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Scott Gilmore faces his harshest critics

Our columnist called up some of the angriest opponents of his refugee plan. Underneath the abuse, he found, were some legitimate fears.


 
Syrian refugees walk towards Greece's border with Macedonia, near the Greek village of Idomeni, September 11, 2015. Some 7,600 migrants, many of them refugees from the Syrian war, entered Macedonia from Greece between 6 p.m. (1600 GMT) on Wednesday and 6 p.m. on Thursday, an official with the United Nations refugee agency said on the border. (Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)

Syrian refugees walk towards Greece’s border with Macedonia, near the Greek village of Idomeni, September 11, 2015. Some 7,600 migrants, many of them refugees from the Syrian war, entered Macedonia from Greece between 6 p.m. (1600 GMT) on Wednesday and 6 p.m. on Thursday, an official with the United Nations refugee agency said on the border. (Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)

This was more rewarding than it sounds: After writing a series of controversial columns, I decided to personally contact some of my angriest critics.

For the past two weeks, in Maclean’s and on radio shows across the country, I have been arguing that Canada should take 200,000 refugees during the next 12 months. This sparked a backlash that was occasionally polite, but usually emotional and angry. I’ve been called worse names, but not often.

The majority of people who reacted to my proposal supported it, which reflects a broader view in Canada that we’re simply not doing enough. A recent Forum Research poll reported that 52 per cent of Canadians thought we could do more than what the government is proposing. An Angus Reid poll found a similar number. But both polls also revealed that a significant minority of the country is opposed. Almost a quarter of respondents in the Angus Reid survey said Canada should do nothing and, in the Forum Research Poll, 38 per cent disagreed that Canada should do more.

This isn’t a small marginal opinion. A substantial number of Canadians disagree with my proposal and many of them have been extremely frank about my idea and where I can shove it. Parsing the all-caps arguments was tiring, so I decided to personally reach out to them instead. What I found beneath the angry abuse were several legitimate fears.

The most common objection was that refugees harbour terrorists. James Carey from Bathurst, N.B., whom I engaged by Facebook Messenger, considers me a “bleeding-heart libtard” for suggesting we should allow terrorist “scum” into the country. John Groves from Ottawa said on Twitter that “taking all refugees would be a victory for ISIS.” I heard the same thing on a talk radio show in Calgary. It should be no surprise that this would be such a prominent anxiety. Although the numbers demonstrate the actual threat of terrorist attacks is laughably low, the government and the media have made us frightened of our own shadows.

GILMORE-quote

I also heard that our economy simply can’t afford to take so many refugees. According to the Forum Research poll, if you live in Quebec (struggling with a high unemployment rate) or Alberta (reeling from low oil prices) you are the most opposed to new refugees. Similarly, the less educated you are, the less welcoming you are. A related concern was that there is only a finite amount of money in the federal budget, and we should not spend it on foreigners before we’ve looked after our veterans, the homeless, First Nations, and seniors living in poverty.

There is also the worry that Canada’s social fabric would not withstand so many refugees. I had a long conversation about this with Werner Patels from Quebec City. Although he migrated to Canada from Austria 30 years ago, he doesn’t think the current wave of refugees are from “compatible cultures” and they won’t assimilate as he did. When I called Robert Kraychik, he made the same point: Without English or French, Syrian refugees won’t integrate into Canada or accept Canadian values. Interestingly, Kraychik told me he is the son of Jewish refugees from the Soviet Union who had to learn English when they arrived. Carey, my fan from Bathurst, was also concerned about the capacity for assimilation. He wrote me that the refugees “do not speak neither of our official languages and have next to zero skills.”

Kraychik, like many people, pointed out that some Muslim states are taking no refugees. This is true; already brimming with guest workers, the ruling families in the Gulf states are terrified that an influx of Syrians could threaten their grip on power. But other Muslim states, such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, are housing more than three million refugees between them. There will always be someone else who could do more, but does that mean we should do less? I’m not convinced.

One area where my critics and I agreed is that taking in refugees is not a permanent solution. Indeed, when polled by Forum Research, the most common suggestion for addressing the refugee crisis was to continue bombing ISIS targets, followed by sending humanitarian aid to refugee camps, points raised by both Patels and Kraychik in our conversations. And Matt Radford, who spoke to me from Woodstock Ont., made the suggestion that Canada should train and arm the male refugees to fight ISIS and Assad themselves.

