Illegal Immigration. Un-invited guests. Go back home!
Immigration, illegal or not, it is a problem faced by many countries, including our own, around the world creating mass amount of fear, hysteria, xenophobia and down right hate. Yet when you take a moment and listen to the above clip you’ll soon find that much of this xenophobic fear-mongering is manufactured to keep us disillusioned in an attempt to control the masses.
Why do people feel the need to immigrate?
There are a variety of reasons people decide to immigrate to another country. People immigrate for safety, perhaps a natural disaster – an act of God – that devastated their homes beyond repair or they may be fleeing a war-torn country that they once called home, or they might be a spy, whistle-blower or a criminal running away from the law. I don’t mean to go all 007 on you but basically, people immigrate for economic prosperity because they are looking for a better way of life that presents more opportunities for prosperity not only for themselves but also for their families. In fact, the very act of moving from one place to another is a very common practice throughout human history that extends as far back to the dawn of man. So one would have to question why is immigration (illegal or not) such a big deal in this day and age?
For the purpose of our discussion, I will focus on the United States and Canada yet the moral of the story can be transferred to any of our global neighbors who’s experiencing an acute nature of this problem we call: [illegal] immigration.
The American Dream
It has been argued that the United States was created out of the angst with the British Empire and that Canada was created out of angst of that angst. Meaning, Canada was created by the British (i.e. Lord Durham) to be a “non-American” nation that wanted to stop the full integration of North America. Yet before we begin to speak about Canada let’s go back to the United States and try to anchor what is called the ‘American Dream’. The American Dream is rooted from the Declaration of Independence where it states that “all men are created equal” with the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
The actual term ‘american dream’ was first used in a book published in 1931 entitled, ‘The Epic of America‘, situated at a time where the United States were suffering under the Great Depression. The author James Truslow Adams, an American historian, used the term ‘american dream’ to describe the beliefs, religious promises and political and social expectations. It’s an embedded idea that every man and every woman shall, regardless of their birth, achieve what they are able to do. Everybody shall be treated and seen equally and be recognized by others for what they are and have reached, referring to their position.
It is “also the idea that immigrants of different nationalities, different ethnic backgrounds, and different religious beliefs can be fused into a new nation without abandoning their diverse cultures. It’s the idea of America being a melting pot where everybody can live peacefully together. “The American Dream” has a lot to do with America being a country of immigration, and these immigrants all hoped to live a better life in the new world.” Basically, it’s a dream where everyone works together in accomplishing their goals despite what social group they belong to – yet as lofty as these goals are not many Americans did reach what they had hoped for and for those that did it was not what they had expected.
Take for example the songwriter who throws all of his belongings into the back seat of his car with a couple hundred bucks in his pocket and drives to LA with the hopes of finding a rock band and become a rock n’ roll superstar. The homely girl next door who wants to become a runway hi-fashion supermodel. The waitress at a 5-star restaurant hoping to be “discovered” and have a starring role in a Hollywood blockbuster movie. The musician who spends his last buck on a bus ticket to New York and buskers with the hopes of one day having his name splashed on a Broadway Marquee selling millions of copies of his solo album. You know, the ol’ rags to riches theme that many, in fact, thousands of people have tried and yet so very few become successful. Many have talent be they lack the spunk, and there are others who have the spunk but lack the talent.
The American Dream, the idea that’s so prevalent around the world when people think of the good ol’ US of A and make the strides to risk literally everything to immigrate for a better life. But once they arrive on the distant shores they soon find out it is anything but and the climb to stardom can be very steep. Perhaps pre-911 one could expect some moderate success, however, times have changed, the world has changed, the United States has changed and I’m afraid the ‘American Dream’ is just that – a dream.
I’m not writing this to kill your fantasy or expectations of success however, it’s a different world out there – gone are the Frank Sinatra, Oceans 5, JFK, Marilyn Munroe, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Andy Warhol, the Playboy Mansion, Al Capone, casinos, cigars and Cadillacs, big advertising, Wall Street days where these scenarios became the very foundational myths providing inspiration of what I described above could very well possibly have [and could still] happen. But we’re in 2017 now, not 1950s – gone are the “Golden Years” that so many are trying to recapture; one may now want to stop looking backward and examine what exactly are we striving for and what’s realistic to expect.
