Unemployment in Quebec is the lowest it’s been in forty years. Despite this, Quebec has a massive labour shortage and it’s only getting worse.

The baby boomers are retiring in ever increasing numbers and they and the generations that followed didn’t have enough children to fill the vacancies they leave behind. The newly elected Coalition Avenir du Québec (CAQ) does not feel that immigration is the answer, but business owners in Quebec see no other way out.

As stated in my previous article, the jobs that need to be filled in Quebec fall into two categories: survival jobs – defined here as low paying jobs that require little experience or education i.e call centers, retail, etc., and highly skilled workers. It is the latter category that I will be discussing today, specifically with regards to one major obstacle in the filling of skilled jobs: the recognition of foreign credentials and work experience in Quebec.

The employers in Quebec wanting skilled workers are not looking for anyone with any university degree. They are looking for people with specific degrees, skillsets, and certifications.

Rather than bring in more skilled people to fill the labour shortage, the CAQ wants to cut immigration to Quebec by twenty percent and make use of people already here. The problem is not just that Quebec is lacking in skilled workers, it’s also that the skilled immigrants we have cannot get their work experience, education, and other credentials recognized so they can fill those jobs.

It’s a huge problem in Quebec, with many immigrants overqualified, underemployed and unable to find jobs in their respective fields. During the recent election, the concerns of recent immigrants lay in the fact that the best jobs they could get were survival jobs like working in call centers.

All parties in the election recognized the issue and the fact that many immigrants opt to leave the province because of it. Within ten years of their arrival, many immigrants leave Quebec.

Provincial governments have always treated the problem as a language issue, but that’s only part of it. To fully succeed in the Quebec job market, you need to speak French, but as it stands, lessons are primarily offered in classroom settings which don’t work for new arrivals needing steady incomes to feed their families. This is only part of the problem because many immigrants to Quebec are French speakers from North African countries like Tunisia.

The Quebec government does offer services other than French classes to help skilled immigrants. One such initiative is the website qualficationsquebec.com.

Created with funding from the province’s Immigration Ministry, it’s a quick way to see if your qualifications will be recognized in Quebec and if they are not, what you need to do to work in your profession. Unfortunately, the website is mostly in French and clicking on the English option at the top of the page will only get you a phone number to a career counsellor.

If you can manage in French, here’s how it works: type in your profession and click the search icon. You will then have the option to enter information about your age, sex, whether you’re currently in the province, and where you got the education related to your profession, a step you can skip. It will then bring you to a page indicating the likelihood of getting a job, a link to the possible annual salary, and what professional orders you have to join.

Professional orders act as gatekeepers to many of the skilled professions in Quebec and can pose a major barrier to immigrants working in their fields. Without membership in said orders, engineers, registered nurses, appraisers, chartered accountants and many other skilled professionals from abroad cannot work in their fields in Quebec. Membership is not easily accessible, and requests to have your education and credentials recognized by an order are often costly.

Quebec’s Order of Charter Appraisers, for example, charges a $200 fee for the evaluation of your credentials. And that’s only after you get a Comparative Evaluation for Studies done outside Quebec.

This is an assessment provided by a government expert at Immigration Quebec comparing your education to similar degrees obtained in the province. The Evaluation fee is $170 and does not guarantee you a job even if your education is deemed equivalent to a Quebec education, and only works for certain professions.

For those learning French, access to the orders can be even more difficult. Though the Ordre des infirmières/infirmiers du Québec (OIIQ), the province’s nursing union, allows applicants to write their entrance exams in English, the union came under fire in 2015 for the poor quality of the exam’s English translation. This resulted in a 47.3% pass rate for those writing in English, compared with the 78.7% pass rate for those who wrote the exam in French.

This reporter spoke to a Filipino nurse who arrived in Canada in the late sixties seeking a better life. She was able to join the OIIQ and worked for over 25 years before retiring. She had some choice words about the Ordre des infirmières/infirmiers du Quebec.

“They’re racists,” she said.

Which brings us to the other barrier facing skilled immigrants looking for work in Quebec: discrimination. Discrimination does not necessarily refer to overt acts of racism. Most employers know that openly discriminating against anyone can have serious legal consequences.

That said, the province still has people like Abdul Waheed, a chemist from Pakistan who told the CBC in September of this year that despite sending out hundreds of CVs, he could only get a job in a call center. Though we have tons of skilled immigrants, employers are still showing a preference for applicants with Francophone or Anglophone names, a likely result of the fear of change immigrants may or may not bring to Quebec language and culture.

The CAQ has promised to make skilled professions more accessible to the immigrants we have, but they cannot do it alone. The professional orders and government bodies in charge of recognizing the skills of immigrants need to work together and to do it faster. If they don’t, the labour shortage will get worse and they’ll have only themselves to blame.

Almost 600 immigrants were subjected to a peculiar probe into their French language skills, despite having already passed the required government tests. The provincial Ministry of Immigration summoned hundreds of students and temporary workers to a French spot check that would determine whether or not their application for permanent residency would be accepted, in what immigration lawyers call an abusive procedure.

“The standards on which those decisions were made are not legal standards. They cannot be found anywhere in registration or regulations,” claims Olga Redko, who is part of a team defending 16 of the rejected applicants in court.

At least 585 immigrants, most of which are students from India, China or the Middle-East, were on track to get their permanent residency as skilled workers through the Quebec Experience Program (QEP) when they were summoned.

