Over the summer, both my wife and I took turns or together in bringing our four year old to a particularly beautiful and welcoming park, called Ramsden Park, which is nestled in the cozy tree lined environment of a wealthy neighbourhood called Rosedale. For over one hundred years Rosedale has held the distinction of being Toronto’s most fashionable address. Many of Toronto’s wealthiest and most prominent citizens reside in the Rosedale neighbourhood. The area is unique in that it is surrounded by beautiful ravines and parkland that make you feel as if you are far away from the city, while in reality Rosedale is just a few minutes from Toronto’s major business, entertainment, and shopping districts. Many families living close by would bring their children to the park, because it is safer and offer more choices of play area for the young ones.
My wife is there more often than I and often find herself striking up conversations with a variety of parent or caregivers; Philippine and African-Caribbean Nannies and parents of different ethnicities and citizenry. Increasingly she would notice the accents of many of the Caucasian parents and in trying to figure out their origin, eventually became aware that a majority of these parent where from South African, Australia and several Eastern European countries. She had spoken to a few of them and from that developed a pattern from which to extrapolate the reason why these particular groups seemed to pop up in and around Rosedale for the past little while. She had also found out that many of them are professionals, sponsored to work in Canada eventually becoming citizens.
Canada’s Immigration His-story
Canada’s immigration policy draws varied and complex battle lines around ethnicity, prejudice ( pre-judgment), culture and refugee claimants, economic theories, unemployment, family stories, bureaucratic obstruction, union Mafioso power flexing, lawyers, lobbyists and politics.
The Right Wing Harper Government recently attempted to force through a major reform of Canada’s immigration law as part of Bill C-50. This is an omnibus bill that is mostly the federal budget stuffed with non-budget items. As per the Conservative government’s ideology, debate is stifled on specifics of the immigration package, which after hearings, is slated to become law as part of the budget non-confidence process.
This major reform would give the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration authority to “give instructions” regarding the attainment of Canadian immigration goals. Instructions would include “establishing categories,” “setting the number of applications,” “establishing an order” for processing applications, among other things. These are clauses that may well be necessary to bring Immigration Canada’s notoriously messed up bureaucracy into line. Tales of bureaucratic abuse are legend in immigration circles (particularly if you are Jamaican, Muslim or African from countries identified as “suspect”. One of the major purposes of the Conservative bill is to break down internal resistance to reform. However, handing the minister direct rule-making is no way to bring legal reform, but in fact subject the process to that of arbitrary decision making.
The Canadian Bar Association had said that the Tory reforms place way too much power in the hands of the minister. Instead of an immigration system based on rules, we will have a system based on ministerial discretion, one open to arbitrary political power and abuse. If you recall, it was this same Ministry that made an arbitrary decision to deny Suaad Hagi Mohamud, her rightful place as a Canadian Citizen to be exported back to Canada after being kidnapped by Kenyan immigration officers.
Activists in the immigration community also see these attempts at “reforms” as a shift of focus toward allowing more so-called “economic immigrants” into the country, at the expense of other categories, such as refugees and family reunion. There has been open criticism of the bill, with many suspecting the Tories hidden immigration agenda that would be based on ethnic preferences. Since it is geared towards economic immigrants, business groups, of course, appear supportive of the changes. There’s a backlog of 900,000 applications at embassies all over the world. The number of skilled workers allowed into Canada is stagnant at levels that were already inadequate a decade ago. Some say there may be as many as 400,000 people living in Canada in some kind of illegal limbo. In the view of business, anything that changes the system is worth trying and anything that brings in so called skilled foreign workers over local is a boon. Keep in mind that Canadian Immigrants are some of the most educated and skilled and since they are educated here, that would eliminate the “lack of Canadian skills” excuse often used…wouldn’t they? For many years, professional immigrants have lamented the lost or unattainable opportunity to secure employment in their chosen field. Many of them are none Caucasians, who are often told they don’ have Canadian experience (?) an Oxymoron if I ever heard one.
Unfortunately, none of the known problems was addressed by Bill C-50. The main purpose of the bill was to clear up the 900,000 backlog, even though there’s no part of the bill that spells out how that is to happen. Canadian immigration policy has failed to allow enough skilled economic immigrants, on a whole, to enter Canada at a time when demand is high. Indeed, total immigration into Canada has been all but frozen at 250,000 or less a year for almost two decades. The number for 2007 is expected to be well below 250,000. Of that, only about 45,000 a year arrive in Canada with trades that are needed, a showing blamed in part on a point system that has the effect of keeping out people with lower levels of formal education.
As if to offset the failure to let skilled people into Canada as permanent residents on their way to citizenship, Canada has increased the number of “temporary” workers who come in under permits for limited periods of time. Why were these people, 112,000 in 2006, not allowed in as permanent residents? The inequities and drawbacks of the temporary-worker program may not deter a powerful minister from expanding them in the future. What is not being said is that many in developing countries have heard of Canada’s open door policy towards non Caucasians and have attempted to seek the proverbial land of milk and honey, but have since encountered sour cream and bitters. Also what is not being said is that the amount of skilled Caucasian workers, sponsored by private companies are on the rise, so the government gets a pass for being stingy upfront, but allows many backdoor dealings to carry on. When I was in the Canadian Army, I had encountered many immigrants who were highly skilled, but figured the only way they could get a job was as a grunt, though many of them ended up washing out at basic training. One of them was a surgery room doctor in India, but because he didn’t have “Canadian experience” ended up ignobly failing at basic training.
The mad scramble for fewer jobs and resources is the perfect condition for corporate elites to divide the working class, and an effective weapon in their arsenal is based on ethnic centrism. Although all workers suffer from weakened class solidarity, none Caucasian workers, including African are the most affected.
[The Dominion Lands Act of 1872 was at the heart and soul of Canada’s national policy for more than half a century. This policy envisioned an industrialized East protected by high tariffs, selling its goods to, and receiving the agricultural bounty of, a newly settled West. The movement of goods and services between the two regions would be made possible by a transcontinental railway, and paid for partly through public subsidies. The Dominion Lands Act set the parameters within which western land could be settled and its natural resources developed. With such a framework in place, Canada was free to solicit European and American (read that Caucasian) immigrants on a massive scale. Through the sweat and toil of these newcomers, the undeveloped Prairie landscape would be converted into an agricultural paradise to allow the industrialized East to compete with the economic might of its American neighbour.]