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Posts Tagged ‘citizenship’

Full thesis

Here is my full thesis, for those interested…

Neoliberalising Immigration in Canada: The Pilot Project for Occupations Requiring Lower-Levels of Formal Training and the Expansion of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program

Thesis Abstract

I recently finished my (yet-to-be-defended) MA thesis, entitled “Neoliberalising Immigration in Canada: The Pilot Project for Occupations Requiring Lower-Levels of Formal Training and the Expansion of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program.”

Here’s the abstract:

There has been a significant expansion in Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) over the past ten years. The Pilot Project for Occupations Requiring Lower Levels of Formal Training (PPORLLFT), a sub program of the TFWP, has been leading this expansion. Drawing upon testimony given to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, this thesis examines the development and expansion of the program, since its inception in 2002, and shows that it is connected to the ongoing process of neoliberalisation in Canada. One significant example of this connection is the program’s support for increases in two-step immigration streams that involve employer sponsorship for successful transition to permanent residency; this increase represents a privatisation of citizenship decisions. More than this, the neoliberal aspects of the PPORLLFT have increased inequality and the ability of employers to have a more disciplined workforce. This has decreased the ability of working people to have influence in their workplace and over economic policy more generally.

hey, I figured out what I am doing…

In my thesis I plan to study low-skill temporary foreign worker programs (TFWPs) in Canada. There are two generally well-known TFWPs in Canada, the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) and the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP). A third major program, introduced in 2002, is much less studied and understood. It is called the Pilot Project for Occupations Requiring Lower Levels of Formal Training (PPORLLFT). To put these three programs in context, in 2008 there were approximately 10,000 and 35,000 participants in the SAWP and LCP respectively. In 2005 there were less than 5,500 temporary foreign workers working under the PPORLLFT, and just three years later in 2008 this number had risen to over 66,000, an increase of over %1200. Approximately 66% of all the PORLLFT visas are in Alberta, 20% in B.C. and 5% in Ontario, reflecting a concentration in Tar Sands and Olympics related projects. My main research questions will be:

  • How is the PPORLLFT, as a very broad and large scale expansion of temporary foreign workers in Canada, undermining labour standards for both permanent and temporary workers?
  • What is the political narrative behind expanding TFWPs in Canada (i.e. in parliamentary and committee debates), and how does the temporarity of these programs, especially the PPORLLFT program, relate to the general trend of neoliberalization of the state and citizenship in Canada and golbally?

As of 2008, there were more than 370,000 temporary foreign workers (TFWs) living and working in Canada. This is much more than the 106,000 economic-class Permanent Residents (PRs) in Canada in 2008. Thus, while there are still many refugee and family-class PRs,  in terms of the composition of the group of people who are allowed into Canada based on their ability to work, there are far more temporary foreign workers than there are foreign workers with PR status. Though higher skilled TFWs and participants in the LCP in some cases do have a route to (PR) and Citizenship, this is very unlikely for PPORLLFT participants, and all but impossible for SAWP participants. Thus, the population of people who are working in Canada but who have no route to PR or Citizenship is increasing significantly.

There is already some scholarship on how temporary foreign worker programs in Canada fit into a larger trend of the neoliberalization of the welfare state. For example, Choudry, Hanley, Jordan, Shragge, and Stiegman (2009) combine an analysis of the development of neoliberal immigration policy in Canada with workers’ stories that they have gathered from their work as activists in the Immigrant Workers Centre in Montreal. The most comprehensive analysis of Canada’s low-skill TFWPs comes from a very recent article by Fudge and MacPhail (2009) who trace the history of these programs and their recent impacts from the perspective of organized labour and labour law. They argue that the lack of enforcement of federal and provincial policies intended to eliminate exploitation of foreign temporary workers creates a pool of unfree labour which has negative consequences for both those workers themselves and for labourers in general in Canada. Fudge and MacPhail appear to draw upon the analysis of Canadian immigration policy presented by Sharma (2006) who discusses the narrative behind the creation of an  ‘unfree’ group of so-called ‘migrant workers.’ Relatedly, on the concept of alternative or non-state created ideas of citizenship, Isin (2008) writes about the idea of social citizenship and how citizenship may be more realized through acts of contestation (e.g. demanding rights), rather than by being granted by a state.

Besides these more analytical and theoretical works, I anticipate that the majority of reading and analysis that I will undertake will be of government documents, including statistics, committee minutes, and pieces of legislation. Deconstructing and synthesizing these materials will lead me to an understanding of the forces and processes involved in the actions and policy making of the government.

