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In Tevendale We Trust

by Archives December 4, 2007

A former co-worker of mine recently confided in me he was moving to Quebec City because he was “tanne de tous les immigrants.” Based on the debate that has raged throughout Quebec’s francophone population in the past few months, it appears he’s not alone.
Sitting in on last Thursday’s first (and only) English-language hearing of the Bouchard-Taylor commission on reasonable accommodation provided me with the opportunity to hear the English community’s list of grievances.
The difference between this hearing and one in the rural Laurentians, for example, seemed that people last Thursday pointed mainly to a lack of opportunity and a sense of exclusion from Quebec society; whereas, based on news reports that have come in from the commissions around the province since September, people living outside this dense urban region seemed to express more – dare we say – xenophobia than anything.
Well my friend, whether you live in the city or not, those same immigrants you’re tired of are the ones on whom the economy and the population depend. With the lowest birth rate in the country and one of the lowest in North America, Quebec’s ageing population has long fallen short of even a basic replacement rate of birth. Instead, in order to maintain our population and our economy, we have relied on a steady influx of new arrivals.
And are we grateful?
Many white Quebecers are sadly quick to point the finger at immigrants for all of our society’s woes. And that’s what gets me.
How a group of people representing less than 20 per cent of the province’s population, already working to sustain our privileged economy, can be held responsible for all the “malheur” in the province – I don’t know.
Just because we’re part of the 16 per cent of the world who are fortunate enough to have been born in developed countries doesn’t mean we should be able to exclude from our society people whose drive, ethic and ambition have brought them here in search of a better life. Who are we to say who can come here and who cannot?
Who are we – white or not, French-speaking or Hindi, wearers of ballcaps or hijabs – who are we in the end but a bunch of immigrants ourselves?
In fact, one of the first witnessed instances of “reasonable accommodation” in this province was when the British won the war for New France. Rather than impose an English heritage, values and language, they let the French-speaking part of the country hold on to their language and values. In retrospect, assimilation would have been easier.
I see no reason for all this hostility towards immigrants in this province. They have as much of a right to be here as anyone else, indeed some would argue that those who seek citizenship through effort and commitment have a greater claim to it than those who rest on the accident of birth.

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