By Alex Sangha
With the exception of the Indigenous peoples, everyone is an immigrant to Canada. In our increasingly global world where people are becoming more and more interdependent, a diverse and inclusive society can be a strategic advantage. Below are the top ten ways Canada can embrace and nurture its immigrant population to enhance the quality of life of all Canadians through a stronger economy, increased jobs and opportunities, and greater intercultural understanding and peace.
- Languages – Canadians can be encouraged to learn more of the world’s major languages. Most Canadians only speak 1 or 2 languages. In Europe and India, many people speak 3 or 4 languages or more. The more multilingual Canadians are, the more globally competitive we will be in all areas including diplomacy, commerce, and entertainment.
- RECOMMENDATION – For the federal government to preserve Indigenous languages and for the provinces and territories to make the top three most widely spoken languages in their jurisdiction an official language.
- University Exchange Programs – The best way to learn about other parts of the world is to travel there and meet other people living in those countries. A great way for Canadians to form lifelong connections is through increased university exchange programs where students come to Canada and Canadians study abroad to share our culture with the world.
- RECOMMENDATION – For Canadian universities to recognize reputable and equivalent undergraduate and graduate degree programs around the world AND for the federal government to fully fund university exchange programs via mutual exchange funding agreements with other countries.
- Fair Trade Agreements – Immigrants in Canada should be encouraged to trade with their home countries and share their business knowledge and enterprises in Canada to create jobs and opportunities in both countries.
- RECOMMENDATION – For the federal government to help set up professional trade associations linked to major world economies where immigrants from those countries can network, facilitate trade, and gather the market information and international expertise they need to conduct business in both countries.
- Increase Skilled Immigration – The more skilled immigrants and researchers Canada has the better to ensure Canadians are at the forefront of technological advancements and improvements to our quality of life.
- RECOMMENDATION – That Canada actively recruits skilled immigrants and researchers all over the world by setting up a fast track immigration application process in embassies and consulates in major cities all over the world.
- Sustainable Development and Investment – Providing foreign aid in the form of “no strings attached” sustainable development and direct investment in foreign countries is a great way to develop new trading partners and secure new markets for Canadian companies. In doing so, Canada will also be developing allies and supporters around the world.
- RECOMMENDATION – For Canada to increase foreign aid and direct investment to help build a beachhead in countries around the world where Canadians would be welcome to visit, trade, and share our expertise in all areas. It is also morally the right thing to do.
- Credential Recognition – Not only does Canada need to start recognizing foreign credentials, but it also needs to make sure other provinces and territories recognize each other’s educational qualifications.
- RECOMMENDATION – For professional colleges and associations in Canada to recognize the credentials and educational qualifications of other provinces and territories AND for Canada to start recognizing credentials from other OECD advanced member states for starters.
- Settlement Programs – Immigrants work hard and contribute to the economy in the long term. In the short term, they may need some support to give them a boost.
- RECOMMENDATION – For Canada to increase spending on official language courses, education, training, and social support services for immigrants who are new to the country.
- Environmental Protection – We are one world and need to protect our planet from pollution and environmental disaster. Canada can work with environmental researchers from all over the world to solve our environmental problems.
- RECOMMENDATION – For Canada to develop a major research hub where the top environmental researchers from around the world search and develop solutions to our environmental problems.
- Human Rights and Refugees – Canada is a huge country with a relatively modest population. Canada can take in many more refugees. It can also advocate for the human rights of oppressed people everywhere. This will give Canada increased legitimacy and integrity and build goodwill.
- RECOMMENDATION – For Canada to dramatically increase its refugee intake and to admit people who are escaping persecution, war, and oppression everywhere including LGBTQ people at risk of death in their home countries.
- Diversity and Inclusion – No point increasing immigration if immigrants cannot reach the highest levels in Canada and have an equal voice and equitable representation. Immigrants need to have the ability and capacity to reach their potential.
- RECOMMENDATION – That the federal government establish a Department of Diversity and Inclusion that would ensure that all government bodies and institutions in the country are representative of the people of Canada.
And there you have it! My top ten ways Canada can enhance its strategic position as a land of immigrants. With all the anti-immigrant sentiment going on it the USA and even in Canada nowadays, I thought it would be refreshing to hear how immigrants can and do benefit Canada and Canadians.
Alex Sangha is a social worker and counsellor based in Delta, BC. His family is from India and he was born in England and raised in Canada. Alex is the recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada.