Monday, July 02, 2007


On Saturday, June 30th, Margaret Wente, a columnist with the GLOBE AND MAIL - one of our national newspapers, wrote "254 Solitudes, and Counting". It was a dreary, depressing, and cynical essay on why Canada's not working, and why we've lost our "values and aspirations". Let me quote:

"If Canada has one claim to fame, it is as the immigration country that works. Wherever I travelled in Europe last fall, people would ask me, "How do you do it?" And I would smile sweetly and pretend that Canadians are simply more tolerant, more welcoming, and more eager to celebrate diversity than any other nation in the world. Let's hope they don't find out the truth...In 1981, Statistics Canada identified six "ethnic enclaves" across the country - communities where a single visible minority group made up more than 30 per cent of the population. Twenty years later, there were 254."

Margaret doesn't list which 254 minorities comprise Canada today, but she has alot to say about how "the job of civic society is to overcome these tribal resentments (she's talking about how people of one ethnic group tend to live together and resent the "majority"), and replace them with a set of values and aspirations that are shared. But our age is all about accentuating differences. We're supposed to not just recognize and tolerate these differences, but to embrace and celebrate them."

Hmmm, good thing you "smiled sweetly" last fall, Margaret. It is a fact that Canada has the highest immigration rate in the world. It's also a fact that yesterday on CTV Live, I saw many, many, different races of people, and their children wearing red and white hats, wash-off tattoos of our flag, and waving flags vehemently as our Governor-General arrived on Parliament Hill. Why were they all waving flags and happy to be here?

Because Canada does have strong values and aspirations that our immigrants have come here for,and for good reason;

1) Freedom of speech, liberty, and safety of persons. Ask anyone from Afghanistan, Somalia, the Czech Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba (need I go on?) how they feel about residing in a country where they're not afraid of soldiers taking away their children, they can practice their religion in freedom, and don't have to submit to policed road checks, whether they enjoy living here. Bet they'll say "Thank God!", Margaret.

2) Class-free education for everyone, universal health care, and suitable housing. We Canadians put a high price on our educational system, health care, and keeping our homeless off the streets.

3) We value dignity for all, the *inclusion* of all in our society, and educate our children to value this as well.

Margaret Wente would have us believe that the only values taught in our schools today are "anti-bullying and recycling. These are good things, to be sure. But maybe not quite enough to build a whole society on."

A "whole society"? We have a whole society, Margaret. We're not perfect, and there is some inherent racism, as there is in any society. But I'd submit that by celebrating and tolerating the differences in the immigrants who come here, we're preventing the repression of the second and third generations of immigrant's children who rise up in search of their "real" identity. The UK and Europe have taught us that much.

Our "whole" society allows people to be who they are - and if they feel divided between being "Afghanistan-Canadian" or "African-Canadian" or "First Nations Canadian", then that is their personal problem, not the society they live in.

If we fail to tolerate each other's differences, we are on the slippery slope to something the '40's called "Nazisim" - the idea of a supreme race over every other race. And that is something Canada will never tolerate - our Charter of Rights and Freedoms attests to that.

I know several family members, and friends, who don't share my views. They're afraid of the "Asian incursion", the "al Quada kids" who live in the projects (referring to Muslims, of course), etc. They feel they're in the minority where they live. Well, there's a solution for that - if you don't like living in "Chinatown", then move. If you can't stand the sight of little girls walking to school wearing head scarves, then move somewhere else.

The first immigrants to this country were French and English. Then later, the Irish, the Hutterites and Mennonites running from religious prosecution, the Germans and Ukranians who populated our Prairies, the Chinese who built our trans-Canada rail road, the blacks who came North during the Civil War...they built this countries economy, infrastructure, and developed it into what it is today.

Let's face it, Margaret, the only people who weren't immigrants, were the First Nations peoples. And their history and inclusion in our society is our only weak link in an otherwise empowering, tolerant, and compassionate Canada.

But that's the source of another blog! I hope everyone had a great Canada Day and long weekend!


Toni Anderson said...

Intolerance is the biggest problem in the world today. You're right.

Kerry Blaisdell said...

Happy Canada Day from an ex-pat! *:?) Your posts are always pithy and thought-provoking, and especially this one.

Now I'm off to celebrate our own little holiday over here. *;?) Cheers!