On September 6,  The Vancouver Sun published an op-ed by Mark Hecht which so outraged its readers that it was forced to withdraw the opinion piece from publication the very next day with an apology from The Sun’s editor in-chief for publishing it.

The Canadian Filipino Net  Editorial board was also bothered by the controversial op-ed and requested its readers to react to it and indicate whether they agree with the  writer’s views and recommendations  on diversity  and whether The Sun did the right thing in withdrawing the piece from circulation.   

Below is the full text of the controversial op-ed and the responses from our readers:  

Mark Hecht: Ethnic Diversity Harms a Country’s Social trust, Economic Well-being, Argues Professor

OPINION: Canada should say goodbye to diversity, tolerance and inclusion to rebuild trust in one another and start accepting a new norm for immigration policy — compatibility, cohesion and social trust. 

Sometimes they get too much publicity, but can you blame them? The Danes just seem to get things right. But even the Danes can make mistakes.

A decade ago the fundamental belief among Danes toward Muslim immigrants was that these newcomers would see how wonderful Denmark was and naturally want to become Danish as quickly as possible.

This turned out to be naively wrong. At least half of all Muslims polled across various western European countries believe today that their Shariah law is more important than national law, according to the Gatestone Institute. In other words, a not insignificant proportion of Muslim immigrants have no intention of assimilating into any western society, including Denmark.

Danes have pushed back. Losing the integrity of their society — one of the best in the world by all measures — was on the line. Requirements to obtain citizenship increased. A new insistence that immigrant children go to Danish public schools instead of religious schools was implemented. Social benefits were rescinded for those who didn’t comply. This was only the beginning. But the Danes are not alone.

Many western nations assumed that increasing ethnic and cultural diversity through immigration would be beneficial. The dogma of diversity, tolerance and inclusion assumed that all members of the society wanted to be included as equal citizens. Yet, instead of diversity being a blessing, many found that they’ve ended up with a lot of arrogant people living in their countries with no intention of letting go of their previous cultures, animosities, preferences, and pretensions.

Let’s give the devil his due. Diversity, tolerance and inclusion was actually a commendable perspective. It assumed the dominant society was leaving people out of full participation.

It was a valid critique. In response to inequalities, real or otherwise, measures were taken that would include everyone. Affirmative action, political correctness and anti-bias training became the tools for inculcating tolerance and inclusion. Helpful? Somewhat. Yet, the most important question was overlooked: What if some did not actually want to be included?

Denmark recognized this problem long ago, and is now finding practical solutions. It knows what it was — a country that worked very well when it was homogeneous, where everyone wanted to be and was a part of the society. They spoke the same language, understood the same customs and traditions, and held the same beliefs. The result was that people trusted each other and the economy flourished.

In fact, social trust corresponds more closely than any other factor to predicting economic prosperity. Harvard economists Alberto Alesina and co-authors from a paper titled, Fractionalization, argued that greater diversity leads to stunted economic growth. In other words, diversity is a weakness as far as the economy is concerned.

In 1981 The World Values Survey began an investigation into cross-cultural beliefs, values and motivations, and has since shown that societies with high social trust are not only more economically productive but also happier. The most successful are homogeneous countries, not the diverse ones.

Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia is always at the top of those rankings. They, shine a beacon on the fact that trust is what makes society great. Interestingly, Scandinavian countries are becoming even more trusting. Canada, Great Britain, the U.S. and Australia are all going in the opposite direction. In Canada, we are becoming less trusting of one other.

If a society wants high social trust and the benefits of stability, productivity, and happiness, there are apparently two factors that stand out. According to macrosociology researcher Jan Delhey at Otto von Geuricke University in Magdeburg, Germany — Protestantism and low ethnic diversity — are the top two criteria.

Setting aside the part about Protestantism, low ethnic diversity as a single factor fits Denmark, Japan and Hungary quite well. Social trust is, unsurprisingly, relatively high in all. But not all those countries are Protestant. There are other factors at work.

So is it possible for a country to have diversity and social trust at the same time?

