Douglas Todd: What do Indigenous voices say about immigration?

Some interesting voices. A more comprehensive survey would be of interest:

As a First Nations leader, what would you think of Canada’s immigration policy?

“It’s a bit late to ask that question,” answers Tsawwassen First Nations Chief Ken Baird, with a wry smile.

Indeed, Canada’s Indigenous people have never really been asked how they feel about immigration policy, despite experiencing wave after wave of newcomers.

A small number of First Nations leaders over the years, however, have said they want more influence in shaping immigration. There came a point more than a decade ago when the Assembly of First Nations resolved to “freeze all immigration coming into Canada until the federal government addresses, commits, and delivers resources to improve housing conditions, education, health and employment in First Nations communities.”

But not much came of the Assembly’s demand. Immigration policy in Canada continues to be made mostly behind closed doors, particularly in the Prime Minister’s Office.

First Nations are often said to be in a double-bind when it comes to the issue of large-scale immigration, which has shaped Canada more than most nations.

“Regarding immigration, Aboriginal peoples are caught between a rock and a hard place,” academics Bonita Lawrence, a member of the Mi’kmaq Nation, and Enaskhi Dua have said. Either Indigenous people become implicated in anti-immigration rhetoric, they said, “or they support struggles of people of colour that fail to take seriously the reality of ongoing colonization.”

Outstanding questions are many: How does increasing Indigenous self-determination fit with immigration? And how does it connect to official multiculturalism, which supports the thriving of all of Canada’s subcultures? Should an umbrella organization for the country’s 1.6 million Indigenous people help set immigration levels, as Quebec does?

While the Tsawwassen First Nation’s elected chief says Indigenous people, like others, have a wide range of views about immigration, he is personally mostly sanguine about it.

“I’m all for people who want to come here and work hard and build themselves a life and have good family values. And 99 per cent of immigrants do. And I think that’s pretty admirable,” Baird said.

While Baird is among the First Nations leaders who don’t intend to push on immigration issues, University of B.C. sociologist Rima Wilkes and colleagues have made public presentations in which they ask questions about immigration and Indigenous peoples. Their questions are designed to urge Ottawa to take First Nations perspectives more seriously.

“What does it mean to settle people on someone else’s land?” Wilkes asks in a presentation. “Why is there ‘consultation’ (with First Nations) on natural resources such as mining, oil and gas and timber, but not on the human resources such as immigration policy? What about real decision-making?”

Veteran B.C. Indigenous leader Bill Wilson, who helped found the First Nations Summit, has said he is open to most forms of immigration, particularly for refugees.

When asked about immigration, the member of northern Vancouver Island’s Kwak’wala-speaking peoples, who is also father of former Liberal cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, told a story about the late Vancouver Sun aboriginal affairs reporter Ron Rose, with whom he became close friends.

“It may have very well been Ron Rose asking me the same question (in the 1980s): ‘What do I think about immigration and the people coming in?’” said the blunt-talking hereditary chief. “I said to him, ‘Well, at least the colour is getting better. He and I laughed. And he said, ‘You’re an a–hole.’ And then we moved on.”

The citizenship exam that is required of all new immigrants, Wilson believes, should include more on Indigenous history in Canada.

“I don’t have any problem with people coming to this country. But what I object to is they’re not required to understand the history,” he said. “Hopefully they could start to embrace some of the laws we are finally resorting to as a country in terms of (Indigenous peoples’) relationship to the land and the water and the sea resources.”

The First Nations lawyer believes a portion of new immigrants, the majority of whom are now non-white, “are basically oblivious to Indigenous issues” at the same time they are becoming more influential. “WASPS are obviously becoming a minority and losing a great deal of their power.”

Baird, who worked as a fisher and water-system specialist before becoming chief of the self-governing Tsawwassen First Nation, believes the coming together of Indigenous people with early settlers and immigrants has “turned us all into minorities in a way. And that’s a good thing.”

Although some wonder whether Canada’s official multiculturalism policy ignores the special status of First Nations, Baird said, “I don’t see a problem with it. At the end of the day, we all want to be treated equal and have the same rights and prosperous lives. And your colour and blood and race and religion shouldn’t matter. That’s part of being in a free country.”

Wilson values bringing in more refugees, but he questions the country’s immigrant-investor programs, both national and provincial, which have urged wealthy foreign nationals to gain Canadian passports by promising to divert money into the economy.

Wilson strongly opposed such “selective citizenship,” saying “money-backed immigration is not sincere and it’s not necessary.” But “accepting refugees makes sense,” he said, because their inclusion “is based on need.”

Although Wilson generally agrees First Nations should get more say in immigration policy, especially over their own traditional territories, he is not sure how that would work.

“How do you implement that? We have a multiplicity of tribes. There are 27 separate tribes in the province of B.C. alone.”

When it comes to questions of Canada’s Indigenous peoples and immigration, the conversation is only beginning.

Source: Douglas Todd: What do Indigenous voices say about immigration?

Douglas Todd: Is Vancouver really the ‘anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America?’

More discussion about the data and the challenges of country comparisons:

It’s hardly the reputation Vancouver, or any city, would want.

