Saturday, 26 June 2010

Playing Favourites: Is Canada Secretly Practicing Selective Immigration?

A recent Maclean's magazine article is suggesting that Ottawa is allotting preferential treatment to particular immigrant groups.

To Richard Kurland, the Vancouver-based immigration lawyer who dug it up, the document confirmed “what everybody in the business has known for a long time.” For years, the government has been gathering data on the performance of newcomers and their children based on ethnicity, he notes, and while immigration officials deny they use information to identify the best countries from which to recruit, the numbers tell a different story. Since 1999, China and India have been the top two source countries for immigrants to Canada, averaging about 60,000 landings per year, while the number coming from the Caribbean has fallen sharply. Immigration from the West Indies had fallen 45 per cent below levels seen in the early 1990s, according to figures compiled by Statistics Canada, when more than 16,000 from that region were entering the country annually.

Volume of applications is the main reason India and China occupy the number one and number two spots respectively for source countries of immigrants to Canada. They are the two most populous countries so it should be expected that applications to immigrate from India and China should swamp all others.

The article suggests that the favouritism is more economically practical.

Prosaically titled “Social and Economic Outcomes of Second Generation Youth,” the four-page memo showed little regard for the political correctness typical of government correspondence. “Chinese and South Asians are the most likely to have university degrees or higher, and to be employed in high-skilled occupations,” observed the summary, which was prepared by departmental bureaucrats and released recently through access to information. Second-generation youth of Caribbean and Latin American origin don’t fare so well, the memo went on; they tend to obtain lower levels of education than native-born Canadian kids and wind up in less skilled jobs.

That may be true but how many IT specialists from South Asia or China does Canada need when Canada it expecting a shortfall of tradespeople in the foreseeable future? What advantage is there to favouring South Asian or Chinese immigrants given their aversion to manual labour? How many Asians, be they immigrants or Canadian born, do you see working at a construction site, infrastructure project, or renovating a home?

Asian immigrants may posses advanced degrees but that accounts for little in a Canadian labour market flooded with advanced degrees. Their Canadian born children may go on to university and pursue professional occupations but so what? Canadians do that anyways and the jobs they go on to fill would have been filled were they not born here at all.

The memo the article refers to displays its class bias. It assumes that an immigrant with a university degree is preferable to one who is a tradesman but that is not true. Too much of one and little of the other creates an imbalance and that is what we have in Canada. The Canadian labour market has more people with a university education, be they Canadian born or immigrant, then it knows what to do with. That's why immigrants are having a hard time finding work in their field, if they do at all, upon arriving in Canada. Potential employers feel comfortable enough to wait out hiring someone until the right applicant comes along. They are not as desperate as they make themselves out to be. The only labour they are desperate for is cheap labour and that's where immigration comes along.

The memo stresses that the children of South Asian and Chinese immigrants do well in school and go on to university whereas children of Caribbean or Latin American immigrants do not fare so well. This makes it sound worse than it is. Many Caribbean and Latin American immigrants are employed in trade work as well as European immigrants. Taking Portuguese immigrants as an example they are well represented in construction work yet their children have one of the highest high-school drop out rates in Toronto. The likely explanation for this is that they have chosen to follow their parents and take up a trade and see little use for continuing high school. I don't encourage leaving high school early but in the end they do satisfy an economic need.

So the issue is not as clear cut. Higher education has its benefits but do we need more electrical engineers or more electricians?

Is the government playing favourites? Of course it is though it will not admit it.

It would be simplistic to call this profiling. China and India are better represented in Canada’s intake statistics, a senior government official told Maclean’s, because they are rich in skilled, educated people willing to emigrate—not because of ethnic traits, real or imagined: “It’s a matter of basic supply and demand.” As for the memo, a spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada would say only that it reflects the department’s ongoing concern for groups “experiencing less positive outcomes from an immigration, settlement and a multiculturalism perspective.”

Don't believe it. Were it true then why does Canada have the only diplomatic mission in Chandigarh, the capital city of the Indian state of Punjab, home to the majority of India's Sikhs? Why did the Liberal party of Canada open the mission if not to reward its Sikhs voters who, incidentally, constitute half of the Indo-Canadian community? When half of all applicants are rejected at the mission (that's officially, some say the rejection rate is 80% even 90%) what purpose does it serve other than to funnel the relatives of Sikh Canadians into Canada? And what is the Conservative government doing about the mission?

Indo-Canadians and Chinese-Canadians are two of the largest voting blocs in the country. Politics has everything to do with it. Imagine the backlash if Canada decided to cut its immigrant intake from those two countries. Indeed, this is what happened when the Chretian government tried to increase the pass score for an immigration application. A lawsuit was threatened by those who failed at the higher score but passed at the lower score pressuring the then Liberal government into scraping the whole idea.

Selective or not Canada accepts too many immigrants no matter where they come from. Even if all of Canada's immigrants came from Europe, too many is still too many. It's the reason why immigrants to Canada are experiencing the following:

Despite the new emphasis on economic immigration, a StatsCan study released in February showed that less than one in four newcomers are finding work in the occupations they’d trained for, while immigrants in general are less likely to be employed than native-born Canadians. It is now trite for politicians to bemoan the professional barriers stopping skilled workers from finding jobs in their field—the proverbial cab driver with a Ph.D. But little has been done to remedy the problem.

No comments: