Scapegoating Immigrants and Muslims is Dangerous for Societies and Their Citizens and Residents: An Open Letter From Canadian Psychologists

Scapegoating Immigrants and Muslims is Dangerous for Societies  and Their Citizens and Residents

An Open Letter From Canadian Psychologists

As Canadian psychologists, we condemn any decision to ban people from specific countries from entering a country.

We also condemn the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and xenophobic rhetoric and actions that are dominating political discourse and actions in many countries.

As social scientists who have studied immigrant settlement and wellbeing and intergroup relations for many years, both in Canada and internationally, we believe that the following principles have been well-established:

  1. When people feel secure in their place in a society, they will be open, tolerant and inclusive with respect to others. Conversely, when they are threatened or discriminated against, they will respond with negative attitudes and hostility towards those who undermine their rights. Rejection breeds rejection; acceptance breeds acceptance.
  2. When individuals of different cultural backgrounds have opportunities to interact with each other on a level playing field, such contact usually leads to greater mutual understanding and acceptance. Creating barriers between groups and individuals reinforces ignorance, and leads to mistrust and hostility.
  3. When individuals have opportunities to hold many identities, and participate in many groups, they usually have greater levels of personal and social wellbeing. When they are limited in such diverse ways of thinking about and being themselves, poorer wellbeing is usually the result.


We argue that leaders who ignore these well-established principles, and who promote their opposites, create opportunities for people to engage in negative behaviours, such as hate, exclusion and aggression towards one another.

Furthermore, we believe that leaders who display negative psychological traits are dangerous for achieving a harmonious world.

These traits include: sociopathy (tendency to lie, blaming others for the things that one does, and complete disregard for rules); narcissism (patterns of grandiosity, pretentious, and over- defensiveness to minor criticism); and bullying (taking action against others who are perceived to be weaker, feeling threatened by the competence and popularity of others). We believe that those with these tendencies are unfit to be leaders.

Overall, we believe the above psychological principles based on decades of research are relevant in the analysis of the current global political climate. We stand against the polarizing of societies and exploiting its citizens.

We will be pleased to discuss these issues with members of the media and communities.