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LETTER: Win win - an influx of refugees might be just what Digby needs

I think there is potential for a win-win scenario in the effort being made by the Digby area churches.

Nova Scotia's rural population is in decline and our demographics show that we have one of the oldest populations in Canada (median age in Syria 22, Nova Scotia 44).

Time and again we here the theme from reliable sources, such as the Ivany report (One Nova Scotia report), that we need immigration to help our economy.

In Syria there is a terrible crisis causing millions of displaced persons to need a safe place to move. These are the Syrians (many middle class and educated) fleeing the extremists or at least fleeing the war involving the extremists such as ISIS. These people need a place to go and we need young immigrants.

Possible win-win?

A couple arguments or fears we often hear are:

1) “Immigrants take our jobs and use our social systems (hospitals, community services, food banks) that should be used for our own struggling people.”

I believe what will help our poor struggling people in our area is a stronger economy that has the means to provide jobs and increase funding to our social systems to help our people.

Immigrants tend to develop lives that pay in more to our social systems than they take out. In Digby alone think of years ago when Warren Wong (House of Wong) arrived, or when Mr. and Mrs. Boodoosing (smart and well-loved teachers) arrived.

They were/are great people whose kids worked hard and contributed and then had their own children who worked hard and contributed.

What about the 60,000 “boat people” refugee crisis? From canadianbusiness dot com: “Within a decade, 86% of those former refugees were working, healthy and spoke English with some proficiency, achieving the basic criteria for success set out by academic Morton Beiser in his landmark study of their integration into Canadian society.

“They were less likely to use social services and more likely to have jobs than the average Canadian. One in five was self-employed. They weren’t a drain on the taxpayer—they were taxpayers.”

2) “They will change our culture”. I’m proud of our culture in Nova Scotia and part of that culture is that we respect and welcome people of all religions and ethnic backgrounds.

Stats Canada says that in 2005 0.4 per cent of Nova Scotians were Muslim. If Nova Scotia were to take in 1,000 refugees from this crisis, and we assume all are Muslim (extremely unlikely), this would raise the Muslim population to 0.5 per cent of the total Nova Scotia population. We should not be afraid of culture shock due to these numbers.

This is an opportunity to help others who are in crisis and to help Nova Scotia.

Matthew Raymond, Digby

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