Tens of thousands of would-be immigrants waiting for the chance to build a new life in Canada will see their hopes dashed if Immigration Minister Jason Kenney delivers on his proposal to pass a law wiping out the waiting list. Kenney’s keynote speech March 7 to the Economic Club of Canada proposed changes so sweeping that immigration experts aren’t sure what will be left when Kenney is done. It’s crucial for leaders of immigrant communities to demand proper consultation before Kenney’s “transformational changes” are carried through. Promoted as business-friendly and good for the economy, the Kenney proposals cover everything from refugee claims to family reunification and economic immigrants.
His most startling suggestion: to eliminate the waiting list, now unacceptably long, by abolishing it at a stroke. From now on, employers – not the Government of Canada or the provinces -- would pick immigrants from a single global pool, give priority to those with fluency in English or French, and bring them to the head of the line. Potential immigrants who have been languishing on the waiting list for years could simply be out of luck unless they can find a boss to bring them in. (On the other hand, those wanting to speed the arrival of relatives to Canada could just hire them, whether they meet broader economic needs or not.)
“The minister’s statements certainly herald dramatic changes,” says Eyob Naizghi, executive director of Mosaic, one of BC’s largest and oldest immigrant-serving agencies. “But not only is it not clear what is proposed, it’s not clear how it may be implemented.”
If employers pick immigrants, rather than the government, the immigration system will become a labour pool and nothing else. Rather than invest in education, skills and training for Canadian workers to support a madein-Canada economic strategy, Kenney would let individual employers skim the cream of skilled workers from other nations and simply ship them home when they were no longer needed.
“Frankly,” says Kenney, “the employer knows better than a big bureaucracy whose skills are needed and will be relevant to the Canadian labour market the minute they arrive.”
But those workers will be accessible only to employers with the size and resources to do their own recruiting. Smaller businesses will be shut out, unless they want to take a chance on the private recruiters who would undoubtedly.
What happens when an employer lays off or terminates a worker? Presumably those employees are deported unless, as Kenney suggested in one speech, their skills qualify them for permanent residence. It’s hard to imagine more fertile ground for corruption and kickbacks. Even Fraser Institute economist Herb Grubel, a harsh critic of the current system, warns that tough regulations will be needed to ensure unscrupulous employers don’t cheat.
Canada’s current immigration system is based on the belief that providing opportunity for immigrants will expand prosperity for all Canadians. Kenney’s proposals head in the opposite direction, making individual employers’ short-term needs the top priority.
That’s no way to build a country.
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