I am a little uncomfortable wading into an area where I have limited experience. I have worked on several projects related to immigration and I was able to interview over 100 immigrants across the Atlantic Provinces in 2008.
I am speaking of the German Chancellor’s comments regarding immigration this week. She said that the attempt to build a multicultural society in Germany has failed. In the Globe, Margaret Wente says:
A few years ago, when I visited some of the Turkish neighbourhoods of Berlin, it was obvious that the German experiment with multiculturalism was in trouble. Many of Germany’s four million Turks lived in a parallel society. The kids were doing badly in school and jobless rates were high. Girls were ruled by their patriarchal families. Muslim immigrants had become increasingly religious. A brisk trade in brides and grooms from backward parts of the old country ensured that nothing was likely to change soon. Yet few officials dared to raise these awkward facts in public. And the German political class has gone out of its way to avoid a serious debate on immigration.
Not that long ago I went to a Cybersocial in Shediac and chatted with an IT guy from China who was working in Moncton. I asked him why Moncton and not Ontario or British Columbia and he told me because it is far harder to integrate into Canadian society in places like Toronto and Vancouver.
It is possible that he might have a different view than other immigrants but I think the point that you can’t build parallel societies in the same country is one that we need to talk about. I think that immigrants bring a lot of great traditions from their home countries – I am part of the small Brazilian Canadian community in Moncton and I love the food, the culture, etc. but these immigrants are embracing their new country – making friends outside the Brazilian community, learning English, working hard to integrate into Canadian society (although I admit that means different things to different people).
I don’t have the answers to this but it is increasingly clear that places like New Brunswick have a unique opportunity. We are on the front end of an immigrant wave (the bulk of our population in the future will have to come from either immigrants or a relatively tight pool of migrants from the rest of Canada) and we can learn from the experience elsewhere.
I am not a big fan of too much segmentation of any kind in society. I don’t like to ‘contain’ our poor population into specific areas of our cities – I think there needs to be specific public policy to avoid that. I think we need diverse neighbourhoods – rich, poor, immigrant, progressive, conservative – whatever. While it is more comfortable to cluster in areas where our neighbours look and act just like us – it’s not particularly good for society.
There will always be some of this. We want to feel comfortable. I remember when I moved downtown here in Moncton a lot of people said we were crazy. That was six years ago and we have not been robbed, vandalized, etc. once while our friends in Riverview have been robbed and accosted by thugs and friends in the Evergreen Park area have also been robbed.
I realize that living downtown still holds a higher risk of this stuff – but I am just pointing out that people who think they are comfortable in a cute, homogeneous environment – may not be anyway.
The solution still has to be some kind of blending of cultures to the betterment of all.
Let’s try to learn from the history of others.