Why “ethnic” communities should not support Stephen Harper's Conservatives

A group of Canadian immigration lawyers, practitioners, and academics issued today (April 20) the following open letter:

Despite the media hype and government propaganda, Canadian immigration experts, both academics and lawyers, do not think that the Conservative government is doing immigrant communities any favours.

Stephen Harper, Jason Kenney and the Conservatives have targeted the so-called "ethnic vote," hoping to convince immigrant communities that the Conservatives have made things better for their communities and that these communities should support them. However, a review of the facts shows that this government's policies have not been friendly to immigrant communities. Moreover, the Conservative government has made a habit of using immigration issues to stir up anti- immigrant sentiments amongst other Canadians.

FACTS:

1. Since the Conservative Party took power, the processing time of visa applications for parents and grandparents has increased dramatically. Jason Kenney tries to manipulate the statistics to suggest that the contrary is true but the facts speak for themselves. The number of parent and grandparent visas issued in 2006, based on the 2005 targets, was 20,005. The number of visas for parents and grandparents that will be issued this year is 11,200, a reduction of almost 9,000 or close to 44 per cent. The total processing time of a sponsorship of a parent application including the time for the processing of the sponsorship in Canada and the processing of the application overseas has increased between nine and thirty months depending on the visa post. Moreover, given that the number of visas issued is being reduced, the backlogs will increase and the processing times will increase. The failure of the government to address this issue is creating immense hardship on immigrant families.

2. The Conservative Government has cut settlement funding for immigrants and has refused to fund many well established groups. Moreover, as is well known, the government decides funding applications based on political considerations, providing funding to those groups that support them and denying funding to those that do not. In December, the Harper government cut $53 million from the 2011-12 budget for programs that offer support and integration services for new Canadians. This was not a rebalancing between provinces, this was a 10% cut to the overall budget before any reallocation occurred. In addition to a $43 million cut in Ontario, British Columbia was slashed by 8% or $8.5 million and Nova Scotia has been cut as well. The Conservatives have also held back more than $200 million of promised settlement funding for Ontario during the last 5 years - before the cuts were made.

3. Despite claims that the Conservative government cut the backlog of skilled workers, the backlog that was 487,000 in 2005 and is now 508,000. The overall backlog has grown by 173,000 on the Conservative’s watch. Thus despite all their claims to being good managers, they have failed to make any significant improvements in the skilled worker program in content or efficiency.

4. The Conservative Government promises it will get tough on human smugglers. However, instead of punishing the smugglers the bill targets the victims of smuggling, the refugees. The bill will require mandatory detention of all persons who arrive by boat for one year—including women and children. They would also deny permanent residence – and family reunification -- to recognized refugees for five years for no reason other than their mode of arrival. The Conservatives have made their claim that they are getting tough on human smugglers a cornerstone of their re-election strategy. However, the policy has nothing to do with smugglers and has everything to do with demonizing and reducing the numbers of refugees. After all the government has also proposed to eliminate the category of refugees who can be considered for refugee status by applying from their home countries.

5. The Conservative government proposes to make it harder for spouses to reunite by introducing conditional visas for a period of two years from landing.. Jason Kenney claims that the government is targeting ”˜marriage fraud’ but don’t be fooled – every couple will face additional, harsher, longer and more invasive scrutiny. The more cynical visa officers have had their cynicism encouraged by Mr. Kenney. Just because you know your marriage is genuine, doesn’t mean the government will agree, and even more individuals, families and communities will suffer as a result of the government’s culture of suspicion. If a visa officer does deny a family sponsorship application, there will be a delay of several years before an appeal can be decided, further delaying family reunification. And those marriages entered into in good faith that fail within the two years conditional period will be suspect, causing many spouses to remain in potentially abusive relationships.

As academics and lawyers and other practitioners who specialize in immigration law and human rights, we are firmly committed to basic Canadian values of equality and respect for all Canadians, regardless of country of origin. We believe that the rule of law should not be undermined by political ideology. We value the wealth and wisdom of our multi-cultural society and understand that we will thrive as a country by cultivating our common Canadian qualities and not by exploiting our differences for partisan gain.

If you believe in the concept of family reunification, that is the ability of immigrants and Canadians to bring their parents, grandparents, children and spouses to Canada; if you believe in a fair and timely skilled worker program that recruits the best and the brightest from around the world to join our midst; if you believe in justice for refugees without automatic imprisonment; if you believe in spousal sponsorship processing that does not lead to the potential for greater spousal abuse and neglect, then you must not support the Conservative Party in the upcoming Federal Election on May 2nd.

SIGNATURES

BARBARA JACKMAN BARRISTER & SOLICITOR TORONTO
LORNE WALDMAN BARRISTER & SOLICITOR TORONTO
MITCHELL GOLDBERG BARRISTER & SOLICITOR MONTREAL
RICHARD GOLDMAN BARRISTER & SOLICITOR MONTREAL
PETER LARLEE BARRISTER & SOLICITOR VANCOUVER
HILARY EVANS CAMERON BARRISTER & SOLICITOR TORONTO
AVIVA BASMAN BARRISTER & SOLICITOR TORONTO
TIM WICHERT BARRISTER & SOLICITOR TORONTO
CAROLE SIMONE DAHAN BARRISTER & SOLICITOR, DIRECTOR REFUGEE LAW OFFICE TORONTO
RONALD LEE BARRISTER & SOLICITOR HAMILTON
JENNIFER BOND PROFESSOR UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA LAW SCHOOL
AUDREY MACKLIN PROFESSOR UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO LAW SCHOOL
PETER SHOWLER PROFESSOR UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA LAW SCHOOL
SEAN REHAAG PROFESSOR OSGOODE HALL LAW SCHOOL
GERI SADOWAY BARRISTER & SOLICITOR TORONTO
HADAYT NAZIMI BARRISTER & SOLICITOR TORONTO
ANDREW BROUWER BARRISTER & SOLICITOR TORONTO
ALEXANDER NING NOTARY PUBLIC IMMIGRATION CONSULTANT VANVOUVER
FRANCOIS CREPEAU PROFESSOR UNIVERSITY MCGILL UNIVERSITY
JULIANNA BEAUDOIN PhD CANDIDATE UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO
DONALD GALLOWAY PROFESSOR UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA
STEWART ISTVANIFFY BARRISTER & SOLICITOR MONTREAL
SHARRYN J AIKEN ASSOCIATE DEAN(GRADUATE STUDIES & RESEARCH)
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR FACULTY OF LAW QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY
CHANTAL TIE PART TIME PROFESSOR IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE LAW UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA
MICHAEL BOSSIN PART TIME PROFESSOR IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE LAW UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA
BRENDA WEMP BARRISTER & SOLICITOR VANCOUVER

Comments (25) Add New Comment
david24
I never ceases to amaze me that immigrants, including at least one former refugee in Vancouver-Kingsway, agree to run as candidates for the Conservatives. Get your heads out of the sand people. If Harper had been Prime Minister when your boat arrived off the west coast of BC you'd have been shipped back to SE Asia without a hearing. Nice to see your response to our hospitality is to support laws that will prevent future generations from receiving the kind of warm welcome you did. Disgusting!
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Steve Y
Wow, a bunch of lawyers who earn money by bringing in immigrants support more immigrants into the country? What a surprise!!!!

Face it, Canada loses with family reunification. My friend is a perfect example. Smart, educated, young, the perfect immigrant. She should be allowed with minimal trouble. Then, she wants to bring in her parents. I understand why she would want that, but why would canada want to bring in two elderly people who will cost millions in health care bills and add nothing to the economy? I mean, I feel for the immigrants who miss their parents but Canada is allowing them into the country to pay for the elderly already in the country we cannot afford, not to bring in two more elderly for every good worker. These lawyers want 20,000 senior citizens per year brought into Canada when we have only 3 workers per senior citizen already?? Does no one see a problem with this?
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beecee
waahhh....those that have the most to gain by lax immigration policy, like these lawyers, are the ones complaining the most
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Danilo
#5 is a good thing
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judi sommer
Could someone in the know-without spin-tell me exactly what paid services immigrants 65+ are entitled to once they arrive here? Some number-crunching please.
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Darrin
If Canada is soooo bad, why come here? My great grandfather came from Ireland and he and his brothers WORKED! There was no welfare and grants for them, If you dont like it here, then leave!
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Concerned Group 2
The Conservatives have been lying about their immigration policy/record big time...
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Tomaso
What these lawyers and "academics" fail to understand is that people who immigrated here 30 years ago, before the immigration industry boom, don't view today's immigration policies as a positive. We came with nothing, we received nothing, and we built a better life for all. We came, and asked "what can we do for Canada". Many of today's immigrants ask "what can Canada do for me".

The Liberals used us for votes, and moved on to the next group when we became too educated. No thanks. I'm voting for the party that protects the Canada we helped build, not the one that protect the lawyers who make their money off the backs of others.
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Behshad Hastibakhsh
I disagree. The Conservative Party is an all inclusive political institution. Its economic policies of lower taxes, fiscal responsibility and balanced budget benefit Canadians across the demographic spectrum.
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Ray I
It is simplistic, elitist and racist to characterize "ethnic minorities" as having a single political interest. They are Canadians and will vote for the party that they believe will serve their interests best. If low taxes and a strong economy is their top priority they will vote Conservative. Stop reducing people to one dimension!
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David Chalk
Judi Sommer -

Once a parent comes to Canada as a permanent resident, they are entitled to the same services as any other permanent resident but one - no welfare for ten years. That is what the sponsorship is all about.

Generally, they will not have paid in to the Canada Pension Plan so they won't be eligible for payments either.

With respect to the argument advanced by the PM and others that sponsored parents don't pay tax, that is a somewhat curious argument. Once they become resident in Canada, they will become taxable on their WORLDWIDE income, like any other Canadian resident. When they die, they will be taxed on whatever capital gains have accrued on their assets. They may very well import their savings to Canada and will be taxed here on whatever they earn on those monies.

Tomaso - I don't know which is bad, your math or your history. I am an immigrant. I came here 46 years ago. 30 years ago, I was 18. I had it pretty good in Canada - free public education, medicare and all of those Trudeau-era social programs. I also recall that Canada was pretty well already "built" in 1981. Which country did you build? Are you sure it is the "lawyers and academics" whose understanding is problematic here? For the record, I am a lawyer and both my (immigrant) parents are academics so you called me out on both issues.
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Ken Lawson
We do not want them to have any favours, We want them to be Canadians or look else where to live. We have a Canadian Culture that all you need know about and learn what it is! Very Simple! Immigration Lawyers,Practictioners, academincs have caused more problems in Canada than they are worth, so shut up!
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gunghaggis@yahoo.ca
Conservatives gave a "hollow" Chinese Head Tax apology in 2006. They limited head tax certificate monetary redress to "surviving" head tax payers and spouses... which recognized less than 1% of all head tax certificates.

If my great-grandfather was alive, he would be 140 years old. It would be disrespectful to dig up his bones, so he could receive his "tax refund".

Conservative candidate Wai Young, says she cried, when Harper gave the apology. But where was she, when we were marching in the streets in 2005, protesting the Liberal's no-apology ACE proposal? Meena Wong, now the NDP Vancouver South Candidate, had the bullhorn in her hand, and helped to lead the march. Why didn't the Conservatives and Liberals support NDP MP Margaret Mitchell's proposal for Chinese head tax redress back in 1984? So many more people would have still been alive 22 year earlier!!!
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Taxpayers R Us
I'm with Steve Y on this one, and I'm a European immigrant.

I grew up here and I can tell you as seeing it from my immigrant point of view - the system is being abused and it's costing everyone who's been paying into it directly and through generations of forefathers.

Someone, somewhere whispered "free health-care" and a brand new market was born. It's going downhill so fast that I worry my own health is at risk to pay for someone else's overhead in Indo-China.
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Steve Y
@David Chalk - You are incredibly naive if you think PRs with significant income is paying taxes on their world wide income to Canada. There are a million and one ways to avoid them.
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Herb Barbolet
Ray I
"If low taxes and a strong economy is their top priority they will vote Conservative." Nice try. Just declaring this does not make it true. Low taxes for the richest is what you mean. And one reason our economy is stronger - governments prior to the Conservatives wouldn't let the banks merge. In other words, effective regulation.
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Don Simpson
Immigrants are just more conservative than your average latte sipping NDP or Liberal. They work hard for there money and want it to be spent wisely. The want an opportunity to make someting of themselves in Canada not just a few platitudes about race relations and some free handouts. They come here for the opportunity to build a life for themselves not to get government handouts. The conservatives are the only ones that recognize this and treat immigrants as Canadians not a social welfare experiment.
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OMG
Just wondering: do these same immigration lawyers consider Honduran crack dealers cum refugee claimants as an 'ethnic' community?
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Peter Dimitrov
You can add my name to the List
Peter Dimitrov, Barrister & Solicitor, Vancouver, BC

I add: if you believe that Stephen Harper should be denied the opportunity to appoint up to 8 new Supreme Court of Canada judges - selected primarily because they will follow the 'strict constructionist' very conservative judicial approach - and thereby influence law in the very highest court of this land for the next several decades - then do not vote to make Stephen Harper Prime Minister. Vote strategically to insure he does NOT become Prime Minister and thereby be enabled to exercise his power of appointment. In your riding vote strategically to minimize vote splitting and to insure either a NDP or Liberal win - because if he becomes PM again, even in a minority government, he will exercise those powers of appointment to the detriment of progressive values in the country for an ad nauseaum length of time.
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Steve Y the hick
Hey Steve why don't you say the same for your bloodsucking grandmother who immigrated here probably no longer than 5-7 generations ago. While many immigrant families are 3-5 generations. What is the diff? I bet some Chinese have been here supporting the economy longer than you have been alive.

Did you ever think that maybe the parents will be taken after by their children and the whole family will pay taxes. Can you really see anything wrong with bringing in skilled labor as the Canadian youth sit in Universities around the country twiddling their thumbs taking their education for granted? There is maybe 2 out of 10 people for every class that cares, the rest don't give a fuck, all born in Canada. Then you see the people from other countries, poor, given a chance to make something of themselves, and they bust their asses off working and going to school.

It's easy for you to make those "immigrant leecher" comments when you grew up in some rural or ignorant town and have no real perspective on how the world works. If you actually got out there you would think differently, unless your just dumb, then that is something entirely different.
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