By Joe Adam George, January 12, 2023
Since 1971, when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau officially adopted a policy of multiculturalism, Canada has enthusiastically promoted and celebrated cultural diversity as a fundamental element of our national identity.
Perhaps wanting to step out of his father’s shadow and create his own legacy, in 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau upped the multicultural ante by several notches, declaring to the world that Canada would become the “first post-national state”. In a now-infamous interview Trudeau claimed “there is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada.”
Last year, his government announced plans to welcome 500,000 new immigrants per year by 2025 and maintain those numbers annually in the subsequent years. Amidst growing public opposition to high immigration levels, Statistics Canada reported last month that Canada’s population grew by more than 430,000 during the third quarter of 2023 alone, marking the fastest pace of population growth since 1957 and pushing the country’s population past 40.5 million.
PM Trudeau’s pursuit of a post-national vision for Canada – through a blend of substantial hikes in immigration and a systemic push of woke progressivism that has effectively revised and erased Canadian history – has come at a significant cost to Canada’s national unity and security.
Examples of this disunity and lack of social integration have been particularly apparent in recent months. Following Hamas’ October 7 attacks against innocent Israeli civilians, the Jewish community in Canada have been subject to incessant acts of malice and violence by pro-Palestine protestors. Over the last three months, these dissenters have become a nuisance and a threat to all Canadians – from blocking traffic at major intersections and disrupting Christmas celebration events to intimidating businesses and shoppers, and in some extremely worrying instances, plotting to carry out terror attacks on Canadian soil.
Raging antisemitic and anti-Western speeches by controversial Muslim imams like Adil Charkaoui and Sheikh Younus Kathrada have added fuel to the fire (Charkaoui served jail time in 2003 on charges of terrorism and was later allowed a pathway to Canadian citizenship by a judge).
Predictably, questions about uncontrolled immigration and limited social integration have gained considerable prominence in the public square, so much so that the once-taboo topic of immigration could become a hot-button issue in the next federal election. The immigration discourse was already gaining traction on account of joint economic woes and the housing crisis, but the sustained public antics post-October 7 has caused otherwise pro-immigrant Canadians to question the viability of our current policy.
Eric Kaufmann, professor of politics at the University of Buckingham and Senior Fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, said to me in an interview, “A lot of the talk about integration misses the mark because it only takes into account integration indicators like people getting jobs, learning the language, voting, participating economically and politically, and even feeling a certain attachment to their adopted country, all of which I think are going reasonably well. The main driver for integration problems that we are currently seeing in Western countries is the degree of ethnocultural shifting that is taking place on account of mass immigration. This is bringing a much greater diversity of ethnic identities and religions and results in the importation of overseas conflicts into Western societies leading to inter-communal clashes between groups such as Sikh-Hindu, Muslim-Hindu or Muslim-Jew. The other factor is Islam and its perceived incompatibility with Western culture and values. All this contributes to the rise of populist movements across the globe, particularly in Europe.” Last month, an Angus Reid poll found that more than two-in-five (43%) Canadians believe Islam to be a “harmful presence” to their country.
Out of the over 1.3 million new immigrants who permanently settled in Canada from 2016 to 2021, approximately 1.14 million of them belonged to racialized communities, with most of them coming from South Asian, African and Arab countries. In a 2018 paper, Kaufmann and Matthew Goodwin argue that white Canadians will be a minority around the year 2050. It must be pointed out that this discussion is not about any deranged notion of preserving racial purity but about the effect of quick and massive ethnocultural change. Even with some mixing between cultures, geographic, marital and social patterns remain highly structured by ethnic identity in Canada; this is as true of the majority as of minorities, with white movers avoiding more diverse locations such as Richmond, BC or Brampton, ON. This attachment to one’s own group has been proven in the scholarly literature to be independent of any dislike of outgroups (except at times of violent conflict). Yet any mention of a sense of loss in the disruption of a previously dominant culture is immediately taken as hostility to outgroups and thus racist – a dishonest assessment.
Other countries that have traditionally welcomed a significant number of immigrants are now admitting that their immigration levels are out of control. Leaders (often privately) recognize that while linking immigration to job market needs, infrastructure capacity and economic growth opportunities is vital, greater value ought to be attached to encouraging immigrants to integrate and contribute to advancing a shared national vision. With elections looming in some of these countries, governments are taking belated measures to reduce the overall intake to appease their electorates.
The Danish government has advocated for a “zero refugee” policy. Australia announced new policies that are expected to cut down immigration by 50%. The UK Parliament passed a bill – dubbed “the toughest ever anti-illegal immigration legislation” – which aims to send illegal asylum-seekers to Rwanda. Germany approved legislation that would make it easier for authorities to quickly deport rejected asylum seekers. U.S. lawmakers are negotiating a deal to enforce security along its southern border with Mexico to combat illegal crossings.
It is worth highlighting that Denmark, Australia and Germany are run by left-wing or centre-left governments; mass immigration and social integration can be issues of concern to parties of all political stripes and not limited to “racist right-wing bigots” and “conservatives” as some might lazily portray. When asked which country Canada could take inspiration from to improve immigration controls, Kaufmann mentioned the Social Democrats in Denmark as exemplary.