Studies by researchers Hooghe, Reeskens and Stolle in a 2008 paper indicate that ethnic diversity in and of itself is not inherently destabilizing, at a national level. A country can indeed have multiple ethnicities and still have high social trust. But there is a catch.

It is at the neighbourhood scale where high ethnic diversity erodes trust, according to researchers Peter Thisted Dinesson and Kim Mannemar Sønderskov from 2015. The more direct the interaction with diversity, the more social trust drops. This accounts for why people segregate themselves into ethnic enclaves. People like to be around others who are the same as them. Those overwhelmed by newcomers that are not like themselves, lose trust and soon move out.

This is quite a paradox. Diversity at a national level does not necessarily erode trust but at the neighbourhood level it does. How can this be?

Switzerland is a good example of this paradox in action. With four recognized ethnicities — German, French, Italian and Romansh — they also have high levels of social trust. How? It’s simple. Each ethnicity has its own geography and government. It does not mix ethnicities, nor does one try to control the others.

If a country wants diversity, expect enclaves to form. This may work out fine in the long run, as it has in Switzerland. Or it may turn into a bloody mess, as it repeatedly does in the Balkans. The other option is low diversity.

Denmark had the latter. It worked well. Now, it wants it back again and that will require its immigrants to integrate. Those who don’t will have to leave.

So, is excluding certain people from one’s society a requirement? The short answer is absolutely. The long and more reasonable answer is if you do let people into your country then make sure they hold similar values — compatibility. Make sure they want to fit into your society fully and completely — cohesion. With these two requirements satisfied, and with a sprinkle of Protestantism, the country will be well on its way to generating high levels of social trust.

Can Canada learn from Denmark? The jury is out. But the minimum requirement is that we say goodbye to diversity, tolerance and inclusion if we wish to be a society that can rebuild the trust we used to have in one another and start accepting a new norm for immigration policy — compatibility, cohesion and social trust.

Mark Hecht teaches human, political, and conservation geography at Mount Royal University in Calgary and has written extensively on issues of national identity and resource conflict.

Below are comments received by Canadian Filipino Net about The Sun’s op-ed:

From Rey Pagtakhan, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Re: Statement No. 1 -Mark Hecht: Ethnic diversity harms a country's social trust, economic well-being, argues professor

  • The title makes a sweeping conclusion for which no credible authoritative evidence was presented in the body of the op-ed piece to support the conclusion. 
  • The heading also claims that the writer is a‘professor’ (at Mount Royal University in Calgary, as shown at the end of the piece ) – to presumably ascribe quality of credentials – yet, apparently, is not of that academic level. 
  • One wonders whether such a ‘piece of writing’ would receive acceptance, if submitted, in a rigourously-based peer-reviewed professional journal.

Re: Statement No. 2 -OPINION: Canada should say goodbye to diversity, tolerance and inclusion to rebuild trust in one another and start accepting a new norm for immigration policy — compatibility, cohesion and social trust. 

→ My observations:

  • This “Opinion” opens with the prescriptive clause, “Canada should say goodbye to diversity, tolerance and inclusion,”that is based on an assumption, ‘”to rebuild trust in one another” for which the writer has not presented any supporting evidence but seemingly wants to create an impression that “trust in one another” is  broken or damaged or destroyed in Canada. 
  • Then, he offers a challenge: “start accepting a new norm for immigration policy — compatibility, cohesion and social trust” - as though Canada’s present immigration policy summarily engenders non-compatibility, division, and distrust among Canadians, and, to hereby lend support to its opening prescriptive clause.
  • At once one senses the circuitous argument!

Re: Statements No. 3-73 -

→ My Observations:

  • Initially, I thought I would analyze each statement in a systematic manner and I prepared a Table withOp-ed statements vs my observations. 
  • On second thought, I best not. 
  • After all, the vigilant public had done its duty.
  • The Vancouver Sun has already disavowed itself from this Op-ed piece as you have intimated.
  • I only wonder why the piece was allowed to be published sans carefuland thorough journalistic scrutiny? 
  • A sad phenomenon! 
  • That is why I think we should not give it more public space – a short commentary on y0ur part should suffice.
  • Hence, I have searched for some already published info, including abstracts of studies the writer has alluded to and some background published information for your file (pasted below). 
  • Ed’s note:The references  provided by Rey Pagtakhan  are available upon request to the CFNet at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

From Manolo Abella, Vancouver, B.C. 

I am unhappy that the Sun decided to withdraw this article. I worry that fear of being accused of “racism” will lead to stifling sensible intelligent debate about real issues affecting democratic societies. Having said that, I want to quickly take issues with this fellow Mark Hecht. He cites the Gatestone Institute as source of his key observations about Muslims in Europe. I think you should look at their website. I suspect that it is an Israel Govt supported group dedicated to maligning the Palestinian cause and eroding the support for Palestine in western Europe. Are diverse societies less likely to be economically dynamic societies? I think that the evidence is clear. Look at the US alone - the two most dynamic states (California and Texas) are the two most ethnically diverse states in the US.

There is enough written  about the high tech industries in California employing thousands of new immigrants that I need not dwell on it. Look at the UK -  London is incredibly ethnically diverse and is still the most dynamic community in UK. The same is true of Berlin and Paris. In Switzerland, the ethnically homogeneous communes fall far behind Geneva, Zurich and Basel (all with large foreign populations) in terms of productivity and contribution to GDP. Singapore speaks for itself!  So does HongKong!

I think historians will provide ample  examples of societies that prospered because of the contribution of foreigners. Linking “trust” to development is a big stretch, in my view. To start with, I doubt if one can have a one dimension interpretation of the word. Tribal communities survive because members trust each other with their lives, but why do many of these communities remain backward?  I trust my barber’s skills to give me a satisfying haircut, but I don’t trust his views about politics.One should worry about claims to empiricism in the field of politics since in this world one can easily cite conflicting evidences. Academic and other journals thrive on publishing conflicting research findings. It also happens of course in the hard sciences. Migration is not a problem to be solved, but a process that need to be managed. Ageing societies (due to low and declining fertility) have few choices but to bring in immigrants in order to enable growth and support their social security. Canada is already in that stage. The assumption is that we should "cherry-pick” immigrants. The Americans during the early days discriminated against the Irish (because they were subservient to the Pope), made fun of the Italians, and barred the Chinese. What is undeniable is that many of the world’s most creative minds are offsprings of immigrants who might have easily been barred from entry.

From Tony Pena, Vancouver

Do I agree with the writer’s opinion?

NO

Did the Sun do the right thing?

I think not. Immigration is like water, it will seek its own level. You cannot stop it and more often than not it will be beneficial to the immigrants as well as the host country.  If a developed country like Canada had doubled its population the economy will not just double but could quadruple. Democracy and free speech come hand in hand. I always like to hear what other people think as long as they also hear what I want to say. My two cents. Btw, federal elections are just around the corner, it would be good to know where our political leanings are at the moment?

I am leaning to the Liberals at the moment, I have voted Conservative before and occasionally NDP.

From Eleanor R. Laquian, Editor of Canadian Filipino Net

Thanks Rey, Manolo and Tony for your well thought-out replies.  I was getting discouraged because the immediate reactions of outraged social media activists were hysterical rantings of "utter bullshit," "absolute crap" and other "f....." vulgarities which were not helpful at all in shedding a light on this issue. Even the comments of some university professors and  journalists  lacked substance.  Yes, I have checked out Gatestones Institute which is widely known as anti Muslim and was headed for years by recently-fired US National Security Adviser John Bolton.   

I agree that it was not right for The Sun to withdraw the offending op-ed from circulation which was tantamount to repressing ugly and unpopular personal views. Freedom of speech and expression, after all, also applies to such negative views and should be available for public discussion and debate.   

What The Sun should have done was publish the op-ed with a disclaimer saying it was being printed in the interest of public discussion and debate and does not represent the views of the paper, its editors and staff but to invite readers to respond and show documented proofs from reliable nonpartisan sources how diversity benefits not only the immigrants but the sending as well as receiving countries.  Such a disclaimer would have saved The Sun the humiliation of apologizing and admitting in public that their editorial processes were flawed and that for them controversy sells papers.


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