Douglas Todd: Trudeau government goes silent on Syrian refugees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How is integration going in Canada?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agree:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Douglas Todd: Canadian officials battle dozens of migration scams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Douglas Todd: Progressives wrestle with dilemma on migration

Good nuanced summary of the various research:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the consequences of all this for Canada?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Douglas Todd: Progressives wrestle with dilemma on migration

Douglas Todd: Why the Greens don’t attract ‘ethnic’ voters

Interesting. There may be differences between first and subsequent generations:

Why do Green party candidates only win seats in ridings where the vast majority of voters are white?

Federal and B.C. Green candidates have won election in only one concentrated region of Canada, on Vancouver Island and the adjacent Southern Gulf Islands, in ridings that have scant visible minorities compared to most of the country’s cities.

In the Southern Gulf Islands — the heart of the region that has handed victories to the lone federal Green MP, leader Elizabeth May, and to B.C. MLA Adam Olsen — only two per cent of residents belong to a minority ethnic group. That compares to 51 per cent of people in Metro Vancouver, where the Greens struggle.

Political observers believe the Greens’ poor showing among immigrants, ethnic Chinese and South Asian voters, and others, is the result of a common perception the party puts environmental protection before economic prosperity. The Greens have also had fewer resources to woo ethnic voters.

“The first generation of immigrants often leave their homelands for economic reasons,” says Shinder Purewal, a Kwantlen Polytechnic University political scientist. “They’re willing to work in any sector that provides jobs. Early Sikh immigrants, for instance, worked in the lumber industry. Environmentalists calling for preservation of trees were often seen as a threat to their livelihood.”

Purewal routinely hears Indo-Canadians remark on how “the Greens would destroy the economy. Not only do they think this would mean lower living standards, it would lead to the state not being able to provide social programs. … Immigrants, who come from countries with almost no social programs, appreciate Canada’s health care and public education, along with workers’ compensation, employment insurance and old age pensions.”

Regardless of which factors are strongest, it’s clear that visible minorities in Canada, many of whom are immigrants, are far less inclined to vote Green than are whites. Along with Green candidates drastically under-performing in ridings in which ethnic groups predominate, polls have revealed the party’s demographic affliction.

A Mainstreet Research poll conducted last year found 21 per cent of Caucasian British Columbians were ready to vote for the Greens. But support for the Greens dropped to eight per cent among ethnic Chinese in B.C., seven per cent among South Asians, 10 per cent among Filipinos and five per cent among Koreans.

The so-called ethnic vote is a major factor in B.C. elections, since at least one in five provincial ridings contains fewer white people than the combined totals of ethnic Chinese, South Asians, Koreans, Filipinos, Koreans, Persians and Pakistanis.

Most people of Chinese origin in B.C. “are still under the impression that economic development and environmental protection are incompatible, or even mutually exclusive,” says Fenella Sung, former radio host of a Chinese-language current affairs program in B.C.

The more than 470,000 ethnic Chinese people in Metro Vancouver, who predominate in ridings in Richmond where the Greens performed badly in last year’s B.C. election, tend to believe, rightly or wrongly, that the Greens are a single-issue party, Sung said.

“Since prosperity is their main priority, they think the environment can take a back seat,” Sung said. Chinese-Canadians generally believe protecting nature is something to be addressed only “after economic growth is sustained and job creation is guaranteed.”

Sonia Furstenau, the B.C. Greens’ deputy leader, said, “We’re really committed to improving the diversity of our candidates. It’s a real priority.”

The party is stepping up its message to ethnic minorities and others that protecting the environment does not threaten personal livelihoods, but will help create “more stable, long-term jobs than we have now,” said Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley, where nine of 10 report English as their mother tongue, the fourth highest proportion of B.C.’s 87 ridings. The Greens, she said, also want to strengthen public education and the high-tech sector.

Stefan Jonnson, communications director for the three-seat B.C. Greens, which is supporting the NDP government, said up until recently most candidates in the small party have lacked finances to publish Chinese- or Punjabi-language campaign material or to appear at ethnic events. But that, he said, has been rapidly changing.

