Friday, November 13, 2009

Strength Through Diversity

Nature teaches us simple yet powerful life lessons. These lessons are so potent that their implications apply to the broad spectrum of human existence.
Yesterday I received a chain e-mail that reminded me of one of nature’s lessons. This little gem was one of the thinly disguised anti-immigrant rants currently floating around cyberspace like bad breath.
Some Canadians fear that “the others” – immigrants to Canada- are overwhelming and changing Canadian society. It appears that those immigrants who are non-Caucasian and non-Christian are of special concern. The writers of these messages appear deeply troubled by the fear that Canada may become a multi-ethnic, multi-faith society.
Yet anyone who has lived close to Nature will tell you that she performs poorly in monocultures and thrives in diversity. In plant and animal communities, genetic diversity is the best possible insurance against catastrophe.
It is no different in human communities. Diversity gives societies and cultures a richness and strength that builds enduring civilizations.
In today’s world, that community diversity is inevitable. Spend some time in a shopping center and take note of the multiracial young couples you observe. Many of today’s young people do not see racial or religious differences as impediments to relationships. This cross-cultural intermingling is the bridge across which tomorrow’s Canadian identity will pass.
Yet there are good reasons for frustration with the outcomes of recent Canadian immigration policies, for those policies have not always worked in our best national interests. It is important to review what has historically worked and what has not worked in terms of immigrant absorption into Canadian society.
One of the best examples of successful immigration absorption was the immigrant settlement of western Canada at the dawn of the 20th century- the western Canadian pioneers. Many thousands of new Canadians from all over the world came together to fulfill old dreams and build new lives. Today, the success of that experiment is obvious across western Canada.
Contrast that success with the sprawling urban immigrant ghettos in our major cities that often trap new Canadians in social and economic isolation. The walls separating these immigrants from mainstream Canadian society are hard to scale. Sadly, many of their own leaders have strong interests in preserving the status quo.
There is a huge social and economic benefit to ending that status quo. We need immigrants, for Canada urgently requires labor for its depleting work force. The economic and social diversity we will gain from these new Canadians will add huge value to our social and economic bottom line.
All Canadians, no matter their age or faith or culture, have an interest in breaking down the walls of separation and harvesting that social diversity. Let’s hit the “Delete” button on those toxic emails and then “Send” the hand of friendship to new immigrants- wherever they may come from.