Everyone’s talking about President Donald Trump’s travel ban on refugees and travellers from the seven-majority Muslim countries—Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. And as I listened to a 20-something desperately defend his belief that refugees have made a substantial contribution to the countries that have accepted them, I realized that most people’s opinions were coloured by their own immigration experience and personal bias.
First generation immigrants from the third world are likely to be hardliners. With those who came in the last 10 years being more selfish and intolerant. A shaky economy, rising unemployment and fewer benefits makes them fearful and insecure of what a growing population would mean for them. Having come from countries where they had to claw their way through corrupt systems and free healthcare or education was only a dream, they are afraid of being thrown into that kind of situation again. Which they see as likely with significant increases in immigration numbers. They want to keep the maximum for themselves.
Whether or not they have achieved social and economic success also influences their views.
Having struggled to make it work, most believe in a baptism through hardships.
This makes them even less tolerant of refugees who they see as having a “free” pass at their expense. After all, they would love the free pass but didn’t get it and neither should anyone else.
They are also worried that illegal immigrants in the United States and those that have been refused entry there will now turn their sights on Canada.
Immigrants that have been here longer are equally miffed with the new Canadians. Often from their own home country who they believe are responsible for the erosion of Canadian culture and values as well as the benefit cuts. They are disdainful of multiculturalism and see it as perpetuating division and a means of currying political favour. They have little desire to hang on to their roots or anyone that reminds them of what they left behind. They especially hate that the FOBs (fresh of the boat, new immigrants) show them up in poor light and thus look down on them.
Then there are those who have a fear and prejudice against Muslims resulting from unfortunate events around the world or personal experiences in their home country. India, for example, has a history of communal clashes and continues to a be hot bed of religious extremists that encourage and thrive on divisiveness. The bitter feelings against Pakistan have often crept into sport, especially the cricket games. And 26/11 made it worse! Many are wondering why Pakistan has not been included in the list.
Those that have been refugees, naturally have a different perspective. Having been given a new lease on life, they are grateful for the second chance and more open to sharing their good fortune with those that are fleeing oppression and persecution.
Canadians with roots in England, Europe and the United States are also likely to be more open-minded and charitable. Having come from countries with a more open-door policy and history of supporting the less fortunate, they are vehemently opposed to Trump’s discriminatory immigration policies and the recent travel ban.
And then there are the second-generation immigrants—like the 20-something I referred to in the beginning and our kids, who simply cannot understand Trump’s rationalization for the ban or the intolerance exhibited by their parent’s generation.
Having grown up in a multicultural setting which they believe to be the Canadian way of life, they have transcended the lines of race and religion and firmly stand against any manifestation of divisiveness. In their eyes, everyone is truly equal. The same world events that might have caused Islamophobia have no bearing on their views.
Conservatism is what prevented both Harper and Trump from winning over Millennial voters. In fact, the Millennials both here in Canada and the United States believe that Trump’s discriminatory policies are more likely to harm the country rather than protect it.
As we watch events across the border with baited breath, wondering what it means for Canada and how our leadership will respond, it’s also time for a bit of honesty with ourselves. Why do we support or denounce the ban?