Immigration and the Citizen ‘Ship’ Are Connected: Are We a Ship of State or a Ship of Fools?

Sep 24, 2023 | Blog

As seen in The Epoch Times

We all come from somewhere. In fact, we are all either settlers or ancestors of settlers here. This goes from Canada’s earliest inhabitants whose ancestors came across the Bering Land Bridge 20,000 years previously to today’s new Canadians. But the Canadian Ship of State is not on course. Canada must not have such open borders to immigration – especially when it cannot get its own act together.

The metaphor of a Ship of State is ancient and goes way back to Socrates. He asked: “If you were heading out on a journey by sea, who would you ideally want deciding who was in charge of the vessel? Just anyone, or people educated in the rules and demands of seafaring?” Canadians must have definite ideas about who to allow to board our Ship of State to become citizens. Justin Trudeau is wrong to think of Canada as the “first post-national state.” Every country must define its immigration and borders. Contrary to such authoritarian international socialists, this is a duty of the ship’s captain to its passengers in a healthy democracy.

Canada as a Parable of the Lifeboat

Fifty years ago, a compelling parable was used to describe this reality of immigration.  The idea is to think of our Ship of State as a lifeboat. As ecologist Garrett Hardin pointed out, there are significantly more people who want to come to countries like Canada than leave. Yet, Canada has limited resources, with most new immigration concentrating in our biggest cities and not in the hinterland.

Think of the many poor of our world swimming outside the Canadian lifeboat. They, of course, want to get on board. But the question is: What should the lifeboat passengers of Canada do when our lifeboat has a limited capacity? Canada is admitting unprecedently high immigration levels right now, and yet we are struggling with health care, the environment, housing, jobs, education, and crime. Just in the case of health care, hospitals where I work have consistently been in overcapacity for years before the pandemic. In fact, Canada as a lifeboat is closer to its carrying capacity than we ever thought.

To simplify the numbers, let’s imagine the Canadian lifeboat has 50 people in it and there is a total capacity of 60. Let’s say there are 100 people swimming in the water outside of our borders. What would happen if we let everyone on board? The lifeboat would be swamped and everyone would drown. No Ship of State can stay afloat if 150 get on board a boat that only has a capacity for 60. To welcome everyone would be utopian justice—but a total catastrophe.

Some passengers will point out that Canada still has 10 places left in the lifeboat, even if we only have a capacity of 60. But then the question becomes: Who do we actually let on board? If we know that open borders are a catastrophe, then we must be on the lookout for unwelcome boarding parties. Otherwise, we will cease to exist as a sovereign and independent nation. Milton Friedman used to say, “Previous immigration used to be a win-win. The country gained something and the immigrant gained something. Now, we are in danger of win-lose. The immigrant takes and the country only gives.”

But how do we determine who should get on the Canadian Ship of State and become a citizen? Canada needs an immigration process that is timely and does not incentivize illegal immigration. In fact, the credibility of Canadian immigration policy should be measured in a simple way: People who should get in, do get in; people who should not get in, are kept out; and people judged deportable are required to leave.

Prescriptions for Healthy Immigration, and Improving the Canadian Citizen Ship

Let me as one Canadian offer some prescriptions for a healthier immigration—and a healthier Canada. I would say that there are two key points. First, we must secure Canada’s borders.  And second, we must set immigration requirements (both quantity and quality) based upon the Canadian national interest.

First, we must secure Canada’s borders, where immigration is fundamentally of national jurisdiction. That is, immigration and borders are a national government’s responsibility in order to be accountable to the citizens. In fact, it is wise to realize that one cannot hope to help others if one cannot get one’s own act together, whether it be health care, the environment, housing, jobs, or education. Once priority is to Canadians, then priority can be offered to others such as real refugees and people who can offer real skills to Canada. And for the sake of rule of law, the whole Canadian national border ought to be considered a point of entry.

Second, we must set Canadian immigration requirements (both quantity and quality) based upon our national interest. That is, immigration matters must be decided by the national interest, and not upon the demands of some unaccountable international body.

In terms of quantity of immigration, this must be determined mostly upon labour demand. If there is less work for Canadians, then immigration must be less. On the other hand, if an immigrant can offer a valuable skill that will benefit the country, then that person should have priority to come to Canada. Recent data shows that there has been a basic mismatch between the skills of many immigrants versus jobs available in Canada. Immigrants who have an actual job to go to should take priority—especially jobs that cannot be filled by Canadians. We must create a pathway to citizenship for hard-working immigrants who offer just as much as they take.

In terms of quality of immigration for the Canadian national interest, we can continue with a points-based immigration system, but it must emphasize character and responsibility. The national interest is served by uniting younger nuclear families instead of older applicants who are no longer of working age. Immigrants need more citizens sponsoring them than government sponsorship. In fact, it is healthier for any person to be ultimately responsible for their own life and not be beholden or dependent on government.

Canadians must face up to the many challenges that we already have in our country.  The reality is that a lot of people in the water around us are doomed, unless every nation tries to become an effective Ship of State. This would be the true way to get our world to civilization.

Moreover, immigration and citizenship are connected. To take immigration seriously is to take Canadian citizenship seriously. Open borders devalue both our Canadian citizenship and our national sovereignty. Neither should be bought simply because of enough money.

Given that there are already unprecedented and thoughtless levels of immigration to Canada, our Ship of State risks not having any healthy capacity for the next storm. We are no post-national state. If we do not think that our country must maintain its borders and its national interest, then we are really just being a Ship of Fools.