Canadian Culture Cannot Survive the Current Immigration Wave—it Will Either Evolve or be Replaced
Canada’s demographic landscape is changing fast. This is due to immigration, which accounts for the bulk of Canada’s population growth. In fact, Canada has one of the highest per-capita immigration rates in the world—three times more people move to Canada every year than to America, once population size is accounted for.
This has a number of consequences, economic, political, and cultural. For example, immigration is the primary reason why Canadian citizens are being shut out of the housing markets in big cities like Toronto and Vancouver. Likewise, the immigrant vote is the primary reason why Canada’s left-leaning liberal party still wins elections—immigrant ridings handed Justin Trudeau his majority government.
But it’s to the cultural considerations I’d like to direct your attention. In particular, I think it’s worth considering the effect that a massive immigrant population has, and will continue to have on Canadian culture and society going forward.
Canadian Culture in the Age of Immigration
The liberal mantra repeated ad nauseam by the CBC, Canada’s state-funded public broadcaster, is that immigration enriches Canadian culture. Canadian culture is so bland, so boring that it needs immigrants with real cultures to come and spice it up (both literally and figuratively). For the CBC, Canadian culture is nothing more than hockey and maple syrup.
This official party line was towed to a tee in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic closing ceremonies: Canadian culture was literally equated with moose, snow, and “mounties”. To be sure, that’s all a part of it (just as pilgrims and cowboys are quintessentially American)—but let’s not confuse the mimetic symbols with the real deal.
Moose aren’t Canadian culture, they’re just a symbol of something far greater, and more profound. This nuance was lost on the CBC, and the Canadian public in general in 2010.
But it gets worse. Canada’s Prime Minister, and former substitute drama teacher, Justin Trudeau said that Canada is the world’s first post-national state. Trudeau implies that there is no Canadian culture, nor nation, to begin with. For Trudeau, and liberals in general, Canada is a tabula rasa—a blank slate—upon which the world’s disparate peoples can recreate and blend their own cultures. Canada is a living etch-a-sketch, devoid of any intrinsic cultural value.
And where do the Canadian people fit into all this? They don’t.
Canada’s political scene is completely devoid of any meaningful discussion on Canadian culture, and its place in a changing nation. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was mocked—branded as a racist bigot—for daring to even mention the perspective of “old stock” Canadians.
How dare he: doesn’t he know that a “Canadian is a Canadian, is a Canadian”—even if they’re a convicted ISIS terrorist who tried to murder his “fellow” Canadians with improvised explosive devices and grenades. Who cares, Canada is a passport, not a people.
And why should it be anything else? Canadian culture has been watered-down for decades by one of the loosest immigration policies in modern political history.
The 2016 census found that one-in-five (20 percent) Canadians is an immigrant, and that most of them live in a few large conurbations, particularly Vancouver and Toronto. For example, the majority of people in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, are immigrants. It’s the same thing in Greater Vancouver. The City of Richmond has been majority-Chinese for decades. They even have Chinese-only signs on local businesses—dealing with English speakers is simply not worth their time (and they’re probably right).
My point: the one-in-five figure, large though it is, is misleading because most immigrants settle in concentrated areas, and often have little interaction with “old stock” Canadians.
The figure gets even larger when looking into the future. Again, according to the census some two-in-five (40 percent) or children are either first or second generation immigrants—this number is only increasing.
Immigration & the End of Canadian Culture
I won’t go into a lengthy diatribe of what Canadian culture is. Frankly, I don’t think such a discussion will ultimately be profitable. But I will say this: Canadian culture exists as an emergent property of the Canadian people: it is not something that can be artificially replicated via government fiat, nor something that exists unto itself.
Consider this: if a new island suddenly sprang out of the Atlantic Ocean and Canadians settled it, the island would be indelibly Canadian. Now pretend the island were settled by Russians, but administered by the Canadian government—what would it be? We all know the answer, it would be Canada’s Russian province, and Canada would probably be accused by the international community of colonial practices.
My point: while we may not be able to articulate what Canadian culture is specifically, we know it when we see it.
And that’s not all we know. Let’s revisit our example: would simply naming the new island “Canada” make the Russian people living there any more Canadian? What if we administered the island under Canadian law, and gave them Canadian passports? No. This wouldn’t make them anymore Canadian—not culturally anyways.
My second point: culture is bottom-up, not top down. It lives within the people, not the land nor the symbols nor the law. One cannot simply mandate “Canadianness”, it can only be learned by living among other Canadians. It’s transmitted through social interaction, through assimilation.
