There are plenty of issues being fought over in this election campaign, from the economy to vaccines to Afghanistan. But immigration in this country is not an issue, for which we should rejoice.
New census data revealed that the white population in the United States shrank by 8.6 per cent between 2010 and 2020. This may be the result of a declining fertility rate, or of an increase in the number of Americans who declare they are multiracial, or both. Whatever the reason, America becomes more racially diverse each year.
While many white Americans are fine with this, others resent the decline of white dominance. Replacement theory – an obnoxious, racist rant that maintains immigrants who vote Democratic are being imported to replace white Republicans – is coming out of the shadows.
“The Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate – the voters now casting ballots – with new people, more obedient voters from the Third World.” Fox News host Tucker Carlson said back in April.
Stephen Miller, who was a key adviser to former president Donald Trump, warned on Tuesday against allowing Afghan refugees who are fleeing the Taliban into the United States. “Resettling in America is not about solving a humanitarian crisis,” he told Laura Ingraham. “It’s about accomplishing an ideological objective – to change America.”
Europe is also torn. “2015 mustn’t be repeated,” German politicians declared this week, including major figures in the Christian Democratic Union, the party of departing Chancellor Angela Merkel. Hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria and elsewhere flooded Europe that year. There are strong anti-immigration parties in almost every European parliament.
But in Canada, Justin Trudeau has promised to let in at least 20,000 Afghan refugees if his Liberal party is re-elected on Sept. 20. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole promised to do the same if his party forms government.
Even more important, neither the Conservatives nor the New Democrats are protesting against the Liberals’ decision to welcome more than 400,000 new permanent residents this year. They’re doing this mostly by converting the status of graduated students and temporary workers already in the country, to compensate for borders closed by the pandemic.
And while anti-immigration sentiment is poisoning the democratic well in the United States and Europe, polls show that, for most Canadians, immigration is a non-issue.
Canada’s wide-open immigration policy is deeply entrenched. In 1960, when John Diefenbaker was the Progressive Conservative prime minister, his immigration minister, Ellen Fairclough, proposed that Canada set an annual immigration intake of 1 per cent of its population. Cabinet rejected that proposal, but ultimately accepted her plan to eliminate racial discrimination when selecting immigrants.
Liberal prime minister Lester Pearson’s government came up with the race-blind points system for selecting immigrants. Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau declared that Canada was a multicultural society. Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney opened the floodgates by setting a target of 250,000 immigrants a year. Liberal prime ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, and Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, embraced that target.
By making more than 400,000 people permanent residents this year, Canada will finally meet, and exceed, the intake proposed more than half a century ago by Ms. Fairclough.
We are alone in this. Britain, Australia and New Zealand are cutting back on immigration, while in the United States – where many immigrants are undocumented Latinos – Democrats and Republicans have been at war over the issue for decades.
Canada brings in, per capita, more immigrants than any other country for mostly selfish reasons. Immigrants are often better educated than native-born Canadians. They compensate for labour shortages, start businesses and pay taxes that support the health care and pension needs of an aging Canadian society.
We are far, far from perfect. Racism, especially toward Black Canadians and Indigenous peoples, is part of our past and present. Horror at the realization that hundreds, probably thousands, of First Nations children lie buried in unmarked graves at residential schools muted Canada Day celebrations this year.
But the fact remains that a fifth of all Canadians were not born in Canada, that we are arguably the most diverse society on Earth. That no major political party has a problem with this is something to celebrate.
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