4.14.2008

immigration "reform" and this endless harper government

I'm unhappy about the proposed changes to Canada's immigration policy, and unhappy about the way they are being moved through Parliament, tacked onto budget votes in a series of we-dare-you confidence motions.

The Toronto Star's Carol Goar had a good piece about it last month, and it's still relevant. Emphasis mine.
It is possible that Immigration Minister Diane Finley wants more power to do exactly what she says: clean up her department's enormous backlog of unprocessed applications.

It is also possible that she is equipping herself to transform Canada's overloaded immigration system into a lean, business-friendly recruitment tool.

Both interpretations fit the available facts. The determining factor will be how the minister uses her expanded mandate.

Legal experts are still parsing the changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, introduced on March 14. But the preliminary consensus is that they are much more significant than Canadians have been told.

Under the new legislation, the immigration minister would have the authority to:

Limit the number of immigration applications Canada accepts.

Deny admission to applicants already approved by immigration officers.

Block the entry of would-be immigrants "by category or otherwise."


These measures, backed by a $22 million funding boost in last month's budget, would certainly allow the government to whittle down its pile of 900,000 unprocessed immigration applications.

If visa offices cut off new applications, the staff could tackle the six-year accumulation of paperwork in their files. If the minister instructed them, as a first priority, to discard all applications from individuals who have died, immigrated elsewhere or decided against coming to Canada, the pile would shrink appreciably.

But if clearing the backlog is Finley's objective, why does she need the power to bar certain types of immigrants? Why does she seek the authority to reject applicants who have already met Canada's admission criteria? Why doesn't she just give managers of visa offices in countries such as China, India and the Philippines the discretion to close the intake pipe when their workloads become unmanageable?

The sweeping nature of the changes proposed in Bill C-50 suggests something bigger than housecleaning is afoot.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty called it "modernizing the immigration system" in his Feb. 26 budget. He said the government wants a "just-in-time competitive immigration system, which will quickly process skilled immigrants who can make an immediate contribution to the economy."

The fastest way to get there is to centralize control in the minister's office.

That is what Bill C-50 would do. If Finley wanted to block the inflow of relatives sponsored by family members in Canada, she could do it. If she wanted to exclude immigrants from certain countries, she could do it. If she wanted to propel foreign workers needed by a government-friendly employer to the front of the queue, she could do that, too.

"This fundamentally changes our immigration policy," said Lorne Waldman, a lawyer who has practised in the field for more than 30 years. "The minister could issue an instruction overriding all of the existing criteria."

What this means, Waldman said, is that Canada would no longer be an immigrant-welcoming country. It would be a rich Western power that shops for high-value immigrants. Federal officials would no longer use objective standards to determine whether an individual qualifies for a visa. The minister would be able to set and change the rules at will.

"I'm very concerned," he said. "These changes are far more serious than people have been led to believe."

. . .

Perhaps Finley has no intention of currying favour with ethnic voters, catering to the demands of business or keeping out people from certain regions. But if this bill becomes law, there will be nothing to stop her.

In the Montreal Gazette, Ian MacDonald writes about Harper's worrisome strategy.
The Conservatives keep daring the Liberals to defeat them in the House. The Liberals keep threatening to do so, only to fold when push comes to shove in votes.

The latest Conservative dare is over an immigration bill meant to reduce a huge six-year backlog of 800,000 persons waiting to get in the country, and expedite those whose credentials fill the need of the Canadian labour market. By tying it to budget implementation, the Conservatives have made it a money bill, and thus a question of confidence.

The Liberals are trying to stir old ghosts among ethnic voters about narrow-minded Conservative attitudes on immigration. Whipping up anxieties in multicultural communities, a core Liberal constituency, is something they do well.

Thus, for two weeks in the House, the Liberals have pounded the government on the immigration bill.

. . .

But this debate isn't about the immigration reform bill. Not really. Especially since it's been tied to the budget as a question of confidence. It's about whether the Liberals can muster the courage to bring down the government at month's end, forcing a June election. It's a big game of truth or dare.

Or, as a senior cabinet minister put it privately the other day: "We are giving the Liberals another chance to defeat us over the immigration bill."

And if the Liberals blink again, then once again they will appear weak and unprincipled. But the Liberal caucus is increasingly unhappy being stuck in this place. And there are hidden leadership agendas, of Iggy and Bob Rae, that could precipitate an election.

MacDonald and many other pundits see the strategy as a no-lose for Harper. He either survives the confidence motion or forces an election while the Liberals are supposedly bleeding support.

But there's a lot of anger and dissatisfaction with this government: with their hypocrisy (transparency? accountability? yeah, right!), their penchant for secrecy, their feud with Ontario, and a whole series of unpopular, regressive bills.

The Liberals have been fools to let the Harper government go this far, as every unanswered dare only strengthens the Tories. Partisan Liberal supporters who can only whine, "But it's not time for an election!" are even worse. Your party props up this Conservative government for twice as long as it should have, and all you can say is "But they're not ready...". That, and blame the NDP (who has done exactly none of this propping up) and NDP supporters for "splitting the vote" (i.e., voting for the actual progressive party).

I don't know what would happen in a summer election - and despite the pronouncements, neither does anyone else - but I do know we won't get rid of this government without an election. Enough already!

24 comments:

Desmond Jones said...

Why is shifting immigration patterns problematic? Immigrantion is not just about the needs of the immigrant, it is also about the needs of the country. The current programme serves neither.

" WAR ON POVERTY: RISE OF THE MUSLIM GHETTO
For Muslim poor, a shameful admission

Apr 12, 2008 04:30 AM
Noor Javed
Staff Reporter

The exact number of Muslims in Toronto who live below Statistics Canada's low-income cut-off, the country's unofficial poverty line, is difficult to determine, as socio-economic data is rarely gathered through the lens of religion.

[...]

"Already we can see the formation of ghettos in some parts of the city," said Shakir, referring to neighbourhoods where overt race-based poverty is glaringly obvious, and where halal meat stores are in abundance.

The scant data available paints a troubling picture of a growing community of nearly 300,000 Muslims, which includes a mix of refugees, recent immigrants, and those who settled in Canada decades ago.

The four poorest of all ethno-racial groups, with more than 50 per cent of their members living below Statistics Canada's low-income cut-off, were Somalis, Afghans, Ethiopians and Bangladeshi populations – all from predominately Muslim countries. At least 30 per cent of Pakistanis and West Asians also qualified as poor, according to a study done by the Institute for Social Research at York University in 2006, which looked at the demographic and social profiles of ethno-racial groups in the city.

[...]

In 13 neighbourhoods deemed "at-risk" in Toronto by United Way, more than half have significant Muslim populations, including Flemingdon Park, Regent Park, Etobicoke North and Jane-Finch. "Every year, we see more and more poor people coming to the mosque for help," said Omar Farouk, president of the International Muslims Organization, based in Etobicoke, which has opened a food bank and distributes food to shelters once a month. More than 200 people regularly access the food bank."

L-girl said...

"Why is shifting immigration patterns problematic?"

Where did you see me write that?

"Immigrantion is not just about the needs of the immigrant, it is also about the needs of the country."

Absolutely.

"The current programme serves neither."

I actually think it serves both. The credentialing issue needs to be addressed, but I think the current immigration patterns are working well for both immigrant and Canada.

There is room for improvement, of course, but the Tory plan doesn't address any of the issues that need addressing.

Please don't post long excerpts here. A link will do. Thank you.

Cara said...

It's not just a matter of what some perceive as Liberal 'weakness' for not having an election. When the Tories make (nearly) everything a confidence matter it's an abuse of process. This is not the way that minority governments usually operate. The narrative you use to frame an event will largely determine how you understand it. Personally, I think it oversimplifies what's been happening if the narrative focuses on "Liberal weakness".
Yes, I know there are election 'hawks' out there who will disagree with me (you, for example), but in this particular Parliament, politics isn't happening quite the way it usually does for a variety of reasons. (ie changes and re-alignments in Quebec, election financing changes, and Tories that are taking too many pages out of the Republican party play book, to name a few. Attack adds before an election until recently was also unknown.)
Lastly, if the Tories really are that bad, and I doubt few will disagree that they are, it's all the more important to make sure that the election will actually be won. Cause if we lose, the thought of a Tory majority is frightening. Even a minority gives them an extra 2 years to make mischief in.

L-girl said...

Well Cara, you've posted this on my blog before, and if you don't, another Liberal supporter will, like clockwork, every time I express my frustration at the weak-willed Liberals. It's not like I haven't heard it before, and before, and before.

Every time the Liberals allow the Government to continue, they grow weaker, and make it less likely they can win an election. They had a decent shot once, but they seem intent on reducing their chances.

They keep draining more water out of the pool and crying, it's too shallow to swim, it's not a good time to take a plunge. Let's drain out a little more and see if that works!

I do agree it's an abuse of power. But Stephen Harper is shrewedly capitalizing on the fact that he has no real opposition outside of the parties that cannot trigger an election. The Liberals cannot rightly be thought of as Opposition, when they hand the Tories a de facto majority government.

No, none of us want to see a Harper majority government - except we are seeing one right now.

Desmond Jones said...

If shifting immigration patterns are not a problem, why link to the Goar article?

"I actually think it serves both."

How? It expands an underclass, and perpetuates poverty that is overtly race based. How is more immigration, largely family based re-unification, aiding movement out of the ghetto. It perpetuates it.

redsock said...

When the Tories make (nearly) everything a confidence matter it's an abuse of process.

