By Elliott Jun

A week ago, I found myself catching up with an old friend.
After a meal of questionable nutrition and exhausting the classic conversational topics of “What do you plan on doing?” while suppressing my internal screams of “I DON’T KNOW WHERE I’M GOING WITH MY LIFE. I JUST GRADUATED, LET ME BREATHE!” we landed on the topic of Canadian politics (the obvious choice if you run out of things to talk about). It was a long night, and I found my attention span wavering due to a lack of sleep, and the uncomfortable amount of food digesting, until I heard my friend say the words, “Canada is a country welcoming to immigration”. Jolted awake, I recalled those exact words within my faded and outdated history textbook from Grade 10.

“Why do you say that?” I asked my friend the same question I’d asked myself in Grade 10, and referred to the recently passed Bill C-24 as a premise for my question. After some back and forth, my friend, sensing that the conversation couldn’t progress until he read more about the bill, ended the conversation by saying “At least, we’re more accepting than the United States”.

I left troubled with more than a few questions on my mind as I commuted home.

Should this comparison be a standard, or does this serve to erase problems?

  1. Where does this image of Canada come from?
  2. How does my history and experience as a second generation Canadian-born Chinese, fit within this narrative?

Canada’s long history of colonialism, genocide, and racial discrimination certainly has some much to do with these questions.

In case, you haven’t heard of Bill C-24 yet and are curious (even if you are not curious), I suggest reading about it here, as it does a more thorough job of explaining the intricacy of this new law than the short summary I’ll be providing.

This two-tier system divides Canadians into First Class Citizenship, and Second Class Citizenship. First Class Citizens must be born within Canada and have no other declared nationality or potential to apply for another nationality. Second Class Citizenship is determined based on having another national or the potential to apply for one, and may have their citizenship revoked on the basis of terrorism, treason or really anything that the Canadian Government decides. The Canadian Government claims the bill is targeted towards “jihadi terrorism” and a measure to protect “national security” for the sake of our freedom. Yet, what citizens of visible minority see is our rights being stripped away, and fierce contestation over our place in this country. It is not enough to say that Bill C-24 is designed to give differential treatment based upon the two tiers of citizenship.

We must ask, who does benefit from this system and whose citizenship is reduced through this bill?

graphic-revocation

Despite statements from the government justifying Bill C-24 as a protective measure against terrorism, it serves as nothing more than another thinly veiled xenophobic policy. In light of the Islamophobia sustained by Western countries over the past two decades, fear of terrorism and treason has often been used as a justification to strip rights, and racially profile Muslim communities despite the fact that terrorists occupy a negligible percentile of the Muslim populace.

However, Bill C-24 is also designed to suppress citizens with a history of immigration and ties to other countries, and negatively impacts diasporic and transnational communities. Demographics such as Chinese Canadians, Korean Canadians and the West Indies communities will have to face the choice of leaving their families, and the citizenship of their traditional homelands behind, or revoking their Canadian citizenship and lose their civil rights.

The only communities that seem to be exempt from Bill C-24 are the First Nations People of Canada, and descendants of white colonialists.

As First Nations Communities are still surviving a legacy of genocide, settler colonialism and reclamation of their territories, their resistance and struggles supersede Bill C-24.

In constructing a two-tiered class citizenship, Canada has placed certain citizens as more valuable and desirable – basically, you’re set if you’re descended from white colonial lineage, or if you will denounce anything that threatens this whiteness.

By clearly defining the ideal Canadian citizen, the disposable citizen is inferred: non-white, foreign or transnational.

However, Bill C-24 is not the beginning, nor the end of Canada’s racially discriminatory immigration and citizenship policies. Its implementation only marks another moment in Canadian history where racialized discrimination is formally introduced to immigration policy and the legal system.

Harsh Walia’s article, No Safe Haven: Canada’s Managed Migration, shows that Bill C-24 has been employed as early as 2013, as in the case of Jose Figueroa, and the forced separation of his family. The current fears of many legal critics of Bill C-24 were in fact, realized 2 years ago, as Figueroa was stripped of his permanent residency based on his past student membership with the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, an organization aiming to overthrow a dictatorship within El Salvador.

Bill C-24 takes the premise and rationale for these isolated and often unrecorded cases, and incorporates them as part of the system. In a graph provided by the Government of Canada explaining the process and rationale of Bill C-24, a key focus of this bill is to lower costs and increase efficiency by removing judges from the “streamlined” process. What the Canadian government communicates through systemizing this bill and removing judges in the process is that the right to fair representation in court and citizenship, is your civil liberties are only worth as much money it saves or earns the government.

Ratifying Bill C-24 as a part of Canadian law has only made the process of stripping your rights away from you more efficient in every sense of the word, and they have sold it to you as terror, under the guise of security.

Even Jose Figueroa’s case is only another version of earlier violent histories within Canada surrounding race and immigration. The implementation of two-tiered citizenship is not new to Canada:

  1. The Indian Act meant that First Nations women were threatened with removal of Indian status for themselves and their children if they married non-Indians. Not to mention the status of First Nations People altogether.
  2. Jewish immigration was severely limited during the 1930s-1940s, due to rampant anti-Semitism.
  3. Japanese Canadians were imprisoned in Internment camps during World War II, on the premise of the War Measures Act, which declared them aliens and a security threat, despite most of the population being born in Canada and thus Canadian citizens.
  4. Chinese immigration was severely limited throughout the 1800s – 1900s with the implementation of ridiculous head taxes to prohibit families from starting within Canada.
  5. Chinese immigrants were also exploited in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway – my great grandfather went through both the head tax, and survived dangerous work conditions.
  6. South Indian immigration was limited in the early 1900s by preventing immigration unless it was by continuous travel, as Canada went through 400,000 immigrants from Europe during that time.

At certain points in history, Canada’s political economy began to shift due to the realization that this vast amount of land and raw resources required large amounts of skilled migrant work. It is in these periods where immigration policy changed drastically, and there was a slow surrender of an envisioned white, European Canada. Canada’s basic policy regarding citizenship throughout history has been if you’re not white, you’re not right, UNLESS Canada needs to exploit you as a source of cheap labour to bolster the economy.

The purpose of this post is not to reach a conclusion, but to destabilize the notion of Canada as a country with welcoming immigration policy and racial harmony. I hope to lay bare how fragile and dynamic our position within Canada is, and how fierce and violent it can be to acclimatize in this country.

By locating Bill C-24 within the larger narrative of racial intolerance and violence within Canada, I hope we begin thinking more critically about our position, and responsibility to action within Canadian society as well as in solidarity with other marginalized communities in Canada.

Also, please read Harsha Walia’s article if you’re interested in learning more. It provides a much more detailed analysis of Canada’s immigration policy in relation to work over the last 10 years.

Despite statements from the government justifying Bill C-24 as a protective measure against terrorism, it serves as nothing more than another thinly veiled xenophobic policy. In light of the Islamophobia sustained by Western countries over the past two decades, fear of terrorism and treason has often been used as a justification to strip rights, and racially profile Muslim communities despite the fact that terrorists occupy a negligible percentile of the Muslim populace.

However, Bill C-24 is also designed to suppress citizens with a history of immigration and ties to other countries, and negatively impacts diasporic and transnational communities. Demographics such as Chinese Canadians, Korean Canadians and the West Indies communities will have to face the choice of leaving their families, and the citizenship of their traditional homelands behind, or revoking their Canadian citizenship and lose their civil rights.

The only communities that seem to be exempt from Bill C-24 are the First Nations People of Canada, and descendants of white colonialists.

As First Nations Communities are still surviving a legacy of genocide, settler colonialism and reclamation of their territories, their resistance and struggles supersede Bill C-24.

In constructing a two-tiered class citizenship, Canada has placed certain citizens as more valuable and desirable – basically, you’re set if you’re descended from white colonial lineage, or if you will denounce anything that threatens this whiteness.

By clearly defining the ideal Canadian citizen, the disposable citizen is inferred: non-white, foreign or transnational.

However, Bill C-24 is not the beginning, nor the end of Canada’s racially discriminatory immigration and citizenship policies. Its implementation only marks another moment in Canadian history where racialized discrimination is formally introduced to immigration policy and the legal system.

Harsh Walia’s article, No Safe Haven: Canada’s Managed Migration, shows that Bill C-24 has been employed as early as 2013, as in the case of Jose Figueroa, and the forced separation of his family. The current fears of many legal critics of Bill C-24 were in fact, realized 2 years ago, as Figueroa was stripped of his permanent residency based on his past student membership with the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, an organization aiming to overthrow a dictatorship within El Salvador.

Bill C-24 takes the premise and rationale for these isolated and often unrecorded cases, and incorporates them as part of the system. In a graph provided by the Government of Canada explaining the process and rationale of Bill C-24, a key focus of this bill is to lower costs and increase efficiency by removing judges from the “streamlined” process. What the Canadian government communicates through systemizing this bill and removing judges in the process is that the right to fair representation in court and citizenship, is your civil liberties are only worth as much money it saves or earns the government.

Ratifying Bill C-24 as a part of Canadian law has only made the process of stripping your rights away from you more efficient in every sense of the word, and they have sold it to you as terror, under the guise of security.

Even Jose Figueroa’s case is only another version of earlier violent histories within Canada surrounding race and immigration. The implementation of two-tiered citizenship is not new to Canada:

  1. The Indian Act meant that First Nations women were threatened with removal of Indian status for themselves and their children if they married non-Indians. Not to mention the status of First Nations People altogether.
  2. Jewish immigration was severely limited during the 1930s-1940s, due to rampant anti-Semitism.
  3. Japanese Canadians were imprisoned in Internment camps during World War II, on the premise of the War Measures Act, which declared them aliens and a security threat, despite most of the population being born in Canada and thus Canadian citizens.
  4. Chinese immigration was severely limited throughout the 1800s – 1900s with the implementation of ridiculous head taxes to prohibit families from starting within Canada.
  5. Chinese immigrants were also exploited in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway – my great grandfather went through both the head tax, and survived dangerous work conditions.
  6. South Indian immigration was limited in the early 1900s by preventing immigration unless it was by continuous travel, as Canada went through 400,000 immigrants from Europe during that time.

At certain points in history, Canada’s political economy began to shift due to the realization that this vast amount of land and raw resources required large amounts of skilled migrant work. It is in these periods where immigration policy changed drastically, and there was a slow surrender of an envisioned white, European Canada. Canada’s basic policy regarding citizenship throughout history has been if you’re not white, you’re not right, UNLESS Canada needs to exploit you as a source of cheap labour to bolster the economy.

The purpose of this post is not to reach a conclusion, but to destabilize the notion of Canada as a country with welcoming immigration policy and racial harmony. I hope to lay bare how fragile and dynamic our position within Canada is, and how fierce and violent it can be to acclimatize in this country.

By locating Bill C-24 within the larger narrative of racial intolerance and violence within Canada, I hope we begin thinking more critically about our position, and responsibility to action within Canadian society as well as in solidarity with other marginalized communities in Canada.

Also, please read Harsha Walia’s article if you’re interested in learning more. It provides a much more detailed analysis of Canada’s immigration policy in relation to work over the last 10 years.