Were Doug Ford’s comments about immigrants collecting dole inappropriate?

Sabrina Almeida

Premier Doug Ford has managed to stir up some trouble for himself again! This time round it’s his comments about lazy (my words not his) newcomers which has the Opposition and some immigrant groups ‘terribly’ upset.

Ford, of course, has refused to apologize so far and instead cited phone calls with immigrants from the Sikh community in Brampton who allegedly said his comments were “bang on” as well as with other successful newcomers to back up his claims that he is “pro immigration”.

It is interesting how he manages to pull up all these truly relevant conversations at opportune moments.

And while they could be true, watching him recount some of these calls, with the once struggling newcomers who are now successful business people during Question Period, does conjure up doubts about their legitimacy.

But what exactly did Ford say that was so upsetting to immigrants, which is almost all of Canada and not just Ontario by the way?

While speaking to reporters in Tecumseh on Monday, our very outspoken premier said there was a labour shortage in Ontario and urged more people to come here to work. Then came the ‘negative’ comments that have dominated the headlines ever since.

“You come here like every other new Canadian. You work your tail off,” Ford continued. “If you think you’re coming to collect the dole and sit around, it’s not going to happen. Go somewhere else.”

Every news channel replayed these ‘divisive’ words over and over along with the reactions of Opposition parties and a few immigrants. I do believe that the reactions have stoked the flames of discord even more than the premier’s alleged insensitivity.

As an immigrant, I wasn’t offended by the premier’s so-called ‘racist’ comments because I understood what he meant. In fact, it took me back almost 20 years to the time our family made our “landing” at Pearson Airport. Already tired from the almost 24-hour-long journey from India, we waited for more than 45 minutes for our turn with a customs official who would complete the formalities. 

No, it wasn’t because there was a long line up of newcomers ahead of us. We were second in the queue but delayed by a gentleman who was rather keen on knowing how soon he could collect dole.  All through the excruciating wait we marvelled at the official’s patience as the man asked the same question in several ways. It seemed like the top priority for him. So, I get what Ford’s ‘politically incorrect’ comments were referring to.

And let’s be honest, we all know quite a few newcomers who are well-schooled in ‘milking the system’ and did exactly that both before and during the pandemic. It makes for a heated conversation at almost every social gathering. 

Could Ford be referring to these people? If so, why are we miffed? Don’t we all make empty threats about exposing these scamsters by calling the authorities?

Of course I agree all immigrants can’t be tarnished with the same brush. But I don’t think Ford was generalizing. 

Perhaps as premier you’re expected to be more tactful and stay off these hot button issues!?!

But Doug Ford has rarely been diplomatic even though he tries hard to market his sensitive side. He also belongs to a party that has been unable to shake off its racist, anti-immigration tags. His initial all-white cabinet reinforced these perceptions rather than cast him as the champion of marginalized Ontarians. After all, it’s what you do that counts and not what you say.

Ford’s persona and track record aside, Opposition parties are also milking the situation as expected. I wouldn’t expect them to set the record straight. This issue will become an important talking point in the upcoming provincial elections. I can almost see a clip of Ford’s comments being included in NDP and Liberal election ads.

As for the media, controversy attracts more readers and viewers than feel-good stories do. To be fair, they’re also fulfilling their responsibility of ensuring that our elected officials are accountable.

So, were Ford’s comments about immigrants collecting dole inappropriate? Actually Ontarians who know what he was referring to might applaud him for calling it out!




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