Pop quiz, folks! Who said this?
With regard to the selection of immigrants, much has been said about discrimination. I wish to make quite clear that Canada is perfectly within her rights in selecting the persons whom we regard as desirable future citizens. It is not a “fundamental human right” of any alien to enter Canada. It is a privilege. It is a matter of domestic policy…. There will, I am sure, be general agreement with the view that the people of Canada do not wish, as a result of mass immigration, to make a fundamental alteration in the character of our population.
You might guess that it is Employment/Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney or Immigration Minister Chris Alexander. After all, over the past couple of weeks, the government has been mailing Canadians partisan flyers like these:
The correct answer, however, would be Prime Minister Mackenzie King on May 1, 1947. In this speech (PDF), King makes his argument to prevent Chinese people from immigrating, defending Canada’s racist, white-first immigration policy of the time. Today Canadians reject those old immigration policies. Instead Canadians value inclusiveness and fairness.
We should be very worried that the government is using the same rhetoric that politicians used last century to support racially-based immigration. Even back then, politicians used the language of “desirable immigrants” to exclude those who are different. So when Jason Kenney and Chris Alexander talk about the ‘right’ kind of immigrants, we have to ask: What do they really mean?
When the government denies vulnerable refugees basic medical care, a decision the Federal Court calls “cruel and unusual,” are they saying that only a select few deserve health care?
When the government tries to deport a caregiver for trying to survive without relying on social assistance, are they saying that newcomers can be treated like disposable workers?
When the government tries to take away predominantly Filipino live-in caregivers’ hard-earned right to permanent residency, a right that British caregivers received over a century ago, are they saying that only some people deserve a chance to contribute to Canadian society?
Everyone should have a fair chance to contribute to Canadian society. But the reality is that to win the next election, the government is beginning to attack newcomers and immigrants more broadly. Canadians should send a strong message to the government that this country is one of inclusion, not exclusion. We will not go back to the discriminatory policies of the 1950s.