Commentary by Ujjal Dosanjh in Vancouver
Dear Minister Ahmed Hussen,
Many of us cheered when you were recently made the Immigration Minister. We felt that as an immigrant Canadian you would surely bring to your position a new and hopefully more compassionate perspective on what it may mean to be Canadian. But our cheers were short lived. You have brought disappointments to some hearts, mine included.
On Monday March 6, 2017 you deported Len Van Heest, a Canadian for the last 59 years. Yes, a Canadian but without the citizenship papers. At the age of seven months and in diapers, he legally landed in Canada with his family. At sixteen he was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder. He has several convictions for assault, mischief and uttering threats – all stemming from and related to his mental illness, the bipolar disorder. His last offence was in 2012.
Mr. Minister, obviously as a minor under the old law, Van Heest would have been unable to apply for his citizenship on his own – assuming that he even realized or knew in his mental state about the need for him to do so. His parents may not have applied their minds to this issue before he became a 'criminal' and therefore barred from receiving Canadian citizenship.
Power and discretion
Mr. Minister, you had the legal power and discretion to stop Van Heest's deportation. You chose not to because you didn't see it as fit and proper to do so. His deportation means that you must have felt the mentally ill Van Heest was responsible for not applying for citizenship that he had to before he had reached a certain age. It also implies that you and your officials felt it was just and fair for Canada to hold a mentally ill man responsible for piling up a criminal record that disqualified him from ever applying for Canadian citizenship, even though he had entered Canada as an infant. The mentally ill Van Heest – criminal or not – is the product of Canada.
Citizen or not, he is undeniably Canadian. If he is a criminal, he is a Canadian criminal.
Minister, above all Van Heest's deportation was made possible by the regressive legislative changes the Harper regime had made lowering a convicted immigrant's prison sentence threshold for making him/her "inadmissible" to Canada and therefore deportable. It is unacceptable that your government has neither changed, nor is it planning to change this unfair law that makes someone like Van Heest – a Canadian for all practical purposes – deportable.
But on the other hand, you recently testified in support of your government's Bill C-6 that will amend Harper government's law that enabled Canada to revoke the Canadian citizenship of convicted terrorists holding dual citizenships. Under Bill C-6 the revoked citizenships of convicted terrorists including that of Zakaria Amar – the ring leader of the Toronto 18 who wanted to commit mass murder and behead the Canadian Prime Minister – would be reinstated, re-bestowed upon them.
Mr. Minister, you passionately and eloquently argued: "When you are a Canadian citizen you shouldn't feel less valued just because you have dual citizenship with another country." You also said an individual whose citizenship was already revoked will have it reinstated.
Mr. Minister, I support your government's view that one Canadian is like another despite some holding dual citizenships. A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. But in my view a Zakaria Amar is much less deserving of Canadian citizenship and compassion than a Len Van Heest.
Minister, I am deeply troubled and disappointed at your missing compassion and eloquence in defence of Van Heest; mentally ill Van Heest; a 59 year long Canadian; and so what if not so on paper.
Van Heest's was and is exactly the kind of case in which you should have used your ministerial power and discretion to keep or allow anyone into Canada. In my humble opinion, you made a serious error of judgement by deporting Van Heest. You have the power to allow him back into Canada. You should use it.
My Dear Minister, It is never too late to do the right thing.
Ujjal Dosanjh is a former Attorney General and Premier of British Columbia and former federal Minister of Health. He describes himself as a "A child of Indian peasants working to make the world a better place."
by Ranjit Bhaskar in Toronto
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) resumed receiving sponsorship applications for parents and grandparents (PGP) of Canadian citizens and permanent residents on Monday morning.
The case processing centre in Mississauga, Ontario opened its window for receiving the applications at 8 a.m. (EST). Only 5,000 new and complete applications will be accepted this year.
By capping the applications number at the same level as in the previous two years, the new Liberal government would seem to be going back on a crucial poll promise to double the number.
Unveiling his party’s promises on the immigration file during the federal election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the “Liberals will reform our immigration system, and make family reunification a core priority of our government.”
Trudeau then went on to say that his government will immediately increase the number of applications under PGP to 10,000 each year and double the budget for processing family class applications to reduce the waiting time.
This pledge resonated with immigrant families who were not pleased by the previous government’s efforts to limit permanent residency offers to elderly family members or by unduly long processing times extending to 47 months.
The IRCC website currently says the department is working on applications received on or before November 4, 2011.
Michelle Rempel, the Conservative Party’s immigration critic, said it was totally irresponsible of Trudeau to promise more than his government is able to deliver.
"This is just a further example of the mismanagement of the immigration file and another item to add to the list of broken promises," Rempel, MP for Calgary Nose Hill, told New Canadian Media in an emailed response.
"While we were in government, Canada welcomed more than 70,000 parents and grandparents from 2012-2014. This number represents the highest level of parent and grandparent admissions in nearly two decades. Thanks to the Conservative government's Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification, the backlog was reduced by nearly 54 per cent," Rempel said.
"Keeping a realistic goal of 5,000 applications a year was part of our Conservative government’s initiative to be prudent managers of government."
Late this evening, Immigration Minister John McCallum offered this defence: "We are committed to reuniting families and we intend to meet the commitment to double the intake of PGP sponsorship applications from 5,000 to 10,000 per year. To achieve this I will be consulting with cabinet colleagues early in the new year."
The brief annual opening of the application window in the New Year is a recent phenomenon. It began in 2014 after the previous government had frozen the process for two years in November 2011. The stated purpose was to first clear a backlog of nearly 165,000 applications before taking in new ones.
Generally, a citizen or permanent resident is allowed to sponsor parents and grandparents to become permanent residents under the Family Class immigration stream. Family reunification is one of the three pillars of IRCC’s immigration program, the other two being economic classes and protected persons (refugees).
The moratorium on PGP applications was expected to reduce the backlog to about 50,000. In the meantime, the quota for actual admissions into the country under the program was increased by 60 per cent to 25,000 a year to help clear the backlog.
Before lifting the freeze, the Harper government had also introduced major changes to Family Class immigration in May 2013. They were designed to align entry under this category with economic outcomes.
The overarching narrative spoke of reducing the burden imposed on tax payers by the entry of parents, grandparents and dependent children 18 years and above.
Announcing the new criteria for sponsoring parents and grandparents, Jason Kenney, the then Citizenship and Immigration Minister, said they were aimed at ensuring elderly immigrants didn't end up on welfare or in social housing.
Kenney also said that older immigrants are a burden on the health-care system and other social safety nets. A set of grandparents could cost the system as much as $400,000, he said.
The new set of rules included the minimum necessary income level of sponsors going up by 30 per cent, proof of income threshold for a minimum of three years (in place of one year), only Canada Revenue Agency notices of assessment to be accepted as proof of income, sponsorship commitment period doubled to 20 years, and the maximum age of dependents was set at 18 instead of 21.
Predictably, the changes were not received well by immigration civic actors and newcomer groups adversely affected by them.
The NDP, the then official opposition party, slammed the changes. It said they will make it harder and more expensive for families to reunite. "The Conservatives think family reunification should be a luxury only for those who can afford it," its deputy immigration critic Sadia Groguhé said in a statement at the time.
Family Class sponsorship is not the only program through which parents and grandparents can enter Canada. Qualified applicants can also apply for temporary admission to Canada. They can also apply for extended, multiple-entry super visas.
The super visa was introduced in 2011 as an interim measure to circumvent the long wait times under the PGP program. A 10-year super visa allows entry periods lasting up to two years, but without any welfare benefits from the state, including health care. This visa program was made permanent in 2013.
Publisher's Note: An earlier version of this report did not include the government's response.
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to email@example.com
by Priya Ramanujam in Scarborough
Members of visible-minority groups have a stronger sense of loyalty to federal government than provincial government, reports a new study from the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP).
This is particularly true of first-generation Canadians, say researchers Antoine Bilodeau, Luc Turgeon, Stephen E. White and Ailsa Henderson in Seeing the Same Canada? Visible Minorities’ Views of the Federation.
The study focuses on both first- and second-generation visible minorities living in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, posing two questions:
a) Do visible minorities hold similar views to other Canadians with regard to Canada, its institutions and its national policies?
b) Are there differences between visible minorities who immigrated to Canada and those born in Canada?
The answer: across all four provinces, visible minorities – especially those born abroad – express a higher level of confidence in the House of Commons. The level of engagement seen in this fall’s federal election from new immigrant communities as voters, candidates and elected members of Parliament is evidence of this.
