Daphne Bramham: With Canada failing to meet its immigration promises, B.C. needs more control

The British Columbia perspective, similar to that of Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

One idea that has been suggested by some is the Provincial Nominee Program should be used for regulated professions (e.g., healthcare, some trades) given that regulatory bodies are provincial, not federal.

Definitely worth consideration as the federal government’s progress on foreign credential recognition appears to have been more about process and consultations than concrete action. Making the provinces directly responsible for selection of applicants in regulated professions might simplify accountabilities:

Across B.C., “Help Wanted” signs are ubiquitous. Labour shortages have forced businesses to drastically cut their hours, hospitals and emergency rooms to close, as well as planned and unscheduled cancellations of B.C. Ferries sailings.

Despite grumbled anecdotes about people not wanting to work, B.C. has one of Canada’s highest workforce participation rates.

Bear in mind that last year, B.C. also had the highest number of new arrivals recorded in 60 years — 100,797 people. International migration was the second-highest recorded, while cross-country migration was the highest in nearly 30 years.

Even with that, and despite a seemingly intractable, affordable-housing crisis, the fact is B.C. needs more people to fill essential jobs.

And that is exactly why the provincial government wants Ottawa to give it more control over who comes here, and is asking for more money to help settle all the newcomers.

Last year, only 6,750 people came under the provincial nominee program that allows provinces to select applicants whose skills and training match labour needs. Next year, it wants 8,000 nominees, and 10,000 three years from now.

It made the request ahead of Thursday’s meeting of federal and provincial immigration ministers.

Nathan Cullen is B.C.’s municipal affairs minister and has responsibility for immigration. He describes the program as “more precise” than other immigration programs, noting that B.C.’s priority last year was health-care and long-term care workers.

“(The nominee program) is not a blunt instrument, which is what a federal immigration program is by its nature,” he told Postmedia before leaving for the federal-provincial meeting in New Brunswick.

“We’ve just heard from Ontario and they’ve been making similar requests of the feds to gain a little bit more control over what happens.”

As a former MP, Cullen isn’t certain how much of its “cherished authority” Ottawa is willing to give up. But he hopes to convince Federal Minister Sean Fraser that expanding the nominee program, which has a much faster turnaround time than myriad other immigration streams, will help clear the backlog of applications that is nearing two million files.

The benefit isn’t just a bureaucratic one. With skills matched to jobs, it should also mean that highly skilled newcomers don’t end up driving taxis instead of doing the jobs they are trained for.

Of course, there is a huge caveat that Cullen readily acknowledges. Canada is glacially slow in recognizing internationally obtained credentials — especially for physicians and surgeons. Here, he said it can take up to three times as long as in other G20 countries — “And if you’re slow in this kind of world, it means you just don’t get the person at all.”

The minister plans to raise that at Thursday’s meeting, along with concerns about what might best be described as Canada’s “do-it-yourself” immigration offer to Ukrainians.

Within days of the Russian invasion, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered safe haven and a pathway to citizenship to all Ukrainians who could find their own way here.

“We’re not ready for them, and we need the feds to be,” Cullen said. “(Federal politicians) have had time. There’s no more excuses like, ‘It’s all happening so fast.’ That’s done. They’ve had the time and the program has not been set up properly yet.”

With the usual processes waived, Ukrainians are arriving and often there is no one to meet them. Nobody knows when they are coming, where they are landing, or even how many of the six million who have fled might end up here as Russia intensifies its attacks.

Earlier this year, B.C. shored up settlement societies with nearly $15 million because the number of immigrants and refugees arriving is beyond the capacity that Ottawa has funded them for. And last month, the province set up a hardship fund for Ukrainians offering up to $1,770 a month for a family of four.

Ukrainian-Canadians have also stepped in to fill the gaps since the only federal help Ukrainians get is a two-week housing allowance.

Still, with no contact point with any agency or government, vulnerable women, children and unaccompanied minors are open to exploitation. It’s something that keeps Cullen awake at night.

Already, his officials had to rescue one family who had found rental accommodation on social media. When they arrived, the landlord confiscated their passports and tried to restrict their movements. Fortunately, they had a contact in the Ukrainian community who got in touch with the ministry.

Meanwhile, immigrants are enduring months-long waits in overcrowded hotel rooms in dangerous neighbourhoods because there is nowhere else to go until settlement societies or concerned citizens manage to scrounge something better. Sometimes, it’s from developers waiting for demolition permits.

Cullen insists that recent increases in housing starts and measures his government has taken to get unused housing into the rental pool is starting to make a difference. But he said it is still going to take more time to even out.

Immigrants also need health care and schools for their children. Those, too, are provincial costs.

So far, the federal government has failed to match its immigration promises and targets with the money necessary to properly fulfill them.

Small wonder that the provinces want more control and more money.

“We have to match the story we want to tell about ourselves as being a generous, open country … with the resources and the determination that’s required,” Cullen said.

And right now? That’s not happening.

Source: Daphne Bramham: With Canada failing to meet its immigration promises, B.C. needs more control

BC MLA aims to address birth tourism as new data shows high non-resident birth rates

Given that most actions to curb the practice require at a minimum provincial cooperation if not collaboration, something to watch:

A new study came out last week suggesting the number of “anchor babies” in Canada, especially in Richmond, is much higher than previously expected, and MLA Jas Johal [Liberal, from Richmond] said he will introduce a petition to the B.C. government to “address the problem.”

An anchor baby is a term used to refer to a child born to a non-citizen mother at the time of the child’s birth in a country that has birthright citizenship.

Policy Options magazine published a new study last Thursday from the Institute for Research on Public Policy, suggesting every year, there are 1,500 to 2,000 “anchor babies” born in Canada.

Among all the hospitals in Canada, Richmond Hospital has the highest volume of babies born to non-resident mothers – 469 last year, taking up Richmond’s number of such births to 21.9 per cent of the total births in the hospital.

“I’m glad this national organization was able to shed light on this issue. It acknowledges for the first time everything everyone suspected and builds on the reporting the Richmond News has done,” said Johal.

“Every level of government has to acknowledge the issue and work together. We can’t just be polite Canadians and not deal with it. It has nothing to do with political correctness, but got everything to do with our healthcare system, for and by Canadians. Period.”

Johal said he is very concerned about the birth tourism industry, which “is not only allowed to exist, but to flourish.” He is working with some local residents to put together a petition, which he will introduce to the province in spring.

“There is a whole industry built on marketing these practices, attracting these individuals, housing these individuals, making sure they get proper medical treatment and care services,” said Johal.

“What are the companies being set up to bring these women here? How much do they charge? What’s the money they make? We need to shine some sunlight into an industry that’s being done in the shadows.

“And there is cost to taxpayers. I know they pay for natural birth and C-section, but the potential capacity could be used for somewhere else in the health care system in Richmond.”

The petition, according to Johal, will ask the provincial government to acknowledge that birth tourism exists and have a public say that the government does not support it.

“It will also ask the government to take concrete measures, to eliminate or very much reduce the practice,” he said.

Johal said as an immigrant moving from India when he was little, this issue upsets him on the personal level.

“I value the Canadian passport more than anything in my life, but this fundamentally debases the value of Canadian citizenship,” said Johal.

Source: MLA aims to address birth tourism as new data shows high non-resident birth rates 

Douglas Todd: Why the Greens don’t attract ‘ethnic’ voters

Interesting. There may be differences between first and subsequent generations:

Why do Green party candidates only win seats in ridings where the vast majority of voters are white?

Federal and B.C. Green candidates have won election in only one concentrated region of Canada, on Vancouver Island and the adjacent Southern Gulf Islands, in ridings that have scant visible minorities compared to most of the country’s cities.

In the Southern Gulf Islands — the heart of the region that has handed victories to the lone federal Green MP, leader Elizabeth May, and to B.C. MLA Adam Olsen — only two per cent of residents belong to a minority ethnic group. That compares to 51 per cent of people in Metro Vancouver, where the Greens struggle.

Political observers believe the Greens’ poor showing among immigrants, ethnic Chinese and South Asian voters, and others, is the result of a common perception the party puts environmental protection before economic prosperity. The Greens have also had fewer resources to woo ethnic voters.

“The first generation of immigrants often leave their homelands for economic reasons,” says Shinder Purewal, a Kwantlen Polytechnic University political scientist. “They’re willing to work in any sector that provides jobs. Early Sikh immigrants, for instance, worked in the lumber industry. Environmentalists calling for preservation of trees were often seen as a threat to their livelihood.”

Purewal routinely hears Indo-Canadians remark on how “the Greens would destroy the economy. Not only do they think this would mean lower living standards, it would lead to the state not being able to provide social programs. … Immigrants, who come from countries with almost no social programs, appreciate Canada’s health care and public education, along with workers’ compensation, employment insurance and old age pensions.”

Regardless of which factors are strongest, it’s clear that visible minorities in Canada, many of whom are immigrants, are far less inclined to vote Green than are whites. Along with Green candidates drastically under-performing in ridings in which ethnic groups predominate, polls have revealed the party’s demographic affliction.

A Mainstreet Research poll conducted last year found 21 per cent of Caucasian British Columbians were ready to vote for the Greens. But support for the Greens dropped to eight per cent among ethnic Chinese in B.C., seven per cent among South Asians, 10 per cent among Filipinos and five per cent among Koreans.

The so-called ethnic vote is a major factor in B.C. elections, since at least one in five provincial ridings contains fewer white people than the combined totals of ethnic Chinese, South Asians, Koreans, Filipinos, Koreans, Persians and Pakistanis.

Most people of Chinese origin in B.C. “are still under the impression that economic development and environmental protection are incompatible, or even mutually exclusive,” says Fenella Sung, former radio host of a Chinese-language current affairs program in B.C.

The more than 470,000 ethnic Chinese people in Metro Vancouver, who predominate in ridings in Richmond where the Greens performed badly in last year’s B.C. election, tend to believe, rightly or wrongly, that the Greens are a single-issue party, Sung said.

“Since prosperity is their main priority, they think the environment can take a back seat,” Sung said. Chinese-Canadians generally believe protecting nature is something to be addressed only “after economic growth is sustained and job creation is guaranteed.”

Sonia Furstenau, the B.C. Greens’ deputy leader, said, “We’re really committed to improving the diversity of our candidates. It’s a real priority.”

The party is stepping up its message to ethnic minorities and others that protecting the environment does not threaten personal livelihoods, but will help create “more stable, long-term jobs than we have now,” said Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley, where nine of 10 report English as their mother tongue, the fourth highest proportion of B.C.’s 87 ridings. The Greens, she said, also want to strengthen public education and the high-tech sector.

Stefan Jonnson, communications director for the three-seat B.C. Greens, which is supporting the NDP government, said up until recently most candidates in the small party have lacked finances to publish Chinese- or Punjabi-language campaign material or to appear at ethnic events. But that, he said, has been rapidly changing.

Hamish Telford, a political scientist at the University of the Fraser Valley, said the Greens “have to become a multicultural party if they’re going to break out of Vancouver Island. It’s not a party that speaks to immigrants.”

The tip of Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands are Green strongholds in part, Telford said, because they’re home to many Caucasians who have moved there from others parts of the province and country “to retire and enjoy the beauty of the place, the peace and outdoors.”

After travelling to the Punjab in India, the homeland of hundreds of thousands of B.C. residents, Telford was strengthened in his perception that “Punjabis are a very political people.” While Sikh and Hindu nationalist parties are notable in the Punjab, he said, there are few signs of an environmental movement.

Since roughly a quarter of the students in Telford’s classrooms on the Abbotsford campus are South Asian, he has learned many are keen about economics, immigration, racism and social programs.

But hope for the Greens may lie in such students, he said. “The ones born and raised here tend to skew to the left and to have the same concerns as other young Canadians. Some are interested in the Greens. That’s not so much the case for the older generations.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Why the Greens don’t attract ‘ethnic’ voters

Quebec immigrant program increases in popularity … with ‘downsides’ for B.C. | Vancouver Sun

Ongoing coverage and controversy. I agree with the critics:

The Quebec government, running a cash-for-visa program labelled a “fraud” and “scam” by critics who say it hurts British Columbia, received a record-breaking number of rich immigrants in 2015.

The 40-per-cent increase took place a year after the former Conservative federal government complained that the program’s harms outweighed its benefits and shut down an identical national investor-luring scheme.

Quebec has autonomy to select its own immigrants under a 1991 accord with the federal government, so decided to continue its own program.

Critics, including Conservative MP Jason Kenney when he was immigration minister, have complained that the vast majority of investor immigrants are wealthy Asians who dishonestly declare an intention to live in Quebec, then move immediately, to Toronto and, especially, to Vancouver.

Quebec gets the financial benefits of the program while Metro Vancouver gets inflated housing prices and added stress on the public education and health care systems, the critics argue.

The latest evidence of Quebec’s growing enthusiasm for luring millionaire migrants prompted criticism of the B.C. government, which hasn’t been vocal on the issue despite allegations that the program has played a role in Vancouver’s housing affordability crisis.

“The silence from the B.C. government has been absolutely startling,” said New Democratic Party MLA David Eby.

“In effect, they are content with a program that brings major housing affordability problems, while allowing many wealthy migrants to use British Columbia’s social services virtually for free.”

Jobs Minister Shirley Bond said in a statement Friday that Victoria has “consistently” raised its concerns with Ottawa about the need for additional settlement funding to offset the cost of “secondary migration” when immigrants land somewhere else but then head straight to the West Coast.
“We are in active conversations with the federal government,” she said, noting that Quebec has had the authority for decades to select its own immigrants.

The total number of applicants and their family members admitted under the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program reached just over 5,000 last year.

That compares with 2014’s total of 3,669. The previous high was 4,436 in 2012.

Quebec says it will bring in roughly the same number in 2016, according to the province’s immigration plan tabled recently in the Quebec National Assembly.

The former Conservative government, while initially enthusiastic about the program, soon questioned its value and sharply reduced national admissions from an average of around 9,200 in 2008-2010 to 3,787 in its final year of 2014.

When the Tories shut down the program in 2014 they said the program’s costs far outweighed the benefits for Canadian — and especially B.C. — taxpayers.

Quebec’s enthusiasm during this period soared, from a little over 1,000 in 2008 to five times that annual total now.

Kenney, who said applicants misrepresenting themselves in their applications were engaged in “a crime” and “fraud” in 2013,  was unable to get bureaucrats to take action before he was shuffled out of the ministry later that year.

The only positive economic spin-off Eby said that he’s witnessed in his Vancouver-Point Grey riding, the focus of Vancouver’s housing price explosion, is the opening of a Ferrari dealership.

“Apart from that, it’s hard to figure out what benefit we see in British Columbia for this program. And the downsides are profound.”

Simon Fraser University professor Joshua Gordon, author of a recent report on Vancouver’s housing crisis, said every British Columbian who hears about the Quebec program is “appalled,” and yet the Clark government “won’t go to bat” for them.

“The absence of any public pressure from the B.C. government on the feds or Quebec to end the program is revealing about the way the Clark government thinks about the housing issue,” Gordon said Friday.

“What this suggests is that the Clark government’s strategy is to continue to fuel the housing bubble, since they realize it’s the main economic game in town, and hope that equity windfalls for boomers will get them re-elected — and that the whole thing doesn’t come crashing down.”

A spokesman for the Quebec immigration ministry, meanwhile, said Friday that his province didn’t jump in to increase its intake as a result of Ottawa’s departure from the field.

Quebec has actually reduced the number of applications it has accepted in recent years, from 2,138 in 2013 to 1,278 in 2015, according to Jonathan Lavallee. He indicated the recent bump had to do with a processing backlog in the federal system — a contention that Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland supports.

The Quebec government has also acknowledged the leakage problem, saying in a 2014 discussion paper that only a “small minority” choose to settle in Quebec for the long term.

Kurland praised Quebec’s recent efforts to retain more rich immigrants. One such measure gives preferential treatment to French-speakers.

The federal figures don’t break down the source countries for the immigrants through the investor program. However, the Quebec government says 89 per cent of its investor immigrants this year will come from Asia.

The Quebec investor program, for a net cost that Kurland pegs at $125,000, allows wealthy foreigners jump to the front of the immigration queue even if they didn’t speak a word of English or French.

Federal Immigration Minister John McCallum said in a recent interview that he has no intention of challenging Quebec on its immigration policy, and a departmental spokeswoman said the province has every right under a 1991 Canada-Quebec accord to set its immigration policy.

Kurland said Canada has the authority to shut down Quebec’s program if it has the political will to annoy a province in which Trudeau holds 40 of 78 seats.

And he challenged the common assertion that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees mobility rights, prevents authorities from forcing newly arrived permanent residents to stay in Quebec after arrival.

He noted that all charter rights are subjected to Section 1 of the 1982 Constitution Act, which says all rights can be circumscribed by “reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

Kurland, who believes B.C. should set up its own investor program, said a court could be convinced that it is “reasonable” to insist that newcomers stay in the province they declared an intent to live in for their first two years in Canada.

That could be enforced by requiring successful applicants to forfeit the entire $800,000 investment if they move before that time.

“The Charter has a two-part test. A breach of rights is not the end of the debate.”

Ian Young, the South China Morning Post’s Vancouver correspondent, echoed Kenney’s harsh assessment in a column last week.

“It is a money-grubbing prank perpetrated upon Vancouver by Quebec,” Young said. “It is a scam, and it needs to stop.”

Source: Quebec immigrant program increases in popularity … with ‘downsides’ for B.C. | Vancouver Sun

Premier Clark apologizes for B.C.’s historical wrongs against Chinese immigrants

A reminder of the power of an apology (without admitting legal liability) for the Chinese Canadian community in healing old wounds:

Shui Lee endured decades of intolerance and racism in Canada just because he is Chinese, but on Thursday the 58-year-old restaurant owner said he is finally proud to be both Canadian and Chinese.

With tears in his eyes and holding the 1914 head-tax document belonging to his great, great grandfather, Lee described what British Columbia’s formal apology for racist and discriminatory government policies against Chinese immigrants means to him.

“When I walk out this door today, I feel so proud that I can put my head up and I tell everybody I’m proud to be Canadian,” he said. “I can be proud to be Chinese.”

Lee, a Kelowna, B.C., restaurant owner, said he often argued with friends, relatives and others about what he considered Canada’s racist and intolerant laws and policies towards Chinese immigrants, but was told not to rock the boat.

“They don’t want to apologize to you,” he said he was told. “But I prove it today, they are wrong. The government did apologize to us. And they admit they were wrong.”

Much like the federal government’s Chinese Head Tax ex gratis payments and historical recognition program, or PM Harper’s apology to First Nations for residential schools, recognition of the past helps reconciliation in the present and future. While challenging to governments, particularly which communities are recognized and which not, the old hard-line approach of earlier Liberal governments that we do not apologize for what happened in the past does not address this need.

Of course, the more organized the community, the better the chance for some form of historical recognition. Democracy in action.

Clark apologizes for B.C.’s historical wrongs against Chinese immigrants – The Globe and Mail.

Under new rules, rich Chinese should learn French if they want to move to Canada | South China Morning Post

One of the perverse consequences of Quebec continuing its business immigration program while the rest of Canada has suspended it. Never liked this “buy a visa” approach and government officials are basically poor at assessing entrepreneurial and business skills:

Whether or not the language exemption is abused matters to Vancouver, since 89 per cent of all investor immigrants supposedly bound for Quebec end up living elsewhere in Canada. Assuming the dispersal rate under the federal scheme holds true for these immigrants too, that means about 59 per cent of all Quebec investor immigrants actually end up living in Vancouver.

As with the axed federal scheme, Chinese millionaires dominate Quebec’s investor immigration scheme, making up 71 per cent of 2012’s applicants.

This habit of rich Chinese to quickly flee their new “home” of Quebec has not gone unnoticed.

In testimony to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Official Languages last June, then Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was scathing.

“I think there is some skimming going on in the programme, whereby Quebec is taking the money of immigrant investors and using it, but the British Columbia taxpayers must pay the price for the social services provided to immigrants selected by Quebec,” Kenney said.

Under new rules, rich Chinese should learn French if they want to move to Canada | South China Morning Post.

SUCCESS admits mistake in posting Chinese-only signs | Vancouver Sun

A controversy has erupted in Richmond over Chinese-language only advertising aimed at reducing gambling among Chinese-speaking Canadians. This is not the first flare-up of language issues (McDonald’s customer alleges language discrimination – British Columbia) and reminds us of the balance between serving new Canadians in an effective way (where use of other languages plays an important role), targeting communities in need, but not doing so exclusively that it alienates the “mainstream.”

I don’t share the view that targeted programs necessarily present the kind of ethical issue presented below as long as other general programs and support are available. If we are too universal, we may be less effective. But the signs should have a short description of the program in English to avoid such issues.

This is a fascinating ethical issue. Since SUCCESS is mostly funded by the B.C. and federal governments, it means that taxpayers are supporting an organization that explicitly excludes non-Chinese-speaking people from participation — since they wouldn’t be able to read the signs.

It is ethical that this program to fight addiction is only for those who speak Chinese?

SUCCESS admits mistake in posting Chinese-only signs | Vancouver Sun.

Chilliwack pastor tells congregation vaccines interfere with God’s care

A reminder that Christians have their fundamentalists and extremists like other religions:

Rev. Adriaan Geuze says his 1,200-strong Reformed Congregation of North America in Chilliwack mostly shares that view, which is why vaccination rates in the community are “very low.”

“We leave it in (God’s) hands. If it is in his will that somehow we get a contagious disease, like in this case the measles, there are other ways, of course, to avoid this. If (we get sick), he can also heal us from it,” he said in an interview Friday.

Chilliwack pastor tells congregation vaccines interfere with God’s care.

B.C.’s apology for treatment of Chinese may get skeptical response – The Globe and Mail

More on historical recognition and how a transparently political initiative soured feelings among the Chinese-Canadian community in BC. Federal historical recognition program, along with the Chinese Head Tax ex gratis payments, seems like a more meaningful response than just an apology (although apologies have meaning for society and affected communities).

B.C.’s apology for treatment of Chinese may get skeptical response – The Globe and Mail.

We Must Tackle The “Cultural Divide” Now Or Polarization And Racism Will Continue To Haunt Us | Link Newspaper

Ken Herar, of the South Asian community, on the need to break down the barriers between the South Asian and other communities in the lower BC mainland:

The main reason why the “cultural divide” in Canada has continued to grow is because we have allowed it to, and our elected officials have paid very little  attention to the matter. In the next 20 years, if Canadians do not tackle or change the course of action, the cultural polarization will continue to spread. We’re at a crucial turning point where we can build bridges and strengthen partnerships within our communities or face the consequences of growing isolation.

We Must Tackle The “Cultural Divide” Now Or Polarization And Racism Will Continue To Haunt Us | Link Newspaper.