The Decade When the Face of Canada Changed

Robert Sibley, The Ottawa Citizen, December 28, 2009

When a Canadian is concerned about his own way of living, this concern is not racism.

–David Lam, former lieutenant-governor of British Columbia.

‘Stretching over that empty sea, aground some fifty yards out, (lay) the incredible fleet from the other side of the globe. . . . There were better than a hundred ships in all, each one caked with rust, unfit for the sea . . . They had lined up in almost mannerly fashion . . . and all around, thousands of floating, white clad corpses . . . A hundred ships! . . . On this Easter Sunday evening, eight hundred thousand living beings, and thousands of dead ones, were making their peaceful assault on the Western World.”

This is the opening scene in Jean Raspail’s famous–some would say infamous–novel, The Camp of the Saints, which offers a darkly futuristic tale of Europe inundated by wave after wave of desperate Third World migrants. When it was first published in 1973, Raspail was immediately tagged a “racist,” that label used to silence anyone who speaks outside the box of political correctness.

The novel tells of the flight of hundreds of thousands of desperate Indians from the cesspools of Calcutta. Led by a self-styled messiah, they commandeer a fleet of boats and embark for the Mediterranean. When the armada arrives off the southern coast of France, the hordes simply come ashore and spread across the continent. Millions more follow suit. Europe’s political and social leaders are helpless. If they try to stop the refugees, millions will die. If they don’t stop them, European culture will be destroyed. I won’t give away the ending; suffice to say that irrational compassion holds sway.

It’s not hard to understand why Raspail’s book stirred so much controversy 36 years ago. European powers had only recently abandoned their former colonies. Westerners were taught to feel guilty about their imperialist past. Intellectuals inflated themselves with self-loathing. As Susan Sontag, one of the more prominent flagellants, said in 1967: “The white race is the cancer of human history.”

In the last decade, however, Raspail’s book has gained a better reputation. Journalist Lionel Shriver referred to the book as “prescient,” saying it voices “an emotion whose expression is increasingly taboo in the West, but that can grow only more virulent when suppressed: the fierce resentment felt by majority populations when that status seems threatened.”

This greater appreciation of Raspail’s fable is linked, no doubt, to the tide of events. Over the last 30 years, and especially in the last decade, Western nations have found themselves playing host to increasing numbers of migrants–legal and illegal–from the Third World. The International Organization for Migration estimates that, as of 2008, there were 214 million migrants worldwide–about three per cent of the planet’s population. Europe has the largest number, 70 million, or nearly 10 per cent of its population. Another 50 million are in the United States and Canada–43 million and seven million, respectively–comprising about 14 per cent of those two countries’ populations. Asia hosts 61 million, or 1.5 per cent of the population.

(The UN defines a long-term migrant as someone who moves to another country from their usual residence for at least a year, effectively making the host country their residence.)

Raspail may have been writing dystopian fiction, but reality, it seems, is catching up. In 2004, the UN Global Commission on International Migration concluded, as German journalist Klaus Brinkbåumer writes, “migration could become the most important issue of the 21st century.”

For many it already is. In Africa, thousands trek the length of the continent to cross the Straits of Gibraltar into Spain. Thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Asia Minor cross the Mediterranean in rickety boats to land on the shores of Greece, Italy and southern France. Boat people from as far as Afghanistan cram onto rust buckets in hopes of making it to Australia. Thousands of Mexicans risk being shot by U.S. border guards.

This mass migration, arguably the greatest movement of people since Europeans came to the New World, is prompting much debate. Kevin Andrews, a former Australian immigration minister, called on Australians to have an open discussion on the country’s burgeoning Muslim population. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said body-covering burkas are “not welcome” in France. The Swiss recently voted in a binding referendum to ban building Islamic minarets. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced measures to control the flow of immigrants. (Recent surveys found that 80 per cent of Britons want immigration reduced, but 70 per cent were reluctant to talk about it lest they be labeled racists.) The Netherlands has imposed some of Europe’s most stringent requirements for would-be immigrants, and other European governments are following that example as politicians react to anti-immigration sentiment.

Canada has not been immune from the South’s march North. About 260,000 immigrants come to this country each year. That doesn’t include illegal immigrant claimants. The recent example of 76 illegal migrants, mostly Sri Lankan Tamils, who were intercepted on a rusting ship off the coast of Vancouver, is only the tip of the iceberg. Estimates of the number of illegal immigrants range between 35,000 to 120,000. Nonetheless, it is Canada’s intake of legal migrants that is the most problematic, say observers.

Canada’s immigration “flow rate” is higher than almost any other Western country, according to Stephen Gallagher, program director of the Canadian International Council in Montreal. In 2007, he says, Canada had an estimated net migration about four times that of the European Union, twice that of the U.S. and a third greater than Australia.

“As a result,” says Gallagher, “Canada is undergoing a social and demographic evolution that is much more rapid and profound than that in other immigrant-welcoming countries.” Already, nearly half the populations of Toronto and Vancouver–46 per cent and 40 per cent respectively–were born outside Canada.

Such a demographic shift has undeniable consequences–economic, social and political–for the country. Yet there’s little debate about what those consequences might be, and whether they are acceptable to the majority of Canadians.

