Monday, September 27, 2010

Eminent Canadian lends support to new anti-immigration group

A pillar of the Canadian establishment, brushing aside the risk he could become embroiled in one of the country’s most sensitive political issues, is endorsing a new organization challenging Canadian immigration policy.

Derek Burney is a former senior corporate chief executive, ex-U.S. ambassador, the one-time chief of staff to Brian Mulroney, and served as the head of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s transition team after the Conservatives won the 2006 election.

Canadian society, he said, needs to stop treating immigration as an untouchable “third rail” that can’t be debated without prompting allegations of bigotry.

So he’s joined the advisory board of an organization being launched Tuesday on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. The Centre for Immigration Policy Reform will be headed up by Martin Collacott, a former ambassador who writes frequently on immigration and refugee policy at the Fraser Institute, and James Bissett, a former director general of the Canadian Immigration Service.

The Centre for Immigration Policy Reform argues that the benefits of high immigration aren’t worth costs that include considerable government expenditures and higher housing costs, pollution and crowding in big Canadian cities.

“Unfortunately immigration and refugee policy is a bit like health care in Canada,” Burney told Postmedia News. “It’s being denied rational debate at the political level, and this is despite the very clear evidence of abuse of the system, of fraud in the system and a lack of co-ordination in the country in terms of screening.”

He says his major concern is that Canada’s economy has been chronically plagued by relatively low economic productivity, yet the large number of unskilled workers and family-class immigrants weakens productivity further.

Burney said politicians of all stripes refuse to discuss such concerns because some immigrant communities that lobby for high quotas of family-class immigrants are “very active” in federal politics.

Burney, 70, acknowledged he is courting controversy that could damage his legacy as a business executive and senior public servant who played a key role in the successful negotiation of the 1988 Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.

He is an Order of Canada recipient, has several honourary degrees, and had a street named after him in his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ont. In 2007-08 he was one of five members of Harper’s independent panel studying Canada’s future role in Afghanistan.

But he said he felt it was time to take a stand in support of Collacott and Bissett, who have argued in relative obscurity for years that Canadian immigration policy needs reform. “It’s a third-rail kind of issue, nobody wants to talk about it, it’s not for polite company,” said Burney, now an adviser to the Ogilvy Renault law firm and formerly chief executive officer of Bell Canada International and later of the CAE Inc. aviation firm.

Yet Collacott and Bissett “have a great deal of knowledge about the subject, and they’re not irrational, they’re not emotional, they’re not racists. “They’re simply trying to acquaint Canadians with the facts.”

The Centre for Immigration Policy Reform is an organization dominated by academics and former senior bureaucrats, many with links to Canada’s conservative movement, who argue that immigration levels are far too high and that refugee screening policy too lax.

Canada has in recent years brought in roughly 250,000 immigrants and refugees annually, and since 1990 has accepted more per capita than any country in the world, according to the Fraser Institute. There are also 300,000 or so skilled and unskilled “temporary” workers currently in Canada, of which 192,500 arrived in 2009. And the government admitted 79,500 foreign students last year.

The critics say Canada’s policy is essentially hijacked by self-interested groups — employer groups seeking cheap labour even when there’s high unemployment, lawyers, advocates and consultants in what they call the “immigration industry,” and urban MPs from all parties who depend on immigrant groups for political support.

They also cite statistics and reports, including several from federal government researchers, showing that Canadian immigrants since the 1980s have struggled economically compared to the average Canadian.

Others backing the new group include Gilles Paquet, a frequent public commentator and professor emeritus at the University of Ottawa’s Centre on Governance, and Salim Mansur, a University of Western Ontario political scientist, columnist, former federal candidate for the Canadian Alliance party under Stockwell Day’s leadership, and author of Islam’s Predicament: Perspectives of a Dissident Muslim.

Collacott said his group is trying to avoid, rather than import, what he calls the “xenophobic” hostility today in Europe against immigrants and minorities. To do that, mainstream parties need to debate the issue openly, he said. “While we’ve done better than the Europeans in terms of integrating immigrants into society, there are lots of signals that we’re not doing well enough,” Collacott told Postmedia.

Canadians need to debate the questions “without being called ant-immigrant and racist.”


The Year 11 asylum seeker pupil who was really 23: Pair in their 20s found going to school face deportation from Britain

Claiming to be children is a common ploy among young-looking illegals

Two Guinean asylum seekers have been removed from a secon­dary school and are being inves­tigated by immigration authorities after teachers discovered they were in their 20s.

The pair had been attending classes at Acklam Grange School in Middlesbrough for a year before their real ages were dis­covered, and they now face pos­sible deport­ation.

They have been living in council accommodation in the Teesside town with two girls, who they say are their sisters, and a male guardian, who claims to be a relative.

In a further twist, one of the men, now revealed to be 23, has allegedly formed a relationship with a 14-year-old girl at the school, to the alarm of teachers.

Teaching staff became suspicious of the ages of the two men in March following conversations with them. The teachers informed headteacher John Bate, who in turn alerted Middles­brough Council, and this week the authority withdrew the male pupils from the school.

investigations into their identity, it was revealed that one of the men, Ibrahim Sory Diallo, who claimed to be 15 and was studying in Year 11, has been found to be aged 23.

The other man, who is understood to have claimed to be 14 and was study­ing in Year 9, has been ruled to be aged in his early 20s.

The men are being investigated by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and, as adults, are not protected by laws that forbid the deportation of minors.

There are no concerns about the ages of the sisters, who are in Year 8. They have been allowed to remain in the school and are still living in local authority accommodation.

Mr Bate, 59, said: ‘This family was presented to us and welcomed by us as being aged accordingly for the school. We commonly take children from all over the world.

‘Staff alerted me after picking up an issue within the family through conversations with the pupils. They reported it to me and I acted immediately by informing the education authority and other outside agencies. ‘There was nothing about their appearance that looked out of the ­ordinary and there were no disciplinary issues with any of them. ‘They came with a guardian, not their father, but we are in touch with him through the refugee service.’

A Middlesbrough Council spokesman said: ‘Concerns were raised over the age of two students. The decision was taken to remove them from the mainstream school following advice from the UK Border Agency.’

Matthew Coats, Head of Immigration at UKBA, said: ‘Where a new investigation is brought to light we will investigate and work with the appropriate authorities to ensure our immigration laws are not evaded by those who try to cheat the system.’

Police sources have revealed that a man named Ibrahim Sory Diallo, who gave his birth date as June 1995, was arrested in May on suspicion of assault and actual bodily harm against another male – but the case was dropped four weeks later.


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