Canada Bucks Global Trend on Immigration

January 4, 2010


Cold temperatures have not stopped Canada from being the warmest towards immigrants, in fact, making it the only country to buck a global trend towards lowering the gates.

In recent months, several European governments, including Spain, Ireland, Denmark and the Czech Republic, have paid immigrants enticing sums of money to go back to where they came from. Not Canada, though. The government has said it will continue to welcome a quarter-million new immigrants a year, but will conversely tighten the refugee determination system that is seen by many as too liberal.

With high unemployment and a large number of citizens on welfare in all of the so-called First World, admitting newcomers who are likely to contribute to both is seen as politically un-doable. Canada, however, is following a different tack. “We are planning for the economic recovery,” says a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, alluding to several positive indicators that have surfaced in recent weeks foretelling an economy on the rebound. Compare this with Australia’s 15 per cent cut in immigrant intake in the wake of the economic downturn.

However, Ottawa’s stay-the-course approach is bound to be balanced by a tougher attitude to refugee applications, which were set to record a dramatic increase until the government stepped in with visa restrictions on travellers from the Czech Republic and Mexico. The fear of human smugglers taking advantage of a sympathetic refugee system took on new urgency in October when a batch of 76 Sri Lankan Tamils landed in British Columbia aboard a ramshackle freighter. Every one of them filed refugee applications, but few have made it beyond the gates of a detention centre as the government goes the extra mile to conduct background checks and ensure they are not Tamil Tiger guerrillas out to turn Toronto into an alternative capital for their grievances. In the words of a government spokesperson, “We can’t allow the creation of a two-tier immigration system: one tier for people who wait patiently and legally in the queue to come to Canada and another for profiteers, for those who engage the services of snakeheads and human trafficking groups.” Besides domestic pressure for a refugee screening system that is less prone to exploitation, American concerns over Canada serving as a backdoor into the US homeland has resulted in tougher questioning of applicants.

The overriding message to what the Economist recently called the world of “footloose talent” is that Canada remains open to immigrants, even at a time when Western economies stare at the prospect of sustained 10 per cent unemployment well into the next decade. To the Canadian mind, this is a myopic view that will prove counter-productive in the long term. The need for immigrants to replace an aging population and thereby ensure that there are always more workers paying into pension funds than retirees remains a paramount calculation. It may also be that a recession may not be a good time to cut back on immigrant intake, which has the desirable effect of transferring wealth from rich nations to the 
developing world.

This transfer is worth an annual $283 billion, but may be impacted if immigrants lose their jobs or there is a fall in the overall numbers gaining residence in industrialised nations. In a macro-economic sense, immigration has the unintended consequence of lifting families out of poverty thereby diminishing the “push” factors that drive people to flee their countries of birth.

But with many magnets for mobile human capital, Canada and its provinces are learning to be nimble in the pursuit of top talent. A recent instance was the relocation of 80 Indian IT consultants from Hartford, Connecticut, to two Atlantic cities — Charlottetown and Halifax — following the collapse of the Hyderabad-based Satyam Computer Services. Living in the US on work-dependent visas that were threatened following the troubles of the Indian computer giant, the governments of Prince Edward Island (PEI) and Nova Scotia are reported to have worked actively with a Canadian company to make a smooth switchover. Another factor that makes Canada an attractive home for immigrants is its religious tolerance. According to a recent study conducted by the Pew Center for Religion and Public Life, Canada ranks among the most tolerant on a global scale.

Not all is well, however. In Quebec, attitudes towards immigrants appear to be hardening, particularly among Francophones. No wonder that a recent immigrant from Algeria was overheard interpreting his rights, only half facetiously, in this fashion: children first, then women, then dogs … then men.

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Canada Bucks Global Trend on Immigration

January 4, 2010


Cold temperatures have not stopped Canada from being the warmest towards immigrants, in fact, making it the only country to buck a global trend towards lowering the gates.

In recent months, several European governments, including Spain, Ireland, Denmark and the Czech Republic, have paid immigrants enticing sums of money to go back to where they came from. Not Canada, though. The government has said it will continue to welcome a quarter-million new immigrants a year, but will conversely tighten the refugee determination system that is seen by many as too liberal.

With high unemployment and a large number of citizens on welfare in all of the so-called First World, admitting newcomers who are likely to contribute to both is seen as politically un-doable. Canada, however, is following a different tack. “We are planning for the economic recovery,” says a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, alluding to several positive indicators that have surfaced in recent weeks foretelling an economy on the rebound. Compare this with Australia’s 15 per cent cut in immigrant intake in the wake of the economic downturn.

However, Ottawa’s stay-the-course approach is bound to be balanced by a tougher attitude to refugee applications, which were set to record a dramatic increase until the government stepped in with visa restrictions on travellers from the Czech Republic and Mexico. The fear of human smugglers taking advantage of a sympathetic refugee system took on new urgency in October when a batch of 76 Sri Lankan Tamils landed in British Columbia aboard a ramshackle freighter. Every one of them filed refugee applications, but few have made it beyond the gates of a detention centre as the government goes the extra mile to conduct background checks and ensure they are not Tamil Tiger guerrillas out to turn Toronto into an alternative capital for their grievances. In the words of a government spokesperson, “We can’t allow the creation of a two-tier immigration system: one tier for people who wait patiently and legally in the queue to come to Canada and another for profiteers, for those who engage the services of snakeheads and human trafficking groups.” Besides domestic pressure for a refugee screening system that is less prone to exploitation, American concerns over Canada serving as a backdoor into the US homeland has resulted in tougher questioning of applicants.

The overriding message to what the Economist recently called the world of “footloose talent” is that Canada remains open to immigrants, even at a time when Western economies stare at the prospect of sustained 10 per cent unemployment well into the next decade. To the Canadian mind, this is a myopic view that will prove counter-productive in the long term. The need for immigrants to replace an aging population and thereby ensure that there are always more workers paying into pension funds than retirees remains a paramount calculation. It may also be that a recession may not be a good time to cut back on immigrant intake, which has the desirable effect of transferring wealth from rich nations to the 
developing world.

This transfer is worth an annual $283 billion, but may be impacted if immigrants lose their jobs or there is a fall in the overall numbers gaining residence in industrialised nations. In a macro-economic sense, immigration has the unintended consequence of lifting families out of poverty thereby diminishing the “push” factors that drive people to flee their countries of birth.

But with many magnets for mobile human capital, Canada and its provinces are learning to be nimble in the pursuit of top talent. A recent instance was the relocation of 80 Indian IT consultants from Hartford, Connecticut, to two Atlantic cities — Charlottetown and Halifax — following the collapse of the Hyderabad-based Satyam Computer Services. Living in the US on work-dependent visas that were threatened following the troubles of the Indian computer giant, the governments of Prince Edward Island (PEI) and Nova Scotia are reported to have worked actively with a Canadian company to make a smooth switchover. Another factor that makes Canada an attractive home for immigrants is its religious tolerance. According to a recent study conducted by the Pew Center for Religion and Public Life, Canada ranks among the most tolerant on a global scale.

Not all is well, however. In Quebec, attitudes towards immigrants appear to be hardening, particularly among Francophones. No wonder that a recent immigrant from Algeria was overheard interpreting his rights, only half facetiously, in this fashion: children first, then women, then dogs … then men.

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Olympic torch light hearts on fire here and across this land

December 30, 2009

There was a remarkable outpouring of emotion in Stratford, Tavistock and Shakespeare on Sunday for the arrival, passing and departure of the Olympic torch.

So much so that we can beat our chests a little with civic pride in the belief that what happened here was a totally unique experience specific to this area.

It wasn’t, of course, and there have been similar, albeit not identical, reactions across the country as the torch enters and leaves communities both big and small.

That said, Day 59 will be remembered for a long time as the Market Square was packed with people and the city streets along the route were lined with everyday people as well as family and friends of torchbearers.

On the surface, one wonders what all the fuss is about, but that can be said about many things that pull at the heartstrings.

Maybe it’s because the Olympic Torch Relay appeals to us on several levels — one, as a localized community; two, as proud Canadians and, three, the realization that it will probably never happen again.

The torch run celebrates local accomplishments whether they be on the local or national scale. That was evidenced by the class from Stratford Central Secondary School that won the right to carry the torch after putting together a project that made life at Stratford’s oldest school a little better for those less fortunate.

Julia Wilkinson, Canada’s swimming sweetheart from the Beijing Olympics, had the signature leg of the torch relay here and lit the cauldron at city hall.

The incident in Guelph yesterday not withstanding, the Olympic flame also appeals to our national pride, and that’s why Maple Leafs abound and even impromptu renditions of “O Canada.”

There is also a sense of history too as it is very unlikely that an Olympic torch will pass through Stratford again in our lifetime. It is the second time it has gone through here in a generation, having gone through in 1988 before the Calgary Games, but there is no assurance it will happen again.

There is, of course, the mystical connection the torch has with the birthplace of the Olympics in Greece and to the opening ceremonies of the Games in Vancouver in February. It will be remarkable to see the flame lighting the cauldron at the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver when we know the same flame passed through our communities here.

Perhaps the Vancouver Olympics organizing committee knew there would be reactions like this across the country. One assumes Coca-Cola and RBC knew that as well as they signed on as corporate sponsors for such a feel-good event.

Regardless, it was a great day for the communites that experienced the torch relay Sunday. What is more remarkable is that same feeling is being experienced from sea to shining sea.

Take our FREE Online Assessment Today!

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Socialize with Abrams & Krochak

Olympic torch light hearts on fire here and across this land

December 30, 2009

There was a remarkable outpouring of emotion in Stratford, Tavistock and Shakespeare on Sunday for the arrival, passing and departure of the Olympic torch.

So much so that we can beat our chests a little with civic pride in the belief that what happened here was a totally unique experience specific to this area.

It wasn’t, of course, and there have been similar, albeit not identical, reactions across the country as the torch enters and leaves communities both big and small.

That said, Day 59 will be remembered for a long time as the Market Square was packed with people and the city streets along the route were lined with everyday people as well as family and friends of torchbearers.

On the surface, one wonders what all the fuss is about, but that can be said about many things that pull at the heartstrings.

Maybe it’s because the Olympic Torch Relay appeals to us on several levels — one, as a localized community; two, as proud Canadians and, three, the realization that it will probably never happen again.

The torch run celebrates local accomplishments whether they be on the local or national scale. That was evidenced by the class from Stratford Central Secondary School that won the right to carry the torch after putting together a project that made life at Stratford’s oldest school a little better for those less fortunate.

Julia Wilkinson, Canada’s swimming sweetheart from the Beijing Olympics, had the signature leg of the torch relay here and lit the cauldron at city hall.

The incident in Guelph yesterday not withstanding, the Olympic flame also appeals to our national pride, and that’s why Maple Leafs abound and even impromptu renditions of “O Canada.”

There is also a sense of history too as it is very unlikely that an Olympic torch will pass through Stratford again in our lifetime. It is the second time it has gone through here in a generation, having gone through in 1988 before the Calgary Games, but there is no assurance it will happen again.

There is, of course, the mystical connection the torch has with the birthplace of the Olympics in Greece and to the opening ceremonies of the Games in Vancouver in February. It will be remarkable to see the flame lighting the cauldron at the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver when we know the same flame passed through our communities here.

Perhaps the Vancouver Olympics organizing committee knew there would be reactions like this across the country. One assumes Coca-Cola and RBC knew that as well as they signed on as corporate sponsors for such a feel-good event.

Regardless, it was a great day for the communites that experienced the torch relay Sunday. What is more remarkable is that same feeling is being experienced from sea to shining sea.

Take our FREE Online Assessment Today!

FREE ASSESSEMENT

Socialize with Abrams & Krochak

Olympic torch light hearts on fire here and across this land

December 30, 2009

There was a remarkable outpouring of emotion in Stratford, Tavistock and Shakespeare on Sunday for the arrival, passing and departure of the Olympic torch.

So much so that we can beat our chests a little with civic pride in the belief that what happened here was a totally unique experience specific to this area.

It wasn’t, of course, and there have been similar, albeit not identical, reactions across the country as the torch enters and leaves communities both big and small.

That said, Day 59 will be remembered for a long time as the Market Square was packed with people and the city streets along the route were lined with everyday people as well as family and friends of torchbearers.

On the surface, one wonders what all the fuss is about, but that can be said about many things that pull at the heartstrings.

Maybe it’s because the Olympic Torch Relay appeals to us on several levels — one, as a localized community; two, as proud Canadians and, three, the realization that it will probably never happen again.

The torch run celebrates local accomplishments whether they be on the local or national scale. That was evidenced by the class from Stratford Central Secondary School that won the right to carry the torch after putting together a project that made life at Stratford’s oldest school a little better for those less fortunate.

Julia Wilkinson, Canada’s swimming sweetheart from the Beijing Olympics, had the signature leg of the torch relay here and lit the cauldron at city hall.

The incident in Guelph yesterday not withstanding, the Olympic flame also appeals to our national pride, and that’s why Maple Leafs abound and even impromptu renditions of “O Canada.”

There is also a sense of history too as it is very unlikely that an Olympic torch will pass through Stratford again in our lifetime. It is the second time it has gone through here in a generation, having gone through in 1988 before the Calgary Games, but there is no assurance it will happen again.

There is, of course, the mystical connection the torch has with the birthplace of the Olympics in Greece and to the opening ceremonies of the Games in Vancouver in February. It will be remarkable to see the flame lighting the cauldron at the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver when we know the same flame passed through our communities here.

Perhaps the Vancouver Olympics organizing committee knew there would be reactions like this across the country. One assumes Coca-Cola and RBC knew that as well as they signed on as corporate sponsors for such a feel-good event.

Regardless, it was a great day for the communites that experienced the torch relay Sunday. What is more remarkable is that same feeling is being experienced from sea to shining sea.

Take our FREE Online Assessment Today!

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Socialize with Abrams & Krochak

City archivist protects collection of writings, maps and photographs covering more than two centuries

December 29, 2009

Karen Teeple lays on a table the oldest object in the Toronto Archives.

It is dated Nov. 15, 1792, and it is a chart of Toronto Harbour signed by Joseph Bouchette.

It is one of her treasures.

It is also one of your treasures: a gift to Toronto and its residents made 75 years ago by a descendant of John Graves Simcoe.

Teeple, as the city archivist, is anxious to share the wealth of writings, maps, photographs and records of all kinds that cram the archives, on Spadina Rd. near Dupont St., just down the hill from Casa Loma.

Her mission, in her own words:

“Toronto is a major city that’s got a very illustrious past. I think we are responsible to ensure that Toronto’s history is preserved and made accessible to its citizens.”

The archives shelter millions of documents, in 123,000 boxes. Some have obvious significance: The city’s original incorporation document from 1834 lies here. So does the official version of the City of Toronto Act, deposited by Mayor David Miller and municipal affairs minister Brad Duguid on New Year’s Day, 2007.

Some are merely wordy, such as the official minutes of all Toronto council meetings, including the minutes of the city, borough, village and Metro municipal governments that preceded them.

But the archives also house myriad images: a million photographs; thousands of maps; a collection of antique glass projector slides.

“My favourite has to be the earliest known views of Toronto,” says Teeple, from a series of photos taken from the roof of the Rossin House Hotel in 1856-57. Standing five storeys high at the southeast corner of King and York Sts., it was then Toronto’s tallest building. The photos make up an almost complete panorama of the city.

The photos are not locked away: They hang in the lobby of the archives. They are also featured in the book of official photographs that Teeple and fellow archivists Steve MacKinnon and Michele Dale produced earlier this year. The book – Toronto’s Visual Legacy – is almost sold out. It’s available at Indigo.

“The success of the book speaks to the passions and interest that Torontonians have about their past,” says Teeple, who was drawn to archival work in the 1970s as a graduate student in Canadian studies. “There are other archival institutions in the city – bank archives, religious archives – but when it comes to ensuring that Toronto’s history is preserved, we are pretty much one of the only institutions around.”

The images in photos, maps and glass slides – meticulously catalogued and preserved by the archives staff – are the most instantly compelling items in the archives.

Bouchette’s chart, for example, shows what was important to him. While it meticulously describes the harbour bottom, he notes only four features on land: Two houses, “Toronto fort” and an “Indian hut.”

Another map from the early 19th century shows the early Legislature building just south of St. Lawrence Hall. On the site of modern Queen’s Park sits, in the brutal language of the day, the “lunatic asylum.”

The photographs tell their own compelling stories. Michael Ondaatje refers explicitly to the work of Arthur Goss, official photographer in the early years of the 20th century, in his Toronto-centred novel In the Skin of a Lion. The Goss collection is housed in the archives.

Not all are deep in the past: The city commissioned Peter MacCallum to take photos of the demolition of part of the Gardiner Expressway in 2000. The archives has many photos of Toronto’s artistic community by John Reeves.

Archives staff are currently transferring old photos into digital form, where they can be viewed on the archives website. But even dusty documents help bring the past to life.

The archives, for example, can be used to search for information about homes in the city.

You can look up your address in city directories dating back to 1834. Once you find the first reference to your house, you can switch over to assessment rolls, which are on microfilm and which provide some indication of the owners or occupants of the dwelling, year by year.

Meanwhile, archives staff are working to improve public access to the collection, especially its 1 million photographs. About 45,000 have been scanned and can be viewed on the city website. Prints are available for sale.

For detailed directions on how to search, and instructions how to research your house, visit the archives or go to the city website at www.toronto.ca/archives/.

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