While campaigning in the greater Toronto area in the lead up to the 2015 election, I knocked on a door and an older white woman opened. After my opening spiel, she looked for confirmation, “so you’re with the Tories?”
After I answered in the affirmative, she let me have it. “Harper let so many brown people in around here that none of you deserve to win. You’ve replaced us with them. Canada is ruined.”
That was not the first or the last time I have had to counter that particular racist diatribe. It is a core tenet of so-called “great replacement theory”; an anti-Semitic white-nationalist conspiracy theory involving a supposed plot to replace white people with non-whites.
The narrative it usually follows is that the immigration policy of western countries is designed to replace whites, or to “out breed them,” in order to prevent whites from getting jobs, dominating culture, or electing a “pro-white” government. It is racism built on longstanding colonial and white nationalist dogma that never truly has been erased, even after decades spent building pluralistic policy.
And this dangerous sentiment is mainstreamed.
Having proliferated in online forums, a poll released this month by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that 32 per cent of Americans believe that “a group of people is trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants for electoral gains. ” Nearly one in three respondents also agreed that, “an increase in immigration is leading to native-born Americans losing economic, political and cultural influence.”
Those numbers have significance for politicians. In the wake of white replacement rhetoric being found in what appears to be the manifesto of the suspected perpetrator of Saturday’s Buffalo murders — of which a majority of the victims were black — on Monday, prominent Republican Elise Stefanik leaned into replacement theory. Instead of being introspective about the actual reasons why new immigrants may not want to vote for her party, she instead pointed to the replacement theory and wrote, “Democrats desperately want wide open borders and mass amnesty for illegals allowing them to vote.”
It is pure ignorance to believe that white replacement dogma doesn’t exist in Canada.
In a wink to this sentiment, some right leaning political candidates in recent years, both at the federal and provincial levels, have promised to “lower immigration levels” without explaining what benefit this would bring to Canada.
Long before the blockade in Ottawa happened, organizer Pat King, who rose to mainstream prominence during the occupation, posted a video stating that, “And that’s what the goal is, is to depopulate the Anglo-Saxon race because they are the ones with the strongest bloodlines … It’s a depopulation of race, okay, that’s what they want to do.”
And white replacement dogma has fueled murder in Canada, having been cited as motivation for acts of terrorism that slaughtered people at a Quebec City mosque and mowed down a Muslim family in London, Ontario.
There is no justification for this murderous garbage. The assumption that white Canadians are more hard done by than immigrants is rooted in the racist notion that the right to basic dignities and equality of opportunity is predicated on someone’s skin color as opposed to shared humanity, not fact.
The proof of this is a lived reality for many racialized Canadians. During the pandemic, new Canadians were significantly more likely to be affected by pandemic-related job losses than Canadian-born workers. The first year of the pandemic also saw police reported hate crimes in Canada increase by an alarming 37 per cent. New immigrants are far more likely to work in low-income jobs than Canadian born-workers. Non-white Canadians are still far more likely to experience discrimination, hate crimes, and have less representation at the senior levels of power than whites. A significant portion of Canada’s agricultural labor is provided by non-Canadians who are afforded precious few opportunities to permanently reside in our country.
Beyond the fear, murder and destructive power white replacement dogma brings to Canada’s pluralism, it also cripples action from occurring on issues that need to be addressed. How can we truly address inequality if we believe some are more worthy of equality than others? How can we address First Nations and Indigenous reconciliation if there are those who still hold fast to white entitlement beliefs? How can we address the lack of focus on integration supports that belies most of Canada’s current immigration policy? How can women become more equal if the act of childbearing is reduced to a notion of “breeding” solely to maintain the numbers one racial group or another?
With Canadian politics becoming more divisive and polarized every day, this dogma can’t be ignored. It must be vehemently, and proactively, denounced and stopped. This is particularly true for leaders in right leaning political movements where this sentiment may be more pervasive, and the temptation to mainstream it for political gain is greater. Promoting it or being silent when it occurs in the ranks amounts to the same thing.
The freedom of our nation exists only as long as we are willing to fight for the dignity and rights of every human, no matter what, skin color be damned.
Michelle Rempel Garner is the Member of Parliament for Calgary Nose Hill.