In 1870 the population of the United States was about 30 million–more or less the current population of Canada. By 1900 the United States population had doubled. Gold mining had something to do with this increase. In the early years of the 1900s, Chinese workers came to Canada (and the US.) Is the Canadian population about to double in the next thirty years by Chinese immigration to work the mines? These thoughts are prompted by the following news report:
A Vancouver-based mining company is reportedly planning a coal project for northeastern B.C., and wants to bring in as many as 400 workers from China to build the mine. The Globe and Mail reports the Chinese-backed Canadian Dehua International Mines Group Inc. has filed a project description with the B.C. government, saying it needs 400 workers with specific skills in underground coal mining. The document says there are few underground coal mines in Canada and Dehau will need skilled labour from China to meet its staffing requirements. The proposed Gething coal project is northwest of Chetwynd in northeastern B.C. Jim Sinclair of the B.C. Federation of Labour doesn’t like the idea of importing foreign workers, calling it the ultimate sellout of B.C. resources. Michael McPhie of the Mining Association of B.C. says the concept of importing an entire mine crew isn’t something they’ve seen before, and needs serious scrutiny.
Recently a major mining company that had hitherto advertised extensively on InfoMine for mining staff cancelled thier ads. They told us they were recruiting directly from Indonesia as this was an assured way to finding qualified miners.
On Saturday I was at a sixtieth birthday party in Orange County, California. The crowd was typical of Orange County: highly educated immigrants now working in consulting and academia. As the evening wore on, conversation turned to legal and illegal immigration. Leading the conversation was one of the offspring of these immigrants: a twenty-something who had just completed a law degree and got a job as a public defender. His parents had fled Hungary, lived in Spain, and later immigrated to the United States. His first language was Spanish and he had to fight to be allowed to study in English. Now he intends to spend a year as a public defender, reading all he can on immigration law, establish his own practice, and grow rich defending monied immigrants.
We jumped on him for his opinion regarding immigration. In summary, he proposes stiff fines for employers of illegal immigrants, a guest worker program, and some route to legal status for those already here. All very reasonable. I asked him about the wall now being built along the US-Mexico border. He laughingly reminded me of my previous statement that it could one day be recycled to the Canadian-US border to stop illegal immigration when global warming and mining development make the flow of people to Canada inevitable. I fled for another glass of wine.
Last week, we read of vast job losses in Ontario as a result of cut-backs in the auto industry. I cannot but wonder how many of those thrown out of work from the auto industry are able and willing to take up the jobs in the BC coal mines in place of Chinese immigrants? Or are they all destined for the oil sands of Alberta?
Change of jobs is so common these days. So many of my colleagues have left countries for better opportunities elsewhere, that none of us has much sympathy for people who bewail the loss of jobs and even livelihoods in a place they would rather stay. At the party, the immigrants amongst us were torn by the anger now directed at immigrants, legal and illegal. And I am torn by the idea of opposition to immigration from Indonesia or China or Ontario into the mines of the west. If the person is able and willing, I must believe they will add to the human resources of their new country and soon enough they, or at least their children, will become local citizens thinking like the greater mass of the population. So I conclude: good luck to the Gething project, the Chinese who come, and to Canada, which stands to benefit from new mines and new immigrants.