22 August 2010

Immigrants and refugees - and Canadians: cultural norms, health care and employment

Revised July, 2012

On the individual level, people from other countries can be lovely people, but what about our attitudes towards them in general, we - as self-perceived true Canadians, and what do they think of us and being in Canada? Furthermore, is it being foreign that matters, or is what matters what such travellers bring with them when they come - money, resources, access to culture in foreign lands, or important connections. Are foreigners disliked because we don't understand their culture or their goals in coming here, or are they disliked because they are strangers, a burden on our medical and employment systems, or just because they are different.

Ratna Omidvar claims that "While recent immigrants are more highly educated than previous cohorts and the Canadian-born, they earn lower wages and have more difficulties entering the labour market in the first place" (Immigrants want success now, 2010). I first became aware of this problem on the job at Western’s career centre, while a student. I spoke to immigrants who were waiting to earn accreditation in courses or exams that would raise them to the level of Canadians in the same profession, a really unfair situation, it seemed to me, with no easy solution at hand. Now I see things differently, having been unable to get the support I needed to follow through on a career, or even to complete my education the way I would have wanted.

Even Canadian university grads often have a hard time finding decent work, as opportunities so often depend on one’s family background and social network. If an immigrant can manage to enter Canada, through marriage or association with friends already here, or through having the kind of reputation that would do them good here, they can get a head start on a career. But to assume that any Canadian who has any ability at all will automatically find work is to ignore the politics of the workplace.

Nowhere is this more obvious, to those willing to open their minds, than in the experience of Marc Lépine, who was excluded from university as feminists opened up male-dominated fields of education – and the careers that followed - to women (Remembering tragedies of today, 2008). Whether he had merit or not, or the ability to complete the engineering program, is no longer the issue I once thought it was, as it takes something other than merit for a man or women to be accepted into program of higher learning and to get to complete it. Anyone who attempts to use Marc Lépine’s supposed lack of ability to do the work is indeed misguided, (and that’s giving them the benefit of the doubt).

One commenter said on Aug 20, 2010, in the comments’ section following Kelly McParland’s article (Poll shows Canadians are nasty, 2010), "Canadians are welcome to those that can come here and look after themselves and contribute. We're not and never have been welcoming to those that want to sit on our system costing us even more money."

But it’s not just immigrants who get accused of shirking their duty, being lazy, or not trying hard enough. Having to listen to the privileged in society, who got their careers going through people they knew or married or had relations with, or who their parents were, can be annoying. I know from my own experience, of being treated well and getting jobs I felt I deserved, and then later on in my life of not getting anything at all, despite the knowledge and ability I had acquired, that getting the job often has little to do with merit. There are dozens or even hundreds of qualified applicants for any decent job nowadays, but it takes something extra if one is going to be the person who gets it.

George Jonas uses four categories of immigrants: "gold digger," "exile," "homesteader" and "conquistador," which focus on the reasons they come here, or their expectations (Scenes from a Canadian gold mine, 2010). It was the fourth category he saw as problematic, and about which he wrote another article, Beware the colonizers, 2010, the title of which says it all.

More recently, ‘Sweeping Immigration changes’ (2012), tells of plans to address the criminal element in Canada, which threatens to ‘invade’ us, legally, that is. The last paragraph of this article also addresses other matters, to do with health coverage for immigrants and although unsaid, immigrants who might be applying as seniors for OAS. Two articles that address the immigration and refugee healthcare issue are ‘Health groups urge Ottawa’ (2012) and ‘Kenney rejects refugee health care’ (2012).  Not a word, however, on how introducing foreigners into Canada might be affecting opportunities for work, for Canadians themselves.

Beware the colonizers
By George Jonas
National Post, Full Comment
Aug 18, 2010

Health groups urge Ottawa to save refugee services
By Maureen Brosnahan
CBC News
May 18, 2012

Immigrants want success now, not tomorrow
By Ratna Omidvar
Globe and Mail
Aug 04, 2010

Kenney rejects refugee health care concerns from provinces, doctors
By Kristy Kirkup, Parliamentary Bureau
June 29, 2012

Poll shows Canadians are nasty, anti-immigrant SOBs
By Kelly McParland
National Post, Full Comment
Aug 20, 2010

Remembering tragedies of today and yesteryear: Oshawa and the Montreal Massacre
By Sue McPherson
Sue’s Views on the News
Dec 6, 2008

Scenes from the Canadian gold mine
By George Jonas
National Post, Full Comment
Aug 11, 2010

Sweeping immigration changes to give new power to minister
By Laura Payton

CBC News
Jun 20, 2012


Links updated July, 2012

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