Is immigrating to Canada is still worthy?

Canada will always be the envy of the world. It will always be on top of the list of best countries in the world to live in. And this is due to the outside world’s view of (Wikipedia, 2012) Canada as a very welcoming country with a very strong economy, the best health care system, its love for human rights, and it is being a strong advocate for ethnic diversity and multiculturalism. However, all these images of Canada would be at risk of being tarnished by its own government immigration policy. The past ten years has been a rough time for the Canadian immigration after a decision to accommodate temporary foreign workers to the Canadian labour force. However, it is a program where the Citizenship and Immigration of Canada failed to look into possible oversights before it was launched. It is a program that has created a lot of backlog in the system, abuses on the part of the workers and also abuses in the immigration system, specifically in the areas of the permanent residency and work permits. The question on whether Canada is still worthy, I don’t believe that it is still worthy to migrate to Canada. The dream of settling to the one of the best countries in the world to live in has become so pricy for a lot of people.

In my short visit in Manila, Philippines in 2008, I was greeted with a throng of young people at the Canadian Visa Office in manila as they were trying to get their application packages received by a security guard. At the main lobby of the Embassy. These are young mothers hoping for a chance to get into the Foreign live in caregiver program. They have worked as nannies from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and even as from far flung countries like Brunei and Jamaica. They have missed on the growing up years of their young children, and risked separation and divorce from their spouses in search of the mighty dollars. And now, they are about to risk it again knowing that they will make it really big this time, In Canada.

Some of the people I have met were sun- burnt labourers and skilled workers who have toiled in the arid countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Chad and even in the frozen land Siberia. They are all hoping to get into the band wagon of temporary foreign workers in Alberta and temporary foreign workers in Saskatchewan. They told me in short conversations that they have heard of Canada as the land of milk and honey or the greener pastures of the 2000’s. It used to be the Middle Eastern countries in the late seventies up to the eighties for those skilled in the oil rigs and Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan for the foreign live-in caregivers. But as the news about the oil boom in Alberta and nearby provinces, all attentions were shift to Canada.

What is the price of coming to Canada?

The absence of educational campaign by the CIC to educate potential applicants on what the Temporary Foreign Worker program is all about has opened a lot of doors for abuse and corruptions in different countries. The three existing routes to permanent residency namely the PNP programs in the provincial level and the Federal skilled worker category and the Canadian Experience Class category where not explained or printed in brochures or any forms of media. The eligibility criteria for these programs are highly based on skills and experience, but the lack of this information has led unscrupulous and agents, consultants and recruiters both abroad and in Canada to promote the temporary foreign worker solely to their advantage. Applicants were promised permanent residency upon arriving in Canada regardless of experience, education, and skills levels. The information spread like wildfire from the big cities down to the small sleepy remote Philippine towns, and everyone is willing to pay the price. And the price is so high that they would need to sell their properties, work animals, and even their souls just to get their chance of a lifetime, and that is Canada.

The Work Permit

The work permit that allows its holder to work for a specific employer and gives him a temporary status in Canada normally for a year is also contributing to the hardship of the temporary foreign workers in Canada. It should not be employer and location specific, but instead be an industry specific, at least. A closed work permit, not an open work permit, is not giving the worker a lot of room and flexibility. A bad employer can always use that in abusing his or her worker (unpaid wages, unpaid overtime hours, lack of benefits, sexual harassment, and even physical abuse) if the worker knows that it would take him or her a great deal of hardship in finding a new employer with a positive Labour Market Opinion. A worker who only makes a meager $10 an hour would not take the gamble to leave a bad employer. A worker once told me that her employer was so bad that she thought she was still in Saudi Arabia or in Hong Kong where there was not much help and support from the government, specially the HRSDC for closing down establishments found to be violating the Canadian Labour Code.

The Ultimate Goal

The ultimate goal of each and every temporary foreign worker is to become permanent residents in Canada. It is sad to say that the provincial nominee program in Alberta or the AINP has made it so tough for TFWs to get their nominations, especially for the semi-skilled workers. An example is the Employer-Driven Stream (Semi-skilled category under the Pilot Project) (Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program, 2012). This includes those TFWs working as Food Counter Attendants and other related jobs. Under the Employer-Driven Stream, an employer can only nominate one food counter attendant per location ever. Nothing next year or the next year after. But in the skilled category also in the same stream, an employer can nominate as many skilled workers as he wants. This disparity in the program is not only causing disappointments and frustrations among semi-skilled workers but is also creating animosity among co-workers. Another thing that aggravates the problem are the unscrupulous agents and consultants who would put one company or restaurant in a binding contract to have all its workers put in their applications for the semi-skilled employer driven stream where the only winner is the agent who rakes in the processing fee.

(Tradesecrets, 2011) Also in the AINP, the Strategic Recruitment Stream (for trades) has taken in those workers whose lines of works fall into the category of Mandatory and Optional trades like cooks, locksmiths, meat cutters, etc. These professions were used to be in the Employer-Driven Stream where their employers can nominate them to the AINP after a certain period of full-time employment. With the new change, the workers would need to nominate themselves to the province, and they can only do that if they would be able to secure for themselves the province of Alberta red seal. The tests was so difficult that only a small percentage of exam takers pass and get their red seals, and not to mention the exorbitant amount of money they have to pay the province to right the test. Now, the dilemma that the workers have is whether they would challenge the test (they need to get their read seal after working for their employers for six months) or downgrade their position. And if they don’t get their red seal after six months they will never get the chance to be re-hired by their employers. It could have been better for the TFWs in the trade if the AINP would liberate the program a bit. Make it easier for everybody to get their nomination.

Worthy or Not?

The question is whether immigrating to Canada is still worthy or not. With the amount of money being spent and the incalculable amount of hardships that the TFWs endure in terms of family separations, divorce, indebtedness, loss of connection with children and families, I think it is about time to consider other options.

Greg Lopez
Immigration Program Student at Ashton College
under the tutelage of Jose Godoy Toku

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