Canada's Immigration Policy
Publication
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 25 Nov 1994, p. 172-181
Description
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Marchi, The Hon. Sergio, Speaker
Media Type
Text
Item Type
Speeches
Description
A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto.
The concept of public service in Canada that has helped to make this country a caring and great nation. Changing the misconception, with regard to immigration, that Canada doesn't get things done. Getting things done in the face of some pretty big odds. Criticism of immigration and immigrants in Canada. Allaying Canadian worries and concerns about the impact on employment. Some expected controversy. The introduction, by the speaker, on November 1, of a ten-year immigration strategy and a citizenship and immigration plan to the House of Commons. A fair, sustainable and affordable plan for the taxpayer. An attempt to move away from the obsession with numbers. Some details and specifics of the plan. A discussion about the reality of immigration: talking about people. Privileges and responsibilities of being a Canadian. What being a Canadian means.
Date of Original
25 Nov 1994
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English
Copyright Statement
The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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Fairmont Royal York Hotel

100 Front Street West, Floor H

Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3

Full Text
The Hon. Sergio Marchi Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
CANADA'S IMMIGRATION POLICY
Chairman: John A. Campion
President, The Empire Club of Canada

Head Table Guests

Ratna Omidvar, President, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants; Nizar Jiwan, Senior Policy Advisor, Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Energy and a leader in the Ismaili Community; Betty Kennedy De Puricelli, Co-Director, The Mennonite New Life Centre of Toronto; Madeline Zito, President, Zitoflumian Communications and Director, The Canadian Club of Toronto; His Worship Malcolm Streete, Justice of the Peace; Richard R. Boraks, Barrister and Solicitor; Theresa Lombardi, Vice-President, Administration, CHIN Radio; Fred Pristine, President, Pristine Printing Inc.; Mary Lou Benotto, Chappell, Bushell & Stewart and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada and Libby Burnham, Q.C., President-Elect, The Canadian Club of Toronto.

Introduction by John Campion

Cardinal Mazarin's Gift

On a cold March day in 1661, Great Cardinal Mazarin of France, the man who had ruled France with an iron hand, lay dying at his palace at Vincennes. His death was the end of an era when the Cardinal had held so much power that he ruled France alone.

Louis XIV summoned his Ministers and Secretaries to tell them of Mazarin's death and let his Ministers know that from that day forward, he would look after the affairs of state himself.

Cardinal Mazarin had, before he died, said to the King, "in acquitting the debt that I owe Your Majesty, I am giving you Colbert."

Colbert may stand for all time as the perfect pattern of a servant of the state--economical, hard-working, immensely resourceful, tireless and impassive. His goal was to exalt the wealth and power of France at the expense of the commercial greatness of his rivals--Holland and England. He set out to reorganise and restore the French colonial empire.

Colbert therefore turned his attention to the tiny colony of Canada. Only 550 people lived in its capital and it was under constant threat for survival. Colbert first provided protection with the crack regiment from Carignan-Salieres and then new institutions. Thereafter, he turned to economic and social growth.

As a result, Colbert became Canada's first unofficial Minister of Immigration. From 1665 to 1672, 2,000 new state-aided colonists reached Canada. The Carignan-Salieres regiments stayed in Canada and every year, a most picturesque, if not sad, episode in immigration occurred. The King's ships each brought some 40 to 60 orphan girls or daughters of poor families, to marry the young male inhabitants of the New Colony. These women became known as Les Filles du Roi. They remain today celebrated heroes of that early Colony.

Thus, immigration policy in Canada had begun. Canada is a direct inheritor of the policies of Colbert. The policy has been shaped by men like Sir John Rose, Alexander Galt and Hector Fabre, who were Prime Minister McDonald's agents in charge of immigration in London and Paris, just after Confederation, and Clifford Sifton, the Minister of Immigration appointed by Robert Borden.

Immigration policy has seen Canada at its finest and at its worst. From 1867 to 1921, the third great wave of migration to Canada brought five million people to our country. This was the highest rate of increase in the world. It opened up the West and further populated our central provinces. During this period, the largest increases were among Germans, Scandinavians, Ukrainians and smaller groups of Russians, Austrians, Italians and Poles. These people made great contributions to our country and Canada can point proudly to an enormous success.

