The House of Commons committee (HCC) on citizenship and immigration is calling on the Federal Government of Canada to stop all deportations of undocumented workers until a new immigration policy is established.
Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Ed Komarnicki has filed a recusant report in response to the HCC official request, stating that the proposed moratorium could actually encourage lawbreakers, and will also compromise the integrity of Canada’s immigration system. What’s more, the Federal Government has already acknowledged its intention to “crack down” on so-called “Queue-jumpers” and is on track to deport about 10,000 people this year alone.
Although stopping short of proposing a “blanket amnesty”, some government officials believe that a viable alternative lies in bringing “out-of-status” immigrants into the legal and social fold. However, Immigration Minister Monte Solberg has officially ruled out a “blanket amnesty” program for the tens of thousands of undocumented workers employed in Canada’s bustling underground economy. He says that Ottawa does not want to encourage people to come to the country illegally.
The irony in all this is that Canada is desperate to attract foreign skilled labourers to fill the shortages in key Canadian industries such as construction, oil, and gas. Yet, we are shipping thousands of undocumented foreign workers back home who have already successfully integrated themselves into Canadian society.
Some of these foreign workers claim they are here illegally because Canada’s immigration system doesn’t work for them. The federal immigration system is designed to adhere to a stringent set of rules that awards points for criteria such as education and experience. Not all trades-people necessarily fit into such an eligibility model. “The vast majority of foreign construction workers have no hope of entering Canada under the current points system, because it is biased in favor of academic qualifications and not skilled trades,” explains Andy Manahan, spokesman for the Universal Workers Union.
Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as some outspoken government critics, believe that the Conservative agenda in regards to deportation does not benefit Canada in the least. Proponents of legalizing “out-of-status” workers say that it costs money to “remove” these individuals, both to the government and to the employers for whom they work. Policy critics also believe that it chokes healthy Canadian industries. Builders and construction developers say that deporting all undocumented workers could seriously undermine Canada’s economic interests.
Solberg adds that Ottawa is working closely with the provinces to ensure labor market needs are being met. “We understand the process doesn’t work well for a lot of people. We’re trying to fix that,” he explains to reporters in Ottawa. “[…] the ideal situation is for people to go through the [immigration] process. The idea […] is for people to play by the rules and get in line like everyone else…” He says.
The United States is going through its own illegal immigration trouble. Lawmakers there have met the quandary by passing a controversial bill in the U.S. Senate this week that gives status to the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants. Solberg has ruled-out introducing similar legislation here in Canada explaining that his government has their “own ideas on that,” and offering no further details on the matter.
Estimates on the number of illegal foreign workers who make up Canada’s growing “underground economy” range as high as 200,000. No official number has ever been given to this dilemma because it is next to impossible to put a human toll on this issue.
The Ontario Construction Secretariat estimates that the province alone loses over 1.5 billion dollars in unpaid taxes and premiums annually to the underground immigrant economy. Amid deportation hearings, officials in Canada are wondering what to do with all these illegal workers.