Growing number of migrants renouncing Canadian immigrant status | Vancouver Sun

Solid rationale for many of these permanent residents doing so, but does beg the broader question of how this benefits Canada, beyond more pressure on the housing market and increased school and university enrolment.

To give context, the total number of Permanent Residents for the period 2006-15 is:

  • India: 323,785
  • China: 290,933
  • South Korea: 53,785

Thousands of permanent residents are renouncing their opportunity to immigrate to Canada — for reasons ranging from a dislike of the cold to a desire to avoid Canadian taxes.

More than 21,000 people with permanent resident cards who had the opportunity to become Canadian citizens have turned their back on the quest in the past two years. The highest number of  “renunciations” are from citizens of China, India and South Korea.

People who renounce their permanent resident status no longer have to prove they’re spending significant time in Canada when they cross the borders or fly into an airport, say immigration lawyers in Vancouver.

Nor do Canadian immigration process dropouts have to give up the passport of their homelands, where many continue to work or run businesses. And they are not expected to declare their foreign assets to Canada Revenue Agency.

“Renunciations are growing in number and will likely remain high,” says an internal report from Canada’s immigration office in Shanghai, China, the largest source country for immigrants to B.C.

“Many people are renouncing five years after landing (in Canada), rather than renewing their permanent cards, as they are working in China and do not meet residency requirements,” says the internal report, published in the Vancouver newsletter Lexbase.

“Their children often remain in Canada to complete school and to begin their careers.”

According to three Vancouver immigration lawyers, many people who renounce their permanent resident cards continue to return to gateway cities such as Vancouver and Toronto to visit their families as temporary visitors, especially on the increasingly popular 10-year visas.

“They were getting picked off at Vancouver airport for failure to meet residency requirements. This way they can avoid that problem and still come here,” said B.C. immigration lawyer Sam Hyman, noting the strong majority of migrants to Metro Vancouver are from Asia.

People with permanent resident status in Canada are required to spend two years out of every five in the country.

Vancouver immigration lawyer Jeffrey Lowe said many people who renounce their permanent status are breadwinners who cannot meet Canada’s two-year-residency requirement because they hold down jobs elsewhere, typically earning more money in their homeland than they believe they could in Canada.

A large number of these are so-called astronaut parents, who work offshore while their spouses and school-attending children remain in Canada, usually in urban centres, and own residential property, say the immigration lawyers.
The rapid rise in renunciations began in 2015 after then-immigration minister Chris Alexander, of the Conservatives, changed the rules to make it easier to voluntarily withdraw from the immigration process.

In the two years up to September of 2016, Citizenship and Immigration Canada figures show there were 5,407 renunciations by citizens of China, 2,431 by citizens of India, 1,681 by South Koreans, 1,416 by Britons and 1,129 by Taiwanese.

“A lot of people with permanent resident status have wanted to get their family and wealth transferred into Canada,” said Hyman.

“Some have bought multiple properties. By renouncing their permanent resident status they can stay below the radar and avoid Canadian taxes,” he said.

“They can visit Canada whenever they want on a 10-year visa. Why would they want anything else?”

Another reason foreigners renounce the Canadian immigration process, according to Hyman, is so family breadwinners won’t have to give up their passport and citizenship privileges in economically vibrant homelands like China and South Korea.

China and India do not allow their citizens to hold two passports, and South Korea only in rare cases.

Lowe says he expects renunciations to jump even more since the federal government in November began requiring a new customs document for some travellers, called ETA, or electronic travel authorization.

Foreign nationals from certain countries can’t obtain an ETA if they are a permanent resident or if they are non-compliant with the terms of their residency card, Lowe said. As a result they’re not allowed to board a plane to come to Canada.

Given that problem, Lowe said many would-be immigrants choose to renounce their residency status and instead simply apply for temporary visas to Canada.

Richard Kurland, author of the Lexbase newsletter, said it’s become common for breadwinners to bring their entire family to B.C. as permanent residents and then to decide “either it’s too cold or there’s no way I’m going to file an income tax return and report my global interests and property and pay taxes in Canada on that. I’m returning to my country of origin.”

In many cases, Kurland said, just the spouse and children who physically stay in Canada for five years end up being the ones who become Canadian citizens.

Source: Growing number of migrants renouncing Canadian immigrant status | Vancouver Sun

Douglas Todd: Canada needs strong dose of ‘cultural curiosity | Vancouver Sun

Interesting conversation between Douglas Todd and Ara Norenzayan, a UBC social psychologist and the need to understand difference better rather than assuming no difference. Their discussion turns more challenging when it comes to considering what differences are acceptable and what is not:

We started our conversation with Norenzayan describing three of the benefits social psychologists and anthropologists have discovered about diversity.