But in May some of the world’s largest media outlets dubbed Vancouver, which has about 700,000 residents of mixed ethnicities, the “anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Is Vancouver really the ‘anti-Asian hate crime capital of North America?’

Douglas Todd: Parties mostly duck big migration issues in Election 2021

Todd’s take on the party platforms, based on my comparative table:

Canada’s long history of large-scale immigration is arguably the defining characteristic of the country, but only one of the minor political parties is putting the subject at the front of its election campaign.

The three largest parties are playing it low-key on immigration, refugees, guest workers and international students. That’s despite Ottawa normally (pre-COVID) welcoming more than one million migrants in all categories each year.

Canada takes in the most immigrants per capita of any country in the OECD, the club of rich nations. It has been in the top four Western countries both for the total number of migrants it accepts and for the proportion in its overall population.

But even though immigration policy powerfully affects Canada’s economy and culture, scholars say the Canadian media and politicians find the subject too sensitive, almost taboo, to debate. That’s unlike almost everywhere else.

Since the parties are largely refraining from highlighting their migration policies, I appreciate that Andrew Griffith, a former director general of Canada’s Immigration Department, has made a list of almost 100 migration-related positions the parties have, in a kind of muted way, placed on their platforms.

Here’s a look at subjects the parties are taking on — and avoiding:

1. Immigration levels — how much is enough?

The Peoples Party of Canada, which is running at seven per cent in the polls, is the only party challenging the Liberals’ rising immigration targets.

Even Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have been muted during the campaign about how they want to bring in more than 410,000 new permanent residents a year, a hike from the 250,000 when first elected in 2015.

There is no Canadian consensus on immigration levels, which is probably why the Conservatives, NDP, Greens and Bloc have not set any targets. An Angus Reid poll found two of five Canadians say more than 400,000 a year is too many. And Nanos found only 17 per cent believe Canada should accept more immigrants in 2021 than last year.

The PPC recommends lowering the target to 100,000 to 150,000 a year.

The main Liberal talking point on migration so far has been to falsely claim the Conservatives, when they were in power, lowered immigration levels. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are emphasizing giving more choice about immigration to each province.

2. Canadians feel compassion, and exasperation, on refugees

One of the few migration issues to attract wide media coverage has been asylum seekers, which Canada has long been a leader in welcoming.

The focus has been on the tens of thousands who have been walking across Canada’s land border from the U.S. in a manner some call “illegal” and others call “irregular.”

In the past few years, more than 50,000 people seeking asylum have poured across the border, 90 per cent at a remote unchecked entry way in Quebec called Roxham Road. The vast majority are not Americans, but people recently arrived in the U.S. from Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

The disarray has caused irritation among two of three Canadians. They don’t think it’s fair people are being advised to take advantage of a loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement, which rules that asylum seekers must apply for refugee status in the first “safe” country in which they land. The loophole is that the agreement does not apply to those who cross at a non-official checkpoint.

This is one of the few migration issues the parties are openly disputing. The Conservatives and PPC want to close the loophole, which would restrict the flow. The NDP and Liberals are silent. And the Greens and Bloc want to ditch the Safe Third Country Agreement, which some say would encourage more to seek asylum.

In the meantime, the Liberals have promised to bring in 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan — and the Conservatives don’t disagree. The Conservatives also promise to welcome more Hong Kong people fleeing China’s totalitarian hand, as well as LGBQT people escaping persecution.

3. Multicultural signalling

While European politicians across the spectrum have questioned the concept of multiculturalism for more than a decade, that’s not the case in Canada, which still promotes the ideal of maintaining distinct ethnic cultures within one country.

The Citizenship Guide has been a point of contention. The Liberals have put together a “progressive’ version of the workbook of Canadian history, law and culture that all immigrants are tested on before they can become citizens. But the party decided not to publish it before this election.

It would seem the Liberal party doesn’t want to make its version of The Citizenship Guide a campaign bull’s-eye because reports suggest it will rankle a portion of Canadians by the way it emphasizes the country’s history of racism and discrimination.

Even though a Maru poll found only three per cent of Canadians name “stopping racism” as a leading election concern, the Liberals and NDP are signalling extensive commitments to racial equity. The Liberals alone have announced five different affirmative-action programs for Black people.

For their part, the Conservatives don’t have a platform on multiculturalism. But the party made a gesture to Ukrainian Canadians by promising to make it unnecessary for Ukrainians to have a visa to come to Canada.

Meanwhile, the PPC would repeal the official Multiculturalism Act. The NDP would institute a national plan to dismantle “far-right extremist organizations.” And the Bloc would appoint a commission to prevent ethnocultural “honour crimes.”

4. Mostly silence on international students and guest workers

In a typical year, Canada welcomes more than 600,000 international students, plus 400,000 temporary workers on various visas.

The international students alone are said to bring $23 billion a year into the economy. They contribute to the finances and classrooms of Canadian universities and colleges. International students also receive preferred status for immigration.

Despite the ramifications of Canada’s unusually large foreign-student population, not one party bothered to mention it. And that’s despite problems with the program, such as Statistics Canada data showing up to one in three come to Canada and then do not go to school.

Some parties do, however, have modest things to say about guest worker policy. The PPC would limit the numbers and ensure they’re “not competing with Canadians,” while the Liberals and Conservatives would create “a trusted employer system” to reduce administrative burdens on bosses.

5. No talk about how migration impacts wages, housing

This year B.C.’s former top civil servant, Don Wright, wrote a paper that maintained large-scale migration could be contributing to the 40-year stagnation of middle-class wages in Canada and could be exacerbating high housing prices.

While supporting solid immigration levels, Wright and many economists suggest Ottawa should improve its integration policies by boosting productivity and creating more infrastructure — especially housing.

There is, however, no mention of housing in the almost 100 positions taken on migration by Canada’s six political parties.


Douglas Todd: ‘Get real’ estate! Five reasons to doubt Trudeau’s housing promises

Of note. Leave it to the housing experts for a comparative assessment of party housing promises and their electoral positioning:

Justin Trudeau has abruptly switched into the role of housing-affordability radical.

But it remains to be seen how many Canadians will buy the Liberals’ brazen new wave of promises — including a ban on foreign purchases, a tax on property flipping and restrictions on exploitive real-estate agents — since there is much cause for skepticism.

Weighing the party’s credibility is crucial since polls are suddenly showing housing affordability (not COVID) is one of the electorates’ top concerns. That’s like the B.C. election in 2017, which saw provincial Liberal leader Christy Clark, who relied heavily on developer donations, turfed in favour of the NDP.

All federal parties’ housing platforms require scrutiny, but here are five reasons voters are justified in feeling suspicious about the prime minister’s sudden conversion to housing activist, a persona he adopted last week to profess: “You shouldn’t lose a bidding war on your home to speculators. It’s time for things to change.”

1. Trudeau has done remarkably little to address an expanding housing crisis

Housing prices across the country have jumped more than 50 per cent cent on average under Trudeau’s watch.

This glaring reality was captured in a recent devastating sound bite, when a heckler at a Trudeau rally in Ontario bellowed: “You had six years to do something. You’ve done nothing. These houses are worth $1.5 million. Are you going to help us pay $1.5 million? Are you, buddy?”

While in power, Liberal promises to address soaring prices have added up to zero. Take, for instance, the commitment Trudeau made in B.C. during the 2019 campaign, to bring in a one-per-cent tax on purchases by “non-resident, non-Canadians.” Nothing happened.

Similar vacuous pledges came to mind last week when the Trudeau stole the Conservatives’ idea to place a two-year ban on all foreign property purchases. Only two months earlier, the Liberals had voted against a Conservative opposition-day motion to do just that.

Many Liberals, federal and provincial, have long claimed it’s xenophobic to restrict foreign buyers in Canada. They’re only now toning down their race-baiting.

The Liberals have long failed to address foreign capital flooding into real estate — as revealed, yet again, this week. A South China Morning Post article by Ian Young showed Ottawa spent five years covering up an old Canada Revenue report detailing how “rich migrants made more than 90 per cent of luxury purchases” in Burnaby and Coquitlam “while declaring refugee-level incomes.”

It also became even harder in the past few days to accept Trudeau’s authenticity on taxing house flipping when it was uncovered the Liberals’ star candidate in Vancouver-Granville had flipped 21 properties. Liberals’ coziness with real-estate insiders runs deep (as it does for many politicians).

2. The Liberals have purposely increased ‘demand’ for housing

It was more than odd when Trudeau came to Vancouver in August and said “you’ll forgive me if I don’t think about monetary policy … You’ll understand that I think about families.”

It’s impossible to believe the prime minister doesn’t comprehend that monetary policy — in the form of extremely low interest rates and his government’s rapid printing of money in response to the pandemic — have helped jack up prices.

While the Liberals are joining the Conservatives and NDP in making big pledges to increase the construction of housing, many analysts are shocked that some promises Trudeau is making will further inflate prices.

Trudeau’s talk about tax-free housing accounts for first-time buyers, along with other credits, will super-charge demand even more, particularly among young people who can’t afford to stretch further. The size of new mortgages in Canada are soaring far into the danger zone.

It looks, however, like many millennials aren’t buying the new Liberal rhetoric; Leger polling has found the party has been losing support among young adults.

3. Ottawa has done little to combat money laundering via real estate

Prominent housing analyst Stephen Punwasi says former Vancouver Sun reporter Sam Cooper’s book, Wilful Blindness: How A Network of Narcos, Tycoons and CCP Agents Infiltrated The West, is “the most important book on Canadian real estate you’ll read this year.”

Wilful Blindness describes how transnational multi-millionaires and criminals, rooted in China, Mexico and elsewhere, have exploited the country’s real estate, which is “Canada’s soft spot for economic infiltration.” Cooper’s book describes many egregious examples of how “dirty” offshore money has been transformed into “clean” money through Canadian housing, especially via property flipping.

What have the Liberals done to crack down on money laundering in urban real estate? Though the Liberals said they would gradually direct $69 million into strengthening RCMP investigation of money laundering, B.C. Attorney General David Eby and others have urged Ottawa to go much further — and institute U.S.-style racketeering laws, which are credited with dismantling Mafia families.

4. The Liberals keep hiking immigration levels

Economists — from banks, universities and developers’ organizations — have in recent years acknowledged one of the biggest factors affecting Canadian housing and prices is population growth through immigration.

Despite, or because of, this, Trudeau has steadily increased Canada’s immigration target since being elected in 2015, hiking it from 250,000 to 400,000 a year, with B.C. an especially popular destination.

UBC geographer Dan Hiebert has found the typical value of a detached Metro Vancouver home owned by a new immigrant in 2017 was $2.3 million, $800,000 higher than a dwelling owned by a Canadian-born person.

An SFU study found “hidden foreign ownership,” particularly through satellite families in which breadwinners make their money offshore, is a significant reason prices have no connection to local wages. It all adds up to help cut into the hopes of both domestic Canadians and newcomers with modest resources.

Source: Steve Saretsky, Vancouver housing analyst

5. It’s worse than ironic Trudeau now says, ‘The deck is stacked against you’

In light of the prime minister showing almost no interest in protecting the young from soaring prices, it was more than perplexing to last week see him act like a white knight taking on an out-of-control real-estate system.

Who knows if the identity switch will get votes? But Trudeau’s latest self-image echoes that of the Liberals’ talkative housing secretary, Adam Vaughan, who in April let slip that Canada is “a very safe market for foreign investment, but not a great market for Canadians looking for choices around housing.”

While Vaughan revealed the Liberals’ strategy has been to support “a very good system of foreign investment creating a lot of new housing in Canada as we add immigrants and grow the population,” he cautioned it would be terrible to bring in any policy that could cause  homeowners to see “10 per cent of the equity in their home suddenly disappear overnight.”

There it is. Two months ago the Liberals were firmly on the side of homeowners wanting to profit. Last week Trudeau suddenly became a champion of those frozen out of ownership.

You’re forgiven for thinking you are witnessing pure electoral posturing.

Source: Douglas Todd: ‘Get real’ estate! Five reasons to doubt Trudeau’s housing promises

Douglas Todd: Not much difference between Islamophobia and Christophobia

Or any other religious phobia.
In terms of hate crimes, official and unofficial statistics show a difference, as church burnings and attacks were virtually unheard of until the “discovery” of unmarked graves at former residential schools.
The extent of discrimination, bias and prejudice against Muslims and the Muslim faith is, as numerous surveys have indicated, is of course much higher than with Christians.
“Islamophobia: Dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.”
“Christophobia: Intense dislike or fear of Christianity; hostility or prejudice towards Christians.”                                                    – Oxford Lexico

Is there a difference between Islamophobia and Christophobia?

The Oxford Lexico suggests subtle differentiations. But the similarities are more important: Both terms describe prejudice toward a religious group. And, tragically, in Canada there is now no shortage of shocking displays of both Islamophobia and Christophobia.

There have been assaults on Muslims, some deadly. There has been arson attack after attack on churches. Vandalism against sacred symbols is becoming the norm. Social media pours forth hate speech toward people of faith. Twitter doesn’t seem to care.

And this rising vitriol is not a result of animosity between Muslims or Christians. Something stranger is going on.Most Westerners are familiar with the term Islamophobia: Canadian politicians and others cite it often. As they do the scourge of anti-Semitism. Christophobia (which is also known as Christianophobia or anti-Christianity) is much less invoked: It’s virtually never named by Canada’s elected officials or commentators.

The extended definitions of Islamophobia and Christophobia, however, often refer to how the fear and dislike of these religions is “irrational.” That’s a crucial distinction, because there is little wrong with rational criticism of Christianity or Islam or any other world view, including atheism.

Any wisdom traditions that have been around for more than a millennia and which have so many followers (Islam 1.8 billion, Christianity 2.3 billion) are bound to have produced great things, but also deformities. Free expression includes the right to disapprove of a religion.But what we have been witnessing across Canada in recent months is something else: It’s violent bigotry.

A Muslim family was mowed down last month in a planned truck attack in London, Ont. Last week in Hamilton a Muslim woman and her daughter were openly threatened. These Islamophobic outrages come four years after a gunman killed six people attending a mosque in Quebec City.

And in the past month Christophobia has led to 25 Canadian churches across the country being burned to the ground, defaced or vandalized. In Surrey this week a Coptic Orthodox Church, frequented mostly by immigrants from Egypt, was destroyed by fire.

Journalists can’t keep up with the mayhem. And neither can the police, who are making precious few arrests. They’re silent about these being hate crimes.While brutal religious persecution has been common in many countries for centuries, the wave of attacks, arsons and vandalism in supposedly tolerant Canada is new.

Even though the arsonists aren’t revealing their motives, the church attacks appear to be a reaction to reports of hundreds of unmarked graves being found near government-funded residential schools, which began operating in the late 1800s.

There is now no shortage of rhetoric inciting the loathing of churches Ottawa hired to run many of the schools. But most of the online animosity is not coming from Indigenous people.

While many Indigenous leaders are angry at the legacy of the defunct school system, dozens of chiefs have decried the destruction of churches, including those on First Nations territory — given that a majority of Indigenous people are Christian.

Many “allies” of Indigenous people, however, are too ignorant and arrogant to listen to the chiefs’ messages.

Try inserting the term “Catholic church” into Twitter and see the casual contempt from non-Indigenous people. You’ll quickly find young influencers like @buggirl, who says, “if i don’t get to see the catholic church crash and burn to the ground within my lifetime i swear to f—ing god….”

Tragically, some so-called mainstream figures have fired off similar inflammatory comments. Harsha Walia, executive director of the once-venerable B.C. Civil Liberties Association, reacted to a tweet about the arson of two Catholic churches by remarking, “Burn it all down.” Which, her defenders say, is also a call for decolonization. At least she “resigned.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, despite diverting attention from Ottawa’s control of the schools by calling on the pope to apologize, has cautiously called the arson attacks “unacceptable and wrong.” But Trudeau’s long-time friend and former principal secretary, Gerald Butts, remarked on Twitter they are “understandable.”Meanwhile, Surrey’s Coptic Church leaders on Monday prodded B.C. Premier John Horgan to do more than blandly say earlier that burning down churches “is not the way forward.” Despite his meek statement on Twitter, many non-Indigenous activists mocked the premier for suggesting Christians deserve respect.

For some twisted reasons the burning of churches does not horrify a certain cohort.

It’s a cohort that would presumably be the first to say, rightly, it’s never “understandable” to attack a mosque — or a gurdwara, synagogue or Buddhist or Hindu temple.Do those who “understand” the torching of church sanctuaries forget Ottawa established residential schools in the first place? Would they support burning the Parliament Buildings? (I’m afraid to hear the answer.)

Maybe the rationale for believing it’s fine to hate Christianity and Christians is they represent the “dominant” religion of white Canada. The trouble with that is church attenders are a minority in the 21st century in Canada – and secular places like B.C. have never have been “Christian” provinces.

That’s not to mention two out of five immigrants to Canada are Christians. And a large proportion of Canadian Christians are people of colour: More than 120 Chinese churches, for instance, are peppered throughout Metro Vancouver, serving roughly 100,000 ethnic Chinese people. There are now 600 million Christians in Africa and 400 million in Asia.

The new Canadian brand of Christophobia seems most linked to those who trumpet decolonialization. The term originally meant “the process of a state withdrawing from a former colony.” But with almost no one leaving Canada, it’s now a fraught vision for the “removal or undoing of colonial elements” from throughout the land.

What that exactly means is hard to figure. But we are seeing signs of how this once-academic term is being understood by a dangerous fringe who would presumably condemn an Islamophobic attack but adopt a double standard on Christophobic arsons.

“All outbursts of anti-religious violence have at least one thing in common: They convey an ugly intolerance of difference and a refusal to recognize the humanity of an individual or a community,” says Ray Pennings, of Cardus, a Canadian think tank. “I fear church burnings could be an indication that Canadians are losing the ability to discuss faith publicly, using the vocabulary of civility and respect.”

We might never find out what’s going on in the fevered minds of the arsonists. But it’s clear there is tension between Canada’s decolonization movement and the ideals of truth and reconciliation.

For instance, when vandals on the weekend used a metal saw to cut down a decades-old cross overlooking the Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island’s Indigenous leaders again expressed their distress.

Some of the social-media crowd, however, urged replacing the eradicated Christian cross with a totem pole. Which sounds more like rewarding vandals’ criminal behaviour than reconciliation.

Canada is becoming increasingly filled with division and distrust. It’s hard to think it’s going to get better.

Source: Douglas Todd: Not much difference between Islamophobia and Christophobia

Douglas Todd: The promise and pitfalls of foreign-trained clergy in Canada

Interesting read:

It didn’t take too long for Father John Alex Pinto to realize he didn’t have nearly the authority in Canada as he did in his homeland of India.

In Pinto’s old city of Mangalore, the 4,500 loyal Catholic families who belonged to his mega-parish looked up to him as a powerful community and religious leader.

After Pinto moved to Canada 15 years ago, the Indian priest not only had to improve his English and get used to winter, but had to realize that Roman Catholics in Canada were less devotional than in India, were highly educated and much more “independent.”

Now serving as a priest in downtown Vancouver after time in Calgary, Pinto is one of more than 60 foreign-trained priests in the 200-clergy Catholic archdiocese of Vancouver.

Most of the imported priests in the Catholic church, Canada’s largest denomination with 14 million adherents, are from the Philippines and India, with others from Africa, parts of East Asia, the U.S. and Europe, says Rev. Gary Franken, the archdiocese’s vicar general. They’re needed to make up a priest shortage as the church welcomes an influx of Catholic immigrants, mostly from Asia.

Foreign-trained priests in Catholicism, however, are just the tip of the phenomenon. Thousands of clergy in a variety of Canada’s faiths received their religious preparation outside the country.

While the proportion of Catholic clergy in Canada who are foreign-trained range as high as one third in some dioceses, that is low compared to the ratio with Sikh, Muslim, Eastern Orthodox, Hindu and Jewish clergy in Canada.

Among Canada’s minority religious groups, a solid majority of imams, rabbis, priests, granthis and pastors are born outside the country, where they also receive their religious training.

There are many reasons why religious organizations in Canada rely heavily on foreign-trained clergy.

Outside Canada’s Catholic and large mainline Protestant and evangelical denominations, many leaders of faith groups say they do not have enough adherents to justify creating their own theological colleges in Canada.

It can also be enriching and reassuring for immigrants to attend a place of worship in Canada led by someone from one’s ancestral homeland. Angus Reid Institute polls show faith communities can ease immigrants’ transition to this new land.

And many congregations, according to scholars, believe there is status in having their clergy educated in places like the Punjab, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Iran — where they are typically steeped in a religious tradition that penetrates every aspect of the nation’s life and norms.

But foreign-trained priests also run into challenges, including adapting to Canadian culture, where secularism dominates and freedom and equality, particularly for women, are premier social values. Practically, language barriers can also be difficult.

While Pinto, 62, intends to stay in Canada for the rest of his life, most foreign-trained clergy, including in the Catholic church, come here for only a short time.

“On loan,” as Franken says.

Harjit Singh Gill, who is involved in gurdwaras in Surrey, says most Punjabi-trained priests who work in Canada come for less than a year. They are appreciated by older Sikhs, he says, but tend not to appeal to younger ones.

The situation is similar, but slightly different, for most of the rabbis who serve Canada’s 350,000 Jews. Almost all are trained abroad, usually in the U.S. or Israel. That is true even for those born in Canada, like Vancouver-born rabbi and writer Yosef Wosk.

Now retired from the rabbinate, Wosk studied formally in New York City and Jerusalem. “Many, perhaps most, Canadian congregations hire rabbis from the U.S.,” Wosk said, “with not enough Canadian-born individuals available to fill all positions.”

Abdie Kazemipur, a University of Calgary sociologist and the chair in ethnic studies, says the issue of foreign-trained clergy is a “very important” and sometimes sensitive one within religions, rarely discussed in wider society or studied by academics.

There are no theological schools for imams in Canada, Kazemipur said, even though the country has a Muslim population of more than 1.2 million, centred largely in its major cities.

Although every imam must know Arabic, since it is the language of the Qur’an and the religion, Kazemipur says many Muslims outside the Middle East aren’t fluent in the language.

Foreign-trained imams are respected in mosques, said Kazemipur, but in secularized Canada adherents sometimes struggle with how to respond to imams who often expect Canada to be like the Muslim-majority country they are from.

‘In India society is totally different’

“In India, society is totally different. It was a multicultural shock to come Canada,” says Pinto, who serves the West End parish of Guardian Angels in Vancouver.

“There is more of a fear of God in India. In India, the priest is like a leader on all sorts of issues. People listen to him on everything. But in Canada the priest is not as much an authority.”

Since many of the parish members Pinto served in India lived in villages and were not highly educated, he acknowledges he initially expected in Canada to be seen as the person in command. But he soon realized that didn’t work.

“I was so impressed by the Canadian parishioners’ in-depth knowledge of religion. They don’t necessarily fear God; there is more of a relationship,” Pinto said.

All in all, Pinto said he has loved the transition to Canada, appreciates his congregation’s friendly tolerance of his lack of administrative skills, and thinks the Canadian Catholic church would not survive without foreign-trained priests.

Andrew Bennett, Canada’s former ambassador for religious freedom, says that while most Sikh, Muslim, Jewish and Eastern Orthodox clergy are trained outside the country, there are ways to ease the cultural disconnect that can be experienced.

As a deacon in the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, Bennett supports occasional efforts by small denominations like his to invite would-be clergy from other countries to spend a year in Canada before they start leading a congregation — to help them immerse in the culture.

Gill, an orthodox Sikh, said virtually every priest who serves the large Sikh populations in Metro Vancouver, Greater Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton is trained in seminaries in the Punjab region of northern India. And most only work in Canada on six-month visas. Many are not paid much.

Like Bennett, who is director of Cardus think-tank, Gill shared concerns that Canada’s Immigration Department lacks expertise to regulate the cross-border movement of foreign-trained clergy, including assessing applicants’ qualifications.

Since Gill was raised in the Punjab, he says he’s fortunate to be able to understand the India-trained spiritual leaders when they routinely speak the language of the homeland, while often toiling in English.

“It means,” Gill said, “they’re good for my generation, but they’re not good for my kids.”

Many Canadian-born Sikhs, Gill said, are not fluent in Punjabi, which contributes to them drifting away from the faith — a trend confirmed by the Angus Reid Institute, which found immigrants are more devoted to their religion than their second- and third-generation offspring.

Gill believes Sikhism and other minority religions would hold on to more followers if they had more Canadian-born priests trained in Canada.

Foreign-trained clergy face steep learning curve

Kazemipur, author of The Muslim Question in Canada: A Story of Segmented Integration, says many foreign-trained imams who travel to serve in Canada don’t realize that Muslims in North America, being a minority, live dramatically different lives from those in Muslim-majority countries, where Islam pervades every aspect of life, including laws.

“The imams are often not very good at grasping that,” Kazemipur said. “They would come to Canada as if it didn’t matter which country they go to.”

All foreign-trained imams are fluent in Arabic, in which they often lead prayers and services, but many struggle in English, which can contribute to “a cultural sense of alienation in the Muslim community.”

There are two major conversations about foreign-trained clergy, said Kazemipur.

One is what he calls the “outside conversation,” in which non-Muslims focus on the potential politicization or radicalization of Muslims. The other is the more refined “conversation within,” which focuses on adapting Islam to democratic societies that orient to free expression and sexual liberation.

It is largely the internal conversation that’s reflected in a new book by Ed Husain, an Arab scholar who quietly toured many of the 2,000 mosques serving Britain’s three million Muslims. While his book, Among the Mosques, applauds the way many Muslims have integrated into British society, Husain also found some Muslim communities distancing themselves from British culture while advocating strict versions of the faith, including religious literalism, gender separation and negative attitudes to gays and lesbians.

Kazemipur does not support attempts by politicians in countries like France, who are responding to such self-segregation by what he calls “over-regulating” mosques and religious training.

But he says clergy born and religiously educated in places like Turkey or Iran have to find ways to respond effectively to Canadian adherents facing issues that don’t exist in their native land. “If they end up in Denmark, Germany or the U.S., many would just give the same kind of sermon.”

For instance, Kazemipur said, some clergy trained in socially conservative nations are not equipped to instruct teenage Muslims about how to respond when exposed to sex education and gender-diversity programs in public schools.

A foreign-trained imam might also teach that Canadian Muslims should avoid taking out a loan that requires paying interest, since that’s forbidden in traditional Islam. “But that would basically mean Muslims in Canada can’t get a mortgage,” Kazemipur said, “or a car loan or put their money in the bank.”

Pinto has run into similar cross-cultural experiences in the Catholic realm. Until he came to Canada, particularly Vancouver’s West End, he had never ministered to Catholic parishioners who are openly gay and lesbian.

Despite the inevitable cultural challenges that occur when Canadian religious organizations import spiritual leaders, Franken, of the Catholic archdiocese, is not alone in concluding: “Ultimately, foreign-trained priests have been a gift.”

Source: Douglas Todd: The promise and pitfalls of foreign-trained clergy in Canada

Douglas Todd: Young Chinese Communist revolutionized by move to Canada

Anecdotally, there are a number of visible minority women who have used beauty pageants as a means to develop their careers, one of the most prominent being Nazanin Afshin-Jan. Encountered at least one political staffer with a similar trajectory:

The world began opening up for Anastasia Lin after she arrived in Metro Vancouver as a 13-year-old from China, where she had been a fiercely patriotic leader in the Young Pioneers, a Communist organization.

Her discoveries have thrown her on an international roller-coaster ride, bringing both fear and fame.

Source: Douglas Todd: Young Chinese Communist revolutionized by move to Canada

Douglas Todd: Quebec to get 10 times more than B.C. and Ontario to settle immigrants

Almost an annual event, criticism of the Canada-Quebec immigration accord’s unbalanced funding arrangement, one that becomes more unbalanced as immigration to the rest of Canada continues to outstrip immigration to Quebec:

Quebec will be handed roughly 10 times more taxpayer dollars from Ottawa to settle each one of its immigrants than B.C., Ontario, Alberta and the other provinces.

The pandemic is further distorting an already lopsided and increasingly bizarre three-decade-old accord with Ottawa that this year will provide Quebec with roughly $20,000 to support each new permanent resident to the province.

Meanwhile, each new permanent resident set to move to B.C. will be allocated only about $1,800 in settlement services, which include language training, assistance with housing and job counselling.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada settlement allocations show, in addition, that Ontario will be handed about $2,000 this year to support each of its new immigrants.

“If I were the other provinces, I would be really, really angry about it,” says Stephan Reichhold, who heads the umbrella organization that oversees 150 settlement agencies in Quebec.

“The other provinces can complain. They can make public statements that it’s not fair,” Reichhold said, explaining that the ever-widening transfer disparity is rooted in a funding formula embedded in the 1991 Canada-Quebec immigration accord.

The upshot of the accord is that Quebec, despite reducing its immigration levels two years ago, will nevertheless be handed a whopping $650 million to help settle the 30,000 to 35,000 new permanent residents it expects in 2021.

Meanwhile, the settlement allocations show all the other provinces and territories combined are this year scheduled to receive $741 million to help integrate about 370,000 new permanent residents, based on Ottawa’s target, which is a record 401,000 immigrants for 2021.

B.C. is set to receive only about $109 million, even while it is projected to take in more than 65,000 new permanent residents, about twice as many as Quebec.

Ontario, which normally takes in 45 per cent of all immigrants to Canada, will be transferred just $372 million, far less than Quebec.

It all adds up to mean, said Reichhold, that Quebec, which accepts only one-tenth of the country’s new immigrants, will receive almost as much transfer money as the other nine provinces and three territories combined.

Vancouver-based Chris Friesen, chair of a national umbrella association that represents immigrant serving agencies across the country, said the gross imbalance in immigrant-support payments is yet another reason he and others are calling for a national dialogue, possibly a royal commission, into the country’s immigration policies.

Friesen, who is also director of the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. that supports refugees, said the Quebec-Canada formula constantly escalates the proportion of transfer funds going to Quebec. As a result the province will actually receive $58 million more to settle permanent residents this year than last year — despite taking in fewer  immigrants than it did in 2019 and 2020.

Even though the provinces have a moral right to protest their poor treatment, Quebec’s Reichhold doubted it would do much good.

That’s because the Canada-Quebec immigration accord, which prime minister Brian Mulroney signed in 1991, gave unique immigration powers and generous transfer payments to the province, mainly to appease a then-surging sovereigntist movement. The other provinces do not have anywhere near the same level of influence over immigration, which is constitutionally in the hands of Ottawa.

Quebec, because of the accord, has long raked in more money per immigrant from Ottawa than the other provinces. In 2019, Quebec received about $11,000 for each of the roughly 40,000 permanent residents it accepted. That compared to about $2,400 each for immigrants to B.C. and Ontario.

This year, because of both COVID-19 border restrictions and Premier Francois Legault’s campaign promise to further reduce immigration levels, the money gap continues to grow wider than ever. Quebec expects only about 30,000 to 35,000 new permanent residents in the province this year, said Reichhold, who noted that Legault’s government announced Wednesday it is considering upping its target to 50,000 in 2022.

Despite the unfairness of the transfer system, Reichhold said Quebec can always use the federal money. And he was pleased to see that Legault is directing two to three times more of Ottawa’s funding into immigration services than the previous Liberal premier, Philippe Couillard, who mostly shovelled it into general revenue.

“Legault has really raised the amount that goes into language training and other resources,” said Reichhold. Asked if he thought other provinces should get as much money per capita as Quebec for settlement services, Reichhold laughed and said, “Can you imagine the amount? It would cost three to four billion dollars.”

Quebec’s immigration program is unique in the world in the way it gives so much control to a regional jurisdiction, Reichhold said.

Quebec also has its own distinct immigrant-investor program, which had for years been bringing in about 4,000 rich newcomers from around the world, mostly Asia. Nine out of 10 don’t stay in Quebec, but instead move to Toronto or Vancouver. Reichold said the program, which critics call a “cash-for-passport scheme,” is not taking new applicants, as it deals with a backlog.

The media outside Quebec don’t often look at how the immigration system works, or its dramatic anomalies, because most English-language journalists show little interest in francophone Quebec, said Reichhold. For that matter, he said, most Quebeckers don’t understand immigration policy either.

The public’s overall ignorance is one of the reasons Friesen, along with Jean McRae of Victoria, B.C., and Victoria Esses of London, Ont., are calling for a national inquiry into Canada’s convoluted immigration policies, which are produced closed doors. That includes Ottawa’s announcement in October that its objective is to admit over 1.2 million new permanent residents between 2021 and 2023, the most ever.

Although a recent poll found Canadians are among the most welcoming people in the world to immigrants, Friesen, MacRae and Esses said the public’s “lack of control and generalized uncertainty can easily stoke anti-immigrant and anti-immigration sentiments. Involving Canadians in an informed consideration of how Canada’s  future immigration programs and policies should be structured will work to dampen these effects.”

It may be possible to forgive Canadians for not comprehending what’s actually going on in Quebec or elsewhere in regard to immigration policy. Still, it would be prudent to avoid being naive.


Douglas Todd: Canadian real-estate market better for foreign investors than locals, admits housing secretary


Canadians can be grateful Ottawa’s parliamentary secretary for housing isn’t afraid of saying what’s on his mind in front of a microphone.

Liberal apparatchiks must be going squirrely after loquacious MP Adam Vaughan inadvertently outed what has been the party’s real scheme on housing for six years — pushing a policy that only worsens extreme unaffordability in cities like Toronto and Vancouver.

Source: Douglas Todd: Canadian real-estate market better for foreign investors than locals, admits housing secretary

Douglas Todd: Slow vaccine rollout threatens Trudeau’s lofty immigration target

Of note:

Canada’s vaccine rollout, which is slower than 41 other countries, threatens Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chances of reaching his record target for immigration this year. But that could benefit young Canadians and recent migrants struggling to find work during the pandemic.

University of B.C. geographer Daniel Hiebert has found COVID-19 has elevated the number of “underutilized” workers in Canada to almost four million — many of whom will compete with the 401,000 immigrants Ottawa is welcoming in 2021, in addition to temporary workers.

Saying Canada is only about “halfway” through resolving the pandemic through vaccinations, Hiebert told the influential Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of B.C. (AMSSA) it will be a “really significant challenge” to “economically integrate 400,000 newcomers into a labour market with nearly four million looking for work — or more work. It’s completely unprecedented.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Slow vaccine rollout threatens Trudeau’s lofty immigration target