Posted in : Blog
Posted on : September 11, 2018
On August 12, former Conservative leadership hopeful Maxime Bernier took to Twitter to push out a message that could only be described as intentionally controversial.
1/ Trudeau keeps pushing his “diversity is our strength” slogan. Yes, Canada is a huge and diverse country. This diversity is part of us and should be celebrated. But where do we draw the line?
2/ Ethnic, religious, linguistic, sexual and other minorities were unjustly repressed in the past. We’ve done a lot to redress those injustices and give everyone equal rights. Canada is today one of the countries where people have the most freedom to express their identity.
3/ But why should we promote ever more diversity? If anything and everything is Canadian, does being Canadian mean something? Shouldn’t we emphasize our cultural traditions, what we have built and have in common, what makes us different from other cultures and societies?
4/ Having people live among us who reject basic Western values such as freedom, equality, tolerance and openness doesn’t make us strong. People who refuse to integrate into our society and want to live apart in their ghetto don’t make our society strong.
5/ Trudeau’s extreme multiculturalism and cult of diversity will divide us into little tribes that have less and less in common, apart from their dependence on government in Ottawa. These tribes become political clienteles to be bought with taxpayers $ and special privileges.
6/ Cultural balkanisation brings distrust, social conflict, and potentially violence, as we are seeing everywhere. It’s time we reverse this trend before the situation gets worse. More diversity will not be our strength, it will destroy what has made us such a great country.
In political parlance, this is what is called trying to create a “wedge issue”. And low and behold, less than two weeks later, Bernier announced he’s leaving the Conservative Party of Canada to create his own party. The timing is somewhat suspect.
During his press conference, Mr. Bernier outlined two issues as to why he’s going out on his own: 1) his dyer objection to Supply Management, and 2) too much diversity.
In his tweets, Mr. Bernier shows what can only be described as ignorance. “Ethnic, religious, linguistic, sexual and other minorities were unjustly repressed in the past”. If these issues were actually in the past, Canadian women would not be making $0.87 on the dollar; our indigenous peoples would have clean drinking water; and we would not be seeing an increase of cases of blatant racism in our cities.
Diversity is part of our history and must be in our future
Aside from his ignorance on the state of inclusion in Canada today, Mr. Bernier does not seem to understand our history. That is to say, Canada has always been diverse.
Prior to the first European’s landing on Canadian soil, the First Peoples were incredibly diverse. Today, there are 634 First Nations, in addition to the Métis and Intuit. They represent over 50 different languages, not to mention a vast array of traditions and histories. There is not one Indigenous people. There are many Indigenous peoples.
The Vikings landed on the shores of what is now Newfoundland and Labrador over 1000 years ago. They were followed by years of struggles between the English and French as they battled for control of North America. In 1791 the Constitutional Act separated Upper Canada (now Ontario) and Lower Canada (now Québec). In 1867 the country we now know as Canada was created with the British Parliament passing the British North America Act.
To build this country, the politicians of the day relied on immigration. Chinese and European migrants were brought over to help build a railroad from British Columbia to Nova Scotia. Since confederation, there have been significant newcomer populations from Ireland, Italy, Germany, Ukraine and Poland.
We have always been a country of immigrants. According to the 1931 Census, 22% of the residents of Canada were newcomers. In 1901 over 70% of immigrants were from the British Isles, Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. In 2011, that percentage had dropped to just over 30%, with nearly 50% of immigrants coming from East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia.
What is left from this narrative is why our immigration rate needs to be so high. Simply put: we are in population decline. Our county’s birth rate as of 2016 was 1.6 but in order to maintain our population we need a birth rate of 2.1.
To put it simply, we have more people dying in Canada than we do being born. To maintain, let alone grow our population, we need to rely on high levels of immigration. That is not a choice. There is no alternative. 2018 marks the highest level of immigration (350,000 newcomers) since 1921 and we can’t succeed as a country without it.
Who is not integrating into our society?
However, we don’t get to choose where those immigrants come from. Mr. Bernier mused in his tweet: “People who refuse to integrate into our society and want to live apart in their ghetto don’t make our society strong.” But who is Mr. Bernier referring to? Is it the 188,805 people who came from the Philippines in 2016? The 24,155 who came from France? Or is he’s referring to Muslims, regardless of their country of origin? His tweet certainly supports that assumption: “Having people live among us who reject basic Western values such as freedom, equality, tolerance and openness doesn’t make us strong.”
To keep it in perspective, according to the 2011 National Household Survey, only 3.2% of Canadians identified as Muslim. According to research from the Université du Québec à Montréal only 50 to 100 women in Québec wear a face veil, and that province felt the need to pass legislation banning those 50 to 100 women from wearing the veil while receiving public services.
Every immigrant has period of adjustment as they integrate into Canadian society. That has been the case for thousands of years. When you pick up your life and move to a completely new land, it will take time to acclimatize – not just learning the language, but also the cultural norms that make Canada the place it is. It is a massive adjustment, something that Mr. Bernier would not have exposure to, having lived his entire life in Canada.
Canada, the mosaic
Canada has been described as a “mosaic”, in contrast to the United States “melting pot”. That is a distinction that we pride ourselves because it means that when people come to Canada, they add their distinct culture to the broader Canadian identity. It’s what makes us Canadian. And bringing one’s own traditions to Canada doesn’t mean they’re rejecting western values.
Canada’s immigration policy is based primarily on need. The majority – 60.3% – of immigrants are in the Economic category, meaning they have education and experience that we have jobs for. A smaller percentage is based on the Family Reunification and Refugee classes. To Mr. Bernier’s question, “where do we draw the line?” the answer is simple: we don’t.
What it means to be Canadian is ever evolving, and it is our job as Canadians to welcome people who choose to call our country home, and ensure they are given the opportunity to succeed. It’s divisive behaviour such as Mr. Bernier’s that will destroy our country. It is diversity that makes it strong.