Abusing Canadian Generosity: Can Canada Be A De Facto Seniors’ Home For Large Numbers Of Immigrants’ Parents


Abusing Canadian Generosity: Can Canada Be A De Facto Seniors' Home For Large Numbers Of Immigrants' Parents?

A recent story from The Vancouver Sun unwittingly demonstrates the ongoing theme of serious abuse of Canadian generosity. The article looked at the Vancouver suburb of Surrey where a Seniors' Home has just been opened to house a group of aging South Asian immigrants. The article painted a sentimental picture of the home which will house seniors in one bedroom apartments. Even the person who wrote the title of the story contributed to the sentiment, calling the place “A home with a heart”. However, the sentiment covers an unpleasant and ironic reality.

In the article, Bidar Swamy, administrator for the Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society's (PICS) housing, described the new facility as the first assisted living residence in North America for the South Asian population. “These are all first-generation, they have been here a couple of decades but there is still a barrier with language, with the culture, food — we have tried our best to create a climate that is comforting for them,' said Swamy.”

Without any questioning or second thought, the reporter added that this home is “subsidized by BC Housing and the Fraser Valley Health Authority” and that “the apartments and care account for not more than 70 per cent of the residents' net incomes”. It would have been worthwhile to find out exactly what the net incomes of these people were. If the incomes were zero, it would have been good for the reporter to have stated that 70% of zero is zero and that most of these apartments were being entirely paid for by the Canadian public.

Here are a few other unpleasant realities or ironies not revealed in the sentimental story about the opening of this seniors' residence:

Irony #1: When the provisions for family class sponsorships of parents were put in place around 1980, the sentimental rationale for allowing aging parents into Canada was that it was a “cultural tradition” in South Asia for parents to remain with their children. However, the irony now is that these people seem to have grown out of their “cultural traditions”. After bringing their parents to Canada, and now seeing an opportunity, the sons and daughters say that they have so adapted to Canadian society that they are going to send their parents to a Seniors' Residence so that someone else can take care of them. What does this say about “cultural traditions”?

Irony #2: It was assumed that when these parents were sponsored by adult children who had their Canadian Citizenship, that the children would pay for the parents' living expenses which obviously included the cost of shelter. However, by moving the parents to the new retirement home, the children have abandoned that responsibility and are taking advantage of Canada. In fact, they have succeeded in having the home cater almost exclusively to that group, provide them with traditional food, and hire appropriate workers who speak the language of the residents. What does this say about financial commitments and responsibility to Canada?

Irony #3: As early as 1982, Canada's Auditor General pointed out that bringing parents to Canada was actually being used as a device to bring into Canada the brothers and sisters of family members who were already here. Immigrants were doing this because parents could sponsor the brothers and sisters (who, it is important to note, would then not have to satisfy any skill or language requirements that regular immigrants had to satisfy!!). The adult children who were already here could not do this sponsoring.

The Auditor General's report dealt specifically with the issue of “Courier Parents”, that is, parents who were couriered (sent) to Canada for the sole purpose of sponsoring brothers and sisters of immigrants already here. After the sponsoring had ended, these “Courier Parents” conveniently left Canada and returned to their native country, an early sign that “cultural traditions” were not as “sacred” as claimed.

The irony is that the Auditor General's concerns about the general issue of sponsorship of parents were not heeded then and have not been heeded since then. Large numbers of parents have continued to arrive—with the clear intent of sponsoring other unskilled children whose spouses will bring in their parents who will bring in new children and continue the endless process of chain migration.

In the case of the large number of parents who have actually stayed here, the federal government's failure to stop this practice has enormously magnified the negative effects of supporting this so-called “cultural tradition”. Canadians recently witnessed a few ethnic groups virtually elect the current leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. Undoubtedly, these groups will demand a return for their favour—as they have done in the past— and insist that the so-called “cultural tradition” of bringing parents in continue and that their immigration interests take precedence over the interests of all other Canadians—particularly the social safety net that all other Canadians have built.

Canadians have recently seen Mr. Flaherty, our finance minister, rein in the ability of Income Trusts to avoid paying taxes, precisely because this tax avoidance would endanger the federal treasury's ability to meet its obligations. How about Mr. Flaherty reining in the “cultural traditions” of certain ethnic groups–especially because these practices are undoubtedly endangering Canada's social safety net?

Irony #4: The newspaper reporter seemed completely unaware of any of these issues and seemed to think of the retirement home as a reward to the aging parents. The irony is that many, if not most, of the aging seniors that are to be housed in the Surrey home or that have been housed in other similar homes were probably sponsored parents and have contributed little, if anything, to Canada's social safety net. Most Canadians are generous, but as the Auditor General probably had in mind, there are limitations to the funds available for generosity. Canada simply cannot be a de facto Seniors Home for very large numbers of the world's aging people.

Immigrants who have brought their parents may not want to admit this, but they have created a situation where their parents are now competing for scarce housing and medical care with aging Canadians who, in contrast to immigrants' parents, contributed to Canada's safety net for most or all of their working lives. The people who are doing these things seem to think that there is nothing wrong with their actions and that Canada has an unlimited pot of money to satisfy their demands. Once again, they are using sentiment about “cultural traditions” to mask what they are doing. However, most Canadians would say that these people are brazenly taking advantage of Canadian generosity and would ask this question: When is Canada's New Government going to correct this situation?