The Conservatives’ Anti-Asian Immigration Policies A Step Backwards!

Once the Conservatives formed a majority government with all the power to wield, they have been bringing in a lot of changes.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has been making so many changes and announcements that even the most attentive critics have difficulty in following them.

The Conservatives are using this tactic of rapid changes because they don’t want the public to see what they’re up to.

Whether it’s to raise the language requirement, to cancel 300,000 applications (most of which were from China and India), or to raise the requirement of sponsoring parent immigration ($40,000 per head plus life-time sponsorship), all the new measures have an adverse effect on Asian immigrants.

The Conservatives not only want to hinder future immigration from Asia, they even block the immigration of those who applied years ago.

But what has upset me most is their level 4 language requirement for citizenship. The new measure requires immigrants who have been accepted, who fulfilled their immigration obligations, who have settled down and lived in Canada, and who have been contributing to the country, to achieve a minimum standard of CLB 4 (Canada Language Benchmark level 4) in an English or French test (which includes listening, speaking, reading and writing) before being accepted as citizen.

Canada is indeed an English and French speaking country. Immigrants’ command of one or both of the official languages would help them in their lives and in achieving prosperity.

At the same time, Canada is a democratic country where voting is a most sacred fundamental right of being a citizen. Looking into Canada’s history, we learn that Asian immigrants had painful experiences of being discriminated against. It takes them generations of struggling and fighting to gain equality.

A century ago, Chinese were discriminated against by the government and by society. They were exploited in work, their children’s education and development were retarded, and they did not have the right to vote, not to mention to run for public office. History has proven that governmental discrimination based on reasons like race and language is a mistake. It is unjust and it’s against Canadian values. Yet, today’s Conservative government is reviving that spirit in their new immigration policies.

The Conservatives’ new requirement will strip away the voting right of a great many immigrants who having been living in Canada for years, paying taxes and contributing to their new homeland.

I agree that immigrants should learn English, but the government should employ encouragement rather than measures that oppress immigrants who have been an asset to the country.

Our history in the past century has shown that, even with a language barrier, Asian immigrants and their offspring have contributed immensely to Canada.

In today’s world, when Asia is a dominant player in the global economy, Asian immigrants with their language capacity, cultures and relations should be recognized as Canada’s assets instead of being viewed as a burden.

In the past decades, Canada’s generosity and forgiving attitude have won the world’s respect and the heart of immigrants. Canada’s immigration policy has been set according to our needs and interests. We have welcomed and embraced people from different parts of the world. We have taken immigrants according to criteria like skill, investment and family connection.

In the investor and family immigration classes, even when applicants have a language barrier, the government would still accept their application if they’re able to fulfill their obligations to invest or reunite with their family here in Canada.

But now, the Conservative government wants the investor and family classes of immigrants to pass a language exam at level 4 before they’re allowed to become citizens. I have to say that this measure is outdated, unjust and would turn immigrants with a language barrier into “second class” citizens.

In the US, the so-called “big melting pot” country, they don’t have this kind of language requirement for their new citizens. In Hong Kong, the place I was born and brought up in, the government doesn’t require their Caucasian or East Indian residents to speak and read Chinese before they can cast their vote.

Of course, Chinese are not the only immigrant group with a language barrier. Asian immigrants from India, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and immigrants from some central American, Latin American or eastern European countries could face the same hurdle.

Canada’s history has clearly illustrated that in the last century, a language barrier did not hinder immigrants and their offspring from contributing to society. So why, in the age of global village, should Canada take the old path, applying discriminatory policies to restrict immigrants from becoming citizens and exercising their democratic right?

To those who are brought up in an English-speaking society, they might think that learning English or French is not that difficult. But we should understand that different people have different language learning capacities. There’re people who can command several languages and there’re those who can’t command or write well even in their own language, let alone a second one.

I have been listening to Japanese songs and watching Japanese films and TV series since high school; but after more than thirty years, I don’t think I’ve reached the minimum level of Japanese language proficiency.

Several years ago, I traveled to Japan. What shocked me was that even in Tokyo’s top international hotels, their lobby receptionist couldn’t speak English well. What I’m saying is, we can’t see others only from our angle. Learning English or French may not be a problem for you, but it can be a problem for other people.

Vancouver is praised for having the best Chinese food in the world, but have you thought about the real contributors to this fame, those who worked hard in the kitchen? How many could pass a language exam at level 4 in all four skills? I can tell you that most, if not all, will not be able to pass and I believe this phenomenon is not unique to Chinese restaurants. If the chefs were denied their citizenship, that would be a heavy blow to the Canadian culinary industry.

In the South Asian community, I’ve seen many young women who married here and who can’t speak English. I was told many hard-working farm workers have a language barrier too.

The above are just a few examples. If the new citizenship language requirement is implemented, these hard-working immigrants who have been contributing to their family and to our society would become “second class” citizens. The fact is, new immigrants usually work longer than those who’re locally born, they have to look after their children and family, and they have to adapt to the new culture and environment. They can function effectively within their community and to a certain extent outside it. Stripping them of their citizenship and voting right because of their weakness in English is not going to improve their language capacity.

This article first appeared HERE.

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