My life as an emergency physician is irregular at its core, governed by a constantly mutating roster of clinical shifts carved around my wife’s bustling obstetrics practice, and set against the backdrop of raising four busy children.
The practice of medicine is itself a study of all things “irregular”, a quest to diagnose and correct the astonishing array of bodily pathologies that stalk us. Irregular heartbeats impair cardiac output; irregular breathing precedes asphyxiation; irregular behaviour mandates psychiatric analysis; and irregular bowel movements, that time-honoured conduit to prolonged analysis of the daily news atop the porcelain throne, can lead on to invasive enemas, and, in its extremes, manual disimpaction. The ritual test of whether a young medical student has what it takes to be a doctor continues to be the gloved, manual evacuation of the obstipated emergency department patient: if you can survive that affront to your senses as a young physician-in-training you can survive anything.
I fancy myself a top-notch healer, most days, no less skilled in the art of the medically irregular than Pavarotti was in the delivery of operatic tenor. (My ego, like Pavarotti’s, requires no inflation – although, in contrast to the late King of High C’s, it’s unmatched by my girth). So I know irregular, and when that term began cropping up in the Canadian news cycle, joined to the ongoing immigration debacle, it caught my attention.
The immigration shipwreck was launched in January of 2017 when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau felt compelled to tweet this nugget in the face of Donald Trump’s travel ban on travelers from Muslim countries: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength. #WelcomeToCanada.”
Global citizens seeking improved prospects for themselves and their families took him at his word, naturally. They’ve been coming in droves, more than 30,000 of them by last count, ignoring official processes and simply ambling across our southern border to claim asylum. Whether they are all fleeing “persecution, terror & war” remains an open question.
They pause not at all to consider the illegality of their actions. Many of them walk into Canada near Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, directly in front of a sign advising them, in both of our official languages: “STOP: It is illegal to cross the border here or any place other than a Port of Entry. You will be arrested and detained if you cross here.”
Not they have any reason to hesitate – they have the full-throated support of our leaders. Federal Minister of Immigration Ahmed Hussen, agitated and irritated by pushback from those jurisdictions tasked with the financial and logistical nightmare of housing all the queue-jumpers, insists on calling the lawbreakers “irregular” rather than illegal, which makes about as much sense as illegal bowel movements, heart rhythms, and respirations. If this is how we are going to distort language and concepts, we’d best hammer out an entirely new chapter of the Canadian Criminal Code and construct new prisons to accommodate the criminally constipated, the illicitly arrhythmic, and the unlawfully depressed. It’s ridiculous, of course: you can call a spade a violin, if you wish, but that doesn’t make it any more musical - it’s still just a spade.
And into this glorious mess jumped the intrepid Seamus (“Shame-us) O’Regan, the Liberal Minister of Veterans Affairs (a folio inherited from the hapless Kent Hehr, the poor sod first demoted then eliminated from cabinet due to dubious behavior toward the opposite gender, the sort of allegations that by mysterious and twisted workings of the Liberal gods left Justin Trudeau unscathed). Mr. O’Regan tweeted in defence of his government’s flailings on immigration: “We just need more job creators. Immigrants are better at creating new businesses and new jobs than Canadian-born people. Simple”. Take that, my shiftless, ne’er-do-well countrymen – er, countrypeople. Seamus’ proud parents, in naming their newborn son in January of 1971, delivered a sparkling stroke of prescient genius by tagging him with the perfect handle to complement his far-distant twittering.
O’Regan was referencing a 2016 StatsCan analysis that suggested that immigrants were more likely to start businesses, over a nine-year period, by a 5.3% to 4.8% margin. But he evidently didn’t think to consider the data behind those numbers before skewering the initiative and resourcefulness of “Canadian-born people”. He’s unaware, apparently, that immigrants to Canada come via specific “classes”, that “business class” and “economic class” newcomers are chosen specifically because of their anticipated ability to contribute to our economy; and that seventy percent of the businesses in the StatsCan report were initiated by immigrants in these two classes – “family class” immigrants, and refugees, are much less likely to start new businesses. And (oh, delicious irony) he didn't consider that the push to bring more people into Canada under the economic stream was an initiative of the hated Harper government. Trudeau’s Liberals, while increasing immigration by 33%, have made it easier for “family class” and elderly immigrants to enter the country, shifting the ratio of those admitted away from job-creating business and economic immigrants - and this was before Justin’s virtue-signalling tweet erased our southern border and turned the immigration scene into an unholy mess.
