Douglas Todd: COVID-19 and the de-globalization of Canada

Too early to tell to see whether business models will change:

Many young people from China who are in Canada on study visas are returning home because they’re feeling isolated and lonely and yearn to be with their families, says Burnaby immigration lawyer George Lee.

The departure from Canada of people on study, work and travel visas is just one of many signs that globalization, which promotes the free movement of goods and humans, is suffering a setback because of COVID-19, says Lee, who has frequently travelled to China to serve his clients.

Canada began turning around all international visitors to Canada at airports on Wednesday, and will close the U.S. border to non-essential travel on Saturday. Ottawa has also banned almost all people returning to Canada who are not citizens or permanent residents.Even though the Liberal government announced on March 12 it would again hike its quota of immigrants — to 341,000 new permanent residents this year, 351,000 next year and 361,000 in 2022 — the government was forced to announce three days later it was cancelling all citizenship ceremonies, citizenship tests and retests.Globalization has been a big factor shaping both Canada, where 22 per cent of the population, is foreign-born and cosmopolitan Metro Vancouver, where 45 per cent of the population is foreign-born. Since 87 per cent of Canada’s COVID-19 cases have occurred as a result of travel outside the country, Vancouver International Airport is now only one of four airports in Canada open to foreign travellers.

The efforts of Canada and other nations to stop the virus are creating barriers to trade and transnational migration.“In the midst of all this, the bizarre thing is that China is inviting its citizens to return home, saying it’s safer than being in Canada or the U.S.,” said Lee, referring to the country where the novel coronavirus began, and which has grown into the world’s second largest superpower in large part because of the movement of technology, capital and people.

While Lee says many people on temporary student, work and visitors’ visas are returning to their homelands, Vancouver immigration lawyer Sam Hyman adds that some others appear to be extending their stays in Canada, with the government allowing them to remain longer than their permits stipulate.Asked how he believes COVID-19 will affect Canada’s future migration policies, Hyman said “the last thing we want now is for anyone to politicize all this.”

But that’s what the supports of globalization, including the author of Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them, fear is happening.

“The coronavirus outbreak has been a gift to nativist nationalists and protectionists, and it is likely to have a long-term impact on the free movement of people and goods,” author Philippe Legrain recently wrote in Foreign Policy, in a piece headlined The Coronavirus is Killing Globalization As We Know It.

Even though the disruption caused by drastic border and health-protection measures is expected to be temporary, the British political economist said the public is realizing there are risks to relying on global supply chains and that people are vulnerable to seemingly distant foreign threats. Some business leaders worry about what they’re calling de-globalization.“Many ostensibly liberal governments have slapped restrictions on travel and trade that are more draconian than ever (Donald) Trump dared impose at the height of his conflict with China last year,” said Legrain, who wrote the book, Open World, as a counter-argument to Canadian author Naomi Klein’s No Logo. “It provides fodder for nationalists who favour greater protectionism and immigration controls.”
In addition to tightening the borders to combat COVID-19, this month Ottawa made other moves affecting migration.It’s restricted temporary foreign workers entering the country, barred anyone who tests positive to COVID-19 and suspended the family-reunification program. Most contentiously for refugee advocates, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday suddenly changed tack and stopped accepting asylum seekers as they try to cross into Canada on foot. About 20 to 50 had been arriving each day and there had been confusion about whether they were going into quarantine.
At the same time Ottawa is giving would-be immigrants more time and leeway to obtain permanent resident status and has stopped deporting people.

All in all Hyman believes the government is “doing a good job in extremely trying circumstances” as it attempts to offset its welcoming migration policywith protecting the public’s health. Lee, the immigration lawyer, believes Canada is acting “generously” with migrants, adding no restrictions on permanent residents and relatively few measures hampering the country’s fast-growing cohort of 642,000 foreign students, 141,000 of whom come from China (43,000 are in B.C.)“I think Canada is very gentle in this regard. It’s not acting like China, which is just shutting everything down,” said Lee.

Only the next few weeks and months will reveal how COVID-19 plays out in changing Canada’s approach to the cross-border movement of people and to globalization itself, which up until recently has been the most far-reaching economic phenomenon the world has witnessed.

Source: Douglas Todd: COVID-19 and the de-globalization of Canada

Douglas Todd: SFU prof spotlighted foreign ownership in Vancouver 30 years ago

A reminder of how long the issue has persisted and how the political level missed the impact:

“I’ve always had a problem with the media not following the money.”

That’s from Simon Fraser University professor emeritus Donald Gutstein, who more than 30 years ago shone a spotlight on how foreign capital was flooding into Vancouver’s real estate market.

In the late 1980s, Gutstein began poring through Metro Vancouver’s land title office and discovered a tremendous volume of capital was flowing out of increasingly wealthy Asia into B.C. real estate.

The river of money was partly a consequence of Vancouver’s Expo 86, which featured the pavilions of 54 nations and sparked boasts about the city becoming “world class.” That seemed to inspire a host of politicians to head off on “trade missions” around the world to woo investment, which, alas, mostly went into Canadian real estate.

“The investors were just doing what they were invited to do,” says Gutstein, now 81. He emphasizes that the foreign-trade-mission-crazed politicians of recent decades came from every stripe — federal Conservative and Liberal and provincial Social Credit, NDP and Liberal.

Politicians welcomed foreign capital because it “is an easy way to boost your economic numbers,” Gutstein says. But the trouble is most of the money just pumped up the cost of real estate, especially when much of it at the time was funnelled into existing buildings.

After writing Vancouver Inc. in the 1970s to reveal the power developers have over politicians, Gutstein explained the globalization phenomenon in 1990 in The New Landlords: Asian Investment in Canadian Real Estate. It was preceded by a 1998 feature in Vancouver Magazine headlined ‘Hong Kong Money.’

Both grew out of Gutstein’s exhaustive work revealing how financiers like Stanley Ho, David Lam, Charles Tang, S.H. Sung, Geoffrey Lau and others had been buying up B.C. and Canadian towers and houses.

Gutstein discovered Social Credit cabinet minister Grace McCarthy had sold the former Expo 86 lands, which made up one sixth of downtown Vancouver, to Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing for what was even then an astonishingly cheap sum, $8 per buildable square foot. Gutstein also uncovered 20 major Greater Vancouver hotels had been sold in one year, and 15 involved offshore, mainly Asian money.

A specialist in teaching documentary research methods in SFU’s communications department, Gutstein says he was never accused of being “xenophobic.”

Perhaps it was because “I was just following the money to see what happens.” A few journalists, such as The Vancouver Sun’s Elizabeth Godley and the late CBC Radio talk-show host Peter Gzowski, covered The New Landlords. Godley’s piece explained Gutstein’s conviction it would have been far better if offshore investors had instead supported Canada’s manufacturing industries, which would have provided jobs and social stability.

