Vancouver accused of paying lip service to multiculturalism amid clash over plan to build condo block in Chinatown | South China Morning Post

Interesting dynamics within the Chinese Canadian community:

The new building at 105 Keefer Street – close to the Dr Sun Yat-sen Garden, Chinese Cultural Centre and Chinatown Memorial Square – would have been 12 storeys high, making it the tallest building in the vicinity. Although it was to have included 25 social housing units, only eight were earmarked as affordable housing subsidised by the provincial government. There were also plans for a “temporary” activity centre for elderly Chinese living in the area.

Almost 200 people – an unprecedented number – registered to speak at public hearings on the proposal. Given five minutes each, the hearings stretched to more than 26 hours over three days.

Speakers’ objections included the building’s height, the displacement of low-income senior citizens in the area through gentrification, the small number of social housing units, and the blight it would impose on Chinatown’s architectural character.

Karen Hoese, acting assistant director of planning for the city’s Vancouver Downtown Division, sat through the entire hearing. A large number of young and elderly people turned up, she says, and things got heated.

Melody Ma of community group #SaveChinatownYVR, one of the speakers, says councillors had probably not seen such large, passionate crowds, and were overwhelmed. “There were a lot of young people and people of colour [Chinese]. It was a unique situation for city hall and elected officials.” Some councillors described the young people as “a mob”, she says, which carried negative and violent connotations.

Vancouver-born councillor Kerry Jang chastised the young Chinese objectors, saying, “some of the Chinatown activists, the youth in particular, were very disappointing in their behaviour”.

“You do not represent Chinatown to me and the Chinatown I know. And don’t forget, I was there long before a lot of you. I worked down there, I did everything down there,” Jang said.

To have a healthy city strategy in Vancouver, it’s not just about art. When I looked up ‘culture’ on the City of Vancouver’s website, I could only find ‘bike culture’ and ‘horticulture’
MELODY MA

“He was saying that young people’s voices didn’t have a place at the table,” Ma says.

She was proud to see so many people with connections to Chinatown from different generations come together in solidarity to oppose the application for 105 Keefer Street.

Andy Yan, director of the city programme at Simon Fraser University and an urban planner, sat through some of the hearings, and says the speakers were a socially and economically diverse group.

“The city councillors’ response to the ‘boisterous youth’ threw them … because these young people don’t normally come to these meetings. They were articulate, diverse; a mobilised group of young people,” he says.

The campaign appeared to have been a success, when the city councillors – including Jang – voted down the rezoning application eight to three.

A few days later an open letter addressed to Mayor Gregor Robertson, signed by many who spoke at the hearings, expressed disappointment at remarks made by Jang and other councillors.

Hoese says the 105 Keefer application looked good on paper. “It met the objectives, included social housing, an activity centre and set-back upper floors,” she says. “But what’s changed over the last few years is the tension between what people want. It was difficult for councillors to make the decision, because they didn’t want to see greater division.”

She admits there have been changes in Chinatown since the application was submitted a few years ago.

For the past 20 years, Chinatown had been falling into neglect – fewer people come to shop at Chinese grocery stores because they can buy the same goods in other areas, such as Richmond, East Vancouver and Coquitlam, where later Chinese immigrants have settled. Shops and restaurants are closing because of the drop in visitors. At the same time, drug addicts in the adjacent neighbourhood of Downtown Eastside have drifted into the area and petty crime has led to security concerns among businesses and residents.

To counteract the decline, approval was given for small condo developments, while Western restaurants have opened next to Chinese grocery stores. One latest addition is Dalina, an Italian-style coffee shop that also sells gourmet food and wouldn’t look out of place in New York. But it’s questionable whether it’s right for Chinatown, which is the second largest in North America after San Francisco.

