It seems like the saying is right, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Perhaps then Canada can be classified as guilty of repetition when it comes to its distinctive history with its ethnic and religious discrimination.
There is an infinite Canadian public opinion that consumes many perceptions devoted to the belief that Canada as a nation-state today has restored its multiculturalism yet threatened its security with the emergence of Islam. Fear grows as quickly as barrels of oil are exported and classified; precisely at the exact moment the Prime Minister Stephen Harper declares the threat of “Islamism” to be Canada’s top priority and current concern. It is quite astonishing the degree of this appeal and to what extent racial and religious tolerance can hold its breath in this native land.
Short, it seems, the distance between 1970 and 2012 when Canada first altered its key policy response to the rapid growth of multiculturalism in the country. In it included the fundamental values and structures of modern Canadian Multicultural strategy and what diversity should really be like on Canadian soil. It is apparent that Canada moved forth in shaping the doctrine of Canadian values by aligning its principles on diversity towards reception and recognition. With a growing number of immigrants in Canada today, multiplicity is at its best. That inevitably has changed a lot since. Yet what hasn’t changed at all is first, Canada’s long history of discrimination and undeclared racism towards varies ethnic and religious groups in the country; and second, the refusal of acknowledgement and respect towards these categories of immigrants that Canada has rightfully admitted into the country.
For far too long, if one revisits the writings of J.S Woodsworth or W.J Egan, one would notice the clear distinction made towards the kinds of groups that were allowed “permission” to immigrate into Canada and establish and maintain themselves on farmland or in the “workforce” as it is preferably labeled today. The failed conception towards immigrants has changed far too little since the 1900s and only those who know their Canadian history well enough can count the transform on five fingers. To assume that more than half of the older population and emerging younger generation have a reasonable understanding of their history, one can presume to conclude that a division of distinctions between Jewish and Arab settlers should not exist in Canada today. The justification is merely due to evident history that Jewish settlers were amongst the first ethnic groups to be denied entry to Canada based on their “undesirability” and “failure” to integrate and work in the early 1900s. This same undesirability forces itself on new comers of Arabic-descent today who see Canada as a peaceful opportunity to integrate and establish successful routines, far from racial discrimination and demoralization.
“Jews, according to the director of immigration, were “city people”. To almost every request to admit Jewish farmers or agricultural workers, [there] was the same attitude: it was impossible to keep them on the farm or in the bush, every attempt to do so had failed.”
This statement was made in 1928 when talks of Jewish migrants into Canada were non-negotiable. It is important to note the excessive similarities between then and now and to draw a non-biased conclusion highlighting the resemblance between both periods. Canada today has changed its policy and concentrated its efforts in order to regulate and reject as much “threatening” individuals of Arab-descent as they possibly come across; the same concern it had when Director of the Immigration Branch, Frederick Charles Blair, was at his prime of power. During his seven years of authoritative decision-making in 1936, Blair addressed his reasons why he refused so hastily the entry of any Jew into Canada. Was it religion? Sure it was. The resembling threat of Islamophobia that Harper has addresses in his 2011 interview to Canadians across regions and territories is not foreign in Canadian history. It is simply Canada’s next target group equal to discrimination and racism, just like the one before.
“I suggested recently to three Jewish gentlemen with whom I am well acquainted, but it might be a very good thing if they would call a conference and have a day of humiliation and prayer, which might profitably be extended for a week or more, where they would honestly try to answer the question of why they are so unpopular almost everywhere...I often think that instead of persecution it would be far better if we more often told them frankly why many of them are unpopular. If they would divest themselves of certain of their habits I am sure they could be just as popular in Canada as our Scandinavian friends are."
Blair was only acting based on what his superiors at that time had wished for; Mackenzie King was the Liberal Prime Minister at this time who also had a strong accountability for keeping Jews out of Canada. The peaceful, non-judgmental country that prides itself today on its strong multidimensional bilateral relation with Israel had once “undiplomatic” concerns towards this ethnic and religious group. The resemblance to the Arab threat of today consequently repeats itself; it seems that the threat of religion and culture has always captivated the great minds of this country. And still does. Islamism is today’s threat, while anti-Semitism was yesterday’s suspicion. Was Blair an anti-Semite? In his view he was being “realistic” and doing the Jews a favor, even if they could not see it at that time. The arrival of the Jews meant that Canada would undermine its security if they allowed an open-door policy for a possible emergence of anti-Semitism in Canada; the same security-talks that Harper fears the public with towards Islam today.
Field-workers, needle and fur Jewish workers were later admitted into Canada’s labor force in 1945 occupying the agriculture work that were often viewed “unfit” for the Canadian labor industry, working for low-cost wages and with few flexibilities. They, the Jews, were admitted as refugees, working to achieve recognition and status, which often raised questions of which part of the glass was half full or half empty. Perhaps those questions have remained, just in a different context, towards immigrants from Muslim countries who in fact are highly trained and educated and yet face an immense decline in the work-force due to high regards of ethnic and religious discrimination after 9/11. Perhaps the same discrimination the Jews faced in Canada during the time of the Holocaust? In a recent survey conducted by the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada (ISCC) it was concluded that 75 percent of new comers of Arabic and Muslim backgrounds faced rejection in the workforce in Canada, even if some were non-practicing Muslims. Prejudice and discernment had always occupied Canadian creed, despite how hard they fight for a peaceful conduct.
Perhaps it is clear the powerful resemblance both in theory and practice, one might conclude. It is through history civil society conceives its intellect in order to refuse repetition of failed systems of previous biased and discriminatory ideologies. A truly democratic state is marked by equal treatment across varies ethnic and religious groups that make-up the foundation of its society. It is through practice and knowledge that a country does not repeat its failed history based on an increased evidence of racial intolerance. The public must revisit the most important works of historians and political figures that made concrete decisions deeply rooted into Canada’s multiculturalism today; perhaps starting with J.S Woodworths’ published book of 1909, “Strangers Within Our Gates” might be a good first step.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com