“I think lowering numbers is absolutely at the heart of any successful immigration policy. I don’t think you can have high [immigration] numbers and not have a problem and you may even have different kinds of problems like antisemitism or anti-LGBTQ sentiments or communal conflicts or radicalization. Essentially, my view is that with high numbers and rapid cultural change, you simply get a loss of social connectedness. You have people in their bubbles moving around and that’s fine but when you get two groups that have an issue with each other, then you’re going to either have a conflict or you tend to get less civic-minded”, he said, citing renowned American political scientist, Robert Putnam’s thesis ‘E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century’. Putnam contends that sharp increases in immigration and ethnic diversity tend to reduce social solidarity and social capital in the short run, meaning social trust (even of one’s own race) would be lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, and friends fewer, although on the flipside, it is likely to have long-term cultural, economic, fiscal, and developmental benefits.
When asked what continued mass immigration could mean for Canada, Kaufmann said, “I think Canada is moving in the direction of being a low-cohesion society. I mean, if that’s the choice they want to make, that’s fine. I think it’s partly because political correctness is stronger in Canada than almost anywhere else. So, it’s impossible to really have an honest debate about immigration which is one reason why the numbers are so high in Canada compared to other countries. It’s about what the elites will allow you to talk about in a democracy without labeling you a racist, which is completely dishonest, but that’s the way the debate has been conducted in Canada, as some sort of a sacred cow. It’s less sacred in Europe and so there’s more of a real debate around immigration numbers.”
Last month, fueled by concerns over growing antisemitism, the German state of Saxony-Anhalt made it mandatory for applicants wishing to live in the state to recognize Israel’s right to exist. In 2006, the Netherlands made it compulsory for prospective immigrants to watch a film with images of gay men kissing or topless women as part of the civic integration exam to test their readiness to participate in the Dutch liberal society.
When asked if such a values-based test or declaration for prospective immigrants was feasible, Kaufmann said, “People are allowed to have different opinions, even if they may be obnoxious. Even within the citizenry, there are people who don’t recognize the state of Israel and that’s an opinion you’re allowed to have. I think the test should probably focus on subjects like toleration of gays, Jews and women. However, I don’t think Canada is willing to consider qualitative culture-based criteria, such as assimilability to Canadian values, to assess potential immigrants, like they currently do in countries like Denmark, even though I think it would be a good idea. Canadian immigration is completely rooted in voodoo-based reasoning and there’s no economic or demographic rationale to it. The idea that immigration is a sustainable solution to the aging problem, for instance, has been comprehensively debunked. Somehow, it is a religion amongst Canadian elites and to some degree, across political parties. The Conservatives are too scared to touch it out of fear of being branded as racist and anti-immigrant by other parties and the media, even though most of their voters want a lot lower numbers. Regardless, you’ve got a cross-party consensus which is not based in reality.”
In 2016, federal Conservative leadership hopeful Kellie Leitch was heavily criticized, even by members of her own party, for floating the idea of screening out would-be immigrants to Canada, if they were openly intolerant or did not accept Canadian values and traditions such as respect and tolerance for other cultures, freedom of speech and equality.
The systematic dismantling and belittling of Canada’s history by our governments and institutions has left many immigrants seeing very little worth embracing in Canada, often resulting in a retention of their original values– some of which are contradictory to Canadian values and pose a hazard to the safety and security of vulnerable groups like LGBTQ, Jews, women and children.
While Kaufmann does not think Trudeau’s post-national comments have had an impact on the ground on their own, he said they reflect the mindset of the cultural left-dominated or progressive-dominated society.
“The media and the political culture in Canada are dominated by progressivism on any cultural issues, whether that be LGBTQ, religion, ethnicity or immigration. The longstanding narrative in Canadian academia about Canadian identity is that Canada’s just a multicultural country and the only thing it stands for is tolerance and diversity. In a way, multiculturalism is, more or less, a restatement of a post-national country that doesn’t really have a national identity and that’s what the elites want. It is a national identity that claims to have the moral high ground by proclaiming we don’t care about ethnicity or culture because we’re so virtuous and that is really what Trudeau implied. This is still a kind of national identity but based on pride in being holier than thou. His comments reflect an elitist philosophy that has led to record levels of immigration and poor integration.”
The Israel-Hamas war has highlighted the failure of integration inevitably resulting from rapid and uncontrolled mass immigration. Scenes of protestors disrupting Black Friday shopping and Christmas celebrations, or even threatening to kill people in the presence of police officers, were unimaginable in Canada not long ago.
First or second-generation immigrants like me – whether they be permanent residents, students, illegal aliens, or citizens – have immensely benefitted from the magnanimity of Western countries like Canada. In many cases we were offered refuge from the hatred, tyranny, racism, sexism, terrorism, and violence of our home countries. It should not be considered controversial or racist to point out instances of fellow immigrants treating Western generosity and tolerance as weaknesses to be manipulated, bragging about their growing numbers and the political clout they have amassed in liberal democracies (apparently without awareness of the hypocrisy apparent in their support for illiberal tyrannies whose violence drove them to take refuge in the West in the first place). Aaron Wudrick, Director of Domestic Policy at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, encapsulates this view accurately in his tweet: “The important question isn’t how Canadians identify in terms of ethnicity. It’s whether they identify as *Canadian* and feel any attachment, belonging or commitment to our shared institutions.”
It is dishonest and irrational to label everyone concerned about out-of-control immigration numbers and the need for social cohesion as racist or xenophobic. The sooner we rid ourselves of fallacious name calling, the sooner we can start a serious debate about the best way forward for a compassionate and sustainable immigration policy that prioritizes Canada’s long-term national unity, security and economic interests.
Joe Adam George is a former foreign policy and national security research intern with the Washington, D.C.-based policy think tank, Hudson Institute, and a communications strategist.