Immigration Essay, Research Paper
Immigration is amoung the most compelling issues with which we as a country are faced.
The overwhelming amount of human smuggling has set focus on the immigration laws in
Canada. Canadian immigration laws have been under fire by many protest groups who feel the
laws are both racist and sexist. The issues surrounding the work in which immigrant women are
restricted to has become quite a topic of argument. Historically immigration laws were
extremely racist and sexist orientated. It is claimed that the current immigration law is both non-
biased and fair, however there are many immigrants and Canadian citizens that would strongly
disagree. The media itself plays a huge role in how people form their views regarding
immigration. Many are confident that immigration promotes economic growth and keeps
Canada internationally competitive. However, there are others who express concern about the
impact in which immigration and citizenship policies are having upon the values and traditions
that form the foundation of Canadian society.
Immigration laws have become a very significant issue in Canadian society today. There
is much controversy over the process in which immigrants must undergo before being granted
Canadian citizenship. The increasing requirements for skilled workers, education entry level,
language requirements etc., are being seen as racist proposals for those who are trying to enter
the country. There are three basic categories immigrants can fall under; (1) Independent -
selected for their economic contribution, including skilled workers and business immigrants. (2)
Refugees – includes Convention refugees and other displaced persons resettled from abroad, with
government assistance or private sponsorship, and persons who have successfully claimed
Convention refugee status in Canada. (3) Family – close family members sponsored by a
Canadian citizen or resident, including spouses, fiances, dependent children, parents and
grandparents. Immigrants must meet the selection criteria for the category in which they are
applying. They must also undergo extensive medical examinations and background checks.
?Admission may be refused to persons whose medical condition represents a danger to public
health or excessive demand on health or social services, who have a criminal background, or
who are considered a security risk.?
Canada is plagued by a history of racist immigration laws and policies. For decades
Canadian immigration law was influenced by a racist, inspired ?White Canada? policy. It was
not until the 1960’s with the implementation of the points system that this policy was eliminated.
However a closer examination reveals that this racism and ethnic selectivity have not
disappeared. Striving to preserve the British character of Canada, authorities directed their
efforts towards excluding certain people from entry, while encouraging others to settle. The
Federal government decided in the early 1900’s to take action against Asian immigration and
devised different methods for discouraging immigration from China, Japan and India. Prime
Minister John A. Macdonald commented in the late 1800’s that a Chinese person ?was a
sojourner in a strange land..and he has no common interest with us, he gives us his labour and is
paid for it and is valuable, the same as a threshing machine or any other agricultural implement
which we may borrow from the United States , or hire and return to its owner.? In order to
understand the racist implications associated with the immigration law of today we must first
understand how far it has come. In the early to mid 1900’s Orient immigrants or in fact any
immigrant that was not white was seen more of as a possession and source of labour rather than
a citizen. However, today?s laws are still discriminatory. The Federal governments immigration
proposal, privileges English-speaking, educated elites who are rich enough to afford
immigration. At the same time it denies those who are not fortunate enough to learn the English
language in their country of origin. There is also the requirement of at least grade 12 education.
In many countries, basic schooling only goes to grade 10 or 11, again a rejection that many of
these immigrants have no control over. Refugees are being treated as criminal from the moment
they are granted citizenship. Many argue that these refugees should not be forced to give
fingerprints and other requirements that are associated with criminals and criminal behavior.
Another argument against the federal immigration law is that refugee claimants should be
assessed, not by an employee of or a member of the Federal government, but by an impartial
group of legal representatives.
During a time in Canadian history when citizenship rights have been generally improving
for women, conditions have significantly deteriorated for domestic workers. The situation for
immigrant women seeking citizenship in Canada has gotten worse. The conditions of domestic
work, especially live-in service, were so unfavorable that Canadian-born working-class women
refused to accept the jobs. The belief that women are dependant on their husbands has become
a huge constraint on many women. Out of the three immigration categories, women are must
likely to fall under the family class because of this belief of dependance on their husbands.
Many women don?t have access to several of these requirements in their countries, therefore
failing to meet the demand. Foreign-trained women doctors and engineers are working here as
babysitters and factory workers to pay the bills. York Professor Valerie Preston is working on a
project examining the experiences of 24 women from Hong Kong and China living in Toronto.
?If they aren?t working they have children to take care of,? she said. ?They could not find a way
to pay for day care at hours that they needed to either attend language classes or to attend the
professional training.? Her findings show that these women are willing to retrain but simply
cannot afford to. Many therefore choose to take jobs outside of their professions because of this
long qualification processes. The main occupation in which women are allowed to enter Canada
is domestic labour. Since 1983, domestic workers can only apply for temporary work permits.
