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 serve as a cautionary tale to the new Minister.
Kenney likes to use New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman's analogy of an ideal immigration system: one that has a strong fence but a wide gate. But the reality is that the gate the Conservatives have built is more like a sieve which porosity depends more on preconceived perceptions than proven potential of immigrant success.
Over Kenney's tenure, convicted criminals were allowed to enter, all the while barring some of the best candidates to build Canada's future.
Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney's left a mark on his portfolio. Many are hoping these 10 stains wash out with the Cabinet Shuffle:
- Immigration Minister Kenney imposed language fluency before arrival to Canada: The whole notion that immigrants should be fluent before they get off the boat is contrary to 500 years of history. Everyone knows a language is much easier and faster to learn when one is immersed in a linguistic setting. That's why many Anglophone MPs make an extended stay in rural Quebec to learn French. I guess that efficient tactic is good enough for the goose, but not for the gander.
- Immigration Minister Jason Kenney opened the door to too many "temporary foreign workers." As the Finance Minister has said Canada's economy is still fragile, flooding the country with temp workers seems counterproductive to the thousands of unemployed Canadians.
- Immigration Minister Jason Kenney proposed a scheme that would allow the tentacles of corporate greed to dictate immigration to Canada. "Under the new system, employers, not bureaucrats, will decide who comes to Canada," said he. Handing over sovereign decisions like the choice of future citizens to unelected, unaccountable entities is a recipe for disaster.
- Immigration Minister Jason Kenney manufactured a "citizenship fraud" witch hunt, exerting two federal departments to look for the needles in haystacks. The ideological contrivance designed to bolster a national conversation about a crime while demonizing immigrants yielded just 12 revocations. For a deficit-ridden government, this was not the best investment of taxpayer dollars.
- In another half-baked move, Immigration Minister Kenney introduced a system to render the federal government a matchmaker to corporate vultures looking for cheap foreign labour. Min. Kenney said it was to work "like online dating." No mention of fail-safe measures to protect potential foreign fledglings vulnerable to employment scams, either. No mention was made of the jobs database being mined by Canadians who are seeking jobs.
- Immigration Minister Jason Kenney touted the PM's apology for the Chinese Headtax. Kenney helped mend the fences in this historic move. Yet the Community Historical Recognition Program, under the Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Ministry, ended without fulfilling its entire mandate. To the surprise of those who fought for years to win a government apology and redress, funding aimed at educating Canadians about the discriminatory practice was never spent. Other unfulfilled promises include the effective reform of the Live In Caregiver program, which is affecting many Filipino-Canadians.
- Immigration Minister Jason Kenney flubbed when he linked made-in-Canada criminality to immigrants. Calling them "foreign gangsters," Kenney blasted violent criminals, to the chagrin of Toronto's Caribbean community. Kenney reinforced the notion that criminality is viewed differently depending on the ethnicity of the alleged assailant.
- In a move criticized by nurses, medical doctors and humanitarians alike, Jason Kenney cut healthcare to one of the most vulnerable groups -- refugees. "The government has used this issue to divide Canadians, pitting those who are dissatisfied with their own health coverage against refugees," Dr. Mark Tyndall, the head of infectious diseases at The Ottawa Hospital, said. Jason Kenney has been successful in using his portfolio to blight Canada's reputation international reputation, as chronicled in the U.K.'s Guardian article entitled "Maple leaf ragged."
- A master of self-promotion, Minister Kenney used his office to further his career aspirations and visibility among target markets. Minister Kenney's office mined web petitions to target messages to gay Canadians in 2012. The bulk email sent from Kenney's MP's office trumpet steps taken by the Conservative government to protect the rights of gay and lesbian refugees. Minister Kenney also thanked himself via his website: there was a petition thanking Immigration Minister Jason Kenney for his efforts to reduce health benefits for refugees.
- The family reunification program was shut down "temporarily" for two years. In a familiar refrain, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney linked criminality and welfare abuse to would-be immigrants. Depriving young Canadians from the ever loving arms of their grand-mothers, cheating working Canadians from the comfort of loved-ones is a cold-hearted way to treat the biggest source of economic wealth Canada has: its immigrants.
Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney's tenure may have ended today, but the anguish, the incomprehension, the disappointment vis-à-vis CIC policies Kenney leaves behind will endure.