Source: Vancouver accused of paying lip service to multiculturalism amid clash over plan to build condo block in Chinatown | South China Morning Post

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Douglas Todd: How to ensure non-residents pay tax on Canadian real-estate profits

Hard to understand the blindness or unwillingness of the British Columbia Liberals on this issue. Too many donations from those who benefit from the this lack of regulation and appropriate policies?

It should be easy to ensure that offshore property speculators pay capital gains taxes on their Canadian sales, but the B.C. government has given no sign it’s prepared to make the fix.

Immigration lawyers and Opposition politicians are pressing the province to start an information-sharing system that would make it much harder for house sellers to evade capital gains taxes by claiming they are “residents of Canada for tax purposes,” when they are not. Some critics estimate the tax loss at hundreds of millions of dollars.

This tax avoidance was at the centre of a recent B.C. Supreme Court ruling. Justice Kenneth Affleck ordered notary Tony Liu to pay $600,000 to a house purchaser he had represented.

That was to cover the capital gains tax the Canadian Revenue Agency demanded from the buyer, which should have been paid by the non-resident seller of a $5.6-million Vancouver mansion.

A property seller who does not pay income taxes here is required to pay a capital gains tax on 25 per cent of their profit on a house sale. Theoretically, the law is designed to advantage domestic buyers and sellers over speculators, particularly from offshore.

In practice, the capital gains rule is rarely enforced, in large part, lawyers say, because B.C. doesn’t collect or share up-to-date information on whether property sellers pay income taxes in Canada.

That task is inexplicably left to a real-estate industry “honour system”involving buyers, sellers and their agents, says Vancouver immigration lawyer Sam Hyman, who is among several experts offering a simple solution.

“How complicated is it to require a seller to produce proof they paid their income taxes as a Canadian tax resident?” asked Richard Kurland, a lawyer who produces the immigration newsletter Lexbase.

“This really spotlights B.C.’s unchanging position, which is that it refuses to include on government (property-transfer) forms the question: ‘Are you a tax resident of Canada?’” Kurland said.

“B.C. fails to create data that can be checked by Canada Revenue Agency, by not asking the right question. Instead, the B.C. government has begun asking, ‘What is your citizenship?’ But that’s irrelevant.”

In a city in which 45 per cent of the population is foreign-born, Kurland said, it would be straightforward for CRA to run a data match on people who claim they are tax residents of Canada to see if they are really paying income taxes.

“But if B.C. doesn’t go after the data, CRA can’t do its job.”

When B.C. Finance Ministry spokesman Jamie Edwardson was asked Friday if he thought there were problems associated with B.C. buyers being unable to prove sellers pay income taxes, he declined to answer and said the question should be directed to the Canada Revenue Agency.

Source: How to ensure non-residents pay tax on Canadian real-estate profits | Vancouver Sun

How Indigenous people are rebranding Canada 150

Not particularly surprising that Vancouver is taking the lead here. Remember the 2010 Olympics Opening Ceremony which started with Indigenous dances and drums:

Believe it or not, Indigenous people are responsible for salvaging Vancouver’s sesquicentennial bash. For a time, the city considered boycotting Canada 150. Two years ago, when Ottawa put the squeeze on the city to sign on to the grand jubilee, city staff registered serious discomfort. Exalting Canada’s colonial past two years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission delivered its calls to action seemed regressive, and potentially harmful to the city’s new relationship with local First Nations. Vancouver had recently designated itself a “City of Reconciliation,” 70,000 had marched in support of rapprochement and Deputy Mayor Andrea Reimer was learning Squamish. Staff came to her proposing the opt-out.

Reimer wasn’t opposed, but wanted input from the city’s Urban Aboriginal Peoples Advisory Committee first, she says. The nine-member panel, which advises city council on how to better include Indigenous people and perspectives in city life, came back with a different idea—one council unanimously approved: Why not celebrate the city’s Indigenous history and culture instead?

