– Trumpism in Canada
by Michael Scott
The American presidential election and the comments of President Duterte dominate the news cycle. We have grown accustomed to outlandish statements by Donald Trump and the colourful language of the President of the Philippines – but what about Canada? Are Canadians that different from the others or just more reserved and respectful in our comments?
The reality is that some Canadians do exhibit attitudes and sentiments that might fit the Clinton description of “deplorables” but that does not mean that a majority of Canadians hold the same attitude. It is a good time, however, to sit back and listen to some of the noise coming out about immigrants from Canadian politicians. We as a country also have persons with extreme opinions about immigrants, as many newcomers will attest.
A case in point is the current Tory leadership race. Federal Conservative candidate MP Kellie Leitch has introduced the notion of screening newcomers for “anti-Canadian values.” If you are not sure what that means, then go back to the movie Good Morning Vietnam where the intelligence officers ask citizens if their name is “Charlie” and if they respond “yes” they are shot. If this sounds first stupid and second unenforceable, it should. The idea of screening newcomers or refugees on “anti-American” values is something MP Leitch appears to have taken from the rhetoric of Donald Trump. In the United States there is a suspicion that his language is part of a way to vilify all Muslims, and therefore all persons coming from countries where Islam is the dominant faith. Trump’s appeal to make American great appears to be little more than a way to take America back to a time when the white race dominated. What about our Canadian version of Trump?
MP Leitch was one of the strongest proponents of the controversial promise under the former Harper government to open a tip line for so-called barbaric practices, such as having the RCMP enforce a way aimed at cracking down on forced marriages, keeping polygamists out of the country and even forbidding the public wearing of a hijab. At the core of the current debate in Canada is a questionnaire she sent out to her supporters asking them about vetting would-be immigrants and refugees for “anti-Canadian values.” The actual question, from the Leith campaign, reads: “Should the Canadian government screen potential immigrants for anti-Canadian values as part of its normal screening for refugees and landed immigrants.” The survey does not explain what is meant by “anti-Canadian values” nor has MP Leitch clarified what she means. She has thrown the term into the leadership race as part of an apparent strategy to win the Conservative leadership. This sounds like the way Trump won the primaries in the United States nomination. He is famously anti-Mexican, anti-Black, anti-Islam, anti-gay, etc. The approach apparently works and Donald Trump is still on the main stage spewing out hate and division. He has a legitimate chance of becoming the next president. If this is a scary thought, then come back to the Canadian political scene.
The anti-immigrant focus of MP Leitch is not substantially different from that of Donald Trump. She also has significant support amongst potential Canadian voters. A recent Forum Research Inc. poll shows that 67 per cent of Canadians favour screening immigrants on “anti-Canadian values” with the number increasing to 87 per cent amongst those who identify as conservative. What has changed in Canada from November 2015 when the Harper government lost office partly because of a perceived anti-immigrant approach? In past polls Canada was still distinguished by a positive attitude about immigration and pride for providing a safe haven for over 25,000 Syrian refugees. Have we changed that much in the last year? I think not, but the rhetoric from the south and the apparent popularity of Donald Trump’s racist attitude and campaign of hate and division does play to a certain percentage of voters both north and south of the border. What comes next from MP Leitch? I don’t think she is in favour of building a wall in the north to prevent immigrants making their way into Canada’s north. But she has demonstrated that controversial comments work. She has gained attention for herself with the idea of screening for “anti-Canadian values.” Is she serious, or like Donald Trump, just spouting things to capture a news cycle?
Michael Scott BA (Hon), MA, is a 30-year veteran of Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program who works as an immigration associate with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. (204) 783-7326 or (204) 227-0292. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.