Saturday, March 21, 2009
Give us your articulate huddled masses
Speaking in Calgary yesterday Harpers Immigration Minister Jason Kenny announced that he believes that immigrants who can't speak English or French well enough should be denied citizenship.
This revelation came to Kenny after a trip to Delhi where he unexpectedly met with a woman who has lived in Canada for 15 years and has been a Canadian citizen for nearly 12 years, who could not conduct an interview with an immigration official in either of our official languages. The woman was applying to sponsor her spouse, whom I assume was also not fluent in English or French.
Kenny then went further in his interview with reporters, adding that immigrants and those who want to become new Canadians should speak a competent level of French or English.
Similarly to Flaherty who questioned bailing out the auto industry based on conversations he had with a passerby while walking down the street, Kenny too, seems to base his ministerial decisions on rare and infrequent outings amongst real Canadians.
Growing up in Toronto (North York which later became part of the GTA) I was used to meeting Canadians who could not speak English or French. Jane and Wilson was a growing Italian area back in those days and many of my friends parents could neither speak or write English. They were proud Canadians though, even more so than my immigrant English parents. When I started going to OCA downtown, I hung out with some Jewish, Ukrainians, whose parents also could not speak English or French, hard working people who generously fed me great meals, and were proud to live in Canada.
Where Flahertys ramblings are more the result his inherent need to ramble, Kenny’s narrow view of who should be allowed to come to Canada and or become a Canadian citizen probably stems more from his political ideology than his, I presume somewhat sheltered childhood, growing up in Saskatchewan.
It would appear that by the time Kenny was going to school in Saskatchewan, everyone spoke the same language. Maybe by then the original Ukrainian immigrants to Saskatchewan were fully integrated. However until 1919 Saskatchewan had bilingual schools where lessons were taught in both English and Ukrainian.
Ukrainian still ranks as the seventh most frequent language spoken at home by almost 150,000 Canadians. Of course if Jason Kenny and Harper’s conservatives had been in power back in the turn of the 20th century Saskatchewan would still be a wasteland, with larger black holes than Alberta, but probably no wheat since it also came from the Ukraine.