So Vancouver, whose Indigenous population of 53,000 ranks third-highest among Canadian metropolises—after Winnipeg (78,000) and Edmonton (62,000)— [note: in percentage terms much less] is doing just that, with a $7-million event it’s calling Canada 150+. The plus symbol—another Advisory Committee suggestion—was added partly to counter the enduring myth that Canada prior to contact was empty and in need of civilization.

So, far from being another hurrah for Canada, the event is deliberately challenging our collective amnesia. And it’s receiving federal funding to do so (costs are being split between the municipal and federal governments, as in other cities). Canada 150+ launches in English Bay on July 19 with a traditional canoe welcome, followed by a nine-day arts festival in Vancouver’s downtown. Nightly headliners include acts like Cree icon Buffy Sainte-Marie, but the focus is the history and culture of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh, the three Coast Salish nations on whose unceded territories Vancouver is built. They have been here longer than the English have been in England. Their culture was thriving when Dublin belonged to the Vikings and Sicily was ruled by Muslims.

“We are taking a huge risk—we don’t know how the public is going to react,” says Ginger Gosnell-Myers, the city’s first manager of Aboriginal relations. She is Nisga’a and Kwakwaka’wakw, a cousin of another Kwakwaka’wakw powerhouse, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. Reimer, for her part, doesn’t seem to much care whether the event sparks controversy. Whether or not you have the compassion-based belief that Canada has a moral responsibility to change, she says, it’s clear the traumas of the past are crippling the present, financially and otherwise. “We need to start doing things differently.” And after all, Gosnell-Myers adds: “None of us is going anywhere. We have to learn to live together—in a respectful way, and in a truthful way.”

Underlying the work of the most expensive reconciliation project the city has ever undertaken is a multi-year attempt to re-root Vancouver in the culture of its earliest inhabitants. The next step, a process that could see key place names replaced with Indigenous ones, is potentially more controversial. “Bridges, streets and buildings” are all open to consideration, Reimer says. Emotions will run high, but many believe it’s time.

Vancouver sits near the heart of Canada’s pre-contact capital. By the 18th century, twice as many lived in thriving, well-fortified villages of fishers, tanners, potters and toy-makers surrounding the Georgia Strait as in the rest of Canada combined (more, even, than in New York). But while some 200 B.C. place names commemorate the voyages of Captains Cook and Vancouver, who arrived toward the end of that century, there isn’t even a plaque to commemorate a smallpox plague that wiped out all but 10 per cent of B.C.’s Indigenous inhabitants—arguably the most significant event in the province’s history.

No surprise, then, that Canada 150 is spurring a creative outpouring among Indigenous artists to shine light on some of these painful chapters. “Remember, Resist, Redraw,” a cross-country poster project led by the Graphic History Collective, is putting an Indigenous lens on key events in Canadian history. #Resist150, a multimedia project led by Metis artist Christi Belcourt, features poems, shared histories and other “acts of resistance,” like the 150 traditional tattoos Belcourt is aiming to ink over the coming year. And the year’s most talked-about art exhibit, Kent Monkman’s Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience, which opened last month in Toronto, uses the sesquicentennial to ridicule and expand Canada’s rigid, national narrative.

Monkman, a Winnipeg-raised Cree artist, reimagines the grand chronicle, sometimes by inserting his flamboyant, drag queen alter ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle. You’ll find Miss Chief, lover of Louis Vuitton and pink heels, in, for example, a cheeky send-up of Robert Harris’s famed portrait of the Fathers of Confederation. She’s nude, seated facing them, her legs akimbo. The men look on in horror, and in lust. He called it The Daddies.

It’s not all fun and transgression, though. In The Scream, a visceral comment on residential schools, Mounties and Grey Nuns tear Indigenous children from their mothers’ arms. Five spectacularly large oil portraits depict all the ways Winnipeg’s colonial history is infecting its future—the racism, violence, alcohol, despair. To Monkman, apparently, the sesquicentennial is synonymous with all that has been lost.

