The appointment of a Parliamentary Task Force on Participation of Visible Minorities in Canadian Society was the latest in a series of attempts to persuade Canadians that their country must be come a miniature United Nations in order to substantiate a political theory. The theorist is Pierre Elliott Trudeau; his theory is that “nations belong to a transitional period in world history” and that a pluralistic Canada could become “a brilliant prototype for the molding of tomorrow’s civilization.”
To this end, the focus of Canada’s immigration policy was changed. The country’s traditional sources of immigrants — the British Isles, Europe, the United States, and Australia — were given a back seat to Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Central and South America, and the West Indies. Between 1964 and 1968, 84 percent of Canada’s immigrants came from its traditional sources. Ten years later, because of policies that discourage immigration from these sources while actively encouraging immigration from elsewhere, that figure had fallen to 50 percent. The objective of the government seems to be to change the character of Canada.
One of the main problems with the legislated approach is that it overlooks the fact that people are different Conflict can arise between individuals of different origin if the people who go from a native land to live in a foreign one fail to adapt to its customs. It is their insistence upon importing and continuing to practice foreign customs that results in their being treated as foreigners. In this matter of ”visible minorities” it is not individuals — natives or newcomers — who are at fault, but the government. Left to themselves, native and newcomer alike would fall within the varying degrees of success or failures that attend us all. The justification for government’s coercive power is to prevent one individual, in the exercise of his freedom, from infringing upon the freedom of others. When government uses that power to set one group above another group, to give one group an advantage at the expense of another, or in any way to discriminate between the people who consent to be governed, it disturbs the peace and order which it is government’s prime duty to secure.
It used to be that the newcomer, having chosen to live in the new surroundings, would adapt to them, becoming less and less conspicuous every day. Now he joins others in groups of similar origin. No longer a minority of one, he has become one of the minority. The use of the government’s coercive power to protect minorities’ rights discourages them from assimilating. The immigrants then attract the hostility of the majority who developed the traditions and customs that the newcomers reject.
Yet, without seeking the consent of the electorate, 10 of Canada’s first ministers imposed upon the nation a Charter of Rights and Freedoms which establishes discrimination as a part of Canadian life. Having declared that “Every individual is equal before and under the law… without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability,” the Charter immediately contradicts itself with the statement that the previous section “does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”
In other words, the quota systems which are the inevitable consequence of “any law, program or activity … ” are now institutionalized in Canada No politician or government official will admit to it, but just as there are quotas for French Canadians in Canada’s civil and military services, to secure a representation in proportion to French Canadians in the Canadian population, so will there be quotas for every visible minority in both the federal service and in the ser vices of the provinces where visible minorities are most numerous.
However, the Parliamentary Task Force will not limit its purview to visible minorities. The chairman intends “to interpret his mandate in the broadest possible way … so as to take in not only skin color and racial origin but any situation that would ultimately see an individual or group of individuals being treated as a minority by the majority in which they live.” He seems to want to make it so that there will be scarcely a Canadian who dares to claim membership in the fast dissolving majority lest he or she be accused of discriminating against people who are members of a minority.
Canadians are sometimes accused of being rather a dull lot, not given to extremes of opinion, and secure — even smug —in the possession of bountiful natural resources. The accusation fails to take into account the energy and initiative of Canadians past and present who converted, and still convert, those resources into tangible benefits. What· ever the cause, there has developed a national characteristic of inestimable value: the courtesy and tolerance with which Canadians look upon and deal with one another. A national government which understood and appreciated that characteristic would seek to foster it. But here we are met by a Canadian paradox: that people who are courteous and tolerant toward one another have voted since 1968 to be governed by a man who is neither courteous nor tolerant and who, in consequence, has stirred up animosities in Canada that will take a long time to heal.
Creating the Parliamentary Task Force on Visible Minorities was an inevitable outcome of that unpalatable truth. It derives from a perception of Canada and other nations as mere motels on the road to world government. The man whose policies have burdened Canada with a proliferation of federal departments and Crown corporations looks confidently toward a world that will be run the same way: by a gigantic bureaucracy from which there will be no escape. Such a world, and its luckless citizens, will be bound by rules and regulations designed to covet every meet of daily life. The task of enforcing them will fall to armies of officials for which Canada’s present committees and tribunals are models.
That scheme cannot brook the differences which distinguish every individual from every other. All must conform to the model: the productive and regenerative mass that the central plan requires for its fulfillment.
The threat to individual freedom will not disappear from Canada with the departure of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, though it will subside for a while since the tide of public opinion is flowing away from the idea of the centralized all-powerful state that Trudeau personifies and dreams about. But the idea will survive. Exposing its fallacies is no easy task for politicians who are subject to the temptations that accompany the power of office. ls it too much to expect that some of those politicians will recognize the dangers and see that government, when it uses its coercive power to change the shape of a mass that is made up of individuals, can no longer serve them? Canadians are all different; all, so long as government in Canada is limited by consent of the governed, are free. It is the attempt to band some of those individuals into particular masses that changes the form of government from a limited one to an oppressive one. Searching out and institutionalizing minorities is a giant step along that treacherous road. cc