by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Toronto
It may not be time for report cards in school just yet, but when it comes to research, several annual report cards are in. In this edition of Research Watch we take a look at three recently released reports that speak to how immigrants and visible minorities are faring in various aspects of Canadian life from child poverty to employment in the public sector to corporate boards. The overall grade in each instance: F.
Immigrant children getting left behind
Not having lunch at school. Not being able to participate in extracurricular activities. Being made fun of for being on welfare. When asked what poverty feels like, these were some of the responses that some of Ontario’s children provided, in a recently released report administered by Campaign 2000 and Family Services Toronto. And for 50 per cent of the province’s children born to immigrants this feeling is part of daily life, states the report. This is in comparison to the 20 per cent of children overall that live in poverty across Ontario.
The report, which used Statistics Canada data from 2012 income tax returns, brings attention to not only this startling information, but to the fact that in 1989 the federal government put forth a strategic plan to eradicate child poverty by the year 2000. Twenty-five years later, the problem has only increased, particularly for children of new immigrants, with racialized and First Nations children next in line.
“There’s plenty the government could do to end poverty, but I don’t understand why they aren’t doing that,” an anonymous Ontario grade school student says in the report. And the words hold much weight. Essentially, everything the government could, and should, be doing is outlined in the report. Perhaps the most insightful though: “Eradicating child poverty in Ontario requires addressing and dismantling long-standing systemic inequities.” Without this key element, no matter how many tax benefits or increases to social assistance are made (all of which was cited as part of 1989’s plan, then again in 2008 and again in 2014), real change will not be brought about. The various levels of government must address the root causes of this poverty, versus placing bandage solutions on the complex issue.
Along these lines, the report calls on the government to, for example, legislate Employment Equity to remedy discrimination in Canadian workplaces, repeal the three month waiting period for immigrants to receive Ontario Health Insurance coverage, create equity and anti-racism boards to address inequities and take a proactive approach to enforcing employment standards to provide equal protection for people employed under the temporary foreign worker program. These specific recommendations speak to some of the unique challenges facing individuals of immigrant and racialized backgrounds and are in addition to more blanket proposed solutions of raising minimum wage to $15 an hour and ending the deduction of child support and the Ontario Child Benefit from social assistance funds.
Many mitigating factors point out that this issue is only going to get worse if those in power don’t sit up, take notice, and most importantly, take action. The Ontario job market is bleak. Manufacturing jobs, once a major employer for women, racialized and recent immigrant populations, make up only 11 per cent of the market now, in comparison to a previous 18 per cent. Recent legislation, Bill C-583, if passed, may limit access to social assistance for refugee claimants. The generation born since 1989, when the vow of eliminating child poverty was made, is up against more unemployment than ever before, coupled with rising tuition, cost of living and limited affordable housing. Add to that mix being a young person who is of colour, new to the country, suffers from mental health challenges or is homeless and the odds only stack higher. All the while, the gap between the highest and lowest income families continues to widen.
What does all this mean? It means that the time is now for change. However, the most telling aspect of the report may also be the most discouraging. In 2008, a commitment was made to develop tailored solutions to the unique needs of women, racialized communities, newcomers, people with disabilities, and Aboriginal peoples, among others at higher risk of poverty. As of November 2014, while some investments for Aboriginal children and those with disabilities have been made, and some employment programs for newcomers have been implemented, no specific solutions have been outlined or reported, for racialized communities, nor has any commitment to tracking impact in this community been made.
Having set a new goal in 2008, to reduce child poverty by 25 per cent in five years, and still fallen short – as of 2013 the rate had declined just over nine per cent – it is clear the work is far from over, and attention must be paid to Ontario’s most marginalized.
