EDITORIAL: Refugees add value to our communities

Misconception that refugees are a drain on the system

A group of faculty members, staff, students and friends in the University of Victoria’s history department have been working together to bring to Greater Victoria a family of five refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict.

In recent weeks, other groups around the Capital Region have undertaken efforts to work toward  the same goal.

In the Gazette, we’ve seen some readers question 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 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 devalue 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. That doesn’t even begin to consider the cultural benefits of welcoming new families into the Canadian fold.

UVic history professor Elizabeth Vibert recently told our sister paper, the Oak Bay News, “People need to really be aware of how much new immigrants bring to this country.”

We couldn’t agree more, and hope that our communities embrace their new neighbours when they arrive.