O’Regan also failed to notice in the StatsCan report that businesses started by immigrants are smaller than those started by other Canadians, with four employees versus seven, on average. It’s probable, in sum, that he didn’t actually read the report before unloading on Twitter; more likely he simply scanned the glowing synopsis provided by his party’s media arm - a.k.a. the CBC.
No-one will dispute, of course, that immigration has been the lifeblood of our country. Those of us who are not First Nations are all of immigrant stock. It was immigrant resourcefulness, talent, and grit that yielded the safe and wondrously prosperous land that we share. And ongoing immigration is critically important to the health of our country. But we’ve always mandated that aspiring Canadians undergo a well-ordered process to join those of us fortunate enough to already be here, and for very good reasons.
In the face of the predictable outrage at his ill-advised blatherings, O’Regan attempted to walk back his remarks on Twitter, hewing close to the current Liberal blueprint of appearing to apologize without actually saying “I’m sorry”. They are great at apologizing for the missteps of others, these Liberals, but unfailingly engage in pretzel-like contortions to avoid expressing forthright contrition for their own screw-ups.
One cannot comment negatively on the shambolic immigration file, or any Liberal government policy for that matter, without raising the ire of perennially irritable Gerald Butts, the puppeteer who pulls Trudeau’s strings and choirmaster to the dissonant chorus of Liberals on Twitter. The Libs should have learned by now, one would think, to be leery of that medium as an instrument of governance, battered as they’ve been by Hurricane Trump ruling America by tweet-storm. Twitter is hardly the most diplomatic of tools: witness the latest ruckus ignited by Canada’s recent scolding of Saudi Arabia – Raif and Samar Badawi are substantially more concerned for their safety today, I daresay, than before the Government of Canada clumsily “twitter-vened” on their behalf. I’m no fan of the misogynistic Saudi regime – the sooner we stop buying their oil and selling them military gear the better, and good riddance to them. But there are better and infinitely wiser ways to exert diplomatic influence than wagging one’s righteous government finger on Twitter. One wonders whether the spat with the Saudis - and Trump, for that matter – is merely naked political calculation, designed to score political points as Canadians rally around their flag. Whether it’s good for the country or not, seems clear: it isn’t.
Twitter-Butts inveighed on the “irregular” versus “illegal” immigration debate: “Enough is enough. It’s time to stand up to this divisive fear-mongering about asylum seekers. Let’s not allow the alt-right to do here what they’re doing elsewhere.”
That’s right. If you have the temerity to be vocally troubled by the crush of queue-jumping illegal immigrants invading our country you are not simply a concerned, tax-paying citizen with respect for due process, but “alt-right” - a racist, white supremacist, loathsome Neanderthal.
The “divisive fear-mongering” jab is more than a bit rich coming from a government that has done more than any other in history to pit Canadians against Canadians, doctors against nurses, employees against entrepreneurs, atheists and agnostics against people of faith. We’re fed a steady diet of virtue-signalling and identity politics by a government which preaches a gospel of tolerance and inclusiveness while spawning intolerance and exclusion.
And we’re led by a Chief Feminist who refuses to abide by the standards he righteously prescribes for others, a leader so clueless to the sensitivities and mores of the rich tapestry of Canadian people that he loudly and foolishly proclaimed “Happy pride to Allah!” during Toronto’s gay pride parade last year. I’m not making it up. Truth, as always, is stranger than fiction.
“Speak softly but carry a big stick”, Teddy Roosevelt famously prescribed as recipe for good foreign policy. Trudeau has stood that wise adage on its head, braying his mangled version of “social justice” all over the globe, talking loudly while whittling away what's left of his stick. Canada has never had much of a cudgel in the international realm, but we’ve always managed by intelligent diplomacy to bang our way through the thicket of world affairs quite nicely - at least until Trudeau Jr. came along.
It’s an odd way to lead a country - highly irregular, may I say. And a constipated mess of strangled pipelines, tariff walls, and ruined international relationships has been the unsurprising result.
We must, alas, await Election 2019 before political disimpaction can occur for our country. It’s going to be painful, but Canada will survive. And if we can survive the fumbling and bumbling of this administration, we can survive anything.