Is there a war on the immigrant family?

“The truth is the Conservative government has been most skilled in immigrant outreach, while playing to the “old stock” Tory base, using the language of economic success and national security. Lost in this positive argument is the immigrant family, somehow not an important issue in the family values agenda.”

Published: Wednesday, 10/07/2015 3:27 pm EDT

Revoking the citizenship of a Canadian citizen and worse, deporting a Canadian-born person is the most aggressive anti-immigrant act seen in recent times. It’s like there was a war on the immigrant family.

It really casts a line between “old stock” Canadians and new Canadians, because it’s not just about people who willingly have dual citizenship but people whose country of origin (or their parent’s country of origin) may decide to recognize them as citizens whether they want that or not.

Of course it’s draped in the language of law and order, but think about it. Let’s take Jimmy the son of white Anglo-Saxon protestant parents whose family have been in Southern Ontario for five generations, and Deepak the Canadian-born son of a couple who moved here from Tanzania. Of Indian origin, they had been in that East African nation for two generations. If as teenagers Jimmy and Deepak fell in with the wrong crowd, and got into some bad trouble, Jimmy would get sent to jail, but Deepak could be deported to Africa or India.

So to look at this through a political lens and bring it home to Conservative Senators: Regardless of the crimes they may get convicted of, Senator Mike Duffy will never get deported to the British Isles, but Senator Don Meredith can get deported to Jamaica. Rob Ford would never get deported if he bought illicit drugs, but if his supplier was foreign born, he’s on his way. And that’s why this two-tiered citizenship is so dangerous and is getting many immigrant families very worried.

Two weeks ago the Liberals promised to double family reunification immigration. But how could there be room for any improvement in immigration policy after the most determined and strategic immigrant outreach under Jason Kenney, whose permanent campaign has been the most successful in recent decades? He covered the waterfront, leaving no stone unturned.

The truth is the Conservative government has been most skilled in immigrant outreach, while playing to the “old stock” Tory base, using the language of economic success and national security. To its credit, through both recessions the Conservative government has kept immigration at one per cent of the Canadian population, and has sung the praises of immigration. The focus on economic immigration is well received among business and many immigrants because of the important argument that such a focus ensures quicker employment for newcomers, and more appropriate employees for business.

Lost in this positive argument is the immigrant family, somehow not an important issue in the family values agenda. Like the wider society, all immigrant communities have conservative and traditional segments, and in some cases, in larger numbers, which might explain the bizarre outburst by Kenny in response to the Liberal announcement: “Unlike Justin Trudeau, we don’t think marijuana should be sold in convenience stores. He also wants to force communities to establish illegal drug injection sites. And the Liberals also support the legalization of prostitution. He also wants to force communities to accept brothels. We don’t think the values of most Canadians are to have 18 year olds buy marijuana at convenience stores and then reselling it to 16 year olds in a back parking lot.”

It is bizarre in that it is both focused on raising fears, and has a pejorative ring to it. Like these immigrants can be so easily fooled and distracted… Liberals want to bring your families here? No, no, no… they are for your kids smoking marijuana, and for prostitutes and brothels beside your homes. Liberals bad, bad for your children.

In reality, here is where else the Conservatives have broken faith with the immigrant family.

There is a good logic to have an economics-focused immigration policy, but equally important is family immigration, for one reason more than any other: immigrant families are Canadian families and want as much as their old stock colleagues to live in close proximity with their families.

Instead, family re-unification has been cut back steadily since 2006, as immigration policy has become more economic focused. That’s not a bad thing in itself, but it does de-value the immigrant family and suggests the immigrant families are either not important or are a burden on our society. It also ignores that families have a strong economic and social role in helping with child care, and helping families plant deep roots in Canada.

The message that many immigrant families are getting is that their families are not important.

Is there a war on the immigrant family?

Citizenship is now much more expensive and takes longer ($1,100 for a family with three kids), so immigrants who want to become part of society have to wait longer and pay more.

The feds have also taken away health care support for refugee claimants on the grounds that it was too rich for them. Refugees are an easy group to pick on, sometimes with good results in elements of immigrant communities themselves, so why not?

And the niqab? It’s a complex issue which cuts both ways. It does say something about ‘those’ families and their values—not good for Canadian society.

And while immigrant senior citizens had to wait for 10 years after arrival to get the Guaranteed Income Supplement, since last year that period was extended to 20 years. It was a measure buried in one of those legendary omnibus bills with hundreds of pages that no one got to look through in enough detail.

Andrew Cardozo is president of the Pearson Centre on Progressive Policy.
The Hill Times

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