Everyone has dreams and everyone has a right to pursue those dreams – I expect nothing less! But understand, the dream as packaged and sold to us is flawed. And this is one reason why nowadays a lot of people say “The American Dream” has become a nightmare.
“Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”…..
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character…..
I have a dream today!….
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
Concluded one could say “the American Dream” is the belief of the US-American Society that each individual can, through hard working and strength of mind, achieve everything. However, it is also highly controversial, because did Martin Luther King realize his “American Dream”?
The Canadian Dream
In an article by Andrew Jackson, an Adjunct Research Professor, he observes; “On May 23, Statistics Canada released a widely reported study by Yuri Ostrovsky, with the title “Doing as Well as One’s Parents?” It showed that some two-thirds of Canadian children born between 1970 and 1984 (broadly speaking, the children of baby-boomers) had, at age 30, family incomes at least as high as their parents at the same age and that this proportion has been stable. The author contrasts his findings with a similar but not directly comparable study in the United States which found that absolute income mobility between generations has been declining and that about one-half of thirty-year-old American are now worse off than their parents were at the same age…..So, is the Canadian Dream alive and well by contrast to the situation south of the border?”
“Canadian Dream”?!! Do we Canadians have a “dream”? Isn’t that an American term? How did that creep into our Canadian vocabulary?
After quoting some statistics the article continues: “It is important to note that the new Statistics Canada study is of incomes and not wealth. As such, it does not capture the fact that baby boomer parents parents are far more likely to have benefited from rising house prices than their children, and far less likely to have incurred high student debt as younger adults. Statistics Canada is to be commended for publishing interesting research from a novel source of data. But count me unconvinced that the Canadian Dream is indeed alive and well.”
This term the Canadian Dream, the mere thought of it still disturbs me. Despite our similarities we are very different from our American neighbors and by now we should be able to recognize our own individual status instead of borrowing from the US. There are countless of articles that question the Canadian identity and we are so similar we seemed to have forged an identity out of negation rather than affirmation. Yet if we were to think of what the Canadian Dream would look like, the only answer I could think of that is distinctly Canadian is our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ First 30 Years: A Good Beginning
“A mere 30 years is all that separate us from that cold and blustery day – April 17, 1982 – which marked the patriation of our Constitution and the adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Thinking of that day conjures up the image of that drizzly scene on Parliament Hill: the Queen signing the rain-spotted parchment, with Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and then-Justice Minister Jean Chretien looking on, smiling. For many of us, the image of that signing ceremony evokes memories of the excitement in the air that Canada, at last, was charting its own constitutional course. We were enthusiastic, optimistic and full of hope for the future.
Prime Minister Trudeau himself – with his intellectual rigor and his pirouettes – seemed to incarnate the spirit of those times. Patriating the constitution and introducing the Charter spoke of a willingness for Canada to break with tradition and strike its own path, not in the spirit of impertinence, but on the basis of a distinctive Canadian vision of the future.” ~ The Hon. Beverly McLaughlin
Canada striking its own path, charting its own constitutional course, breaking with tradition on the basis of a distinctive Canadian vision. Similar to the “American Dream” that is rooted in the Declaration of Independence, April 17, 1982, I would say was a very special day for Canadians for we declared our own independence through our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canada is still a relatively young country in many ways seeking to create its own path to freedom. Independence vs Freedom. Do they both hold the same meaning? Independence you stand alone and not rely on anyone or anything whereas freedom means what is constraining you (holding you back) is no longer present.
The Charter was accepted by the courts as a trans-formative document in a sense that it was a participatory process crafted by politicians, scholars, and interest groups, preceded by a very public debate. And with it, Canada became a distinct society with its own unique set of jurisprudence instead of having a derivative jurisprudence bound by our British heritage. Freedom through the Charter was gained by a respectful process in the sense that the British constitutional laws were constraining our Canadian identity, the Charter became an important piece of the legislative document – “one that marked Canada’s legal coming of age.”
