Anti-immigration versus Pro-immigration
The arrival by sea last month of 492 Tamil asylum seekers continues to serve as a lightning rod for anti-immigration sentiment in Canada. For starters, you have a segment of the population that is fearful. They suspect it is only a matter of time before many more boatloads of refugee claimants land on our shores and they feel powerless to prevent the onslaught they foresee. These Canadians have been conditioned to expect the worst-case scenario even though the facts suggest otherwise. Over the past few decades we have, on occasion, experienced the “en masse” inflow of asylum seekers by sea. These incidents have been few in number and have never led to a pattern of similar activity. Moreover, everything that I have read on the subject indicates that our country was well able to absorb the intermittent influx without negative consequences. In my opinion, our government leaders could be doing a lot more to assuage the concerns of worried Canadians. They most certainly ought to refrain from feeding their angst.
Besides this group of worried Canadians, you have a small but vocal portion of the population who are simply xenophobes and bigots. Canada, like every other nation in the world, has its share of these despicable individuals. One likes to think that we have less of them here than in other countries, but to deny they exist is illusory. Their ilk will seize any and all opportunities to denigrate newcomers, who appear to be cut from a different cloth. We may never succeed in changing their views but following their recommendations on how to treat refugee claimants would, for our nation, be beyond the pale.
Now add to this mix of ill-will the coming out of an organization dedicated to the ban, or near-ban, on immigration to Canada. The Centre for Immigration Policy Reform claims that our current immigration system is seriously flawed and in need of a major overhaul by federal authorities. While this undertaking is carried out I’m guessing they would favour a moratorium on new immigration applications. The founders of this gated community approach to Canadian living are two former career public servants who have been banging the drum incessantly for the exclusion of immigrants for as long as I have known of them. Were it not for their ability to fan the flames of intolerance it would be hard to take this mostly old-boys group seriously. Their website does, after all, blame the current levels of immigration for Canada’s failure to meet its environmental objectives and states that it is the high intake of immigrants that “inhibits our efforts to reduce the extraordinary size of our ecological footprint”. I kid you not. And here I thought our poor environmental scorecard had something to do with those greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands production in Northern Alberta… to say nothing of those toxic tailings ponds, so large that they are observable from outer space. Silly me, I should have realized that the solution to global warming lay in curtailing immigration rather than pressuring the oil profiteers.
If you were to listen to the harangues of some of the right wing radio talk show hosts or read the commentary of like-minded scribes you could come away with the impression that Canadians are ready to remove the welcome mat to newcomers. In my opinion, that would be an inaccurate take on the situation. I believe a strong majority of Canadians realize their good fortune and view their moral obligation to refugee seekers through compassionate eyes. Most of us inherently sense that immigration has been a net benefit to the development of the nation that we have become. With this in mind I am taking the liberty of directing you to a recent newspaper article penned by Don Cayo. I trust that you will appreciate its content.
By Dan Cayo, Vancouver Sun (Published in The Ottawa Citizen, September 29, 2010)
A lot of the xenophobia and bigotry that reverberated in the wake of the arrival this summer of a ship bearing 492 Tamils ostensibly focused on those few refugees.
But you didn’t have to read much between the lines of Internet and talk-show chatter to notice that much of the vitriol continues to target a broader swath of immigrants….