Initially I wanted to base any research for my MA project on the “lived experiences” of people being affected by government policies, in order to ensure that my work would not be out of touch with the needs of non-academic communities. However, after discussions with different people, and for a number of reasons which I will not go into here, I am moving away from basing my research and project on community-based interviews. That being said, I still wish to make a contribution to struggles by labour and community organizers for equity and prosperity for both foreign and domestic workers and their families. The PPORLLFT is very understudied at this point, and in conversations that I have had with a few community organizers there appears to be a need to understand the forces behind the program as well as a profile of those being affected by it. A major objective of this project will be to discover who the workers are that are participating in the PPORLLFT (i.e. is there a cohesive profile of this group?) and what employers are driving the increase of low-skill temporary foreign worker permits? Since all employers wishing to participate in the PPORLLFT must apply for a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) from Human Resources And Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), I am hoping that it is possible to acquire information on LMOs in order to create a profile of this labour market.

Thesis idea…

Here is a letter that I wrote for my OGS application. It may not be exactly what I end up doing for my thesis, but I am presenting it here anyway.

2010-11 Ontario Graduate Scholarship – Statement of Interest

My Master’s work will study the changing relationship between Canadian immigration policy and Mexican migrants, including non-status labourers and refugee claimants. In April of 2009 in southern Ontario several workplace raids, of an unusually aggressive nature, were carried out by the Canadian Border Services Agency, targeting (mostly) Mexican illegal workers. Soon after, in July, Canada imposed strict visa requirements on all Mexicans travelling to Canada, allegedly to combat the high volume of fraudulent Mexican refugee claims. My study asks the questions: what are the personal narratives of the Mexicans that are being targeted by these policy changes, and what threat are these Mexicans posing to the Canadian state that requires their removal or denial from Canada?

A fundamental aspect of my work will be the gathering of accounts of the deportation process from the perspective of deportees. In order to carry out my study I plan to use my existing connections with Mexican refugee communities in Toronto as well as my previous experiences in Mexico and Central America. These will allow me to connect with interviewees in Canada (pre-deportation, if possible) and in Mexico (post-deportation). My ability to speak Spanish and experience working with marginalized groups will allow me to network successfully, and to conduct interviews personally.

The goal of these interviews is to gather qualitative information on the life stories and situations of Mexican deportees. This information will contribute to ongoing and lively debates in the academic realm between, for example, economists like Don DeVoretz who emphasize the value of immigration policy as an economic tool (e.g. to control labour surpluses and shortages), and citizenship theorists like Peter Nyers and Jenny Burman who see current Canadian deportation policy as divisive to communities and harmful to the vitality of Canadian society. For the purposes of my MA studies, my research will provide me with a basis for engaging with the question of why Mexican illegal workers are being removed and refugees restricted, and whether this is in the interest of the Canadian state and its citizens.
I believe that the Frost Centre for Canadian and Indigenous Studies at Trent University is an excellent location to carry out my project. The interdisciplinary nature of the Centre will aid in my understanding of complex, dynamic concepts like citizenship, race, culture as they interplay with migration issues. Additionally, my access to the guidance of Davina Bhandar, a leading Canadian scholar in critical citizenship and race theory will be invaluable.

Learning from Mexican deportees about how they were treated, why they feel they were deported, and the conditions to which they were returned allows us not only to put a human face on policy outcomes, but it forces us to question whether we are comfortable with the effects that our policies are having on other people’s lives.

Who is the new Citizen? Towards a Genealogy – by Engin Isin

This article, from Citizenship Studies (vol. 1 no. 1), is definitely one of the more broadly interesting articles i’ve read so far. Essentially, Isin’s project is to trace a genealogy, as opposed to a history, of citizenship. A Genealogy is distinct from a history because while a history looks at the content and extent of citizenship (i.e. who has had citizenship rights and obligations, and what have been these rights and obligations), a genealogy of citizenship looks at the context within which citizenship has come in and out of existence over the course of human history.

Isin traces some of the historical incidences of citizenship, including in Greece, Rome, Medieval cities, and in modern nation-states. In all of these, starting with Greece, the emergence of citizenship essentially involved some form of class struggle in order to break the absolute dominance of Kings, the Church, Emperors, etc. thereby earning certain rights and obligations as citizens (As opposed to just subjects). In ancient Greece, there emerged a warrior class. Where, previously, Kings had an an absolute monopoly on the means of warfare (i.e. training, and equipment), the warrior/knight class broke this monopoly by being able to train and arm themselves, and then basically selling their services to the King in return for a say in the running of the kingdom.

