Weekly Bulletin – 2004 Feb 25

A Retired Government Insider Says That Canada Needs A Prime Minister With The Guts To Act On His Own Administration's Clear, Wise Advice On Immigration Policy

Dear Prime Minister Martin:

The following is a recent article written by Mr. Charles Campbell, retired Vice-Chairman of the Immigration Appeal Board. A former immigration insider, his point is that Canada needs a prime minister with the guts to act on his own administration's clear, wise advice. Failure to do so has cost Canada up to $4 billion annually.

This yearly throw-away of public money has gone on for well over 10 years and makes the current $100 million sponsorship scandal look like small change.

Best wishes,
Dan Murray
Immigration Watch Canada


Too often, when we discuss key factors in public policy, from productivity and social welfare costs to complex demographic challenges, we fail to properly understand the role of immigration.

Statistics Canada recently examined the family wealth of immigrants arriving before 1976 and those arriving between 1986 and 1999. The wealth of earlier immigrants was $87,000 higher than Canadian-born families of a similar age, while the wealth of those arriving between 1986 and 1999 was $46,000 lower.

The senior economist and author of the report, Rene Morissette, found no clear explanation for this trend. Nevertheless he assured Canadians that “Canada has placed a higher premium on skilled workers in recent years” and “the poorer performance of recent immigrants cannot be explained by more refugees or more people arriving to join families.”

Unfortunately, he's wrong.

Like most Canadians, he has fallen victim to 25 years of political spin. In fact, the falling wealth of immigrant families is a predictable result of immigration policies that have received far too little informed public debate. Politicians afraid of offending urban ethnic voters and media afraid of being perceived as bigoted have shied away from even discussing alternative immigration policies.

The problems began with the Immigration Act of 1978 and the associated regulations governing the family class, refugee claimants and the entrepreneur class of immigrants. In April 1985 the problems were aggravated by the Supreme Court of Canada's Singh decision establishing that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applied to every person in Canada. This allows those with dubious claims to Canadian status to use the appeal courts to extend their residence in Canada for many years.

However, Parliament has the right to override the Charter by using the notwithstanding clause. Its use can protect Canadians from court rulings, such as the Singh decision, that are not in Canada's best interest. Unfortunately the political will to reject those who abuse our good faith has been absent.

Many family members and refugees deserve our generosity, but far too many others subvert the process. “We go about congratulating ourselves for our over exuberant acceptance of mostly bogus refugees with the rest of the world snickering at us for the suckers we are,” said a 1994 report to the minister from front-line immigration officers. Family class immigrants and successful refugee claimants are accepted without consideration for their literacy, skills, education, age or ability to earn a living.

Even when we create rules intended to benefit our economy, we fail.

Entrepreneurs were once expected to create employment for more than five Canadians. When that didn't work the number was reduced to two and then one. The Economic Council of Canada reported in 1991 that Canada has a plentiful supply of resident entrepreneurs and no shortage of capital. In 1989, Auditor General Dennis Desautel reported that of 2,345 entrepreneur immigrants only 60 percent were landed with terms and conditions imposed and of those less than half were directed to report evidence of compliance with those requirements.

Not Just Numbers, the latest and most representative of eight critical reports commissioned by eight different immigration ministers, found the majority of our investor immigrants were poorly educated and unable to function in either official language.

David Webber, a World Bank economist, conducted compliance reviews of the investor program for Immigration Canada between 1994 and 1998. When his reports were not released, he made a public statement: “I found that in many cases there was no investment, others were grossly inflated” and “Canada gave up something of real value a visa or a passport receiving little in return.”

Not Just Numbers emphasizes the importance of language skills to function in Canada. Its a position advanced by virtually every student of our immigration policy, including Meyer Berstein, the director of research in the immigration department. He said: “Language ability is correlated more strongly with settlement success and with contribution and income and taxes, etc. than almost every other measure you can think of.”

The immigrant language statistics for the year 2002, based not on our visa officers assessment but on the individuals own claims, are revealing: 111,998, or 49 percent, spoke English; 11,897, or 5.3 percent, spoke French; 105,196, or 45.7 percent, spoke neither.

This is to be expected, given that former minister Lucienne Robillard declared following release of the Not Just Numbers report that pass-or-fail language rules “would introduce too much rigidity into immigrant selection.” She then relaxed rules for the family class, lifting the age requirements for dependent children of sponsored parents from under 19 to under 22.

The Statistics Canada report is hardly the first to note the changing economic performance of immigrants. A 1995 Simon Fraser University study, based on the 1991 census, showed that those immigrants arriving before 1981 had earnings equivalent to Canadian-born and the earnings of those arriving post-1980 averaged 60 percent or less of both pre-1980 immigrants and Canadian-born.

A three-year Health and Welfare department study, released in 1989, offered compelling evidence that a larger population does not benefit those already here. The report emphasized the importance of quality over quantity in immigration. Canada has opted for the reverse, putting additional pressure on both the environment and the economy.

In the mid-1990s, both Canada and Australia elected new governments. Australia took stock, finding the same failures in their immigration program that continue to plague Canada. They made the necessary changes. Their 2002-03 annual report sets out the expected benefits: $A4.4 billion after four years and $A30.3 billion after 10 years.

Canada does not keep such records. Inevitably individual costs can be found. Mr. Jack Manion, a former deputy minister of immigration, estimated the real annual cost to government of our immigration policies at between $2 billion and $4 billion dollars. Extrapolating the scant data available suggests the higher figure. Canadians are entitled to know the facts.

For more than 20 years, reports examining the failings of Canada's immigration policies and their solutions have been prepared not only internally, but by a multitude of other public agencies. They are unanimous in their assessments and their recommendations: we need to close the loopholes that allow abuse, raise admissions standards to ensure people can support themselves and provide the human resources needed to deliver quick, competent decisions.

To succeed as Australia has we only need a prime minister with the guts to act on his own administration's clear, wise advice.

Charles Campbell served on the former Immigration Appeal Board from 1973 to 1983. He is the author of Betrayal & Deceit: The Politics of Canadian Immigration, and can be reached at dmc@saturnacan.net.