I was suprised to read in the French daily Liberation this morning that the Spanish government is set to regularize some 600,000 non-status people in that country. The number falls short of the 800,000 initially promised by the Zapatero government – or the demand by immigrant/refugee rights movements to grant ‘Status for All’ – but it is still something to consider in the Canadian context. The numbers themselves tell a pretty convincing story as to the feasibility of such an initiative in Canada. Let’s hope Immigration Minister Joe Volpe is taking notes on the Spanish experience!
Consider the following: Spain’s population currently stands at an estimated 40,341,462 (July 2005 est.). The country has a GDP of $937.6 billion (2004 est.) or $23,300 (2004 est.) per capita and an unemployment rate of 10.4% (2004 est.). Spain’s total land area stands at 499,542 sq km, accounting for a population density of some 80.8 persons per sq km (2005 est.).
Canada, on the other hand, has a smaller population, standing at 32,805,041 (July 2005 est.). However, it has a GDP of $1.023 trillion (2004 est.) or $31,500 (2004 est.) per capita and an unemployment rate of 7% (2004). Canada’s total land mass is 9,093,507 sq km, accounting for a population density of 3.6 persons per sq km (2005 est.).
Given that Canada’s overall GDP is 9% bigger than Spain’s (or 26% times bigger in terms of GDP share per person), that the geographic area of this country is roughly 18 times the size of Spain (with a population density that is 22 times smaller), and that the entire estimated population of non-status people in Canada is only a third of those affected under the Spanish amnesty law (i.e. 200,000 in Canada vs. 600,000 being regularized in Spain), it is hard to believe that the Canadian government is hard pressed to grant the demand of ‘Status for All’ to immigrants and refugees in this country.
The government’s math just doesn’t add up. Even if we accept the erroneous logic of right-wing critics – i.e. that immigration somehow affects jobs (thus flying in the face of the fact that immigrants largely fill jobs that are left empty by resident labour forces) – we still find that Canada is in a much better position than Spain to afford lee-way for non-status people.
A number of groups in Canada are mobilizing with the demand for the regularization of all non-status persons, an end to deportations, an end to the detention of migrants, immigrants and refugees, and the abolition of security certificates. Solidarity Across Borders and No One is Illegal in Montreal are planning a 200 km march from Montreal to Ottawa this June 18-25 to press for these demands. To find out more about this and other campaigns for immigrant and refugee right currently active in Canada click here, here, and here.