In Rome, as in Greece, a class of people, the patricians, arose who were able to control the means of warfare, and thereby gain the status of citizen. Over the course of a couple hundred years, another class, the plebians (essentially artists, craftsmen, and small farmers) were also able to gain the status of citizen, which distinguished them from an even lower class of slaves, serfs, and aliens. Then, as the republic fell apart, all of these rights and responsibilities also fell apart.

In medieval city-states a similar process unfolded with the gradual emergence of citizenship rights first for aristocracy and then for the plebes. City-states were eventually taken over by kingships, which then evolved into modern nations, etc. And then?

In the modern period (basically since the French revolution), citizenship was tied closely to the ownership of property, as in the ownership of property was a requirement for citizenship. Eventually, with the rise of the working class and the middle class, the world wars, etc., citizenship became (more) universal, as in all that was required to have it was to have been born in the country or to have become naturalized. So where does that leave us now?

The last twenty years or so and the dismantling of the welfare state, and the increasing pressures of globalization challenge the concept and the worth of traditional ideas of citizenship rights; being able to vote and have the right to a certain amount of collective provision of welfare is no longer a guarantee of a good life. Or rather, more in line with Isin’s genealogy project, citizenship is no longer a guarantee of influence in the mechanisms and powers that influence the structure of the socioeconomic realm and the division of wealth. Put another way, universal citizenship has done little to mediate the gross disparity in the division of wealth that we have witnessed in the last 20 years. So, if it is no longer political, social, and civil citizenship rights that give one power and influence, what is it? Isin proposes that it is cultural property (knowledge, accreditation, skills, and rank) that enables power and influence. Quoting Isin at length:

Since 1945 the rise of professional occupations has been quite dramatic in modern western societies: in addition to ‘old’ professions such as law andmedicine, new occupations such as engineering, research, journalism, planning,advising, policy, consulting, writing, management, administration, adjudication,negotiation, advertisement, inspection, investigation, imagineering, and caring
have become important means through which individuals seek to augment their wealth, gain status, and exercise power. Unlike nobility (land), labour (wage) or bourgeoisie (money), the new class is made up of career hierarchies of specialized members ostensibly selected by merit and based on a trained expertise. The members of the new class receive a monetary compensation in the form of a
salary, yet the salary is not measured like a wage in terms of work done, but according to the status and position of the member, determined by rank. Today, except for those who inherit capital, the only legitimate avenue open to wealth,status and power is to become a member of the new class.

So, being fully invested in said avenue to power and influence, I’m not sure what to say…

T.H. Marshall, the welfare state, and citizenship

A theme in the readings from the first week of the class called “Critical Perspectives on Citizenship” was the ideas of T.H. Marshall. Basically, Marshall describes the welfare state as having come out of a progression of rights, starting with civil rights (to own property, equal treatment under the law, etc.) in the 18th century, then political rights (to vote, run for office, etc.) in the 18th century, and finally social rights (the right to demand certain provisions from government, i.e. welfare) in the 20th century. The climax of this progression is what Marshall calls ’social citizenship,’

Marshall can be situated/explained in part by looking at the time at which he was writing, the post war era, when the UN, human rights, bigger social programs in Europe and other places, etc. were all at their apex. In the last 20 years neoliberal ideology has taken over, with a corresponding decline in the rights associated with social citizenship, namely the right to the collective provision of a certain level of basic needs. Janine Brodie in ‘The Social in Citizenship’ (ch. 2 of a book called __),  describes how Marshall’s description of ‘the social’ as only reaching existence /importance in the 20th century is false. Rather the social, or rather “social problems” really came into existence in the 19th century as fissures in society opened up due to the explosion of capitalism and the “industrial revolution,” creating a poor class (=lumpenproletariat?). This process is described most well/famously by two thinkers, one of whom I am already very fond of, and the other I am coming to appreciate immensely: Karl Polanyi and Michel Foucault.

So, the neoliberal destruction of ’social citizenship,’ through the so-called ‘hand up vs hand out’ approach (also called entrepreneurial citizenship) applies market values to all social institutions and actions, creating a situation where, “citizens are released from social entitlements and obligations as they maximize their choice and capacities for self-sufficiency.” (41) Neoliberals do this in a number of basically sneaky ways, culminating in the goal of “individualization.” Individualization, “places steeply rising demands on people to find personal causes and responses to what are, in effect, collective social problems.” Thereby, “responsibility for social crises that find their genesis in such macro processes as structural unemployment, racism, or unequal gender orders is put onto the shoulders of individuals.” (41)

So, and this is basically what Polanyi describes, the neo/liberals and neoconservatives are attempting to subordinate the social to the economic, a task that is, in my opinion and Polanyi’s (at least), doomed to eventual failure.

Thats it on this for now.