Columnists

In Canada: Let’s break silence and talk immigration

The release this week of Census 2011 provides Canadians with a broad picture of the country’s population at 33.5 million, and its urban makeup.

Between 2006 and 2011, the rate of Canada’s population growth at 5.9% was the highest among G8 countries. The engine for this growth, according to Statistics Canada, remains immigrants, together with non-permanent residents, seasonal workers, foreign students and asylum seekers.

Immigration is the big issue — the proverbial elephant in the room — that needs wide and open discussion in Parliament and during federal elections, and yet it is scrupulously avoided.

The most detailed historical study on immigration was prepared by Freda Hawkins and first published in 1972. She wrote, “Canada has had no settled view of immigration. No common convictions about it exist among Canadians.”

When Hawkins’ study was released, Canada was embarking on the path of official multiculturalism. In retrospect, we can now see clearly how multiculturalism turned immigration into a taboo subject. Immigration and multiculturalism, working in tandem, provided the Trudeau Liberals with a strategic advantage in electoral politics for the long term by capturing ethnic votes in urban ridings. This advantage was further exploited when the residency requirement for citizenship was lowered to three years in 1977, enabling new immigrants to vote in federal elections for the party that made it possible.

Later, the Mulroney Conservatives did their part in pushing multiculturalism and immigration to gain electoral advantage among ethnic voters in urban centres. The result, in effect, has been there are no political leaders or federal parties willing to break the taboo on critically discussing immigration and multiculturalism, and the unintended consequences of the two together on the political culture of Canada as a liberal democracy.

In recent columns on immigration — this being the last in a series — I barely scratched the surface. But I indicated the weakness of the economic, fiscal and cultural arguments advanced by the pro-immigration lobby when these are carefully examined. A case can still be made that immigration is strategically necessary to maintain a positive population growth, given the low fertility rate in advanced democratic societies of the West. But an effective immigration policy responsive to the demographic requirements will only work, without doing irreparable damage to the functioning of liberal democracy, provided multiculturalism is repealed.

The great immigration wave of the 19th and early 20th centuries from the Old World to the New worked to the benefit of everyone because the movement of people occurred within the boundaries of shared culture and civilization. This pattern of immigration changed in fundamental ways during the past half-century, and its effects are indisputably disruptive for the host country.

The new immigrants, empowered with the politics of multiculturalism, insist upon the host country accommodating their cultures, instead of them adapting to the host country’s culture. How hugely disruptive and divisive multiculturalism has proven to be in Europe is a warning, perhaps somewhat late, to Canada and where it is invariably headed. And if Canada is to save itself from repeating Europe’s experience, as Enoch Powell warned Britain a generation ago, it will require the political will of the majority of Canadians given the spinelessness of Canada’s political class.

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Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen

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