How Many Immigrants Does Canada Really Need?

Needed discussion and questioning of the 2021-23 immigration plan given the economic and social context:

Canada’s ambitious plan to admit 1.2 million immigrants over the next three years sparks discussion on the nation’s ability to accommodate this surge.

It is hard to find anyone who doubts Canada’s need for immigrants, the only point of disagreement seems to be the number of immigrants Canada admits each year.

In September, the Department of Immigration’s annual tracking study found that four in 10 Canadians believed immigration quotas were too high, and 52 per cent of the surveyed agreed with the statement that “Canada should focus on helping unemployed Canadians rather than looking for skilled immigrants for our workforce.”

This poll obviously wasn’t taken into account because last week Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino announced a plan to bring in 1.2 million new immigrants over the next three years — a historic high for the country.

Few would argue with the need to bring in around 300,000 immigrants annually, but increasing that number at a time when 1.8 million people in Canada are officially categorized as unemployed (as of September) has taken many aback.

It seems to me that apart from politicians, immigration consultants, manufacturing and business associations, there is little appetite among many Canadians for high levels of immigration during an economic crisis brought about by COVID-19.

The rationale offered by Minister Mendicino is that since the pandemic struck, immigrants and international students played a prominent role as front-line workers in grocery stores, warehouses and in long-term care facilities.

Very supportive of high immigration numbers is the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters association, who are on record stating that the immigration numbers for the next three years were too modest given the shortfall of admissions in 2020.

As the Business Council of Canada President and CEO Goldy Hyder said in a statement, “There is widespread agreement across party lines that immigration is essential to long-term economic growth.  Newcomers bring energy, skills, new ideas and entrepreneurial spirit. They start companies, fill skill shortages, buy houses and pay taxes.”

The reality of the job market

According to StatsCan, as of August, there were still 2.2 million unemployed people in Canada. The unemployment rate for people aged 15 to 69 was 11.3 per cent. As of September, it hovered around nine per cent.

But Canada’s unemployment rate would likely be much higher had it not been for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), which has ensured that employers continue to keep on their rolls 3.7 million Canadian workers

The CEWS will continue until June 2021, after which a spike in unemployment is a distinct possibility. Most companies across the country are restructuring their businesses, reducing staff and investing more in automation.

Amazon, one of Canada’s largest employers, with 21,000 full- and part-time staff, as well as its rivals are increasingly requiring warehouse employees to get used to working with robots. Amazon alone now has more than 200,000 robotic vehicles it calls “drives” that are moving goods through its delivery-fulfilment centres around the U.S. That’s double the number it had last year and up from 15,000 units in 2014. 

It is quite likely that in a matter of years, most manufacturing companies and warehouses here in Canada won’t be needing more than a few dozen workers to oversee the robots.

Another big employer, Loblaws, began investing heavily in artificial intelligence and automation at the company’s offices, distribution centres and stores in 2019.

So, it is quite possible that those politicians and mostly small-business owners who are up at night worrying about impending labour shortages are not taking into account the rapid pace at which artificial intelligence and other technologies are expected to significantly reduce their staffing needs.

Working from “home” could mean anywhere

Thousands of employees working at some of Canada’s top companies are expected to work from home even after the pandemic passes. Technological improvements over the past year has made it possible for any company to outsource an even greater number of jobs. 

There is little stopping a company from hiring a software engineer anywhere in the world and giving him or her the option of working from “home” without setting foot in Canada. Technology makes “attracting” the best brains and talent from around the world possible on a scale that could never have been imagined.

Immigration has historically been a convenient way to address labour shortfalls which could last for decades, however in today’s fast-changing economy, it may not be wise to bring in permanent residents to essentially do jobs that are expected to become redundant in a matter of years. 

By 2034, immigration will account for 100 per cent of Canada’s population growth, as the number of deaths is expected to exceed the number of births. There will have to be a steady influx of immigrants, but not in the numbers we see today. While most Canadians have been led to believe that fewer immigrants would lead to the collapse of the economy, perhaps one could point to Japan which is facing a steep population decline. In  2014, its population was 127 million and is expected to shrink to 107 million by 2040. Not wanting to stoke xenophobia, the government has not resorted to mass immigration despite a growing labour shortage. There is more acceptance of automation and robots than for immigration and companies are automating at record speed.

At some point in the near future, Canada will have to become more creative when it comes to dealing with its labour shortages.

A case to calibrate immigration with the economy

There is plenty of evidence that in previous Canadian recessions new immigrants suffered high rates of chronic unemployment and underemployment, sometimes with lasting effect — a phenomenon referred to as the “scarring effect.”

For example, immigrants who had been in Canada for less than five years preceding the 2009 economic downturn suffered job losses at a rate far more than their Canadian-born peers. During the current COVID-19 pandemic, several visible minority groups have significantly higher rates of joblessness, such as South Asian (17.8 per cent), Arab (17.3 per cent), and Black (16.8 per cent) Canadians. 

Whether Canada sinks deeper into recession after government subsidies dry up in mid-2021 or rebounds is anybody’s guess. Public hostility toward immigrants could rise and xenophobes could blame them for worsening a bad economic situation when immigrants themselves could well be hurting more than the average out-of-work Canadian.


Why some South Asians are resisting identity politics

Valid discussion on the balance between focussing on Canadian issues and the politics of the country of origin, one that pertains both to long established communities (e.g., Ukrainian Canadians) and more recent ones:

Multiculturalism and diversity is touted by all politicians as Canada’s strength, it is in the news so often that most people believe that slogan to be true. I don’t. Last week I spent a few hours with a group of Sikhs who had all come to the conclusion that multiculturalism has been misused by the political class to play identity-based politics which has been detrimental. Over time, this has resulted in divisions within South Asians.

Everyone in the group decided upon a plan of action by first creating a platform where South Asians of all ethnicities and religious backgrounds get together and discuss issues of common interest.

Politicians have wilfully encouraged identity politics in the name of multiculturalism so much so that today issues dominating the headlines in South Asian countries resonate here in the community.

Indian politics for example dominates the conversation of hundreds of thousands of Indian immigrants. I have met such immigrants who were so well-versed with all things happening in India while they knew next to nothing about issues dominating the headlines right here in Canada. No politicians will dare encourage ethnic Canadians to focus on Canadian politics and all things Canadian because well, that suits them just fine.

The group of Sikhs at the meeting I attended were of the view that dwelling excessively on foreign issues takes the focus away from local issues that affect the lives of all Canadians, as also those of their children. This enables the politicians and elected governments to sweep these important issues under the rug; as long as a large section of the population is occupied in advancing foreign causes, local governments can avoid accountability for their mediocre performance.

Regardless of difference in political ideology, one point of unity among all Canadians is that everyone wants to secure the best future for themselves, their children and the country. The differences are only in terms of how to reach that goal. The objective, therefore, of this initiative is to achieve unity as Canadians, so that the ill effects of the divisions caused by identity politics can be diminished or entirely eliminated.

In the months to come, this group is expected to announce its plans and hold events where all South Asians will be invited to discuss issues pertinent to Canada and not the land they left behind.

The problem noted by some of these concerned citizens was that the term South Asian that is commonly used is a generic one denoting a single ethnic group, there are many distinct sub-ethnic groupings within the broader category of ‘South Asian’. The one that mainstream Canadians are most familiar with is the Sikh community – often wrongly termed as the Punjabi community. What is lost is the fact that Punjabis can be Sikh, Hindu, Muslim or Christian. All of these sub-groups are present in sizable numbers in Canada and particularly in the GTA. In addition, there are ethnic groups such as Gujarati, Tamil, UP-ite, Marathi, Goan, Bengali and Sinhalese etc also, each with a significant population, all of these groups come from the Indian sub-continent.

But because South Asians have been divided to such an extent, even politicians of South Asian descent end up pandering to their own communities and are typically surrounded by members of their group. It can also be said that these elected MP’s and MPP’s lack the maturity to see the need of reaching out beyond their original support base. This behaviour on their part has the effect of making the other ethnic or religious groups feel politically orphaned. This feeling then feeds into the divide that, by that point, is well-entrenched in the broader South Asian community.

As long as South Asians continue to dwell on the politics of their homelands, they will be seen as outsiders or Canadian in name, just like actor Akshay Kumar who is a so-called Canadian citizen. -CINEWS

Source: Why some South Asians are resisting identity politics

How political correctness erodes support for multiculturalism | CanIndia NEWS

From CanIndia News, Pradip Rodrigues on the culture of silence within the Canadian South Asian community, drawing uncomfortable parallels with the UK’s Rotherham scandal (Sexual exploitation: See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil):

Political correctness is  a mortal enemy of multiculturalism and is responsible for leeching away support for it. In Canada the South Asian community, both Indian and Pakistani are grappling with issues of domestic violence, spousal abuse, elder abuse, a growing drug and gang problem. Yet you hardly hear about these sort of things in the media, there are no statements put out by politicians, there are no leaders with plans to deal with these issues.

When it comes to our view of women, South Asians here share a lot of similarities with a section of Pakistani Muslim men in Britain.The sheer scale of domestic abuse that occurs behind closed doors should be a scandal. But yet we stubbornly refuse to acknowledge it or discuss it openly.

And when a case of domestic abuse results in death of a woman or a case of honor killings make front page news, the community commentators who are invited on air to discuss it on national media use it as an opportunity to do damage control and deflect attention away from the community.

For instance following one horrific case of honor killing a couple of years ago, the South Asian head of a women’s organization refused to admit that honor killing and violence against women was an issue affecting a particular ethnic community. The guest on that radio program insisted that honor killing was no different from the problem of violence against women where the perpetrators and victims come from every segment of society.

I met her months later and asked her privately why she always took such a defensive position. According to her, mainstream interviewers are always looking to sensationalize news and bring down the community. She believed like so many in positions of authority in Rotherham, UK that it was the crime that should be discussed not the ethnicity.

…Few community leaders can be counted upon to be brave enough to stand up and draw attention to a problem facing the community without being brought down by the very community he or she loves and is trying to save. While no one wants to provide a stick to racists who will use it to beat up the community, it is time community members pick up their own stick and do the needful before someone else comes and does it for us.

How political correctness erodes support for multiculturalism | CanIndia NEWS.