Canada needs an accurate inventory of its labour needs, not more hysteria about a so-called “labour shortage”.
This is the real issue that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Immigration has to deal with—-not the issue of holding hearings on illegal workers which this committee last week voted unanimously to conduct and not the assumption that Canada has a large “labour shortage”.
So let's deal with the major issue.
(1) As the current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration bravely pointed out to the Committee, “This (the illegal workers issue) is a serious issue, one involving families and often children, but it is not fair to allow (illegals) ….to jump the queue while others who follow the rules have to wait in line.”
The illegals arrive–presumably to work. To be fair to Canadians and to legal immigrants who are looking for employment, they should not be allowed to stay. The extent of the damage they have done to the lives of Canadian and legal immigrant job seekers has not been calculated, but it is probably large. It should not be assumed to be non-existent. Canadians should not direct their sympathy only to illegals and their families. There is such a thing as misplaced sympathy.
It is estimated that Canada has around 200,000 illegal workers and another 300,000 of their dependents. These numbers are just estimates, mostly because of the poor job the country does in detecting these people at our borders. In addition, Canada does not monitor very well the temporary workers it admits. As a result, a number of temporary workers stay after their legal work permits expire and become illegals. Other people come here on legal visas and also overstay. Canada's monitoring system has to improve so that over-stayers are summarily removed and so that other illegal workers are detected. Detection is not an easy job, but it has to be done. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
(2) So who should be in the all-important employment line? Contrary to what some MP's and others might think, the first in line should be Canadians. This point should not even require saying, but it seems that a number of people have serious difficulty understanding it.
Let's say it again. Immigration policy should benefit Canadians. It is not for the extended families of recent immigrants. It is not for fraudulent refugee claimants. It is not for employers looking for cheap employees. It is not for business immigrants wanting to buy Canadian citizenship for themselves and their families at fire-sale prices. It is for the majority of Canadians.
(3) So among the Canadians to be first considered for jobs, we should be looking at our own jobless. According to Statistics Canada, Canada has over 1,100,000 unemployed. In addition, every year, Canada has thousands of post-secondary and secondary graduates. For example, in 1999, according to Stats Can, Canada had 317,000 secondary school graduates. In 1998, Canada had 150,900 university degree graduates. Canada also has thousands of technical school graduates every year.
The numbers have not changed much in the past 8 years. These people are looking for appropriate employment and should not be subjected to unnecessary competition.
Canadians hear ad nauseam about foreign-trained graduates driving taxis. But has anyone heard MP's, Canada's immigration industry and others express concerns about the employment prospects of its own jobless and its own graduates? Have MP's and others said anything about the chronic and legendary underemployment of Canada's own graduates, that is, have they talked about our own well-qualified doing such work as driving taxis?
Let's also look at the opportunity that a western economic boom presents. Shouldn't Canada be drawing into the workforce the large numbers of its own who, for various reasons, have languished on the employment sidelines for years? Shouldn't this be the time for them to enjoy the benefits of an economic boom?
To coin a phrase, Canadians should be JOB #1 for all MP's. It should especially be the ongoing priority of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
Only after ensuring that Canada makes the best use of potential workers already in the country should it be looking at outsiders. In other words, only after Canadian employers have demonstrated that they have carefully and sincerely searched for people within Canada's borders to satisfy labour needs–and only then–should they be permitted to look outside the country.
(4) When Canada does look at outsiders to fill employment needs, it should look first at the group who have gone to the trouble of applying to come here. Last year, Canada admitted 262,000 immigrants. Not all of that number were workers, but let's keep our eye on the 262,000. That is a very high number. As critics have said before, it's the highest per capita immigrant intake in the world. Let's also note that at a time when Canada is admitting so many immigrants and presumably lacks “skilled workers”, that only 20% of this 262,000 are selected on the basis of work skills—contrary to what Citizenship and Immigration tells Canadians. To say the least, this is quite a strange thing. (See note below)
(5) The second outsider group we have to look at is the temporary worker group. These are people who are supposedly coming to fill temporary labour shortages, but who are expected to leave. In 2005, Canada admitted around 115,000 of them. So if we add 262,000 and 115,000, we see that 377,000 new people arrived last year.
(6) Let's be generous and say that only 100,000 of the 377,000 new people Canada legally admitted are dependents (children, elderly parents, and others). If we deduct them from the newly-arrived, Canada still took 277,000 potential workers (skilled and unskilled) last year.
Now, let's get back to the big question, the one that the MP's want to avoid asking: How many foreign workers does Canada really need every year? In a Fall 2006 paper, Citizenship and Immigration told Canadians that the provinces which are experiencing an economic boom needed workers in 170 different occupations. However, the List included such occupations as real estate agents, cashiers, etc. In other words, the list clearly indicated that it included many occupations that Canadians could easily fill—with a minimum of training. It also showed that it had been assembled sloppily and that the number of occupations had been exaggerated.
The questions that have to be asked are the following:
A. Is this the kind of list that Canada should be using as a basis for projecting its immigration needs? A number of the jobs in the List of 170 seem to be the kind of jobs that no one can live on and many of which were unfilled before the economic boom started. Is the use of immigration to fill these jobs going to put Canada into a never-ending cycle of importing cheap labour?
B. In the current economic climate, are some employers trying to promote a stampede psychology in order to get cheap labour that they could not otherwise get? We have all heard the clamour about a Labour Shortage, but who has seen some carefully-assembled figures on Canada's real labour needs?
C. In other words, doesn't the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (and all others chanting the same mantra) need to take a valium, get to the real issue and put some serious thought into what policies would be best for the majority of Canadians?
To put it simply, doesn't Canada need an accurate inventory of its labour needs? Clearly, Canada does not need more hysteria about a so-called “Labour Shortage”.
(1) It is very important to understand that the small number of skilled who are admitted every year have signed Form # IMM 1455. This document indicates that the skilled should be aware that a job similar to that which they were doing in their country of origin may not be available in Canada and that the skilled must be willing to accept other employment. This document seems to have been forgotten by a number of MP's and Canada's immigration industry. It also seems to have been ignored by the Government of Ontario in its Bill 124 (enacted in the Fall of 2006) which is designed to assist foreign-trained professionals.
(2) A previous Immigration Watch Canada bulletin dealt with the List of 170 Occupations. The bulletin is available on the Immigration Watch Canada web site under “Weekly Bulletins” and is entitled: November 18, 2006: Immigration Minister's Contentions About Need For Foreign Workers Are Questionable