Saturday, April 12, 2008

Oppose Bill C-50!

Please read this important analysis of proposed amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that the Conservative government has buried in Bill C-50, which is supposedly a budget implementation bill. This is analysis is in the form of a joint statement from No One Is Illegal - Montreal, No One Is Illegal - Toronto, No One Is Illegal - Vancouver, and Solidarity Across Borders - Montreal.

Here it is:


Recently the Conservative government introduced a series of amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), buried in Bill c-50, a 136-page "budget implementation bill".

This fundamentally undemocratic move sneaks in critical changes to Canada's immigration policy without proposing any of those changes before Parliament. By making it a matter of confidence, the government forces Opposition parties to either accept them or call an election.

This series of amendments places more arbitrary power in the hands of the Immigration Minister:

- Under the existing s. 11 of the IRPA, anyone who meets the already stringent criteria to enter Canada as a worker, student, visitor, or permanent resident, shall be granted that status. However, under the proposed changes, despite meeting the criteria, the Minister will have the discretion to arbitrarily reject an application.

- Sec. 25 currently says that the Minister "shall" examine a Humanitarian and Compassionate application - this is changed to "shall" examine the H&C application if the applicant is in Canada, but only "may" examine the application if the applicant is outside Canada. Although the government claims will have no impact on family reunification, in practice it will have a serious impact on family reunification as H&C applications are one of the most frequent avenues for family reunification (for example separated refugee children).

- Proposed s. 87.3 of the Act will allow the Minister to issue "instructions" setting quotas on the "category" of person that can enter Canada - including quotas based on country of origin. This unprecedented modification of IRPA would risk putting in place implicit equivalents to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923, the Order in Council of 1911 prohibiting the landing of "any immigrant belonging to the Negro race", that of 1923 excluding "any immigrant of any Asiatic race", or the "None is too many" rule applied to fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe during the Second World War.

- Ministerial power in deciding the order in which new applications are processed, regardless of when they were filed. This means prioritizing immigration applicants based on their ability to fulfill the needs of the Canadian job market, "whether it's people to wash dishes and make sandwiches, or whether it's the highly skilled engineers", as stated by Minister Diane Finley. This is a profoundly dehumanizing and racist conception of immigrants as disposable commodities.

- New sections 87.3 (4) and (5) of the IRPA would allow the Minister to simply hold on to, return, or throw out a visa application and deny any opportunity to review that decision in Court. This precedent is truly alarming, especially in the context of a deeply flawed appeals process, including the existing lack of implementation of a Refugee Appeal Division, despite being provided for under IRPA.

The Conservatives argue that these changes are necessary to "modernize" the immigration system and reduce the existing backlog. However, the true objective is clear from Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's comments that the government seeks a "competitive immigration system which will quickly process skilled immigrants who can make an immediate contribution to the economy."

The major lobby behind these changes comes from employers' organizations and business lobbies. Indeed, Bill C-50 is being praised primarily by business associations. Philip Hochstein, president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of British Columbia, has stated that the government is moving in the right direction by focusing on Canada's economic needs, "We need strong, young, willing workers to come, much like the people who built this country."

Mr. Hochstein seems to forget the historical exploitation of immigrant workers, the most well-known example of which is the Chinese railway workers. The estimated 17,000 Chinese workers who came to Canada from 1881-1884 were met with dangerous working conditions and discrimination upon their arrival. Chinese workers earned $1 a day, and it is estimated that anywhere from 1500-2500 Chinese migrants died during the construction of the railway. As soon as this dangerous work was completed, the message was clear: Chinese people were no longer welcome.

These proposed legislative changes come in the context of a global capitalist and nationalist reinforcement of labour flexibility as the guiding principle of immigration policy, where migrants are only as valuable as their labour. It is clear that the priorities will be relatively wealthy people applying under the skilled worker program and investor classes, as well as increasingly vulnerable temporary migrant workers. Immigration policy will serve the needs of Canadian industry by regulating migration and providing a flexible labour pool rather than upholding the dignity of migrants.