But his art—gratifyingly—is no longer truly subversive. A truer, less simplistic Canadian narrative is finally starting to emerge. It rejects the idea of 1867 as a starting point, acknowledges the country’s many sins and returns the Indigenous perspective to where it belongs: front and centre, as the best and most enduring part of the Canadian story—a tale that stretches back not 150 years, but 12,000. That’s the version Vancouver is hoping to tell.

ICYMI: 82 per cent of BC minorities have experienced racism, survey finds

Not surprising, and likely similar in other major centres. No gradation regarding the degree or seriousness of racism encountered. These regional studies, as useful as they are, suggest the need for a new Ethnic Diversity Survey (the last one was carried out in 2002):

As multicultural as Canada may be, it appears we are not immune to racism.

According to a new survey conducted in B.C., 82 per cent of visible minorities say they have experienced prejudice or some form of discrimination, while 56 per cent of all respondents reported having overheard racist comments.

Of those who identified themselves as visible minorities, 46 per cent said they believe they face social disadvantages because of their background, and 33 per cent said they have been a target of abuse. Another 29 per cent reported facing discrimination simply based on their name, while 10 per cent have dealt with disadvantages because of their religious beliefs.

And 11 per cent said their experiences with discrimination were traumatic enough to prompt thoughts of moving to a new location.

“The majority of British Columbians are welcoming and embrace multiculturalism. However, it’s clear that racism is alive and well in our communities and we need to call it out when we see it,” said Catherine Ludgate, a spokeswoman with Vancity. The report was commissioned by the credit union as part of its community investment efforts.

 Some 82 per cent of all those who responded said they felt multiculturalism has been “very good” or “good” for Canada, though three-quarters thought the population of immigrants should remain the same. Just over a quarter thought the population should increase.

…The numbers are from a new report released today, conducted in January by Insights West and is in anticipation of a community roundtable series to be launched by SUCCESS B.C., an immigrant assistance organization, and sponsored by Vancity.

Dates for the roundtable series have yet to be announced, but the series follows a forum on immigration hosted by SUCCESS in February.

Queenie Choo, CEO of SUCCESS BC. According to a new report conducted in B.C., 82 per cent of visible minorities have experienced prejudice or some form of discrimination, while 56 per cent of all respondents have overheard racist comments being made.“We didn’t want to host the forum and the forget about it,” said Queenie Choo, CEO of SUCCESS, who was quick to note that it’s important to continue discussing these issues lest history repeat itself.

Choo said the discussions would be a chance for immigrants to share their experiences with social groups and government, which in turn could help shape programs and policy. She also noted it’s important to ensure Canadians speak up for social justice in light of events taking place in the U.S.

“I truly believe that we (Canada and the U.S.) hold shared values of diversity and inclusion. If those are no longer our shared values, then there is a big question mark,” she said. “We need to make a stand. By not raising the issue and creating this opportunity (to discuss racism), it will signal to people that it’s acceptable.”

For every individual that joins Vancity between now and May 30 and sets up a pre-authorized payment or deposit, the credit union will donate $100 to the Vancity Humanitarian Fund to support refugee families. The donations are in addition to $100,000 already donated to the fund, part of which has already helped refugees settling in Victoria and Abbotsford.

Source: 82 per cent of BC minorities have experienced racism, survey finds | Vancouver Sun

Women-only English program in Metro Vancouver hopes to expand

Good initiative:

A unique English program for immigrants and refugees in Metro Vancouver is hoping to expand after finding success with women-only classes where participants can also bring their children.

The focus is not just on language, said teacher Diana Jeffries, but also on supporting mental health.

“So learning the language through taking care of yourself … making connections through community, through working together in this classroom.”

Unlike federally funded language programs like Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC), there are no eligibility requirements or tests to join the Pacific Immigrant Resources Society’s community English classes for refugee women.

“We’re different in that we’re trauma informed, that we allow young children in the classroom, we don’t have the same kind of assessment processes the LINC has,” said program director Amea Wilbur.

“We are specific to women and also we can be a lot more responsive in terms of curriculum.”

The program is open to refugees and immigrants from any country.

Farzana Fakrhi said the flexible atmosphere is the main reason she’s able to attend the classes in Burnaby.

“It’s very helpful — especially for the women who have small kids. They have daycare for the small babies, which the other classes didn’t have it.”

Some federally funded classes do provide child minding for children, but they usually have to be 18 months or older.

Community english classes

The female-only language program in Metro Vancouver allows women to bring their children to class. (Bal Brach/CBC)

Outreach worker Zarmina Ali said some of the women have never stepped foot in a classroom before arriving in Canada.

“This program is very important for them because most people haven’t been at school in their life — this is the first time they come to school and they enjoy it so much.”

Sharing stories of loss

Jeffries said the supportive environment in the class has given students the confidence to share their stories of loss and struggle.

“[They talk about] the era of the Taliban and wearing burkas,” she said.

“And experiences of great loss, family members, of even children. They carry around a huge weight of their past but [they are] just looking to Canada as an opportunity for a better future for themselves and their children.”

Wilbur created the program after witnessing a gap in services for newcomers.

Source: Women-only English program in Metro Vancouver hopes to expand – British Columbia – CBC News

CMHC head says foreign buyers a ‘scapegoat’ for high Vancouver prices

Although he is right to point out that other factors are involved, I am not completely convinced by the data he uses to downplay the role of foreign investors,  compared to the data used by others such as David Ley (see The Asian force behind Vancouver’s housing boomBlame politicians for Metro Vancouver’s housing price crisis):

High housing prices in the Vancouver region stem from a variety of factors, with foreign buyers shouldering a disproportionate amount of blame, says the president of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.

Evan Siddall said he is concerned about “unhealthy tensions” pitting existing residents against recent arrivals, and also older homeowners against younger families priced out of the market.

“Who is to blame for Vancouver’s affordability problems? To some, the scapegoat is obvious – blame foreigners,” Mr. Siddall said Wednesday in prepared remarks to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.

“While it would be convenient to hang all of the blame for high prices on others – offshore buyers – it’s just not that simple. Sure, it makes for a tempting narrative. Them, not us. And while foreign investment clearly is a factor, it is not the only one.”

Mr. Siddall listed a wide range of factors that he sees as contributors to Vancouver’s expensive real estate: domestic residential investing, population and economic growth, low interest rates and housing supply constraints.

Some industry observers argue that buyers from China are the primary drivers behind Vancouver’s housing boom that spilled into the suburbs.

Mr. Siddall said evidence points to housing investor activity in Canada originating from predominantly domestic sources, yet foreign investment is often seen as the culprit in Vancouver. Going off script, he added: “When a white person buys a house, we don’t notice. If somebody of a different colour does, we do. And that’s not good economics.”

During a news conference after his speech, Mr. Siddall said the debate over housing affordability is contentious. “This contrast between us and them is a factor. We notice things that are different better than we notice things that are similar,” he said.

The CMHC president added that the federal government has policy tools, with the Minister of Finance knowing not to use economic stimulus to unduly influence the real estate market.

“Our analysis confirms that the most important factors accounting for house price increases over the long term are economic,” Mr. Siddall said in his prepared speech. “We believe two income-related factors are at play: An increase in high-paying jobs and a tendency of these jobs to concentrate in cities. This is an important and statistically robust factor in Toronto, less so in Vancouver. The impact in Vancouver may differ because wealth, rather than income, could play a much more pronounced part here.”

The B.C. government implemented a 15-per-cent tax on foreign buyers in Metro Vancouver in August. On Tuesday, the province said purchasers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents accounted for 7.1 per cent of the total deals in Metro Vancouver closed between June 10 and Oct. 31.

British Columbia, which began collecting data on June 10 on foreign purchasers, noted that in the seven weeks leading up to the tax’s implementation on Aug. 2, foreign purchasers accounted for 13.2 per cent of the region’s total. The regional statistics, including transactions that involve buyers from China, are based on closed deals registered with the province’s land title office.

The price for detached houses sold in October within the City of Vancouver averaged more than $2.6-million, or double the average price for detached properties in the City of Toronto. The market in and around Vancouver remains the most expensive in Canada, despite prices dropping recently for detached houses, condos and townhomes.

“Our attachment to low-density single-family housing in many neighbourhoods represents regressive urban planning and makes the problem worse. This is basic economics. The more we hold back supply, the faster prices will rise in response to increased demand. And Vancouver’s supply response is among the weakest in Canada,” Mr. Siddall said in his speech.

In a new survey released on Wednesday, CMHC said the share of foreign buyers in Canada’s major markets is still low. The federal housing agency said foreign condo ownership in the metropolitan area of Vancouver has declined to 2.2 per cent in its latest survey of property managers and condo boards, compared with 3.5 per cent in the fall of 2015. In the Toronto region, the proportion of condos owned by people whose primary residence is outside of the country decreased to 2.3 per cent from 3.3 per cent, while dropping to 1.1 per cent from 1.3 per cent in the Montreal area.

Beyond the three largest markets, CMHC found that the share of international condo buyers has remained small in places such as Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, Calgary and Halifax.

Source: CMHC head says foreign buyers a ‘scapegoat’ for high Vancouver prices – The Globe and Mail

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

Vancouver police launch big recruitment drive to reflect city’s diversity

Article would benefit from including the current diversity numbers (which Vancouver currently does not publish these):

Vancouver is launching the largest police recruiting drive in almost a decade, and the key word for this new class of officers will be diversity, officials said.

Deputy Chief Steve Rai said the police force wants hire 85 new officers by next spring, the largest recruiting figure since the pre-Olympics effort in 2008 and more than twice the size of a normal recruiting class.

Add in 20 recruits sworn in on Thursday, and that’s an addition of more than 100 officers to a police service of 1,400 — a big injection of new blood.

While the VPD has no quotas for members from specific communities, Rai said it is crucial that the police department reflects the multicultural community that it serves. With that in mind, VDP has been stepping up its outreach to cultural communities, hoping it will lead to a multicultural mix of recruits.

“You look at what happens when your police force don’t reflect the community, and you only have to look south of the border,” he said. “You see people feeling it’s ‘us-against-them,’ and there’s a lack of trust.

 “It’s about acquiring, building and maintaining public trust … We are all in this together, so it starts with citizens seeing their police forces reflecting of them and the community. It has to reflect the fact it’s not ‘us-against-them,’ but ‘we.’”

According to the 2011 census, Vancouver has 18 languages identified as “most spoken at home” by more than 1,000 residents each. Besides English, the most spoken language at home for 98,855 Vancouverites were Chinese languages. Punjabi (10,500), Tagalog (9,345), Vietnamese (7,475), Korean (5,445) and Spanish (5,245) all topped 5,000 speakers.

Rai admits that there remains a stigma in some communities about policing, stemming from experiences and perceptions of police in other countries. He said the VPD is trying to break down the walls by attending as many community events as possible, and that as the second-generation acclimatizes to Canadian culture, the acceptance level has correspondingly risen.

“I know a lot of parents who aren’t supportive of their kids to go into policing because of the stigma that exists in their countries of origin,” Rai said. “But as time passes, barriers come down. You build that trust by talking to people and being sincere.

“We understand we have to flexible with changing society norms, and we want to make sure we hire the best,” he added. “We will mentor you to be successful, no matter what your background is. I’m a 25-year member, and there’s not one day that I’ve ever regretted my decision to become a police officer. The profession sells itself.”

