By Salma Hees, Blog Writer
The call to “make America great again,” a call with subtexts of racism, classism, and sexism has been heard all over the world. In Canada, this call came with a unique response, an Internet campaign informing Americans that America is great, and urging the American public to stand above the exclusionary and xenophobic rhetoric normalized by Donald Trump. This campaign is seen as the utmost of Canadian responses to the turmoil faced by our neighbours to the south. Finding kindness and togetherness in a time of increasing political tension is what some refer to as the cornerstone of the Canadian identity. This Canada, one of inclusion and shared values, has historically been used to justify engagement in international crisis, to promote our multilingual society, and to solidify our stance as leaders in international peacekeeping But, how honestly can we embrace this persona?
Internationally, the western world’s reaction to the migrant crisis has been similar; The United Kingdom succumbed to xenophobia and voted leave, the US faces the possibility of seeing anti-immigration come to fruition under Trump and all the while Canada’s immigration and refugee policies have remained out of the spotlight. However, this is not to say Canada and its policies are without issue. The Canadian federal government runs an Immigration Loan Program (ILP) that promises to provide financial assistance to new Canadians. This program is meant to aid migrants by providing financial security upon arrival. However, the repayment period, which can begin as early as a month following arrival, makes repaying this loan a burden. Finding legitimate employment in a month is hard, doing so in a month in an entirely new country with possible language and cultural barriers seems nearly impossible. In addition to the short repayment period, the federal government charges interest on these loans, making Canada the only country that does so. The Canadian government is asking ILP recipients, many of whom have fled extreme poverty, civil conflict or cases of human rights abuses, to repay these loans in an extremely short period with interest.
This loan program, which claims to invite asylum in Canada, creates a realm of inequality by putting new migrants at a disadvantage. This program and the commoditization of immigrants stands against the social inclusion Canada prides itself upon. The ILP is a policy that has negative implications for migrants, and deters refuge in Canada. This little-known policy, while not as openly anti-immigration as Brexit or Trump, is embedded in exclusion while simultaneously being economically exploitative. As Canadians we can do better. We can and should be the mosaic of cultures, religions, and ethnicities we pride ourselves on. And we can do this by making our voices heard, and demanding reform for the ILP.
We are almost at our target 500 signatures demanding that the Government of Canada respond to issues with the ILP. Click here to add your name to our list of supporters!