Rapid demographic change in any place creates tensions

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Pradip Rodrigues

Living in North America it is easy to believe that any whites who question large immigration numbers or voice concern about it are either racists or right-wing extremists. The most recent being People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier who boldly stated that if his party came to power, he would lower the number of immigrants Canada accepts to between 100,000 and 150,000 per year. He made that declaration in Mississauga, a place where all serious politicians keen on cultivating vote banks go out of their way to state the opposite. In that respect it is easy to dismiss Bernier as an outlier who has nothing much to lose by ripping into the country’s much cherished policy of ‘extreme multiculturalism’. Amid cheering from sensible and concerned citizens, Bernier said: “Support for immigration will continue to diminish and social tensions are likely to rise. We need to slow down.”

The Liberals on the other hand have pinned their hopes on the large and rapidly growing immigrant vote bank whom they believe will deliver them victory come November. They have promised to increase immigration levels to close to 400,000 annually by 2021. Some however believe that number could well be the case in 2019 if one counts the number of international students applying for PR, refugee claimants and asylum seekers who continue pouring in across the border. And also, the thousands of temporary foreign workers who now have a pathway to permanent citizenship. Nannies, seasonal farm workers and even undocumented construction workers can all reasonably hope for permanent residency, no one is going anywhere.

It is a mistake to think that what Maxime Bernier says about gaining control of our border and curbing immigration levels resonates with just ‘old stock’ Canadians feeling threatened by demographic changes. Even newer Canadians are beginning to get the feeling that something is just not right. Coming to Canada and gaining permanent residency has never been easier. In a way it is diminishing its value.

It is easy to dismiss Canada and other western nations voting in political parties who favor immigration reform as xenophobic. Huge demographic changes can unsettle even places that are stable. Take the state of Goa, which is relatively wealthy. For years now, there have been rumblings of ‘too many outsiders’. Recently there were news reports about a probe being conducted by North Goa’s Collector about the mass arrival of hundreds of Bihari labourers who arrived by train number 12742. There is a viral video of hundreds of them alighting the train number 12742 Patna-Vasco Express at the Thivim railway station in North Goa.

It is alleged that politicians secretly welcome these workers who get plots of land in villages and end up on voters list. They are seen as natural vote banks for the politicians who facilitate the process of their residency.

Local Goans gripe about being outnumbered and moan about the loss of the character and feel of their villages. While Goans and for that matter Indians living in different states support internal migration as long as it doesn’t upset the demographic balance of their state. If and when that happens, newcomers can expect to face hostility. Maxime Bernier is not off the mark when he warns that support for immigration will wane and a backlash can be expected unless immigration numbers are brought down for a while and then raised back up gradually.

There seems to be anecdotal evidence to suggest we may have reached a tipping point as far as immigration goes and a backlash is happening in slow motion.

PPC leader Maxime Bernier is not expected to get anywhere close to the levers of power in Ottawa but he could well be the canary in the coal mine. It would be wise to sit up and pay him some attention if nothing else. Not to do so would be irresponsible and reckless. Our politicians are more comfortable discussing climate change rather than immigration, perhaps the two could be linked. More immigrants mean more cars on the road, houses built over fertile land etc., in short more green house gases responsible for climate change and global warming! Maybe smart politicians with concerns about large immigration numbers could sanctimoniously make the link and kill two birds with one stone. Citing environmental concerns for limiting immigration could be a master move that even millennials could get behind. That way they could avoid being called racist and instead be referred to as environmentalists. -CINEWS

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