Immigration and Democracy

In the beginning, when Trudeau’s government turned toward multiculturalism as yet another Statist innovation, the question: Does it matter, or not, where immigrants come from? gave a sense of the tension between Canada’s smug elite opinion and the popular wisdom for which the former felt only scorn. The American situation was not much different, as evidenced in “Elite vs. Public Opinion,” a press release issued December 2002 by the U.S. Center for Immigration Studies[1] that spoke with some alarm of the “enormous gap” between American elites and the public on immigration. Sixty percent of the American public found their present levels of immigration (which proportionally are one-third of the Canadian level) “a critical threat to the vital interests of the United States.” But only fourteen per cent of the nation’s leadership – well-off, opinion-setters – agreed: a gap of 46%. Much of this difference had to do with working people being anxious about their jobs, whereas educated people are less vulnerable to immigrant job-seekers. Nevertheless, the analysis made it clear that politicians get their opinions on immigration policy from elites, not from ordinary people.

This truth constitutes a sharp challenge to whatever democratic foundation may exist in Western nations, for given that any kind of immigration is either going to maintain, strengthen, or weaken a nation’s identifiable deep-culture profile – its historical identity (a reality distinct from race identity) – there are reasonable questions we ought to be asking. Such as: Do we want to maintain our national deep-culture profile (as described above), or change it? If we say change is okay, then we have to ask: What kind of change? And – Should we accept random change imposed externally by foreigners demanding a “right” to come to Canada? Or should we manage the direction of change ourselves, insisting that immigration to Canada is not a right, but a privilege to be controlled only by Canadians? If, having decided the latter, we want to manage future change ourselves, then we have to ask: Who in Canada – elites or the people – should make the decision to change, and in what direction?

Clearly, any decision about the future cultural profile of Canada may turn out to be a good or a bad one, regardless of who makes it. However, I submit that on decisions of such importance that have the potential to alter the ethno-cultural fabric of an entire nation –especially in any nation with a meaningful degree of democracy – it is the people who ought to decide on their own future cultural profile, for better or worse. In other words, all nations have the right to defend themselves against demographic capture, or (if you prefer) against passive ethnic or cultural take-over. Either elected representatives should affirm what the ethos and fabric of society is to become after extensive and sincere consultation with all the people, or – my preference – after the same in-depth process, a question of such importance ought to be put directly to the people in a referendum, and subject to a special majority of, say, two-thirds. Alas, by now, the entire subject of immigration has become so politicized, the average Canadian so frightened of expressing an honest opinion (such are only whispered), and our lop-sided-leftist media so ready to pounce with charges of bigotry (whereas they themselves ought to be charged with anti-Canadianism), that reasonable dialogue does seem impossible. This attests to the attitude-control powers of governments and elites, and the intellectual infantilization of the nation. But it does not reflect the appropriate responsibility and self-direction of a free people.

[1] The report was based on a national poll performed by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, May to July 2002.

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