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.
Here in Canada, we tend to think of ourselves as claiming a sort of moral high ground when it comes to social justice issues. And then, every once in a while, an event occurs that proves just how awful and backwards we really are. Monday morning, 25-year-old British comedian Avery Edison tried to enter Canada through Toronto. She was denied entry and detained by Canadian immigration officials, a fact which she admitted was her own fault. It was decided that because of her male genitalia, she would have to go to Maplehurst Correctional Complex, an all-male facility. This, in spite of the fact that her passport lists her as female. And this is where I lose it.
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?
Imagine there was a policy that could reduce global poverty, conserve natural resources and help alleviate the coming retirement crisis, all while also fostering domestic economic growth. You would have to be either misinformed or malicious to oppose this policy, right? Well, this policy exists, and it's called immigration. Ironically, "progressive" hero David Suzuki has come out in favour of reducing immigration levels. Mr. Suzuki is not only providing poor policy advice, but that advice runs contrary to his stated goals of reducing carbon emissions and fostering global development.
Ten years ago I made a documentary about migrant agricultural workers in Canada, El Contrato. I am interested in the story of workers and migration because I come from a working class family and my life has been fundamentally shaped by migration. This is the story of how immigration to Canada is racialized and classed.