Hamish Telford, a political scientist at the University of the Fraser Valley, said the Greens “have to become a multicultural party if they’re going to break out of Vancouver Island. It’s not a party that speaks to immigrants.”

The tip of Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands are Green strongholds in part, Telford said, because they’re home to many Caucasians who have moved there from others parts of the province and country “to retire and enjoy the beauty of the place, the peace and outdoors.”

After travelling to the Punjab in India, the homeland of hundreds of thousands of B.C. residents, Telford was strengthened in his perception that “Punjabis are a very political people.” While Sikh and Hindu nationalist parties are notable in the Punjab, he said, there are few signs of an environmental movement.

Since roughly a quarter of the students in Telford’s classrooms on the Abbotsford campus are South Asian, he has learned many are keen about economics, immigration, racism and social programs.

But hope for the Greens may lie in such students, he said. “The ones born and raised here tend to skew to the left and to have the same concerns as other young Canadians. Some are interested in the Greens. That’s not so much the case for the older generations.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Why the Greens don’t attract ‘ethnic’ voters

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

Todd on the British Columbia foreign buyer tax:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Opinion What about the poor multimillionaire homeowners?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poll shows Vancouverites mixed on giving vote to ‘permanent residents’

Interesting divergence. The other interesting aspect is that giving the right to vote to PRs as proposed has no minimum residency period (the administrative complexity of implementation would not be simple). (Note: the residency requirement is three years out of five, not two, as reported in the article).

I suspect that most recent Permanent Residents have more immediate needs than municipal voting rights that may explain the difference.

A majority of the residents polled in the cosmopolitan City of Vancouver appear to support giving permanent residents the right to vote in a civic election — but many immigrants are not so sure.

A new opinion poll conducted by Research Co. found 57 per cent of those questioned in the City of Vancouver either “strongly” or “moderately” favour giving the city’s permanent residents the right to vote in a municipal election.

The Canadian government defines a permanent resident as “someone who has been given permanent resident status by immigrating to Canada, but is not a Canadian citizen. Permanent residents are citizens of other countries.”

In a city of 630,000 that has one of the highest portions of foreign-born residents in the world, a sample of Vancouver’s 262,000 immigrants found only 48 per cent ready to give permanent residents the vote in October’s municipal election.

“The level of support for the change is higher among Vancouverites who were born in Canada than among those who acquired citizenship after immigrating from another country,” said Mario Canseco, the president of Research Co.

The company conducted the survey in response to Vancouver City council passing an early April motion by Vision Coun. Andrea Reimer, seconded by Mayor Gregor Robertson, calling on the B.C. government to “make the necessary changes” to make it the first city in Canada to allow permanent residents to vote.

The Research Co. poll revealed partisan political fault lines over whether roughly 60,000 permanent residents of the city should be able to vote. People who voted for the Non-Partisan Association’s mayoral candidate in 2014, Kirk LaPointe, were 14 percentage points less likely than those who backed Robertson to want to make it possible.

While Canseco found a slim majority of Vancouverites think it makes sense to give the vote to permanent residents “who may contribute to the city by working, living and paying taxes,” he determined the strongest pockets of support were among residents aged 18 to 34 (68 per cent), those who live in the East Side of Vancouver (62 per cent), women (58 per cent) and people of East Asian origin (60 per cent).

On the other hand, the Research Co. survey revealed 49 per cent of City of Vancouver residents expressed concern that allowing permanent residents to vote “sets a dangerous precedent, as foreigners who have not sworn allegiance to Canada would have a say in the formation of governments.”

The issue of civic voting rights arises against the backdrop of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals raising immigration levels and last October bringing in Bill C-6, which makes it easier for permanent residents to become citizens. They now need to spend only two years out of five physically present in Canada before being eligible for citizenship (compared to the previous requirement of four years out of six).

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussein also made it possible last year for permanent residents to spend a portion of the two years they are supposed to be physically present in Canada in a foreign land — either for work, to attend school or for family reasons.

Even though it is rare around the world for non-citizens to vote for any elected representatives, some of those who maintain it is a good thing argue that, since many non-permanent residents pay taxes, they have a right to determine how taxes are spent.

