The Kenney Way: Right or Wrong?

Before answering the following question: “The Kenney Way: Right or Wrong?”, it is important to know who is Jason Kenney. He is Canada’s current Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and has represented the riding of Calgary Southeast in the Canadian House of Commons since 1997. Mr. Kenney was first appointed Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism in October of 2008. He was reappointed to the portfolio on May 18, 2011 and given the added responsibility of Chair of the Cabinet Committee on Operations. Retrospectively, Jason Kenney was first elected to the House of Commons in 1997 and has been re-elected five times, most recently with 76 percent of the vote. He was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister in 2006 and to the cabinet in 2007. He is also a former Chair of the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights.

Another aspect of Kenney’s life that should be emphasized is his political affiliation. Initially elected as a candidate of the Reform Party of Canada, Kenney was re-elected as a Canadian Alliance candidate in 2000, and has since been re-elected four times as the candidate of the Conservative Party of Canada. The priorities of the Conservative government are: stronger Canada and stronger economy, strengthening Canadian Citizenship and reducing tax burden for all Canadians.

According to Kenney’s political view, to make Canada and its economy stronger the Canada’s Economic Action Plan was formulated. This plan focuses on creating jobs; protecting incomes; returning fiscal balance; and building the jobs and industries of tomorrow. As an example of strengthening Canadian Citizenship, his conservative government introduced the new Citizenship guide to help newcomers learn about their new country. It has also been working continually to reduce the tax burden paid by all Canadians on income, on investments and on the GST they pay for food, fuel and everything else.

The above description of who is Jason Kenney, his conservative party and objectives is essential to analyse his role as the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. It is important to consider his personality and political view to understand his administration. While there are many people who criticise his political platform, others totally agree with him. Lately, he has been presenting proposals that will modify the Canadian immigration system drastically. These proposals have been the object of feverous discussions. Among them, the bill C-31 can be cited.

It is difficult to judge if Jason Kenney’s way is right or wrong. Maybe it is better to say that he tries to correct the Canadian immigration system in his own way, which can be beneficial for ones and unfavourable for others. As a result, some people are against him and others are in favor of him because of his measures to protect Canada: closing the country for undesirable immigrants and opening it for qualified ones. Even though his intention is to protect the country, he risks repeating many mistakes that were made in the past.

In respect to the protest against the bill C-31, which passed in the House of Commons on June 12, Kenney said in his discourse:

“anarchists believe that Canada is an illegitimate state and that we should not even deport violent foreign criminals”.

Among other purposes, this bill seeks to deport so-called “bogus” refugees quicker and establish stricter rules to deport human-smuggler and illegal arrivals, as well as it eliminates extended health care benefits from refugee claimants. According to his view, “it is not reasonable to force taxpayers to pay for supplemental extra health benefits for recently arrived refugee claimants that are not available to Canadians who pay into the system themselves”. Taking into consideration this point of view, Kenney has many followers.

On the other hand, the Minister has been censured by the unilateral right to name any country safe, without any process or need to consult in any way, among other measures adopted by the bill C-31. It should be noted that the previous bill provided for an expert advisory panel on safe countries composed of human rights specialists. In making this determination, the Minister will be guided by political and diplomatic considerations, which can be prejudice.

Furthermore, there are many other people reproving Kenney’s proposals. Concerning the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) backlog, they think that it is not fair for over 280,000 applicants waiting for so long time to be easily removed from a list to solve a problem. At least, they could be given preference to apply the new eligibility criteria. The solution of eliminating the Federal Skilled Worker Program backlog may also affect Canada’s reputation abroad; even being a permanent residence deemed a privilege to be granted by Canada only to those considered qualified. People may not trust the process of immigration in Canada anymore and opt to immigrate to other countries that may make a good use of their skills and talents.

It should be noted that under the conservative administration of Jason Kenney, a significant number of asylum applications to Canada and refugees who had their asylum claims approved has fallen, as well as the number of refugees granted permanent residence dropped. It was also observed a reduced amount of Pre-Removal Risk Assessment applications made by asylum-seekers facing removal orders. On the other hand, Kenney has been promoting the migrant worker system, allowing record numbers of migrant workers into the job market.

These measures were taken to reduce the burden of Canadians and permanent residents and also for security and safety reasons. Moreover, they specially focus on economic immigration system. According to Kenney:

“these measures are tough but fair” and “we want an immigration system that is open to genuine visitors, while at the same time prevents the entry of foreign criminals and denies them the ability to endlessly abuse our generosity.”

In brief, Kenney has been taken controversial measures on immigration matters to try to protect the interests of the country. Some examples of these measures were cited, but they are not exhaustive. Pros and cons about Kenney’s administration could be listed and discussed deeply; however, just few cases were chosen to better illustrate his “right” and “wrong” way on the position of Canada’s Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.

Paula De Cassia Pimpão
Immigration Program Student at Ashton College
under the tutelage of Jose Godoy Toku


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