Stoking a fear of the Other

By: Anupreet Sandhu Bhamra

If you are reading this on your handheld device, please sit down and put your device on a table, lest you drop it and break it.

Here’s the scariest news to come out this week: Whites will become the minority in Metro Vancouver in less than two decades.

Shocking!

If you have recovered from the jolt, let me walk you through the racially charged presentation of a demographic study, which is more shocking than the study itself.

If you read between the lines, it actually is a projection study by local geographer Daniel Hiebert for Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Mr. Hiebert is a geographer at the University of British Columbia and as the co-director of research and policy forum Metropolis B.C., he “has travelled the world studying immigration patterns”.

But reading the actual lines is what leaves a bad taste in your mouth, especially the “joke” that Mr. Hiebert cites in the Vancouver Sun news report published on April 01 this year:

One of Hiebert’s most stark predictions for Metro Vancouver and Toronto regards the increasing rise of ethnic enclaves.

Indeed, Hiebert cites a popular standing joke to describe just how ethnically segregated Metro Vancouver has already become:

“Question: What river separates China and India?

“Answer: the Fraser River (which separates Richmond and Surrey).”

Popular-standing joke? This is the first time I am hearing of this. The so-called joke is in reference to the “ethnic enclaves” of Richmond (populated mostly by Canadians of Chinese lineage) and city of Surrey (populated mostly by Canadians of South Asian heritage).

My journalist friend Bal Brach confirmed my worst fears in a Twitter conversation we had on April 02:

never heard “popular standing joke” about ethnic segregation. A bit suspect of some of the ethnic enclaves comments.

The Black-White racial segregation in the USA

In Mr. Hiebert’s defence (I don’t know him), a researcher always comes in with a viewpoint into his investigation and builds or expands on his work against the existing available frameworks. Point noted. But why situate Metro Vancouver’s situation with the Black-White racial framework in the USA? Or against immigrant enclaves in Europe?

I am not implying that he has broken any law, but the situation of these frameworks is troubling. By situating the demographic concentration in Metro Vancouver against the Black-White framework in USA, what is being achieved or rather being said without actually saying it? I don’t get it.

And briefly on the Black-White framework in USA: first the White dominance enslaved an entire race and abused it. Then without exploring the framework of years of abuse and discrimination, the Black community continues to be projected in negative stereotypes. These stereotypes are fed into the public consciousness to mask consequences of discrimination as the direct fault of the Black community! A distressing example of victim blaming.

But coming back to the original argument, how is the framework of slavery and discrimination in the USA applicable to immigration and discrimination in Metro Vancouver?

Even more disturbing is the frame in which the Sun story examined the Metro Vancouver projections.

Without declaring whether these demographic trends will be negative or positive for Metro, Hiebert nevertheless says the “scale of ethnographic change over (the next) period will be larger and more rapid than anything we have seen previously.”

It seems to suggest that a concentration of any racial identity in a geographical space can cause trouble. Or not. Yes or no, maybe, but there is the suggestion that it can lead to negative consequences. To me, the language of the presentation reads as if minority groups are going to explode all over metro Vancouver and the situation will spell disaster.

My question is: why? Why is immigration so scary? In the first place, for argument sake alone, immigration is allowed and legal. All these numbers and projections are coming from legit sources. What did you think would happen when you allowed immigration? That people won’t come? Or you wouldn’t notice them when they did?

Now when people from different countries are calling Canada home, why the numbers are being projected in a racially charged language? To begin with, isn’t it the Canadian department of Citizenship and Immigration stamping visas in India and China and around? So do you want immigration? Or do you not want immigration?

The bigger question is: Why are you instilling a sense of fear with these numbers? These numbers in themselves are pretty harmless and the mathematical projections are based on scientific data but the projection is that of a mind, a human mind that has created these divisions based on his/her own fear, the fear of the “Other”; the “Other” (read minority groups) taking over the dominant culture.

Anupreet Sandhu Bhamra is a Vancouver-based blogger with transnational experience. An award-winning broadcaster, print and web reporter, Anupreet is an integrated journalist who has reported across major media platforms – print, television and web for over a decade. Her blog, under her double last name is an effort to deconstruct identity in inter-racial, inter-cultural, patriarchal modern world through the lens of life: as Self, journo and yogini. She is a recipient of prestigious national Broadcaster of the Future Award by Global Television, she has worked for The Globe and Mail, The Vancouver Sun, and US-based NBC News for the coverage of 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. Prior to that, she was a daily news anchor for Channel M (now OMNI). Her work has also appeared in online web magazine, The Tyee. In India, she has worked for two national newspapers, The Indian Express and The Hindustan Times. She received her Master of Journalism degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of British Columbia in 2009. While at the school, she was a recipient of prestigious university and private academic scholarships.

This is an excerpt of the original commentary that appeared on Anupreet Sandhu Bhamra’s blog. 

Read the study here – http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/research/residential.asp