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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/8/2010 (3713 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Back in the days before Ottawa decided to slap scientific handcuffs on Statistics Canada, it was easy to pore over census data and see how Winnipeg and Manitoba's growth depended on getting our hands on a whack of new people.
As the slow-growth capital of a slow-growth province, Winnipeg's population would slide if it weren't for all our newcomers -- either migrants from other parts of Canada or immigrants and refugees.
It's been this way for decades. Our birth rates simply aren't high enough to replace the existing population, let alone increase it.
So like much of the western world, we rely on newcomers to keep our economy humming, or at least murmuring along. But we just haven't received our fair share of new people over the years.
While most refugees don't get a choice about where they're going within Canada, immigrants -- people who qualify to enter Canada on the basis of special skills, a pile of money or relatives already here -- hope to land in larger and more ethnically diverse cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
This is part of the reason Manitoba started a provincial nominee program that's brought thousands of people here who would otherwise never consider the bald, flat prairie as a place to settle down.
Unfortunately, Winnipeg still has a labour shortage, which is something the populist weirdos who claim immigrants are here to "take our jobs" don't seem to get.
So if I were Mayor Sam Katz or Premier Greg Selinger this morning, I'd sit down and write senior Manitoba MP Vic Toews a letter. And it would have nothing to do with money for roads or transit or magic monorails.
"Dear Vic," I'd say. "Send us the Tamils. They've been on a boat so long, they don't want to be anywhere near the water.
"They've endured civil war in Sri Lanka. They deserve to live in a place where the nastiest battle involves a bloody football stadium.
"So give us the Tamils, Vic. Give us every one of them who doesn't have ties to the Tiger terrorists. We'll take care of all the nice ones, who are bound to be the majority. I mean, we already have a Tamil pavilion at Folklorama."
I am not being entirely facetious. During Sri Lanka's long and brutal civil war, ordinary Tamils were caught between a government that didn't trust them and a terrorism-promoting rebel leadership that used them as human shields.
As Canada's public safety minister, Vic Toews is right to be wary of human traffickers with terrorist ties, who profited from shipping 492 Tamils to British Columbia in a sewage-polluted, floating sardine can. Toews is also right to be concerned about more boatloads of migrants.
But this is a nation of refugees and immigrants. Any Canadian who is not First Nations, Métis or Inuit originally came here from somewhere else.
Our first responsibility is human welfare, so once the intelligence people separate the terrorists from the rest of the MV Sun Sea's passenger list, we should embrace everyone else.
And since the rest of Canada seems be caught up in a xenophobic frenzy, they might as well come here to Winnipeg.
Again, I am not being facetious. In Toronto, where a spectacular mayoral race is unfolding between right-wing city councillor Rob Ford and left-wing former MPP George Smitherman, the populist Ford suggested Hogtown needs to take care of the people it has before it can absorb more refugees.
This was not a racist comment: Toronto, unlike Winnipeg, pays for social services. But it was short-sighted, as newcomers usually wind up contributing more to Canada than they take within a generation, as my old ethnic-relations professor Cecil Pereira -- himself a refugee from Uganda -- used to lecture.
If you doubt that statement, simply look outside your window and count all the non-aboriginal faces. Every one is the descendent of an immigrant or refugee.
Yet in B.C., where the Tamils landed, the outright racist reaction has been bizarre, with a vocal minority demanding the migrants be shipped back to Asia.
Mincing absolutely no words, the Vancouver Sun's Stephen Hume put this sentiment in context this week: Canada had no problem accepting 200,000 Hungarian refugees after Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest 1956, another 11,000 Czechs and Slovaks when the same thing happened in Prague in 1968, about 40,000 U.S. draft dodgers in 1971 and many other waves of refugees from Vietnam, Ethiopia, the Balkans, Afghanistan and Sudan over the ensuing decades.
Roughly twice as many Americans applied for refugee status in Canada last year than Sri Lankans did, Hume continues. And Canada sits nowhere near the top of international refugee destination lists.
So what's the problem with 492 Tamils? Well, they were trafficked here by gangsters. And some may be connected to terrorists.
No one's disputing that. Now weed out the bad ones and give Winnipeg the rest.
If the rest of Canada wants to wallow in blind hatred, so be it
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