Much Ado About Nothing – Refugees and Mass Hysteria

The refugees are coming! The refugees are coming !Even after we exercised our moral authority to specifically help the Syrians by thousands, the refugees keep coming! They are now not even passively waiting for deportation or unfair treatment by the American authorities or danger and risk in their home countries, they are proactively taking their lives and the lives of their children into their own hands and illegally crossing our borders in the search for safety. Outrageous! These people, thinking their lives have worth and dignity and value and acting in a manner that maximizes their chances for health, safety and even possible beneficial economic outcomes. We must stop them! We must stop them at any cost! Our borders are sacrosanct and we must utilize our proverbial stick and take away any carrots to stop this infiltration and these queue jumpers who should wait nicely in refugee camps for us to call on them! Otherwise . . .

This is where the politically motivated and beneficial hysteria loses steam. Otherwise what?

– The special programs set up for Ismaelis in East Africa to come to Canada in the 1970s resulted in . . . . a slew of entrepreneurs and professionals and academics who either came directly during that wave or were their descendants contributing positively to Canada;

-The special programs set up for Vietnamese boat people and Chileans subjected to right wing persecution in the 1970s resulted in . . . more hard working and industrious people populating our country and our work forces and contributing positively in their own right.

I am sure there are instances of refugees and/or their descendants (see the descendants of the Fenians introducing Crubeen’s to Canadian cuisine) acting in a manner that was harmful to Canadian society. I am equally certain of instances where the descendants of General Wolfe and the Marquis de Montcalm also acted in such a manner. What I am uncertain of is the previous crises caused by refugees or their descendants on Canada. When people have come, the country has found ways to incorporate them. Believe it or not, refugees have been ensuring the Safe Third Country Agreement did not apply to them for many years by crossing the border. Of course the scale is different, but the outcomes can be the same provided we do two things: (1) Read history; and (2) Do not let politicians, who are satiated only by holding onto their jobs or promoting themselves to new ones ape the American right wing playbook of demonizing and dog whistling, convince us of the need for mass hysteria.

The only changes in our country since the 1970s is that our right wing politicians have lost their way. They are no longer independent. When they see blowhards and liars succeeding in the United States, they lack the intellectual rigour or courageous originality, to chart another way. Luckily as citizens, we have a choice to chart our own.

Ram Sankaran

Senior Associate