Advocacy for trail improvements will not be hijacked to fuel a cry for anti-immigration policies

Immigration policy is a complex subject and most countries would be better off if they were able to engage in respectful and productive debate.

Ultimately, it’s a systems problem.

How do you prioritize and then optimize the outputs…

  • Humanitarian objectives
  • Cultural objectives
  • Ability to sustain the program in the long run
  • Economic outcomes for the government, existing citizens, and future citizens in the short run and in the long run

..given the wide array of policy tools that are available..

  • Total immigration levels
  • Selection criteria (economic, education, region, family ties, etc.)
  • Investment in support for new immigrants

…and while integrating your immigration program into your other policy programs?

  • Foreign aid and military operations
  • Policies on foreign ownership of land and businesses
  • First Nations reconciliation and participation in governance

It’s a shame that these productive discussions rarely happen. Instead, the loudest voices are usually the ones that shouldn’t be given any airtime at all. These take many forms and some are tricky to root out. On one side, there are some people who are only motivated by short-term economic gain (the need to balance next year’s government budget or to spur housing development,) but hide behind a facade that they are pursuing their objectives for humanitarian reasons and reject any criticisms of their position as heartless and cruel. On the other side of the argument, there are people who prop up arguments with a frail web of weakly supported logic in an attempt to conceal uglier motivations underneath.

In this post, I want to talk about an opinion article that was recently published by the Vancouver Sun. You may find the link below.

I’m not going to get into a detailed analysis of the article except to raise two key points.

1) The main premise of the article is that the Joffre Lakes trail was too busy for the author and that this overcrowding must have been caused by immigration.

This is absolutely false and so the remainder of the piece has no credibility. The Joffre Lakes hike used to be very challenging and the facilities were adequately sized for the few hikers that were willing to put in the effort. In recent years, BC Parks brought in machinery to practically bulldoze the trail and make the hike much easier. It’s effectively a brand new trail and the easier hike now attracts a very large number of visitors. It would appear that the author is one of the people who only visited the park after the improvements have been made. Unfortunately, BC Parks did not make matching improvements to the facilities at this specific trail (outhouses, view points, parking lot)and so there is a serious mismatch between the upgraded trail and the legacy facilities. When people have to wait for the outhouse or can’t find a place to park, they call it overcrowding.

The author has no understanding of the context surrounding the Joffre Lakes trail but that did not stop him from using it as the poster child of the problems caused by immigration. If one were to follow through with an analysis of the author’s other complaints, it is obvious that most or all of them are propped up on equally weak arguments. Immigration is an important topic to discuss but it is not a bogeyman that we can blame all of our problems on.

2) In describing the problems with overcrowding at the park the author states: “Most unpleasant were the large crowds at the prominent viewpoints at the lakes, which offered standing-room only and were bathed in loud chatter and smells spoiling the environment.”

That is a statement which feels intentionally vague and there are more bad ways to interpret it than good ways. It’s the kind of a comment that you can’t directly criticize but gives you a gross feeling when you read it. I invite the author to elaborate on the smells which have offended him to clear up any potential misconceptions about what he meant. In response to this complaint about “chatter” and “smell” one of the comments on the Vancouver Sun webpage states “ This isn’t just a little bit racist. It’s full-on racist.”

Many people around the province (including many immigrants,) volunteer time through advocacy, fundraising, trail building and other activities to support the park system. An overarching goal of all of these volunteers is to increase accessibility to the wilderness so that people from all walks of life can share in these experiences. This leads to a greater respect for nature and a healthier life. Hiking is also particularly effective at breaking down cultural barriers because it is an activity that requires little communication and is enjoyed be people from all over the world. When a trail is made to be more accessible, it is inevitable that more people visit it and that is a good thing.

This work must continue because as people try to live healthier lifestyles and the tourism industry grows, our trails are becoming busier. In the case of the Joffre Lakes trail, improved accessibility further multiplied demand.

The author of this article has hijacked our cause and attempted to turn it into a rallying cry for anti-immigration policies. If he was hoping that he would find a sympathetic ear in the outdoor community, he has made a serious miscalculation.

Steve does a lot of hiking, skiing, biking and photography in British Columbia and beyond.

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Steve Jones

Steve Jones

Steve does a lot of hiking, skiing, biking and photography in British Columbia and beyond.

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