Canada’s immigration policy, as far as I understand it, is based on a ‘point system’ in which applicants are scored based on a list of traits/skills/circumstances deemed desirable or deserving of immigrant status by the Canadian government. If you have a certain number of points, you qualify to immigrate to Canada. Points can be gained if you have, for example, language skills in French or English; family living in the country; experience in a profession/industry/sector in which there is a labour shortage; amount of work experience; and education level, among others.
This point system is oft cited in immigration policy debates around the world. I, however, question the legitimacy of the bases for points. The skills or circumstances deemed ‘desirable’ are decided arbitrarily – sometimes contentiously – by the government. And the reasons for its choices reflects its values and its philosophy of immigration.
Admitting and denying applicants mainly based on their potential contribution to the economy is sad and narrow-minded, because it shows that the government values immigrants mainly in dollar terms. While I recognise the reasoning behind not wanting immigrants to become a financial burden on the public purse, this qualification process ignores the often invaluable ways in which immigrants contribute to their new home – to society and culture and the benefits of diversity. I believe very strongly that diversity strengthens a community simply because there is a greater selection of ideas, and combining Darwinian natural selection with the law of large numbers, this means it is more likely that the idea selected is a better one than otherwise. A heterogeneous community is strong because what ailment afflicts one member does not necessarily afflict the others, who can therefore use their energies to help and support their ill neighbour. And of course, diversity promotes open-mindedness, tolerance, acceptance of new ideas etc. which are valuable in and of themselves. These are inherently ‘good’ no matter their impact on the economy.
Sidenote: Even if the immigrants are poor or low-skilled, what about those studies that show second generation immigrants excel in school and are more likely to have higher education and a white-collar job and so on? If we must use economic measures, immigrants can be thought of as an investment with a return after 20 years.
The Canadian point system is an interesting model to study but is not perfect and should not be put on a pedestal. At least, not on one so high.
Also (and I have no answer as of yet), what of the purported right of citizens of the world to move as they wish?