Even though Gutstein escaped personal attack for his research, he now realizes some journalists in the 1990s who tried to cover how Hong Kong, Singapore, Chinese, Japanese and Malaysian capital was pouring into Canadian real estate were accused of being “racist” by developers and their supporters. It induced reporters and editors to move onto other subjects.

Gutstein himself also shifted onto other social critiques in the mid-1990s, after noticing a lack of mainstream interest in the real-estate fallout from Expo 86. He’s since written books about corporate propaganda, Stephen Harper and how the internet undermines democracy.

He’s never, unlike many “progressive” people today, been particularly focused on identity politics, which can emphasize the interests of ethnic, sexual and gender groups over the common good. “I’ve always been more interested in politics and economics and who benefits from the decisions governments make.”

Gutstein acknowledges some disappointment his findings of three decades ago didn’t resonate more with media outlets and what people today call “influencers,” because he is convinced foreign capital was a key reason Metro Vancouver’s housing prices are now among the most unaffordable in the world.

He credits a former UBC business professor, Michael Goldberg, with explaining how a trans-Pacific family-based culture of wealth turned urban Canada into a global real estate market in the 1980s and beyond. “Whistler was already there, and so were parts of West Vancouver and the west side of Vancouver. Local people were not in that market anymore. It was being dominated by investors from all over the world, who already owned real estate,” he says.

“They would use their holdings to buy more real estate. And that put the price of real estate out of the reach of local people in Vancouver. Nowadays, the price of Vancouver real estate is not determined, by any stretch of the imagination, by people who live and work here. It’s determined by this global market, by people who might have property in France and Hong Kong and London.”

Philosophically, Gutstein worries about how capitalism and democracy can coexist. They won’t, he says, if politicians spend their energy trying to please rich people and big business while overriding the interests of the majority of citizens.

He believes the housing crises in Vancouver, Toronto and Victoria could have been forestalled by politicians if journalists and academics had consistently followed the impact of foreign capital — and not waited until a handful began doing so about six years ago, eventually prompting the B.C. NDP and others to act.

Gutstein has no trouble with B.C.’s speculation and vacancy tax, for instance, since it’s designed in part to restrain so-called “satellite” families who invest in property with wealth earned abroad, where it isn’t subject to Canadian income tax. “The money is not really making a financial contribution to the country, so it makes sense to capture the benefit (the buyers obtain) in a tax,” he says.

Though retired from teaching at SFU, Gutstein is still in the game. His most recent book is titled The Big Stall: How Big Oil and Think Tanks are Blocking Action on Climate Change in Canada.

To Gutstein, the climate-change issue central to The Big Stall may even be bigger than skyrocketing Canadian real-estate prices. But that doesn’t mean taking action on one front cancels out doing so on the other.

Asked three decades later if he might have been a prophet without honour in his own country in regard to The New Landlord’s warnings about the dangers of mass foreign investment in Canadian real estate, Gutstein modestly answers: “Possibly.”

Source: Douglas Todd: SFU prof spotlighted foreign ownership in Vancouver 30 years ago

Douglas Todd: We can stop typecasting Catholics and Sikhs — now the election is over

While Todd’s points, of course, about religious believers not being monolithic, Scheer was likely more hampered by his inability to articulate credibly his beliefs and how they would not impact his decisions should he become PM, not to mention his other credibility issues (insurance agent claims, dual citizenship etc).

Moreover, Canadian public opinion has shifted as Todd notes and leaders need to be attuned to that reality:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau regretted in the fall that “divisiveness and disinformation were all too present features of this past election campaign,” in which he acknowledged he had become a polarizing figure.

What the Liberal party leader didn’t quite admit, however, is he played an oversized role in turning the October 2019 election, in which his party was reduced to a minority, into a toxic battle about, of all things, religion and sexual ethics.

Who would have thought it would come to this in multicultural, multi-faith Canada? We like to think it is only other countries, like the rivalrous U.S. or India, that are torn apart by religion-fuelled conflict.

But we had our own culture war in Canada in part because of the way Trudeau, and to some extent NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, hammered Conservative party Leader Andrew Scheer and even Green party Leader Elizabeth May, over two wedge issues with ties to religion — abortion and same-sex relationships.

These two ethical concerns were torqued so hard that most of the electorate likely lost track of any real sense of what Canadian Catholics and Sikhs actually believe about abortion and LGBTQ issues. The public might be surprised.

The Angus Reid Institute found Scheer, an active Catholic, suffered the most as a result of his religion. Commentators say it’s a key reason he announced last month he would step down as Conservative leader.

More than 51 per cent of Canadians told pollsters they developed a negative attitude to Scheer based on what they heard about his Catholicism and his beliefs.

A smaller proportion, 36 per cent, leaned negative about the religion of Trudeau, who says he is Catholic. Voters’ pessimism declined to 31 per cent for May, an Anglican who wears a small cross on a necklace, and to just 24 per cent for Singh, an orthodox Sikh who wears a turban and carries a ceremonial dagger.

Faith clearly remains combustible in Canada. Even though two of three Canadians believe having “freedom of religion” makes this a better country, more than one in five admitted they feel deeply “repelled” when a political candidate is a person of faith.

Scheer’s political opponents didn’t want voters to forget he is personally “pro life” on abortion. That lead to Scheer often saying “as leader of this party it is my responsibility to ensure we do not reopen this debate.”

Nor did Liberal or NDP campaigners want anyone to overlook that Scheer doesn’t attend Pride Parades. To which Scheer’s typical defence was, “I find the notion that one’s race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation would make anyone in any way superior or inferior to anybody else absolutely repugnant.”

But Scheer’s commitments to non-prejudicial behaviour did not assuage a suspicious electorate. Two of three Canadians said they don’t trust politicians to keep their personal views out of the public realm.

It’s possible, however, the public might have felt a bit more trusting of Scheer if they knew most of the country’s 13 million Catholics, many of whom are recent immigrants, are not nearly as uniform or doctrinaire as they are often portrayed.

Even though the Catholic church has long opposed any “direct attack on the fetus,” University of Lethbridge sociologist Reginald Bibby and Angus Reid reveal in their book, Canada’s Catholics, that 85 per cent of Canadian Catholics approve of abortion when a woman’s life is in danger.

Illustrating striking variance among the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, the book also shows half of Canadian Catholics believe “a woman should be able to obtain a legal abortion for any reason.” That was the same pro-choice stand championed by Trudeau and Singh.

When it comes to same-sex relationships, Catholic authorities continue to formally oppose them, while urging compassion. However, Canada’s Catholics are much like the rest of the laissez-faire population: “Close to two in three approve both of same-sex couples marrying and their adopting children.”

Canada’s 13 million Catholics are hardly doctrinaire on abortion or same-sex marriage. (Source: Canada’s Catholics)

Contradicting the pundits, who said before the election that Singh would provide the strongest test of voters’ tolerance for religious diversity, Angus Reid Institute polls show he was harmed the least because of his religion, in which he often expresses pride.

It’s conceivable many Canadians were, through extroverted, upbeat Singh, getting more exposure than ever to a member of the Sikh faith, which is about 500 years old, rooted in the Punjab region of India, has about 27 million followers and more than 500,000 in Canada (mostly in Greater Toronto and in Metro Vancouver).

But just as Scheer does not come close to representing all of Catholicism, Singh does not represent all Sikhs. Nobody, especially a politician, can embody everything about a faith (and that includes the pope).

Sikh scholars make it clear that followers hold a spectrum of beliefs about abortion and homosexuality, most of which are more conservative than those promoted by the NDP leader.

In Sikhism: A Guide for the Perplexed, respected University of Michigan professor Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair says the “idealistic” position in the Sikh religion, which teaches reincarnation, is opposition to abortion.

“To terminate a birth through abortion would be tantamount to refusing a soul entry into a particular body and sending it back to the cycle of birth and deaths — a choice that is not ours to make,” says Mandair.

However, the professor says many Sikhs today feel “morally ambiguous” about abortion and are less “hard and fast” about it. Mandair says Sikhism’s ethical bottom line is abortion, though sometimes acceptable, should not be “driven by selfish motives.”

In a similar vein, Mandair points out many Sikh leaders have condemned homosexuality in recent years, leading to most members of the faith believing in a “hetero-normative model of sexuality” that discourages alternative forms of family.

“Such a process of forcing homosexuals to go underground, as it were, has led to a belief among many Sikhs that there are no homosexual Sikhs,” says Mandair. Despite it, the professor maintains the primary source of Sikh ethics, the Guru Granth Sahib, does not justify castigating homosexuality.

All of which should help demonstrate that followers of religions are not monolithic. So we can always hope next time an election comes along more voters will have a bit better understanding of people of faith.

In that way perhaps fewer politicians will try to twist religion-linked concerns into dangerous wedge issues.

Source: Douglas Todd: We can stop typecasting Catholics and Sikhs — now the election is over

Douglas Todd: Robots replacing Canadian visa officers, Ottawa report says

Ongoing story, raising legitimate questions regarding the quality and possible bias of the algorithms used. That being said, human decision making is not bias free and using AI, at least in the more straightforward cases, makes sense from an efficiency and timeliness of service response.

Will be important to ensure appropriate oversight and there may be a need from an external body to review the algorithms to reduce risks if not already in place:

Tens of thousands of would-be guest workers and international students from China and India are having their fates determined by Canadian computers that are making visa decisions using artificial intelligence.

Even though Immigration Department officials recognize the public is wary about substituting robotic algorithms for human visa officers, the Liberal government plans to greatly expand “automated decision-making” in April of this year, according to an internal report.

“There is significant public anxiety over fairness and privacy associated with Big Data and Artificial Intelligence,” said the 2019 Immigration Department report, obtained under an access to information request. Nevertheless, Ottawa still plans to broaden the automated approval system far beyond the pilot programs it began operating in 2018 to process applicants from India and China.

At a time when Canada is approving more guest workers and foreign students than ever before, immigration lawyers have expressed worry about a lack of transparency in having machines make life-changing decisions about many of the more than 200,000 temporary visas that Canada issues each year.

The internal report reveals its departmental reservations about shifting more fully to an automated system — in particular wondering if machines could be “gamed” by high-risk applicants making false claims about their banking, job, marriage, educational or travel history.

“A system that approves applications without sufficient vetting would raise risks to Canadians, and it is understandable for Canadians to be more concerned about mistakenly approving risky individuals than about mistakenly refusing bona fide candidates,” says the document.

The 25-page report also flags how having robots stand in for humans will have an impact on thousands of visa officers. The new system “will fundamentally change the day-to-day work of decision-makers.”

Immigration Department officials did not respond to questions about the automated visa program.

Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland says Ottawa’s sweeping plan “to process huge numbers of visas fast and cheap” raises questions about whether an automated “Big Brother” system will be open to scrutiny, or whether it will lead to “Wizard of Oz” decision-making, in which it will be hard to determine who is accountable.

The publisher of the Lexbase immigration newsletter, which uncovered the internal document, was especially concerned that a single official has already “falsely” signed his or her name to countless visa decisions affecting migrants from India and China, without ever having reviewed their specific applications.

“The internal memo shows tens of thousands of visa decisions were signed-off under the name of one employee. If someone pulled that stunt on a visa application, they would be banned from Canada for five years for misrepresentation. It hides the fact it was really a machine that made the call,” said Kurland.

The policy report itself acknowledges that the upcoming shift to “hard-wiring” the visa decision-making process “at a tremendous scale” significantly raises legal risks for the Immigration Department, which it says is already “one of the most heavily litigated in the government of Canada.”

The population of Canada jumped by 560,000 people last year, or 1.5 per cent, the fastest rate of increase in three decades. About 470,000 of that total was made up of immigrants or newcomers arriving on 10-year multiple-entry visas, work visas or study visas.

The senior immigration officials who wrote the internal report repeatedly warn departmental staff that Canadians will be suspicious when they learn about the increasingly automated visa system.

“Keeping a human in the loop is important for public confidence. While human decision making may not be superior to algorithmic systems,” the report said, “human in-the-loop systems currently represent a form of transparency and personal accountability that is more familiar to the public than automated processes.”

In an effort to sell the automated system to a wary populace, the report emphasizes making people aware that the logarithm that decides whether an applicant receives a visa is not random. It’s a computer program governed by certain rules regarding what constitutes a valid visa application.

“A system that provides no real opportunity for officers to reflect is a de facto automated decision-making system, even when officers click the last button,” says the report, which states that flesh-and-blood women and men should still make the rulings on complex or difficult cases — and will also be able to review appeals.

“When a client challenges a decision that was made in full or in part by an automated system, a human officer will review the application. However, the (department) should not proactively offer clients the choice to have a human officer review and decide on their case at the beginning of the application process.”

George Lee, a veteran immigration lawyer in Burnaby, said he had not heard that machines are increasingly taking over from humans in deciding Canadian visa cases. He doesn’t think the public will like it when they learn it.

“People will say, ‘What are we doing here? Where are the human beings? You can’t do this. People are afraid of change. We want to keep the status quo.”

However, Lee said society’s transition towards replacing human workers with robots is “unstoppable. We’re seeing it everywhere.”