Proponents also say it’s better to offer the vote at a municipal level, since local politicians have no control over issues of national security and foreign policy.

On the other hand, the few dozen countries around the world that welcome immigrants normally require newcomers to prove in multiple ways they have a “meaningful connection” to their new homeland before granting the privilege to vote.

Since permanent residents in Canada are already free to engage in political activity, opponents of giving them a civic vote argue it’s relatively quick to become a citizen and people should wait for the privilege while learning an official language and the political complexities of their potential new homeland.

The 2016 Census shows the City of Vancouver contains 325,000 people who are non-immigrants and 262,000 “immigrants” (which includes those who are permanent residents).

Fifty-two per cent of the residents of the City of Vancouver are people of colour, (including 167,000 ethnic Chinese, 37,000 South Asians and 36,000 Filipinos). People of  European descent total 297,000 and Aboriginals 14,000.

According to the 2016 Census seven per cent of the residents of the city speak neither English nor French.

The Research Co. poll surveyed 400 adults in the City of Vancouver and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

Source: Poll shows Vancouverites mixed on giving vote to ‘permanent residents’

Multiculturalism and related posts of interest

Last of my ‘catch-up’ series.

Starting with the Environics Institute’ Canada’s World Survey, which highlights the degree to which Canada has a more open and inclusive approach than most other countries, as highlighted in the Executive Summary:

Canadians’ views on global issues and Canada’s role in the world have remained notably stable over the past decade.

In the decade following the first Canada’s World Survey (conducted early in 2008), the world experienced significant events that changed the complexity and direction of international affairs: beginning with the financial meltdown and ensuing great recession in much of the world, followed by the continued rise of Asia as an emerging economic and political centre of power, the expansion of global terrorism, increasing tensions with North Korea and risks of nuclear conflagration; and a growing anti-government populism in Western democracies. Despite such developments, Canadians’ orientation to many world issues and the role they see their country playing on the international stage have remained remarkably stable over the past decade. Whether it is their perception of top issues facing the world, concerns about global issues, or their views on the direction the world is heading, Canadians’ perspectives on what’s going on in the world have held largely steady.

As in 2008, Canadians have maintained a consistent level of connection to the world through their engagement in international events and issues, their personal ties to people and cultures in other countries, frequency and nature of their travel abroad, and financial contributions to international organizations and friends and family members abroad. And Canadians continue to view their country as a positive and influential force in the world, one that can serve as a role model for other countries.

This consistency notwithstanding, Canadians have been sensitive to the ebb and flow of intenational events and global trends.

While Canadians’ perspectives on many issues have held steady over the past decade, there have also been some shifts in how they see what’s going on in the world and how they perceive Canada’s role on the global stage, in response to key global events and issues. This suggests Canadians are paying attention to what happens beyond their own borders, and that Canadian public opinion is responsive to media coverage of the global stage.

Canadians today are more concerned than a decade ago about such world issues as terrorism, the spread of nuclear weapons, and global migration/refugees. And the public has adjusted its perceptions of specific countries as having a positive (e.g., Germany) or negative (e.g., North Korea, Russia) impact in the world today. Canadians are also shifting their opinions about their country’s influence in world affairs, placing stronger emphasis on multiculturalism and accepting refugees, our country’s global political influence and diplomacy, and the popularity of our Prime Minister.

Canadians increasingly define their country’s place in the world as one that welcomes people from elsewhere.

Multiculturalism, diversity and inclusion are increasingly seen by Canadians as their country’s most notable contribution to the world. It is now less about peacekeeping and foreign aid, and more about who we are now becoming as a people and how we get along with each other. Multiculturalism and the acceptance of immigrants and refugees now stand out as the best way Canadians feel their country can be a role model for others, and as a way to exert influence on the global stage.

Moreover, Canadians are paying greater attention to issues related to immigration and refugees than they did a decade ago, their top interest in traveling abroad remains learning about another culture and language; and they increasingly believe that having Canadians living abroad is a good thing, because it helps spread Canadian culture and values (which include diversity) beyond our shores. Significantly, one in three Canadians report a connection to the Syrian refugee sponsorship program over the past two years, either through their own personal involvement in sponsoring a refugee family (7%) or knowing someone who has (25%).

Young Canadians’ views and perspectives on many aspects of world affairs have converged with those of older cohorts, but their opinions on Canada’s role on the world stage have become more distinct when it comes to promoting diversity.

It is young Canadians (ages 18 to 24) whose level of engagement with world issues and events has evolved most noticeably over the past decade, converging with their older counterparts whose level of engagement has either not changed nor kept pace with Canadian youth. Young people are increasingly following international issues and events to the same degree, they are as optimistic about the direction of the world as older Canadians, and they are close to being as active as travelers. At the same time, Canadian youth now hold more distinct opinions on their country’s role in the world as it relates specifically to diversity. They continue to be the most likely of all age groups to believe Canada’s role in the world has grown over the past 20 years, and are now more likely to single out multiculturalism and accepting immigrants/refugees as their country’s most positive contribution to the world.

Foreign-born Canadians have grown more engaged and connected to world affairs than native-born Canadians, and are more likely to see Canada playing an influential role on the global stage.

Foreign-born Canadians have become more involved in what’s going on outside our borders over the past decade, opening a noticeable gap with their native-born counterparts. They continue to follow international news and events more closely than people born in Canada, but have developed a much greater concern for a range of issues since 2008, while native-born Canadians’ views have not kept pace. Canadians born elsewhere have grown more optimistic about the direction in which the world is heading, while those born in the country have turned more pessimistic. And Canadians born in other countries have also become more positive about the degree of influence Canada has on world affairs, and the impact the country can have on addressing a number of key global issues.

Source: Canada’s World Survey 2018 – Executive Summary, Canadians believe multiculturalism is country’s key global contribution: study 

Some other stories that I found of interest:

The very different pictures of how well integration is working for visible minority and immigrant women between Status of Women Canada (overly negative) and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (not enough granularity between different visible minority groups, captured by Douglas Todd: Secret immigration report exposes ‘distortions’ about women  .

Todd continues with some of his interesting exploration immigration issues, including regarding different communities (Douglas Todd: Canadian Hindus struggling with Sikh activism) and highlighting the work of Eric Kaufmann (Douglas Todd: Reducing immigration to protect culture not seen as racist by most) who, in my view, overstates “white flight” and related ethno-cultural tensions and has an overly static view of society.

Timothy Caulfield asks the questionIs direct-to-consumer genetic testing reifying race?:

From a genetic point of view, all humans are remarkably similar. Indeed, when the Human Genome Project was completed in 2003, it was confirmed that the “3 billion base pairs of genetic letters in humans [are] 99.9 percent identical in every person.” There are, of course, genetic differences that occur more frequently in certain populations — lactose intolerance, for example, is more common in people from East Asia. But there is simply no reason to think that your genes tell you something significant about your cultural heritage. There isn’t a lederhosen gene.

More important, we shouldn’t forget that the concept of “race” is a biological fiction. The crude racial categories that we use today — black, white, Asian, etc. — were first formulated in 1735 by the Swedish scientist and master classifier, Carl Linnaeus. While his categories have remained remarkable resilient to scientific debunking, there is almost universal agreement within the science community that they are biologically meaningless. They are, as is often stated, social constructs.

To be fair, DTC ancestry companies do not use racial terminology, though phrases like “DNA tribe” feel close. But as research I did with Christen Rachul and Colin Ouellette demonstrates, whenever biology is attached to a rough human classification system (ancestry, ethnicity, etc.), the public, researchers and the media almost always gravitate back to the concept of race. In other words, the more we suggest that biological differences between groups matter — and that is exactly what these companies are suggesting — the more the archaic concept of race is perceived, at least by some, as being legitimate. A 2014 study supports this concern. The researchers found that the messaging surrounding DTC ancestry testing reifies race as a biological reality and may, for example, “increase beliefs that whites and blacks are essentially different.” The authors go on to conclude that: “The results suggest that an unintended consequence of the genomic revolution may be to reinvigorate age-old beliefs in essential racial differences.”

