Exposing the Intolerance and Censorship of Social Democracy, Part Two: Critique of the Standard of Canadians and Landed Immigrants Working for an Employer

Introduction 

This is the continuation of a series of posts. For the context of where the following fits into my participation and withdrawal from the organization Social Housing Green Deal, see the first part Exposing the Intolerance and Censorship of Social Democracy, Part One: The Working Class, Housing and the Police.

I sent two sets of critical comments to Ms. Anna Jessup, monitor and administrator for the group Social Housing Green Deal, located here in Toronto, Ontario, Canada for the May 2 zoom meeting. The two critical comments relate to two motions for support for two grassroots organizations. In this post, I will address the first motion, and in another post the second motion.

The Political Context of the First Motion 

The political context is the federal government’s program for immigrants. From the Canadian government’s website (https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/2021/04/new-pathway-to-permanent-residency-for-over-90000-essential-temporary-workers-and-international-graduates.html):

New pathway to permanent residency for over 90,000 essential temporary workers and international graduates

News release

April 14, 2021—Ottawa—Today, the Honourable Marco E. L. Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced an innovative pathway to permanent residence for over 90,000 essential workers and international graduates who are actively contributing to Canada’s economy.

These special public policies will grant permanent status to temporary workers and international graduates who are already in Canada and who possess the skills and experience we need to fight the pandemic and accelerate our economic recovery.

The focus of this new pathway will be on temporary workers employed in our hospitals and long-term care homes and on the frontlines of other essential sectors, as well as international graduates who are driving the economy of tomorrow.

To be eligible, workers must have at least 1 year of Canadian work experience in a health-care profession or another pre-approved essential occupation. International graduates must have completed an eligible Canadian post-secondary program within the last 4 years, and no earlier than January 2017.

Effective May 6, 2021, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will begin accepting applications under the following 3 streams:

  • 20,000 applications for temporary workers in health care
  • 30,000 applications for temporary workers in other selected essential occupations
  • 40,000 applications for international students who graduated from a Canadian institution

The streams will remain open until November 5, 2021, or until they have reached their limit. Up to 90,000 new permanent residents will be admitted under these 3 streams.    

To promote Canada’s official languages, 3 additional streams with no intake caps have also been launched for French-speaking or bilingual candidates. Communities across Canada benefit from French-speaking and bilingual newcomers, and this pathway will contribute to the vitality of these Francophone minority communities.

A detailed explanation of all eligibility requirements is available within the public policies.

As we continue the fight against the pandemic, immigration will remain critical to our economic recovery by addressing labour shortages and adding growth to our workforce.

With an accelerated pathway to permanent residency, these special public policies will encourage essential temporary workers and international graduates to put down roots in Canada and help us retain the talented workers we need, particularly in our health-care system.

Today’s announcement will help us achieve our 2021 Immigration Levels Plan, which will see Canada welcome 401,000 new permanent residents. The skilled newcomers and international graduates welcomed under our plan will help create jobs and drive long-term growth in Canada. 

First Critique: The Motion to Support Justice4 Immigrant Workers 

The grass-roots organization J4MW (Justice for Migrant Workers), which arose in the largest Canadian province, Ontario, responded to this federal program. The first motion was to endorse the response of J4MW.

When discussing the first motion, Ms. Jessup indicated that she had not read my critical comments that I had sent her. I had to provide, on the spot, a summary of my first criticism, which I did, I argued that the Justice4 Immigrant Workers implicitly uses a standard of judgement based on regular Canadian workers, whether citizens or landed immigrants–and yet they too are exploited and oppressed. This standard should be criticized and not ignored. Louis George, a participant in the May 2 meeting, accurately described it as the reverse of the view that we should just fight against reducing regular workers to the lowest working-class positions. However, Ms. Jessup claimed that we need to support Justice4 Migrant Workers–that they are a strong organization.

The issue, however, is not support but–critical support. Rubber stamping organization’s statements is not what is needed; we need to look critically at what they are saying and offer critical analysis in order to improve our position. Without critical discussion, it is unlikely that there will be much social advance but rather dogmatism so typical of the left.

The motion was carried–but there was not much discussion. After this meeting, I told my wife that I may withdraw from this organization–I felt it had an exaggerated idea of both its own effectiveness and the effectiveness of other grassroots organizations. I also felt that it was dogmatic and lacked much needed critical spirit. I still, however, plodded along, trying to see if there was really any hope in participating effectively in such an organization.

The following is the motion (in English and Spanish) and my critical comments–which largely fell on deaf ears.

J4MW[Justice For Migrant Workers] Response to the 90,000 PR Pathway / Respuesta de J4MW a la vía de los 90.000 PR

ESPAÑOL ABAJO

“Thank you for your support! Take a read through the letter and add your name and organization to our list. Please note that your name/organization will be published.”

“Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW) strongly condemns Canada’s announced ‘reforms’ to its immigration system. A one-time only short-term access to permanent residence for 90,000 people is a smokescreen that fails to address Canada’s racist and exclusionary immigration system. These reforms do nothing to address how the current point system discriminates against both undocumented communities and migrants deemed ‘low skill’ and ‘low wage.’ More troublingly, the reforms do nothing to change the indentureship of thousands of migrant workers in Canada. In particular, migrant agricultural workers who work under a system of indentured labour will once again see no improvements to their working and living conditions as a result of the continuation of a closed work permit system that binds workers to one employer. Instead, migrant farm workers are put into competition with over 90 other occupations for a measly 30,000 spots, when over 50,000 farm workers have entered Canada on tied work permits during the pandemic alone.

The language requirement that determines eligibility for this pathway system is discriminatory and will exclude most low-waged and agricultural workers. The additional and exorbitant permanent residence fees have long restricted access to permanent residence for low-wage, racialized families, and are another method of extracting money from exploited workers. There is nothing compassionate, humanitarian or just about this temporary pathway. It is yet another means for Canada to extract capital and labour from migrants for its own economic objectives. It is not a blanket grant of permanent residence status to the tens of thousands of migrant workers and undocumented persons in Canada who contribute to Canada every day, and is, in fact, just a temporary
pathway for a lucky few.

It is a grave mistake to characterise the announcement as a ‘win’ for anyone but the corporate class in Canada. With this fleeting pathway, the Canadian government continues its legacy of divide and rule by pitting some communities against one another in a dire competition for status. In this particular example, some essential workers are deemed more deserving than others. Canada is not opening up its borders. In fact, it continues the illusion of ‘inclusion’ while reinforcing racial hierarchies that will continue to perpetuate a system of racial apartheid. Make no mistake – migrant workers are not newcomers and they are not peripheral to Canada’s economy. They are the foundation of our society and their labour has been the lynchpin of Canada’s agricultural and industrial complexes. Canada continues to expand the status quo. Absent from the narrative is that in December 2020, Canada expanded the Seasonal Agricultural Workers program to additional commodities, entirely to bolster its exports. It has expanded the Agricultural Stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to increase the number of workers in order to address the mythical narrative of a ‘labour shortage’ in agriculture. 

Canada continues to fail to recognize racialized labour as skilled labour by devaluing industries such as agriculture that are racialized, gendered, and segmented. In addition to the exclusion of hundreds of thousands of undocumented peoples, the overwhelming majority of participants in Canada’s long standing agricultural indentured programs (the Agricultural Stream and the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program) will reap no benefits to their everyday lived realities despite their ongoing and continued resistance against deplorable housing and working conditions.

It is comical to see business interest organizations such as the Business Council of National Issues and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce usher praises for these reforms. There are no commonalities between the interest of migrant labour and capital. Furthermore, there are whole communities that are denied any possibility of benefitting from these temporary pathways schemes. Generations of workers and their families will reap no benefits from this announcement. As one comrade commented, the immigration reforms announced are basically an expedited system of the existing Canadian Experience Class, providing access to permanent residence to migrants who already had one foot in the door. 

