Tagging immigrants as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ dangerous - New Canadian Media

Tagging immigrants as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ dangerous

With the labour market becoming the main driver for Canadian immigration, attempts to label immigrant groups as “good” and “bad” based on their economic viability is a troubling trend. This was the main crux of…

With the labour market becoming the main driver for Canadian immigration, attempts to label immigrant groups as “good” and “bad” based on their economic viability is a troubling trend.

This was the main crux of the conversation initiated by Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam at a recent Couchiching Institute event hosted by Samara and the Newcomer Women’s Services Toronto.

“Canadians should not be buying into this ‘model’ immigrant racial stereotyping and young millennials amongst us should be at the fore front of this push back,” said the activist councillor, whose Ward 27 is a snapshot of Toronto’s demographic diversity. “Instead of competing to be the most-educated baristas and merely clicking at ‘like’ icons and signing petitions, millennials should end their self-inflicted disenfranchisement and access the political podium.”

Referring to the Trudeau-era immigration policies that helped codify inclusive political and social awareness, Ms. Wong-Tam was alarmed by the slew of rapid changes made by the Conservative government to regulate the flow of migrants. “These are regressive changes that peel away rights with surgical precision,” she said. “The rules are more stratified than ever before and we are on dangerous ground.”

Recent changes include an increase in Temporary Foreign Workers; reductions in the number of government sponsored refugees; and a shift away from family reunification policies. For a telling example of the speed with which they come into force, the number of operational bulletins released by Citizenship and Immigrations Canada is an eye-opener. In 2007, it released nine bulletins. In 2012, it released 94.

‘Corporate-sanctioned narratives’

During the conversation, concerns were raised about more drastic changes with the introduction of the Expression of Interest System that would let employers cherry-pick skilled immigrants from a pool of pre-screened candidates. Tabling his annual report to the Parliament on Monday, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has said the system is to start on January 1, 2015.

Ms. Wong-Tam said as Canadians we cannot be honest to ourselves as an immigrant nation if we do not see through the insidious nature of these corporate-sanctioned narratives. “Although we are more connected and engaged in our conversations, there is less and less of political content,” bemoaned Ms. Wong-Tam who was quick to clarify in a lighter vein that she should not be mistaken for a “left-wing, latte-sipping, pinko.”

On the influence selective immigrant policies have on the ethnic voting bloc, the councillor said while those who found refuge in Canada would be eternally grateful to late prime minister Pierre Trudeau, the Liberal Party’s advantage with new Canadians has eroded as their vote in the Greater Toronto Area helped the Conservatives win the 2011 elections.

As a politician of Chinese heritage, Ms. Wong-Tam said she too was partly to be blamed for “creating a monster” by swinging the community vote in the favour of the ruling party based on the government’s apology for past injustices inflicted by the infamous head tax rule. “The Conservatives went on an apology tour to buy goodwill from various ethnic groups,” she said, adding “how we undo the damage we bought on ourselves” is a question for ethnic communities to ponder on.

Describing herself as a humanist, Ms. Wong-Tam suggested that secular Canadians should not hesitate to seek out faith leaders to “change the channel”. She said we can learn from the Americans who have inherited the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement that easily brings together religious institutions and labour unions for positive social change. – New Canadian Media

About the author

Ranjit is a Toronto-based writer with interest in Canadian civic affairs, immigration, the environment and motoring. Maytree and Al Jazzera English alumnus.

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