Last week I was confronted by an associate who asserted that any environmental group that was truly addressing the state of the planet should be taking firm stance against immigration, citing a dubious posting from a little known Canadian non-profit group called Immigration Watch Canada.
There is an ongoing trend of fearmongering and finger pointing occuring in North America that seeks to blame immigrants and immigration for a host of society's ills. Whether that means using it as a scape goat for environmental degredation or for a lack of jobs and low wages in the United States, the arguments have little to do with the reality of issue at hand and serve only to further to the agendas of their neo conservative proponents. In the United Statest this has meant the militarization of the Mexican border, while in Canada its meant a concerted push towards a neo-conservative political landscape and a distraction from the real environmental issues facing the country.
If it could be definitively shown that a reduction in immigration would have an impact on the most pressing environmental problems facing the country then framing immigration as an enviromental concern would have merit. However, in the globalized market national resources are being exploited to sell to a world market. The impact of world demand on our local ecosystems far outweighs the slight additional demand respresented by the relatively small number of immigrants allowed into Canada each year.
The immigration argument represents a white washing of our national environmental responsibilities. Canadian's want to live in a sustainable society; however, Canadian industry is currently responsible for some of the greatest projects of environmental destruction in the world.
Alberta's oil sands development threatens 23% of Alberta's land mass with the most destructive and ineffecient means of oil production in the world with wildlife, boreal forest and the Athabasca River all being threatened by future oil sands development. Unsustainable forestry practices continue to threaten both British Columbian old growth and rare species such as the northern spotted owl (with a national population of 23 birds) and the kemode bear. Wild salmon populations on the west coast continue to be threatened with seal lice and disease from the salmon farming industry as well as from poor management and regulation of the industry as a whole. All of these problems are fundamentally being driven by international, not domestic, demand for Canada's resources.
Canadians want to continue to live in a country of economic prosperity and environmental sustainability. To do this we all need to take responsibility for our environment by building industries that are truly sustainable and accountable to environmental principles, not by blaming immigration and other fictional scape goats as an excuse for our own environmental failures. By putting in place strong guidelines for industry, fair trade laws that protect Canada's right and ability to govern its own resources, and by taking into account the real impact of our industries on our natural environment, Canada will continue to lead the world in both environmental stewardship and economic prosperity. By blaming immigrations for our own environmental shortcomings, we'll only feed a culture of fear and ignorance while the natural world continues to pay the price.