After talking to some of my angriest critics, I confirmed a suspicion. It’s too easy to dismiss opposition as being only due to racism or Islamophobia (although there is plenty of that). Behind the spittle-flecked tirades and name-calling are legitimate fears and reasonable concerns. In all cases, these worries can be addressed. Indeed, before Canada could take any more refugees, they must be.

But the conversations also left me puzzled. Why do people who can be so thoughtful and eloquent in person act like slow-witted children with anger-management disorders online? I’m going to call some of these folks back and ask them.

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Scott Gilmore faces his harshest critics

  1. Meanwhile hundreds are already storming the razor-wire at the Hungarian border.

    • Did any of your opponents mention the issue that concerns me the most: the negative impact of admitting a flood of refugees whose culture relegates women to second class status? This is not true of all Muslim refugees, I realize that, but we see here in Canada, on a daily basis, women clad head to toe in black robes trailing eight feet behind Adidas-clad men, like dogs on chains. I just hate that, and don’t believe we need more of it. I fear increasing pressure on our institutions to discriminate against women by cultures that dictate their clothing, behaviour, lifestyle. I shudder when I see women at the beach fully clothed and drenched, trying to play with their swimsuit-clad husbands and children; groups of girls gathered in their outfits at picnic tables watching the boys have fun; men leading costumed women through retail outlets, choosing what they will buy. These are symptoms of something I detest, and don’t want more of in Canada. It’s not racism, Mr. Gilmore. It’s about culture, not race.

      Until we can ensure that we are not enabling male control over the lives of women, we need to be very careful who we admit. I have proposed in several forums that we admit orphans and mothers with their young children immediately, thousands of them, and let the men apply through normal channels after vetting. This would screen out most terrorists. It would have the effect of also screening out the worst of the oppressors (sorry to sound like a rabid feminist here, but they are oppressors). It would help the most vulnerable promptly.

      I hope you read this and respond. I know you have been swamped with replies, but this is a huge issue that no one seems to raise.

      • “…the issue that concerns me the most: the negative impact of admitting a flood of refugees whose culture relegates women to second class status? ”

        Except that the people fleeing Syria are no more accurately described by a stereotype than are Canadians.
        Some Syrians are actually a lot more advanced with regards to women’s issues than the mouthbreathers running this country.
        And for those that aren’t, allowing them to come to a country where the women are protected by laws is hardly “enabling” them.

        • I think that’s a great point. When people come to Canada with a different view on class and sex, they tend to moderate as a reaction to Canadian culture. Immigrants do in fact integrate quite well. Just because they don’t convert doesn’t mean they don’t integrate.

      • What about the Mennonites, Amish, Hutterites etc that are already here?

        All religions are anti-women…..but there are christian ones that cover up the women too, and lead them around.

  2. Sorry if this appears here twice:

    Did any of your opponents mention the issue that concerns me the most: the negative impact of admitting a flood of refugees whose culture relegates women to second class status? This is not true of all Muslim refugees, I realize that, but we see here in Canada, on a daily basis, women clad head to toe in black robes trailing eight feet behind Adidas-clad men, like dogs on chains. I just hate that, and don’t believe we need more of it. I fear increasing pressure on our institutions to discriminate against women, by cultures that dictate their clothing, behaviour, lifestyle. I shudder when I see women at the beach fully clothed and drenched, trying to play with their swimsuit-clad husbands and children; groups of girls gathered in their outfits at picnic tables watching the boys have fun; men leading costumed women through retail outlets, choosing what they will buy. These are symptoms of something I detest, and don’t want more of in Canada. It’s not racism, Mr. Gilmore. It’s about culture, not race.

    Until we can ensure that we are not enabling male control over the lives of women, we need to be very careful who we admit. I have proposed in several forums that we admit orphans and mothers with their young children immediately, thousands of them, and let the men apply through normal channels after vetting. This would screen out most terrorists. It would have the effect of also screening out the worst of the oppressors (sorry to sound like a rabid feminist here, but they are oppressors). It would help the most vulnerable promptly.

    I hope you read this and respond. I know you have been swamped with replies, but this is a huge issue that no one seems to raise.

  3. Unanswered Question(s)

    What is the point of having proven immigration laws and a professional immigration department to administer those laws?

    What do we say to the thousands of authenticated prospective (and useful) immigrants who have been waiting in their country of origin for one to five years?

  4. Thank you for correcting the spelling of my name. Regarding this article, I think it is a well-researched and fair summary of the issues and views currently out there. Good job.

    • Just wanted to add also that I never attacked the author of this article. I did attack some others via the social media, but not Scott. But he ‘overheard’ a ‘conversation’ I was having with another journalist, which is why I ended up being interviewed for this article. LOL

  5. “Why do people who can be so thoughtful and eloquent in person act like slow-witted children with anger-management disorders online? I’m going to call some of these folks back and ask them.”

    Flaming has been a fact of life since before the web, when only usenet and can.politics, etc existed for political discussion. The reasons for it probably have to do with the impersonal nature of online conversation – you don’t see a person, you instead see some words which confirm your likely biassed views of a liberal, conservative, etc, etc. And whereas calling someone you just met a ‘libtard’, for example, could result in an unpleasant situation and perhaps even fisticuffs, doing so online merely results in a feeling of superiority and cleverness, regardless of how undeserved those feelings may be. Additionally, putting together a persuasive argument or counter-argument requires significantly more effort than just firing off a flame.

    IMO, the surprising thing would be if everyone had a mental editor constantly running in the background that is asking “would I say these words to someone in person?”.

    FWIW, I did my share of flaming until I eventually realized what a DB I sounded like.

  6. Why do people who can be so thoughtful and eloquent in person act like slow-witted children with anger-management disorders online?

    Maybe take a look in the mirror, Scott.

  7. what ever mental midget thinks we can bring in 200000 invaders has to have there heads examined, just to bring them here and land them here by the time the security checks are properly done, and medical and dental. by the time they swear allegiance to our flag and laws…over and above any muslim barbarism and we find housing, adequate and close enough to educate all these people in english or french as required. find enough clothing as its colder here, establish a quarantine for disease control, and once they pass our technical examinations…..starts the real burden on our health care system of 200000 invaders 100000 new borns will arrive as well in the first year for a cost of 1.6 billions to support not counting the 50000 vital life sensitive surgeries that will have to be cancelled to handle the load…in short 50000 of your family members will have to give up there live to allow these people to invade our health system……these people have babies every 10 months forever, and only 20 % ever find jobs….so 200000 in 10 years will be 1.2 million costing 16,000 dollars each to support on welfare…..per year..times 1.2 million is more than our annual budget, and i am not willing to support that…..this is not about buying a bus ticket, this is about a long term investment..and not about some dead kids picture on a beach that is fake, and propaganda to effect the weak minded to feel some guilt trip……….while the muslim countries are accepting zero of these phony refugees……and when they arrive are they starving little boys and girls no men with more money and in better shape than you are. and in a year they will bring there entire family so multiply times 10 again….this is an invasion no more, if you look at where they have arrived in number they are all ready at war with them…germany, belgium , spain, australia, france, hungary, austria, slovakia,croatia, greece, italy, and on and on……battling in the streets for there lives and homes. and you want to bring muslims to canada……WELL ITS LIKE THIS IN A GENERATION OR TWO, YOUR OFFSPRING WILL THINK OF YOU AND YOUR GENEROSITY, AND HOW YOU SOLVED YOUR GUILTY CONSCIENCE, JUST BEFORE THERE BEHEADED………GOOD BYE.

    • Gotta love it when a loony, sub-literate screed starts out calling others “mental midgets”.
      Hah.

  8. Hi Scott,

    Just noticed you used my tweet in your story. Here is the the tweet that you used.

    https://twitter.com/jfgroves/status/641218402636464128

    2 points I would like to make:

    1) You failed to mention that the tweet was not my own words, but a paraphrase (and a perfectly accurate one) of the Foreign Minister of France. While I agree with this sentiment, It was clear from my tweet that I was paraphrasing someone who speaks for the French government. Would appreciate if you’d update your story to indicate so.

    2) You seem to have misunderstood the context of the sentence “taking all refugees would be a victory for ISIS”. This did not mean that ISIS would have been successful in embedding terrorists in the refugees, as you seem to have suggested in your article. Rather, the point was that ISIS caused this refugee crisis (or at the very least, is a major catalyst); merely settling the refugees without addressing the root cause of what *made* them refugees is the “victory” being referred to here.

    Regards,
    John Groves

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