To benefit from that program, applicants have to prove that they have a certain proficiency in French, namely by completing classes or passing official exams in Ministry-approved schools. So it was an unwelcome surprise when, after having done so, they received a letter summoning them to a supplementary interview with Ministry officials because the Ministry wasn’t convinced their French was good enough.

Once there, they were put on the spot through an oral examination that lasted between 30 and 45 minutes, where they had to score at least seven on a one to 12 scale to pass. 321 of them failed and saw their application rejected as a result. They will have to wait another five years before they can start the application process over, if their visa doesn’t expire before then.

Teachers and lawyers argue that this failure rate is not surprising considering that it was a surprise evaluation that took place in immensely stressful conditions and, contrarily to the usual Ministry exams, it didn’t account for skills in reading, writing or comprehension.

Reasons for supplementary evaluation still unclear

Many of the students were told, in the letter or afterwards, that the Ministry had reasons to believe that they had given false or misleading information in their application.

“But they weren’t provided those reasons or any explanation of why the Ministry believed that,” maintains Olga Redko. She says some of her clients even submitted supplementary documents to prove their credentials, like transcripts and attestations from the school board, but were still rejected.

Communications Advisor for the Ministry of Immigration Amina Benkirane says that “it’s not exactly” that the Ministry believes that the students provided false information about passing the required tests.

“The Ministry identified practices that aim to circumvent the goals of the immigration programs designed for international students, like the QEP, so we are currently reviewing those files,” Benkirane claimed. She says that she cannot reveal anything about said practices, because of it is part of an ongoing investigation by UPAC, the anti-corruption unit.

The investigation she is referring to was launched in December, following reports of “irregularities” in the international department of the two major English school boards in Montreal, Lester B. Pearson and the English Montreal School Board (EMSB). According to information gathered by the CBC, most of the applicants that were called in were doing their French exams with one of these two institutions.

Olga Redko can’t confirm the percentage, but she knows that it is not the case for all the rejected applicants. Either way, it should not matter, since the two school boards remain on the list of Ministry-approved institutions. Indeed, the official regulations of the QEP plainly state that completing a Ministry-approved French program fulfills the language requirement.

“If the Ministry is unsatisfied with the quality of the training provided by the institution or anything else going on there, then the Ministry has to take it up with the institution itself. It has nothing to do with whether the student completed a program or not,” argues Redko.

She and her team are asking for a judicial review of the procedure, seeking the nullification of the Ministry’s decisions regarding their clients. They had started with four clients but they now have 16 and others could join in, since the Ministry is still conducting the exams.

* Featured image: Montreal offices of the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion via Google StreetView

On Monday the Orange Administration released a new Executive Order. We all knew it was coming, for no sooner had courts struck down the original Muslim ban when the White House promised a new and improved version. It was supposed to be signed and released last week, but then something strange happened.

In his first joint-address to Congress, the Lint-Covered-Cheeto President surprised everyone by acting like a gentleman. There was no blustering, there was just a man-child giving a speech. Reporters hailed his behavior as being truly “presidential” and the White House opted not to ruin the wave of good faith by releasing the new ban immediately afterward.

No matter what the new travel ban says, it will never outshine the atrocities committed in the first ban’s name. It will never outshine the baby who was denied entry for life-saving surgery (a lawmaker intervened on the child’s behalf when the story leaked so she was saved in the end), or the child separated from his mother for hours, or the old lady who was denied a wheelchair under the enforcement of the first Executive Order. It will never undo the widespread outrage from ordinary citizens and the legal community.

Now it’s time to look at the new Executive Order.

This order replaces the previous one and provides something the first order was sorely lacking: clarifications.

The first Executive Order was so vague no one seemed to know how to enforce it. As a result, people in positions to abuse it did and people with valid documents to enter the US from permanent residents to workers to famous authors and ex diplomats with legit visas were denied or delayed.

The new Executive Order provides a list of people deemed exceptions to its travel restrictions. Among the exceptions are lawful permanent residents, foreign nationals with valid visas or other documents allowing them to legally enter the US, people with dual citizenship, and those on diplomatic visas. Also exempt are foreign business people and workers, foreign nationals granted asylum or refugee status, children needing urgent medical care, and people legally admitted to the US to stay with family.

The new Order also does something the other did not: it condemned Islamophobia.

Unfortunately, the new Order does it in the most petulant way possible by defending the previous Executive Order with a none-too-subtle “we didn’t mean it that way!” response to the displays of Islamaphobia that had ensued.

Section 1 of the new order says:

Executive Order 13769 did not provide a basis for discriminating for or against members of any particular religion. While that order allowed for prioritization of refugee claims from members of persecuted religious minority groups, that priority applied to refugees from every nation, including those in which Islam is a minority religion, and it applied to minority sects within a religion. That order was not motivated by animus toward any religion, but was instead intended to protect the ability of religious minorities — whoever they are and wherever they reside — to avail themselves of the USRAP in light of their particular challenges and circumstances.

This petulant tone is consistent throughout the beginning of the new Executive Order as section 1 is full of justifications and excuses for the first ban.

On the bright side, it also includes a subtle acknowledgment that the White House would never succeed in the courts had they continued to try and enforce the first Executive Order. The provision that replaces the first order with the current one says that it is “in order to avoid spending additional time pursuing litigation”.

People generally back out of legal disputes to due amicable resolutions, lack of funds, or the fact that they know they can’t win. The former two do not apply here.

Then there’s the list of countries banned.

One would hope that a new improved travel ban would include limitations on some of the countries that actually produce terrorists. Those states widely acknowledged as such include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Lebanon, Turkey, and Kuwait. Sadly, none of these countries are on the list of limited countries as the new Order maintains limitations on Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia from the previous version.

