Immigrants helped build Canada. The railroad, bridges, tunnels and canals that connected our vast landscape, bringing the east and west coasts together, were constructed with the blood, sweat and tears of immigrants who came to Canada for a better future.
One could only imagine that in 2008, at 141 years old, Canada would be moving forward, towards a more inclusive and transparent immigration policy that welcomes the skills, innovation and contributions of immigrants rather than a policy that reeks of the dark days of the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Continuous Passage Act, which were designed to keep immigrants out.
Earlier this year, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives introduced changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and today, they are only one small step away from passing. These changes are deceptive, damaging, and irreversible.
These changes don’t affect the backlog of immigrants. The government’s deceptive advertising campaign and public relations exercise is dishonest.
Finally, the extraordinary powers that this legislation gives to the Minister of Immigration are dangerous. Ministers are not above the law but that is what this legislation seeks to do – it will deny Parliament’s role in setting immigration policy by putting tremendous power in the hands of the Minister.
The NDP joined the Canadian Bar Association, Canadian Labour Congress, faith groups, and immigrant communities across Canada in condemning the Conservative plan.
Canadians elected a minority parliament because they wanted opposition parties to make the Conservative government accountable. As a Member of Parliament, I take that responsibility very seriously and in that vein, took it upon myself to do everything possible to stop Harper’s immigration changes.
For months I met with immigration and service organizations across Canada, introduced motions, amendments, and committee studies in Parliament, and organized community meetings and information sessions to educate people on the changes. Communities across Canada spoke out, organized demonstrations and wrote letters, but no matter what we tried, Stéphane Dion’s Liberals refused to put their words into action and vote against the damaging bill.
Dion’s weak leadership allowed the bill to be fast-tracked through the Finance committee, the Liberal-dominated Senate, and now the final votes in the House of Commons. With 92% of Liberals staying home instead of doing their jobs, my amendments and motions failed and the bill is very likely to pass in the coming days.
NDP amendments to delete the entire immigration section from the budget bill lost – 114 votes to 83 votes.
In the months to come, we must work overtime to ensure that the voices of ordinary Canadians will not be ignored any further. The immigration system is broken – together we can fix it to be fair, objective and continue to build a strong and diverse Canada.
Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina)
NDP Immigration Critic
For more information, please contact:
Nathan Rotman, Office of Olivia Chow, 416-276-0928