Resisting the pull of cynicism since 1969.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Canada goes to Germany

I've been watching with a growing sense of horror as all the conservative Canadian bloggers I know have been voicing sentiments about how Canada needs to "get its birth rate up" or else our culture as we know it will disappear. As far as I'm concerned, this line of thought goes beyond disconcerting and straight to creepy. It reminds me of a line of thought that's already familiar to me from my years living in Germany--a line of thought that always felt about fifty years out of date in that country, if you get my drift. And hearing it from Canadians has made me wonder where the Canada I know went and how I managed to miss its passing.

But since even several bloggers I greatly respect have been saying this sort of thing, I'm going to assume I'm just misunderstanding something, here. I'm going to assume that they're not actually saying "pretty white Canadian babies will pay our pensions better than brown immigrant babies would." I'm going to assume that they're not actually saying "when Canadian women choose not to have children, they aren't fulfilling their duty to country and culture." I'm going to assume they're saying something a little vaguer, something that compares Canada to a stodgy old business that they have to grow in very particular conventional ways if they don't want it to change beyond its middle-aged CEOs' recognition. That, at least, is more annoying than gross.

That argument, paraphrasing several comments on the posts linked above, seems to go like this: "If we don't get the birth rate up, our culture as we know it will change. This is a fact, and we have to decide whether that's okay with us." But my question for the conservatives who agree with this sentiment is this: do you really think that if Stephen Harper starts doling out $1200 a year to stay-at-home moms, the culture as we know it won't change? Seriously, now? Every generation prior to ours has had to deal with their kids doing things that they don't really understand--from two-piece bathing suits to tattoos and piercings--but not us? We're going to be the first ones to preserve our precious culture exactly the way it is in 2006, and all we have to do to make this happen is get more Canadian-born Canadians making babies?

And they say Dippers are idealistic.


Andrew said...

You completely misrepresented my post, I'm afraid - and I would appreciate it if you corrected yourself.

I linked to Jay Currie's post as part of a discussion on child care (beause it contained info on a study), but did not go into the culture/birth rate discussions AT ALL. Frankly, the topic of cultural preservation does not interest me, and I have never written about it one way or another.

Any how - as stated, I would really appreciate you clarifying that my post really has nothing to do with the article has written. (The comments in response to my post do - so perhaps link to some of those, or clarify that's what you were referring to). Thank you.

Andrew said...

BTW - this statement is interesting:

"We're going to be the first ones to preserve our precious culture exactly the way it is in 2006, and all we have to do to make this happen is get more Canadian-born Canadians making babies?"

I'm a Canadian-born Canadian and so is my finacee.... however when we have clidren the result will be a caucasian-chinese child. (She is first-generation Canadian-Chinese.)

The reality in Canada is that multiculturalism is here to stay, and as time goes on and more and more inter-racial (ugh - I hate that term) relationships form and produce mixed children, the lines will continue to blur.

What is a Canadian other than someone who calls Canada his/her home? Does it need to be something deeper than that? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

The take-home message is certainly that conservative bloggers are sex-starved; but then that should be obvious, and explains many of their attitudinal problems.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


As you seem to have surmised, I actually linked to you for the discussion your post prompted more than for anything you personally said. I can see how that could be construed as misrepresenting you, though, so I've removed the link. Sorry about that.

I agree with you about the multiculturalism, by the way--frankly it's one of the things I find most delightful about Canada.

Andrew said...



Sometimes when I'm skimming blogs all I do is hover over the links without clicking thru to get a general idea of who is being discussed.

freshly_squeezed said...

The only aspect of lower birthrates that I think people can be genuinely concerned about is the possible economic impacts. However, that can be compensated for easily enough through immigration.

I'd love to see more measures that would allow people to start families AND have career success (something like, oh, I dunno, a national daycare program...), coupled with a stronger immigration policy to make sure that we can sustain our economy through hardship and upheaval, while adding to the richness of our culture.

Anonymous said...

I've heard variants on this one before--most often in reference to Europe becoming overwhelmed by the Muslim peril.

The whole conversation seems a bit weird to me: my parents are both immigrants, as are my fiancée's, but somehow she's percieved as an immigrant because she's black. She often gets asked questions like "where are you from". The last time someone asked me that, I said "She's from Pickering".

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that post - puts an interesting slant on a recent conversation with my parents about Australia's birth rate and their concerns over that. Wish I'd thought this through beforehand.

Jay Currie said...

As you will know having read my post "pretty little white babies" have nothing to do with it.

The assumption that immigration is going to fill the breach is wrong demographically, economically and morally (why should we be trying to skim the cream from societies which need talented people as much or more than we do.) And, most of all, as India, China and various other sources of immigrants to Canada mmove up the economic ladder the supply of immigrants from those nations will begin to dry up.

I am amused at the left's assumption - here and elsewhere - that wanting to preserve a distinctly Canadian culture is somehow inimical to multiculturalism. I would think that it is one of the few ways we can preserve that multiculturalism.

A crashing birthrate is bad news for a culture and a country. It suggests that the fiscal and social policies of the last several decades have been misguided. And it suggests that people are not very confident about their future or the future of the children they might be bringing into the world.

I think that addressing those sorts of issues rather than running for the one size fits all "bigot" tag might be a little more useful and a little more realistic in the circumstances.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...


If a declining birthrate suggests that a country's fiscal and social policies have been misguided, then the fiscal and social policies of the entire developed world are misguided, while the policies of countries with high infant mortality rates, low levels of education, and low economic productivity are peachy keen. That doesn't seem like a terribly reasonable assumption. Isn't it possible that there's something else going on here than a "lack of confidence" in people's non-existent children? And as for the "immorality" of the immigration solution, it would seem to be a lot more "immoral" to encourage further overpopulation of an already environmentally stressed planet when individuals are still willing to voluntarily relocate. This isn't a Canadian problem, it's a worldwide one, and it needs an international solution.

Also, the post's question still remains, Jay--and I'm curious about your answer in particular, since you're the one who brought up the whole "the culture is going to change if we don't get the birthrate up" issue. Do you really think the culture won't change if we do manage get the Canadian birthrate up?

Clearcut Blogging said...

In an age of overpopulation, greenhouse gases from overpopulations burning too much fossil fuel, and looming food shortages due to shortages of fossil fuel burned by overpopulation, I can't for the life of me figure out why people get upset about declining birth rates.

Declining birth rates are good.

Epidemics, starvation, and war are bad.

Can an economy survive a different young-to-old ratio? Yep. Not easy, but it can and will. Can an economy survive shortages of everything, then violence over whatever's left, then diseases that take out whoever survived the first two? Not on this planet.

Maybe people need to focus more on what an economy is. It's not about numbers in someone's computer. It's about real life, real things.

Now if the Tories want to give women a salary or income tax deduction for childcare work, then I'm all for it. It's about time women's unpaid work got recognition. But if they're doing it to raise the birth rate, then they need buckets of ice water tossed in their faces.

I volunteer to do it.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

"But if they're doing it to raise the birth rate, then they need buckets of ice water tossed in their faces. I volunteer to do it."

Bwa! *smooches*