Friday, November 14, 2008

Kenney announces new programs, but forgets a few important issues in new portfolio

Yesterday at noon, I had the privilege of hearing Jason Kenney, the new Minister of Immigration, gave his FIRST presentation on “Immigration & Integration: Keys to Canada’s Future” to Winnipeg’s Canadian Club. I hope I can help him deliver a better speech on this topic when he does so for the second time. Somehow I don’t think he’ll take my advice. I took notes then so I could do a more thorough post now so here you go...

The thing about politicians and their speeches is that they all sound great and practical and that they understand the situation and are working to make life better. But one has to step aside and think about what was missing. What was missing in Kenney’s presentation on the Tory immigration strategy was a focus on family as well as something that might be another cause of why new Canadians can’t find good jobs in their educated field – racism.

Keeney said that the new Tory policy focuses on getting skilled workers to Canada to help boost the economy. Who doesn’t want a stronger economy, bringing in people who can be the best suited for the job, people that we can learn from and prove essential to our businesses and markets? But what about those individuals who are here, already contributing to our labour force, who left their country without their family? Does not their family matter (I was surprised family was not mentioned once in his speech, because the Tories claim they are all for families and families being together)? Or are they put in the line to wait their turn, behind people ‘more qualified’ to fit Canada’s agenda? If a wife of a doctor is just a wife back home, she may not have enough “points” to get her here in a speedy time. With companies closing every week in Canada, I believe a major priority should be putting families together.

Kenney also cited an example where an individual from his riding visited him. He was an immigrant who opened up a few Subway franchises. He was having trouble finding people who would work at his shops, so he was asking Kenney to fix immigration rules to let people in that would work there. However, the Tory immigration policy now actually lists “the top jobs” that need to be filled in Canada. If a potential Canadian fits the bill, their application will be fast tracked. This is where the good public speaking skills seem to make ‘less sense’. I don’t think “subway maker” is going to make that list, or such related job criteria. And the people that the Tory govt talks about attracting to Canada, are not the people that would be working in such a location. It’s the same as before: a PhD driving a taxi. Maybe that individual driving a cab is doing so because there still exists some racism in this country, or perhaps based on the belief that our education systems are much better than those in another country, that this individual can’t do the job as well as somebody who got their degree from here. Perhaps Canada should do some investing in fighting racism and in public awareness, and provide further incentives to hire qualified new Canadians to businesses with a more equitable and practical evaluation of their foreign credentials like so many other Western countries do.

Kenney also outlined his main beliefs/philosophies on immigration: “we must maintain strong Canadian social cohesion in the face of immigration” (seems like “our way or the highway”), and that we Canadian’s can’t live off an old model of beliefs and immigration to achieve that strong social cohesion based on what it is to be a Canadian. Kenney also believes that some new Canadians like to stay within their social enclaves (why didn’t he name a few examples?), and that that must change, for their, and Canada’s benefit. We can celebrate cultures but not at a cost of Canadian culture and values (i.e. the rule of law). “Canada is not a hotel where you can just stay with no obligations.” Kenney says we need individuals who are loyal to Canada and we must build that. This depends on integration, not assimilation. How that is going to be achieved, was not explained.

Kenney also noted we must also all grow knowledge and an appreciation of the state and know and follow through on our responsibilities to the state, not just stand up our rights (clearly the Tories think we all just use and live off ‘the system’).

Kenney also outlined what the Tory philosophy of immigration is based upon (therefore their justification for their recent changes to the immigration rules):
--Immigrants must speak English or French (don’t know if that’s necessarily new)
--Immigration applicants must know, identify with, and feel ownership in Canada’s institution and values. But I don’t know how you can do that without screening individuals asking what their values are and seeing if they already match up to Canada’s (which then would be the right answer).
--Immigrants must give back to Canada, not just with taxes, but with additional practical means (if only that could be said of Canadians born here or have roots going way back).

At the end, Kenney said that he is very proud to see immigrants become new Canadians by taking the Oath of Allegiance to the Queen. While becoming a Canadian is a proud moment, and I really do have a lot of respect for our roots and history as a nation, I still wonder if taking such an oath to a sovereign in another country is very much ‘Canadian’.

Kenney criticized the opposition for being critical of their ‘progressive’ immigration changes, and says those criticisms were not fair and objective and were irresponsible. He does encourage those who disagree with the Tory amendments, to propose their alternatives, but will they listen or adopt them? Especially if the alternatives focus is shifted away to some more focus on family reunification and/or a much fairer way of streamlining our immigration system that doesn’t treat immigrants and commodities and doesn’t leave the powers who gets to come up to one person?

While I was somewhat impressed with Kenney’s speaking ability (he’s certainly done much worse) and see that he is excited about his post, his true Blueness and personality comes out during the unscripted, unpractised and unpredictable part: Q&A. This is where the Subway story came out, he clearly got a little defensive in response to a polite, hardly noticeable criticism, and one could only tell it was a criticism because of his reaction. And he also mentioned during Q&A that some professional immigration organizations don’t do enough to help and gets clearly uncomfortable when given any polite criticism at all.

Here are the announcements that Kenney made relating to his portfolio:
--There will be a Paul Yusich Award created this year for persons/organizations who promote their culture. This was done for Yusich’s belief that “one will be a better Canadian for being a good” Ukrainian.

--the “list” that will list trades needed in Canada and those applicants that fit those skills will be completed in a more appropriate basis. The national chair of lawyers for immigration was in attendance, and alluded to a bit of disappointed by not being consulted on the formation of the list. Kenney said that they can meet in the future to discuss the updating of the list, whenever that occurs.

--The Canada experience program, from what I understand, will be aimed at students from abroad who are in Canada to allow them to apply for residency for work purposes

--more cooperation b/w provinces and the govt

--a foreign referral program in several countries around the world and will open offices in other countries

--will give more influence to provinces to the flexibility of programs aimed at immigration and give them more funding

--a new program to promote Canadian identity in all Canadians (new and old). Personally, I’d love to hear what the Tory description of “Canadian identity is”. Being Canadian seems as if one can’t describe it because it means something different to everyone.

So it was more informative that I thought it would be, but overall Kenney still has a view of immigration that is at odds with my own and it still scares me that this man wields all the power in the immigration system now with the new rules the Conservatives put in place. He does after all, get to decide himself who gets fast tracked and who doesn’t. for all the criticism of the previous Liberal handlings of immigration, there should be a lot more here on that alone.

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jaycurrie said...

Your coverage is better and more extensive than most of the MSM. Apparently the rest of the media are locked in a pen with an angry Dawg.

Beijing York said...

Thanks for this. What I don't get from his speech is if there is a difference in their books between migrant workers (gap filling) and permanent immigration.

I also feel very queasy about immigrants having to pass some kind of loyalty test and language requirements. I know that many of the past immigrants who have participated in building this country did not speak English or French. Most did eventually and certainly by subsequent generations educated in this country so I don't get that obsession.

Finally, the fact that there is no mention of family reunification is worrisome. That suggests that they only care about having immigrants to gap fill certain job needs without really caring about them as being new Canadians.