The Charter outlines who we are as Canadians and describes our values and what we hold most dear. Similar to the US Bill of Rights but distinctly different, our is a document that protects our individualism as citizens and as a national identity. We are rights holders and protecting our individual rights is of utmost importance especially when balancing our rights against public interests.
American Dream vs Canadian Dream
In pursuit of ‘life, liberty, and happiness’ the American Dream has somewhat fallen into the trap of materialism where the path to accumulating wealth may not always see you being generous to your neighbor. The American way can have you pitched against your neighbor vs Canadian way, helping your neighbor. Whereas, our Charter, is more concerned with the rights of the individual, the collective group, and collective interests. It takes into consideration international constitutional obligations such as The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
As such, we are a country known for our peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts because the Charter incorporates the policies and decisions derived from various international documents (declarations, covenants, conventions, judicial and quasi-judicial decisions of international tribunals, customary) concerning human rights. The Charter is more than our version of an international affirmation of the importance of rights. It is our very own, unique expression of the rights of Canadians.
For more than 30 years, and as a nation of immigrants, the Charter has been embraced by the majority of Canadians, as a document that has captured Canadians’ understanding of themselves – their Canadian [national] identity. “The Canadian way, as reflected in the Charter, recognizes that individual rights may conflict with larger societal goals and collecting interests. It goes on to provide a way to resolve that conflict through a transparent process of justification and demonstration. Through the process of acknowledgment and justification judges can give effect to Ronald Dworkin’s exhortation to “come clean and get real”, about the values and societal interests that are the true basis for limiting an individual’s rights.”
The Charter is a symbol of Canada’s national coming of age and our ability to include the voice of our citizens in the constitution-building process. Perhaps most importantly, it reflects values deeply ingrained in Canadian society. The Charter is a national symbol of our coming to age and our ability to show inclusivity by weaving the voices of our citizens in the constitutional-building process. This very practice demonstrates our commitment to diversity in a “pervasive value/norm of equality – equality not only of opportunity but of the intrinsic human worth of every person.” And that, my dear friends, IS the “Canadian Dream”: To be treated equally and respect every person’s intrinsic human worth.
Pierre Elliott Trudeau once described the Charter as “a new beginning for the Canadian nation” but it’s not the end of the evolution of the Canadian identity. The “story” of Canadian law has been, and will for the foreseeable future continue to be the story of the Charter’s impact on Canadian law and on Canada itself. Although the Charter today is broadly understood and accepted, we must also allow room for its growth for the Charter is an evolving document. The adoption of the Charter in 1982 was the landmark event for Canadian law in our lifetimes. Just as Confederation fundamentally changed the legal landscape in 1867, so the Charter changed Canada’s modern legal landscape.
We will again soon see its effects when we change our electoral system, an antiquated system are relatively new country’s been using since Confederation in 1867. Enshrined in our Charter is the ability for everyone to be from any type of discrimination to exercise their right to vote. Carrying a Charter legacy of his father, adding a new chapter of our national history on its 150th birthday, our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised us electoral reform but did not deliver. As it turned out the celebrations were somewhat understated because of tensions between the Native communities and Canada’s history with the Native peoples. Perhaps it was a missed opportunity by changing the script to focus on a birthday gift to our great country by replacing our antiquated electoral system, blessed by a visit from Prince Charles and Camilla. Yes, a missed opportunity in a sense that it was a chance to make history, another April 17, 1982, historic moment, where we could have witnessed Canada once again, ‘break with tradition to reform our electoral system and in doing so further striking its own path on the basis of a distinctive Canadian vision of the future.’ Now that would definitely be something to celebrate!
“The Charter has become part of the modern Canadian identity.” continues Beverly McLachlin “It is fair to say that during the past 30 years the strands of the Charter have become tightly woven into the fabric of an increasingly diverse Canadian society. When we ask what Canada is, what Canadians aspire to, and what values Canadians hold dear, the Charter informs the answer. And the success of the Charter in Canada in helping to keep and enhance a multicultural and multi-lingual country also serves to explain its appeal abroad. Countries borrow from the Charter because they increasingly encounter the same challenges as Canada and find guidance in the goals, values, and mechanisms enunciated in the Charter and developed in sub-sequence jurisprudence.”