Douglas Todd: Popular Canadian student visas leading to exploitation

More from Douglas Todd on Indian student visa holders:

Senior Indian politicians are warning tens of thousands of young Punjabis about the dangers of trying to take advantage of student visas to try to become Canadian citizens.

Indian nationals — some of whom are using student visas primarily to work rather than study in Canada — are being exploited in both countries for their money and cheap labour, say South Asian media outlets and officials in both India and Canada.

The Punjab’s education minister, Charanjit Singh Channi, says he recently travelled to Canada and “saw the plight of students there,” with many working 16 hours a day to make ends meet and attending fly-by-night colleges with just five students enrolled.

Channi, who is concerned about a growing brain drain of young Punjabis to Canada, told the Indian media he is cautioning students against “falling into the emigration trap.” He is one of many officials raising alarms about fraudulent immigration agents who are financially bleeding low-income families in India with false promises their offspring will easily obtain immigrant status in Canada.

Many Indo-Canadians in Metro Vancouver and Toronto are in an uproar over the surge in students from India, with their presence feeding community tensions, allegations of financial exploitation by colleges and universities, employer abuse and fears some young newcomers are “buying jobs” in Canada while working for less than minimum wage, undercutting local South Asians.

The number of Indian students in Canada, mostly from the Punjab, has increased about five-fold in the past few years, since the federal government began to favour international students as future permanent residents.

Canada has 130,000 students from India now, compared to 20,000 in Britain, 70,000 in Australia and 186,000 in the U.S., which has almost 10 times Canada’s population.

“Most international students, especially from China and India, see being an international student as an opportunity to migrate to Canada for greener pastures, to pave way for their families to eventually join them,” says Barj Dhahan, a major B.C. employer and philanthropist.

“They end up paying large sums of money to ‘immigration consultants’ … to help them obtain admissions to Canadian institutions and get visas to Canada. Many of these students are enrolled in short-term degree programs” And, he said, many end up working more than the 20 hours a week are allowed under student study permits.”

Dhahan, owner of the Sandhurst Group of companies that specializes in B.C. restaurants, gas stations and commercial real estate, said some of the 500,000 international students in Canada “work illegally under the table to make ends meet, and are usually paid in cash.” In the process, he said, many are exploited by dubious employers and so-called consultants.

The Tribune is one of several Indian media outlets reporting that young Punjabis and their often-rural families are being gouged by educational institutions, landlords and employers in Canada, as well as by so-called “immigration consultants” in India.

The Punjab newspaper says it typically costs Indian students more than $15,000 Cdn for their first year in Canada, but that consultants don’t tell families that educational fees and housing costs will mushroom to $100,000 to $150,000 for a multi-year program. Last month, Indian headlines trumpeted a police raid on the office of a prominent Punjab immigration consultancy headed by Vinay Hari, who had sponsored large ads celebrating the visit of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Immigration lawyers in Metro Vancouver, such as George Lee and Richard Kurland, say international students from India and China, the two biggest source countries for Canada, are among those who end up trying to extend their chances of gaining immigrant status in Canada by “buying jobs,” some of which don’t exist.

Burnaby immigration lawyer George Lee says some international students from India and China are among those who try to extend their chances of gaining immigrant status in Canada by “buying jobs.”

Shinder Purewal, a Kwantlen Polytechnic University political scientist and a former citizenship court judge, said “Immigration is the main motive of most international students coming to Canada,” particularly those who sign up with low-tier public and private educational institutions with little intention of obtaining a serious diploma and a much stronger inclination to find work.

One of the most lucrative money-making schemes for fraudulent immigration agents in India and Canada, Purewal said, is arranging often-fake Canadian labour-market impact assessments for international students who seek a long-term work permit to cement their chance of being approved for permanent resident status, the precursor to becoming a Canadian citizen.

Some Indo-Canadian business owners, Purewal said, collude with the agents to charge Indian students $20,000 to $50,000 for a false labour-market assessment, which claims a foreign national is needed for a job because Canadians cannot be found.

Although newcomers on student visas are limited to working 20 hours a week, Purewal said most end up “working more than full time to cover costs, simply because Canadian employers don’t even pay them minimum wage. The system allows ‘immigration consultants’ and businesses to cheat, commit fraud and brutally exploit young people.”

Vancouver immigration lawyer Sam Hyman says there is a “rampant” underground economy devoted to creating false labour-market assessments for international students in Canada, regardless of their nationality. If the students who buy such fraudulent job offers are caught, Hyman warned, “they are likely to bear the enforcement consequences — including deportation — more readily than the fraudsters who victimize them and reap the profits of such illegal activity.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Popular Canadian student visas leading to exploitation

Douglas Todd: Why say ‘inappropriate’ when we mean ‘wrong’?

Words matter. Sometimes appropriate may in fact be appropriate, other times stronger and clearer language is. Depends on the degree and context:

Anybody who feels repelled by the word “inappropriate” is a friend of mine.

It is an increasingly over-used term in public education, health and academia, a bit of bland jargon that is supposed to fill in for actions that used to be called “immoral.”

It’s fine to talk about how it is inappropriate for a man to don a muscle shirt for a gala dinner, since that is referring to mere etiquette. But it is not helpful to claim it is inappropriate to spread malicious gossip about a classmate, sell drugs tainted with fentanyl or wantonly pollute a creek.

Dennis Danielson, professor emeritus of English at the University of B.C., explores abuse of the word “inappropriate” as he builds a comprehensive case for bringing terms such as “right,” “wrong” and “should” back into the public sphere in Canada and the U.S., where such traditional concepts are deemed suspicious. If not inappropriate.