Lee believes people will eventually get used to the idea that machines are making vitally important decisions about human lives, including about people’s dreams of migrating to a new country.

“I think the use of robots will become more acceptable down the road,” he said. “Until the robots screw up.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Robots replacing Canadian visa officers, Ottawa report says

Douglas Todd: Up to 1 in 3 study-visa holders in Canada not in school

More on international students and some of the abuses of the program:

One in three people who entered Canada on student visas do not appear to have been enrolled at educational institutions in the country, Statistics Canada reports.

A recent StatsCan analysis could not find indications that 30.5 per cent of people in the country on post-secondary study permits in 2015 were signed up that year at a Canadian college or university.

The StatsCan study, by Marc Frenette, Yuquian Lu and Winnie Chan, echoes the findings of an internal Immigration Department report that revealed 25 per cent of would-be foreign students in Canada in 2018 were likely not complying with the conditions of their visa or were just not being monitored by school administrators.

The high no-show rate comes as there is a rising trend toward “edu-immigration” to Canada. Many foreign nationals are being encouraged by immigration agents to use Canada’s study permits to gain a relatively easy foothold in the country to find work, through which they can try to obtain permanent resident status.

Canada has a reputation as an unusually open country for international students, especially in the way it allows newcomers to study part-time and hold down an almost unlimited range of jobs. Compared to Britain, the U.S. and Australia, Canada is known for having a poor record of tracking study-visa holders once they’re in the country.

Vancouver immigration consultant Laleh Sahba and immigration lawyer Sam Hyman say it’s an unfortunate reality that many international students are being told by dubious agents they can bypass school to work. But the immigration specialists say such misuses shouldn’t overshadow that most international students are using the system responsibly.

The number of study-visa holders in Canada has shot up by 73 per cent in four years, to 573,000 in 2018, with the highest concentration in Metro Vancouver.

Many officials welcome the hike in high-fee-paying offshore students. They maintain they enhance cultural diversity on campuses and boost the budgets of public educational institutions, which are not being funded by governments as well as in the past.

In addition to articles published by Postmedia on loopholes in Canada’s study-visa program, The Toronto Star reported in November that many would-be international students are routinely fail to pursue their studies, instead looking for work and applying for permanent residency.

Some get caught. Canadian officials revoked 5,502 study visas last year, an almost-four-fold increase from 2016.

The Globe and Mail also reported last month that many trucking companies, primarily in Surrey, are taking large illegal cash payments from foreign students in exchange for truck-driver jobs that might help them qualify for permanent residency. The trucking companies send many of the study-visa holders out on the road with no training, leading to deadly accidents.

Visa officials appear to be starting to respond to flaws in Canada’s burgeoning program: A growing number of study-visa applications, two out of five, are now being rejected, Postmedia reported this month.

Immigration department officials have acknowledged a tenth of all study-visa applications are fraudulent, often because they use faked acceptance letters from Canadian institutions.

One of the disquieting findings in the StatsCan report is that 2015’s rate was an improvement over previous years: In 2009, only half of study-permit holders were signed up with a school.

When Postmedia asked Statistics Canada why such a large proportion of would-be foreign students appear to be avoiding studying, officials said the authors of the report were not permitted to directly answer Postmedia’s questions.

Although the report said statistical “noise” made it hard to precisely determine the ratio of study-visa holders who were not enrolled at the time researchers did their calculations, a Statistics Canada official also acknowledged: “We did not ask respondents their motivation for coming to Canada on a student visa. We only observed their work patterns.”

The study concluded that about one in four study-visa holders in Canada eventually gain permanent resident status. But beyond such data, the authors said, “Little is known about international students in Canada.”

Hyman, the immigration lawyer, says there is no doubt many study-permit holders come to Canada essentially to work and not to study.

“Some work full-time in contravention of the terms of their study permit, which limits them to working no more than 20 hours a week when school is in session, plus full-time during scheduled school vacations.” Some, Hyman said, obtain work “off the books for cash.”

Ottawa has failed to hire staff dedicated to enforcing the evolving rules about what it requires to be a genuine international student, said Hyman. “Still, sometimes detection occurs when the student goes to renew the initial student permit and has to demonstrate academic progress, or try to explain the lack of it.”

An Ottawa immigration official said that up until 2014, a prospective international student did not have to enrol in an educational program. He or she only needed to demonstrate an “intent” to study. It took until this year for Immigration Canada to more clearly define what it really means to “actively pursue” an academic program.

Canada’s more than 650 institutes of higher education are allowed to follow the honour system in informing authorities about study-visa infractions. And even though Canadian schools have been required since 2016 to report on their total international-student enrolment, 68 schools failed to do even that last year.

There can be legitimate reasons for not complying with study-visa requirements, including illness, running out of money or switching schools, says Sahba, the immigration consultant. But she’s convinced Canada’s institutes of higher learning should make it a higher priority to report on absent foreign students.

Sahba is disturbed by the dubious migration agents in Canada and abroad who increasingly tell young would-be migrants the easiest way to get permanent resident status in Canada is by obtaining a study visa, largely avoiding school and getting access to employers, some of whom exploit the workers in exchange for providing a crucial sponsorship letter.

While this is an “unfortunate reality” for some study-permit holders, Sahba said “there are also many responsible, ambitious and self-motivated international students currently studying in Canada. And many more waiting in the queue for their visas.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Up to 1 in 3 study-visa holders in Canada not in school

For the StatCan study: The Postsecondary Experience and Early Labour Market Outcomes of International Study Permit Holders

Douglas Todd: How Quebec’s religious restrictions compare to harsh regimes

Not sure of the utility of such comparisons compared to more like countries:

Continuing to prove Quebec is a distinct society in North America, the francophone province’s decision to restrict certain public servants from wearing religious symbols has got the rest of the world buzzing.

Quebec’s government, with firm support from voters, will no longer allow its judges, police officers, teachers and others in positions of “authority” to wear head scarves, turbans or other religious symbols on the job.

Although widely condemned in English-speaking Canada and the U.S., Quebec says Bill 21 protects the religious neutrality of the secular state, similar to France’s laïcité laws. Quebec politicians cemented their secularist approach by removing a large crucifix from the legislative building.

How does Quebec’s ban compare to less-discussed religious restrictions in the rest of North America? And how does it contrast with the world, where constraints on religious minorities often lead to imprisonment, mass detention, job termination, clandestine worship, floggings and even execution?

I attended two conferences in October at which the convolutions of religious freedom were front and centre. You couldn’t have asked more informed scholars, journalists and officials from around the globe for perspective on what is happening in Quebec, which, somewhat like France, emphasizes that diverse religious beliefs are fine, but should be private.

Penn State sociologist Roger Finke, who charts a startling range of global religious-freedom conflicts, is concerned about Quebec’s new law, but knows it pales in comparison to elsewhere.

