of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound have a right to know the facts, and assess them for themselves.
Perhaps you’ve read or heard about those political billboards recently that attempted to scare up public fears about “mass immigration”?
Here’s the truth: Canada, a country with a population of more than 36 million, welcomed some 286,000 permanent residents in 2017, including 44,000 refugees.
Is that enough, too many, or too few?
Consider that in 1910, when Canada’s entire population stood at around seven million people, we welcomed 286,839 immigrants to this country. In 1913, Canada took in more than 400,000 newcomers.
My roots on my mom’s side are in the Irish Block, just east of Owen Sound - so named for immigrants and refugees who helped make Grey County a thriving agricultural producer in the early decades of the last century.
From 1901 to 1921, Canada welcomed well over three million immigrants, according to census records, boosting our country’s population to 8.7 million in 1921. Another 1.2 million newcomers to Canada would arrive during the 1920s.
Immigrants and their descendants have made immeasurable contributions to Canada, and to Bruce and Grey counties.
The Conference Board of Canada estimated in May 2018 that by 2030, “immigration will account for over one-third of Canada’s annual real GDP growth.”
Our future success depends on our continuing to ensure newcomers are welcomed and well-integrated. Casting this as “mass immigration” is simply false.
The 2016 census counted 107,680 residents of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, an increase of just 1.1 percent over the previous five years.
Not only is our population not growing, it’s ageing. Almost a quarter of our riding’s population is older than 65.
A total of 350 newcomers to Canada made Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound their home over the five-year period from 2011-2016. Ninety-five came from the United States, 40 from India, 35 Syria, and 15 each from China and Romania. This is NOT mass immigration.
In fact, as we face new economic challenges, such as an ageing population and declining birth rate, immigrants have helped by contributing to Canada’s labour-force growth.
It wasn’t long ago that all political parties in Canada recognized the value of immigration. Our country was built on it. Let’s not allow it to become a wedge issue to drive partisan political interests.
Talk to your neighbours. Share these facts. Let’s all move forward together.
Michael Den Tandt, federal Liberal candidate for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound