Social inclusion can be described as a part of the societal safety net that is essential to the functioning and well-being of all members of a society. An inclusive society is one in which its members are recognized and equally valued, despite the cultural and structural challenges that at times prohibit the full participation of some.
In the case of newcomers, some will begin to undergo the process of inclusion before they land in Canada, taking language classes that will assist them through their navigation in society. However, once living in Canada, it quickly becomes apparent that language is not the most important ingredient for inclusivity, since many citizens and residents speak the national language and still feel excluded. With that being said, language will always be a vital starting point for all newcomers with factors such as income and education falling behind.
The role of our government and current citizens is also key to the inclusion of newcomers, but, as mentioned earlier, we live in a society where a percentage of citizens do not feel as though they are part of the larger society. So where do we go from here? The fact of the matter is: social inclusion is such an important aspect of society because no social inclusion results in social conflict. Aboriginal Peoples in our country are still engaged in the conflict that has risen from being systematically and geographically excluded by the government. The same goes for residents of Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) buildings, but to a lesser extent. Projects, such as the Regent Park Revitalization, have the ability to change this, and we are seeing a new system that is set on providing a “mixed-income, mixed-use community,” where things such as an address and postal code can assist with the integration of residents into larger society.
An inclusive society is something we all benefit from, but the responsibility of ensuring that we have such a society falls largely on our government. Since 2003, the McGuinty government in Ontario has invested more than $240 million to help highly-skilled newcomers get licensed and obtain Canadian job experience. But with the recent cuts being made to immigration programs in Canada, present and awaiting newcomers will be left to fight it out amongst themselves for the few remaining spots in such training programs and jobs.
You would think, with all the changes and cuts being implemented and proposed, that the government would have started to reduce the numbers of immigrants entering the country each year, but that is not entirely the case. According to Statistics Canada, from 2007 to 2009, the number of permanent residents rose steadily each year, up until 2010 when the number of permanent residents shot up by more than 27,000. It was after this large intake that the government realized the fiscal disaster they were in, and subsequently reduced the numbers by 32,000 in 2011. The numbers for this year are yet to be released, but in accordance with the changes that have been made to the two key sources of immigrants (the Federal Skilled Workers Program (FSWP) and the Immigrant Investor Program (IIP)) and the numbers from the previous year, it is safe to assume that this year’s numbers will also be on the decline.
What these numbers do not reveal is that along with the decrease in the number of immigrants we accept each year, the settlement services and quality of service they will receive will decrease as well. The $30 million that is being cut from immigration settlement services will leave government agencies and NGOs with more than 500,000 immigrants (counting the last five years only) with less money to provide adequate services to assist newcomers with job searches, language training, and housing, which in turn will once again become an issue for the government to deal with when the increased numbers of the homeless and unemployed newcomers becomes unbearable.
When women were beginning to become an essential part of the Canadian economy and workforce, the government promoted their inclusion by providing resources to government and privately-run childcare facilities that have managed to remain an imperative part of our society up until today. Just as women were provided with the resources necessary to ensure their transition and participation in society, the settlement of newcomers is also imperative to the economic success of our country and should be provided instead of prohibited – by the people in society who are set to benefit from it the most: the government.
“I left Pakistan when I was of age six. My memory of the transition is blurred because it has been so long. However, one thing I do remember is singing Urdu songs for my neighbors. Good times! I can barely speak Urdu now… The hardest part of my transition WAS the transition. Moving from one culture to another was pretty hard. Eleven years later, I am still clueless! Sort of. ” - Asim, 17, immigrated to Canada from Pakistan