New Canadian Media

Much of the commentary following the release of the National Household Survey on May 8 may have missed the point: that Canada’s population today is very different from 50 years ago. And, unless there are dramatic changes in the way we select newcomers in the next little while, we will continue to evolve from a nation with European forebears to one that draws its immigrants from all over the world – a majority of Asian heritage.

Here’s a telling statistic: 22 per cent of our population are first-generation Canadians, 17.4 per cent are second-generation and 60.7 per cent of us are either third generation or have been here longer. The majority of first-generation Canadians reported their ethnicities as Chinese, East Indian (from India) and English. The second generation are mainly English, Canadian and Scottish, while the third generation and beyond are Canadian, English and French.

The profile of first and second-generation Canadians gives us a good sense of where we are heading. The trend line has been consistent, as captured in this NHS finding –

  • The share of “visible minorities” has increased among immigrants who came in the more recent decades. The 2011 NHS data showed that visible minorities accounted for 78 per cent of the immigrants who arrived between 2006 and 2011, 76.7 per cent of those who arrived in the previous five-year period and 74.8 per cent of immigrants who arrived in the 1990s.
  • In contrast, visible minorities made up only 12.4 per cent of immigrants who arrived before 1971.

Overall, “visible minorities” comprise 19.1 per cent of the total population, a third of whom are born in Canada. Further, three in 10 of second-generation Canadians are “visible minorities.” This is the generation that is a crossover between the Canada we know and the Canada that we will hand over to our children. Some of this is fairly obvious, especially if you ride transit in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary or Ottawa-Gatineau (in descending order).

These numbers have implications. They suggest it may be time to move beyond mantras like “multiculturalism,” “diversity” and “inclusiveness” to make them more meaningful to newcomers. It may also be a good time to re-examine our use of the term “visible minority,” acknowledging this new reality. Unless the recent changes in immigration policy that place a greater emphasis on language ability (English or French) causes big reversals in the countries and regions from which we draw our immigrants, we will soon be a nation inhabited largely by “visible minorities.”

The Canadian complexity

Among G8 nations, we have the highest foreign-born population. Only Australia has a higher proportion of immigrants, at 26.8 per cent (2010 figures). And, the immigrants to Canada come from 200 different countries and report an even higher number of mother tongues. To wit –

  • More than 200 ethnic origins were reported by respondents to the NHS. In 2011, 57.9 per cent of the population reported one ethnic origin and the rest, 42.1 per cent, reported more than one origin; and
  • 72.8 per cent of the immigrant population reported a mother tongue other than English or French.

 This makes Canada one of the most multicultural, multi-ethnic and polyglot nations on earth. We are redefining old concepts of nationhood. But, what does this mean for our policy of “multiculturalism” and “bilingualism”? The fact is that these touchstones were invented and designed for another era – when we drew most of our immigrants from the European continent and Canada was not a microcosm of virtually every race and ethnicity in the world. We are today a nation of 200+ mother tongues and our citizens come from 200 different nations.

Language skills

Lastly, these two statistics –

  • 6.5 per cent of all immigrants reported that they did not know either official language in 2011.
  • Among the recent immigrants who came to Canada between 2006 and 2011, nine per cent were able to converse only in non-official language(s).

These numbers tend to debunk a common explanation for joblessness and under-employment among recent immigrants: that their poor language skills account for their lack of economic integration. Considering that about 14 per cent of our annual intake of immigrants are refugees or cases of compassion (36,178 in 2011) – people who don’t quite fulfill the fluency criteria required of economic migrants – this low percentage suggests language is not as much of a problem as policy-makers crack it up to be.

The National Household Survey portrays an evolving nation that is being remade with every new wave of newcomers. They come to a nation with great institutions, including Statistics Canada, which spent a reported $652 million in providing Canadians with an accurate snapshot of who we are. The nations immigrants come from often have poor policy-making capacity, partly because they lack the resources to undertake the kind of surveys and data collection that we in Canada take for granted.

Rather than focus on the shortcomings of survey methodology, we should be discussing how these latest numbers can inform our way forward as a nation. Unless you are a professional statistician like Munir Sheikh, the numbers should be good enough to foster a national conversation around the big-picture demographic changes that are happening right in front of our eyes.

The NHS should remind all Canadians that this nation is changing; that the Canada of tomorrow will be very different from the Canada of today. – New Canadian Media

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

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By Curtis Eustace   The excitement and anticipation is bubbling like Granny’s Saturday soup with two more bands launching their contributions to the 2013 Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival.  On Friday 10th…

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Thursday, 09 May 2013 07:04

Canada continues to be a settler society

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

Published in National

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, raainews.com 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 raainews.com 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

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in National
Monday, 08 April 2013 20:43

Remembering Rwanda for humanity’s sake

by Alice Musabende

Every April since 1994 I find myself struggling with what to feel or to write about yet another anniversary of the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsis. So here I am again, on the 19th anniversary of the 100 days that took my family, my friends and my childhood away, trying to express what it feels like – but mostly asking the world to remember with me, with thousands of other survivors and with Rwanda.

When I moved to Ottawa almost seven years ago to study, I thought I was far enough away, and that maybe I’ll be able to forget. The memories were becoming too heavy to carry. But as much as I wished to forget, I still remembered how it felt to hold and play with my little brother – he was two years old when the Hutus killed him. I still hear my mother’s voice while she sang Kinyarwanda songs – she loved to sing. I can still see my grandmother in her beautiful, squeaky clean bright yellow shoes. And every now and then, I think I see my grandfather walking towards me – tall and majestic. I remember each and every one of them (almost 30 people), as if they were here just yesterday.

And I wish you could remember them with me. They died a death I can’t begin to describe and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye or even properly bury them. You didn’t know any of them, they lived in a land very far away from yours, but trust me, you would have loved them if you’d met them – my little sister’s smile would have won you over.

This month, from Toronto to Vancouver through Calgary, Montreal and Ottawa, Rwandans from across Canada will commemorate the genocide. These yearly gatherings, as sad as they are, help us feel less lonely in our journey towards healing. We meet, talk, share stories, listen to horrifying stories, hold each other’s hands – and sometimes even laugh a bit. There are not very many of us in Canada – or anywhere else for that matter, but we like to get together at least twice in the month of April, to remember and to stand strong together.

Over the years, survivors like myself have settled into our New-Canadian lives. And as years pass, at every gathering I am amazed by how we are growing stronger, emotionally or otherwise. Many of us are already in the work force, others are opening up businesses or finishing PhD studies. We work, we care for our families and look towards the future with the hope and faith that a land that generously received us will help us heal and thrive. And it has. Almost 20 years ago, we were mostly children or teenagers. Now, we have grown into resilient adults, poised to make it in a land colder than anything we’d ever known before. They didn’t kill us, so we made ourselves stronger. It may be the only good thing to ever come out of our painful past.

While we will be remembering, media across the country – of which I am a member – will also talk about this anniversary, which is a good thing. They will talk about the genocide as a political-historical event, they will wonder once more about the “official death toll number” – was it “really” 800,000 Tutsis murdered, or less than that? And the survivors? They will be wishing that their father or daughter were treated like more than a number to the world, for just this once.

After 19 years, tragedy fatigue might compel many to decide it’s time to move on. For us, however, it’s more than just another story. It’s about who we lost and what made us who we are, our daily battles with trauma, the never-ending dilemma of whether to share these stories with our children one day, and the eternal quest for a justice that will never be enough.

Remember with us so that what happened to our families and friends never happens again. Yes, the Rwandan genocide was carried out by our neighbours and people we knew, but please know that this is not just another African horror story. It had happened before us – in Europe – and it could happen anywhere again. The duty to remember is the price to pay to prevent this type of tragedy.

Remember with us, not because you must feel guilty as some often say – although some people at the UN probably should – but because we are a part of you and you are a part of us.

Alice Musabende is an Ottawa-based journalist and assignments editor for New Canadian Media. This commentary first appeared in the Globe and Mail.

Published in Commentary
Sunday, 07 April 2013 08:57

Stoking a fear of the Other

By: Anupreet Sandhu Bhamra

If you are reading this on your handheld device, please sit down and put your device on a table, lest you drop it and break it.

Here’s the scariest news to come out this week: Whites will become the minority in Metro Vancouver in less than two decades.

Shocking!

