Sunday, May 13, 2012

Historical "racism"

An email to Toronto Star. Published on line May 14, 2012.

Re Refugee bill returns to the bad old days, May 7:

This report speaks of "legally-sanctioned racism" and of Canada returning "to the days when racism and xenophobia were part of our official immigration policy".
  This opinion is an example of presentism, that is, judging former times by today's supposedly superior standards. 

At one time, majority feeling, as reflected in government policy, was that English-speaking immigrants were favoured because of their easier and less expensive assimilation into Canadian life. At another time, only farmers were admitted, because that's what the young nation then needed.

This feeling and policy continued well into the 1960s. Today, it is hyperbole to speak of "toxins that are poisoning our country".  The word racism trips off the tongue too lightly in contemporary discourse.

Our immigration policy exists for the sole benefit of Canada. That said, we are obliged to show some leniency towards the downtrodden, the refugees and others rendered desolate by events beyond their control. Such leniency must be tempered by economic conditions and our ability to absorb more newcomers.

This report also leaves the impression that only Japanese were confined to internment camps during the Second World War. Two immigrants on our street in downtown Toronto were whisked away by the police. They joined other Germans and Italians placed in internment camps for the duration of the war. Little has been said about the economic hardship caused to their families. To my knowledge, they have not even asked for an apology.

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