In a brilliant 80-page essay titled The Tao of Right and Wrong (Regent College Publishing), Danielson writes about how “natural philosophy” can move us beyond the core curricula in use in B.C., Ontario and most U.S. schools, which insinuate that students and teachers who have convictions about good and evil can be brushed off with: “But that’s just your opinion.”

Danielson begs to differ. And he offers “The Tao” as shorthand for the way to counter-act the confusing moral relativism that pervades secular education at virtually all levels. Danielson borrows the term, the Tao, from Eastern philosophy to describe the trans-cultural entity from which all moral judgment flows. He makes a convincing argument it’s real. And it matters.

It’s important, he recognizes, to have an ultimate ground for our ethical convictions, whether we’re trying to figure out how to treat strangers, to respond to climate change, to deal with global wealth inequality, to solve housing unaffordability or to combat racial discrimination and scientific data fudging. The Tao can provide direction.

But first, a few more words about the weasel word “inappropriate.” The literature professor considers it part of our “pale modern vocabulary,” which has infected the public realm, including politics, replacing words like “should,” “ought” and “good.”

Danielson, author of The Book of the Cosmos: Imagining The Universe From Heraclitus To Hawking, provides evidence from school curricula around North America that words such as “just,” “decent” and even “important” have been suppressed and replaced with pallid jargon, such as “appropriate.” Even vicious behaviour is simply described as “not up to expectations.”

Danielson, who has been receiving cancer treatment, said he recently went through education ministry documents from across Canada, such as Diversity in B.C. Schools. He found the “authors clearly desire to promote worthwhile things, but just can’t bring themselves to use scary vocabulary like ‘right’ (as distinct from ‘rights’), ‘wrong,‘ ‘good,’ bad,’ ‘evil’ or ‘virtue.’ Of course ‘appropriate’ is all over the place! There’s something pathetic about this.”

While Danielson doesn’t want to be seen as a naysayer — he respects how many teachers are trying to promote citizenship — he maintains in The Tao of Right and Wrong that the crucial piece many are missing is a sense of the ultimate reality that supports meaning and ethical behaviour.

That reality is pointed to in virtually all wisdom traditions, whether ancient Greek, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Confucian or Taoist. Even though humans will always be imperfect in their understandings of what Plato called “the right and just,” Danielson follows the lead of C.S. Lewis in using the concept of The Tao as a kind of umbrella term for the ultimate source of “goods and shoulds.”

He draws a parallel with mathematics to explain how we can commit to the “obvious” truth of universal admonitions, for instance, to treat others the way we would like to be treated, and to view all humans as brothers or sisters. Even though “obvious” can have a subjective dimension, Danielson cites how “most mathematicians agree that, once we thoroughly understand the terms of a mathematical axiom or theorem, its truth is self-evident, or obvious.”

UBC literature prof emeritus Dennis Danielson adopts the concept of The Tao as a kind of umbrella term for the ultimate source of “goods and shoulds.”

In this cynical era in which “values-free” educators teach that every attempt to define meaning is merely “socially constructed” — or, worse, an attempt to exert power over others — many will criticize Danielson’s approach as absolutistic or even black and white. But it’s not. It’s meaty and nuanced. He takes seriously that all human declarations are provisional, even while maintaining sacred values exist to which all can attune themselves.

What are some of those ultimate purposes, which used to be considered virtues? Danielson rightly promotes the classical values of courage, prudence, self-control and fairness.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see such virtues exhibited more often from trendsetting celebrity commentators, either conservative or liberal, who often lead the mob in trash-talking on Twitter, attempting to ostracize those who use moral reasoning to disagree with them? (The tragic irony of “values-free” education is it produces people with no skills in applied ethics; so when they do express opinions they often adopt a hectoring, self-righteous tone.)

I appreciate how Danielson, along with philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, places these classic virtues above what he calls “secondary” truths. And it’s no coincidence a key example of such secondary truths is something many multicultural Canadians contradictorily elevate into an outright absolute: Tolerance.

“Tolerance is clearly a virtue — until it is not. Innumerable codes of conduct across varying school systems — as well as government, law, health care and so on — today declare unapologetically that harassment, bullying, vandalism, violence, possession of illicit drugs, and the like ‘will not be tolerated,’” Danielson says.

“Well and good. But the problem is that teaching materials in those same school systems offer scant wisdom that might help young people or educators discern where the line should be drawn between virtuous tolerance and a principled refusal to tolerate.”

Why has Danielson felt compelled to write The Tao of Right and Wrong at this stage of his life? He believes the most important things facing the rising generation are questions of morality, meaning, virtue and purpose. But he believes many of the young are embarrassed to talk about them. “There are a lot of voices out there calling these things merely vacuous, ultimately made up, ‘constructed’,” he said.

“But with every fibre of my being I think that those things are real and significant — and when it comes down to it, are much more than just arbitrary or culturally specific. I think our future as a species very much depends on our treating them as real and significant. So, hoping to make a modest contribution to that recognition, I wrote this little book — and dedicated it to my youngest granddaughter.”

I could offer that I find Danielson’s motive for writing this new book to be quite “appropriate.” But I’d prefer to try to be true to the Tao and refer to it as right and good.

Source: Douglas Todd: Why say ‘inappropriate’ when we mean ‘wrong’?

Douglas Todd: Indo-Canadians in uproar over surge of foreign students

Another interesting profile by Douglas Todd of some of the tensions and debates within one of the ethnic communities:

The Indo-Canadian community is in turmoil over a recent surge in foreign students from India, whose presence is feeding community tensions amid allegations of financial exploitation, an Indian brain drain, exam cheating, mistreatment of young women, employer abuse, drug dealing and the “stealing” of South Asians’ jobs.

