FATAH: Bernier’s problems with multiculturalism cannot be dismissed

As usual, Fatah conflates populist discourse on multiculturalism with what the original policy, the subsequent act and the related policy instruments (e.g., employment equity) actually mean both in policy and practice.

The policy is all about integration through:

  • Assisting cultural groups to retain and foster their identity;
  • Assisting cultural groups to overcome barriers to their full participation in Canadian society;
  • Promoting creative exchanges among all Canadian cultural groups; and,
  • Assisting immigrants in acquiring at least one of the official languages.

And while identity politics is overly played, this is not new. After all, part of the historical playing out of French and British relations often involved identity politics and many critics of multiculturalism are playing on “white” identity.

Moreover, while there are pockets, analysis of Census level data by people such as Hiebert and Hulchanski confirm that fear of enclaves is exaggerated:

On Wednesday, Maxime Bernier, leader of the People’s Party of Canada, announced his party’s platform on immigration, calling for a 50% cut in the annual number of immigrants admitted.

Justifying this massive cut, Bernier cited figures from a 2011 study by the Fraser Institute that said the net “cost” to Canada per immigrant was $6,051, estimating an annual burden of about $24 billion. He told the cheering audience, that “is a lot of money.”

He then opined that “one reason for this is that immigrants generally have lower wages than non-immigrants” and thus pay less tax.

In arriving at his figure of $24 billion, Bernier did not take into account the fact that immigration is a way of importing consumers without paying a penny to the society that manufactured us. We are the only goods that arrive duty free with no price tag.

When I arrived as an immigrant, Canada paid zero for my degree in biochemistry and 20 years of experience as a journalist and advertising copywriter. Neither did my wife’s postgraduate degree in English Literature cost a penny to the Canadian taxpayer, yet we were both contributing to the economy of Canada as taxpaying consumers and renters from day one.

Having said that, it would be foolish to outright dismiss Bernier’s very sincere fears about the integration of immigrants like me into Canadian society. It is true that most of us who come to Canada from developing countries in Asia and Africa arrive with religious-cultural baggage that includes archaic values bordering on racism, tribalism, casteism and superstitions that have little to do with the values that shaped Canada in the last 400 years of Western civilization.

Bernier said, “in the past, immigrants who came here gradually integrated into our society. They kept some aspects of the culture of their country of origin, of course. And that influenced and changed our society. They became Canadian, but with a distinct flavour.”

“This is a type of multiculturalism that enriches our society. And it is perfectly fine,” he added.

However, Bernier expressed a problem with immigrants “living permanently in an enclave apart from the larger Canadian society,” a problem he said that gets exasperated by “being officially encouraged by the government to continue to do so rather than to integrate into Canadian society and adopt Canadian culture and values.”

A nation must be based on a sense of belonging, of participating in a common national project, sharing the same values, being different from the rest of the world.

As an example, Bernier cited the way ‘ethnic politics’ has become the norm among Canada’s political parties. “They don’t talk to Canadians. They address themselves to ethnic voting blocs. To Ukrainian Canadians, Italian Canadians, Chinese Canadians, Muslim Canadians, Sikh Canadians.”

Bernier is right to point out this slow disintegration of Canadian society into vote banks. As he said, “even our foreign policy now depends on appealing to these ethnic political clienteles, instead of being based on the interests of Canada as a whole.”

The Multiculturalism Act must be revoked for the simple reason that not all cultures are equal. The culture that treats my autistic daughter with the utmost respect, love and care is not equal to the culture that treats autistic children as a punishment by God for sins committed by others.

The culture that calls for slaying gays, permits polygamy, and imprisons women in black burkas is medieval and misogynist and is certainly not equal to the culture of gender equity and LGBTQ rights.

Bernier is right when he told his party faithful: “Among the threats to our values and way of life is political Islam, or Islamism, the fastest-growing and most dangerous radical ideology in the world today.”

Canadians dismiss Bernier’s fears at their own peril.

Source: FATAH: Bernier’s problems with multiculturalism cannot be dismissed

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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