Growing up, I remember learning about multiculturalism in Canada and feeling proud of this nation’s diversity.
I learned that I live in a country that has built itself upon the sacrifices of immigrants. Millions of people traveled far away from their homes to settle here in this country, often with nothing but a dream to live a better life.
Growing up with immigrant parents myself, I also know firsthand how hard one has to work to make ends meet. Many immigrants have been forced to leave their families behind to come to Canada and set up a life for their families, and in many cases, had to navigate adjusting to their new lives without speaking the national language.
However, it seems as though some of our nation’s leaders are forgetting the extremely significant contributions of immigrants to this country’s welfare.
This past week, premier Doug Ford made a comment stating that immigrants who want to “collect the dole and sit around” should go elsewhere, and not come to Ontario, when addressing a labour shortage in the province.
“Collecting the dole,” is a phrase referring to people who live off of unemployment benefits from the government.
Many have been quick to call out Ford saying that it is a “callous” and “xenophobic” statement rooted in division.
Ford’s comments point towards an unsettling truth about immigration in Canada.
Immigrants are accepted to this country based almost entirely on one main factor, if they can be of economic gain to the country.
"Canada is a nation of immigrants," Canadian Minister of Immigration Ahmed Hussen tells Business Insider.
"We've always had immigration as a key tool for economic growth and nation-building."
But is that all that immigrants are used for in this country? As a tool for economic growth?
In this way, the body of an immigrant is almost viewed as a form of currency for the government; another set of arms and legs to put in work.
It is already a known fact that immigrants to a foreign country have to work twice as hard in order to be successful.
With that said, it’s evident that Ford’s words are rooted in division, and discounting the contributions of immigrants over centuries.
In fact, it’s this type of rhetoric that has been at the forefront of misunderstanding between Canadian-born citizens and immigrants, often fuelling the hate between the two groups.
Many of the immigrants who live here forwent their education, accepted lower pay wages, worked extra hours, and took the jobs that no one else wanted. They did so while experiencing extreme levels of racism and division from their peers.
But their sacrifices played an important role in creating the country that we know today, one filled with privilege for many immigrants and children of immigrants and many opportunities.
Immigrants are part of what makes this country what it is, and we should expect our nation’s leaders to hold similar views and ideologies.
As a child of South Asian immigrants in Canada, I have seen first hand the sacrifice and hard work that our families have committed to in order to create a successful life for themselves and their children in this country.
For premier Ford to ignore that fact is unacceptable.
Our nation’s leaders should understand and acknowledge this sacrifice and these kind of comments should absolutely be condemned.
However, it seems as if they operate from a level of superiority, one which believes that immigrants should come to this country just to put in labour.
This concept fails to acknowledge that many immigrants leaving their homes are in some cases fleeing some form of oppression, violence, or difficult circumstances.
Why is it expected that they leave that situation just to endure another form of exploitation?
In fact, the Ontario government announced that they intend to propose legislation that would, “help address the province wide labour shortage by making it easier for internationally-trained immigrants to start careers in their profession,” according to a news release.
“The proposal would help remove many significant barriers internationally-trained immigrants face, such as the requirement for Canadian work experience, when attempting to get licensed in certain regulated professions and trades such as law, accounting, architecture, engineering, electrical and plumbing.”
It is no surprise that immigrant workers are paid far less than Canadian-born citizens for doing the same work, and if the purpose of new immigration is to fill up jobs in Ontario, what do you think will happen?
As a racialized member of the community, I think its clear.Immigrants are being viewed as a form of cheap labour for the Canadian government.
Because of this, many Canadians have been quick to call on Ford to apologize for his comments.
“It’s important to understand why it’s offensive and to come out and say, you know, ‘It was wrong of me to say this’ and show an understanding of why it’s wrong,” Nawaz Tahir said, a spokesman for a London, Ontario mosque.
“If you do that as the premier of Ontario, you help combat the stereotype that the original comments fed into.”
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
Premier Ford has refused to apologize, stating instead that he is “pro-immigration.”
An MP Deepak Anand took to the stand to say that, “Our province is home to people from all over the world, with immense talent & grit. As a first-generation immigrant, I would like to thank Premier Ford for ensuring newcomers in Ontario will have opportunities to fulfill their dreams and raise their families with dignity.”
An important question to ask is, do Canadian leaders acknowledge the sacrifices that immigrants have made in building this country, or do they exploit immigrants for their labour and their prescribed economic contributions?
About the author: Manisha is a writer and reporter with previous radio and television experience, who is passionate about connecting audiences to the stories and voices that matter to them most. Check her out on Instagram: @exclusivelymanisha
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