Saturday, 31 March 2012

Internal Flight: A Reintroduction and Why Mexico Is A Safe Country.

This is a post about a concept outlined in the UN Convention Relating To The Status of Refugees.  The concept is called internal flight and it is rarely given a mention as a possibly avenue for would be refugees to Canada who are fleeing alleged persecution and therefore a reminder of its existence is warranted every now and then.

According to the UN Convention internal flight "refers to a specific area of the country where there is no risk of a well-founded fear of persecution and where, given the particular circumstances of the case, the individual could reasonably be expected to establish him/herself and live a normal life."  Indeed, the Convention "does not require or even suggest that the fear of being persecuted need always extend to the whole territory of the refugee’s country of origin."  Simply put, the Convention recognizes that if a would be refugee claimant can flee a threat to their existence by relocating to another part of their country then expecting a refugee to peruse this option instead of seeking sanctuary in another country is not unreasonable.

The recognition of internal flight by the Convention is to help prevent what is known as ""asylum shopping."  Asylum shopping is exactly how it sounds.  It is the shopping around for nations to find the best positive outcome for one's refugee claim.  A recent example occurred here in Canada in 2009 when 76 Sri Lankan Tamils by-passed the United States and Australia, two signatory nations to the UN Convention Relating To The Status of Refugees, to specifically land on Canada's western shore.  It was also found that some aboard the boat were already denied refugee protection in the U.K. which is also another practice of asylum shopping: the repeated attempt to seek refugee status in multiple countries to see who will bite.  As a signatory nation to the Convention Canada would not be in violation of it if it turned away refugee claimants the nation felt that internal flight was a viable option open to them but, for whatever reason, failed to act on it.

What prompted this post was this one sided Toronto Star article on a group of Mexican activists' fear that their country may be considered a safe country by Canada to return Mexican refugee claimants to.  If internal flight is a possibility to find safety, of which it most likely is in Mexico, then Mexico is a safe country to return refugees to.

Much of the news out of Mexico is negative and concerns itself with the drug cartels and the violence inherent to the drug trade.  That's because if it bleeds it leads.  The impression given is a country lost in lawless chaos where nowhere and no one is safe.  But that's not true.

According to some ex-pat Canadians living in Mexico they consider most of the country safer than Toronto. In comparison to its neighbours and some U.S. cities Mexico is a lot safer.
For proof, Lopez-Negrete rolls out the statistics, derived from a combination of government and non-government sources: Of 2,500 municipalities (what we call counties), only 80, or fewer than 5 percent, have been affected by the drug war, which accounts for only 3 percent of all crime. Mexican cities are also safer than some urban centers north of the border: Mexico City, for example, has 8.3 homicides a year per 100,000 people. That's fewer than Miami (14.1) and Chicago (16.1). On a global scale, Mexico is safer than many of its neighbors. In 2008, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported Mexico's homicide rate as 11.6 per 100,000, significantly lower than Honduras (60.9), Jamaica (59.5) or El Salvador (51.8). 
In Mexico, like in many U.S. cities and even Canadian ones, if you want to avoid trouble there are places you just do not go to and escape as soon as possible by relocating to somewhere else in the city or country.  By doing so you exercise internal flight.

The Mexican activists in the Toronto Star article are alleging the systemic oppression by the Mexican government of it citizens but I do not see it.  The piece mentions some disappearances, some corrupt behaviour by Mexican soldiers and officials, but nowhere does it establish that these crimes are sanctioned by the government.  These crimes seem to be opportunistic and may be linked to the drug trade in some fashion.  But is crime enough to warrant a refugee claim?  No, not in and of itself and especially no, if they can flee it by relocating internally.  Mexicans are not cold-war era pro-democracy activists operating in eastern Europe and deemed enemies of the state.  If we are to entertain Mexican refugee claims on the basis that they are fleeing crime then we might as well grant asylum to the inhabitants of the inner city of the U.S.'s most run-down urban centres.  It's as if someone living in a poor, crime infested area of Detroit were to opt to make a refugee claim at the Detroit/Windsor border crossing instead of moving out of the city and to another part of the state or country.  It would be laughable if we did because we know well enough that they can simply move somewhere else in the county to find relative safety.  And so it goes for the majority of Canada's refugee claims.

