Why Immigration Will Shape Canada's Future

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"TEXT 1749.","Canadian Speeches: Volume 14, #06, January/February 2001 ","Minister Of Citizenship And Immigration.","Why immigration will shape Canada's future.","ELINOR CAPLAN.","Immigration and emigration. Refugees.","Immigrants and refugees are now the main source of Canada's population and labour force growth. Our social and economic future, the very nature of the country, depends on them, and on our immigration and refugee policies. We must close the back door to illegal entrants who abuse our laws, and open the front door to those on whom our growth and prosperity depends. Speech to the Fifth International Metropolis Conference, Vancouver, November 14, 2000."," Let me begin my brief remarks with what may be considered a revealing fact about Canada and, more particularly, about Canadians.

For a short time now, it has come to our attention that more Canadian citizens are being created through immigration than through net increases in our domestic population, which is simply our total number of births minus our total number of deaths.

Population and labour force growth in Canada is now primarily a function of immigration. The face of Canadian citizenship is growing more diverse than ever before.

I suspect that this will soon be true of other nations as well. As you all know, our populations are aging. And we are no longer replacing ourselves with domestic births.

Moreover, migration pressures around the world are unlikely to let up any time soon. Indeed, globalization and all that it has entailed for new transportation and communications links, and the freer movement of goods, services and people, along with economic development and shifting demographics, have combined to produce new means and ever greater incentives for migration.

This poses great challenges, and presents great opportunities:

Our countries stand at a very critical juncture, between our traditional sources of population growth and these new forces that signal a more cosmopolitan future.

And it is this more cosmopolitan future that we need your help to better imagine and understand.

More than ever before, our immigration policies and programs -- and here I refer not just to the rules and policies governing admission, but also to their application each day to individual cases by the many border and visa officers exercising their judgment on our behalf -- will be vitally important in shaping the future of our countries.

The Canada of tomorrow will be the product of our decisions today about who we bring in, from which countries, having what skills and experience, holding which values and traditions, in pursuit of what kind of opportunities. These decisions will shape our future, and that of our children and grandchildren, and determine the social, cultural and economic wealth of our countries.

To prepare for this, of course, there are important steps we can take, to see that these new arrivals have every opportunity to become fully productive members of our societies and fully engaged members of our communities.

More generally, we need to create the conditions of trust that will enable us to work together in a context of social cohesion.

Now this is not to understate the challenges.

We are all aware of the challenges:

* of large-scale, criminally-organized irregular migration;

* of impending demographic changes, and competition for highly skilled workers;

* of growing humanitarian needs around the world;

* of the shift in source countries;

* and of the evolving nature of transnational links among various diasporic communities.

I think it is fair to say that our management of international migration in the years ahead will be about far more than our traditional efforts to administer our borders. Broadly speaking, it will be about nothing less than the management of social change. …