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Canada favours temporary residents to permanent: report

September 2, 2015

By Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun

Canada has become a country that favours temporary over permanent residents, exploits would-be immigrants for cheap labour and draws international criticism for its treatment of refugees under the current federal government, charged a report released Tuesday.

“Immigration … which is the idea of immigrants coming to Canada, having permanent residency, eventually becoming citizens, does not exist in Canada,” said Harsha Walia, a co-author of the report entitled Never Home: Legislating Discrimination in Canadian Immigration. “There are more people who come on temporary permits than those who immigrate permanently. Even those who do immigrate permanently have what’s increasingly becoming conditional permanent residency,” she said, citing changes which allow a sponsored spouse to lose permanent residence if the relationship ends within two years as one example affecting vulnerable immigrant women in particular.

In 2008, the number of temporary residents entering Canada exceeded the number of permanent residents for the first time, the report notes.

Former immigration minister Jason Kenney called the notion that permanent residents are being eclipsed by temporary residents in the workforce “complete rubbish,” accusing the group behind the report, No One Is Illegal, of being a “Trotskyite, anarchist organization” opposed to any and all immigration laws.

“When they dishonestly claim that we have displaced permanent residency migration with temporary residency, they are, as with everything, lying … The average annual number of permanent residents admitted to Canada since the Conservative government took office has been close to 260,000, which is a record high, the highest sustained level in our history.”

He said the number of temporary residents are up because Canada has issued more permits for visitors and students.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada figures show that 279,565 temporary workers came to Canada in 2013. This figure does not include foreign students or visitors. The same year, Canada welcomed 258,953 permanent residents.

The majority of temporary workers came under the International Mobility Program, a youth exchange program based on reciprocal agreements with other wealthy countries, and the temporary foreign worker program.

The latter was overhauled after media reports revealed some employers were using it to hire foreigners instead of Canadians at lower wages. The Conservative government brought in a number of reforms aimed at protecting Canadian workers and punishing employers found to have broken the rules. None of these reforms, however, address the precarious status of migrant workers whose residency in Canada is often tied to a single employer, creating a situation ripe for abuse, the report argues.

The report also accuses the government of making things harder for refugees by removing medical benefits and cutting off avenues of appeal for refugees from certain countries deemed “safe.”

Between 2006 and 2012, the number of refugee claims dropped by 50 per cent and the number of accepted refugees dropped by 30 per cent, the report says. While global refugee numbers are at their highest levels since the Second World War, driven largely by the conflict in Syria, the number taken in by Canada has remained relatively constant in recent years. Less than 0.01 per cent of the world’s refugee population ever finds its way to Canada, Walia said. Canada has also been criticized by the United Nations for housing immigration detainees who have committed no crime and sometimes include children in prisons with the criminal population.

Kenney countered that the government has, on average, granted permanent residence to 9,000 asylum seekers each year and admits about 14,000 refugees in need of resettlement. Canada has the highest per capita level of refugee resettlement in the world, he added.

Regarding the treatment of immigration detainees, Kenney said: “No illegal migrant under a deportation order is forced to stay in detention. They’re all free to go. That’s the point. They are free to leave detention any time they want by getting on a plane and going back to their country of origin.”

tcarman@vancouversun.com

twitter.com/tarajcarman

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