Douglas Todd: How radical environmentalists view immigration

Interesting debate. There is also another school that warns that environmental pressures such as climate change will increase substantially migrant flows:

One of the first signs that North American environmentalists were uneasy about high immigration rates came from one of its best-known eco-warriors, David Suzuki.

The Vancouver-based founder of the influential Suzuki Foundation was quoted in a French magazine in 2013  saying Canada’s immigration policy was disgusting because “we plunder southern countries by depriving them of future leaders, and we want to increase our population to support economic growth. … It’s crazy!”

Like some European environmentalists, Suzuki maintained “Canada is full” because most population growth occurs in congested cities. While praising Canadian multiculturalism and supporting welcoming more refugees, Suzuki’s main arguments zeroed in on how Canada is contributing to the brain drain from developing countries and that population growth is an environmentally destructive way to prop up Western economies.

The public reaction in Canada to Suzuki’s reflections was vociferous, focussing on shaming him. The Conservative government and corporate leaders seized on the remarks  to try to humiliate the troublesome environmentalist. Then-immigration minister Jason Kenney was among those labelling him “xenophobic” and worse.

Suzuki was upbraided again after he spoke off the cuff to a Vancouver Sun reporter, saying North American “politicians make the quick assumption they have to keep the economy growing by keeping the population growing.” Suzuki called it disgraceful that Canada was “selectively going after very highly trained people from Pakistan, India and South Africa, like doctors. Now why would one of the richest countries be ripping off the developing world for the people they desperately need?”

Since 2013, as far as I am aware, Suzuki has given up trying to raise the ethical issues inherent in immigration. He didn’t return my calls for an interview and, when he gave a speech on multiculturalism and migration at the Chan Centre in 2014, he pulled his punches, pleasing the crowd with his customary denunciation of economic globalization.

Another noted Canadian environmentalist, however, is picking up where Suzuki left off. John Erik Meyer has been filling in the details of a conservationists’ view of how high immigration rates complicate the fight against population growth, climate change, resource depletion, over-consumption and what it takes to truly assist people in developing countries.

Meyer’s extensive analysis was this year published in The Humanist Perspective. It’s a noted Canadian publication devoted to atheism, “rationalism,” “the cultivation of ethical and creative living” and to fostering “well-reasoned discussions of important human issues.”

As with Suzuki’s critique of Canada’s immigration policy, Meyer’s green reasoning is sure to offend many. But some of his radical analysis of class and power may appeal to those open to unconventional, big-concept responses to looming environmental disaster.

In the month in which the UN’s climate-change panel warned humanity has only 12 years to cut the risk of extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty, Meyer said in an interview he believes his perspective could soon gain more momentum. At the least his eight-page essay offers a provocative thought-experiment, which there is no good reason to ban from the marketplace of ideas.

Throughout history, desperate people have often emigrated for a better life, Meyer argues — just as Europeans fled to North America in the 18th and 19th centuries when their continent was rife with war, persecution, inequality and poverty. Their arrival in North America, however, crushed Indigenous cultures.

Europeans stopped coming en masse to Canada and the U.S. after their home countries became stable.

The lesson Meyer draws is that the most responsible thing for the West is to improve the lot of people in struggling countries instead of offering a lifeline to the relative few who win the immigration lottery.

“Although migration does indeed represent salvation for many migrants, it exacerbates existing problems in the receiving nations and, on a planetary basis, is the literal equivalent of throwing gasoline on the fire of environmental decline,” says Meyer, president of Canadians for a Sustainable Society.

One of Meyer’s central warnings is that when people move from developed countries to high-consumption ones, they create a larger ecological footprint.  A typical immigrant to Canada, he says, ends up emitting 4.2 times the carbon emissions that they did in their country of origin.

Even though migration is now occurring on an “unprecedented scale,” Meyer also says the mass movement of people will make no dent on the disastrous population explosions occurring in Africa and the Middle East.

Meyer cites a long list of problems that high migration also causes Western host nations (most Eastern countries generally don’t accept immigrants). They include greater energy use, increased pollution, suppression of wages, urban congestion, higher social-service costs and elevated housing prices.

Meyer wryly observes much of the support for Canadian immigration, which is triple that of the U.S. on a per capita basis, comes from those who directly or indirectly gain from it. The boosters, he says, invariably stake out “the moral high ground” by claiming immigration lifts up the disadvantaged.

Meyer argues there are more effective ways to help people in struggling countries.

“In terms of genuinely saving the world, Canada’s rate of foreign aid to GDP is about one-fifth that of Sweden. It’s actually dropped by four per cent under the Liberal government. Why this very weak performance, despite the rhetoric? The most powerful interests in Canada do not profit from foreign aid. They profit from growth in the domestic commercial economy and asset inflation.”

The main policy goals of advanced countries, he says, should be to help poorer countries reduce population growth and, generally, to eliminate the problems that cause people to want to migrate. “In order to save themselves from the chaos of growing and endless migration, developed countries are going to have to make it their business to establish better living conditions and sustainability in the poorest areas of the world.”

As if these arguments weren’t irritating enough, Meyer knows many in the West will not like to hear another environmental message about the need for self-restraint. “It is necessary to address the root causes of migration by drastically reducing consumption levels in more developed countries via very strong conservation measures,” he says. “This can well be seen as painful and extremely politically difficult, but the alternatives are vastly more destructive.”

Source: Douglas Todd: How radical environmentalists view immigration

Douglas Todd: Will the new leader of Quebec kill its immigrant-investor program?

Good sharp and pointed commentary:

The new premier of Quebec has promised to reduce immigration to his province by 20 per cent, require newcomers to learn French in three years and restrict some public servants from wearing religious symbols.

Premier-designate Francois Legault won a majority on Oct. 1 in large part because he professed to be committed to better “integrating” newcomers into the francophone province. But so far Legault has not hinted at ending Quebec’s divisive immigrant-investor program, one of the world’s biggest wealth migration schemes.

The Quebec Immigrant Investor Program — which attracts nine out of 10 of its millionaire applicants from Asia, mostly China — does the opposite of integrating immigrants into a distinct culture. Only one in 10 of the well-to-do migrants who take advantage of Quebec’s investor program choose to live in that province.

Most of the roughly 5,000 migrants a year who exploit Quebec’s buy-a-passport program immediately move to Metro Vancouver and Toronto, where their foreign-sourced dollars pump up the cities’ already high-priced real estate. The decades-old Quebec Immigrant Investor Program is a cynical scheme that doesn’t do what it claims.

And it’s made possible because Quebec is the only Canadian province allowed to set its own immigration policies. (The country’s other premiers in 2016 asked Ottawa for the right to also establish their own immigration rules, but so far their plea has gone nowhere. That could be unfortunate.)

Everyone who signs up for Quebec’s investor program has to hand over an $800,000 interest-free, five-year loan to the government and sign a document citing their firm intention to make their home in Quebec. But only 10 per cent of the 58,000 people who used the program, and remain in Canada, live in the province.

Half of Quebec’s investor immigrants who remain in Canada (many just return to their homeland, with their second passport safely in hand) have set up in the Vancouver region, with most of the rest in Greater Toronto.

Despite Quebec politicians’ oft-professed dedication to Quebec culture, they have for decades shown no signs of caring about the millionaire migrants’ lack of loyalty. The bizarre unintended consequence is that, since Canada’s charter gives everyone mobility rights, the Quebec program has become a key contributor to the unaffordability that is devastating so many residents of Metro Vancouver and Toronto.

One of the many perplexing things about the program is that Quebec’s media, which is normally ruthless at exposing political deception, has almost entirely ignored the province’s farcical investor program since it was instituted in 1986.

Many countries have brought in similar investor schemes, but immigration lawyers say Quebec’s program remains the world’s easiest and most generous, since it asks so little of investors and they get a tremendous amount in return. As a popular website founded by immigration lawyer Colin Singer says: “Successful candidates get permanent residency, which offers access to Canada’s social support network and the right to live anywhere in the country.”

Will Quebec’s new premier, Francois Legault, cancel his province’s immigrant-investor program? He wants immigrants to better integrate. But only 10 per cent of the 58,000 investors who used the program and still remain in Canada actually reside in La Belle Province. Half end up in Metro Vancouver.

Why has the program not been cut? Why is it not on the agenda of the new Coalition Avenir Quebec government or even of most of the French and English-language media, where Quebec news this month has been dominated by Legault’s more symbolic intention to stop allowing judges, police officers, teachers and other key public servants to wear religious symbols?

Part of the explanation for the near-complete silence must be that the program serves the self-interest of Quebec’s business sector. The immigration website of Singer, a longtime booster of investor programs, boasts that the program has made it possible for Investment Quebec, a provincial government corporation, to provide $714 million to 4,737 businesses in Quebec from 2001-2016.

In other words, Quebec’s businesses get the migrants’ cash, but the province doesn’t get the immigrants. Nor does Quebec bear the cost of providing their families with education or other social programs. Is that what Quebeckers want? And is that acceptable to Legault, who came into power on his promise to help immigrants better integrate into the province of which he is so proud?

It gets worse. In a rare exception by Quebec’s media, Radio Canada journalists last month teamed up with the South China Morning Post’s Vancouver-based Ian Young and reported that fraud, forgery, money laundering and corruption is rife in the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program. Their investigative piece revealed that the trans-national subterfuge often begins with shady immigration lawyers in Hong Kong who mostly serve clients from China.

The influential Economist magazine last month published an extensive feature exploring the widespread corruption inherent in many immigrant investor programs, which often make it possible for so-called high-net-worth individuals to evade taxes and in many cases the law-enforcement officials trying to track dirty fortunes.

It’s hard to know what Legault and his party will do. As the co-founder of Air Transat and a gung-ho entrepreneur, he may hold his nose and convince himself that offshore millionaires’ handouts to Quebec businesses are needed to boost the economy. Or he could live up to his commitment to integration. On the surface, he seems a man of integrity, comfortable with adopting pragmatic policies from both the right and left. So British Columbians could end up pleasantly surprised.

It wouldn’t be unprecedented for Quebec’s premier to kill the province’s investor scheme, since they’re under attack around the globe. After all, the federal Conservatives cancelled Canada’s program in 2014, noting few investors paid significant income taxes in Canada and most didn’t want to permanently settle in the country anyways. Most rich investors are seeking a Canadian passport as an insurance policy in case things go sideways in their country of origin.

Deciding the future of the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program will be a profound test of Legault’s character. Will he hypocritically take millionaire migrants’ money and let them run to English-speaking regions of the country? Or will he stand up for his vision and the dignity of his beloved province?

Source: Douglas Todd: Will the new leader of Quebec kill its immigrant-investor program?

Douglas Todd: British Columbians’ houses are not really their ‘castles’

Immigration-related excerpt of interest. And a new term for me, “satellite families:”

….However, if Kesselman was in power, he would consider a change to the NDP’s proposed speculation tax, which in part targets “satellite families” that own vacant dwellings in B.C.

Satellite families are those that typically maintain student children or spouses in B.C., but in which the breadwinners make most or all of their income outside the country, which means the family usually pays little or no Canadian income tax (which is designed to support the common good).

While understanding the B.C. government’s rationale for targeting satellite families, since some “own high-valued homes in B.C. while declaring little income for tax purposes,” Kesselman recognizes the surcharge will also affect some B.C. second-dwelling owners who have long paid taxes in the province.

“My first change would be to allow B.C. residents a credit of actual income taxes paid in B.C. against the speculation tax, rather than the $2,000 per year credit. And I might extend this option to taxes paid by other Canadians not resident in B.C.,” Kesselman said.

In the same vein, the public policy specialist finds the NDP’s surtax on homes valued over $3 million to be an “imperfect but justifiable measure, given the obstacles to implementing a better approach.”

Even though he believes it may be fairer to impose some kind of capital gains tax on profits made on B.C. homes, Kesselman admitted it would be a “political non-starter.” The surtax on expensive homes is “somewhat arbitrary,” he said, because it hits the homeowners regardless of their level of capital gain, how long they’ve owned the property, their current cash flow and their mortgage debt.

But at least the expensive-house surcharge captures often large and otherwise tax-free profits, Kesselman said, in effect supporting Arthur Pigou and the ethical notion that housing, indeed, needs to be treated as a public good.

“The surtax should also encourage some larger properties to be re-developed into denser housing, which is needed to address affordability,” Kesselman added, strengthening the case for Pigou’s principle. “An additional benefit of the surtax is to discourage foreign buyers from using high-valued B.C. homes as speculative piggybanks, in some instances using illicit funds.”

Source: Douglas Todd: British Columbians’ houses are not really their ‘castles’

Douglas Todd: Refugees earn more than most Canadians after 25 years

Good solid analysis by IRCC and confirms what I am seeing in some of the data that I am looking at:

Refugees who arrived in the late 1980s and early 1990s are now earning more than the average Canadian.

An internal immigration department document shows that, after 25 years in the country, a typical refugee is earning as much or more than the Canadian norm, which is about $45,000 a year.

The document quotes a senior department official who says the long-term study of refugees’ wages suggests the recent wave of 50,000 refugees from Syria could several decades from now do as well as earlier refugees in regards to earnings.

