Douglas Todd, a Vancouver Sun columnist focusing on immigration issues, is coming to Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Richmond campus to speak at the school’s annual Talk public lecture.
“The question I’m going to explore (during the talk) is, can people from different cultures and different values still find a sense of cohesion in Metro Vancouver and create a harmonious society?” Todd told the Richmond News.
The other side of the question is, will Canadians create cultural enclaves, largely spending time with people of their own colour, mother language and distinct culture?
Todd said the questions are based on the World Values Survey, which has conducted opinion polls around the world that prove people who live in different nations often have different values.
He believes there is a real challenge here in Metro Vancouver where almost half of the population are foreign-born. There is a low degree of connection and engagement among local residents according to a Vancouver Foundation Survey.
“Some of the problems are people forming into ethnic neighbourhoods. It’s totally understandable, but I think it can create a sense of isolation,” he said.
“Vancouver people and Canadians are super polite to each other, no matter what their ethnicity, but I’m just concerned there is not that much real engagement.
“Religion can bring people together, for example, but also can divide people.”
But Todd also has hopes for things to get better.
“Immigration tends to be a long game – the real benefit (usually) comes in the second and third generation. That’s one hope I think,” said Todd.
“Intermarriage I think is (another) hopeful thing – It’s increasing in Canada but not at a hugely fast rate. And there has to be a real stress on language for learning English.”
He added that studies show immigrants who become fluent in the local language are more economically successful and happier.
“A study at UBC psychology urges people to be more culturally curious, even including asking the question ‘where you are from’, which some people find offensive,” he said.
“But we have to become curious about people who are different, otherwise we will never get to know each other. I encourage that, even though it might be a bit awkward to take some risks.”
Todd, who has written about immigration over the past decade, including his many critical views on the country’s immigration policies, said he is trying to ask “hard questions that people want to ask but are afraid of.”
“The more I go into this, the more I realize that people are afraid of being called a bigot, racist or xenophobic,” he said, adding a UBC study shows four per cent of Canadians are “real racists – i.e. think they are more superior than another ethnic group.”
“There is a small group of racists but most people aren’t. They are just trying to figure out what’s going on. But people toss around the word ‘racist’ so easily now and the definition has expanded very broadly.”
Todd believes more information and conversation is the key to forming healthier discourse around immigration, which is “very complicated and has a lot of force in it.”
“The forum (at KPU) is one way to do that,” he said.
“I wish more journalists just wrote about immigration issues in a regular way. Immigration is pretty hidden and missed. Politicians can talk about it more – not in a way to stir trouble, but most politicians just don’t touch it.
My goal as a journalist is to get more conversations going.”