Source: Vancouver police launch big recruitment drive to reflect city’s diversity | Vancouver Sun

Meanwhile:

The Vancouver Police Department says street checks are not on the rise, two weeks after the police complaint commissioner expressed concern about the department’s use of the practice.

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, a provincial body that oversees complaints involving municipal police, in a report late last month cited “an increasing trend in complaint allegations involving the police practice of conducting street checks.” The report, however, did not provide a total.

Street checks, or carding, can refer to stopping individuals to gather information without a reasonable suspicion of an offence. The issue has drawn significant attention in Ontario, where the provincial government announced regulations restricting carding in March after complaints were raised about privacy violations and police were accused of disproportionately targeting minorities.

Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer said he has not seen any numbers to validate the police complaint commissioner’s claim.

“I’ve got no data to suggest that that is the case. I’d be happy to see data if someone is providing it,” he told reporters outside a police board meeting Thursday.

A Vancouver Police Department spokesman said it conducted about 6,200 street checks last year – compared with 6,900 two years ago, and 7,300 three years ago.

…Chief Palmer said he meets with his department’s professional standards section every week but has not seen an increase in complaints involving street checks.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner said it has observed an increase in such complaints, but is still working to pull the exact number from its files.

 Vancouver Police Department denies that carding is on the rise 

Vancouver real estate speculators taking advantage of loopholes and lax oversight

Good in-depth examination of Vancouver real estate practices by the Globe’s Kathy Tomlinson, showing the depth of the policy and regulatory failure:

Mr. Gu’s [real estate flipper/speculator] three corporations all reported losses, in unaudited financial statements ending last year. Photocopies of some cheques made out to his companies – a fraction of the total – show that those companies received a minimum of $7.6-million in large payments between 2014 and 2016, many marked as “loans” from clients.

When Mr. Gu flips a property, his contracts stipulate that lender clients get back what they put in, plus a set return – 15 per cent in one instance. After the mortgage and the bills are paid, Mr. Gu keeps whatever is left, which, in some cases, appears to be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

According to legal and tax experts, this arrangement would allow him to avoid taxes, because the properties are not in his name. Mr. Gu can also maximize financing, because individual clients applying for mortgages, ostensibly to buy the homes, can borrow more money collectively than Mr. Gu could if he tried to finance properties on his own.

On the tax front, records suggest that the clients classify some of the properties as their principal residences, even though they do not live in them. That’s despite the fact that Canadian rules stipulate that a taxpayer cannot call a home a principal residence and sell it tax-free, unless they purchased it to live in it, and didn’t sell it within the same year.

“If you are buying and selling these homes as a business practice, that is business income and it’s taxable,” says Toronto-area accountant David Cramer, one of several experts The Globe consulted while reporting this story. He suggests that both Mr. Gu and his clients should be declaring that income. “If these guys paid proper taxes, these transactions would not go on as they do,” he explains. “It wouldn’t be nearly as profitable as it is.”

Tax lawyer Jonathan Garbutt estimates that the tax revenue lost through such activity is massive, particularly in pricey Toronto and Vancouver. “I think this is yet another example of non-enforcement of penalties under the law. It’s pervasive and it’s systematic,” Mr. Garbutt says. “Unless it changes, this will get worse. We will have a corrupt system.”

Source: Vancouver real estate speculators taking advantage of loopholes and lax oversight – The Globe and Mail

Rohani: Leave ethnicity out of real estate debate

Farid Rohani on Vancouver housing prices and foreign buyers.

His arguments, while superficially appealing, suffer from two major weaknesses:

  • He does not sufficiently distinguish between Canadian residents, whether citizens or permanent residents, and foreign investors and non-residents. The issues are largely with the latter group, where the scope and nature of needed policy interventions is greatest and needed. One cannot simply conflate the two; and,
  • One cannot, and I would argue, should not ignore the elephant in the room that the vast majority of foreign investors are from China (I suspect that Toronto numbers would show a greater diversity of source countries). These investors affect all Canadians whatever their ethnic origin. The question is how to have a more open discussion without being xenophobic. A mature multiculturalism should allow for more open frank discussions without descending into xenophobia or accusations of xenophobia. Much of the discussion and debate has not been xenophobic in nature. Particularly revealing has been increased coverage of second-generation immigrant concerns regarding foreign real estate investors, highlighting that while the origin of the concerns comes largely from one country and ethnicity, the impact is felt across all ethnicities.

A more interesting contribution from community leaders like Rohani would be how best to have these open discussions. Again, following many of the articles and commentary, I think this is happening and is possible.

…We accept the free market principles of supply and demand and we deal with price fluctuations as best we can.
So why do we blame immigrants, and specifically the Chinese, for spiking real estate prices when the real problem is lack of supply and increasing demand?

It’s a dangerous tendency, and one that threatens to undermine the very ideals of citizenship and plurality that have made Canada so admired around the world. Our country’s heritage includes every ethnicity on earth. The principles that define us as Canadians include those of dignity and kindness, tolerance and compassion. The elements that underpin our democracy include a respect for liberty, for freedom of movement and for the potential of a market driven economy under the rule of law.

But these principles and values are not guiding the current discussion. Instead we see outbursts of ignorant emotionalism and incipient racism.

It’s important, first, to define the immediate problem. The economic power of recent immigrants and foreign purchasers has showcased excessive economic advantage while denying many the ability to be part of a vibrant, growing cosmopolitan city. Many of the young people and professionals who make up our city’s core are feeling frustrated by our failure to find a solution to affordable housing.

Yet, instead of working together to address the challenges of inequity, many are retreating to the more familiar ground of racial accusations. They use the seeming intractability of these problems to build scapegoats. Even people who may have been acting in goodwill have been guilty of launching dubious studies that rely on selective facts and the dangerous sweep of ethnic stereotyping.

In an age when terrorism is also a serious social issue, and when certain people have chosen to target ethnicity or religion in that conversation, this raises a risk that I feel personally. I, who have been proud to call Canada my home for more than four decades, have an Arabic name — one that might easily become part of a database of potential security targets, not for anything I have done, but merely because of my heritage.

This is a perversion of the Canadian experiment, and one we must deal with quickly, and together. We cannot promote prejudice against any racial or ethnic group without betraying ourselves. The vitriolic accusations against “others” can lead only to hate and a division that will harm us all.

We need a solution, of the sort that can only be found through joint action. We cannot continue to speak from both sides of our mouths, on the one hand promising economic hope and jobs, while at the same time isolating recent immigrants and visitors from normal social intercourse based on mutual respect.

Certainly, government must be forceful in addressing issues such as the disruptive influence of laundered money. At the same time, we must all stay focused on the economic principles of a liberal democracy, of supply and demand. We must remember the values of immigration and the benefits of building a progressive society in which people of diverse backgrounds can live and prosper together as members of one city and country.

This responsibility rests upon all levels of government, as well as upon community leaders and the media. All must work together to refresh the spirit of optimism, while rejecting any narrative where facts are manipulated to become food for racist agitators or dismissive special interest groups.

The only way to resolve deep social and economic problems is by forging a unity of purpose.

Racism has deep roots. Without a conscious, deliberate, and sustained effort, we are all at risk from its destructive influences. It can only be overcome through open dialogue and close association among those of opposing points of view.

So, I address this appeal to all — politicians, pundits and community leaders: the realization of our collective potential depends on the character and initiative of every individual. No action plan can succeed if leaders fail respond in their own capacity. I respectfully and urgently call upon my fellow Vancouverites of whatever background to look at current real estate situation with new eyes and with a new resolve to set ethnicity aside — to embrace all of your neighbours, new and old, in the search for a lasting solution.

Opinion: Leave ethnicity out of real estate debate