The Fractured Nation Interviews
Maude Elisabeth Barnstone
Immigration, Assimilation and an Oxymoron
Maude: Why am I not surprised that answering her challenge would be one of the first things you would bring up.
Johnny: Please, not you too.
Maude: [smiling] As Boom-Boom would say, just kidding. Ms. Smith is an economist, therefore an economic motive for the Mulroney Conservatives almost tripling immigration would be the natural conclusion she would reach. I don’t completely disagree with her conclusion. There was some pressure from the business community who, as she correctly points out, saw increased immigration levels as a way of keeping downward pressure on wages, but economic considerations were not the Mulroney government’s primary motivation for almost tripling the number of immigrants that Canada took in every year. In fact, I don’t believe it was Mulroney’s idea.
Johnny: So who or what decided to take in almost three times the normal number of immigrants?
Maude: The only thing we are sure of is that the decision was made after the Mulroney Conservatives came to power.
Johnny: But Mulroney was the Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservatives so he had to approve?
Maude: Perhaps, I am just making the distinction that it may not have been his idea although he obviously had no problems with it. We just don’t know.
Johnny: So what was the Conservative Party's or Mulroney’s motivation?
Maude: The Liberal Party had always had more success with the voters, being slightly more pragmatic than the Conservatives and adopting slightly left or right of center policies depending on the mood of the electorate. The Conservatives, unable to believe that it was their self-righteousness as reflected in their policies that were scaring the voters convinced themselves that it must be because the Liberal Party was manipulating the voters, namely the immigrant voters. When the Mulroney Conservatives achieved power in 1985 they decided to do something about this perceived manipulation of a portion of the electorate. They would become the choice of the immigrant.
Johnny: And this is why the extraordinary jump in immigration levels?
Maude: The Conservatives speculated that immigrants would switch their allegiance to them if they drastically increased the number allowed into the country. So as not to be seen as going after the immigrant vote they concocted the claim that this unprecedented increase was good for the economy and thus was born the myth that increased immigration leads to increase prosperity.
Johnny: But didn’t Canada need a steady flow of immigrants?
Maude: Of course it did! There is no disagreement there, but what Canada needed was not the type of immigration that is driven by political consideration. Immigration targets should have taken into account both the welfare of the country and the welfare of those who chose to come to Canada. A constant flow of immigrants is what the country needed, not a flood that challenged the infrastructure, environment, and economy on which the welfare of these very immigrants depended. Immigration that was driven by political considerations, guided by the immigration industry, their lawyers and lobbyists was not good for immigrants or for Canada.
Johnny: Dr. Smith mentioned that prior to 1984, prior to the Mulroney Conservatives coming to power, immigration policy was administered by impartial bureaucrats based on a formula that took into accounts the needs of the country in term of skills, the ability of the newcomers to start a new life here and the state of the economy. How did the Mulroney Conservatives succeed in convincing the bureaucrats to change their formula to accommodate political considerations in the establishment of rational immigration levels?
Maude: Boom-Boom was right, you are a bit naïve about the ways of the world, but that is part of your charm [reaching across the table to touch Johnny’s knee]. They got rid of the bureaucrats, silly, and with them went the system that had served Canada and the immigrant community so well. They created a new organization called The Immigration and Refugee Board and staffed it with political appointees with little or no knowledge or experience in immigration and refugee affairs and gave them a simple mandate, “increase immigration levels to make the Conservatives look good to the immigrant community.”
Maude: As bad as the conditions were for immigrants who came to Canada in the last decade of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first century it was nothing compared to what the new policy did to refugees. It was nothing short of criminal.
Johnny: But I thought that Canada, during the period you just mentioned, accepted a record number of refugees. It was even given a medal by the United Nations for the number of refugees it took in.
Maude: Yes, the Nansen Medal. Diane and I may disagree on a number of things but not on how cheap were the governments of Mulroney, of Chrétien and his penny-pinching Finance Minister who would later become the penny-pinching Prime Minister.
Johnny: How does being parsimonious, even pathologically parsimonious as Paul Martin, have a negative impact on refugees when Canada was taking in refugees in record numbers?
Maude: Let me do a Boom-Boom here, and ask you a question. In the later portion of the twentieth century what percentage of people, on average, made up the population of refugee camps around the world?
Johnny: The majority, I would think would have been women and children.
Maude: Correct, by a large majority actually. Women and children constituted about 90 percent of the population of most refugee camps. Now for the next question; with refugee camps being the last refuge of mostly women and children, what was the sex and age of most refugees accepted by Canada?
Johnny: Even a know-it-all like Ken Jennings would have difficulty with that question but, if I was to hazard a guest, I would say mostly women and children of all ages.
Maude: And you would have guest wrong.
Maude: The population in refugee camps around the world at the time, as I mentioned before, was made up of about 90 percent women and children … Wait for it. Those seeking and being granted refugee status in Canada were 70 percent male between the ages of 25 and 40.
Johnny: Wow. And the Liberals, when they returned to power did nothing about this?
Maude: Are you kidding! While the Mulroney government can take credit for the initial perversion of the refugee selection process, the Liberals would only make matters worse. The Liberals, when they returned to power, saw at least two benefits to what the Tories had done to the refugee selection process. First, accepting bogus refugees was cheaper than legitimate ones, remember our pathologically parsimonious Finance then Prime Minister. Second, having political appointees decide immigration and refugee issues created even more jobs for refugees from the political wars.
Johnny: How could they have been so callous? How could a government, any government let women and children live and die in dismal conditions for what had to be pennies, in favour of accepting able-bodied young men as refugees?
Maude: The Conservatives and Liberals were not adverse to sacrificing lives, foreign or domestic for dubious economics. It was the Conservatives who instituted the infamous Neilson budget cuts that gutted the budget of the Biologic Laboratory of the Department of Health and Welfare, the laboratory responsible for ensuring the safety of the Canadian blood supply, just as the AIDS epidemic started. It was a Liberal government which forced the release of contaminated blood, because the contaminated blood had already been paid for, knowing full well that hundreds, perhaps thousands of Canadians would be killed by the live deadly virus it contained.
Johnny: If I remember correctly, nobody was ever found guilty of any crimes in what was known as the Blood Scandal?
Maude: More than a quarter century after the fact, in October 2007, an Ontario Superior Court Justice by the name of Benotto acquitted the so-called AIDS doctors of any wrongdoing. Her decision, in effect, blamed the victims, the more than 1,000 people who contracted HIV, the estimated 20,000 who contracted hepatitis C from contaminated blood and blood products, and the more than 3,000 men, women and children who are known to have died as a result of receiving tainted blood products courtesy of the AIDS doctors.
Johnny: The decision was appalling of course, but why did it take so long to arrive at a determination of guilt or innocence, making it a trial, no pun intended, for both the accused and the family and friends of the victims?
Maude: The Canadian justice system was, like the Canadian weather in January, before global warming, glacial almost frozen in place. In the former Canada, it seemed that the time it took to be convicted of a crime was directly proportional to the number of victims you created. Create enough victims and the chances of never having to step into a Canadian courtroom to answer for your actions, let alone spend any time behind bars, increased dramatically.
It took fifty or more years for some NAZI war criminals to be tried for their crimes. It took almost twenty years before some of the perpetrators of the largest terrorist attack ever – before the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 – were compelled to appear before a judge in a Canadian court room only to be declared innocent. You must have read about the almost never ending trial of the Canadian/Sikh terrorists who blew up an Air India plane over the Atlantic killing 329 mostly Canadian men, women and children?
Johnny: Yes, I have read about it; an investigation, a first trial, then a second investigation then a second trial for the only suspect still alive. Those poor people who lost their loved ones, many would join them in death, while the perpetrators walked Canadian streets in complete freedom thumbing their noses at Canadian justice.
Maude: If justice delayed is justice denied than Canadian Justice, was an oxymoron if there ever was one. Every time I hear the term Canadian Justice the name Jaundice and Jaundice of Bleak House fame comes to mind. Dickens would have had a field day writing about Canadian Justice.
Johnny: Was it the system or were Canadian judges that incompetent?
Maude: Some said that it was because Canadian judges were political appointments. Politics was undoubtedly partly responsible for less than stellar appointments to the Bench but I think Thorsten Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class also offers some insight into why Canadian justice was delivered at such a leisurely paste.
Johnny: Veblen postulated that the beneficiary of compensation beyond what is needed to live comfortably and provide for one’s family will usually invest his surplus compensation in more leisure time and conspicuous consumption at the expense of work time. What does that have to do with incompetent judges?
Maude: Canadian judges were among the best remunerated in the world.
Johnny: I see what you mean.
Maude: I suspect there is also a correlation between an increase in executive compensation and an increase risk of an economic collapse of the type witnessed in the first decade of the twenty-first century.
Johnny: Getting back to your claim that Canada sacrificed women and children as an economy measure. I find that hard to believe?
Maude: Believe it. It was much cheaper to let refugees select themselves than to go out to the camps as had been done before Mulroney, Chrétien, Martin and company and select the more deserving of Canada’s protection, usually women and children. It was so much easier and cheaper to let the young men, the future terrorists like Ahmed Ressam get on a plane, pay for their own plane ticket to Canada, step off the plane and claim refugee status. You could build up your refugee numbers really quickly and cheaply this way and get your Nansen Medal.
Johnny: That would explain why Canadians were not surprised when a lot of these young men turned out to be criminals and terrorists.
Maude: What did they expect? When you change a policy to make it easier for a liar to get into the country than an honest man, it should have been obvious to even the densest of politicians that you will get more of the former and less of the later.
Johnny: Obvious is not the word.
Maude: Making matters worse, the Supreme Court of Canada, with the extraordinary powers granted to it under Trudeau's Charter of Rights and Freedoms decided, in the Singh decision, that it would be the final arbiter of who should or should not be deported thereby adding its own time-consuming, plodding, hair-splitting often arbitrary decision making process to a time-consuming, plodding administrative process.
Years, sometimes decades would pass before even known criminals could be deported, that is of course if they could be found, and if they now were senior citizens or in failing health could launch further appeals on humanitarians grounds, thereby further clogging an already congested system.
Johnny: Didn’t the Conservatives under Prime Minister Harper do something about the near inability of Canada to deport anyone who entered Canada under false pretence.
Maude: Yes, but they never tackled the problem of interference by judges who, one Minister said not only overturned “careful decisions of multiple levels of administrative tribunals [but] other judges” each outdoing each other in finding creative, often absurd reasons for overturning deportation orders.
Maude: In any event, it may have been all for show. For while the Harper government made a lot of noise about closing the backdoor into the country, it opened the front doors even wider than the reckless Mulroney would have deemed prudent, allowing for an even more massive influx of immigrants which Canada could not culturally assimilate even it had wished to do so.
In 2010, for example, the Harper government welcomed more immigrants than any government in the previous fifty years. The massive increase in immigrants under the Harper government meant that the old English-Canadian majority could no longer hope to impose its values on the newcomers; especially those whose culture and values were intimately entwined with their religion.
Resistance became futile, and English-Canada's value system and culture drowned in a sea of compromises; from inequality before the law based on sex and religious beliefs, to discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation, to carrying concealed weapons in schools, to veiled voting … to unwarranted curtailment of free speech and freedom of expression.
Johnny: A type of reverse assimilation.
Maude: You could call it that.