The ratio of working-age Canadians to seniors was narrowing, and the inevitable outcome would be a shrunken tax base and acute labour shortages. Over the next decade, a million jobs risk going unfilled. And yet, only around one in 10 Canadians agrees that Canada currently admits too few immigrants. The annual (and sometimes multi-year) public consultations held by the Federal Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration on levels of newcomers do not seem to have yielded much success in changing this attitude.
Due to the heated political atmosphere from which the initial promise emerged, with Trudeau's Liberals keen to position themselves in stark contrast to Harper's Conservatives, I feel that the massive attention this has garnered from both sides -- both of acclaim and censure -- has been greatly exaggerated. With all the rhetoric from proponents and opponents, we forget that this is a simple act of charity.
It happens every four years.The United States holds a presidential election -- and many of its citizens claim they will move to Canada if one of the contenders is elected. This year, with the advent of people like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz on the right (and Democrats Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton on the left), these mutterings have become increasingly louder.
Differences are what enrich our lives and make Toronto the fabulous, unique, successful city it is. Xenophobia (a fear or hatred of strangers and foreigners) has no place in a city built upon these differences. It threatens the very core of who we as Torontonians are. It is also what motivated the horrific and unacceptable attack in which a woman was beaten and robbed by two young men. They tore off her hijab and told her to "Go back to your country."
I acknowledge that good, well-meaning people who genuinely care about Syrian refugees can have perfectly valid concerns about the security risk of bringing in tens of thousands of people from a war zone. It is as large an undertaking as it sounds. So, in light of Canadian political leaders playing on Canadians' concerns to spread fear and disinformation, I decided to research how Canada screens, accepts and settles Syrian refugees. It is my hope we can dispel fear and confusion with facts, reason and compassion.
Those who were indifferent before the Paris attacks are now outspoken critics of Prime Minister Trudeau's commitment to accept 25,000 refugees and bring our CF-18's home. Some of the comments I have seen are downright vitriolic. It has been suggested to me by a number of people that we re-consider reminding people at this time that we're sponsoring a refugee family. It might be bad for business and could alienate more than a few friends. I find it incredibly sad that the current state of affairs is such that I have even faint concerns about a backlash for my desire to help those in need. I certainly won't let it deter me.
It has been said that being chosen to come to Canada as one of the 25,000 Syrian refugees the Liberals have pledged to take in by the year's end is akin to winning the lottery. We are incredibly blessed to live in this extraordinary country, to put our children to bed with full bellies, to send them to school, to take them to a doctor when they are ill and to feel safe in our homes and our streets. And now we are also fortunate to be able to share some of those blessings with those in dire need.
With the defeat of the New Democratic Party last month, it's clear that the Canadian left must adjust their strategy. Part of this new strategy needs to support the development of progressive, grassroots immigrant power to counter the presence of more conservative and moderate elements within these communities.
While we may find that there are some dangerous strangers, to decide that we should make negative assumptions about everyone we do not know is downright foolish. It is time to go back to celebrating the fact that our Canada is a welcoming and tolerant country in which we raise our children to respect and include all of us.
We've figured out a simple truth: we're in this together. Our neighbour's strength is our strength; the success of any one of us is the success of every one of us. But this is incredibly fragile. It must be protected always from the voices of intolerance, divisiveness, small-mindedness, and hatred. It's the right thing to do.
What is most telling is that even given the divisive and downright xenophobic campaign the Conservatives have run thus far, they are still within striking distance to form government. This carefully crafted U.S.-style Republican narrative has set Canada on an extremely dangerous course, and one that only Canadian voters can steer back to the right path. From "old stock Canadians" deserving of greater government benefits, to the ridiculous niqab debate, to the absurd hotline dedicated to reporting "culturally barbaric" practices, the Conservatives are pulling no punches in their quest to mobilize their voter base.
Be aware that, in our midst, a group of Canadian citizens are being dehumanized. History has shown us over and over again that this leads to oppression, hatred, and violence. Move past your knee-jerk reaction of protectionism. Don't be fooled by rhetoric. Understand that to that Muslim woman wearing the niqab, not being able to choose what she wears is oppression, even if it makes you personally uncomfortable.
Aside from the ludicrous notion that anyone other than Canada's Native population is truly "old-stock Canadians," there is a certain divisive, chamber-pot snobbery to the term. It's not a celebration of "lineage," it's a wedge. It has no use other than to separate the speaker from others. Without even having to wonder why it was never used in our house, I know that my parents would have considered it vulgar. We are all "old-stock" Canadians, no matter where we're from, or how recently we've arrived.
There are a range of reasons people have asked me about my background and reasons I'm curious about yours. Maybe I've traveled to your country of heritage and would like to share my experience; I'd like to visit one day and would welcome your insights. We shouldn't have to pretend not to see skin colour, hear accents, or recognize features. No, we're not all the same -- but why is that the goal?