In B.C. and Alberta, second-generation visible minorities tend to become more involved provincially with time, while in Ontario – where the study states political views tend to be more federally oriented – visible minorities regardless of generation are engaged at both the national and regional level.
However, in Quebec, where there is no provincial policy on multiculturalism, both first and successive generations of visible-minority groups face difficulty integrating into regional politics.
The authors suggest this points to the possibility of growing tensions between majority and minority groups in Quebec, as they “do not appear to be marching in sync when it comes to their understanding of the federation and identification with Quebec and Canada.”
Somali parents of children with autism experience barriers to support
Somali parents raising a child living with autism in Toronto face significant barriers accessing support systems, particularly as a result of language barriers.
This was one of the main findings of a qualitative, cross-national analysis recently released by Pathways to Prosperity looking at the experiences of Somali parents raising children with and without autism in Toronto and Minneapolis.
“I know over 100 parents myself who have a child with autism,” said one father in the study. “Most of them do not get support from anywhere. Many are single mothers who don’t drive or speak English.”
For Faduma Mohamed, a 22-year-old Toronto-based spoken-word artist of Somali heritage, this experience is all too familiar. Her 18-year-old brother Bilal lives with autism.
“There was no treatment offered, no therapies, no extracurricular activities because of a classist system,” Mohamed shares. “The people who know English, the people who have the money, the people who know how to get the resources will get the resources.”
Researchers Melissa Fellin, Victoria Esses and Gillian King also indicate in the study a stigma associated with autism within the Somali community that often prevents parents from speaking about their challenges.
“It’s scary for some parents because we’re all caught up in the definition of normal; when our child falls out of the realm of normal in our culture, we immediately ‘other’ that person,” explains Mohamed.
Despite this stigma, the Pathways study found that there are Somali parents coming together in both cities to advocate for their children and policy changes at their local school boards and in health care.
It’s the type of change Mohamed is hoping for.
Through a 132-day autism awareness campaign (paired with the hashtag #OughtTheBox) she is carrying a large plastic bin – one of the props from her upcoming stage play Oughtism – everywhere she goes.
Why? The first time she brought the box on a bus, people were surprisingly kind – offering her a seat or to help carry it – despite how much room it took up.
The experience was vastly different from people “staring, cutting their eye or grumbling under their breath” when her brother has meltdowns in public.
“I thought it was funny,” she says. “People could help me more with a box than they could with a human being.”
Complex issues for migrant workers seeking permanent residency
Migrant workers pursuing permanent resident (PR) status in Canada should be considered “transitional” as opposed to “temporary,” according to recommendations put forth in a recent study released by the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP).
“We need policies that facilitate [migrant workers’] transition, rather than complicate it, as is now the case,” state authors Delphine Nakache and Leanne Dixon-Perera in Temporary or Transitional? Migrant Workers’ Experiences with Permanent Residence in Canada.
The study gathered qualitative evidence from 99 participants ranging from migrant workers who became permanent residents to nongovernmental organizations, and focused on factors leading to migrant workers seeking permanent residency, challenges faced during this transition and implications of the two-step migration (temporary to permanent) for settlement.
Based on the experiences put forth by respondents, the study makes several policy recommendations, including eliminating the 4-in, 4-out rule – which allows employers to constantly replace workers – implementing the right for migrants working in low-skilled positions to have their family accompany them to Canada, and offering free language training and more settlement services to transitional migrant workers.
Aimee Bebosa, chair of the Ottawa-based Philippine Migrants Society of Canada, says that while these recommendations are a good start, more must be considered when implementing.
“For example, how can you properly pay for a family if you’re being paid low wage?” she asks. “They have to consider also properly remunerating workers so they can support their families.”
The IRPP study also recommends reconsidering both employer-driven immigration contingent on full-time permanent job offers and employer-specific or “tied” work permits to reduce barriers to transitional workers successfully receiving PR status.
Authors Nakache and Dixon-Perera make note that the study’s findings confirm the complexity of navigating multiple ever-changing immigration programs and policies at both the federal and provincial level.
“We are not suggesting that there is an easy fix,” they write.
Research Watch is a regular column on NewCanadianMedia.ca that looks at recently released and emerging research relating to immigration, settlement, immigrant/ethno-cultural communities and multiculturalism. Researchers or organizations releasing studies we should consider are encouraged to write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to email@example.com
During the first week of September, I stopped looking at Facebook. My news feed was full of one picture: an image of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy named Alan, face down, head turned away, in the surf of a Turkish beach.
I have a daughter who is the same age. And the shape of the boy’s corpse corresponds to her preferred sleeping position. I thought that if I avoided looking at the photo, it would stop haunting me. So far, that hasn’t worked.
The armies that propelled Alan’s family out into open water are fighting a complex civil war half a world away from us. They have confusing Arabic names and fly obscure banners. It’s hard to know who is the greatest villain.
And so Canadians instead have found it easier to direct moral outrage at our own government. Chris Alexander is our Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. His department decides whom we save, and whom we don’t. Somehow, this must be his fault.
Human beings are visual creatures
A young child’s suffering is regarded as a special kind of evil, so powerfully felt that a single image blots out everything else from our moral universe.
“I took the case of children only to make my case clearer,” Ivan says to his brother Alyosha in the novel The Brothers Karamazov, after reciting a list of infamous horrors visited upon young Russian boys and girls. “Of the other tears of humanity with which the earth is soaked from its crust to its centre, I will say nothing.”
As Ivan systematically knocks out the underpinnings of his brother’s faith in a benevolent ruler, he asks a question that has become well-known among philosophers:
Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature — that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance — and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions?
Alyosha is repelled by this seemingly monstrous hypothetical. But what Ivan described was a reality in feudal societies such as Russia, where a serf child could be murdered in front of his parents for injuring a lord’s favourite hunting dog, and the most grotesque forms of suffering were seen as pathways to God’s grace.
When Fyodor Dostoevsky was writing The Brothers Karamazov in the 1870s, he compiled his macabre case studies by clipping scattered articles from local newspapers. There were no pictures, and details were scant: Sadistic treatment of children was not unusual, and these were not considered journalistically important stories.
In 2015, however, no act of moral imagination is required to internalize the suffering of children everywhere. Just open your news feed and let the photos and video wash over you.
We always have known, somewhere in our pampered Western heads, that while we eat our breakfast and brush our teeth, unspeakable things are happening to innocent people everywhere. But human beings are visual creatures: It is one thing to hear of death, and another to see it.
With so much of the world’s savagery now landing on our screens, technology has made us the eternal Alyosha, besieged every day by the eternal Ivan. Our brains, conditioned by evolution to manage life and death within small clans, lack the circuitry to process an endless digital cascade of global grief.
Railing against government
Ivan Karamazov observed the suffering of children and railed against God. We observe the suffering of children and rail against government — the welfare state having replaced the Supreme Being as the mercy-provider of last resort.
But this God always will fail us, because in a globalized media age, our point-and-shoot moral demands have become geographically infinite and politically unstable.
Our federal government has settled 2,300 Syrian refugees to date. Thomas Mulcair wants to accept 10,000 more this year. For Justin Trudeau, the number is 25,000.
That sounds like a lot. But what happens if refugee number 25,001 is photographed washing in with the tide? Why not 50,000? Or 100,000? And what happens when a dead child is photographed on a beach in Honduras? Or Libya? Will the number be the same? More? Less? Why should there be any limit at all?
These are not just questions for politicians, but for ordinary Canadians as well. During the first weekend in September, I received an e-mail from a friend: “I think we have all been haunted by the image of Alan’s tiny lifeless body. A group of our neighbourhood friends is thinking of sponsoring a Syrian family. The approximate cost to privately sponsor a family of 4 or 5 is about $25,000 . . .”
An effective altruist has to keep reminding himself that there are little children dying all over Africa from preventable diseases, sometimes in hideous ways that might make a drowning at sea seem humane by comparison. GiveWell.org estimates the cost of saving one of these lives at about $3,000.
The math here is stark. But reasonable debates about foreign aid and immigration policy seem to evaporate in the face of Dostoevsky’s “one tiny creature.” That dissonance was captured perfectly by the mask of helpless frustration on our immigration minister’s face, as he clumsily tried to justify his government’s policies to CBC host Rosemary Barton. Which of course he couldn’t, since no one can win an argument against a dead child.
As I wrote this, I began looking at that picture again. I had to. If any of us purport to have an opinion on what must be done to address the world’s horrors, then we have a responsibility to face up to them in some small way. However, we should not expect that our instant emotions be translated into policies that will affect Canada for generations — an expectation that always will turn our politics into a sort of unsustainable humanitarian bidding war.
Every humane society must listen to “that baby beating its breast with its fist.” But we will not be able to do our part in fixing the “fabric of human destiny” if we can hear nothing else.
Re-published in partnership with The Walrus.
by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Scarborough, Ontario
Several observers have noted that immigration is, generally, a non-partisan issue in Canada. That probably explains why it's not a topic of debate during this current federal election campaign. But, it's safe to say that the next government will inevitably be confronted with competing demands on the immigration file.
In this edition of Research Watch, we offer the next Minister of Immigration a look at two studies that highlight why federal policymakers need to understand where immigrants settle, how they integrate and factors that determine their economic success in Canada.
The truth about ethnic enclaves
A recent study released by the Institute for Research on Public Policy challenges the notion that communities with high populations of visible-minority immigrants are rife with socio-economic marginalization and cultural isolation.
In the report “Ethnocultural Minority Enclaves in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver,” researcher Daniel Hiebert sets out to answer whether these enclaves are the so-called “ghettos” they are often perceived to be.
While the answer proves complex and varied, the key finding of Hiebert’s research is that, in Canada, this tends not to be the case.
This is particularly true of neighbourhoods where there is a dominant ethnocultural group (twice the size of any other group) living alongside several smaller groups.
“[In these communities] the stereotype of the poor immigrant neighbourhood doesn’t work,” Hiebert says. “Where there is one large group, there’s probably some sort of internal capacity for helping people because of the scale of that group.”
He suggests that this is the case because social capital is strong in these communities. Immigrants are more likely to find work more easily or have success in small business ventures because of shared commonalities with other residents.
In addition, the many other cultural groups in the enclave prove to be an asset, Hiebert explains, offering what he calls “bridging” social capital – the type of learning that comes from being exposed to other cultures that helps integrate into mainstream society.
Communities with a high percentage of visible minorities that tended to have more socio-economic challenges were those where no dominant group was present – rather, just several small cultural groups residing together.
For Hiebert, the findings highlight three important ideas.
First, he says, “Cultural diversity is everywhere.” He cites an example: in the past, an organization in “Chinatown” may have found it effective to exclusively serve Chinese Canadians, but with what is now known about the diverse make-up of communities, that type of exclusivity may mean some residents are left behind.
Second, it is time to re-evaluate services for immigrants overall. Hiebert points out that many present-day services were developed in the 1970s when immigrants were settling in inner-city locations rather than suburban ones, and while that is changing, agencies may not be keeping pace.
Finally, Hiebert concludes his study by stressing that in order to truly understand and serve these ethnocultural communities effectively, municipal governments must be at the decision-making table and engaged in the development and reform of immigration policy.
“If cities are the places where most immigrants are settling and integrating,” says Hiebert, “it seems to me very relevant to have more of a municipal voice when it comes to the big questions about immigration policy and settlement policy in Canada.”
Contributors to economic success
With Canada continuing to compete in the global market to attract economic immigrants, a better understanding of predicting future earnings and success here is vital.
A recently released study from Statistics Canada based on historical data observing two cohorts of immigrants from the late 1990s and the early 2000s may help in this area.
The study shows that, in the short-term, the best predictors of earnings are Canadian work experience and official-language skills at the time of arrival.
“Basically, it appears that economic principal applicants with Canadian work experience at the time of landing are treated more like Canadians in the labour market in terms of returns to education and experience,” explains researcher Aneta Bonikowska, adding the same goes for having strong official-language skills.
But in the long-term (over a period of five to 10 years), this changes. Age and education play a factor.
“Even though we don’t see a big return right off the bat, the earning trajectories of higher, better-educated immigrants are steeper than lower-educated immigrants – over time you see a gap in earnings developing on average,” says Bonikowska.
There is also a correlation between all four characteristics that affects the long-term predictions of an immigrant’s earnings.
As Bonikowska explains, the economic returns on age (the younger an immigrant, the higher the earnings, typically) and education at landing depend on that immigrant’s official-language skills and previously accumulated Canadian work experience.
While the Stats Canada report is meant to be an exercise in analyzing historical data – not a forecast of the future – Bonikowska points out that, from a policy standpoint, if more detailed information was collected from arriving economic immigrants, better predictions could be made about their potential success.
She says factors like the nature of an immigrant’s study, what institution he or she studied at and what level of education was achieved prior to arriving in Canada would give a better sense of who did well from the cohorts studied.
by Jeremy J. Nuttall (@Tyee_Nuttall) in Ottawa, Ontario
The battle for votes in Vancouver's large Chinese community is being complicated by deep divisions over immigration issues here and across the Pacific in Hong Kong.
Chinese-language radio talk-show hosts say callers are more worked up than ever about the federal election.
And their support seems largely determined by where they came from in China and their attitude toward tougher immigration rules introduced by the federal government since the 2011 election.
Cantonese-speakers, mainly people from Hong Kong and southern parts of Mainland China, tend to be staunch Conservative supporters.
But for Mandarin-speakers, from northern China and Taiwan, new immigration rules have become the focus of opposition to Stephen Harper's party.
It's an important political battle. About 14.8 per cent of Greater Vancouver residents reported Chinese as a mother tongue in the 2011 census, with 5.8 per cent reporting Cantonese and four per cent Mandarin. Five per cent didn't specify a Chinese language.
On 'Public Forum,' supporters chatter
Johann Chang hosts Public Forum, a weekend Cantonese language show on the Richmond-based Fairchild radio. He said phone lines light up with support for Harper.
"The Conservatives have a strong support base in the Cantonese community. They've been working for that base for a long time," he said. "Conservative supporters call into our show and basically take up the phone lines."
Callers are concerned with New Democratic Party (NDP) and Liberal stances on marijuana legalization and chide the media for talking so much about the Mike Duffy trial, Chang said. They also complain the NDP satellite office issue hasn't been brought up as often as they would like.
But the community is most divided over tougher immigration rules. The elimination of the skilled-worker program in 2012 and immigrant investor program in 2014 made it harder for Chinese residents to make a new home in Canada. The replacement programs set a tougher standard for would-be immigrants.
The Cantonese community, especially people from Hong Kong, welcomes the changes, Chang said.
"Part of the Cantonese community who are from Hong Kong feel like that city has been flooded with immigrants from Mainland China," Chang said. "So whatever policy makes it harder for Mainland Chinese, or even stops them, from coming to Canada, they can relate to."
Hong Kong's special status in China, created when the United Kingdom ceded control of the territory in 1997, provides freedoms not available in the rest of the country.
The influx of mainland immigrants and tourists to Hong Kong has increased as wealth in China grows, which has led to protests in Hong Kong.
On 'News Frontline,' foes grumble
But if you tune into Fairchild radio during drive time and catch Debbie Chen's show News Frontline, disgruntled Mandarin-speaking callers aren't happy with Harper.
Chen said immigration rules are the bullseye on a dartboard of policies that many Mandarin speakers oppose.
Generally, Mandarin speakers think the immigration changes are intended "to block out people from Mainland China," she said.
Most of Chen's Mandarin callers are not happy with Harper, she said, and don't care for policies like income splitting, which critics say favours wealthier Canadians.
"They think Conservatives only benefit the rich people," she said. "They think paying more taxes would be good to get more social benefits."
Chen said the anti-Harper callers appear to be split fairly evenly between support for the NDP and the Liberals, with the Liberals enjoying a slight edge.
Chen said many recent immigrants from China are more working class than the long-established Hong Kong community.
Divisions not unexpected: Houlden
Gordon Houlden of the University of Alberta's China Institute said the link between issues in China and Canada is not entirely unexpected, but still fascinating.
It's a reminder that the Chinese community isn't as monolithic as outsiders assume, he said.
New immigration rules focus more on skill set and education than family reunification, he said, so it makes sense that Mandarin speakers would be upset about the changes. The changes reduce the opportunity for relatives to join family members already in Canada.
On the other hand, the Cantonese community may support tougher immigration rules because it tends to be older and more established.
"If you've been here longer and you're more settled, you may not welcome a wave of people who are similar in some ways, but different in others," he said.
Houlden said protests in Hong Kong last year over Beijing's refusal to allow open elections may have added to the divisions between the two groups.
Chen, who is originally from Taiwan, said that Mandarin-speaking Taiwanese immigrants who call in generally also voice opposition to Harper.
"We have the free election right in Taiwan, so we don't like the government staying too long," Chen said. "The Conservatives kept power over 10 years, so some Taiwanese people think it's time to change."
Re-published with permission from The Tyee.
by Rosanna Haroutounian (@rharoutounian) in Montreal, Quebec
The Quebec government is working on changes to its immigration policy that will bring it in line with the federal Express Entry program, which aims to match newcomers with employer needs.
In the new system, immigration applicants will present a “declaration of interest” that will help match their skills to the demands of the market place.
The changes come too late for Ndaw Mamadou, who immigrated to Quebec City in June 2014 and now plans to leave for Toronto.
Born in Senegal, Mamadou studied intercultural communications in France before applying to the Quebec Skilled Worker Program.
“Even if the government tries to facilitate the integration of immigrants, the reality is different,” says Mamadou. “The lack of quebecois experience is the main obstacle.”
Skepticism over changes
Mamadou, who already holds a BA in English literature, says he wants to go to Toronto to improve his English. He is just one of the thousands of immigrants who arrive in Quebec, but soon depart for other parts of Canada.
“Just because the Ministry makes these changes or Citizenship [and Immigration] makes changes at the federal level, doesn’t mean that employers have to accept them,” says Patricia Rimok, president of Immigration Business Network (ib2ib). “Your average business is not even remotely connected to immigrants.”
The Montreal-based ib2ib is an online business resource that provides trading opportunities for immigrants who invest or start businesses in Quebec, Canada, or the U.S.
Rimok also worked for Quebec’s government from 2003 to 2011, first as chief of staff for the Ministry of Immigration and then as President of the Conseil des relations interculturelles du Québec (Council of Intercultural Relations), an advisory and member board under the Minister of Immigration's portfolio.
She explains that employers do not have the capacity to evaluate skills that immigrants bring to Quebec from other countries.
“When someone does come from out of the country and applies, the evaluations that are done are quite reductive because immigrants who come in can do five, six, seven times more than what’s asked,” she explains.
Mamadou says that many immigrants who apply for the comparative evaluation of studies also see their international diplomas undervalued, which he says hinders their integration and professional development.
“We would expect that immigrants with higher levels of education would be accessing higher-level jobs because of the skills they bring, but that’s not what happens,” explains Rimok.
She says that while she welcomes the changes, a lot more can be done to ensure immigrants don’t lose out on using their full range of skills.
Changes ‘big on paper’ but not in reality
Quebec’s immigration policy has been in place since 1990.
Under the Canada-Québec Accord Relating to Immigration and Temporary Admission of Aliens, Quebec can set its own annual immigration targets and select which immigrants settle in the province (with the exception of refugees and family reunification classes).
Every immigration application is processed in chronological order, regardless of whether it meets selection criteria in areas like language, skills and country of origin.
Elsewhere, the federal government determines the number of immigrants admitted and the selection process.
Public hearings were held earlier this year from Jan. 28 to Feb. 10, bringing together stakeholders such as immigrants, industry representatives and experts from organizations serving newcomers.
On the first day of public hearings, the commission heard from Jacques Frémont, president of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (Commission on Human Rights and Youth Rights).
He pointed to the level of representation of racialized persons in the public service to illustrate the magnitude of the challenge the government faces, which he said should serve as a model for other sectors of employment.
Visible minorities and white Quebecers whose mother tongue is not French or English make up about 12 per cent of Quebec’s population, but according to a 2013 CBC investigation only about seven per cent of Quebec government employees belong to these categories.
The same study found that about 79 per cent of Quebecers are white francophones, yet they hold about 95 per cent of senior management positions in the province’s civil service.
“In the media, the government and Minister [Weil] talk about these big changes,” says Stephan Reichhold, director of TCRI, a group of organizations working with refugees, immigrants, and those without status in Quebec. Reichhold represented the group during one of the public hearings.
“The changes are big on paper and in discourse, but in reality, they will not result in big differences.”
Another series of consultations will be held on updating the Immigration Act, resulting in a bill to be presented to Quebec’s legislature, along with the new policy, this fall.
In the spring, all the pieces will come together in a new Immigration Act for the province.
“One of the largest deportations in Canadian history” is being predicted by migrant worker groups as a new immigration policy targeting caregivers and some foreign workers take effect next month. Groups from Toronto joined others from across Canada to protest the “mass deportations” of thousands of caregivers who they claim, under a new regulation, will have to leave the country after four years of working here.
The Share News
As Canadians approach an election year in 2015, one of the critical issues of concern and debate centers on our country’s immigration and refugee policies. Over the past several years we have witnessed the Conservative government make unprecedented changes in the refugee determination system, migrant workers programs, and caregiver program, that have drastically impacted refugees, migrant workers, caregivers, and immigrant communities.
by Shruti Prakash-Joshi
Political parties and media have always needed each other. Considering that Canada has a large number of multicultural and ethnic communities existing alongside the so-called mainstream, it is not surprising that political parties have specific strategies for dealing with cultural media.
But, on Jan. 6, a roundtable [audio tape below] between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and ethnic media representatives caused great anguish in the national and local mainstream media, with furious reports being filed about Mr. Harper’s strategy to gain favourable coverage for him and his party.
I was a part of this roundtable in Vancouver, and in the coming paragraphs I will attempt to explain why the brouhaha was so unnecessary.
The reporters in attendance were from the Korean, Filipino, South Asian, Chinese and Iranian media, all large ethnic groups in Metro Vancouver. Questions ranged from trade agreements with India and Korea, the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project, Canada's immigration policy, changes to the Foreign Temporary Workers Program, human rights issues in Iran and questions surrounding how Canada plans to rein in the mounting debt -- all legitimate questions important to the ethnic communities these publications serve.
In regards to some key publications not being invited, all I can say is that I don’t make strategy, I only report.
Mr. Harper started with opening remarks and then spoke briefly about where Canada is headed as it recovers from the global economic downturn, how it plans to make communities and streets safer and what Canada's long-term immigration policies are.
He thanked the gathered cultural media saying that the communities the cultural media represent are part of the cultural diversity that is a great strength of this country.
“The communities that you broadcast to and report to are an integral part of the Canadian media landscape. The reason we do these things is that we understand that many of what’s called the so-called cultural media is actually some of the larger media in our country," said the prime minister.
Mr. Harper outlined some of the achievements of his government and called the signing of the Canada-European trade agreement the “biggest single agreement that the country had ever signed and probably the biggest single standalone achievement the government has had ever since it came to office,” although he did admit that despite efforts by the Canadian government a similar deal with India is far from being finalized.
“We are also wanting to finalize the Foreign Investment Promotion Protection Agreement (FIPA). From Canada’s point of view, we think that the deal should and could be signed soon, but it hasn’t. Although we have made progress with India we are obviously not in a position to say when we would conclude that either,” said Mr. Harper. He said it was not a uniquely Canadian issue. “If you look at India, for the last couple of years, India has not been completing agreements with anyone. My sense is that things there are on hold pending the resolution of where India is really headed after the election campaign,” he said.
He said Canada will continue to negotiate and press to sign the FIPA, “but my sense is that the Indian government is not going to conclude these negotiations prior to these elections with us or with anyone else,” said Mr. Harper. “I hope that when we have elections in India, we will then be able to more aggressively and ambitiously draw these things to a conclusion." Despite eight rounds of negotiations between India and Canada, the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement is far from being signed.
“Not withstanding the fact that we can go much further, there has been a very large growth in bilateral trade and particular educational investment flows of Indian students to Canada during the life of this government. We have also had some achievement in terms of agreements with India. We have signed the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement which was 40 years in the making, and the Social Security Agreement with India has also been signed.”
Mr. Harper did not comment greatly on the controversial Northern Gateway project, saying he didn’t want to prejudice the decision that he and his colleagues might take about this in the coming months although he categorically emphasized that the pipeline would generate a great number of jobs and would significantly boost the economy.
Responding to questions about Canada’s immigration system, the prime minister said his government has taken huge steps to overhaul the system and reduce wait times dramatically. Talking specifically about the foreign temporary workers especially in the resource sector, he said, “To fulfill needs in the resource sector, I believe we don’t need foreign temporary workers and more permanent foreign workers with a path to Canadian citizenship so that they can become a part of Canadian economy"
Understanding the trauma that some refugees go through in conflict-ridden countries is not an easy task for those who have never experienced such horrific conditions. Sometimes, comments are made in venues where they seem misplaced, but these are no less meaningful or heartfelt.
In closing, I would like to say that ethnic media play important dual roles, both informing their target audiences about local issues and keeping them informed of news and issues from their countries of their birth. Therefore, if political parties engage communities through these roundtables, I think the trend should be encouraged, not discouraged.
Shruti Prakash-Joshi is the Associate Editor of The Asian Star weekly.
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit