Immigration Minister Finley cancels press conference in Surrey, B.C. after protest announced.

Posted by admin on May 20th, 2008

20may08_immigmin_5.jpgOver 40 protesters gathered at the Sheraton Guildford Hotel in Surrey, British Columbia this morning awaiting the arrival of Canadian Immigration Minister Diane Finley. Finley was expected to spin the controversial Bill C-50 to ethnic communities and announced her appearance in Surrey last week. However, the Minister canceled her appearance this morning, citing an inability to arrange the meeting effectively due to the holiday weekend in a statement later released to the press. The unexpected cancellation, which left even members of the media frustrated, pointed more towards further dodging of strong opposition to C-50 on the Minister’s part.

The proposed bill has been met with widespread concern and criticism from migrant justice groups, community organizations, faith groups, lawyers’ associations and immigrant communities at large across Canada – with particular concerns about the secretive process within which the Conservative party is attempting to make the bill into law. The Minister’s failure to appear in Surrey this morning in the face of vocal opposition to C-50 furthered the frustration of those who were gathered about the fundamentally undemocratic process being used by the Conservatives to drastically change Canadian immigration policy and place large, centralized and arbitrary powers to reject immigration applications in the Minister’s hands.

Members and supporters of various migrant community based organizations, members of labor organizations and faith groups were present at the protest this morning. The organizations formally represented included the Philippine Women’s Centre, the Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society (PICS), La Surda Latin American Collective, the Canadian Muslim Union, the Iranian Federation of Refugees, the People’s Voice as well as No One Is Illegal Vancouver.

20may08_immigmin_1.jpgProtesters spoke to members of the media and voiced serious concerns about the proposed legislation, which was introduced in March of this year in a series of amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) laid out in a budget implementation bill – known as C-50. Members of various community groups spoke about the commodification of immigrants through such policies, the exploitation of migrants through temporary work programs such as the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) and the attempts of the Conservative government to hide its true intentions with the proposed bill, which could drastically cut the number of permanent residents in Canada.

By including these changes in a budget bill, the government has sneaked in critical changes to immigration policy without proposing any of them before Parliament. Furthermore, by making the proposed changes a matter of confidence in Parliament, the Conservative party has assured that a federal election would have to be called for should the official opposition choose to vote the bill down. Despite claiming to oppose the bill in principle, the Liberal party has shown itself unwilling to take this concrete step in stopping its implementation.

dscn5980.jpgBill C-50 perpetuates and entrenches the racism that has always been at the base of Canadian immigration policy by allowing the Minister of Immigration to reject visa applications even when someone meets the necessary, and already stringent, criteria for permanent residency without any court review. It will also allow the Minister to place quotas on the category (including Family Class and Economic Class immigrants) and country of origin of people. Humanitarian and Compassionate applications would no longer have to be examined if the applicant is outside Canada. Finally, the Minister will have the power to decide the order in which applications are processed, regardless of when they are filed.

The major lobby behind C-50 comes from employer organizations and business lobbies. The bill would facilitate obtaining the immigrants deemed necessary according to the needs of the labor market and prioritize such applications while cutting down on those immigrants seen as less valuable. While the Conservatives have asked immigrant communities and Canadian society at large to “trust” their good faith in keeping immigration to the country open and accessible, it is impossible to ignore the fact that immigration has been increasingly geared towards precarious temporary workers while at the same time there has been a decrease in the number of permanent residents. It is even more difficult to have any trust in the process when the Minister refuses to engage with the serious concerns coming from the communities that will be most affected by the proposed bill.

In past months, the Conservative government has spent tens of thousands of dollars in an attempt to “buy” ethnic support for their anti-migrant policies by directing misleading information through ads about bill C-50 at ethnic media. On the other hand, when the members of those very communities voice opposition to legislation that will marginalize them even further, the Minister is conspicuously absent.

We reject the racist logic that some migrants are more deserving of dignity than others based upon the labor they can produce. We reject the policies that have historically set up the immigration system as one that punishes people for making the difficult decision to migrate and reduces immigrants to commodities.

We call for a scrapping of Bill C-50. No One Is Illegal!

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