A City Councillor in Brampton, the ninth-largest city in Canada, with 51% of its population being immigrants, wrote in an email to his fellow councillors and a constituent that, “people of all races, colour, and creeds are eager to come to Brampton and Canada because the white people of this nation have developed a great system where everyone is welcome and can live peacefully together”. In order to maintain this peaceful society, Councillor John Sprovieri wrote that he hoped that “newcomers will learn the values of the white people”. Though this comment was made by a politician in a municipal government, Sprovieri’s assessment of Canada’s large immigrant population and specifically the non-white newcomers to this nation echoes an undercurrent of racism in our country that we tend to ignore. In his email, Sprovieri claimed that solely white people had a hand in creating the Canadian system that has since become a pinnacle of peace and tolerance in the global community. He later clarified his statement as specifically addressing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which was introduced by a white Prime Minister with aide from a majority white House of Commons. Though technically correct on the matter, Sprovieri simplifies the situation of a political system that was nearly impossible for people of colour to participate in at the highest levels, but one that, through protest efforts and the actions of special interest groups, had its charter informed by these people of colour, and its society affected as a result. Sprovieri’s comments are an erasure of non-white Canadians’ profound impact on the development of this nation.
However, the portion of the email that has gained the most backlash was Sprovieri’s expressed desire for all immigrants to adopt “the values of white people”. This statement does the following: 1. defines Canadian values of peacefulness as “white values” and thus, 2. represents the values of white people as superior to all other races. It 3. separates white and nonwhite immigrants as it, 4. identifies non-white immigrants as a threat to Canadian peace. This notion echoes the actions of Kellie Leitch during her campaign for leadership of the Conservative party. Leitch infamously proposed that all Canadian newcomers be screened for Anti-Canadian values.
“Are men and woman equal, and entitled to equal protection under the law?”
“Is it ever OK to coerce or use violence against an individual or a group who disagrees with your views?”
“Do you recognize that to have a good life in Canada you will need to work hard to provide for yourself and your family, and that you can’t expect to have things you want given to you?”
Though Leitch touted it as a way of protecting Canadians from potentially dangerous newcomers, critics were quick to ask what Canadian values are, and by whom are they determined? Leitch’s proposal and Sprovieri’s comments subscribe to the antiquated idea that foreigners, and particularly non-white foreigners, are inherently dangerous and have an innately different, if not inferior, moral compass to that of Canadians. This belief plays into the popular narrative of the evil immigrant bent on ruining our society, a stereotype that has led to an increase in hate crimes. The rate of such occurrences rose by 5% in 2015 from the previous year, and have particularly increased against Muslims, with a recorded 61% increase in hate crimes against this demographic during the same period. Though the ‘other-ing’ of groups who seem different to us is innate to human nature, the rise of globalism should foster a worldwide re-examination of this practice, in favor of learning to understand other cultures. The introduction of different sets of values often enriches the receiving society, but Sprovieri’s comments suggest that only one race’s values are valuable or useful to Canada, which is a dangerous and demeaning assessment.
Personally, I do not believe that any one race has a cohesive and infallible set of values, and Sprovieri’s claims as such are ridiculous. Declarations of this nature do a disservice to the many non-white immigrants that helped to shape Canada for the better. The simplistic characterization of immigrants as dangerous, bringing crime, and stealing jobs is a vain attempt to answer a complex problem with a comfortable solution that allows Canada and Canadians to evade all blame. Jobs being given to immigrants rather than Canadian citizens is a case of exploitation by business executives not theft by wily foreigners. Foreigners are not inherently evil and Canadian-born citizens are not inherently good, they are both sets of humans which put them somewhere squarely in the middle. As a non-white immigrant to this lovely country myself, I would like to declare that simplifying a group as large and as diverse as non-white Canadians, is not only ignorant, it is disastrous to societal progress. We have contributed to this country as much as anyone else, through the channels provided to us. Dangerous ideas are not of a certain people, and just as often originate here as they can arrive from elsewhere. To keep us all out due to the misguided xenophobia of a few is laughable. And so, Mr. Sprovieri, please do take your own advice and adhere to a truly Canadian value: celebrating diversity.