What do Canada’s major political parties have to say about citizenship, immigration, and inclusion?
Canada’s federal election is on Monday, October 21, 2019. As an organization that encourages active citizenship, the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) is keen to make sure that all Canadians, especially new citizens, are informed about both how to vote and what political parties have to say about citizenship and inclusion. Below is a breakdown of where the major political parties stand on issues of inclusion, namely immigration, citizenship, multiculturalism and diversity, and countering hate. Included are commitments from the Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau; the Conservatives, led by Andrew Scheer; the NDP, led by Jagmeet Singh; the Green Party, led by Elizabeth May; the Bloc Québécois, led by Yves-François Blanchet; and the People’s Party, led by Maxime Bernier.
For information on how and where to vote, check out this blog post. And for those who aren’t yet citizens, you can still get involved in parallel voting processes led by organizations like CIVIX and Ryerson Democratic Exchange’s Vote Popups.
To understand the platforms of each political party on a wide range of issues like climate change, housing, health care, taxes, and education, take a look at CBC’s analysis, which is continuously updated as the parties add to their platforms. While citizenship and immigration are important to the ICC, we know that voters want to be informed about the complete collection of commitments before heading to the polls!
Where the parties align on immigration
On the record, the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, and Greens have each stated they are in favour of economic immigration, however, there are substantial differences in their approaches. Economic immigrants already make up about 60 per cent of Canadian immigration, and are assessed on their skills and ability to contribute to the Canadian economy. Economic immigration does not include refugees and others accepted through the humanitarian class or family reunification and sponsorship.
The parties mentioned above also agree on the need to improve international credential recognition in Canada, which is a significant barrier to employment for immigrants. Improving the credential recognition system would not only allow immigrants to reach their full potential, but also contribute their full skill sets and experience to the Canadian economy.
Where they diverge: Immigration levels and priorities
The Liberal Party platform commits to “continue to welcome more people to Canada, with a focus on attracting highly skilled workers.” The Liberal government created an immigration levels plan for 2018-2021, which was the first time in over 15 years that a plan was set for more than a year at a time. Under that plan, immigration increased to 321,045 immigrants in 2018, with a target of 350,000. They plan to introduce a dedicated refugee stream for human rights advocates, journalists, and humanitarian workers. The Liberals say they also plan to move forward on a Municipal Nominee Program “that will allow local communities, chambers of commerce, and local labour councils to directly sponsor permanent immigrants.”
The Conservative Party platform was recently released, about two weeks ahead of the federal election. The Conservatives say they will prioritize economic immigration over humanitarian (refugees) or family reunification/sponsorship, and private sponsorship of refugees, rather than government-assisted refugees. Mr. Scheer commits to refocusing the government-assisted refugee program specifically to genocide survivors, LGBTQ+ refugees, and internally displaced persons. The Conservatives’ platform commits to aligning immigration with skills and labour gaps in business, increasing the number of points needed to enter Canada through the Express Entry Program, reducing irregular border crossings, and negotiating greater jurisdiction for Quebec around immigration.
The NDP’s platform commits to making “sure that immigration policies and levels meet Canada’s labour force needs and recognize people’s experiences, contributions, and ties to Canada.” They say that “family reunification should be a priority” of Canadian immigration policy and would “work with provinces to address gaps in settlement services.” The NDP platform also commits to setting up stronger regulations in the immigration consultant industry. Mr. Singh has said the NDP will get rid of the cap on applications to sponsor parents and grandparents, and that they will eliminate immigrant application and landing fees.
The Green Party platform commits to “speed up family reunification, especially reuniting children with their parents,” “establish a system that is fair,” and attract immigrants to support Canada’s aging population and fill gaps in the labour market. The Green Party will also “lead a national discussion to define the term “environmental refugee,” advocate for its inclusion as a refugee category in Canada, and accept an appropriate share of the world’s environmental refugees into Canada.” The Greens say they want to eliminate the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and increase funding for language education and training services in Canada’s official languages.
The Bloc Québécois platform emphasizes the autonomy of Quebec’s decision-making, and proposes that the Quebec National Assembly should choose the number of provincially accepted immigrants and refugees, rather than the federal government. The Bloc Québécois platform also promises to streamline the processing of Temporary Foreign Worker Program cases, and promises a tax credit for recent graduates and immigrants who accept a job in rural areas of Quebec.
The People’s Party of Canada states they are against “mass migration,” and their platform commits to “lower the total number of immigrants and refugees to between 100,000 and 150,000” per year, a level not seen since 1986. The People’s Party platform specifically says that mass immigration is used as a tool by mainstream parties to buy immigrant votes and states that it drives up housing prices. They go on to say that immigration “should not be used to forcibly change the cultural character and social fabric of our country. And it should not put excessive financial burdens on the shoulders of Canadians in the pursuit of humanitarian goals.”
The Pathway to Citizenship
The Liberals have promised to eliminate the application fee for those eligible to obtain citizenship. Currently, the fee is $530, which was raised by the former Conservative government from $100. Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, stated that their government “heard from groups across the country… that the prohibitive fees were stopping families from becoming Canadian.”
The Green Party platform commits to “establish a program to process the estimated 200,000 people living in Canada without official status, providing a pathway to permanent residency for those who qualify.” They also want to “ensure ‘lost Canadians’ quietly being denied citizenship through archaic laws are protected and that their citizenship is restored.” They commit to improving “the pathway for international students and foreign workers to Canadian permanent residency and citizenship.”
Promoting Diversity and Multiculturalism
The Liberals say that they will “improve diversity in appointments to federal agencies and bodies” as well as “appointing only bilingual judges to the Supreme Court of Canada.” Mr. Trudeau is the only leader who says he would consider challenging Quebec on Bill 21, which bans certain public servants, including teachers and police, from wearing religious symbols.
The Conservatives’ platform makes no specific mention of commitments to multiculturalism and diversity. The Conservatives say they would not challenge the Quebec government on Bill 21.
The NDP platform makes several commitments to fight discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation and to improve equity. The party platform says they will “strengthen labour laws and ensure diverse and equitable hiring within the federal public service, and in federally regulated industries. Jobs and training for underrepresented groups will be a core part of federal infrastructure plans.” Mr. Singh supports expanding language laws in Quebec, but has not made a commitment to fight Quebec on their Bill 21.
The Greens emphasize collaboration with provinces and municipalities to “integrate new Canadians into the multicultural fabric of our country.” In their platform, they make multiple promises to support diversity and multiculturalism, including “assisting cultural organizations to obtain charitable status.” They also commit to enhancing “Community Benefits Agreements to increase economic inclusion and opportunity for marginalized communities.” Ms. May says that she is personally opposed to Quebec’s Bill 21, but she would not have the federal government intervene.
Mr. Blanchet, of the Bloc Québécois, has stated that the Multiculturalism Act should not apply to Quebec, largely due to concerns and desires to protect Quebec’s culture and language. In the October 7th leaders’ debate, Mr. Blanchet defended Quebec’s Bill 21, and said that Quebec doesn’t need federal politicians telling them “what to do or not to do about its own values.”
The People’s Party of Canada platform commits to “repeal the Multiculturalism Act and eliminate all funding to promote multiculturalism, instead emphasizing the integration of immigrants into Canadian society.”
Countering Online Hate and Strengthening Inclusion
The Liberal platform commits to “help stop the proliferation of violent extremism online” by requiring social media platforms to remove illegal content, including hate speech, within 24 hours or face significant financial penalties. To fight racism offline, the Liberals commit to strengthening the Anti-Racism Strategy and doubling its funding, increasing funding for community-led initiatives promoting inclusion and combating racism, and improving data collection on hate crimes. They will also “strengthen investments in the Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence.”
The NDP platform also commits to standing up against all forms of hate and racism. They promise to convene a national working group to counter online hate, and protect public safety, ensuring that “social media platforms are responsible for removing hateful and extremist content before it can do harm.” Under the NDP, all major cities will also have dedicated hate crime units within local police forces.
The Green Party plan commits to protecting minorities from discrimination as part of their key elements of a green economy. They commit to regulating Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms to ensure that “only actual people, with verifiable identities, are able to publish on those platforms.”
The Conservative Party and People’s Party of Canada both frame this conversation around the need to protect “freedom of expression” and will promote policies and legislation designed to protect freedom of speech in Canada. The People’s Party of Canada specifically emphasizes “protecting Canadians from censorship” in their platform. The Conservatives also commit to introducing a Cyberbullying Accountability Act., prohibiting the use of phones or the internet to threaten or advocate for self-harm.
Some of the parties have put forward investments that encourage active citizenship and participation in arts and culture that are very in line with, and perhaps inspired by, the ICC’s arts and culture program and app, Canoo. The Liberal government has announced the promise of a Culture Pass, a $200 credit to children when they turn 12 to access theatres, museums, galleries, workshops, and other cultural venues and local Canadian content. The Conservatives have said that they will eliminate admission fees to all national museums for all Canadians, and tourists.
Rather than eliminating costs or putting forward credits for individuals, the NDP and Green parties commit to investing in arts and culture institutions, media, and artists and cultural producers. For example, the NDP platform commits to income tax averaging for artists and cultural workers. The Green Party platform commits to “increasing funding to all of Canada’s arts and culture organizations, including the Canada Council for the Arts, the National Film Board, and Telefilm Canada.”
The Institute for Canadian Citizenship encourages everyone to check out the parties’ full platforms, and have your voice heard on October 21st!