Call it an ‘Immigration Action Plan’.
Many people had warned us about the Conservative Party’s so-called “hidden agenda”. A lot of us simply shrugged it off – buying into the Conservatives’ (and Harper’s) claims that it was “just politics”. Seldom did we analyze the facts, or carefully look at past statements and voting records of Conservative (formerly Reform Party) MPs, staffers, and key organizers and supporters. We ignored what the actual Reform/Conservative “base” was saying. Instead, we were “impressed” by Jason Kenney’s visits to cultural events, and his “hot pursuit” of “very ethnic” (quote from the Conservative Party’s Minister) voters.
While visible minority community leaders rejoiced in their “access” to (and ridiculous photo-ops with) MPs who really did NOT have our best interests at heart, the Conservatives appeared to be putting their “base’s” wishes into motion. Sure they used all the ‘right words’ – those key phrases that made it look like they were acting in our best interest. They talked about the “need” for workers in Canada’s (re: Alberta’s) oil industry. They talked about Canadian employers finding it hard to obtain ‘skilled labour’ in various areas – which included: nannies, cleaning staff, restaurant help, and farm workers. They basically mouthed the old US Bush regime’s very clever anti-immigrant immigration policy.
The ‘deal’ was fairly simple: The Conservatives would help out their friends in the oil patch with cost-effective and asquiicent foreign labour AND they would appease a big core of their base which is quite anti-immigrant, by forcing these labourers back to their home lands after a maximum of 4 years.
In 2011 the ‘Temporary Foreign Worker’ program’s ‘immigration’ numbers exceeded those of the ‘standard’ immigration stream. This is a significant decrease in actual immigrants to Canada. The Harper Government and Minister Kenney cleverly attribute these ‘temporary’ workers to the ‘standard’ immigration stream – counting them into the ‘real’ immigration numbers. ‘The Current’ (CBC Radio) program on October 9th of this year outlined one example of a horror story that is all too common: Workers working for next to nothing – and quite definitely below the minimum wage defined by law – in substandard, often ‘indenture-like’ conditions… with the constant threat of deportment hanging over their heads. It is a tribute to many of these workers’ desire to succeed that more did not succumb to ‘dead ends’ this anti-immigration program creates.
What has Canada lost in the process?
Financially, the fact remains that many (or most) of the temporary workers spend very little in Canada. Most earnings go back to families abroad. They certainly don’t purchase homes, cloth and feed families, and spend on much entertainment in their ‘temporary’ workplace. Real immigrants – one’s who are immigrated naturally – have a net economy that is multiplied by the number of family members they bring with them. An mid-1990s study by Stats Canada showed the net impact of every immigrant coming to Canada – on the day they land – is roughly $35000. This is an average of all the new arrivals, and includes children (Perhaps this is one reason the Harper Conservatives made massive cuts to Stats Can?).
Canadians have lost the opportunity to learn and grow with new Canadians bringing with them stories of success and hardship… stories of appreciation for what Canada has to offer. We have lost the daily interaction with people from all parts of the World – who teach us how to succeed economically and socially in the new World. Many opponents of immigration may shrug at this chance to learn, BUT when your local Canadian company needs to build key markets in places like India, China, Brazil, and Nigeria, every shred of information and familiarity with those cultures is not only a gift, but a necessity.
What else are we losing out on? As a First World nation with one of the most abysmal birth rates in the West, we Canadians are losing a future. How will the Boomers of today fund their pensions (that they have rightly earned)? We’ve already seen the Harper Conservatives making cuts to the Canada Pension Plan (a delay is a cut when you’re officially retired). The pending housing crisis (fueled by the Conservative’s weakening of lending rules, 30, 35, and even 40 year mortgages, and goosing of home purchases with prominent election ads goading young couples to buy) will impact the massive Boomer group hard. An infusion of new permanent immigration would help establish the tax base required to continue to build and grow the Canada we know and love. The Canada with working pension plans, universal medicare, and a ‘hand up’ for those who need it.
The recent decision by the Harper Conservatives, to cut all but Christian clerics’ presence in our nation’s prisons is an outright attack on minority rights. Even if we feel cutting costs at the expense of ‘those nasty criminals’ is worth every penny, we can’t help but be outraged at the targets of those meager savings: minorities. Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and other faith groups have been attacked alone. Instead of maintaining some minority religion clerics in larger urban centers, the Conservatives have axed them all. Let’s go one step further here: Suppose you not only feel stripping prisoners of any human rights is acceptable, but you also really don’t care about those minorities who can no longer worship. Perhaps you care about the safety of your family? Studies show the outreach of religion in prison not only creates ‘penance’, but also helps lower recidivism rates. How can one argue with that?
The fact is, access to some form of spirituality helps lower crime. If the Harper Conservatives were really for lowering crime – and not just talking a good game – they may just practice this. If they really were looking to help immigrants, perhaps they would heed countless studies, and the Government’s own body – Stats Can – which all point out the benefits of a multi-faith prison ministry.
The problem is, this government is not at all concerned about pesky facts, or any sort of evidence-based policy. They are more concerned with appearances and their extreme ideology. The net result is a government that is rift with empty platitudes, blank slogans, and ‘catch phrases’, rather than sound policy and a just society.
Meanwhile, Canadian minority groups are beginning to say, “We don’t need your ‘action’ plans, Mr. Harper”. We want REAL action… honest action… now!
Herman Thind, BSc., OOST(post-Grad), Certified Social Media Strategist.
Herman is a community advocate, consultant, and a student of all things political. He was born and raised in Saskatchewan, and grew up across Western Canada.