6.08.2007

"working class immigrants need not apply"

From an Op-Ed in the Star, by Pedro Barata, Vilma Filici, and Victor Wong, of the Portuguese Canadian National Congress, the Canadian Hispanic Congress, and the Chinese Canadian National Congress, respectively.
Working-class immigrants need not apply.

Although these words do not actually show up on Canadian immigration application forms, they might as well. After all, carpenters, plumbers, cleaners, hotel workers and others eager to fill positions in industries that are desperate for new recruits don't have a prayer of qualifying for permanent residency under Canada's points-based immigration system.

Yesterday, Ottawa took the first important step toward rectifying this situation. Parliament passed a motion to put a moratorium on further deportations and to seek sensible solutions aimed at regularizing the status of undocumented migrants and finally overhauling the immigration and refugee determination system.

The motion, which was passed by a 147 to 115 vote, with most of those opposing it being Conservative MPs, presents a forthright recognition that Canada's immigration system is unsustainable and that many sectors in our economy would suffer without the contributions of today's undocumented migrants.

Immigrant groups, employers, labour unions and faith communities will now be watching closely to ensure that Parliament puts its words into action.

The urgency of the situation certainly calls for decisiveness. Although precise numbers are unavailable, it is estimated that thousands of undocumented migrants live, work and attend schools wherever employment gaps are glaring throughout Canada.

Without their contributions, construction sites for condos, residential homes, new industrial developments, new factories and office buildings could well shut down by the end of the week. The food industry would likely grind to a halt. Maintenance of our homes, office towers and hotels as well as many other industries would be crippled.

How did we get to this point? Who made up a points system that excludes the very people that are needed by our economy? And who decided that the only worthy economic migrants to Canada are those with university degrees, high technical skills, or plenty of money?

I'm very glad to see that more attention will be paid to undocumented workers and other hard-working people who want to immigrate to Canada. As the writers say, "Canada faces many challenges that require our undivided attention – climate change, poverty, competitiveness and good jobs, to name just a few. The last thing we should be doing is wasting valuable financial and human resources hunting down hard-working families and removing them from jobs for which there is no one else to take their place."

I couldn't agree more. But it's also odd for me to read this, because I consider myself working class. Allan and I have one university degree between us and no grad school; we work at staff-level positions; we rent our home; we own one car. While we earn more than a hotel cleaner, we earn less than a successful plumber, electrician or carpenter.

The Canadian immigration system does favour professional people with advanced degrees, but ever since the point threshold was lowered from 75 to 67 in 2003, many working class people with good employment prospects have been able to make the grade. Many skilled trades, such as electrician and machinist, are listed among the professions recognized on the application. The category that most of us apply through is called "skilled worker class".

Perhaps the writers are exaggerating to make a point. Or perhaps my definition of working class is askew.

Read the essay here.

8 comments:

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Actually, the categories of social class have tended in social science to be interpreted as having to to with occupation, not with education or income. And in four-part schemas (lower blue, upper blue, lower white, upper white), you'd fall into "lower white", i.e., lower middle class. "Working class" tends to refer to occupations that involve physical labour or working with your hands in some way.

These categories are problematic, of course, but that's generally what is meant in the (quantitative) social sciences.

L-girl said...

Interesting. I was taught that owning a home and each adult in the household driving her/his own car was the middle-class threshold - and that being unable to meet that made one working class.

You know a lot more about it than I do, but that "lower middle" distinction - an office worker being placed "above" an electrician on a social ladder - makes little sense to me. I prefer self-identification, and that's probably why the assumptions of this essay don't work for me.

James said...

Interesting. I was taught that owning a home and each adult in the household driving her/his own car was the middle-class threshold - and that being unable to meet that made one working class.

By that standard, Lori & I don't count, since we have only one car between us (and only she drives it). :)

Of course, I have an unusually expensive bike instead... Though not as expensive as a new car.

L-girl said...

By that standard, Lori & I don't count, since we have only one car between us (and only she drives it). :)

Oh don't be difficult. ;)

That's because you choose not to drive, rather than not being able to afford a second car.

In any case the standards, as I was taught them, are geared towards middle-America suburban life. Eg, a wealthy New York City family might own an apartment in the city and a house in the country, but only have one (expensive) car kept in a (very expensive) garage, only used for out-of-city trips. But they're not exactly lower-middle or working class. :)

L-girl said...

and that being unable to meet that made one working class.

PS: note the words "being unable to" rather than "choosing not to..." ! :)

Staci said...

I found your blog on a Google search. This entry has crushed my hopes a little.
My husband who is a flooring installer was offered an excellent job in Kelowna. But what you are saying is that we will never be able to become permanent citizens because of his trade ?

So should we not even bother with considering the move? :( :(

L-girl said...

No no no! This post does not say that at all. The last thing I want to do is to crush anyone's hopes. I'm in the opposite business: giving hope.

Go through the CIC site, find the list of NOC work codes, and see if you or your husband fits in any of the categories. If he is a skilled tradesman, he probably will.

More importantly, if he's been offered work, he can get a work permit and you can move that way.

If this post gives you the impression that you can't become permanent residents, I'm going to delete it.

Please go to the CIC site and read up. And please, I'd love it if you'd email me to follow up. Thanks and good luck.

Staci said...

Actually after I read this I went back and did just that. **phew**
Sorry for the misunderstanding and a slight freak out that lasted two hours on my end.