Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Jason Kenney Uses Immigration Office to Create Sweatshops

Whenever I feel the need to write about Jason Kenney's immigration policies and Peter Van Loan's brutal methods of carrying out those immigration policies, I feel incredibly sad.

Maybe that's why I use cartoons, to soften the blow.

The fact is, they are trying to turn this country into something I barely recognize. This is not who Canadians are.

We have always provided a safe haven and a window of opportunity for those facing oppression or worse, and as a result we have a wonderful multi-cultural population, that helps define our nation.

The old Reformers like Jason Kenney and Stephen Harper, detested multi-culturalism and decided that it posed a threat to our identity. Harper's National Citizens Coalition successfully ran the 'boat people' campaign that blocked Vietnamese refugees from entering Canada because they simply didn't look right.

The religious groups who propelled the new Conservative Party to power, are extremely 'white Christian only', and often dictate public policy.

Jason Kenney is like putty in their hands. He thrives on the feeling of power, holding that above all else. On the surface he is a giddy little man, not terribly bright. But it's the people behind him who pose the danger, and it's not just big corporations, though they are certainly cashing in on his latest scheme.

Jason Kenney's Doublespeak Exposed:
Tories Unleash Canada Border Services on Migrants
S.K. Hussan and Mac Scott
April 22, 2009

It is hard to write an article about Conservative Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's attacks on Canadian racialized communities. As soon as one draft is complete, Kenney is at it again, spinning new lies and venting hateful rhetoric. In a federal cabinet chock-a-block with unsavory characters, Kenney stands first in line.

Kenney has expanded his use of arbitrary power and has moved with stealth to significantly reduce the number of family-class immigrants applying from countries of the Global South. While on the one hand Kenney and the Conservatives portray themselves as the friend of immigrant communities, their administrative edicts to Citizenship and Immigration Canada and legislative changes have resulted in the door being shut on immigrants' hands.

The most recent step has been a ramped-up Conservative attack on immigrants in early April using workplace raids of unprecedented size and scope. These raids have increased undocumented migrants fears and potential for workplace intimidation. At the same time, Kenney and the Conservatives have continued their support for the expansion of temporary worker intake resulting in the continued reproduction of a migrant working-class without political, social and economic rights. Temporary work programs have been used to swell corporate profit at the expense of human misery and migrant workers face removal at an employer's whim.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's Doublespeak Exposed

Speaking in Calgary on April 14th, Kenney announced an immigrant ‘integration’ program that will result in new immigrants to Canada watching videos and writing tests prior to being granted Citizenship. These videos and tests are meant to ‘teach’ people Canadian history and ‘Canadian values.’ No doubt the ‘history’ will be devoid of the role of indigenous and racialized peoples in making Canada, and will gloss over Canada's state-sponsored terrorism against indigenous people. The videos project a false picture of the present-day Canada that is post-sexist, post-racist, post-homophobic and post-ableist. By setting up this integration program, Kenney effectively wants to reinforce dominant Eurocentric myths of Canadian history, and to add to the liberal lie that all immigrants can and will succeed in a land without discriminatory barriers.

Back on 20 February 2009, Kenney released a press statement saying, “Our government will not follow the advice of those who believe that Canada should take steps to reduce immigration levels. In fact, we are maintaining our planned immigration levels for 2009.”

Statements like these were also repeated to community press and at community events that Minister Kenney works very hard to be at. (He is the Conservative Party's front-person for their ethnic outreach strategy.) Breaking down these immigration targets one sees that the majority of the nearly 265,000 incoming Permanent Residents will be rich immigrants in the economic class and not from the poorer Asian, African or Latin American countries. In almost every region, there has been massive slashing in the family class and refugee class claimants. Simone Stothers, who works as a Certified Immigration Consultant, said about Tory immigration policy:

“Our general experience is that visas are being denied at consulates located in South Asia and Latin America basically because many people there are poor and because of the regions they are from. I had a client who was sexually assaulted and needed her mother here to take care of her, but her visa was denied at the consulate in Guatemala City. I generally advise clients who are poor or working people that their chances are very, very low and not to waste money hiring counsel.”

A border which was already virtually closed to refugees, immigrant applicants and visa applicants looking to visit family in Canada, has become even harder to cross.

Take for instance applications for family class immigration from the Middle East and Asia. In 2008, the Canadian Consulate in Abu Dhabi processed 65 parents and grandparents. In 2009, this number will drop to 25. New Delhi reduced its refugee targets from 150 to 125. The targets for the Consulate in Islamabad have been dropped from 8,540 to 6,210 for 2009.

Skilled workers accepted dropped from 3,370 to 1,980 while acceptance rates for parents/grandparents dropped from 1,340 to 75. In Nairobi, the number of parents/grandparents brought into Canada dropped from 210 to 42. (All statistics are from an Access to Information Request made by the Canadian Migration Institute.)

Using the new powers given to him under Bill C-50, that let the Minister make changes to the overseas programs without prior notice, Kenney has thus quietly signaled that an imminent reduction of immigration targets is likely (Toronto Star, February 11th, “Rising jobless rate may curb immigration”).

This is in direct contradiction to statements he is making in the non-official language press and his press release of February 20th and shows a blatant disrespect for migrant communities. What is most disgusting is that at the same time as Kenney is using the non-English language press as his mouthpiece, he is attacking immigrants for not having language competency (National Post, March 21, “Immigrants should speak English or French: Kenney”) and simultaneously cutting language skills funding for the Canadian Arab Federation (Toronto Star, March 19, “Kenney has no regrets over cutting off Arab group”).

Kenney's hypocrisy knows no bounds

Though Kenney would have us believe that Canada is welcoming large numbers of refugees, the opposite is true. According to the Canadian Council for Refugees Website, the United Nations set a goal of 560,000 resettled refugees for 2008/9 – of these Canada will only accept about 11,000. This is nearly half of Canada's annual acceptance rate of 21,400 in the 1980s. All the while he ostracizes refugees as ‘queue jumpers.’

On 27 March, Kenney spoke of “wide-scale and almost systematic abuse” of the refugee determination process as his initial salvo against the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment Process (PRRA). The PRRA is presently the only application that failed refugee claimants (the rate of rejection of refugee applications has now reached 60%) can use to ensure that they are not returned to conditions of great personal danger. The PRRA assesses whether the country where the refugee claimant will be deported to is considered safe. Kenney's plan is to either get rid of the PRRA or have the same officer who considered the refugee claim to also be in charge of the risk assessment.

This would place the decision on refoulement to a potentially life-threatening situation into the hands of a person who has already decided that the refugee applicant is not at risk. Broken as the refugee system is, the removal of the PRRA process (only 1-2% successfully argue that they will face a risk if removed from Canada) will mean that more people will be denied any path to status – however small a chance – and will be forced to work without status in conditions ripe for exploitation to avoid the dangers they face in their home country.

An immigration policy that prevents the most vulnerable from gaining status, but expands temporary worker intake, is ripe for abuse. 'We can't give you citizenship right now, but if you're willing to work for peanuts we can give you a temporary work placement'.

Of course the worker has no avenue to complain, no matter how harsh their working conditions, because they know that at any moment the iron fist of Jason Kenney or Peter Van Loan can swoop down and send them back to a country where they will almost certainly face death.

What in the hell happened to us? how did we allow this evil to permeate our government. Vote-splitting and apathy, and look whose paying the price. Human beings treated inhumanely and a national reputation in the toilet.


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