By Raffique Shah
May 8, 2023
My good friend Mike swears there is a mass exodus of bright young professionals from Trinidad, many of them with their families, their destination of choice Canada, which they see as a vast country with countless opportunities.
To support his contention, he asks me rhetorically: when last have you driven past the Canadian High Commission in Port-of-Spain early morning? I didn’t reply that I do not know where in the capital city the Canadians have their offices. He continued; It’s like J’ouvay morning downtown…if you see people. Raf, this is real…people are leaving in droves…it’s not just the crime, it’s the hopelessness. They see no future here for themselves and their families…
I digested the information he had offered and the rationale he proffered. I know of many people who had indeed ‘relocated’ to Canada, and through my two offspring, both just past forty years, of several of their contemporaries who live abroad-the UK, USA, Canada-some from as far back as when they graduated from university. Mostly, though, with our oil, gas and petrochemical industries keeping pace with, or being in the lead of industry standards globally, there were opportunities aplenty for local graduates, technicians and skilled labour.
When I reflected on what Mike was telling me about an ‘exodus’ of bright young people, I argued that that was an erroneous perception. What we are witnessing is mass migration globally. In Europe for example, the influx of refugees/migrant created havoc as the richest countries in the world found themselves virtually under siege by people from some of the poorest. What compounded this movement of people from one country to another globally, were a series of sometimes lethal mishaps, some of them taking many lives, as desperate asylum seekers, many of whom have genuine claims of oppression, boarded assorted sea vessels that were downright dangerous and many, many lives were lost.
There was an outpouring of empathy worldwide as the macabre theatre rolled out before our eyes like a live action tragedy. To their credit, several European countries absorbed large numbers. Germany’s Angela Merkel became even more popular among European leaders when she got support- not overwhelmingly, mark you- from her parliamentary colleagues and absorbed roughly 1.1Million in 2015 during the European migrant crisis.
I told Mike that similar mass movements of people facing political oppression or economic disasters in their countries have occurred as far and wide as Hong Kong, Japan, The Philippines, internal movements within Africa, and we certainly can’t forget our own backyard with the never ending movement of people within Latin America and the Caribbean. Hell, who knows about this better than Trinidadians. Within recent times, Venezuelans who suffered because of internal politics and US sanctions that caused large chunks of the population to go jobless, saw Trinidad as a haven. I noted that because of Trinidad’s liberal policies on critical issues like healthcare, education, and housing, anyone seeking betterment would head this way even though our people complain about those services being woefully inadequate.
Mike interjected: But Raf, you wandering around the world seeking dirt poor people who are looking for emergency assistance and rescue. I am talking about the cream of our younger generation who have tertiary level education, and who can make this country a better place, fleeing instead to Canada which will now benefit from their expertise.
Yes, I replied, and I hope that they will be as eager to pay property taxes, building maintenance fees, high medical expenses and an unholy number of other taxes and charges to State and Provincial Government. Canada is very much a migrant society except for a few thousand indigenous people. In fact the government’s policy in Canada is to admit some 300K migrants per year and there are currently 8M such people who enjoy permanent residence amounting to 20% of the overall population. As part of the British Commonwealth, it has been partial to countries of similar historical backgrounds in the Caribbean, hence the reason why so many of our people head that way when they are looking for an alternative to the countries where they were born. Nothing is wrong with that. They have every right to enjoy the generosity extended to them.
What I’ve heard from my sisters and other friends and relatives who reside there as migrants is, crime is fast becoming a major problem in the big cities and West Indian migrants form a high percentage of the perpetrators. Why must these selfish and uncaring criminals sully the names of their mother countries by dominating the ‘Most Wanted’ lists in almost every province of Canada.
The government and people of Canada have been hospitable and equitable in the distribution of VISAs. Migrants should be thankful for that.