Humanist Perspectives: issue 206: Do you celebrate diversity (and mass immigration) or are you an unreconstructed knuckle-dragging bigot?

Do you celebrate diversity (and mass immigration) or are you an unreconstructed knuckle-dragging bigot?
by Madeline Weld

Maxime Bernier with Andrew Scheer
Photo via Wikimedia Commons (cropped)

Conservative Member of Parliament Maxime Bernier boldly stepped into a sacred cow patty on August 12th. In a series of six tweets, he questioned Canada’s ever-increasing diversity that he says will “divide us into little tribes” and bring “distrust, social conflict and potentially violence.” He wasn’t against diversity per se, but thought that promoting it ad infinitum would erode Canada’s “core identity” and “destroy what makes it a great country.” “Having people live among us who reject basic Western values such as freedom, equality, tolerance and openness doesn’t make us strong,” he tweeted, in direct contradiction to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mantra that it is diversity itself that makes us strong.

Bernier’s tweets about Trudeau’s “extreme multiculturalism” predictably unleashed a barrage of criticism. Conservative MP Michelle Rempel, a vocal critic of Trudeau’s response – or lack thereof – to the continuing influx of “irregular” border crossers, tried to sit on both sides of the fence. She said it was equally easy to say that “diversity is our strength” as it is “to infer Canada’s pluralism has failed, if neither claim is backed up by data or policy.”

It is indeed fortunate for Trudeau that he doesn’t have to back up his oft-repeated slogan, “Diversity is our strength.” Because while there is no sociology study (that I know of) to back up his mantra, there are plenty to refute it. Most famously, and much to his own chagrin, American sociologist Robert Putnam (E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the 21st Century; 2007) found that inhabitants of diverse communities were more likely to withdraw from their community, to volunteer less, to give less to charity and work less on community projects, to vote less, and to spend more time in front of the TV. In Bowling Alone, Putnam did not find that cities became more vibrant with more immigration, but that “the vibrancy of American civil society has notably declined over the past decade.”

Drawing on 2006 census data, Australian Ernest Healy’s 2007 study, Ethnic Diversity and Social Cohesion in Melbourne, supports Putnam’s depressing conclusions. Focussing on volunteer work as a key indicator of social capital, Healy found that migrants from non-English speaking countries were less likely to volunteer than those from English-speaking countries and native-born Australians.

Having people live among us who reject basic Western values such as freedom, equality, tolerance and openness doesn’t make us strong,” Bernier tweeted.

But this is Canada and we’re different, right? Maybe not quite as much as we constantly flatter ourselves. As reported by Douglas Todd in the August 12, 2017, Vancouver Sun, an internal government report called Evidence-based Levels and Mix: Absorptive Capacity, obtained through an access to information request by Vancouver lawyer Richard Kurland, shows that Canada’s “absorptive capacity” is being stretched to the limit by immigrants to Canada, many of whom are neither doing well economically nor integrating successfully. “Declining outcomes of recent immigrants have shown that integration is not automatic,” says the report. The burgeoning number of “ethnic enclaves” (now at 260) reflects the preference of many immigrants to stick to their own kind and sometimes not even learn one of Canada’s official languages. The report indicates that immigration officials are often in a fog about the effects of large-scale immigration to Canada. It says that there is “no comprehensive stock-taking on how Canadian institutions and cities are adapting” to immigrants and other foreign nationals.

All of which would lead a reasonable leader to re-assess both Canada’s immigration policy and its promotion of multiculturalism. Indeed any reasonable person might ask, if diversity is our strength, why is it that with increasing diversity has come more crime and shootings in Canada’s cities, that we need ever more outreach and de-radicalization programs, that front-line employees such as social workers and police can never seem to get enough diversity training, and that the “climate of hate and fear” has allegedly risen so sharply that in March, 2017, the Liberal government passed Motion M-103 to fight “Systemic racism and religious discrimination” and in support of which it promised in June to disburse $23 million over two years to multicultural programs? The aforementioned reasonable person might conclude that diversity is not so much “our strength” but “our agenda” and costs us a lot of money to boot. The question that arises is “Cui bono?”.

That same question could be asked with regard to the October, 2017, announcement by Trudeau’s immigration minister Ahmed Hussen that Canada would increase its already high intake of immigrants to over 300,000 annually. There is no economic (and certainly no environmental!) justification for such an increase. My conclusion is that the beneficiaries are our industry captains and other merchants of growth who benefit from development, more mortgages and cheaper labour, and our politicians seeking to secure the ethnic vote. “Diversity is our strength” is a slogan intended to encourage working Canadians to buy into policies whose costs they share but whose benefits they don’t reap.

One can hope that Maxime Bernier’s tweets will start up a much-needed conversation in Canada. “Immigration,” “multiculturalism,” and “diversity” should not be sacred cows but topics that Canadians can freely discuss – pro and con – without being marginalized and demonized. Since stirring the pot with his tweets, Bernier held a press conference to announce that he was quitting the Conservative party in order to start a new political movement. Things could get interesting.

—Madeline Weld


Reflections Left: An examination of the evolution of a political movement
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With the fable of Mouseland, the first leader of the New Democratic Party was attempting to describe Canadian democracy, and he viewed the NDP and its forerunner, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) as fundamentally different from the two “old line parties,” Conservatives and Liberals. But is it?
Jersey City Shooting and the Rise of Anti-Semitism
by David Rubin (Issue 212)
As a former mayor of Shiloh, Israel, I can relate to what Jersey City mayor Steven Fulop and its city fathers must be going through. Plus, as a Jew who was raised in one of the toughest areas of New York and New Jersey, I can doubly relate....
John Stuart Mill and campus free-speech debates
by Clifford Orwin (Issue 207)
What would Mill think about the attempts on many college and university campuses to suppress certain speakers?...
Is it a phobia if they really are trying to shut you up?
by Madeline Weld (Issue 210)
...Many peaceful Muslims are pushing on the same side of the door as the jihadis, by seeking to transform our institutions and laws and using those very institutions and laws to do so. And one of the weapons in their arsenal is the word Islamophobia.
Review of John Erik Meyer’s The Renewable Energy Transition: Realities for Canada and the World
by David Gascoigne (Issue 212)
“This is an important book, both for Canada and the world. John Erik Meyer has a lifetime of experience dedicated to this field of study and we benefit greatly from his expertise.”...
A Troubling Case
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What should we do with reformed child soldiers? The case of Dominic Ongwen....
Debunking the Ivy League Mythology
by Barry Mayhew (Issue 208)
An adage one frequently hears, both within and outside academia, is as follows: “You can always tell a Harvard man but you can’t tell him very much.” Harvard graduates, and graduates from the other so-called “Ivy League” universities... also enjoy a level of status that is considerably above that associated with most other North American institutions of higher learning..... A question one might raise is: “Why is this?” and, equally significant, “Does this enviable reputation have any validity?” ...

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