Commentary by Ujjal Dosanjh in Vancouver
Dear Minister Ahmed Hussen,
Many of us cheered when you were recently made the Immigration Minister. We felt that as an immigrant Canadian you would surely bring to your position a new and hopefully more compassionate perspective on what it may mean to be Canadian. But our cheers were short lived. You have brought disappointments to some hearts, mine included.
On Monday March 6, 2017 you deported Len Van Heest, a Canadian for the last 59 years. Yes, a Canadian but without the citizenship papers. At the age of seven months and in diapers, he legally landed in Canada with his family. At sixteen he was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder. He has several convictions for assault, mischief and uttering threats – all stemming from and related to his mental illness, the bipolar disorder. His last offence was in 2012.
Mr. Minister, obviously as a minor under the old law, Van Heest would have been unable to apply for his citizenship on his own – assuming that he even realized or knew in his mental state about the need for him to do so. His parents may not have applied their minds to this issue before he became a 'criminal' and therefore barred from receiving Canadian citizenship.
Power and discretion
Mr. Minister, you had the legal power and discretion to stop Van Heest's deportation. You chose not to because you didn't see it as fit and proper to do so. His deportation means that you must have felt the mentally ill Van Heest was responsible for not applying for citizenship that he had to before he had reached a certain age. It also implies that you and your officials felt it was just and fair for Canada to hold a mentally ill man responsible for piling up a criminal record that disqualified him from ever applying for Canadian citizenship, even though he had entered Canada as an infant. The mentally ill Van Heest – criminal or not – is the product of Canada.
Citizen or not, he is undeniably Canadian. If he is a criminal, he is a Canadian criminal.
Minister, above all Van Heest's deportation was made possible by the regressive legislative changes the Harper regime had made lowering a convicted immigrant's prison sentence threshold for making him/her "inadmissible" to Canada and therefore deportable. It is unacceptable that your government has neither changed, nor is it planning to change this unfair law that makes someone like Van Heest – a Canadian for all practical purposes – deportable.
But on the other hand, you recently testified in support of your government's Bill C-6 that will amend Harper government's law that enabled Canada to revoke the Canadian citizenship of convicted terrorists holding dual citizenships. Under Bill C-6 the revoked citizenships of convicted terrorists including that of Zakaria Amar – the ring leader of the Toronto 18 who wanted to commit mass murder and behead the Canadian Prime Minister – would be reinstated, re-bestowed upon them.
Mr. Minister, you passionately and eloquently argued: "When you are a Canadian citizen you shouldn't feel less valued just because you have dual citizenship with another country." You also said an individual whose citizenship was already revoked will have it reinstated.
Mr. Minister, I support your government's view that one Canadian is like another despite some holding dual citizenships. A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. But in my view a Zakaria Amar is much less deserving of Canadian citizenship and compassion than a Len Van Heest.
Minister, I am deeply troubled and disappointed at your missing compassion and eloquence in defence of Van Heest; mentally ill Van Heest; a 59 year long Canadian; and so what if not so on paper.
Van Heest's was and is exactly the kind of case in which you should have used your ministerial power and discretion to keep or allow anyone into Canada. In my humble opinion, you made a serious error of judgement by deporting Van Heest. You have the power to allow him back into Canada. You should use it.
My Dear Minister, It is never too late to do the right thing.
Ujjal Dosanjh is a former Attorney General and Premier of British Columbia and former federal Minister of Health. He describes himself as a "A child of Indian peasants working to make the world a better place."
Commentary by Dr. Binoy Kampmark in Melbourne, Australia
Throughout the campaign for the White House, Donald Trump sensationalized one of the great sores of U.S. political and social life: the issue of immigrants, notably the undocumented, and what his presidency would do to them.
As Trump asserted to Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes, the target here was deporting “the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, we have a lot of people, probably two million, it could be even three million, we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate.”
To that end, he has also promised to create what he has termed a “deportation force” specifically to “round up” undocumented residents, enabling the “good” ones to enter on a legal basis. This view, incidentally, is common in such countries as Australia and some in the European Union.
Building the wall
Throughout its history with immigration, the United States has had a complex association, swerving between nativist impulse and economic accommodation. The issue of Hispanic immigrants, most notably Mexicans, riles various U.S. citizens concerned that a reconquista, pecking away at U.S. sovereignty, is in the making. Trump’s promised Wall along the Mexican border is not so much a practical response as a viscerally padded one, rooted in the symbol of control long lost.
Since a Trump administration is supposedly going to be all about business, the near impossibility of achieving the totality of such an ignoble dream will come to the fore. The balance sheet of contributions by immigrants, whatever their status, has always outweighed by some good margin what negative aspects the vast pool offers the United States. Furthermore, the undocumented pool provides a class that enables prices, however justly this may seem, to be kept down.
