What may be most remarkable about the political and media storm that emerged as a result of Conservative Party leadership contender Kellie Leitch's proposal that immigrants be screened for "anti-Canadian values" is most Canadians' apparent lack of self-awareness.
The idea that one set of values may be preferable to another or that the government has no place in setting them are arguable positions. But for anyone to claim that this is something new and controversial, or that it isn't current government policy in Canada indicates that Canadians have no idea what their government-run education system or government information programs are doing.
Subjective beliefs, in other words values, are at the core of the government telling people what is or isn't "Canadian." Children are taught in government-run, publicly funded schools in Canada that Canadian multiculturalism is preferable to the American melting pot. There is no objective evidence to establish that multiculturalism is an objectively more successful policy. Indeed, when observing how multiculturalism in Europe has resulted in some communities segregating themselves and creating damaging rifts in countries like France, Germany and England, there is a large body of evidence to suggest that policy can lead to disaster.
|The political left thinks Canadian Values|
are "progressive." Except when they don't.
The answer to those questions are based not on objective fact but on values that our government is telling is we should have and that the rejection of them is unacceptable.
Kellie Leitch is an uninspiring candidate but the issue she raised is a valid one. Watching the media and the chattering classes become histrionic simply because she raised it reiterates a renewed need to discuss how immigrants with values that are diametrically opposed to traditional Canadian values may affect the country.
It seems logical and necessary that as a nation, we should discuss what Canadian values are and whether we should allow people who despise those values into Canada. Do shared values define a country? Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said as much in a major speech only a year and a half ago:
"We have proven that a country — an astonishingly successful country — can be built on and defined by shared values. Not by religion, language, or ethnicity. But shared values." - Justin TrudeauAn interesting juxtaposition in this matter about values is that people who identify as conservatives are generally now the primary advocates of what would usually be considered liberal values.
The values that the right to free speech should be respected, that women and men should be complete equals before the law, that gay people should have the same rights as straight people, are all values that are associated with liberalism, and yet many conservatives are now their most ardent defenders.
Some may point out that the entire "Canadian Values" debate is a roundabout means of discriminating against Muslim immigrants. That is a broad accusation that has elements of truth, but is on the whole deceptive. "Islamophobia is a word invented by fascists, and used by cowards, to manipulate morons" is a quote attributed to the late Christopher Hitchens (it actually comes from an admirer of Hitchens) and is applicable to this situation.
This issue does not apply exclusively to Muslim immigrants. It is not Islam as a religion in its entirety (Muslim/Islam describes neither an ethnicity nor a race), but ideas held by certain people, many of whom indeed are Muslims, but only within certain elements of Islam to whom this generally applies. No one is worried about radicalism and hatefulness in the Ahmadyya or Ismaili or Baha'i sects of Islam. They too are Muslims. Shia Muslims escaping from the totalitarian Mullahs in Iran have come to Canada to become exemplary citizens.
But there are changes to Canada's immigration patterns in the last few years that altered the equation.
Previously, immigrants strove to adapt to existing Canadian culture. Now, not all, but many come to Canada, not to adapt to our society, but to change it to become more like the intolerant, misogynist, homophobic, anti-Semitic societies from which they came.
But there is a deep strain of intolerance and a desire for domination within certain elements of Shia and Sunni Islam. This is a new problem in regards to immigration when some of these immigrants will exploit Canadian tolerance. That is evidenced in the thousands of Shia Muslims from south Asia who march every year in Toronto shouting praise of the murderous Ayatollah Khomeini and calling for the death of Jews. Ironically, those same demonstrators came out en mass on another occasion to express their disdain for free speech.
One of Kellie Leitch's rivals for the Conservative leadership, Maxime Bernier, issued a statement in which he opposed a values test for immigrants, sensibly noting that they could give answers that do not reflect their genuine beliefs to game the system. He's right about that. But on the other hand, if, when asked what's the appropriate response to drawing a cartoon mocking "the prophet", if the answer is beheading, or if asked about gay rights and the answer is they should have right to choose whether to be stoned or thrown off a roof, what's the harm in weeding out those obvious duds? It should be no more controversial than it would have been to screen German migrants for Nazi sympathies during World War 2.
Beyond that, a far more extensive screening of immigrants is necessary, based not on their answers to questionnaires but involving government bodies to do research on the backgrounds of applicants and that would extend beyond a simple criminal record check.
A strong society is based on shared values. Even Justin Trudeau said that. But there is lots of disagreement about exactly what those values are. Starting a discussion to identify those values and decide whether we should allow our immigration system to erode them is timely and certainly not something Canadians should fear.