On August 29th, during a Q&A at a french-speaking secondary school in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Justin Trudeau claimed that Japan’s immigration policy was “inward looking” and “not intolerant”. For a leader so set on refusing to see any option other than a virtually open-border approach to immigration, the comments come as contradictory, if not hypocritical.
Ever since being elected, the Liberal government has endeavored to ramp up immigration levels to record highs and clamp down any debate on the issue. Immigration minister Ahmed Hussen suggested that by the year 2036, 100% of Canada’s population growth will be due to immigration. Citing reasons like population replacement and economic growth, the government has committed to admitting nearly one million new immigrants over the next 3 years.
For a government that has consistently tried to shut down any debate on their immigration policy, Justin Trudeau’s sentiments about Japan are rich coming from him. Japan was reported in 2016 to have an immigrant population of about 1.8%, while a Canadian census completed in the same year numbered Canada’s immigrant population at 21.9% of the population.
Japan has historically been a culturally and ethnically isolationist country. For two hundred years the nation practiced a state-enforced “closed country” (Sakoku) policy, banning all forms of immigration and emigration until it was forced to open itself up to trade by American ships in 1853. Japanese colonialism leading up to World War II saw an increase in an immigrant population as people relocated to the island from colonized territories.
Currently, Japan much like Canada faces a dire need to replace its rapidly aging population and an increasingly strained social welfare system. Although Japan is showing signs of looking towards immigration as a solution, it is with a weary and calculated stare instead of Canada’s glossy-eyed and mouthwatering approach.
Speaking of the Japanese model Justin Trudeau said, “It’s a very closed society culturally speaking, they’re not intolerant but they’re very inward looking.”
However according to Liberal standards, it is glaringly obvious that Japan stands diametrically opposed to Canada on the issue of immigration. Unlike Canada, Japan confers nationality to citizens on a jus sanguinis (by bloodline) basis. Citizens need to prove that both of their parents are Japanese to get the full benefits of citizenship. Up until the 1980s foreign residents were excluded from access to public housing, health insurance and public-sector employment. Today things are different and many of these boundaries have been removed, however discrimination in access to housing continues today.
While Canada often rewards immigrants coming into the country, even going so far as offering free housing and taxpayer funded healthcare to illegal migrants, at one point in time, Japan actually paid immigrants to leave the country. Reacting to the 2008 financial crisis which stalled the Japanese economy, the government offered cash payments ranging from $2,000 to $3,000 USD to foreign workers willing to leave the country. If any politician in Canada was to suggest such a policy, they would surely be strung high by the arbiters of public opinion.
Popular opinion in Japan leans heavily against mass immigration, however people are generally supportive of “desirable immigrants”- a notion which would undoubtedly cast you as a racist in the eyes of Liberal adherents. The Japanese population and businesses generally look upon highly skilled immigrants favorably. A 2017 Ipsos poll suggests that only 11% of Japanese polled think that immigration has had a positive impact and that half the population is opposed to increasing the number of foreigners in the country. While Canadians are overall more open and welcoming to foreigners, polls show similar numbers of disapproval on current trends, where 49% of Canadians are opposed to proposed targets for immigration.
On the number of refugees and asylum seekers allowed into the country, statistics for both countries are miles apart. In 2017 nearly 20,000 people applied for asylum status in Japan. Out of those, 20 were accepted to enter the country. In comparison, a year earlier Canada admitted 46,700 refugees into the country and the numbers are expected to rise.
“It’s a new phenomenon, some people are trying to turn it into a crisis” said Justin Trudeau about illegal border crossings. By “some people” perhaps he was speaking about 67% of the population who believes the border situation is at crisis levels.
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