Viewing Canadian immigrants’ parents as a burden is hypocrisy: Paradkar
If you wonder why taxpayers should bear the burden of providing for non-contributing foreign seniors, here is why the burden is not on us, it’s on them, and why it is in Canada’s interest to allow immigrants to bring their parents in.
In this season of sharing and caring, spare a thought for families ripped apart, not by unexpected tragedy, but by deliberate Canadian policies.
Many Canadians — not just white, but those whose families migrated generations ago and are not separated themselves — object to family reunification. Why allow immigrant parents and grandparents to live in Canada at all? Don’t they just strain a system already groaning under the weight of an aging population?
These questions, often from those who espouse “family values,” are not just staggeringly lacking in empathy, they barrel down on double standards.
What did stay-at-home Canadian parents or grandparents now using the health-care system contribute?
You could argue they didn’t pay taxes in cash, but they raised and nurtured today’s taxpayers, and that is priceless.
Parents of immigrants contribute that, and more. They enhance Canada and thus the country’s taxpayers without using any Canadian resources — neither hospitals nor high schools.
Given that the Canadian Institute of Health Information says the costliest demographic groups for health care are newborns and seniors, these parents have already saved the country health-care costs by having their children elsewhere.
One reason Canada brings in younger, skilled immigrants is to offset the cost of its own aging population. In other words, we bring in other people’s children to take care of our parents’ needs. When it comes to their parents — nah, they’re too costly.
But the facts don’t back up that sentiment. Sponsored parents must pass medical admissibility tests rigorous enough to daunt many Canadians of a similar age.
“Immigrants tend to be healthier than Canadians when they arrive,” says Debbie Douglas, executive director of OCASI, an agency that helps immigrants.
That gap narrows over time when apart from the stress of moving, immigrants and their working-age parents “also experience racism, a diminishing of their educational achievements and other barriers to fully participating in Canadian society.”
As for being on the dole, children of immigrant parents promise, when they sponsor their parents and grandparents, to ensure they will not need social assistance for 10 years. If assistance is used in that period, the sponsor must pay the welfare costs to the government.
That burden is not on Canadians, it’s on the sponsoring family.
Yet, Jason Kenney, immigration minister in 2013, was dripping disdain when he said, “If you think your parents may need to go on welfare in Canada, please don’t sponsor them.”
In any case, there is no data to show immigrant parents are on the dole any more than Canadian parents or that they put more pressure on the health-care system.
On Wednesday, the federal government announced the adoption of a lottery system for immigrants applying for family reunification. It’s a departure from the Conservative policy of first-past-the-post. In the lottery, applicants apply within a certain time period, then 10,000 names are randomly chosen and processed.
The rest can re-apply the following year. It’s not clear what happens if they never win the luck of the draw. Does that leave the family’s future in limbo?
Still, the new approach is more reasonable than the previous system which had people standing in long lines in January to submit their application forms, or paying someone else to stand for them, or even paying couriers hundreds of dollars to ensure their application landed on top of the pile.
Douglas says while the change makes the system fairer, it still skews towards wealthier immigrants.
“Sponsors will still need to meet the minimum income threshold which was increased by approximately 30 per cent by the previous Conservative government . . . These rules screen out low income/working poor families especially those who are racialized, who tend to be over-represented in low wage, precarious jobs.”
These are the very families that need their parents and grandparents to be in Canada.
“They (the parents) often provide critical child-care support so that sponsors, especially women, can more easily participate in the labour market,” Douglas says.
These are the very parents and grandparents Canada needs for its own wealth.
“Sponsored parents who tend to be still of working age, contribute to the overall income of the family, thus assisting in moving them out of poverty,” she says.
Given the net benefit to Canada, having immigrant parents here is a win-win situation — but our fears stop us from valuing their role.
It’s time to stop the paltry increases and reductions in immigrant parent numbers — minus 5,000 by this government, plus 10,000 by that. For its own self-interest, Canada should allow all immigrants to bring their parents in.
It’s not them. It’s us.