Incidentally, Canada does receive many of its refugee claims at the US/Canada border which brings me to another concept covered in the Convention: the notion of the safe third country.  A "safe third country" is a country considered safe that the refugee had to pass through in order to arrive at their destination.  Since the U.S. is a signatory nation to the UN Convention it's a "safe third country" by all accounts.  As is most of Europe.  And since the majority of Canada's inland refugee claims arrive here via Europe or the U.S., Canada could, technically, turn them away and expect them to make their asylum claims in the countries where they can first find relative safety.

Canada could exercise these concepts and still meet its obligations to the world's refugees by vetting them abroad.  This is cheaper and more efficient since it circumvents the parasitic legal professions and does away with the costly IRB.  while getting at genuine refugees and not entertaining the self-selecting immigrant kind we have been so generous to these past decades.

Of course, this is all difficult to do thanks to the Singh decision of 1985 which was only possible, I might add, due to a poorly worded Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms; a document, it seems, written by lawyers for lawyers.  But it does allow for the execution of the notwithstanding clause which if invoked will grant the government the power to reverse the Singh decision.

This is what the government should do but strangely enough Jason Kenney has stated that he has no intent on revisiting the decision.  I find this odd since it's the very root of the mess of our refugee system.  What we get instead is the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act which will allow the Immigration Minister to designate countries of his or her choosing as safe given those countries satisfy certain conditions.  This just dodges the issue and makes the mess even messier with more layers of bureaucracy and avenues for lawsuits.  The list itself will also be politically sensitive and subject to manipulation influenced by ethnic-vote buying politics.  However to its credit it does recognize the concept that one can find safety within his or her homeland negating relocation to Canada so I guess I'll have to be satisfied with that for now.

Monday, 12 March 2012

When A Better Life For You Means A Worse Life For Us: On Immigration And Youth Unemployment.

The latests job figures paint a not too rosy picture for job seekers.  According to the data job creation stalled in the country "despite signs of a healthy domestic economy and a comeback by the U.S. job market."
However the unemployment rate dropped to 7.4% down from 7.6% in January.  This seems strange in light of the news but it makes sense because the unemployment rate doesn't count those who dropped out of the workforce who otherwise would be participating had adequate employment opportunities been available.
The unemployment rate nonetheless dropped to 7.4 percent from 7.6 percent in January, largely because 38,000 people dropped out of the workforce, the most since January 2009.
This tells us that the official unemployment rate underestimates the real unemployment rate and doesn't reliably gauge the health of the labour market.  It is reasonable to assume then that the unemployment rate is actually in double digit territory and it is made worse if we consider the under-employed, contract, part-time, and seasonal workers.

Hardest hit are young Canadians.  Officially the unemployment for Canadians aged 15-24 is double the national average of 7.4% and currently sits at 14.7% but since we can reasonably assume this figure underestimates the real rate it's possibly chasing 20%.

The Toronto Star editorialized on the matter in today's issue oblivious to the fact that the pro mass-immigration agenda it promotes in its pages plays a major role in youth employment.  It opts instead to shift blame to the government for making cut backs to services that it assumes will undermine the employment prospects of Canada's young.  The paper is right to blame the government but for the wrong reason because mass immigration is the problem and if the government should be making cut backs anywhere it is in the number of immigrants this country receives each year.

But a funny thing appeared in yesterday's issue.  Two letters to the editor were published in the editorial pages of the Sunday, March 11, 2012 edition that, taken together, pretty much summed up the situation of youth unemployment in Canada better than any editorial.

One letter writer had this to say about a article called "Jobless Gen Y: Young, unemployed and giving up hope":

          Struggling to find decent jobs 
Re: Jobless Gen Y: Young, unemployed and giving up hope, March 9Thank you for continuing to write stories on the difficulty Gen Y youth are having finding not only meaningful employment, but any employment that will allow them to afford even a sub-modest life and pay off a mountain of debt. 
As a 20-something myself, actually approaching 30, with three university degrees (one a Masters), and working for $15 an hour as a receptionist, I can sympathize with these stories. 
Besides struggling to pay off loans, a mortgage and car payments, I struggle most with having others place blame on my generation as being lazy, unsatisfied and unrealistic in our job expectations and comparing us to other generations who were able to secure employment in drastically different economic times. 
I work full-time, part-time, volunteer and take continuing education courses, leaving me enough time a week only to apply to jobs I never hear a response from and wonder if it's just me who's losing hope. 
Thank you again for writing these articles. I would encourage the Star to continue because they do more than you can imagine.

Ana Cruceru, Bolton
Printed above it was a letter written by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney himself responding to an article that trots out the discredited and oh, so very sleepy, over-exaggerated skills shortage myth "Olive: Skills shortage highlights faulty thinking on immigration."  (To digress for a moment I have to say I like David Olive but he gets it so wrong here.  I was hoping he would be better educated about the issue but apparently not.  He is just as ignorant about the immigration issue as seemingly everyone else who makes a living as a Canadian journalist.  It is disappointing to see him unquestionably accept the discredited tropes of the pro mass-immigration argument about the alleged "skills shortage" and to me this smacks of lazy and agenda driven journalism.  But fortunately readers take him to school in the comments section.)  Kenney write:
Immigration levels have increased
Re: Skills shortage highlights faulty thinking on immigration, Column, March 5David Olive's column on immigration includes several factual errors. He writes that “Ottawa has cut the inflow of immigrants from an annual 250,000 to 225,000, trapped by a recession-era mindset that is obsolete.” The opposite is true. The average intake of permanent residents under the previous Liberal government (from 1994 to 2005) was 222,000. Since taking office in 2006, our government has welcomed an average of 254,000 new permanent residents per year, an increase of 14 per cent. This represents the highest sustained level of immigration in Canadian history, and the highest per capita level of immigration in the developed world, adding 0.8 per cent to our population per year. 
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly pointed out that, unlike previous Canadian governments and many other developed countries, we maintained high immigration levels throughout the recession precisely because we understand that one of the greatest challenges facing the Canadian economy is a large and growing labour shortage. For example, in 2010 we welcomed 280,000 newcomers, the highest number in six decades, notwithstanding the global economic downturn. By comparison, the Trudeau government slashed immigration levels from 143,000 to under 90,000 during the recession in the early 1980s, and the Chr├ętien government cut intake from more than 257,000 to 174,000 in the mid-1990s.
Olive also writes that “Ottawa has slashed its funding of immigrant settlement services for Ontario by $70 million.” Again, the opposite is true. The $70 million has been reallocated to other parts of the country, where immigration levels have increased massively, to ensure fair per capita funding across Canada. But even after that change, we are spending three times more on settlement services in Ontario than the previous government did in 2005, moving from $111 million to $347 million. That's a huge increase, not a cut. 
Finally, he says that we “haven't even tried” to tackle the problem of credential recognition. The federal government cannot dictate policies to provincial professional bodies or provinces. But we have done a great deal to address this longstanding challenge, creating the Foreign Credential Referral Office to help immigrants prepare for credential assessment before they leave for Canada; investing $50 million in the development of a national framework for faster and simpler licensing of foreign credentials; and most recently launching microloan programs to help newcomers upgrade their skills and pay for assessment fees. 
Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism
That's Jason Kenney bragging about how he increased immigration levels and kept them high while Canadians were losing their jobs - many of them recent immigrants - as the economy tanked; juxtaposed with a letter written by a young Canadian woman expressing her frustrations at trying to get a foothold and succeed in a discouraging job market where despite her high level of educational attainment a job as a receptionist is so far all that is available to her (and we wonder why immigrants with Phds. are driving cabs).

I don't know if this pairing of letters was intentional or not but the connection is clear, lost only to those whose wilful ignorance on the immigration issue makes them blind to it: high immigration and youth unemployment are related.  If unemployment is high among Canada's young it is likely due to them being driven out of the job market by immigrants.  Or, if Canada's educated young are having a hard time finding adequate employment, what is the likelihood that immigrants - the majority of whom hail from the developing world - will be more successful?  To put it another way, if there are no jobs for Canada's young then there are no jobs for immigrants.

I am old enough to remember a time when fast food restaurants were primarily staffed by teenagers looking to make some cash in a part-time after school job and college kids working to offset their tuition fees.  Now these jobs are largely staffed by immigrants undoubtedly using them as a means to obtain permanent residency status so that they can eventually leave it and compete with Canadians in the labour market for jobs Canadians want to do.  This is very evident in Toronto and the surrounding area.

