Printer Friendly

How many is enough? (Immigration--Opposition).

It's very difficult to be against immigration without being labelled a bigot, but some non-bigots are standing up and criticizing the program.

In June 2001, a group of eminent Canadians wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Jean Chretien. The letter appeared in The Globe and Mail and stated that the current immigration system is hurting Canada. They cite the abuse of the refugee determination program that has "allowed criminals and terrorists who are fugitives from justice in their own countries" to come and live amongst us. They were referring to the likes of Jose Valle Lopez (Honduran death-squad member), Rakesh Saxena (accused of swindling in Thailand), Leon Mugesera (implicated in Rwandan genocide), and accused German terrorist Walter Lothar Ebke.

The authors of the letter agreed that Canada has benefitted greatly from many fine immigrants, "both economically and in terms of the richness and diversity they have contributed to Canadian society." But, they say that current policies "threaten to place increasing strains on the economy and on the spirit of tolerance and acceptance that has come to characterize Canada," to the point that they're "likely to have a negative impact on the immigrant communities themselves."

The letter was not without its critics. In response, one letter to the editor of The Globe assured everyone that laws for criminals and terrorists are safely in place. The author of the letter suggested that if increasing immigration is a problem, then the causes are broader factors such as uneven distribution of wealth, which "has created a migratory world economy. Families have always flocked to regions of abundance and safety to feed hungry mouths." What's needed is investment in global economies to provide potential migrants "safe and abundant futures ... in their own proud homes."

Yes, there are suspected terrorists and criminals among Canada's immigrants. And, when they're discovered they sometimes stay here for years, fighting deportation or extradition. But immigration lawyers, refugee advocates, human-rights activists, and government officials say recent amendments (in 2001) to the Immigration Act have helped. Immigration officers now have extraordinary powers to deport any permanent resident suspected of concealing a dubious past, with little or no right of appeal. The unsavoury immigrants, they say, are the exception. (One estimate suggests there are about 300 war criminals in our midst, while more than 200,000 immigrants make Canada their home every year.)

Other arguments against too much immigration are that many communities are having problems trying to absorb and integrate the large numbers of newcomers, particularly where they cluster in groups. There is the crippling cost burden of providing education to immigrant children who don't speak English or French; this issue is one of the root causes of severe funding problems at the Toronto District School Board.

There is also clear evidence that some terrorist groups have set up charitable organization fronts as fund-raising outfits for their violent activities.

Diseases brought in by immigrants put Canadians at risk-dozens in Hamilton, Ontario, were exposed to tuberculosis by an infected immigrant, whose X-ray was read incorrectly, in 2000. Health officials called for tighter health testing procedures by Immigration Canada as a result.

The Toronto Board of Health annual report in 2001 pointed out that Toronto's TB rate is three times higher than that in the rest of Canada. About 400 to 500 new cases are reported each year in the city the majority of which involve new immigrants.

All this adds up to a growing intolerance among Canadians: a national poll conducted by Ekos Research, commissioned by then-Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan and released in March 2000, found that 27% of respondents believe too many visible minorities are being allowed into the country. That was a huge increase from the 5% who said they felt that way a year earlier. Their feelings came out in another opinion poll the previous summer done for The Globe and Mail and CTV: about half the Canadian public felt the Chinese boat people who arrived on the British Columbia coast should be deported immediately. And, about 70% of respondents rejected the idea that simply because the boat people came from mainland China they automatically had a legitimate claim to be political refugees fleeing a repressive Communist regime. But, about half said the boat people should be allowed to stay until their claims for refugee status were assessed.

Not everyone thinks immigration is the answer to the problems of an aging population. Martin Collacott, who has served as a Canadian ambassador in Asia and the Middle East, is among those who say increasing immigration levels is not the answer. (Mr. Collacott was one of those who signed the open letter to lean Chretien criticizing our immigration policies.) He cites a study by the Economic Council of Canada (ECC) in 1991 to support his view that immigration does not carry, significant benefits for the Canadian economy either. The ECC researchers found that gains from having a larger population with greater economies of scale were very small, that population size has no relationship to economic prosperity. He also says that a 1989 report on demographics released by Health and Welfare Canada (based on 167 studies) showed that increased immigration would have a very limited impact on the dependency problem, which results from a drop in the proportion of workers to non-workers, as aging workers retire. Then he added that, in 1998, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration released another report (Immigration and Canadian Demographics) showing that doubling or even tripling the levels of immigration will have little effect on the dependency ratio. There's no question that supporting growing numbers of old folks is a problem, but Mr. Collacott thinks the United Nations has suggested some solutions that make more sense than increasing the number of immigrants: some possibilities include expanded labour-force participation (particularly by women); increased economic productivity; delayed retirement; and adjustment to pension-plan contributions. Besides, he says, Canada already has the highest immigration levels in the world-twice as high, on a per capita basis, as the United States, and one of the youngest populations in the industrialized world. That suggests that raising immigration levels has more to do with political needs than national needs and interests.

Daniel Stoffman agrees that there are a number of myths around the importance of immigration to Canada. In his 2002 book, Who Gets In: What's Wrong with Canada's Immigration Program--And How To Fix It, Mr. Stoffman says that economic growth does not depend on immigration. He says there's "a glaring flaw in the argument that prosperity, depends on population growth. By this logic, growth can never end." Nor does he think Canada needs a massive influx of young immigrants to support retired baby boomers. "Canada has a comparatively young population, younger than Western Europe's. Yes, Canada's birth rates have fallen, but so have those in the rest of the world, including many of the underdeveloped countries. Yes, Canada--because of declining fertility, and increasing longevity--is getting older. So is the rest of the world.

"Only in Canada are these trends seen as threatening ..."

But other countries with their aging, non-growing populations are not in crisis, Mr. Stoffman maintains. (Many European Union countries are in fact very concerned about smiled worker shortages and aging populations.) lie uses Sweden as an example: it has a greater proportion of its population in the 65-and-over category than Canada has, and a lesser proportion in the 15-to-64 working-age category. Sweden coped, "the way all countries not obsessed with the quick fix of immigration cope. By being productive, By using technology. By exporting products rather than relying on the domestic population for market growth. By facilitating the full participation of women in the work force. By offering excellent early childhood education ,programs that help children to maximize their potential, European countries are prospering with the same age structure Canada will have in about 20 years ..."

And, while Mr. Stoffman agrees that immigration has helped make Canada's cities more vibrant, and among the most livable in the world, too much immigration "will make Canada's big cities more crowded, more polluted and more expensive--not because there is anything wrong with immigrants but because that's the nature of very big cities."


1. In September 2000 then-Minister of Immigration Elinor Caplan proposed that Canada should routinely, test every person applying to immigrate to Canada for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B, and exclude anyone testing HIV-positive. Critics say this is a highly discriminatory, and a backward step in terms of human rights, given that people with HIV are not a public health threat. (Unlike airborne tuberculosis, HIV is only transmitted through risky behaviours engaged in by both parties, such as unprotected sex or sharing needle.) Discuss the morality of this issue, and do a follow-up report on what the government has done since Ms. Caplan's announcement.

2. "If an economic goal of the Canadian government is to create a world-class sweatshop garment industry to compete with poor countries like Bangladesh, alongside a servant class of cleaners and nannies, large-scale immigration is deal." So says Daniel Stoffman in his book Who Gets In: Immigration Program-And How To Fix It. Read Mr. Stoffman's book to find out why he holds this view.
Refugee detainees at Maribyrnong Detention Centre, Melbourne,
Australia protested the conditions under which they live in
January 2001. There have been similar protests and hunger strikes
at other detention centre in Australia, as well as large demonstrations
outside the centres staged by Australian citizens. Former
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser has described these refugee
detention centres as "hell holes."



According to author Daniel Stoffman, there is no evidence of a worker shortage in Canada that could be alleviated by higher immigration levels: unemployment in Canada, as of May 2002, was almost 8%, a number that included many postsecondary graduates. As well, he says, a lot of young workers (the boomers' 6.5 million babies, born between 1980 and 1995) are about to start entering the labour market.


As for filling labour shortages, many immigrants who come to Canada are not required to have occupational or language skills. They are the sponsored family members of immigrants already settled in Canada. And that is not without its problems: in 1999 it was estimated that about 30% of immigrants who come to Canada each year are sponsored. Family members sign agreements with the federal government obliging them to support the relative financially for up to 10 years. But it's estimated that about 10% of sponsors don't take their commitment seriously, leaving their charges on welfare.

Ontario received 120,000 of the total 226,000 immigrants who came to Canada in 1996. The province estimated in 1999 that it spends between $100 million and $160 million a year to support 17,000 welfare clients whose sponsors have ignored their agreement. B.C., which accepted 52,000 immigrants in 1996, estimated that 2,000 of them were sponsored, but ended up on welfare, at a cost to taxpayers of about $15 million. And, while some provinces have sued deadbeat sponsors who abandon their relatives, several (including Ontario, B.C., Alberta, and Nova Scotia) say it's up to Ottawa to collect from delinquent sponsors. The federal government should then pass any recovered money back to the provinces, which are responsible for welfare payments.


For years Malaysia accepted hundreds of thousands of illicit labourers as a cheap work force for its construction and plantation-based industries, and to work as housemaids. Now, the Malaysian government has started cracking down on the migrant workers. The country, which blamed migrants for rising crime, said the move was made for security reasons. And, according to a September 2002 newspaper report, more than 300,000 migrants fled, or were expelled in the preceding months. They went back to Indonesia and the Philippines where most of the illegal workers had come from. Their search for better lives in wealthier, faster-developing Malaysia ended with deportation and a dream of returning. They left as the government introduced tough, new laws that could result in fines, prison terms, or caning.

Even though 600,000 undocumented foreign workers were given early warnings to leave or face arrest and strict punishment, many hung on longer: a month after the laws took effect in August 2002, tens of thousands of them flooded ports and other exit points in the country, jamming deportation centres in Malaysia and creating havoc as they poured back into their home countries. Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said the influx of workers losing jobs in Malaysia was expected to strain the already poor economy in the southern Philippines.

Canadian Race Relations

Immigration and HIV/

COPYRIGHT 2002 Canada & the World
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Canada and the World Backgrounder
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Dec 1, 2002
Previous Article:The skills deficit. (Immigration--Policy).
Next Article:Seeking a better life. (Immigration--Refugees).

Related Articles
A priceless phenomenon: foreign secretary asks U.S. to recognize the value of Mexican immigrants.
The immigration issue burns long-term care, too.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |