It was recently announced that the backlog of current applications for immigration to Canada is around 900,000. The federal government has decided to address this backlog by an amendment to the Immigration Act.
The amendment, however, does not really address the backlog but rather, gives the responsible minister greater authority in the application process. The proposed change will permit the minister to fast-track certain new applicants in the skilled worker class.
It may follow that the projected number of immigrants in some of the various classes of immigrants may be modified, too. It could also mean that the acceptable number of refugee applicants seeking safe haven and asylum in Canada could be reduced. The detailed plan will no doubt surface in the weeks ahead. But the fact remains that with its vast regions from coast to coast and its increasing need for manpower to fuel the economy, Canada is in need of immigrants.
Since the enactment of our first Citizenship Act in 1947, Canada has welcomed more than million people to our population. This process has required adjustments for both the host nation as well as the immigrants. Unfortunately, there has been some degree of frustration as not all communities have been accepting of these newcomers. Immigration, however, is the lifeblood of a dynamic fruitful and robust Canada.
Many other nations also depend on immigration for their growth and development. Since its establishment 60 years ago, Israel, more than most nations, has been a national community of newcomers. Indeed there are Israelis who can trace their settlement in the area back some five generations. Others will argue that their ties historically date back to biblical times. Not withstanding this, Israel is a nation of settlement, integration and of welcome to the many who seek a homeland, refuge or indeed the assurances of living in a Jewish state.
After the Holocaust and the creation of the State of Israel, much migration came from eastern Europe. Since 1948, Israel has experienced several other waves of immigration, some of which attracted international attention. Some one million Jews emigrated to Israel from Russia in the late 1980s and early ’90s, after decades of world Jewish efforts to free them from the bondage and the anti-Semitic hardship of the former Soviet Union.
But Israel is not without problems related to immigration. Some of the Russian immigrants who escaped that despotic regime lied about their religion in order to gain immigration status in Israel, only to later seek refugee status elsewhere (including in Canada), complaining of conditions in Israel. This small minority of Russian immigrants essentially betrayed Israeli hospitality.
A similar, though not quite parallel, situation is presently unfolding as Sudanese refugees are seeking asylum in Israel, allegedly escaping the genocidal hardship of Darfur. Although they are not Jewish, they are seeking refuge in Israel through Egyptian ports of entry, appealing to the spirit, history and humanitarian precepts that have historically been part of both the Israeli and Jewish tradition
Some of these people are genuine refugees, attempting to escape the horrors of the conflict in Darfur. However, individuals from other regions of Africa are claiming to escape from Darfur when, in reality, they are simply seeking a better life in Israel. Israel is now struggling to deal with this issue as many of these claimants are arriving without documentation or proof of origin.
The immigration of Ethiopian Jews (beginning with “Operation Moses” in 1984) attracted widespread international attention. The Ethiopian story is one of success as the Ethiopian Jews have not only improved their own lives but have also significantly contributed to Israeli society. Many Ethiopian Jews are now studying at and achieving prominence at Israeli universities.
Immigrants to Israel are more than individuals who have returned under a law of return to their historic homeland. As in Canada, immigrants make major contributions to the arts, sciences and humanities and the national economy.
So as Canada addresses its current backlog problems, let us not forget the contribution of immigrants to our national make-up and the strength of our nation. Both Canada and Israel are communities of immigrants. We should be both welcoming and thankful of their continuing contribution to the greatness of our respective nations.