The number of international students from India in Canada has jumped by roughly five times in the past few years, after the federal government in 2012 bucked the trend of other Western nations and made it easier for international students to work and to go to the front of the immigration queue.

In the past it was mostly well-off Indian families who sent their children to Canada to study. But now tens of thousands of low-income Indians, including farming families, are stretching their meagre finances to get their children into the Canadian education system, job market and family immigration stream.

South Asian media outlets in Canada and India are buzzing with articles and commentary on the changes, often revolving around debate on whether the 130,000 foreign students from India, mostly from the Punjab region, are being victimized by the system or exploiting it. Canada’s South Asian population numbers more than 500,000, mostly in Metro Vancouver and Greater Toronto.

Indian education officials, especially in the Punjab, are complaining about losing students to Canada. They’re also alleging many of the foreign students are being exploited by unscrupulous immigration agents and English-language trainers in India, as well as by money-hungry colleges and universities, landlords and South Asian business owners in Canada.

Meanwhile, Indo-Canadians concentrated in Greater Toronto and Metro Vancouver have been holding public meetings to complain about how many students from India are skipping classes to work longer hours in Canada than they are permitted, leading to the Times of India running the headline: “Indo-Canadians say international students ’stealing their jobs.’”

Desi Today, an Indo-Canadian magazine, said in an editorial “There has been a simmering reaction of anger and protest by the Indo-Canadian community, especially of Surrey, against these students.

“There are YouTube videos made by Indo-Canadians displaying the behaviour of the students (and) their unhygienic lifestyle, criticizing them for their focus on earning money instead of studies. A few are leaving studies altogether to enter into illicit activities, like drug trading,” said Desi Today.

Balraj Kahlon, of Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen, a Surrey organization that helps low-income individuals, told Postmedia News his members were discovering that “many students from India are under financial stress and there is a problem of labour exploitation, and sexual exploitation of young women.” Some Indians students are alleged to be working 16 hours a day, when their Canadian study permit allows only 20 hours a week.

The number of Indian foreign students at Surrey’s Kwantlen Polytechnic University has skyrocketed in the past couple of years, while Langara College’s cohort of Indian foreign students has catapulted 40 times in just three years. Many students from India are also attending small private colleges in Canada, which some critics dismiss as “one-room” fake diploma-and-immigration factories.

Langara College sociology instructor Gagun Chhina said Canadian institutions can’t handle the extraordinary influx of foreign students, who are flocking here because of Ottawa’s simplified process for obtaining permanent resident status. Students from India make up the second largest cohort of international students in Canada, after those from China.

Chhina said Indian foreign students are struggling to balance study with long hours on their jobs, which many need to survive in costly Vancouver and Toronto. Some are sending money home to their Indian parents, many of whom hope their sons and daughters will sponsor them to come to Canada to work temporarily or immigrate.

Indian foreign students have unfortunately become big business in both India and Canada, say the critics, and some of those enterprises are illicit.

A radio station in the Punjab, SBS, reported that English-language schools have been fined for charging students $15,000 for phoney passing marks in English tests, so they can get into Canada. Punjabi officials have ordered a crackdown on immigration consultants, some of whom take large sums and make false promises to manoeuvre young people into Canadians schools. India’s Tribune newspaper also maintains Canada’s “relaxed immigration policy” is draining tens of thousands of young people and their low-income families’ hard-earned money out of the Punjab.

Things are so strained among some South Asians in Canada that fights have broken out between domestic and foreign students in Ontario colleges.

“This is the talk of the town in the Punjabi community. The newspapers and radio shows all talk about it,” Balraj Deol, editor of the Khabarnama Punjabi Weekly, told Postmedia.

While many Indo-Canadian landlords and business owners are financially exploiting and abusing foreign students from India, Deol said the other side of the phenomenon is that Indian foreign students who break the rules by working long hours are adding to large “underground” ethnic economies in Ontario and B.C.

Said Deol: “People are angry at this poor immigration policy in Canada.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Indo-Canadians in uproar over surge of foreign students

Douglas Todd: Trudeau government goes silent on Syrian refugees

To be fair to the government, the Syrian refugee program was set up with better outcome tracking in place, to allow for a higher quality evaluation at the five-year mark. Census 2021 will also provide a good sense of how well Syrian refugees have done, both PSRs and GARs.

I suspect that some of the lack of interim information may reflect the pressures for regular data on asylum seekers; indeed while monthly operational data is updated regularly, quarterly and annual reporting is slower (e.g., quarterly citizenship operational data dates from June 2017):

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s election promise to welcome 25,000 refugees from Syria was aimed at showing voters his compassion. The followup photo opportunities he arranged in 2015 with smiling Syrian refugees, such as doctors, drew international headlines.

Once in power, Trudeau’s Liberals switched the name of the Immigration Department to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, to highlight their concern for those forced to leave chaotic home countries, especially Syria.

Given the grand gestures, you would be forgiven for believing the federal Liberals and the department responsible for refugees would be tracking the fate of the tens of the thousands of struggling Syrians that Canada has recently taken in.

But, after more than two weeks of inquiries by Postmedia, a media relations officer acknowledged the department has not produced any report in almost two years on the about 50,000 Syrian refugees now in Canada.

Canada’s auditor general is among the unamused. The Liberals had a plan to monitor whether the mostly Arabic-speaking refugees were learning English, working, receiving social assistance and going to school, but the government has failed to follow through, said auditor general Michael Ferguson. It is Ottawa’s responsibility, he said, to make sure Syrians refugees “integrate into Canadian society.”

The federal Liberals are not following the more transparent approach of Sweden and Germany, which took in the largest numbers of the 2.6 million mostly-Syrian asylum seekers who arrived in Europe in 2015 and 2016. The governments of those countries are providing extensive data on refugee outcomes, in addition to launching waves of job-training programs.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada did, to be fair, release a one-year-after report on Syrian refugees in December, 2016. It was moderately helpful, since it showed half the privately sponsored refugees had jobs in Canada. But employment fell to 10 per cent among the larger cohort of “government-assisted” refugees, who are typically less educated and often illiterate.

The early Ottawa report also touched on how, after refugees’ first year in Canada, they are cut off from direct stipends from the federal government.

How have things gone for Syrian refugees in Canada in the almost two years since that lone departmental report? No one really knows. That’s unlike in Sweden and Germany, where refugee programs are increasingly thorny electoral issues.

Sweden has discovered, for instance, that, despite creating hundreds of “fast-track” job-training programs for recent refugees, only one third of those who completed a two-year full-time integration program in 2017 were working or studying three months later.

Refugees in Germany have done a bit better, but three-quarters are working in jobs needing few skills and with poor prospects. Unemployment is exceedingly high.

How is integration going in Canada?

When Postmedia sought answers from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, a media official provided the website of another public-relations official at another department, who recommended contacting Canadian academics, who either didn’t respond, had nothing to say or suggested contacting yet other academics. It’s known as “getting the runaround.” It may eventually bear fruit, but who knows?

One non-governmental source in B.C., however, did have some helpful informal insights about what’s happening in this  province, the destination of about one in 10 Syrian refugees.

Maggie Hosgood, who has helped coordinate more than 100 B.C. United Church congregations that have privately sponsored 65 Syrian families, said most refugees “are doing all right,” with good outcomes for children, especially girls, who attend public schools.

But most refugees, many of whom end up in Burnaby, are struggling to afford housing in hyper-costly Metro Vancouver. In addition, Hosgood estimated roughly one in four Syrian adults are on welfare.

Unlike the highly educated refugees who Trudeau mingles with for photo opportunities, most Syrian refugees have jobs that require few skills, such as cleaners or jobs in shops where they don’t have to speak English.

Many Syrians are struggling to learn English in the classroom, Hosgood said, regretting that the former federal Conservative government did away with a program in which refugees could, at the same time, learn both English and a trade.

There are positive exceptions. Some male refugees are bakers, candy makers or mechanics. One carpenter, Hosgood said, has developed a thriving business, learning English while he works. “He’s got plans.”

As German and Swedish government officials are discovering, Hosgood also confirmed many Middle Eastern “husbands don’t want their wives to work.” They think, she said, the woman should stay at home and the husband should provide for the family.

“The Canada Child Benefit has been a godsend for most families,” Hosgood said, echoing a study suggesting most Syrian parents come with three to four children, sometimes eight or 10. “Big families would be doing very well.”

Syrian mothers and fathers with four children can get about $50,000 a year in various taxpayer-funded social-service benefits. The Canada Child Benefit provides $6,400 a year for each child under six and $5,400 for children between six and 17, while provincial welfare can give about $12,000 a year to each adult.

Hosgood said many of the grateful Syrian refugees, who know how to stretch their money,  are now starting to sponsor relatives to come to Canada.

Integrating refugees into the well-off West requires playing the long game. European countries have found that refugees’ full entry into the taxpaying workforce often doesn’t approach the national average for a couple of decades.

Instead of posturing in photo opportunities, Canada’s governing politicians need to follow Europe and track what is happening on the difficult ground. It’s impossible to create effective integration programs if no one knows what’s working and what’s not.

Source: Douglas Todd: Trudeau government goes silent on Syrian refugees

Douglas Todd: B.C.’s foreign-buyers tax is nothing special and not xenophobic

Agree:

It is hard to find a country that allows foreigners to freely buy its land. It is much easier to find countries that restrict foreigners’ purchases of property.

But that hasn’t stopped Chinese national Jing Li, assisted by some Canadian academics, from launching a lawsuit against the B.C. government’s 20 per cent tax on foreign buyers of residential properties.

Li, an international student who used her family’s money to buy a townhouse in Langley, argues the tax illegally discriminates against people on the basis of their national origin and has been stirred up by “unfair biases and stereotypes.” UBC academics Nathan Lauster and Henry Yu produced affidavits supporting Li’s argument the tax is xenophobic, especially towards Asians and specifically Chinese.

However, based on the logic of Li, Lauster, Yu and others who made their arguments last week before a B.C. Supreme Court judge, most countries of the world are xenophobic and perhaps racist — since most countries have a range of curbs on foreign buyers of property, with Li’s own populous country, China, throwing up some of the toughest controls.

Asian countries with restrictions on foreign buyers include the biggest: China, India, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, plus Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. Australia allows foreign nationals to buy only new dwellings, while New Zealand is developing a surtax.

There are also special constraints on foreign buyers in Mexico and even in the U.S. Many South American nations, including giant Brazil, limit foreign owners. So do many European countries.

While Li, to the applause of some Canadian property developers, has challenged the sovereignty of B.C. and Ontario (and Manitoba and Prince Edward Island) in bringing in restrictions on foreign buyers, most countries have no compunction in limiting foreign investors.

In China, the restrictions on foreign buyers of property are tricky, onerous, costly and always changing. For starters, foreigners might be shocked to find they can never actually own “dirt” in China, because the government maintains complete ownership of all land. Foreigners and citizens can only buy buildings.

Foreign nationals in China have had to prove they have been living in the country a year before they can buy property. It’s just one of hundreds of rules that countries around the world have to control foreign ownership.

A foreign national has had to meet numerous requirements to buy a dwelling in China, including proving they have been living in the country for at least a year. That is a residency requirement Canadian politicians never raise as even a possibility.

China, like most countries, makes no gesture toward a reciprocal arrangement with Canada or anywhere else.

And the laws vary abruptly by region in China. Foreigners who want to buy a house in Shanghai, for instance, have to prove they’re married. In Beijing, foreigners have to pay taxes for at least five years before officials allow them to buy a structure. And, even after that, a foreigner in Beijing can only buy one property, which has to be residential.

China’s regulations, designed to help its own citizens, go on and on.

Since, like most Asian countries, China also allows in extremely few immigrants, it is virtually impossible to become a citizen and then buy property in the country. The foreign-born portion of the population in most Asian countries is typically less than one per cent.

Many Muslim-majority countries also restrict foreign ownership. In Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation, foreigners can’t own land but can lease apartments (though not detached dwellings). Does that mean Indonesian officials are xenophobic, or simply protecting locals?

While the surtax in B.C. and Ontario applies equally to all foreign nationals, Turkey targets specific nations in the name of protection and political strategy. Turkey won’t allow people from neighbouring Russia or Greece to buy land in its popular border regions. Cubans and Nigerians are forbidden from buying anywhere in Turkey, which also places limitations on citizens of China and Denmark while allowing others more access.

European countries have various curbs. Denmark’s housing market is highly regulated; foreign nationals from outside Europe cannot buy real estate unless they prove they are permanent residents and will live full-time in the dwelling. Even European Union citizens cannot buy summer homes on Denmark’s sought-after coast. Britain has its own limits. And though large countries like France and Germany are fairly open, small Switzerland has erected more barriers than Denmark.

Even in North America, where free-market capitalism is said to reign supreme, both of our NAFTA partners have restrictions on foreign buyers.

The U.S. has subtle constraints on foreign ownership, including convoluted tax demands. A foreigner selling real estate in the U.S. must immediately send 10 per cent of the sale value to the Internal Revenue Service, where it’s held to pay capital gains. Foreigners also usually end up paying more death taxes on their U.S. properties than Americans.

Mexico simply doesn’t allow foreigners to directly buy the deed to properties in its so-called “restricted zone,” which covers everything within 100 kilometres of its coastline. Foreigners trying to snag properties in the restricted zone have to go through a knotty legal process.

All of which suggests the foreign-buyers tax in B.C. and Ontario — compared to the incredible range of restrictions around the world — is distinctly middle of the road.

And if critics deem the foreign-buyers tax to be xenophobic or racist, they must be ready to toss the same epithets at most of the world’s nations.

Source: Douglas Todd: B.C.’s foreign-buyers tax is nothing special and not xenophobic

Douglas Todd: Canadian officials battle dozens of migration scams

Good overview of the major scams. Thanks again to Richard Kurland for making the ATIP request:

Canadian immigration officials around the world face a wave of immigration scams.

Many of the schemes feature people claiming to be in marriages that turn out to be phoney. Others involve fraudulent letters about escorting Saudi Arabian princesses, counterfeit passports and forged job offers, or people pretending to be journalists.

An internal Global Affairs Department document shows Canadian consular and customs officials invited anti-fraud experts from European countries to a meeting to learn about the wide range of inventive scams that people are using to try to emigrate to Canada and other Western nations.

The federal email correspondence came to light in the same month that the federal NDP immigration critic, Jenny Kwan, criticized Canadian immigration officials for asking a couple “offensive and insulting” questions, which were aimed at determining if a Pakistani woman was in a bona fide marriage with her male sponsor, who had been in Canada for 13 years.

It was “completely inappropriate” for immigration officials to note the female applicant for Canadian permanent resident status is three years older than her spouse, said Kwan, the MP for Vancouver East. She called on Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen to look into what she calls a “systemic” problem with the way staff handle the popular spousal-sponsorship program.

However, a detailed email from a senior official at Global Affairs, which was obtained through an access to information request, indicates that fake marriages are among the most common fraudulent methods used to obtain permanent resident status in Canada.

The email, sent last year to about 50 Canadian officials after a meeting in Cairo, describes a common deception in which Arabic couples enter into so-called “Urfi marriages,” which are customary under Islamic law but not recognized by the Egyptian government. Urfi marriages are often for convenience, including to travel or migrate. In Sudan, meanwhile, many officials are giving out suspicious marriage documents to citizens of other African nations.

The widespread problem posed by fake marriages was confronted in 2013 by then-immigration minister Jason Kenney, who began a crackdown on “marriages of convenience,” which included a public video featuring real victims of marriage-migration scams. The federal Liberals continue to use videos to warn people against being abused by a marriage scheme, but the government has eased some rules for Canadian spouses sponsoring foreign nationals.

With Gallup pollsters finding that roughly 45 million people around the globe want to move to Canada, another growing scam has been emerging in India, where people are posting newspaper ads that seek “marriage” with a young person who has been accepted as one of this nation’s 500,000 international students.

The Global Affairs email shows that Canadian officials uncovered other creative schemes, one of which they called “the prince or princess scam.”

At their meeting in Cairo, they found seven cases of married Egyptian or Sudanese males “applying for a visitor visa to accompany a prince or princess of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on their visit to Canada. The applicants were to serve as personal maids, cooks, drivers or waiters.” The university-educated applicants provided fake letters, purportedly written on the letterhead of Saudi royal families.

A different ruse, says the Global Affairs email, is to apply to enter other countries as journalists. Another is for an applicant to buy a rundown house in a Western country, then claim they require a visa to work on it. In addition, corrupt officials in Africa, including clergy,  are issuing fake birth certificates. Forged passports and bank statements are also common. So is buying fake jobs. And a new approach is to present immigration officials with fraudulent invitation letters to pilot-training schools in Canada.