These changes are directly in line with Canada's commitment to the Security and Prosperity Partnership, which lays out the need for a rapid expansion of both "low-skill" temporary guest worker programs and "high-skill" professionals. In Canada today, the number of people admitted each year on temporary worker visas is greater than the number admitted as permanent residents. We must reject temporary migrant worker programs of indentured servitude and call for the unconditional right of migrant workers to permanent residency and labour rights equal to those of citizens.

At the same time, such changes comes at the deliberate expense of refugees, non-status migrants, or those seeking family reunification- who are seen as increasingly 'undesirable' and potential security threats in light of repressive post 9/11 controls. Decisions such as the $101 million arming of Canadian border guards; the establishment of Canadian Border Services Agency as an enforcement division in processing refugee claims that sends the message that refugee claimants are a threat to public safety; the ongoing unjust use of Security Certificates against on-citizens; the implementation of the Safe Third Country Agreement between the Canada and US which has drastically reduced the number of asylum seekers able to make a claim in Canada; and increasing rates of deportation to over 13,000 a year from Canada have all perpetuated a racist, anti-poor, and anti-migrant agenda.

This agenda is normalized due to the heightened racialized national identity of Canada that continuously places racialized immigrants (although not white immigrants) as 'Outsiders' to the Canadian nation. For example, much of the opposition to this Bill has challenged the secretive process behind the bill, while still accepting the norm that "Canada should be able to select its preferred immigrants", thus feeding into the commodification of migrants and the assertion of Canada's sovereign and racist right to select who it allows to remain, as reminiscent through the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese-Canadian internment, and Komagatamaru incident. Therefore although nothing new, in the post 9/11 climate, we are witnessing an escalation of attacks against 'immigrants'- the eternally hyphenated citizens- for example through the reasonable accommodation' hearings, the wearing of the hijab and turban, the phenomenon of "nippertipping" against Asian-Canadians, and many more. The constant questioning of immigrants (although most are long-time citizens) "ability to integrate", their "suspicious behaviours", their "overburdening of the system", and their "Third World traditions" reveals an incredibly shallow multiculturalism.

This mutual reinforcement of corporate and state interests - cheap labour and national identity, respectively - evident in the prioritization of labour market needs within the global War on Terror, is legitimized not only by recourse to colonial and racist discourse but also by the constant cultivation of fear in the hearts and minds of citizens. The production of migrants as disposable commodities goes in tandem with their construction as the dangerous "Other" or "The Enemy Within" as the threat they pose can be tamed through a process of commodification and the withholding of citizenship rights as a mechanism of social control. Fear of the "dangerous Other" thus underwrites the production of exclusivist nationalist identity (and therefore support for the state) while fear of the "commodifiable Other" (as "stealing" employment and eroding the social system) produces fearful and disciplined citizens vulnerable to increasing corporate exploitation and state repression.

Therefore, the general message to poor and working people of colour and their families- the overwhelming majority of migrants from the Global South- is that they need not apply as permanent residents unless they are willing to come as temporary workers in exploitative jobs and whose status will be legally reinforced as 'non-Canadians'. This is particularly revolting in a context where the Canadian government and Canadian corporations actively participate in the creation and reinforcement of a system of global displacement of migrants and refugees who are fleeing poverty, persecution, war and corporate exploitation of their lands.

In light of this reality, we call for an end to deportation and detentions and a comprehensive, transparent, inclusive and ongoing regularization program that is equitable and accessible to all persons living without permanent residency in Canada to ensure free migration and full rights for all those who seek them. We also call for the abolition of agreements such as NAFTA and the SPP, which are making Canadian borders increasingly open to capital and those who represent capital, while at the same time restricting the movement of those who have been displaced by these very same neoliberal policies.

At a most basic level, we must also challenge the notion that some migrants are more worthy than others; we believe that freedom of movement is a fundamental human right and we struggle for a world in which no one is forced to migrate against their will and where people can move freely in order to live and flourish in justice and dignity.



- Our demands:

- Our 12 principles for regularization:

We encourage allies across Canada to march in solidarity with all migrants and refugees to demand STATUS FOR ALL!: - in Toronto, join us on May 3 at noon at Christie Pits; in Montreal, join us on May 4 at 12:30pm at the corner of Victoria & Van Horne in Côte-des-Neiges (métro Plamondon). Other actions across Canada to be announced.

Organize an action in your community!

No comments: