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Raiding poor countries.

The movement of people around the world, legally and illegally, is a cause for global concern. Canada and other Western nations look to Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe, for an ever new supply of skilled and unskilled workers. Most of the new immigrants to this country are from places other than the traditional sources in Europe.

Immigration is a contentious issue for many Canadians who worry that immigration from non-European countries will change the character of Canada, and no doubt this is true. The non-Caucasian population of Canada is increasing steadily. The City of Toronto is expected to have a majority of nonwhites in just a few years, and a similar trend is emerging in other large cities.

Immigration plays an important role in our health care system. One can only wonder what would happen to that system if it were not for the steady immigration of workers from other parts of the world. Canada's changing face is most apparent in our health and long-term care institutions. It is perhaps the one place where people with the widest variety of appearance, language, and accents, are brought into close personal contact as patients, employees, and visitors. While the diversity in staff is at the lower-paid levels, it is steadily making its way into the professional and managerial levels. (Changes in the rules for admitting foreign-trained physicians and other professionals, now pending, will no doubt, make a difference).

The need for health care staff is a world wide problem, complicated by the efforts of Canada and other western countries to recruit health care personnel from the poorer parts of the world where they are just as direly needed and where resources are more limited. We are under moral obligation to think about the impact of our recruitment efforts on these countries, and what can be done for the health care services of the economically depressed parts of the world.

We also have an obligation to ourselves to assure that disease and illness are well managed in all parts of the world. Infection and disease axe no respecters of borders; they do travel. HIV/AIDS, SARS, West Nile Virus and the annual influenza outbreaks remind us of this fact. Stripping undeveloped countries of their health care providers, and leaving their health systems further impoverished, is hardly a way to protect our own health. An investment in better health care programs in other parts of the world is a requirement for our own health and well being.

In concert with other industrialized nations we need to develop a more rational approach to our own health care personnel, one that assures the health of the entire world. We certainly do not suggest restrictions on the migration of health care and other skilled persons who want to migrate to Canada, but a more sensitive approach to our recruitment efforts is required.

Immigration brings both benefits and problems. For most it means higher pay and better living conditions. However, we are aware that many of the immigrant health care providers are women who have left children behind in the care of relatives. Their earnings here support these children and relatives who are often ineligible for immigration to Canada.

We know too little about these family separations, or for that matter, any of the other problems left behind by the immigrants. Our responsibilities as an immigrant receiving nation and part of a world community, is to know more about the invisible impact of our recruitment policies in other parts of the world. Should we do more to enable these broken families to be reunited in Canada, or should we provide assistance in the home countries?

These are only a few of the questions that immigration raises. In the meantime, a start on coping with the questions raised would be a valuable beginning.

Our 19th year

With this issue, Community Action enters its 19th year of publication. We are pleased to continue providing news, information, and comment, about community services in Canada. Community Action is an independent publication with no organizational affiliations, relying totally on subscriptions and advertising for its operations.

We thank subscribers and advertisers for their affirmation of Community Action's place in Canada's health and social services, and we pledge to continue to report and monitor this sector with vigour.--L.K.
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Title Annotation:Comments
Publication:Community Action
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Aug 18, 2003
Previous Article:World's health. (Health).
Next Article:Revamp of Toronto's Regent Park okayed by city council.

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