POLITICS

Immigration lawyer criticizes federal spending on museum expansion at Pier 21

06/25/2015 04:37 EDT | Updated 06/25/2016 05:59 EDT
HALIFAX - A prominent immigration lawyer in Halifax says many of the immigrants who entered Canada through Pier 21 wouldn't be allowed into the country today, thanks to government policies that he says have grown more restrictive.

Lee Cohen said the federal government's multi-million dollar investment in the immigration museum is a form of "misplaced priority," given its focus on increasing the regulations and criteria for immigrants and refugees.

Cohen says recent policy changes favour a "designer-style" immigrant who is highly educated, wealthy and with a good grasp of English or French - not a description of many of the people who came through Pier 21.

"Most would not be admitted to Canada today," he said.

"The profile of the historic immigrant to Canada is a person who did not speak English or French, who was not highly educated and did not have money. These were people who came here because they were prepared to work hard."

Speaking after the museum reopening ceremony, associate minister of National Defence Julian Fantino defended Canada's immigration system.

"We take in some 200,000 people a year ... be it immigrants or refugees. We're doing our share of work," he said.

"We have grown to be the envy of the world. People are willing to break every law in the book to come here because it is a highly sought-after place to be."