To begin with, let me take a second to give a polite nod to the most Canadian of gestures: the apology. I will be battling poor generalizations with poor generalizations, emotional outburst with emotion and hopefully a smattering of logic. For the former I apologize, for the latter I hope to redeem myself.
I’m getting more than a little tired of well intentioned, learned and even media driven exhortations about how the government can ignore poverty in Canada whilst still manage to take in refugees. Now, I will give a pass to the people who are spouting off a tumble of non-reasoned words like a string of curses to exercise their right to express a strong emotional response. But, for those of you who think this is a valid opinion in any shape or form, please, please give your cobwebs of rage and fear a shake and dust out that bone-box attic of yours. Poverty in Canada is in no way hindered by a budget constraint.
We have heard it all before, budget cuts, the need for more funding, shelters opening, food banks closing, the need for more beds, subsidized housing, better education, an unfixable problem, a necessary evil, minimum wages, guaranteed incomes, generational welfare, entitlements, too much taxes…this can go on and on ad nauseam. The simple fact is there has always been poverty and homelessness in Canada…always. This fact has been mollified for us in the same way we look at speed limits on highways. We know thousands of lives can be saved year-over-year by reducing speed limits but we aren’t ready to make that kind of lifestyle adjustment. Or, there is some sort of magical statistic whereas accidental and preventable deaths merge together to become tolerable. This form of thought as applied to homelessness comes in the form of expenditure and property: we know that if we house all Canadians there will be no homelessness; but, do we really want to give up all of that money infrastructure and time? The greater majority of Canadians are comfortable with their lives, not that they don’t complain, but generally have no need for charity.
This is why I’ve become comfortable saying Canadians don’t care about the homeless. What a horrible thing to say, right? Oh, I’ve been called out on it more than once. I’ve had people say they volunteer, donate, offer respite and even campaign for these hard social issues. Hell, I’ve even had it thrown back in my face—why don’t I do something? But, the facts don’t lie. With the income that our government collects we could easily provide food and shelter for all Canadians. That is not to say we wouldn’t have to adjust our priorities, we would…significantly. And when I say Canadians, I’m talking about us as a whole…not a smattering of individuals that feel, share, live and empathize with the less fortunate. We would rather have a good internet connection than eliminate poverty. So, please desperately try to avoid this comparison when discussing refugees.
‘Wait! It isn’t about whether we can afford it…it is about us already paying into Canada and these people getting all these things for free!’ Ah, yes. This, again, is why I feel no reticence in saying Canadians don’t care about the homeless. Now, if we put aside the childish idea that we can ear-mark our taxes or that most people pay the lion’s share of what they receive by living in this country (it is and they don’t) we have yet another example of entitlement that oh so commonly gets branded into the poor hides of people suffering through welfare. We have an obligation to recognize the importance of the struggles of our past: we certainly don’t have the right to rest on the laurels of our past. We, as a modern nation need to pave our own way just as much as the generations before. The idea that we inherited this great wealth and have the right to horde it as we see fit destroys everything that was fought for in generations previous. When people say we were founded through immigration that isn’t just a pleasant thing to say (and for the sake of brevity, I will avoid the obvious colonial atrocities involved) it has meaning. It means we don’t have a unified culture: we have a unified state. To confuse this leads to the burning hatred that becomes nationalism. Yes, nationalism, the personification of the worst tribal instincts distilled from human-kind.
Further, you will always have to pay taxes. That an immigrant or refugee gets a degree of compensation does not change that. In fact, in short order they will start paying taxes. In fact, a refugee has a much higher chance of actually contributing more taxes than your average Canadian long-term. This leads to a comparison most people don’t like to think of. Giving a refugee money is more akin to doling out money for infrastructure projects than contributing to welfare. Strange right? This is truly why I am for supporting refugees. My cold-hearted mind stabs my bleeding heart in the back and tells me that Canada needs the influx of people to be able to sustain it. It needs refugees because they are far more likely to be an entrepreneur, far less likely to need social assistance long-term and far less likely to commit crimes. Refugees tend to be far more industrious than our average citizens in terms of motivation and labour: happily taking any work and collecting billable hours far past our lazy eight. Investing in immigration and refugees is more like repaving our economy than helping the less fortunate. And generally, it only takes one or two generations for their kids to feel as entitled as our angry tax-paying dissenters…but don’t worry accepting more refugees will fix that too.