Immigration in Toronto is a debate worth having

Toronto mayoral candidate Rob Ford’s response to a question asked of all candidates during a televised debate as to how Toronto should welcome Tamil migrants sparked significant controversy. 

After Ford’s declaration that Toronto cannot even “deal” with its own population at the moment, let alone new migrants that would lead to “chaos,” his opponents united together, calling the candidate’s remarks as a clear display of anti-immigration sentiment.

Ford defended his comments just a few days later, citing economics as the reasoning behind his remarks but many, including one Torontonian, said that “[w]hen you cut off refugees and say we don’t want them in Toronto, you’re not for immigration.”

The response from Torontonians, one echoing utter disgust and anger, was warranted. As an immigrant myself – my family and I first lived in Toronto before moving to Waterloo Region – Ford’s comments did not sit well with me by any means.

With that said however, can something be learned from this incident, aside from the fact that intolerance still exists? Perhaps there are some economic concerns that Toronto, and even Canada as a nation, needs to look into. 


There’s going to be a million more
people, according to the official plan
(which I did not support) over the
next ten years coming into the city.
We can’t even deal with the 2.5
million people. How are we going to
welcome another million people in? It
is going to be chaotic. We can’t even
deal with the chaos we have now. I
think we have to say enough’s enough.”
—Rob Ford, Candidate for Mayor of
Toronto


As of this July, Statistics Canada reported Toronto’s unemployment rate at about 9.6 per cent, much higher than the provincial rate of 8 per cent. So, although immigrants and non-immigrants alike have contributed to Toronto’s economy in some way, right now the job market looks abysmal. This means that Toronto cannot sufficiently handle an influx of any new migrants, regardless of where they originate from and what sort of skills they may bring to the table.

If we take another step back and look at the province of Ontario as a whole, perhaps Central Canada should refer migrants elsewhere if sustainable living is the goal.

Whereas Ontario reported a total of 15,000 jobs lost this July, economic recovery in Western Canada looks more promising. The British Columbia economy gained 16,000 in the same month bringing the province’s unemployment rate down to 7.5 per cent and the province of Alberta gained 9,000 jobs dropping its unemployment rate to 6.3 per cent — the lowest since April 2009. 

Tamil migrants have already arrived in Vancouver, but this is not to say that additional migrants should continue to settle only there as that would very quickly lead to disaster, since the city’s infrastructure can only support so many people.

However, since Western Canada does present more opportunities for new Canadians, communities where economic recovery is evident should be the destination for these individuals. The key is to ensure that wherever these migrants end up, that that community’s infrastructure can sustain an influx of new citizens. 

Infrastructure does not only refer to social assistance, as many new Canadians are educated and qualified and thus will not need to take advantage of the service, but it means that there needs to be jobs available for them to contribute to society.

If Toronto cannot fulfill these promises, then migration should be encouraged elsewhere, not because immigrants are unwelcome in Toronto, but because the metropolis cannot offer them or the majority of new migrants what is needed to make a better life in Canada.

At the end of the day however, the Federal government cannot forbid new Canadians from settling in a particular community as these individuals do have the inherent right to make this decision themselves.

Though, the state of certain economies such as Toronto’s should be taken into consideration when deciding, as a fruitful life may not be as attainable in these parts right now. 

It is without question that Rob Ford’s remarks regarding new Tamil migrants arriving in Toronto were completely offensive and uncalled for and I am just one of countless individuals who expect an apology. 

The questions that have not arisen however, may deserve some digging and if warranted, could aid in shaping policy during economic recovery.

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