Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Alter Ego: Comics and Anti-Canadian Values ...err.. Canadian Identity

Today is the last day for LAC's Alter Ego: Comics and Canadian Identity exhibit  (See more on LAC's blog via their 'comics' tag), so yesterday I wandered through again (during lunch break as I work in the building).   When I first looked it was right after Ottawa Comiccon and I was thinking in that context.  This time I couldn't help but think about Kellie Leitch's 'anti-Canadian values' survey questions.

As much as some (lower-case c) conservative Canadians like to believe there is one unified set of Canadian values, this has never been the case.  Sure, we may apologize more than our neighbors to the south but what each of us apologize for differs greatly.

The exhibit at LAC touched on this, and suggested we ask if there is a "Canadianness" that enters into the stories when they are drawn or written by Canadians, even when it is a hero like Superman that often waives the US flag.  And what is this Canadianess?  What is our identity as citizens and as a country?

These are all presented as open questions, as they should be.  One thing we Canadians tend to do is be more reflective, and are more willing to look at ourselves and our fellow Canadians. We retry to recognize our similarities and differences, as well as separating reality from wishful thinking.

We don't normally demand of each other conformity to one set of values.  This is why I agree with many others that the suggestion we should filter immigrants for "anti-Canadian values" is itself an anti-Canadian value.

This does not suggest there be a free-for-all in Canada.  What we already have is Canadian law which lists those things which we (or rather our democratic process, as flawed as it is at times) have decided cross the boundary into being criminal.

Every example I've seen someone try to come up with of an "anti-Canadian value" worthy of being part of a screening process is either not a value shared by Canadians (and thus must not be part of screening) or is already criminal in Canada.   What appears to be being suggested is that there be a separate non-democratic (and likely non-transparent) body set up to filter immigrants for beliefs that are shared by existing Canadians, but that aren't shared by specific special interest groups.

The primary thing I believe we need to do is ensure that there isn't a double standard:  either filtering immigrants for having beliefs that are shared by existing Canadians (majority or minority), or making allowances for immigrants to carry out actions based on their beliefs (religious or otherwise) that are contrary to Canadian law.

Anything that would be criminal for a Canadian to leave Canada, do in another country, and then return to Canada should be illegal for an immigrant.  An applicant for immigration that would with high probability be sent directly to prison after a trial should simply be barred from entry in the first place.

Example:  In Canada child spouses and polygamy are illegal.  If an immigrant has a child or multiple spouses they should be denied immigration until they clearly divorced.  If the laws were changed in Canada such that even a historical child spouse or polygamy were criminal for a Canadian citizen, then this would mean a permanent ban of an equivalent immigrant.

Even with the example of polygamy there is a lack of clarity in caselaw which puts questions around enforceability of the law against Canadians.  Given this, is even this a good example of something that would warrant denying immigration?  It is an open question, and I believe the correct response would be to provide clarity within Canadian law and not to create a separate body to create criteria to filter immigrants.

I also draw a distinction between something being criminal and something being illegal.   Jaywalking is illegal in parts of Canada, but should not be an excuse to filter an immigrant.  We can argue about the severity of offenses such as copyright infringement until our ears bleed, but given we aren't kicking Canadians out of the country or locking them up in prisons for it we shouldn't be filtering immigrants because of it.

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