Saturday, February 28, 2009


Canada takes back deported gangster

Stewart Bell, National Post

Published: Friday, February 27, 2009

TORONTO -- Canadian officials acknowledged on Friday that they helped bring a "dangerous" gang member to Toronto from South Asia this week, two days before the government unveiled its new anti-gang strategy.

Panchalingam Nagalingam, who was deported in 2005 because of his involvement in a violent Toronto street gang, arrived back on Tuesday morning, and Canadian officials say they facilitated and paid for his return. The circumstances have one official lamenting that the government is "in the business of putting gangs and gangsters out of business, not in bringing them back to Canada."

Police were furious on Friday and immigration officials were at pains to explain why the government had paid to fly a gang member, once charged with hacking two people in the head with a meat cleaver, back to Canada more than three years after he was deported to his native Sri Lanka.

A spokesman for Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, said the government was outraged that it was forced to return Mr. Nagalingam to Canada because of a legal agreement entered into by the previous Liberal government.

The Ministry of Justice agreed in December, 2005, that it would allow Mr. Nagalingam to return to Toronto if the courts ever overturned a decision that found he was a danger to the public, officials said. The Federal Court of Appeal did just that in April, 2008, ruling that the judge who decided Mr. Nagalingam's case had made a procedural mistake.

Canadian officials started discussions about Mr. Nagalingan's return to Toronto last June, after he went to the Canadian High Commission in Colombo and said he feared for his safety. He was given a temporary residency permit in January that allowed him to enter Canada, but it was cancelled upon his arrival at Pearson Airport.

"We are very disappointed by the outcome of the court's decision. And we are outraged that we are forced, because of a legal agreement negotiated by the previous Liberal government, to return this dangerous individual to Canada," said Alykhan Velshi, Mr. Kenney's spokesman.

"The agreement made under the previous Liberal government was not required by law and is very unusual; however they made it anyway and, sadly, we are bound by it." He added that "because of the Liberals' agreement which we were legally bound to implement, we unfortunately had to pay for his return flight."

"Since being returned to Canada, Nagalingam has been held in detention, where we will strenuously argue that he should remain," he added.

A 36-year-old Sri Lankan citizen, Mr. Nagalingam was a member of AK Kannan, one of two warring Tamil gangs that engaged in extortion, drug trafficking, weapons dealing, attempted murder and murder in Toronto. The gangs were responsible for dozens of shootings, one of which killed an innocent bystander at a doughnut shop.

At an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing on Thursday, an immigration official read a police statement that said Mr. Nagalingam had been identified as a gunman in an unsolved shooting in Scarborough in 2000 that left two teenagers dead. He had also smashed a chair over the head of a man at a community function and assaulted a security guard at a theatre, the official said. On two occasions, Mr. Nagalingam was shot at by rival gang members.

"Nagalingam has demonstrated that he will not hesitate to use violence, and he has challenged rival gang members in public settings," the official said, reading a statement by the Toronto Police Service.

"This individual in my opinion is a recipe for yet another disaster on the streets of Toronto. He is a danger to the citizens of Canada and should not be allowed to stay in Canada."

Mr. Nagalingam thanked God and the immigration department "for helping me to get back here" and said he had turned over a new leaf. "I have a child outside, I have my mother and father. I decided to start my life again.

"Immigration states here I am a danger to the Tamil community," he added. "Won't I get a chance for me to reform, to start my life again? That's all I ask for."

The Refugee Board ordered him detained on the grounds he is a danger to the public and a flight risk. In the meantime, the government has already commenced proceedings to have him deported once again. He was to appear before the Board again next Thursday.

Mr. Nagalingam first arrived in Canada in 1994 and was accepted as a refugee the following year. But Toronto police quickly identified him as an AK Kannan gang member. He has three criminal convictions but he has faced other charges that were dropped.

For example, in 1998, he was charged with assault with a weapon after he allegedly struck two rival gang members in the head with a meat cleaver. Police arrived at the scene and "did see the accused attempting to strike several other persons with the meat cleaver, before he like the others began to flee," but the victims could not be found and the charges were stayed.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced new legislation to fight gang violence on Thursday. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said the government would "take tough, responsible action to make our streets and communities safer and more secure."

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."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Crackdown on labour violations coming

Ottawa to tackle abuse of foreign workers

February 24, 2009
Bruce Campion-Smith

OTTAWA – The federal government intends to bring in new regulations to punish employers who exploit foreign workers by forcing them to toil in poor working conditions for low pay.

The new rules, expected by the end of March, would prevent employers with repeated violations of labour laws from being allowed to bring in foreign workers, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told the Star.

"I will be coming forward with draft regulations later in the spring to look at ensuring that the employers who abuse the system, a small minority, are ineligible to use it," he said in an interview.

But Kenney says the government has no intention of turning off the tap on the tens of thousands of workers who arrive from abroad to fill jobs in Canada, despite rising unemployment.

"We do anticipate there will be a reduction in applications for temporary workers and work permits because of the downturn ... but there continues to be acute labour shortages in certain regions and industries so the program will be useful to those employers," he said.

Just last week, Kenney said he and Human Resources Minister Diane Finley met with representatives from the food and restaurant industry who pressed for more foreign help.

"They're still desperately crying out for more temporary foreign workers because they say they advertise for line cooks, for waiters and are unable to get people in Canada," Kenney said.

But opposition politicians are concerned the temporary foreign worker program robs Canadians of jobs, and that foreign workers are being exploited and abused.

Kenney said the proposed regulations would address concerns about employers abusing workers.

"In a tiny fraction of cases there are abuses," he said. "We're aware of those and we're prepared to take additional regulatory action, for instance, to bar employers who have multiple offences from ... applying for work permits."

Currently, Ottawa can't take action against an employer found in violation on provincial labour laws on issues such as working conditions or wage rates, he said.

Liberal Senator Pierrette Ringuette says Ottawa has a duty to better police the temporary foreign workers program and ensure that unemployed Canadians aren't being shut out of jobs by workers brought in from abroad.

"The temporary foreign workers program, it's exactly that. It's temporary and should be adjusted to the circumstances," she said.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I am quoted in today's story:

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."

Monday, February 23, 2009


High-skilled foreign migrants entering Britain to halve, Jacqui Smith says

Richard Ford, Home Correspondent

Tens of thousands of skilled immigrants from outside the EU are to be barred from entering the country to tackle public concern that British workers are losing out to foreigners in the recession.

Rules governing the entry of highly skilled immigrants are to be tightened and an official advisory committee has been asked to consider whether curbs should be placed on the number of other skilled workers allowed in.

Ministers will also make it easier to deport EU citizens convicted of violent, sexual and drugs offences.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, denied that “raising the bar” for highly skilled immigrants was narrow protectionism to safeguard British jobs. The move follows a series of wildcat walk-outs by workers protesting at jobs going to foreign workers when many British workers were losing their jobs.

Ms Smith said: “All workers now coming to the UK from outside the EU have to meet the requirements of the Australian-style points-based system, which allows us to raise or lower the bar on who can come here.”

She said that a flexible immigration system was better for business and the economy. “We recognise that migration continues to play an important role in the UK, at the same time as we are giving greater support to domestic workers so that we can all come through the recession stronger.”

The number of nonEU highly skilled workers entering Britain in the year from April is estimated to fall by almost half because of tougher entry requirements, the Home Office said.

Officials estimate that the number will fall from 26,000 last year to 14,000 next year as a result of rules requiring highly skilled migrants to have a master’s rather than a bachelor’s degree and to earn a minimum of £20,000 a year instead of £17,000. The new rules come into force in April. Some of the decline, though, is likely to be linked to the worldwide recession and fewer job opportunities.

In a move that could signal further cuts in nonEU migration, Ms Smith has asked the Migration Advisory Committee to look at the economic contribution made by dependants of all migrants entering under the points-based immigration system.

The committee has also been asked to investigate whether skilled immigrants should be limited to occupations with skills shortages such as civil engineers, chemical engineers, maths and science teachers and senior care workers. If this proposal is introduced it could reduce skilled migrants from outside the EU by up to 40,000 a year. An estimated 20,000 to 40,000 of the 80,000 skilled workers who entered Britain last year were in areas where there were skills shortages, the Home Office said.

Ms Smith confirmed that skilled jobs will have to be advertised for a minimum of two weeks in Jobcentre Plus branches before businesses can seek skilled workers from outside the EU. The rules are being changed after claims that some jobs were being advertised in obscure media outlets.

A total of 151,000 work permits were issued to skilled workers from outside the EU in the 11 months to November last year – a 17 per cent increase on the 140,000 issued in 2007.

Ms Smith cannot stop people from the EU coming into Britain to work, but figures to be published tomorrow are expected to show that the number travelling from eastern Europe is continuing to fall.

The Government also plans to change the laws regarding the deportation of EU citizens convicted of sexual, violent and drugs crimes. At the moment EU citizens can only be deported if they are given a jail sentence of two years or more. Ms Smith said that she intended to reduce this to 12 months.