But Canada was also at its worst in immigration policy over its history. It excluded people of Japanese origin, it refused to assist Jewish refugees from 1938 to 1945.

And finally, in the post-Second World War era, the need for perceived security problems caused Canada to screen out racial and cultural undesirables.

Today, Canada faces and will face in the foreseeable future, intense and painful debates over immigration policy. The world's population has exploded in Malthusian numbers. The world population was one billion in 1750, three billion in 1960 and it is expected to be six billion by the year 2000.

In part, as a result of these population increases, we can see massacres and famines around the world play themselves out on our television sets with seemingly greater intensity and frequency. We know that poverty continues to stalk much of the world.

Inside Canada, issues of economic capacity, need for skilled labour, family unification, procedural fairness, racism and many other variables, swirl complexly around the development and maintenance of immigration policy.

The Prime Minister has looked to Sergio Marchi, our guest speaker today, to shepherd this sensitive, complex and vitally important Ministry through the first stage of his administration. Mr. Marchi has applied his talents and sensitivities with dedication, skill and capacity of a Colbert.

Mr. Marchi became an Executive Assistant to various Toronto Aldermen in 1982, has been an M.P. since 1984 and is a leading voice and political organiser in Toronto. He was of enormous assistance to M. Chretien prior to the 1993 election victory and continues that dedication today. Please welcome The Honourable Sergio Marchi.

Sergio Marchi

Good afternoon. I want to thank you for the kind introduction and warm welcome. As the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration--with immigration being the hot topic that it is--let me assure you that a warm and friendly welcome is much appreciated! Lately, politicians have learned to be sceptical about getting invited to warm and friendly places because it usually means a bonfire--with the politician being the marshmallow. It's unfortunate, but generally, politics and governments fall into disrepute with some regularity. Some of the disrepute is deserved and some is artificially induced. A lot of us have watched with some alarm the so-called attack commercials that have dominated the recent Senate and Congressional elections in the United States. Naturally, there is some spillover to Canada because of our proximity to major U.S. media markets.

Tough and hard-hitting are not always disagreeable qualities in the media, but when the airwaves are inundated with charges of politicians being drug addicts, adulterers, pro-crime, and anti-family, we can only hope that there isn't a great impact on our political climate. Bile, bitterness and bigotry do not make good government. Creating an angry, cynical public through artificial means can only hurt the concept of public service. And frankly, it is the concept of public service that has helped make Canada a caring and great nation.

Now, let me say that here in Canada, the public often seems to believe that when all is said and done, we politicians get more said than done. Listening to some of our more long-winded debates, I'm not so sure that I would disagree entirely. But I am of the belief that Canadians, overall, do get good government and good service.

In immigration, I'd like to think we are changing the misconception that government doesn't get things done. Because we are indeed getting big things done. And let's be frank here. We are getting things done in the face of some pretty big odds.

A chill wind has been blowing on immigration for a number of months. This is not a totally Canadian phenomenon. Look at the anti-immigrant voting in California recently; look at what is happening in Europe. It's a cold, cold wind that is blowing on immigrants and immigration almost everywhere.

Here in Canada, criticism of immigration and immigrants has almost taken on a life of its own. Not for a moment am I suggesting that immigration or immigration policy or even the Immigration Minister is above criticism, but hardly anywhere else in public policy does the general public rise to such heights of passion and emotion over perceptions as opposed to reality.

If you were to look at my mail basket on Parliament Hill you would quickly realise that instant opinions are now packaged by the bushel. Many Canadians are worried that strangers are taking their jobs and damaging their social programmes. They fear for tomorrow and what it will bring. We must respect and address these anxieties regardless of what drives them.

Of course, studies in the United States, Australia and Canada have concluded that immigration has no significant impact on unemployment in the long run, and at the level of the national economy, immigrants create as many jobs as they take and do not displace existing Canadian workers.

As we try to allay Canadian worries and concerns about immigration and at the same time put some order and direction into the process, there has been some controversy. The word "some" may be an understatement. Controversy, of course, is not unexpected. As sure as night follows day, every time there is a course correction in government policy, a new path or a new plan, there is controversy.

On November 1, I introduced before the House of Commons a ten-year immigration strategy and a citizenship and immigration plan. I want to stress the word "plan," because that is exactly what we have: a new plan that provides a ten-year strategy for immigration and citizenship. It is fair, sustainable and affordable for the taxpayer.

For far too long, immigration policy has been piecemeal, add-on or ad hoc. No more. We were asked to make some tradeoffs and we did. We were asked to establish some priorities on immigration as it pertains to the national interest--and we did.

There is an attempt with this long-term strategy to move away from the obsession with numbers.

• It places an increased emphasis on job skills and language skills for newcomers.
• It ensures that one category doesn't over-run the others.
• This plan encompasses an enforcement package that gives law enforcement and government the tools to remove foreign criminals from our soil.
• It eliminates possible abuse in our business immigration initiatives and has underlined our commitment to family immigration as it pertains to spouses and dependent children.
• We are prepared, however, to tighten the rules to stop the multi- million dollar drain on the welfare roles when sponsorship commitments are not maintained for extended family members.

I would like to be very specific about this. This government is not proposing a new tax. We are simply asking people to live up to their commitments--and a commitment is not a tax.

When a Canadian citizen sponsors grandparents or other members of their extended family, they may be asked to post a bond. There should not be a problem with such a proposal. What we are trying to do here is correct the failure rate which is costing tax payers about $700 million a year. The bond would be in force until the newcomer became a citizen. Our figures already show that most people--86 per cent to be precise--would get their bond back.

People who tell you a tax is being proposed--a secret tax based on race or country of origin--are simply not being honest. So let's end that distortion right here. Asking people to back a commitment is simply asking people to accept responsibility for their actions. And that my friends, is what Canadian citizenship is all about.

As well, saving the taxpayer millions of dollars is an honourable goal and is nothing any government or any politician should be ashamed of.

But let's stress something here. There is a lot more to this immigration equation than numbers and dollar signs. We are talking about people. We are talking about individuals who want to be citizens of Canada.

Those of us who have been lucky enough to have been Canadian citizens for some time--whether by birth or by choice--would be well served to reflect on the personal struggle immigrants and refugees have made to reach this land. These are special people. These are people who know how to look to the future and build a reality for themselves and their family out of the wisps of raw dreams. They are also fortunate people as they are now part of the Canadian family.

Canada recognises the emotional ties our new citizens have to their birthplaces and recognises that cultural background is an important part of a new citizen's very being. And, quite frankly, it is also important to whom we are as a nation. Because it is diversity that helped make Canada strong and allowed our voices to ring strong and true in the councils of the world.

After all wasn't it immigrants from Europe who helped build our factories and subways? Didn't Eastern Europeans play a major part in the history of the West? Wasn't it muscle and sweat from Asia that built the transcontinental railway? Sometimes in Canada, we forget that the widening diversity of the Canadian population didn't happen just yesterday. Many ethno-cultural communities have roots in Canada dating back more than 100 years.

But even as we celebrate our diversity, we must honour and strengthen the bonds that hold us together. That is why, a key element of our plan involves changes to the Citizenship Act. I believe, and I am sure that you agree with me, that it is important for newcomers and those citizens who are born here to have a sense of Canadian pride in themselves and confidence in their country. And this can come from a better understanding of the rights and responsibilities of being a Canadian citizen. Because those rights of citizenship don't come without responsibilities.

As the government prepares to bring in a new citizenship act, it is important that we have a sense about what Canadian citizenship means. So let me ask you--right here in the Canadian Club and Empire Club: What does it mean to be a Canadian?

This is not meant to be a test. You don't even have to like poutine, pacific salmon or Nova Scotia lobster to answer the question.

The standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration asked this question of Canadians earlier this summer and submitted its report "A Sense of Belonging" to the House of Commons in June. What they found is that there are those who would squander Canadian identity like small change.

Let me say: To be a Canadian is too precious a commodity to fritter away.

While Canadians, unlike our American friends, don't seem prone to flag waving or pious oaths of patriotism, our national identity is definable because the distance between July 1 and July 4 is more than three days. It is 30 million heartbeats. There are a number of Canadians, whose very lives are a definition of what it is to be a Canadian. They are the ones who shrug off that cold wind that blows hard against the immigrant and refugee. They are the people who know that "public service" is not a dirty word.

There are a number of people in this room who epitomise what it is to be Canadian. To be fair, to be just, to care, to speak out against the tyrant and the demagogue, that's also what it means to be Canadian.

There are a great many privileges to being a Canadian citizen, but there are also a number of responsibilities. We need to define some of those responsibilities. We need to respond to what Canadian citizenship means in an ever-changing world. People must know that belonging is achieved through participation.

Canadian citizenship means respecting the rights and liberties of others. It means respecting and obeying Canadian laws.

I've heard that some children believe that to be a Canadian is to sing the national anthem at hockey games in two languages. Is that what it is?

Maybe.

I just read an immigration department report about newcomers to Canada from Africa who held a competition to see who could be the first to learn the national anthem and the first to see snow. Is that what it is to be Canadian? Maybe.

Or is to be Canadian to listen to the Tragically Hip or Tracy Dahl on the CD player while you read Rudy Wiebe or Margaret Atwood?

Maybe, yet again.

Let me share with you what it means to me as we prepare to start a parliamentary process toward a new Citizenship Act for Canada. Like many of our citizens, I'm Canadian by choice. That doesn't make me special, but it does give a perspective to my beliefs and emotions. Those of us who are Canadian by choice may have a well-defined benchmark as to what it means. My parents are from Italy and I was born in Argentina. But folks: Je suis Canadien.

To me, being Canadian is best summed up by the word "compassion." It's the compassion of the caregiver, the compassion of the teacher, the coach--the random acts of kindness that sprinkle across our land like fresh, new snow. The compassion that is evident inside Canada reflects outside our borders as well. In Canada, when somebody gets sick they can see a doctor. When our citizens need help, they get it. Outside our borders, when the world needs help, our citizens put on blue berets of the U.N. or work through other agencies.

Canada wasn't simply created by a few slash marks with a fountain pen. Our nation has grown and evolved to mirror the rich diversity of our peoples.

Our laws and our courts are meant to treat all people as equals and I believe being a Canadian citizen entails tolerance and understanding of other points of view. It is an appreciation of the bilingual nature of our country and it is a respect for the original inhabitants of this land--the aboriginals--and a respect for the environment itself.

That is part of my definition, but I know that mine is not the only definition of Canadian citizenship. The definition of a Canadian is not meant to be slick enough to fit on a bumper sticker. It does, however, have to be cherished enough to fit in your heart.

I mentioned that chill wind driven by groundless fear that blows against the immigrant and the refugee in California and part of Europe. That's the kind of wind that whispers hatred. The only chill wind we need in Canada is the north wind. We can handle that. Always have. Always will. That's why God invented the toque.

Maybe what the world really needs is a Canadian Chinook.

Thanks for your time.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Madeline Zito, President, Zitoflumian Communications and Director, The Canadian Club of Toronto.

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Canada's Immigration Policy


A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club of Toronto.
The concept of public service in Canada that has helped to make this country a caring and great nation. Changing the misconception, with regard to immigration, that Canada doesn't get things done. Getting things done in the face of some pretty big odds. Criticism of immigration and immigrants in Canada. Allaying Canadian worries and concerns about the impact on employment. Some expected controversy. The introduction, by the speaker, on November 1, of a ten-year immigration strategy and a citizenship and immigration plan to the House of Commons. A fair, sustainable and affordable plan for the taxpayer. An attempt to move away from the obsession with numbers. Some details and specifics of the plan. A discussion about the reality of immigration: talking about people. Privileges and responsibilities of being a Canadian. What being a Canadian means.