Theocratic Saudi Arabia, for instance, allows no other religion than Islam to be practised. In Egypt “societal discrimination against non-Muslims is extremely high,” with members of minority faiths frequently thrown into jail. In China, an officially secular state, Christians and others are “forced underground.” About one million Uighurs Muslims have been imprisoned in China’s mass camps.

“When compared to the beheadings in Egypt, the re-education camps in China and the numerous imprisonments and killings around the globe, Quebec’s Bill 21 is mild,” Finke said after speaking at a religion and law conference at Brigham Young University.

“However, it is clearly denying a freedom. This can deny people the ability to openly express their beliefs as well as follow the guidelines of their faith by wearing hijabs, turbans, veils and other dress,” Finke said, expressing a widespread view among English-speaking North Americans.

But it’s not as if the rest of multicultural Canada lacks quarrels of freedom of religion and belief. Diverse religious leaders rebelled when the federal Liberals launched a summer-jobs program that required groups to declare themselves supportive of abortion rights to get funding.

And the Supreme Court of Canada’s refusal of Langley’s Trinity Western University request to open a law school, because it has a Christian code of conduct that restricts LGBQT people, is seen by many in the U.S. as a stark infringement of religious freedom.

Still, such North America battles are relatively minor. After a conference of the International Association of Religion Journalists in Salt Lake City, executive director Endy Bayuni outlined ways religion is restricted in his homeland of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

The biggest threat to religious freedom in Indonesia, population 264 million, is its decades-old blasphemy laws, says Bayuni, a senior editor at The Jakarta Post.

“Hundreds of people have gone to jail under this law, on the pretext that they have insulted religion. A Buddhist woman was given a two-year jail term under the blasphemy law for complaining about the sound of the call to prayer from a mosque near her home,” said Bayuni.

“Her home was attacked and several Buddhist temples in the town were razed by a mob. The perpetrators only received one- to two-month jail terms. The leaders of the Ahmadiyyah and Shia (schools of Islam) have also gone to jail for blasphemy because their faith is considered an affront to Sunni Islam.”

Although Indonesia, like 95 per cent of countries, formally guarantees religious freedom in its constitution, the twist is it only officially recognizes six faiths: Islam, Protestant Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Therefore, people from smaller religions often can’t get birth certificates, marriage licences or hereditary rights because of their beliefs. That’s not to mention, Bayuni said, “anyone going around proclaiming to be an atheist would be attacked.”

Asked about Quebec’s new law, Bayuni said former Indonesian strongman Suharto also banned head scarves, mainly because they were seen as signs of radicalism. Nowadays more Muslim women are wearing them. The only thing banned in Indonesian schools and workplaces is the burqa, which covers the entire body and face (with a mesh over the eyes).

A journalist from Malaysia, Zurairi Abd Rahman, helped explain just how different religious freedom frictions are in each nation. After the International Association of Religion Journalists conference (disclosure: I’m on the board of the organization) Zurairi said the main threat in his country, in which Islam traditionally gets highest official status, is the way non-state organizations are pressing to ensure Muslims dominate the country’s top posts.

“The same lobby is now pushing the narrative that Christians and liberals are trying to take over the government, which would then abolish Islamic institutions,” said the news editor at The Malay Mail, who goes by the pen name Zurairi AR.

Muslims are also being squeezed by “Islamicization,” said Zurairi. “Activist Maryam Lee was recently investigated for allegedly insulting Islam” after writing a book, Unveiling Choice, “detailing the personal experiences of women who have stopped wearing head scarves.” Shariah law, which applies only to Muslims, is becoming increasingly harsh, he said, and broadened to govern such things as “adultery, ‘cross-dressing’ and ‘insulting Islam.’”

Malaysia would not follow the lead of Quebec and attempt to ban displays of faith in the public service, Zurairi said. A key threat to religious freedom in Malaysia is in many ways the opposite of that in Quebec: Some companies and schools are forcing women to wear hijabs.

Elizabeth Clark, professor of law at Brigham Young University, said she understands why Quebec and France have responded to the once-overwhelming political power of the Roman Catholic Church by ensuring schools and government remain “religion-free zones.”

Quebec is attempting to uphold both gender equality and LGBQT rights by emphasizing religious belief should be purely private, Clark said. But she believes it’s going too far “with regards to the impact it has on the religious freedom of those seeking to manifest their beliefs through wearing head scarves.”

Religious freedom dovetails intimately with other human rights, including freedom of opinion, says Finke, making a strong case. Even though Bill 21 will only affect a small number of Canadians, and no freedom is absolute, its implications are worth understanding and questioning.

Source: Douglas Todd: How Quebec’s religious restrictions compare to harsh regimes

Douglas Todd: How the election is playing out in local Chinese-language media

More in-depth look at Chinese-language media election and related coverage:

The conflict between Hong Kong and China. The pros and cons of immigration and refugees. Beliefs on abortion and same-sex issues. The tension between paying taxes and benefiting from social services.

Specialists who monitor Canada’s roughly 290 Chinese-language newspapers, websites, radio stations and TV channels say the political coverage not only echoes the mainstream media, it also reveals the distinct concerns of people with origins in East Asia.

Immigration and refugee issues garner more attention in the Chinese-language media than they do among the general Canadian public, say professional observers.

And even though Chinese-Canadians with roots in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China show a complex range of political opinions, Andrew Griffith, a former senior director in Ottawa’s immigration department, has concluded: “There is more of a conservative trend among Chinese-Canadians than, for example, South Asians.”

Like other Canadians, the 1.3 million people of Chinese origin switch party allegiances according to broader political patterns, said Griffith, who works with Diversityvotes.ca, a website highlighting political coverage in the country’s ethnic media. But their votes could make a crucial difference in dozens of urban swing ridings with large immigrant and visible-minority populations.

Roughly three out of four Chinese-Canadians live in either Greater Toronto, where they make up 11 per cent of voters, or Metro Vancouver, where they account for 20 per cent of voters. In the Vancouver suburb of Richmond, which has two federal ridings, 54 per cent of the population is ethnic Chinese.

Andres Malchaski, president of MIREMS International, which monitors the ethnic-language media and helped create Diversityvotes.ca, says that, while a large portion of Canadians tell pollsters the environment is their top election issue, that issue is far outweighed in the Chinese-language media by debates over immigration and refugees.

Chinese-Canadian media outlets, including their discussion forums, contain frequent criticism of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau for bringing in more than 60,000 Syrian refugees since 2015, said Machalski, who has analyzed Canada’s ethnic media for three decades.

Media outlets that target Canadians from China are often wary of refugees from Muslim countries, Machalski said, an attitude that reflects the way China’s authoritarian leaders have restricted the religious freedom of millions of Uighur Muslims.

