Changes in Canada’s migration policies made over the last nine years show it is becoming harder for people to secure citizenship in the country but easier to bring in and out temporary migrants tailored to corporate needs, a new report found.
“Never Home: Legislating Discrimination in Canadian Immigration,” published Tuesday by the immigrant and migrant justice group No One Is Illegal, documents a Canada that has “perfected a system of managed migration to ensure the steady supply of cheap labour within neoliberalism, while entrenching racialized citizenship.”
The report reveals a system of migration control premised purely on satisfying economic demands that make both migrant and immigrant lives — which the group says have been uprooted by Canada’s exploitation of their home countries — increasingly more vulnerable to systemic exploitation, exclusion and displacement by a collusion of state and corporate power.
For migrants this means their lives are only worthy and desirable if they are valuable to the market, the group says. This is manifested in new regulations like the “four in and four out” rule, which makes it impossible to renew work permits after four years. An estimated 70,000 low-waged migrant workers are affected by this policy and could face deportation from this year onwards, the largest mass deportation in Canadian history, according to the group.
While residing in the country, migrant workers are often forced into exploitative and abusive working conditions, including sexual harassment and rape, which they are forced to accept if they don’t want to see their visas revoked. Migrant workers rely on their employers for visas who could end their working contracts whenever and without reason, and without right to appeal.
“Over the last few years, Canadian immigration has churned out what can be considered a revolving door of cheap, flexible and exploitable labour. Yet, migrant workers are willing to put their lives on the line just to work in this country,” Hessed Torres, a migrant caregiver, said in the report.
“These workers have had to leave behind their families in order to simply bring food to their table. They are often the subject of racial slurs and are considered to be stealing jobs from Canadians,” she added.
Meanwhile, the possibility for permanent residency in Canada now rests with the desires of private businesses and corporations after the Conservative government created the Express Entry System this year.
“Employers can cherry-pick who they want to come to Canada permanently as workers. Dubbed an online-dating system for immigration, it replicates job market discrimination by downloading many immigration decisions to private employers,” the report stated.
Shifts in migration policies suggest that while the number of temporary migrant workers tripled in the last decade, citizenship has become harder to get and easier to lose in what the group says follows a ‘racialized’ logic. This translates into an obstacle course designed to discourage immigrants and restrict their access to citizenship through ‘culture’ and language tests, expensive processing fees, and longer number of years of prior and consistent residency in the country.
This racial logic of exclusion was challenged earlier this year by a Muslim woman, Zunera Ishaq, whose citizenship was denied unless she took off her niqab at a required oath ceremony. Ishaq took the government to court and the Federal Court judge ruled in her favor saying the niqab ban is unconstitutional.
That the current path to citizenship works to deliberately exclude people is evidenced by the huge drop in the number of immigrants who received citizenship, a decrease from 79 percent to 26 percent between 2000 and 2008.
Canada has made it specifically clear that citizenship has now become a golden ticket reserved for the wealthy few. The Immigrant Investor Venture Capital program now promises fast-pass citizenship to those with a minimum net worth of US$7.5 million and make an investment of US$2 million over approximately 15 years into a fund mainly managed by the investment arm of the Business Development Bank of Canada.
Yet the possession of citizenship for people with an immigrant background is no longer a guarantee for permanency and access to rights in Canada either. In the name of fighting terrorism, the new “Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act” gives immigration officers the power to strip people with double nationality from citizenship if found to have participated in an armed force abroad, or guilty of “terrorism” or “treason.”
Criminalizing Freedom of Movement: Refugees Not Welcome Here
Canada is in part responsible for producing the very flow of refugees that flee their home countries towards the more affluent North, yet instead of being welcomed, they are criminalized and punished, according to No One Is Illegal.
Over 75 percent of the world’s extraction and mining companies are headquartered in Canada and Canadian mining corporations in the global South are implicated in four times as many violations as companies from other countries, the report cites as an example.
“Canada does not take responsibility for the creation of the displacement caused by these Canadian corporations who profit from the destroying the land many rely on for their livelihood. It does however prevent them from coming to Canada when they want to re-establish their lives,” Sozan Savehilaghi, a No One Is Illegal Vancouver branch member, told teleSUR English.
Canada’s failure to assume responsibility for its own actions abroad is shown in the 30 percent drop in the number of accepted refugees over the last decade. But not only are more refugees outright turned down at the border, they also face indefinite incarceration without charge or trial.
Between 2006 and 2014, there were 87,317 migrants in detention without charge, while some have been reportedly jailed for over 10 years without charges or trial, including South African anti-apartheid icon Mbuyisa Makhubu.
In 2012, the federal government even began bribing asylum-seekers to abandon their refugee claims and self-deport.
Meanwhile, those who do manage to obtain refugee status are forced to live in a constant state of fear and uncertainty that they might be uprooted again.
The 2012 “Refugee Exclusion Act” allows Canada to strip accepted refugees of their permanent residency status and deport them. The number of refugees who have been affected by this has risen from 24 to 116 between 2012 and 2014. The conservative government has now also set an arbitrary annual target of 875 applications to strip refugee status.
This grim reality poignantly captured with personal accounts, facts and figures throughout the report seeks to “reveal the nature and gravity of these policies and to interrupt the smoke screen of Canadian benevolence so many Canadians, including social justice organizations, are blindly attached to,” according to Savehilaghi.
The report further hopes to illuminate for people organizing for social justice that they “need to take the question of what's happening to immigration in Canada very seriously. Immigration is increasingly bringing insecurity into the lives of migrants, dividing working people from migrant workers,” Harsha Walia, co-author of the report, told teleSUR English.