Other research has found that an emphasis on genetic difference has the potential to (no surprise here) increase the likelihood of racist perspectives and decrease the perceived acceptability of policies aimed at addressing prejudice.

Some less-than-progressively-minded groups have already turned to ancestry testing as a way to prove their racial purity. White supremacists in the United States, for example, have embraced these services — often with ironic and pretty hilarious results (surprise, you’re not of pure “Aryan stock”!).

But I am sure most of the people who use ancestry companies are not thinking about racial purity, the reification of race or antiracism policies when they order their tests. And I understand that these tests are, for the vast majority of customers, providing what is essentially a bit of recreational science. In fact, I’ve had my ancestry mapped by 23andMe (I am, if you believe the results, almost 100 percent Irish — hence my love of Guinness). It was a fun process. Still, as the research suggests, the messaging surrounding this industry has the potential to facilitate the spread and perpetuation of scientifically inaccurate and socially harmful ideas about difference. In this era of heightened nationalism and populist exceptionalism, this seems the last thing we need right now.

So, don’t believe the marketing. Your genes are only part of the infinitely complex puzzle that makes “you uniquely you.” If you feel a special connection to lederhosen, rock the lederhosen. No genes required.

Lack of diversity in highlighted is sectors as varied as entertainment (The Billion-Dollar Romance Fiction Industry Has A Diversity Problem) and education (Lack of diversity persists among teaching staff at Canadian universities, colleges, report finds). Chris Selley: Granting Sikh bikers ‘right’ to ride without helmets only adds to religious freedom confusion provides a good critical take on whether religious freedom extends to riding motorcycles (Ontario does not allow, British Columbia and Alberta do).

Kim Thúy on how ‘refugee literature’ differs from immigrant literature provides an interesting perspective:

“Refugee and immigrant are very different,” she says in an interview. “A refugee is someone ejected from his or her past, who has no future, whose present is totally empty of meaning. In a refugee camp, you live outside of time—you don’t know when you’re going to eat, let alone when you’re going to get out of there. And you’re also outside of space because the camp is no man’s land. To be a human being you have to be part of something. The first time that we got an official piece of paper from Canada, my whole family stared at it—until then, we were stateless, part of nothing.”

Letters from Japanese-Canadian teenagers recount life after being exiled from B.C. coast enriches our understanding of the impact of their uprooting and exile under Japanese wartime internment (similar to Obasan):

“I don’t know of any other archival collections that are like this,” she said. “They might exist, but I don’t know of any. The combination of young people’s letters and letters to a non-Japanese Canadian person is just incredible to me. This is really special.

“One of the things I love about them is that they’re so clearly ordinary people. I think sometimes when the story gets told, that gets missed — that these are teenagers who are bored, and curious. It’s just really touching.”

And a variety of interesting articles on Islam and Muslims: Why so many Turks are losing faith in IslamCan Muslim Feminism Find a Third Way?  Ursula Lindsey and Gender parity in Muslim-majority countries: all is not bleak: Sheema Khan.

One of the most interesting is The Conversion/Deconversion Wars: Islam and Christianity using Pew Research data to assess respective trends:

It turns out that (American) Islam is losing Muslims at a pretty high rate. About a quarter of adults raised Muslim deconvert.

The problem is, from a secularist’s point of view, is that just as many convert to the religion. It has a high conversion rate, especially when compared to Christianity. Islam is growing by about 100,000 per year.

Per Research recently released a report that said:

“Like Americans in many other religious groups, a substantial share of adults who were raised Muslim no longer identify as members of the faith. But, unlike some other faiths, Islam gains about as many converts as it loses.

About a quarter of adults who were raised Muslim (23%) no longer identify as members of the faith, roughly on par with the share of Americans who were raised Christian and no longer identify with Christianity (22%), according to a new analysis of the 2014 Religious Landscape Study. But while the share of American Muslim adults who are converts to Islam also is about one-quarter (23%), a much smaller share of current Christians (6%) are converts. In other words, Christianity as a whole loses more people than it gains from religious switching (conversions in both directions) in the U.S., while the net effect on Islam in America is a wash.