However, this new Order tries to back up this list with facts cherry-picked in part from the Department of State’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2015 (June 2016). The Order does not state where the rest of its justifications come from.

It maintains the discretion of the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to make exceptions to the ban and like the previous Order, gives them extra responsibilities. The Order requires them with the Director of National Intelligence to review and identify countries from which more information is needed about their people before they are admitted to the US. Once they make the list, they have to ask the countries for information and if they don’t get it in a certain amount of time, the country’s people won’t be admitted to the US.

The new Executive Order was an opportunity for the White House to redeem itself. They could have limited nationals from countries that actually produce a lot of terrorists. They didn’t. They could have used actual facts to back their rules and claims, but they didn’t.

The White House did however do one very important thing which to specify who the ban does not apply to, leaving less room for racists and xenophobes with rubber gloves and metal detectors to arbitrarily bar or detain people they don’t like. In that sense, this new order is new and improved.

Panelists Ellana Blacher and David DesBaillets discuss Montreal’s new official status as a sanctuary city and the Oscars with host Jason C. McLean. Plus News Roundup. Community Calendar and Predictions!

News Roundup Topics: New Montreal flag, M-103 and Islamophobia, Milo’s downfall and trusting the mainstream media

Panelists:

Ellana Blacher: Spoken word artist

David DesBaillets: Law student and blogger

Host: Jason C. McLean

Producers: Hannah Besseau (audio), Enzo Sabbagha (video)

Reports by Hannah Besseau

Recorded Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 in Montreal

LISTEN:

WATCH:

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

On November 8, 2016 the United States of America elected a racist, misogynist, rapist scam artist as President. Prior to the election people spoke of how, if this KKK poster child were elected, they’d promptly move to Canada.

The tone of many in the US was similar to that of Judith Viorst’s hero in the popular children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible No Good, Very Bad Day who pronounces after every misfortune that’s he’s going to move to Australia.

There has been no mass migration of Americans to Canada yet, despite Cheeto-head’s election (I refuse to call him by name because he has an orgasm every time he is mentioned in the press), but people in the US have been looking into it. On November 8th Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s (CIC) website crashed.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not that easy to move to Canada. In order to spare CIC and Immigration Quebec’s websites, I’m going to give you a crash course on Canadian Immigration law and the programs through which one can come here.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to go over the main, less expensive paths to permanent Canadian Immigration, leaving out temporary programs like student and visitor’s visas and work permits, however, it is important for prospective residents to maintain their legal visitor status when applying for permanent residency.

Family Sponsorship

The main federal program in which someone can permanently immigrate to Canada is family sponsorship. The Federal Government administers this program in all provinces except Quebec. The Quebec Government is in charge of the federal program for applicants seeking to move to the province and have their own criteria in some cases.

Family sponsorship becomes the most popular program when a candidate threatening the fundamental freedoms of Americans runs for election. Many believe that all you have to do is marry a Canadian and presto! You’re in, right?

Wrong.

Family sponsorship allows Canadian citizens or permanent residents to bring their spouse, common-law or conjugal partner, and/or children to Canada. The definition of what constitutes a spouse and children is available on both the CIC and Immigration Quebec websites.

In order to sponsor someone, you need to prove you have the money to meet the person’s basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter, support them financially for a given period of time so that they don’t need to seek financial help from the government. Veracity of the relationship is weighed more heavily, though, than the financial status. In order to qualify to be a sponsor, you have to be a citizen or permanent resident age 18 or older.

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If you yourself were sponsored as a spouse and became a permanent resident less than five years earlier, you cannot be a sponsor. You are also ineligible if you have declared bankruptcy which has yet to be discharged. If you have an outstanding immigration loan, you won’t be granted a sponsorship application.

You cannot be a sponsor if you have been convicted in Canada or abroad of sexual or violent crimes or threats of committing them or if you are in default of court ordered alimony payments.

In Quebec, you cannot be a sponsor if you are a current welfare recipient, the exception being if you receive benefits due to your age or a disability that keeps you from long term employment. Sponsors in Quebec are also forbidden from sponsoring a spouse who is under the age of consent in Canada (16).

Let’s say requirements are met and all the right forms and documents have been submitted. It should just be a couple of months before the person can move to Canada, right?

Wrong!

Processing times vary depending on what country the sponsored relative is coming from. At the federal level, the government is currently working its way through a backlog of applications. If you are sponsoring your American spouse, for example, you both could be waiting at least 14 months for processing, but that time will also allow CIC to assess you as a sponsor.

Skilled Workers

* Ed’s Note: Changes were recently made to the Quebec Skilled Worker Program, adding additional hoops to jump through, including when you apply, that aren’t mentioned in the text below. The Quebec Government lists some of them on their website.

Then there is the Quebec Skilled Worker Program. The program allows you to get a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ). By itself, the CSQ is worthless, but it does make it easier to become a Permanent Resident. Only when you become a Permanent Resident can you actually move to Canada.

The CSQ program is a points system based primarily on you (and your spouse’s) education, age, work experience, and knowledge of French and English. You can get a copy of the evaluation grid online but remember that the government changes the grid every few years.

In order to get points for language proficiency, you must provide the results of French and English tests recognized by the Quebec government, and documents in a format other than Immigration Quebec’s preferred format can lead to delays or a refusal of the application. Unfortunately, the government also has a quota of how many CSQ applications they accept annually, so check the website regularly to make sure it’s not too late.

Do you need a lawyer to help you immigrate?

Not really; it’s just a matter of correctly filling out forms, getting the right documents and fees together, and sending them to the right place on time. All of this information is available online. However, if you have trouble with one or both of Canada’s official languages or are contesting a decision, it’s better to get the advice of an expert. There are scores of qualified individuals working in this field who can help you.

The process is long and annoying but if you get here, we promise to welcome you, eh!

* This post was updated November 16th, 2016

“Who shall make the world more beautiful?”

Iva Radivojevic’s first full-length documentary, Evaporating Borders, closes with this quote by African-American sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois. What may seem like a rhetorical question is actually a plea to viewers, beckoning us to participate and holding us accountable for what may come.

Presented in five parts, the documentary shows mounting tensions and racism in an evolving Cyprus, which is host to an increasing number of refugees and immigrants (mostly Palestinian and Syrian Muslims, and some Turks, who occupy a third of Cyprus’s northern territories), while exploring themes of migration, displacement, tolerance and belonging. Interviews provide insight into an issue that is not unique to the island.

Many Greek Cypriots feel refugees are sucking up their and their country’s resources and that the government is too generous with them, a sentiment which has led some locals to organize fascist and racist opposition. But those who flee to Cyprus from war-torn neighbouring countries do so to find work and peace. They are often undermined by potential employers due to racism, and find themselves cut off from mandatory government benefits for refugees.

Endless appeals and little advocacy force some to eventually leave the island. The film’s final scene shows a clash at a protest between a group of social justice advocates and a group of fascists, between two possibilities: that of an inclusive, welcoming society, and that of a hostile, intolerant Cyprus.

Radivojevic reveals her own observations throughout the documentary, at one point expressing her own distaste and disdain for immigrant men who look “poor, criminal, intimidating.” She consciously dissociates from them. Though Radivojevic was an immigrant to Cyprus herself (from Yugoslavia), it is as though, over time, she made a distinction between the “acceptable” immigrants (the blonde ones) and those who supposedly leech off the government, create trouble and don’t deserve her empathy. She then catches herself and reflects on what may have led her to feel this way. I was impressed that she even admitted to having had racist thoughts, which is downright embarrassing, but even more so by her capacity for introspection and analysis of an issue that is becoming more urgent and widespread daily.

Radivojevic excels in presenting a serious issue without being heavy-handed. Her shots make one envious of Cyprus’s residents who get to bask in its golden sunlight. She has a rare eye for composition, and zeros in on details that are revealing about the island’s military history and racial tensions.

Through intimate shots of neighbours and streets, we’re given the impression that Cyprus is a small village, the type that breeds intolerance, but the documentary very effectively demonstrates, through interviews with intellectuals, activists, and bureaucrats, as well as the director’s own questioning, that there is hope yet for a better Cyprus.

For the complete schedule, please visit the RIDM website

Every year, the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) at McGill University and the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) hold a series of events and workshops called Culture Shock. This year’s Culture Shock will be held between November 5 and 9, and, as always, will aim to explore myths surrounding immigrants, refugees, indigenous people and communities of colour. The purpose is to create discussion around these topics, let members of these communities share their experiences with one another, but also to educate non-members about the issues faced by communities of colour in Canada and beyond.

What makes Culture Shock especially exciting is the fact that it is open to anyone and everyone, and not just students; which is precisely why we at Forget the Box have decided to give you an overview of the many workshops and events of Culture Shock! Here’s the twist, though. We have compiled the list based on topics that will be discussed, and not the schedule. This way you will be able to focus on one specific subject. Most event descriptions are based on those found on QPIRG McGill’s website.

The workshops are not the only events done under Culture Shock, there will also be a book launch of Nahla Abdo’s Captive Revolutiona keynote event by Dark Matter, a trans south asian art and activist collaboration; a fundraiser party held by Solidarity Across Borders; an anti-colonial dinner; and a Convergence for Indigenous peoples and people of colour.

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If you want access to the schedule, you may find it here.

You can also click on the names of the events to reach the associated Facebook events, for further details on location and times.

Migration 

Migrant Workers in Canada: Why Everyone Should Care

“Canada currently accepts more migrants under temporary permits than those who can immigrate permanently. Barriers to permanent residency for refugees, skilled workers and family members are increasing, while citizenship for migrants is becoming harder to get and easier to lose.” – Why everyone should care about the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, Harsha Walia

This workshop by the Immigrant Workers’ Centre (IWC), the Temporary Agency Worker’s Association (TAWA) and the Temporary Foreign Worker’s Assoication (ATTET) offers an overview of the history of temporary foreign work and migration in Canada. Think of it as a crash course and introduction to the topic. The workshop and the discussion around it should prove to be invaluable for those who wish to acquire a broader understanding of troubles facing migrant workers.

Immigrants With Disabilities In Canada: Discrimination, Segregation, Suicidal Deportation

“Though it is illegal to discriminate against a person for their disability (stated in Article 15 of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms), this protection is contradicted by Canada’s Immigration Act where Article 19 (1)a,  refuses to grant  residence to immigrants with disability who are confirmed by at least two medical officers to be a threat to public health and public safety or are deemed an excessive burden to health/social services.”

To be held by the Committee-to-be for Immigrants with Disabilities of Solidarity Across Borders, this workshop will also focus on the topic of migration, but from a more focused perspective (compared to the one above), by focusing explicitly on the concept of being “an excessive burden” in Canada.

