Monday, May 11, 2009

New Brunswick urged to attract more immigrants. by Chris Fox

Senator Vivienne Poy says New Brunswick should welcome immigrants with open arms or face the consequence of losing one of its most valuable resources.

Poy, who became Canada's first Asian senator when she was appointed to the post by former Prime Minister Jean Chretien in 1998, made her remarks prior to a luncheon hosted by the Asian Heritage Society of New Brunswick recently.

The event was held in conjunction with Asian Heritage Month, an annual celebration of Asian culture that Poy helped pass into law in 2001.

"The province needs to be more accepting to immigrants," she said. "If they do that and they become more multicultural, immigrants will feel comfortable not just coming here, but they will stay and you need people who will stay.''

Poy, who is also the chancellor of the University of Toronto, said she has seen Canada take great strides in its acceptance of minorities since the country's first official Asian Heritage Month eight years ago.

But she said there are still areas that need improvement. She said public schools have a role to play in helping immigrants feel accepted.

"I call it intercultural education because we need to talk to everybody and it begins with curriculum. We must educate the young people of Canada on the fact that because of immigration the face of Canada has changed.''

The luncheon was held to discuss issues faced by New Brunswick's Asian population and how diversity can be better promoted in classrooms. Representatives from the Department of Education and various multicultural groups were on hand.

"We want to be an active part in policy making," said Madhu Verma, chairwoman of the New Brunswick Asian Heritage Society.

"The discussions and awareness shouldn't end after the month of May. We want to be able to continue on the theme of Asian Heritage Month in the schools and everywhere,'' Verma said. "The theme is the rich history of Asian Canadians we have right here in Canada, and celebrating their contributions because they have contributed to building our nation."

Barb Hillman, a social studies curriculum learning specialist at the Department of Education, attended the luncheon to get input into how the department could better promote diversity in its curriculum.

She said New Brunswick schools do well in educating children on multicultural issues and the different contributions made to the country by different cultural groups.

"I think if people would take a look at the curriculum they would actually be quite pleased and I do feel the department has done a very good job of addressing diversity."