(Turns out Coulter wasn’t comparing Mexicans to loathsome insects. She was making some point about taxation. But, hey, she knew exactly what she was doing.)
How about a shift in perspective? About 12 percent of the U.S. population is foreign-born. In Canada, 18.8 percent of the population was foreign-born as of 2001.
Why don’t we hear any wailing and teeth-gnashing from up north about the threat posed to white civilization by blacks, mestizos and Asians? Canada’s got more than 300,000 African immigrants; more than 120,000 Jamaicans; some 54,000 Haitians; more than 116,000 Mexicans and Central Americans; 84,000 Guyanese; 322,000 immigrants from India; and more than half a million Chinese.
How is Canada dealing? Is immigration a hot-button issue there? I decided to ask some Canadian political bloggers, on the right and the left. My questions, in a nutshell, were these:
1. What social problems, if any, have come with Canada’s immigrant influx? Crime? Gangs? Inter-ethnic conflict? A drain on social services?
2. Is there any political movement to restrict immigration? Any public discussion about the racial dimensions of immigration? Concern that the character of the Canadian nation will change if too many non-whites are let in?
3. What’s your personal take? Is large-scale immigration good for Canada, bad for Canada, or neutral?
I only heard back from one conservative, who happens to be the son of non-white immigrants. Victor Wong (who blogs as The Phantom Observer) says this: “There’s no real national movement up here on restricting immigration. Many of the people who vote conservative are immigrants themselves, so it’s seen as counter-productive.”
Canada’s big immigrant-related issue, according to Wong, has to do with “accreditation.” “Our immigration policies so far encourage the intake of trained professionals (physicians, engineers, etc.) The trouble we have is that the licensing bodies for those professions don’t automatically recognize the migrant’s educational background. Hence our migrants often wind up in menial jobs instead of the ones they’re trained for.
“The licensing bodies are under provincial jurisdiction while immigration is a federal responsibility,” Wong explains, “making it rather difficult to get everyone to agree on what gets recognized and what doesn’t. That’s what’s on the agenda at the moment.”
Over on the left, a blogger known as Canadian Cynic graciously posted my query and invited his readers to respond. Some of their comments are below. I’ll share more in the coming days. (If you don’t wish to wait, you can read the entire thread here, on Canadian Cynic’s blog.)
Keep in mind these are left-wingers, so they’re ideologically prone towards pro-immigrationism. (One commenter didn’t appear to believe in borders at all.) They’ve provided very interesting insights, and I am grateful to them.
M@: [A]s a middle-class white male from Ontario, I’m not sure how correct my assumptions are. Anyhow:
1. There are parts of Toronto with significant populations of working-class or poorer immigrants. I believe immigrants from the Caribbean and east Africa are the largest groups here. Crime is indeed a problem in these areas, and gangs are becoming more of a problem too. However, there are also huge sectors of immigrants from east and south Asia who have, for whatever reason, more easily assimilated into Canadian society.
I often hear that immigrants are a drain on social services and society in general, but I’ve seen no evidence of it. … And while there is the typical white resentment about “outsiders” taking over “our” country, I think the average Canadian sees immigration as a neutral or positive thing. (It helps that so many Canadians are immigrants or have immigrant parents, of course.) …
2. I think that in general, the right is more sympathetic to ideas about limiting immigration, but that is by no means a major plank in their platform. There is some discussion about the racial dimension of immigration, and some concern that Canada will be negatively affected by immigration. But I don’t know if it’s widespread, or just among the relative minority of ultra-right wingers.
I think that with such a large and vocal immigrant population, political parties are required to actively court immigrant and ethnic voters. You might be interested to know that in the last century, the dominant political party (the Liberals) had periodic amnesties for illegal immigrants, and even had their MPs [Members of Parliament] go to the docks to greet immigrants arriving on ships. The Chinese community in Ontario was staunchly Liberal-supporting throughout the century because of it.
A more recent example of pro-immigration feeling is the restitution the current (Conservative) government paid to Chinese immigrants in the first half of the century, who were forced to pay a tax to enter the country based solely on their race. While there were (and still are) plenty of arguments about what should be paid and how, I don’t remember hearing anyone say that paying the restitution was a bad thing.
3. Great for Canada. Keep ’em coming. Morally, economically, and socially, immigration makes Canada better.
EDWIN: 1. I remember some problems with Vietnamese gangs – maybe 20 years ago, and today as already mentioned some Jamaican gangs. My wife went to school where there were something like 80 nationalities with 90 languages present. She doesn’t remember any particular problems.
Anyway the big thing in the news these days is the  Air India bombing – Sikh violence. We have also had some nasty white violence out Victoria way involving school kids – though I don’t know if it was racially motivated.
2. Canada had fairly lenient immigration rules from around the ’70s through the ’80s. They are long gone now. I wish they would come back.
FERDZY: Well, as the person who went to the school with 80+ nationalities, and 90+ languages, I guess I should chip in.
I was born in 1961, so I’m old enough to just barely remember a sea of white faces in kindergarten. Mind you, probably 70% of them were the kids of recent Italian and Portuguese immigrants. (… [T]here was a huge wave of immigration from Italy after WWII. Toronto has the largest Italian population in the world outside of Italy.)
A few black faces popped up in grade 3 or so. Then, we moved to the white-bread suburbs (Scarborough, a.k.a. Scarberia) for a couple of years, because my parents were under the impression that we kids needed a yard. Fortunately, they snapped out of that fairly quickly and we moved back to Flemingdon Park just in time for it to become the multicultural nexus of the world.
The face of Toronto completely changed between the time I started school and the time I left. On the whole, the transition was relatively peaceful. There was some ugly racist talk and acts against “Pakis” (Pakistanis) during this time. (I’m sure there were plenty of other ugly talk and acts too, but these were the ones that looked like having any kind of critical mass.)
These incidents were treated as serious and disgraceful by the press, which I am sure helped in suppressing them. That and the fact that although Toronto was still very white, it had a very significant population of immigrants who remembered very well being treated as “dirty furriners” when they had arrived not so many years earlier.
I think this has been another factor in the transition from a homogenous and conservative society to a multicultural, more liberal one: each group has arrived in small enough numbers that they can’t cause a “this side and that side” schism in society, but there have been so many groups who have arrived at such a steady pace, that as Canadian society absorbed them, it was transformed. …
There are the usual right-wing blow-hards with the usual right-wing bigotry and rants. My general impression is that they are so far behind what’s already happened as to be pretty much irrelevant. It’s pretty clear that the Canadian character HAS changed already – it’s way too late to go back. I think most of us think that’s a good thing.
I’ve been talking a lot about Toronto, because that’s where I grew up. The same process has been happening in all of Canada’s major cities. Rural Canada is still pretty old-fashioned. There’s a certain amount of grumbling there, I think, but again, too little too late. They’ve missed the bus. We’re a completely different country than we were 30 years ago.
And, even there, the faces of small towns across the country are changing as recent Canadians start to branch out from the major cities, and the process begins anew.
I don’t want to paint too idealistic a picture here. Canada has always had and continues to have serious problems with racism. Our treatment of First Nations people has been execrable. It improved a bit from the ’70s through the ’90s as some progress was made with land claims, but with a Conservative government back in (hopefully temporary) power, things are deteriorating again. And I’m sure any member of the black communities that have been in Canada from before confederation has some hair-raising tales of dire racism.
PALADIEA: I personally love the fact that there are people [from] around the world in Toronto. A while back they did a whole series in the Globe and Mail about the day (2010 or 2012) when Toronto will be 51% minorities.
It really wasn’t that big an issue with anyone except far right wackos...
THE SEER: The British did not have to import a minority to divide and conquer Canada; there was a minority in place. The ultimate issue in Canada is not race but language…
ARIANNA: The Seer has an interesting point – the English and French in Canada have been beating up on each other as long as we’ve both been here. I’m guessing this has contributed to immigration not being such a big deal because we were so busy with our own internal ‘ethnic’ bickering.
Also, what I keep seeing coming up as an issue in the States is people freaking out about immigrants not “learning the language” – I haven’t seen this as an issue here really, probably in large part because we’ve been fighting about language so long and in large part everything here is bilingual English-French, which helps in two ways. Firstly, it means a larger percentage of people speak an official language of the country – many developing nations were former French colonies, after all, and secondly, most Canadians are used to language accommodation and don’t freak out at the sight of a language other than their own.
[TO BE CONTINUED]