Canada’s new plan to welcome nearly one million immigrants over the next three years, has been hailed and flailed around the world despite the Liberal government assurances that it will help offset an aging demographic.
“This historic multi-year immigration levels plan will benefit all Canadians because immigrants will contribute their talents to support our economic growth and innovation, helping to keep our country at the forefront of the global economy, said Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
The new plan aims to build upon the current projections for 300,000 permanent residents in 2017 by increasing the number of new permanent residents welcomed to Canada over a three-year period, beginning with an increase to 310,000 immigrants in 2018, 330,000 in 2019 and 340,000 in 2020.
“This is an important step in the right direction, which reaffirms Canada’s belief in immigration and citizenship as a principle which has helped to build, and which will continue to build, the country,” said the Institute for Canadian Citizenship
“We, probably in the world, have one of the best immigration programs not only in terms of our selection processes but also in terms of our settlement and integration programs where we work with immigrants,” said Debbie Douglas, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.
But not everyone shares the optimism.
The federal government's own Advisory Council on Economic Growth had recommended upping levels to reach 450,000 newcomers annually by 2021. Hussen said the government is taking a more gradual approach to ensure successful integration.
Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel was critical of the plan, suggesting the government needs to do a better job of integrating newcomers.
"It is not enough for this government to table the number of people that they are bringing to this country. Frankly the Liberals need to stop using numbers of refugees, amount of money spent, feel-good tweets and photo ops for metrics of success in Canada's immigration system."
She said the Liberals need to bring Canada's immigration system "back to order" by closing the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement that has seen migrants cross into Canada at unofficial border crossings only to claim refugee status.
She also said the immigration system should focus on helping immigrants integrate through language efficiency and through mental health support plans for people who are victims of trauma.
Dory Jade, the CEO of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants, welcomed the news although he suggested the numbers should be higher.
"Canada will greatly prosper and grow once the 350,000 threshold has been crossed," he said. "Nevertheless, we are witnessing a very positive trend."
The Canadian Council of Refugees also welcomed the news, but wanted more, saying the share for refugees was only increased slightly from 13 per cent this year to 14 per cent in each of the next three years.
During the government's consultation period, the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance presented "Vision 2020," what it called a "bold" three-year plan to address growing demographic shifts underway in the country, calling for increased numbers in the economic, family and refugee categories.
Chris Friesen, the organization's director of settlement services, said it's time for a white paper or royal commission on immigration to develop a comprehensive approach to future immigration.
"Nothing is going to impact this country [more] besides increased automation and technology than immigration will and this impact will grow in response to [the] declining birth rate, aging population and accelerated retirements," he told CBC News.
Last month, Statistics Canada reported that based on 2016 census data, 21.9 per cent of Canada's population is now foreign-born, reflecting the highest percentage of immigrant population in nearly a century.
Kareem El-Assal, a senior research manager specializing in immigration for the Conference Board of Canada, said it is "absolutely imperative" that Canada ups its intake in order to meet future labour needs.
But the system must become more adept at matching newcomers with local and provincial needs, he said, improving outcomes by selecting more people with pre-arranged jobs, recruiting more international students and giving provinces a greater say in who comes to the country.
Coming to Canada
• Immigration has had an immeasurable effect on Canada. In 2017, Canada stands as a country of 36.5 million people and a world leader on various scales. In fact, one in five Canadians is foreign-born, the highest among the G7.
• The aging of our population and a declining fertility rate will continue to have a significant impact on Canada’s economy. In 1971, there were 6.6 people of working age for each senior. By 2012, the worker-to-retiree ratio had dropped to 4.2 to 1, and projections put the ratio at 2 to 1 by 2036, at which time five million Canadians are set to retire. In recent years, more than 80 per cent of the immigrants we admit have been under 45 years of age.
• Immigration also helps to spur innovation domestically. For example, while immigrants account for approximately 20 percent of Canada’s population, they are a major source of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills, representing around 50 percent of all STEM degree-holders in Canada at the bachelor’s level and above. These skills are important in a knowledge economy. Immigrants also have a higher rate of entrepreneurship than their Canadian-born counterparts.
• Canada is unique among immigrant-receiving countries in placing great emphasis on providing assistance to recently arrived immigrants to weather their migration transition period. Settlement services, such as language training, employment services and newcomer orientation are linked to immigrant success. In 2016-17, more than 412,000 permanent residents accessed at least one settlement service in Canada. When surveyed, 91 percent of Settlement Program clients reported being able to make informed decisions on a wide variety of subjects, including education, health care and housing. And 87 percent of clients who were in Canada for one year or more reported being able to use an official language to function and participate in Canadian society
Republished under arrangement with the Asian Pacific Post.
Commentary by: Dan Kelly in Toronto, ON
Governments of all stripes are often eager to turn the page in times of tumult.
It's probably an appropriate strategy: when you're in the midst of turmoil, it's best to change the conversation by presenting the public with some positive news.
Last week — following three months of intense backlash culminating from their small business tax proposals — the federal government introduced some 'cheerful' news in the form of their fall economic statement. In it, the government trumpeted lower-than-projected deficits, solid GDP growth and improving job numbers. They also increased the Canada child benefit by indexing it to inflation as of July 2018 and boosting their working income tax benefit for low-income Canadians in the workforce.
Much of this is good news, but has the page turned?
Not so fast.
The smaller deficit number is welcome but what's missing is a plan to get back to a balanced budget. Right now the country's economy is improving, but are we prepared for the next slowdown? What tax tools or levers will the government be forced to implement when the rainy days eventually come and revenue growth inevitably drops?
A plan towards deficit elimination should be a priority right now.
What was also missing from the government's economic update were details on its revised small business tax proposals.
Thanks to a three-month unprecedented backlash from the small business community, the government has partially retreated on their tax measures.
Most importantly, they dropped provisions to limit the use of capital gains in business succession. They also exempted up to $50,000 in annual passive income from proposed higher tax rates on the money firms have invested for future expansion or for the business owner's retirement.
They even reinstated a 2015 election promise to reduce the small business corporate tax rate to nine per cent. That promise — which had been abandoned in the 2016 budget — will help return hundreds of millions of dollars to independent business owners. The government should be congratulated for these important moves.
But while the feds have backed away from their original bluster (which included characterizing small business owners as tax-cheats), version 2.0 of the tax measures will still make it more difficult for business owners to grow their businesses, innovate and create jobs.
We await further details to understand the full effects of these proposals on small businesses and their families. In particular, we need details on whether the passive income threshold will be indexed to inflation or what the CRA test will be for income shared among family members associated with a business.
Aside from the proposed tax changes, small business owners still face a myriad of other challenges.
We are anxious about the NAFTA negotiations — the current U.S. administration muses about killing the trilateral pact. What happens if NAFTA is terminated? There are also major tax hikes going ahead, including EI and CPP rates, carbon taxes on top of rising borrowing costs, higher minimum wages and new labour legislation in some provinces.
So, while the federal government may wish to turn this page — for small business owners, the next page still has a lot of question marks.
Dan Kelly serves as President, Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Board of Governors of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). Republished under arrangement with the Asian Pacific Post.
Ever since Sukhwinder Singh Sidhu met and secretly married his one true love, his life has been one of pain, torture and false imprisonments in Punjab, India.
This week as the architects of his misery are extradited back to India, Sukhwinder aka Mithu has a message for them: “Was our love a crime that Jassi had to be her killed?”.
Speaking to Jupinderjit Singh, one of the authors of the book Justice for Jassi, Mithu said; “Finally, my wife’s killers will face trial for murder. My sole wish is to see them behind bars.”
Mithu, now a truck driver, said: “I’m still her husband. I can’t share my love for Jassi with anyone. I want to tell her mother that my love is true and eternal.”
MIthu was commenting on last week’s Supreme Court of Canada decision that finally paved the way for his wife’s uncle Surjit Singh Badesha, 72 and her mother Malkit Kaur Sidhu, 67, to be sent back to India to face murder charges.
Police allege the millionaire blueberry farmer Badesha and his sister Malkit Sidhu hired contract killers to kill Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu aka Jassi because she had married Mithu, a lower-caste auto rickshaw driver in Punjab.
Punjab Police investigations confirmed it was a so-called honour killing plotted by the mother and uncle while the duo were at home in Maple Ridge, Canada.
Born and raised in Maple Ridge, BC, Jassi Sidhu, 24, was killed in June 2000 by hired killers while living with her husband in Punjab, India. In an attack, Mithu was left for dead while Jassi was abducted and later killed.
Police traced 266 phone calls between Jassi's maternal uncle, Surjit Badesha, to the hired killers, becoming a basis by which India formally requested extradition in 2005 of Badesha and Malkit Sidhu to face murder charges.
Last week, 17-years after Jassi was found dead with her throat slit in a ditch outside the industrial metropolis of Ludhiana in Punjab, the Canadian chapter of this tragedy came to a close.
India formally requested Canada in 2005 to extradite Jassi’s mother and uncle to face trial after charging and convicting a band of hired killers in connection with the murder.
In May 2014, the British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver ordered that duo must be deported to India to face trial.
The struggle to obtain justice for Jassi, however, was set back the following when the British Columbia Appeal Court overturned the extradition order against Jassi's mother and uncle. The appeal court expressed concern that the both of the accused will be beaten and tortured in Indian jails.
The Canadian apex court last week reinstated the original order.
Harbinder Singh Sewak is the Vancouver based publisher of The South Asian Post which won a Jack Webster Award for its work on the Jassi case and is the co-author of the book Justice for Jassi. He stressed that the struggle for justice for Jassi will continue. “This case has shocked many people… many think this murder is about honour and religion… it is about greed,” said Sewak.
Fabian Dawson, the lead author of the book said while the Canadian chapter of the Jassi case may have come to an end, the Indian chapter is beginning.
“There is a still a trial and appeal process in India before justice for Jassi is finally achieved,” he said.
The book, Justice for Jassi, documents the entire saga and is narrated from the perspective of Mithu, who since his wife’s murder has continued fighting to see justice done for his wife, despite threats and attempts to silence him.
The authors scoured through thousands of police and court records in Canada and India, as well as hours of tape interviewing officials. The book shows how her mother and uncle orchestrated Jassi’s murder from Maple Ridge.
“We kept the website www.justiceforjassi.com going and we kept the story alive. We will continue to do so until there is justice for Jassi,” said Sewak.
Since Mithu and Jassi fell in love, there have been several attempts on Mithu’s life and at least six occasions where he has been falsely arrested and jailed.
The first time he was arrested, Mithu was jailed for allegedly marrying Jassi at gun-point. Indian police were given a false affidavit signed by Jassi in Port Coquitlam to effect the arrest. Jassi, however, went to India to say she married Mithu of her own free will and got him released.
In another case, after Jassi was murdered, Mithu spent about 44 months in jail for rape.
Sewak, the publisher of the South Asian Post hired sleuths and lawyers in India to show that the accuser was paid to make the false allegations against Mithu.
Mithu has recently petitioned the Justice Mehtab Singh Commission, which is probing “false” cases registered by the Punjab Police in the past 10 years.
All in all, Mithu has been arrested in six cases, of which he has been acquitted in four.
He claims all of them stem from the revenge-motivated family of his murdered wife who want him not to testify against them.
At various other times, he has been offered millions of rupees and land to stay silent.
But he vowed again this week to fight on for Jassi.
“I’m still her husband. I can’t share my love for Jassi with anyone. I want to tell her mother that my love is true and eternal.”
“The cops who arrested me told me to forget about Jassi,” Mithu said.
“Whenever I refused an offer for a compromise, another case was slapped on me,” he has claimed before the Justice Mehtab Singh Commission. On the basis of his testimony, notices have been sent to the police to appear at the hearings.
“From the initial offer of about C$30,000 and 14 acres of land and a passport to Canada, supporters of the accused have promised it all to me.
But I can’t trade my love for all this. I just want Jassi’s mother and uncle to be punished for what they did to her and me,” said Mithu.
Republished under arrangement with the Asian Pacific Post.
With home prices rising across the country, many of us would likely assume that housing costs (including rent and mortgage payments) are the most expensive budget item for the average Canadian family.
In reality, however, the average Canadian household spends more on taxes than any other expense—including housing. Specifically, in 2016 the average Canadian family (including single Canadians) earned $83,105 in income and paid $35,283 in total taxes. That’s 42.5 per cent of income going to taxes.
Surprised? You’re not alone.
For most of us, the income and payroll tax deductions on our paycheques do not total anything close to this percentage. But to understand the full cost of taxation, you must consider all the taxes—both visible and hidden—that we pay throughout the year to federal, provincial and municipal governments including sales taxes, property taxes, fuel taxes, carbon taxes, import taxes, alcohol taxes and much more. All these taxes add up and make our overall tax bill expensive.
So how does the overall tax bill compare to housing costs?
The average Canadian family spends 22.1 per cent of its income on housing—only about half as much as it spends on taxes (again, 42.5 per cent).
In fact, taxes consume more of the average family’s income than all the basic necessities of life combined. If you add up the average family’s spending on housing, food and clothing in a year, it comes to 37.4 per cent of its income—still quite a bit less than what we pay in taxes.
With 42.5 per cent of income going to taxes, Canadian families may rightfully wonder whether they get good value for their tax dollars. Of course, taxes fund important government services. But we shouldn’t simply assume that higher taxes always provide better government services.
While it’s ultimately up to individual Canadians and their families to decide if they’re getting the best bang for their money, you must know how much you pay in total taxes to make an informed assessment. That’s where our annual calculations help. They estimate the cost of government for the average family. Armed with this knowledge, Canadians can then determine if they think they’re getting good value in return.
Some perspective might help.
In most provinces, more than 50 per cent of our tax dollars finance generous pay for government employees. In fact, government employees, on average, receive 10.6 per cent higher wages than comparable private-sector workers doing similar work. And that’s on top of the much more generous non-wage benefits (pension coverage, job security, early retirement) the government sector also enjoys. Of course, we need qualified and well-paid government workers, but is this pay and benefit premium the best use of our tax dollars?
In the case of health care, which consumes around 40 per cent of most provincial budgets and is a fast-growing expense, international comparisons show that, despite high levels of spending, Canadians have comparatively poor access to technology and doctors, and endure longer wait times for surgery. It’s hard to see how we get good value for our money in public health care when measured against other countries that also offer universal access.
Most troubling is when our tax dollars are outright wasted on boondoggles and failed government programs. A recent study documented more than 600 cases where the federal government failed to meet its own objectives over a 25-year period, resulting in up to $197 billion of wasted tax money.
Bottom line—if Canadians are more informed about the true cost of government, they will be better equipped to hold government accountable for how it spends our tax dollars. And that leads to a more robust public debate about the overall tax burden and whether we’re getting our money’s worth.
Charles Lammam is the Director, Fiscal Studies, at the Fraser Institute and Milagros Palacios is the Senior Research Economist at the Fraser Institute. This piece was republished under arrangement with the Asian Pacific Post.
Commentary By Herman Thind in Vancouver
A racial slur against a former Vancouver Park Board commissioner with a South Asian background is creating a social media furor.
Meanwhile, a protest group is championing an online petition calling for the firing of British Columbia’s only deputy minister of colour.
To many, these are disturbing signs that racism is on the rise in British Columbia – just one week after the Hands Against Racism campaign launched its second year.
In a recent incident, Niki Sharma, who is running to be a director of the Vancity Credit Union and previously served on the park board, received an offensive tweet saying “you people are taking [o]ver our country.” Meanwhile, a digital map tracking anti-Muslim incidents in Canada shows that British Columbia is on track for 2016 to be twice as bad a year as 2015.
Individuals under attack
Fazil Mihlar is the subject of the online petition campaign. He is a prominent South Asian intellectual with a long track record in public life.
Mihlar, according to his LinkedIn profile, came to the civil service relatively late in his career after many years in charge of the opinion pages of the largest-circulating Canadian newspaper west of Toronto, the Vancouver Sun. Before that he worked for RBC Economics and spent several years with a think tank widely known for its conservative views, the Fraser Institute.
[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[T]hese are disturbing signs that racism is on the rise in British Columbia."[/quote]
Sharma is a lawyer who represents residential school survivors, works closely with First Nation governments and has been connected with many progressive causes. Her affiliation with Vision Vancouver suggests she and Mihlar would not agree on everything. Yet in both cases they are high achievers with visible minority backgrounds and both are under attack for reasons that have nothing to do with their performance.
When Mihlar was appointed to an assistant deputy minister role a couple years ago, his successor as editorial pages editor of Vancouver Sun had this to say: “The smartest guy in the room is now the smartest guy in government.”
Newspaper colleagues of Mihlar say that one of his jobs was to run the newspaper’s editorial board, which is where politicians, business tycoons and policymakers come for their ideas and records to be put to the test. “There were groups who feared coming to an editorial board run by Fazil, because his questions were so tough,” recalls one former colleague. “It didn’t matter who they represented – everyone got the same treatment. On his watch, coming unprepared was not a good option.”
Apparently LeadNow has launched its petition because it thinks that Mihlar’s time with the Fraser Institute should cause him to be stripped of employment as the deputy minister responsible for climate change policy.
There is no sign that LeadNow has any particular policy grievance with Mihlar’s handling of a particular issue, and they are not questioning his competence. They just don’t like him.
To be skewered for being bright is a problem some people might love to have. But is it actually dangerous to have intelligent people leading our civil service and seeking elected positions?
In both incidents, other motives appear to be at work.
One view attributed to him in a speech he gave at the University of Northern B.C. before leaving journalism is that the “ban everything crowd” is quick to critique and oppose B.C.’s resource extraction industries, but slow to provide solid alternatives for economic development. It’s hardly a radical position, even though some people would probably disagree with it. So you have to wonder why LeadNow is hellbent on damaging Mihlar’s character rather than trying to explain why it has a better idea.
[quote align="center" color="#999999"][A]ctions like LeadNow’s seem to test our reputation for tolerance.[/quote]
Impacts on future generations of leaders of colour
Mihlar has origins in Sri Lanka, a country that has had some rough times yet remains a place of rare co-operation. It’s widely known that Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians live there in peace today because of a determination to hear and respect a whole range of viewpoints, however trying that can be at times. Canada thinks of itself highly in this area too, but actions like LeadNow’s seem to test our reputation for tolerance.
In a democracy like India, the world’s largest democracy, a vast range of noisy viewpoints compete for voter attention. This is what many South Asian immigrants are used to. The idea that “winning” a debate by snuffing out the other viewpoint is, quite clearly, foreign to the Indian perspective.
Will these disturbing acts of intolerance drive out the next generation of leaders of colour? Let’s hope not.
Sharma has refused to delete the offensive comment, a decision she explained in this Huffington Post column.
If Mihlar is fired for being “too smart,” that would be a sad statement on who we are as a society. And it will send a clear message to visible minorities that they are not welcome in the upper echelon of leadership.
Only time will tell if the LeadNow people get enough signatures to force the casting aside of Mihlar’s legendary abilities.
Herman Thind is the Principal of Buzz Machine, a social media company based in Vancouver.
Republished in partnership with Asian Pacific Post.
Help has arrived for Vancouver residents who want to assist with the refugee crisis, thanks to a new initiative from the University of Ottawa Refugee Hub.
The Vancouver chapter of the Refugee Sponsorship Support Program (SSP) launched its Matching Program on December 2nd, connecting Vancouverites interested in sponsoring refugees to a team of pro bono lawyers, law students and sponsorship experts.
“Our regional partners are crucial to this program’s success,” says Jennifer Bond, Faculty Director of the Refugee Hub. “We are thrilled to be working with our dedicated Vancouver colleagues on a project that will bring Canadians across the country together as they respond to a tragic situation.”
The response has been outstanding. Canadians have shown their eagerness to help and have reached out to various resettlement initiatives, wanting to know how they can be a part of the solution.
[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“Our regional partners are crucial to this program’s success."[/quote]
While sponsoring refugees is an important piece of the puzzle, the process can be confusing. Through Vancouver’s Refugee SSP, the city’s legal community is advising sponsors and helping them complete applications at no cost.
In early November, the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program (RSTP) trained over 50 lawyers and law students on how to deliver pro-bono sponsorship services to members of the public. The RSTP is a national organization that educates individuals and groups on sponsorship.
The training took place at MOSAIC, a settlement services organization.
The SSP is a national initiative supported by the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, the uOttawa Human Rights Research and Education Centre, Lifeline Syria and the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program. MOSAIC is a local partner in Vancouver.
[quote align="center" color="#999999"]While sponsoring refugees is an important piece of the puzzle, the process can be confusing.[/quote]
“MOSAIC has been working with private sponsors and sponsorship agreement holders for many years,” says Saleem Spindari, a Manager of the Community Outreach and Advocacy Programs at MOSAIC. “The new Refugee Sponsorship Support Program comes at a time when there is an increase demand for support in preparing sponsorship applications. Canadians are actively looking for ways to support those fleeing their homes and seeking safety and MOSAIC is glad to be part of this campaign.”
Vancouver is among five other major Canadian cities to launch a regional chapter of the SSP, alongside Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Victoria. The program will soon be available in nine centres across Canada.
Re-published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post
by Deanna Cheng in Vancouver
Karate practitioners from Saskatchewan and Quebec came to B.C. recently to compete at the Sato Cup Invitational Karate Tournament on Nov. 14.
Some competitors traveled from outside the country to test their skills. They came from places such as Japan, India, Grand Cayman Island and the Philippines.
They also came to pay respect to the tournament's namesake, sensei Akira Sato.
A karate master who often travels to teach at other dojos, Sato is an eighth-degree black belt who came to Canada in 1970. He founded his dojo in Vancouver with affiliated dojos across North, Central and South America.
Amid the cheering and sportsmanship, Vancouver showed off some of its local talents.
Darbyanh Lee Heenan, 16
Dojo: Odokan Kingsway Shito-Ryu Karate Club
This half-British, half-Chinese karate-ka has been training since she was eight years old. In her fourth year with the B.C. team, Darbyanh Lee Heenan uses karate to release the stress from homework and exams. "Since, in grade 11, grades really count."
The martial art instills a sense of discipline and calms her hyper personality.
Heenan's karate goal is to win gold at Karate Canada national championships in both free sparring and kata, a series of forms, techniques and transitions.
With school, she'd like to study dentistry, which is something she was interested in since she was a little girl.
"I really liked my dentist and saw him as an inspiration."
[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"When I was younger, my biggest hurdle was difficulty getting onto the kumite (sparring) team."[/quote]
Evan Kwong, 19
Dojo: Vancouver Shito-Ryu
Evan Kwong has been with the B.C. team for the last five years and is on the national team roster.
The University of British Columbia (UBC) student finds karate helps develop him into a well-rounded person. "When I was younger, my biggest hurdle was difficulty getting onto the kumite (sparring) team. It was a big roster."
Going into a new division now (age 18 to 20), he's debating whether to take some time off to train for the international stage or head straight into it. When faced with better opponents, he's driven to beat them.
Kwong wants to medal at the Pan-American Karate Championships one day.
Nia Laos-Loo, 19
Dojos: Burnaby Mountain Karate, Nekkei Karate
This pink-tip-haired fireball was introduced to karate by her younger sister. "It was something to do together and my sister Claudia, and I have become best friends. She's my role model."
[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Karate is a chance for me to express myself. Before, I wasn't expressive. I wasn't sporty either."[/quote]
Even though Nia Laos-Loo has been training for two years, she's currently part of the B.C. squad.
"Karate is a chance for me to express myself. Before, I wasn't expressive. I wasn't sporty either."
The Simon Fraser University student is studying mechatronic in engineering and when she graduates, she wants to invent new things in software and mechanical engineering.
Dheva Setiaputra, 26
Dojo: University of British Columbia Karate Club
Dheva Setiaputra has been practising karate for the last two years. Before karate, he studied kendo, the Japanese martial art of the katana.
Karate makes him strive to be better. "You can tell when you improve."
The training mentality spreads to the rest of his life.
Setiaputra said respect is paramount within the martial art culture. "To competitors, colleagues. Everybody. You don't trash-talk anyone."
Arriving from Indonesia in 2000, Setiaputra is working on his PhD in biochemistry at UBC.
Re-published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post.
What does it mean to be Canadian?
What kind of Canada do we want?
If you’ve tuned into the election coverage lately, you’ll know these aren’t meaningless questions. They’re being hotly debated by our federal party leaders because of a new law that fundamentally changes the answers to those questions.
Bill C-24 came into effect earlier this year, turning millions of Canadians born abroad (or whose parents or grandparents were born abroad) into second-class citizens.
The way this law has been written, anyone getting citizenship now could lose it if they move abroad for work, study, or family reasons.
Taking care of a sick parent abroad, moving to another country to marry, or studying at a prestigious foreign university could leave someone legally vulnerable to having their citizenship revoked.
That’s because new Canadians now have to promise they intend to live in Canada. If they move away, the government could decide they’ve broken their promise and that they lied about their intentions when they became a citizen.
[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Many Canadians born and raised in this country who have a right to foreign citizenship through their parents, grandparents, or spouse, or because of a right of return to an ancestral homeland, are suddenly vulnerable.[/quote]
Now, a young person whose family is new to Canada might have to think twice about accepting that full scholarship to Harvard—because it could mean putting her Canadian passport in jeopardy. Her Canadian-born competitor, however, doesn’t have to worry.
People born here have no fear of losing their citizenship because they move away. Government officials have claimed that they don’t actually intend to use the new law to punish new Canadians in this way, but they refused to remove those sections of the bill. Instead, they have deliberately created a two-tier citizenship regime.
Fewer rights for some Canadians
That’s bad enough, but this new law also penalizes new Canadians and their families in other ways.
That’s because the federal government decided that it can, in some cases, revoke the Canadian citizenship of anyone with another passport (or anyone the federal government thinks is even eligible for one) – whether they are born in Canada or abroad.
Many Canadians born and raised in this country who have a right to foreign citizenship through their parents, grandparents, or spouse, or because of a right of return to an ancestral homeland, are suddenly vulnerable.
Some Canadians now have fewer rights than other Canadians, just because of where they or their families are from.
Under the new legislation, individuals convicted of certain serious crimes in Canada, or convicted of such crimes abroad (including in countries that do not have fair trials or rule of law) could lose their citizenship.
Dictatorships often accuse human rights activists and journalists of terrorist offences to silence and punish them. Canadian law now penalizes such people by placing their Canadian citizenship at risk.
Bill C-24 makes us less safe
But even in cases where individuals have legitimately done wrong, the argument that Bill C-24 makes us safer doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
[quote align="center" color="#999999"][W]e could be sending a dangerous offender to a country that is hostile to Canada and lacks the rule of law.[/quote]
In fact, it dangerously misses the point. People who are a legitimate threat are best dealt with through the criminal justice system, where they are incarcerated and separated from society.
Far from eliminating the threat, the ancient practice of banishment only displaces it.
At best, by expelling a dangerous offender, we’re shunting our problems off onto other nations. At worst, we could be sending a dangerous offender to a country that is hostile to Canada and lacks the rule of law.
This makes us decidedly less safe.
Challenging Bill C-24
In practice, these aspects of the new law will disproportionately affect visible minority Canadians, who have arrived in Canada in great numbers only one or two generations ago.
By promoting unequal treatment of Canadians, the law is discriminatory and violates the Charter.
The BC Civil Liberties Association and Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers have launched a constitutional challenge, because it violated fundamental human rights guaranteed to all of us under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms—and because we believe it’s fundamentally wrong to treat some Canadians as second class.
Other parts of the bill are equally problematic, but unfortunately we have little recourse to challenge them in the courts.
[quote align="center" color="#999999"][W]ith Bill C-24, the government is telling millions of Canadians that they are somehow less Canadian than others – that despite their building this country and making Canada their home, they don't really belong here.[/quote]
Canada has always been a country of immigrants. Bill C-24 will change that by making it more difficult for immigrants to gain citizenship by lengthening the time it takes, increasing the cost, adding barriers for the oldest and youngest immigrants, and removing the possibility of appeal.
Time spent in Canada as a student, temporary worker, live-in caregiver, or refugee will no longer count towards citizenship.
The application fee has tripled in price, in addition to a costly language testing process which now is required of immigrants as young as 14 and as old as 64 (previously, only adults age 18 to 55 needed to take the test).
Canada used to have some of the highest naturalization rates in the world.
High naturalization rates are associated with higher employment rates and greater integration – outcomes that are good for everyone. This will change under Bill C-24.
Immigrants built our country, and we should continue to welcome them. We believe that all of us should be treated as equals under the law. It doesn’t matter what colour our skin is, or what country our families came from.
But with Bill C-24, the government is telling millions of Canadians that they are somehow less Canadian than others – that despite their building this country and making Canada their home, they don't really belong here.
That’s wrong, and it diminishes all of us. That’s why we are fighting it. We’re fighting for the Canada we want to be, and the Canada that, until now, we’ve always been – where every Canadian is treated equally under the law.
Published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post.
Abundant opportunities exist for Canadian small and mid-sized businesses in Asian markets, despite slowing growth in the Chinese economy, according to a pair of leading international business experts.
“We remain bullish on China,” said Geoff Chutter, President and CEO of Whitewater West Industries, the world’s leading supplier of waterparks and attractions based in Richmond. “We do not see our sales dropping at all.”
Scotiabank Chief Economist Warren Jestin echoed Chutter’s optimism, noting that economic growth in China still remains good at 6-7 per cent annually, even as it has slowed from the typical 10 per cent annual growth rate of recent years.
[quote align="center" color="#999999"]”China is a huge opportunity for Canadian businesses.”[/quote]
”China is a huge opportunity for Canadian businesses,” said Jestin, noting it is still the largest market in the world, with lots of opportunities for smaller and mid-sized companies selling high value consumer products and services.
Recognizing Asian market potential
Jestin and Chutter were the keynote speakers recently at the City of Richmond’s 4th annual Business and Partner Appreciation event.
Chutter said Whitewater West has grown by building on a reputation for product excellence, diversifying both its market and operations internationally, expanding its product lines and putting increased emphasis on customer service and relationships.
[quote align="center" color="#999999"][E]xport companies should not “fixate” on the American market at the expense of losing out on the long-term potential of the Asian market.[/quote]
The company has been involved in more than 4,000 projects worldwide and is represented in 19 of the world’s top 20 waterparks. Even though global expansion meant outsourcing some of the company’s operations internationally, the resultant growth in business has seen his local workforce double in size to more than 600 jobs.
Jestin noted that while the U.S. market should enjoy the best growth in the short term, export companies should not “fixate” on the American market at the expense of losing out on the long-term potential of the Asian market.
