Mass Immigration and its Critics
The Effects of Mass Immigration on Canadian Living Standards and Society, edited by Herbert Grubel, Vancouver, Fraser Institute, 2009, CAN$19.95, xxvi + 236 pp., ISBN 978-0-88975-246-7, reviewed by Mark Wegierski, to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of Canadian Confederation
The Fraser Institute (fraserinstitute.org) is one of the very few right-leaning think-tanks in Canada. This is in marked contrast to the United States, where think-tanks that espouse moderate conservatism proliferate. Nevertheless, in more recent years, the Fraser Institute has, in a few cases, moved beyond a strictly free-market and purely economic focus, and into the areas of social and cultural policy. This book, which had also been available in its entirety in PDF on the Fraser Institute website, is one of the first major studies to consider the issue of mass immigration.
Pages v-xii give brief biographies of the authors, which show that they all have serious accomplishments. On pages xv-xxvi, Herbert Grubel (a former professor of economics at Simon Fraser University, and Reform Party M.P. from 1993-1997, as well as Reform’s Finance Critic from 1995-1997), gives a pithy précis of the book.
In his sharp first chapter, James Bissett, a former Canadian Ambassador with 36 years of service in the government of Canada, offers a frank assessment of the problems with the Canadian immigration program:
“In June 2008, the backlog had reached the 950,000 mark… the backlog at the Refugee Board had reached 62,000… Most of these refugee claimants will eventually end up as landed immigrants to Canada… To these extraordinary numbers must be added another 100,000 to 150,000 temporary workers who will in all probability, based on past experience, remain in Canada.” (p. 7)
At the end of the chapter, Bissett calls for an “intermission”:
“During this time of economic slow down, the only new immigrants to be admitted should be those who have proven skills that are critical to our economy and the spouses and minor children of Canadian citizens and legal residents.” (p. 24)
The second chapter is by Steven A. Camarota, the Director of Research for the Center for Immigration Studies, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in public-policy analysis, and is a frequent commentator on these issues. His main point in “Immigration’s impact on public coffers in the United States” is that insofar as a society does not select immigrants with high education, the costs associated with poorly-educated immigrants, for all levels of government, will tend to be high.
Chapter 3, by Jean-Paul Gourevitch, entitled “Immigration and its impacts in France” – while acknowledging the problems with the recent, mostly Islamic and African immigration, is rather reserved.
In the fourth chapter, Vernon M. Briggs, Jr., lays out basic principles for discussion of immigration that can hopefully be agreed to by most people, without recrimination and accusations of bias. For example, he cites the U.S. Commission on Immigration Policy, 1997:
“The credibility of immigration policy can be measured by a simple yardstick: people who should get in, do get in; people who should not get in, are kept out; and people judged deportable are required to leave.” (p. 70)
Chapter 5 (by Patrick Grady) and 6 (by Herbert Grubel) reiterate the point that an inflow of less-educated immigrants will have a negative effect on the general levels of prosperity in any society. Essentially, poverty is being imported into Canada. Ostensibly high educational qualifications from less-developed countries may not be comparable to such degrees obtained in Canada.
Chapters 7 (by Robin Banerjee and William Robson) and 8 (by Marcel Merette) demonstrate, through extensive statistical analysis, that immigrant inflow is not going to make a dent in the aging population structure of Canada. Raising the age of retirement, as well as the hope of the Canadian birthrate going up to replacement level, would have a far more efficacious impact on the economic consequences of an ageing population structure.
Stephen Gallagher’s Chapter 9, “The creation of a global suburb and its impact on Canadian national unity”, is one of the bravest essays in the collection. Gallagher explains how – because of a concatenation of mutually reinforcing syndromes such as the relationships between political parties, special interest groups, and the major media – Canada’s mass immigration policies are not being properly debated. Gallagher writes:
“Since 1945, Canada has received approximately 10 million immigrants of diverse origins. I believe that this on-going mass immigration is causing Canada to evolve into a diasporatic society. Canada is becoming a home away from home for a range of peoples whose identities are rooted not in Canada but in countries and regions of origin… As a result of the unique size and pattern of immigration to Canada, the country is undergoing a societal and demographic evolution that is much more rapid and profound than is taking place in the other major immigrant-welcoming countries. For example, while only 10% of Americans are foreign-born, in Canada nearly 20% are.
… Overall, population and social planning in the absence of a willingness to assimilate is difficult.” (pp. 171-174)
He goes on:
“In contrast with Europe and elsewhere, Canada has never had a populist backlash to mass immigration nor in recent times has there been a high profile political or business leader who questioned the need for mass immigration… although populist anti-immigration parties and leaders have not had much electoral success in Europe, they have nevertheless had important influences on national immigration policies… In the past, the absence of opposition to mass immigration in Canada meant policy elites in Ottawa had a free hand. Currently, however, a relative absence of opposition coupled with a range of interests supporting a permissive migration policy means policy elites are now constrained… in Canada the advocacy forces are all on one side, creating a “client politics” situation… the lack of contrasting opinions on immigration hinders effective policy making because politicians have a lessened capability to balance competing national interests.” (p 183)
Gallagher, a lecturer in Political Science and a frequent commentator in Canadian and U.S. media, is simply calling for serious debate to get underway.
Salim Mansur’s Chapter 10 essay, “Immigration and multiculturalism undermine culture and security in Canada”, is another courageous contributions to this collection. A professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario, Mansur writes a weekly column for the Toronto Sun, one of Toronto’s major newspapers. He comments:
“The main proposition of this paper has been that open-door immigration from non-Western countries under Canada’s multicultural policies and liberal-democratic values has resulted in a growing threat to the country’s national identity and security. This threat has confronted the country with the difficult task of reconciling its desire to conserve the national identity and diffuse the threat of terrorism with the policy of multiculturalism and liberal desires for inclusion and individualism.”
“Unfortunately, these issues are getting very little attention from the public, media, or politicians, who prefer to treat the threats of global terrorism as questionable and treat open-door immigration policy and multiculturalism as “untouchable” pillars of the modern Canada…”
Earlier, he discusses “The West’s demographic shift” – an issue that few commentators today are willing to look at with candor:
“The historic shift in the demography of the West, with its ageing population and declining fertility, which began around the second half of the last century, suggests that the populations of Western countries will decline severely, with far reaching consequences for their civilization.”
In the eleventh chapter, Gordon Gibson, formerly a prominent provincial politician in British Columbia, points to the difficulties of getting a debate about immigration underway. He writes in conclusion:
“We have some hard questions to face. Immigration is only one of them but it is surely a litmus test as nothing is more important to a nation’s future than “who we are.” (p. 224)
The concluding Chapter 12 is from Sir Andrew Green, the founder of MigrationwatchUK – a research organization that has profoundly influenced the immigration debate in Britain. Sir Andrew stresses the importance of presenting facts without embellishment or invective.
Generally speaking, the objective of this collection is to move the public policy debate in the direction of accepting much lower immigration levels, hopefully as low as zero net-migration. This would mean that 45,000 immigrants would henceforth be accepted into Canada every year. The current level has recently been raised to 300,000 per year (from 250,000) which is about three times the U.S. rate, per capita.
Unhappily, this book has not transformed the debate about Canadian immigration and multiculturalism. In the U.S., there are numerous networks that bring such issues to public attention, if sometimes in a fragmentary form. But Canada has been so thoroughly reshaped by the Trudeau Revolution, that even the recent successes of the federal Conservative Party have left the overarching concepts and structures of our “Trudeaupia” virtually untouched. Somewhat ironically, the Progressive Conservative party of the 1980s, under the leadership of Brian Mulroney, had imbibed so much of Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s ideas that it precipitously raised the immigration numbers to a quarter-million persons per year whereas they had fallen as low as 54,000 in Trudeau’s last year in office.
Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based writer and historical researcher