Canada’s Short-Sighted Immigration Policy

This is a guest column; ‘Mihael Willman’ is the pseudonym for a concerned Canadian – Jeff Goodall

by Mihael Willman

Proponents of higher immigration quotas always cite Canada’s growing aging population as requiring young immigrants to offset this trend. Because natural growth, through a low domestic birth rate, is considered to be insufficient to maintain our increasingly aging population, we are told that young immigrants are desperately required.

However, the way the immigration policy is actually carried out, counteracts the results that are sought. At a time of economic crisis, and a large unemployment rate, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney recently announced that in 2010 Canada accepted a total of 280,636 landed immigrants, the highest number in 57 years! That is since 1953, the peak post-war immigration period. Included among these immigrants were 15,322 parents and grandparents, under the ’family class’ or ’family reunification’ program. No information was provided as to the distribution of remaining immigrants according to age.

Many of these parents and grandparents are over the age of fifty, at the very least, with some into their seventies and even eighties. That means that we added another 15,322 seniors or ’soon to be’ seniors, under the family class program alone, to our already aging population just in 2010. People who will probably soon be in need of health care, in a system which is already stretched to the limit. Anyone who claims that because their children or grandchildren are sponsoring them, that they will not be a burden on Canadian taxpayers, think again! Within three months of arriving in Ontario or British Columbia, these new immigrants, whether young or old, are entitled to all the health care this country can provide, without ever having paid one thin dime into the system. The remaining provinces do not even have a waiting period, thus making new immigrants immediately eligible for free healthcare. Free to them, of course, courtesy of the overburdened Canadian healthcare system and the long-suffering Canadian taxpayer.

Years ago a hospital worker informed me that newly arrived immigrants were having operations, which they had refused to have in their home countries and which they would have had to pay for, within months of their arrival in Toronto. Thus, no sooner had they arrived, they were already making use of our ’free’ healthcare services, without having contributed anything into the system. Meanwhile, Canadian taxpayers who have contributed to the healthcare system their entire working lives are subject to lengthy waiting periods. It must make their hearts swell with pride to think that our government is so generous to those who have never worked or paid any taxes, while they have to take a number and wait!

Just a few weeks ago, Toronto’s Board of Health urged Queen’s Park that the waiting period for healthcare coverage for new Ontario immigrants be lifted immediately. Their reasoning was that many recent arrivals, some suffering from tuberculosis, would seek medical care earlier, if it was free, a situation which would also benefit the greater population. At present there are about 300 cases of tuberculosis in Toronto every year, with more than 90 per cent of them people born outside Canada. What no-one, including Toronto’s Board of Health, has bothered to question, however, is why we are even accepting people as immigrants who are suffering from serious communicable diseases! Medical examinations for potential immigrants is a must. So how is it that people suffering from tuberculosis and other diseases get a pass? How sick do potential immigrants have to be before they are rejected for immigration? Years ago, even minor, non-debilitating physical problems, were justification enough to reject potential immigrants.

Now we are accepting people with tuberculosis, which can easily be spread to the population at large, or even people suffering from HIV or full-blown AIDS. Remember the AIDS activists who came to attend the AIDS conference in Toronto, then claimed refugee status because they alleged that their lives were threatened if they returned home? How many other serious, communicable diseases are out there, brought in by recent immigrants? Who is going to be responsible for their healthcare needs? Why, the Canadian taxpayer, who else!

In recent years, the number of people over 50 years of age coming as immigrants has increased substantially. Previously, annual reports gave a more detailed breakdown of the ages of older immigrants, providing figures in five year increments from 50 to 69 years, and one number for those over 70 years. Newer reports lump older immigrants into the 45 to 64 year range and the 65+ category, thus making it impossible to determine just how many soon-to-be senior immigrants are actually arriving.

Since the 1970s, the number of older immigrants has soared. Part of the increase can be attributed to the change in methods of reporting, as already mentioned above, but not all of it. While on average the number of parents and grandparents accepted since 1999 has been around the 13,000 to 16,000 range, it reached 21,341 in 2001, 22,243 in 2002 and 20,005 in 2006, or nearly ten percent of the total number of immigrants for those respective years.

However, if we examine the number of immigrants arriving during this period according to their ages, the number or percentage of senior or ’soon-to-be’ seniors rises substantially. From a relative ’low’ of 23,045 immigrants over 45 years of age, who arrived in 1999, the numbers have increased by leaps and bounds to a high of 39,187 in 2006, or 15.57 per cent of the total. In the first three years of the present government’s mandate, that is from 2006 to 2008, this country accepted 113,812 immigrants over 45 years of age. From 1999 to 2008, the figure is an astonishing 324,573 older immigrants. With an average acceptance of just over 15 percent in the years 2006 to 2008, we can safely assume that another 80,000 immigrants over the age of 45 arrived in 2009 and 2010, bringing the total to over 400,000 since 1999. That is nearly half a million people who were either already retired, or at most had only about fifteen employable years. If we were to go back to the mid-1990s, the numbers are well past 600,000.

If we look at these figures from another angle, the short-sightedness of this policy becomes even more apparent. The oldest of the 23,045 older immigrants who arrived in 1999, have been in receipt of the old age pension since 2009, whether they ever worked in Canada or not. If Liberal party politicians like Ruby Dhalla and Bob Rae had their way, they would have been receiving the old age pensions three years after their arrival, or since 2002. Meanwhile, the youngest will be retiring in eight years. They will be entitled to the Canada pension, even if they only made one contribution to that program! While the Canada pension is based upon one’s contribution to the program, if the pension is low there are other benefits they could be entitled to. How these people could be considered as helping to offset Canada’s aging population, when they are part of the ’baby-boomer’ generation themselves, requires creative thinking of the highest order.

Having added at least 193,000 older people, of whom about 83,000 are parents and grandparents, the government of Stephen Harper is supposedly planning on reducing family sponsorships to 11,000 in the present year, according to government critics. However, the target acceptance in ‘The Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration’ is actually 13,000 to 17,500 parents and grandparents, under the ‘family class’ program. NDP MP Olivia Chow finds fault with any reduction in this category. According to her, there are over 148,000 parents and grandparents of recent immigrants waiting to come to Canada to join family members! And presumably she would like to see them come here sooner than later. Thus it would appear that for every new immigrant of employable age that arrives in Canada, we are now looking at potentially two to four elderly parents and grandparents waiting to join them. While they are supposedly being sponsored by their offspring, who are obliged to provide for their support, what is there to prevent them from claiming that the sponsorship has fallen through, and thus dumping the elderly arrivals into the laps of local social services. Already many residents of seniors’ apartments are recent immigrants who pay lower rents than their Canadian-born counterparts, because rents are geared to income. How many of these were sponsored by their offspring?

If we are to continue to accept the ’party line’ from our politicians that Canada requires young immigrants, maybe it is time we restricted them to those 45 years of age and under, as was the case before the introduction of the Canada pension, Old Age pension and universal healthcare coverage.

Mihael Willman is a pseudonym for a concerned Canadian.