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(JOHN LEHMANN/JOHN LEHMANN/GLOBE AND MAIL)
(JOHN LEHMANN/JOHN LEHMANN/GLOBE AND MAIL)

Earlier discussion

Finding ideal immigrants Add to ...

Sharry Aiken: In my view it is a bit dangerous to use opinion polls as a basis for setting immigration targets. The poll do provide important data on public perceptions - but the government should be a doing a much better job of explaining the policy rationales the support immigration. And we do need a wider debate on the criteria and the rules.

Jill Mahoney: Here are two related questions:

Guest 1: Why does sponsorship of parents take so long. The processing of applications has advanced 5 weeks in the last 9 months. The time reflected on the immigration website is 38 months but at the current rate it would take over 7 years just to qualify as a sponsor. After all this is a sponsorship so whats the monetary risk to the federal government.

Guest: Why does it take so long to sponsor parents when support will be provided by the sponsoring family not by the government?

Sharry Aiken: Very good questions. Processing times for family reunification are highly variant. Some individuals are reunited with spouses and children in less than a year - and others wait for years. In many cases this is a direct result of the lack of resources to efficiently process the applications in some visa offices. The hardship imposed by these long delays is enormous - and unacceptable. I think the average Canadian would be agitating if they had to wait that long for a response on any other sort of application. Increasing the speed of processing times should be a clear priority. Time and again governments pay lip service to this -- but haven't done what's necessary to address it.

Quest: Many Canadians are wondering , why do we need more immigrants when there are millions of Canadians are with out jobs or on assistance.

Sharry Aiken: Immigrants do not "take" jobs from Canadians. In many cases they perform work that Canadian workers refuse - in other cases - they fill specific labour market niches. The root causes of unemployment and poverty in Canada need to be addressed - but immigration is neither the cause - nor an exacerbating factor.

Causemark: I think immigration will be key to the economic growth if Canada. I worry though, that not nearly enough is being done to understand the opportunities...and challenges associated with diverse populations. For example, when people immigrate here, they bring a plethora of great aspects of their culture. Many from south east Asia hold "community" as central to their culture here in Canada. But we must also realize that not all the customs that considered acceptable in other countries are acceptable here. What are we doing about this? Or does anyone ekes have perspectives to enlighten me to a differing and more logical/realistic point of view?

Sharry Aiken: I think the question as posed is a bit problematic. Certainly some newcomers experience a clash of values upon initial arrival in Canada. The Canadian legal system functions to ensure that any customs which violate human dignity or fundamental human rights are simply not tolerated. I would remind you that the "custom" of colonialism and imperialism which contributed to the formation of the Canadian state - were also not acceptable!

Guest: Why is it that most immigrants come from india and china, is there a prefence for where immigrants should come from? Tony

Sharry Aiken: Source countries for immigration are conditioned by a number of factors. A young, mobile population interested in moving - decisions by Canada to station visa posts there - and adequate resources -- for example there are far fewer visa offices in Africa. So yes -- there are in-built preferences evident in the selection of immigrants.

Jill Mahoney: Professor Aiken, before we wrap up are there any thoughts you'd like to leave us with?

Sharry Aiken: I think this has been a lively exchange - but I'd like to offer a concluding thought - that as we progress into the new century we need to discard conventional notions of immigration, assimilation and social cohesion - in favour of more cosmopolitan, transnational understandings of human mobility and settlement. These understanding should help inform what sort of immigration policy Canada should adopt in the future - and in particular, guide us away from adopting an exclusively labour-centred policy.

Jill Mahoney: That's all the time we have today. Professor Aiken, thank you for joining us to discuss this thought-provoking topic. And thanks to everyone who submitted questions and comments. Sorry we didn't have the time to get to more of them!

Click here to check out our package of multiculturalism stories on globeandmail.com's Our Time to Lead page.

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