“The feelings expressed by some of the calls and comments on phone-in shows and in newspaper columns (in Canada) certainly support the idea there will be segments of Chinese voters that might even go so far as to support the People’s Party of Canada,” which is calling for reducing immigration and refugee levels, Machalski said.

Still, Machalski emphasized that the views expressed in the Chinese-language outlets in Canada offer a “kaleidoscope” of perspectives, which often reflect whether their respective audiences are connected to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Hanoi or Beijing.

That is especially so in regards to the recent anti-Beijing protests in the financial centre of Hong Kong.

More than 300,000 people living in Hong Kong hold Canadian passports — and Oct. 21 marks the first Canadian election in which they can cast a ballot, says a Diversityvotes.ca article by Blythe Irwin.

The Chinese media is picking up on everything Canadian politicians are saying about the special administrative region of China. Ethnic-Chinese media commentators, she says, are both approving and sceptical of the way Trudeau says he is “extremely concerned” about Hong Kong, while Conservative leader Andrew Scheer went further by declaring in a tweet: “We are all Hong Kongers.”

Fenella Sung, a former Chinese-language radio show host, said that Chinese-media perspectives about the conflict largely reflect whether the Canadian-based outlets are aimed at audiences rooted in Hong Kong or China.

It’s not surprising that readers of media directed at the large mainland-Chinese population in Canada “would think the Hong Kong issue is China’s internal affair and that it would not be appropriate for Canadian politicians to comment,” said Sung, who is a member of Canadian Friends of Hong Kong.

Long-time immigrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan and other parts of East Asia, Sung said, tend to have political concerns that are in line with Canadians at large, such as jobs, housing and protecting the environment.

“But newer and younger immigrants, mostly from mainland China, are very consistent and focussed on economic growth, expansion of trade, less government bureaucracy, and lower taxation. They don’t like social spending.”

Prior to the B.C. election in 2016, some opinion polls suggested that, even while the province’s more than 500,000 ethnic Chinese voters held diverse views, they generally leaned to the centre-right B.C. Liberals, and had almost no interest in the Greens.

In an article on politics and Canada’s ethnic media published Wednesday in Policy Options magazine, Griffith said Liberal and Conservative party approaches to same-sex marriage and abortion have been widely commented upon, suggesting so-called “family values” are important to many recent immigrants and people of colour.

“While the Liberals and Conservatives get widespread coverage of their electoral promises and commitments, the NDP and Green Party are under-covered,” Griffith added, after reviewing 1,200 recent articles in the ethnic media.

“In contrast, the People’s Party of Canada, given its focus on restricting immigration and its initial exclusion from the leaders’ debate, received more than twice as much substantive coverage as the NDP and Greens combined.”

Chinese-language and other ethnic media outlets in Canada don’t necessarily reinforce cultural silos, Griffith says. But it’s clear they also offer a special window into political discussions of particular concern to certain ethnic groups.

Source: Douglas Todd: How the election is playing out in local Chinese-language media

Douglas Todd: Drawing Canada’s party lines on immigration in this election

Likely better to await the formal party platforms for the specifics (or absence of …):

The United Nations reported last year that Canada is the fourth most accepting country in the world for immigrants.

Working with pollsters from Gallup, the UN tallied each country’s quotient for tolerance by asking residents of each nation whether it was a “good thing” or “bad thing” that immigrants were living in their country, were becoming their neighbours and marrying into their families.

While Canada came out close behind No. 1 Iceland and ahead of the Netherlands, Australia and the United States (ninth), some of the least-accepting countries for migrants turned out to be Pakistan, Greece, Poland and Egypt. The polling showed residents of populous India and China were not as hostile to newcomers as those in South Korea, Israel and Russia, but were still highly wary.

Canadians’ relatively welcoming approach to migrants is the backdrop to this federal election campaign, in which each party’s different approaches to immigration policy are quietly but increasingly bubbling to the surface, as a modern-day record proportion of Canadians — roughly half — now tell pollsters that Ottawa is allowing in too many immigrants.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is nevertheless standing on his record of welcoming asylum seekers, hiking immigration levels by one-third and increasing international students and guest workers by half. The Conservatives’ Andrew Scheer, meanwhile, stresses that immigration is a positive for the country and that “sadly, under Justin Trudeau, a record-high number of Canadians believe that immigration should be reduced.”

The NDP’s Jagmeet Singh has made it a priority to allow in more parents and grandparents of Canadians and further increase Ottawa’s immigrant-settlement funding for Quebec. The leader of Canada’s fourth most popular party, the Greens’ Elizabeth May, has promised to erase the temporary foreign workers program.

Most Canadians don’t want the kind of overheated immigration conflicts that have occurred in some countries. But specialists such as Simon Fraser University political scientist Sanjay Jeram say it’s healthy for Canadians to not avoid the issue, since it affects housing, employment, urban congestion, the welfare state and training programs. And UBC political scientist Antje Ellermann has said our immigration policy history is potentially vulnerable to public pushback.

“Populism is a consequence, not the cause of political dissatisfaction,” Ellermann said. “Canadian immigration policy has traditionally been dominated by the government and civil servants, and rarely engaged the public in meaningful ways. (That makes it) vulnerable to popular challenge.”

Canadians certainly have diverse opinions on migration. For instance, the Angus Reid Institute found 32 per cent want to keep the current refugee levels, of about 50,000 per year, while 18 per cent say they should increase and 40 per cent say they should be lower.

Canadians show similar variations on the federal “family reunification” program, which typically brings in older immigrants sponsored by relatives. Angus Reid analysts say Canadians are expressing “pushback” on this program out of concern such newcomers are “more taxing on the nation’s social services.”

Here’s more on how the four main political parties are handling migration issues:

Liberals

In a close race with the Conservatives, Trudeau is not talking a great deal about specific immigration policies, says Ipsos pollster Darrell Bricker, who notes the prime minister has mostly been questioning other candidates on whether they are tolerant.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has been more assertive. Highlighting how the Liberals have brought in a record number of international students, he recently confused education experts by boasting there were 721,000 such students in Canada in 2018. His officials later clarified the actual figure for Dec. 31, 2018, was 573,000. Hussen has also this year accused some of his political critics of being un-Canadian.

One of Trudeau’s rare forays into migration-related policy during the campaign occurred in Metro Vancouver, where there is a housing crisis. Trudeau pledged to follow the B.C. NDP and institute both a Canada-wide foreign buyers tax on housing as well as a speculation tax aimed at “satellite” homeowners, who earn most of their wealth outside the country, where it’s not subject to Canadian income tax.