A 2017 Pew Research Center survey of U.S. Muslims, using slightly different questions than the 2014 survey, found a similar estimate (24%) of the share of those who were raised Muslim but have left Islam. Among this group, 55% no longer identify with any religion, according to the 2017 survey. Fewer identify as Christian (22%), and an additional one-in-five (21%) identify with a wide variety of smaller groups, including faiths such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, or as generally “spiritual.”

The same 2017 survey asked converts fromIslam to explain, in their own words, their reasons for leaving the faith. A quarter cited issues with religion and faith in general, saying that they dislike organized religion (12%), that they do not believe in God (8%), or that they are just not religious (5%). And roughly one-in-five cited a reason specific to their experience with Islam, such as being raised Muslim but never connecting with the faith (9%) or disagreeing with the teachings (7%) of Islam. Similar shares listed reasons related to a preference for other religions or philosophies (16%) and personal growth experiences (14%), such as becoming more educated or maturing.”

There is perhaps an interesting explanation for some of this deconversion data:

“One striking difference between former Muslims and those who have always been Muslim is in the share who hail from Iran. Those who have left Islam are more likely to be immigrants from Iran (22%) than those who have not switched faiths (8%). The large number of Iranian American former Muslims is the result of a spike in immigration from Iran following the Iranian Revolution of 1978 and 1979 – which included many secular Iranians seeking political refuge from the new theocratic regime.”

How does this compare to people who converted to Islam?

“Among those who have converted to Islam, a majority come from a Christian background. In fact, about half of all converts to Islam (53%) identified as Protestant before converting; another 20% were Catholic. And roughly one-in-five (19%) volunteered that they had no religion before converting to Islam, while smaller shares switched from Orthodox Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism or some other religion.

When asked to specify why they became Muslim, converts give a variety of reasons. About a quarter say they preferred the beliefs or teachings of Islam to those of their prior religion, while 21% say they read religious texts or studied Islam before making the decision to switch. Still others said they wanted to belong to a community (10%), that marriage or a relationship was the prime motivator (9%), that they were introduced to the faith by a friend, or that they were following a public leader (9%).”

 

Douglas Todd: Canadians are more happy than xenophobic

One of the more positive overall indicators, but one that does not mean the absence of racism and discrimination, just the relative incidence compared to other countries (Globe editorial: The problem with Ottawa’s plan to consult the public on racism? Ottawa itself presents more realistic view):

Immigrating to Canada makes people happier, according to the United Nations’ 2018 World Happiness Report, which confirms Canadians are among the most tolerant and welcoming people in the world.

The Happiness Report reveals Canada is “the fourth most accepting country for migrants.” That’s out of 117 nations for which data is available, behind only Iceland, New Zealand and, surprisingly, Rwanda. It’s basically an A+ grade for Canadians.

Despite the media frequently reporting on accusations that Canadians are inclined to be “xenophobic,” this imperfect but generally kind country has been a beacon of light, at least to a fraction of the 700 million people who say they want to permanently leave their homelands.

The annual Happiness Report, which includes a groundbreaking and largely ignored new section on migrants, shows most of the roughly 300,000 immigrants who have been arriving each year in Canada become happier than they were before leaving their country of origin.

Migrants to Canada end up with virtually the same life-satisfaction levels as native-born Canadians. That lead the UN Report to rank Canada as the overall seventh happiest nation on the planet, bested only by Finland, Norway, Denmark and other northern European countries.

The UN’s Happiness report adds more weight to previous international surveys, such as one done by Britain’s Legatum Institute, which found global respondents naming Canada the most “tolerant” nation in the world.

While most Canadians continue to recognize that acts of hatred and racism occur, including the murderous attack in early 2017 on worshippers at a Quebec City mosque, the UN report might remind Canadians that discrimination is on a continuum, and Canada is at the more positive end of it.

The UN’s remarkable figures counter claims by many activists, academics and real-estate industry lobbyists, who routinely throw out the accusation that Canadians are racists. Such critical Canadians don’t seem to recognize, for one, how bad things are elsewhere, especially in big countries. The Happiness Report found Russians are among the most antagonistic toward foreigners. Attitudes are also at rock bottom in South Korea and Pakistan, which are among the top six source countries of emigrants to Canada, and which themselves take in almost no migrants.

Canada, meanwhile, maintains its reputation as a tolerant country while being home to 8.2 million foreign-born people (7.5 million of whom are immigrants). That’s one in four of all residents. The foreign-born population of Greater Vancouver is even higher, at 45 per cent, while its 32 per cent in Calgary and 49 per cent in Greater Toronto.

In contrast, foreign-born people make up only 3.3 per cent of the residents of all countries on average, says the UN report, co-written by University of B.C. economist emeritus John Helliwell.

“Of the 12 countries with populations exceeding 100 million, only three had foreign-born population shares exceeding one per cent — Japan at 1.7 per cent, Pakistan at 1.9 per cent and the U.S. at 15 per cent.” The two most populous countries, China and India, have virtually no foreign-born.

The UN, relying on pollsters from Gallup, tallied each country’s quotient for tolerance by asking 36,000 people three questions: Whether it was a “good thing” or “bad thing” that immigrants were living in their country, were becoming their neighbours and marrying into their families.

UN chart shows the most-accepting countries for immigrants in dark green, followed by light green. The least-accepting nations are in black, followed by grey.

While Canada came out as the fourth most accepting, a bit ahead of the Netherlands, Australia and the U.S., some of the least-accepting countries for migrants were Pakistan, Greece, Egypt and Poland. (The report generally avoids using the term xenophobic.)

India and China were not as hostile as South Korea, Pakistan and Eastern Europe, but still ranked poorly. Another troubling finding was that these two major immigrant-source countries to Canada rank low for happiness, with China coming in 86th and India 133rd.

The main conclusions of the UN Happiness Report were that people who leave “unhappy” countries, where people lack trust, to go to happier countries such as Canada and Austria wind up matching the host society for happiness, with the second generation remaining at the same level as the first generation. But there are many winners and losers in the process, including among family members left behind.

And, despite Canadians’ open attitude to the foreign born, they seem to have limits. Most Canadians are not as ebullient as Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who recently raised the country’s immigration levels from 240,000, in 2014, to 340,000.

In February, Trudeau said in Mumbai, India: “Quite frankly, the most common complaint I get from Canadians, from Canadian businesses, from people in general, is that you’re not bringing in enough immigrants. And that’s a rare thing in this world.”

Trudeau was ignoring, however, polling done in late 2017 by the Angus Reid Institute, which found 57 per cent of Canadians believe the country “should accept fewer immigrants and refugees.”

And it’s even possible some surveyed Canadians were acting more positively than they actually feel. A much-cited study by Alexander Janus, of the University of California, Berkeley, found people “dramatically underestimate” their worries about immigration when directly asked by pollsters. Using a “list” technique to tease out respondents’ authentic feelings from those they believe socially desirable, Janus found roughly one third of liberal Americans, for instance, say they’re satisfied with immigration rates when they actually want them reduced.

Noting that “one of the most difficult issues in all social science” is dealing with how migration affects members of a host society, the Happiness Report cautions that certain policies are needed to ensure Canadians and others remain open. The report said leaders of immigrant-receiving countries should be aware that “moderate flows of migrants are more tolerable for the native-born than big influxes of new arrivals.”

Finally, the UN Report recognizes that, with 700 million people wanting to permanently leave their home country, it’s not possible for the few dozen countries that welcome immigrants to make them all happier by taking them in.

Therefore the Happiness report suggests the best way for rich countries to help is to find more ways to support unhappy people in their homelands.

“There are clearly limits to the annual flows which can be accommodated without damage to the social fabric that provides the very basis of a country’s attraction to immigrants,” says the Happiness report.

“One obvious solution, which has no upper limit, is to raise the happiness of people in the sending countries — perhaps by the traditional means of foreign aid and better access to rich-country markets, but more importantly by helping them to grow their own levels of trust, and institutions of the sort that make possible better lives in the happier countries.”

via Douglas Todd: Canadians are more happy than xenophobic | Vancouver Sun