Several days ago, in Sabrevois, Quebec, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke at a rally. Among the questions he was asked by the crowd, one came from a woman asking about illegal migrants. She asked the Prime Minister when he would refund the 146 million dollars that Canadians paid to accommodate illegal immigrants in the country.
To anyone who has seen Justin Trudeau receive a question of this kind before, anticipating what he said in response should pose no difficulty. Without skipping a beat, Trudeau told her that she was being intolerant to immigrants, and that her stance had no place in Canada. Moreover, he went on to say that she had no place in Canada, that Canada was built by immigrants who were welcomed by the First Nations (not so sure everyone is in agreement there), and that she was being racist. The dispute can be seen in the video below.
The Issues With Trudeau
It is obvious from the video that the woman’s demeanour is somewhat obnoxious, and her insistence on repeating the question again and again, loud enough to drown out everyone else is unhelpful to say the least. Security appears justified in removing her from the crowd given her lack of cooperation.
That being said, Justin Trudeau’s response to this woman, and to many other people who have asked him similar questions since he won the election, is dismally incompetent.
Regardless of anyone’s stance on illegal immigration, it is clear that many in Canada share concerns over the number of people coming across the border, how much it will cost to accommodate them, and what strategy the government plans to implement in light of illegal entry.
When you are the leader of a country, even if you don’t agree with the concerns of all your citizens, it is your job to listen to those concerns and try to assuage their anxieties, be this through the presentation of facts to prove the situation isn’t as it seems, through the implementation of a policy, or at the very least through the assurance that their concerns are being heard and taken into account as the government moves forward.
However, this is not what Trudeau does. His approach is to shame citizens who ask these questions by accusing them of racism, and telling them they have no place here.
Never mind the illegal immigrant who broke Canada’s rules and by law should not be in the country, there’s no problem there. The actual Canadian citizen is the one who doesn’t belong in Canada, simply for having the wrong opinion.
Apparently, Trudeau thinks that telling someone they’re racist will magically make them come to the conclusion that their worries are unwarranted, that they’ve been stupid all along, and that illegal immigrants are great. Trudeau evidently doesn’t realize this, but responding to questions this way contributes to the very xenophobia and extremism he wants to avoid.
His approach is likely to manifest the exact opposite of what he wants. Once again, regardless of how one feels about illegal immigration, given the reality that a large chunk of Canadians have these concerns, that concern cannot simply be dismissed. Citizens, for better or for worse, are worried about the problems that badly-managed illegal immigration might cause. Some of them may even be hesitant to trust the peoples coming over because of their different ways of life and cultural practices.
These Canadian citizens are apprehensive and when they come to these rallies and ask these questions, they are anxiously looking to their government for help, assurance, and answers.
There are two things a leader can do when approached by such a citizen. They can hear them, take their concerns seriously, and strive to build a society whereby they can be satisfied alongside their other fellow Canadians in coexistence. It is not always easy to do, sometimes compromises need to be made and sometimes people can’t be given what they want.
However, the leader maturely recognizes in this instance that his responsibility is to all his citizens, not just the ones he politically agrees with. This is likely to reassure the worried parties that the government has their back, it cares about their interests and it has the situation under control.
On the other hand, a leader can do what Justin Trudeau has done; shame or ridicule the citizen for even having such a concern, completely throw the baby out with any bathwater and not recognize any validity, merit or truth whatsoever on any level of their concern, and essentially label the citizen as an other who doesn’t have a place in the country.
And what consequence is this likely to produce? The citizen realizes the government does not have their back, it does not care about their interests, and it does not have the situation under control. When people who are already worried can no longer go to the government to mitigate their country’s dilemmas, especially when the government presents itself as part of that problem, citizens are likely to decide they have to take matters into their own hands.
Rise of the Right
And thus we see the growing tide of groups like La Meute, Storm Alliance, Soldiers of Odin, and Atalante – grassroots movements with a strong nationalistic bend, often very critical if not downright hostile towards Islam and Muslims, and in the case of some such movements, containing elements of white supremacy and a proclivity to use violent tactics.
Alienating Canadians with concerns about immigration facilitates the persecution of those very immigrants.
Left leaning people want to believe this right wing extremism is being fueled by right wing politicians and speakers, who are fear-mongering and normalizing bigotry. However, it seems like this rise in the far right is largely a reaction to the far left’s tactics of identity politics, demonization of white people (men more specifically), violent protest, advocacy of totalitarian ideologies such as communism, and complete intolerance for diversity of opinion, sometimes resulting in the infliction of physical violence as a silencing tool.
Donald Trump, Ben Shapiro, and Steven Crowder are not telling people to join the alt-right. But some white people are identifying increasingly with their racial identity, since it is constantly shoved in their face by society and they are growing tired of being labeled as “bad” on its basis. And a handful of these people go on to find solace in extremist groups which teach them to be proud of their whiteness, and more than just proud shortly after that.
These groups couldn’t be happier with the far left’s tactics; they’re playing right into their hands by sending masses of disgruntled potential recruits their way.
And so when Justin Trudeau characterizes his fellow Canadians as racists simply for having a fair concern shared by many sensible Canadians, in front of a whole crowd of people who applaud him for doing so, he’s not fighting racism. He’s facilitating it. And with regards to intolerance, he’s directly practicing it.
Trudeau says that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. But that seems to be predicated on holding the “right” opinion. Otherwise, it’s more like a Canadian is an alien is an alien.
There is a middle ground where we can still be open to diverse immigration and have secure borders. And that’s all the vast majority of people are calling for. The sooner we listen to differing opinions and stop hurling accusations of moral inferiority at each other, the sooner we can reconcile this political polarization which plagues the country.
Given his response to this woman’s question however, Justin Trudeau has demonstrated he is an unfit leader to take us there.