In response to Postmedia questions, Kwan acknowledged that marriage and other migration frauds exist, adding that “the overwhelming majority of interactions” that Canada’s immigration and border officials “have with people are done with a commendable level of expertise and professionalism.”

However, Kwan said an “inappropriate line of questioning can have serious impacts for genuine families.” The border official’s initial suggestion that the Pakistani couple did not appear “well matched,” in part because she was older, would not have been asked, Kwan said, of Prince Harry, 33, and his new wife, the Duchess of Sussex, 36.

Even though the Pakistani-Canadian husband’s sponsorship of a wife in Pakistan was approved, Kwan emphasized that border officials should never deal in “outdated stereotypes” about traditional foreign cultures. She wants immigration officials to take “cultural sensitivity training.”

Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, who obtained the internal Global Affairs email under an access to information request for his newsletter, Lexbase, said it’s legitimate for the NDP’s immigration critic to “push back” as a check on the power of Canada’s visa officers.

But Kurland also recommends Kwan take what he called “the cure.” That is, Kurland suggested it would be beneficial if she learned more about the many kinds of “real cases” that Canadian anti-fraud units are dealing with in places such as Delhi or Beijing.

“While the overwhelming majority of cases are genuine, we must be vigilant to prevent that small number of bad cases becoming a big number of bad cases. It is a difficult challenge that seasoned visa officers lose sleep over. The stakes are high (for would-be immigrants}. And for Canada.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Canadian officials battle dozens of migration scams

Douglas Todd: Progressives wrestle with dilemma on migration

Good nuanced summary of the various research:

It’s called the “progressive’s dilemma,” a term popularized by two Canadian scholars of multiculturalism. It describes the way people with left-of-centre views often find themselves in a fix on the issue of migration.

They become ensnared by a 21st-century debate over whether a higher immigration rate weakens domestic support for social-welfare programs. Most scholars conclude it generally does: The main questions they’re now trying to answer are to what extent and why.

Since “progressives” tend to support both strong immigration and a generous social-safety net, they are put in a bind, say Canadian scholars Keith Banting and Will Kymlicka. It’s why Canadians are often in some denial about the correlation between in-migration and support for a welfare society.

Most Americans and Europeans do not shy away from the problem, however, even if they sometimes exaggerate it. The influential Harvard economists Alberto Alesina and Edward Glaeser maintain Western European countries have more generous welfare societies than the U.S. (and to some extent Canada) because their populations are more ethnically “homogeneous,” which makes it harder for European taxpayers to “demonize” the poor.

With the ratio of foreign-born residents expanding in many Western countries, a small army of researchers continue to test the theories of Alesina and Glaeser, to pin down where and when immigration might hurt popular support for such things as universal health care, unemployment insurance, social housing, maternity benefits and welfare.

It’s a distinctly First World problem, but not in a trivial sense.

The “progressive’s dilemma” only applies to advanced, democratic countries that welcome immigrants. Since most large or developing countries either don’t seek immigrants or don’t have significant social programs, there are relatively few nations in which progressives have to struggle with the trade-off.

It’s telling that one of the most important studies into whether immigration undermines support for a liberal safety net focuses on just 17 countries (including Canada), which University of California sociologist David Brady and Ryan Finnigan, of Berlin, chose because they are affluent, long-standing democracies.

Some First World progressives believe it’s best this topic, in the name of tolerance and diversity, not be publicly aired. But Finnigan and Brady (the latter is the author of Rich Democracies, Poor People), say that “of course it is reasonable to ask” whether immigration undermines public support for social programs.

“Immigration is changing labour markets, reconfiguring ethnic composition and altering the politics of affluent democracies,” Finnigan and Brady write. “In the past few decades, there has been rapid growth in immigration to affluent democracies. In recent years, there has seemingly been an even more rapid growth in concern for the political consequences of immigration to the welfare state.”

They see weaknesses in the theories of the Harvard economists, who basically maintain the U.S. has more stingy welfare policies because the country is more ethnically diverse than Western Europe and more prone to racial rivalry (partly because of a history of black slavery and undocumented migration from Hispanic countries).

Yet they maintain their findings “do not actually contradict” Alesina and Glaeser. Even though Finnigan and Brady found through their comprehensive study that rising immigration rates do not necessarily erode support for unemployment insurance and pensions, they did discover a conflict over job programs.

When a sample of residents of affluent nations were asked if they supported government programs that would “provide jobs for everyone who wants one,” there was significant resistance.

The authors believe that domestically born people often see immigrants as a “threat” and “competition” for limited jobs (and, to a lesser extent, for social housing and universal health care).

“Individuals with low education, those with low income, and the unemployed tend to be both anti-immigrant and pro-welfare,” say Finnigan and Brady, referring to the way policies that increase migration make some members of the host society feel more “instability, vulnerability and insecurity.”

The authors also point out a common fallacy: That North Americans often mis-label European political parties that want to lower immigration rates as “far-right.” The reality, they say, is many of Europe’s so-called extreme-right parties actually champion the left-wing values of a welfare society.

How foreign-born populations are growing in 17 affluent countries. (Source: David Brady, Ryan Finnigan)

What are the consequences of all this for Canada?

There is cause for concern, since the federal Liberals are increasing immigration rates at the same time immigrants are relying in greater numbers on social assistance than native-born Canadians, according to UBC economists Craig Riddell and David Green and Carleton University’s Christopher Worswick.

“Before 2000, social assistance receipt among immigrants was generally below that of the native-born (in Canada), but recently it has consistently been higher,” Riddell et al say in Policy Options.

“These trends imply that newly arrived immigrants are a net drag on government budgets: they pay less in taxes on average and make average or slightly above average use of government services and benefits. Second-generation immigrants do well, which may offset this net drag to some extent, but the initial impact of a large increase in immigration should be expected to be an increase in taxes, a decrease in services, an increase in deficits, or some combination of the three.”

