By Vancouver Sun |
Canada, like the United States, is an immigrant nation, with waves of newcomers predating Confederation and many millions more arriving in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Indigenous Peoples probably came first, over the land bridge from Asia, followed millennia later by fishermen and fur traders from today’s northern Europe.
After 1845, many immigrants came from the Irish potato famine and its aftermath; farmers from today’s Britain and Ukraine began arriving in the 1880s. Myriad families from numerous nations devastated by the Second World War chose Canada. Hungarians were welcomed after their 1956 uprising against the Soviet Union, with Vietnamese joining us often from boats after the fall of Saigon in 1975. Ugandans expelled by Idi Amin arrived between 1972 and 1974 and many Syrians came in 2015.
Two former governors general and the current immigration minister came as refugees respectively from Hong Kong, Haiti and Somalia.
Conspicuous and humiliating exceptions to this admirable record occurred in 1914 when 376 passengers arriving from India on the Komagata Maru were not permitted to disembark in Vancouver, and in 1939 when the St. Louis was refused permission in Halifax harbour to unload 900 Jewish refugees from Hitler’s Holocaust.
Public opinion surveys have long indicated majority support across Canada for continuing high levels of immigration – no doubt based on pride in diversity and a well-substantiated view that newcomers enrich our national life enormously, boost our economy and replace an aging population with young families. Understandably, they also show that many Canadians of all ages and backgrounds oppose admitting or re-patriating persons brainwashed into committing violence outside Canada by ISIL or other terrorist organizations.
With refugees around the world today at an all-time high, exceeding 50 million, it is important for all to respond to the horrors faced by most displaced families in their own or in other lands, especially in the Middle East, or suffering from bombings or starvation in Yemen and elsewhere.
Human dignity advocates, such as Amal Clooney and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize co-winner Nadia Murad, a Yazidi enslaved for a period by ISIL, continue to attract attention and interventions by responsible governments and persons.
Some Canadians judge that Canada has done its fair share for now in accepting refugees.
For many years, successive federal governments of differing political stripes have favoured independent immigrant applicants with high educational and work skill judged useful to our evolving economy. Most would-be immigrants apply under national or provincial assessment criteria, which require them to obtain 67 of 100 points in six categories: work experience, age, languages, education, arranged employment and adaptability. In recent years, it has become easier to obtain immigrant status for Quebec, which sets its own immigration policies, for most occupational groups than for Canada as a whole.