Immigration Reduces Canadian Bilingualism Since 2001

The percentage of Canadians that report being bilingual declined from 17.7 percent in 2001, to 17.5 percent in 2011, according to Statistics Canada

The influx of immigrants accounts for a slight decline in Canadian bilingualism over the last decade, according to Statistics Canada.

Approximately 17.5 percent of Canadians in the 2011 Census reported being able to speak both English and French. This was down from a peak of 17.7 percent in 2001.

In 1961, the rate of French-English bilingualism was only 12.2 percent, and over the next several decades increased, until the 2001 peak. The increase was largely a result of the instatement of official bilingualism by the government of Pierre Trudeau in the 1960s.

The set of legislation enacted required federal government services to be offered in both French and English, and that both languages be given equal standing in communication with the federal government.

The Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act of 1985 further promoted bilingualism by requiring all packaging in Canada to display both French and English text.

Over the last decade however, as immigrants pushed the total population up, the bilingual population did not increase fast enough to maintain the proportion attained in 2001.

This was a consequence of immigrants outside of Quebec being less likely than native-born Canadians to be bilingual.

As a result, even as the population of bilingual Canadians increased by approximately 600,000 since 2001, to 5.8 million in 2011, their share of the population declined slightly.

Capital City Ottawa Voted as Canada’s Most Boring City

Downtown Ottawa. Canada’s capital city was voted as the country’s most boring in last week’s “Boring Awards”

(Via Global BC) Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, beat out five other nominees to be voted as the country’s most boring city in the annual “Boring Awards” ceremony held last Tuesday.

Other cities nominated for the most boring title were: Laval (Quebec), Lethbridge (Alberta), Abbotsford (British Columbia), and Brampton (Ontario).

Despite being the most boring, Ottawa is also the “richest” large city in Canada according to a 2010 study by Statistics Canada, which found that it had the highest median gross family income of the major metropolitan areas in the country.

Lucrative jobs in and close to government provide the city with a steady source of consumer spending that supports a range of industries and helps it maintain an unemployment rate of 6.1 percent – below the 7.2 percent national average.

Combined with relatively affordable housing, the city was found to provide the best quality of life by the Money Sense ‘Canada’s Best Places to Live – 2012’ index.

B.C. Spends Less On Health, Has Healthiest Population in Canada

Vancouver General Hospital in British Columbia, Canada. B.C. is ranked as having one of the best health care systems in Canada thanks to high ratings on the health-related lifestyle habits and health outcomes of its residents (Arnold C.)

British Columbia has the healthiest residents among the Canadian provinces according to a new Conference Board of Canada (CBoC) study.

The B.C. provincial government spends less than almost all other Canadian provinces on health care, but still comes out on top in the health care ranking thanks to the healthy lifestyles of B.C. residents, who have the lowest smoking rates in the country.

The CBoC report rates provincial health care system performance according to a total of 90 indicators within four categories: Lifestyle Factors, Health Status, Health Resources, and Health Care System Performance.

Lifestyle Factors measures the behavior of a province’s population that affects health, including the rate of smoking, heavy drinking, obesity, fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity.

B.C. has the best score in both the Lifestyle Factors and Health Status categories, which was enough to earn it one of only three As granted in the Overall Performance rating.

The other provinces scoring an A in Overall Performance were Alberta and Ontario. Both provinces have more government spending on health care than B.C., and both received a higher score in Health Care System Performance, which measures disease screening, waiting times and accessibility for procedures, effectiveness of treatments and the appropriateness of treatments.

Residents of Alberta and Ontario fell short of British Columbians in their health status however, with lower birth weights, higher infant mortality, and more years of life lost to illness.

TD Report: Asia No. 1 Source of Immigrants to Canada, But Share Shrinking

Traditional entrance gate to Montreal’s Chinatown. 63.4 percent of immigrants live in Canada’s three largest metropolitan areas: Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver according to the 2011 National Household Survey (Quinn Dombrowski)

A new TD analysis of the recently released 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) shows Asia is the largest, though shrinking, source of immigrants to Canada.

While 60 percent of immigrants originated in Asia, which includes the Middle East, in 2005, by 2011 that number had declined to 56.9 percent.

The three largest source countries for immigrants were all Asian: the Philippines, China and India. The Philippines saw its immigrant number nearly double from 2005 to 2011, while the share of immigrants from India and China declined, from a combined 27 percent in 2005, to 21 percent in 2011.

Among the major regions, the two that saw the biggest growth since 2005 were the Africa region, and the Caribbean and Central/South America region, which are now the origin of about 25 percent of Canadian immigrants.