Now let’s synthesize our two findings. On the one hand, 40 percent of Canada’s next generation are immigrants, and this number is only increasing. On the other, culture is transmitted via assimilation, that is immersion in Canadian social life, not government mandate. The question must be asked: can such a sizeable minority (40 percent) truly assimilate into such a small majority (60 percent)?
Probably not, especially when you remember that most immigrants are concentrated in a few urban areas. Consider that in Richmond BC, some 80 percent of children are Chinese. If assimilation does occur there, it will be the few remaining “old stock” Canadians with the dominant Chinese culture.
The vast majority of scientific and sociological studies agree with this (rather dire) conclusion. For example, a working paper from the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that past a certain level, or tipping-point, immigrants will start to self-segregate, and voluntarily form insular communities, rather than assimilate into the broader society.
The tipping point varies in size, and depends on the size of the “cultural gulf” between the two groups. Factors which influence the size of the gulf include cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and religious differences—the more different the two groups, the bigger the gulf. This suggests that a country like Canada could sustain higher immigration levels from somewhere similar, like the USA or Australia, than it could from somewhere very different, like Belarus or Cameroon.
Of course, this makes intuitive sense: there is a Chinatown or Little Italy in every major Canadian city, but have you ever seen a “Little England” or “Mainstreet USA”. Likely not.
This is supported by the work of renowned social scientist, and ardent liberal, Robert Putnam. In his landmark study, he found that mass immigration was the culprit behind all manner of social ills in the USA, from decreased charitable giving, to declining social and political participation, to higher crime rates. Putnam showed conclusively that too much immigration too fast unravels the fabric of society.
The degrading social fabric is why Canadians are increasingly “xenophobic”, as the CBC likes to say. For example, a recent poll found that 68 percent of Canadians thought that minorities should do more to fit in with Canadian society—an even higher than figure than was found in the USA.
The Future of Canadian Culture
Now for the big question: what does this mean for the future of Canadian culture?
The future is bleak. Immigration rates are simply too high to facilitate assimilation within broader Canadian society. Instead, the dominant Canadian culture will likely be a new syncretic culture, intermixed with pockets of holdout and colonial communities.
Syncretism is a term used by social and religious scholars to describe derivative cultures and religions—those that result from the mixing of two or more other cultures. For example, the Santería religion in Cuba is a syncretic mix of Catholic and Voodoo religious traditions. Another good example is modern Christianity, which draws upon Jewish mysticism, Greco-Roman philosophy, and pagan Germano-Celtic folk traditions (celebrating with a decorated pine tree at Christmas has pagan origins, for example).
Modern Canadian culture will evolve in response to the many new competing cultures, which are too numerous and influential to assimilate. There’s no telling what this will look like, but there’s no question that it will change. Perhaps this is a good thing, and Canadian culture will indeed be enriched by the new inputs. And perhaps not.
If you’re like most Canadians, you are perfectly happy with the way things are, you like Canadian culture. You don’t want it to change. But it will. People, especially liberals, need to consider this.
How will letting in millions of people who may not care for women’s rights impact women’s rights? Will it not, almost axiomatically, make Canadian culture more misogynistic?
What about the influx of people who don’t celebrate Christmas? Won’t this reduce the desire, and the public justification for public Christmas celebrations? Of course it will—and it already has. You can be fired for wishing people “Merry Christmas” at this point. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
We must also remember that this new culture won’t be adopted evenly. There will likely be large pockets of Canadian society which remain Canadian, in the traditional sense (perhaps because there was little economic incentive for immigrants to settle there). They will continue to exist, increasingly at odds with broader society until they are eventually swallowed wholesale, either through cultural persuasion, or violence.
We’ve seen this before with the Frankish conquest of Roman Gaul: Roman society persisted for centuries in isolated plantation communities, operating largely independently of their Frankish overlords. The work of Gregory of Tours is worth reading if you’re interested in learning more on the subject.
Finally, there will be pockets that never form part of the new syncretic culture—and have no desire to. They will operate as cultural enclaves, colonies on Canadian soil. This is not without historical precedent, in fact, it’s the norm. Throughout history merchants set up specific “quarters” within foreign cities, where they lived and worked without ever assimilating. Italians lived in Galata (now a part of Istanbul) for centuries without ever assimilating to Byzantine Greek or Ottoman Turkish culture. Likewise, Muslim settlers never assimilated with Coptic Egyptians—eventually they out-bred them, turning Egypt into a majority-Muslim country.
Canada is not exceptional: the rules apply now, just as they always have. If Canadians are serious about preserving Canadian culture, they must act now to dramatically reduce immigration levels. If not, the Canada of tomorrow will be very different—for better or worse.