By Douglas Todd, The Vancouver Sun – August 11, 2012
The saying that Canada is a “country of immigrants” is as commonplace as they come. It ranks up there with hockey, the Mounties and niceness as part of the perceived national identity.
But does it stand up to scrutiny? A former Canadian diplomat and specialist on immigration believes it is a somewhat misleading phrase. He makes an interesting case that the first waves of newcomers to Canada were settlers, not immigrants. And to him there’s a significant difference.
Read the full article here.
I’ve followed Martin Collacott’s assertions about immigration for years, and I continue to disagree with most of them.
In particular, this statement he makes in his recent interview: “The task of immigrants as distinct from settlers is to adapt to the culture already in existence in their new homeland – rather than to expect that they will preserve intact the traditions and values of their countries of origin, as was the case with the settlers.”
While I agree that newcomers to a country must adapt to their new environment, including learning the language and adjusting their expectations, does Mr. Collacott not recall that Canada has this little-known piece of legislation called the Canadian Multiculturalism Act?
Under Trudeau, the federal government declared (more than 40 years ago I might add!) that Canada would adopt multicultural policy. Its aim? To recognize and respect that Canadian society included a diversity of languages, customs, religions and more. Such multiculturalism is recognized in section 27 of Canadian Charter, and the official Canadian Multiculturalism Act was then in the late 80s. Thus, we’ve been living with the notion of multiculturalism for many years.
It’s not uncommon for the word “immigrant” itself to be bandied about as if it were inherently negative. Yes, the initial explorers who discovered the New World as “settlers” took over the land from the existing First Nations here (indeed, doesn’t the word “settler” bring with it a more negative history?). But, since that initial batch of settlers, it’s not difficult to assert that the country has been populated by waves of immigrants (from Irish, to Ukrainian, to Chinese) who saw Canada as a land of new opportunity. The same way immigrants today see it.
In my opinion, there is no shame in the word — I am a proud immigrant (and citizen now, too!). To me it means that I chose this country, Canada, as my own. I adopted it, if you will. No, I wasn’t born here, but my granddaughter just was — and I’m proud to call her my Canadian grandchild.
The fact that Canada has been called a nation of immigrants by Governor Generals and down for decades is not erroneous. In fact, we as a country should be proud that so many people from around the world want to “choose” it as their own as well.