Xenophobia on the rise even in Canada


Mental illness directly affects 20 per cent of Canadians but across the globe mental disorders affect somewhere between one-quarter and one-third of all peoples at some point in their lives. This is according to a survey taken by the World Health Organization (WHO) 10 years ago; at that time the WHO put the number at 450-million.  What’s more, anxiety disorders top the list of most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses, according to the WHO.

High anxiety can develop in those who have an extreme fear response to normal situations. Among such persons there is a tendency to overestimate the presence of danger.

These days, given the constant barrage of information telling us that we are in imminent danger of any number of things – of not finding a job upon graduating from university or college, of terrorist attacks, of global economic collapse – it should come as no surprise that anxiety disorders are on the rise. It’s a wonder that more people in this world have not gone stark raving mad. Chief among anxiety disorders are phobias. And these days the phobia that is pulling ahead is xenophobia.

During the past 10 years since the attacks on New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C., xenophobia – intense fear and dislike of foreigners, their customs and cultures – has been on the increase. Increasingly attached to this phobia are religious narrow-mindedness and racial intolerance, which are also becoming legally sanctioned. Within government institutions in France and Belgium, and in Québec for instance, females are prohibited from wearing the burqa, the full veil covering associated with the Muslim faith.

We like to think of ourselves here in Canada and especially here in Toronto as a vast haven of racial tolerance and harmony and that the horrible massacre that took place in Norway last month was an aberration. But the tone that is being used in reference to immigrants and Muslims across European countries, where there are tensions around the uncomfortable jostling of religious and secular customs as they challenge each other’s realities, is seeping into this country.

In a recent landmark poll that looked at opinions regarding immigration, carried out in 23 countries, 45 per cent responded that “immigration has generally had a negative impact on their country.” Of Canadians who responded to the survey, the findings of which were released by the polling firm, Ipsos Reid, 35 per cent agreed with that statement.

Thirty-nine per cent of Canadians polled felt immigration has a positive impact and 26 per cent were either neutral or did not know.

Should we feel good about not having as strong an anti-immigrant view as those who responded in Belgium (72 per cent), South Africa (70 per cent), Russia (69 per cent), Great Britain (64 per cent) and Turkey (57 per cent)?

High anxiety aside, the high response against immigrants and immigration is being blamed on social and economic turmoil transiting the world.

Mixed messages from the people at the top who form the policies that affect immigration to Canada don’t help either. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney recently acknowledged that Canada would need some one million immigrants per year to maintain the proportion of working age citizens relative to retirees but said that there is a lack of resources for integrating new Canadians. So who decides how much financial support goes to settling new immigrants? Kenny also cited concern that accelerating immigration levels too rapidly could lead to local hostility as another reason that one million a year won’t enter Canada under his watch.

So we actually need that many people to keep our comfortable way of life viable, especially in order to keep supporting retirement benefits for the third of Canadians who will be of retirement age by 2020, but anxiety about the numbers it would take for that to happen will prevent the decision makers from facilitating it.

To quote the movie title it really is “A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World“.

A note on aiding a fellow human being…

It’s almost 8000 miles from Toronto to Mogadishu, but only a few short hours between breakfast and the hunger pangs that come with the lunch hour. Imagine involuntarily going days or weeks without a life sustaining meal. In the nations of East Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti and Somalia, people are dying due to the worst famine the region has faced in 60 years. In Somalia alone, an estimated 3.5-million are going without food. Human failings have led to this massive disaster, so it would be unthinkable to have a meal here one more day without extending whatever help can be given.

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