Pro Indo-Canadian party to block immigration changes

April 1st, 2008 - 3:40 pm ICT by admin  

By Gurmukh Singh
Toronto, April 1 (IANS) The Canadian parliament is heading for a vote on a crucial immigration law amendment, which if passed will give the government sweeping powers to decide who is let into the country. It is being strongly opposed by the pro Indo-Canadian New Democratic Party (NDP). “The Conservatives believe some immigrants are more worthwhile than others for the labour market. We believe this is discrimination,” NDP’s immigration critic Olivia Chow told IANS in an interview.

Since India is set to become the number one source of immigration into Canada, the new policy may have a major impact on Indian applicants.

Though the Conservative party government says the amendment is aimed to clear the backlog of over 900,000 applications, it is seen as a move to cut the base of the opposition Liberal party supported by most immigrant communities.

Chow said: “There are many options to tackle the backlog. For example, the NDP firmly stands on the position to increase immigration to one percent of the population. This would ease restrictions on family class immigration.”

As the amendment has been made part of the budget bill, the government may fall if it is voted down. But the Liberal party, which is in disarray, does not want a snap poll. Only the NDP has come out openly against the immigration amendment.

“The NDP will move to strike the entire immigration section out of the budget. If we are successful that will be very good for the country and a victory for immigrants,” Chow said.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: When the ruling Conservative party has been trying to make inroads into immigrant communities, what motives do you see behind their move to change immigration policy?

A: Electoral success. The Conservatives have dispatched Jason Kenney, minister of state for multiculturalism, to criss-cross the country making speeches, announcements, and giving out money to immigrant communities to soften the Liberal hold on these groups. There are even specific MPs who are responsible for each community.

Q: Do you think they have clubbed it with the budget implementation bill because they could not get it passed otherwise?

A: Yes, that is likely the most plausible reason. And the Conservative rationale is that they announced money for cutting the backlog in the budget and this is part of that.

Q: With immigrants projected to constitute almost the entire new labour force in a few years, what is the Conservatives’ agenda? Do they want to cut immigration from some parts of the world and bring in more people from other regions?

A: The Conservatives believe some immigrants are more worthwhile than others for the labour market. We believe this is discrimination. Allowing some immigrants into Canada while excluding others is not fair. You cannot pick and choose whom you want in and who should remain out.

Q: The government’s argument is the huge backlog. What are your options on it?

A: There are many options to tackle the backlog. For example, the NDP firmly stands on the position to open up the system to increase immigration to one percent of the population. This would ease restrictions on family class immigration like the NDP’s ‘Once in a Lifetime’ bill which the Liberals and Tories voted against.

Q: Arab and Chinese groups fear they may be the target of the new immigration policies. Do you agree with them?

A: Yes, we agree with them and they are right in their worry. The Conservatives have shown their disdain towards many immigrant groups, including the Arab and Muslim populations. They endorsed policies that promote racial and religious profiling and security certificates. But they are not alone - countries with poor educational systems and corruption will be affected and Canada will not be able to help those people come to Canada and improve their quality of life.

Q: What should the opposition do?

A: The NDP will move to strike the entire immigration section out of the budget. If we are successful that will be very good for the country and a victory for immigrants who want to bring their family and loved ones to Canada. The NDP is committed to reuniting families and increasing opportunities for working families.

Q: Are you talking to the Liberals - who may vote in favour the amendment - to persuade them to oppose it?

A: We are asking the Liberals to join us in opposing the Conservative measures. We hope they will take a principled stand and not abstain on such an important vote affecting millions of new Canadians.

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