What I find remarkable is the high level of acceptance by Canada's young for the immigration system seemingly unaware that the system is undermining their future.  This can be blamed on the propaganda they are indoctrinated into accepting in the public education system by a unionised teaching staff that needs immigrants to bring in the children Canadians cannot afford to have so that schools can remain open, teachers can keep their overly generous public sector jobs, and the union can remain strong.  Marry this to threats of a public shaming and accusations of racism towards those who criticise the immigration system even in the slightest.  But Canada's young need to be more critical of the immigration system if they expect to have any future of value in this country.  When the Canadian born and educated children of immigrants have a difficult time find adequate employment hopes should not be high for the next plane loads of would be Canadians.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

A Tale Of Two Provinces: How Globalization, Not Immigration, Drives The Economy.

Almost since the days of Confederation, Ontario was the country's primary economic engine but now it appears it's Alberta turn.  How times have changed but did immigration have anything to do with that?  Of course not!  Immigration is a response to economic growth not a driver of it.  To fully understand Ontario's decline and Alberta's ascendency one needs to appreciate the forces at work of which immigration has no control over nor influences but merely responds to.

Ontario's economy had a healthy manufacturing sector that provided well paying jobs and middle class lifestyles for many Ontarians granting them an avenue to upward mobility and keeping poverty rates down.  But many of those jobs have been relocated offshore to where the job can done cheaper and at a cost benefit to a business.  This is because of globalization and the technology that now makes this possible.  A business does not need to manufacture its goods in the market it sells in.  A company can have its headquarters in country A, have its products manufactured in countries B, C, and D, and then sell that product in every market in the world.  The Canadian economy is mostly a branch-plant economy and foreign based businesses saw no need to continue manufacturing in Canada in order to sell their products in here.  As a result Ontario's economy has slowly declined over the years as its manufacturing base eroded.  But there's also another culprit to blame: the high Canadian dollar.

Enter Alberta.  Alberta's economy is pretty much a one horse town with oil being it.  And it isn't cheap oil either.  Located in the controversial tar sands it takes the equivalent of two barrels of oil out of three just to keep the show running.  This is grossly inefficient and expensive but as long as oil prices remain ludicrously  high it's economical.

But why are oil prices so high?  Is it because of unrest in the Middle East?  Or has a hurricane in the Gulf States of the U.S. affected refining capacity?  Or is it because of increased demand from emerging economies like India and China?  How about none of the above.

The truth is oil production has pretty much remained constant for quite some time and has been readily meeting any increases in demand.  We shouldn't be paying the prices we do at the pumps nor the increases in prices for basic goods like food and clothing that are also affected by the resulting increase in the cost of production and transportation.  So why the high price of oil?  Well, blame the speculators.

In the year 2000 the Commodity Futures Modernization Act was born.  This piece of deregulation removed the constraints in the futures market that kept speculators in check and prevented them from artificially inflating or deflating commodity prices; prices that were primarily set by the forces of real supply and demand.  With the constraints removed the futures market became a speculator's playground and the fruits of this deregulation are Enron, the U.S. housing bubble, and the high price for oil.

Since Canada is an oil producing nation as well as a trading nation we buy and sell our oil on the world market at world market prices.  But in order to buy Canadian oil, or any Canadian commodity, a buyer is going to need Canadian dollars to do so and the higher the price for the commodity the more Canadian dollars a buyer is going to need.  An increase in demand for an finite supply of Canadian dollars leads to a higher valuation of the Canadian dollar.  This is good for Canada's mining and oil industries but it hurts our exporting and manufacturing capacity.

So what does any of this have to do with immigration?  The answer is nothing and that's the point.  Immigrants are not a reason for Alberta's oil driven economic boom and immigrants had nothing to do with Ontario's manufacturing might nor were they able to prevent its weakening.  If they are to take credit for anything it's Canada's housing bubble.  Ontario's and Alberta's economies are affected by global events and decisions made in other nations that immigrants have no control over and even less influence.  Immigration is merely a response to economic growth, not the driver of it.

And now immigrants are skipping Ontario to head west to the golden plains of Alberta to enjoy the speculative run on oil while it lasts.  Why is that?  It's like I said: immigrants are a response to economic growth, not a driver of it.  Were that so then Ontario should be doing fine.  But it isn't because immigrants don't grow jobs, they take them.

We are always being told that Canada is dependant on immigrants for job growth.  This is an intentionally misleading use of two positive sounding words.  By juxtaposing "job" alongside "growth" we are given the mistaken impression that immigration is a source of job creation.  This is false.  Immigrants don't create jobs, businesses do through expansion and investment during favourable economic conditions.  If immigrants do create jobs it's mostly for themselves, family members, and fellow compatriots but for the most part immigrants don't create jobs for Canadians; the Frank Stronachs are as rare as Haley's Comet.  It's more correct to say immigrants increase labour supply and labour market competition.  And the more labour available, the more competition, the cheaper it is.

The assumption that a large domestic population is essential for economic prosperity is archaic and no longer holds true in today's world.  It may have been true at one time in Canada's history but no longer.  A large domestic population is not going to help Research In Motion (RIM) beat Apple in the tablet market nor help it become more competitive as a business.  Both companies are competing for market share that extends beyond the borders of the nations in which they are based.  Even the U.S. film industry has to confront this economic reality where foreign markets are just as, if not more, important than the domestic market (it being the U.S. and Canada).  If Sweden's 9.5 million population base (smaller than Ontario's 12 million) can give us Ikea and H&M then Canada didn't need 33 million people to produce Lululemon.

The only businesses that gain from a large and increasing population are those that are national, provincial, or local in scope.  This would be Roger's Communications whose ethnic specific packages make clear the company sees immigrants as a source of an ever increasing customer base.  Another is Tim Hortans that failed to break the American market and is now in greater need of immigrants as both customer and employee.  Other's are the media who need a growing population of eyeballs to sell to advertisers (which is why you almost never read or see a report about immigration not biased towards a liberal and lax system).  And of course there's the real estate industry and the financial sector.

It's a dated and misbegotten belief that a large domestic population is needed for a healthy economy in today's interconnected world.  This is one of the conclusions Don Drummond - the man now charged with giving Ontario the bad news - arrived at when he was working for TD bank.  [He also notes that immigration cannot positively affect an ageing society; that the skills shortage is "over dramatized"; that evidence to the claim that immigrants open foreign markets to Canada is sparse {in fact it's the reverse as immigrant communities - the overseas populations of foreign nations - make Canada an import market for foreign goods}; that immigration contributes positively to Canadian's standard of living is not an established fact.]  When nations with much smaller populations like Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, and Singapore can compete with Canada in terms of standard of living, innovative capacity, and productivity levels we should abandon our stubborn adherence to the dogma of perpetual, immigrant driven population growth and consider the merits of population stabilization and possibly even decline.

We Give Them Asylum And In Return Sri Lanka's Tamils Give Us Higher Insurance Premiums.

Canada's Sri Lankan Tamil population: the gift that just keeps on giving.
A lengthy investigation into a multi-million dollar auto-insurance scam led to the arrest of 37 people Thursday, many in the South Asian community, with police cracking down on an escalating problem that’s made the GTA Canada’s phony collision capital.
In early morning raids across the GTA — part of an investigation dubbed Project Whiplash — police arrested dozens, laying a total of 130 charges stemming from 77 collisions police say were staged and have helped send insurance premiums skyrocketing in the province. Additional arrests are expected.{...}
Auto insurance fraud costs Ontario drivers as much as $1.3 billion per year, between 10 and 15 per cent of all premiums, according to a recent report by the Auditor General of Ontario.
“There’s no question that the GTA is the staged collision capital of Canada,” said Rick Dubin, vice-president of investigative services for the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), which was a key player in Project Whiplash.{...}
Some of the accused worked as paralegals, helping to file false insurance claims. Others operated rehabilitation or medical clinics in Scarborough, Toronto and Markham, and are accused of submitting false invoices to insurers.{...}
Many of the accused hail from the GTA’s South Asian community. Of the 10 alleged ringleaders, who range in age from 32 to 57, most are Tamil, said Det. Const. Kajamuganthan Kathiravelu, who made a separate appeal to the Tamil community at Thursday’s news conference.{...}
Police named nine of the accused in Project Whiplash: Pirapaharan Nadesu, 33, of Toronto; Sipaskaran Sabaratnam, 32, of Markham; Nishanthan Ponnuthurai, 32, of Markham; Jeyakanthan Theivendran, 43, of Markham; Baskaran Tharmakulasingam, 35, of Toronto; Mahaletchumy Pathmanathan, 57, of Markham; Sujeegah Kanagalingam, 32, of Markham; Ravigunathas Gunasingam, 40, of Toronto; and Vishnukanthan Sabapathy, 35, of Toronto. 
No surprises right?  When you come from an immigrant community where defrauding Canada's refugee system was the main ticket into the country, why stop there?  We've already proven ourselves to be a nation of suckers so you might as well take advantage of it.