With a clear majority in Parliament after leading two minority governments, nothing can now stop the ruling Conservative Party in having its way over the next four years. This is why Canada’s Minister for Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney appears to be in a hurry to overhaul the country’s immigration system every time he announces new policy changes.
Kenney is in fact dismantling Canada’s immigration system at will. Public consultations which he himself has initiated will never change his position. People are being encouraged to speak up but only for the sake of token participation. It’s only a matter of time before we witness a virtually new program for selecting immigrants in this country.
|Canada's Minister for Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney. Photo courtesy|
of mostlyconservative. Click to view "Jason Kenney: Bottom Line
“The Federal Skilled Worker Program backlog is a major roadblock to Canada’s ability to respond to rapidly changing labour market needs,” says Kenney. “Having to process applications that are as many as eight years out of date reduces our ability to focus on new applicants with skills and talents that our economy needs today.”
Before being elected as majority government, the Conservative Party had been singing a different tune over the last four years. They were the political party of immigrants, the Tories claimed. The Tories were praising immigrants for being essential to Canada’s prosperity. There was no mistake in Jason Kenney’s appeal to Canada’s newcomers when he portrayed himself as hero to new immigrants. That was before. Alas, the federal elections are over, and the Conservative Party has suddenly been afflicted with mega-amnesia.
For four years as a minority government, the Tories could not cut back the flow of immigration applicants to this country so they had to maintain or increase the projected number of immigrants to Canada every year. Canada’s minority population is getting larger due to immigrants from non-Western nations and all the political parties are after their support.
Well, things are different now. Canada’s immigration minister doesn’t have to worry about the minority population vote anymore. That’s why it is so easy for Jason Kenney to put the blame squarely on the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSW) as the main reason for the immigration backlog. As he is fond of saying, the backlog is simply a mathematical problem. “When total applications exceed total admissions, you get a backlog.”
Of course, the minister is right. But who made this happen in the first place? Wasn’t it Kenney himself who smugly boasted that the backlog issue reflects well on Canada—that it is the Number 1 choice destination of immigrants in the world? Because Canada, according to Kenney, is a land “of opportunity, prosperity and democracy.”
When you keep opening up the application process, it is only logical that you create a line-up. And when there are only a few applicants you can accept to come to Canada, then you create a backlog. If you keep doing this every year, the line-up grows longer and longer. In short, the backlog issue is never a function of the number of applications accepted or the government is willing to entertain, but the number of applications actually processed and approved.
So, is the culprit the FSW program or the federal government and its bureaucrats?
It is fairly reasonable to expect the federal government to close the door to new applications, but not to eliminate those applications made earlier. Because these early applicants will be reimbursed for their fees, the federal government deems this is fair treatment. It would never be fair. The Canadian government has dashed their hopes and dreams. They gave up other options, and for some, opportunities for personal advancement which are no longer available after waiting so long. Others have postponed marriage or raising their families, so how can you be fair to these people? Their applications were never refused but only languished in the backlog because of bureaucratic incompetence.
Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), the basic law that governs the country’s immigration system, says that decisions made under this law should be consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including principles of equality and freedom from discrimination. Applicants directly affected by this draconian decision by Canada Immigration to shut the door to those who have applied prior to 2008 but have patiently followed the rules are mainly from China, India and the Philippines. These are applicants not necessarily the type of people from Western Europe that Canada prefers. Wouldn’t this be a clear act of discrimination against a specific race?
Right after the federal elections in 2011, Minister Kenney asked Canadians to help the government round up and deport suspected war criminals and illegal immigrants, ominously signalling the change from his previous pro-immigrant stance during the election campaign to that of an “Immigration Hunter” as the media had dubbed him.
On October 20, 2011, Jason Kenney rose before the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration and announced that immigration applications need to be reduced to fix the current backlog. He didn’t say then that those who applied before 2008 and whose applications are decomposing in the backlog would be dropped. Kenney instead decided to cap the number of applications for family reunification, thus denied the hopes of many new immigrants to bring their families with them to Canada, a clear defiance of the IRPA objective to reunite families. To allay the fears of these immigrants that they would not be able to sponsor their families, Kenney sweetened the cap by allowing parents and grandparents to come to Canada as temporary visitors under an expedited application process—8 weeks versus 8 years if they apply for permanent residence.
The Minister of Immigration wants a just-in-time system that recruits people with the right skills to meet Canada’s labour market needs, expedites their immigration and gets them working in a period of months, not years. In other words, Kenney wants employers to have a greater say in selection of immigrants.
Jason Kenney confirmed this decision in a recent interview. “The reforms are not about completely handing over to employers the power of selection, but rather about increasing their role,” he told The Huffington Post Canada this week. “There will continue to be a certain criteria that people have to meet.”
Many have criticized Kenney’s decision to put employers in the driver’s seat of Canada’s immigration system. Peter Showler, former chairperson of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, said allowing businesses to pick and choose the country’s newcomers hands “significant control over the selection of ideal immigrants to employers, who are acting in their own self-interest, not in Canada’s interest.”
Giving employers more say in selecting immigrants will result in a narrower focus because they will simply choose those who can fill a particular job. Right now, there are more than 300,000 temporary foreign workers in Canada—people who have been hired by employers to fill in their labour shortage. Unlike immigrants, these temporary workers have no guarantee of staying in Canada after their papers expire. These are the types of workers preferred by most employers; these are workers who can be hired when needed and disposed of when their services are no longer necessary.
Lately, Canada’s Human Resources Minister Diane Finley has announced that the Conservative government would now be willing to let employers pay temporary foreign workers less than what Canadians are paid. Finley said that employers will now be allowed to pay such foreign workers 15 per cent less than the prevailing wage.
So, the hiring of temporary foreign workers which was begun as a stop-gap measure in 2000 looks like the policy of choice by the Conservative government. There will be more temporary foreign workers coming to Canada who are disposable after their contracts expire. No more backlogs, then. Exactly what the economy needs in order to prosper and for employers to make more profits: by lowering wages.
There is something more sinister in the government’s scheme to eliminate the backlog and reform what is now considered a dysfunctional immigration system. The reason is more economic than anything else: to drive down wages or else the government will take in more temporary foreign workers, trained and cheap labour from abroad.
The Conservative government wants to put a stop to Canadians whining about jobs going to immigrants and foreign workers. He is not mincing words: Canadian workers had better stop complaining and accept lower wages. Jason Kenney has already warned that unemployed workers who refuse to take low-wage jobs will have their employment insurance benefits cut off. If Canadians agree to work for less, says Kenney, Ottawa won’t have to bring in as many low-wage outsiders.