Canadian Immigration – Who Should Be Grateful?
In the middle of August, a group called “The True North Strong & Free Advertising Corp.” paid Pattison Advertising to put up billboards promoting Maxime Bernier’s anti-immigration position.
Specifically, the billboards read: “Say NO to Mass Immigration,” with a picture of Bernier, the head of the People’s Party of Canada, on it. Bernier said he did not authorize the ads but agrees with their message.
Within days, however, the Pattison group removed the billboards, citing an “overwhelming response” from the community. True North said they had not authorized the message, and no one was taking responsibility for the ad.
Given that the ads were only opposed by some elected officials on Twitter and a petition that had barely over 10,000 votes, it does not seem like the immigrant community had enough time to generate a significant response.
Neither was the ad reported to the Human rights Commission or any government authority. So, what caused the takedown of the ad, and the disavowal from all the groups associated with it?
Immigration – A Self-Serving Strategy
It should be clear that blatant anti-immigration rhetoric is a red line in Canadian politics, and that parties who push this rhetoric are effectively marginalized and ostracized. All three major political parties, even the Conservatives who are no strangers to using xenophobic “dog whistle politics” as an electoral strategy, do not openly question immigration. Even the CAQ in Quebec, while it has reduced immigration levels by 25% in the last year, has promised to increase them again by 2022.
The reason behind this positive consensus toward immigration is not some inherently charitable instinct among Canada’s elected officials. It is hard to attribute charity to a political and economic elite that continue to deprive indigenous communities across Canada basic services. Their interests are fundamentally self-serving.
Canada has always been a country with abundant natural resources scattered over a vast territory that is sparsely populated, and immigration is imperative for Canadian resource management and economic development.
Vast numbers of skilled workers have migrated from all over the world to contribute to the Canadian economy – from the Chinese workers who built the railroad in the late 1800s, to all the skilled professionals who qualified through the Canadian point system from the 1980s forward.
To this day, corporate Canada is unified in its support of immigration, as evidenced by Goldy Hyder, the CEO of the Business Council of Canada – a lobby group for Canada’s biggest businesses – specifically telling the political parties not to make immigration an election issue. Hyder, citing demographic issues, said:
“What I’ve said to the leaders of the political parties on this issue is, ‘Please, please do all you can to resist making this election about immigration.’ That’s as bluntly as I can say it to them.”
Therefore, it should be clear that the political and economic elite of this country do not want to question immigration, and this is the most likely reason for the swift removal of Bernier’s anti-immigration billboard.
Even the idea of multiculturalism, which was federally championed by Pierre Elliot Trudeau, was not the result of some moral contemplation; rather, it was adopted to weaken the sovereigntist Quebecers’ claims of Canada being bi-cultural (Francophone and Anglophone cultures).
By introducing multiculturalism as a federal policy, Pierre Trudeau was able to dilute Quebecers’ claims of Canada being built upon two cultures.
What This Means for Muslims
Muslims who have immigrated to Canada must understand that they are in this country not due to some act of generosity or charity, but because their contributions are vital to Canada’s economic and social fabric.
Immigrants are part of Canada’s economy, history, culture, and very identity since Confederation.
This means that Muslims do not owe any favors to the Canadian elite, and should not feel compelled to dampen their criticisms or dilute their values in order to appease the dominant culture in Canada.
It is important to recognize that many Canadians have shown great generosity and demonstrated tolerance towards newcomers into Canada, and this is indeed praiseworthy. However, we should not forget that immigration has brought great benefits to the economic development of Canada, and therefore immigrant – and in particular Muslim immigrants – should not feel compelled to turn a blind eye to the failures of the Capitalist system out of a misplaced sense of indebtedness to the system.
This means we should not hesitate to point out the hollowness and materialistic nature of the Capitalist way of life imposed upon all Canadians by the Capitalist elite. We should not silence ourselves from pointing out the destructive nature of hyper-individualism and rampant immorality that is is tearing at the family structures and social fabric of Canadian society.
Instead, we should feel obligated to convey to all Canadians – especially those who are actively engaged in trying to improve society – the Islamic vision for life, which provides prescriptive solutions for just economic arrangements, strong social structures, and the connection of individuals with their Creator.
As Allah (swt) tells us:
“You are the best nation brought forth for mankind. You order what is right and forbid what is wrong, and you believe in Allah.” [3:110]
And if anyone says, “this is Canada; we should not speak out against those who have taken care of us,” we should remind them of the exchange between Prophet Musa (as) and Fir’aun (Pharaoh): Musa (as) had been raised in Fir’aun’s palace and was nurtured there; so when Musa (as) returned to that palace demanding that Allah (swt) alone be worshipped and that Fir’aun’s injustice end, Fir’aun responded with:
“[Pharaoh] said, ‘Did we not raise you among us as a child and you remained among us for years of your life? And then you committed that crime you committed and you were of the ungrateful?” [26:18-19]
Musa (as) confidently responded:
“Yes, I committed that crime (unintentionally killed the man) and I was misguided, so I ran away from you when I was afraid of you, and then my Lord granted me wisdom and made me a Messenger. And is this favor that you remind an excuse for why you have enslaved Bani Isra’eel?” [26:22]
We should not let the economic and political elites of Canadian society weaponize their supposed generosity towards us in order to make Muslims feel obligated to compromise their values and accept the failures of the Capitalist system. Many Muslims have immigrated to this country as a direct result of the oppression they faced in other parts of the world – oppression directly caused by Capitalism’s global reach, supported by these elites – and are not here due to anyone’s “kindness.”
Rather, Muslims have entered this country in search of the dignity and opportunity that any human being should have. And it is in keeping with our Islamic values that we strive to understand the world around us, to maintain firm morals, to build strong families, to be involved with our local Muslim communities, and to reach out to anyone in society – Muslim or non-Muslim – who might need our help.
It is also part of our values to convey Islam as a complete way of life while remaining connected to the global effort to revive the Islamic way of life by re-establishing the Khilafah in the Muslim lands.
“They want to extinguish the Light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will perfect His light even though the disbelievers hate it.” [61:8]