'Canada isn't a hotel'
Minister wants ethnic communities to embrace Canadian values
By ALTHIA RAJ, NATIONAL BUREAU
Last Updated: 4th April 2009, 3:06am
Canada needs to better integrate its ethnic minorities in order to combat the potential for extremism, says Canada's immigration and multiculturalism minister.
In an interview with Sun Media, Jason Kenney said Canada's high level of immigration runs the risk of creating “ethnic silos” that could do here what they have done in Europe.
“We shouldn't be naive about the very real dangers of radicalization, of extremism. We shouldn't over-exaggerate it and nor should we just pretend it doesn't exist,” he said.
Kenney is concerned some communities are not actively integrating with mainstream society. While he won't point fingers, he said “there are people who come to Canada or are born in Canada that have very illiberal views, who believe that their religious dogma or their ethnic grievance justifies violence.”
“Now, that may be a tiny minority of people, but that's all it takes to cause real problems,” he said.
PUSHING AN AGENDA
Kenney said it's unhealthy for immigrants to isolate themselves and he's pushing an “integration” agenda.
Giving the example of a teenager in Richmond, B.C., who arrives from mainland China and spends most of his time fraternizing with other Mandarin speakers — at school, at home, on social networking websites — Kenney asked how much someone like that would have contact with people of different backgrounds. He believes modern communication — Internet, satellite television — slows down the process of integration.
“We don't just want a country that is a bunch of different silos where people don't associate with each other,” he said. “Canada isn't a hotel.”
He understands new immigrants will seek out family and friends as their first point of contact, but Kenney is concerned that's the only network some new Canadians are building.
“If we are getting in the second or third generation in cities where people are staying more with what they are familiar with than reaching out, that might be a concern and that's all I'm flagging.”
Learning English or French, mixing with people of other backgrounds, and embracing Canadian values — “Western liberal democratic values” — are integral to moving ahead, Kenney said.
He's floating the idea of a new language program with vouchers and wants to focus multiculturalism programs on building bridges between different communities. He recently blessed a new project which gives Somali youth in Toronto internships with Jewish professionals.
“I don't think what I'm saying is controversial. I think it's common sense,” Kenney said.
KENNEY SAYS …
Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney on …
– Banning British MP George Galloway from entering Canada
“I think I made the right decision not to make an exception and override the judgment of our officials. … I think that some people torqued this falsely into a debate about freedom of speech. It was about Mr. Galloway's actions not his words.”
– Galloway as a potential threat
“Our law is retrospective, not prospective. That means it looks at what he's done in the past, not what he might do in the future. And what he has done in the past, in his own words, is to provide money to a banned terrorist organization.”
– Being petitioned for visa exemptions
“There is a lot of political pressure to override the decisions of our visa officers and the whole immigration system. You have to be open to reasonable concerns that come from immigrant communities and relatives of immigrants who are having maybe difficulties waiting too long for their files to be processed or having short-term visas rejected.
“On the other hand, I have a statutory duty to enforce the law and to ensure that we maintain the integrity of our immigration system.”
– Immigrants having to learn English or French
“When people become Canadian citizens, we want to make sure that they have a basic ability to communicate in our basic language, that's our basic law. Of course, kids (under 18) and seniors (over 55) are exempted … I think that's a very reasonable expectation.”