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.