by Ranjit Bhaskar

The Open Border concept seems to be the rubric that is getting a lot of attention among immigration specialists these days. It questions the very notion of the nation-state through which human mobility is seen at present.

“If the United States tomorrow announces a visa-on -arrival facility for all travellers, do you think the whole world would soon be on its doorsteps wanting to get in?” asked Irudaya Rajan, an expert on international migration at India’s Centre for Development Studies.

Immigration controls have the opposite effect of what they actually aim at by making the grass look greener on the other side of the barrier, said Rajan. He was in Toronto this month as a keynote speaker at the “Immigration and Settlement: Precarious Futures?” conference organized by the Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement (RCIS).

Rajan said if borders are more open, people would cross them to explore their prospects firsthand. “If what they see is not much better than home, they wouldn’t bother to stay back and endure all the hardships that come with migration.”  

He and other speakers at the conference were unanimous in stating that impaired mobility of labour leads to many distortions and even criminalizes migration. They said although governments and societies are well aware of the benefits of migration, it is considered too sensitive an issue to discuss.

‘Fifth populous country’

But the proverbial elephant in our global room is so large that if immigrants across the world were to form a country, it would be the fifth most populous with 212 million people.

With one in 33 people on the planet being an international migrant, the collective opinion at the conference was that in a "world without borders," freer labour mobility represents the biggest opportunity in global development.

However, what we have is a world shrinking in spite of itself, amid stricter immigration control, said Bridget Anderson, an Oxford University professor and another keynote speaker at the RCIS conference. The lack of mobility for the world’s poor translates to global inequality between countries being higher than inequalities within countries, Anderson said.

Keeping out the poor and letting in the rich has come to be seen as a well designed immigration policy, said Anderson. Developed countries look at migrants on a sliding scale and judge their ability to fit the paradigm of Good Citizens/Failed Citizens or remain as Non-Citizens, she said. “Restrictions and punishments once imposed on vagrants and ‘master-less men’ are now the preserve of immigration controls, but the connection between the migrant and the vagabond is missed because the migrant is a foreigner.”

Youth in jeopardy

“The issue with legal status of migrants is that it affects us inter-generationally," said

Mehrunnisa Ali, a conference organizer and professor at Ryerson's School of Early Childhood Studies. "It has a long-term effect and is not limited to just the first-generation migrant."

Evidence and research observations about social outcomes for second-generation immigrant youth have increasingly exposed issues that include homelessness in the Greater Toronto Area, racialization and identity. "Until their status is resolved, they are in jeopardy," said Francis Hare, a professor of child and youth care at Ryerson.

Non-Citizens and Failed Citizens risk being characterized by politicians and pundits as benefits scroungers, criminals and scammers. They also become pawns in political games about job losses as witnessed in Canada last month when the temporary foreign workers issue put federal immigration policy under scrutiny and resulted in a Band-Aid solution that could further disadvantage migrants.

“Canada’s immigration is being overhauled without adequate public debate and evidence that government programs are working,” said Harald Bauder, academic director of the RCIS and organizer of the conference. “What we really need is a vision, or at least an explanation, about what government intends for this important sector of our economy and society.”

Canadians found themselves viscerally reacting last month to a new economic reality and a perceived bias in favour of temporary foreign workers. According to Statistics Canada, temporary workers surged to a record two million last year – expanding nearly three times as fast as permanent immigrants from 2009 to 2012. Last year, Canada relied on temporary workers to fill 13.6 per cent of the job market.

“But temporary work breeds uncertainty and can lead to financial strain and precariousness – experienced by Canadian and temporary foreign workers alike,” said Bauder.  “It was a common theme heard among more than 150 researchers and conference presenters”. – New Canadian Media

by Our Vancouver Correspondent

One of Canada’s most authoritative voices on immigration and demographic trends is worried that the abandoning of the long-form census will prevent experts like him from answering this crucial question: are ethnic enclaves also hotbeds of poverty and joblessness?

Dan Hiebert, professor of geography at the University of British Columbia (UBC) who has been studying and writing about Canada’s evolving demographics for over a decade, calls the shift from the long-form census to a voluntary National Household Survey (NHS) in 2011 “a major mistake.” The first findings from the NHS were released on May 8 – including a detailed snapshot of immigration and settlement patterns. For instance, it reported that 62.5 per cent of recent immigrants between 2006 and 2011 live in the cities of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

“What we really need is a long-form census in 2016 … Hopefully, the current difficulties we are having with the NHS will encourage the Cabinet to revisit this issue and reinstate a known and reliable method of collecting data of vital national significance in 2016.”

