Overcoming the fear of difference

Canada needs immigrants if we wish to sustain pensions and social programs until death do us part. Without a continual and sustained increase in immigration, it is projected by 2035 there would be only two workers for every retiree. You don’t have to be a mathematician to figure out how that would work.
Population growth through immigration is the primary driver of economic growth in Canada. Without immigration, our economy would be contracting and those GDP numbers that economists love to quote would be declining along with our standard of living.
Most concerning is the argument that ‘immigrants are taking our jobs’. Immigrants are not the reason why workers are losing jobs after decades of employment in well-paid industrial and manufacturing jobs. Nor does immigration cause retail workers to lose their formerly secure positions. These jobs have disappeared because of automation, outsourcing and on-line shopping.
Job loss by Canadians in traditional occupations and immigration are mutually exclusive. Immigrants are often doing those jobs we consider beneath us or have the much-sought-after skills in high-tech that we can’t fill from within.
Governments and Opposition parties need to jointly address the real economic and household crisis for those 40-, 50- and 60-year old low- and semi-skilled workers whose jobs have disappeared. Through no fault of theirs, this group of workers have been victimized by globalization and technology and must not be ignored by government.
Then there are some Canadians who believe they, their children and their grandchildren can sustain this current lifestyle and yet keep a predominately white society. Of course, mathematically that is impossible. You can’t grow the economy without immigrants and most whites are in countries with few reasons to leave.
The major issue is overcoming the fear of difference. The best way to do that is to get to know those who are different. You will learn that those who look or dress or believe differently aren’t that different at all. As parents they, too, want to provide a better life for their children than what they had.
I understand the fear if all you know about immigrants is what you’ve seen on television or read on-line, but that is inadequate compared to personal contact. I have been privileged. In Edmonton we attended a church that was 30 per cent foreign born many of whom were our close friends. We were often the “token white guys” enjoying delicious ethnic foods.
In Red Deer the majority of my working day consists of interactions with immigrants and refugees—oh so polite! My friendship with a Muslim lady started because we shared the grief of both unexpectedly losing our beloved husbands.
I am privileged to know a Muslim refugee family, a mom and five children. After seven years in Canada, the mother has constantly worked those jobs we don’t want, and in school her children are athletically and academically at the top. To augment the family income, the kids deliver newspapers and when old enough, work at fast foods restaurants.
My biggest fear for Canada is not immigration but politicians who work to divide rather than move towards mutual understanding.
Those in elected office who stir up fear of Muslims and immigrants for the sole purpose of furthering their political career are the ones to be feared, not a woman in a hijab or an RCMP officer in a turban!

by B.P Schimke


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