Who are the Barbarians?
The open use of barbarian in the Canadian political vocabulary during the 2015 election demonstrated Canada could potentially be sliding into ethnic isolationism. This ideology was very dangerous, and Canadians narrowly avoided the acceptance of this word into the cultural psyche.
This article was generated during the Canadian 2015 election. The Conservative Party of Canada has since regretted their use of the word ‘Barbarian’ during their election campaign.
Act-S7, commonly known as the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act was introduced and enacted on June 16th, 2015, in the Canadian Parliament. The Act is a piece of legislation that allows every Canadian citizen the right to consent to marriage, whether in Canada or abroad, and must be over 16 years of age. Anyone found aiding or abetting a forced marriage is liable to up to five years in prison.
Was Act-S7 even necessary? Probably not. This type of behaviour is restricted in other established Canadian laws. However, the timing of such a law exacerbates the current phobias generational Canadians have with immigrants. The tone and timing creates an atmosphere of distrust between generational and new Canadians.
The spirit behind this legislation is moving into further controversial areas. Conservative politicians Kellie Leitch and Chris Alexander, who was the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration at the time, proposed a Barbaric Cultural Practices tip line. A phone number that any concerned citizen can call if they think an immigrant is practicing something that is in contradiction of standard Canadian values.1
The hotline is reminiscent of the Japanophobia that occurred on the west coast of British Columbia during the Second World War. A time when the people of Japanese descent were treated as second-class citizens and potential enemies of the State. Over 10,000 persons of Japanese descent were slated for deportation because of ethnic fears. They also lost all their properties, businesses, and jobs during this period. It took until 1988 for the then Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, to offer an apology and compensation to the Japanese community.2
Fortunately, Canadians did not approve of this concept at the voting station, and the whole Barbaric tip line hurt the Conservative cause for re-election.
The word barbarian is of particular concern as a title. The historical meaning of this word does not mean foreigner, but something inferior. Meriam-Webster defines it as, “of or relating to a land, culture, or people alien and usually believed to be inferior to another land, culture, or people.”3
It is a serious error for Government representatives or politicians to use this word. The wording of the title suggests this is a polemic against an unnamed entity. The likely targets are the Muslim or East Indian communities; ethnic groups whose values on marriage, and other practices are distinctly different than Canadian standards.
The idea of barbarian has been expressed in numerous ways in the Canadian political system for at least ten years. The official use of the word is the culmination of this mindset that must be purged.
The Conservative Government also pushed restrictive laws against immigrants in other areas. They introduced legislation that allows to strip Canadian citizens of their citizenship if they were previously or remain a citizen of another country. This rule can be enforced if a Canadian citizen who is an immigrant has been found to have broken Canadian law. These Canadians are then forced to return to the country of origin. This type of attitude represents a self-patronizing attitude and separates Canadians into two tiers; those that were born here, and others who immigrated. Immigrants are now conditional Canadians based on whether their values and behaviour continually align with Canadian principles.
The Canadian Government also has a policy of not allowing women from certain Asian countries from entering, even as a tourist. These women, unless they have clear documentation of professional status, business credentials, wealth or titled property holder, cannot enter Canada. The Canadian Government believes that there is a statistically good chance that a women from a foreign, impoverished country, will not return to their place of origin, or will be used by unscrupulous Canadians in the sex trade. Although the Canadian Government has real concerns, a complete barring of women from Asian developing countries is discriminatory and represents a self-aggrandized attitude. There has to be a better solution than this.
Foreign workers have also been discriminated against and considered a lesser person. There is difficulty in some provinces for employers to attract Canadians for entry level or service oriented jobs. The solution was to allow temporary foreign workers to fill the need. However, there were some loopholes that made these workers into potential slaves. Some paid substantial fees to recruiters to come to Canada. Upon arrival, they were housed in sub-standard living conditions, and on some occasions, after landing a job, did not receive any or proper pay. The temporary worker loathed to complain because of employer leverage. If the person complained, the employer had the power to contact the Canadian Border Services Agency, and the foreign complainant would be immediately deported without reason. An Ontario human rights tribunal recently noted that a woman was “forced to perform sex acts under threat of being sent home.”4 Attempts have been made through legislation to improve these conditions, but the underlying problem of tiered citizenship and an exploitive attitude towards immigrants still exist.