“In an interview last week with CTV’s Mike Duffy, Finley confirmed that our backlog now stands at about 925,000 applications. The government maintains that the Minister needs these powers to cherry pick applicants who are needed here on a priority basis. She was asked by Duffy, if under the present system, the department was able to fast track, say a welder who was desperately needed in Fort McMurray. Finley answered “The way the law stands now we have to process the oldest application first. If that person is number 600,000 in line we’ve got a lot of applications to get through before that”.
This is simply not true. Our current legislation states that the federal cabinet “may make any regulation ... relating to classes of permanent residents or foreign nationals” including “selection criteria, the weight, if any to be given to all or some of those criteria, the procedures to be followed in evaluating all or some of those criteria… the number of applications to be processed or approved in a year” etc. In fact, in the case of Vaziri v. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the Federal Court held in September 2006 that our current legislation “authorize[s] the Minister to set target levels and to prioritize certain classes of PR applicants” without even a
regulation being passed. Accordingly, Finley has more than enough power under
our current legislation to make virtually any changes that she wants subject to
In other words, Conservative changes to immigration act are largely redundant. Which begs the question why all the hoopla? One theory is that the Conservatives deliberately tired to force the Liberals into an election by stirring up various immigrant groups. The theory I favor though is that the Conservatives look to be trying to solve a problem that they made worse by initially cutting staff at embassies and consulates. Of course, the media, the CBC in particular, have overstated the problem and confused the issue by implying that there is but one long waiting list instead of several long waiting lists and many short ones. After all, how long someone takes to get processed does not depend upon how many people are applying to immigrant to Canada world wide but how many are applying at a particular location. It may take someone in Warsaw 1.8 years to be processed, but someone in Bogotá over 16 years.
In addition to making factual errors, the CBC sets up a false dilemma. The piece gives the impression that there but two competing visions. Either Canada treats would immigrants as mere replacement parts, or Canada is so dumb as to allow and 86 year old to immigrant to Canada. Pace the CBC, allowing an 86 year old to immigrant to Canada is not evidence of our humanitarian tradition, but evidence of a political corruption. As for the Tories, forget skilled workers, what they are most interested in is allowing enough unskilled or semiskilled guest workers in to do such things as undermine a burgeoning labour movement in the oil sands. In so doing they aim to payoff another constituency – big business. Indeed, looking past the oil fields you would certainly never know from watching the CBC peace that following are the types of jobs, according to what is on the government website, Alberta is hopping to fill through immigration: Front desk clerk, short order cook, baker, maid, assembly line worker, server, buser, bellhop, valet, and cafeteria worker, laundry attendant, pet groomer, general labourer, and hair dresser. Of course, neither the Tories nor the Alberta government particularly wants these kinds of workers to stay around forever. Given how successful Europe’s guest worker programs have been in creating an underclass and fostering xenophobia and racism, the Conservatives eager to expand the number of “temporary workers”. Maybe CBC should do a piece about just how successful Turkish guest workers have made out in Germany.
Both the politicians and the CBC seem to have lost site what the primary purpose of immigration is. It is not means of paying off various constituencies and it is not a litmus test for whether one is dough headed bleeding heart. Immigration is the only available means Canada has by which to tackle a demographic crisis and to make up for a birth rate that is well below replacement levels. The problem is that average immigrant to Canada is no younger than the average Canadian. The situation is akin to baling out a boat by moving water from one part of the boat to another. Now Canada is not as bad off as Europe. Professor Charles Kupchan notes, "today there are 35 pensioners for every 100 workers within the European Union. By 2050, current demographic trends would leave Europe with 75 pensioners for every 100 workers and in countries like Italy and Spain the ratio would be 1 to 1." If Europe continues on as it is, the median age in Europe will go from 37.7 today to 52.3 by 2050! Not only will there be a long and sustained pension crisis, but since the European population is on track to shrink quite rapidly, for that reason alone, prospects for economic growth do not look good. Despite a having a high immigration rate by European standards (Germany has highest percentage of foreign born residents in Europe), according to a UN report at its current pace the German population will drop by 10 million. Italy, which has a much lower immigration rate, will loose 15 million. However, the demographic situation Canada is indeed dire. The country must get younger if it is be able to sustain the same level of social services as the baby boom generation ages and moves into old age.
So how about this for a vision of what our immigration system should designed to do. By allowing upwards 400,000 – 500,000 young, skilled, multi lingual, educated immigrants a year Canada hopes to 1) advert a looming demographic crunch and 2) come to posses the most educated, diverse, connected and skilled workforce in the world. This will certainly mean greatly increasing the number of immigration officers in second world countries, such as Brazil, with large pools of young educated workers who speak English (It is unacceptable that in a country of 185 million interviews are only conducted in Brasilia and Sao Paulo and not in other cities, most notably Rio). It may also mean limiting family unification to spouses and dependents under 18, regiging of the points system so that more emphasis is placed on youth, and may mean focusing the attention of immigration staff strictly to the task at hand by only allowing people to apply for refugee status while in Canada, but if that is what it takes that is ok. Canada’s future well being is more important that any narrow political agenda.