02/06/2017 03:29 EST | Updated 02/06/2017 03:37 EST

Canada Should Debate Immigration - But With Facts, Not Fear

"He's doing what he said he was going to do. Let them protest."

The unlikely scene: a drinking establishment somewhere in the Dominican Republic. Two American men are perched on stools at the bar, watching a satellite TV report -- from Long Island, New York, of all places -- showing footage of multiple American protests about Donald Trump's Muslim ban.

One of the American men had said: "He sure is stirring up a lot of shit." His drinking buddy, as noted, is undaunted. (I, meanwhile, am listening in, pretending to be waiting for a drink for my wife that has already been delivered.)

The indifferent one shrugs and pulls on his beer. He grunts. "I don't have a problem with it."

Neither, as it turns out, do the majority of Americans.

Anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment isn't just popular: it's sweeping the planet.

When I returned to my thirsty spouse, I checked the Internet. You can do likewise, and this is what you'll find.


The two firms polled a bunch of Americans right after the Unpresident attached his signature to the now-infamous executive order banning travel from seven Muslim countries. Half -- 49 per cent -- agreed or strongly agreed with what Trump had done. Only 41 per cent disagreed. A third said it actually made them feel "more safe." And get this: 52 per cent of self-identified Democrats agreed with Trump's move.

Quinnipiac University:

There, the same sort of depressing results: 48 per cent with Trump, 42 per cent against. Said the pollsters: "American voters support suspending immigration from 'terror prone' regions, even if it means turning away refugees from those regions."


In this one, Trump did even better. In the wake of the decision, Rasmussen found that a whopping 57 per cent of Americans agreed, some strongly, with what the Groper-in-Chief had done. Only 33 per cent were against it. The Daily and Sunday Express in Britain headlined that the Rasmussen results were "a shock."

But they're not. Not to anyone who has been paying attention, anyway.

build a wall trump supporters

A Trump supporter yells "build that wall" before the start of a rally at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, April 28, 2016. (Photo: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment isn't just popular: it's sweeping the planet. It's why Brexit happened last June. It's why Donald Trump happened last November. And it's why up here in little old Canada -- the now-aptly-monikered Great White North -- that the likes of Kellie Leitch and Kevin O'Leary have stubbornly stuck to their Trump-Lite guns.

As Leitch's former campaign manager kept telling everyone before resigning late last week -- and said former campaign manager has multiple members of his immediate family who are practicing Muslims, is married to an immigrant, is the son of immigrants and belongs to a family that is working to sponsor Syrian refugees, by the by -- two-thirds of Canadians are onside. No less than the Toronto Star, never a paragon of conservative ideals, says so:

"Two-thirds of Canadians want prospective immigrants to be screened for 'anti-Canadian' values, a new poll reveals, lending support to an idea that is stirring controversy in political circles," The Star reported in September. "Sixty-seven per cent [say] immigrants should indeed be screened for 'anti-Canadian values.'"

kellie leitch

(Photo: CP)

Oh, and Liberals and New Democrats? Among them, 57 and 59 per cent, respectively, agreed with what Leitch has been saying about screening immigrants and refugees.

Apologies, here, for the myriad numbers. Apologies, too, for thoroughly depressing my already-discouraged progressive friends.

But the facts are becoming undeniable, folks. Sure, Donald Trump is a racist, sexist, fascistic creep. But the fact is that he won the election precisely by being the anti-immigrant candidate.

Fact two: it is not necessarily racist to want a debate about immigration and refugee policy. It isn't.

That's what I wrote more than 20 years ago in my book about racism, Web of Hate. It's not wrong to have an objective, fact-based debate about how to deal with a massive influx of dispossessed people in the West.

build a wall trump supporters

Donald Trump, then Republican presidential candidate, holds a sign supporting his plan to build a wall between the United States and Mexico March 9, 2016. (Photo: Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

What's wrong, however, is to do it as Trump has done in the space of just a few days: by pledging to put up walls, and by dislocating tax-paying, law-abiding American citizens who happen to have been born somewhere else. It's wrong, too, to play dog-whistle politics, promising to keep out those with "values" we dislike.

And it's wrong, of course, to pepper a pro-refugee Facebook page with racist bile -- and, then, when that isn't enough, to go pick up a semi-automatic and gun down six innocent people at prayer in Québec City.

Citizens everywhere clearly want to have a debate about immigrants and refugees. Some are worried, some are scared. Some are racists, but some actually aren't.

We in Canada can certainly have such a debate, but not in the way Trump is doing it, of course, or the way in which Kellie Leitch and Kevin O'Leary want to do it, and not, particularly, because we in any way agree with the Brexit and Trump cabal.

Because we want to keep them from taking over here, too.

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