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Passionate Participant Detained at Q&A with MP Jason Kenney

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Passionate Participant Detained at Q&A with MP Jason Kenney
Passionate Participant Detained at Q&A with MP Jason Kenney

Passionate Participant Detained at Q&A with MP Jason Kenney


“How can a self-proclaimed bigot responsibly manage Canada's immigration policy?” a concerned anonymous citizen asked of immigration minister Jason Kenney. On another rainy afternoon in Vancouver, November 14th to be exact, UBC campus police later detained the individual for becoming too passionate during a question and answer session with the controversial Member of Parliament (MP).


Immigration is not a topic often associated with food sovereignty, commonly referred to as “the peoples' right to define agricultural and food policy” by Via Campensina, the originators of the term. But for Harjap Grewal of No One is Illegal (NOII) the two are “very much linked”. A large part of the audience was critical of the MP and much of the intense heat came from NOII. He sees immigration as “the human impact of free trade policy (which is) the reason why they're migrating”.


Over the past decade immigration has become a larger issue in Canadian politics as a larger number of people seek refugee and migrant worker status. Jason Kenney has this to say to the Calgary Sun, “We've actually made the politically difficult decision to maintain historically high levels of immigration.” The controversial politician is well documented by NOII citing the fact that he “oversaw the largest immigration raid in recent Canadian history, which went largely unreported. In an illegal move, 41 of them were tricked into signing waivers that removed their right to a hearing and many have now been deported.”

Jason speaking in Toronto NOII Poster


On the other hand, he seems to be making it easier for migrant workers to stay. Tarina White of the Calgary Sun reported, “Calgary newcomers will have access to more language training (to the tune of) almost $9.5 million in funding...Kenney said he hopes the investment will boost the percentage of immigrants enrolling in language programs each year, which currently sits at 25%.” According to Bill Kaufman of the Sun, Kenney said his government is stepping up its monitoring of foreign workers' treatment while making it easier for the newcomers to become permanent residents and citizens.


White also noted that Alberta Federation of Labour President, Gil McGowan, accuses international free trade agreements of 'setting up foreign workers to be exploited'. McGowan also said of a rapidly-growing number of migrant workers, only 3% of them are eligible for permanent residency.”


Kenney's presence on the 14th at UBC campus was met by human-rights advocates. The organizer of the event, Campus Conservatives' President Robert Sroka has this to say, “(It was) an opportunity for anyone who wanted to respectfully participate in interaction between students and government.” In response to the negative feedback the MP received Sroka replied, “It's a contentious issue and there is always going to be someone unhappy.”


The event at UBC panned out differently than when Kenney recently appeared at McGill in Montreal. There 50 people confronted him outside the building, and briefly denied him access which resulted in a cancellation of his event. When questioned in regards to his immigration policy, he responded “I plead guilty, I’m a racist,” with a “hint of sarcasm” according to a publication by No One Is Illegal Montréal. Kenney's visit to UBC was greeted with a police presence. At McGill this was not case.


“A majority of the questions (at the UBC event) were highly critical of the MP's immigration policy to which he mainly responded by talking around the question,” according to Fathima Cader, a participant.


Overshadowed by the immigration policy “is that the increasing number of migrants and refugees around the world is due to the effects of imperialist occupations and capitalist exploitation that Canada is complicit in,” says Grewal. He is backed by United Nations Development Programme. Their Human Development Report of 2005 of the states, “Unfair trade policies continue to deny millions of people in the world’s poorest countries an escape route from poverty, and perpetuates obscene inequalities.”


The recent spike in migration to North America is caused by a lack of healthy food culture. Many poor refugees find asylum in cases where they are fleeing death threats by gangs as is the case with a now-dead Mexican asylum applicant. These gangs are often associated with illegal drugs and addictions. As SFU Professor Bruce Alexander recently said, “When culture breaks down, you'll find addictions.” Culture in Latin and South America has changed drastically. Many subsistence growers have been kicked off their land by wealthy powers who buy them out. This culture of local, organic and self-sustaining growing is nearly wiped out. To cope with this, some resort to drugs. This drug addiction is often associated with gang activity which is now causing community members to fear for their life and apply for refugee asylum. Thus the influx of immigrants can be quelled by changing our food policy abroad and at home.


It is time to put an end to free-trade policies so that global equity can regain momentum. To do this we must become aware of the culture and politics associated with eating and how they effect those outside our imaginary national boundaries. With that said, perhaps it's not so crazy to say that the influx of global migration has something to do with the fact that BC residents now pay the lowest percentage of their income on food than ever before? But McGowan knows this for sure, the current immigration policy set up for foreign (mainly food-harvesting) migrant workers, “creates an underclass of workers.”

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