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(Michael Probst)
(Michael Probst)

Part 4: Is immigration about the economy or nation building? Add to ...

Every day, Canadian immigration officers around the world make huge decisions.



Choosing immigrants is choosing Canadians. The vast majority of people granted permanent residency in this country eventually apply for citizenship. Immigration is nation building by design.



Given the federal government's strict qualification criteria, the roughly 250,000 people who make the cut each year are, in large part, well-educated workers from a narrow list of occupations. Skilled worker applicants - who are distinct from family class immigrants and refugees - are awarded points for education, work experience, age and fluency in either official language.

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But when deciding who gets to become Canadian, should we go beyond tallying up points?



Take an experiment that Don DeVoretz, a professor emeritus of economics at Simon Fraser University, recently conducted with students in his immigration course. The class determined whether a sample of 1,000 randomly chosen Canadians would meet the government's stringent points rules for immigrating to their own country. The result? Just 38 per cent qualified.



Is immigration about the economy or nation building? What kinds of people should we be selecting? Do we want immigrants who espouse Canadian ideals or do we tolerate them holding tight to conflicting values from back home? How will newcomers adjust to the demands of a different culture? Do they have the commitment to learn a new language or two? Does that even matter?



The Globe has developed fictional profiles of prospective immigrants. We asked two experts, Queen's University law professor Sharryn Aiken and former Canadian diplomat Martin Collacott, to assess the candidates.



Who would you choose?





Sharryn Aiken is associate dean of law at Queen's University and an expert in immigration and refugee issues. She is a past president of the Canadian Council for Refugees. She believes Canada's immigration system favours relatively privileged immigrants and proposes adding a lottery for applicants who pass criminal, security and medical checks. Overall, she thinks the system should place greater priority on humanitarian values and family reunification while continuing to support the country's longer term economic self-interests.



Martin Collacott is a former Canadian high commissioner to Sri Lanka and ambassador to Syria, Lebanon and Cambodia. He is currently a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute specializing in immigration and refugee issues and is a spokesman and member of the board of directors of the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform. He believes Canada needs far fewer immigrants than it now accepts and that newcomers should speak enough English or French to function in their line of work. He also believes immigrants should accept fundamental Canadian values, such as gender equality, the rule of law, freedom of speech and separation of church and state.





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