Damian Green, the Shadow Immigration Secretary, said: “Jacqui Smith is just tinkering around the edges of the immigration system. If she wants to control the numbers entering the country legally, then she should introduce a limit, as a Conservative government would. She is just floundering in reaction to public anger.”

John Cridland, Deputy Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry, said: “Unemployment is rising and the Government does have to make sure that, when work permits are issued, it is because firms genuinely can’t hire staff for the job concerned. However, any changes need to be carefully made.”

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I am quoted in today's National Post story on expectant mothers who travel to Canada to give birth so their children can become automatically Canadian. Is it time to review our citizenship laws to prevent people from taking advantage of our generous benefits?

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.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


The following story appeared in today's New York Times:

February 15, 2009

Rise in Jobless Poses Threat to Stability Worldwide


PARIS — From lawyers in Paris to factory workers in China and bodyguards in Colombia, the ranks of the jobless are swelling rapidly across the globe.

Worldwide job losses from the recession that started in the United States in December 2007 could hit a staggering 50 million by the end of 2009, according to the International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency. The slowdown has already claimed 3.6 million American jobs.

High unemployment rates, especially among young workers, have led to protests in countries as varied as Latvia, Chile, Greece, Bulgaria and Iceland and contributed to strikes in Britain and France.

Last month, the government of Iceland, whose economy is expected to contract 10 percent this year, collapsed and the prime minister moved up national elections after weeks of protests by Icelanders angered by soaring unemployment and rising prices.

Just last week, the new United States director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, told Congress that instability caused by the global economic crisis had become the biggest security threat facing the United States, outpacing terrorism.

“Nearly everybody has been caught by surprise at the speed in which unemployment is increasing, and are groping for a response,” said Nicolas Véron, a fellow at Bruegel, a research center in Brussels that focuses on Europe’s role in the global economy.

In emerging economies like those in Eastern Europe, there are fears that growing joblessness might encourage a move away from free-market, pro-Western policies, while in developed countries unemployment could bolster efforts to protect local industries at the expense of global trade.

Indeed, some European stimulus packages, as well as one passed Friday in the United States, include protections for domestic companies, increasing the likelihood of protectionist trade battles.

Protectionist measures were an intense matter of discussion as finance ministers from the Group of 7 economies met this weekend in Rome.

While the number of jobs in the United States has been falling since the end of 2007, the pace of layoffs in Europe, Asia and the developing world has caught up only recently as companies that resisted deep cuts in the past follow the lead of their American counterparts.

The International Monetary Fund expects that by the end of the year, global economic growth will reach its lowest point since the Depression, according to Charles Collyns, deputy director of the fund’s research department. The fund said that growth had come to “a virtual halt,” with developed economies expected to shrink by 2 percent in 2009.

“This is the worst we’ve had since 1929,” said Laurent Wauquiez, France’s employment minister. “The thing that is new is that it is global, and we are always talking about that. It is in every country, and it makes the whole difference.”

In Asia, any smugness at having escaped losses on American subprime debt has been erased by growing despair over a plunge in sales among major exporters. On Thursday, Pioneer of Japan said it would abandon the flat-screen television business and cut 10,000 jobs worldwide in response to sagging demand for consumer electronics.

Millions of migrant workers in mainland China are searching for jobs but finding that factories are shutting down. Though not as large as the disturbances in Greece or the Baltics, there have been dozens of protests at individual factories in China and Indonesia where workers were laid off with little or no notice.

The breadth of the problem is also becoming apparent in Taiwan, where exports were down 42.9 percent last month, compared with a year ago, the steepest plunge in Asia.

Chang Yung-yun, a 57-year-old restaurant kitchen worker, was laid off when her employer closed in mid-November. Her son, an engineer, has been put on unpaid vacation for weeks, a tactic that has become common in Taiwan.

“The greatest fear for our people is losing jobs,” Taiwan’s president, Ma Ying-jeou, said in an interview.

Calls for protectionism have resonated among a fearful public. In Britain, refinery and power plant employees walked off the job last month to protest the use of workers from Italy and Portugal at a construction project on the coast. Some held up signs highlighting Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s earlier promise of “British jobs for British workers.”

Unemployment in Britain is expected to rise to 9.5 percent by the middle of 2010, from 6.3 percent now, according to Peter Dixon, an economist with Commerzbank in London. Germany’s jobless rate could rise to 10.5 percent from 7.8 percent, he added.

In France last week, President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed to supply low-interest loans of 3 billion euros, or $3.86 billion, each to PSA Peugeot Citroën and Renault in exchange for an agreement not to lay off French workers.

To a greater extent than in past European downturns, highly trained white-collar workers are pounding the pavement, too. Naomi Runquist-Ohayon, a trademark lawyer, has been looking for work in Paris since the beginning of the year, after losing her job in December.

“This is a new experience for me,” said Ms. Runquist-Ohayon, 39, a Swedish native who has lived in Paris and London and speaks fluent English, French, Swedish and Italian. “In London, I never had to really look. Recruiters or headhunters would call me or I would call them. It’s not so easy now.”

Half a world away in Colombia, Jaime Galeano, 40, is in a similar predicament. As a bodyguard in a country notorious for drug-related violence and kidnappings, Mr. Galeano thought his profession was immune until he lost his job last year.

“The conditions for finding a job are terrible,” he said. What is more, his age is now an impediment, with a ministry informing him that only applicants under the age of 32 would be considered for new positions.

“After turning 35, a person is worth nothing,” Mr. Galeano said.

Even India, whose startling rise to the forefront of the global economy was portrayed in the hit movie “Slumdog Millionaire,” has hit a wall. About 500,000 people lost jobs between October and December 2008, according to one recent analysis.

In New Delhi, Tarun Lamba lost the first real job he ever had about a month ago, when he was laid off as a sales manager. Mr. Lamba, 24, said he knew bad news was coming because it had been weeks since he had written a truck loan. If he has to, he said, he could join his father’s business, selling clothes. But he hopes it will not come to that.

“The cycle has to keep running,” he said. “We had a boom period one year ago, now we are in a recession, and after some time the boom will come again.”

Many newer workers, especially those in countries that moved from communism to capitalism in the 1990s, have known only boom times since then. For them, the shift is especially jarring, a main reason for the violence that exploded recently in countries like Latvia, a former Soviet republic.

“For the young generation, aged 20 to 24, this is the first time we’ve had this,” said Valdis Zatlers, Latvia’s president.

The ripples from the slowdown in Europe, North America and Asia are also being felt in Africa as migrant workers abroad lose their jobs and find themselves unable to send money home.

Since his last temporary job as a metalworker in Paris ended three months ago, Ignace Abdul has halted the monthly 200 euro payments he had been sending to his wife and three children back in Senegal. “Between 2004 and 2008, I worked nonstop,” Mr. Abdul, 30, said in an interview in a bleak Paris unemployment office. “Right now, there is nothing.”

Reporting was contributed by Keith Bradsher from Taipei, Taiwan; Heather Timmons from New Delhi; Simon Romero and Jenny Carolina González from Bogota, Colombia; and Maïa de la Baume from Paris.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009


Canada and NAFTA

No mariachis, please

Feb 12th 2009 | OTTAWA
From The Economist print edition

Some Canadians think they are more important than Mexicans

FOR the past 15 years Canada and Mexico have been joined with the United States in the three-way North American Free-Trade Agreement. But both still set much more store by their bilateral relationship with their superpower neighbour. This has led to sometimes farcical rivalry. To the joy of Canadian officials, Barack Obama is making his first, albeit brief, foreign visit as American president to Ottawa on February 19th. But Mexican officials whisper that their president, Felipe Calderón, got in first with a lunch with Mr Obama days before his inauguration.

More seriously, a growing number of Canadians, including politicians, trade negotiators and former ambassadors, have called for their government to turn its back on NAFTA and put all its efforts into improving bilateral ties with Washington. Canada was always a reluctant member of NAFTA, joining the talks mostly to safeguard gains made in a bilateral free-trade deal with the United States concluded five years earlier. Politicians chafe when Canada is lumped together with Mexico, as happened last year during Mr Obama’s campaign when he vowed to renegotiate NAFTA to protect Americans from weak environmental and labour standards. Even more woundingly, Janet Napolitano, the new secretary of homeland security, who is a former governor of Arizona, ordered a review of the northern border, saying that it presented a greater terrorist threat than the southern one.

Peter Harder, a former Canadian deputy foreign minister, argues that NAFTA holds back bilateral ties. “It is not in our interests to allow the speed of three to define the relationship of two,” says Mr Harder. “We have trilateralised for too long.” That view has been echoed by John Manley, a former Liberal deputy prime minister.

In fact many cross-border problems differ only in degree. That applies to the drug trade, gun smuggling, border security, the environment and illegal immigration. All three countries have a stake in the floundering car industry, which is organised on a North American basis. Canada and Mexico are the United States’ top two suppliers of imported energy, giving them both an interest in Mr Obama’s plans for energy and environmental measures.