Prof. Hiebert released the third part of an ongoing study on the emergence of ethnic enclaves last summer (July 2012) which – based on 2006 census data – attempted to forecast the demographic landscape of Canada’s three premier cities in the year 2031. Driven by new immigration and high fertility among the newcomers, all three cities will see huge demographic shifts by 2031. In that year, only 50 per cent of Montreal’s citizens will be able to trace their family history to their grandparents’ generation in Canada. In Toronto, that percentage will be only 20 per cent and in Vancouver only 27 per cent.

Here are his main findings from the report titled “A new residential order?” –

·         Toronto 2031 – 63 per cent of the population will be Visible Minority; 1.4 million South Asian Canadians, 650,000 Chinese-Canadians, 270,000 Canadians of African ancestry, and 200,000 Arab-Canadians will live in enclaves dominated by specific ethno-cultural groups. The top five Visible Minority groups (in descending order) will be South Asian, Chinese, Black, Filipino and West Asian (Arab).

·         Vancouver 2031 – 59 per cent of the city will be Visible Minority, but the number of single-group enclaves will be fewer than in Toronto, but Whites and Visible Minorities will tend to live in different parts of the metropolis. The top groups will be Chinese, South Asian, Filipino, Korean and West Asian (Arabs).

·         Montreal 2031 – the city will see more “White citadels” with nine of 10 Whites living in White-dominated neighbourhoods. An estimated 750,000 Blacks and Arabs will live in Montreal in enclaves that will also tend to be poor. The main groups will be Black, Arab, Chinese, Latin American and South Asian.

Enclaves of poverty

It is this economic aspect that has Prof. Hiebert worried. He is keenly awaiting the release of neighbourhood-level data by Statistics Canada, to see if his forecast is on the right trajectory. Based on 2006 data, the UBC professor was not unduly alarmed, stressing in his report that it is wrong to necessarily link ethnic segregation with poverty. There were indications that Montreal was witnessing a coincidence of poor economic performance among immigrants and the growth of ethnic enclaves, but Vancouver showed no such trend – that is, segregation did not appear to influence average household wages. Toronto was somewhere in between.

Written in the wake of riots in Paris and London that pitted poor immigrants against an uncaring state, the Canadian demographer said his report raises similar “crisis of confidence” issues beyond immigrant isolation. Integration, he said, is what will make the difference. “[I]f integration fails, newcomers are unemployed and the children of immigrants fail in the education system, we could expect the strained social relations seen, for example, in the banlieue neighbourhoods of Paris.”  

Data quality in question

If there was a silver lining in his last report to the nation, it was that Canada does not have a true “ghetto,” which typically suffers from an extreme degree of segregation. Prof. Hiebert defined the term as a neighbourhood “where a single Visible Minority group constitutes at least 60 per cent of the population; at least 30 per cent of the group lives in these types of areas; and the incidence of low income is double that of the larger metropolitan population.” Although the term “ghettoization” has gained currency in recent years, Canada had no areas of extreme ethnic segregation and low income in 2006.

Do we have any ghettoes now? “It is too soon to say. We need the data. But we also might not be able to answer this question given the quality of NHS data.”

Prof. Hiebert’s latest comments should not come as a surprise. In a footnote contained in the study released last year, he said this: “Most unfortunately, the National Household Survey (NHS) that replaced the census of 2011 will not enable us to make an interim assessment of the projections, since no one can say what the degree of error will be in the NHS at the scale of Census Tracts. Until we know the true value of data collected in that survey, Canadians will ‘fly blind’ in terms of the micro-geographic patterns analyzed in this study.”

The translation: Despite spending a reported $650 million on the NHS, we may not have reliable data to validate or rebut Prof. Hiebert’s projections into 2031.- New Canadian Media

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Thursday, 09 May 2013 11:04

Canada continues to be a settler society

Written by

By Ranjit Bhaskar

If you have not been watching MTV lately, the data from the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) released by Statistics Canada would have come as a shock.

Especially if you haven't stepped out of Atlantic Canada or rural Canada or anywhere outside of Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver [MTV]. But if you live or even travelled to any one of these major cities, you don’t need statistics to tell you that Canada is staying true to its roots as a settler society that has always attracted migrants. Toronto leads the foreign-born stats with 46 per cent, followed by Vancouver with 40 per cent and Montreal a distant third with 23 per cent.

The schism between these cities and the rest of the country is because most of the 1.2 million immigrants who arrived in Canada between 2006 and 2011 settled in metropolitan areas. Just over six in 10 (62.5%) of these recent immigrants chose MTV.  In comparison, just over one-third (35.2%) of Canada's total population lived there.

What is surprising is the shock being expressed by some that we are a nation of newcomers; that one in five Canadians were born abroad and represent 20.6 per cent of the population. While this figure is up from 19.8 per cent five years ago and is higher than in most other rich industrialized countries, it is yet to cross the highest proportion of 22 per cent observed between 1911 and 1931.

The difference this time around is the dramatic shift in source countries of immigrants, thanks to policy reforms in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. In 1971, 61.6 per cent of immigrants were from Europe and only 12.1 per cent from Asia. By the late 1980s more than one-half (50.9 per cent) of newcomers were born in Asia. As a result of this shift, immigration has become associated with the increasing proportion of so-called visible minorities in Canada.

By 1996 three quarters of immigrants were persons with visible-minority status. Statistics Canada projects that by 2031, between 29 to 32 per cent of Canadians could be visible minorities based on current immigration and birth outlooks. It also estimates that 25 to 28 per cent of the population will be foreign born by then, surpassing for the first time the early 20th century peak.

So what we are seeing today is a case of having been there and seen it all. What we haven't seen yet is the consequence of the decision to cancel the mandatory long-form census. The current data is coming out of a voluntary short form version of it called the National Household Survey.

"The long-form census enabled policy folk and businesses to take out much guess work. It helped us answer the 'why' parts," said Michael Bach, founder of the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion (CIDI).

There is a bit of irony here because of an indication in the CIDI's first report released on Wednesday called What Gets Measured Gets Done – Measuring the Return on Investment of Diversity and Inclusion. In its survey, some organizations said that they would like to mirror their demographic questions to the questions on the Canada Census to provide comparability to the greater population. They believed this would broaden their range of employee demographics beyond the four designated groups -- aboriginal peoples, visible minorities, persons with disabilities and women -- included in the Employment Equity Act.

"Now how would they be able to broaden their questions when, for example, there is no accurate numbers for the LGBT community," said Bach. "Value of data is not being understood".

Frances Woolley, a professor of economics at Carleton University, said even for the groups designated under the equity act, the census was the only data set that had enough questions on ethnic origin and education.

Writing in the Globe and Mail, Woolley said this type of information is vital when assessing an employer’s progress towards achieving employment equity goals. "An employer can hardly be faulted for not hiring visible minority employees if there are no qualified candidates. Yet if it hires none when statistical data shows there are many visible minority Canadians with appropriate qualifications, questions may be raised."

Reinforcing this point, Bach said without statistics we wouldn’t know that despite more than 50 per cent of new graduates being women since 1980, their representation in top corporate jobs is still a measly 15 per cent three decades later.

With the government’s perceived lack of interest in statistical data, Bach said, organizations like his had no option but to hold surveys of their own.  Asked if the government does not already collect enough data on residents, he said tying the data from various streams will be difficult to get the broad-spectrum view.

We have to wait and see how the NHS turns out to be, Bach said. “In the end it is about asking the right questions to know who your people are.” - New Canadian Media

By Ranjit Bhaskar

Thanks to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, “Committing Sociology” has acquired a certain cachet. “Add Committing Geography to the mix,” says Harald Bauder, the academic director at the Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement (RCIS). 

The professor is getting ready to bring together both these areas of study at this month’s 2013 RCIS conference to discuss the future of immigration and settlement across the world and in Canada. That the issues have been and will be precarious in the years to come was highlighted by just two news stories a day after talking to Bauder at his Ryerson University offices in the Department of Geography.

One was about the populist United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) making sweeping gains in local British elections and finishing second in a parliamentary by-election. Strict controls on immigration is one of its main agendas and even before its latest victories, UKIP rhetoric had made British Prime Minister David Cameron harden his stance against immigration. For the record, Cameron had earlier dismissed the UKIP as “a bunch of fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”.

The second story was about revelations that a string of unsolved killings in Germany may have been a cold-blooded neo-Nazi campaign against ethnic Turkish immigrants. The case means a lot to Germany’s three million ethnic Turks, many of whom still feel marginalized by society despite having lived in the country for decades or even having been born there.  

Lack of public debate

These two stories, along with countless other similar ones from across the world, paint a grim picture of the challenges confronting the immigration and settlement sector.  The sector in Canada is well established with various relevant laws in place that together present a welcoming environment for new immigrants. But Bauder is cautious about the incremental changes in immigration policy without much public debate. He said the RCIS conference is an attempt to fill the void of informed discussion that is increasingly missing in Canada.

He finds it ironic that as Europe initiates reforms in its immigration and settlement policies by taking lessons from Canada’s successful measures, Ottawa seems keen to head in the opposite direction. “While doing so, Canada seems to have learned lessons from the ‘mistake’ made by countries like Germany which gave guest workers the right to stay and bring in their families. Canada is avoiding giving permanency to temporary foreign workers by imposing the four-year time limit to their stay in the country,” said Bauder.

Coming weeks after immigrants being linked to attacks carried out in the US and arrests in Canada linked to a plot against VIA Rail,  trans-border terrorism is also a topic that is bound to come up for discussion. 

Open borders

 With borders across the world becoming less porous, there is a growing legion of “no border” or “open border” activists.

A website dedicated to the idea, Open Borders: The Case, has been set up by Vipul Naik, a Ph.D. candidate in mathematics at the University of Chicago. It suggests the concept as an efficient, egalitarian, libertarian, and utilitarian way to double global GDP. The website states the term “open borders” is used to describe a world where there is a strong presumption in favor of allowing people to migrate and where this presumption can be overridden or curtailed only under exceptional circumstances.

The open border concept is sure to come up for discussion at the RCIS conference when Bridget Anderson, Centre on Migration, Policy and Society at Oxford University makes her keynote speech. Her most recent book, Us and Them? The dangerous Politics of Immigration Control, dwells on the issue. Reinforcing the message will be the film “The End of Immigration” that will also be screened at the conference.

While the aim of the conference is to integrate migration theory with practice based on values of inclusion and respect for cultural diversity, the singular message that Bauder wants to put out is the need to create a fair path to permanency to all migrants in Canada.  And he wants this to happen based on evidence-based policy, rather than ideology.

As Alan Broadbent, Chairman of the Maytree foundation wrote in a recent opinion piece, “When we are developing policy without the information that describes the reality before us, we are working in the dark, and subject to the feelings of Canadians as reported by the government. No matter what stripe of government we are talking about, this is not a good idea.”  New Canadian Media

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by Mourad Haroutunian for New Canadian Media

More than 100 Egyptian-Canadians flocked to the U.S. consulate in downtown Toronto on April 20 to protest the U.S. administration’s backing the “fascist brotherhood regime” in Egypt.

“We stand with you shoulder to shoulder,” Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis told the crowd, “to make sure that Mr. Morsi steps up to the plate and protects Christians, Muslims and everybody together.”

President Mohammed Morsi succeeded secular president Hosni Mubarak, a long-time U.S. ally, in a controversial June election that pitted Morsi against Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafik.  

Protestors chanted to the beat of ‘tabla’ drums. They repeated slogans showing solidarity between Christian and Muslim Egyptians in the fight aimed at toppling Morsi’s Islamist government.   

A five-meter-wide banner was carried by four protesters that read:  “U.S.A.! Stop supporting the fascist Brotherhood regime.”

The MP said, “No country should fundamentally do away with those three things,” citing “freedom of religion, human rights and freedom of the press.”

Karygiannis, himself an immigrant, has been elected six times since 1997, representing Scarborough and Agincourt, which are Toronto ridings heavily populated by immigrants. 

The demonstration was co-organized by activists belonging to the recently formed National Salvation Front, an umbrella Egyptian opposition group led by Nobel laureate Mohammed El Baradei, leftist activist Hamdeen Sabahi, and Amr Moussa, Mubarak’s foreign minister from 1991 to 2001.

A bunch of Egyptian-Canadian groups and organizations also took part in the gathering, including the Canadian Coptic Association, the Coptic Alliance Without Borders, the Canadian Coptic Activists Federation (CCAF), Al Ahram Elgdeed newspaper, website and the Egyptian Canadians for Democracy, an active Facebook group that has attracted 1,164 fans from around the world.

“The protest was very successful,” Sheref El Sabawy, deputy editor of told New Canadian Media, adding that “a U.S. Consulate staff member came out and noted down all what was written on signs.”

The Egyptian-Canadian activist said Egyptian-Canadian organizations have been strengthening coordination among themselves “to lobby the U.S. and Canadian governments to put pressure on the Egyptian government.”

El Sabawy, who ran as a Liberal Party candidate for the Mississauga riding in the 2011 elections, said he believed the Egyptian government’s practices “do not comply with human rights standards.”

The demonstration was the sixth held in Toronto since last December.  A simultaneous massive protest was staged by Montreal and Ottawa Copts outside the U.S. embassy in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, opposing Obama’s support for “the terrorist” government in Egypt. Protesters blamed Morsi for “mishandling” the most recent sectarian violence north of Cairo, when four Christians and one Muslim were killed in an exchange of fire between members of both communities. ­– New Canadian Media

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Thursday, 21 March 2013 23:03

Learning citizenship in cities

Written by

by Ranjit Bhaskar for New Canadian Media

Imagine Halifax city’s whole population of around 400,000 being denied the right to vote in its municipal election. Not very hard to picture considering that is the number of Toronto residents who pay local taxes and use city services but have no say in who represents them because they are not yet Canadian citizens.

This disenfranchisement was debated at a panel discussion on voting rights for permanent residents in municipal elections organized in Toronto on Mar. 20 by the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants and Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office.

Although not a new topic, the impetus for the discussion was a recent City of Toronto Community Development and Recreation Committee’s request to review “the opportunity” of giving permanent residents the right to vote. It is significant to note that the City of Toronto Act already says that the people who compose it are not defined by their age nor by their nationality. Rather, they are defined by residency within the city's  boundaries.  

The panelists were near unanimous in their approval of the need to extend voting rights to non-citizens. They remained united despite the moderator, Matthew Mendelsohn, Director of the Mowat Centre, trying to provoke discussion by pointing out, for instance, that it is “not hard to become a citizen of Canada”.

'Training wheels'

Jehad Aliweiwi, executive director of the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office, said voting right could be a reward given to immigrants who have uprooted themselves to come and settle in Toronto. “That act in itself is their show of commitment to the city,” he said. “Participating in municipal elections could be akin to giving permanent residents training wheels as they negotiate the path to citizenship”.

Association of voting with citizenship is more of a political view that prevents the real expression of Toronto’s diversity, Aliweiwi said. “There is nothing radical in giving non-citizens the right to vote and it is unfortunate that Toronto is not in the forefront.”

Michael Pal, a research fellow at the Mowat Centre, said votes of immigrant communities, who tend to live in urban areas, are valued less than that of long time citizens. Permanent residents should be given voting rights from a legal and moral point of view and the move should be part of a broader conversation, Pal said.

Myer Siemiatycki, professor of politics and public administration at Ryerson University, said one in six to seven Torontonians are not citizens and the pattern is repeated in the other municipalities that make up the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). There is no downside to giving non-citizens the right to vote, Siemiatycki said. “It is the right of cities not to be hostage to provincial and federal politics,” he said.

Lame objections

Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said disadvantages of giving non-citizens the right to vote are minimal and Toronto which is proud of its diversity should take a proactive role in ensuring that permanent residents get the chance to vote in city elections. “The reasons cited against the move echoes those made decades ago against giving women the right to vote”, Des Rosiers said.

With about 40 cities (including a few Canadian ones) extending voting rights in some way or the other to non-citizens, not allowing immigrants to vote will further reduce the already diminished status of the GTA as a preferred place to put down roots, the panelists summarized. Their message: in this age of enhanced migration and increasingly free trade of goods, voting rights should also be easily transferable.

It reinforces an ambitious 2005 study of social inclusion in Toronto that said extending the municipal franchise was essential to advancing democracy and belonging in the city. The Report of the Toronto Civic Panel of the Inclusive Cities Canada Initiative contended that in order to overcome widespread marginalization from the city’s political processes, the civic voting age should be lowered from 18 to 16, and non-Canadian permanent residents should also have the right to vote.

As Siemiatycki said in a policy paper he wrote on the subject, the time has come to go back to the future. “The western concept of citizenship began as municipal attachment to the city-state in ancient Greece. Now, with global migration increasingly creating a world of ‘transnational urbanism’, the momentum is growing to re-define cities as sites of citizenship in their own right.” - New Canadian Media

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