Someone told me today that a People’s Party of Canada candidate in New Brunswick is talking about Radical Islam overrunning our nation.
I was on a consulting team that surveyed places of worship in Greater Moncton a few months ago. Eleven places of worship took the survey from a variety of faiths. We asked for the respondents to tell us how many immigrants have started attending their place of worship in the past couple of years. Using the mid-points from the attendee ranges (1-20, 50-100, etc.), estimated recent immigrant attendees to Christian churches (Protestant and Catholic) outpaced recent attendees to non-Christian places of worship (the synagogue and mosque responded) by seven to one.
There is a lot of evidence that new immigrants are repopulating churches in urban and rural areas across New Brunswick (Charlotte County, Shediac, etc.).
I am pleasantly surprised by this trend. I believe places of worship are important institutions for immigrant retention. Not everyone is a person of faith but for those who are, churches/mosques/synagogues can be excellent venues for building community, networks and friends, and for learning cultural norms and practices.
I attended a Baptist church one time in Brazil and except for the language, the one-hour plus sermon and all the hugging and kissing at the conclusion it could have been a rural church right here in New Brunswick. The hymns were the same. The prayers were the same (a little longer). The sermon – right down to the style of preaching – was very familiar.
The Koreans, Filipinos, Chinese, eastern Europeans, Latin Americans, Syrians, Africans and others are attending churches across New Brunswick and this is a win-win – for the churches and for the newcomers.
I have said and continue to say that we need to broaden the conversation about immigration across New Brunswick. I recently listened to an excellent interview with with Michael Ignatieff where he lays out a strong case for immigration but is clear that countries need borders (he talked about walls but with doors) and that people being uncomfortable with immigration is normal and doesn’t make them automatically racist or anti-immigrant. He also talked about the responsibility of immigrants to adapt and conform to the norms of the countries they move to.
I found Ignatieff very refreshing after the “you are either with us or against us” tone of the debate these days – not just on immigration – on any big public policy issue. Old Iggy wasn’t much of a politician. I’m not sure Canada (or anywhere else) is ready for a philosopher-king. But he is right on point about the current state of liberal democracy (quite optimistic) and the importance of immigration.
So let’s have a conversation about immigration. If you hear someone talk about radical Islam taking over Canada, ask for facts. I can point you to a number of Muslim acquaintances in New Brunswick that can clear things up for you. They practice their faith, have good days and bad days at work, argue with their teenage kids, struggle to meet the monthly budget, dream about the future – just like 98% of the rest of us in New Brunswick.
And as for the Christian immigrants coming from Asia, Latin America, eastern Europe and Africa? I’ll just say you really don’t have much to worry about them, either.
The truth is that New Brunswick’s quality of life and our ongoing high standard of living will depend on our ability to ensure at least a modest level of economic growth. This is the only way (barring massive increases in federal transfer payments) to ensure we will have the tax revenue to pay for the high quality public services and public infrastructure we have come to expect.
And we need an influx of younger workers and entrepreneurs to offset those leaving the workforce through retirement. There are still lots of New Brunswickers joining the workforce every year but not enough to offset the exits.
Let’s go out and find young and ambitious people from across Canada and around the world to come and fill the gaps in the workforce, help provide the talent for future growth industries and induce lots and lots of tax revenue. That also sounds like a win-win.