Canada Immigration Blogs by Attorney David Cohen

|

Caught Off Guard

August 4th, 2015

Opening a copy of the Montreal Gazette yesterday morning, I was drawn to an article in the Opinion section titled ‘Becoming Canadian’. It was a superb piece of writing by an American, or rather American-Canadian, writer by the name of Elizabeth Adams.

In the short piece, Ms Adams provides details of the Canadian citizenship ceremony she attended last week, at which she took the oath of citizenship along with 299 other individuals from 70 countries. She had first moved to Montreal in 2006 before becoming a permanent resident. Now, after satisfying the requirements for citizenship, she was becoming a part of the Canadian family.

The poignancy of the occasion clearly got to her, in the best possible way. “When the judge spoke of ‘freedom’ the word hit me with more force than ever before. Even without a personal history of oppression or persecution, I know now what it means to be an immigrant with certain hopes, but an uncertain future.”

And she could see this all across the room. There was an acknowledgment that here were 300 people from every walk of life and every social status, with shades of skin that ran the full gamut of all the ethnicities that cover the Earth.

There was one paragraph, however, that was just plain odd.

“When it came time to take the oath of citizenship, immigration guards suddenly filled the aisles. We were told to repeat the words in either French or English, but that our voices must be audible and our lips seen to be moving. The guards — mostly white men — meant business: they watched us like hawks and I saw one approach a Hasidic man and insist that he raise his head and speak aloud.”

I have no reason to doubt that Ms Adams is telling the correct version of events as they occurred during the ceremony last week, and so, taking this anecdote at face value I found myself asking — really?

Imagine the scene. Three hundred individuals are about to make a commitment under oath to uphold the rights and responsibilities that come with Canadian citizenship. If someone is not seen to be in lock-step with protocol, however, that person is forcibly coerced to act in a certain way. This is most un-Canadian, completely at odds with our past, and worrying for our future.

While many people may affirm an oath with gusto, others may take a more solemn approach. If a head is bowed, or eyesight is not fixed on a single thing, or someone is rendered literally speechless by an occasion that is entirely normal for some people. Human beings react to emotions and significant life events in a variety of ways. If anything, that is what gives us all our humanity. It does not mean that the person reciting an oath more tangibly is therefore a more desirable citizen than one who is not.

In Canada, we have been taught to embrace variety, diversity and individual choice, and to respect other people always so long as they are not harming anybody else. This episode, assuming all the facts have been laid out, is worrying. If it’s the norm and not just an outlier, it is even more worrying. It is not a welcome to the family that we should be happy to continue.

Children deserve to celebrate Canada Day

June 30th, 2015

When I was growing up in Montreal, Canada Day, then called Dominion Day, truly meant something to my family. My grandfather landed on Canadian shores in 1906 and, as the children and grandchildren of immigrants, our family loved the spirit and essence of the day. It is our country’s birthday, after all.

We celebrated by watching the fireworks display in Old Montreal from the mountain that gave the city its name, Mont Royal. Ice cream in hand and warm evening air on our backs, I began to appreciate from a young age that Canada is a country worth celebrating. If anything, Canada Day is a day for family and friends. It is a day of subtle recognition rather than bravado. Of innocuous patriotism rather than the kind of extreme nationalism one might observe in other countries. The way Canada Day is celebrated from coast to coast and to the North — and even abroad — is quintessentially Canadian.

Unfortunately, many children in Canada this week will not be able to celebrate Canada Day in any real way. No fireworks, no ice cream, no parade or flag waving, perhaps no father or mother too. These are some of the 4,392 minors who have been in immigration detention since 2005 — that’s more than one new minor detainee per day since 2005. Indeed, the number of children behind bars might be more than double that figure, as those detained with their parents and those born in Canada are not always counted.

Perhaps naively, I didn’t think Canada was a place where children were placed in indefinite detention, at least certainly not in those numbers. The fact that many of these kids’ parents have not even been charged with any crime only adds to the story, which was recently covered by Macleans magazine under the title ‘What are babies doing behind bars in Canada?’

When I thought of the opportunities and freedoms that were afforded to me in my youth and contrasted them with these innocent young Canadians, it left me cold.

The report provided details of one particular Canadian-born child who has been in such detention since birth. Although his mother is stuck in immigration limbo, her son can, in theory, leave the facility at any time. In practice, however, his mother would have to give him to child-protection services because she has no one to look after him on the outside. These are not the kinds of damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t ultimatums that Canada should be handing out. Particularly when innocent children are involved.

Another Canadian-born eight year-old girl was whisked straight from a Grade 3 classroom in Toronto to the detention centre, where she and her Ghanaian-born mother have lived ever since. She receives a few hours of schooling each week, but nothing like what she should be receiving. Her social development has stunted and her opportunities for personal development are drastically reduced, perhaps forever.

Canada, as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, has committed to the proviso that children should be detained only as a last resort. But these cases are far from last resort. These are children — Canadian children — who only want to go to school and make friends. Other countries have managed to find alternatives. The U.K., for example, allows families and children seeking asylum to be detained for a maximum of 24 hours before they are referred to social services, which must find them temporary housing. In Sweden, asylum-seeking families with children are typically released within six days to a caseworker, who finds them somewhere to live pending their claims.

As we celebrate Canada Day this year, let us first and foremost think of those innocent children living on Canadian soil who have been caught up in a system that doesn’t belong in the twenty-first (or even twentieth) century. There is no defence for such a policy.

Time For Canada To Give Some Care

June 2nd, 2015

During a recent diplomatic visit to Canada made by Benigno Aquino III, President of the Philippines, the government of Canada announced that the Philippines was the top source country for new Canadian immigrants in 2014, ousting China and India to claim the top spot.

In one sense, this is not a major surprise. The overwhelming majority of Filipinos who have made the move to Canada display traits that are quintessentially Canadian — a strong work ethic, entrepreneurial spirit, humility, close family ties, and the list goes on. The Caregiver Program (formerly the Live-In Caregiver Program) and Canada’s Family Class Sponsorship Programs have allowed many Filipinos to arrive, transition to permanent resident status and, in many cases, sponsor family members to join them in Canada. Within the broader Filipino community in Canada, we have observed success after success of small communities that have flourished across the country.

And so it was with some degree of frustration over the last couple of weeks that I read a couple of stories in which Filipinos have been poorly treated by a Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Ministry that often lacks compassion and foresight when it comes to assessing certain files.

Take, for example, the case of Jazmine Talosig. Jazmine’s mother, Karen, came to Canada seven years ago to work as a caregiver and, at the same time, provide for her young family back home. Four years ago, Karen made an application to sponsor her now 14-year-old daughter to immigrate to Canada, but Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has, belatedly, rejected the application. Why? Because she happens to be deaf, and is deemed inadmissible on medical grounds.

The story made it to the floor of the House of Commons, where Liberal MP Hedy Fry asked “The B.C. School for the Deaf says the child is proficient in American Sign Language and it is no more cost to educate her than any other child. So is this the government’s new discriminatory immigration policy? That deaf persons need not apply?” The immediate response from the government was shameful, with Conservative MP Costas Menegakis accusing Fry of “playing politics with immigration cases,” adding that “highly-trained officers” overview immigration cases. (The fact that just a couple of days later the Toronto Star reported a “high error rate” in CIC’s methods is telling when one thinks of cases such as this one, but that’s a whole other story.)

It was an attempted muzzling of a genuine question from an MP trying her best to represent a constituent. If what Ms Fry said on the floor of the House of Commons is true and the cost to educate Jazmine is no more than it would be for any other child, and if that was the reason why the application has not been successful, then Jazmine’s case should not be rejected on medical inadmissibility grounds.

Consider also the case of Hazel Penullar who, as the Toronto Star reported over the weekend, came to Canada from the Philippines in 2007 as a live-in caregiver and applied for permanent resident status in July, 2010, as soon as she met the employment requirement. Today, she is still waiting to get her papers and be joined by her daughter, Denise, 17, and son, Jabez, 9, and says that it feels like CIC is ‘killing her softly’.

In neither of these cases should the fact that the affected parties are Filipino nationals be a positive or negative determining factor. Canadian law already makes it illegal for governments to discriminate on ethnicity, religion or nationality in immigration cases. However, application timelines of four or five years are unacceptable, particularly for those who are already making positive economic and social contributions to Canada. A timeline of four or more years that results in an unjust negative outcome for the sponsored person is even more unacceptable. What these Filipino applicants are asking for is a greater degree of transparency and procedural fairness. Is that too much to ask?

I hope that cases such as these do not erase the good will that has built up between Filipinos and Canadians over recent years. The Filipino community in Canada is made up of proud, hard-working individuals and families that give more to our country than they could ever take back. Let’s keep it that way.

You Can Fight City Hall

May 6th, 2015

They say you can’t fight city hall. Actually, you can, but it’s not often that you come out a winner, especially if the stakes are high. Given the assets and resources at the government’s disposal, it isn’t really a fair fight. Sometimes though, right wins over might and the result is extremely rewarding.

In August, 2013, my colleague Mathieu Bouchard and I launched two court challenges against the government of Quebec following the latter’s decision to change the selection criteria under the Quebec Skilled Worker Program and to apply the changes to applications that had been submitted prior to the modifications coming into force. Some 50,000 applicants may have been affected, so this was no small matter. Earlier that summer, I had written in this very blog about how unjust the government’s decision had been.

The first case asked the Superior Court to declare the Quebec government’s actions illegal and to order the assessment of applications according to the selection criteria in force at the time the application was submitted. The second court case sought the return of Quebec Government processing fees on behalf of all individuals whose applications may have been refused as a result of the selection criteria having been changed. The second case was suspended pending the outcome of the first.

Last month, the decision was handed down in the first case, and the court returned a verdict in our favour. It was a victory for some, but not necessarily all, affected applicants, and a reminder that justice is worth fighting for. I was delighted with this verdict, as were thousands of others who may yet be able to realise their Canadian immigration aspirations through the Quebec Skilled Worker Program.

It is hoped that the government of Quebec has learned that the form of retroactive legislation imposed on thousands of hopeful applicants wishing to immigrate to Quebec is not the right way to do things. Moving the goal posts after the match has begun undermines public trust. However, the delays to appeal the decision have not yet expired. We have only won the battle, but there may be a war left to fight yet.

They say you can’t fight city hall. Well, you can, and we will.

The Fools On The Hill

April 1st, 2015

Typically, April Fool’s pranks are cooked up the night before or the morning of the day itself. Rarely are they a decade in the making. Beginning today, April 1, however, Canadians and non-Canadians working in Canada alike will begin to experience the effects of misguided policies instigated by the government of Canada — the creation of undocumented immigrants to Canada.

I could point to a number of instances over the past decade in which the government botched their reforms to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, but two stand out in particular.

In 2006, not long after the Conservatives took office, this small and rather unremarkable program, which had been around for decades and served limited purposes for skilled positions, was quickly expanded and under-regulated. Then in 2011, the ‘4-in, 4-out’ rule was brought in for temporary foreign workers who are not working in management or professional positions. This arbitrary regulation meant that after a temporary foreign worker has reached a four-year cumulative duration limit, he or she will not be granted another work permit in Canada for the next four years.

What this rule said, in effect, was that the work performed need not be temporary, only the people who perform it. It reduces human beings to mere commodities, not much more than machines to be counted first on the company inventory, then the payroll. But these are humans — people with emotions, ambitions, and hopes — not pieces of machinery.

And, while a fraction of temporary foreign workers in Alberta (those who had submitted an application for permanent residence through the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program) have been offered a temporary reprieve from the full effects of this regulation, transition to permanent resident status for the lion’s share of low-wage foreign workers remains theoretical and practically unattainable.

Many of those who arrived between 2006 and 2011, after the program’s expansion but before the ‘4-in, 4-out’ rule came into play, have children who have only ever attended schools in Canada. Some of these kids are even Canadian citizens. Are we really a country that effectively removes Canadian kids not just from school and the local community, but from the very country itself? In effect, that is what will happen.

There are no winners here. Canadians watch as wages stagnate. Businesses, particularly small- and medium-sized businesses, lose employees in whom they have invested time and training. Communities lose vital members of their societies — people active in local clubs, sports teams, community groups, and places of worship. Children, many of them born in Canada and therefore Canadian citizens, will leave the only country they have ever known because the government has told their parents that they are good enough to work in Canada, but not good enough to reside here permanently.

And finally, foreign workers, many of whom remain indebted to recruiters, are faced with an excruciating choice: stay in Canada and attempt to fly under the radar, in doing so entering a world of possible exploitation, uncertainty and illegality, or leave, in doing so potentially not just reducing their own standard of living, but also that of their family.

Let us be clear, Canada is an anomaly within the geopolitical world when it comes to undocumented migrants because it is an extremely difficult country to reach. Whereas countries such as the United States or Italy experience migrants seeking to gain entry over land from unstable countries in Central America and North Africa, Canada does not have to face that same scenario. In the case of the ‘4-in, 4-out’ rule in Canada, illegality only comes around when people stay beyond the initial four years, having entered and worked in Canada legally.

The vast majority of cases where people end up undocumented in Canada are due to ill-advised government policies. As Canadians possibly begin to vilify “illegal” immigrants in public discourse, we may forget that this government has played a starring role in converting once-hardworking, law-abiding workers into undocumented residents of Canada.

Since the middle of the twentieth century, when many of the world’s current borders and systems of government were established, every country that has run a mass guest worker program has been left in the situation where once-legal workers remain in the country after their legal work period has been completed. Why did this government think that Canada would be any different? The past decade has been the first time in our history where we have admitted more temporary than permanent newcomers, turning the Canadian tradition (not always upheld, I might add) of welcoming immigrants on its head.

At this stage, terminating the Temporary Foreign Worker Program in its entirety would be unwise and do nothing to resolve the issue of those who are already here, living lives in Canada, possibly with Canadian-born children. What happens next is anybody’s guess.

A Just Society?

March 4th, 2015

When the Canadian Constitution Act was signed in 1982, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms became law. It was the magnum opus in the career of then-Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

Before the Charter became a signature part of Canadian life and over the years after it became law, Canada had justifiably earned unprecedented levels of international respect. Domestically, we were known as a nation of inclusiveness, diversity and open-mindedness, while abroad, our peacekeeping efforts, fair-minded diplomacy and sense of justice was seen as the benchmark for other nations.

By and large, Canadians should be proud of the way in which they have built their country.  Our cultural mosaic allows people to be Canadian while retaining a sense of identity whence they came. Becoming and being Canadian need not negate that other part of a person that wants to keep hold of something from another land — whether that thing is cultural, familial, or religious — as long as it does not infringe on the rights and freedoms of another person. That is the essence of the Charter. In Canada, our internationalism is our nationalism.

But there has always been something bubbling beneath the surface — our fear of ‘the other’. One could point toward the government’s detainment and forced relocation of Japanese Canadians, who also suffered job and property losses, during World War II. The government at that time went down this path despite evidence supplied by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Department of National Defence that this decision was unwarranted. Canadians of Italian and German origin were also interned around this time.

Today, our leaders have allowed that fear to come to the fore of social, legal and political life once again. Indeed, our leaders are not merely standing by, allowing it to happen. No, they are the ones pouring fuel on a fire that they themselves started.

Something is seriously amiss when our Prime Minister feels the need label it “offensive” that an individual would choose to wear a niqab while taking a citizenship oath, to the extent that he would seek an appeal to the Supreme Court to overturn a decision. It is worth bearing in mind that the individual in question, Zunera Ishaq, had removed the garment when she took the citizenship test, and so her identity while taking the oath was not in question.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) stated that there’s no way to know what would have happened had she refused to remove her niqab. More worryingly, the department said that any violation of the Charter right would be “trivial” because the oath takes less than a minute to recite. Well, if the violation is merely “trivial”, then it follows that this government views the Charter itself as trivial.

To any impartial onlooker, the Prime Minister’s reaction to this affair is a clear political play, and it is not coincidental that he made his comments in Quebec and during an election year. With plenty of seats in play in the province, the Prime Minister has an eye on the voting demographic that supported the ill-fated ‘Quebec Charter of Values’ (Charte de la laïcité or Charte des valeurs québécoises) of the now-deposed previous Parti Québébois government. If he can win a few extra seats in Quebec by being divisive in this way without compromising his party’s existing support in the suburbs of Ontario and further west, he will do so. Whether or not he is genuinely offended by the niqab is by-the-by.

Following soon after this incident was something that on one level seemed inevitable, but also quite ridiculous. A woman in Quebec, Rania El-Alloul, went to court to try to retrieve a vehicle, but Judge Eliana Marengo, taking her cue from the Prime Minister, demanded that El-Alloul’s remove her hajib (a headscarf) if she wished to pursue justice, as it was adjudged to be inappropriate for the courtroom setting. This is significant religious discrimination.

How have we become so complacent? Why are we allowing the worldwide respect and admiration we earned to be thrown away so cheaply and needlessly? It’s time to fight for a return to a just society that includes all, no matter the clothing they choose to wear.

Strawberry Fields Forever

February 2nd, 2015

Canada is, among other things, a country of seasons. Perhaps more than most nations, the Canadian cycle turns according to which season it may be. Socially and economically, many of our communities and industries change their activities depending on the weather.

When my generation was growing up in Canada, summers meant one thing — you got a seasonal job. Teenagers from Central Canada would pick fruit in the Niagara Peninsula of Southern Ontario or in Quebec’s St. Lawrence Valley. Tree planting was popular for those further west. The Maritimes, with its renowned seafood industry, needed nimble hands to haul and process the catch, and local youngsters were more than happy to oblige.

Nobody ever got rich doing this hard work, but that wasn’t the point of the exercise. Instead, it gave us an opportunity to build our character muscles.

The thousands upon thousands of hands that aided in seasonal work may not have been the hands that built Canada, but they were the hands that kept the country ticking over, season to season. I would bet that if you took a sample of the most successful Canadians today — doctors, politicians, engineers, entrepreneurs, and others — many of them did some sort of casual seasonal work before they began their careers. It was not in the classroom or at a desk where they honed their soft skills and gained an appreciation for what constituted a real day’s work, but rather among the fields, forests and shorelines that make up our beautiful country.

When I read in one of the national newspapers last week that five of the top six industries that have traditionally employed the most Canadian youth were also in the top half of temporary foreign worker program users, I thought back to those days picking fruit in Ontario. Have we lost something along the way?

Can you blame an employer for wanting to harvest the season’s crop or sow the seeds for the next one? Can you blame a foreign worker who simply wants to take the opportunity to work hard for his or her family? Can you blame a series of governments that want to continue to grow the economy?

It would seem that the generations that have come after the baby boomers don’t think of Canada in the same way as previous generations. For a great majority of Canadian youth, seasonal employment, particularly in agricultural jobs, does not ever cross their minds. We have become rich — one of the most economically successful nations there has ever been. We have become lazy — considering some jobs beneath us and missing out on opportunities to learn the kinds of skills and develop the sort of values that will aid our careers and our country.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program became bloated, but it never would have become that way if we, as Canadians, continued to perform the kind of seasonal work that industries in our country provide. The program rightly affords an opportunity for employers to employ skilled foreign workers who are ready, willing and able to do the job when no Canadian citizen or resident can be found.

The next time you hear someone complain about unskilled or semi-skilled work being done by temporary foreign workers, don’t look to the worker or his or her employer if you want to point the finger. Point it at Canadian youth who no longer want to get their hands dirty.

Out with the old, in with the new

December 31st, 2014

It is fitting that the Canadian government has chosen the first day of a new year for the launch of the Express Entry immigration selection system.

Gone are the days when most economic immigrants were selected by a supply-driven, first-in first-out system. That has been replaced by a shiny new demand-driven expression of interest model named Express Entry that aims to issue Canadian permanent resident visas within six months of submitting a full application.

Like it or dislike it, it doesn’t matter. Express Entry is here and knowing how you can make it work to your advantage is key to maximizing your chances for a successful application.

On the surface, the Express Entry process looks simple enough. First you upload your profile on the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) portal and if you meet the requirements of one of three federal immigration programs you will be admitted to the Express Entry pool. Once in, you will be ranked against all the other candidates in the pool and if you rank high enough you will receive an invitation to apply for permanent residence.

