Meet Toronto’s disenfranchised non-citizens

Further to my post on the declining number of immigrants taking up citizenship (Ottawa hiking citizenship fees for second time in a year | various), Myer Siemiatycki and Ratna Omidvar on how it plays out in Toronto and the links to poverty and precariousness:

Imagine a city the size of Halifax and then superimpose it onto the map of Toronto. Now imagine a wall surrounding that city state — a wall that divides its residents from the rest of the metropolis.

That’s perhaps the best way to think of the roughly 380,000 residents who live in Toronto who are without Canadian citizenship, says Myer Siemiatycki, professor of politics and the founding director of Ryerson University’s graduate program in immigration and settlement studies. And that number, from the 2006 Census, could be even higher today.

Some estimates suggest the number could be even higher if you include undocumented migrants, whose exact numbers are unknown. Some are foreign temporary workers; some are here on two-year work permits; some are live-in caregivers; many are permanent residents; others are refugee claimants. Some may one day achieve status or citizenship; others will remain underground eking out a living, always looking over their shoulder, perhaps not even able to speak English.

Critics say it’s a lost opportunity for them and for Toronto.

A deep divide separates non-citizens from most of the city’s residents, says Siemiatycki. They work here; pay property taxes; use the TTC. Their children go to school here; some use recreational facilities, community centres and libraries. But they are detached, disengaged, without a voice or a vote. Some are able to get only precarious or low-paying work. Many stay under the radar by working for cash and not paying taxes. Others live in constant fear of being deported. They pay for health care out of pocket.

“Imagine if you did not have papers,” says Ratna Omidvar, executive director of the Global Diversity Exchange at Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University. “Imagine if you could only work for cash. Imagine if you were always in fear that someone would come and get you. Imagine you’re paying a premium for rent … of course they’re disengaged. They can’t not be disengaged.”

Meet Toronto’s disenfranchised non-citizens | 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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