“In a nutshell this is the trajectory we would expect (all things being equal) from government-assisted refugees and privately-sponsored refugees,” senior immigration department official Umit Kiziltan writes in a memo obtained under an access to information request.

The immigration and tax department data, which tracks refugees’ earnings from 1981 to 2014, shows that average government-assisted refugees earned less than $20,000 a year in their first decade in the country, when many families rely on provincial welfare and other government benefits to get by.

However, after 25 to 30 years in Canada, the average refugee is earning roughly $50,000 a year, about $5,000 more than the average Canadian. The study also shows the earnings gap between government-assisted refugees, who initially do worse than privately-sponsored refugees, basically disappears over the long run.

The largest groups of refugees to Canada in the 1980s and early 1990s came from Vietnam, Cambodia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa. In that era the total number of refugees arriving ranged from 15,000 to 40,000 annually. In recent years Canada has accepted more than 50,000 refugees from war-torn Syria alone.

Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland, who obtained the internal government documents, said they contain reliable information that strongly indicate most refugees, no matter where they come from, develop usable skills and do well in the labour market over their careers.

However, even though the senior immigration department’s memo welcomed the news that refugees who arrived several decades ago perform well, Kiziltan cautioned that it’s hard to forecast how more recent refugees will do, given the “cyclical nature of the economy overall and especially (the) human capital of the Syrian cohorts.”

The report, in addition, also does not compare the earnings of refugees who have been in Canada for several decades (which means many would be in their 50s and at the peak of their careers) with the earnings of other Canadians of the same age cohort.

The data on refugees’ slow road to labour-market success in Canada comes on the heels of 2018 controversies over thousands of asylum seekers illegally crossing the Canadian border, a Syrian refugee being charged with the murder of Burnaby teenager Marrisa Shenand a Postmedia story revealing the federal Liberal government has not produced any report in two years on whether recent Syrian refugees are learning English or French, working, receiving social assistance or going to school.

This is not the first federal government indication, however, that many refugees eventually earn solid incomes. In 2014 then-federal Conservative immigration department minister Jason Kenney cancelled the contentious immigrant-investor program while revealing that refugees were actually paying more in Canadian income taxes than wealthy newcomers who had in effect bought their Canadian passports.

Asked about the contrast between taxes paid in Canada by refugees and rich immigrants, Kurland said it’s “a complicated comparison.” The breadwinner of an immigrant-investor family, Kurland explained, “usually returns home to support the family’s millionaire lifestyle in Canada” and therefore, unlike a refugee who stays in Canada, doesn’t pay significant income taxes in this country.

Previous studies have consistently shown that, while adult refugees often struggle in the short to medium term, many of their children quickly perform well in their new land, in large part because they gain extra social support, a taxpayer-funded education in English or French and the time to develop skills.

This recent internal study of refugee earnings, however, is among the first to emphasize that, over many decades, most of the refugees who had direct experience of war, persecution and trauma in their homeland are capable of attaining financial success in the country that welcomed them.

Source: Douglas Todd: Refugees earn more than most Canadians after 25 years

Douglas Todd: Would Saudi Arabia’s jailed blogger be accused of ‘Islamophobia’ in Canada?

Less contradictory than the article argues. Virtually all of the recommendations that came out of the committee examining M-103 applied to all forms of racism and discrimination (dissenting Conservative recommendations focused more on definitional questions of Islamophobia).

The additional funding for the multiculturalism program was general in application save for programming directed against racism and discrimination encountered by Black Canadians).

Just as one can criticize the policies and practices of the Israeli government without being antisemitic, one can criticize the policies and practices of the Saudi government without being anti-Muslim. In the case of the former, the IHRA definition of antisemitism provides some (imperfect) guidance that could form the basis of discussion for a comparable approach to criticizing the policies of Muslim countries, beyond basic human rights.

So while some Muslims may argue that any criticism of Saudi Arabia is anti-Muslim or Islamophobic, some Jews also argue that any criticism of Israel is antisemitic. It depends on the nature and form of the criticism:

Would jailed Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi end up being accused of Islamophobia if he were released from his Riyadh prison cell and allowed to come to Canada?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is taking contradictory symbolic stands.

In August, it provoked a diplomatic dispute with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by tweeting support for Badawi, who was arrested in 2012 and flogged for criticizing the country’s hardline religious leadership. Canada has even offered citizenship to the free-speech advocate, his wife, Ensaf Haidar, and their children.

