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Blog > 2005

Canada Immigration Blogs by Attorney David Cohen

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Look in the Mirror

February 28th, 2005

Being white and Canadian circa 1967 it was easy to feel smug. Back then, race riots threatened to engulf many American cities but North of the Border the urban landscape was all peace and love.While most of us praised our egalitarianism, a friend from Boston scoffed at our self-righteous ways, noting that our tranquility had more to do with the paucity of people of colour in Canada than with the absence of discrimination.

In retrospect, I believe my friend had it right. Here’s why. A recent study published by the Montreal-based Institute for Research on Public Policy indicates a disturbing trend. It is commonly accepted that when immigrants enter a country they tend to start at an earnings disadvantage compared to native-born individuals, but narrow this gap over time. It seems, however, that immigrants who arrived in Canada twenty-five years ago fared much better economically than immigrants who arrived more recently. In 1980, newcomers earned 80% of what native-born Canadians earned, but by 1996, that rate had fallen to 60%.

The study suggests that a number of factors may have contributed to this decline. After paying lip service to the idea that pure racial/cultural discrimination is to blame, the authors then suggest that the more probable cause lays in the lower quality of education and experience of recent immigrants as compared to native-Canadians. They posit that the plight of recent immigrants is due to the difficulty Canadian employers are having with the evaluation of foreign education and experience. This theory conveniently absolves Canadians from guilt for the underperformance of newcomers in the job market. It’s a nice try, but it’s hogwash.

As for the report itself, you can dismiss it for lack of credibility. Look no further than the inclusion of the following statement: “…the incomes of Canadian-born visible minorities actually exceed those of whites born in this country by about 15%.” Not in my part of the country, I guarantee you that. As far as I’m concerned, the fact that immigrants are not working to their full potential has less to do with their qualifications and more to do with Canadian attitudes. If anything, immigrants today have higher education, more knowledge-based skills and at least equal language proficiency relative to immigrants who arrived in 1980.

What has changed in the last twenty years is their racial make-up and countries of origin. Prior to 1980, most new arrivals were white Europeans. In the last two decades most immigrants have been non-white.The other drag on first-generation immigrants’ earnings is the restrictionist policies of Canadian trade unions and professional regulatory bodies. These associations exist primarily to protect the interests of existing members. Anyone who thinks otherwise is sorely mistaken. Case in point is the sorry state of Canada’s health care system. We endure excessive delays in treatment due in large part to understaffing issues. The solution is not as simple as churning out more made-in-Canada health care workers. We already subsidize the education and training of many top-notch professionals in the medical field. Unfortunately for us, a good number of them leave the country to work abroad –like the 30,000 Canadian nurses currently employed in the US.

At the same time, there are numerous qualified foreign-trained health care workers in Canada, employed in low-paying jobs for which they are overqualified. You would think that the provincial regulatory bodies would do everything in their power to accredit these individuals, but instead they have established barriers that make it next to impossible for them to become members.Things will only improve for immigrants when they realize the power they possess.

On a macro level, Canada needs immigrants just as much as immigrants need Canada. Given our aging population and low birthrate, we depend on a steady source of new arrivals, not only to drive the economy but also for our very existence. The problem is that on an individual basis new immigrants do not feel influential. They are beholden to Canada and are uncomfortable making demands. But there is strength in numbers. In major urban centres like Toronto and Vancouver, immigrants have now reached a critical mass. They can and should be electing politicians who take their genuine concerns to heart. And so should we all.

Blog written by David Cohen on Monday, February 28, 2005

Tsunami in South and South East Asia

January 11th, 2005

The Year 2004 ended on a sour note for humans. The images and numbers coming out of tsunami-ravaged South and South East Asia are starkest in the absence of commentary.

It is in our nature to yearn for something positive from all horrific events and on that level this catastrophe does not disappoint. There has been greatness in the contributions made by people around the world. Doctors, medicine, money and supplies have been flown in from all parts of the globe to help the survivors.

Volunteers are arriving in the affected areas to assist their fellow human beings re-construct shattered property and lives. From a Canadian perspective, this disaster has touched the lives of many of our residents, whose families and friends happened

to be in harm’s way. We have been moved individually and collectively to assist in any way that we can.

The Prime Minister has announced a commitment of $425 million toward relief measures and rehabilitation assistance. Included in this amount is $150 million donated by individuals and groups.

The Department of Citizenship and Immigration has adopted the following measures for visa seekers who have been and continue to be seriously affected:

- Existing Family Class sponsorships will be expedited;

- New Family Class sponsorships will be treated on a priority basis;

- Government processing fees and the Right of Permanent Resident fee will be waived;

The Minister of Immigration is meeting with relevant community service groups in Canada to determine what more can be done. I, too, am making efforts to extend a helping hand by providing pro bono services and donating a portion of my professional fees to UNICEF. My website contains details about how you can participate with me in these efforts.

Blog written by David Cohen on Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Kindness of Strangers

January 11th, 2005

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

“Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers…”
- Blanche DuBois

I mean this blog to be of particular interest to Americans who do not wince at the sight of Tom DeLay. I sense some of you are fence-sitting on the issue of establishing a foothold in Canada and are a bit confused over the implications of such an undertaking. As my contribution to setting right some of the mistaken notions about a move to Canada, I offer samplings of my recent conversations with prospective American clients.

Q. If I gain Canadian status, will I lose my American citizenship?

A. No, both Canada and the United States recognize multi-citizenship, so you do not have to give up your American citizenship unless you choose to. You can even continue to be active in and vote in future U.S. elections. Don’t look at it as losing a daughter but rather as gaining a son-in-law. Now, don’t you feel better already?

Q. Is it difficult to qualify for a Canadian permanent resident visa?

A. Not for Americans. Canada utilizes objective selection criteria to assess applicants worldwide. However, those selection factors favor English speaking educated applicants.

Q. I don’t know that I want to spend that much time in Canada. Does Canadian status require me to spend time there?

A. Residency requirements are quite lenient. As a Canadian citizen, you are not required to spend any time in Canada. As a Canadian permanent resident, you are supposed to accumulate two years of residency days in each five-year period. However, the holes in the residency regulations are wide enough to motor an Abrams Tank through and you can maintain your permanent residence status without spending much time in Canada at all.

Q. Will I have to pay taxes to both the IRS and Revenue Canada?

A. There is a tax treaty between the U.S.A. and Canada, and as a result there is no double taxation. Instead, the two countries divvy-up your hard-earned dollars. Rest assured that you would still be able to kvetch to your accountant.

Q. How do I retain my strong Christian moral values in a society that recognizes the rights of same-sex couples and decriminalizes pot-smoking?

A. Move to Alberta. Vote Conservative.

Q. How will I survive without my O’Reilly Factor fix?

A. Good news here. Canadian broadcasting regulators finally succumbed and allowed Fox to feed Canadian homes. You won’t have to check your decision-making powers at the border.

Q. Is it true that I won’t be able to bring my guns to Canada?

A. You got me there, partner.

Q. Is it worth the effort?

A. Not if your sources are more reliable than those of Tom Ridge and Michael Scheurer. Levity aside, there is an important false impression that merits your attention. Many Americans I have spoken with recently believe that Canada would open her doors in the event that bad stuff happens. Don’t count on it. Our history as a safe haven is spotty at best. Peruse the book “None Is Too Many” by Irving Abella for insight into Canada’s past restrictionist immigration policy when people in need came calling. Make no mistake. There is a world of difference between entering a country as of right and seeking permission to come in.

Blog written by David Cohen