Make us better, said the immigration officer

Should Canada exclude certain immigrants? “Absolutely,” declared a Mount Royal University sessional instructor in a controversial opinion piece deleted from the Vancouver Sun’s website after being widely condemned on social media.

“If you do let people into your country,” wrote Mark Hecht in his now discredited op-ed, “then make sure they hold similar values.”

The op-ed, which remained in the Sun’s print edition while an apologetic editor-in-chief excised the offending piece from the paper’s website, said Canada should abandon cultural and ethnic diversity, tolerance and inclusion, and start accepting a new norm for immigration policy: compatibility, cohesion and social trust. The article even went so far as to say that a “sprinkle of Protestantism” would put the country back on the right track.

Hecht defended his piece as an attempt to break new ground in terms of what he could say in a mainstream newspaper. But nobody, aside from a handful of commenters on his blog, stepped forward to publicly support him. “An inexcusable failure of journalism,” said one critic. “Jingoistic, xenophobic,” said another. “White supremacist screed” with “neo-Nazi talking points,” said a third.

Hecht rejected the suggestion his views were racist because “I’m talking about culture, not skin colour.” But to no avail. Even his employer refused to publicly side with him: “The ideas expressed do not represent the position of Mount Royal University.”

This all happened on a weekend when the daughter of Romanian immigrants who came to Canada in the mid-1990s did our country proud by becoming the first Canadian-born tennis player to win a Grand Slam singles title. I can envisage the immigration officer saying the same thing to Bianca Andreescu’s parents that one of his predecessors said to me on Remembrance Day 1966: “Welcome to Canada. Make us better.”