Many immigrant seniors `penniless'
10-year wait for benefits leaves them vulnerable and isolated, report says
Oct 09, 2008 04:30 AM
At 73, Balkar Singh Bajwa cares for his two grandsons, taking them to school, parks and doctors' appointments.
At times, the Brampton man, a retired principal from India, gets calls to work as a certified Punjabi translator. The little money he makes is his sole income.
"Many of us, immigrant seniors, are penniless. If you need money, you have to put your hands out and ask your children for money," sighed Bajwa, who came here in 1999 under his son's sponsorship and is a naturalized citizen.
Doing the math this gentleman was allowed to come to Canada at the youthful age of 64. The question is why did Canada allow him to immigrate at such an old age when the nation has an aging population. According to the article, he was sponsored by his son who is legally obligated to met his father's needs. So why is the man needing to to ask his son for money when it is his son's obligation to do so? Did his son import his aged father to dump the financial obligations of caring for him, including publicly funded health care, onto the Canadian public? This Punjabi immigrant may feel embarrassed to extend his hand to his son for financial aid but he seems to have no problem extending his hand to the government.
Unlike their Canadian-born counterparts, most immigrant seniors are not entitled to government income supports, such as old age security or the guaranteed income supplement, until they have lived in Canada for 10 years.
In order to receive the maximum monthly benefits of $1,100, elderly immigrants must have lived in Canada for 40 years and arrived by the age of 18 to qualify.
That makes sense, so obvious in fact that I don't think I need to explain why.
Immigrant seniors from the 50 countries that have reciprocal agreements with Canada are not bound by the residency limit, but most of today's newcomers are from the developing world and lack any social safety net. About 2.3 per cent of Canada's annual 250,000 landed immigrants are seniors.
Doing the math again 2.3% of 250,000 is 5,750 a year. Over two years that's 11,500 seniors added to Canada's aging demographic by immigration. Over three years that's 17,250. In five years it's 28,750 extra seniors added. Rounding up, Canada adds an additional 30,000 seniors to its aging demographic every five years with an estimated 100,000 seniors waiting in the backlog. If our immigration system is supposed to combat Canada's aging population then why is it adding to it by importing 30,000 retirement age immigrants every five years?
This next part I consider an attack on old age security and Canadian senior citizens:
A private member's bill aimed at reducing the old age security residency requirement to three years died when Parliament was dissolved. It would have to be re-introduced under the new government.
The private member's bill mentioned above is Private Member's Bill C-362 and it was tabled by Liberal Party MP Ms. Colleen Beaumier. The riding she represented was Brampton West but with the dissolution of parliament Andrew Kania is the new Liberal Party nominee. Brampron Springdale is the eastern neighbour of Brampton West.
The city of Brampton resides within the Greater Toronto Area and has a significant immigrant Indian population particularly from the Punjab region of India, home to the majority of India's Sikhs. In Brampton, many of these Indian immigrants have settled in the relatively new urban-sprawl housing developments that make up the Brampton West and Brampton-Springdale ridings. The names of the directors of the Brampton West Liberal riding association are telling. The photo accompanying the Toronto Star article shows a Sikh gentleman in the picture.
I suspect political opportunism is at play here coupled with a sense of entitlement and not fairness to Canadian seniors. It seems some immigrants see Canada as a retirement plan, contributing little, if anything, to the country yet expecting to collect old age security and benefits. Also, some immigrants regrade Canada as a nursing home for their parents dumping the financial obligations onto the Canadian tax payers. We cannot afford this.
The apparent penniless state of immigrant seniors tells us of the sham that is the family reunification act. We are told immigrant communities, particularly South Asian cultures, value family above all else yet once their parents are imported it seems their obligation to them disappears and now their parents become burdens to the Canadian public. And now these seniors want access to Old Age Security after a mere three year residency. If given that will they demand the maximum benefits denied them becuase they did not immigrate here at the age of 18 and have resided in the country for 40 years? How will this affect Canadians seniors on a fixed income? Will we have to divert money out of other public services to fund immigrant seniors sense of entitlement?
It also shows how Canada's immigration system worsens the aging population problem while claiming to alleviate it. Furthermore, were are informed how the family reunification scheme has no real benefits for Canadian society if immigrants are importing their parents who then go on social assistance because their adult children reneged on their obligations to take care of them.
Regarding Private Member's Bill C-362 our sense of fairness tells us it is wrong and should be defeated. MPs representing ridings with significant immigrant populations may support it but that is due to political opportunism and not what is good and right with Canadians, especially Canadian seniors.
It seems many article commentators agree.
See Immigration Watch Canada here and here for more.