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Last week, Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservative Party, provided his views on immigration. His speech was both a policy statement for the party and an attempt to outline his own personal thoughts. Of course, it also included a fair amount of bashing the Liberals for their immigration policy […]
Last week, Andrew Scheer, leader of the Conservative Party, provided his views on immigration. His speech was both a policy statement for the party and an attempt to outline his own personal thoughts.
Of course, it also included a fair amount of bashing the Liberals for their immigration policy and failures.
His speech started well, pointing out the brave people who have left their homelands to come to Canada. Each wave added its own distinctiveness to our great country. But despite his best efforts, it fell into stereotypical rhetoric.
For example, after talking about Canada as "one country, the true north, strong and free," he went on to say "just consider the hardship and suffering faced by the original first nations" and compared their lifestyle to the struggles of the earliest settlers.
Except, of course, the original first nations did not "suffer." They did very well, living in thriving communities and living in an environment for which they were eminently well-adapted. It is only European hubris which downplays their lifestyle as they did not have the amenities of modern civilization. One could make a strong case they didn't need them.
He went on to point out how European and Asian immigrants "built this great country of ours." Sure. But it is not a sunshine and roses history. In building Canada, our ancestors also changed the country. They populated the land which they claimed from the original inhabitants and altered the landscape to meet their needs. They contributed to the mass killings of animals such as the bison while engaging in hunts for beaver and otter pelts. They altered and tried to extinguish much of the indigenous lifestyle.
Yes, the efforts of many immigrants have led to modern Canada and it is a place where I live. I am a first generation Canadian. My parents arrived here in the late 1940s with dreams of living in the true north. And I understand the heartstrings Scheer is trying to pluck. I wouldn't be here if Canada was not a welcoming state.
Canada is a great country. It has been built on immigration. And any party would be foolish to adopt policy arguing against it.
However, Scheer then goes on to claim the system is broken. Speaking in French, I believe he points out we are letting in 250,000 immigrants per year under the Liberal government.
True. But we have been averaging 250,000 immigrants every year since the 1980s, under both Conservative and Liberal governments. Even the likes of Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper recognized the necessity of immigration for the health of our economy.
Indeed, with Canada's present birthrate, if we did not have a healthy immigration policy, our population would have been declining for the past 30 years. And our economic model is built around inflationary growth to sustain it.
Bringing in 250,000 immigrants might sound like a lot - especially when the majority of new immigrants settle in our major cities - but with vetting processes and employment opportunities, we are building our economic future. The vast majority, and I do mean vast, arrive through normal immigration channels following appropriate procedures.
Scheer then decries the efforts of the Liberals to allow some immigrants to "jump the line" and for not doing enough to deal with new immigrants sneaking across the border. Calling these asylum seekers "illegal aliens" is a way to dehumanize them and to ignore the circumstances which bring them to our country.
Perhaps if Scheer is seriously interested in improving immigration, the term should be "people who are entering Canada by unconventional routes as they seek a better life for their families." It is a lot longer phrase but perhaps more accurate.
But all of this show of compassion for immigrants might be just a show. A 2019 EKOS poll demonstrates two things.
The first is there has been a consistency in attitude about immigration for the past 20 years. When asked if there are too many, too few, or just about the right number of immigrants coming to Canada, the number thinking there are too many has held at around 40 per cent for the entire time.
The second is the number of individuals thinking there are too many is very much partitioned along party lines. In 2019, only 15 per cent of Liberals supporters think there are too many immigrants while 68 per cent thing it is about right. For Conservative supporters, 69 per cent think there are too many and only 23 per cent think it is about right.
So who is Scheer talking to? His base who think there are illegal aliens arriving by the boat load or immigrants who came to Canada in search of a more tolerant and compassionate society?
Leading up to the next federal election, it will be interesting to see just how Scheer handles that balancing act.