During this election you’ll hear many statements and promises about immigration. Some will be explicitly racist, most will be based on half-truths, and all will fall short of what we really need. We are part of one struggle for decent work, universal services, justice for all, and permanent resident status. We all want a world without discrimination and displacement. So no matter who wins, tonight or on October 21, we must unite against racism and organize to win what we all deserve.
Below are some common refrains you will hear, and some points you can use to understand and challenge them.
❓ – What they say: “The immigration system is broken, we need to restore ‘order’.”
✖️ – What they mean: We want to make it harder for refugees or immigrants to get rights in Canada.
✅ – What we need: Permanent resident status on arrival for everyone, including refugees.
Canada has a two-tier immigration system. Over 700,000 people are denied permanent residence and, therefore, rights each year. There is no ‘mass immigration’. There has been a lot of focus on refugees who come from the US on foot. They are forced to do this because of an agreement between Canada and the US, called the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA). These migrants are not ‘queue jumpers’ – these are legally sanctioned ways to seek asylum in Canada and they have no impact on migrants who come through other streams. The STCA is a small part of the problem, getting rid of it is important but not enough. Very few refugees get rights in Canada, regardless of how they come. The system is not broken, it is designed to work this way, and it must be overhauled.
❓ – What they say: “We want to welcome refugees.”
✖️ – What they mean: We want more privately sponsored refugees.
✅ – What we need: Canada must increase government assisted refugees.
Private refugee sponsorship has been a growing trend over the last 5 years. It costs the government nothing, and depends on individuals to shoulder the responsibility of resettlement. This is a privatization of Canada’s responsibility to refugees who are being displaced by its policies and corporations around the world. Canada does not do its share to help the world’s refugee population.
❓ – What they say: “Immigration needs to meet labour market needs”
✖️ – What they mean: We will increase employer control over immigrants, increase temporary migration OR we will shut down all temporary migration.
✅ – What we need: Permanent resident status on arrival for all migrants, including in low-waged work, and a just transition for migrants in to secure jobs.
The current immigration system is largely organized around the interests of employers, but migrants are not commodities. 70% of migrants to Canada come on a temporary basis with little or no access to permanent residency, full rights or full labour protections. This is what leads to exploitation and abuse. The labour needs that migrant workers fill are permanent, not temporary – these programs have been in place for over half a century. But the solution is also not to simply close the few doors migrants have to access work in Canada – that would be a de facto deportation order for the thousands of migrant workers who depend on working here to support their families.
❓ – What they say: “We will provide pathways to permanent residency”
✖️ – What they mean: We will continue to have temporary programs.
✅ – What we need: We need permanent resident status for all, now.
These are not pathways, they are minefields. ‘Pathways’ means working in exploitative or abusive conditions, prohibitive medical or educational requirements, and other unfair and racist hoops through which migrants are forced to jump. Most migrants in a ‘pathway’ program endure abuse with the hope of eventually getting permanent residency or rights, only to be denied.
❓ – What they say: “We will fund language, resettlement, integration and credential accreditation services”
✖️ – What they mean: We won’t change very much
✅ – What we need: Better funding for settlement services, but also access to all services for all migrants, and free accreditation on arrival.
Settlement services provide important supports to migrants. But they are inadequately funded and come with strings attached, excluding most migrants and preventing service providers from advocating for or supporting migrant self-organizing. Many essential services like income and employment supports are not available to migrants. Immigrants get permanent residency because of their qualifications, but then cannot work in their field because their education and work experience is deemed unworthy. These barriers are created by professional associations and industry regulators, and give employers access to overqualified workers for lower pay. The federal government currently has little control over recognition credentials.