Liza Fontillas came to Winnipeg in 2012 from the Philippines. The single mother holds down three jobs, and she thinks the recent changes to the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program will harm the economy and prevent immigrants from settling here.
“My family sponsored me. I was able to stay here, even though it’s cold, minus 15,” Fontillas says. “If you don’t have family, (why) would you want to stay here? You need to feel the closeness to your community, your family.”
Fontillas founded the Save the MPNP coalition along with Anthony Huynh. They are opposing the changes being made by the current Progressive Conservative government. First, the program will focus on skills-based labour placement, instead of family and community ties to Winnipeg. Second, every successful applicant will have to pay $500 to the province.
Huynh says the program puts an unnecessary strain on immigrants and has negative implications for the province’s view of immigrants.
“Immigrants and other racially oppressed groups have and continue to make up a majority of the Canadian economy,” Huynh says. “Pallister is implementing changes reminiscent of the Chinese head tax of the 1900s ...The $500 fee is a measure for creating a more difficult opportunity for people to immigrate.”
According to a press release from the province, the profits from the $500 fee will be re-invested into improving the program’s standards and providing language programs to help immigrants better integrate with the Winnipeg economy.
But Fontillas says the requirements for immigrating to Canada are already strict, and the province is being vague about why they need the money.
“They’re charging immigrants $500 for language training, solving the backlog, but immigrants already have to pass the international test for English language,” Fontillas says.
“This is them saying ‘Hey, you immigrants, we need $500 from you. We need $200 from you to invest in English training.’ We are not (an) ATM machine, we are not a bank, where, if they want to charge us money, they can.”
“They’re not very clear on where the money is going,” Huynh says.
To immigrate to Canada, successful applicants must pay a visa fee, a landing fee and are required to have around $10,000 for a settlement fund.
Save the MPNP is holding a demonstration on Feb. 28 at 6:30 p.m. at Broadway United Church. They will also hold their next meeting on Feb. 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. in room 1L04 at the University of Winnipeg.