The “progressive’s dilemma” is also exacerbated in places like Metro Vancouver, in part because the region is a popular destination for wealthy trans-national migrants, who some real-estate analysts, such as Richard Wozny, say are not paying their fair share of taxes. It’s led to the rise of domestic housing-affordability organizations, such as Housing Action for Local Taxpayers (HALT).

For his part, Banting acknowledges there is increasing danger the “progressive’s dilemma” could develop into a bigger predicament in Canada.

Canadians’ over-riding commitment to a “multicultural identity” has served as a kind of “cultural glue,” Banting said, thus forestalling broad antagonism to immigration based on fears it will reduce support for the country’s welfare policies (which, in terms of generosity, lie somewhere in between those in the U.S. and northern Europe).

“But past successes can never be taken for granted,” Banting says. “The slowing economic integration of newcomers has increased their need for support, and their average benefits now exceed those of the native-born. … As a result, we seem to be heading toward territory that has proven politically combustible elsewhere.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Progressives wrestle with dilemma on migration

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

Douglas Todd: Canadian sovereignty faces challenge over foreign-buyers tax

Todd on the British Columbia foreign buyer tax:

Canadian sovereignty is on trial in a lawsuit against B.C.’s 20-per cent tax on foreign buyers of residential homes.

Jing Li — a Chinese citizen and international student who launched her case after using her family’s money to buy a townhouse in Langley in 2016 — is in effect challenging what some believe is Canada’s sovereign right to impose a targeted tax on foreign nationals, a B.C. surtax that is similar to many in other provinces and countries.

Arguing the tax illegally discriminates against people on the basis of their national origin, Li maintains in her claim it makes her feel “I am not wanted in Canada. … I feel that this anger has been directed toward people like me and other Asian nationals, due to unfair biases and stereotypes which the tax has further reinforced.”

In this era of globalization and free trade, in which trans-national corporations and libertarians often call for “open borders,” it is not fashionable to stand up for national sovereignty. Cultural liberals and even business leaders often characterize the concept as thinly disguised racism.

But some Canadians maintain it is ethical to discriminate against people who are not citizens or permanent residents (that is people who Canada have formally allowed to begin the immigration process). UBC law professor Joel Bakan, creator of the documentary The Corporation, says “in the past 30 years of economic globalization there has been an attack on the idea of the nation state.” But the sovereign nation, he says, remains the key structure through which a people can create a democratic community.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge will hear Li’s lawsuit in open court beginning June 25. In the meantime UBC professors Nathanael Lauster and Henry Yu are among those providing affidavits on behalf of Li, whose lawyer is Luciana Brasil, a specialist in class-action suits.

The B.C. government, in response to being sued, has obtained affidavits from, among others, UBC geography professor David Ley and SFU’s Andy Yan.

Should foreign nationals have the same rights and privileges as Canadian citizens and permanent residents, especially in regards to property?

In support of Li’s lawsuit against the B.C. government, Lauster claims the foreign-buyers tax reflects the kind of anti-Chinese sentiment that has become a “moral panic,” leading to “blaming the foreigner.”

British Columbians have scapegoated Chinese buyers, Lauster says. “There are clear indications that the inception and implementation of the foreign-buyer tax has reflected and invoked xenophobic, racist and specifically Sinophobic tendencies and sentiments.”

Lauster, an American who writes about his process of immigrating to Canada, maintains foreign students, temporary workers and other non-permanent residents are unfairly impeded by the foreign-buyers tax, particularly because many eventually apply to become immigrants.

The foreign-buyers tax has evoked a “Yellow Peril” discourse, Lauster says, with modern-day “folk devils.” The “social epidemic” manifests itself in anonymous comments about media articles and on Twitter. “Chinese immigrants and home buyers have been the primary targets of rhetoric. A variety of historically rooted stereotypes and biases have been perpetuated targeting Chinese home buyers and immigrants.”

For some reason the affidavit of Henry Yu, a UBC historian who specializes in documenting discrimination against ethnic Chinese, is not available to the public. Li’s lawyer did not reply to questions about it. Judging from the responses to Yu’s affidavit, however, it is similar to Lauster’s in arguing the tax demonstrates Canadians’ racism.

Andy Yan, who heads SFU’s City Program, counters in his affidavit that Yu and Lauster ignore “the globalization and hyper-commodification of housing,” which has hammered cities such as London, New York and Sydney and led to, for instance, 23 per cent of Coquitlam’s new condos being bought by foreign nationals.

Yan maintains Yu and Lauster are also blind to the “agency” of minority groups in B.C., where Chinese-Canadians have been leading activists supporting the tax on foreign buyers. There are now 470,000 ethnic Chinese in Metro Vancouver. Asians make up two of three immigrants to Canada.

An Angus Reid poll found 89 per cent of the city’s ethnic Chinese support the foreign-buyers tax. Even the then-Chinese consul general in Vancouver, Liu Fei, said, “The Chinese government would have no hesitation in stepping in and regulating (house) price increases like this, unlike governments here.”

Indeed, China has a range of restrictions on foreign buyers. And Yan’s affidavit makes it clear that jurisdictions throughout the world limit the purchasing power of foreign nationals. Yan says Yu and Lauster should not have ignored curbs on foreign buyers in Prince Edward Island, Ontario, Manitoba, Singapore, Hong Kong, Britain, Australia and the U.S. He could have added Denmark, Mexico, France, Switzerland and others.

In his affidavit, David Ley, author of Millionaire Migrants, says a key tactic of pro-growth real-estate advocates has been to claim that opponents of rapid expansion are xenophobic.

