Photo By: NelzTabcharani316/ from Unsplash

Last week, Doug Ford made controversial comments about immigrants when talking about worker shortages in the trades, claiming that he’s not interested in those who come to Canada only, “to collect the dole and sit around,” and that they, “should go somewhere else,” if those are their supposed intentions. It’s a statement that, on top of being needlessly calloused, carries a logical flaw that hides within it a brand of bigotry that is meant to sound like common sense.

One of the flaws of this mentality is that a lot of the work that immigrants have to do when they come to a country like Canada is not represented in the workplace. That’s not to say immigrants don’t work hard compared to people born in Canada, they do. But coming to a new country also means learning the language, dealing with discrimination, often having little to no connections and raising a family in a completely unfamiliar environment. Like women have known for centuries, domestic labour can be treated as if it’s invisible simply because it isn’t formally recognized within the economy.

Furthermore, we’re essentially still in an economic depression and, as studies have revealed for a long time now, Canada is a country where people with ethnic sounding names tend not to be hired as often. Sentiments that seek to expose immigrant mooching, such as Ford’s, do a good job pitting workers against each other based on ethnic distinctions and creating a sense of national superiority. 

Instead of Ontario’s premier trying to make a “tell it like it is” comment about values such as hard work, he could have tried something like empathy, or just not said anything at all, because the issue only gets more complicated with rhetoric like this. It’s easy for immigrants to internalize this mentality and work unreasonably hard to feel like they deserve to be here. As someone born in Canada with grandparents who emigrated, the ways in which comments like “work your tail off,” as Mr. Ford said so eloquently, impacts immigrant families and can often be at the cost of their cultural identities. Hyper-competitive attitudes come to be a sign of worth instead of a sense that their cultural differences actually makes our country a richer place. 

Let’s not forget that it’s often us in “developed” countries with our transnational corporations that suck natural resources out of poor countries (see the mining industries of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the oil fields in the Middle East, etc.). This plays a role in driving people in “developing” countries to come and seek better lives in a country like Canada. 

What hides behind comments like these are the common talking points from right-wingers who use “national pride” to hide their racism. You’ve heard it before, something along the lines of, “we appreciate different cultures but this is Canada and you have to adapt.” Really, this is a type of thinking that conceals a fear of difference and seeks to suppress cultural expression so as not to be exposed to ways of life that are unfamiliar and have to empathize with people needing time and resources to get their feet on the ground after leaving everything they’ve known behind. As Theodor W. Adorno put it so presciently, “intolerance of ambiguity is the mark of an authoritarian personality.”