Editorial #12 – Don’t be Haitin’

I always thought the saying was that disasters can bring out the best in humanity – so why are some Canadians revealing their ugliest sides when they have a chance to help?

Looking through the comments on the forum for the CBC.ca story “Canada to Fast-Track Haitian Immigration,” it quickly became clear that if the number of people posting comments on one side or the other of the debate are representative of their numbers in Canada, we have a high number of racist, crass and ignorant folks in this country.

One person observed, “Haitians are good at reproducing, making dirt cookies, cutting down trees, and having their hands out.” This sentiment was reflected by another poster, who remarked, “my Canada does not need or want any more uneducated, desperate 3rd world refugees.” How many of these fine Canadians are the offspring of immigrants? Besides those with pure Aboriginal blood, all of them.

As a seemingly more educated poster noticed, “Yes, they come from a poor country, but so did my ancestors, the Irish. They were supposedly dirty, liked to fight, and were lazy. Now the Irish [are] just Canadians.”

The fact is, yes, Haiti is a very poor country – the poorest in the Western Hemisphere – and that just under half of the country’s population is illiterate. However, the government is not proposing that we fling open the doors to absolutely any Haitians, regardless of whether or not they meet the standards for immigration to Canada. What they are doing is simply streamlining the process in order to more quickly admit Haitians whose lives have been significantly harmed by last week’s earthquakes and who meet the normal requirements for immigration, as well as extending the allowed stay of Haitians already here in order to avoid landing them in the middle of a humanitarian crisis.

A more level-headed poster on the story commented that “[w]hether or not this will prove to be a good idea will depend greatly upon its implementation,” which is truly important. Allowing an emotional response to take over, and allowing the immigration authorities to admit immigrants normally unfit for Canadian citizenship could cause major problems within our society. As that poster went on to argue, even an earthquake does not change criminals’ sense of decency, so background checks still need to be properly executed, even if it means a slowing of the fast track.

As Canadians, we pride ourselves in our track record of humanitarian work around the world. Since the earthquake, Canadians have already donated tens of millions of dollars to relief efforts and donations are still pouring in. Allowing Haitians who are desperate to escape their situation at home to become Canadian citizens is another facet of this aid, but it should not come at the expense of endangering Canadians at the hands of characters not previously thought fit to enter the country. We need to have compassion and understanding for those who wish to flee the crisis in their homeland, and denounce those among us who allow bigotry to cause them to pass judgment on an entire population.

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