Should we provide social assistance for newcomers to Canada? What about language training? Public school? Health services? Newcomers, whether immigrants, refugees or temporary residents, are potential future citizens. Where do we draw the line when determining access to essential services? As the following article states, immigrant children learn in school that “you’re just as Canadian as anyone else.” If they are treated differently, what do they learn?

The constant focus on those who abuse the system can lead us to imposing discriminatory policies on those most vulnerable, such as refugees. We can liken this behaviour to the carding of blacks in Toronto, where you are almost guilty until proven innocent. Canada has been known for it’s humanitarian approach to those in need. Let’s not allow our distaste for those who abuse the system to create near-intolerable conditions for those who hoped to escape the intolerable conditions in their native countries.


Don’t cut social assistance for newcomers to Canada

By Ratna Omidvar

When Canada acts as if newcomers are citizens, they truly are citizens in the making.

Not every country can host a politician from the largest national economy in Europe and give lessons on how to run an immigration system. But Canada can — and did — when Joachim Gauck, the president of Germany, made a state visit in September. He stopped in Toronto for a round table on immigration that his people asked us to convene.

He wanted to know what makes us work. How does Toronto, with a foreign-born population of nearly 50 per cent, manage not to combust? I hear this question a lot. I can frame the answer a dozen ways and list dozens of the policies, tools and historical and geographic facts (what Malcolm Ross called “the impossible sum of our traditions”) that wire us for working multiculturalism. But there is one feature I include even in the most simplified version: that newcomers are seen as citizens in the making.

Future citizenship is both policy and public philosophy. There is a clear and relatively quick pathway to citizenship for immigrants to Canada, although the waiting time is set to get longer in 2015. As for public philosophy, immigrant children learn in public schools from a young age that “you’re just as Canadian as anyone else.” Because this message is in our books and infused in our day-to-day, the idea that immigrants are future citizens actually becomes lived expression.

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