“We are led to believe that Canada’s immigration policy serves the national interest and is essential for economic growth, to fill our labour shortages, and to offset an aging and diminishing population,” says James Bissett, a former Canadian ambassador and the one-time executive director of the Canadian Immigration Service. “We are also told that most of our immigrants are selected because they possess the education, trades, skills, and training essential to meet our labour-force demands. These assertions need to be challenged because they do not bear up under examination. They have become myths, used by governments and pro-immigration advocates to justify unreasonably high immigration levels.”

Indeed, according to a recent Globe and Mail report, the federal government intends to maintain existing immigration levels even though other countries, from Japan to Spain to Australia, “are cutting immigration targets to protect fragile labour markets and encouraging itinerant workers to leave.”

This is not to deny that Canada has benefited from immigration. You only have to think of all those who arrived in the 19th century and early and mid-20th century to build the country and to fight its wars. However, according to Patrick Grady, an economic consultant with Global Economics, more recent immigrants are proving to be a drain on the national economy.

In particular, “recent immigrants coming to Canada from Asia, southeastern Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean are not doing as well as immigrants from Europe and the United States and are not being successfully integrated into the Canadian labour market.”

Grady points out that the existing high level of immigration is justified by the supposed needs of the market place. If corporations don’t get the employees they need–particularly low-cost employees–then, so the argument goes, the economy will suffer. Grady challenges that view, citing a 2006 Canadian study that found “a 10-per-cent labour-supply shift caused by immigration would result in a three- to four-per-cent reduction in wages” in both Canada and the U. S.

“Employers are always griping about the shortages of labour. But you never hear them saying anything about the need to raise wages to attract more workers.” In Grady’s view, the “poor performance” of recent immigrants will only improve after “a radical reform of Canadian immigration policy that substantially reduces the number of immigrants (no more than 100,000 a year) and tightens up selection criteria sufficiently to reverse the deterioration.”

Perhaps the most egregious flaw in the immigration system is the family class category. The Immigration Act currently allows new immigrants to bring in not only their immediate family (spouse and kids) but also their parents and grandparents of any age. This generates what is called “chain immigration.” Naturally, all these parents and grandparents–20,000 in 2006, according to a report to Parliament–are eligible for welfare and health care even though they have made no contributions to either.

Why is there so little willingness on the part of other Canadians to debate the immigration issue?

Martin Collacott, a former Canadian ambassador and one-time director general of security services, says Canadians “are afraid they’ll immediately be called racists by all the interest groups–immigration lawyers, rights activists and ethnic groups–that have a stake in promoting immigration.”

The question, of course, is: What has made Canadians so afraid?

At the core of Canada’s immigration practices–the theory that sustains the practice, as it were–is the concept of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism, in turn, is rooted in the notion that all cultures are deserving of equal respect. As Salim Mansur, a professor of social sciences at the University of Western Ontario, puts it: “Unfortunately, the politics of Canadian multiculturalism is based on the notion that all cultures represented within an immigrant culture are more or less equal, and deserve equal respect and treatment in politics and law.”

Immigrant groups draw on this cultural relativism to assert their right to maintain traditions–gender apartheid, polygamy, religious intolerance, for example–even if those traditions are contrary to liberal values and, indeed, violate Canadian law.

It is this mindset of cultural abnegation reflected in Canada’s multicultural policies that Mansur sees behind Canadians’ reluctance to insist on immigrants conforming to the country’s liberal way of life. “The politics of multiculturalism discourages (if ‘prohibit’ is too harsh a word) the majority population from demanding assimilation of minorities originating from a variety of non-Western cultures,” say Mansur, who is also a member of the board of directors of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington, D.C. “Multiculturalism promotes and requires accommodation of ethno-cultural minorities by the host society . . . Consequently, multiculturalism together with an open-door immigration policy looses the host society from its inherited culture.”

It is surely a puzzle of our times that liberal-minded Canadians hesitate to object to the presence of those who “hate democracy and the West.”

“We don’t do nearly enough to tell people that ‘if you come here your primary political loyalty is to Canada,” says Martin Collacott. “If you can’t accept the Canadian way of life, and what it means, you should go elsewhere.”

So, why would any liberal society adopt policies and practices–extremist multiculturalism and open-door immigration, in this case–that encourage the establishment of more and more illiberal tribalist enclaves in the country?

Perhaps, as Jean Raspail suggests, it has something to do with the state of the Western soul. “The West has no soul left. At every level–nations, races, cultures, as well as individuals–it is always the soul that wins the decisive battles . . . I can hardly discern any soul in us.”

Robert Sibley is a senior writer for the Citizen. In tomorrow’s paper, he’ll consider how the West’s “soul” has weakened this past decade.

Selected Sources

– James Bissett, “The current state of Canadian immigration policy,” in The Effects of Mass Immigration on Canadian Living Standards and Society, 2009.

– Klaus Brinkbåumer, “The New Mass Migration,” Der Spiegel, Jan. 24, 2007.

– Stephen Gallagher, “The creation of a global suburb and its impact on Canadian national unity,” The Effects of Mass Immigration.

– Globe and Mail, “As countries shut out migrants, Canada warned it will become the new safe harbour,” Dec. 16, 2009.

– Patrick Grady, “Is Canadian immigration too high?” The Effects of Mass Immigration.

– David Lam, quoted by Martin Collacott, “Don’t call it racism,” Ottawa Citizen, Nov. 2, 2007.

– Salim Mansur, “Immigration and multiculturalism undermine culture and security in Canada,” The Effects of Mass Immigration.

– Jean Raspail, The Camp of the Saints, (1973), 1995.

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