Canada has a deserved reputation for extending its arms to newcomers, but that openness threatens to be eroded by federal government decisions.
The wonderful tradition of inclusiveness was on display Saturday, when immigrants tucked into a potluck lunch in celebration of their welcome to Red Deer. It was also evident when a small group rallied outside City Hall to show solidarity with those who have left faraway troubled homes in hopes of a better life and brighter prospects.
Kareen Lambert was among those who demonstrated their support for new citizens, saying the group wanted to confront some of the “hateful rhetoric that’s been coming out of the yellow vest movement.”
“A lot of the signs have been anti-immigrant,” she said.
“We just wanted to be a voice, just to let our immigrant community know and our refugee community know that they are welcome in our community.
“They are a vital part of our economy and we support them.”
Lambert is right, of course. Canada is, to a great extent, a nation of immigrants that has forged one of the most enviable countries in the world. We can be proud of its democratic underpinnings and the fact Canadians have never flinched when challenged, whether it’s to defend our values through gunfire or to advance them through diplomacy and foreign aid.
So yes, with the strength of Indigenous people, who are central to Canada’s compelling mosaic, we’re very fortunate.
We’re happy to embrace individuals seeking to experience a rich life, and at the same time, contribute to our collective prosperity. Without newcomers, especially the young, Canada will never reach its potential — economically, politically and culturally.
This is why it’s concerning that the Justin Trudeau government threatens to cheapen Canadian citizenship. In a misguided desire to pander to powerful voting blocs, he’s abandoned a thoughtful approach to deciding who should have the opportunity to build a new life in Canada.
He is allowing thousands of people to simply walk across the border we share with the United States without resistance.
Once here, they face an undetermined period of detention at public expense. That’s not in the best interest of the border crossers, nor of Canadians.
It’s estimated such asylum seekers will cost federal taxpayers $400 million this year.
Such disregard for Canada isn’t fair to those who have applied to immigrate through ordinary channels. Most would-be Canadians assume there are regulations in place, and like those who patiently wait in line for anything else in life, they expect fairness, not queue jumpers.
They accept that the prudent handling of their application is the price of a prize worth winning.
Trudeau is undermining confidence in our immigration system. He has allowed all comers to cross the border and saddled provinces, notably Quebec and Ontario, with the costs of caring for refugees, many of them young children, who have no idea where they’ll be living a year from now.
Ontario alone estimates it will spend $200 million a year handling its portion of the 23,000 asylum seekers that have trampled across the border.
Trudeau has accepted without hesitation Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, an 18-year-old Saudi citizen, into Canada because of the touching story she told on social media. Trudeau’s decision has perhaps burnished his progressive credentials, but it has further eroded faith in the immigration system.
Was Alqunun the neediest among those seeking to come to Canada? Was she the most likely to invest and create job opportunities, or contribute to our country’s cultural or intellectual wealth?
There’s no proof of that.
Rash actions by Trudeau, along with indifference toward a porous border, embolden some in Canada who question the wisdom of welcoming newcomers.
Sadly, unlike most of those who aspire to come to Canada and those who already live here, Trudeau takes Canada for granted.
David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.