Developers first began playing the racism card in Vancouver and Los Angeles in the 1990s, Ley says. He notes Bob Rennie, a famed condo marketer and former chief of fundraising for the B.C. Liberal party, has alleged racism is “a huge undercurrent” in the housing debate.

Ley accepts Lauster and Yu’s analyses of B.C.’s discriminatory history up to the repeal of the immigration act in 1947. But he laments neither acknowledge how attitudes have changed. “Unlike in the colonial period, there is no ethno-racial divide that neatly separates, homogenizes and penalizes people of East Asian origin,” Ley says.

“There is significant resistance within Vancouver’s Chinese‐Canadian community to inflationary pressures in the property market primed by foreign capital, dispelling innuendoes that such resistance is inherited from old racist attitudes held by white Canadians.”

We will find out later this month where this case goes. If the judge declares the foreign-buyers tax is illegal, a massive class-action suit is sure to follow. Li’s lawyer did not reply to questions about who has so far been paying for the lawsuit’s substantial costs.

Meanwhile, those of us who continue to value national sovereignty will think of people like Bakan. Even though the liberal-left is often distracted by identity politics related to ethnicity, Bakan says the nation-state remains the key structure to protect the common good of passport holders and permanent residents.

Defenders of sovereignty may also consider Nobel Prize economist Joseph Stiglitz, who says globalization will only benefit most members of a nation if it puts strong social-protection measures in place. That includes rules to protect Canadians from out-of-control housing costs.

Source: Douglas Todd: Canadian sovereignty faces challenge over foreign-buyers tax

Gary Mason provides an effective riposte to those house-rich opposing the tax:

…But, hey, let’s not worry about them. They’ll figure it out, I’m sure. Let’s turn our attention to the homeowners in Vancouver whose $3-million-plus abodes face a minor tax hike. Although they can defer it until after they sell, many don’t want to. So, let’s everyone get together and figure out how we can help these poor, poor multimillionaires.

Source: Opinion What about the poor multimillionaire homeowners?

 

Douglas Todd: Amazon’s Vancouver ‘news’ lacks facts on jobs, migrants coming this way

More on the Canadian advantage in hiring talent and the mobility in the tech sector, written from a somewhat ambivalent perspective:

….The extent to which Canadian high-tech companies rely on foreign workers, international students and would-be migrants is explained in the book Trans-Pacific Mobilities: The Chinese and Canada (UBC Press), edited by the University of Calgary’s Lloyd Wong, with a key contribution by SFU’s Karl Froschauer.

Although Wong and Froschauer have never responded to my requests for interviews, they wrote in Trans-Pacific Mobilities that Metro Vancouver’s high-tech companies assertively look abroad for workers, mostly from Asia, and especially in India and China.

They do so, the sociologists write, because it means they can “spend a very small fraction of their salary budget on training and because B.C. universities produce relatively few graduates in the technology field … High-tech computer programming and computer systems analysis have been the two most common intended occupations of all skilled immigrants to Canada.”

Some international financial experts, however, are beginning to be more upfront about how one reason Canada’s high-tech sector is growing, particularly with satellite U.S. companies, is it is easier to get a visa to work in Canada than south of the border.

To put it simply, Canada’s open attitude to tech talent is the opposite of Trump’s, where the current national motto is, “Buy America. Hire America.”

Trump talks about further cracking down on the country’s coveted H-1B visas, which are used to place foreign workers in high-skilled U.S. jobs. As the BBC reports, U.S. politicians place a tight cap on H-1B visas because many do not want to see them used to replace skilled American workers with cheaper overseas counterparts.

Trudeau, on the other hand, is fast-tracking offshore high-tech workers and students. He’s brought in efforts like the Global Skills Strategy, which builds upon the 2015 “Express Entry” program; a free, online process that allows skilled workers to apply easily to immigrate.

Of the 500,000 international students in Canada in 2017, which was a 20 per cent jump from 2016, many are studying in technology fields.

One advantage in their coming to Canada is that — unlike in the U.S. where they are normally not allowed to stay in the country after they graduate — they can stay at least three years extra in Canada to work and go to the front of the queue for immigration. Another advantage of starting in Canadian high-tech is that foreign nationals who work for an American satellite company for one year can then get an inter-company transfer to the U.S.

Data is not available on how many Canadian-born or raised young people are getting jobs in the high-tech sectors in Vancouver, Toronto and across Canada. While employers routinely claim there is not enough local talent to hire, some B.C.-based business professors counter that there aren’t enough jobs for students graduating out of Canada’s high-tech programs.

In the midst of such trans-national confusion, shortage of facts and sometimes fantastical claims, there are pros and cons to the way the high-tech sector in Canada has become key to what Brock University researcher Zachary Spicer calls a globalized “brain churn.”

The world’s skilled workers, whether in Asia or North America, are not just flowing in one direction. They’re “churning,” shifting rapidly from country to country while chasing the most strategic jobs, with the restrictive U.S. generally being most sought-after, in large part because of its stronger salaries.

Raza Mirza, a high-tech worker in Vancouver who was recruited from Pakistan by a U.S. high-tech company, is not following the lead of many of his colleagues and moving to the U.S., even though he could make at least $40,000 Cdn more.

Separate from his own interests, he’s among many convinced the United States’ relatively protectionist approach to foreign labour, compared to Canada’s open policy, is definitely  boosting the high-tech sector in Canada.

“I believe the shortage of U.S. talent, and the U.S.’s unwillingness to let companies bring in more global talent, has been a huge factor in why U.S. technology companies are increasing their Canadian footprint.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Amazon’s Vancouver ‘news’ lacks facts on jobs, migrants coming this way