The government of Canada has recently proposed doubling its immigration offices in China, in a move helmed by immigration minister John McCallum. This is the wrong move, for a variety of reasons.
Chinese immigrants disproportionately move into large cities, driving up housing prices. The foreign workers from China are low-skill, and take jobs from Canada’s poor. In other words, the flow of Chinese negatively affects existing Canadians.
But there’s something else: Chinese immigrants have a unique history of failing to integrate into Canada’s “cultural mosaic.” And in no province is this more obvious than in British Columbia.
Enabled by the incestuous relationship between Chinese business and the Canadian government, middle and upper-class Chinese have immigrated into British Columbia en masse over the past few decades. BC, the epicentre for Chinese migration to Canada, is eleven percent Chinese-Canadian, and some cities in the province are almost fifty percent Chinese-Canadian. In many suburbs, you’d be hard-pressed to find a person who wasn't ethnically Chinese.
None of this would be a problem if most Chinese-Canadians communities assimilated into Canadian culture. But they don't. They occupy cordoned-off areas of British Columbia, and barely interact with the broader Canadian population. They live in their own enclaves, have their own customs, and keep their own company.
Travel to any Chinese-Canadian region in BC and you’ll see a facsimile of China recreated in front of you.
The Crystal Mall in Burnaby is a great example. The mall lacks English signage and is exclusively populated with businesses selling Chinese products and food.
I don’t have a problem with Chinese immigration. I don’t have a problem with Chinese traditions, and I don’t have a problem with immigrant communities retaining their customs.
What we should take issue with, though, the complete isolation of immigrant groups from the rest of Canada.
Mono-Chinese malls, mono-Chinese suburbs, and even mono-Chinese schools have all become common sights in BC. Many Chinese-Canadian communities have become totally disintegrated from Canadian society. It’s not a problem unique to the Chinese-Canadians, but they’re the worst offender.
Is this really the kind of integration that lawmakers had in mind when we instituted state multiculturalism? Many immigrant groups have imported insular traditions that isolate themselves from broader Canadian society, and refuse to adopt Canadian cultural norms. It’s hardly a surprise that Canada is more segregated than ever.
We need to be less afraid of offending people and more afraid of the consequences of a segregated society. We need to encourage assimilation.
After all, BC is a Canadian province. Not a Chinese one.