“Diversity concentrates talent,” Norenzayan said. Cities, universities and businesses can advance when talented people gather together from diverse cultures.

In addition “diverse groups are more creative at problem solving,” Norenzayan said. Laboratory experiments show groups of varied people can imagine many novel uses for an object that a more homogeneous group sees in a limited way.

Thirdly, people in diverse contexts can learn the skill of interacting without polarizing. Norenzayan cited summer camps in which young Jews and Palestinians become friends, the prime route to cross-cultural understanding.

But there are potential downsides to diversity, which should not be denied.

The most obvious is that diversity can lead to self-segregation.

I have written about the startling degree to which ethnic Chinese, South Asians, Caucasians and others are forming ethnic enclaves in Metro Vancouver, a region that demographers call “hyper-diverse” since 45 per cent of the population is foreign born.

“People are less likely to get to know their neighbours if they live in diverse neighbourhoods. Contact diminishes,” Norenzayan said.

It’s happening at UBC, which is a predominantly ethnic Asian campus. “Asian students and non-Asian students self-segregate.”

Diversity “can unravel very fast”

….Canada is not on the verge of becoming like divided Lebanon. But that strife-torn country is a chilling example of how diversity can suddenly turn to polarization.

“People used to think of Lebanon as a model of a society that was very diverse,” Norenzayan said. Muslims, Christians, Lebanese, Palestinians and others tended to get along.

“But, in 1975, it unravelled very fast. So I don’t have any illusions.”

Although few can explain why Lebanon boiled over, Norenzayan said it “doesn’t take much to poison the well.” Certain events in Lebanon incited groups that once tolerated each other to turn to identity politics, inducing “a spiral of negativity” that continues to this day.

Even though most countries of the world don’t accept any immigrants, some that do, like the U.S., Britain, France and the Netherlands, have in recent years experienced a rapid rise of immigration-skeptical nativism.

Despite decades of official multiculturalism, Norenzayan worries many Canadians still think that being honest about cultural differences is the same as stereotyping. And the last thing any Canadian wants to be called is racist or xenophobic, however unfairly.

“The first thing to do is tell people difference is OK. It’s not prejudice to recognize people have different beliefs,” Norenzayan said.

Social psychologists, for instance, have found through experiments that most people in the West value independence, choice and self-realization.

But in Chinese and Korean cultures, research shows group cohesion and obedience are tied into morality.

“My Chinese students are extremely respectful of authority,” Norenzayan said. When he asks Chinese students to call him “Ara,” he says most “just can’t do it. They think it’s immoral. They believe deference to authority is a moral value.”

Another Asian value that Westerners don’t get, said Norenzayan, is purity.

While Hindu temple priests expect visitors to take their shoes off before entering as an act of purity, he said many Westerners think it’s just etiquette. But purity codes have powerful consequences throughout Asia.

“Cultural curiosity” recognizes differences

The more we explore diversity, the more we may find some cultural differences morally disturbing, depending on whether we’re liberal, conservative or in-between.

Even though we should avoid a rush to judgment, Norenzayan said a diverse society like Canada “has to make some choices” about how far to go in accepting some cultural differences.

I asked Norenzayan what he thought about Toronto Muslim Zunera Ishaq’s successful fight in 2015 to wear a face-covering niqab during her citizenship ceremony.

“I personally don’t agree with niqabs, but I don’t think there should be a law that bans them,” he said. “There are lot of things I don’t like that other people do. Where do you stop? If (polls show most of) the Canadian population doesn’t like something, do we ban it?”

When I responded that European courts appear to be making reasonable decisions to ban women wearing niqabs while working with young people in daycare centres or public schools, Norenzayan added he believed RCMP officers should likely not be permitted to wear niqabs.

He also felt strongly about polygamy. His former UBC colleague, Joe Heinrich, discovered that polygamist societies tend to be “more violent and more gender unequal.”

If Canada were to legalize polygamy, Norenzayan said, it would make the country “a magnet for polygamous immigrants,” which he thinks would be harmful.

Compared to many countries, Canadian multiculturalism is maintaining a certain calm. We’re often ranked as one of the world’s most “tolerant” nations.

“But we don’t really know why,” Norenzayan said. He emphasized we need to figure it out.

We speculated the country’s relative peace and good order could have something to do with our protected borders and general Canadian “civility,” which has long historical roots.

We also agreed Canadians’ overall acceptance of diversity flows from a highly selective migration policy. Most countries don’t allow any immigration, but those that do constantly adjust intake criteria, and levels, in search of the sweet spot that encourages integration.

Since Norenzayan has experienced how easily a hyper-diverse region can descend to tribalism, he feels more urgency than most about enhancing Canada’s relative harmony,

Instead of being “culture blind” and pretending no differences exist, Norenzayan says society needs to offer more Canadians a chance to experience positive contact across cultures.

I couldn’t agree more when he suggests the attitude necessary to make that happen is the genuine practise of cultural curiosity.

Source: Douglas Todd: Canada needs strong dose of ‘cultural curiosity | Vancouver Sun

Douglas Todd: The hidden cost of foreign-student policy

Some valid points regarding the rise of international students and their impact although the healthcare costs are likely grossly inflated: using the provincial average is not appropriate for young age cohort that tend to have fewer healthcare needs.

And the concern about slipping standards is more anecdote based without hard data to back this up:

Although unheeded by politicians, Knight and Altbach say Western foreign-student programs have lost their humanitarian ideals, grown into a giant business and now largely draw second-tier students, many of whom struggle with new languages.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University political science professor Shinder Purewal and Patrick Feeney, a B.C.-based education professor now at Chiang Mai University in Thailand, add to such warnings about the hidden costs of Canada’s foreign student policy.

While both scholars support foreign student programs, they fear they’ve mushroomed out of control. Canadians, the scholars say, need to be aware of the disguised burden on taxpayers. Purewal and Feeney also say academic standards are declining in many classrooms.

Working independently, Purewal and Feeney reveal there have been significant repercussions as the ratio of foreign students at B.C.’s two leading universities, UBC and SFU, has grown to one in four, with by far the largest cohort from Mainland China.

Even though the portion of foreign students at suburban Vancouver’s Kwantlen Polytechnic University is one in eight (almost half the foreign students are South Asian), internal documents show that Kwantlen recently paid more than $300,000 to student-recruiting agents in India.

To further illustrate how massive the industry has become, Purewal said Metro Vancouver is home to more than 150 private colleges and universities that cater almost exclusively to foreign students. He calls them “drive-thru institutions, basically two-room colleges.”

What are the hidden financial costs of Canada’s foreign-student policies?

Purewal, who is also a registered immigration consultant, says Canadians are not aware that the more than 300,000 foreign students in the country at any one time receive provincial taxpayer-funded health care.

The foreign students — as well as their spouses and children — have their doctor and hospital visits paid for by Canadian taxpayers, even though they have not contributed to the universal health care program.

With B.C. home to 110,000 foreign students, and the average resident using up almost $6,000 a year in medical expenses, Purewal calculated “the cost could be up $635 million” to the province’s health care system, not including spouses and children (who are also allowed free public-school educations).

“While the post-secondary institutions earn more tuition money, the Canadian taxpayers foot the bill for their health costs,” said Purewal, who has served as a citizenship court judge, where he’s seen how Canadian policy also favours foreign students as future immigrants.

Many foreign students and especially their spouses also seize on the option to work while in Canada, often full-time, says Purewal, echoing a new trend discovered by Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland.

In many cases, Purewal believes, Canadian bosses prefer to hire foreign students or their spouses. “You can exploit them to bone. They are not going to talk about labour standards. They can’t complain. Employers are happy with this system.”

What’s happening in higher education itself?

Purewal and Feeney are skeptical about the mantra from administrators and politicians that foreign students do not take the seats of domestic students.

The two academics maintain that, since government funding for higher education is declining, the money available to create seats for domestic students is also, in effect, declining. Domestic student enrolment in classrooms is capped.

Former UBC president Stephen Toope is among those who have said B.C. government funding for university students has been cut almost in half from its high in the 1970s, when it covered 70 per cent of per capita costs.

Purewal says the competition between domestic and foreign students becomes particularly keen in winning coveted spots in masters or PhD programs, which are small, with varied selection criteria.

Purewal also maintains universities are not asking most foreign students in Canada, who typically pay anywhere from $12,000 to $18,000 a year in fees, to pay their own way in full.

Their fees do not finance infrastructure, he said. If foreign students had to completely make up for the taxpayer money that has gone into constructing UBC, SFU or Kwantlen, Purewal estimated their fees would have to double or triple.

The quality of education is also declining in many university and college classrooms, says Feeney.

Source: Douglas Todd: The hidden cost of foreign-student policy | Vancouver Sun

Douglas Todd: Are schools pushing aboriginal, ‘Buddhist’ spirituality? | Vancouver Sun

Good analysis, commentary and recommendation, slightly different take to the  column posted earlier (Ashley Csanady: Indigenous prayers in the classroom and all-Muslim suburbs are equally dangerous attacks on our secular society).

That being said, I am a great fan of mindfulness, as have found that useful in both my professional life (being more aware of my internal biases) and during my cancer treatments:

The aboriginal blessings and mindfulness exercises, while fine in themselves, inject a confusing shot of religion into academia, given many scholars would revolt if a university event began with prayer rooted in Christianity, Judaism or Islam.

What’s a way forward?

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Mackenzie ruled in 1999 that public education should be “strictly secular,” which he interpreted to mean it should not show favoritism to one religion over another. Beyond that, he said, schools should be ”pluralist,” or ”inclusive in the widest sense.”

Canadian religion professor John Stackhouse believes the B.C. parents objecting to having aboriginal spirituality and mindfulness imposed on their children have a case — and that the public-school system has “crossed a line.”

Just as there is no place for the Christian practice of baptism in public schools, Stackhouse says there is no room for aboriginal smudging or Buddhist-based mindfulness. And rather than creating the awkwardness of students opting in or out, he believes educators should just not invite participation in such practices.

There is a third approach.

Like many, including myself and the B.C. Humanist Association, Stackhouse believes schools should teach far more world-religion courses, so students can learn, in age-appropriate ways, about a variety of spiritual observances and worldviews, from Catholicism to Confucianism.

That should also fit with the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which recommended doing more to educate students about aboriginal traditions.

The actual practice of such rituals, however, is probably best reserved to individuals, families and spiritual communities.

Source: Douglas Todd: Are schools pushing aboriginal, ‘Buddhist’ spirituality? | Vancouver Sun

Douglas Todd: Canada’s public guardians have failed Vancouver [investor immigration and housing]

Good long read by Todd on some of the major policy and operational failures that have contributed to housing prices in Vancouver:

The main dereliction of duty by Immigration Canada has been its refusal, until it was too late, to properly assess the Business Immigrant Program (BIP).

Started in the mid-1980s, the BIP has arguably been the most crucial factor driving up Metro housing prices. UBC geographer David Ley estimates it has brought more than 400,000 well-off immigrants to Metro.

The first problem with the BIP, say Ley and others, is that it had extremely low standards.

It began by requiring an immigrant entrepreneur to invest only $150,000 in a business and hire one Canadian. The U.S., at the same time, was demanding business immigrants invest at least four times more money and hire at least 10 Americans.

One of the few high-level government officials to sound a warning about BIP applicants, whose first choice is to pour money into “safe” real estate, was David Mulroney, Canada’s former ambassador to China.

Asia-Pacific-trade boosters like Yuen Pau Woo, recently named a senator, have long said Canada should do everything it can to attract rich immigrants, calling them “the best and brightest.”

But Mulroney counters that liberally handing out passports “devalues the importance of Canadian citizenship.” And Justin Fung, with HALT (Housing Action for Local Taxpayers), concurs: “We’re practically giving away passports for free, and little benefit.”

In the meantime, Immigration Canada officials have not properly monitored the BIP. Their lax approach went on for decades as wealthy trans-nationals avoided being tested for compliance with even the BIP’s low standards.

A forensic auditor for the World Bank ended up called Canada’s BIP “a massive sham.”

The Conservatives finally killed it in 2014, which Fung called “years too late.”

Fung also worries a form of the BIP lives on in Quebec’s stand-alone immigrant-investor plan, which each year brings thousands more moneyed arrivals to Vancouver.

In addition, the federal Liberals are considering reviving a pilot program similar to the BIP.

Canada Revenue Agency

It gets worse.

While Canadian passports were being sold at bargain-basement prices, the Canada Revenue Agency has been ignoring another red flag — that many BIP newcomers and other owners of Metro mansions have been reporting strangely low incomes.

Even though the tax department had been warned, the politicians responsible did not want to face the reality that thousands of BIP investors and others were hiding most of their assets, which should have been taxed.

Officials have not wanted to admit to the widespread phenomenon of “astronaut” fathers who leave wives and student children in expensive homes in Metro to return to their homelands to do business — without declaring their offshore assets to Canadian tax officials.

An early attempt to bring in a national law requiring residents of Canada to disclose their foreign assets was opposed and not only by centre-right politicians, says Ley. B.C.’s centre-left NDP government of the 1990s also expressed concern such a law would be “culturally insensitive” and decrease B.C.’s attractiveness as a place for migrants to invest.

And even when a national foreign-assets disclosure tax law was finally brought into effect, it has often gone unenforced.

In the midst of Vancouver’s escalating housing crisis, in 2014, former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper chopped 262 experienced tax auditors.

One of the first people to publicly expose ongoing tax avoidance by the trans-national elite was former Richmond Mayor Greg Halsey-Brandt.

In 2015 Halsey-Brandt directed Postmedia to data showing residents of one of Richmond’s most expensive neighbourhoods, where most of the population is foreign-born, were reporting poverty-level incomes — and thus putting themselves in position to pay virtually no taxes.

Another revelation came in the fall of 2015 when statistician Jens von Bergmann and UBC geographer Dan Hiebert independently unveiled census statistics showing high portions of mansion owners in ritzy Vancouver neighbourhoods were declaring almost no income.

The figures from von Bergmann and Hiebert showed several neighbourhoods, in which houses were selling in the $5-million to $7-million range, that were generally populated by immigrants, particularly ethnic Chinese.

In 2016, South China Morning Post journalist Ian Young broke open the tax department’s failures. The Hong-Kong-based newspaper revealed Canada Revenue Agency officials had been aware for decades of such tax-avoidance schemes.

CRA officials had admitted, in internal documents, they were not willing to devote auditors to catching these “highly sophisticated” tax-avoiding schemes by Metro Vancouver mansion owners and others.

‘They were scared,” the source said, “of being labelled racist.’”

In addition, a common real-estate scam has gone largely undetected as a direct result of the failure of Canada’s tax and immigration departments to share their information.

Because of the absence of cooperation, many Metro house owners have been avoiding paying capital gains taxes. They have been falsely claiming they are residents of Canada for tax and immigration purposes when they are actually mostly living outside the country and not disclosing their foreign income.

Unfortunately, it turns out that Canada’s immigration and tax departments have not been the only ones turning a blind eye to such unfairness and cheating in Vancouver’s exploding housing market.

Source: Douglas Todd: Canada’s public guardians have failed Vancouver | Vancouver Sun

Douglas Todd: Joy Kogawa’s many shades of Japanese-Canadian shame

Interesting and disturbing:

Joy Kogawa has noticed reviewers of her new bookof memoirs have not touched arguably the most controversial section of her intimate exploration of betrayal and hope.

Reviewers have focused instead on the way the Vancouver-raised author of Obasan and The Rain Descends dealt with her Japanese-Canadian family being sent to an internment camp, the bombing of Nagasaki and how her father was a pedophile.

However, Kogawa, 81, has been publicly forthright for decades about those shame-filled realities.

The most cutting-edge section of her book, titled Gently to Nagasaki, digs into horrors most Canadians and ethnic Japanese want to deny — Japan’s war atrocities.

The peace activist’s memoirs describe her painful relatively recent discovery of the extent of the slaughters and mass rapes committed by the Imperial Japanese army.

It was while Japanese troops were killing millions of Asians and others that Canadian governments in 1942 sent many Japanese-Canadians, most of them from B.C., to internment camps.

Following her family’s ordeal in camps in the Kootenays and Alberta, Kogawa gained wide attention for helping lead the campaign that culminated in Ottawa’s 1988 apology and compensation to 20,000 Japanese-Canadians.

The many honours eventually bestowed upon Kogawa included the 2006 establishment of Vancouver’s Kogawa House, where the family had lived until 1942. It’s now a residence for writers.

But Kogawa has not allowed adoration to stop her pursuit of the authentic. Her mission seems to be to move beyond denial on all fronts: regarding internment camps, racism, global warming, her priest-father’s sexual crimes and her relatively recent discovery of Japanese war monstrosities.

“Love and truth are indivisible,” Kogawa says.

Her wise aphorism has had unpleasant consequences, though. Since most Canadians who don’t want to offend ignore Japan’s grisly war history, Kogawa acknowledged in an interview from her residence in Toronto that she’s had to “face the rage” of many.

“It’s cost me some really good friendships.”

Whether in Toronto, Vancouver or Japan, Kogawa said, many people, including ethnic Japanese, “just don’t believe” the atrocities occurred. They’d “rather die” than have the reality exposed.

“Or they feel I’m betraying them by talking about it. But it takes the truth to get to reconciliation.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Joy Kogawa’s many shades of Japanese-Canadian shame | Vancouver Sun

Douglas Todd: Canadians far from resolving not-so-minor niqab issue

More on the niqab in the aftermath of Douglas Todd’s interview with Zunera Ishaq, highlighting some of her apparent contradictions and inconsistencies.

One aspect missing from these discussions is a comparison with the traditionalists or the fundamentalists within other faiths, and how their values are or are not compatible with what we think are Canadian values:

SFU social policy specialist John Richards points out Ishaq’s hearing never got to the Charter of Rights arguments. It’s another indication the debate is not over.

The niqab raises the question Quebec’s noted Taylor-Bouchard commission attempted to answer on the limits of tolerance, which is: How far should Canadians go to “reasonably accommodate” certain cultural practices?

Appropriately, UBC political scientist emeritus Philip Resnick distinguishes Canada’s niqab debate from the August controversy over some French cities banning the full-body “burkini” from beaches.

“The burkini debate arose because emotions were very raw in the aftermath of the Muslim terrorist attack on Nice on Bastille Day. I think there is no more reason to deny women the right to wear a flowing garment when swimming than to deny them a bikini or string swimming suit.”

But Resnick urges Canadians to “avoid tut-tutting and moralizing” over Europeans’ generally more restrictive response to the niqab. “I wonder how quickly Canadian tolerance would be replaced by fear if we had to deal with an intransigent Islamist contingent in our midst?”

I originally intended to write just one column on the far-reaching niqab debate. But plans changed last week when Ishaq, after many earlier calls to her family’s Mississauga residence, picked up the phone and answered some fresh questions.

In addition to emphasizing her “choice” to cover her face, Ishaq said she believes in strict segregation of the sexes, opposes homosexuality and abortion, believes women are “unclean” during menstruation and is convinced Muslims must obey Islamic commands.

…Questions too ‘gentle’

Richards, who travels frequently to South Asia for research, appreciated my exploration into Ishaq’s paradoxical worldview, but also suggested I’d been “gentle.”

I could have asked Ishaq about “apostasy,” which refers to the rejection of a religion, said Richards.

A Pew Research poll found 75 per cent of Pakistanis believe a person should be executed for apostasy.

Many people in Pakistan, the fifth largest source of immigrants to Canada, also believe women must wear niqabs. And hundreds of Pakistani women are killed each year in “honour killings.”

Given the global geo-political issues, I could also have been more curious when Ishaq (who is now on a family trip in Pakistan) said “no comment” in regards to Saudi Arabia’s pressure on women to wear full-length burkas and niqabs.

Even though Ishaq says she is devoted to the supreme value of “choice,” it was unusual that she passed up the chance to criticize an Islamic government that removes women’s choice and requires them to dress a certain way.

Ishaq is affiliated with several politicized Muslim organizations, including the Hanafi school of thought, which believes apostasy is a sin punishable by death, according to the Federal Court and Richards.

Canadian Muslim writer Tarek Fetah has also shown Ishaq has connections with Jamaat-e-Islami and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), which are part of the ultraconservative Salafist movement.

Given Ishaq’s apparent contradictions, Toronto blogger Eiynah says “framing the niqab as some sort of feminist tool of bodily autonomy is the most ludicrous, topsy-turvy thing I’d ever heard of.”

Similarly, Resnick, who specializes in anglophone and francophone cultures, finds it “extraordinary” that many secular left-wing people defend the niqab.

“Ultimately, the issue goes back to the one the Bouchard-Taylor commission in Quebec sought to tackle — what constitutes reasonable accommodation?” Resnick says.

“The niqab offends Canadian sensibilities in a way that the head scarf does not. It reminds us there are countries where women cannot show their faces in public. It represents the most backward-looking and repressive feature of Salafist ideology.

“At the minimum I would agree with those who would bar the wearing of a niqab at any citizenship ceremony. Nor would I see it as acceptable garb for anyone working in the public sector and therefore having to serve a much more diverse Canadian public.”

Like Swedes, political scientists say, Canadians tend to believe in their exceptionalism.

“Many Canadians, in their refusal to take tougher positions on accommodation and integration of immigrants, like to think of themselves as exceptionally virtuous, unlike the wicked Americans or Europeans. But are we?” asks Resnick.

“Quebecois are franker in this regard than English Canadians, in regards to both language and the niqab, since their sense of cultural identity is more clearly on the line than our own.

“But I wonder how well Canadian smugness would survive a serious challenge to our core values, of the type that radical Islamism represents in Europe.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Canadians far from resolving not-so-minor niqab issue | Vancouver Sun

Douglas Todd: Does Sweden’s migration crisis contain lesson for Canada?

Douglas Todd correctly asks the question: Would Canada have the same opens to immigration if we were not protected from unmanaged immigration by our oceans and the US?

Highly unlikely:

Could Canada, which Swedes tend to admire because of our multicultural policy, survive what the Swedes are enduring?

With a population of almost 10 million, Sweden took in more refugees per capita since the beginning of 2015 than any country in the European Union, including Germany.