Some of the excluded groups are:

– Undocumented workers 
– People who are “repatriated” (returned to their home countries) for being injured and or sick while working in Canada, so that they cannot access healthcare and benefits
– People who are deported, even after working and living in Canada for decades
– Those with any form of criminal record, even after years of rehabilitation
– People barred from working in any of the temporary foreign worker programs for exerting their rights at work since there is no protection from reprisals
– Families of workers who have been employed in Canada
– Families of workers who have become sick or died while working in Canada
– Workers and family members deemed “medically inadmissible” 
– Workers who have recently lost their jobs or who might be terminated during the course of the long application process

The language requirements will mean that workers will need to bear steep expenses on top of legal fees, application fees, and other administrative costs. Considering many workers are precariously employed, they will face unaffordable costs in applying under this pathway. As a result, permanent status will remain a pipe dream for many.

EN ESPAÑOL:

Gracias por su apoyo. Lee la carta y añade tu nombre y organización a nuestra lista. Tenga en cuenta que su nombre/organización se publicará.

Justicia para los Trabajadores Migrantes (J4MW) condena enérgicamente las “reformas” anunciadas por Canadá a su sistema de inmigración. El acceso único y a corto plazo a la residencia permanente de 90.000 personas es una cortina de humo que no aborda el sistema de inmigración racista y excluyente de Canadá. Las reformas no abordan la forma en que el actual sistema de puntos discrimina tanto a las comunidades indocumentadas como a los inmigrantes considerados de “baja cualificación” y “bajo salario”. Y lo que es más preocupante, las reformas no hacen nada para cambiar la situación de dependencia de miles de trabajadores inmigrantes en Canadá.

En particular, los trabajadores agrícolas migrantes que trabajan en régimen de servidumbre no verán, una vez más, ninguna mejora en sus condiciones de trabajo y de vida como resultado de la continuación de un sistema cerrado de permisos de trabajo que vincula a los trabajadores a un solo empleador. Los trabajadores agrícolas inmigrantes compiten con más de 90 ocupaciones para obtener unas míseras 30.000 plazas, cuando más de 50.000 trabajadores agrícolas han entrado en Canadá con permisos de trabajo cerrados sólo durante la pandemia.

Los requisitos lingüísticos que determinan la elegibilidad para este sistema de vías son discriminatorios y excluirán a la mayoría de los trabajadores agrícolas y con salarios bajos. Las exorbitantes tasas de residencia permanente han restringido durante mucho tiempo el acceso a la residencia permanente de las familias con salarios bajos y racializadas, y son otra forma de extraer dinero de los trabajadores explotados. No hay nada compasivo, humanitario o justo en esta vía temporal. Es un medio más para que Canadá extraiga capital y mano de obra de los inmigrantes para sus propios objetivos económicos. No se trata de una concesión de residencia permanente a las decenas de miles de trabajadores inmigrantes e indocumentados que contribuyen a Canadá cada día y, de hecho, es sólo una vía temporal para unos pocos afortunados.

Es un grave error caracterizar el anuncio como una “victoria”, ya que el gobierno canadiense continúa con su legado de “divide y vencerás” enfrentando a unas comunidades contra otras. En este ejemplo concreto, se considera que algunos trabajadores esenciales son más merecedores que otros. Canadá no está abriendo sus fronteras. De hecho, continúa con la ilusión de “inclusión” mientras refuerza las jerarquías raciales que seguirán perpetuando un sistema de apartheid racial. No nos equivoquemos: los trabajadores migrantes no son recién llegados. Son la base de nuestra sociedad, cuyo trabajo ha sido el eje de los complejos agrícolas e industriales de Canadá. Canadá sigue ampliando el statu quo. En diciembre de 2020, Canadá amplió el programa de Trabajadores Agrícolas Temporales a otros productos básicos, totalmente para reforzar sus exportaciones. Ha ampliado la Corriente Agrícola del Programa de Trabajadores Extranjeros Temporales para aumentar el número de trabajadores con el fin de abordar la narrativa mítica de una escasez de mano de obra en la agricultura.

Canadá sigue sin reconocer la mano de obra racializada como mano de obra cualificada, al devaluar sectores como el agrícola, que están racializados, son de género y están segmentados. Además de la exclusión de cientos de miles de personas indocumentadas, la abrumadora mayoría de los participantes en los programas de contratación agrícola de larga duración de Canadá (el Programa de Trabajadores Agrícolas y el Programa de Trabajadores Agrícolas Temporales) no obtendrán ningún beneficio en sus realidades cotidianas, a pesar de su continua resistencia contra las deplorables condiciones de vivienda y trabajo.

Resulta cómico ver a organizaciones de interés empresarial, como el Consejo Empresarial de Asuntos Nacionales y la Cámara de Comercio de Canadá, alabar estas reformas. No hay puntos en común entre los intereses de la mano de obra migrante y el capital.

Además, hay comunidades enteras a las que se les niega cualquier posibilidad de beneficiarse de estos planes de vías temporales. Generaciones de trabajadores y sus familias no obtendrán ningún beneficio de este anuncio. Como comentó un compañero, las reformas de inmigración anunciadas son básicamente un sistema acelerado de la clase de Experiencia Canadiense existente, que proporciona acceso a la residencia permanente a los migrantes que ya tenían un pie en la puerta.

Los grupos que quedan excluidos son
• Los trabajadores indocumentados
• Las personas que son “repatriadas” (devueltas a sus países de origen) por estar lesionadas o enfermas mientras trabajan en Canadá, por lo que no pueden acceder a la asistencia sanitaria y a las prestaciones
• Las personas que son deportadas, incluso después de haber trabajado y vivido en Canadá durante décadas
• Las personas con cualquier tipo de antecedentes penales, incluso después de años de rehabilitación
• Las personas a las que se les prohíbe trabajar en cualquiera de los programas de trabajadores extranjeros temporales por ejercer sus derechos en el trabajo, ya que no hay protección contra las represalias
• Familias de trabajadores que han sido contratados en Canadá
• Familias de trabajadores que han enfermado o fallecido mientras trabajaban en Canadá
• Trabajadores y familiares considerados “médicamente inadmisibles” –
• Trabajadores que han perdido recientemente su empleo o que podrían ser despedidos en el transcurso del largo proceso de solicitud

Además, el J4MW plantea una gran preocupación por los exorbitantes costes asociados a la solicitud de este régimen de vías. Los requisitos lingüísticos supondrán que los trabajadores tengan que asumir unos gastos elevados, además de las tasas legales, las tasas de solicitud y otros costes administrativos. Teniendo en cuenta que muchos trabajadores tienen un empleo precario, tendrán que hacer frente a unos costes inasumibles para solicitar la residencia permanente en el marco de este programa, que seguirá siendo una quimera para muchos.

These are my comments:

[One way of analyzing this document is to ask: What is its primary goal or goals? It would seem to have two primary goals:

  1. The elimination of discrimination against both undocumented communities and and migrants deemed ‘low skill’ and ‘low wage.’ (perhaps by granting them permanent residence status automatically if they work here?)

  2. Change the indentured system of labour that obliges migrant workers to work for one and only one employer
    a. by eliminating the tie to only one employer ,
    b. By improving working and living conditions and
    c. By eliminating the language requirement and fees associated with their working and living in Canada.

    These goals, if achieved, may improve the lives of migrant workers, but do they really express justice for migrant workers? If these goals are achieved—perhaps the primary goal is to assure that migrant workers have the same rights as permanent residents and Canadian citizens—is there then justice? By failing to criticize the daily exploitation and oppression of millions of Canadian workers and permanent resident workers, the document implies that once migrant workers have achieved equality with other workers in Canada, there will be justice.