So have some guts and call them on their bullshit for once! Standing up to bullies often gets them to stop their abuse. At the very leats, people will see that you refuse to be pushed around.

This is not the way that minority governments usually operate.

Kow-towing to every whim of the minority government is not the way that opposition governments usually operate.

L-girl said...

Desmond, I don't know where your information comes from, but it sounds like you don't know a lot about the Canadian immigration system. Having gone through it myself, I know that is skewed towards formally educated, professionals who end up at least middle class in Canada, if not upper middle class.

Drive around the thriving suburbs of the GTA, populated almost exclusively by immigrants. Immigrants buying houses, driving SUVs, sending their children to public school and onto universities.

Mississauga's population has doubled in the last five years, entirely from immigration. Underclass? Hardly.

This isn't to say that some immigrants don't struggle when they first arrive. Of course some do. But that doesn't mean they don't end up thriving later.

L-girl said...

Ghetto, race-based poverty, underclass... I wonder where these ideas come from. Is it Tory propaganda?

Desmond Jones said...

Desmond, I don't know where your information comes from...Chronic Low Income and Low-income Dynamics Among Recent Immigrants; Poverty by Postal Code; (Frances Lankin was part of Bob Rae's gov't) and the above mentioned Institute for Social Research at York University.

And what value does doubling the population of Mississauga accrue to the average resident.

"Abdurrahman Aydemir, a Statistics Canada researcher,
and George Borjas, Professor of Economics and Social
Policy at the Kennedy School of Government of Harvard
University, have found that a migration-induced shift of
10% in the supply of labour is associated with a 3% to 4%
movement of wages in the opposite direction. International
migration, in other words, raises a country’s wages
whenever it decreases the size of its workforce; it lowers
wages whenever the opposite is true."

L-girl said...

And what value does doubling the population of Mississauga accrue to the average resident.

My point was that many or most immigrants are thriving.

The value is that immigrants are driving the economy of Canada. As I'm sure you know, Canada has a negative birth rate. The country could never maintain its publicly financed health care system without new populations paying into it, and that new population is born elsewhere and comes to Canada through immigration.

When I first got here, many Canadians welcomed to me to Canada for that very reason. Immigration is essential to Canada's survival as a decent place to live.

Just so you know, I'm not at all interested in debating this with you. I'm not much into debate. You won't change my mind and I won't change yours. So when I stop responding, you'll know why. Thanks in advance.

Desmond Jones said...

The country could never maintain its publicly financed health care system without new populations paying into it...

It's not being maintained. Demand exceeds supply. Been to an emergency ward lately?

Ontario Hospital Wait Times are the Shortest in Canada -- but Up 57 Percent in Ten Years

Scott M. said...

I'm confused Desmond. Are you saying that if we didn't have immigrants our health care would be better?

Take a look at the points system. A really close look at it. It does encourage highly educated folks.

Unless, of course, your beef is letting in the relatives of Canadians or the relatives of permanent residents. In which case I ask you -- would you take your highly-educated skill set and move to a *better* country if you couldn't help your family out by bringing them here? Admittedly not all our immigration comes from countries further down the economic scale, but a lot of it does.

If we cut off immigration from non "first-world" nations, we'd have a negative population growth. How do I know this? Because we *AREN'T* turning away highly-educated people from first-world countries. That means there isn't going to be anyone in those countries to fill the void created by taking people out of the system.

L-girl said...

Thanks, Scott.

Desmond Jones said...

I'm confused Desmond. Are you saying that if we didn't have immigrants our health care would be better?

The point is that mass immigration is putting and will continue to increase pressure on a system that cannot handle that demand. As Borjas at Harvard pointed out you cannot have socialised medicine and mass immigration. We don't need to be Sao Paulo of the North.

I ask you -- would you take your highly-educated skill set and move to a *better* country if you couldn't help your family out by bringing them here?

Yes. It's exactly what my wife did. She was enormously helpful to her family without moving them to Canada.

If we cut off immigration from non "first-world" nations, we'd have a negative population growth.

If negative growth is an issue, then gov'ts should be supporting an increase in the fertility rate of Canadians. The aboriginal community is growing and there is no aboriginal immigration.

Why are special interest groups more concerned about the well being of other nationalities more so than the well being of Canadians? For instance..."Canadian Arab Federation Executive Director Mohamed Boudjenane expressed his concern over the Conservative Party’s disregard for democracy through Bill C-50. “We think it’s an anti-immigrant piece of legislation,” said Boudjenane. “Since this government came to power it has drastically reduced the number of immigrants and refugees from Arab countries.”

Why is reducing the rate of immigration from Arab countries taking precedent over the well being of Arab Canadians? The York U. study (above) shows levels of impoverishment above the Canadian norm in these communities. Borjas at al showed mass immigration reduces wages and job opportunities. Employ the impoverished people here first. Unless of course, Boudjenane, has another agenda.

L-girl said...

The point is that mass immigration is putting and will continue to increase pressure on a system that cannot handle that demand. As Borjas at Harvard pointed out you cannot have socialised medicine and mass immigration.

In fact, in Canada you cannot have national health insurance without large amounts of immigration.

If negative growth is an issue, then gov'ts should be supporting an increase in the fertility rate of Canadians.

Now you are showing your true colours, and what lovely colours they are.

What's wrong with this picture?

1. More people are ok, just not more immigrants. Canada can handle more people, who will also presumably be part of the health care system, as long as they are born in Canada. Despite that...

2. The net effect of this would be populating the world even more, rather than moving people who already exist from one area of the globe to another. The world does not need more population growth.

3. The government should not be in the business of encouraging any type of reproductive activity, whether to increase or decrease the birth rate. Those are private decisions, and the government should stay out of them.

4. People in so called first-world nations have fewer children. Canadian-born Canadians and Canadians who were born elsewhere will all have fewer children. This will not be changed by a government ad campaign.

5. You are revealing your bigotry, and it's very distasteful to me. It seems inevitable that you will eventually cross the line and I will have to delete your comments. Perhaps you would prefer to just leave on your own. I know I would prefer it.

The aboriginal community is growing and there is no aboriginal immigration.

Aboriginal immigration? What on earth are you talking about? Shipping native peoples out? You can't possibly mean aboriginal immigration to Canada?

Why are special interest groups more concerned about the well being of other nationalities more so than the well being of Canadians?

What you call "special interest groups" are just regular people, wanting a fair deal just as you do. Arab Canadians are as Canadian as you. You are no more Canadian than someone who took the citizenship oath yesterday, or two years ago, or 10 years ago.

You also have a "special interest group," and it goes by various names: anti-immigration, nativist, Canada for Canadians.

Desmond Jones said...

In a defamation action, a plaintiff need only prove the following:

(a) the statement referred to the plaintiff;

(b) the statement was published (i.e., was communicated to third parties); and

(c) the statement is defamatory - which is to say it would tend to discredit or lower the reputation of an individual in the eyes of the community; certain types of statements (e.g., of illegal activities or professional misconduct) are presumptively defamatory.

That’s it. In a libel action (i.e., defamation by means of written word), the plaintiff does not need to demonstrate actual damage to his or her reputation. It is not a defence to a libel action that no damage to reputation was caused.


Judge yourself accordingly.

L-girl said...

You guys see this? What a freak! A freak whose comments will not be appearing here anymore, of course. But a freak nonetheless.

M@ said...

In a defamation action, a plaintiff need only prove the following:

[...]

(c) the statement is defamatory - which is to say it would tend to discredit or lower the reputation of an individual in the eyes of the community


I don't get it. Is Desmond planning to slap a libel suit on himself? Everything that has discredited and lowered his reputation in my eyes has come from his own comments.

Also, where is a thirteen-year-old going to get the money to hire a libel lawyer? He is a teenager, isn't he?

L-girl said...

I was thinking I could sue him for libel, but then, I don't even know his real name. A person who doesn't even have a visible Blogger profile is going to be hard to sue.

L-girl said...

Interesting that "Desmond" didn't provide a link, only a italicized quote. Or we assume it's a quote because it's in italics.

My understanding from my lawyer friends is that libel is very difficult to prove, the standards are very high, so as not to unduly interfere with basic freedoms.

Still, I wonder why "Desmond" thinks anyone has been defamed? Perhaps he defamed me because I am an immigrant?

The worst thing about "Desmond" is that every time I see his name, I end up singing the Beatles song in my head, and I don't even like that song!

M@ said...

I was thinking I could sue him for libel, but then, I don't even know his real name.

Ah -- you see, not a good idea. You don't want to go up against such a shrewd legal mind. Even if it's the mind of a bigot.

(Note: please, please, please, Des -- name me in the suit. PLEASE.)

L-girl said...

Perhaps The Supreme Court of The Internets will hear the case.

This is ripe for parody.

Tom said...

I see Republicans have taught Desmond well. The Xenophobia from the anti immigration or should I say anti "certain kinds" of immigrants is so vile.

Thanks you Laura for posting the facts in the post. I can imagine Tories going even further as Republicans do, for example stopping same sex couples applications since they would rarely support the conservative party once they move here. Finley could pick and choose future constituents as priority applications.

Never underestimate people hungry for more power.

L-girl said...

I can imagine Tories going even further as Republicans do, for example stopping same sex couples applications since they would rarely support the conservative party once they move here.

If she tries that, it will blow up in her face. But there's nothing to say she won't try.

The really scary part is how they are pushing through this bill with no debate, by attaching funding to it, so it goes through as a confidence motion. The Liberals could still stop it, but will they? It doesn't look like it.