Toronto is facing a political problem that it hasn't asked for. That problem has threatened both the trust Torontonians place in their government and how the world sees this city. We can strengthen our city. We can empower our immigrant communities, create jobs, and create a safe environment. But in order to do so, next year we have to stay focused on policy, not politics.
The Government of Canada has just given new meaning to the word "chutzpah". Adel Benhmuda tried to claim refugee status in Canada; he failed. When he said he'd be tortured if deported back to Libya this country didn't believe him. After all this country put them through, it should be Canada reimbursing the Benhmudas.
Thousands are outraged at the PQ's Charter of Values. But while the wearing of religious symbols is defended, poor and working class immigrants themselves are being excluded from the entire country. Many are shut out entirely, and an immense number relegated to second class status as temporary migrants.
By imposing undue barriers and financial hurdles to prevent doting grannies from joining their families in Canada, the Conservative government is robbing 1st and 2nd generation Canadian kids of life's natural endowment. These second-class Canadian children are hobbled by this social handicap. This National Grandparents Day, those of us who have benefited from the ever-loving arms of "gran" and "gramps" recognize that all Canadian kids should be afforded that privilege. Period.
Recently, Minister of Employment Jason Kenneyrightly highlighted the Foreign Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) as an important plank in Canada's complicated immigration system. The announcement itself by the Minister was made on a lazy, hazy, slow news day in August and stopped short of any real news -- how about an increase in this important stream?
Canada has been America's farm team for centuries, providing brawn, brainpower and talent to feed its mighty industries. So it was with pride and admiration that I heard about a unique initiative instituted by Canada's immigration minister, Jason Kenney, in Silicon Valley recently. He's trying to reverse the brain drain.
Jason Kenney has ratcheted Canadian immigration to 50-year highs, and his ambitions require the public to never, ever regard this as anything but a Good Thing. But in a country where 41 per cent want immigration lowered, that's far from a cakewalk. Even Tory partisans are becoming skeptical. That leaves a scramble to suggest anyone who has problems with Canadian immigration policy must be an intolerant, racist, bigot. That's why Kenney jumped on Twitter a few days later, Kenney viciously denounced David Suzuki's "stridently anti-immigration views" as "toxic and irresponsible."
This spring, Alberta MP Jason Kenney became the longest continually serving Immigration Minister in Canadian history, according to his department. With the Cabinet Shuffle, his tenure ends. What better time to review the Immigration Minister's biggest blunders on this ever important file? Perhaps this will serve as a cautionary tale to the new Minister.
Canada should have gotten it right by now. A 146-year-old country of immigrants should know how to integrate them. The recent census data however suggests that not to be the case. The data focusing on labour outcomes paints a dismal picture for many immigrant groups, especially those who are considered a visible minority. The Canadian data suggests that while the immigrants are able to improve their prospects over time in their adopted homelands, the initial years of struggle are always painful.
A large reason why Canadian politics often seems so boring is because Canadians (or at least our politicians) are usually too timid to honestly debate the issues that actually make this country an interesting place -- Quebec, immigration, the constitution, etc -- and instead pass off stuff like cheese market reform as brave iconoclasm.
Here in the "Canadian Mosaic," issues of race are largely stricken from the language of the everyday. We prefer not to speak openly about racism, for deconstructing it might chip away at that illusory façade of Canada as a nation of perpetual tolerance and chronic multiculturalism -- a delusion we all hold dear to our glowing hearts. Unfortunately for all those "liberal-minded" Canadians out there who view our country to be so forward thinking and accommodating that racism is a non-issue, institutionalized multiculturalism is not the same thing as social racial equality.
People who have lost their mothers know how profoundly painful and life-changing that loss is. Many immigrants and refugees experience that loss through separation from their mothers in the process of migration. Some mothers migrate before their children, and some children before their mothers. Whatever the process, that separation has a devastating impact on mothers and children.
Toronto City Council has decided to do something about this for those without health insurance that live in our city. Council voted in favour of abolishing the three-month waiting period for new immigrants and also rescinding the recent cuts to the refugee health care program. I have never been more proud to call this city my home.