The right to citizenship

Published on March 26, 2016

Citizenship Judge Ann Janega told the crowd that filled Memorial Hall at the Confederation Centre of the Arts that the ceremony offers a great opportunity to reflect on what Canadian citizenship means. There were 74 new Canadians taking the oath in this May, 2015 ceremony.

©Guardian File Photo

Give temporary foreign workers the chance to become Canadian citizens

Last week the news leaked out that the Atlantic seafood processors are going to have restrictions on the hiring of temporary foreign workers waived for this year while the government does a study on the issues surrounding the importation of workers from outside our borders.

The restrictions were imposed by the last government when concerns were expressed that foreign workers were taking jobs from Canadians or were being paid less than Canadian workers were willing to work for.

The restrictions remain in place for other seasonal workers which, of course, led to complaints from those sectors.

The Atlantic regional columnist for this newspaper saw the move as just another subsidy for the fishing industry, while Toronto newspaper the Globe and Mail used the issue to editorialize on the broader question of our immigration policy.

The Globe noted how much better Canadian policies were than those in the United States. This year we will admit about 300,000 people as immigrants, or 0.85 per cent of our population. With nine times as many people, the U.S. will only admit 0.31 per cent of its population as legal immigrants.

The American restrictions have led to a massive migration of illegals across their southern border. It is estimated that there are now over 11 million people living and working illegally in the United States. More than five per cent of the American work force is made up of people who can never be citizens. These people are often paid less and exploited in other ways by their American employers.

In the middle of the last century Germany, and other European countries, had formal agreements with countries in Southern Europe, Northern Africa and Turkey for the admission of gastarbeiters, or guest workers, to supplement their work forces, but they were not allowed citizenship and this led to a number of problems.

In the rich oil states of the Middle East, foreign workers often equal or outnumber, the Arab citizens.

The Globe quite rightly says in this regard we do not want to become like the Americans, the Europeans or the Arabs. While we should be sensitive to the fact that there will always be a need for some temporary foreign workers, “Canada’s workers should be Canadians, or people who have the right to become Canadians.”

Of the European experiment it went on to say, “Nor do we want a legal and economic underclass of permanent non-Canadians occupying low-wage jobs.”

Canada has done well by its immigration policies. When Europe was initiating its gastarbeiter programs we were accepting immigrants from many of those same countries. Toronto, Montreal and many of our other cities were built with labour supplied by Italian, Portuguese and other immigrant labourers. Children of those labourers now occupy many responsible positions in those cities and on the national scene.

As the federal government reviews the temporary foreign worker policy, maybe the provincial government, and representatives of Island industry should look at ways to augment our employment needs with immigrants, not temporary workers.

It would be very interesting to know how many of the people who come here for short periods of time would stay if they had the chance. Certainly not all, but even a few could help.

The premier has stressed the need to attract more immigrants to deal with our demographic problems, low birth rates and an aging population. As a class, immigrants are often more resilient and more resourceful than the native population. Jobs in our seasonal industries might give some immigrants the foothold they need to get established and become contributing, fully-fledged citizens.

Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: