A Solution in Search of a Problem

Certain federal and provincial opposition politicians in Canada have come out with fresh ideas on immigration over the past few weeks. First, federal Conservative Party leadership hopeful Kellie Leitch attracted attention with a proposal to screen would-be newcomers to Canada for “anti-Canadian values.” Then, in Quebec, Coalition Avenir Québec leader François Legault held a press conference in which he called for a massive reduction in the province’s annual immigration intake.

In both cases, a perceived threat to values and traditions was cited as the reasoning behind the policy proposals. In the case of Leitch, she later stated, “I don’t think it’s intolerant to believe in a set of values that we expect everyone to share here and include those people who are coming to visit or immigrate to Canada.”

Canada already has robust legislation in place to counter things that might be anti-Canadian. These are our laws, and newcomers are already vetted to see if they have acted against these laws when they submit their police background checks during the application process. So what exactly is Leitch trying to get at here? The fact that the interim leader of the federal Conservatives, Rona Ambrose, has publicly stated that she does not support Leitch’s idea should tell us something about the likelihood of such an idea succeeding.

As for Legault, he said that, “We can’t be naive. There are, in reality, threats, people who don’t believe in our values.” Legault has also recently mused about what would happen to a person who had moved to Quebec and insisted that the “burkini” was part of their faith, Legault was clear: “They don’t get citizenship, that’s all.”

Fortunately, Leitch and Legault’s ideas don’t seem to have gained much traction with the general public. The majority of Canadians — both recent newcomers and long-established citizens — agree that immigrants to Canada strengthen our society, encourage diversity, and build our communities.

The federal Immigration Minister, John McCallum, and his Quebec counterpart, Kathleen Weil, have both said that overall immigration numbers are scheduled to go up. All the while, Canada and its provinces are by-and-large governed by leaders who don’t view newcomers as a threat to identity and values. Quite the opposite, in fact, and long may that continue.

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