Overall, Jestin said the forecast for the Canadian economy is sound with continued low interest rates and a generally favourable value for the Canadian dollar. He said B.C. should continue to lead economic growth among provinces due to its balanced economy and global focus.
Richmond's economy blossoming
Mayor Malcolm Brodie opened the session by highlighting Richmond’s economic growth.
[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Our business outreach campaign of the last three years has facilitated the retention and addition of over 3,500 jobs.”[/quote]
“Our business retention, expansion and attraction efforts continue to yield results,” he noted. “Over 130 companies have accessed the city’s economic development information and services dedicated to business. Our business outreach campaign of the last three years has facilitated the retention and addition of over 3,500 jobs.”
The city’s annual Business and Partner Appreciation event provides an opportunity to strengthen ties among stakeholders with a joint interest in economic development in Richmond. It is also an opportunity to recognize the corporate partners who’ve helped directly support city programs and events.
In appreciation of the two keynote speakers, the city will make a contribution to the Young Entrepreneur Leadership Launchpad (YELL) program.
Published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post.
Several major humanitarian agencies have announced plans to expand, launch and upscale operations in response to the European refugee crisis in the past month.
Faced with European governments apparently unable to cope with the influx, aid agencies say their services are needed.
Among those to launch new appeals are Islamic Relief, the ACT Alliance and World Vision.
Some agencies are launching work in countries in which they never previously had a presence. World Vision is seeking funding for its first response in Serbia, for example. Last week it began distributing family kits as part of operations supporting informal camps in Subotica and Kanjiza in northern Serbia near the Hungarian border.
The ACT Alliance, meanwhile, plans to scale up work through partners in Greece, Hungary and Serbia. Its proposals include plans to provide food, sanitation, non-food items and shelter to at least 300,000 people – almost as many have arrived in Greece so far this year.
[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“We felt this was the best time for us to engage with European agencies by launching the appeal and putting out messages about how it is their obligation to accept these refugees.”[/quote]
Islamic Relief has been offering translation services and cash grants on the over-run Greek island of Lesvos, but is seeking funding for a major ramping up of its operations. Action Aid has also sent a humanitarian team to Greece to assess what it could do to help there.
These responses are in addition to ongoing work by Save the Children, Médecins Sans Frontières, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Rescue Committee, the national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies of Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Italy and Serbia, the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration, and others.
World Vision International for one argues that its help is much needed. “We felt this was the best time for us to engage with European agencies by launching the appeal and putting out messages about how it is their obligation to accept these refugees,” said spokesman Henry Makiwa.
But the prospect of aid organizations launching largescale humanitarian operations on the world’s richest and most technically competent continent is raising eyebrows.
“From a global perspective, these reactions are completely out of proportion – the numbers [arriving in Europe] are nothing. If you take them country by country compared to Turkey or Lebanon or even Iraq, they are very small,” said Sara Pantuliano, director of the Humanitarian Policy Group at the Overseas Development Institute in London.
[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]hose on the ground say a key problem is that standard approaches to displacement are not appropriate.[/quote]
Although it sounds logical to bring in humanitarian agencies to cope with a refugee crisis, those on the ground say a key problem is that standard approaches to displacement are not appropriate.
This is further complicated by a situation that is changing day by day and by a lack of data on who is arriving and what they need – carrying out needs assessments among a highly mobile population has proved extremely difficult. The closure of the Hungary's border with Serbia, for example, is now creating a rapidly growing backlog of refugees who are overwhelming existing facilities.
Agency responses often also bypass local civilian efforts that have provided much of the assistance to date.
UNHCR has now established a regional refugee coordinator for Europe, but the modalities of handling a multi-country coordination service are far from clear. The prospect of humanitarian agencies working on European soil is not necessarily comfortable for governments.
Internal sources within the UN say the organization is facing opposition from some European authorities unwilling to accept assistance from the UN for fear it is tantamount to admitting their own failure to handle the situation.
The lack of coherent advocacy and strategy on refugee issues is also a notable gap.
Amid the disparate responses from humanitarian agencies, it is clear there is an overwhelming need for a coherent, strategic response – from the countries of the European Union, but also from aid agencies. As MSF pointed out, the situation is extremely fluid and new challenges present themselves daily.
The European refugee crisis may be smallscale compared to what is going on in other refugee hosting countries, but it seems to have caught everyone by surprise, and conventional humanitarian response may not be the answer.
This article first appeared on IRIN, an independent, non-profit media organization whose core objective is to highlight neglected crises and analyse humanitarian action and has been republished here via Asian Pacific Post.