Jenny Gulamani-Abdulla talks about the role immigrants have played historically and why Canada needs them more than ever.
Immigration is always a hot-button topic. Do you think society is more welcoming to immigrants or less welcoming than in the past?
Jenny Gulamani-Abdulla: We all know that immigration is not a new phenomenon. In fact, before Canada even became a country in 1867, the French explorers established the very first European settlement in what we now call Nova Scotia and the Acadians who were descendants of the French colonists settled in the Maritime provinces. This was in the early 1600s. The French-speaking Quebecers are actually the descendants of the French settlers in the 1600s and 1700s.
Then the loyalists came from the U.S. in 1776 and they included the Dutch, German, British, Scandinavian and so on.
In the early 1900s, it was the Hungarians, Norwegians, Swedes and Icelanders; the Ukrainians and the Poles followed after them.
So immigration is what Canada is made from. What has changed since the early 1970s is the intake of immigrants from ‘different parts of the world.’
And I think your question about immigration being a hot topic is really about the heated debate on the selection criteria that’s used in immigration, which in my view, excludes certain types of people who are different from us. We do this with citizenship, too, not only with immigration.
How can we say on the one hand that we’re welcoming to newcomers and yet have processes and systems in place that create tiers within our population by using, for example, language testing scores to create a hierarchy in our citizenry?
Did we do this in the past or are we doing it now because our top-source countries have changed to China, Philippines, India … you see where I’m going with this, right? And this is just one example.
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Jenny Gulamani-Abdulla, a member of the International Bar Association, is founder of Gulamani-Abdulla & Co., Immigration Consulting.