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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

citizenship?. 1994.

Comack, Elizabeth ed. Locating Law: Race/Class/Gender Connections, Halifax: Fernwood

Publishing, 1999.

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


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