Douglas Todd: Who cares about ‘winning’ the immigration debate?

Good for the Conference Board for inviting some more critical or sceptical voices like Todd (whose articles, as you know, I always find interesting).

On polling data, the picture is more complex than simply presenting one polling firm where the timing, question phrasing and methodology may somewhat skew results (e.g., Environics and Pew present a more positive portrait than IPSOS).

And not sure that immigration policy is developed in any less transparent manner than any other area of government policy, and where stakeholder groups, who follow the issues carefully, have more influence:

Politicians and corporations that want more immigrants in Canada are mounting marketing campaigns to “win the immigration conversation.”

At least the CEOs, think tanks and civil servants are upfront about aiming to promote higher immigration levels, which aligns them with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals.

Where, however, does this leave all the Canadians in the mushy middle? That’s where most Canadians are at, according to immigration department officials and other migration experts who spoke at a Conference Board of Canada event held last week in Vancouver. The gathering was titled, “Winning the Immigration Conversation.”

Not many Canadians are extremists, either for or against current immigration policy or rates, polls suggest. The bulk of the population seems hazy about Trudeau’s plan to continue to increase immigration levels to 350,000 people a year by 2021, up from 260,000 when he was elected in 2015.

My sense is most Canadians are not eager to either “win” or “lose” the immigration discussion. Most of us don’t think immigration boils down to an either/or option. Some of us mostly want to know what’s going on, so we can be informed at the ballot box.

But as some speakers at the Conference Board event noted, Canada’s politicians and mandarins are almost unique in the obscure way they dictate the country’s powerful immigration policies from behind closed doors.

Kareem El-Assal, the senior immigration director for the Conference Board, asked me to speak at the “Winning the Immigration Conservation” conference so participants would not end up in the usual echo chamber, in which everyone basically agrees with each other.

El-Assal had seen my 2017 story on the clubby atmosphere that reigned among the more than 1,000 Canadians who work with immigrants, refugees and international students and attended Montreal’s Metropolis Conference. My article on that gathering was headlined, “The narrow view from the migration sector bubble.”

So I give credit to the corporate-sponsored Conference Board, a booster of high immigration levels, for welcoming diversity of opinion. It turned out some scholars, and even some civil servants, had their own skepticism about Canada’s immigration levels, which are arguably the highest per capita in the world.

I told participants I’m intrigued by philosophy’s two foundational questions: What is real? And how then shall we live? And I bring those questions to immigration matters.

What I’ve discovered in recent years on the migration beat is the vast majority of native Canadians (and to a lesser extent immigrants) don’t have a grasp on what is real about the increasing global migration of people, particularly into Canada. And it’s understandable.

Even though the Conference Board has launched its own campaign for increased immigration, El-Assal revealed data showing most Canadians don’t have the foggiest idea about a basic issue: How many immigrants come into Canada each year.

Only nine per cent of Canadians knew correctly it is between 150,000 and 300,000 annually. What’s worse, El-Assal said, when Canadians learn how many immigrants are actually entering the country, their support goes down.

“The populists may have a point,” Antje Ellerman, a political scientist at UBC, told the Conference Board gathering.

“Canada has a high degree of (immigration) policy-making behind closed doors.” The immigration agenda has “traditionally been dominated by the government and civil servants, and rarely engaged the public in meaningful ways.”

In addition, the complexities of immigration rules are not often covered by the media. That is the unfortunate case even though, for instance, almost half the populations of Toronto and Vancouver are foreign-born.

One concern is that if Canadians are purposely being kept in the dark about immigration developments, and even opposition politicians are afraid of raising the subject for fear of being labelled xenophobic or racist, how can the host society make wise choices about an issue that has defined the country?

Turns out many Canadians are concerned. Only 45 per cent believe immigration is “good for the economy,” according to a new Ipsos poll. Another 57 per cent believe “immigrants place too much pressure on public services,” be that health or transit systems. And almost 60 per cent say government is “hiding the true costs to taxpayers and society.”

Immigration officials are not alone in finding in the past couple of years that there has been a shift among Canadians about immigration. That is part of the reason Ottawa has launched a promotional campaign called #immigrationmatters.

Its public relations effort is getting out stories about immigration successes, especially at the neighbourhood level. Not a discouraging word will be heard from #immigrationmatters, of course, since it will support a major plank in this year’s Liberal campaign.

However, Ellerman is among those who think it unwise for governments in Canada, Europe or elsewhere to ignore the populist voices that worry about immigration. To do so, she said, could feed anti-immigration radicalism.

UBC economics professor David Green offered the audience some data-based realities about immigration.

One finding takes issue with frequent claims by Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen that high immigration is the key to economic prosperity. Green highlighted how immigration has an almost imperceptible effect on long-term Canadian wages, not doing anything at all for per-capita income.

And although boosters of strong immigration frequently maintain it is absolutely necessary to counteract an aging Canadian labour force, Green’s studies show its effect is minimal, almost non-existent.

Immigration numbers would have to jump multiple times over to make even a small dent in the growing portion of seniors in Canada, Green said. In addition, most people who obtain citizenship status in Canada soon try to sponsor older family members to join them.

But immigration is not all about economics. Many of the speakers recognized reliable new opinion surveys show much of the public resistance to high immigration has mostly to do with culture.

Roughly one in two Canadians fear too many immigrants “do not adopt Canadian values.” Many in the host society feel they are losing command of their own cultural identities. Some migration specialists said such feelings should not necessarily be dismissed as xenophobic.

Give the swirl of powerful factors at play, what are we to make of efforts by Ottawa and its supporters to “win the immigration conversation”? Even though organizers of the Conference Board event said they came up with the title to be provocative, I’d say immigration policy needs more balanced attention than that found in win-lose campaigns.

In a democracy, the public could use as much information as possible about migration policy and trends. Who knows what would happen if Ottawa became more transparent? Reality has a funny way of surprising all of us.

Source: Douglas Todd: Who cares about ‘winning’ the immigration debate?

Douglas Todd: B.C. launches rare immigration plan for small towns

Seems like most governments are now developing comparable initiatives: the federal government with the Atlantic Immigration Pilot and the just announced Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, the Alberta UCP’s proposed program, and Manitoba’s approach to the Provincial Nominee Program.

The numbers are small in terms of total immigration but nevertheless can be significant for rural communities:

The B.C. government is venturing out on a rare Canadian effort to lure immigrants to the struggling hinterlands.

Aware that the vast majority of immigrants to the West Coast move into hectic Metro Vancouver, the B.C. government is launching a pilot program to lure entrepreneur immigrants to cities of less than 75,000 people that are distant from major urban centres.

Bruce Ralston, the minister of jobs, trade and technology, said 30 city mayors are already on board with the pilot program, which will give preferential treatment to well-off newcomers who commit to setting up a business in and living in a rural community for at least three years.

Maintaining that B.C.’s overall fertility rates are declining, the website for the so-called entrepreneur immigration regional pilot adds that small cities “face the additional challenge that young people are leaving for larger centres to find opportunities.”

The federal government’s immigration program has never put much effort into directing immigrants to rural areas, largely because immigrants have mobility rights under Canada’s charter and can move wherever they want.

But many migration specialists have urged Canada to develop incentives to shift immigrants to small towns, since 80 per cent of immigrants end up choosing the country’s major cities. About six in 10 recent immigrants squeeze into the three biggest metropolises, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

Manitoba is one of the few innovative provinces that has used its own immigration scheme to divert new workers away from Winnipeg to towns such as Winkler and Altona. And after B.C. quietly announced it’s pilot small-city program months ago, Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney this week promised something similar.

“This has not been tried before in B.C.,” said Ralston, noting that B.C.’s current provincial nominee program, which is sanctioned by the federal government, brings in about 6,000 potential immigrants a year.

The majority come from Asia; choosing Metro Vancouver for the wide job variety and the cultural familiarity of living in a place that already has large populations of Chinese, South Asians, Filipinos, South Koreans and other ethnic groups.

“This pilot program is designed to get people to commit to small communities. They would have to establish a business and stay for a minimum of one year until they obtain permanent resident status, which usually takes another 18 months,” Ralston said .

“Once they have permanent residency the law says they can move wherever they want. But we think the stickiness of establishing a business in a warm community that would be enthusiastic and would wrap their arms around you would be important.”

The pilot program, which may initially accept a couple of hundred applicants, requires would-be immigrants to first visit their chosen community, invest a minimum of $100,000 in a business, have a net worth of at least $300,000 and create at least one job.

The pilot program also requires the applicant to understand English, which, controversially, has not been expected of the hundreds of newcomers welcomed in recent years through B.C.’s existing provincial immigration program for entrepreneurs.

The B.C. government intends to work closely with small-community officials to make the program work and help new arrivals connect with members of their diaspora group, said Ralston. The entrepreneur immigrants will not be allowed to start certain businesses, such as real estate development, bed and breakfasts or hobby farms.

Asked how B.C. officials will monitor whether participants actually live in the towns in which they start a business, Ralston said, “The communities have an interest in this working. The monitoring will be done by the mayors and councils and communities themselves. So if it doesn’t work, I will hear about it pretty fast.”

Simon Fraser University political scientist Sanjay Jeram is one of those who have encouraged Canadian jurisdictions to follow the lead of European nations and create incentives for immigrants and others to settle outside metropolises.

The fact most immigrants to Canada move to Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary adds undue pressure not only to those cities’ housing costs, Jeram said, but to infrastructure, such as traffic and transit.

The inter-provincial migratory flows within B.C. travel many complex directions, however.

Even while it’s accurate to say some young people are leaving rural B.C. towns, a recent Statistics Canada report showed that Aboriginals and whites are leaving Metro Vancouver for other regions of B.C. (especially the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan).

A net total of 9,345 whites and 460 Indigenous people left Metro for other parts of the province in the one-year period ending July, 2016, according to a 2018 Statistics Canada report. The two other demographic groups that are tending to say goodbye to Metro Vancouver are those born in Canada and those between ages 55 and 65.

However, the idea that governments can encourage more immigrants, and perhaps the native-born, to make their lives in the small towns of Canada appears to be picking up steam in Canada, at least provincially.

The idea gained a boost this week when Kenney, a former federal immigration minister who now leads Alberta’s United Conservatives, announced a government led by his party would launch an immigration plan that would attract newcomer entrepreneurs to rural Alberta, in order to get “the best bang for the buck” on who settles in the province.

Meanwhile, Manitoba has been successfully focusing on attracting would-be immigrants to rural towns who are skilled workers, not wealthy business people. While Ralston said a similar small-city program for skilled newcomers has been discussed, he first wants to find out whether the two-year entrepreneur pilot program works in B.C.

dtodd

Source: Douglas Todd: B.C. launches rare immigration plan for small towns

Douglas Todd: Is B.C. immigration program a back door for millionaire house buyers?

Interesting questions regarding a possible backdoor.

A question I find also interesting is looking at reported income through tax returns to get a sense of how well these immigrants are doing and whether their capital that allows them to purchase a house is matched by an ongoing income stream (rhetorical question – see Todd: Tax avoidance behind Metro’s disconnect between housing, income where the data suggests it is not):

How did it come to pass that thousands of people who came to Metro Vancouver through a provincial immigration scheme bought pricey houses?

A Statistics Canada report shows 2,370 people who recently arrived in B.C. through a provincial immigration program have bought single-family houses worth an average of $2.38 million in Metro Vancouver, which is $800,000 above the norm for Canadian-born house buyers.

It’s a startling figure, in part because politicians often trumpet how the relatively small provincial immigration programs were created primarily to fine-tune Ottawa’s bulkier immigration policy by pinpointing the right skilled workers for each local labour market.

Given that the emphasis of so-called “provincial nominee programs” is supposed to be on newcomers looking for a job, how have thousands since 2009 been able to quickly buy pricey Metro Vancouver real estate? It’s difficult to get an answer from officialdom. So we’re left to our own devices to figure out this irregular access.

I’m not alone in suggesting one of the last things most young people need in Metro Vancouver’s unaffordable housing market is to be squeezed out by another stream of foreign capital. The B.C. NDP government is among those trying to crack down on this price-inflating phenomenon associated with “satellite families” who buy stately homes.

But the revealing data is there in the particulars of a January Statistics Canada report. Its charts point to the way many families are coming to Metro Vancouver with large amounts of wealth, which they’ve been funnelling into housing.

Chart shows value of Metro Vancouver detached homes bought by recent newcomers under the Provincial Nominee Program and other immigration investor schemes. (Source: Statistics Canada report titled Immigrant Ownership of Residential Properties in Toronto and Vancouver.)

And it’s not only Metro Vancouver’s housing market that has been hit by millionaire migrants entering through provincial immigration programs. So has Greater Toronto’s. The average price of a Toronto house bought by a recent provincial nominee is $1.06 million, according to the StatsCan report, while the average price of a detached house of Canadian-born owners in Toronto is significantly less, $849,000.

And just as in Metro Vancouver, it is the recent newcomers to Toronto from China who have had the most cash to spend on property. Mainland Chinese make up about two of three of the home buyers in each city who arrived through the nominee program.

The StatsCan report, titled Immigrant Ownership of Residential Properties in Toronto and Vancouver, offers only a snapshot of this provincial nominee mansion phenomenon, however. It doesn’t capture the program’s link to condominiums. And it leaves open speculation about causes.

Therefore, many questions remain outstanding about what is going on with provincial nominee programs, questions which are typically paid little heed.

B.C.’s provincial nominee program brought 6,500 newcomers to the province in 2018, a large jump from the 2,600 it  welcomed a decade earlier.

But it is a puzzle how 2,370 provincial nominees since 2009 were able to quickly buy costly houses in Metro Vancouver, especially when the vast majority of such nominees were classified as “workers.”

Only about one per cent of provincial nominees to B.C. — an average of about 80 a year — arrive under the “entrepreneur” category. They are the ones who are worth more than $600,000 and required to invest $200,000 in a B.C. business. It’s common sense to expect many in this tiny group of entrepreneur/investors to arrive in B.C. with capital and to pump part or most of it into real estate.

That is exactly what happened with the federal government’s investor program, which the Conservatives killed in 2014 because so many rich immigrants were snapping up Canadian property but not operating businesses or paying significant income taxes.

Despite such unintended consequences, a large entrepreneur program continues to be run by Quebec. It cynically takes millions from thousands of rich would-be immigrants each year, even while most hastily move to Vancouver or Toronto.

Indeed, the January StatsCan report shows the average value of a detached house bought by more than 4,400 millionaire immigrants who came to Metro Vancouver in the past decade under Ottawa’s investor program, and the one operated by Quebec, is $3.2 million. That’s unfortunate enough in regards to fuelling high-end prices, with its trickle-down effect to all housing.

But how is it that the much smaller provincial nominee programs of B.C. and perhaps other provinces are also bringing in thousands of wealthy home buyers headed for Vancouver and Toronto?

A spokeswoman for B.C. Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology, which oversees the provincial nominee program, wouldn’t venture a guess. “It is good to see newcomers coming to Canada and being able to invest in their own business and homes,” she said. “We are unable to speculate on the amount of foreign capital they bring into Canada.”

The minister of jobs, trade and technology, Bruce Ralston, also declined to comment until he had a look at the Statistics Canada report. “It’s an area where I’d have to have the facts.”

In the meantime here are a few questions that need to be answered.

Is it possible many of the buyers of Metro Vancouver mansions are coming in not only from B.C.’s nominee program, but from other provincial programs, such as that in Prince Edward Island, which was cancelled last year. It was riddled with fraud and hundreds of would-be immigrants used fake addresses to pretend they lived in P.E.I.

Another question is whether people buying expensive Metro Vancouver properties are coming in through a camouflaged nominee category, such as “skilled worker.”

The top occupations of those coming in the past two years under the B.C. provincial nominee’s “skilled worker” category were restaurant and food service employees, including cooks and kitchen helpers, as well truck drivers and retail managers.

While Ralston said he needs to gather more information before commenting on whether immigrants who buy expensive houses in Metro Vancouver are coming in as truck drivers, food workers or another irregular category, he justifiably noted Attorney General David Eby and Finance Minister Carole James are trying to tackle a related aspect of the housing crisis.

The two major aims of the ministers’ new speculation and vacancy tax are to increase housing supply by reducing the number of empty dwellings and by targeting satellite families, who often buy and live in expensive properties but pay little or no income tax in Canada.

Since thousands of millionaire migrants appear to have found backdoor ways to enter Metro Vancouver’s over-priced housing market through the Provincial Nominee Program, it looks as if this scheme is part of the problem. As such it needs far more scrutiny.

Source: Douglas Todd: Is B.C. immigration program a back door for millionaire house buyers?

Douglas Todd: Why populism hasn’t come to (English) Canada. Yet

Eric Kaufmann’s work continues to strike a chord among those with concerns about immigration levels and populism (see for example Margaret Wente’s Can Canada avoid a populist revolt?).

Kaufmann’s explanation of “Canadian exceptionalism” – the English-French divide, a high-percentage of foreign-born, the lack of a Conservative tabloid press (Toronto Sun?), and labelling as racist those who question current immigration levels – tend to leave out some of the early fundamentals that shaped Canada:

  • a culture of accommodation, often imperfect, between English and French Canada, less so with Indigenous peoples, that required recognition and compromise as basic to Canada;
  • a multiculturalism that developed in response to earlier waves of mainly white and Christian immigration;
  • an approach based on integration, as distinct from assimilation, articulated by the 19 Bi & Bi Commission report on the “other groups.”

And if identity has become the “battle front of the 21st century,” does this not reflect in part the fact solutions to economic issues – precarity, inequality – remain elusive.

I also find tiresome the refrain against “cosmopolitan imperialists” and elites. Most of the people engaged in these debates, including Kaufmann, are by definition part of elites in terms of education, income levels, public profiles and the like:

Populism has arisen virtually everywhere in the West, but remains weak in English Canada.

The election of Donald Trump, the Brexit vote, resistance to high immigration in Australia, mounting European nativism and last year’s Quebec election are strong signs that growing centre-right white populism will be tenacious.

It’s often said that people in the U.S. display “American exceptionalism,” the belief they’re uniquely committed to freedom. But there is also a “Canadian exceptionalism,” a deep belief among English Canadians they are uncommonly tolerant and will make a success of multiculturalism when others will not.