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Decolonization and Indigenous Rights

Oh Canada, our home on Native Land: Discussing Decolonization

It is no secret that Canada is built on Indigenous territories. For that reason, it is important to learn more about Indigenous histories, and position ourselves on the land that we work and live on, and call home.

This workshop, to be co-facilitated by Canadian Roots Exchange – Youth Reconciliation Initative and KANATA McGill Indigenous Studies Community, will strive to build cultural solidarity through an interactive dialogue about our relationships to the land and its histories.

Creating a Culture of Resistance, Decolonization as a Weapon, Rebuilding Nationhood, Land and Freedom, Indigenous Liberation

This workshop and film screening will be facilitated by Kanahus Manuel (Secwpemc). Kanahus is a mother and warrior from the Secwpemc Nation in the Shuswap region of “British Columbia.” She has been active in fighting against development projects and corporations such as the Sun Peaks Ski Resort and Imperial Metals. Recently, she has been involved in organizing to raise awareness about the Mount Polley gold-copper mine tailings spill, possibly the worst mining pollution disaster in Canadian history. For her efforts, she has been named as a defendant by Imperial Metals in a court injunction to stop blockades of the mining company’s operations.

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Colonialism and its Accomplices: A Critical History of the Colonization of Turtle Island

Colonialism is an inherently violent system which marginalizes and oppresses Indigenous people on Turtle Island, and people of colour. This workshop will explore the historical processes from which colonialism arises and how this is deeply tied to capitalism. Historically, Capitalism has been the motive for colonial policies. Colonialism has disempowered and dispossessed Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island through genocide, dislocation, and assimilation. Colonialism has been used to justify the exploitation of people, namely racialized and Indigenous bodies, as well as Indigenous lands and resources.

Molly Swain and Lindsay Nixon of the Indigenous Women and Two-Spirit Harm Reduction Coalition will critically explore processes such as racism, white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity and how these concepts are derived from and enacted within colonialism. Settlers need to understand their positionality on Turtle Island and work towards a decolonized way of thinking so not to participate in harmful behaviors towards Indigenous peoples, and people of colour.

Race

Race @ McGill: Film Screening and Discussion

Race @ McGill is a film produced between 2012 and 2014 by student of colour, Sha, about the experiences and observations of students, faculty, and staff of colour at McGill.  It seeks to highlight and connect the shared struggles and resilience of racialized and indigenous community members at McGill.

While the film itself may be focused on McGill, the discussion afterwards should prove to be invaluable to those who wish to share their experiences, or to hear about these experiences to reflect upon themselves.

Giving Birth to Yourself: Revolutionary Storytelling for People of Colour, by Kai Cheng

According to Kai Cheng Thom aka Lady Sin Trayda, the facilitator of this workshop, racialized, Indigenous, and mixed-race folk very often come into the world with a story of what they are not: white, whole, beautiful, enough. This story is the soul of colonization: it drains them of the will to struggle, of the confidence to name themselves and their ancestors, the vision to see each other and act in solidarity.

The potential of stories as both revolutionary and therapeutic will be explored, as will the possibilities and limitations of writing/storytelling in indigenous versus colonial languages. Participants will experiment with the use of story tools, including meditation, visualization, play, story-listening, and group creation. Poets, writers, rappers, spoken word artists, slam poets, storytellers of all kinds and at all stages welcome.

Also, note that this is a closed workshop; meaning only Indigenous persons, mixed-race folk, and people of colour may attend.

Oppression & Design

White Space: A look into the relationship between graphic design and systems of oppression

Sajdeep Soomal, who is a self-taught graphic designer and a history student at McGill, will be facilitating this workshop which aims to trace out how graphic design contributes to the perpetuation and formation of systems of oppression. The topics to be discussed include Typefaces and Racial Formation, Minimalism and Economic Privilege.

Think of the wispy strokes and the diamond shaped dots used in Aladdin in order to create an aura of mysticism, which then becomes central to Western conceptions of brownness and contributes to the racial formation of brown people in the West. Or, in terms of Minimalism, the extensive use of whitespace, or empty space is a result of a level of economic privilege, where people do not feel the pressure to use that empty space. Come to the workshop to discuss these topics and more.

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Groups gathered in solidarity against deportations this Saturday amidst the downtown bustle of Formula One. Organized by Cité sans frontières / Solidarity City, the crowd consisted of initiatives such as Solidarity Across Borders, Mexicans United for Regularization and No One Is Illegal-Montreal, which met at Carré Bethune on Guy and de Maisonneuve Ouest.

“We want an end to detention and end to all deportations and an end to double punishment of migrants and status for all. We want respect,” a demonstrator said to the crowd as Aretha Franklin’s respect played over the speaker system.

The demonstration tackled several issues related to deportations, including changes to the temporary migrant workers program and education for immigrant children.

“Right now they’re cutting refugees that are entering the country by over half. There’s a new temporary migrant worker program that says you can come here to work temporarily but then you need to leave, and you can never come back, and you can never live here permanently,” Malek from Solidarity Across Borders said.

According to Solidarity Across Borders, last year saw over 350 000 people come to Canada in the Migrant Worker Program – most of which were women – which is more than any other type of migrant allowed to enter the country.

“[The government] also cut family reunification. And get this, between 9000 and 15 000 migrants and immigrants, including children, are detained in this country right now, for months [and] even years on administrative grounds,” Malek continued.

Though the demonstration complied with by-law P-6, demonstrators temporarily defied their given route, moving up from Ste Catherine to Sherbrooke Street. Eventually demonstrators turned back on route, ending with a picnic at Carré Philips.

