Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Cherry-Picking Immigrants on the Cheap

How Bill C-50 Means Lower Wages for all Canadian Workers
by Steve da Silva (Basics Issue #9 - May 2008)

On March 14 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives sneakily introduced a number of amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act within the larger framework of Bill C-50, the Budget Implementation Bill. By including the immigration changes within the Budget Bill, the Conservatives made the immigration issue one of “confidence”, meaning that the opposition parties would have to topple the government and go to elections if they wanted anything changed in the bill. And with the Liberals propping up the Conservatives once again – like they did over the question of continuing the occupation of Afghanistan) – it looks like Bill C-50 will soon become the law of the land.

So what exactly is Bill C-50? What changes will it enact? Who will it benefit and who will suffer?

The Conservatives talk about modernising the immigration system in order to process the hundreds of thousands of backlogged applications. But what Bill C-50 is really about is giving the immigration Minister new powers to shape immigration to the benefit of big business and against all workers in Canada.

Whereas under the previous Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), anyone who met the already-strict criteria to enter Canada as a worker, student, visitor, or permanent resident would be granted that status, the immigration Minister will now have authority to reject any application with no right to appeal for applicants.

The Minister will have new power to set “quotas” on the “category” of persons entering Canada. This language has community organizations such as No One is Illegal asking whether these quotas and categories are just a white-washed version of earlier “quotas” in Canada’s racist history, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923; the Order in Council of 1911 prohibiting the landing of “any immigrant belonging to the Negro race”; or that of 1923 excluding “any immigrant of any Asiatic race”; or the “None is too many” rule applied to Jews fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe during the Second World War.

Furthermore, the Minister will no longer be obliged to review Humanitarian and Compassionate applications from abroad, the most common route through which immigrants reunite with their Canadian family members.

The immigration Minister will also have new powers to decide the order in which applications are processed. This means that immigration applications will be prioritized on the needs of Canada’s big businesses, rather than the order in which they are filed.

What the government and its big corporate backers are aiming for with Bill-C50 is cheap labour, plain and simple. Canadian businesses want the ability to bring in the most exploitable labour possible from around the world, while also bringing in high-skilled trades persons and professionals. Bringing in highly-skilled labour allows the Canadian government to spend less money subsidizing the education of its own citizens, which means more money is left over to subsidize big business.

“Why spend 25 years educating and training a doctor or engineer when Canada can steal them from developing countries”, goes the logic of the corporate thieves and their puppets in Parliament. This policy keeps “developing” countries firmly under the domination of the big capitalist countries and thus not “developing” at all. For example, there are more Haitian doctors in Montreal than in all of Haiti. Some call this “brain-drain”; others call it being a parasite on the rest of the world.

Furthermore, by maintaining a large labour pool that is extremely exploited and poorly paid (and too scared to do anything about it because of the racism migrant workers face), the net result for other Canadian workers is that their wages experience a downward pressure.

What many Canadian workers don’t realize is that many migrants come to Canada because of the terribly desperate situations in their own countries, which are almost always a direct result of the foreign policies of countries like Canada. In recent years Canada has occupied and brutally overthrown governments in Afghanistan and Haiti, while aiding and supporting oppressive puppet governments in the Middle East, the Philippines, Latin America, central Africa, and Somalia. In these places, millions have been displaced or killed by oppressive governments backed-up by Canada. Is it no wonder then that people want to leave their own lands for Canada?

So it’s clear that the new changes to the Immigration Act are going to negatively affect all working-class Canadians. What all Canadian workers need to be doing is fighting together for the regularization and status of all migrant workers, Moreover, migrant workers should have a right to live in peace in their own countries as well. So the fight of to put an end to Canada’s aggressive, imperialist foreign-policy is at the same time the fight for better working conditions and wages for Canadian workers at home.