If you have recovered from the jolt, let me walk you through the racially charged presentation of a demographic study, which is more shocking than the study itself.

If you read between the lines, it actually is a projection study by local geographer Daniel Hiebert for Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Mr. Hiebert is a geographer at the University of British Columbia and as the co-director of research and policy forum Metropolis B.C., he “has travelled the world studying immigration patterns”.

But reading the actual lines is what leaves a bad taste in your mouth, especially the “joke” that Mr. Hiebert cites in the Vancouver Sun news report published on April 01 this year:

One of Hiebert’s most stark predictions for Metro Vancouver and Toronto regards the increasing rise of ethnic enclaves.

Indeed, Hiebert cites a popular standing joke to describe just how ethnically segregated Metro Vancouver has already become:

“Question: What river separates China and India?

“Answer: the Fraser River (which separates Richmond and Surrey).”

Popular-standing joke? This is the first time I am hearing of this. The so-called joke is in reference to the “ethnic enclaves” of Richmond (populated mostly by Canadians of Chinese lineage) and city of Surrey (populated mostly by Canadians of South Asian heritage).

My journalist friend Bal Brach confirmed my worst fears in a Twitter conversation we had on April 02:

never heard “popular standing joke” about ethnic segregation. A bit suspect of some of the ethnic enclaves comments.

The Black-White racial segregation in the USA

In Mr. Hiebert’s defence (I don’t know him), a researcher always comes in with a viewpoint into his investigation and builds or expands on his work against the existing available frameworks. Point noted. But why situate Metro Vancouver’s situation with the Black-White racial framework in the USA? Or against immigrant enclaves in Europe?

I am not implying that he has broken any law, but the situation of these frameworks is troubling. By situating the demographic concentration in Metro Vancouver against the Black-White framework in USA, what is being achieved or rather being said without actually saying it? I don’t get it.

And briefly on the Black-White framework in USA: first the White dominance enslaved an entire race and abused it. Then without exploring the framework of years of abuse and discrimination, the Black community continues to be projected in negative stereotypes. These stereotypes are fed into the public consciousness to mask consequences of discrimination as the direct fault of the Black community! A distressing example of victim blaming.

But coming back to the original argument, how is the framework of slavery and discrimination in the USA applicable to immigration and discrimination in Metro Vancouver?

Even more disturbing is the frame in which the Sun story examined the Metro Vancouver projections.

Without declaring whether these demographic trends will be negative or positive for Metro, Hiebert nevertheless says the “scale of ethnographic change over (the next) period will be larger and more rapid than anything we have seen previously.”

It seems to suggest that a concentration of any racial identity in a geographical space can cause trouble. Or not. Yes or no, maybe, but there is the suggestion that it can lead to negative consequences. To me, the language of the presentation reads as if minority groups are going to explode all over metro Vancouver and the situation will spell disaster.

My question is: why? Why is immigration so scary? In the first place, for argument sake alone, immigration is allowed and legal. All these numbers and projections are coming from legit sources. What did you think would happen when you allowed immigration? That people won’t come? Or you wouldn’t notice them when they did?

Now when people from different countries are calling Canada home, why the numbers are being projected in a racially charged language? To begin with, isn’t it the Canadian department of Citizenship and Immigration stamping visas in India and China and around? So do you want immigration? Or do you not want immigration?

The bigger question is: Why are you instilling a sense of fear with these numbers? These numbers in themselves are pretty harmless and the mathematical projections are based on scientific data but the projection is that of a mind, a human mind that has created these divisions based on his/her own fear, the fear of the “Other”; the “Other” (read minority groups) taking over the dominant culture.

Anupreet Sandhu Bhamra is a Vancouver-based blogger with transnational experience. An award-winning broadcaster, print and web reporter, Anupreet is an integrated journalist who has reported across major media platforms - print, television and web for over a decade. Her blog, under her double last name is an effort to deconstruct identity in inter-racial, inter-cultural, patriarchal modern world through the lens of life: as Self, journo and yogini. She is a recipient of prestigious national Broadcaster of the Future Award by Global Television, she has worked for The Globe and Mail, The Vancouver Sun, and US-based NBC News for the coverage of 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. Prior to that, she was a daily news anchor for Channel M (now OMNI). Her work has also appeared in online web magazine, The Tyee. In India, she has worked for two national newspapers, The Indian Express and The Hindustan Times. She received her Master of Journalism degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of British Columbia in 2009. While at the school, she was a recipient of prestigious university and private academic scholarships.

This is an excerpt of the original commentary that appeared on Anupreet Sandhu Bhamra's blog. 

Read the study here - http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/research/residential.asp

 

 

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 Dhaka: Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, has vowed to bring the convicted killers of her father and the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, back home as the nation celebrated his 93rd birth anniversary on March 17. Sheikh Mujib was born  in Tungipara of Gopalganj in 1920. He was the third among six [...]

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Thursday, 21 March 2013 19:03

Learning citizenship in cities

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

ranjit@newcanadianmedia.ca

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in National
Sunday, 17 March 2013 23:53

The Great Canadian Double Cross

Review of The Big Shift: The Seismic Change in Canadian Politics, Business, and Culture and What it Means for Our Future – by Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson

HarperCollins (2013), 294 pages

By Our Books Editor

This week’s Globe and Mail bestseller list has The Big Shift at No. 6, down from No. 5 last week – less popular than Kevin O’Leary’s (of the CBC Lang and O’Leary show) The Cold Hard Truth on Men, Women and Money. That is not entirely surprising, given that the literati set who read still books are the very people that Bricker and Ibbitson rail against – calling them out-of-touch and gone the way of the dinosaurs in New Canada’s political landscape. The fact that people are reading the book does in some way negate the writers’ core argument that the Laurentian elites (also called Central Canada powerbrokers) have become troglodytes in denial.

To their credit, the authors acknowledge right up front that they are turning against their own class: “For we are the people we are warning you about.”

Although Bricker and Ibbitson write the book in almost 300 pages, it’s mostly repetitive and often strays away from its essential argument: that recent immigrants from Asia have changed the power dynamic in Canada. It then goes on to make the rather rash forecast that this is going to be a Conservative century, just like the last one was largely Liberal. For regular readers of Ibbitson in the Globe and Mail, this thesis would not be entirely new. He is almost alone in the Ottawa Press Gallery as someone who has for many years acknowledged the growing number of Asian immigrants and how Canada must better leverage them in international relations, trade and other opportunities.

Ibbitson is currently the Globe’s chief political correspondent, while Bricker is CEO of Ipsos Global Public Affairs, a leading polling company. The book relies heavily on Ipsos’ surveys on election day May 2, 2011, and thereafter, grounding the book in at least a snapshot of reality, rather than pure speculation and mind-reading.

Here’s the crux: “Immigrant voters living in the Greater Toronto suburbs, along with their counterparts in Vancouver, had joined Prairie and rural Ontario voters to deliver a majority government to the Conservatives.” And, the common thread that runs through these three constituencies are an affinity for values-driven politics and the belief that the Tories would do a better job on the economy, border security and criminal justice.

Not all immigrants voted Conservative

However, their research also suggests that 52 per cent of Muslim immigrants voted for the Liberals and that that the Conservatives were largely favoured by newcomers who have been here for more than 10 years. Immigration also divides Old Canada from New Canada, the parts where the Conservatives hold sway. The dividing line – which the authors call the Ottawa River Curtain – runs from the James Bay to the western reaches of Montreal. East of that in Quebec and the Atlantic – with fewer immigrants and dwindling economic prospects – is in decline, as the political centre of gravity shifts West.

“With every new arrival from Mumbai, with every moving van trundling west, with every dollar generated by the emerging economies of Alberta and Saskatchewan, with every new seat that gets added to the House of Commons, they [the Laurentian elite] wane.”

However, the authors do acknowledge that the old powerbrokers did get one thing right: the open-door immigration policy and multiculturalism policy that enabled an average of about 250,000 newcomers to annually make Canada home in recent years. Given that these very same newcomers have now turned on them, the book could as well have been titled “The Great Double Cross.”

The watershed elections in 2011 and the changing political dynamic has had consequences across the board, the authors say, including changes to immigration policy, cozying up to China and India, particularly, and the implications for the business sector given the new demographic realities. They also suggest Aboriginal issues will gain little traction in Ottawa given that “The ancestors of today’s immigrants played no part in dispossessing the First Nations of their land; their ancestors were themselves dispossessed.”

There’s only one dark cloud that could ruin this otherwise Conservative compact. In the closing pages, they raise a “red flag” around surveys that show a rather narrow spread (just five points) between those who believe immigration is having a positive impact over those who think it has a negative effect. “A nativist backlash would bring about demographic shifts even as it heightened social tensions.” – New Canadian Media

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Books
Sunday, 24 February 2013 14:51

Toronto winking at lawbreakers

by Ranjit Bhaskar for New Canadian Media

It would seem as if sharks and undocumented immigrants are equally deserving of Toronto City Hall’s mercy. Both have been spared extreme measures, although one hopes the reprieve granted to the immigrants is not as short-lived as the lifesaver granted to the marine predators.

The sharks basked in the Council’s attention recently when the sale of their fins was banned. The respite offered to them by Canada’s biggest city was soon dismissed in a court of law, rendering the whole resolution moot.

This time around it is the turn of migrants, specifically those who are here without proper papers. The City has declared that they can now surface, sparing them deportation or any punitive measures from Toronto. Toronto is now a “sanctuary city” that would ensure safe access to services for undocumented residents without fear of being turned over for detention and deportation.

The near unanimity (there were only three no votes against 38 ayes) with which the resolution passed gives the impression that its noble motive of protecting poor, disenfranchised migrants rose above partisan interests. However, given the entrenched divisions in the council, that is highly unlikely.

What seems to have happened is a rare convergence of interests for very different reasons. For the left, it sent out a signal to their constituents that they are doing their best to protect the interests of the downtrodden. For the conservative capitalists, this was the best way to ensure the continued availability of indebted workers at below-minimum wages to keep businesses running in profit. 

But the move is largely irrelevant given that the services the City is proposing to offer them are already available, with no questions asked about residency status.  Children without immigration status are welcomed in schools run by the city and information about them or their families are not shared with immigration authorities as per Toronto District School Board Policy P.061 SCH. The Toronto Public Library also is not keen to know about a person’s immigration status and is happy to accept a plethora of documents to satisfy its need for ID and address proof, including having a postcard mailed to confirm an address. Under normal circumstances, the Toronto Police too will not ask witnesses to or victims of crime about their residency status.   Other services where your residency status matters like health and welfare subsidies are offered by the provincial or the federal governments. The City Council has no say here, moral or otherwise.

However, the timing of the council’s vote is significant as Toronto’s undocumented population of 200,000 is expected to surge in April 2015. That is when many legal, but temporary, foreign workers will see their permits expire under a federal rule enacted in April 2011 that created a four-year limit on the cumulative time a foreigner can spend in Canada as a temporary worker.

That rule change was made to reduce the perceived over-dependence of Canadian employers on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to meet their permanent labour needs. The number of workers under this program has increased from around 100,000 in 2002 to over 400,000 today.

It should not come as a surprise that the concept of sanctuary cities originated in the United States, with Los Angeles being the first in 1979 by preventing the police from inquiring about the immigration status of those they arrest. Broadly, the term “sanctuary” generally applies to cities that do not allow municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about one's immigration status. While the designation has no legal meaning, so far more than 30 U.S. cities have declared themselves sanctuaries for undocumented migrants.

The Toronto Council was right to ask Ottawa to establish an amnesty program for undocumented migrants and similarly recommend that the Ontario government review its policies to ensure their access to health care, emergency services and community housing. But, Canada’s premier city and home to its largest number of immigrants has gone too far by offering “sanctuary,” even if the resolution is of little practical effect.  

It sends a mixed message from Canada. On the one hand the federal government has been battening down the hatches on asylum seekers and taking proactive measures to dissuade refugees from boarding creaking boats headed to our shores. While different levels of government may see things differently – and we are all for humane treatment of all arrivals -  a coherent immigration policy is a national imperative. We do not want to replicate the American nightmare with millions of “illegals” in Canada. Nor do we want to unravel the national consensus around rules-based immigration.

As Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, one of the few opponents of the sanctuary motion, said, it “sends a message to the world that it is okay to break the law to come to Canada and it says that the City of Toronto is an accomplice to this lawbreaking.” - New Canadian Media

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Commentary

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