Thursday, February 26, 2009


Canada 'top of the pops' for Brits

Immigration from U.K. surging for first time in more than a decade as recession hits Britain

February 25, 2009
Lesley Ciarula Taylor

Neil and Hayley Wallstead can't quite get over their basement.

Part of a surge in British immigration to Canada, the Wallsteads and their daughter packed up and moved to Oakville 18 months ago to be close to a busy city and for a better standard of living.

"Both of us have admired Canada from afar," said Hayley Wallstead, who had a pen pal in Mississauga as a girl. "We always planned to do something different with our lives."

Neil Wallstead explained, "A lot of people in England admire the U.S. Canada is that little bit different. It's the more mature, slightly more sensible brother."

What's different? "Most houses have basements for a start," said Hayley Wallstead. "The houses are so much bigger than we would have been able to afford in England."

For the first time in a decade, the number of British citizens immigrating to Canada is way up, with nearly 8,000 arriving in the first nine months of last year alone.

And they keep coming. More than 12,000 British citizens applied to emigrate to Canada over the same period, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

They're skilled professionals and tradespeople with young families pining for more sunshine and snow, better schools and cleaner cities.

For the Wallsteads, who lived in Ross-on-Wye on the Welsh border, the hardest part was the two-year wait, which meant leaving their eldest, a son, behind in England at university. Both have good jobs, he as an accountant in Burlington, she as a secretary in Oakville.

Londoner Peter Giblett and his family were in the vanguard of the surge, arriving nearly three years ago with a $100,000 down payment on a farmhouse in Grassie, a hamlet near Grimsby, Ont. "Britain is going nowhere, the U.K. is a dying country. It's a negative environment. Canada is much more positive."

In immigration consultants' offices in Britain, the phone calls and emails keep pouring in from people trying to escape scary food prices and unemployment numbers.

Eric Katz works in Mississauga with the British-based Overseas Emigration Visas, fielding queries and advising immigrants once they get here. Most go out west, he said. Oakville and Burlington are the first choices in greater Toronto.

The surge picked up, Katz said, after Hector Goudreau, Alberta's minister of immigration, visited Britain last summer to lure Britons to his province. Food costs in Britain had soared 60 per cent from the start of 2008 and fuel, 22 per cent.

"Canada has the strongest economy of the G-8 countries, it's world-renowned for having the best standard of living," said Liam Clifford, director of GlobalVisas in London, England. "It's top of the pops."

British citizens paying GlobalVisas for help to emigrate "is up more than 50 per cent" over the last quarter, he said. Who are they? "People in their mid 20s to 40s, that age group where they're thinking about their families. I wouldn't say they're desperate, but ... the U.K. is sliding into a depression. This is an alternative to struggling here."

From January to September, 2008, British nationals had filed 12,020 applications for permanent residence in Canada, CIC statistics show. In 2007, the total was even higher, at 24,182.

(Modern emigration from Britain hit an all-time low in 1998, according to Statistics Canada. The heyday of British emigration to Canada in the last 54 years was 1957, when it hit 114,347, on the heels of the Suez Crisis. The other spike was in 1967, with 64,601.)

Visa First, based in Dublin and London, started Migration Nights last year and has seen attendance triple, says marketing manager Edwina Shanahan. Each event, rotating through Sheffield, Surrey, London, Leeds, Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester, lures 200 or more to hear Visa First extol the virtues of Canada and Australia.

The audience has changed dramatically in the past six months, she says, shifting from mainly 18- to 25-year-olds to 25- to 45-year-old skilled professionals and tradespeople with families. What are the draws? "Canadian schools, the cost of living in Britain is higher, a better quality of life and the weather in Britain lacks proper summers, too much rain and not enough snow."

Still, it can be a struggle. Giblett says he's "10 days away" from losing their farmhouse. "I walked into a job when I got here but 15 months ago, I was made redundant." He hadn't found anything since, despite a background in senior IT work, but came away from a job fair on Friday with a fistful of promises.

What does he miss? Cheese and onion potato chips. "They don't taste the same here."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Underfunding war crimes program lets criminals avoid deportation: Report

Marianne White
Canwest News Service

Monday, February 23, 2009

Canada's War Crimes program has limited financial and human resources to investigate all alleged war criminals and deny them safe haven or prosecute them, according to a new federal report.

Among them is Leon Mugesera, a Rwandan man now living in Quebec City who was deemed a war criminal by the Supreme Court of Canada and ordered out of the country in 2005. He is still in Canada and exhausting all legal avenues.

In its 2006-07 annual report on Canada's Program on Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) noted that it faces challenges to balance its heavy caseload with its budget.

The report notes that "continued funding pressures" force the agency to focus on "the most cost-effective measures," such as early detection and preventing war criminals from entering Canada.

Sergio Karas, a Toronto immigration lawyer, said what upsets him more than the underfunding of the war crimes program is that so many convicted war criminals manage to stretch out their stay for years, even decades.

"I fail to understand why they get so many kicks at the can," Karas said. "Canada likes to pride itself as a compassionate nation, but do war criminals who have blood on their hands deserve any compassion?"

Bruce Broomhall, an international law professor at the University of Quebec at Montreal and an adviser to the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ), said the underfunding of the program prevents the government from prosecuting more war criminals.

"The (agency) is expressing these concerns in a diplomatic way, but what it means is that they don't have enough funding to pursue all the possible cases with the most robust measures possible and they have to be selective and focusing on preventive measures," he said.

Broomhall said that prevention can only deny access to new war criminals but does nothing to deal with those who are already in Canada.

"This has to be complimented by efforts to ensure that people are held criminally accountable for their actions," Broomhall said, noting that the war crimes program has been lauded throughout the world.

The number of immigrants - found to have been involved in war crimes or crimes against humanity - who were deported by Canada in 2007 was down to 35 from 41 in 2006. During that time, officials prevented 361 persons from coming to Canada.

The report, posted Friday on the CBSA website, also noted that at the end of March 2007, the agency had 59 enforceable removal orders as well as 162 outstanding warrants for people who did not report for removal.

The report says in 2006-07, CBSA officials filed 82 interventions at refugee hearings in cases involving war crime allegations. This number is significantly down from 237 the previous year, in part because of a lack of resources.

"Some regions have had to deal with staff turnover or understaffing, and with no budget increase in 10 years, had to concentrate on the most serious cases, which are most likely to succeed," the report states.

The annual funding of $15.6 million per year has not changed since the program was launched in 1998.

The CBSA and Citizenship and Immigration Canada get the lion's share of this budget, which is also shared with the Justice Department and the RCMP.

Only one alleged war criminal has been brought to justice in Canada. Desire Munyaneza has been charged in connection with the 1994 Rwandan genocide. His trial alone has cost an estimated $1.6 million and lasted more than a year and a half. It concluded last December and a verdict is expected to be months away.

The CBSA also mentions in the report its efforts to revoke the citizenship of Canadians found guilty of war crimes and genocide related to the Second World War. While Michael Seifert, known as the "Beast of Bolzano" for his cruelty to inmates in a prison camp in northern Italy, was extradited in February 2008 to Italy, six other cases are still pending.

The government is currently assessing if Jura Skomatczuk, Josef Furman, Vladimir Katriuk, Helmut Oberlander, Wasyl Odynsky and Jacob Fast will see their citizenship revoked.

A spokeswoman for CBSA declined to comment Monday on program funding and stressed the agency reviews all "(war crime) allegations and ensures that appropriate action is taken."

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Maternity ward tourists

Expectant foreigners are using our hospitals for passports, doctors say

Tom Blackwell, National Post
Published: Friday, February 20, 2009

A growing number of pregnant women from foreign countries are giving birth here just so the babies can win Canadian citizenship, doctors say, raising questions about a long-standing immigration-law tradition.

In Montreal, many of these maternity "tourists" have failed to pay for hospital services, leaving obstetricians without compensation. In B.C., a recent child-abuse case drew attention to a facility that appears to cater to parents visiting from China so they can give birth in Canada and ensure a passport for their newborn.

The phenomenon is not entirely new. A few years ago there were reports of an agency in British Columbia arranging for maternity tours from South Korea, while the daughter of a Syrian general had a baby here in 2005 amid reports that the practice was common among that country's political elite.

But a recent string of cases in Montreal has left some doctors short thousands of dollars in fees, and they are trying to raise attention to the issue. Most have involved relatively affluent parents from francophone countries in the developing world, said Dr. Gaetan Barrette, president of the Quebec Federation of Medical Specialists.

"Obstetricians have seen a recent surge in the numbers," he said. "It's quite amazing to see. Those women will come for one delivery, then come back two times, three times to the same doctor for the same purpose. We're talking about [foreign] families where every child has a Canadian passport."

The mothers tell their physicians the unusual practice is an investment in the future of their children, who could attend school and take advantage of medicare in Canada later in life, Dr. Barrette said.

"What we see is people who have the money to take a trip to this country, vacation a bit, have a baby and go back home."

Anyone born on Canadian soil - except for the children of diplomats - automatically becomes a citizen and is entitled to services such as medicare and subsidized university education. While would-be visitors can be denied visas because of certain health problems, being pregnant is not a ground for refusal, said Nicholas Fortier, a Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesman.

