Huddled masses

At the entrance to New York City Harbour stands the Statue of Liberty. On its base is a plaque bearing the words of Emma Lazarus: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” But according to the New York Times, the promise of openly receiving the world’s huddled masses no longer holds true for the United States, and to find a country that still practices the words from the Lazarus poem, one has to look northward to Canada.
In the recent front-page article in the Times, datelined Winnipeg, Manitoba, Jason DeParle wrote that the people of our province were piqued a decade ago when waves of immigrants from the developing world made their way to other Canadian cities and avoided Manitoba. “The rub was the newcomers’ preference for the M.T.V. — Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver — over the prairie province north of North Dakota, which coveted workers and population growth,” wrote DeParle.
Wanting our fair share, he continued, “Manitobans did something hard to imagine in American politics, where concern over illegal immigrants dominates the public debate and states seek more power to keep them out. In Canada, which has little illegal immigration, Manitoba won new powers to bring foreigners in, handpicking ethnic and occupational groups judged most likely to stay.”
DeParle called it an “experiment in designer immigration” that “has made Winnipeg a hub of parka-clad diversity,” which “has defied the anti-immigrant backlash seen in much of the world.”
According to the article, while anti-migration debates have sprung up in countries from Australia to Sweden, “there is no such thing in Canada as an anti-immigration politician.”
True, but there are politicians who rile against those who attempt to jump the queue, coming to our shores in illegal vessels, leaping off the ships and then claiming refuge in the Great White North.
Still, DeParle is primarily right. In Manitoba, the Provincial Nominee Program has been extremely successful in attracting the world’s “huddled masses,” who are quite satisifed to call our province home. University of Winnipeg professor Dr. Tom Carter did an evaluation of the program and determined the PNP provided a positive settlement experience for nominees.
The study found that 85 per cent of the nominees were working after three months and 89 per cent found permanent jobs; 83 per cent were working in their fields or in a related field; after three to five years, 76 per cent of the nominees were homeowners; 95 per cent did not plan on moving to another province over the next five years; and 91 per cent of nominees could over time communicate easily in English.
Unfortunately, the federal government has indicated to the province that the PNP will be capped at 5,000 nominees this year and next year. It’s a shame, as the PNP accounted for 75 per cent of the 13,500 newcomers to Manitoba in 2009, and since its creation in 1998, it has helped boost Manitoba’s population after years of losses. 
A booming economy has also contributed to the population gain, but the PNP has been the driving force behind Manitoba’s climb above the 1.2-million people mark. As of July 1 this year, 1,235,412 people lived in Manitoba, an increase of 1.3 per cent over the previous year, according to Statistics Canada.
“The results of the study will help us demonstrate to the federal government that Manitoba’s Provincial Nominee Program has been successful in recruiting and retaining newcomers who help our economy grow,” said Labour and Immigration Minister Jennifer Howard in an October press release.
One has to agree with the minister when she said, “This very successful model should be allowed to continue to grow.”
The Times article called Winnipeg a “steaks-and-potatoes town,” which “now offers stocks of palm oil and pounded yams, four Filipino newspapers, a large Hindu Diwali festival, and a mandatory course on Canadian life from the grand to the granular.”
A comment in the article from Manitoba furniture manufacturer Arthur deFehr outlines the ironic immigration differences between us and the U.S. When commenting about the 11-million illegal immigrants in the U.S., which has turned into a divisive political debate across the border, DeFehr said: “I’m sure many of those people would make perfectly wonderful citizens of Canada. I think we should go and get them.”
Still, Canada is not plagued by a major problem facing the U.S. — it has a border with Mexico, which is an entry point for illegal economic migrants from Mexico, and Central and South America. No matter how high the wall/fence along the U.S.-Mexico border is, thousands still manage to defy the odds and enter the U.S. illegally every year.
I had to laugh one time while visiting New Mexico and getting into a discussion with a Mexican-American. “How high is your fence across the border?” he asked.
When I replied there was no fence, he looked at me incredulously and commented, “You gotta be kidding?” 
I told him there is no need for a fence, because, with the exception of Canadian actors, comedians and hockey players who pursue job opportunities in the U.S., we’re quite happy to remain at home, although we do periodically travel across the border for bargain shopping. But at the end of our shopping sprees, we always return home to Canada, I informed the man to further expressions of disbelief on his part. 
The only mention from Americans of putting a high fence across the U.S.-Canada border is to keep out all those nasty terrorists who never made Canada a base of operations, despite the assertions of Sarah Palin and her ilk.
DeParle wrote that “the absence of widespread illegal immigration” eliminates “a dominant source” of conflict that reverberates in the U.S.
“French and English from the start, Canada also has a more accommodating political culture — one that accepts more pluribus and demands less unum. That American complaint — ‘Why do I have to press 1 for English?’ — baffles a country with a minister of multiculturalism.”
Funny how Canada, with its pluribus philosophy of “peace, order and good government,” has become more accommodating to the “huddled masses” than the U.S., where the unum belief is in “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It seems the Fathers of Confederation had it right all along when they rejected the American model — the proof is in the Times.