An immigrant accosted in the street with the question ‘what are you doing here? You should go home.’ A group of immigrant entrepreneurs suddenly feeling like second class citizens. Women harassed, even assaulted for what they choose to wear.

Ostensibly the Canadian welcome mat is still out but it is looking pretty shabby. The current climate, fostered by the language of this election campaign, is serving to make immigrants feel unwelcome. And that is bad for all of us because we need immigrants.

We need immigrants to replace our aging workforce. According to Statistics Canada, seniors over 65 now outnumber youth under 15 for the first time ever in Canada. Immigrants are necessary to maintain our workforce and will soon account for 100 per cent of its growth.

We need immigrants to drive innovation. Innovation and entrepreneurship are core to a healthy economy. According to a study from the Conference Board of Canada, immigrants impact all aspects of innovation: research and development, culture and the arts, business, and global commerce.  Canada needs to increase innovation for our long-term well-being and immigrants are a key resource to make that happen.

We need immigrants to compete globally. That same Conference Board study shows that immigrants boost trade. Skilled immigrants bring a breadth of international work experience. Their familiarity about how business is conducted in international markets and knowledge of other languages make them an asset to businesses looking to grow overseas.

We need immigrants but the current xenophobic climate, fostered by this election, makes it seem like we do not want them.

Canada can no longer rely on being the country of choice for the world’s best and brightest, and the competition does not just come for the usual suspects: the United States and Australia. Source countries like China and India now offer many opportunities to keep their talent at home, or even entice back those who have already left.  Immigrants in this country already face enough barriers to meaningful employment; they do not need a hostile climate to make them feel even more unwelcome.

Our long term prosperity depends on immigrants choosing to come to Canada, make their life here and contribute to our economy. This is no longer a given; something we should not forget in this election campaign.

Margaret Eaton
Executive Director