In fact, pregnant women sometimes tell Canadian officials the purpose of their visit is to have a child here, he said. In those instances, they have to prove they can support themselves while they are in Canada and cover the medical costs they incur, but they are not otherwise discouraged, Mr. Fortier said.

"I'm not aware that this is of great concern at this point," he said of the maternity tourism phenomenon.

Canada is among a number of immigration-based nations that grant citizenship based on ius soli -- latin for right of soil -- a principle that dates from the time when they wanted to encourage the children of new arrivals to stay and help build the country, said Sergio Karas, a Toronto immigration lawyer.

But some countries have added requirements, such as that one of the child's parents has to have legal status in the country, he said. New Zealand tightened its rules in response to maternity tours to that country.

No one suggests that any expectant mother be denied medical care. But some critics question the idea of granting automatic citizenship to the infants, noting that an adult Canadian citizen who has lived his or her entire life in another country could settle here, take advantage of taxpayer-funded services and even sponsor their parents under the family re-unification program.

"They're people who are well off and just want an insurance policy," said Mr. Karas, a Toronto immigration lawyer. "I think there is something fundamentally wrong with the concept ... This is purely selfish. There is nothing in it for us."

Montreal's Jewish General Hospital sees several passport-baby cases a year, mostly from Morocco and other African countries with a French connection, said Dr. Louise Miner, director of obstetrics for the hospital.

Many come with a "wallet full of cash" and pay for their services. In fact the hospital requires payment in advance from mothers who make arrangements with a doctor in advance, she said. But others show up at the hospital for the first time when they are in labour, and leave without paying, Dr. Miner said.

She also has trouble with automatically granting the babies citizenship. "These people are taking advantage of the system."

Obstetricians are supposed to be paid $400 for a normal delivery, but get nothing when an out-of-country mother leaves without paying, Dr. Barrette said. For some obstetricians, it has been "financially quite a burden."

The B.C. case came to light when a newborn was rushed to hospital this month apparently suffering from shaken-baby syndrome. The parents told the Vancouver Province they came to Richmond to give birth to get around China's one-baby policy and secure the child Canadian citizenship. "We wanted our child to have a good future," the father said.

They had been staying at a maternity house that appears to serve parents from China. Anna Marie D'Angelo, a spokeswoman for the Vancouver Health Authority, said the agency does not regulate such facilities and does not have information on their clientele. She suggested, though, that maternity tourism is not a large problem at the Richmond Hospital, at least, as it delivered babies from only three out-of-country mothers last year.

In Toronto, a spokeswoman for Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto said her institution has not delivered many passport babies.

Meanwhile, an online forum on, a France-based parenting Web site, includes posts from three women of undisclosed nationality who indicate they planned to come to Canada have babies as "tourists," with at least one inquiring about the costs of doing so.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Canada on track for permanent resident targets

Updated Wed. Feb. 11 2009 6:43 PM ET News Staff

Canada's rising unemployment rate likely will not affect the government's goal to accept up to 265,000 permanent residents this year, according to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.

"For 2009, we're planning on maintaining at an even level our intake of permanent resident immigrants," Kenney told CTV's Power Play Wednesday.

"Last year, we brought in 247,000 permanent residents," he added. "And we anticipate and hope that it will be in the same range. Having said that, obviously the economy is very dynamic, it's moving a lot, and this may have unperceivable consequences for the immigration program."

Immigrants searching for employment may have a more difficult time. The economy lost 129,000 jobs in January, most of them full-time positions, according to Statistics Canada. That's the biggest monthly decline in three decades.

It pushed the country's unemployment rate up slightly more than half a percentage point to 7.2 per cent.

Canada's manufacturing sector was the hardest hit, with a net drop of 101,000 jobs -- the largest monthly decline ever recorded.

But Ottawa still hopes to accept between 240,000 and 265,000 permanent residents this year. Of that number, up to 156,600 would be in the economic class, 71,000 in the family class and 27,200 in the protected persons class, which includes refugees. Another 10,200 would be accepted under humanitarian grounds.

Kenney said it's difficult to give a "precise prediction" for the end of the year, but did say he expects a reduction in the number of temporary foreign workers coming to Canada.

"Those are folks who tend to come here for one to two years on short-term contracts to fill jobs that employers have been unable to find Canadians for," he said. "That side of the immigration program we anticipate will see much less demand."

He also said his Department has made plans to cope with any influx of economic refugees, which can "gum up" the system as people who face actual violent persecution try to get into the country.

Canada has a precise definition of a refugee: it must be someone who has a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, political opinion, sexual orientation, nationality or membership in a particular social group.

"I do intend to look at ways that we can reform our so-called in-country refugee system," he said. "We want to make sure people don't come here and try to jump the queue. They have to wait to come in as legal economic immigrants."