After this period is up, these women are then allowed to apply for immigration status, but likely
will be returned to their country of origin. Many people argue that part of the immigration law is
both racist and sexist. The basic rights and freedoms of these women are being rejected by the
Canadian government. Immigrant women are needed more than ever to fill these domestic jobs,
however, the criteria for actually getting one of these jobs has been on the rise. The point system
assigned domestic workers low points for occupational skill, occupational training and
experience, even if they had years of practical training and experience in the field. As a result,
most domestic workers could not meet the requirements of the points system to come to Canada
as independent citizens. Therefore most domestic workers that came to Canada came as
temporary workers. Women domestic workers have been forced to live with their employers,
and at the same time pay into government taxes such as the Canadian pension plan and
unemployment insurance, which they are not permitted to collect. Between 1973 and 1979
domestic workers paid as much as 11 million dollars in taxes without seeing any return. Several
womens groups have protested but only slight gains have been achieved. They have found it
extremely difficult to afford the time and money to learn the English language and develop new
skills that would help them pass the immigration requirements once their work permit had
expired. Domestic workers have been denied basic freedoms that other workers enjoy in modern
society: the freedom to choose and change occupations, to change employers, to have their own
places to live, and to enjoy personal lives outside work and away from the direct control and
supervision of employers.
The attitudes and opinions in which Canadian born people form about immigration
comes mainly from the media. Newspapers such as the Toronto Star, portray immigrants as
being criminals. As many as 600 Chinese immigrants have landed off the shores of British
Columbia last summer. This human smuggling has received a one sided view in a great deal of
the media. An article in the Toronto Star clearly demonstrates that these immigrants are not
receiving any sympathy from the media. The article writes :
The migrants came to North America seeking to make a fortune. They were
neither fleeing persecution nor facing any threat to their lives. What they are
finding out is that Canada doesn?t offer asylum to every foreigner who turns up
uninvited on its shores…It is a shame the migrants trusted international criminals
to bring them to the land they call Gold Mountain….And it is a shame that
Canadian taxpayers are spending millions of dollars to keep the migrants in
British Columbia jails.?
It is highly unfair to take a view such as this without knowing the exact situations why each of
these immigrants came to Canada. It is extremely biased to assume the only reason they came to
Canada was to make a fortune, who is to say they weren?t facing threaten circumstances in the
country in which they fled. It is believed that the migrants spent $40 000 (US) to be smuggled
into Canada. Many of these people likely spent all they had to these human smugglers, for a
guarantee that they would become Canadian citizens. However the media would rather portray
these people as the criminals instead of in many cases the victims. The point is not that these
immigrants should all be granted citizenship, simply that biased, racist conclusions about these
peoples positions should not be made without knowing each individuals personal situation. The
media coverage surrounding the situation with domestic workers has been minimal. The
circumstances around this issue have not been covered to the degree that it should. Many
peoples ideas and feelings about immigration come strictly form media coverage. With little to
no media coverage on domestic workers it is very hard for the public to understand really how
bad and unfair by Canadian standards this is. The media may in fact be more concerned if it was
an upper class white male that was being exploited, rather than a female immigrant. If the media
would actually give this situation some positive coverage and show the public how unfair it is,
then there is no doubt that this would help to reshape the immigration law.
Immigration remains a compelling issue in Canada. Immigration laws will continue to
be questioned and challenged by those who feel the laws are racist, sexist and simply not fair to
all individuals. Hopefully the situation surrounding immigrant women and more directly
domestic workers will be reformed in the near future. The role of the media has a profound
effect on peoples views of immigration. People must look beyond what they read in the
newspaper or see on TV, and understand that the individuals delivering these stories might be
taking a biased point of view. One should try to see both sides of the situation before forming
their own opinion. The decisions we made about immigration in the past helped define who we
are today. The decisions we make today will help define the country we live in tomorrow, and
leave to future generations.
Brock, Deborah. Lecture notes. October 22, 1999.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada. ?Into the 21st century: a strategy for immigration and
Comack, Elizabeth ed. Locating Law: Race/Class/Gender Connections, Halifax: Fernwood
Drakes, Shellene. The Toronto Star, ?Immigrant women forsake careers?. October 15, 1999.
Girard, Daniel. The Toronto Star,?Chinese migrants stay in jail?. November 11, 1999
The Toronto Star, ?Panic over migrants was unwarranted?. November 15, 1999