For a Multicultural Country, Canada is not Always Very Welcoming

Overall, if we can accept the conclusions of this CBC/Research House Survey, the majority of Canadians support immigration and multiculturalism, which is good; however, there is still a significant portion of the Canadian populace, which varies from region to region and question to question, that does not appear to support either Canada’s multicultural policy or continued immigration. I say it varies from question to question because, not surprisingly, the percentage of Canadians who respond negatively to questions of immigration changes depending on what the question is or how it is phrased. There’s some hope in that, because it means some negative attitudes towards immigrants and refugees may be situational, which suggests there is room for positive attitudes to increase. Of course, one wouldn’t think there is much room for a furthering of positive attitudes based on some of the horrendously racist and offensive comments posted by anonymous readers below the linked article, but thankfully there is no evidence Canadian (or any other country’s) newspaper comment board posts even come close to accurately representing a broad sample of public opinion.

Having said all that, the policies and attitudes of our current Conservative government are far from welcoming: Ottawa Ignores Rule of Law in Refugee Health Care. Although I am a born-in-Canada-citizen, I have personal experience with the refugee system through my volunteer work and friendships with a number of refugees. In fact, I have attended two Refugee Board hearings (a matter on which I will refrain from commenting on any further at this point), I have sat in on several meetings between a refugee friend and his appeal lawyer, and I have helped that same refugee friend navigate losing his federal health care after his claim was unjustly denied. In other words, I know from experience that the refugee system in this country is a horrendous, human rights violating mess, partly as a result of hiring practices and policy changes implemented by the current Conservative government but also due to systemic problems that extend back decades.

If the majority of Canadians do indeed generally support multiculturalism and increased immigration, as the above survey suggests, I think they would be horrified to learn just how inhospitable our current immigration and refugee system is. It is ironic that Prime Minister Stephen Harper publicly identifies as a practicing Christian, as do many members of his government. One of the primary religious practices that is supposed to be privileged in the Judeo-Christian tradition is radical hospitality. Such radical hospitality is written right into the long version of the Ten Commandments as written in Deuteronomy 5:4-20. The passage, “And remember that thou wast a slave in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day” refers back to what was at the time a radical command: that the sabbath applies to all, including the “stranger that is within thy gates.” Forgive the Bible quoting here, as I don’t mean to come across as a “thumper”; but I am a scholar of religion and I’m simply trying to point out the hypocrisy of Canada’s political leadership on immigration and refugee policy given said leadership’s professed religious views.

As a related aside, I might also point out that the “sin of Sodom” is not homosexuality; it’s inhospitality. Just saying.


About Michael E. Thorn

I have just completed my PhD in Communication and Culture with a research focus in media, religion and culture.
This entry was posted in Canada, Immigration and Refugees, Media, Religion and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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