May is designated each year as Asian Heritage Month by virtue of an official declaration signed by the Canadian government in 2002. According to the Declaration, immigrants from East Asia, Southern Asia, Western and Southeast Asia have brought Canadian society a rich cultural heritage. Over the last two centuries, these immigrants have contributed to the Canadian arts, science, sport, business, civil society and government, making this country one of the most culturally diverse and prosperous nations on the planet. By designating May as Asian Heritage Month, the Declaration offers a month-long opportunity for Canadians to acknowledge, highlight and celebrate the valuable talents and skills of Asian-Canadians.
Ironically, ten years after first observing this Declaration, Conservative Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced that the Conservative government is planning to do the unthinkable — eliminate Foreign Skilled Worker (FSW) applications by returning applications to those who filed before February 27, 2008. Many of these applicants are undoubtedly Asians from China, India and the Philippines.
To rub salt in the wounds of those thousands of FSWs — whom coincidently the business community has been desperately petitioning for — Kenney has subsequently indicated that he wants to apply the ‘just-in-time’ (JIT) system to immigration. JIT is a management philosophy developed by Toyota in Japan with regard to the production and distribution of automobiles. As such, this demonstrably anti-immigrant Immigration minister has decided, with the backing of Stephen Harper, that the principle of JIT is to be applied to the movement and "importation" of FSWs to Canada. Minister Kenney is pleased to have our Canadian immigration system function like an automobile assembly line.
The timing of Kenney’s plan to obliterate the dreams of thousands by returning applications is unfair at best, and simply mean hearted. It attacks the dignity and the essence of Asian Heritage Month. It undermines the legacy of Asian-Canadians who have played critical roles, past and present, in our economy, history, and culture. By utilizing the JIT system, it merely treats immigrants as stocks, inventories, or as parts for production; not as human beings who are capable of continuing the legacy of
nation-building based on immigrants coming to Canada as permanent residents.
As Canada’s largest private-sector union, we, unlike Jason Kenney, Stephen Harper and the other Conservatives in Ottawa, observe Asian Heritage Month by acknowledging and honouring the indispensable works of Asian-Canadians in our workplaces, in our schools, in our neighbourhoods, in our legislatures, and in our communities. We enjoy a richer and more just Canada because of their immense contribution. It is with a heavy heart under a federal regime that continues to target immigrants as commodities to be traded, that we reaffirm our commitment to stand with newcomers and would-be newcomers.