Don’t cut social assistance for newcomers to Canada: Omidvar

Ratna Omidvar correctly calls out the Government on the omnibus budget bill provision allowing provinces to deny social assistance to refugee claimants:

Future citizenship is both policy and public philosophy. There is a clear and relatively quick pathway to citizenship for immigrants to Canada, although the waiting time is set to get longer in 2015. As for public philosophy, immigrant children learn in public schools from a young age that “you’re just as Canadian as anyone else.” Because this message is in our books and infused in our day-to-day, the idea that immigrants are future citizens actually becomes lived expression.

In the last of her Massey Lectures on citizenship, Adrienne Clarkson explains why the Canadian mindset works using the theory of Hans Vaihinger, who thought that to act “as if” something is true is a practical way to get there.

Because we treat newcomers as future citizens, serious investment is made in their health, well-being and skill level from the start, often regardless of immigration status. Canada has a robust settlement sector, we pay for language courses, we extend health care and social services to non-citizens, and some cities invite non-citizens to sit on local boards. The Canadian mindset is why our school boards and police services follow a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, so that status does not determine access to essential services. When we act as if newcomers are citizens, they truly are citizens in the making.

But this core trait that makes us work — and that’s exportable to countries like Germany where the citizenship laws are under revision — is being chipped away by policies introduced by this government. I alluded to one of these changes already: the coming increase in residence time from three to four years before applying for citizenship.

But there is another change buried in a thick new omnibus bill and it is far worse. It would allow provinces to restrict refugee claimants and others without permanent status from accessing social assistance by lifting a ban on minimum residency requirements — a ban that said we don’t care if you’ve been here for two years or 24 hours, if you’re a refugee claimant or other temporary resident, you will be treated humanely. In the worst-case scenario if this law is passed, people without permanent status would lose social assistance, which for some is their only source of income.

Don’t cut social assistance for newcomers to Canada | Toronto Star.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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