A ground-breaking new book by Vancouver-raised political scientist Eric Kaufmann peels back the layers of Canadian exceptionalism while detailing the increasingly tense decline of white populations in Europe, the U.S. and Australia. It places an extra focus on big cosmopolitan cities in which whites are no longer the majority, such as Toronto and Metro Vancouver.

Even though Whiteshift: Population, Immigration and the Future of White Majorities delves into race, culture and identity in ways some will find uncomfortable, the book has attracted supportive reviews across Britain’s vigorous press. It’s being called “insightful,” “valuable,” ”substantial,” “brilliant,” “extraordinarily deep and wide” and far ahead on the immigration discussion.

Whiteshift is bursting with ideas, which synthesize old theories into something altogether novel. They include Kaufmann’s positive argument that declining white populations in the West, to avoid extreme nationalism, will need to embrace what he calls “whiteshift.”

He defines the term as “the turbulent journey from a world of racially homogeneous white majorities to one of racially hybrid majorities.” In other words, Whiteshift envisions a Western world a century from now of predominantly intermarried people who are beige in colour.

But Kaufmann – who is of mixed Latino, Chinese and Jewish ancestry while regularly viewed as white – is not a one-world globalist dreamer, as many say is the case with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Identity has largely replaced economics as the battle front of the 21st century, Kaufmann says. And he understands how many conservative whites are losing confidence in their identity; leading to “a growing unwillingness to indulge the anti-white ideology of the cultural left.”

The Economist agrees, remarking in its review of Whiteshift that nativism is rising because free-market globalism and high immigration have disrupted Western economies and the “culture is dominated by preening elites who not only think they are cleverer than the average person but also that they are more virtuous.”

It is virtually only in the West, says the professor at the University of London, Birkbeck, that the educated feel it necessary to oppose their own culture and celebrate its decline. Although some consider it radical, Kaufmann makes the point that white majorities are an ethnic group whose conservative members have the same normal attachments to group as minority ethnic groups.

Many white people in Europe, of both the right and welfare-state-supporting left, have started resisting the “cosmopolitan imperialists,” he says. Virtually no European politician has dared use the word “multiculturalism” since the 1990s.

But the term still has traction in Canada, where Vancouver pollster Mario Canseco found this month that 62 per cent of Canadians think multiculturalism has been good for the country, while 33% believe it’s been bad.

Because of Canadian exceptionalism, Kaufmann says, English Canada is perhaps the only place left in the Western world where almost all right-wing politicians fear being accused of racism for suggesting immigration levels decline. That’s despite Canadian polls consistently showing roughly four in 10 Canadians think immigration has been a mostly negative force.

French-speaking Quebeckers don’t adhere to the same prohibitions. They recently elected Premier Francois Legault, who this year reduced his province’s immigration rates by 20 per cent in the name of improving integration. Legault even managed to get public support from Trudeau, who has to go along because he can’t afford to alienate francophone voters.

Four of five voters for Brexit ranked immigration as their top concern.

Why has white popularism not taken hold in English Canada, at least not yet?

There are at least three reasons, and one is the English-French language divide. Kaufmann takes seriously the notion that the Conservative party is hemmed in on immigration.

English Canadians who want to reduce immigration, and thus slow the expansion of Asian and other cultures, would normally hope to be supported by the Conservatives. But the party is incapable of allying with like-minded French populists in Quebec, who instead vote for the Bloc Quebecois and Legault’s Coalition Avenir Quebec.

A second reason Kaufmann believes most Canadians quietly accept rapid ethnic change, which comes from having a population that is 21 per cent foreign born, is that “Anglo-Canadians share the relatively pro-immigration outlook common to all Anglo settler societies.”

Given this outlook, he said, English Canada, unlike Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and Britain, “lacks a conservative tabloid press” ready to poke holes in immigration policy.

Kaufmann finds it significant that the highest-profile critics of immigration and multiculturalism in Canada have been people of colour: Writer Neil Bissoondath, academic Salim Mansur and environmentalist David Suzuki. Their minority status, he said, has made it possible for them to “withstand the charge of racism.”

In a revealing chapter, titled Canadian Exceptionalism: Right-wing Populism in the Anglosphere, Kaufmann zeroes in  the battle over foreign capital fueling the housing crisis in Metro Vancouver, where he grew up after being raised in Hong Kong and Japan.

Kaufmann cites how prominent visible minorities, such as Andy Yan, Albert Lo and Ujjal Dosanjh, were able to fight back against claims made by white real-estate developers and politicians that it is “racist” to say that foreign capital, especially from China, has been exacerbating high housing prices.

The Vancouver example leads Kaufmann to the novel idea that, since the Canadian elite generally supports pro-growth, high-immigration thinking, one of the few ways a populist party could emerge in Canada is “if there were a substantial non-white anti-immigration vote or a minority anti-immigration candidate.”

Since that may not happen, Kaufmann predicts the white population of Canada will be in the minority by 2050. Whereas whites in Montreal will account for about seven in 10 people by that date, the proportion will drop to about three in 10 in Toronto and Metro Vancouver.

It could work out, Kaufmann suggests, particularly if immigration policy is changed. But only if English Canadians avoid the kind of hostilities linked with extreme white nationalism. Peace and prosperity will also require people accept that the definition of white is blurring, to include people of mixed races.

Even though regions in which one ethnic group predominates generally experience more unity than those with highly multi-racial societies (such as in Guyana or Belize), Kaufmann foresees a decent chance much of English Canada could end up somewhat like Canada’s largest city.

He envisions a kind of “Toronto-writ-large” across all of English Canada: “A dynamic, low-cohesion, future-oriented society with an attenuated connection to its British and European past.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Why populism hasn’t come to (English) Canada. Yet

Douglas Todd: Jagmeet Singh’s byelection battle in super-diverse Burnaby

More on Burnaby South:

The Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha gurdwara in Burnaby was packed recently for a speech by Jagmeet Singh, the federal New Democratic Party leader.

About 800 people squeezed into the Sikh temple, in the heart of the ethnically super-diverse riding of Burnaby South, where Singh is fighting for the first time win a seat as a federal MP. The Punjabi-language Sach Di Awaaz newspaper ran 12 photos of the event featuring the Ontario-based politician.

At the gurdwara this week, Sikhs said they want Singh to win, hoping he’ll make moves to improve education and the job market. A variety of ethnic Chinese and Caucasians walking in the vicinity of the temple also said they intend to vote for Singh, with one man remarking he hoped it will “shake things up.”

Ethnicity has already been highlighted as a factor in the crucial Burnaby South byelection.

A member of the Burnaby gurdwara holds a copy of the free bi-weekly Sach Di Awaaz newspaper that shows NDP candidate Jagmeet Singh at to speak to hundreds of people.

This week, media reported on the way Liberal candidate Karen Wang said in a WeChat post that, as the only Chinese candidate, she could beat Singh, who she noted is of “Indian descent.” Wang said the post was written by a campaign volunteer, but she took responsibility for it and apologized to Singh. Under pressure from the Liberals for her remark, Wang dropped out of the race, although she hinted Thursday there is a slim chance she’ll run as an independent.

Burnaby is known as one the most diverse cities in Canada, if not the world. An earlier Vancouver Sun study found there’s a 73 per cent chance that two randomly chosen people from Burnaby will be of a different ethnicities. For comparison, the chance is just 34 per cent in Ottawa.

The riding of South Burnaby is almost 40 per cent ethnic Chinese, 30 per cent white, eight per cent South Asian (a category that includes most Sikhs), six per cent Filipino and three per cent Korean.

Given the riding’s eclectic ethnic makeup, the proportion of South Asians and Sikhs within it is not nearly as large as it is in other pockets. The modest Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha gurdwara is the only Sikh temple in South Burnaby, whereas there are many gurdwaras serving the large Sikh populations concentrated in places such as Surrey and the western suburbs of Toronto.

The successful campaign of Singh, a turban-wearing orthodox Sikh, for the 2017 NDP leadership relied significantly on him visiting gurdwaras and drumming up support from Sikhs, who almost all have roots in the Punjab region of India.

Such South Asians were tremendous financial supporters of Singh during the leadership race, which he surprisingly won with 54 per cent of the vote on the first ballot.

Elections Canada data shows Singh collected $603,000 in the year of the NDP leadership convention. More than nine out of 10 of his donors in that year had South Asian names, specifically Punjabi and Sikh (Sikhs often include “Singh” or “Kaur” as one of their names).

Donors to Singh’s leadership campaign — which boasted about signing up a dramatically high number of new NDP members — hailed heavily from the western Toronto suburbs of Brampton and Mississauga, and from Surrey. More than a third of Singh’s 2017 campaign funding came from those three municipalities alone.

The federal Liberals have also long been aware of the political power linked to the related issues of ethnicity and immigration status. They could be major factors in the riding of South Burnaby, since six in 10 residents of the riding are either immigrants or non-permanent residents. That’s triple the national average of two out of 10.

The Trudeau Liberals frequently highlight how they are increasing Canada’s annual immigration levels to 340,000, from 250,000 in 2015 under the Conservatives. And Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen has recently been goading the Conservatives on Twitter for not being as supportive of family-reunification programs, which are especially important to many extended South Asian families.

At the gurdwara in South Burnaby this week, some visitors supported the Liberals’ moves to increase the number of sponsored spouses, parents, and grandparents permitted into Canada under the family-reunification program. People interviewed at the gurdwara, who did not want their names used, said they had relatives in the Punjab they would like to bring to Canada.

How much is ethnicity, culture, immigration status and religion a factor in Canadian politics? Some people on social media found it controversial in 2018 that Caucasian candidates for city councils in Metro Vancouver appeared to be relatively more successful than candidates from other ethnic groups, leading to the derogatory Twitter hashtag #councilsowhite.

Data have not been made publicly available in Canada, however, on the extent that people of any particular ethno-cultural group vote for candidates of their own ethnicity. Privately, though, Canadian political party strategists often target voters based on which group they belong to. The federal Conservatives, for instance, have over the years won many votes from evangelical Christians.

But since the NDP candidate for Burnaby South won the riding in 2015 with only 500 more votes than the Liberal candidate, Singh will need to work hard to appeal to voters outside his own ethno-cultural-religious group if he is to hold onto the seat for the party he now leads.

Source: Douglas Todd: Jagmeet Singh’s byelection battle in super-diverse Burnaby

Douglas Todd: Chinese students’ river of cash unlikely to dry up

Speculation, of course, but my guess:

A business college at the University of Illinois has taken out an insurance policy against the potential catastrophic loss of revenue from high-fee-paying students from China.

Educators and social-media commentators are expressing fears the river of money flowing from Chinese students into Canada, the U.S., Britain and Australia will dry up because of a brewing trade war and the arrest in Vancouver of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou.

The government of China has said it has more than 600,000 students studying abroad, the vast majority of them in English-language countries. Highly desired Canada has more than 186,000 of them, according to China’s Toronto consulate (the federal government’s figure is slightly lower). That means China’s young people make up roughly one in three of all 500,000 international students in Canada.

Despite China’s ambassador to Canada last week hammering English-speaking countries as “arrogant” and rife with “white supremacy” for their defence of Meng’s arrest, there is no sign that China’s leaders are ready to follow the lead of Saudi Arabia’s rulers, who reacted to Canada’s human rights comments last year by calling back most of the Saudi students in Canada.

“I don’t think the Chinese will be as petulant as the Saudis were, or as unsophisticated, although they may make more subtle changes over time,” Andrew Griffith, a migration researcher and former senior director in Canada’s Immigration Department, said.

Canada could even attract more Chinese students in the future in part because the number entering the U.S. appears to be flattening out, possibly because of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about China and immigrants. That’s why Illinois business college dean Jeffrey Brown, realizing his school had become highly dependent on Chinese students’ money, took out an insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London.

Canada hosts eight times more Chinese students per capita than the U.S., suggesting this country’s educational institutions are more dependent on, if not addicted to, their fees than U.S. colleges. Some higher-education researchers are calling the phenomenon “academic capitalism.”

It’s the expanding trend in English-language countries to make up for steadily eroding taxpayer funding of schools, colleges and universities by capitalizing on the full fees paid by students from mostly well-off families from around the world, with China providing by far the biggest group.

Some Canadian educators, and researchers like Mengwei Su and Laura Harrison of Ohio University, say the intense concentration of Chinese students in Western schools brings with it drawbacks, however, mainly for the students themselves.

Even though Western universities welcome Chinese students as “a particularly lucrative market,” Su and Harrison found many of the young Chinese struggle with English and integrating into Western culture — partly because they are ending up in classrooms and living situations dominated by other students from China.

“Seventy per cent of the students in my class are from China,” one Chinese student told the Ohio researchers, describing the sense of social segregation. “The class is not much different from that in our country,” said another Chinese pupil. One young woman from China opted to study in the Netherlands rather than North America, saying, “I want to avoid too many Chinese students.”

Against a backdrop in which the taxpayer-funded proportion of the operating budgets of B.C.’s public universities has drastically declined in recent decades, more than half the foreign undergraduate students at Simon Fraser University, more than 2,700, now come from China.

The University of B.C. has 5,000 students from China, almost one third of its international student population. Scores of public high schools, colleges and two-room private language institutes also take in hefty fees from the roughly 50,000 Chinese students in B.C., mostly Metro Vancouver.

The dark blue at the top of this chart indicates more than half the undergraduate international students at Simon Fraser University since 2011 have come from China. (Source: SFU)

The federal Liberal government is busily wooing more Chinese students, however. Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen is following the enthusiastic lead of former minister John McCallum and saying “We’ll do whatever we can” to bring in an increasing number of students from China.

Hussen maintains international students in Canada, whose numbers have been recently jumping by roughly one quarter annually, funnel $11.6 billion a year into Canada’s economy, adding they also enhance “cultural exchange.” To make it easier for more Chinese students to jet across the Pacific Ocean to Canada, the Liberal government recently opened seven new visa centres in China. Hussen acknowledged such students can contribute to the housing and rental squeeze in cities such as Toronto and Metro Vancouver, particularly since many offshore parents buy Canadian homes for their offspring.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says “We’ll do whatever we can” to bring in an increasing number of students from China.

Western “higher education institutions are slowly evolving into a corporate-like enterprise that pursues monetary gains, at times eclipsing their educational mission,” write Su and Harrison, of Ohio University, echoing growing sentiment among scholars of higher education.

The Ohio researchers found a key financial problem is that some overseas recruiting “agents” are exploiting international students, with more than half the Chinese students they surveyed hiring these advisers to navigate their complicated route to the West.

The trouble with agents dominating the field of global education, according to Su and Harrison, is many are providing misinformation to students, steering them to inappropriate schools and not warning them about how difficult it will likely be to learn workable English. Many students get stuck in never-ending English-remediation classes.

To root out abuse and increase overseas families’ trust in such agents, Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Ireland have developed a code to regulate them, say Thompson Rivers University researchers Victoria Handford and Halying Li.

But Canada has not signed on to the protocol, which is designed to ensure the agents behave more ethically.

Meanwhile, Canada’s recruiting continues apace.

Source: Douglas Todd: Chinese students’ river of cash unlikely to dry up

Douglas Todd: How Chinese, Filipino and other immigrants differ

I am a great fan of Dan Hiebert’s work and Todd’s article only whets my appetite to check out the interactive website:

Chinese and Filipino immigrants come to Canada with equally solid levels of education — but beyond that they’re remarkably different.

A revealing new “super-diversity” website created by a University of B.C. geographer, Daniel Hiebert, shows nine of 10 recent Chinese immigrants arrive in Metro Vancouver with enough money to immediately buy homes. But only half hold down jobs during their first five years in Canada, while four of 10 report they’re surviving on low incomes.

In sharp contrast, as Hiebert points out while showing his data-rich charts and maps on his interactive website, nine of 10 Filipino immigrants have jobs within five years of arriving in Metro Vancouver. Less than 10 per cent of Filipinos say they are on low incomes, and just four in 10 own their homes.

This is just a sample of the almost endless array of demographic insights about Canadian immigration, refugees, ethnicity, economic class and religion that can be readily discovered on the website, www.superdiv.mmg.mpg.de.

With a team of international scholars, Hiebert has been designing the site to help Canadian policy-makers, academics, journalists and the public “get a factual sense of how the world is changing. So that they can make their own interpretations.”

The website’s graphics quickly reveal nuggets about “super-diversity” in Canada, including that Metro Vancouver Muslims come from an astonishing 117 different ethnic backgrounds, and that initially disadvantaged refugees eventually do well in terms of education, income and housing after about two decades in Canada.

The super-diversity website democratizes immense pools of data from 1980 on, which have long been difficult or impossible for most Canadians to tap. The site provides the basis for an informed Canadian debate on immigration, which has so far been held back by exaggerated claims by both skeptics and advocates.

The website, created in collaboration with German and other scholars (thus the country code “.de” in the domain name), includes interactive maps that break Metro Vancouver down into 3,400 small chunks. Viewers can analyze each for such things as ethnicity, income, mobility, language and education levels.

This snapshot of a chart created by Prof. Daniel Hiebert shows the economic and housing outcomes of recent adult immigrants, those who arrived in Metro Vancouver between 2011 and 2016. It shows an amazing 90 per cent of new ethnic Chinese immigrants bring enough wealth to quickly buy a home in Metro Vancouver, in contrast to patterns in Sydney and Auckland. (Source: http://www.superdiv.mmg.mpg.de)

Since Hiebert’s Canadian research for the first time correlates 2016 census information with “landing data” provided by the federal immigration department, he was able to discover that immigrants in general, but ethnic Chinese in particular, move unusually quickly into Metro Vancouver’s housing market.

“The Chinese story is one of a great transfer of wealth” into Canada from offshore, he said. “Home ownership rates reflect that wealth transfer.”

The interactive online charts show the overall rate of home ownership by ethnicity — with nine in 10 ethnic Chinese owning their homes in Metro Vancouver, compared to eight in 10 South Asians, seven in 10 Caucasians and Koreans, six in 10 Filipinos and just four in 10 blacks, Arabs and Latin Americans.

The maps and charts created by Hiebert, Steven Vertovec, Alan Gamlen and Paul Spoonley also show the most “mobile” regions of Metro,the neighbourhoods in which people are more likely to move frequently. They tend to be in the north end of the City of Vancouver (from Kitsilano to Strathcona), New Westminster, parts of North Vancouver and around the City of Langley.

Hiebert’s maps also reveal which neighbourhoods come with the widest range of incomes, which he considers healthy. “You get more vibrancy in neighbourhoods in which you get to know people from other income levels. Gated communities are the worst. Nobody understands each other’s lives.”

While the west side of Vancouver tends to have a high ethnic mix, it has low diversity of incomes. In contrast, residents of the east side of Vancouver and south Burnaby have a range of incomes. “There’s a kind of upstairs-downstairs phenomenon” in the latter neighbourhoods, Hiebert said, with reasonably well-off homeowners serving as landlords to renters in basement suites.

Even though the amount of data on display in the “super-diversity” website is immense, Hiebert’s task in the next couple of months is to add more user-friendly statistics — this time on the often-ignored number of temporary residents and international students in Canada.

Their numbers have doubled in a decade to almost one million, with almost 200,000 in B.C., mostly Metro Vancouver. Hiebert, who is often asked to advise politicians and civil servants, acknowledged policy-makers rarely take into account this significant cohort of newcomers, who some say add to the intense pressure on the city’s rental market and transit system.

One of the aims of the super-diversity website is to compare migration issues in Canada with those in Australia and New Zealand. They are three of the five English-language countries (the others are Britain and the U.S.), that Hiebert says are magnets for “millions of millions of people around the world who want to learn English.”

Asked to compare migration to Sydney and Auckland with that to Metro Vancouver, Hiebert said each has large populations of Chinese immigrants.  But Metro Vancouver receives the most educated ethnic Chinese, he said, and far more who are ready to buy homes.

While the rate of home ownership among recent Chinese immigrants to Metro Vancouver is about 90 per cent, the rate is only about 50 per cent in Sydney and just 20 per cent in Auckland.

Source: Douglas Todd: How Chinese, Filipino and other immigrants differ

Douglas Todd: B.C. coroner fails to release suicide data for international students

Surprising that they are not releasing the data. In my experience, British Columbia is better than most in responding to ATIP requests:

International students in Canada and around the world are not only under pressure to achieve high grades. Many are increasingly expected to become permanent residents in their chosen country so they can eventually sponsor their parents and siblings as immigrants.

Given the intense expectations placed on many young students navigating existence in a foreign country, reports of suicide among them are rising in Canada, the U.S., Australia and Britain, their most sought-after destinations.

The China Daily newspaper recently ran a story headlined, ”Suicide stalking too many Chinese studying overseas,” which detailed a spate of suicides among the 330,000 Chinese students studying and working in the U.S.

The large newspaper, which many see as a guide to China’s government policy, urged public officials to find out why. Is it because of “fear of failing and disappointing their parents” or “the loneliness that comes with having to struggle on their own?”

After the suicide last year of Linhai Yu, a young Chinese foreign student in Richmond, China’s consul general for Vancouver also expressed worry about suicide among the 53,000 Chinese students in Metro Vancouver. “Incident rates among the group,” Xuan Zheng said, “have been quite high.”

The grim stories of foreign-student depression and suicide are pouring in from across Canada and the world. This fall, friends of an Indian student in Ontario blamed his self-inflicted death on Canada’s immigration department not granting him a work visa to stay longer. Similar stories from around the world show foreign students at higher risk of mental-health stress.

Given that B.C. has the most foreign students per capita in Canada — being home to more than 130,000 of the Canadian total of 500,000 — my senior editor suggested contacting the B.C. Coroners Service to put some numbers on how many international students have taken their lives.

We thought the information wouldn’t be difficult to determine, since the Coroners Service says it is a “fact-finding” agency responsible for investigating all “unnatural” and “sudden” deaths and making recommendations to “prevent death in similar circumstances.”

My first contact with the Service was in May. In the ensuing seven months, despite numerous communications, the service has failed to provide any information at all about suicide rates among international students. It has, however, offered a steady string of delays and excuses, mixed with large doses of obfuscation.

The B.C. Coroners Service either has no idea how many international students in B.C. have been committing suicide. Or it worries that being frank about it would be insensitive; politically, socially, educationally or psychologically. Perhaps its leadership team, with Lisa LaPointe as long-time chief, just doesn’t think the public has a right to know. We’re just guessing.

Meanwhile, a dire mental-health phenomenon continues to expand along with the unprecedented rise of international students, which politicians and educational administrators welcome for the billions of dollars they pour into local economies and educators’ salaries.

The suicide rate among all students in higher education has long been grave. A British report found university students were killing themselves at the rate of one every four days, the large majority being male.

But emotional stress is even more extreme on students coming in from other countries, according to Australian researchers, who are ahead of professionals in Canada in tracking the emotional difficulties they face with isolation, housing, language, education and immigration status.

Even though Australian coroners, consulates and universities were found to be suppressing details about overseas students’ deaths, the country’s federal government admitted earlier that 51 foreign students had died in one 12-month period. But it took outside investigators to point out that suicide was a key cause of the deaths.

One study in the Australian Journal of Psychology found that Chinese international students experienced significantly higher levels of stress than their Australian counterparts. Education Minister Simon Birmingham this year responded to pleas to better support international students by promising to release more detailed comparative data on their mental health.

Australian sociologist Helen Forbes-Mewett discovered some parents send their mentally unwell children overseas in the hope the health system in their host country is superior to that at home. But extra pressures and traditional cultural stigmas about mental illness, said the Monash University professor, typically compound foreign students’ vulnerability.

Forbes-Mewett says it is impossible to lay blame for foreign students’ mental health or elevated risk of suicide on any one agency. As she suggests, it’s “everyone’s problem.” But at the least more B.C. officials could follow the lead of Australia and release relevant data on suicide rates.

Otherwise the public is kept in the dark, and the private anguish of many overwhelmed international students will silently persist.

Source: Douglas Todd: B.C. coroner fails to release suicide data for international students

Douglas Todd: Wooing the ultrarich with ‘Golden Passports’ and flattery

Good column on citizenship-by-investment schemes:

I regret to inform readers that few of you are likely to receive an alluring invitation to buy a “Golden Passport.” That is because you are not a “High-Net-Worth-Individual,” also known as an “HNWI.”

Chances are you are just not moneyed enough to be targeted by the glossy magazines, online ads and emails designed to entice a certain class of people to join the elite club of “global talent” eager to purchase their way into a new “opportunity oases,” or, as some of us still like to call them, nations.

No, since you are not worth many millions, if not billions, of dollars, you are not the market for the jargon, euphemisms and flattery that would otherwise urge you to advance the interests of yourself and family by becoming an international “investment expatriate” or “investor immigrant,” while being lauded as “the best and brightest.”

Instead, this exclusive circle of passport and visa purchasers is for the super-rich, especially those who don’t trust their own governments, who seek the “competitive advantage” of multiple passports, who are keen on avoiding taxes and who are looking for a haven for their families. Stable, clean welcoming Canada, and Metro Vancouver, are among the most sought-after destinations of this jet-setting club.

Alas, watchdog agencies are beginning to warn that some of these trans-national migrants also want to hide their ill-gotten gains. They are collecting second, third and more passports, or at least permanent resident cards, from multiple nations as they strive for an immigration status that can provide the real-world equivalent of what the game of Monopoly calls a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

The number of investor migrants is expanding rapidly. Economist magazine says “thousands of passports are bought and sold every year, almost always by the wealthy. The number of commercially acquired residence permits runs into the hundreds of thousands.” It’s an industry that the public widely suspects of diminishing the rights and privileges of citizenship.

There is also gnawing worry the governments busy selling passports and visas — typically in exchange for an “investment” in government bonds, businesses or real estate in the value of anywhere from $200,000 to $2.5 million — are playing into the hands of international crooks, terrorists, money launderers and oligarchs.

The European Union has gained nearly 100,000 rich new residents and 6,000 new citizens in the last decade through poorly managed, semi-secret passport-sale schemes, says Transparency International and Global Witness. The watchdog organizations have concerns about Spain and Britain, but they’re especially alarmed by the European Union’s smallest countries, Cyprus and Malta — because anyone who buys a passport from one of these yacht-filled nations gains access to all 26 countries of the EU.

Canada designed one of the first investor-immigrant schemes in the late 1980s, which soon became known for luring hundreds of thousands of affluent Hong Kong residents to the country. And, along with the United States, Canada remains among the most popular destinations for ultrarich trans-nationals hunting for extra visas and passports.

Thousands of lawyers and immigration specialists now strive to ingratiate themselves with these upper-crust clients. The most influential firm promoting the value of trans-nationalism is Henley and Partners, founded by Swiss lawyer Christian Kalin, which has offices in 20 nations and claims to have created “the concept of residence and citizenship planning.”

Kalin is editor in chief of The Global Residence and Citizenship Review, a glossy magazine that sings the praises of the “aspiring migrants” who take advantage of extra passports and the mobility they provide. One glowing ad in his magazine pumps the value of paying to “secure your family’s future with European citizenship.” It features a posh father knotting the private-school-like tie of his son. Arguably the world’s second biggest firm centred on securing a safe haven for investor migrants is Arton Capital, which has its headquarters in Canada.

Vancouver-based Johann van Rooyen, who runs the Citizenship by Investment Research Consultancy, says the global rich are buying “powerful passports” because they want to have the potential to escape political problems, preserve their wealth, reduce their taxes and travel more freely to more countries.

“While political instability and violence forces most investor-class emigrants to physically move to their host countries, for many others a second passport is seen as an insurance policy against future risks. They prefer to stay in their home countries, but like to have an alternative in case things go wrong,” says van Rooyen, citing how high-net-worth migrants are worried about rising political danger, crime, pollution and authoritarianism in places such as the Middle East, Russia, China and South Africa.

“Many Hong Kong residents who left before the China takeover in 1997 returned within a few years, after they obtained a second passport (mainly from Canada),” says van Rooyen, explaining how a lot of migrants don’t actually move to the country they bought their way into. “And thousands of Lebanese Canadians returned to Lebanon after obtaining Canadian citizenship.” More than 250,000 people now living in Hong Kong, and at least 50,000 in Lebanon, have a Canadian-passport lifeline.

The federal Conservatives finally stopped Canada’s immigrant-investor program in 2014, after determining most of the affluent who took advantage of it didn’t intend to live in Canada and those who did paid few taxes while receiving free health care and subsidized higher education.

But Quebec’s buy-a-passport scheme continues to this day.

The Quebec Immigrant Investor Program — which attracts nine out of 10 of its millionaire applicants from Asia — does not actually lure many foreign rich to the French-speaking province. Instead, the vast majority of the roughly 5,000 migrants a year who exploit Quebec’s plan move to Metro Vancouver and Toronto, where their foreign-sourced dollars pump up the cities’ already high-priced real estate.

Radio Canada journalists this fall reported that fraud, forgery and money laundering are rife in the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program. And this appears to be the norm with many Golden passport schemes. More media outlets are beginning to detail the corruption in such programs, which often make it possible for high-net-worth individuals to evade taxes and in many cases the law-enforcement officials trying to track dirty fortunes.

Trans-national scoundrels, for instance, can dodge tax reporting rules in their home country by taking citizenship or residency in a second country and opening a bank account in a third, claiming tax residency in the second. The list of scams goes on. One Chinese investor caught up in a rare crackdown on immigration fraud in Vancouver was found with seven different passports.

The passport-for-sale industry needs to be more diligent in corralling abuse and pitfalls, say watchdogs. And so do receiving and sending countries. The Economist recently speculated about a possibly bad fate, for instance, befalling some of the tens of thousands of newly wealthy Chinese nationals, who have become the world’s leaders at snapping up Golden passports and visas

“Only about half the countries in the world allow their citizens to hold dual nationality. China is not one; and it has strict exchange-control rules,” warns the Economist. “It seems unlikely that all Chinese investment migrants have alerted the authorities to their plans, or gained permission to take their money out.”

Many politicians in the West have gone wild for passport-buying schemes, most of which are new. But law enforcement officials, the public and even the investor immigrants themselves are only learning now about the real price that may have to be paid for such dubious schemes.

Source: Douglas Todd: Wooing the ultrarich with ‘Golden Passports’ and flattery

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