Immigration is not a topic often associated with the food system, but Harjap Grewal of NOII says immigration and the food system are "very much linked." He sees immigration as "the human impact of free trade policy, [and therefore] the reason why [farmers are] migrating."
Immigration is a growing issue in Canadian politics in the past decade, stemming from an increase in the number of people seeking refugee or migrant worker status in Canada. "We've actually made the politically difficult decision to maintain historically high levels of immigration," Jason Kenney, Minister of Immigration, said to the Calgary Sun.
On the surface, Kenney seems to be making it easier for migrant workers to stay in Canada. Kenney said migrants are "doing work Canadians are unwilling to perform," and that his government, despite the recession and rising unemployment, will maintain its practice of encouraging immigration and foreign labour. Tarina White of the Calgary Sun reported, "Calgary newcomers will have access to more language training (to the tune of) almost $9.5 million in funding. ... Kenney said he hopes the investment will boost the percentage of immigrants enrolling in language programs each year, which currently sits at 25 per cent." According to Bill Kaufman of the Sun, Kenney said his government is stepping up its monitoring of foreign workers' treatment while making it easier for the newcomers to become permanent residents and citizens.
However, a closer look reveals a different agenda.
Documented by NOII, Kenney "oversaw the largest immigration raid in recent Canadian history, which went largely unreported. In an illegal move, 41 [migrants] were tricked into signing waivers that removed their right to a hearing and many have now been deported."
White reported that Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan blames international free trade agreements for "setting up foreign workers to be exploited." McGowan accuses Kenney's ministry of "washing its hands" of temporary foreign workers once they arrive only for them to be routinely abused by their employers. He noted, "Only three per cent of migrant workers are eligible for permanent residency."
"We're the ones who set up an advocacy office to help workers who are exploited; we're the ones picking up the pieces. ... I find it galling [that] Kenney's trying to wrap himself in the cloak of virtue."
Dominionpaper.com, Sun Jan 31 2010
Byline: Ben Amundson