We've reached the fourth and final part of our question and answer series in partnership with the Moose Jaw Multicultural Council. You submitted your questions about newcomers in Canada and immigration of the multicultural council and we published some of the answers here on Discover Moose Jaw.

This week, our focus is on background checks for newcomers and exposure to new cultures in the city:

1. Why is the government not doing proper background checks on people who are coming to live in Canada? My family back in the 1900’s had to stay at Ellis Island for three months before being allowed into Canada. Now it seems that our government does not care who they let in, criminals and all. The crime rate has climbed significantly in the last three decades. Check the Corrections Canada information site. 

MJMCC: It is a common assumption that immigrants, especially refugees, are allowed to come to Canada no matter who they are. But this is false. Although security screening has changed significantly since your ancestors arrived, it is no less thorough. Rather than 3 months, individuals and families can wait up to several years to come to Canada, and they undergo a rigorous series of checks before arriving. The difference is that now we have technology and communication systems that allow us to start this process in advance, rather than waiting until they arrive. 

These checks include background checks, fingerprinting, interviews, and document authentication. The Canadian government works with the Canadian Border Services Agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the RCMP, and foreign law enforcement (when possible) to carry out these checks. If there is reason to believe that an individual is a danger to the Canadian public, they are denied entry. In addition, they undergo medical examinations before and after arriving in Canada. 

Unfortunately, I was unable to find the information you cited about rising crime rates. I asked a local police officer about your question, who informed me that tracking crime rates are complicated. Types of crimes have changed over the past 30 years, as has news and police coverage of crimes. Crime has fluctuated due to many variables, but there is no statistical evidence that newcomers are contributing to higher crime rates in Canada. 

When minority ethnic groups are over-represented in crime, this correlates with vulnerability and poverty rather than immigration and past criminal behavior. The security checks do their best at preventing dangerous individuals from immigrating to Canada, but this cannot prevent people from becoming involved in crime once they get here. It is possible that people entering Canada are often vulnerable, and once arriving here are more susceptible to becoming involved in organized crime. 

*Remember, everyone: fact check! Fact check these responses, even. There are lots of myths circulating out there. 

2. As a relative newcomer, but having had the chance to live in different countries and societies, my perception is that Moose Jaw still has to amplify the exposure to new cultures in the community. Am I correct? 

MJMCC: Yes, we still have lots of work to do in Moose Jaw regarding cultural exposure. Racism and cultural isolation are still prevalent, and minorities can have a very difficult time here. This should not be excused, but a tiny bit of context might be helpful in understanding where we’ve come from. 

The settlers who came to southern Saskatchewan were largely of European descent, and many came here to farm. Agriculture grew as an industry over the 20th century, and is still a driving economic force in our region. Because of this, Moose Jaw exists amongst many rural, agricultural communities made up predominantly of people of European descent. This, combined with its small population, means that people living here long-term have had less opportunity to interact with immigrants from the Middle East, Africa, Asia, etc. The demographics have shifted significantly in the last 10-15 years, and there is a rapidly growing multicultural community here now. But, the opportunities to interact cross-culturally are still fewer than they would be in a large urban centre, and people can be resistant to this demographic change. People often fear unfamiliarity. It is a slow process. 

That being said, there is good change happening in our city. Committees, initiatives, and events in Moose Jaw are actively pursuing greater cultural exposure and integration. These include the City of Moose Jaw’s Cultural Diversity Advisory Committee, Prairie Skies’ Immigrant Advisory Table, the Welcoming Francophone Communities initiative, Motif Multicultural Festival, the Newcomer Welcome Centre’s monthly Community Café, and others. 

If you are interested in working towards community-newcomer integration in Moose Jaw, Prairie Skies Integration Network is a good place to start. There is a place for everyone to engage in this work. If you are looking for other ways to connect with newcomers, you are welcome to reach out to Kaleigh at MJMC by emailing community.connections@mjmcinc.ca 

One final note from Kaleigh Pousett, Community Connections Coordinator with the Moose Jaw Multicultural Council:

This Q&A project was very eye-opening for myself and my colleagues, and I hope it was illuminating for you as well. It gave us insight into common questions as well as misconceptions people hold in our own community about newcomers. I did a lot of research for this, so I also learned a lot in the process. The classic cliché, “don’t believe everything you hear” really rings true here: although we can learn so much through the internet, it’s a good reminder to be careful and not believe everything you hear. Fact check, read, research, and find different sources. And, get to know your newcomer community members- it’s amazing what we can learn simply by making a new friend.