Sharry Aiken: In my view there is nothing inherently problematic about the current patterns of settlement of diaspora communities -- the real concern is economic marginalization - and the extent to which newcomer communities are disenfranchised from the mainstream community. Italian-Canadians, for example, are no longer confined in economic terms in a bounded neighbourhood -- class has an important role in the formation of neighbourhoods and that's where our focus should be -- promoting opportunities for income diversity.
Thiva Kulasingam: Does the Federal Government have a program in place to monitor the performance of immigration policy in the place? How do we whether one particular policy is more effective than other one?
Sharry Aiken: There is certainly a need for more empirical research on immigration. So much of current public discourse is informed by prejudice at worst - or simply anecdotes.
Dave Howell: Why is it that the Customs and immigration officers turn back folks (Illegal immigrants) at the border daily, yet when a boatload arrives with illegal immigrants they don't get sent back IMMEDIATELY. It hardly seems fair to the legal immigrant that has been waiting a long time for approval through the system.
Sharry Aiken: Canada is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention - and we have implemented our treaty obligations in domestic law. It is illegal for the government to simply turn asylum seekers away without affording them an opportunity for a hearing. In fact the only people who are turned back on "daily" basis -- at least under current policy - are people who have arrived as visitors without proper documentation or proof of connections to Canada. But even in those cases, individuals do have a right to challenge the decision of the Border Services Agency. Of course, accessing counsel in time to do that - may make this difficult.
Karima: Shouldn't immigrant's financial ability be a major creteria. I am an Immigrant Citizen. When we migrated we were self supported so we were not a burden on Gov or on other individuals for anything. Any input on this?
Sharry Aiken: Well - under the current rules - an individual who wishes to immigrate as a single person has to have approximately 11,000 to even qualify - a family of 4 will need almost 21,000. In my view - this policy is discriminatory. I agree that prospective should have satisfactory settlement plans in place - but imposing an absolute monetary value to these abilities - we undervalue the role of family and kinship in supporting successful settlement. And we bar would-be immigrants from many parts of the world - where the prospect of have that much money in Canadian currency would be unthinkable except for a very narrow segment of the wealthiest people.
Jill Mahoney: Check out Globe stories, videos, interactives and other online features on multiculturalism and immigration on our Time to Lead page.
Guest: How can this agitation by canadians to reduce immigration be taking seriously by the Goverment and political parties?
Sharry Aiken: Who do you think is actually agitating about reducing immigration? There is certainly a great deal of concern about how we select immigrants - and debate as to the merits of the current point system. But there is a fairly large consensus around the importance and value of immigration overall to Canada.
Karima: I see many immigrants have challenges in expressing themselves or even reading the simple instructions sent by their kid's school. How do we address the language barriers - like spouses, parents, grandparents etc when they migrate to our country. This is for their own benefit becoz it isnt good for them when they need to have someone to translate for them. How do we address this issue?
Sharry Aiken: Just to be clear - skilled workers seeking to come to Canada have to score well in terms of fluency in either English or French. The bar is lower for investors and entrepreneurs -- and certainly many accompanying family members or refugees may not have the language yet. Barriers for these groups need to be addressed by ensuring adequate access to appropriate English (or French) as a Second Language programs.
NJ: Are you in favour of integration or multiculturalism? If visible minority makes up 18% of population of Canada, shouldn't 18% of MPs making laws for the population should be visible minority?
Sharry Aiken: In my view we should not be separating - even conceptually - the notions of integration from multiculturalism. As for political representation - we have a long way to go. At this point - Canada scores quite poorly in terms of numbers of women and racialized communities actively engaged in the political process - and assuming positions of power there.