    To prevent such an implication, I would suggest adding the following to the endorsement, if possible, in the “Comments in support section” [of the post by J4MW]: 

    ““The New pathway to permanent residency for over 90,000 essential temporary workers (and international graduates) program initiated by the federal government in no way addresses the superexploitation and superoppression of migrant workers as a whole. It only opens up the possibility to a minority of migrant workers of being exploited and oppressed on a regular basis, on a par with permanent residents and Canadian citizens.”

A few other points that we probably cannot do anything about.

1. The response states: “There is nothing compassionate, humanitarian or just about this temporary pathway. It is yet another means for Canada to extract capital and labour from migrants for its own economic objectives.” The use of the term “capital” is inappropriate. It is money, not capital. To equate all uses of money with capital perpetuates the myth that we are all capitalists. The money received by a worker, for example, after having worked for an employer, is not capital for the worker but a means of purchase; if the employer is in the private sector, on the other hand, the money is capital.

2. The response also says the following: “It is not a blanket grant of permanent residence status to the tens of thousands of migrant workers and undocumented persons in Canada who contribute to Canada every day, and is, in fact, just a temporary pathway for a lucky few.” [my emphasis]

This gives the impression that those migrant workers who are approved by the program are fortunate—to be on the same level as permanent residents. Being fortunate is often, however, relative. Relative to other migrant workers, they are probably fortunate but to permanent residents and Canadian citizens who are exploited and oppressed on a regular basis, they are not fortunate since they then would be in a similar situation.

3. Immediately after the above quoted statement about the lucky few, the response then contradicts itself by stating the following: “It is a grave mistake to characterise the announcement as a ‘win’ for anyone but the corporate class in Canada.” But if certain migrant workers are a lucky few, then surely they are asserting that it is indeed a win for these “lucky few.”

4. Another statement is also awkward: “Make no mistake–migrant workers are not newcomers and they are not peripheral to Canada’s economy. They are the foundation of our society and their labour has been the lynchpin of Canada’s agricultural and industrial complexes.” I am rather ignorant of the supply of workers in the agricultural system, and so cannot dispute the assertion that migrant workers are “the lynchpin of Canada’s agricultural complexes.” However, is it true of the industrial complexes? Certainly, immigrants have been and are necessary for the reproduction of the Canadian capitalist economy; Canadians do not produce enough children to replace worn out workers. On the other hand, there are two controversial issues here. Firstly, is there not a confusion of migrant workers with immigrant workers? Are most workers in the industrial area migrant workers? Even if most were immigrant workers, that does not make migrant workers “the lynchpin of Canada’s industrial complexes.” Secondly, are even immigrant workers the lynchpin of the industrial complex? I worked in a capitalist factory—a brewery—in Calgary in the early 1980s. There were some immigrants who worked there, but they were a minority. Furthermore, on my blog there is a list of the 20 largest employers in Toronto according to level of employment. For manufacturing employers, are most of the workers mainly immigrants? How do we know? Levels of employment: Magna International: 11,500 workers; Rogers: 10,000; Telus, 4000; Air Canada, 3,100; Bombardier, 2,030; Maple Leaf Foods, 1,300; The Coca Cola Company, 1,100. How many of these workers are immigrants? Migrant workers? To claim that “migrant workers” are the lynchpin of industrial complexes is probably false and, if so, will probably diminish the appeal of the response. Is that not contrary to the goal of the organization?

5. Another statement is debatable: “There are no commonalities between the interest of migrant labour and capital.” Perhaps in the long-run, but in the short-run there are some common interests. If a migrant worker works for a particular employer and that employer goes bankrupt, does that not harm the immediate interest of the migrant worker? If so, do they not then have some common interests?

Conclusion

The reformist grassroots left often fail to adopt a critical outlook. They often do not think through the implications of their own views or the views of others. They often cannot even bother engaging in even preliminary inquiries to see if their views or the views of their allies need modification. The uncritical attitude of much of the social-democratic left itself contributes to the continued power of the right by unconsciously using and accepting standards that themselves need to be criticized. 

I will describe the second motion, which was tabled to the next meeting (Ms. Jessup obviously did not want it tabled to the next meeting but wanted it rubber stamped, like the first one) in a future post. 

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