Fears about immigration have shaken Europe to its core. Has anywhere got it right?

John Ralston Saul at the Institute for Art and Ideas:

SetWidth592-John-Ralston-SaulIt is mesmerizing to watch as the cancer of fear worms its way back into the human soul or imagination or wherever it lodges itself. For most of us the first reaction to such widespread fear is disbelief. The second? As it spreads and morphes into populism, racism and exclusion, we are often paralyzed, unable to imagine how to fight back. Mr. Trump has, in a tortured way, done Americans – perhaps all of us – a favour with the extremism of his first week in office. His racist, certainly illegal and probably unconstitutional orders are an abrupt wake-up call.

More than that, they are a warning to Washington's traditional allies to take care. Is this man a stable, trustworthy partner? It took him only a few hours to damage Theresa May's reputation. Canada is the United States’ closest ally – a 6000 kilometre border – and biggest trading partner. But Justin Trudeau is keeping his head down, using officials to negotiate arrangements behind the scenes. His reaction to Trump's anti-Muslim orders has been to purposely reiterate Canada's pro-immigration policy, without mentioning the United States or its president.

No one should be surprised that the growth in immigrants, refugees and migrants has been central to the releasing of such fear in Western society. This is an old tradition. Fear of the other. Promotion of fear of the other for political purposes. We are all affected when racist discourse is normalized. The attack on the Quebec City mosque is a tragic example of this. But the virtually unanimous reaction has been to reassert as strongly as possible the Canadian reality of and commitment to diversity and inclusive citizenship.

In such an atmosphere some people in Europe look at Canada and wonder why it is not suffering from the same agonies. At this point it is the only Western democracy not deeply divided on the issue of refugees and immigration in fact, the only country where the political class is largely and openly pro-immigration. This puts the country out on a cutting edge or a precipice. An exposed position.

More here.