Fit to Be Tied
Rachel Giese’s cover story “Arrival of the Fittest” (June) drew on peer-reviewed studies, and observations of Toronto’s multicultural Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood, to argue that first-generation immigrants commit less crime than native-born Canadians. The piece sparked a heated online debate over whether immigration is good for Canada.
Among critical commentators, the most prolific was Adam, who attributed a litany of social problems to post-Trudeau mass immigration. In one of three posts, he wrote:
“What a blatant propaganda piece. CSIS has admitted that, given Canada’s massive annual immigration intake, the majority of permanent immigrants (not to speak of temporary visa cases) are not screened for criminality. Mass immigration has given us such things as street gangs with politically incorrect names like Fresh Off the Boat and FOB-Killers; Chinese Triads; and Vietnamese grow-ops (in some cases, destroying huge tracts of BC forest and diverting streams to grow product).” It’s true, in fact, that CSIS screens only a minority of immigrants for criminality. Those who undergo the procedure have been flagged in preliminary screenings by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, which vets potential immigrants in collaboration with the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency.
Many readers felt that peer-reviewd studies are overrated. To quote one: “I trust individual observations far more than any statistics.” And this from PJ: “I moved to [Thorncliffe Park] eighteen years ago, a couple of years before the mass immigration boom started there. I can tell you that it is a much, much scarier place now than it was then.” Joseph Bako of Vancouver echoed this sentiment: “I am old enough to recall that the golden age of public safety was in the 1950s and 1960s—before Pierre Trudeau.”
Among supporters of immigration, a respondent who identified herself as the wife of a recent immigrant countered Adam’s claim with a story of her own:
“My husband was required to provide documents with verified authenticity of not having a criminal record as well as a complete physical exam proving he was in good health. The papers required from both me and my husband were extensive and took four months to compile. The cost of just filing a request for permanent residence was more than $1,000, and when added to travel and other expenses such as couriers for paperwork, which are required, the total process cost us $4,000. If you think the doors are wide open and it’s easy for anyone to come here, that is not the case.”
Other readers took heart from Giese’s thesis and critiqued the critics. In the words of Cory: “I have never once understood the rationale behind criticizing good news because it doesn’t fit with a negative world view. My goodness, be glad that immigration isn’t causing as many problems as you thought it was.”
Kamal Al-Solaylee’s “Violent Revolution” (June) credited Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, with maintaining peace in an otherwise fractured country. Atharmian, an online reader, strongly disagreed: “This shameless article, designed to curry favour with a ruthless ex-boss and his governing family, is the perfect example of Stockholm Syndrome. Al-Solaylee lists no future benefits from Saleh’s continuing dictatorship, except to say that Saleh’s past actions in bringing down various local rebellions have been beneficial. The problem with this theory is that such rebellions happen when democracy and free expression are suppressed in the first place.” The longer Saleh and his family remain in power, Atharmian writes, “the more miserable and violent Yemen will get.” (At press time, Saleh remains president.)
Don Rogers of Englehart, Ontario, took issue with Al-Solaylee’s assertion that “Newfies” are the subject of jokes: “This must be a typing error or unbelievable ignorance. Newfoundlanders are neither butters nor somebody’s butt when it comes to jokes. They have a keen, wonderful sense of humour, which after sixty years Canada enhances and appreciates. Please tell Mr. Al-Solaylee not to worry, and no apology is necessary, because I intend to bring his article to my outhouse at my cottage on the island, and if he would be so kind as to send me his address I will gladly forward him the recycled version.”
Charles Foran’s “Supersized” (June)—which argued that Canadian fiction lacks expansive, multi-faceted novels in the tradition of Mordecai Richler’s magnum opus Solomon Gursky Was Here—inspired this response from Jamie Broadhurst, vice-president of marketing with the Vancouver publisher Raincoast Books: “[Foran’s] argument is a simplification of reality: there are over 14,000 trade books published in Canada every year, so it stands to reason that all sorts of novels get published. But what I like about the article is that it displays the health of Canadian letters today. Our literature is mature enough that establishment writers like Foran, writing in establishment magazines like The Walrus, can take a run at conventions, try to gore some sacred cows, and generally shake things up a bit. My wife and I have completely different takes on the article, again a good thing. She has an advantage over me, because she has actually read Solomon Gursky Was Here.”
And, on a bittersweet note, “Any Given Sundae” (June), Karen Pinchin’s survey of changing ice cream tastes, which concluded that vanilla and French vanilla are perennials, prompted Denni Russel of Toronto to write this reverie:
“I had my first Baskin-Robbins French Vanilla cone about thirty-five years ago, at the ripe old age of one. Over the years, I developed a taste for foods from around the world, but through it all good old BR French Vanilla remained unsurpassed in making me feel like a kid again. It was with tremendous sadness that I learned BR had stopped selling the delicious treat a few years ago, at least in Ontario. I’d drown myself in a pint of it right now, if only—if only it were still for sale.”
In “Portraits of the War” (July/August), we misidentified Spr. Matthieu Allard, Cpl. Glen Arnold, Cpl. Christian Bobbitt, Pte. David Byers, Pte. Sébastien Courcy, Cpl. Jean-François Drouin, Cpl. Martin Joannette, Cpl. Shane Keating, and Cpl. Keith Morley. The Walrus deeply regrets these errors.
This appeared in the September 2011 issue.