Monday, December 10, 2012

Immigration "reforms" actually regressive

We're starting to see the fallout from the Con government's proposed changes to immigration policy.   And while I agree that such policies need a reboot every now and then to meet current trends (and to a lesser extent, changes in social morés), what is shaping up to be what we'll be stuck with for at least the next twenty years is anything but promising.

For one thing, I see absolutely no evidence that the provinces were consulted.    This is a huge warning flag since immigration is supposed to be a shared responsibility between the federal and provincial governments.   In a world of extremely tight budgets, it is well and proper that the provinces should have the lead role in determining their respective needs for certain types of workers (Alberta, obviously, needs energy  and agricultural workers; while Ontario requires people in high tech and health care companies as well as for forests and mines).   This is because it's the high value and high paying jobs that generate the most revenues for the sub national governments.

There does appear to be some sense in reducing the weighting on proficiency in either English or French (although there should be some competency in one or both languages if not outright fluency).

But there appear to be no changes in the settlement monies to the provinces for regular class immigrants.   The amounts offered (about $5000 per capita in Québec and $3400 in the other provinces) don't even begin to cover the upfront costs.   The provinces have every right to demand a bigger slice of the pie and to increase their role in the selection process with agreements renegotiated more frequently (say, every five years or so instead of decades) and more transparently with legislative review.

As well there also doesn't appear (still) to be any fiscal arrangements to help legitimate refugees settle other than the "good offices" of local social groups as well as international NGOs such as the Red Cross-Red Crescent alliance and the Salvation Army.   And if that's not bad enough, the Cons are changing the list of what are considered "safe countries of origin" -- those where the receiving country believes that a "well founded fear of persecution" never or almost never exists.

These include, amongst others, the 27 European Union members, the US and Australia, among others.   But among the proposed list are some Central American countries which while nominally are democracies (finally) still have pretty bleak (and that is being mild) human rights records -- especially against women, Native North Americans and journalists.    Also are countries in Africa which have well known abuses against minorities and women even if they too have democratized.

And let's not forget, there are still many countries where the mere fact that one is LGBT is cause for persecution as well as prosecution.   True, there are many Canadians who have major personal moral qualms about alternative lifestyles but are at least willing to be tolerant of them.    What lies ahead possibly is a situation not unlike the "Voyage of the Damned" where this country indirectly participated in the Holocaust by sending a boatload of European Jews back to the other side of the pond because of widespread prejudice here at the time, including very prominently from "monarchist women's" groups.

Those on the so-called "safe list" will still get a Singh hearing but will not be able to appeal a negative decision to the Refugee Appeals Board; instead they will have to go directly to the Federal Court of Appeal (which normally handles such issues as claims for disability pensions denied by the CPP, patent and copyright disputes, and appeals for worker's comp for federal public servants).   Most lawyers will tell you that a "federal case" can be way more costly to prepare than a provincial civil trial and legal aid even more difficult to obtain than for the provincial courts or tribunals.    Most refugees therefore will just go home, or maybe even "forum shop" to another country that doesn't share "black lists" with Canada.

But lastly, it's not heartening to hear that the "investor" class is getting the short shaft.   While there have been some families who have "bought" citizenships as a matter of convenience in case things go really wrong in their home countries (think Mainland China, for instance, which keeps regressing on human rights) most have put their money here on good faith, creating jobs and on the presumption that they would get a fast track to naturalization.     Now, it seems, many of them are being forced to the back of the line to start over even though they have successfully resettled here.    If that's not acting in bad faith I'm not sure what is.

There's no way that we should ever go back to the "Whites First" policy we had for decades (and white supremacists -- ahem, "British Israelists" -- have long lobbied to have reinstated).

But I suspect many first and second generation Canadians would never have gotten over here if they had to qualify under the new proposed rules.   Canada is a better country because we have welcomed immigrants of all classes, all races and from all countries.   Most importantly, there may be an argument for "safe third countries" but the list has to be a lot narrower, otherwise Canada will lose a lot of potential migrants.    Even the  policies of the US and the Schengen bloc in Europe right now look way more enlightened.


nancy john said...

I am more than happy that people who simply want to work here are allowed to do so but that is not the nature of the migration

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