To deport on scale millions of immigrants deemed unsuitable to the U.S. dream would not so much make America great again – to use Trump’s tiresome, sales-pitched line – as it would unmake it. That is merely an observation on consequence, and possibly one the non-ideologues will pick up on.
Shallow on facts
The figure of two to three million drawn out by Trump out of his not so magical hat is also questionable. The Department of Homeland Security doesn’t have those figures, at least in so far as they are of the bad egg variety. The Donald, as ever, continues being shallow about the facts.
Trump is also going to be facing considerable opposition on the ground, both from the legal side of matters, and logistical frustrations. The machinery needed to fulfill the removal of such immigrants is patchy, often stuttering due to local measures.
The Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution stands out as one the greatest impediments. Full removal proceedings must be undergone in court. Time is required, with the government having to show grounds of alienage and deportability, with the respondent permitted grounds of defence and opportunities to plead for relief from deportation. These points are also outlined in measures implemented by Congress. A burdensome road for the government indeed.
The scale also being promised would be staggering – the ACLU suggests that the whole mass deportation scheme, were it to be implemented, would require the arrest of 15,000 people a day on immigration charges, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Courts charged with immigration cases are bound to suffer acute paralysis.
In hotspot California, opposition and resistance to any such policy from a Trump administration is being promised. In Los Angeles alone reside up to a million undocumented immigrants of the total 11 million in the country. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said on Monday that no favours were going to be given to the federal government, making the point that the LAPD would not abandon precedent in favour of Trump’s new calls.
“We are not going to engage in law enforcement activities solely based on somebody’s immigration status. We are not going to work in conjunction with Homeland Security on deportation efforts. That is not our job, nor will I make it our job.”
Since 1979, then police chief Daryl Gates signed Special Order 40 prohibiting officers from making contact with someone on the sole grounds of determining whether he or she was in the country on legal grounds. During Gates’ tenure, the supply of those arrested for low-tier crimes to federal agencies for deportation started to dry up. The LAPD, in other words, was uninterested in doing the dirty work of the federal authorities.
This effectively undercuts the issue of identifying the undocumented non-citizens in question. To deport, you would have to have the means, and complicity of state authorities, to conduct the round-up. Such behaviour, if conducted to scale, would result in mass violations of the Fourth Amendment, a true police state measure.
Trump has a few bullying tricks up his sleeve. He has threatened to withdraw funding from police departments and sanctuary cities that persist in their pathway of protection and stalling on the issue of how to deal with undocumented residents. But government is not merely about hard cash and threats of targeting budgets. Ideas and pragmatism count, and Trump’s self-proclaimed embrace of shallowness in search of success will have to bend – at least at points.
Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This commentary has been republished from Global Research with permission from the author and has been lightly edited for the Canadian context.
by Beatrice Paez in Toronto
When Elizabeth Philibert arrived in Montreal as an émigré in 1979, she immediately felt the city would be her closest connection to Haiti.
The city’s circle of activists quickly embraced Philibert, who had risked her life on the front lines of Haiti’s anti-Duvalier movement. The movement began in opposition to self-declared "President-for-life" Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, and continued against the oppressive regime of his successor and son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier.
Most Canadians may not have heard of Philibert and other Haitian Canadians who, through their collective efforts, influenced Quebec’s cultural and political traditions.
In A Place in the Sun: Haiti, Haitians and the Remaking of Quebec, historian Sean Mills chronicles how the Haitian community, while relegated to the margins, actively challenged the status quo while also finding common ground within it.
Haitians in the Quiet Revolution
Philibert joined the wave of Haitian immigrants who settled in Quebec in the 1960s and 1980s, drawn by shared linguistic and religious ties. She arrived at a time when members of Montreal’s Haitian community were claiming a stake in Quebec’s political future, and Canada’s international affairs.
While Quebec was gripped in its fight for sovereignty, Haitians in the province wielded what resources they had to insert themselves into the political debate.
“The importance of Haitians was well known among many Haitians, of course, but it wasn’t part of mainstream understandings of the Quiet Revolution and its aftermath,” says Mills, referring to a period in the 1960s during which the province saw the secularization and expansion of the welfare state in sectors such as health care and education. “I was struck by the involvement of Haitians in the waves of political and cultural activism in the 1960s and 1970s, and I wanted to learn more about these developments.”
Mills’ curiosity led him to delve into the written work of the Haitian diaspora and their oral histories, as told by those who had fled the violence under the two Duvalier regimes. He illuminates the ways Haitians sought to elevate their status in Quebec.
Through their vast literary publications, activism and media appeals they set out to upend a political system intent on shutting them out.
A Place in the Sun revisits history with a new perspective, and succeeds in delivering a nuanced portrait of their lives during a critical juncture in Quebec’s history.
The first contingent of Haitian exiles came in the 1960s. Most were francophone elites who integrated well into society. The second wave of migrants in the 1970s, representing a poorer class who spoke Creole, faced far more discrimination.
That they had markedly different experiences speaks to Quebec’s complex perception of Haiti, Mills writes.
Haiti had long held symbolic significance to Quebec, especially in the 1940s as it sought to establish cultural linkages through its Catholic missionary work. Although they were bound by a shared language and colonial legacy, the missionary cause set them on unequal footing.
It was a relationship defined in familial terms, albeit a paternalistic one, in which Haitians were ridiculed for their religious belief in voodoo and regarded as “childlike” and “devoid of complex thoughts.”
Mills argues, convincingly, that confined as many were to exploitative occupations in the taxi industry or domestic service, Haitian immigrants refused to be reduced to stereotypes. Instead, they cast themselves as political beings capable of exerting pressure on the government to confront its policies and in some cases, to adopt their cause.
“They had to fight to find a place for themselves in a political sphere that did not see them as legitimate interlocutors,” Mills writes. “By entering the political sphere and rupturing its traditional composition, they opened a new space for themselves.”
Culture of activism
It helped that Haitians were attuned enough to know that language can be a potent bargaining chip in Quebec.
One critical test was the “crisis of 1,500” in 1974, when Haitians mobilized support from diverse groups to quash the deportation of non-status migrants.
They appealed both to the “conscience of the population” and used language strategically to position themselves as “ideal francophone immigrants for modern Quebec.” René Lévesque, as Parti Québécois premier, ultimately endorsed their cause on humanitarian grounds, but also for demographic considerations.
For the Haitian diaspora, Quebec became a proxy battlefield through which they could undermine support for the Duvalier regimes. They compelled Canada to confront its policy of distributing foreign aid to a dictatorship, which had driven many to flee and was ultimately the root of the migrant crisis.
These efforts weakened the federal government’s claim that they were merely “economic migrants” as opposed to political refugees. It also served as a rallying cry of solidarity between Quebecers and Haitians, both vying for self-determination.
Although they’ve made significant strides in improving their conditions, the “asymmetrical relationship” between Quebec and Haiti persists, writes Mills. To this day, many of the organizations Haitian immigrants founded remain an enduring force in integrating new arrivals.
“[I’m] continually impressed by the incredible vitality of the Haitian community,” says Mills. “It’s certainly a world that is very alive and vibrant to this day.”
Beatrice Paez is a freelance journalist based in Toronto whose work spans from writing about international development issues to the arts and culture. She also writes a public art column for the Torontoist and co-founded The Origami, an online magazine about Asian Canadians in Toronto.
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to email@example.com
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
GOVERNMENT data revealed in a new report “Often Asking, Always Telling: The Toronto Police Service and the Sanctuary City Policy” shows that that the Toronto Police Service (TPS) has been reporting over a 100 Torontonians to federal immigration enforcement every week, contrary to its mandate, and in violation of the Toronto Sanctuary City policy. As […]
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by Rosanna Haroutounain in Montreal
While candidates in Quebec are doing their best to reach out to new Canadian voters in the current federal elections, some advocates are hoping that the current Syrian refugee crisis will widen the conversation on how to accept newcomers.
Although political parties have yet to discuss immigration at large in this campaign, members of organizations working for people without status in Canada say this group continues to be overlooked.
“Clearly we pay attention to what’s going on in politics and have some demands as a group, but those aren’t things that are necessarily going to be achieved by a change of leadership in Ottawa,” says Jaggi Singh, an activist who works with Solidarity Across Borders in Montreal.
One of the group’s demands is a regularization program that allows all non-status people who live in Canada to have status. Singh says it’s an issue that will require a significant amount of political mobilization to achieve.
The group is also preparing to defend migrants who are facing deportation after the Conservative government lifted the moratorium on deportations to Zimbabwe and Haiti, Singh adds.
Fayçal El-Khoury, the Liberal candidate in Laval–Les Îles, says both issues are on his party’s radar.
“A Liberal government will invest at least another $100 million this fiscal year to accelerate the processing of asylum applications, without diminishing the quality of the process, and to increase the means available to service sponsorship and settlement in Canada,” he says.
“We can better treat all files received at Immigration Canada including those related to deportations of people from Haiti or Africa,” he adds.
Immigrating to Quebec
El-Khoury came to Canada in 1976 to escape war in Lebanon. He studied civil engineering at Concordia University and started his own construction company.
“We chose to settle in Quebec for the beauty of its landscapes and the warmth of Quebecers towards immigrants,” he says. “Moreover, since we already spoke French, it was easy for us to come here.”
El-Khoury became the Liberal candidate for Laval–Les Îles in November of last year, and is just one of several Montreal-area federal candidates born outside of Canada.
The NDP’s Paulina Ayala immigrated to Quebec from Chile in 1995. An activist against the Pinochet dictatorship, she says she was disappointed by the democratic transition that followed.
She studied at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)with the intention of returning to her home country, but says after meeting her husband and developing new roots, she decided to stay.
“The love for the politics of my country is very important, so it was a very important choice to become a Canadian,” she says. “I studied the pros and cons very carefully.”
She says part of the reason she became a citizen in 2006 was so she could participate in Canadian politics. In 2011, Ayala defeated the three-term Liberal incumbent, Pablo Rodriguez, to become the MP for Honoré-Mercier.
“People look at me like a model, so when I tell young women I am the first Latin-American woman in Parliament, I always add that I’m not the last,” she says.
Ayala says in her work as a teacher, learning French was one of the biggest challenges to integration. She says that for other immigrants, the qualifications needed to belong to Quebec’s professional associations and orders pose extra barriers.
“They must re-learn everything, pass exams, and despite all this, it doesn’t mean you will have a job in your field,” she says. She adds that in Montreal it is very common to meet taxi drivers who were engineers before they came to Canada.
“This is an enormous brain drain,” she says.
Collaborating on immigration policy
Ayala says the federal government must engage in more conversation with Quebec, which regulates its own immigration targets and criteria.
While he welcomes the discussion, Singh says the parties’ promises do not go far enough.
“This is an issue that goes beyond just one group of refugees,” he says. “It goes to structural changes that have been made to Canadian immigration policies over the last two decades that have made the system more temporary and more difficult for refugees to get in.”
“A meaningful response would be an opening of our borders to allow for large numbers of refugees and migrants to come to Canada,” he says.
He adds that while this policy might seem radical, Germany is expected to accept 800,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year.
Candidates for the Bloc Quebecois and Conservative Party of Canada did not respond to requests for an interview. A Simon Fraser University study provides a brief overview of where each party stands on several immigration issues based on past policies.
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by Will Tao (@TheWillTruth) in Vancouver
The media has recently served as a powerful platform for immigrants seeking to appeal negative decisions, such as deportation orders and permanent residency denials.
This year alone, a star American CFL football player used the media to obtain his Canadian permanent residence, a family was able to keep its in Canada, and a was able to remain in Canada with their American-born son.
It’s part of a growing trend that has seen immigration issues receive much better coverage in the Canadian media from articles discussing Bill C-24 to stories about immigrant applicants’ trials and tribulations.
Interestingly, the way recent reporting on individual immigrant stories has occurred contrasts greatly with coverage of other legal issues, such as major crime. Rather than prematurely vilify and convict, the media has been quick to defend many immigrants, and to criticize the Canadian government for its poor policymaking.
Ironically, this has injected the presumption of innocence into an immigration system where such a concept did not previously exist. In my view, this has helped to level the playing field for applicants and to bring awareness to the challenges of our immigration system.
However, several recent stories have also highlighted the worrying trend of the mainstream media being overused or improperly used to deliver specific, individualized Canadian immigration results.
Emotion alone should not guide decision-making
It may seem hypocritical for an immigration lawyer and freelance journalist to be writing this piece. Like some journalists, I, too, have taken off my lawyer hat and criticized the government for producing certain immigration results, sometimes prematurely.
The recent case of the U.K. man who was allegedly excluded from Canada for helping his girlfriend renovate her house is a great example. It was carried by two major British newspapers not necessarily known for balanced perspectives or understanding of Canadian immigration law issues.
I know I commented angrily based on my own experiences with clients with border issues, but admittedly both stories were short on the relevant facts needed to assess whether it was the correct decision by the border officers.
I find that an increasing number of stories that I read tread dangerously close to appeals to emotion, where incomplete facts are presented and an ideal outcome is then suggested.
Perhaps even more troubling is the fact immigration officials are responding to these cases, seemingly only as a public relations effort, but not in accordance with their own laws and policies. As a result, I have seen clients in similar situations left scratching their heads, contemplating their own media campaigns.
An immigration system cannot be based solely on who can present the most emotionally compelling case. Successful applicants should be asked to meet a baseline of legally clear requirements.
Some individuals have stories of hardship, but will have no immigration options. There are also Canadian immigration programs that specifically consider applicants’ hardship. This balance is necessary. Anything else would inject too much officer discretion and encourage too much exaggeration from applicants, both of which are deeply harmful to system integrity.
Media coverage also raises an underlying ethical dilemma (we can call this the “Conrad Black example”) – should we be giving preference in our system to high-profile immigrants?
Inaccurate reporting can dramatically impact applicants’ lives
Don’t get me wrong. Some journalists write on immigration issues carefully. The best present the facts of immigrants’ cases diligently, outline their basic legal issues clearly and ensure that both the immigrants’ and the government’s sides of the story are presented properly. They encourage dialogue and protect privacy and anonymity when appropriate.
However, I have also read several stories in the media recently where it was apparent that outside input and assistance was not sought prior to publishing.
I would suggest that the recent case of the American-born child to Nigerian parents is an example of this. I do not want to comment on its substantive merits, given the case is still in progress. However, I found that some of the articles failed to adequately present the law and policy in the area, which although quite harsh in its consequences, is more clear in its application.
It is vital that journalists seek some outside assistance when publishing pieces because their articles, while generally of limited evidential value in courts of law, can be relied upon as documentary evidence in immigration applications and appeals.
The information contained in these reports can also serve as outside evidence considered by immigration officers who verify applicants’ information themselves.
Factual inaccuracies or ill-advised quotes in these articles could affect future immigration. Meanwhile, if too much personal information is revealed in these news stories, some immigrants’ abilities to obtain jobs or travel safely to their home countries may be compromised.
The media’s role moving forward
Rather than acting as a mouthpiece for individual applicants on an ad hoc basis, the media could speak up with a loud and clear voice when a high-level of wrongdoing occurs – either to individuals or groups.
I think the best case for media importance is the Lucia Vargas Jimenez suicide in 2013, which began the present day scrutiny of our immigration detention system and the push to end the practice of transit police reporting immigrants to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) simply for fare violations.
On the contrary, it is interesting to note that in the Jimenez case, CBSA’s internal response was muted due to fear of a media explosion over the issue. From the government perspective, more balanced media coverage may encourage proactive disclosure of negative news.
The media can also play an important role in probing key immigration stakeholders. By presenting more stories about the work of immigration settlement services, pro bono legal clinics and others serving immigrants, the media can help fund those resources.
Finally, the media is a key catalyst for access to justice. The fact that individuals have been increasingly willing to go to the media with their stories before engaging legal counsel and resolving issues with government officials highlights the inaccessibility of our immigration system. I believe the media can, and does, play a key role in uncovering and highlighting these institutional challenges.
Overall, the rise of media coverage that informs Canadians of, and holds government officials accountable on, immigration policy is a good thing for our democracy. What the public must do next is ensure the media is used to advance the integrity of the immigration system as a whole, rather than for just a few individuals.
Will Tao is a Canadian immigration lawyer and freelance journalist based out of Vancouver, B.C. He is the co-founder and lead-author of the Canadian immigration blog, Vancouverimmigrationblog.com.
This article was written with assistance from Abigail Cheung. Passionate about immigration since her undergraduate studies in Ethnicity, Race and Migration at Yale University, Cheung will enter her final year at Osgoode Hall Law School this fall.
The federal government will not abide temporary foreign workers going underground to avoid an April 1 deadline that will force thousands of them out of the country, the immigration minister’s office said Tuesday.
“Let there be no mistake: We will not tolerate people going ‘underground.’ Flouting our immigration laws is not an option, and we will deal with offenders swiftly and fairly,” Kevin Menard, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Chris Alexander, said in an email to iPolitics.
The minister’s office was responding to an investigative report by iPolitics that revealed nine low-skilled temporary foreign workers employed in the agriculture sector had been made false promises of permanent residency from registered, and non-registered, immigration consultants who charged thousands of dollars for their services.
While the minister’s office did not comment specifically on iPolitics’ investigation, Menard admitted unscrupulous immigration consultants are still operating in Canada. This despite previous promises of a widespread crackdown on fraudulent immigration consultants by then Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in 2012.
“While most immigration consultants working in Canada are legitimate and ethical, it is clear that immigration fraud remains a threat to the integrity of our immigration system,” Menard said before referencing changes made to regulate the immigration consultant industry under the government’s Cracking Down on Crooked Immigration Consultants law.
Alexander later ignored a question on the matter when speaking to reporters after question period, turning away from the scrum when the query was made. When asked about the scheme in the House, Alexander said matters involving fraudulent immigration consultants should be referred to Canadian Border Services Agency.
Complaints, his office later clarified, can also be made to local police, the RCMP or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre if the complainant is in Canada.
Under Canadian law, immigration consultants found guilty in court for fraudulent activities on summary conviction are subject to a fine of up to $20,000, or up to six months imprisonment, or both. Individuals found guilty of an indictable offence are subject to a fine of up to $100,000, two years in prison or both.
Critics: A Shoddy System
That system, Liberal citizenship and immigration critic John McCallum told iPolitics, doesn’t seem to be working.
“The moral of this is to clamp down on these fraudulent people because they take money fraudulently from people who are vulnerable and they damage our system and our reputation and individuals involved,” he said.
“It’s about time the government took strong action on this as they’ve been saying they had for years now.”
NDP employment critic Jinny Sims agreed. She said she has routinely referred names of problematic immigration consultants to the minister, with no response. Ethnic radio, she stressed, is filled with ads from immigration consultants offering their services.
“It’s been a total mess,” Sims said, adding that Wednesday’s deadline for TFWs has only compounded their vulnerability.
“Their arbitrary timeline of April 1 has created unintended consequences which is workers who are already vulnerable… are now being charged hundreds of thousands of dollars and being made fake promises of possible residency.”
“It’s a very, very sad day.”
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who is a lawyer, said she has serious doubts about immigration consultants – an industry she says appears to require more oversight.
“I’m deeply concerned about the quality of advice that potential immigrants and refugees get from immigration consultants,” May said. “I don’t want to smear an entire class of professionals but in my work as an MP… quite often I find that the advice given by immigration consultants has made their [individuals] situations worse.”
Workers looking to stay in Canada, she said, should call their member of parliament for assistance, particularly given the amount of confusion around the program and Canadian immigration pathways.
A solution, MPs say, must also be found to assist employers who are feeling the impacts of the changes — especially those working the agriculture sector, NDP agriculture critic Malcolm Allen said. The industry has repeatedly warned the government the April 1 deadline will be devastating in terms of labour loss.
The federal government has taken “a sledgehammer” to the temporary foreign worker program, Allen said – an approach the Ontario MP stressed has had devastating consequences for the agriculture sector and time is running out.
“Unless they [the government] are going to do something today, these folks are going to be on planes heading out of the country and some of the industries are going to be in a heck of a lot of trouble trying to get workers, even though they’ve applied for new ones.”
The entire program, he said, “is a mess” – with farmers, businesses, and workers livelihoods caught the middle. “Instead of fixing the real issues with the temporary foreign worker program, they [the government] have literally torn the ag[riculture] sector apart.”
Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca
Two days before an April 1st deadline imposed under changes to the government’s temporary foreign worker program, some foreign workers who have to go back to their home countries are doing so with empty pockets because of unscrupulous immigration consultants, iPolitics has learned.
iPolitics has confirmed nine cases in Alberta and Southwestern Ontario in which registered immigration consultants, or individuals claiming to be immigration consultants, have charged thousands of dollars to temporary foreign workers and made false promises of being able to keep them in Canada despite regulations that say they must return to their home countries for four years before coming back to Canada.
The four-year rule was implemented in 2011 by the federal Conservatives as a means to encourage employers to hire Canadians.
All nine cases involve low-skilled workers in the agriculture industry with fees paid to consultants ranging from $1,000 to $8,000. None of the workers is employed under the Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program, which is exempt from the government’s four-year rule.
The cases were confirmed by employers and fellow employees of the temporary foreign workers in question. None of the workers involved would speak with iPolitics for fear of creating more problems for themselves.
Cathy Kolar provides legal information on behalf of Legal Assistance Windsor. In an interview with iPolitics Monday, she said she has encountered a multitude of similar cases from across the country whereby foreign workers who are about to be sent home have spent the last of their savings on false hopes of permanent residency.
Those cases, she says, involve workers of all nationalities employed in various low-skilled jobs in the agriculture and service sectors with retainer fees ranging from $670 to $8,000.
Most of the affected foreign workers have been promised permanent residency under the guise of the Express Entry program – for which low-skilled applicants do not qualify, Kolar said. Others, she explained, are being promised open-ended work visas.
These applications, she added, risk jeopardizing the worker’s ability to apply for work visas or permanent residency in the future.
Turning to Private Sector for Help
Rampant confusion, Kolar said, is compounding the problem. The vast majority of low-skilled workers in Canada fall under the National Occupation Classification (NOC) codes C and D. There is currently no federal immigration pathway to permanent residency for workers classified under those codes.
Yet, Kolar said neither Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), nor Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC) websites clearly state in either official language that there is no available route for these workers to obtain permanent residency.
Meanwhile, calls to Citizenship and Immigration’s 1-888-242‑2100 help line go unanswered, Kolar said – that’s if you can get through and can speak fluent English or French. Local immigration centres, like the one in Windsor, Ont., have been closed to the public, she explained, forcing foreign workers who are desperate to stay to turn to the private sector for help.
Recourse for those workers who have been falsely promised permanent residency is even more limited, Kolar said.
“This individual has collected data on everything from family connections to housing, to where their current address is, past employment history, all under the guise of putting forward a permanent residency application and so they [the worker] are very afraid of coming forward,” she explained.
While legally, workers can file official complaints with the provinces’ law societies, that process can be arduous and takes time, Kolar said. Civil challenges are even more difficult because the individual’s temporary status can lead lawyers to shy away from the case.
Civil cases also cost money, she explained, which most of these workers don’t have – given they’ve spent the last of their savings on the earlier promise of permanent residency.
And most of these workers’ legal status in the country expires in two days. “If they don’t have status in the country, even though they’ve paid a significant amount of money, it’s really not going to result in status,” Kolar explained.
The Labour Crunch
iPolitics asked CIC about the available avenues to permanent residency for workers classified under NOC codes C and D. In an email, a spokesperson for the department responded with a list of federal programs designed to bridge skilled workers who are classified under NOC codes O, A, and B.
When asked, again, about low-skilled workers the department referred to provincial nominee programs. Only Alberta (whose program is currently overwhelmed with applications) and Saskatchewan’s provincial nominee programs are open to applications from low-skilled workers.
Saskatchewan’s program was only streamlined to accept low-skilled workers within the past two weeks.
A spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada told iPolitics the affected industries had four years to prepare for the fast-approaching deadline, adding that employers can still apply for new foreign workers under the temporary foreign worker program.
And, while the department’s minister has acknowledged the shortage of workers in the agriculture industry is a “problem” Employment Minister Pierre Poilievre has not proposed any solutions to the ongoing labour crunch.
Effects on Employers
Kolar, meanwhile, isn’t the only one who is witnessing the despair of these affected foreign workers first-hand.
Joe Le is the operations manager for two of three All Seasons Mushrooms farms, located in Langley and Abbotsford, B.C. The third farm is located in Airdrie, Alta – near Calgary, where Le told iPolitics labour is in dire supply.
Within the next month, the farm operator said he is about to lose 20 workers because of the April 1 deadline, with another 35 forced to leave within the year. Those workers are originally from Thailand, the Philippines, Guatemala, Mexico and Ukraine.
All of those staff, he said when reached by telephone at the Abbotsford farm, are desperate to stay. “One hundred per cent of my staff who have to leave do not want to go home.”
One worker on the farm, who’s from Thailand, is “worried sick” because he will not be able to support his family if he is sent home, harvesting supervisor Alycia Lavergn said, because back home he only makes $10/day.
“He says ‘I can’t afford my life, my children can’t go to school if I’m home. At least when I’m here [in Canada] my children have a better opportunity back in Thailand,” she recalls. Other workers, Le said, have told him they will starve if they are sent home.
At the Airdrie farm, Le said, some foreign workers who are about to be sent home have stopped showing up up to work and have simply “disappeared over night.”
All Seasons’ owner approached a lawyer a year ago to enquire about ways the three farms could keep their 75 temporary foreign workers permanently. The lawyer determined it wasn’t possible under the current programs, Le said. If it had been an option, he said the owner would have immediately sponsored workers through the process.
Meanwhile, applications for new temporary foreign workers put forward six months ago are stalled. With the April 1 deadline less than 48 hours away, Le said the farm still hasn’t heard whether those workers have been approved.
“They’re waiting until the ninth hour, we’re nervous as hell, and then they say ‘fine, we’ll give it to you,” Le said about past applications, adding the farm’s contact at ESDC (Employment and Social Development Canada) has asked him to stop calling her for updates.
The farm, Le said, is scrambling to reorganize itself. He’s shifting workers around, while Lavergn is speed-reading resumes and fast-tracking interviews all in an effort to fill the pending voids – holes both say will be hard to fill because of lasting mark the departing workers have left on the farm.
“I can tell morale is going to be down because they’re [the fellow workers] losing part of their family,” Le said.
Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca
by Maria Assaf (@MariaAssaf) in Toronto
A new study published by Statistics Canada’s official release bulletin The Daily indicates that when it comes to choosing their new home, immigrants respond mainly to economic conditions, existing communities and changes in provincial entry programs.
The study examined the decade between 2000 and 2010 and found that, while the number of immigrants intending to settle in Toronto and Vancouver declined, a greater number intended to settle in Montreal. Provinces like Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta also saw increases.
An increase in Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs), through which provinces can choose the types of immigrants it needs, was one of the biggest reasons for the change, says Aneta Bonikowska, a senior research analyst at Statistics Canada and one of the authors of the report.
“It’s quite likely that the expansion or introduction of these Provincial Nominee Programs was related to the economic conditions, specifically to attract more new immigrants into those areas where there was demand for labour,” says Bonikowska.
Better economic conditions mean higher demand for labour, which increases the need for foreign labour. In places like Saskatchewan, the existence of economic propellers like the oil patch could be the reason provincial governments used more PNPs to attract a higher number of immigrants, says Ray Bollman, former chief of the Rural Research Group at Statistics Canada.
“The economic conditions are driving where people are from, and where they’re going, in terms of country of origin. So it’s a big factor in there,” says Bollman.
In major cities, countries of origin also impacted the number of newcomers. “For example, we saw an increase in immigrants from Africa and these are immigrants that tend to move to Montreal,” says Bonikowska.
The increase in the number of African newcomers could be one of the reasons the overall share of new immigrants planning to settle in Toronto fell from 48 per cent to 33 per cent over the 10-year period, whereas the number of those intending to settle in Montreal increased from 12.5 per cent to 16.6 per cent.
“Certainly part of it is people go where they have networks; people speaking their language. And that’s always been the case. They have information networks, they have support networks,” says Bollman.
“Perhaps once they are there and they figure out how to operate in Canada, then maybe they’ll move to where there are jobs,” he says.
Temporary Foreign Workers Oppose Imminent Deportations
Migrant workers across Canada are planning peaceful protests in several cities to continue up until April 1, 2015, the date on which the first wave of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) will be ordered to leave the country as part of the federal government’s “four in and four out” rule.
This rule took effect April 1, 2011, stating that TFWs within certain categories, like fishing and agriculture, have to leave Canada immediately after the end of a four-year work term. They can only re-apply to come back after remaining outside the country for four years. Those who arrived after the legislation took place will also be affected.
“What we oppose is a revolving door immigration system,” says Syed Hussan, a coordinator at Migrant Workers Alliance for Change. “What we are seeing right now is a system that treats workers as disposable, where workers are brought in, worked to their limit and then sent back. We cannot allow such a system to continue.”
Hussan also organizes the “No 4 and 4” campaign, which demands the elimination of the rule so that it will not apply to any migrant worker ever. The group also advocates that the government grant Permanent Residency status to all migrant workers now and in the future, regardless of the program they work under, and finally, provide all provincial and federal social benefits to migrant workers, who pay the same taxes as average Canadians. Other groups like No One Is Illegal (photo of the organization meeting in Vancouver in 2014 to the left) is also against the four in and four out rule.
“[These] people are paying for taxes, but aren’t able to get any of the benefits that come with it. In fact, even if the law allows it, it is so complicated that you can’t get [the benefits],” says Hussan.
“When you come into the country as a skilled worker, you come with PR, with your family. Only workers in particular kinds of jobs that don’t pay a lot are the ones who don’t get permanent residency and we think it’s just unfair,” he says.
“The purpose of Canada’s work permit programs is to fill temporary needs and workers agree in their application that they are coming to Canada to work temporarily,” Johanne Nadeau, a media relations advisor and spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, wrote in an e-mail to New Canadian Media.
“The four-year cumulative duration limit for foreign workers was put in place in 2011 to encourage workers to use appropriate pathways to permanent residence rather than using work permits to remain in Canada indefinitely,” she says. “Workers and employers have been aware of the four-year limit since 2011.”
Canada Condemns Jailing of Maldivian Former President
In a recent press release, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed Canada’s discontent with the decision of a Maldivian court to put former president Mohamed Nasheed in jail for terrorism.
Nasheed, an opposition leader in the Maldives, was the first democratically elected president of the island nation. On March 14, a court found him guilty of ordering the “arresting or forceful abduction and detention” of a senior judge during his time in office.
“This verdict goes against the core principles of the Commonwealth, and Canada will continue to call on Maldives to reaffirm its commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” says Deepak Obhrai, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in the statement.
Nasheed denied the charges against him. His supporters, as well as the United Nations and human rights agency Amnesty International, claimed the jailing was politically motivated and said the trial was not fair.
Nasheed was known for his pro-West approach to foreign policy and his efforts at countering Islamic conservatism, a faction of politics close to the former regime and to his political opponent, current President Abdulla Yameen.
Yameen, who is the half-brother of former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, prefers a turn toward China, and claims Nasheed threatens the country’s traditional Islamic values.
A week before his arrest, Nasheed said the international community should consider imposing sanctions against his country’s leadership. He also called for public protests and warned travellers to study the Maldives’ political situation before planning a trip there, as the country is a popular destination for Western travellers. Tourism is one of its main sources of income.
In its press release, Canada’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged calm and restraint on all sides.
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit