Anti-immigrant sentiments are on the rise around the world. Though Canadians view immigration more positively than citizens in other countries, we are seeing increased polarization on the issue, as well as populist rhetoric from our political leaders, which is enough to cause alarm.
Quebec seems poised to pass Bill 21, a proposed law that creates two-tier citizenship, while a recent EKOS poll found that 40 percent of Canadians believe too many immigrants are non-white. Add to this malicious actors spreading disinformation online and algorithms that create echo chambers, and we have a potent recipe for the erosion of our citizenship and democracy.
IS IT ALL BAD NEWS?
According to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, 68 percent of Canadians believe that immigrants make the country stronger because of their work and talents. The fact is immigration and diversity is good for Canada. It is up to us, the citizens, to protect our democracy—both online and off. In a country such as Canada, where more than 85 percent of eligible immigrants become citizens, our future depends on it.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
As we approach the 2020s, a positive future must be shaped by not only our leaders, but also citizens who step in and speak up. We cannot rely solely on governments and businesses to act. As we witness, when it comes to online disinformation, tech companies are making only token efforts to stop it, and governments are asking for help to solve the problem.
Everybody has the power to counter the divisive voices and reclaim the idea of active citizenship. We must all choose to live inclusively. The question is how. It is by creating more inclusive spaces like libraries and community centres where people come together. By engaging in inclusive conversations, such as our 6 Degrees events, where people from different backgrounds share problems, ideas and solutions. By stepping out of your comfort zone and learning a different perspective—such as by attending a citizenship ceremony. Or more simply, by promoting inclusive language online and offline with the help of tools such as the 6 Degrees Dictionary. The solutions do not need to be complicated.
The call to action for the Institute for Canadian Citizenship and other like-minded organizations is to assertively embrace and boldly promote inclusion. At a time when nationalism and populism is being used as a weapon to threaten globalism and democracy, we must counter this dangerous assault by sending a clear message to new and established citizens that we all belong. For Canadians, it is to embrace difference and take an engaged role in our society and to understand that a culture of belonging is the best defence against division and the ideal safeguard to our democracy.
Photo Credit: Citizenship Ceremony. Institute for Canadian Citizenship/David Buzzard