People not consulted on immigration changes

[attach]6013[/attach]Last month, in the Globe and Mail series on immigration, Ratna Omidvar, president of the Maytree Foundation, wrote an opinion piece entitled “[url=]Changes to immigration policy will affect nearly all aspects of Canadian life[/url].”

In it, she explained: “By seeking to eliminate the backlog … we choose efficiency over fairness. By moving to “super visas” and away from permanent residence for our immigrants’ parents and grandparents, we choose transience over inclusion. When employers select workers who will become future citizens with little guidance, we choose head-hunting over nation-building. When we raise the bar on language, we choose homogeneity over diversity … When the dust settles, where will Canada be?”

In our office on Yonge Street, we can attest to the fact that the changes are coming fast and furious. We receive directives from the ministry almost on a daily basis. We can also confirm that few people understand the changes. The people affected by these changes were not consulted. The experts who deal with these issues on a daily basis were not consulted. And certainly Parliament was not consulted.

Jane Jacobs once said at a meeting with former mayor Barbara Hall that good public policy comes when decision-makers can see in their minds’ eyes the people affected. The perceived mandate of this majority government not to have to consult or listen to Canadians or Parliament is eroding our democratic institutions. Citizens and the Parliamentarians they elected should have the ability to inform and shape public policy in an ongoing manner, not just at the ballot box; the concept of a democracy between elections has vanished. From raising the age for receiving Old Age Security to 67, the Omnibus Bill gutting all environmental protection, to significant changes in Employment Insurance policy and immigration law, this government just presses on, shutting down debate, denigrating those that disagree and foisting their Reform Party policies without scrutiny of the consequences or even the costs.

Here is St. Paul’s, we continue to try and provide what has been described as a cornerstone of democracy: public spaces in which one can discuss and debate ideas. We are thrilled that Skills for Change, the hugely successful settlement organization in St. Paul’s, will host our next town hall focused on immigration issues, so that we can at least learn more about the changes and hear from experts like the Maytree Foundation their views on the consequences.

As Ratna says in her the changes to immigration policy are going to affect all aspects of Canadian life — not just for those choosing Canada but for all of us. Democracy between elections should mean that we get a say in the Canada we want. I believe Canadians do want fairness.

Please join us Sunday, June 3 at Skills for Change, 791 St. Clair Ave. W. at 2 p.m. The Parliamentary clinic is at 1:30 p.m. if you have questions or comments on any other issues.