If Canada had accepted the same proportion of asylum seekers as Sweden, it would have added up to more than 570,000 people. That’s far from the 25,000 the federal Liberals approved.

The rest of the EU, other than Germany, has shown no interest in following open-hearted Sweden. Neither has the U.S., which has only accepted 6,000 Syrians.

Some called ‘naive’

“I’m horribly disappointed in the rest of the EU states,” said Anna Rehnvall, migration specialist for Fores think-tank, which represents Sweden’s Green and liberal parties.

anna-rehnvallRefusing asylum seekers is not an option for Rehnvall, who has worked on migration issues with the Conference Board of Canada.

“When asylum seekers show up on your border, you have to look them in the eye. In Sweden, it’s really hard to say no to someone who arrives on your doorstep.”

Given her attitude, Rehnvall admits she’s been called “naive.” But so have many Swedes.

Seventeen per cent of Sweden’s population is now foreign born, with most admitted as refugees or through family reunification.

In Canada, 21 per cent of the population is foreign born; the portion rising to more than 45 per cent in Metro Vancouver and Toronto.

Since Canada is protected by the U.S. border and three oceans, relatively few newcomers to Canada show up as asylum seekers. Most arrivals have been skilled, educated or wealthy.

Source: Douglas Todd: Does Sweden’s migration crisis contain lesson for Canada? | Vancouver Sun

Young immigrants to Canada passionate about spirituality: Todd

Will be interesting to track this religiosity over time and see which of the experts quoted proves to be more accurate in their predictions:

Between 2001 and 2011, about 39 per cent of the people who came to Canada arrived as Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists,” Bibby writes in the new book, Canada’s Catholics (Novalis), co-written with Angus Reid. “However, 44 per cent arrived as either Protestants (23 per cent) or Catholics (21 per cent). The remainder (17 per cent) had no religious affiliation.”With people outside the West becoming more religiously committed than ever, Bibby believes Canada’s unusually high immigration intake will prove a “windfall” for religion and some forms of Christianity, particularly Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism.

Father Rob Allore, priest at St. Mark’s Catholic parish at UBC, says the immigrants and foreign students who predominate at his church generally “stress the importance of community” more than Canadian-born British Columbians, who tend to be more individualistic.

Immigrants are also typically more socially conservative than Canadian-born people, particularly in regards to sex, marriage and relationships, said Allore, echoing research studies.

Farida Bano Ali, a prominent Vancouver Muslim, agrees that most immigrants are fairly religious in their early years in Canada.

“But once they become accustomed to freedom here, it’s a different story. Many drift away with their friends. And some are drawn to anti-social behaviour. Or just to making money.”

John Stackhouse, a Canadian professor specializing in Christianity and culture, believes many immigrants find practical value in joining a religious organization when they first arrive in Canada. It provides a sense of identity, plus job-market connections.

Unlike Bibby, Stackhouse questions whether most of the influx of immigrants — who account for 70 per cent of Canada’s population growth — will remain loyal to their faith groups long enough to have a lasting impact on religious attendance in Canada.

Young immigrants to Canada passionate about spirituality

Vancouver’s housing debate not about race, it’s about public policy: Todd

Good long column by Todd:

I had coffee this week with three Canadian friends — one of us was born in Egypt, one in Hong Kong, one in Iran and one in Canada (me) — and the subject arose: Is there a relationship between Metro Vancouver’s out-of-control housing prices and racism?

We battered around a few arguments, including that the hundreds of thousands of transnational migrants and investors who have discovered Metro Vancouver in the past decade cannot be morally blamed, individually, for the city’s astronomical housing costs. That is, except for those involved in corruption or tax evasion.

In most cases, transnational migrants, many wealthy and with dual citizenship, are simply doing what anyone in their situation would do if they could afford it: Investing in Canadian real estate to create a safe economic landing for their families outside their often-troubled countries of origin.

While our coffee group recognized some people might scapegoat migrants from certain countries, especially Mainland China, we acknowledged the most crucial thing is to get up to speed on the multiple factors behind runaway housing prices — so we can encourage governments to finally do something to ease them.

Our discussion led me to conclude that the debate over housing affordability does not need to be dominated by race or ethnicity.

It needs to focus on public policy.

It should zero in on public policies that will help Metro Vancouver be a real community — a place not only of ethnic diversity, but of economic diversity, where power is mostly in the hands of the people and the gap between the poor, middle class and rich does not widen more than it has already.

That means discussing policy options, such as whether and how to impose a tax on foreign speculators, tax empty houses, stop international money laundering and tax avoidance, curtail Quebec’s immigrant-investor program, enforce rules in the real-estate industry, add social housing, increase zoning density, adjust immigration levels, shift interest rates and stop foreign donations to B.C. politicians.
But many Canadians don’t seem comfortable with such debates, unlike many in Europe and elsewhere, where it’s generally expected one will be up for a rousing dinner-table discussion about politics, money and power.

Rather than talking about overriding issues such as economic equality and justice, Canadians seem to find it easier, more socially acceptable, to talk about so-called identity politics; which emphasizes ethnicity, gender and individual freedoms.

As a result, in Canada, racial discrimination, or the possibility of it, is often the go-to topic. That’s so even while international agencies continue to rank Canada the most “tolerant” country in the world in regards to immigration. See the recent global surveys by Britain’s respected Legatum Institute and the Social Progress Imperative, a U.S.-based non-profit.

When it comes to housing, why do a relative few British Columbian voices remain fixated on racial issues?

It’s easy to dismiss real estate industry lobbyists who accuse those worried about high housing prices as racist or xenophobic — since their vested interest for the past three decades has been to distract politicians from imposing policies that might cool the flow of foreign money into the market.

Some other Canadians concerned about racism don’t have such dubious motives, but I’m convinced much of their super-vigilance arises out of a misunderstanding of the definition of racism.

The Oxford Dictionary understanding of racism is quite specific. It’s not as sweeping as believed by some people, including the liberal arts academics who build their careers on alleging that “undertones” of racism exist where they may not.

The Oxford Dictionary defines racism as: “Prejudice, discrimination or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”

While the housing crisis may trigger some hard-core racists — people who actually do discriminate based on the belief their ethno-cultural group is superior — there is no evidence such behaviour is widespread in Canada or Metro Vancouver.

Residents of Metro would have a right to be morally concerned no matter where the billions of dollars flooding into the city’s housing market was coming from.

If, theoretically, it were pouring in from tens of thousands of Caucasians based in Kelowna, strong feelings, including resentment, and ethical concerns, including in regards to equality, would be justified.

A number of prominent Canadians who are committed to ethnic diversity and social justice tend to agree.

Vancouver’s housing debate “is not about racism. It’s about a difference in economic power,” said Clarence Cheng, former chief executive officer of B.C.’s SUCCESS Foundation, which supports program for immigrants. “It’s about the rich becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer.”

Albert Lo, head of the Canada Race Relations Foundation, says there’s nothing wrong with collecting information on the national origins of people buying and selling houses in Metro Vancouver, in part because it could combat tax evasion.

“In Canada, we are so used to the idea of tolerance that we sometimes find it odd to look at nationalities. That causes some people to jump up and start using the word ‘racism.’ I don’t think it’s helpful,” says Lo.

Ujjal Dosanjh, a former federal Liberal cabinet minister, lambastes politicians and property developers who misuse the word “racist” to stifle debate over important issues. He says people have to acknowledge the great distance Canadians have come in overcoming bigotry of the early 20thcentury.

UBC planning professor emeritus Setty Pendakur, who has advised the Chinese government, says hyper-vigilant worries about inter-cultural tensions provide a convenient coverup for wealthy investors, whether Canadian-born or from abroad, who “park illegal money here or avoid Canadian taxes.”

Vancouver’s Justin Fung, a member of Housing Action for Local Taxpayers or HALT, says “cries of racism” sidetrack British Columbians from facing the hard policy decisions that will be necessary if we are to ever again link Metro Vancouver wages to housing costs.

So, if as a society we can manage to stay focused on the central issue, how do we institute policies that will help Metro Vancouver become a place where average families can afford to buy or rent decent housing?

Even though it’s ethically fine to collect data on the nationalities of buyers and sellers — and, more importantly, on the country in which they are “residents for tax purposes” — any policies to cool down the housing market must, of course, be universal.

We should expect colour-blindness in all policies designed to counter runaway housing prices — including those that deal with speculation, empty houses, international money laundering, real estate trickery, social housing, political party financing or immigration policy.

The problem is that some hyper-vigilant peoples’ understanding of racism is so sweeping that even after I wrote last week about how B.C. politicians should stop being among the few in the world to accept political donations from foreign companies — someone suggested such a ban may be “xenophobic.”

If that’s the case, virtually the entire world is xenophobic. That includes those who operate The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which covers 35 countries, including Canada.

The OECD, a defender of democracy and sovereignty, recently made it clear that citizens of a nation have a perfect right to protect themselves from transnational powers and money.

As a February OECD report plainly said: “Political parties need to be responsive to their constituents and not influenced by foreign interests.”

Source: Vancouver’s housing debate not about race, it’s about public policy | Vancouver Sun