The federal government has finally backtracked on some of their cuts to the refugee health program brought about in 2012. After significant public opposition and a legal challenge on the basis of violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in July 2014, a federal court deemed the cuts to the refugee health program "cruel and unusual" treatment.
The creation of the "temporary" migrant worker programs were at their very core a policy rooted in racist exclusion. And that's exactly where the clock is being turned to today. The shutting out of thousands of racialized women from permanent immigration status is being strangely spun as a step forward. Immigration Minister Chris Alexander insisted, "We are saying to the whole Canadian population, to caregivers above all, the time of abuse and vulnerability is over".
When I am nine, my parents and I immigrate to Canada from the wet, hot, and hurricane-ridden island of Cuba. Before May 31, 2002, I have never stepped beyond my beautiful little island, have never seen a landscape without palm trees or the ocean, have never smelt air that isn't rife with humidity with a hint of dog piss, sea salt, and garbage, and I have never wanted to.
Actions matter more than words, but in his speech to Americans, Obama's words overshadowed his actions. He spoke to hearts and minds, outlining an aspirational set of shared values on immigration. His subtext was 'we're not there yet,' but speaking ten steps ahead of hearts and minds is how to get there.
Forced marriages? Women forced to give birth in private and give away their children? Women trying to end an unwanted pregnancy with a coat hanger and the help of some back-alley doctor? All barbaric acts condoned, perpetuated, or conveniently ignored by the Catholic Church right here in Canada only a few decades ago. How soon we forget and pretend we're the evolved ones now...
One obvious solution would be to distribute enough temporary work visas for the farmers to be able to hire the workers they need legally. The positive aspects of the Bracero program should be revived, while eschewing its mistakes. This would not solve all of the country's illegal immigration problems. But it would certainly be better than the further militarization of the US-Mexico border.
Living abroad is one thing -- planning a wedding from abroad is a whole other story. A very complicated, internet driven, blog obsessed story that involves checking your email 24/7 and a secret love affair with Pinterest. So from one traveller/amateur bride-to-be to another, here are my "Five Great Expectations" leading up to your big day.
The refugee health cuts must be reversed, but we must also look at the underlying disease of which these cuts are a symptom. The refugee health cuts are but one more policy decision in an increasingly regressive immigration system, and refugees are just one more group being denied health care because of their immigration status.
When I see the photo of the Sikhs on the decks of the Komagata Maru, I think of the ones trying so desperately to pry that door open on land. The ones who raised money that they did not have for legal fees, and who rowed out to feed the men aboard with food they scarcely earned. Their story, and reasons for helping those barred from entry is as old as our nation itself.
The CBC reports that the Canadian Border Services Agency raided an employer paying temporary foreign workers next to nothing to work at mall kiosks in 2011. Yet for three years, that employer was permitted to continue hiring foreign workers -- his permits were never pulled, his name was never put on the employer blacklist, and he never faced criminal charges.
PM Harper, Kenney and his crew have been careful not speak publicly on immigration matters. But Kenney slipped up while unrolling the red carpet for the Irish, not long after he cancelled 300,000 patiently-waiting skilled workers' applications. "The employers in Canada are increasingly identifying Ireland as a great source of talent, hard-working, highly-educated folks who are culturally compatible," Kenney said.
Canada's temporary foreign worker policy is at odds with Canadian values, and frankly, this is getting a bit awkward. If you're like me, you're beginning to want to apologize to the people who serve us fast food. And maybe we should apologize, though it's not our fault. If I could send a message to the Minister of Immigration I would tell him to be more pragmatic about the foreign worker problem. Not only is this easy to fix, it's imperative. It can make you look good, it's good for Canada, and you can turn this problem into a lot of new Canadian voters who'll love you.
The use of incorrect statistics and skewed economic arguments to demand the exclusion of Temporary Foreign Workers by people all along the political spectrum hearkens to a lengthy history of exclusion of immigrants from Canada. While in the past racist headlines read "Immigrants are taking Canadian jobs," now they insist "Foreign workers are taking Canadian jobs." What's the difference? There is more afoot here, its xenophobia and it must be challenged. It is important that we do not repeat the injustices of the past. Full immigration status for all, full rights for all workers is the only way forward. Resist attempts to divide unemployed, migrant, and poor people.
Of course it's romantic to have sunset ceremony with a senorita on the Costa del Sol. But before you start picking out wedding invitations and planning on bringing your sweetheart back to Canada, there is a lot of wisdom in getting the facts about your legal obligations if you to want to marry someone from a foreign country and sponsor them to come to Canada.