Madam Speaker, I am raising an issue today in our adjournment proceedings that I originally raised on November 2 during question period. I am thankful for the opportunity to address something I know Canadians take great pride in, which is the fact that we are a terre d’accueil, and that immigration is a Canadian tradition.
Let us not forget that most of us are immigrants on this land, and that through the years, multiculturalism has become one of our shared values as a nation. It contributes directly to the enrichment and growth of our communities from coast to coast to coast.
Throughout all of human history, people have been on the move. Many migrate out of necessity to escape persecution or devastation. Others migrate out of choice in search of economic opportunities in the hope of a better future for them and their families.
Last month, the minister announced the ambitious immigration levels plan for 2021-23, envisioning the highest levels of immigration in Canada’s history. This plan focuses on welcoming the majority of immigrants under economic class programs.
Of course, the emphasis on economic migration is nothing new. Economic growth, demographic considerations and labour market needs have defined Canada’s immigration policies for many decades now. However, is this approach working?
The intense focus on economic class immigration pathways implicitly ignores and undervalues the economic contribution made by newcomers to Canada from other immigration classes and ignores the many other ways these individuals bring value to our communities.
Canadians take pride in our hospitality and support immigration for its positive economic benefits and for the benefits of multiculturalism. Newcomers make numerous cultural, social and interpersonal contributions, in addition to or in lieu of economic ones.
I asked the minister whether he felt that a 4.4% target for francophone immigration outside Quebec was adequate to have an impact on the vitality of official languages, because I suspect that it is not. When we talk about the vitality of something other than the economy when it comes to immigration, why do we always make such insignificant commitments?
During the last months, as our borders were closed for the first time in generations, we were forced to realize how dependent we are on the contributions of newcomers to Canada from all around the world to make our communities work. “Essential workers” became a household term, referring largely to the marginalized, underpaid caregiving and food production workers.
Immigrants and newcomers are at the core of these sectors and they face many hardships and barriers. Temporary migrant workers, essential to maintain our food security, lack services, legal protections and easy pathways to immigration. The immigrant women who work in the long-term care sector put their own health at risk to provide care to elders while waiting interminably for their immigration applications to be processed. As months go by, more and more of them are living on implied status waiting for a work visa renewal, exempting them from receiving provincial medicare coverage in a pandemic.
The nurses in my home province were deliberately recruited for their skills and are still not able to have their expertise recognized. We promised them a bright future only to abandon them once they were here to face underemployment or unemployment.
Today, I want to ask the parliamentary secretary if we care whether or not a newcomer will be able to contribute to our society at a human level. Do we care if they will have the community support necessary to ensure their personal success and well-being? Are we trading our humanity in the name of economic growth?