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Canada: Do Immigrants Really Want To Resist Assimilation?

Multiculturalism is more an effect than a cause

In " How Immigration is Leading Us Down The Road To Sarajevo", Frank Hilliard writes:

"Supporters of mass immigration often point to the past success Canada had in assimilating newcomers into Canadian society. They say by the third generation most immigrants are thoroughly Canadian in thought and action. To these proponents, there is no need to change our open-door immigration policy because it’s been, in their view, a roaring success. Unfortunately, what was true in the past is often not true now and may not be true at all in the future. Some newer immigrant groups don’t want to assimilate and prefer to remain distinct." http://www.immigrationwatchcanada.org/index.php?module=pagemaster&PAGE_user_op=view_page&PAGE_id=6552

I would question the last statement. The self-appointed advocates and ethnic power-brokers of newer immigrant groups don't want them to assimilate, nor do the politicians who find it convenient to bus in ethnic voting blocs into nomination meetings or manipulate them for electoral purposes. In my experience, however, immigrants themselves very much want to participate in mainstream society, but are unable to do so. Why? Most of them are too damn exhausted trying to put food on the table. They have the will, but neither the time nor the energy to participate in much of the public activity around them. Even the 20% who have skills often do not find jobs to employ those skills---just like many educated native-born Canadians. Consequently they must work longer hours on lower incomes to keep their heads above water. It usually takes a decade before the average immigrant achieves the average Canadian income. As has been the case for more than a century, too often it is their children who act as interpreters for what is occurring in Canadian society at large.

As I wrote before (http://candobetter.org/node/2007) , ethnic enclaves should be seen more as life rafts than defiant fortresses against assimilation. Case in point. My great grandparents came to Canada with every intention of learning English and following local customs and laws. But seeking the support and job opportunities offered by those from their homeland was a necessary stepping stone to eventual integration into Canadian society. Then once on their feet, and finally fluent in English, they were able to move out of the Scandinavian area of town to a bigger city with a dearth of people of their former nationality. Now, as then, I would submit, the pace of assimilation is governed by economic considerations---not by any stubborn or recalcitrant refusal to embrace the dominant culture. We have imported a slave labour caste to provide services which we want on the cheap, and for which employers in a competitive market, either will not or cannot reward with a living wage. Thus most immigrants cannot earn the $25,000 in annual income that government requires before tax revenues offset the costs of services provided to them. Mass immigration is essentially a corporate welfare scam, and multiculturalism a de-facto apartheid strategy to build walls between people who might otherwise unite to challenge the system.

Mr. Hilliard argues that the high volume of immigration, drawn as it is from “non-traditional” sources, grows cultural ghettoes and in tandem with the prevailing ethic of cultural relativism---the philosophical underpinning of Official Multiculturalism---makes it possible for immigrant groups to more effectively lobby for the acceptance of practices like genital mutilation, the stoning of adulterers, polygamy, child marriage and the like--- practices that are lawful in their homelands. But against this centrifugal force to bind with what is traditional is a very real countervailing impulse, particularly among the younger generation, to join mainstream society. There is both a “push” and a “pull factor” at work. While ethnic power-brokers are attempting to pull their flock closer to their orbit, most immigrants feel pushed outward by a desire to grasp the wider opportunities that await them beyond their cultural cocoon. After all, immigrants, almost by definition, are people who are willing to leave their comfort zone to grasp for opportunities. Leaving one’s homeland is the ambition of risk-takers. The growth of an ethnic enclave in itself is not decisive in impeding assimilation. What is critical is the ability or inability of an immigrant population to join in on the cultural and political life of the nation as a whole. A sixty-hour work earning inadequate wages is a greater stumbling block to this possibility than an ideology which counsels minorities to maintain a separate cultural identity.

Cultural relativism is a rationale for what corporate capitalism most wishes. It only attempts to legitimize the plurality of manufactured solitudes. As Bob Birrell, Robert Putnam and other academics have documented, the mutual isolation of contending sub-cultures erodes trust and volunteerism, two vital ingredients of civil society, thereby helping to create a society of consumers from what was formerly a society of citizens. Consumers behave as the atomized agents of the economic system, but citizens see an obligation to deliberate and decide the course of society. Corporate capitalism is fettered by the active participation of citizens, but left foot-loose by politically inert and self-absorbed consumers. Diversity may impede cross-cultural communication and solidarity, but it never inhibits cross-cultural congregation at the local shopping mall. Multiculturalism, seen in this light, is merely useful to the power elite. A means to an end, but not an end in itself.

A moratorium on immigration, higher minimum wages and union-friendly laws to bring this class under collective bargaining protection would go a long way to undercut the opportunity and incentive to displace more expensive indigenous labour with that of foreign-born workers. Multiculturalism is not the root cause of cultural fragmentation, but a cloak for a more sinister economic agenda which celebrates cultural diversity as it rings the cash register and counts the profits.

Let's not confuse cause with effect, or needlessly alienate those who are even more a victim of growth-madness and balkanization-by-design than we are. Let's not make immigrants the easy recruits for the growth lobby who use their fake enthusiasm for “cultural diversity” as a political battering ram against sustainable population strategies. Most who emigrate do so to create more opportunities for their children, and therefore have the potential to understand that is their children who will suffer most from an inflated labour pool and an unsustainable population level that will diminish their share of available resources.

Tim Murray
July 26, 2010

Comments

About 40% of the present Australian population were either born overseas or have parents who were born overseas.
There is no doubt that past migration has added to Australia’s cultural mix but it does not follow that further large scale immigration can produce a still better society.
Those of us who seek an environmentally sustainable future believe we can avoid this fate for our children by recognising that there are limits set by Nature and that humanity must live within those limits.
As author Mark O'Conner notes , Australia has only 6 per cent of its land mass proven as arable. For Canada it is 7 per cent with soils marginal by European standards. “Baby boomers” argue that Australia could feed a far higher resident population than its current 22 million. But they forget that much of that foreign exchange is needed to pay for the fuel and nitrate fertiliser used for production, and also that soil loss, acidification, and climate change will diminish yields.
The confusion for a herding species like humans is that they see the "vast" area of land as potential to increase the herd size, and simply ignore the fact that their herd's footprint is actually enormous! They see Canada and Australia as massive lands, ready to be utilized, tamed, developed and with great potential for more colonies, spreading cities, as resources, and for power. O'Conner asks: If the big empty land in fact suffers from a limited carrying capacity, if food self-sufficiency is a myth, if biodiversity is taking a beating, why then does Australia seem in a frenzy to add to its numbers? It is the land developers, the property markets, and the real estate industries, supported by "demographers" and political party sponsorships. If we can't have a great nation, a sustainable one, we at least we will have "diversity"!
The HMS Ecological Titanic still robotically stopping to pick up more passengers as it ploughs forward towards the iceberg of over-population. The mulitculturalism of the Titanic won't make it less of a tragedy, but with cautious planning and and good leadership, at least it can be an avoidable one.