If anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise in Canada, how can we fight it?

May 4, 2017

By Canadian Immigrant Magazine |

With the rise of anti-immigration attitudes in the United States and Europe, where does Canada stand? It’s an important question, given recent polls showing Canadians are less tolerant than we like to think.

A survey by VanCity Credit Union revealed 82 per cent of visible minorities in Vancouver said they have experienced some form of discrimination. And 11 per cent said these experiences were traumatic enough to prompt thoughts of moving to a new location.

On the positive side, most people who responded believe multiculturalism has been “very good” or “good” for Canada. And we saw that very Canadian response in protests against the anti-immigrant policies being introduced in the United States.

Despite this overarching sense of what Canada stands for, rare incidents of hatred and xenophobia have shocked Canadians in the recent past, from the Quebec mosque shooting to the distribution of anti-immigrant flyers, to protests against a new Canadian Parliament motion (M-103) that denouncesIslamophobia and forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination. (Pakistani-born MP Iqra Khalid introduced the motion in December as a response to rising anti-Muslim sentiment.)

Immigration to Canada is not going away, but as the diversity of our population grows and changes, intolerance and fear of change are inevitable accompaniments. So how can we help prevent hateful attitudes from spreading in these diverse times?

Debunking stereotypes
Olga Shcherbyna, co-ordinator of the City of Surrey’s Surrey Local Immigration Partnership (LIP), believes debunking immigrant stereotypes is an important first step in combatting anti-immigrant sentiment. She has recently organized a poster campaign called “We Are Surrey” to do just that. The series of posters features real people from Surrey, mostly immigrants, to showcase who they are beyond their stereotypes.

“We are Ambitious” is the title of a poster featuring two women posing arm-in-arm and smiling into the camera. Rania is a dentist from Syria who loves hiking and Bryan Adams music, according to the caption, and Wafa is a business owner and hockey mom originally from Iraq. Rania, who has been in Canada since she was a youth, is wearing a hijab, while Wafa, who is a more recent newcomer, doesn’t wear one. “They are both Muslim women and we can relate and connect to them,” Shcherbyna says. “We see beyond the way they look.”

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