Skilled immigrants missing in civil servant jobs
It’s somewhat ironic. Multiculturalism and diversity are often promoted as two of Canada’s most redeeming qualities. But within its own three levels of government there is a gap in employment diversity that needs to be addressed says a recent study released by ALLIES (a Maytree affiliated organization). That gap is one of skilled immigrants – noticeably underrepresented in public sector jobs. Titled Government as Employer of Skilled Immigrants, the study aims to encourage government to become leaders in the area of hiring immigrants, while providing context to the challenges and conditions at play within the current work force. This isn’t just of utmost importance because the public sector represents a huge job market – the government currently employs 3.6 million people at its varying levels – but authors Sarah Wayland and Dan Sheffield write that it is also worth paying attention to because the government holds great influence over the rest of the market. Whether public or private, if other employers see the government taking greater strides to purposely hire skilled immigrants, they just may follow suit.
“By bringing in fresh perspectives whether from youth or immigrants or others, there is labour force advantage to be gained,” said Susan Brown, an employee of City of Toronto, in the report. “Moreover with an aging workforce, governments need new employees, even if overall numbers continue to decline. Prioritizing immigrants into the future gives us a great opportunity to diversify our workforce and address imbalances.”
This only makes sense for a country that has made a commitment to increasing focus on immigrants as skilled workers – in fact, it is expected that over the next 10 years, close to 100,000 recent immigrants will be added to the labour market annually. Not only will these individuals add to the diversity of the government bodies, bringing with them international perspectives and connections, but they also bring an element of lived experience which is beneficial in serving the immigrant population, which generally represents 20 per cent (in some areas much higher) of Canadian society.
The report cites several barriers that stand in the way of recent immigrants gaining employment with the government (the rates increase the longer individuals are in Canada), including lack of supports in smaller communities, bilingual and citizenship qualification criteria, seniority and a lack of data focused on the immigrant experience in the application, interview, hiring and retention stages of employment.
Some organizations are more intentional with efforts to hire immigrants, than others, according to the report. Leading the pack is the City of Ottawa, recognized as one of the Best Diversity Employers in Canada in 2013, which has an active plan in the works to include immigrants in its organization as an effort to better reflect the community it serves. Using a strategy coined the Equity and Inclusion Lens since 2009, the City of Ottawa is proactively taking steps such as providing training to city councillors and staff, to remove systemic barriers and promote inclusion internally.
As it stands overall, while a shift in hiring culture is being cultivated in some areas across the country, immigrants are half as likely as their Canadian-born counterparts to land a job in public administration, but far more likely than Canadian-born residents to be working in manufacturing, accommodation and food service. In order for this to change, the report indicates it is crucial for a government organization to embed diversity into its day-to-day culture instead of having it as an “add-on”.
Minorities barely visible on corporate boards
The country’s corporate boards are in need of some more diversity – visible diversity that is. It seems that while there have been positive increases in the area of women sitting on corporate boards, visible minority representation is at an all-time low. This is according to The Canadian Board Diversity Council (CBDC) annual report card, released this month.
In 2010, when the council was established, the percentage of visible minorities sitting on the boards of the companies studied, which range in industry from Finance and Insurance, Utilities and Retail/Trade to Manufacturing and Mining/Oil/Gas, was just over five. This year, visible minorities clocked in at less than half of that – two per cent.
While the report indicates that the majority of directors surveyed believed diversity was important on boards, it also stated that many groups feel they are already diverse, and only a quarter of the boards in most industries have diversity policies in place. This, of course, is indicative of a broad definition of diversity. It seems the boards studied have substantial diversity in areas of expertise and education, moderate levels of diversity in areas of age, gender and geographic location, but are significantly lacking in areas of diversity relating to visible minority and Aboriginal populations and those with disabilities.
Part of the underlying problem – when board members retire or step down, the remaining members tend to look to personal circles to fill the positions, and well, if visible minorities, Aboriginal people or people with disabilities aren’t in their circles, they lose out. The CBDC has put together a database, Diversity 50, to help counter this. The database, which now has 150 individuals listed, includes the names and faces of eligible board members. Come this time next year, we will see if the database effectively helps more visible minorities into those board seats, or not.
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to email@example.com
by Mohsin Abbas (
The majority of Pakistani candidates running for various offices in the recent Ontario municipal elections continued their losing streak.
Only two Pakistani candidates emerged victorious in the polls, whereas hundreds of others did literally nothing but blabber and distribute their pamphlets all over the place.