“[These] policies reflect a state and policies that are running scared. They’re scared of migrants, because every migrant that comes here is a threat to everything that this country was founded on,” said Malek.

“Everytime [the government] sees a migrant in [Canada], they know it’s a threat. They’re a threat to imperialism, to white supremacy, and […] to colonialism. We’re not going to stop coming.”

With a Canadian passport becoming increasingly harder to get for some and harder to keep for others and seemingly arbitrary deportations happening all the time, something needs to be done. From June 1st to 15th,  the Status for All Coalition is hosting Anti-Deportation Days to support the regularization of all non-status migrants.

The Coalition is comprised of Solidarity Across Borders, Mexicans United for Regularization, and No One Is Illegal-Montreal among others. According to the event page, the week of activities organized oppose “deportations, detentions and double punishment”.

Such activities include migration and the mining industry workshop, uprising and uprooted: refugees in the Syrian struggle in photo and image, and a Status for All Demonstration & Picnic.

Check out Forget the Box this Sunday for a report on the Status for All Demonstration & Picnic, and for the full list of events, visit statusforall.org

 

If you’re interested in dim sum and live in Montréal, you appreciate the legend of Kam Fung. Maybe you’ve eaten in the cavernous St-Urbain dining room (or its Brossard counterpart). Maybe you’ve just stood in line and longed for a table.

Either experience is sufficient to grasp just how absurd—and yet fitting—it is, that now dim sum has been dragged into 2014 Québec election politics. Yes, those doughy pillows of shrimp, eel, mushroom, beef, pork (or mostly anything else that grows, swims or walks…) are the latest casualty to the province’s rapidly-degenerating discourse on language and identity.

Thankfully, it’s all been dressed with a healthy does of ethnic-food sarcasm.

It all started yesterday when outspoken Journal de Montréal columnist Sophie Durocher took to Twitter after a dim sum lunch.

The initial response seemed unsurprising, coming from one of Durocher’s followers…

 

But Montréal Gazette food critic Lesley Chesterman’s appraisal was a bit more scathing.

 

Chesterman’s tweets, it would appear, triggered a string of jabs at Durocher and, at times, the Parti québecois itself.

 

Disapproval of Durocher’s complaint was not limited to English, either:

Then the whole thing started to echo the last few party debates themselves:

 

 

Just like a TVA debate, there was mild mudslinging:

And even humour:

It seems that Charte-fuelled tensions of language and identity have officially peaked. Whether it’s Couillard or Marois who ends up at the helm, we can only hope for strong leadership.

But maybe politicians are just exacerbating the issues and the solution to Durocher’s quandary is really quite simple:

Yesterday, a simple meeting with the Canadian Border Services Agency went very wrong very quickly for Miguel Luna Cruz.

Originally from Mexico, Cruz had been in Canada for six years as a refugee claimant with a permit to work. His refugee claim was denied and he went to a scheduled meeting to get his departure date. They gave him 20 days.

He asked for an extension until May so he could finish his work contract with Lasalle College which runs until the end of the semester and pay his income tax. He also informed them that if no extension was granted, he would have to take them up on their offer of paying his airfare and reimburse them when he got to Mexico (he had initially said he would be able to pay his own airfare because he gets paid early May).

That, according to Cruz’s lawyers Chantal Ianniciello and Perla Abou-Jaoudé, is when things went terribly wrong. Instead of trying to come to an agreement, which is normal procedure in these cases, the agents immediately arrested Cruz and said that there is nothing else he can do. He initially interpreted this to mean that he couldn’t contact his lawyer, but the affadavit they had him sign said he could, though he didn’t realize that at the time. He now faces deportation as early as tomorrow (Thursday).

“It’s happening more often now,” Ianniciello and Abou-Jaoudé observed, “when clients get the chance to get a detention review, they often get released but they are also  being deported before having a chance to attend a detention review. We do not always realize that this is happening as these kinds of deportations happen quickly and the clients have very little time to get a lawyer that is willing to take such a case in such short time, as it will possibly be pro-bono.”

I emailed the CBSA to see if they had anything to say about this case. They said “we have procedures for internal approvals of our answers” and a response may take until midday today. If I get a response, I’ll update this post, but since Cruz is facing deportation tomorrow and can’t wait, neither can I.

While I understand how it can take time for a proper media response, I find it interesting that they can make much quicker decisions when it comes to a legal immigrant like Cruz’s future.

* UPDATE 2:58pm: Cruz’s deportation was postponed so he can have a detention review tomorrow (Thursday) instead. If this doesn’t go well for him, though, he could be deported as early as Saturday

* Information updated at 12:54pm, this post originally said that Cruz had a temporary guest worker visa, when in fact he was a refugee claimant with a work permit, when his claim was rejected, he went into the meeting to get his departure date

In 1941 at the height of the Second World War on an island in many ways similar to Lampedusa, the island of Ventotene, two leaders of the resistance movement against fascism and members of the Italian Communist Party Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi, were held captive. Their captivity in many ways resembled what thousands of North Africans, Sub-Saharan Africans and Middle Easterners live on a daily basis in one of the hundreds of identification and detention centers that populate the European coastline.

Spinelli and Rossi would write one of the most influential documents  in favor of Pan-Europanism, The Ventotene Manifesto. The manifesto would be illegally smuggled on to the continent and distributed throughout the Italian resistance. The ideal of a socialist federal union of European peoples became a central idea to many resistance movements throughout the European continent, the hope and the aspirations of a war-torn generation of Europeans would be embodied within the manifesto.

While captive on the island of Ventotene, Spinelli and Rossi vowed to rid the peoples of Europe of the chains of poverty and misery, to liberate Europe from the grips of fascism, but also build a society in which “never again” would the European social and economic situation allow for the flourishing of Nazism or Fascism. Fast forward 72 years later. The remote Mediterranean island of Lampedusa is a pearl, home to what Trip Advisor acclaimed as the world most beautiful beach in 2013, it’s a corner of paradise within a sea of hell.

Since 1988, within the waters and washed-up northern shores of the Mediterranean, almost 20 000 migrants have lost their lives. Lampedusa has become infamous throughout the world as the ‘Guantanamo of Europe.’ In the past two months Lampedusa has become, even more so than it already was, the center-stage of a continual tragedy that is the European Union’s blatant disregard for human rights, their disregard for the situation of thousands of migrants that brave horrible conditions in the hope to find a better life in Europe.

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Lampedusa shipwreck victims (Image: Noborder network via Flickr, Creative Commons licence)

On the 3rd of October of 2013, 359 bodies were recovered from the worst recorded migrant shipwreck in recent history, several other bodies were never found. A mere two months later, Lampedusa was rocked by another tragic event, this time concerning the treatment of the detainees at the identification and detention center for illegal migrants on the island.

Hidden video footage surfaced throughout the internet showing several detainees having to strip and be ‘hosed down’ by security guards. This is not the first time that Lampedusa and the European immigration boarder security under the hospice of Frontex have been openly criticized for their treatment of migrants.

Frontex was founded in 2005 as a semi-private organization with the mandate to help the several different member-state boarder security coordinate their operations, on paper. In reality, Frontex is a paramilitary organization that functions in parallel to all other European security organizations and is accountable to no one, under only nominal surveillance from European elected officials and after several scandals has shown no will in upholding any basic standard of human rights.

The creation of Frontex, the privatization and militarization of Europe’s boarders, is a clear indication of the rise of neo-liberalism within Europe. And in reaction to neo-liberalism, an almost equal rise of xenophobia and extreme right-wing groups.

The first is the neoliberal, fostered by right-wing movements within the European Union, that have pushed for the deregulation of the labour market, of the banking system and the downsizing of the social state. On the other hand this same neo-liberal movement has pushed for the destruction of all barriers to ‘free-trade.’

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Frontex is the perfect metaphor of the rampant neo-liberalism that has infected Europe.  Under the mantel of ‘austerity’ the European right-wing has tried to recraft the European ideal from its original purpose, embodied in the Ventotene manifesto, that of building a common European society based on protecting the dignity and the social and economical well-being of all.

The reaction provoked by the  rise of neo-liberalism in Europe is the undeniable rise in extreme right-wing rhetoric unknown on such a scale since the pre-WWII period.  The economical fluctuations that have left so many Europeans in misery was produced by the same neo-liberal ideal that made the “Mediterranean a cemetery” in the words of the Maltese prime minister.

In a recent meeting in Brussels, the leaders of the European Community joined forces to continue persecuting migrants at sea instead of addressing the issues of lamentable conditions within the detention centers or actually create a more ‘humane’ policy for migrants upon their arrival in the Shengen zone. As per usual, with every conference in Brussels the outcome is more austerity, austerity on the land, austerity on sea.The fight against austerity must then be one conducted on land and by sea.

Lampedusa is our Ventotene, Lampedusa is the embodiment of everything that has went wrong on the path of European construction. The EU is currently a prison, a financial one, one in which the will of the markets trumps the will of the people. Xenophobic, racist and nationalist discourses are on the rise, neo-fascist paramilitary groups are once again flourishing.

These fascist for many offer an alternative to the establishment, to neo-liberalism. Unfortunately they are the armed-wing of neo-liberalism, the armed-wing of corporatism.

The European left must stand with the migrants of Lampedusa and others scattered throughout the Mediterranean, we must re-appropriate the European ideal and build in this day and age a society that fulfills the principals of the Ventotene manifesto. Lampedusa is a major crack within the walls of Fortress ‘neo-liberal’ Europe, time to tear down the walls.

As this year draws to a close, we see a spike of nearly five percent of foreign temporary workers admitted to Canada over the course of 2013. 125 000 foreign temporary worker permits were issued this year in comparison to the 119 000 issued in 2012.

Since the mid-1970s, the foreign temporary worker program (FTWP) has not ceased its rapid climb in acceptance rate of foreign temporary workers. The accelerated acceptance rate of the FTWP, backed by corporate Canada and successive Liberal and Conservative governments, is publicly justified by a need to keep Canada economically competitive on the international scene.

This has been the rhetoric and the words used by the political and corporate elites to justify the complete deregulation of the Canadian labour market since the mid-1980s and also the continual expansion of the FTWP into all sectors of Canadian life. Through the expansion of FTWP, anti-union and anti-labour lobbies throughout Canada have seen the stagnation of Canadian wages and the power of organized labour hit a wall, from which it may not fully recover. Profits have skyrocketed and business continues as per usual.

What these anti-union and anti-labour lobbies have essentially advocated for is a growing gap between the rich and the poor in Canada, an increased pressure on the Canadian working-class, the disappearance of the living wage, growing unemployment particularly among youth and the deregulation of the Canadian job market. All of these factors continue to upload a neoliberal vision: global division of labor between the skills-based rich in countries from the north and a manual labour-rich south, what can also be described as the triangular trade of the 21st century.

Throughout the past two decades, many have spoken of the highly skilled professionals and academics that are immigrating from developing countries toward the fully industrialized north. It is a brain drain.

migrant workers federation

On the other hand, there is the continual delocalization of many industrial jobs from northern markets towards southern markets, where wages are lower and the tax environment friendlier. In essence, outsourcing for multinational and corporate interest.

Both brain drain and outsourcing have serious consequences on the global economy. The brain drain deprives developing countries of necessary skill sets to tackle the challenges of post-colonization and outsourcing ravages communities throughout the Western world and still does today.

The form of globalization in which we must live today poses no solution for the inequity that weighs in favor of the rich and the most powerful of this world. Well, inequity is the fuel that allows globalization to continue unheeded on its destructive path.

In the past decade we have seen the surge of a new phenomenon called insourcing through the rapid growth of the FTWP. Insourcing, as opposed to outsourcing, is the use of  ‘cheap’ labor when there is lack of manpower to get this or that project completed.

There are many historical examples of insourcing in Canadian history, one being the exploitation of Chinese workers to build the Canadian Pacific Railway. Chinese families at the time received no compensation for members of the family that were killed, nor were they always notified of the death itself. Although Chinese workers were promised enough money to send home to their families in China, this dream sadly rarely came to fruition.

With a history like this housed in Canadian public memory, one would think that Canada would learn from these mistakes and make sure they never happen again. Yet, that very same treatment is reserved for foreign temporary workers throughout the country today. At the end of their contract, temporary workers do not even reserve the right to reside on Canadian soil.

In recent years cases of abuse and discrimination have come to light, all of which are proof of violation of labour laws. This has put pressure on the Conservative government to create stricter guidelines for the program. The government now obliges employers to pay foreign temporary workers Canadian minimum wage and pay a user fee.

Fundamentally, FTWP is a program that is based on discrimination and will only breed more discrimination. The FTWP creates a double standard, one for Canadian residents and citizens and one for the Other, creating a second class of workers, that is a reserve force that is inexhaustible in which individuals lose their rights and their dignity.

A capitalist’s dream come true, the FTWP allows those in power to strip individuals and nations of not only their product, but their capacity for trade. To the Canadian government, these workers are disposable.

Any worker that comes to Canada and works for the betterment of our collectivity deserves to be treated in the same regard as any other worker on Canadian soil. There should be no class distinction made among workers; we are one.

To protect the hard-won battles of organized labour throughout the years, we must also struggle with foreign temporary workers. FTWP should not be a centerpiece of Canadian immigration policy, but a program that helps foreign workers who have no intention of staying while they are here and helps those who do wish to remain in Canada make the transition.

“Good enough to work here, good enough to stay” a Canada that respects itself, that upholds the principals and values enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would honour such an ideal.

Off all the asinine comments made by Mme Marois in defense of her fatally flawed ‘Québec charte des valeurs’ (daycare workers wearing hijabs are threatening our children, comparing it to Bill 101, etc.) I think the one I want to discuss here is her rather unfortunate using of the French model of “laiçité” as an example for Québec to follow in integrating its Muslim population.

The notion, that French secularist traditions have led to some sort of social harmony between French society and millions of Arab speaking Muslim Algerian, Tunisian and Moroccan immigrants, the vast majority of which arrived in France during the post-war period at the invitation of previous French governments to help fill jobs created by the boom of recovery in Europe’s war-torn economies, is simply laughable.

Anyone who has been paying attention to recent French history knows that unemployment rates among the Arabic Muslim minority (one in every 13 French citizens describes themselves as Muslim) are much higher than they are among the general population. There has also been a rise, though not due only to socio-economic conditions, of homegrown terrorism and racial tensions in France’s major cities (for example the riots of Clichy-Sous-Bois back in 2005).

French secularism is very different from North America’s, or even Quebec’s version of the institution, owing to the dramatically different historical, political and legal contexts in which it evolved. Even Marois seems to vaguely grasp this fact, saying that “Quebec will develop its own model based on our values and experiences.”

For starters, France has essentially been thoroughly secular at the governmental level since the French Revolution in 1789. But, more to the point, their version of secularism makes no exceptions for Christian symbolism in the public sector (i.e. no cross hangs in their National Assembly). Also, it should be said, that the measures being proposed by the PQ are not as drastic as those that were imposed in France, where there are no niqabs allowed in public whatsoever, and female students are not even allowed to wear hijabs at state schools.

But Marois’ ignorance of the French model that ostensibly inspired her bill is not confined to French history. She also spectacularly misreads British multiculturalism as a main cause of British terrorism, in the process unwittingly spewing the same claptrap as such noble political parties as the racist British National Party and the ultra-right wing UK Independence Party. I suppose it has never occurred to her to look at the rest of Canada as a successful model of multiculturalism?

Marois either doesn’t appreciate the obvious differences in context between Western Europeans societies and ours with respect to integrating religious minorities, or doesn’t care to. Irrespective, she will pursue her destructive agenda to the bitter end.

Perhaps we on the federalist side of the political spectrum should rejoice. This could be the final nail in the coffin for an already out-of-touch government with no economic or job creation strategy to speak of. Maybe one day we will look back on this moment as the kind of desperate gamble to remain relevant that resulted in the Republican Party in the US becoming beholden to the overwhelmingly white lunatic fringe of right wing politics that the Tea Party represents in that country.

But when we see the hatred, taking some of its cues from the rhetoric of the Parti Quebecois, starting to poison everyday life the way it did for the victim of a racist tirade on a bus in Montreal recently, it’s awfully hard to feel smug about the situation.