'Even more than immigrants, temporary migrants like farm workers, live-in caregivers, construction workers and others face exploitative and precarious work and living conditions.'
Ottawa (12 Oct. 2009) - The federal Conservatives are quietly transforming Canada's immigration system to make life ever more precarious for migrant workers, says a group called No One Is Illegal (NOII) that fights on their behalf.
"Some believe that the Canadian immigration system is fair and generous. It isn't. And Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney are swiftly making it even worse," the group said in a statement issued this week in Toronto.
"They are underhandedly taking apart the so-called 'objective' points-based system. They are moving quickly to get rid of its 'humanitarian' part, the refugee process. In its place, they are setting up temporary work programs that are designed to push most migrants in to vulnerable, precarious and temporary jobs without access to services or the ability to unionize."
In 2008, more people arrived in Canada on exploitative temporary work programs than people with at least some access to permanent residency, the group says.
Changes 'sneaked' through
"Major changes have been sneaked through a budget bill and other seemingly disconnected regulation announcements. Bill C-50 and Bill C-45 gave powers to immigration minister and officers to arbitrarily decide who can come in to Canada and who cannot," it notes.
"The family reunification program has been modified to actually deter reunification. Visas have been imposed on Czech Romas and Mexicans. Deportations have increased with moratoriums on return lifted for many countries. Only people in 38 professions can now immigrate to Canada - everyone else is banned. A new clause within the Temporary Foreign Worker Manual means that migrants are permanently temporary. They can stay indefinitely in Canada without having to leave to renew their work permit but are unable to apply for permanent residency."
NOII says the impact of all the changes is to break an already dysfunctional system.
"Refugee acceptance rates have dropped each year, halved in the last two decades. Now the Harper government is 'revising' this system. For the first time, Canada could fast-track rejections of refugee claimants from 'safe' countries. These 'safe' countries are mostly those which Canada has trade relations with. The proposed changes follow a months-long, carefully orchestrated xenophobic campaign, led by Kenney," the group argues.
Bad situation getting worse
"Canada champions itself as a beacon of progressive immigration and settlement policy as it moves towards a temporary immigration system," NOII says.
"But migrants of color earn 40% less than their white counterparts. In Toronto, the number of immigrants who are poor has grown by 125% and almost 60% of poor families are from racialized groups. Immigrant neighborhoods are underserved and marginalized. Immigrant families have little access to recognition of credentials or good jobs, or to services such as affordable childcare.
"Many immigrants sacrifice themselves and their aspirations for the betterment of their children. But often second and third-generation immigrants remain in exploitative jobs, pushed out of schools and universities, unable to fully access opportunities promised.
"Even more than immigrants, temporary migrants like farm workers, live-in caregivers, construction workers and others face exploitative and precarious work and living conditions. They pay taxes and build communities but are unable to access the most basic services. Migrant workers are not allowed to bring their families."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE