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Canada's "Mosaic" Has Racist Cracks

Posted: 05/14/2013 11:16 am

It's ironic really.

Here in the "Canadian Mosaic", issues of race are largely stricken from the language of the everyday. We prefer not to speak openly about racism, for deconstructing it might chip away at that illusory façade of Canada as a nation of perpetual tolerance and chronic multiculturalism -- a delusion we all hold dear to our glowing hearts.

Unfortunately for all those "liberal-minded" Canadians out there who view our country to be so forward thinking and accommodating that racism is a non-issue, institutionalized multiculturalism is not the same thing as social racial equality.

To borrow from novelist James Baldwin, prejudicial racial viewpoints in Canada are reaffirmed through "the evidence of things not seen." Histories of African and Chinese slave labour, Aboriginal genocide and Japanese internment are all washed over by propagandized narratives of multicultural progress, creating a racial logic which has made it impossible for many Canadians to even recognize the racism taking place in the banal spaces all around them -- from the subway ride to the dining room table.

Yet the structurally repressive policies implemented by our government, the subtle prejudices of our media and propagation of the multicultural myth by the citizenry say more about the clandestine state of racism in Canada than the sheepish, feathery championing of omnipresent cultural tolerance and ethnic diversity ever could.

So while Canada is indeed a nation of immigrants -- according to new data from the controversial 2011 National Household Survey, 6.8 million foreign-born residents now call Canada home -- many of us are still ambivalent and suspicious regarding immigration -- even people who were themselves migrants only 30 years ago, are as eager as the next to stop the flow of newcomers from "taking all our jobs."

For his part, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney insists that 2013 will mark the 7th consecutive year in which Canada will admit 240,00 to 260,000 new permanent residents -- "the highest sustained level of immigration in Canadian history." Yet 260,000 immigrants are equal to only 0.74 per cent of the population -- nowhere near the record-breaking numbers that the Harper government brazenly claims.

As data from the archives of Immigration Canada shows, immigration levels have surpassed that meagre 0.74 per cent countless times in the last century. During a 7-year stretch in the 1950s, the average was around 1 per cent of the population -- equal to 350,000 Canadians. During the 1920s, immigration swelled to 1.4 per cent, in the 1880s, as much as 2 per cent -- comparable to 700,000 immigrants annually.

Last year, despite protests from health care professionals, the Harper Government eliminated all but the most basic healthcare for refugee groups -- reaffirming the widely held belief that most refugees are merely scamming our healthcare system. A belief that is completely unfounded according to the Canadian Health Coalition.

Moreover, since 2006 the refusal rate for Canadian citizenship applications has more than doubled thanks in part to more selective testing requirements, causing the number of immigrants from Asian countries such as China and India to halve.

Thus in reality, immigration is substantially more regulated than the government would have us believe -- welcoming newcomers only if they "meet our national economic, cultural and social needs in a highly effective manner." What those vague needs are is anybody's guess, but as more and more studies show that the future of Canadian prosperity is directly linked to increased immigration, the current of racism may very well be restricting the flow of much-needed skilled workers into Canada.

Beyond immigration, a recent report from Amnesty International -- which was condemned as irrelevant and cast aside by the Harper Government, highlights many of Canada's deep-seeded racial prejudices against Indigenous populations.

"Be it respect for treaty and land rights, levels of poverty, average lifespans, violence against women and girls, dramatically disproportionate levels of arrest and incarceration, or access to government services such as housing, healthcare, education, water and child protection, Indigenous peoples across Canada continue to face grave a human rights crisis."

Just take a look at the abhorrent conditions on a First Nations reserve, or the immense discrepancies in quality of life between Indigenous populations and the rest of Canada, and you can see that Amnesty is really getting at something here.

What's more a recent report to the UN Committee on Racial Discrimination has concluded that Canadian media outlets continue to reinforce negative stereotypes of First Nations, thereby creating an environment of prejudice that allows for a largely uninformed public to perpetuate acts of racial discrimination.

In a recent blog post, Professor Leanne Simpson brilliantly catalogues numerous examples of how both mainstream media, and a prejudice populous desperate to reaffirm Aboriginal cultural inferiority continue to view Indigenous issues through the lens of the colonial ideology that permeates every aspect of Canadian culture.

Thus if chronically structuralized Indigenous poverty, an increasingly racially-charged media bias, and the Harper Government's refusal to permit the UN special rapporteur on Indigenous peoples from investigating the state of racial equality in Canada are stitched together, the ideal of multicultural Canada seems a tad porous.

Couple this with a squeeze on immigration in the face of an economic necessity for sustained population growth, a rise in racially motivated hate crimes against Arab and Muslim populations, and the subsequent whitewashing of Canadian cultural institutions such as our new 100-dollar bill, and you have a narrative fueled by more "evidence of things unseen" than many of us seem willing to acknowledge.

And make no mistake, until Canadians are willing to acknowledge these prejudices which permeate subtly and not-so-subtly through our government, our media, and our collective national consciousness, we will remain a delusional society of "regular," ethnicity-free, whitewashed Canadians, where the ethnic or Indigenous "Canadians" are merely tolerated -- sort of, as guests in "our" cultural homeland.

Loading Slideshow...
  • The Survey

    CP — Statistics Canada released the first tranche of results Wednesday from the 2011 voluntary National Household Survey, which replaced the cancelled mandatory long-form census. The survey, which replaced the mandatory long-form census cancelled by the Harper Conservatives in 2010, is filled with warnings that the data may not be as accurate, given the survey's voluntary nature. HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Nation Of Immigrants

    Canada was home to an estimated 6,775,800 immigrants in 2011, comprising 20.6 per cent of the population — more than ever before and the highest proportion of all G8 countries.

  • Aboriginal Population Growth

    Canada's aboriginal population grew by 20.1 per cent — 232,385 people — between 2006 and 2011, compared with 5.2 per cent for non-aboriginal people. 1,400,685 people identified themselves as aboriginal in 2011, representing 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population. Aboriginal Peoples accounted for 3.8 per cent of the population in 2006, 3.3 per cent in 2001 and 2.8 per cent in 1996.

  • Foster Care

    Almost half (48.1 per cent) of all children aged 14 and under in foster care in Canada in 2011 were aboriginal children.

  • Aboriginal Children

    Aboriginal children aged 14 and under made up 28 per cent of Canada's total aboriginal population, while their non-aboriginal counterparts represented 16.5 per cent of all non-aboriginals.

  • Native Tongue

    Only 17.2 per cent of aboriginals reported being able to conduct a conversation in an aboriginal language, compared with 21 per cent in the 2006 census.

  • Foreign-Born

    About 1,162,900 foreign-born people immigrated to Canada between 2006 and 2011, making up 17.2 per cent of the foreign-born population and 3.5 per cent of Canada's total population.

  • Ethnic Origins

    More than 200 different ethnic origins were reported in the 2011 survey, with 13 of them representing more than a million people each.

  • Visible Minorities

    Nearly 6,264,800 people identified themselves as a visible minority, representing 19.1 per cent of the population. 65 per cent of them were born outside Canada.

  • Predominant Groups

    South Asians, Chinese and blacks accounted for 61.3 per cent of the visible minority population, followed by Filipinos, Latin Americans, Arabs, Southeast Asians, West Asians, Koreans and Japanese.

  • Religion

    More than 22.1 million people — two-thirds of Canadians — said they were affiliated with a Christian religion, including 12.7 million Roman Catholics, the largest single group.

  • No Religion

    7.8 million people, 23.9 per cent of the population, reported having no religious affiliation.

  • Slightly more than one million people, or 3.2 per cent of the population, identified themselves as Muslim, while Hindus represented 1.5 per cent, Sikhs 1.4 per cent, Buddhists 1.1 per cent and Jews one per cent.

  • NEXT: Highlights Of 2011 Census

  • Highlights Of The 2011 Census

    Here are some highlights from the 2011 Canadian Census. With files from <em>The Canadian Press</em>. (AFP/Getty Images)

  • 33,476,688 People

    As of May 2011, 33,476,688 people were enumerated in Canada, nearly twice as many as in 1961 and 10 times the number in 1861. (Alamy)

  • Population Growth Speeds Up

    Canada's population grew by 5.9 per cent between 2006 and 2011, up slightly from 5.4 per cent during the previous five years. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jtbradford/" target="_hplink">Flickr: jtbradford</a>)

  • Go West

    For the first time, more people in Canada live west of Ontario (30.7 per cent) than in Quebec and Atlantic Canada combined (30.6 per cent). (Flickr: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/derekgavey/" target="_hplink">derekGavey</a>)

  • We're Number One

    Canada's population growth between 2006 and 2011 was the highest among G8 countries. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/33498942@N04/" target="_hplink">Flickr: WarmSleepy</a>)

  • Exceptions To The Rule

    Every province and most territories saw their population increase between 2006 and 2011; the rate of growth increased everywhere except in Ontario, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. (AP)

  • Ontario Falters

    The growth rate in Ontario declined to 5.7 per cent, its lowest level since the early 1980s. (Alamy)

  • Saskatchewan Out Of The Red

    Population growth in Saskatchewan hit 6.7 per cent, compared with a negative growth rate of 1.1 per cent between 2001 and 2006; the province welcomed more than 28,000 immigrants during the latest census period, nearly three times the number of the previous five-year period. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/justaprairieboy/" target="_hplink">Flickr: Just a Prairie Boy</a>)

  • Yukon And Manitoba Take Off

    The rate of growth in both Yukon (11.6 per cent) and Manitoba (5.2 per cent) has doubled since 2006. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/us_mission_canada/" target="_hplink">Flickr: US Mission Canada</a>)

  • The East Is Growing Too

    The rate of growth in Prince Edward Island (3.2 per cent), New Brunswick (2.9 per cent) and Newfoundland and Labrador (1.8 per cent) has increased substantially between 2006 and 2011. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jw1697/" target="_hplink">Flickr JaimeW</a>)

  • Cities Rule..

    Nearly seven of every 10 Canadians lived in one of Canada's 33 main urban centres in 2011. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/markwoodbury" target="_hplink">Flickr mark.woodbury</a>)

  • .. Except Not In Ontario..

    The rate of population growth in almost all census metropolitan areas located in Ontario slowed between 2006 and 2011. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/husseinabdallah/" target="_hplink">Flickr abdallahh</a>)

  • Maybe Because Everyone Moved To Alberta

    Of the 15 Canadian communities with the highest rates of growth, 10 were located in Alberta. (AFP/Getty Images)

 

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