Immigrants, racism and the Conservatives

Yesterday the Globe and Mail published a lengthy analysis of social media content by freelance journalists Shannon Carranco and Jon Milton. they assert that Canadian far right (AltRight) extremists “come from all walks of life: tradesmen, soldiers, a student teacher, a financial analyst, an aspiring lawyer, among others .. [and] … they are in every province, in communities large and small. They gather on the internet to strategize and seek pathways into mainstream politics. They are anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, Islamophobic, sexist and racist. They are young and radicalized. They are the new far right in Canada … [they say this because] … The Globe and Mail has obtained a trove of 150,000 messages posted between February, 2017, and early 2018 that reveal the private communications of a loosely aligned node of Canadian right-wing extremists. The record of their continuing conversations reveals a movement, energized by the rise of white ethnonationalism in the United States, that aims to upend a decades-old multicultural consensus in this country … [but] … The discussions reviewed by The Globe and Mail originally took place on a text-and-voice application called Discord, an app meant for gamers that is also popular with the far right. The group called itself the Canadian Super Players, apparently to disguise themselves as video gamers.” I find the sample, 150,000 messages covering about a year (i.e. about 430 a day) to be small for even one social media ‘room,’ especially for one frequented by young people, but I also find some of what’s being said, even by a few people, disturbing.

In the Globe and Mail, John Ibbitson, writing about voters being impatient with the status quo says that “Growing cultural insecurity appears to be a factor. In Quebec, Mr. Legault’s plans to ban the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols by some public servants may or may not be motivated by secularism, but it also comforts people worried about immigrant minorities submerging traditional Christian culture.

Meanwhile, in Maclean’s magazine, Terry Glavin, in a piece about race and immigration being a “gathering storm” in Canada says that “Going by quite a few headlines, commentaries and social media hot-takes making the rounds these days, you’d never know it, but Canadians are not working themselves up into a lather about immigrants or people of colour. We’re not suddenly becoming mean to refugees. There is no surge in bloody-minded racial bigotry arising among ordinary Canadians, and there’s no evidence for any dramatic spike in the numbers of Canadians who don’t like non-whites coming to this country … [and he says, and I agree] … That’s the good news … [but, he adds] … Some politicians continue to blow their vulgar anti-immigrant dog-whistles, and some make partisan mischief by whatever means seem plausible enough to make their adversaries look bad .. [I think both Maxime Bernier and Justin Trudeau ought to come to mind because I believe both are playing the ‘race card,’ albeit in different ways] … But when it comes to immigrants and refugees, Canadians in general tend to be a lot less excitable or inclined to racism than is convenient to certain strangely popular narratives at the moment.

I have mentioned before that Frank Grave, of Ekos, the polling/research firm, said that “A significant chunk of new Canadians, many of them non-white, indicate they will vote Conservative in next year’s federal election — even though 65 per cent of Conservative supporters told EKOS this year that Canada admits too many non-white immigrants. And while a majority of Canadians are open to immigration, the intensity of the opposition is red-hot, including in other parties: 20 per cent of New Democratic Party supporters and 13 per cent of Liberal supporters also believe too many non-white immigrants are entering the country.”

There is plenty wrong with our immigration system and, especially with how we manage our border when faced with illegal irregular migrants but race is not and must not be made into one of them. One thing I have learned fromn75+ years of being alive and having lived and worked all over the world is that people are all, regardless of race or creed, pretty much alike: equally smart and stupid, equally brave and cowardly, equally generous and niggardly, equally honest and venal and so on. I worked with an African officer who, save for an accident of birth, would have risen to the top in any army in the world, but he was not an especially nice chap, and I worked with an officer from an advanced, first-world country, who, despite being an extraordinarily pleasant fellow, was a toxic human being who left every organization he touched in need of some cleaning.

It worries me that Terry Glavin, after telling us the good news, says that “The bad news is that for the first time since EKOS began its tracking in the 1990s, dyspepsia about the pace of immigration has coalesced with resentments about the rate of non-white newcomers to Canada. And that bloc of public opinion is consolidating for the first time behind a single political party—Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives … [and] … This is happening whether Scheer’s Conservatives want it or not. Whether or not voters with unfavourable and in some cases decidedly unseemly views about Canada’s current immigration policies are being actively drawn to the Conservatives, or are simply being repelled by the annoying, not-racist-like-you histrionics of the Liberals, something unprecedented is happening … [because] … The EKOS poll finds that roughly 40 per cent of Canadians harbour an unfavourable view of both the pace of immigration and the proportion of “visible minority” people among immigrants. Among the EKOS poll respondents who said there were too many non-whites among Canada’s newly-arrived immigrants, 69 per cent identified as Conservatives, while only 15 percent identified as Liberals.” I hope that no-one in the Conservative Party is, in any way, encouraging opposition to immigrants based on race. I understand that not all Conservatives share my view that we need to increase immigration but I hope all Conservatives understand that skin colour and eye shape are totally meaningless.

I really like this Conservative bit …

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 … it touches several important economic policy points:  lower taxes, create opportunities, and get Canada back to work and we know that many, likely most Canadians …

 

 

… ‘old stock’ and new Canadians alike, share those views to some extent and Conservatives need to appreciate that the vote-rich suburbs around Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg and, above all, around Ontario’s major cities are, increasingly, populated by new Canadians who are, most often, entrepreneurial and hard-working, which makes them lean towards the CPC but, equally, are conscious of racial bias and prejudice, because many of them experience it every day.

Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney and most other Conservatives understood that the path to a majority government led through those suburbs and, perforce, through those new Canadian, visible minority voters. If the Conservatives are perceived to welcome the dyspeptic minority who are afraid of brown skin or upset by a turban or a kippah then those voters will stay home or support the Greens, Liberals or NDP.

Therefore, Conservatives need to be:

  • Firmly in favour of secure borders for Canada ~ welcoming those who obey all the rules and excluding those who try to game the system;
  • Generous towards refugees ~ even if they search for better ways to do more to help more people; and
  • Open to a steady flow (even, in my opinion, a greater flow) of legal, regulated, colour-blind, merit-based immigration from Africa, the Americas, the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and the Middle East.

Canadians need to be informed that we will never get enough immigrants to meet our needs from Europe and the USA. If we do not welcome immigrants from Africa and, especially, from Asia, we will not be able to pay for the social programmes we all want and even need. But our need for immigrants should not be satisfied by robbing poor countries (mostly African) of their doctors, engineers and teachers just because we need taxi drivers.

Andrew Scheer and Michelle Rempel, especially, need to speak out against intolerance and speak for the many, many new Canadians, from all over the world, who enrich Canada.

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