Global protests denounce Ottawa’s plan to wipe out immigration backlog

Posted by admin on May 1st, 2012

Toronto Star. Published On Tue May 01 2012

Waving placards denouncing Ottawa’s plan to eliminate a lengthy immigration backlog, protesters in four foreign cities urged Canada not to repeat its discriminatory immigration past. In Hong Kong, organizers said about 80 affected immigration applicants — many travelling from inner Mainland China — staged a demonstration against the federal government’s plan to return the applications of 280,000 people in the queue. Similar protests were held Monday in Leeds, England, and Karachi, Pakistan. In India’s Chandigarh, 200 people attended a rally and candle-light vigil, according to the Canadian Backloggers Pre-2008 Association.

“The Chinese Exclusion Act in 1923 is being repeated,” protester Yiming Jiang told the Star in a telephone interview Monday, referring to Canada’s legislated ban on Chinese migrants. “We are pleading the Canadian government not cancel our applicants and reward queue-jumpers.”

The protesters in Hong Kong — some travelled with young children from Dalian and Changchun — carried signs that read “Give Us 76 Months Back” and “We Want Justice, Not Refund.” They also handed a petition letter to Canadian consulate official, Angela Gawel.

Although the federal government has said affected applicants can reapply under the new skilled immigration program introduced in 2008, many in the backlog like Jiang will not qualify because only those with skills and experience in one of 29 professions are eligible.

“We have waited for so long, they can’t just wipe us out like this. It is just unfair,” said Jiang, 29, a cosmetic company sales manager, who applied in 2007.

In Leeds, demonstrators wore black ribbons and held a candle light march, demanding Ottawa not repeat the “Komagata Maru” incident in 1914, when 356 passengers on the Japanese steamship were banned from landing in British Columbia and forced to return to India.

“We condemn and demand the withdrawal of this unholy proposal to scrap our applications,” said organizer Preet Deep Singh in Leeds, part of the worldwide Canadian Backloggers Pre-2008 Association.

“The Canadian government has made us wait for so long. We are not given justice,” added Singh, 37, a business manager, who submitted his application in 2004 with his wife and now resides in England.

The Conservative government seems to have taken note of the bad publicity surrounding Canada’s international image.

On Friday, Citizenship and Immigration quietly issued a new operational directive instructing its visa officers to resume the processing of the pre-2008 immigration applications at least until the backlog wipeout becomes law. Officials earlier had been told to stop processing backlogged applications.

“This is yet another example of why nothing CIC says should be trusted to remain true 10 minutes after it has been said,” said Toronto lawyer Tim Leahy, who is leading a class-action lawsuit against Ottawa on behalf of 700 immigration applicants.

The new directive could merely be a ploy to hold back the inevitable court case on grounds the files have not yet been closed and there is no cause of action, Leahy added.

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