First responder: Brexit was a long time coming

What struck me most about these readings was the idea that immigrants are an economic drain rather than an economic benefit. Refugees, who fall into the humanitarian category, are one thing. But immigrants are people who come to the country in order to directly contribute to the economy, or to live with and support loved ones who contribute economically.

In the Brexit initial reflections reading, this line section really jumped out,  “Cameron referred to the need to build the EU around ‘the right to work, not the right to claim’, stressing the need to prevent ‘vast migrations’ when new countries joined the EU.” These types of mass migrations and the perceived strain that they put on the UK were one of the main reasons the UK ultimately voted to leave. That quote comes from a 2014 interview. But these anti-immigration sentiments and the belief that immigration is a strain on the system originated much, much earlier.

In Enoch Powell’s 1968 River of Blood speech, there is a hauntingly familiar sentiment, “We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependents.” This language of dependents is the same idea that Cameron invokes nearly 50 years later.

A cultural lack of understanding about the benefit and importance of immigrants is what, in my opinion, pushed the UK to exit the EU.

What makes the UK different from other countries in the EU? Are they more racist? More anti-immigrant? Or simply more desperate to reclaim their status as a global power?

First Response: Brexiting the Conversation

The British disaffection with the EU, which lead to the final referendum to exit the supranational state, can be summed up in a few words: anti-immigration and the economy.

I think it’s difficult to determine whether some of these issues are long or short term causes, but nonetheless, it is apparent that some have fueled the fire.

In terms of structural causes, Britain was initially left out of some of the forming groups within the European Union. As mentioned in the Meon & Selter reading, they remained out of both the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Economic Community (EEC). Furthermore, the UK is not a part of the Schengen zone and still use the pound, meaning that they still retain control over their economy.

When I mentioned the issue of migration, this has been a longer term issue with Europe, but mainly within the British context. The “Rivers of Blood” speech said by Enoch Powell in the House of Lords in 1968 has become a focal point in a modern context around the point of anti-immigration. Yet, clearly, these ideas are nothing new. It is the conflation of immigrants with danger that perpetuates the fear and stereotypes. Furthermore, given the context of the migration and refugee crisis, it creates fear, and therefore an issue of ‘national security’.

As Hobolt stated there are a few reasons for some of these longer term issues, including: socioeconomic factors; geographical identities; feelings about the domestic political establishment; and, policy attitudes. As the information from the referendum has showed us, many of those who chose to stay were uneducated. Nonetheless, the government holds a lot of weight internationally, as England is still part of the Security Council.

It is important for us to remember the privileged position that England is in and how this makes them look on the international stage.  

First Response: Brexit

Our readings and videos this week focused on the rise of the Brexit movement and why/how such a movement could have come to pass. What I found interesting was the anti-immigration sentiment within Britain that has been around since before the “river of blood” speech. As history students, we know that Britain is probably the largest exporter of immigrants since the Early Modern Era. Canada, America, and others were once considered “British Colonies” and as a result our most prominent populations are white, all with claims to British or UK heritage. Do you think that the British past will play a part in the British image in the future? Do you think that Britain still considers their past as “colonizers” their ‘great past’?

Brian Lewis’s speech was particularly interesting as he navigated the strategies the British government uses to gain support for their movements, such as allying themselves with the Gay/Lesbian community for political gain as opposed to genuine support. Do you think these communities will see through political schemes such as this? The British population was almost perfectly divided over Brexit, as Brexit won by approximately a 1% lead. Do you think minority populations were in favour of Brexit? Or do you think persecutions of the past have made them wary of all government?

My final question is this: What is the future of Britain? Will their government lean towards the less democratic?

It was a democratic vote that won Brexit the day. Should choices that affect the country on an international scale be left in the hands of the voters?

First Response: Brexit

This week the readings focussed on why a referendum emerged in 2015 and why Britain voted the way it did in its 2015 referendum on Brexit:

Enoch Power’s speech in 1967 shows that there has always been a fear of mass-immigration to the UK. As the UK is not connected to any other countries, immigration has not previously been a huge fear. Enoch shows that there has always been an anti-immigration atmosphere in the UK since WW2 and that it has not merely emerged in the last decade in response to the economic crash and the rise of populist parties in mainland Europe.

Hobolt accounts Brexit to demographics- a population which is split between young and old, educated and uneducated and which lives in a very divided North-South sphere.

Brian Lewis put it down to a long trend of political conservatism and related that to the recent history of same sex relationships in the UK, something which I had not really considered. He always touched on some interesting ideas; namely that right-wing politicians, such as Le Penn, became supporters of same sex marriage, to safeguard western values from Islam, who primarily do not support it.

I think that the most interesting message to come from Brian Lewis’ talk on Brexit is that Britain are nostalgic for their past as a world superpower. There is a generation that is still alive that remembers Britain as a powerhouse of the world. Since the cessation of the Soviet Bloc from 1989, Britain have no longer needed to be a part of the EU as a communist obstacle. It is now just a union of countries, many of which Britain sees as inferior to them. It is important to remember that Britain was Eurosceptic from the outset in 1973, and although I agree that a fear of immigration was an important element in creating the demographic separatism, the foundations of scepticism have always existed amongst that same demographic who voted out. Furthermore, I agree with Lewis in saying that the only reason the referendum occurred was due to a Tory ploy to unify the party. Cameron ‘sacrificed the nation to save his party’.

So my questions for the group this week are:

  • Does Brexit represent a changing revolutionary tide in the UK and Europe or simple continuity with feeling the 1970s?
  • Despite being inherently more Pro-European, is there a possibility that the Brexit domino effect will occur in the rest of Europe, especially where there is already evidence of populist growth?

South African White Genocide and Why You Should Tie Your Shoes – Op Ed 2 (Late)

Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton calls to fast track visa extensions in response to South African White farmers who claim “We are being hunted,” and has offended South African officials, and brought wider international attention to an issue that’s obscure to most.

Recent South African farm land seizures has been the latest racial tension between white property owners and the poorer black South Africans, in a long history of racial transgressions. Property owners feel disenfranchised by the State, which comes at an especially vulnerable time as the shadow of Apartheid inequality looms overhead. White Farmers cite anecdotes of the murder and rape. These are examples of an alleged ‘white genocide,’ taking place in South Africa today.

Context is important, and while violent crime including murder and rape has historically been quite high in South Africa, there is no evidence for white genocide. The South African Institute for Security Studies says that white farmers did not appear to be targeted more than any other citizen – racial motivation for these crimes is falsely ascribed.

Leading up to the American Civil War, Southern behaviour paralleled that of the South African white farmers in at least a few ways. In each case they identify an ‘other’, and establish themselves as victims at the hands of this other, and falsely ascribe motif to further entrench the Us vs. Them dichotomy.

In the American case, the Northerners disallowed the spread of slave institutions beyond what were known as the Slave States. Despite the majority not having any stake in slave trade expansion, this hypocritical victimhood complex reframed the restrictions on slave expansion as an attack on all Southerners.

The confinement of slavery was stigmatized as an oppression of states’ rights, akin to attacking Southern families ‘at their firesides’, humiliating their honour and to bring ruin on them. Notice the parallels in the rhetoric from the Southern American slave advocate, and the South African farmers, who both invoke family as a point to defend. This very effectively generated popular support to push the expansionist agenda of slave holders, which precipitated the Civil War.

It also has been an effective strategy for South African Farmers. By building solidarity with a larger group through victimhood, Southern Farmers too receive much greater political support. Despite no evidence for targeted violence against whites, this allegation has brought international recognition to white South African Farmers.

Closer to the truth than ‘white genocide,’ is that violent crime indiscriminately plagues South Africa. Probably whites are not targeted disproportionately as there is a high degree of black on black crime to consider. The statistical gap creates uncertainty on racial characteristics of rural South African crime, and needs to be filled in order to fully discredit claims of white genocide.

The lack of data on this topic implies much about the claims for ‘white genocide’, when no clear picture of farm murder statistics by racial demographics exist. It is an assertion based on anecdotal evidence, much less a systematic issue.

For economic reasons, land owners who are the haves, surrounded by have-nots, will expectedly be targets of violent crime in a violent country like South Africa. Though lies will circle the globe before the truth has a chance to tie its shoes.

Katie Hopkins does not tie shoes. She announced in January that she will be visiting South Africa, alongside many other far right personalities, desperately staking a bid to be the first to record a documentary of this alleged genocide.

Such zeal from these outsiders is misplaced when considering the statistical facts available, or the lack there of – but will history repeat itself? It is no longer a question of whether these farmers could succeed in drawing wider popular support on the false pretense of racially motivated crime – we have seen how successfully a minority interest can co-opt wide support in history. Lies have already circled the world, so tie your shoes.


FYI, the “War on drugs” is not a solution… OP-ED#2

The War on drugs started by the US President Nixon in 1971, has been an issue in the United States ever since then President dubbed it as an issue almost 47 years ago. To this day the United States is still wasting millions of dollars every day on this endless “war” that was started by Nixon , yet they still have not realized they have lost the war from the first battle.

It has been proven by experts that this war mainly affected minority groups, especially the ones living in poverty. The war has been referred to as a racist move by President Nixon by starting this war to create a racial divide, due to the “popularity” of marijuana in the “hippie culture” and heroin in black culture, while others are arguing that he saw it as a social “rot” that is going to ruin the US, and it bothered him. It has been noted that 15 – 20 % of the soldiers during the Vietnam war were addicted to heroin.

The United States have been fighting this war well-over 45 years, yet they still don’t seem to give up. The government haven’t realized that their costly attempts is actually not working, and they have not even considered to take a different approach

The war on drugs isn’t only taking place in the US, but it’s a huge problem in the Philippines as well that started not that long ago. President Rodrigo Duterte began the very costly “war on drugs” on June 30th 2016, and by costly, I’m not only referring to money.

According to the Human Rights Watch, the Philippines’ war on drugs has been responsible for the deaths of over 12,000 Filipinos in less than 2 years, and over 2,500 have been attributed to the Philippine National Police. To make matters worse, the police have been caught falsifying evidence to justify the killings, yet the president won’t take action and vowed to carry on with the war.

Between December 2017 and February 2018, just under 50 people that were suspected for using or selling drugs have been killed by the National police. During the two months, the police have carried out 3,253 raids that lead to the arrests and the deaths of 46. In 2017, a few police officers have been found guilty to the deaths of three teenagers, then they attempted to lie about the teenager’s deaths.

The Philippines should have learned from the US’ approach and how it has been unsuccessful for decades, and instead look at some of the European countries who have managed to solve the problem.

 Instead of dealing with the problem as a criminal justice issue, the US and Philippines could learn from Europe and deal with it as a health issue, it actually has been proven to be successful and cut down deaths by overdose more than 50% and decreased the spread of infections and diseases by needles, such as HIV, for over 50% as well.

Switzerland for example, stopped punishing offenders and instead lent them a helping hand. The Swiss government started to deal with the problem as a public health issue, so they started to supply clean needles, syringes, and safe & hygienic injection rooms. These precautions have decreased the spread of HIV by over 50 percent in 10 years.

Portugal had a heroin epidemic that used to affect 1% of the population, but then they also decriminalized illegal drugs in 2001. In 2012 they had 16 drug related deaths opposed to a 10.5 million population. The Portuguese view the matter of drug addiction as a health problem which helps in the acceptance of an addict in society. If addicts were to be viewed as criminals, this will affect their future in finding jobs since it’ll be on their criminal record. Therefore, decriminalizing illegal drugs encourages people to seek professional help without feeling ashamed or scared.

Dr. Christian Jessen have released multiple reasons on why waging a War on drugs has been quite unsuccessful. By criminalizing drugs, minors won’t get the proper education on drugs, they will be scared to seek proper & professional help and they could get their hands on illegal drugs without notice which will lead to possible fatalities.

Also, another reason for drug related fatalities, actual drug wars. It has been mentioned by Dr. Jessen how leaving the drug market to criminals could lead young people to get caught in the crossfire between drug gangs. When young people join drug gangs it could also lead to them being enslaved by the gang to smuggle or grow drug crops.

 If youth were to be caught taking drugs this will lead to a permanent crime on their criminal record which won’t help with the unemployment rates, and if it was the children’s parents taking drugs, they will be taken away from their parents.

Op-Ed # 2: The New Enemy? The Misconception of the Muslim “Invasion” of the West

The rise in nationalist movements seems to be directly tied to the perceived invasion of Western spaces by Muslims. There is a deep-seated fear of “losing” their culture in the heart of many Westerners due to an increase in refugees and immigrants since the Arab Spring of 2011. There have been reports that hate crimes towards Muslims have increased dramatically in recent years, and the topic of immigration and refugees is still a largely controversial and divisive topic. Islamophobia seems to be at an all time high, and there have been dire consequences, not just for those at the receiving end of these damaging stereotypes, but also within Western society as well.

Doug Saunders, journalist and frequent writer for the Globe and Mail, discusses in his book The Myth of the Muslim Tide: Do Immigrants Threaten the West? many of the common misconceptions circulating that fuel the belief of the “Muslim invasion of the west”.

This fear of “losing” culture seems to partially stem from the belief of high reproduction rates of Muslim people. To some, Western culture will literally be engulfed by Middle Eastern culture due to exponential growth of their populations. Saunders references research completed by the Pew Research Centre in 2011 that studied Muslim population growth. Though statistics vary by country, they estimate that by 2030 the Muslim population will account for 7.1% of the European population. These numbers are not as high as many make them out to be. Saunders states that “none of these studies project anything close to a Muslim majority…even the highest estimate of these trends would not produce a Muslim majority in any Western country during the twenty-first century” (Saunders, 2012, pg.42-43).

Additionally, their ability to integrate is brought in question. The answer to this is varied and complex, but studies seem to indicate that assimilation is embraced by most Muslims and this is especially true of their children raised within Western society. Furthermore, many who do wish to integrate may find a very difficult time doing so due to language barriers, prejudice and the need for adjustment to Western labour markets. Saunders quotes a Canadian study that indicated that skin colour, and not religion, was a major influence on the ability for an individual to assimilate into Western society and mentioned the existence of “ethnic penalties” within job markets (Saunders, 2012, pg. 75). Are immigrants refusing to adjust, or are we not giving them the tools to do so?

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There are also claims of an increase in violence (specifically sexual assaults) and susceptibility to terrorist attacks within Western countries who have accepted refugees. The Swedish government has stated that “studies show that the majority of those suspected of crimes were born in Sweden to two Swedish-born parents. According to the most recent study, people from foreign backgrounds are 2.5 times more likely to be suspected of crimes than people born in Sweden to Swedish-born parents” ( They do point out that there has been an increase in crime in Sweden, but that the number is actually equal to levels in 2005 – which was before the current refugee crisis. There doesn’t seem to be any indication that an increase in migrants from the Middle East has contributed to this increase in crime. If anything, they are more likely to commit crimes such as theft due to a lower socio-economic status as a result of language barriers, discrimination and adjustment to a new country.

This fear of invasion and the “take over” by a minority group is not something new, and we have seen xenophobia and isolationism rear its monstrous head time and time again throughout history with other immigrant minority groups. I am hesitant to compare this situation to other historically prejudiced parts of history like the Holocaust and the African slave trade as the circumstances, victims and motivations are different. But, the psychological and sociological causes and effects are hauntingly similar, and this is not an issue that, in my opinion, should be swept under the rug and allowed to fester any more than it already has.

I am not arguing for a certain solution to this issue, for the answer is undoubtedly multifaceted and more complex than I can begin to imagine as a third-year university student, but I think it’s safe to say that our attitude towards the discussion and deliberation surrounding this topic could be more empathetic and less prejudiced. I also believe that open-mindedness and respect for others’ cultural beliefs is something that is inherently lacking from this conversation, which is ironic considering we pride ourselves so much on having the autonomy and freedom to do as we please in the West.

I believe that we should try and learn from history instead of playing into the patterns that we’ve seen time and time again, and the first step is to properly educate ourselves on the reality of the current situation and not give into hyperbolic claims.

Do Environmental Leaders Support Pipelines? Op Ed #2

19 people were arrested on Monday at a pipeline construction site in Burnaby, BC. Hundreds more have been arrested since demonstrations began including Green Party leader Elizabeth May on Friday, March 23rd. In August 2017 a Carleton student was arrested at the protest of an oil exploration site in Quebec.

On February 1st, 2018 Justin Trudeau stated that Trans Mountain expansion from Burnaby, Bc to Strathcona County, AB will move forward and is in national interest during an interview with CBC Radio. Pipeline projects move forward despite overwhelming cases against gas companies in the supreme court and National Energy Board (NEB) including Chippewas of the Thames First Nation v. Enbridge Pipelines Inc and Clyde River (Hamlet) v. Petroleum Geo‑Services Inc.

The liberals committed in their platform to making scientifically informed decisions that represent public interest for the environment. On February 16th the city of Burnaby filed to appeal the NEB’s decision to approve Trans Mountain construction despite violation of Burnaby PPA and Tree Bylaws. Thousands of people are out impeding pipeline construction including Terry Christenson from Burnaby who was arrested for hanging in a tree hammock near a construction terminal, March 19th.

As of 2018 Canada is the 3rd largest producer and 4th largest exporter of oil in the world. Due to the geographic location of oil refineries, Canada also imports and exports oil in almost every province and territory, across indigenous landscapes, national parks, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Indigenous and environmental groups are among Canadians leading the legal battles against oil companies.

It is the decision of publicly elected government workers to approve the investments made in the country. Controversy over pipeline expansion and where to get our energy sources has been causing tension among Canadians for over a hundred years.  In an increasingly energy dependent society Canadians are torn on where to invest. As passion for the environment grows people are encouraged to find more sustainable options.

The issue creates tension among citizens. During a provincial assembly on March 8th Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced that her government would restrict oil exports from Alberta to British Colombia if B.C continued to impede on the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline. This threat of oil restrictions follow the Alberta government’s 2 week boycott of wine imported from B.C in February. “The wine industry is very important to B.C.,” Notley said at a news conference from the Alberta Legislature. “Not nearly as important as the energy industry is to Alberta and Canada, but important nonetheless.”

During a speech on March 15th, Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna stated that the Trans Mountain expansion will make B.C coasts safer. McKenna argued that pipelines cause high environmental damage, however improvements in marine safety associated with the project including $1.5 billion investment into Ocean Protection Plan would help restore B.C coastline. In response to why the environment minister would support expansion of the fossil fuel industry, McKenna argued that the economy and the environment must go hand in hand.

Do Canadians agree with the actions of politicians who pride themselves on being committed to the environment? Are the commitments to invest in environmental restoration projects enough to compensate for the destruction caused by fossil fuel infrastructure? Would it be more sustainable to divest in fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy? What is the popular opinion of Canadians in a society of increasing environmental awareness as well as increasing dependence on fossil fuels energy services.

In 2015 Canada was ranked 7th in world production of renewable energy. Hydro provided 67 per cent of renewable energy consumption. One example of a growing renewable energy company in Canada is Algonquin Power. Algonquin Power distributes sustainable energy from assets including wind, thermal, and solar power facilities across North America.

Many Canadians support the oil industry, however as public protests grow the government is called to reconsider their pipeline agenda. Despite overwhelming legal battles with oil companies, projects continue to move forward. While exercising their democratic rights through protest, citizens are arrested and left to wait in the court system. How many more people will be criminalized before the government’s actions represent the opinion of the public which elected them?




Cycles of Fascism and Violence


This weeks class was fortunate to be visited by Blair Rutherford who shared a comprehensive history of Zimbabwe. Blair helped explain the political, social, and economic conditions of the state in the last century which is crucial to understand the contemporary state of Zimbabwe. One of the topics my group discussed was how president Mugabe could stay in power for over 30 years; especially despite scandalous and violent behavior from himself and other elite.  This was followed by the larger class discussion of whether Mugabe’s regime can be described as fascist or authoritarian and what are the defining characteristics.

In The ‘Fascist Cycle’ in Zimbabwe; 200-2005, Timothy Scarnecchia attempts to draw similarities between regimes in Zimbabwe (2000-2005) and Italy (1920-1925). He uses the framework of the ‘fascist cycle’ an ideology written by historian of European fascism, Robert Paxton. What Paxton calls ‘the fascist cycle’ is characterized by state leaders who try to evade process and rule of law, use fear mongering, and mobilize nationalists for support. The parallels which Scarnecchia discusses between Zimbabwe and Italy include the state use of violence (including military) to maintain control, the abuse of legislative and judicial power to protect the ruling party, and the requirement of party membership as a basis for involvement in social and economic life.

What stands out to me is the emphasis of violence. Scarnecchia argued that fascist ideologies legitimate the state use of violence by claiming that violence is the right of a nation to defend itself against foreign and domestic enemies. In the case of Mugabe’s regime, violence and coercion was used to maintain power against competition and non-supporters. Scarnecchia uses the example of the 2005 Murambatsvina where thousands of urban Zimbabwe citizens were relocated from their homes into designated compact lands of poor condition. The operation was targeted at the poor, and those involved in the informal sector. Informal traders were called unpatriotic  ‘economic sabateurs’ who were working with western imperialists and were responsible for the current economic crisis.

Often discussed as a part of fascist ideologies, violence is a cycle of its own. Yet all over the world people all over the world continue to use violence for protection, influence and control. Violence and intimidation is an effective way to gain control of a population, however it will not gain legitimate support of citizen. Use of violence can be said to show the weakness of a person or party who cannot gain support or legitimacy  through ideas and solidarity. The reoccurring theme of violence leads me to question whether fascist or authoritarian ideologies can or have existed without violence.


Sweeper: Zimbabwe

This weeks class was made especially interesting thanks to the guest lecture by Dr. Blair Rutherford. I agreed with my classmates assessment that his lecture was particularly useful in understanding the topic of authoritarianism in Zimbabwe. My classmates generally reflected that this was a new area of focus for many of us, as many history classes tend to focus on predominately Western narratives.

The additional context provided by Dr. Rutherford really aided with the class discussion because it gave us some important historical context and explanation of our readings. I found that my group focused on the post-colonial aspects of the political situation in Zimbabwe because we saw this as affecting the current government setup. This was reflected in the larger discussion with a debate about whether or not Zimbabwe could be called fascist. Both my group, and the class at large, seemed to think that as fascism is generally described as being against democracy and communism, it would be hard to call a state without a pre-existing democratic base fascist. I think the general consensus was that it seemed to be an authoritarian state with elements of fascism in it.

Some of the concluding remarks were also interesting, especially the observation that corrupt, or authoritarian, or fascist governments use the state to make their actions legal. This is interesting given the context of the lecture, that must of the violence in Zimbabwe was essentially state sanctioned in order to eliminate or quiet people who disagreed. The intertwining of race and politics was also interesting, as this reflects the history of colonialism that is present in Zimbabwe. Overall, this class focused on a wide variety of issues that led to a productive discussion and helped further an understanding of the current issues in Zimbabwe.