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Jeremy Giesbrecht

Social Justice Movements

Mark Beauchamp


Comprehensive Research Project

Since its foundation Canada has had a vast history regarding immigration, what we see

today as a multicultural nation was once far more rigid and closed. Economic interests drove

immigration policy in Canada’s capitalist society, creating systemic racism and issues

concerning minority groups immigrating to Canada. In the modern era, we have a perfect

example of a tool for immigration that breeds discrimination, the Canadian Points System.

Derived in 1967, the Canadian Points System is a system which allows immigrants into Canada

should they have enough points based on their qualifications. These qualifications are comprised

of six factors, language, education, experience, age, arranged employment in Canada and

adaptability. (Government of Canada) Despite only the best immigrants coming into the country,

immigrants struggle to find jobs that meet their qualifications due to discrimination and a lack of

jobs entirely. Canada accepts highly skilled and educated immigrants but we often see that

these immigrants struggle due to a lack of employers hiring them for jobs they’re qualified

for, this subsequently forces highly skilled immigrants to search for low paying jobs. The

Canadian Points System creates a false image of what Canada values most due to an emphasis

being placed on certain qualifications over others with points. Looking back at Canada’s history

we can see similar issues regarding immigration.

When the Dominion of Canada formed the last people to have colonized it were British.

Colonies were seen as areas that could put to good use the surplus of workers that countries like

Britain were experiencing during the Industrial Revolution. When Confederation came around,

Canada needed all the workers they could get and for the first 30 years had little to no policy

barring people from entering Canada. From 1896 to 1914 over 3 million people emigrated to

Canada which cause an industrial and agricultural boom in those respective industries. In 1906

the Immigration Act was amended to enable greater powers when selecting immigrants coming

into the country, essentially allowing the government to weed out undesirable people. The

undesirables were made undesirable by their race and country of origin. (Kelley and Trebilcock,

12-13) This policy change indicated Canada’s shift in immigration policy and led to further

racism being developed, this manifested itself in World War II when Canada went to war against


In 1939, the world had been plunged into World War II, Europe had erupted into chaos

and the Pacific began ramping up in combat. Canada was an independent country in 1939 and

yet entered the war alongside Britain as it became evident that the Axis were set in conquest.

Britain and Canada were not at war with the Empire of Japan in 1939, Japan had been focused on

its conquest of China and had not bothered the colonies Britain held in the Pacific. That all

changed in 1941 when the Empire of Japan had launched simultaneous attacks on the American

naval base of Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, Guam, British colonies of Malaya and Hong Kong.

With no formal declaration of war by the Japanese, Canada was dragged into the Pacific war as

there were Canadian troops involved in the defence of Hong Kong. (Veterans Affairs Canada)
Domestically, Japanese Canadians were fearful of what the Canadian government’s

reaction would be against them. Canada and Japan were now at war and although they were of

Japanese descent they had decided to the live their lives in Canada. The most immediate

reaction from the Canadian government was a formal declaration of war against the Empire of

Japan and Canadian authorities “expressing its confidence in the loyalty of Japanese alien and

Canadian-born Japanese in B.C.” (Sunahara 27) Shortly after 38 Japanese aliens were detained

by the RCMP, they consisted of local Japanese council leaders and veterans of the Japanese

imperial army. Additionally, Japanese fishermen along the BC coastline were ordered to bring in

their vessels for confiscation. The confiscation and impounding of Japanese fishing vessels was

justified by the authorities as a matter of national security. With the war in the Pacific theater

growing and the Japanese Imperial Army seeming increasingly unstoppable fear began to spread

in British Columbia that their province would be a target. British Columbian officials were

becoming increasingly blatant with their views for what should be done with the Japanese

Canadian population. The premier demanded that the federal government get rid of them, 5

mayors demanded for their internment and BC MPs demanded for action. (Sunahara 31) Both

the Premier of BC and the Commander in Chief of the Canadian army in the Pacific theater

shared the racist view that the Japanese Canadian population posed a threat and had to be

deposed. The justification for their idea was to provide an air of safety for BC civilians and

insure that no inter race riots occurred. On the 14th of January 1942, the federal government

appeased the demands of the British delegation and forced the relocation of Japanese Canadian

males living on the coastline of BC. Furthermore, the ships of Japanese Canadian fisherman

were to be sold to non-Japanese Canadian people and they were prohibited from using short

wave radios. (Sunahara 37) These sets of policies highlighted Canada’s willingness to paint an
entire immigrant population with one broad brush stroke when pushed by racist and

discriminatory beliefs.

The Japanese Canadian people were not the only ones to be racially targeted by the

Canadian Government, Prime Minister Makenzie King was a fierce anti Semite. When ships

with Jewish refugees came to Canada seeking safety from Nazi Germany they were turned away

even though they faced certain death if they returned to Europe. (Kelley and Trebilcock, 16)

During the whole time the Nazi government was in power Canada had only accepted around

5000 Jewish immigrants seeking safety.

In the modern era, Canada has tried to shed its skin from the past and shifted politically

into a multicultural society, its image now being a country that gladly accepts immigrants into its

country. (Gagnon, Erica, et al.) With such a small population for its size Canada relies on

immigrants to keep its population steadily increasing. It presents many imagined pull factors

that draws immigrants from around the world, quality of living, free healthcare and level of

education. Canada also requires immigrants to help fill the gaps and low paying jobs that

ordinary Canadian civilians do not want to do. This idea has evolved even further with

temporary workers who work in Canada for a certain time period and then are sent back home.

These kinds of workers are on work visas and work for less then the minimum wage, they’re also

not provided with any health care and cannot form a union. These migrant workers provide

cheap labour and are exploited all the time in Canada. (Choudry, Henaway 3-5) Due to their

illegality in the country, these workers have no one to go to for protection and aid. If these

workers do appeal to authorities they’re often detained in dentation facilities for illegal aliens.

Despite Canada attempting to look like an accepting country with multiple benefits it still

discriminates against low skilled workers, using them solely for cheap labour and nothing else.
Detention centers are distinct from normal ordinary Canadian jails, detention centers are

not punitive and in theory serve only as a means of holding illegal aliens until deportation or

processing. People who are not legally allowed in Canada are sent to these detention centers all

over Canada. Canadian detention centers claim to not be like normal Canadian prisons, and yet

they have many similar features, orange jump suits, solitary confinement and strip searches.

(Maynard 165) The most common group of people among these immigrants are people from the

Caribbean and Africa. Many of them came as immigrants but were denied and remained

illegally. If caught illegal aliens are sent to these detention facilities to await deportation, if they

had committed a crime they must first serve their time and then be deported. This idea of double

punishment was Canada’s way of deterring crime that they perceived was caused mainly by

immigrants. Cases such as 1994’s robbery of a Just Desserts restaurant by 2 black men and the

killing of a police officer fueled the Canadian publics view that immigrants, Jamaican

immigrants in this case, were causing widespread crime and had to stopped. These crimes were

highly mediatized and because of this it only amplified anti black immigrant sentiment.

(Maynard 172)

Canada like many other western nations practices border imperialism, it criminalizes

migration and punishes those who try and enter illegally. Canada insures that the process allows

the best and brightest of immigrants into the country but denies less educated or skilled

individuals. (Walia 53) Less educated and skilled individuals may come to Canada as temporary

migrants simply for labor work but must return after their contract is done. This highlights

Canada’s desire to only allow immigrants who demonstrate usefulness beyond simply being a

labour resource. This process is also highly racialized, there is a racialized hierarchy present

where the process of accepting immigrants allow white individuals over others. Other factors
that come into play with the immigration process are things like political, economic and social

attributes. If an individual seeking citizenship is higher up on the economic or social ladder that

gives them a better chance of entering the country. (Walia 61) Naturally, immigrants from poorer

nations are discriminated against due to their misfortunes. Looking back to Canada only

accepting temporary migrants for labour work we can see that these migrants are the ones

Canada would normally deny if they sought immigration to Canada. Canada insures that migrant

workers have families to provide for their origin country to not tempt them to seek legal status in

Canada. They also limit migrant workers to a certain number of years that they can work in

Canada before not being allowed back. In countries such as the gulf states operate this program

on an even larger scale, migrant workers from south east Asian countries and India go to the oil

rich gulf states to work as low wage construction workers. It is estimated that migrant workers

represent 40% of the population in these states. (Walia 67) Overall according to the International

Labour Organization there are 68 million migrant workers across the world and Canada adds to

that figure every year. Migrant workers serve as Canada’s ability to accept high skilled and

educated immigrants through the Canadian Points System and yet be able to afford cheap labour

from low skilled workers.

Canada in the past has had a very inconsistent record when looking at immigration

policy, things like the Japanese interment or refusal to accept Jewish refugees points to a time

where Canada’s leaders and people held racist views. Today, Canada tries to forget the past and

focuses on being perceived as a multicultural society that is accepting of all immigrants. While

it is true that they accept people who wish to immigrate to the country, the criteria turns many

away. Canada is in look for talented and skilled individuals from other country’s and nothing

else. When people who don’t reach the criteria try and move to Canada they’re turned away or
detained in detention facilities that mimic real prisons. If Canada is in need of cheap manual

labour they just bring in migrant workers who have no hope of actually living in the country,

they’re just brought over then sent away. The tool which separated highly skilled immigrants

from low skilled immigrants is the Canadian Points System, the Canadian Points System is what

sets the criteria and determines whether or not an immigrant may immigrate to Canada. Despite

the Canadian Points System accepting these highly skilled immigrants, they face, much like in

the past, discrimination and are forced to apply for low paying jobs that they’re overqualified for.

The Canadian Points System is a points-based system that quantifies an immigrant’s

qualifications in points. According to the Government of Canada, there is a total of 100 points to

be earned from six factors and an immigrant requires 67 or more to be accepted as a federal

skilled worker. The six factors are language skills worth 28 points, education worth 25 points,

experience worth 15 points, age worth 12 points, arranged employment in Canada worth 10

points and adaptability worth 10 points. Language skills is separated into two parts, first official

language which is English (24 points) and second official language which is French (four

points). Based on a Canadian Language Benchmark, an immigrant’s speaking, listening, reading

and writing abilities are all worth six points if they achieve a level of nine or higher; if their level

is below seven they’re not eligible. For second official language an immigrant needs a level five

or higher in all four categories for full points. For education, an immigrants level of degree or

diploma translates into a set of points. For example, the lowest diploma, a high school diploma,

is worth 5 points while a university degree at a PhD level is worth the maximum of 25 points.

For experience, an immigrant receives points based off of how many years they’ve worked a

full-time job. One year, the lowest, counts for nine points while six or more counts for a full 15

points. For age, an immigrant’s age gives them a set amount of points. Individuals below 18 or
above 47 receive zero points while 18-35 receives a full 12 points, anyone above 35 loses a point

per year until 46. For arranged employment in Canada, an immigrant must have a valid job offer

that offers full time work, it may not be seasonal and be at least for a year. Finally, for

adaptability an immigrant it rewards points based on the fact if they have a spouse or partner

who will immigrate with them to Canada. Based on their spouse or partner’s grading themselves

an immigrant can earn either five or 10 points. (Government of Canada) The system functions so

that certain aspects like language and education can carry more weight over other factors such as

an arranged appointment in Canada. (Beach, 9) Its important to understand how the Canadian

Points System works because if we hope it improve upon it we first must understand how it

functions currently. As of right now, it’s clear that the Canadian Government language and

education above all others. This is interesting because despite education being seen as so

valuable that’s not translating into educated immigrants finding well paid jobs. (Oreopoulos,


To many immigrants, Canada has a lot of pull factors. Pull factors such as job

opportunities, higher quality of life, political/religious freedom, education, healthcare security

and industry, Canada has a lot to offer from an outside perspective. (“'Pull' Factors: Why

Canada?”) The Canadian Points System reinforces this idea by only allowing the best into the

country, valuing categories such as work experience and level of education the most. This

creates an understanding that once an immigrant gets admitted into Canada that they’ll be able to

find a job that fits with their qualification. The reality is that there is a lack of jobs and level of

discrimination that forces immigrants to lower their expectations and take low paying jobs just to

survive. In 2011, the average annual income of a non-immigrant in Canada was $75,200 while

in comparison a recent immigrant had an annual income of $48,700. (Barry, 86) We know that to
get into Canada immigrants must have a sufficient level of skills and education, yet immigrant

families are earning far less in comparison to non-immigrant families. (Barry, 86) This issue

highlights one of the main issues with the Canadian Points System, it creates this idea that if you

come to Canada people will find value in your skills. If not, why would Canada places such a

high value on job experience in the first place. What separates an immigrant with a University

degree vs an immigrant with a high school diploma if they’re simply going to have the same low

paying job?

When it comes to finding a job as a recent immigrant it can be hard. According to the

2006 census, the unemployment rate for recent immigrants was 10.4% while the unemployment

rate for non-immigrants was 5.9%. (Oreopoulos, 149) In order to understand why immigrants

that passed the Points System were struggling financially on average in Canada, a researcher

decided to look at how hard it was to get a job as an immigrant. In a 2008 study by Philip

Oreopoulos, 13 000 resumes were sent out to Toronto based companies by email in order to

determine why there was a gap in unemployment with the labour industry. These resumes were

sent in in groupings of five (type zero to five), each resume having some information changes

slightly compared to the other. The first type of resume had an English sounding name,

Canadian degree and Canadian job experience. The second type had a foreign sounding name

but still had a Canadian degree and Canadian job experience. The third type had a foreign

sounding name, a foreign degree but Canadian job experience. The fourth type had a foreign

sounding name, a foreign degree and mixed job experience. The fifth type had a foreign

sounding name, a foreign degree and foreign job experience. (Oreopoulos, 153) The results from

this study showed that candidates with resumes with English sounding names, Canadian

education and Canadian job experience had an 16% call back rate from employers. In
comparison, call backs from employers for candidates with foreign sounding names, foreign

degrees and foreign experience was only 6%. An interesting note to make was that resumes

were not affected too much by whether or not a degree was foreign or Canadian but when it

came to experience it changed from 6% for foreign experience to 8.5% for Canadian job

experience. Ultimately, the results indicated that companies, at least in the Toronto area,

preferred Canadian workers but also valued heavily whether or not an individual had prior

experience working a Canadian job. This is likely one contributing factor to the difference

between recent immigrant and non-immigrant households. If a recent immigrant had not

previously worked in Canada then it makes it much harder for them to find that first initial well-

paying job. (Oreopoulos, 167-169)

The Canadian Points System has been the subject of change over the course of its

existence. For example, in 1992 the requirement for entering was 70 and categories such as age

and experience were not as valued. (Green and Green, 1010) The Canadian Points System has

been changed to increase and decrease the number of immigrants coming into the country at any

time, but it also can be changed to improve the criteria for which they quantify immigrants with.

A primary recommendation I would make to improve the points system would be to change the

work experience category. The category would consist of attributing five points of the 15 it

holds and allocate it to whether or not the applicant had one year or more of job experience in

Canada. The biggest issue when looking at the 13,000 resume study was the difference

Canadian work experience made in comparison to foreign work experience. (Oreopoulos, 167-

169) The Canadian Points System telegraphs to immigrants essentially what Canada is looking

for and what it wants. If Canadian work experience is a sub category within work experience it

would incentivise immigrants to first work temporarily in Canada, get that job experience, then
apply to immigrate there. This change would also benefit them once they immigrate because

they then have an even greater chance of a job waiting there for them.

Through history we can see that Canada has had its ups and low downs with immigration.

Many immigrants even today face the same sort of discrimination as in the past. For example,

Japanese internment and modern-day detention facilities. Canada has become very selective of

who comes into the country despite their image of being accepting of all. The Canadian Points

System has been Canada’s best attempt at attracting and accepting only the most talented, skilled

and educated immigrants to the country. Although it attracts the best, it fails to provide expected

jobs and causes over qualified immigrants to work low paying jobs. The expectations that

Canada and the Points System creates turns into falsehoods for most immigrants. The change I

have recommended was made in order to help immigrants understand more of what Canada’s

labour industry is looking for and to help them have a better chance at finding a job that they are

properly qualified for. The change however, is not so significant enough that it tarnishes the

chances of any immigrant hopeful to live in Canada without prior experience working there. It

merely signals an important asset that the labour industry clearly values according to studies.
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Characteristics of Canadian Immigrants.” Queen’s Economics Department Working

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Choudry, Aziz, and Mostafa Henaway. “Temporary Agency Worker Organizing in an Era of

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Experiment with Six Thousand Resumes.” American Economic Journal: Economic

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Walia, Harsha. What Is Border Imperialism. AK Press, 2013.