U.S. President Donald Trump complained about immigration from “shithole countries” Thursday. The Washington Post, based on sources who were present at the time, quoted him as saying “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He was referring to immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations. Why not, he said, more people from Norway?
It remains to be seen whether he’ll add other countries to his shit list, or in any way clarify or own his comments but, in response, I republish a column I wrote almost a year ago on the subject of immigration, just in case there are any Canadians out there who think Donald Trump has it right.
It was published Feb. 18, 2017 under the headline, “The next time you worry about immigrants, spit into a tube and send it to the lab”:
I SPIT INTO a plastic tube a few weeks ago and popped it in the mail. This week, I got the results and the verdict is in — I am a classic universal Canadian.
DNA testing for ethnic origins is popular these days, and discovering who you are and where you came from is fun stuff. What I found out has made me think about the conversation involving immigrants.
I already knew my great-grandparents on my father’s side emigrated from Germany to the Ukraine. My grandparents emigrated from there to Canada, where they began a new life in a dirt-floor cabin on the Prairies.
On my mom’s side, my great-great-grandfather came from Scotland and married a number of First Nations women or, at least, fathered children with them.
Personally, I find other people’s genealogy boring, and I’m not going to bore you with mine. What the DNA test — which isn’t all that expensive by the way and, admittedly, fallible and a little controversial — told me is the percentage of DNA I’ve inherited from my various ancestors: First Nations, Scottish, Irish, Scandinavian, Hawaiian, German, Ukrainian and Russian.
That makes it hard to know what holidays to celebrate and whether to do a jig or a sword dance, drink beer or vodka. I’ve long envied those who enjoy clarity of culture, who easily identify with a certain national history and ethnicity. On the upside, it’s pretty cool to have a choice.
I now know the answer to the question, what religion do you get when you blend native spirituality, Catholicism, Lutheranism, polytheism, animism and Celtic paganism? An agnostic with mild vertigo.
Canada is a collection of such people. Other than my First Nations ancestors, the rest came from somewhere else, and some of them somewhere else before that. That’s how Canada came to be and continues to thrive.
Yet some people think we should stop immigration. Stop the very thing that made us who we are, literally. Native Indian activists resent the historic invasion of Europeans. The descendants of Europeans resent the intrusion of Asians. Stop the refugees. Keep out the Syrians. Fear the Muslims.
We can’t reproduce at a high enough rate to replace ourselves, yet we talk of immigrants taking our jobs, we worry about importing terrorists, we distrust people who dress or worship differently than ourselves.
We think if we were all one color, one shape, wore one uniform, worshipped one god, our problems would be solved. It’s crazy, it’s stupid, and it’s impossible.
How can we be so fixated on imagined grievances against the substance of our very own roots? Am I less worthy because my blood is 11 per cent native and someone else’s is 100 per cent? Am I better than someone else because I’m 85 per cent Caucasian and they’re 80 per cent? If I’m one per cent Kanaka am I somehow contaminated? My opinions less valid, my skills less valuable? My right to be here challenged? Am I less Canadian?
Did my ancestors, and I, not build this country too?
We’re all in this world, and this country, together. How boring we would be if we were all the same.
So to you who want to turn back the clock, or want to stain everyone the same colour, who want to re-write history and close the borders, I say get over it. We’re all here. And more of us are coming.
And if you have any doubt about the future, spit into a plastic tube and send it to the lab. What comes back to you will be a story about Canada.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops, former school board chair, former editor of The Kamloops Daily News, and a current director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He was awarded the Jack Webster Foundation’s lifetime achievement award in 2011. His editorials are published Monday through Thursdays, and Saturdays on CFJC Today, CFJC Midday and CFJC Evening News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.