The TD analysis also looked at where immigrants are settling. They continue to settle primarily (91 percent) in Canada’s largest 33 metropolitan areas, with the Big Three, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, continuing to lead the way.

The prairie metropolises of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba saw a small increase in their immigrant populations relative to the Big Three, likely as a result of the strong demand for labour seen in these provinces.

A final demographic measure looked at by the TD report was the change in the visible minority component of the Canadian population. The percentage of Canadians classified as visible minorities increased from 16.2 percent in 2005 to 19.1 percent in 2011, according to the NHS.

The three largest visible minority groups are South Asians (which include Indians, Pakistanis and Sri Lankans), at 1.6 million, Chinese, at 1.3 million, and blacks, at 945,000.

70 percent of visible minoritt immigrants live in one of the three largest metropolises; Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver.

More American Visitors to Canada in March

The Canada-U.S. border crossing at Osoyoos in British Columbia’s Okanagan valley (Joe Mabel)

Via the Victoria Times Colonist, new data from Statistics Canada shows the number of visitors to Canada from the U.S. is increasing.

The number of trips overall to Canada increased 2.6 percent in March from levels in February, and most of that was attributed to a 3.2 percent increase in the number of trips from the United States, which is the primary origin of foreign visits to Canada.

American residents made approximately 1.7 million trips to Canada in March, including over one million overnight trips, the highest number since February 2010.

Trips from countries other than the U.S. to Canada increased by only 0.2 percent in March from February. Trips from Mexico saw the biggest decline, with 8.9 percent fewer trips made from that country in March than in February.

For their own part, Canadians traveled abroad 1.7 percent less in March than February, and most of the decline was due to a reduction in trips to the U.S.

Vancouver Sun: Hong Kong Immigrants Returning to Asian Homeland

Many Canadians of Hong Kong origin find they can earn and save more in the South East Asian metropolis, which has one of the lowest tax rates in the world, than in Canada (Samuel Louie)

A story in Saturday’s Vancouver Sun reports that an increasing number of Canadian citizenship of Hong Kong origin are moving back to the South East Asian city, according to demographic data:

Statistics Canada’s numbers tell the tale. Despite Canada’s rapid population growth in the past 15 years, there are now 32,000 fewer Hong Kong-born residents in Canada than there were in 1996.

The 2011 National Household Survey, released last week, shows 209,000 Hong Kong-born residents in Canada (about one third of them living in Metro Vancouver). That compares to 241,000 who lived here in 1996.

Their total numbers in Canada have been dropping despite 1,000 to 2,000 new Hong Kong immigrants a year continuing to trickle in. Even accounting for deaths, it is clear that thousands of Hong Kong citizens each year have been leaving Canada.

The draw, according to Vancouver Sun columnist Douglas Todd, is money, which they can earn more of in Hong Kong, and family, who they seek to reunite with.

Hong Kong’s steady economic growth over the last three decades and vibrant free market have given it a better income-earning potential for some professions than Canada, making it a preferred place to live for some Canadian citizens, like Edward Shen:

“(In Hong Kong) I am perhaps working about 60 to 70 per cent of what I was in Vancouver, but saving up more than I used to, given the much lower tax rate (17 per cent flat tax),” Shen wrote in an email.

“Most Hong Kong people know that there is no big money to be made in Canada, even less so in Vancouver. Vancouver in many people’s eyes is a place for retirement of rich people, as they find the living standard in Vancouver very high. Which is true. People who want to make money choose Toronto over Vancouver.”

Hong Kong has a top marginal income tax rate of 17 percent and no capital gains tax.

Todd also suggests that many of the Hong Kong nationals only immigrated to Canada to acquire Canadian citizenship, with no intention of staying long-term, and points to a recent study conducted by the Citizenship and Immigration Canada funded Metropolis research body which found that some Chinese immigrants describe the three year residency requirement for becoming a Canadian citizen as “immigration prison”, which they must endure before they can repatriate back to their home country.

These repatriates are a new type of “international class of citizens”, according to Richard Kurkland, an immigration lawyer interviewed for the story. They are well-off, and like to have the mobility and insurance of having citizenship in more than one country.

The risk, according to Kurkland, is that if the country where these Canadian citizens live faces some type of catastrophe, it will be the responsibility of Canadian taxpayers to pay to get them out, as happened when some of the fifty thousand Canadian citizens living in Lebanon were airlifted out of the country during the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war.

Similar to the Lebanon experience, Hong Kong residents holding Canadian passports could return in large numbers and burden the country’s social programs if China imposes more restrictions on the semi-autonomous jurisdiction, Kurkland warns.

Muslim Immigration Fueling “Islamic Banking” in Canada

Criticized by some, and welcomed by others, Canada’s small Islamic banking sector is growing as Canadian Muslims look for financial products that are consistent with their religious values

Amid the headlines in recent weeks of a group of Muslim extremists plotting a terrorist attack in Canada, a look at some of the mundane ways in which Canada’s growing Muslim communities are having an impact can be a refreshing reminder that the bad apples are few and far between, and that the majority of Muslim-Canadians are ordinary individuals who strive to lead productive lives and contribute positively to their country.

The rising profile of the “Islamic banking” industry is one of these ways, and on Friday the Hamilton Spectator published a story detailing its exposure in Canada and how it works:

If Islamic finance prohibits charging interest (riba), how do they function? Ensuring fair play is at the core of Islamic banking. As such, the principle of “risk-sharing” is a critical component. In essence, the Islamic bank becomes a business partner with the customer. For example, a car lease is appropriate because the bank has a stake in the ownership of the car. There are two principle financing arrangements offered to borrowers: murabaha (instalment sale) and ijara (redeemable lease). In the murabaha example, the bank buys the asset (e.g. large screen television) and then resells it to the customer at a higher price while the customer still uses it.

Islamic banking has been growing at 10-15 percent a year globally over the last decade. It forbids profit through interest, speculation, uncertainty, exploitation, and funding activities prohibited to Muslims, including consumption of pork, gambling and alcohol.

Various work-arounds are used by Islamic banks to earn a profit while complying with the prohibition to charge interest, like providing capital through purchases of equity instead of debt. Often these arrangements make the financial instruments in effect very similar to interest-based lending, leading some to criticize it as dishonestly advertised for profit, or to promote Islam.

The sector’s supporters say it provides a means by which people can bank in accordance with their values by avoiding lending at very high interest rates or providing funding to activities they are religiously and/or ethically opposed to, like the production of pornography or alcoholic beverages.

Canada’s Islamic banking sector is still relatively small compared to that of other Western countries. The recent bankruptcy, along with reports of corruption by its top executives, of UM Financial, which billed itself as a sharia-compliant mortgage issuer, has been a setback for the sector, but it is likely it will continue to see growth in the coming years given the rising population of Canadian Muslims, which now number nearly one million.

Immigration Minister to Visit Silicon Valley to Promote ‘Start Up Visa’

Waterloo, Ontario, sometimes called Silicon North, is one of Canada’s major tech centres. Citizenship and Immigration Canada hopes the new Start Up Visa encourages foreign technology entrepreneurs to start companies in the country

Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney will be visiting California’s Silicon Valley on Friday for a four day trip intended to promote Canada as a place to live for the region’s entrepreneurs.

According to an article in San Jose’s Mercury News, a billboard is currently appearing near Silicon Valley advertising Canada to foreign tech workers struggling with H-1B visa restrictions:

On Tuesday, just days before Kenney was set to tour San Francisco and the South Bay to promote his new visa for startup entrepreneurs, a giant red maple leaf emerged on a billboard off Highway 101 on the route from San Francisco to the heart of Silicon Valley, part of a Canadian advertisement encouraging tech workers here temporarily to migrate north permanently.

Modeled on an idea first introduced but never passed in the U.S. Congress, Canada’s new “startup visa” grants permanent residency to entrepreneurs who can raise enough venture capital and start a Canadian business.

“H-1B problems?” asks the South San Francisco billboard, referencing America’s temporary visa for skilled foreign workers. “Pivot to Canada.”

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) hopes to capitalize on the frustration tech companies in the U.S. are feeling over immigration restrictions on foreign technology workers and encourage them to relocate to and invest in Canada.

The eventual goal is to help foster the development of a Canadian equivalent to Silicon Valley.

One challenge that CIC faces in this mission is the country’s top marginal income tax rate, which is significantly higher than that of the U.S. A Canadian entrepreneur can look forward to paying about 50 percent of their income to the government if they succeed in joining the top bracket of income earners.

Compensating for this disadvantage, the federal government is offering a perk that no other advanced economy offers foreign entrepreneurs: permanent residency status.

For foreign tech workers in the U.S. anxiously awaiting the six year limits on their H-1B visas, immigration to Canada offers a chance of stability that only permanent residency can provide.

Also working in Canada’s favor is the perception of being a safer country than the U.S., with significantly lower violent crime rates, particularly homicide rates. A better fiscal situation, with a much lower deficit to GDP ratio than the U.S., also gives foreign nationals more confidence in the country’s economic future.

Regardless of how successful CIC’s headhunting campaign in Silicon Valley ends up being, the federal government has a lot of ground to make up for, with total venture capital funding in all of Canada in 2012 coming to $1.5 billion -less than 15 percent of the $10.9 billion worth of deals that happened in Silicon Valley last year.

Passports to be Handled by Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Passport services are not expected to change when Citizenship and Immigration Canada takes over responsibilities for them on July 2 2013

The federal government announced last week that Canadian passports would come under the responsibility of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) this summer.

Passport Canada is currently managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), which will officially transfer control of the program to CIC on July 2 2013.

Service Canada, which is a part of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), meanwhile will manage passport operations, and Service Canada Centres will gradually offer more passport services, eventually also providing online applications for passports.

The federal government hopes to see efficiency gains from the move on account of CIC’s current responsibilities being more closely related to passports than those of DAIFT.

“The government is committed to making passport services more convenient and accessible for Canadians,” said Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. “As Citizenship and Immigration Canada is already responsible for determining Canadian citizenship, integrating the passport program into the department makes good sense.”

Human Resources and Skills Development Minister Diane Finley added:

“Through Service Canada, we offer single-window access to a wide range of Government of Canada programs and services for citizens. Leveraging Service Canada’s resources and service delivery network across the country will make passport services more accessible and convenient.”

Parent and Grandparent Immigration Program to Re-Open in 2014

Citizenship and Immigration Canada announced on Friday that it is re-opening the Parent and Grandparent Sponsorship Program in January 2014, with new financial requirements and responsibilities for sponsoring children and grandchildren

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced on Friday that it will lift the moratorium on new Parent and Grandparent (PGP) permanent resident applications on January 2, 2014.

The program has been closed to new applications since November 2011 to give CIC time to work down the mounting backlog of parent and grandparent sponsorship applications.

Commenting on the program re-opening, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said:

“The Action Plan for Faster Family Reunification is on track to meet the goals of cutting in half the backlog and wait times in the Parent and Grandparent program. It is very important that we continue to make progress and not return to the old broken system with wait times as long as a decade—that would be unfair to families.”

CIC also said that the total number of parents and grandparents admitted as permanent residents through 2012 and 2013 will be 50,000 which is the highest level in 20 years, and it intends on maintaining these levels in 2014.

Another change announced on Friday is the Super Visa program, while allows foreign parents and grandparents of Canadians to visit Canada for up to ten years, for two years at a time, becoming permanent. Over 15,000 Super Visas have been granted since the program started in December 2011.

With regard to the Parent and Grandparent sponsorship program, CIC says they plan on accepting 5,000 new applications in 2014, and continue to reduce the backlog by processing applications faster than receiving them.

New financial requirements for Parent and Grandparent sponsorships

When the Parent and Grandparent sponsorship program re-opens next year, it will be with new qualifying criteria which will increase the financial responsibility of sponsors to ensure their parents and grandparents can be supported for the remainder of their life in Canada and to reduce the likelihood they will increase expenses for Canada’s social welfare programs.

Minimum income for sponsors will increase from the current Minimum Necessary Income (MNI), an income threshold used by the federal government to establish eligibility in many programs, to Minimum Necessary Income + 30 percent, to account for the greater costs of supporting an elderly person.

The type of proof of income that CIC will accept will be limited to documents from the Canada Revenue Agency, and the length of time that a person applying to be a sponsor has to demonstrate that they met the minimum income requirements will be increased from the current one year to three years.

Kenney said these changes are necessary to protect Canadians from being burdened by higher taxes as a result of sponsors having inadequate financial resources to support their sponsored parents and grandparents:

“These new criteria ensure sponsored family members are well supported by their sponsors throughout their time in Canada. The redesigned Parent and Grandparent program reunites families faster while respecting Canadian taxpayers and the limited resources for health and social programs.”

CIC says that Canada is one of the few developed countries to allow grandparent sponsorship, with this option either not existing or being extremely limited in United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, and measures like those announced Friday are needed to prevent this generosity from being abused.

Age limit on Dependent Children sponsorship

The Dependent Children sponsorship program is also going to see maximum age limit of 19 years imposed, disqualifying those older than 19 years old from being considered dependent children even if they are full time students or financially dependent on their parents.

The change was made after research by CIC found that many of those qualifying as dependent children were in their late 20s or 30s, and that those who immigrate at an older age have a lower likelihood of successfully integrating into the Canadian labour market and have poorer socioeconomic outcomes than those who immigrate at a younger age.