Friday, May 07, 2004

A policy pitfall

Suad Almad came to Canada from Somalia 12 years ago. She says of her experience as a Somali migrant that "We come to Canada and we become lost."

This is one of the pitfalls of liberal refugee and migration policies. Liberals believe that ethnicity shouldn't matter, as our identity should be self-created and not defined by unchosen, inherited things like ethnicity.

Therefore, for liberals discriminating on the basis of ethnicity is wrong: it offends the liberal idea that ethnicity should not define who we are or how we are related to each other.

And so, millions of non-Western migrants are brought into Western countries even though they are effectively stripped of their ethnic identity in doing so.

Liberals believe that they are being high-minded in doing this, and it is true that they are being "principled" in carrying out their own philosophy. But their philosophy is misguided and does harm. It does harm to the migrants like Suad Almad who become "lost" and it does harm to the host population whose own ethnic and cultural identity becomes harder to sustain.

And there do exist better alternatives. There is no reason, if you think things through carefully, why refugees couldn't be resettled securely in countries with similar ethnic traditions. The financial costs of doing this could be met by international aid from wealthier countries.

But again, to the liberal mind, this is "discrimination" in a negative sense, and so is forbidden as a public policy, no matter how sensible it might seem to non-liberals.

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