Sunday, December 6, 2020

Jingle Bells


Ever since the COVID lockdowns began there have been nightly ringing of bells and banging of pots and pans in support of front line and health care workers. In Vancouver's West End it starts every night at 7:00 p.m. and there are many other cities around the world where this is also happening. It's a nice gesture that doesn't cost anything and makes the bell ringers feel good.

Ringing bells, however, doesn't do anything for the people they are supporting but money would. The doctors and nurses are reasonably well paid professionals but what about all the lower skilled health care workers and aides toiling for minimum wage who are also risking their lives? These kind hearted individuals often come from places like the Philippines where they have had to leave their own families behind and wait for years to get through the pathetically clogged and complicated Canadian immigration system before they can be reunited.

Then there are those workers deemed as essential who work in the food processing industry and as clerks in our grocery stores. Once again these people are working for minimum wage in spite of there being nothing more important than making sure we have food to eat. But just like the health care workers we can't find enough of them and in the Okanagan this past summer unharvested fruit rotted on the ground because there was nobody to pick it.

Why is it that our immigration policy is so fixated on attracting only highly skilled people, instead of balancing it with a mix of unskilled labour to fulfill all the vacant jobs this pandemic has exposed? Thanks to protectionist associations, who play games about recognizing the qualifications of these skilled immigrants, we often don't let them practice their trade when they do arrive and they are forced to work in demoralizing jobs that are well beneath their skill level. On the other hand there are thousands of Mexican farm workers who are eager to come here, in spite of the substandard housing the farmers provide, and would make excellent hard working citizens if only we offered them the opportunity.

Canada needs lots of immigrants and we have plenty of space for them to live that isn't on unceded land. In addition to various professionals we need people willing to work on our farms, in our food factories, and in our health care system. These folks are critical for our survival and we need to pay and treat them properly. Then maybe we can all feel good about ringing a bell instead of it being an empty gesture.

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