Immigration: the not-so-green pastures of Canada

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Tahir Mahmoud

Ramadan 01, 1432 2011-08-01

News & Analysis

by Tahir Mahmoud (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 40, No. 6, Ramadan, 1432)

An estimated 138 million people live in places other than their country of birth. Many are forced by circumstances, especially wars, to flee to safer havens. The overwhelming majority, however, are economic migrants seeking a better life elsewhere.

An estimated 138 million people live in places other than their country of birth. Many are forced by circumstances, especially wars, to flee to safer havens. The overwhelming majority, however, are economic migrants seeking a better life elsewhere. This is particularly true of Canada, which has become the destination of choice for many people from the “Third World.” It also fits in with Canada’s need for immigrants, especially those that are young and educated. Each year, Canada takes in between 230,000 to 250,000 new immigrants. In reality, Canada is the quintessential country of immigrants. Apart from its native people, everyone else living in Canada is an immigrant whether they speak English, French or any other language. If they are not immigrants, they are born to immigrant parents or their ancestors, mainly Europeans, who at some point migrated to Canada.

The lure of immigration, however, also has its downside. This has become especially acute in the last 15 to 20 years. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of highly educated immigrants who find themselves in a trap. While their skills are needed in Canada, the various regulatory bodies refuse to grant them a license to practice in their profession. This is most acute for doctors and engineers but other professions — accountants, teachers etc. — are also not immune from facing such barriers. Estimates as to the loss to the Canadian economy vary from $5 billion to as high as $50 billion annually.

The struggle to get qualifications approved is both expensive and frustrating. Most immigrants are required to take a series of exams to get approval. Studying for such exams and then appear for them are both time consuming and costly. Most immigrants have already paid huge sums in immigration processing fees, travel costs and landing fees before setting foot on Canadian soil. Upon arrival, they must rent a place to live and deal with other chores of life.

While their skills are needed in Canada, the various regulatory bodies refuse to grant them a license to practice in their profession.

The search for a job becomes a frustrating battle when they are confronted by the prospect of their qualifications not being recognized. Even after going through endless exams and getting all the necessary qualifications, they are faced by the ubiquitous excuse that they lack “Canadian experience.” How can a person get Canadian experience if he/she is not given a chance to work in their field of expertise? Prospective employers, the numerous regulatory bodies and various levels of government are not much help either. In fact, there appears to be a deliberate attempt to ignore the concerns of new immigrants.

Of course, not all immigrants face such hurdles. Those from Western Europe (but not Eastern Europe) and Israel — yes, the Zionist State of Israel — are exempt from such constraints. Their qualifications are immediately recognized and in many instances, they start working as soon as they set foot in Canada. It is racism, pure and simple, even if most people would vehemently deny it. Many immigrants from Third World countries with qualifications from American or British universities still face endless hurdles while their white counterparts face no such problems.

In recent years, another phenomenon has emerged. This has affected people of Indo-Pakistani origin who have been working in the Muslim East in places like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the like. Regardless of how long they have worked there or even if their children are born there, they are not granted citizenship. Thus, they live in constant limbo; they could be thrown out of the country at short notice. This is not mere conjecture; it has happened to people.

For such people, Canada holds great attraction. Given low or no taxation in the Muslim East, most of these people also have substantial savings, especially those in professions like medicine and engineering. Canada loves their money, but it seems not their skills or the people themselves. Canada has even created special categories for immigrants in the business or entrepreneurial class. Their applications are fast-tracked if they can show they have substantial sums of money in their bank account. As part of their immigration deal, they must deposit several hundred thousand dollars with the Canadian government. This money is invested by the government and returned with interest to the individual after two years. Given that tens of thousands of people come to Canada under these categories, the Canadian government gets billions of dollars annually for investment.

But people coming from the Muslim East find themselves in a great bind in Canada. Although they cannot find jobs in their own profession, they still do not wish to take their families back to the Muslim East because the children have been enrolled in schools in Canada and they have already rented accommodation. They strike a compromise: most men return to their jobs in the Muslim East while their families are left in Canada. In fact, entire colonies have emerged in Mississauga, west of Toronto International Airport, where only women and children live in apartment buildings while their husbands work in the Muslim East. The husbands return for a few weeks after six months. These colonies have been named Begumpura — the Urdu word for colony of wives!

Such a forced lifestyle creates its own problems, not least because children grow up without the father’s supervision. Most mothers are simply not equipped to deal with problems that inevitably arise. Many women do not know how to drive although that is the least of their worries. They can learn to drive and get around although it is not always easy because of unfamiliarity with the new culture and the environment in which they find themselves. Their greatest challenge is lack of emotional support. Spouses are not only separated from each other for extended periods, mothers also have to cope with the challenge of bringing up children who often become unruly or fall into wrong company because of lack of paternal supervision.

Regrettably, in many high schools in Toronto, there are gangs that indulge in all kinds of anti-social behavior. Children can easily fall into their trap and by the time the parents discover, in many cases, it is already too late. In fact, this phenomenon has greatly affected the Somalis. Many mothers escaped from Somalia with their children while their husbands stayed back to continue fighting. Some women became widows; others were still left without the support of their husbands. Many Somali children grew up and formed their own gangs in the face of persistent racism from white or other children at school. Today, there are a number of ethnic gangs, Somali, Tamil, Jamaican, Sikh, especially in Toronto. The police have a hard time coping with this phenomenon.

But the greatest burden is borne by wives whose husbands are forced to work in the Muslim East because they cannot find suitable employment here. The wives are left to deal with looking after children, not to mention the emotional stress of forced separation. No studies have been conducted to find the impact of this phenomenon on the lives of people and what its long term consequences would be but as far as the various levels of government — federal, provincial and municipal — are concerned, they have no time for such niceties. As long as they get the dollars, they do not care what happens to people’s lives.

So much for the Canadian Valhalla and the promise of a better future! Perhaps prospective immigrants to Canada should carefully evaluate the pros and cons before making a move to to there. All that glitters is not gold.

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