Most of these candidates suffered from a glaring deficiency in English language skills and in their knowledge of the Canadian system. Many seemed utterly indifferent towards the problems in their constituencies, and had no recourse but to play up already familiar topics to scrape up a handful of votes.
Not only did they plan their election campaigns poorly, but several of them were also involved in personal conflicts with other Pakistani candidates.
In many areas, several Pakistanis filed their nomination papers from a single constituency, effectively dividing the Pakistani vote several times.
It is fair to say, then, they had it coming.
Pakistani candidates running for office in Canada are no more an unprecedented feat. Every four years, a large number of Pakistanis — never seen before at any community gathering — show up from nowhere, and portray themselves as ‘peoples’ representative’.
Many a candidate get their pamphlets printed in Pakistan as early as a year before the elections, and transport them to Canada with their luggage. When these flyers are distributed among people, the poor chaps are clueless about the candidate, because these candidates neither engage, nor serve the community, and hence remain unknown to a large number of people.
Indian Canadians also compete in the elections, but in contrast to Pakistanis, their success ratio is higher as they make efforts to engage with their community. On the other hand, Pakistani candidates are confined only to photo sessions for local Urdu newspapers, association with Pakistani political parties, and seeking votes on the basis of caste and clan.
Pre-poll surveys this year showed that the victory of Pakistani candidates was highly unlikely, as the results later proved. The causes for this are not too hard to comprehend.
I asked one Pakistani candidate, “What is your manifesto?” only to be hear this shameless reply: “Umm … I am jobless nowadays … I’ve heard that the councillors have handsome remuneration, so I am trying my luck there …”
These candidates include a Pakistani grocery store owner of my area as well. The lies on his website were traced and duly rebuked by his Canadian rivals – what a defamation of our country.
There was another candidate, a self-proclaimed business tycoon from Sialkot, Pakistan. Having no experience of business, literature and politics, this man has made a mockery of Pakistan overseas.
This business tycoon, named Riazuddin, is also known as Malik Riaz of Mississauga.
The election flyer of this candidate was printed in Pakistan. The flyer reads that Riazuddin has been member of chambers of commerce in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Britain, Australia, Sweden, France and the Netherlands, and has served as vice president at Chamber of Commerce in Sialkot, Pakistan.
Mohsin Abbas is an award-winning Pakistani-Canadian journalist, filmmaker and press freedom activist. He is the editor of Diversity Reporter, a multilingual weekly newspaper for newcomers and immigrants in Canada.
This profile is one of a periodic series on powerful and inspirational women. By Jasminee Sahoye
She knew as a teenager that she had the potential to be a leader and not just an ordinary leader but someone who would run for office and take on challenges.
Ontario’s Associate Minister of Finance, responsible for the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan and the MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood, Mitzie Hunter told a group of women in Brampton at a Professional Women’s Forum recently that her career path to run for office was on a list of things she wanted to do.
The Caribbean Camera
by Charles Ungerleider in Vancouver
The Fraser Institute has added Ontario’s schools to a growing list of school rankings in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec. The Fraser Institute justifies its ranking as an aid to parental choice of schools. According to the Institute, “Where parents can choose among several schools for their children, the Report Card provides a valuable tool for making a decision. Because it makes comparisons easy, it alerts parents to those nearby schools that appear to have more effective academic programs.”
The Fraser Institute believes that parents will seek to maximize educational benefits for their children when choosing the schools their children attend, but the research indicates that parents choose schools on other grounds. On what basis do the parents who choose schools select the schools that their children attend? Do the children of the parents who make a choice of schools benefit academically? If they benefit, by how much do they gain in achievement? What are the consequences for the children of parents who do not choose, and for the schools from which some children have departed?
Like all parents, immigrant parents are concerned about the educational welfare of their children. They have often made great sacrifices in migrating to a new and unfamiliar country. Less familiar with the schools in their new community, these parents often ask me about the Fraser Institute rankings. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from the research about how parents use rankings to select schools for their children.
Lesson 1: Parent decisions are not typically based on the evidence available.
Beginning in 1981, Scotland gave parents the right to request that their children attend a school outside the school attendance areas to which they had previously been assigned. The legislation required that educational bodies responsible for schools in their region publish brochures providing information about each school (including examination results), required that they take into account parental requests, and limited the grounds for refusing a parent’s request to send their child to the school. This experiment in school choice was the subject of considerable research.
One group of researchers interviewed more than six hundred parents who chose the school their children attended in three Educational Authorities in Scotland. Rather than seek the academically best school for their children, parent choices were fuelled by a desire to avoid the school in the area to which they had been previously assigned. Most parents were more apt to consider a school’s general reputation and how close it was to their home than they were educational factors such as examination results. In other words, they based their decisions on hearsay and convenience rather than evidence.
Those who made a choice were better educated and better off than those who did not choose the schools their children attended. Moreover, those parents tended to choose the older, previously more selective schools whose pupils were of more advantaged backgrounds and had higher academic achievement.
Lesson 2: Parents do not always make the best choices for their offspring.
When choosing among the previously more selective schools, parents were unable to differentiate those that were more or less effective. Instead, they choose schools whose socio-economic compositions and examination results were marginally higher than the schools to which their children had been previously assigned. They did not necessarily choose schools that would maximize their children’s educational advantage. They inferred that, because children with higher examination scores attended the schools they selected for their children, that the school had caused the higher examination scores.
While schools obviously exert an influence on student achievement, they only account for approximately 30% of the difference in student achievement. The remaining 70% of the difference in student achievement is due to factors over which schools have no control. The many factors outside of school that influence student achievement include: parental education, educational aspirations and expectations, family income and living conditions, and community economic makeup.
Despite having a wide range of schools from which to choose, more than 60 per cent of the parents requesting a placement considered only one alternative to the school to which their children had been assigned. Advantaged parents paid more attention to the information provided by teachers and school administrators and to direct observations made from their visits to the school than did less advantaged parents. Less advantaged parents were more concerned about the reputation and the disciplinary climate of schools.
Lesson 3: Parent choice has only a small impact on their child’s school achievement.
The school choice literature indicates that children whose parents choose their school will make only a modest gain in achievement: on average three to four percentage points. It is not particularly surprising that choice appears not to improve performance very much. If parents do not choose schools to maximize educational advantages for their children, such advantages are not likely to occur.
Lesson 4: Parental choice leads to increasing economic and ethnic-group segregation.
Economically advantaged families have resources such as time and transportation that enable them to choose, so they are more apt to do so. And the schools they are likely to choose are those with student bodies from families much like their own. As a consequence, choice produces higher concentrations of children from advantaged backgrounds in some schools and increasing concentrations of less advantaged students in the schools from which the more advantaged children have departed.
Doug Willms at the University of New Brunswick points out that, for poor students living in poor communities, there is a double disadvantage. There is the disadvantage that comes from their own poverty and the additional disadvantage from the influence of their peers who are also poor. When choice removes the most able students from the peer group, the similarities among the remaining students increase. When most of the students who are left behind live in poor circumstances, their segregation amplifies and reinforces their difficulties.
Lesson 5: Inclusive schools – schools that have a healthy mix of children from the local neighbourhood – enjoy a balance of neighbourhood political support.
Charter schools are sometimes seen by parents as a way to maximize educational outcomes for their offspring, though the evidence suggests that this is not the case. Charter school student bodies are often more homogeneous than the public schools from which the charter students were drawn, resulting in ethno-cultural and/or socio-economic segregation.
In 1999, researchers studied the ethnic composition of fifty-five urban and fifty-seven rural Arizona charter schools. They found that nearly half of the charter schools exhibited evidence of substantial ethnic separation “large enough and consistent enough to warrant concern among education policymakers.” They observed that students who attend schools segregated along ethnic lines do not get the benefits of integration with students of a rich variety of backgrounds.
“Ethnic and class-based separation,” the researchers argue, “polarizes the political interests which look out for neighbourhood schools, which results in further disparities in resources, quality of teachers, number of supportive parents, and the like. Schools without political support struggle and the students suffer.”
What seems clear from the evidence is that, while the achievement gains from school choice are modest, school choice has the capacity to fragment Canadians, reduce the influence that Canadian schools exert on the transmission of common values, and diminish social cohesion. Canada takes prides in being a multi-ethnic society that relies upon immigration and is accepting of immigrants. It can hardly afford practices that have, in other contexts, polarized and segregated communities along economic and socio-cultural lines. We need to take a closer look at the motivation of the Fraser Institute in fuelling parental anxieties through emphasizing differences among schools.
Charles Ungerleider, a Professor Emeritus of Educational Studies at The University of British Columbia, is Managing Partner of Directions Evidence and Policy Research Group, LLP, a partnership of professionals with experience in applied research, policy analysis and evaluation in a variety of domains, including K-12 and post-secondary education, social services, justice, and health. He has served as Deputy Minister of Education in British Columbia, Director of Research and Knowledge Mobilization at the Canadian Council on Learning, and Associate Dean (Teacher Education) at The University of British Columbia.
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
by Maria Assaf (@MariaAssaf) in Mississauga
Looking back on the mayoral and municipal elections in Ontario, it is clear that the only immigrant-related issue that gained some traction was the one relating to the “under-employment” of newcomers and the resulting loss to the provincial and national economies.
A quick survey of coverage from the races in the three most immigrant-rich cities of Toronto, Mississauga and Ottawa showed that immigrant-centered issues did not receive much interest. However, on Oct. 14, the Toronto mayoral candidates did debate economic and immigration issues. The incoming mayor John Tory was applauded when he suggested that intending immigrants should receive English/French training before arrival.
The new mayor of Canada’s largest city and the capital of multiculturalism, Toronto, is also on record saying, “[W]hile we celebrate the cultural diversity that comes from being the destination for new immigrants, we do not capitalize on what this means for our economy. Our diversity should be the recipe for business collaboration, idea generation and an unmatched inventory of relationships around the world.”
In Mississauga, where half the population is immigrant, the candidate whose platform included a specific promise to better integrate newcomers into the Canadian economy did not do well. Steve Mahoney had proposed low-interest loans and appointing an “ambassador” to help immigrants obtain accreditation, but the new mayor Bonnie Crombie is on record as saying the solutions are not that easy.
Main issue: under-employment
One of the biggest problems Crombie will be facing in terms of new immigrants will be underemployment, said Fauzia Khan, settlement manager at the Mississauga office of the Afghan Women’s Organization.
“Their credentials are not recognized, so they don’t find jobs,” said Khan. “They are suffering from that. They don’t find good jobs and then they go for like security jobs. And, of course, if they are coming from very white collar jobs, then it’s very hard for them.”
Gurpreet Malhotra, executive director of India Rainbow Community Services of Peel, agrees with her. “Canadian experience,” he said when asked to mention the principal issue affecting newcomers.
“Sometimes the degrees and the diplomas are not accepted over here and a lot of them have to re-qualify, re-train, go back to school and start all over again. That is a really big problem,” said Malhotra.
Obtaining accreditation for fields such as medicine, dentistry or engineering takes time and money – money many immigrants lack when they arrive in Canada. This means that quite often professionals in Canada’s sixth largest city often end up driving cabs, delivering pizza or doing clerical jobs out of immediate necessity.
Food on the table
“They would like to use their skills, but they often cannot use them. They just need anything that puts food on the table for their family,” said Lynn Petrushak, executive director of the Dixie Bloor Neighbourhood Centre.
“We’ve been trying to do that for decades. Unfortunately, the issue of professional accreditation is a provincial matter and it resides with the colleges that give oversight to those disciplines,” Crombie said during her campaign.
As mayor, she would try to channel the channel her energies into advocacy. “The only thing we can do is provide advocacy,” said Crombie. “The provincial government has to work with the colleges that provide certification. That takes leadership from the mayor’s office to work with the premier to help get the colleges on board.”
Marina Rosas, a settlement employment councillor working in Mississauga thinks the government should do more. “There could be more programs where they could provide more financial assistance or more flexibility to help the newcomer getting a boost so they can achieve their goals,” she said.
According to many immigrant organizations in Mississauga, even pizza delivery jobs are hard to find for newcomers. “Many, many of the people coming are highly-skilled and they are struggling to even get a taxi-driver job, and if I could say one thing about newcomers, they want to work,” said Petrushak.
The reasons for this, she said, are “racism, language, opportunity. There aren’t a lot of jobs and it’s hard for newcomers to even get an interview or have a proper resume, because in a lot of countries, a resume is not something that is required.”
Official statistics show there are now 417, 585 people employed within the municipality out of a population of close to 750, 000 residents.
Mississauga has a vastly multicultural workforce, with over 90 languages spoken. According to the 2011 census, 47 per cent of the people have a mother tongue other than English. The top ten languages spoken include Punjabi, Urdu, Polish, Spanish, Tamil and Arabic.
In her campaign, Crombie talked about fostering foreign investment in Mississauga to increase revenue. She, as well as Mahoney, planned to use the city’s multiculturalism to achieve this.
“I would create an international investment advisory council to leverage foreign investment from abroad,” she said. “They would sit here and give us recommendations on how we attract foreign investment from abroad. I want us to become a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship. And focus on the knowledge economy, because that’s where the growth is.”
Under the previous Hazel McCallion administration, Mississauga received significant development revenue which helped finance services, create jobs and keep taxes low. But the city is now facing a widening infrastructure deficit which is expected to hit $1.5 billion in the next 20 years.
McCallion, who had ran the city for 36 years with little and sometimes no opposition at all, initially said she would stay out of the mayoral race. However, on Thanksgiving weekend, she endorsed Crombie.
Another issue is affordable housing. Mississauga has one of the longest wait-lists for subsidized housing in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). It can take someone up to nine years to get affordable housing there. “It’s really important because if they don’t have housing, then they don’t have an address and their kids can’t go to school. And it’s expensive,” said Petrushak.
Crombie has vowed that she would require developers to make a certain percentage of the homes they build to be subsidized.
But she also said it’s time to change the idea of what a home is. “Housing is going to look different. We are not building single family homes, large homes anymore. We’re building stack townhomes, townhomes, condominiums. We are intensifying,” she said.
Another service immigrants are in great need of is childcare. “The childcare is a problem too, because right now they have to wait on a long list to get childcare-subsidy,” said Nicole Mak, a centre supervisor at the Cross-Cultural Community Services Association.
Mak said she would like the government to speed up the wait for subsidized childcare so that parents and elders can have time for language learning, community involvement or work.
In the meantime, newcomer and settlement agencies throughout the city continue to welcome immigrants on a daily basis and are eager to work with the municipality to help alleviate the problems ailing these residents the most.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Québec Premier Philippe Couillard announced this past week that Ontario will host a joint meeting of cabinet ministers on…
An Ottawa man who was refused a job with a cleaning firm because he is “Black and a foreigner” has been awarded $8,000 by an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal for the loss of dignity he suffered from the racial slurs.
Malek Bouraoui was denied a job last year by Ottawa Valley Cleaning and Restoration after a company official told him they “only hire White men”. Bouraoui filed a complaint against the company to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, which sent it to a Tribunal for a hearing.
The Share News
Did you know that B.C. and Ontario wines are winning international awards regularly, including at competitions in France, the UK, California and Switzerland? Have you ever had the opportunity to taste a B.C. award-winning wine, like an ice wine or Pinot Gris?
If you live east of Alberta, you probably haven’t. That’s because with over 250 licensed wineries producing 100 per cent B.C. wine, only a handful of labels make it into retail stores and restaurants east of Alberta.
Asian Pacific Post
With the opening of a new session of Parliament next week, the campaign leading up to anticipated federal elections in Oct. 2015 is likely to shift gears. The so-called “immigrant vote” is very likely to be in play, and, according to academics who’ve studied this topic for many years, this electoral bloc is going to be even more crucial in 2015.
New Canadian Media interviewed Prof. Phil Triadafilopoulos of the University of Toronto, who last year published a chapter titled “Immigration, Citizenship and Canada’s New Conservative Party” (co-authored with Inder Marwah and Steve White), (in Conservatism in Canada, ed. David Rayside and James Farney. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013).
We also reproduce relevant abstracts from the chapter to support his responses.
1. What were the main findings from this study?
I believe the key point is that the politics of immigration in Canada is the way it is because of the intersection of settlement patterns, our citizenship law, and our electoral system. There is a structurally induced predisposition for relatively pro-immigration policies and rhetoric, shared by parties across the ideological spectrum.
We argue that the combination of immigrant settlement patterns, citizenship laws, and Canada’s single member plurality (SMP) electoral system create a context in which appeals to immigrant voters are required of any party with aspirations to national power.
[T]he interplay of these structures ensures that immigrants are able to express their interests and have them acknowledged in a politically meaningful way.
In sum, immigrants are concentrated in politically important urban regions.
To alienate large numbers of immigrant voters in dozens of federal ridings would almost certainly mean surrendering those ridings to other parties.
Data from recent Canadian Election Studies consistently show that visible minorities and immigrants tend to be more conservative than non-visible minority and non-immigrant Canadians on a number of contentious social issues.
2. You note that there was a dramatic change of stance on immigration as Reform/Canadian Alliance morphed into the Conservative Party. How do you explain this transformation?
Yes, this is one of the arguments we make in the chapter. The party had to compete in Ontario and to do so it had to get beyond its predecessors’ reputations as being anti-immigrant. The Conservatives could not simply declare this –[Minister] Jason Kenney had to go out and prove it in what amounted to political hand-to-hand combat (using handshakes as his weapon of choice).
[O]ne of the central impediments to the Reform Party’s national ambitions was the widely held view of Reformers as anti-immigrant, anti-French, and generally intolerant.
3. Do you think Conservative policy changes serve Canada's national interests in the long term?
Unfortunately, some do not. The expansion of the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program will likely lead to trouble in the future (as people overstay and slip into undocumented status). Changes to citizenship policy were heavy-handed and based on political reasoning and weak ideologically-based reasoning. Changes to refugee policy has been unnecessarily punitive (and, again, taken for largely political reasons). There have been many other changes as well – judging their long-term consequences is difficult at the moment.
4. How were these changes different from ones that may have been made by the Liberals or the New Democratic Party, NDP?
The Liberals were similarly interested in narrowing access to asylum seekers and reforming the citizenship law – they failed to do so in part because the political incentives in the party were weaker. It’s likely that the NDP would have hewn to the status quo circa 2006.
5. Do you anticipate that immigration and citizenship will be major electoral issues in 2015?
No – immigration is typically not featured during elections, though all the parties will look to gain support among new Canadian voters.
6. Given your findings, what does your study suggest on the subject of immigration generally being a non-partisan issue in Canada?
It will likely remain the case. There’s no political pay-off for populist anti-immigrant rhetoric at the federal level.
Canada is unique among major immigration countries in the degree to which immigration policy is de-politicized, and immigration itself is enthusiastically embraced by federal political parties. Quebec’s provincial politics since 2007 may be a partial exception to this pattern, but this has not had a discernable impact on Quebec voices in federal policy debates over immigration.
7. Do you have any further thoughts on the "immigrant vote" in the 2011 federal elections (you said it was inconclusive at the time of writing)?
We have not done the necessary analysis to move beyond what we have. We hope to do so soon. The key point is that all parties in Canada support a relatively liberal immigration policy, as reflected in annual admissions. There is also consensus on the utility of an official multiculturalism policy – our Conservative Party is rather different than similar parties in other countries.
[In a separate study presented to the Canadian Political Science Association 2012 conference in Edmonton, Prof. Triadafilopoulos, Zack Taylor and Christopher Cochrane (all of UofT), concluded with this finding:
8. Do you think the "immigrant vote" will play a more critical role in 2015?
I do. Canada is changing quickly and the trends we identified are still playing themselves out.
(PHOTOS: Over 50 people protested outside the Ontario Ministry of Corrections and Ministry of Transportation near Queen’s Park Monday, demanding that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne curb the power of provincial authorities to collaborate with federal immigration enforcement and make Ontario a ‘sanctuary’ province. Canada Border Services Agency racially profiled 21 people and checked […]
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit