"The Reform Party is anti-everything. There's a really deep, deep-seated racism there. I still don't know what to make of Reform. I know that for the moment it's growing, but these are one-trick ponies. They're not standing on a whole lot of solid ground - it's all negative." - Brian Mulroney (1)
The recent Tamil Refugee situation was another test for this government. Had they shed their racist views or were they the same old Reform Party?
Are we again going to hear that gays and "ethnics" could be fired or "moved to the back of the shop," if the employer thought that would help business. Or that "a larger number of blacks and Asians are entering Canada; for the first generation, their birth rate is higher and you don't have to be an expert to understand what could happen. Canada as we know it could disappear." (2)
Or maybe that Canada is likely to "regret" taking in large numbers of third world immigrants because they prove "harder to integrate." "Policies which maintain the traditional [European] composition of immigrants, on the other hand, avoid the risk of having to face the longer run costs." (2)
Stephen Harper himself called multiculturalism "a weak nation policy" (3).
On June 25, 2009, he designated Pier 21 as a National Museum of Immigration.
"No country in the world has benefited more than Canada from free and open immigration," Harper declared. "In every region and across all professions, new Canadians make major contributions to our culture, economy and way of life. It takes a special kind of person to uproot and move to a new country to ensure a better future for your family. Anybody who makes the decision to live, work and build a life in our country represents the very best of what it means to be Canadian." (4)But then a year later, when his words were put to the test:
This sounds like the National Citizens Coalition's "Boat People" campaign. Tap into a nation's fears and insecurities, so that we accept inhumane acts.
The harrowing voyage of the MV Sun Sea, in which 492 Tamil refugees endured months of squalor in dangerous waters to escape "mass murders, disappearances and extortion" following 25 years of brutal civil war in Sri Lanka, mirrors the experience of so many migrants who passed through Pier 21.
However, unlike Pier 21, there were no counsellors waiting to hear the Sri Lankan's stories; no team of volunteers eager to swiftly process and fairly evaluate the prospective new residents. Instead, the men, women and children aboard the MV Sun Sea arrived to allegations, leveled by the Harper government, of ties to terrorism and human trafficking; accused by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews of being a "test boat" for an apparent mass immigration conspiracy.
As for the Prime Minister, compare the above remarks made at Pier 21 just fourteen months ago, to this statement he gave following the arrival of the MV Sun Sea: "Canadians are pretty concerned when a whole boat of people comes - not through any normal application process, not through any normal arrival channel -- and just simply lands." (4)
"This is how this man governs: let's find something to be frightened of," Ignatieff told an audience of several hundred people today (August 22) at the West Vancouver Community Centre. The federal Opposition leader cited the example of Tamil refugee claimants, who travelled in a rickety boat across the Pacific Ocean and arrived in B.C. earlier this month. Ignatieff claimed that federal Conservative politicians tried to make people "afraid of people you don't even know"."We must always be a haven in a heartless world." I like that. It defines the kind of country Canada used to be.
He added that officials with the Immigration and Refugee Board should have been left to do the proper screening without interference. "Politicians should shut up and let these people do their job," Ignatieff declared to loud applause. He pointed out that his own father was a refugee who fled Communism in Russia. "We must always be a haven in a heartless world," Ignatieff said. (5)
1. The Secret Mulroney Tapes: Unguarded Confessions of a Prime Minister, By Peter C. Newman, Clandebye Ltd., 2005, ISBN: 10-0-679-31351-6, Pg.244
2. Reform apple basket rotting, by Bradley Hughes, Simon Fraser University's Student Newspaper, September 9, 1996
3. Harper speech to the Institute for Research on Public Policy, May 2003
4. Canadian immigration, Conservative xenophobia, By Alheli Picazo, Rabble, August 25, 2010
5. In West Vancouver, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says Stephen Harper promotes fear, By Charlie Smith, Straight.com, August 22, 2010