Headlines throughout the Western world announce a plethora of immigration-related outrages such as terrorism and welfare abuse. In Canada however, immigration concerns rarely rise to dominate the national agenda.
In Sweden for example, the Sweden Democrats party has soared in public opinion to become the country’s most popular party. According to the latest YouGov poll, the Swedish Democrats rank ahead of the two big parties, the Social Democrats, founded in 1869 and now in power, and the right-wing Moderates, founded 1904 and previously in power. Immigration has supplanted health care or the economy to become the most important issue in Swedish politics today, say 46 per cent of the Swedish electorate.
In part the concern reflects a general unease, a sense that social cohesion is evaporating and society is spinning out of control. Soaring crime by immigrants – not least a grenade attack and a random murder in an Ikea store earlier this month of two Swedish shoppers, one reportedly beheaded – is a dominant factor, as is widespread panhandling and high welfare dependency.
In neighbouring Norway, the anti-immigrant Progress Party is now in the country’s coalition government as is True Finns in Finland, which came second in elections this year. The Danish People’s Party came in second in June elections.
Throughout Europe the migration of hundreds of thousands is headline news, the coverage includes everything from walls built by Hungary to keep migrants out to terrorist attacks in France. Immigration is also the No. 1 election issue now in the United States. Illegal immigrants are widely blamed for high rates of murder and drug crime as well as for harming the economy, either by depressing wages or through their claims on health, schooling, welfare and other public services.
However, unlike Europe & the United States, in Canada immigration issues rarely raise their head. The main exception to this is the criticism of the Harper government for how it has managed immigration, one example being Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act. This legislation, passed in 2014, treats citizenship as a privilege, not a right; it favours those who are likely to fit into Canadian society, such as those who have lived here previously or who speak English or French; it fast tracks immigrants whose skills are needed in the workforce, especially when they have permanent job offers; and it makes it harder to obtain citizenship, and easier to strip citizenship from miscreants.
Human rights advocates and specialists in citizenship law, such as University of Toronto Professor Audrey Macklin, decry this bill for its chilling effect, since it allows the government to strip dual citizens of their citizenship for engaging in espionage, terrorism, treason or fighting against the Canadian forces. The bill has been criticized for the arbitrary power it gives the government to reject applicants for citizenship that it deems likely to destabilize Canada’s cohesiveness.