Immigrants remind us of Canadian values

I’m reading the newspapers and the magazines and I see that many Canadians have only qualified support for immigrants.

I ignore the bigots, pretty much automatically, and I listen directly to Canadians who value our willingness to accept those from other countries. Yet they feel only X number can come each year and only those who speak English or French and only those who have the skills we need.

And they justify these conditions by saying immigrants just want to take advantage of our standard of living.

No. That is where they are wrong. For the most part, immigrants want to take advantage of the opportunity for opportunity.

Whether they bring $400,000 to invest or they bring their willingness to take risks and work hard, Canada is well served by immigrants.

They take the jobs that we feel are beneath us, they embrace risks we feel no imperative to take and they instantly embody that which we have taken for granted because, for them, it is a luxury.

For instance, many of them vote.

Canada was built on risk takers. Immigrants, by definition, for the sole reason they left friends and family and all the cultural touchstones of home, are risk takers.

It is difficult to generalize here because every immigrant is different and they each come from different circumstances, but I feel I understand them on an esoteric level.

I am an immigrant, too. Although I was born in Ontario and, unless you want to get all semantic on me, you have to allow me to consider myself an immigrant to the Yukon.

Just as someone leaves a disagreeable land, I left Ontario; just as someone seeks a better life, I seek a better life; and just as they are met with greater opportunity, I have met greater opportunity.

Let’s face it, with my penchant for moving around, there is no way I would be the editor of three publications Outside. I have never been willing to stay in one job for 25 years as I work my way up the ladder.

In the Yukon, I was given an opportunity – a risk, really – and I worked hard and have found my own version of success.

Immigrants work hard here, too. Many come from countries that require hard work just to stay healthy.

I met a gentleman from Mexico two years ago. His lot in life had been selling fish from a cart. Here, in the Yukon, he had a business that filled a special niche. He had a truck and paid staff and a home.

With his children in school and his health ensured and a fine police force to provide his safety, he could apply his ability to work hard on a pursuit that made many other lives a little better.

Imagine. He travelled through the United States to make Canada home. In the United States his culture would have disappeared into the melting pot. Here, he was valued for the diversity he brought, just one more community of communities to be celebrated.

He was deported. He took with him an appreciation of all things that make Canada great. For us, it is the loss of one of our best; for him, it is a lingering despair of having what he will never taste again … only because of the randomness of birth.

The best Canadians, I say, are those who choose to live here and not necessarily those who were born here.

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