Rethinking the Metaphoric Roxham Road – Why I’m Voting Strategically in Van South with Migrants and the Marginalized in Mind

In this piece I am going to talk about strategic voting or at least my own strategic vote this election. I also will touch on issues of anti-immigration sentiment/misunderstanding as it results from a shift towards populism.

There’s been a lot of good writing in this area. This isn’t my attempt to try and match that. I won’t be linking to articles, talking about statistics, or even going into the theory. These are my views and my views only.  There are experts that are far more learned than I am on these topics. Competency takes time and I am on the beginning stages of that journey. I am still (to be fully transparent) trying to ground and negotiate my own identity as  Chinese Canadian Han male on these unceded and stolen lands.

What I want to meditate on in this piece is to speak from my experiences and one I hope will influence other voters, particularly those who may share progressive values.  Even for those who maybe socially indifferent or fiscally conservative, I think there may be something worth discussing here.

Thinking Beyond “Me” and the Problem of Voter Apathy

I know that in capitalist economic systems the focus is always on the ‘you.’ In fact I noticed it I believe in one of the campaigns is aiming to think about this. The reality is, however, empowering the ‘you’ often comes at the need to oppress the ‘other.’ Or to reframe it this way – in order vote for what I want, I need to vote against what I do not want or that does not benefit me. I find this perspective deeply problematic.

If I am voting for myself only, I would likely be a fiscal conservative, socially neutral voter. I am a CIS-gendered, heterosexual male, who in the past has taken full advantage of the ‘model minority’ label often attached to those in my community. I run my own corporation now, so lower taxes would likely help me. Making more money, and paying less taxes would help me put a larger roof over my head – fulfilling Maslow’s hierarchy in the process. I could probably have kids earlier and put my family’s financial security first and foremost.

In short, I know that this system itself helps me. Whether or not I try and squeeze myself into the ‘Middle Class Canadian’ label the reality is I am okay with any Government. I would do fine.

But…. if I take a broader lens on the ‘us’ – understanding that my own financial career has been built off a legal system and off clients who do not have these privileges, I cannot simply vote without thinking of those impacted most by Government. Other than in my legal work (where I profit OFF government processes), I can largely avoid Government in my day-to-day life. Those who are lower income, homeless, people (esp. women) of colour, Indigenous, persons with disabilities, and the trans-community (among many other marginalized communities) who cannot. Their lives can not be detached from reliance and the active role Government plays in them.

One of the reasons I am so much in support of political advocacy to drive more voters (and hopefully in the future, candidates) from these communities to step up – is that they need to voice out their concerns – even when the larger majority holding power may not be listening. The primary concern right now, is that a very dangerous force of white supremacist, nationalist, populist thought leaders are threatening to rid our political system of those on the margins or use their mere existence to perpetuate their own power.

These groups include refugees, religious minorities, those with different sexual and gender orientations. This force sees as a threat, not an opportunity, the difference among us. The reality is, in some of these communities, the other is simply not present. They have grown up in homogeneity and cannot fathom the mosaic that so many of us champion and celebrate as ours. They hold much of the voting power of Canada and – similar to the U.S. and the last election- can not be underestimated. However, I am hopeful that our nation and the ideals we have built around can shed a positive light rather than a negative darkness around these issues of who belongs and what belonging entails.

Immigration and Refugee – Largely Misunderstood Through Exploitative Lenses

Immigration is being and has been misunderstood. Our current national discourse shows it.

  • On mass immigration –  the levels have shown very little movement over the past decade. We’re really talking about minor percentages.
  • On illegal refugee ‘crisis’  – as a country we are not even among the Top 10 refugee welcoming countries, nor are those seeking entry illegal by any legal definition. Much of what is going on is reflective of a United States system/global unrest outside of our direct control or created a result of our historical actions/inactions.
  • On birth tourism – where it would take a huge logical leap to consider
  • On jobs – where Canada has a low unemployment rate, no one wishes to do the jobs that migrants do, yet we still blame them for our challenges and abusing our systems.

Roxham Road, itself, on the immigration front is a perfect example of how we have forgotten our sense of humanity in the midst.

Our discussion of immigration, refugees, and newcomers – a large variant topic that encapsulates everyone from asylum seekers to new citizens – has been dominated by concerns over a small border crossing in the United States.

I have difficulty fathoming how individuals can feel personally threatened by the fact others want to seek safety and security – given all of us, somewhere down the ancestral line, did the same. I cannot balance the fact we blame them for doing harm on our societies while ignoring our own settler roles in harming Indigenous communities in ways much more deep-roited then the fact Nigerians and Haitians in some cases may be seeking refuge from ‘hardship’ instead of ‘persecution.’

Why do some Canadians believe that this land is only for themselves and not for the coloured, for the migrant, and the marginalized? We have gone a step beyond the indifference to an act of differencing them down to a level below us in order to raise our collective outrage.

It isn’t just by chance that these surveys have found Canadians are concerned primarily with non-white immigrants. I see this as further indication that we have replaced our overt racism with one through attempted justifications of policy over a system that itself inherently racist and upholds systemic racist systems. Those who study migration will know that the big tent that was initially created to populate indigenous lands was narrowed through law and policy when too many coloured and dark faces began to show up to complicate the intended narratives of “White Canada Forever.” If one looks at our economic immigration system today (the one always ‘touted’ by those pro-immigration) – these too are built on the privileging of young, able-bodied, English-speaking, migrants over the ‘other’ who will never meet the criteria. Many of these others are my clients.

Immigration – and this is something you will only truly experience once you work in the margins or have recent experiences yourself –  is more than just what we think of our borders, what we want workers to do for our businesses. Immigration is a deeply human act of moving, separating, integrating, and conflicting systems and identities. it is about assimilating, without understanding our colonizing actions. Refugees and other marginalized groups have taken the hit as a result of our system of trying to pick ‘good’ migrants and alienate ‘bad’ ones.

I find that it is the absolute low of lows of gutter politics to use refugees and other newcomers (who do not have a vote or political power) to drive one’s political agenda against them.  If my own accumulation of power requires other humans harm – psychologically, physically – I need to rethink my use of power.

I urge some Canadian politicians to deeply have this conversation of their privileges, who they serve, and who they are excluding in upholding dangerous rhetoric.

Voting Strategically for a Candidate I Believe In

This election I was facing a difficult choice. Why? Politics over the past decades has not welcomed people like me but instead distanced us into background, single-issue advocates. We (and the big tent I am using I am very well aware are marginalized communities of which I do not belong and may show indifference/harm to in my work) are stuck fighting each other and our own differences and not the collective systems that oppress us.

Yet, in the ways that populism has taken over, I have also seen a lot of light and potential. That some leaders are actively seeking to change the ways they lead and/or address negative change. One of those gems of light is in my riding of Vancouver South.

Ultimately, these past few days/weeks I  have looked at my neighbourhood of Vancouver South I looked at the coloured faces, the new businesses such as the amazing Filipinx restaurant I visited yesterday, and I asked myself – how can my vote help them. However can I foster their inclusion. What would I want if I were them?

In that light, I am going to be voting for a candidate that has demonstrated their commitment to equity and diversity, who is willing to stand up (and not look down) upon our values as Canadians. I want someone who will keep their constituent office open for newcomers and migrants to seek access, who is open/accountable, and who wants to widen the big tent of Canadian politics and ensure it isn’t one built on an “us” not “them” mentality. I want a leader who won’t accept the 30 years of model minority that I grew up in as a pathway to personal success but rather show concern to those who are seeking a voice and defend those voices. I want to vote for someone who when incidents of hate occur (as they will) or when we are forgotten in the political process, to remember their roots in Vancouver South. I want an individual who will have their eyes open to changing demographics, future challenges, respectful of our history, and willing to change the way we do politics.

I hope (and dream) of a Canadian politics that is able to serve as a balance to support marginalized communities in the same way corporate/economic forces hold up the majority (including myself). I’ll keep dreaming but until then keep on keeping on. I made to cede power, spend my billable time seeking justice rather than profit, but I believe we owe it to Our Creator to do this work.

Happy to chat with any of you offline about where I am leaning but I encourage all of you to look into the issues, where we’re going, and make a strategic vote for our collective future.

 

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