Editorial: Refugees poised to add much to community

Immigrants and refugees have much to offer our community

On the front page of the Oak Bay News this week, we share a story about the efforts of the faculty, staff, students and friends of the University of Victoria history department, working bring to Victoria a family of five refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict.

Over the past weeks, we’ve also featured the efforts of several other local groups working toward the same goal.

At the same time, some readers have questioned the outpouring of support for families outside Canada, when so many people here at home also struggle to meet their daily needs, through no fault of their own.

We understand that concern, and credit the many, many people working every day to also alleviate that suffering, however we also believe in the need to recognize our place in the larger world.

To help one, is not to de-value another.

There’s also the misconception among some that refugees are a drain on the system.

In fact, refugees, and immigrants generally, add much to the community, culturally, socially and financially.

A report issued this week by Vancity credit union found Syrian refugees expected to arrive in British Columbia between now and the end of February will generate at least $563 million in local economic activity over the next 20 years.

The report, From Crisis to Community: Syrian Refugees and the B.C. Economy, found that immigrants tend to strengthen economies within their new communities, since they often purchase goods and services within their local community networks.

Further, immigrants tend to be highly entrepreneurial – they’re about 30 per cent more likely to start a business than non-immigrants. In Halifax, for example, the Lebanese community is estimated to have created about 3.6 local jobs for each immigrant.

Addressing refugees specifically, the report found that refugees also report higher rates of self-employment than both other immigrants and people born in Canada.

And that doesn’t even begin to consider the cultural benefits of welcoming new families into the Canadian fold.

As UVic history professor Elizabeth Vibert notes on page 8 of this edition, “People need to really be aware of how much new immigrants bring to this country.”