But how does that jibe with the federal Liberals also pushing through Motion 103, which urges all-out war against “Islamophobia?” The Liberal politicians behind M-103 refused to respond to requests to define Islamophobia. And their deceptive gamesmanship would end up jeopardizing Badawi’s right to free expression if he were to ever to come to Canada.

Among other things Badawi has equated a host of Saudi Arabian Muslims with terrorists, which many Canadians think is an offensive and Islamophobic accusation to make.

Can Trudeau’s government have it both ways? How can it champion Badawi’s right to freely criticize Saudi Arabia’s form of Islam at the same time that Liberal MPs make a virtue of condemning anyone who disparages Islam, including the deadly rules in many theocratic Muslim countries, which legislate that people should have their heads cut off for leaving the 1.5-billion-member faith?

Ali Rizvi, Canadian-based author of The Atheist Muslim, was one of the first to point out the lack of logic from Canada’s liberal-minded politicians, which include NDP and Green MPs. “People like my good friend Raif Badawi is in jail and he has been flogged 50 times simply for blogging,” Rizvi, who has lived in Saudi Arabia, told CBC’s The Tapestry.

“It’s interesting to me that if he finally made it to Canada and joined his wife and kids here, a lot of his ideas would be considered ‘Islamophobic’ by Liberals over here because of the criticisms he makes.”

An Angus Reid poll suggests many Canadians agree with Rizvi that the Liberal government has muddied the waters of free speech when it comes to criticizing religions and religious people, something which has been going full bore in the West since the Christian Reformation 500 years ago.

Half of Canadians said it’s not necessary for federal politicians to formally condemn “Islamophobia.” And 55 per cent say the problem of anti-Muslim sentiments in this country has been overblown by politicians and the media. Presumably most Canadians feel the country’s existing anti-hate speech laws already cover extreme hostile attacks on ethnic or religious groups.

The federal Liberals have managed through all this to get themselves into a pickle over free speech.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s August tweet calling for the release of Badawi and his sister led to Saudi Arabia retaliating. It cancelled trade deals with Canada and cut short the educations of nearly 15,000 Saudi students in Canada, even while confusion reigns about the fate of the more than 1,000 Saudi physicians in training in the country.

The trans-national furore is taking place as Badawi’s circumstances grow more dire. Even though an initial charge of apostasy, which is punished by death, was withdrawn, his health deteriorates in his small, stinking, shared cell. He has four years left in his sentence, which was to include 1,000 public lashes with a whip (he’s had 50 so far). He’s not alone in his degradation. In other Muslim-majority countries, online critics of the religion have been hacked to death, including a Bangledesh blogger who was also a friend of the Canadian author of The Atheist Muslim.

What has Badawi actually said to suffer such egregious punishment?

He has censured Muslims’ for their intolerance and argued against unequal religious attitudes towards women. He has promoted “live and let-live” secularism to replace Islamic theocracy and attacked Muslim schools that he says are filled with terrorists. And he has criticized Muslims in Arabic countries for failing to follow the lead of Europe, which has a separation of religion and state.

“States which are built on religion confine their people in the circle of faith and fear,” he writes in 1000 Lashes: Because I Say What I Think (published by Vancouver’s Greystone Books).

“We should not hide the fact that Muslims in Saudi Arabia not only disrespect the beliefs of others, but (they) charge them with infidelity, to the extent that they consider anyone who is not Muslim an infidel,” he has said.

Badawi was outraged when Muslims in New York City called for a mosque to be built near the site of the destroyed World Trade Center, where 3,000 people were murdered in the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaida terrorists, whom Badawi directly linked to Saudi Arabia.

“What increases my pain is this (Islamist) chauvinist arrogance, which claims that innocent blood, shed by barbarian, brutal minds under the slogan ‘Allahu Akbar,’ means nothing compared to the act of building an Islamic mosque whose mission will be to … spawn new terrorists.”

Badawi’s costly bid for freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia, for the right to openly denounce Islamic practices, puts him in a similar boat as the staff at France’s satiric Charlie Hebdo magazine, the Danish newspaper editors who published cartoons of Mohammed, and British-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie, whom have all suffered for finding fault with Islam.

In 1000 Lashes, Badawi defiantly chooses to follow the dictum of the late French existentialist Albert Camus, who said, “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

Badawi’s courageous existence is a clear revolt against Saudi Arabia’s bullying Islamic authorities. It should also cause some censorial Canadians to squirm.

Source: Douglas Todd: Would Saudi Arabia’s jailed blogger be accused of ‘Islamophobia’ in Canada?

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