Leaving Canada behind
The Canadian diaspora in Asia: an opportunity slowly slipping away
ANDREA MANDEL-CAMPBELL | Apr 9, 2007 |
Admittedly, the nondescript headquarters of the world's largest publicly listed Chinese fast-food chain isn't easy to find, hidden deep in Hong Kong's industrial hinterland. Still, it's hard to miss its public face, Café de Coral, a franchise with 300 restaurants in Hong Kong and mainland China, as well as the Manchu Wok chain in North America. It should be an obvious target for the Canadian food industry, especially since the chairman is, in fact, a Canuck. But aside from buying the odd pig knuckle from Canadian hog producers, Michael Chan, a University of Manitoba grad and former Edmonton urban planner, says he hasn't heard hide nor hair from his compatriots. "We would be a natural partner," says the Hong Kong-born Chan. "But for some reason there are hardly any strong business ties with Canada."
Note - What makes Chan a Canuck? "Canuck" is a nickname for Canadians like Aussie is for Australians, Kiwi is for New Zealanders, and Yankee is for Americans. However, I wouldn't consider an illegal Mexican immigrant in the U.S. a Yankee and I still wouldn't consider him one if he obtained U.S. citizenship and I doubt neither would anyone else. Nicknames are a more enduring moniker for a people than their citizenship. Chan may have obtained Canadinan citizenship but he is hardly a "Canuck". He was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to Canada and moved back to Hong Kong. Is he still a "Canuck"? I don't think so.
Café de Coral, when pronounced in Chinese, actually means "come together." Yet it's indicative of a yawning gulf between Canada and a potentially powerful diaspora that could be an ideal springboard into the booming Chinese market, but has instead become a byword for missed opportunity.
Note - The word "Diaspora" is misused quite often and it is misused here. A Diaspora is a group of people spread around the world who posses a common history and culture but with no homeland to call their own. A good example is the pre-Israel Jewish people. The Chinese in Canada are hardly a Diaspora. Their settlement patterns in Canada characterize them more as colonialists more than anything. And Canadians living abroad, not the part-time Canadians like Chan, are not a Diaspora either.
While Ottawa has no idea how many Canadians live abroad, the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada calculates there are 2.7 million overseas passport holders, equivalent to nine per cent of Canada's population. Proportionally, it's the world's fourth largest diaspora -- outpacing even China and India -- and includes some of Asia's wealthiest and most influential business people. Yet they are at best overlooked and at worst distrusted, a casualty of Canada's perennial inability to globalize its economy.
Note - Wow!!! There are 2.7 million Canadians living overseas!? Nine per cent of our population!? The world's fourth largest Diaspora surpassing even China and India!? Should I laugh because I don't find this funny?
Hong Kong, the mountainous archipelago known for its typhoons and tycoons, is a case in point. An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 Canadians make up the enclave's single largest contingent of foreign passport holders and Canada's largest diaspora outside the U.S.
Note - This is an outrage. Recall that 50,000 "Canadians" were registered in Lebanon at one single time composing the single largest cohort of foreign nationals in the country. This is more so than France, a country that has a history with Lebanon.
Their ranks read like a who's who of Hong Kong's rich and powerful: from Victor Li, scion of Li Ka-shing, one of the world's richest men, to the family of fellow real estate and jewellery tycoon, Cheng Yu-Tung. In neighbouring Macau, the son of Stanley Ho, known as "the king of gambling" and the island's richest man, is also a citizen, while Edmund Ho, Macau's chief executive, is an alumnus of York University. "How many countries have such a proportion of citizens living overseas in such positions of influence?" notes David Fung, a Hong Kong-born Vancouver entrepreneur. "Yet we don't manage to use them to any significant extent."
Note - This makes sense when one remembers Hong Kong's rich and powerful lining up at western embassies seeking "asylum" from communist China since Hong Kong was to be handed over to Beijing's rule in 1999. Since nothing happened, all the rich and powerful returned to Hong Kong but with a western passport in tow just in case. Canada was, and still is, a choice destination for these Hong Kong opportunists. Canada has one of the most relaxed rules for obtaining citizenship in the western world and we expect the least amount of commitment from our immigrants. Canada is also one of the few countries in the world that recognizes dual citizenship thus lessening one's commitment to this country.
To many diaspora Chinese the answer is pretty obvious: they are not considered true Canadians.
Note - That's because they don't want to be however they do love Canada's socialized health system which explains why they retain their Canadian citizenship.
For some, that ambivalence is, at least, partly earned. Many Hong Kong passport holders see Canada as at best a weigh station for picking up an education and language training, and at worst a "jail," where they serve a three-year sentence in return for an extra passport and access to free health care. While wives live in McMansions around Vancouver, husbands working in Hong Kong claim poverty-level incomes in Canada to avoid the taxman. "They think Canadians are suckers," says Patrick Chun, a Hong Kong-born Vancouverite. "There's no loyalty to Canada. Why in the world would we want to give people like that Canadian passports?"
