Pontiac Perspective Peter J. Gauthier
Pontiac Perspective Peter J. Gauthier
Recently, Kellie Leitch, Member of Parliament and Conservative leadership candidate, suggested that potential immigrants and refugees to our country be screened for anti-Canadian values. This raises several questions. What are values and how can a person be screened for them? What are specifically Canadian values? To what extent can someone in Canada hold values that are not specifically Canadian and not accepted by the majority of Canadians?
First, a value is something desired and its pursuit and attainment will benefit both the individual and society as a whole. The values a person has affects (consciously or unconsciously) many decisions they make. Also, values cover a wide spectrum of human activity from such things as food preferences, clothing, financial decisions, to political and social choices.
It is useful to distinguish between instrumental and intrinsic values. An instrumental value is worth having as a means towards getting something else that is good. An intrinsic value is worth having for itself, not as a means to something else. These two classifications are not mutually exclusive. Learning science may be a value in itself and also be useful in understanding other values such as environmental protection laws.
Of significance in any review of values is the concept of “balance”. Values are statements of belief about what is important. Personal values provide an internal reference for what is beneficial, useful, beautiful, desirable and constructive – in short, what is good. But in different situations, the importance of one value over another may change. At the community level, values may help solve common human problems for survival and progress by comparative rankings of importance. It’s essential to maintain a balance among values so, at the personal and social levels, a maximum of positive worth is obtained. This continual need for balance requires that personal decisions are always made for the betterment of the community and the individual. This gives balance a higher order value that is required to make all other values workable.
Kellie Leitch’s proposal gave the following list of values as providing a common Canadian identity: hard work, giving back to the community, equality of men and women, tolerance for all religions, cultures and sexual orientations, and rejection of violence as a way to solve problems.
At first glance, these might be acceptable values in any modern democratic country such as Sweden, Denmark or the Netherlands – there is nothing specifically Canadian about them.
Also, some may be at best ambiguous. For example, what is hard work for one may be enjoyable financial engagement for another. More significantly, Canada has best been described as a mosaic rather than a melting pot. Individual Canadians may have values different from Leitch’s list. What is more relevant is how the balance of values is set. Is it set for values that extend over time and recognize the humanity of all humans, or is it a set of values to be expected of newcomers and specific situations only? Can the benefits coming from value-based decisions improve the individual and society?
The values in Leitch’s list may be intrinsic in their own right, but they are instrumental in the broader social context. As such, they may be replaced by other values that result in a larger and more basic value system that includes ethical and civic norms essential to Canadian society. They may not be specifically Canadian, but actions resulting from personal values must contribute to a better Canada for all its citizens. Perhaps, if Kellie Leitch would concentrate on the goal of a better Canada, the needed values will follow without tests for some arbitrary list. A better Canada would reinforce the balance of those basic and universal values needed for good citizenship. A test for anti-Canadian values does not guarantee the final worth; only the actions resulting from decisions can be evaluated. In the end, it’s what a person does that will be judged – not the value system that led to the acts.