Few Canadians speak up for enhancing ties with Mexico. But before leaving Ottawa this month, Emilio Goicoechea, Mexico’s ambassador, wrote a rebuttal urging Canada to stay the trilateral course. Trade between the two has grown fivefold since 1994 to $21 billion in 2007—though that is dwarfed by the United States’ two-way trade with Mexico, worth $349 billion, and with Canada ($566 billion). Some Canadian companies have invested in Mexico: Bombardier has factories making aircraft parts and trains, while Scotiabank is Mexico’s seventh-biggest bank.

In questioning NAFTA, Canadians do not just risk playing to protectionists in America’s Democratic Party. Their belief that on its own Canada would get more attention than Mexico also looks misplaced. Canada’s economy may be 40% bigger, but its population is much smaller. Mr Obama has recognised that he owes his electoral victory in part to Hispanic voters (most of whom are of Mexican descent). More than half a million Americans live in Mexico. And the security problems in Mexico caused by the American demand for cocaine are a growing worry to policymakers in both countries.

“By working together with Mexico we remain on the radar screen,” says Carlo Dade of the Canadian Foundation for the Americas, a think-tank. Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, has made no comment on trilateral relations, except to oppose reopening NAFTA. He has made Latin America a foreign-policy priority, and gets on well with Mr Calderón. When the Buy America provisions of the American Congress’s economic stimulus plan hit the news, Mr Harper called Mr Calderón to confer on how to fight protectionism. The Democrats in Congress may have unwittingly handed Canada and Mexico something big their relationship has lacked in the past—a common cause.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


We are witnessing an interesting phenom non: Canadians are losing jobs in record numbers, yet the Immigration Minister dithers about the obvious need to cut non-job based immigration. Der Minister: do we need more people to come without jobs to wander the streets and demand social services? Where will they find work? Here is my solution: declare a moratorium of permanent residence applications for ALL but those with pre-arranged employment; suspend the refugee inflow, which is almost exclusively unskilled labour requiring massive expenditure on social services and health care; eliminate the "parents and grandparents" immigration category that does absolutely nothing for the economy and costs us millions, impose a visitor visa requirement on Mexico to curb the inflow of bogus "refugees", and at the same time open bilateral discussions with the US to allow more free movement of people between the US and Canada, and finally thwart the union-protective construction clauses of NAFTA, so people in North America can find temporary jobs in ANY country. We need free labour movement like in the EU, not freeloaders who produce expenditures and increase administrative and enforcement costs.

Canada on track for permanent resident targets

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney appears on CTV's Power Play on Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009. News Staff

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

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."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Conservatives may lower immigration numbers

Norma Greenaway, Canwest News Service
Published: Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Julie Oliver \ Canwest News Service

OTTAWA - Canada is prepared to consider a cut in the number of newcomers allowed into the country if necessary over the short term to respond to a souring domestic job and economic scene, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says.

"We don't want people to be coming to Canada and facing unemployment," Mr. Kenney said Tuesday. "So, we need to be sensitive to a changing labour market, and if we need to make changes, we will."

Mr. Kenney made the comments to reporters after telling an all-party Commons committee that federal, provincial and territorial officials plan to meet at the end of next month to review the economic data to see if modifications to immigration levels are needed.

For now, though, the minority Conservative government plans to maintain its current immigration target of accepting up to 265,000 new permanent residents in 2009, Mr. Kenney told the committee on citizenship and immigration.

He said the government must be careful about turning off the flow of immigrants into the country because they will be needed post-recession to fill jobs and help fuel Canada's economic growth.

"We need to be flexible, prudent and ensure that our response to short-term conditions does not counter our long-term goals, in which immigration will play a significant role," Mr. Kenney said.

Mr. Kenney added, however, that bad economic news could spur some potential immigrants to abandon plans to move to Canada.

"There is no doubt that newcomers, like all Canadians, will have a tougher time this year," he said. "And I suspect some people will take that into consideration in their decisions about whether or not to actually use the visas that were offered to them to come here as foreign workers."

Speaking later to reporters, Mr. Kenney said that although demand for temporary foreign workers will shrink this year, it will not disappear because there are still some labour gaps Canadian workers are unable to fill.

He promised to introduce a set of regulations this spring to protect foreign workers who, according to recent media reports, have been left in a lurch after being laid off from their jobs in Canada.

"Obviously there are issues of abuse (and) we want to address those," Mr. Kenney said.

Mr. Kenney also announced the government is increasing to 3,900 the number of refugees it will accept this year from war-ravaged Iraq. The new total is up from about 2,000 last year.

Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis said the economic downturn is no excuse to lower immigration levels because newcomers are still needed to "fill the void of what Canadians don't want to do."

Mr. Karygiannis told reporters he interprets Mr. Kenney's remarks as a sign the government is going to "cut back massively" on the number of foreigners it will allow into the country as prospective immigrants.