As we all know, looks can sometimes be deceiving. The Express Entry system is in fact somewhat more complicated than it looks. Much goes on behind the scenes and there are a lot of moving targets. For example, profiles are not static. Your comprehensive ranking score may increase or decrease over time. Besides, the make-up of the pool varies with each new entrant and after each selection draw. Fishing in the pool will be the federal and most provincial/territorial governments, as well as employers. Each of them holds tickets to Canada. How to appeal to one with alienating the others?

In time, the Express Entry system will not seem so mysterious. We can begin to demystify the process by highlighting certain misconceptions about Express Entry. Last month, CICnews published an excellent article on this very subject. Click here to read ‘Express Entry: Ten Misconceptions’.

Lastly, I would like to wish all of you a happy and healthy New Year. I look forward to continuing my blog in 2015.

Not So Fast

December 3rd, 2014

January 1, 2015 will see the start of the new Express Entry selection system that will priority process the permanent resident applications for the most desirable economic immigrants.

Express Entry is the result of years of tinkering by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, under a Conservative government that is determined to see Canada come out ahead in the global competition for top-tier foreign talent.

Some, like the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, are in favour of the new selection system for the central role that employers can play. While not everyone who receives an invitation to apply under Express Entry will have a validated Canadian job offer, virtually everyone with a validated job offer will receive an invitation to apply.

Others, like some professors at Ryerson University, decry the coming selection model as one that mainly serves employers and for its lack of transparency. They call it a throwback to the Railway Act of 1925, which gave Canada’s two railways pretty much full sway over immigration policy.

No matter the side we’re on, there is a common issue that merits more discussion. I am referring to the concept of program integrity, or in other words, the ability of the new immigration selection system to thwart the inevitable fraudulent attacks that are sure to come.

Let’s put this in some perspective. A validated Canadian job offer in a skilled position is a ticket to permanent residence. In similar circumstances under the U.S. immigration selection system, would-be immigrants are paying middlemen upwards of $50,000 for a job that comes with a U.S. Green Card. Should we expect anything different?

People in this industry know very well that immigration and fraud go hand-in-hand, notwithstanding government efforts to crack down on perpetrators. Sure, we can have laws on the books in Canada, but they are of no use in the countries where money exchanges hands.

As the name implies, Express Entry means just that. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is aiming to issue permanent resident visas to invited candidates within six months of receiving a completed electronic application. Few candidates are ever interviewed. From a program integrity and security perspective, that worries me. I understand that big and small businesses want their labour here quickly, but at what cost to the rest of us?

There is a need for rigorous anti-fraud protocols as part of the new immigration selection system, and I, along with most Canadians, would like to hear more about that from the people in charge.

Caregivers Finally Catch A Break

November 5th, 2014

Talk about a change of heart.

A few months back my blog dealt with the negative commentary emanating from Canadian government officials and targeting live-in caregivers, also known as the extended Filipino community in Canada.

Lo and behold, last week the very same government announced significant reforms to the caregiver program that can only be seen as hugely beneficial to the caregivers themselves.

Changes to the program include ending the live-in requirement. It will remain an option, but will no longer be mandatory. No longer will caregivers be forced to sleep where they work and have their wages garnished for room and board. It’s about time.

Of utmost importance to caregivers is the length of time they are separated from their spouses and children back home. As it stands now, a caregiver must first complete two years of full-time work in Canada before applying for Canadian permanent residence status and including their immediate family members in the application. Processing times are long and, in some cases, extend well beyond three years. Currently, there are 60,000 applications awaiting a decision. The government has committed to clear the backlog completely by 2016. A cap of 5,500 applications per year has now been imposed, with the goal of processing permanent resident applications within six months. If this goes as planned, it will be a praiseworthy accomplishment.

As I have stated previously, caregivers are dedicated, hard-working individuals. They do the type of work that Canadians shun, at any reasonable wage. I, for one, am glad that they are finally getting their just due. Better late than never.

I Read The News Today, Oh Boy . . .

October 15th, 2014

The recent news that Postmedia had purchased the Sun Media chain certainly raised a few eyebrows, not least my own. Media commentators were quick to ask some obvious questions: Is this the print media’s last stand? A survival strategy? Will shrinking newsrooms result in a lack of diversity and poorer content? Can independent media in Vancouver, for example, truly thrive if three of the four dailies are owned by the same company?

But one question came to my mind immediately: Will this purchase change the editorial stance of the Sun Media titles? We live in hope.

When it comes to immigration, Canadian media organisations, much like the Canadian people, generally follow a progressive, open-minded and nuanced line of thinking.  Canada is known around the world as a country with a broad immigration policy, which is reflected in our ethnic diversity, sustained peace in our land, and economic security. Canada is, quite frankly, one of the most successful nations in history — and immigration has had a huge part to play in that.

If, however, Sun Media newspapers were your predominant, or indeed only, source of news on immigration to Canada, you would be left with the impression that Canada plays host to thousands upon thousands of immigrants for whom the only goal is to take welfare, then sponsor family members to join them in Canada and do likewise. You would be led to believe that the average immigrant is a scrounger, out to take the ordinary taxpaying Canadian for a ride. This is, at the very least, disingenuous and reactionary. At its worst, it is dangerous. Sun Media’s views on immigration lie somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun.

Take, for example, a news article published in the Vancouver Sun just last week. The article states that median employment earnings for men in B.C. have plummeted by a third since 1976, and that, according to economists, immigration is one of the principal reasons for this. But there is not a single direct quote from any economist to back up this claim.

A reader of the news sections of Sun Media publications could be forgiven for not noticing that lead statements such as that in the Vancouver Sun article are not backed up, but the mask truly slips when it comes to the Op-Ed sections.

In a Toronto Sun article titled Work? Why Bother!’ published on October 5, 2014, columnist Ezra Levant says that Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program is “Canada’s answer to illegal Mexican immigration in the U.S.” He then goes on to discuss the issue of Mexicans in the U.S. for the next four paragraphs. This is not just the very definition of a straw man argument; it also insidiously implies that temporary foreign workers have committed some sort of offence just by their very presence in Canada. It scapegoats people who have not carried out any crime.

Furthermore, an article by Salim Mansur published in the Toronto Sun in January, 2012, essentially says that immigration leads to acts of terrorism. Mansur cites the infamous “rivers of blood” speech given by British MP Enoch Powell in 1968, in which he urged Britain to significantly curb the number of immigrants it allows into the country. That speech referred to Powell’s conversation with a constituent who stated that “In this country in 15 or 20 years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.” Powell, expecting that his audience would fear such a scenario, made the claim that allowing visible minorities to immigrate is “like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre.”

And yet, the revisionist Sun Media Op-Ed pages are willing to reference Powell’s words as a vision for Canada. Indeed, Mansur says that “four decades later [after Powell’s speech], especially in the aftermath of the July 2005 suicide bombings in London and concerns over ‘homegrown terrorism’ many now view Powell’s Birmingham speech as prophetic,” drawing a direct line from immigration to terrorism. Canadians don’t fall for this kind of hysterical coverage.

I could go on and give other examples, but that could take me until Christmas. Postmedia, mainly through its National Post newspaper, has typically offered a more balanced editorial stance on matters concerning immigration. Let us hope this rubs off on their new acquisition.

Falling Through The Cracks

October 1st, 2014

For some reason, many individuals on open work permits in the province of Quebec are not eligible for medical coverage under the provincial health plan. It would make some sense to deny coverage to individuals on open work permits who were not gainfully employed, but why deny benefits to working tax payers?

Let me share an example of a family in Quebec, who I know quite well. They are a married couple with a five year-old Canadian-born daughter. The mom came to Canada on a study permit five years ago and is in graduate school at a prestigious university. The dad is on an open work permit and has been employed in a full-time job for the past four years. They have always maintained legal immigration status and applied for Canadian permanent resident visas four years ago. They received Quebec selection certificates a long time ago.

Through no fault of their own, the federal portion of their permanent resident applications have gone from one delay to another, with the end of the process still not in sight. Although the husband paid his fair share of taxes, neither he nor his wife are entitled to health benefits offered to Quebec residents and to individuals on work permits of a non-open variety. Worse still, their Canadian-born daughter is also not eligible for public health insurance in Quebec because of her parents’ status. How can that be justified?