A sad backlash against rising immigration

October 7, 2016

By Toronto Star |

I was saddened and appalled when the emails from readers began to pour in after I wrote last week about how it would be wrong to dismiss Kellie Leitch’s plan to screen potential immigrants as silly or unpopular.

For days my email inbox was flooded with angry, anti-immigrant rhetoric from readers who believe Leitch, who is seeking the federal Conservative leadership, is on the right path with her call for tighter screening to weed out potential newcomers and refugees found to hold “anti-Canadian values.”

The emails arrived at the same time as the release of a new poll by the Angus Reid Institute conducted for the CBC that found 68 per cent of those surveyed want to see minorities doing more to “fit in” to mainstream society.

The survey also suggested more Canadians actually take a tougher line than Americans when it comes to believing that minority groups should assimilate or “try to change” once they arrive in their new country.

Worse, that view seems to have hardened over the last two decades, according to the pollsters.

Taken together with polls earlier this year that indicate nearly half of Canadians opposed Ottawa’s plan to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees, the latest poll and the emails to me make it clear that Canada is not as warm to and accepting of immigrants as many would like to believe.

Indeed, a backlash against more immigration appears to be spreading — and especially against refugees from war-torn areas such as Syria and other Muslim-dominant countries.

And regrettably, some politicians like Leitch are trying to exploit that backlash for their own political gains.

Nick Kouvalis, who is Leitch’s campaign manager, said on Facebook that the Angus Reid Institute poll suggests “what regular people already know. Something that the out-of-touch elites in this country refuse to accept.”

Importantly, the anti-immigrant sentiment seems to be growing just as Ottawa is preparing to introduce a new, three-year plan for immigration that could “substantially increase” the number of newcomers allowed to enter Canada each year.

Immigration Minister John McCallum is to table the plan in November, but is already facing some resistance from Liberal MPs who are sensing the extent of opposition to more newcomers in their own ridings.

Just last week Statistics Canada reported 320,932 immigrants arrived in Canada in the 12-month period ending July 1. That’s the largest number recorded since the agency started to track such statistics in 1971. It was also 33 per cent higher than the previous year, marking the biggest growth since the mid-1980s.

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