Canada’s Phony Refugee System

There is currently much agitation in the USA over immigration and refugees. Canadians are prone to judge the American dust-up with a certain supercilious air, while knowing very little of the situation at their own doorstep.

What follows is an except from Chapter Thirteen of The Trouble With Canada …Still! (2010). I encourage visitors to this site to get the book and read the whole chapter. It is quite a shock.

If things have changed, I suspect they have only gotten worse.


Phony Refugee Claimants

The UN estimates that over 4 million human beings are smuggled into various countries each year, most of them by criminal organizations that reap over $7 billion from this enterprise. They are told: If you want to get into Canada fast, just lie. Tell the border officials you will be “persecuted” or tortured if you are forced to return home.

In 1987, according to the Department of Immigration, more than 26,000 people claimed refugee status[1] in Canada. Based on the standard used by the United Nations Convention on Refugees, nearly 85 percent of the claims were found to be false. Such scandals have been known for a long time: in 1981, even our very liberal Immigration Minister Lloyd Axworthy complained of the 75,000 refugees we took in that year that “a lot of them are claiming they left for political reasons, but in fact it’s economic.”

Nothing has changed. In 2002, citizens from 152 different nations many of which no other nation in the world but Canada would consider to be refugee-producing, claimed homeland persecution and therefore a right of asylum in Canada. How can this be? How can people who enter Canada illegally get away with naming almost every nation on earth as a place dangerous to life and limb? How soft-headed are we? Very: a Canadian federal court judge recently declared the United States of America “unsafe” for refugees! And … in December of 2004 Canada’s government passed a law enabling anyone charged with a capital offence in another country to seek legal asylum in Canada. In this way, as former Canadian ambassador James Bissett put it, we “laid out the welcome mat for murderers.”

I would say Canada is now in a tight spot on this score. We have signed UN treaties against torture, which prevent us from deporting phony asylum-seekers claiming homeland persecution, and we have passed laws saying that all “individuals” in Canada automatically have the full Charter rights and freedoms of citizens. Now there are obviously some very unsafe countries in the world, and we must always be open to helping genuine refugees according to our own capacities, as long as they do not overwhelm us. But the vast majority of asylum-seekers are economic refugees out “immigration shopping,” which means they are hunting for the country with the slackest entry conditions, the greatest number of free benefits, and the least likelihood of sending them back home. Having chosen Canada, they then choose to lie, break the rules, and jump the immigration queue under false pretenses. How false? Hard to say. Martin Collacott, former Canadian high commissioner to Sri Lanka informs us that “in one year alone, 8,600 Sri Lankans with refugee claims pending in Canada, applied to the Sri Lankan high commission in Ottawa for travel documents so they could go back to Sri Lanka for visits.” Most European nations now avoid this problem by refusing all refugee claimants from “safe” countries (those with a democratic system, a rule of law, etc). Canada proposed this idea as recently as 1989 but it was opposed by a self-interested immigration lobby (there is no other kind, it seems). At any rate, this is how Canada has become “a home away from home” for millions of people whom we subsidize to ensure their deepest identities here are still rooted in their countries of origin.

Since 1985, over 700,000 asylum seekers have entered Canada without proper scrutiny. Actually, with no scrutiny whatsoever. Many of them are brought here with false documents by clever human smugglers, for large fees. Smugglers guarantee them at least a few years here, fully-paid by Canada’s government until their case reaches the front of the refugee-hearing lineup. But after a few years (if they get married and have a baby or two), it is unlikely they will get tossed out. Their offspring are automatically entitled to Canadian citizenship, and they are granted a full hearing, given tax-paid legal services, rights to appeal if denied entry, full medicare, dental, and social services, the lot. Canada remains the only western nation without any preliminary screening process for sorting out potentially deserving claims from those that are manifestly unfounded. At a cost of $10-$12,000 per year per claimant, estimates are that we spend a billion dollars per year dealing with this mess. One step we could take is to change the rules: Canadian citizenship should not be granted to immigrant children unless their parents are already Canadian.

More shocking is the fact that although many thousands of phony refugee claimants are ordered to leave Canada each year … most of them don’t. In May 2008, Canada’s Auditor-General reported that there were 41,000 warrants of arrest outstanding on illegal immigrants. They are somewhere in Canada, but authorities do not know where. We do not know how many of them may have communicable diseases, or criminal records, or are terrorists. Canada’s most notorious asylum seeker was “the Millennium Bomber” Ahmed Ressam who in reality was an Al-Qaeda operative. He lied when showed up in Canada, was admitted as a refugee, and was then caught crossing the border into the U.S. with a truck-load of high explosives. He was on his way to blow up the Los Angeles airport.

Is “The Economy” a Good Reason for More Immigration?

