British Columbia

Old stock Canadians: What does that mean?

In B.C, one of the country's most diverse provinces, the turn of phrase was called offensive while others took to social media to find humour in it.

In B.C., Harper's turn of phrase was called offensive or funny while others said it was misunderstood

Conservative leader Stephen Harper's comment 'Old Stock Canadian' has sparked much debate as to who that refers to. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Who exactly is an old stock Canadian? 

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's used the phrase at Thursday's federal leaders debate in response to a suggestion government policies have reduced health care benefits to refugees.

 "We do not offer them [refugees] a better health care plan than the ordinary Canadian receives, Harper said. "I think that's something that new and existing and old stock Canadians agree with."

For some, it was a bit of a head scratcher.

In B.C, one of the country's most diverse provinces, the turn of phrase was called offensive while others took to social media to find humour in it. 

Sukh Dhaliwal, the Liberal candidate for Surrey-Newton, said Harper's comments revealed a "two-tiered approach" to those born in Canada and those who have immigrated or received refugee status. 

"This is not only out of touch with the demographics of Surrey, but also a show of disrespect towards the city's diversity," he said in a news release. 

"Stephen Harper can try to marginalize and isolate Canadians born abroad, but all citizens will stand against such intolerance because it is at the core of what makes us Canadian."

Dhaliwal's comments were echoed by some on social media. 

Not racist?

Shinder Purewal, a political science professor at Kwantlen University, says the comment is laughable and that if it weren't for an election, nobody would have noticed it. 

"People are reading too much into it," he said. "These people who read into it, they think the comment refers to white Canadians, but it doesn't. In fact, they're looking at history with a racist angle. Canada was not always white ... there are South Asians Chinese, African Canadians, Hispanic, First Nations ... they would all constitute old stock Canadian." ​

Finding the humour

Still others had fun with Harper's turn of phrase. 

B.C. children's performer Raffi, who takes a keen interest in politics, took the opportunity to lament a time without Harper as prime minister.

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