Conservatives

After releasing his party’s immigration policy in May, Scheer has been low key on the potentially hot topic. Yet the Conservatives are airing ads that feature Scheer with the tagline “I’m voting for a fair immigration system.”

This month an Ipsos poll found 42 per cent of Canadians believe the Conservatives are best suited to handle immigration policy. That compares to the Liberals at 16 per cent, NDP at nine per cent, Greens at two per cent and the People’s Party of Canada, which wants to reduce immigration levels to 150,000 a year from the current 320,000, at 11 per cent.

The Conservatives have vowed to “set immigration levels consistent with what is in Canada’s best interests.” The party claims it would be more bold than the Liberals in clamping down on the thousands who have made irregular border crossings into Quebec. And this week Scheer promised to launch a national inquiry into “corrupt” money-laundering, both domestic and foreign, in the real-estate industry, which he said is inflating housing prices.

NDP

Singh is putting a strong emphasis on family-reunification programs, with the NDP saying it “will end the unfair cap on applications to sponsor parents and grandparents.” The party would also “take on unscrupulous immigration consultants.”

Even while Quebec Premier Francois Legault has cut immigration levels by 20 per cent, Singh has promised to have Ottawa respond to a lack of workers by giving the province $73 million more each year to settle newcomers. Critics, however, point out the federal government already sends Quebec four times as many taxpayer dollars to settle each immigrant than it sends to B.C. and Ontario.

Greens

The most surprising thing in the Greens’ policy is a commitment to end the temporary foreign worker program, which brings in about 100,000 people a year, while allowing more of them to become permanent residents. The Greens also say they want to define the term “environmental refugee,” turning it into a new category within Canada’s immigration system.

Even though the UN has verified that Canadians are among the world’s most welcoming people, it’s clear the complexities of immigration policy are still an issue, with politicians trying different ways to appeal to the public’s diverse opinions.

Source: Douglas Todd: Drawing Canada’s party lines on immigration in this election

Douglas Todd: Idea of federal apology splits Italian Canadians

For some context. One of the files I worked on under the Conservative government was the historical recognition program which provided funding to communities who had been affected by wartime internment or immigration restrictions (Chinese, Ukrainian, Italian, Indian and Jewish Canadians).

Italian Canadian stakeholders were difficult and in the end, then Minister Kenney, engaged Conservative Senator Di Nino to help steer the discussions regarding projects to be funded. (For more details, see Multiculturalism: The Case of Historical Recognition in my book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias:Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism):

Since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already offered his apologies to many different Canadian minority groups, some Italian Canadian media outlets have been aroused to express anger that their ethnic group has not yet received one from him.

The Italian-language media, which has 25 different outlets in Canada, has been simmering this summer about Trudeau, who has made it clear he will formally apologize only after the Oct. 21 election for the internment of a relatively small portion of Italian-Canadians during the Second World War.

“Almost 80 bitter years later, the federal government appears ready to apologize to Italian Canadians for the humiliation, suffering, arrest and internments of hundreds in 1940. … While some say better late than never, others wonder why he did not do it right after he came to power,” said Lo Specchio newspaper.

“The fact Justin Trudeau has ‘promised’ just before the fall election to apologize in Parliament for the internment of Italian Canadians … raises questions about the prime minister’s sincerity,” said Corriere Canadese newspaper.

“Anti-Italian prejudice must end,” declared one writer in Il Cittadino Canadese.

Trudeau’s promised apology has become a key political issue in ridings with large Italian and other ethnic groups.

And it’s sparked debate among Italian Canadians and others over whether such an apology is warranted, since the detention of 586 suspected Fascist Italian Canadians was different in many ways from the mass internment of 22,000 Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.

Andres Malchaski, co-founder of an organization that monitors electoral issues among Canada’s ethnic communities, said many Italian-language newspapers are pushing for Trudeau to say he’s sorry because, like other ethnic groups, they’re “using apology and redress issues to establish their political and cultural identity in Canada.”

Italian Canadians are “particularly aggressive … because they have a history of political participation and leadership and a need to defend that space against other ethnic lobbies,” said Malchaski, whose website, diversityvotes.ca, monitors hundreds of ethnic-language media outlets in Canada.

About 1.6 million Canadians are of Italian ethnicity, including almost 100,000 in Metro Vancouver, 280,000 in Greater Montreal and 490,000 in the Toronto region. Malchaski says many are involved in nomination competitions in ridings which have a changing mix of ethnic voters.

In his four years in office Trudeau became the focus of academic studies for his frequent “apologism,” for the way he regularly, often tearfully, expresses regret for historical wrongs to certain groups, including Sikhs, Indigenous people in B.C., Jews, Inuit and LGBTQ people.

As a result many Italian Canadian media outlets are suspicious about why he’s holding off until after the election to apologize for what occurred in Canada during the Second World War, when Canadian soldiers joined the Allies battling against Nazi Germany, imperial Japan and Fascist Italy.

Part of the reason for Trudeau’s delay could have to do with the uncertainty and controversy that continues to burn among Italians and the wider public over whether to apologize to offspring of the those Italian Canadians detained as suspected collaborators with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s Fascists.

Canada was “not wrong or malicious” to try to protect the country by detaining certain Italians in the country at a time of war, says Patrick Luciana, an Italian Canadian who is a senior fellow at the University of Toronto’s Global Cities Institute.

“To have done otherwise would have shown an extraordinary dereliction of duty to Canada and its people …. What government wouldn’t take precautions against potential enemy subversives?” Luciana recently wrote, noting such precautions were the norm among Allied countries.

“How can we as Italian Canadians ask for an apology when 5,000 Canadian men and boys are buried in cemeteries throughout Italy, who died to rid ‘our’ ancestral home of fascism and naziism?,” Luciana said.

“If we want anything, it’s to avoid having this episode in our history forgotten. But that’s in our hands, not the government’s.”

Another prominent Canadian historian, Jack Granatstein, told Postmedia he thoroughly endorsed the views of Luciana, who argued it’s insulting to ask for an apology today from the descendants of Canada’s leaders in the 1940s, who were predominantly Anglo-Saxon.

Historians often make many distinctions between the targeted Italian Canadian arrests in Eastern Canada and the way that, after the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong and Pearl Harbour, most Japanese Canadians were removed from the West Coast, had their property confiscated and were interned.

Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, Justin’s father, opposed collective apologies in general. And at least two other Italian Canadian scholars – Franca Iocovetta and Roberto Perin, who edited the 2000 book, Enemies Within – have also expressed skepticism about the Italian redress campaign, according to Christopher Moore, a contributing editor to Canada’s History magazine.

“In the 1930s, there were pro-Fascist organizations in most Italian-Canadian communities, often sponsored by Italian consulates loyal to Mussolini’s Fascist regime. The roughly 600 Italian Canadians interned, out of some 112,000 Italians Canadians, were mostly associated with these pro-Fascist organizations,” Moore said.

On the eve of the Second World War, the Italian Canadian population was split by duelling pro- and anti-Fascist organizations, noted Moore, a prolific writer and former Vancouver resident whose father wrote a biography of Angelo Branca, a leading B.C. lawyer, judge and Italian community leader.

Moore says Branca’s standing among Italian Canadians was “eventually enhanced by his determined resistance in the 1930s to the encroachment of the pro-Fascist movements.”

Regardless of whether Canadians support or oppose an apology, Machaski, whose website translates the Italian-language media into English, said the fight of some Italian Canadians “for an apology is more of a fight for political space for the community than a campaign for redress that might kindle old animosities.”

In advance of this fall’s election, Malchaski is on to something when he maintains the campaign to make sure Trudeau says he’s sorry is mostly about trying to conserve a sense of Italian identity among younger generations and to hold onto some political influence.

Source: Douglas Todd: Idea of federal apology splits Italian Canadians

Douglas Todd: Dramatic jump in guest workers hurts Canadians on low wages

Not sure where Todd is getting the numbers to state his case. The largest part of the increase actually happened under the Conservatives, 2007-15: from 92,000 to 234,000 (IMP), with only Temporary Foreign Workers showing a decline following the reversal of their facilitating their entry in response to business pressures (from 78,000 in 2007, rising to a peak of 104,000 in 2013 before declining to 60,000 in 2015).

The bulk of the Temporary Foreign Workers increase under the Liberal government has been with respect to agriculture workers (a doubling to 52,000, 2016-18), not fast food workers.

And while there are linkages with international students, better to focus on IMP and Temporary Foreign Workers in this kind of analysis:

A big jump in the number of guest workers is hurting low-wage employees and others across Canada, according to economists.

The number of non-permanent foreign workers arriving in Canada each year has doubled in the past decade, escalating particularly after the federal Liberal government was elected in 2015.

Partly as a result of the increasing flow of guest workers, UBC economist David Green and Carleton University’s Christopher Worswick say in a paper that new immigrants are doing “worse and worse” in regards to earned incomes. And it’s Canada’s low-wage workers who are suffering the most.

Even though businesses frequently lobby politicians to allow more guest employees, Green says the latest hikes are putting downward pressure on wages and threatening respect for workers. They’re exacerbating the kind of scenario, he said, that lead to the rise of Donald Trump and Britain’s Brexit movement.

Saying it’s “truly dumb” for the federal government to continue boosting low-skilled guest workers in the country, Green emphasized the vast majority of Canadians don’t appear to be aware of the labour-market shift. “It’s totally under the radar.”

While temporary workers were initially billed as a way to rescue businesses that needed to make up short-term skill shortages in certain sectors, low-skill guest workers from overseas are now increasingly being brought in to staff fast-food restaurants, fill shelves at supermarkets and perform basic kitchen duties.

In the face of a 2013 backlash against the increased volume of foreign workers in Canada, former Conservative immigration minister Jason Kenney drastically cut their numbers. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has jacked up the totals much higher.

The new river of guest workers in Canada “releases the pressure on firms to provide better jobs, jobs where you have control over your time, where the pay is decent. It lets the steam off. And that pushes us toward a society that doesn’t respect workers so much,” said Green, a professor in the Vancouver school of economics and a fellow at the Institute for Fiscal Studies in London.

It’s difficult for the public to recognize that guest worker numbers have grown at a much faster pace than more-often discussed immigration levels, which have expanded by 30 per cent since 2015, with about 320,000 now being approved annually.

The official temporary foreign worker program, which attracted such controversy in the Conservatives’ era, has not greatly expanded. But other guest-worker efforts have.

One jump has come through the doubling of international students. In 2015 about 200,000 foreign students were arriving each year. By last year the number arriving annually on study visas had ballooned to more than 400,000. Most foreign students are allowed to work 20 hours a week, plus full-time during their summer or other breaks.

The least-known migration policy change, however, has arguably been the biggest one for the labour market. That is the fourfold expansion of the so-called “international mobility” program, about which few Canadians have heard.

In 2005 about 70,000 guest workers arrived under the “international mobility” category. But by 2018 Canada was accepting more than 250,000 in this category, which is typically made up of people on two-year visas, many of whom find jobs in the service sector.

Informally known as travellers on “holiday worker” visas, such employees are often associated with young Australians working at ski resorts like Whistler, or with British globe trotters serving beer in pubs in Vancouver or Toronto.

A UBC-backed website called Superdiversity, which has created interactive graphics based on immigration department data, shows the largest group of the more than 250,000 “international mobility” workers who arrived in Canada last year were from India, followed by those from the U.S., China, France and South Korea. Toronto took in about 70,000 international mobility workers in 2018, while Vancouver absorbed 30,000.

In line with the research of American economist Giovanni Peri and the University of Ottawa’s Pierre Brochu, Green described how owners of a Tim Horton’s franchise, a café or a supermarket often try to justify bringing in more guest workers by saying they can’t find anyone to fill the low-skill slot.

“So they go to their local MP and say, ‘I’m in trouble here. I can’t get enough workers for my front counter.’ The real response to them should be, ‘Well, pay them more.’ But it’s not the answer they want to hear, because they want to make more profit,” Green said.

Economists don’t really think it’s a problem that a fast-food restaurant owner or other service sector employer can’t hire workers at low wages, said Green. “When something is scarce, the price for it goes up and people and companies adjust. That’s the whole wonder of the capitalist system.”

The low-wage problem is exacerbated in places like Metro Vancouver, where the cost of renting or owning homes is extreme. Instead of offering decent living wages to the people who live here, Green said many bosses are inclined to hire “people who live in housing with five other foreign workers.”

A second trouble with Canadian companies increasingly relying on low-wage guest workers, Green said, is it leads to a more fearful workforce, incapable of demanding adherence to local labour standards or of forming a union.

“Everyone knows these guest workers have no rights. If they lose their jobs they’re gone. They’re not about to complain. Canadian firms are now not only getting just lower-wage workers these days, they’re getting very compliant workers,” said Green.

Even though a lot of commentators write off the supporters of Trump and Brexit as just “stupid people,” Green said, many have been workers who have felt that the promise of globalization, the transnational movement of capital and labour, has not benefited them.

“These are people who feel there was a deal promised to them, where everyone would share in the benefits of deregulation and a more flexible labour market,” said Green.

“But then governments did things like bring in more temporary foreign workers and those people are feeling like, ‘What the hell just happened?’ If you want people to feel like they have a share, don’t bring in somebody to replace them every time their wages start looking like they’re going to go up.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Dramatic jump in guest workers hurts Canadians on low wages