Rachel Décoste Headshot

Kenney's Wal-Martization of Immigration

Posted: Updated:

Some things are just too important to leave to the whim of corporations or private enterprise.
That is why Canadians overwhelmingly favour the government to manage healthcare services. One need only refer to the U.S. as an example of a profit-driven healthcare paradigm which leaves the most vulnerable Americans outside the coverage umbrella.

Prime Minister Harper himself has boasted of having the world's soundest bank system at the recent G8 Summit and at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Canadians are relieved the then Liberal government prevented a U.S.-style subprime mortgage crisis by intervening when Canadian banks moved to issue the practice. Our banks were more worried about their short-term profits than the long-term state of the Canadian economy.

Corporations have a mandate to serve their shareholders -- not the general public.

With an announcement last week, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will 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 Kenney. Do Canadians trust corporations and international conglomerates to choose its future citizens?

Employers already list the high-demand fields where skilled immigrants are needed to fill the skills gap. Federal employees -- whose integrity and impartiality is sound -- comb through these applications without prejudice, gender or ethnic bias, thus allowing a select few to enter the country. This mechanism has room for improvement, as is evidenced by the number of underemployed newcomers. How many newly arrived dental hygienists seek employment in a saturated big-city market not realizing the demand is in a specific rural area? How many employers lack the diversity and dexterity to integrate new Canadians into the workplace?

While it is comforting that the Harper government is trying to tackle immigration issues, it behoves Minister Kenney to tread carefully with this primary federal file which directly and indirectly affects the very fabric of the Canadian way of life.

It doesn't take much imagination to guess what kind of worker big businesses would prefer to prey upon. A multinational corporation would probably rather tap a foreigner who is willing to work for lower wages than their Canadian counterparts, accept abuses of the Canadian Labour Code and remain silent in the face of improprieties in exchange for permanent residence and happy shareholders.

With China's National Oil companies buying up the oil sands project to the tune of $16 billion in the last two years alone, who will oversee they hire Canadians first, instead of using the proposed privatized immigration scheme to bring in their own cheap labour to take those jobs?

While Kenney abandons a key role of government -- determining who can be admitted to this country and become citizens -- to the private sector, businesses are becoming the new immigration consultants. Let the Wal-Martization of Citizenship begin!

Like the mortgage meltdown in the U.S., Canadians could wrestle with this policy's consequences long after the profit margins and corporate bonuses have been disbursed and distributed. The "profits before people," doctrine embraced by a number of corporations does not serve the best interests of the public nor the country as a whole. Whether it is military defence privatization like Blackwater, or the privatization of our most precious resources, handing over sovereign decisions to unelected, unaccountable entities is a recipe for disaster.