Doug Ford

Doug Ford is here to save us from leeching immigrants

“The tropes of the bad immigrant persist in many anti-immigrant circles, and many Canadians continue to buy into them.”

Immigrants, I tell you… If you’re not careful, those moochers, those conniving manipulators of the system, those good-for-nothing, lazy foreigners, will come here to take advantage of government handouts and our tax-funded programs. Because it’s a well-known fact that when immigrants are not busy stealing our jobs and driving down salaries, they’re busy doing absolutely nothing, gaming a system that’s been put in place by hard-working native-born workers like you and me. 

But, not to fear. Doug Ford has put them on notice. Not going to happen on his watch! 

“You come here like every other new Canadian. You work your tail off,” the Ontario premier said while addressing skilled labour shortages earlier this week. “If you think you’re coming to collect the dole and sit around, it’s not going to happen. Go somewhere else.”

Many will insist he didn’t mean anything by it. “He was talking about the bad immigrants,” they’ll say. Good, hard-working immigrants are more than welcome to come and become part of Canadian society. Good immigrants are needed. It’s the other ones we don’t want.

Immigrants always forced to justify their presence

Who are these immigrant bogeymen, forever threatening, forever infiltrating, forever pitted against us contributing Canadian taxpayers? Where are they? Because as the daughter of immigrants, all I’ve ever seen are immigrants who’ve worked ridiculously hard, most working thankless, undervalued and underpaid manual labour jobs, just so that their children could have a better life. My parents toiled away in restaurants just so I can make a living tapping away on a keyboard. I know which one is harder and I have no patience for deeply ignorant and degrading comments made by men who grew up surrounded by privilege. 

I continue to see the same work ethic, drive and determination my parents displayed in current waves of immigration. In response, I see the same suspicion. Immigrants continue to bear the brunt of proving their value to the naysayers. They’re the only ones who are scrutinized and ordered to justify their presence with their usefulness. The rest of us don’t have to prove anything. We have a right to be here as we are. They do not. 

Conventional wisdom or racist dog whistling?

Ford’s comments were not only offensive to the many first and second-generation immigrants in this country who have worked and continue to work hard to contribute, they were also patently untrue. Most permanent newcomers to Canada are skilled workers who are on average better educated than Canadian-born workers in the labour market. They must also show proof of employment, reliable income, financial security or family sponsorship to emigrate here. They’re rarely a drain on the system. 

Canada’s points-based system involves a rigorous selection process in which applicants are assessed on the entirety of their merits, particularly their skills, adaptability, language proficiency, education and overall “value” as newcomers. Economic immigration candidates are assessed on many selection factors, including education, age, work experience, adaptability and whether employment has been arranged. Provinces often fine-tune their requirements, depending on what they’re prioritizing. Quebec, for example, has a special and understandable focus on the French language, while others look to fill specific labour market needs. Canada’s points system is a comprehensive ranking system and most certainly not a “free-for-all” where anyone can just waltz in and apply for unemployment benefits, “the dole,” as Ford alluded. 

Undermined and undervalued

Considering the significant barriers well-qualified immigrants face in finding work that matches their skill level, the premier’s comments were insulting. How many foreign-educated doctors, professors, and engineers are driving cabs, working the cash register at COSTCO, caring for seniors in CHSLDs, and working assembly lines in factories and warehouses because their foreign credentials aren’t accepted here? How many Uber shifts on the side do these new immigrants tackle while often learning a new language, taking night courses to prepare for new accreditation tests, and navigating menial jobs, hoping the future is better for their children? 

Ford’s comments were also particularly disappointing considering how hard-hit immigrant communities have been during the pandemic. Newcomers (many of them asylum seekers) were often the ones on the frontlines, holding down the fort, performing the most dangerous of jobs and risking their lives to care for our sick and deliver our food, while most of us were isolating safely at home. How many new immigrants, how many racialized Canadians lost their lives to COVID because of their jobs, where no protection or distance from the virus was afforded? 

And yet, despite no facts supporting the premier’s comments, he easily went there. Because the tropes of the bad immigrant persist in many anti-immigrant circles, and because many Canadians continue to buy into them. Despite this country’s well-documented history of successful immigration and their many contributions to Canada’s economic vitality, many of us continue to fall for these harmful clichés.

Negative narratives are dangerous

In one of her final articles for Maclean’s before she passed away from cancer, Canadian writer and columnist Anne Kingston wrote about “the compassion solution.” She used New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s call for “kindness over fear” after the horrific terrorist attack at Christchurch mosques, as an example to emulate. 

In her article, Kingston quotes extensive scientific research that demonstrates why suspicion of others can be deeply counterproductive for social harmony. For people to feel compassion, she explains that they need to feel safe. The more negative, xenophobic, fear-mongering news they are exposed to, via newspaper headlines, or politicians and pundits’ declarations, the less compassionate they find themselves to be. The human instincts for self-preservation and survival kick in when they are increasingly exposed to negative narratives of the “others” out to get them and what they value. It’s exactly why populism and anti-immigrant rants work so efficiently to rile up easy votes. They push buttons that can be easily pushed in humans. 

Demeaning statements such as Ford’s comment serve to create or confirm unfounded suspicion of immigrants while simultaneously and unfairly compelling immigrants and their children to justify their presence in their own home; ultimately making them feel like they don’t belong here, while at the same time emboldening racists to feel that it’s their place to tell them if they do. It’s why such declarations by political leaders are deeply dangerous and need to be unequivocally called out every single time. ■

Read more editorials by Toula Drimonis here.