Note - Are you angry? I hope so because when I read this I was infuriated and I still am. Who the hell do these people think they are? Who the hell do they take Canadians for? I have come across this systemic abuse of Canadian generosity by Chinese nationals before. I read about it in a Toronto Star article about a female immigrant from Hong Kong who was studying in Canada to be a nurse. She said she planned to stay and work in Canada instead of returning to Hong Kong like so many of her fellow Hong Kong and Chinese immigrants do after they obtain Canadian citizenship.
John Yuen has the classic good looks and well-toned body of a college athlete. He'd rather crunch bones on a rugby pitch than window-shop in a Hong Kong mall -- a love of sports he attributes to his school years at Upper Canada College in Toronto, where he immigrated at the age of 6. But though Yuen spent his formative years in Canada, he says that if he were competing at the Olympics, he's not sure which country he'd represent. "I want to say Canada, but apart from being educated and growing up there for a time, there's not much of a connection," says the 30-year-old. "I wouldn't call it home."
Note - I have experienced this attitude among many immigrants to Canada. What strikes me is that they feel no shame in expressing it. Canada is just a stepping stone to them. It is socialized medicine and an education. It is a lifestyle but it is not home.
While Canadians observed with indifference as the wave of Hong Kong immigrants that washed ashore in the late 1980s inevitably flowed back home a decade later, Yuen is indicative of a more worrisome trend: a second generation of Chinese immigrants with little affinity for the country that raised them. Instead, their Western education and cross-cultural skills are building the global stature of Hong Kong and Shanghai, with no benefit to Canada. "The older generation is already a writeoff," admits Amy Wong, whose seven aunts and uncles have already come to Canada and gone. "The lingering question is the younger generation."
Not surprisingly, Canada is seen as a peaceable place to retire or raise kids, but no beacon of business.
Note - In other words let Canada foot the bill when it comes to taking care of their kids, their aged relatives, and taking care of them when they return to retire. God forbid they pay their fair of taxes.
It is left reaping many of the negatives of a wide-open immigration policy, and little reward. "I don't see any benefits to having a large diaspora," says SFU's DeVoretz, who argues an ever-growing expat community devalues the Canadian passport and raises security concerns. Canada also faces a potentially "huge crisis" when elderly passport holders suddenly remember their citizenship, warns Robert Zweig, director of the Center on China's Transnational Relations at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. "All these people have the right to come back to Canada," says Zweig. "Do you know how much it costs to die?"
Note - I am outraged. I wonder if this is what it will take for Canadians to see the light and demand a change to our immigration policy.
Canada needs to ensure better integration and more commitment from prospective newcomers, say experts. Suggestions include upping the three-year residency requirement and charging returnees health care premiums. Canada should also reform the tax system, which encourages the diaspora to cut ties with Canada, in favour of a U.S.-style tax on worldwide income. But most importantly, Canada needs to see its diaspora as a resource rather than a writeoff, says Zweig.
Note - Now there's a good idea but I doubt it will get done. Demanding that kind of commitment nowadays from immigrants is like pulling teeth. No political party will touch it without fear of losing the ethnic vote.
A Hong Kong native who immigrated to Canada in 1970 at 19, Hui encourages his fellow Canadians to make the move to China, but it's tough. Canadian chains like Delta and Sandman Hotels are nowhere to be seen, and while Hui brings over Canadian hospitality students to train at his hotel, it's impossible to source wallpaper or furnishings from Canadian companies without a local Chinese presence. "If I know of a Canadian manufacturer, I would try to use them, but I don't get a whole lot of connection," says Hui, who just sold his Vancouver restaurant, the Pink Pearl. "It's been very exciting," he says with a smile. "I just wish I could see more Canadians doing the same or even bigger things."
Read it all here.
These people are not Canadians. They never were and never will be. They are opportunistic, money driven Hong Kong and Chinese immigrants yet these are they kinds of people Canada is throwing its citizenship away to. It's not just Hong Kong and Chinese immigrants but many other foreign nationals are possessed of similar attitudes toward Canada and Canadians. They are Canadian in passport only. Canada's citizenship requirements have been so relaxed, so cheapened by the immigration industry that it encourages this kind of abuse and disloyalty from Canada's immigrants. This is why I started this blog and speak out when I can. This is abuse and it infuriates me how these people regard my country and my citizenship. I expect a certain degree of loyalty from this nation's immigrants but apparently that is too much to ask for some. Why are we brining these types of people here? They don’t deserve Canadian citizenship and it is unfortunate that we cannot strip them of it as easily as it was for them to obtain it.
Canada should not be so pro-immigration obsessed. An increasing foreign portion of our population only encourages the kind of disloyalty and abuse displayed by these Hong Kong born pseudo-Canadians. The Canadian government should focus on increasing the natural birth rate and not immigration numbers. That way we can foster a population that identifies with this country and will be loyal to it though being born here does not always guarantee that. Being a Canadian is more than just a passport.