Many argue that because we have an aging society, a changing ratio of retirees to workers, and falling fertility rates, we need lots of immigrants or the economy will eventually go into a tailspin. This argument seems plausible – at first- because without sufficient bodies who will buy the food, rent the offices and retail spaces, buy the diapers, and so on? The prospect of a rapidly falling population is scary, and the looming demographic winter seems real. Canada’s own Annual Report on Immigration notes that immigration will be “a key source of workforce growth in the future.” But bad thinking has produced what looks like a false assumption.

Canada’s first serious study of this question was carried out in 1985 by The Macdonald Royal Commission on “The Economic Union and Development Prospects for Canada.” Its conclusion was that “immigration did not contribute to economic growth, but in fact caused a decline in per capita income and real wages in Canada.”[2]

Now the C.D. Howe Institute has warned (July 2009): “for Canadians to expect more, younger immigrants to counteract the effects of low past fertility on workforce growth and aging would be a serious mistake.”[3] The Institute’s sophisticated projections tell us that “only improbably huge increases” in “net” immigration rates (after subtracting all those who return home) of “more than 2.5 times” recent rates (600-700,000 new immigrants per year) have any chance to “offset” the consequences of lower past fertility. Even when “age filters” favouring much younger immigrants were plugged into the projections, they showed the need for a future Canadian population ranging between 60 and 200 million people before the current aging and falling fertility factors were neutralized. Projections relying on immigration flows to improve the economy tended “to produce explosive population growth, with ludicrous terminal numbers….” In the year 2050 Canada would need 7 million immigrants.

The conclusion was that better and faster results could be achieved by raising the age of retirement from 65 to 70, boosting natural fertility rates from the current 1.5 children per women to 2.1, and increasing productivity (real output per worker) by 1 per cent. The authors also cite a major 2004 study of the European situation by the RAND corporation. It concluded that “immigration could do little to mitigate the challenges created by low fertility in the European Union” because, as in the numerous Canadian studies cited, “the momentum of the resident population largely overwhelms immigration’s influence.” More sobering: the United Nations Population Division has concluded that for Europe to rebalance its own demographic mixture to avoid eventual collapse it would require over 700 million immigrants by 2050 – more than the present population of the whole of Europe! [4]

In his survey of Canadian immigration research, Martin Collacott points out that “the government’s own research” indicates that immigration plays a minor role in boosting the economy. “Overall economic performance of newcomers,” he writes, “has fallen below that of earlier immigrants and people born in Canada. A major reason for this is the priority given to family-class immigrants,” none of whom is required to bring any marketable skills to Canada, nor to speak either official language.[5] Underlining the problem of immigrant illiteracy, Frank McKenna of the TD Bank Financial Group said that the immigrant illiteracy issue is “sort of like boiling a frog, it’s not … something that would alarm people, because it’s not all that evident; we just gradually become poorer as a nation as a result of this loss of potential.”[6] Adding to the complexity is the fact that immigrants to Canada increasingly are coming from areas such as Asia where English and French are not native tongues (up to 40% of Canada’s new immigrants speak neither English nor French). The concern is that the economic wellbeing of newcomers has been deteriorating over the past twenty-five years, with unemployment and poverty levels significantly higher among immigrants than among Canadian-born citizens.

In sum, too many immigrants arrive with no skills, no common language with which to engage with their host country, and immediately demand free social, medical, dental, and unemployment benefits. This phenomenon is all but international now and is causing some panic in many established welfare States because, as European analyst Martin Paldam found, “the traditions of protection of the weak cause adverse selection of immigrants, so that most are unskilled.” However, welfare States, he warns, only survive if they stand on an implicit compact: we all give, in order, if necessary, to receive. People will accept high levels of taxation if they believe recipients of welfare are like themselves: if they “have made the same effort to be self-supporting and will not take advantage.” However, “if values become extremely diverse in a diversified population, then it becomes difficult to sustain the legitimacy of a risk-pooling welfare State.”[7] In plainer words, if you set your country up to attract freeloaders – they will come.

George Borjas of Harvard University (himself an immigrant) and perhaps the world’s most acknowledged authority on this question, echoes the findings of other major studies done since the mid-1980s by mainstream economists in Canada, the USA, Australia, and the UK: the only significant economic impact of immigration is to reduce the wages of native workers.[8]

In 2007 a Statistics Canada study, “Chronic Low Income, and Low Income Dynamics Among Recent Immigrants” revealed that notwithstanding the emphasis on education in the “skilled worker” category of immigrants, “their earnings in relation to native Canadians were significantly lower and continue to deteriorate.”[9] Professor Alan Green of Queen’s University has stated categorically that “the current political posture of using immigrants to solve economic problems is no longer valid.”[10]

To conclude: a recent study by economist Herbert Grubel of Simon Fraser University revealed that the 2.5 million immigrants who came to Canada between 1990 and 2002 received $18.3 billion more in government services and benefits in the year 2002 alone than they paid in taxes for that year! Grubel states that this amount was more than the federal government contributed to health care in 2000-2001, and more than twice what it spent on defence.

And finally – let us bash the “Bigger is Better” myth. A bigger economy is not necessarily a stronger one. China, for example, has a huge economy because it has more than a billion people. But in per capita earnings it is around 100th in the world – whereas Canada is in the top ten. As long as a strong economy of any size continues to produce sufficient numbers of babies to maintain viable age-to-dependency ratios (ratio of born to dying, and workers to retirees), a country will remain stable. Small but strong stable economies such as those of Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Austria, Singapore, and Hong Kong, do not have to be big. Neither does Canada.

Coming… or Going? How Committed Are They to Canada?

A 2006 Statistics Canada study revealed something rather astonishing. Many thousands of immigrants do not come here to become Canadian or make Canada their home: more than one-sixth of all immigrants who come to Canada return to their native countries within a year, and one-third within 20 years! So if over twenty years we took in 5 million immigrants, some 1,666,000 went back home. Any citizen forking over tax dollars to screen, interview, educate, and supply free government medical, legal, language training, and subsidized education services to admit millions of people to Canada as citizens in the first place, might be forgiven for getting a little angry at learning they take what they want from us and then go back home (not to mention the amounts of cash they send out of Canada while they are here. The bulk of the returnee-immigrants in the 25-45 age group are people who entered Canada in the “skilled worker” or “business” category; some 40% of all professional male immigrants leave Canada for good within a decade. Readers will be forgiven for thinking many of the immigrants who come are “citizens of convenience.” But do they know much about Canada’s deep culture? Would they die to defend Canada? Don’t hold your breath. If our own government tells us so many skilled workers and professionals are leaving, who stays?

Canada is at war just now, and we have had a very proud history of immigrant warriors willing to fight and die to defend us. But is this true since multiculturalism took hold, that is, since we began subsidizing and encouraging immigrants to maintain their original identities? In “Who Fights and Dies for Canada?”[11] Douglas Bland, chairman of Queen’s University’s Defence Studies Program answers the question bluntly: “Young white men, that’s who fights.” Of the 133 Canadian to who died in the recent war against terror (as of January 2010) there were six soldiers from visible minorities. Despite significant efforts since 1982 to attract military personnel from all social groups, visible minorities – now at 16% of Canada’s total population – make up only 3.4% of Canada’s armed forces. But then, how many of Canada’s soldiers, visible or not, are from big cities? Either way, this race-divide further underlines the urban-rural civil war of values to be discussed below. Here is a more interesting question: if Canada went into a direct war today against say, an Islamic country: would our immigrant-citizens from that country fight with Canada, or against? In the past, when we insisted on assimilation and patriotic allegiance, we knew the answer. Today, it remains a question mark. I think all immigrants to Canada should be required to sign a Vow of Citizenship that among many other things would include a statement to the effect that in the case of a conflict or war with their country of origin, they would, if required, unhesitatingly defend and fight for Canada.

[1] The terminology, as explained by Martin Collacott, is as follows: Canada is the only country in the world that uses the term “refugee-claimant” as an exact equivalent of the term “asylum-seeker” used by other countries (i.e. someone who arrives on your soil and asks to be accepted as a refugee for permanent resettlement). When it comes to the general term “refugee,” our usage is the same as that of other countries: it refers to people who have fled their own country and are living somewhere else until they can either return home or are accepted for permanent resettlement somewhere else– usually with the help of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

[2] From an article by James Bissett, former Ambassador and Executive Director of the Canadian Immigration Service, “The Current State of Canadian Immigration Policy,” p.6, 2008

[3] Robin Banerjee and William B.P. Robson, “Faster, Younger, Richer?: The Fond Hope and Sobering Reality of Immigration’s Impact on Canada’s Demographic and Economic Future,” C.D. Howe Institute Commentary, no. 291, July, 2009.

[4] See Christopher Caldwell, Reflection on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West (New York: Doubleday, 2009), p.47.

[5] Martin Collacott, “Canada’s Immigration Policy: The Need for Major Reform,” in Public Policy Sources, The Fraser Institute, No. 64, 2003.

[6]He is referring to the story of how if you drop a frog into a pan of boiling water, it will immediately leap out. But if you start with cold water and gradually raise the temperature, the frog will sit until it dies (National Post, Sept. 28, 2009).

[7] Martin Paldam, cited in Herbert Grubel, “Immigration and the Welfare State in Canada: Growing Conflicts, Constructive Solutions” Public Policy Sources No. 84 (Vancouver: The Fraser Institute, September 2005), p.24ff.

[8] See George Borjas, Heaven’s Gate: Immigration Policy and the American Economy (Princeton University Press, paperback, 2001).

[9] James Bissett, “The Current State of Canadian Immigration Policy,” p.7, 2008. From Statistics Canada Catalogue No. 11F009MIE – 2007198.

[10] Cited in Herbert Grubel, ed., The Effects of Mass Immigration on Canadian Living Standards and Society (Vancouver: The Fraser Institute, 2009), p. 9.

[11] National Post, Nov. 7, 2009

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