Asia Pacific Gateway - Human Dimensions of the Pacific Gateway

Developing the Asia Pacific Gateway Strategy will have major repercussions on Canadians. Decision makers have to examine carefully the implications of the Gateway strategy on the community and seek to engage it in the process. Immigration, health, education, employment and innovation are areas that will require particular attention during the formulation and implementation of the Gateway strategy.

To succeed, the Asia Pacific Gateway Strategy must focus on investing in Canada's human capital. First, many people will require language training as well as a better understanding of Asian cultures if they are to contribute actively to the Gateway process. This type of training will provide Canadians with the tools to perform effectively in Asia Pacific trade and commerce and to establish enduring relations with their Asian partners. The curriculum in Canadian schools should place greater emphasis on language training as well as courses on Asian cultures and history. Canadian workers will need the appropriate education in order to cope with the new competitive environment brought about by the rapid economic growth of Asia and of Canada-Asia trade. Investing in infrastructure will not be beneficial unless Canadians posses the qualifications required to deal effectively with the new flow of trade. Educational initiatives should include programs to expand Canada's skilled workforce.

The future of Canada in the Asia Pacific region further depends on the community's ability to support actively its youth and to promote new talent and innovation. As Canadian companies often cannot compete on price in many areas of import competition, they must compete on value in areas where they have an advantage. As an example, Canada should use the 150th Anniversary of BC in 2008 and the Winter Olympics in 2010 to showcase to the world its creativity in medical research, design, urban planning and architecture.

Finding the most effective way to deal with Asian immigration to Canada is one of the challenges arising from the Gateway strategy. Immigration is one of the main pillars of the Gateway strategy and one of the main factors that has allowed Vancouver to evolve as a gateway to Asia. The high proportion of Asian immigrants in BC has generated a very intimate cultural relationship between the province and Asian nations. However, the growing number of Asian immigrants in Canada will require a focused approach to the potential benefits and problems arising from such an inflow of people in areas like recognition of qualifications and previous work experience.

Canadians have to emphasize inclusiveness in order to preserve their multicultural tradition and provide new immigrants with the same opportunities for social mobility that Canadian citizens enjoy. Canada will further have to find ways to engage its immigrants politically and keep them in Canada. Over 30% of Canadian immigrants return home or move in a third country over their lifetimes. Canada must ensure that these diasporas, who may have benefited from a Canadian education and the mobility associated with a Canadian passport, continue to contribute to the development of Canadian society. Facilitating the voting process for expatriates, extending citizenship on a mixed jus sanguinis basis, and taxing Canadian citizens living abroad are some of the alternatives that could be embraced.

The surge in transpacific trade has further implications for local communities. It could mean more pollution, more traffic, health problems due to infectious diseases and rising concerns over employment security. The consequences of the Gateway strategy must be carefully examined and dealt with to ensure that the community endorses and actively contributes to the initiative.