Political messages in census data

TheStar.com – comment – Political messages in census data
April 10, 2008
Haroon Siddiqui

Remember the brouhaha over the rescue of Lebanese Canadians during the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon?

It was said that Canada should not allow dual citizenship, since newer ethnic groups may be misusing the right. The Stephen Harper Tories joined the chorus of protest.

For such critics, Statistics Canada has news. The latest data from the 2006 census shows that 2.8 per cent of the population, 863,100 people, reported dual citizenship. The largest group, 14.7 per cent, held the citizenship of – surprise! – the United Kingdom, followed by Poland (6.6 per cent) and the United States (5.4 per cent).

The rise in the number of visible minorities to more than 5 million is a reflection of how our immigration has shifted away from Europe.

About 80 per cent of newcomers are from Asia, Latin America and Africa. The intake from Europe is down to 16 per cent.

The top sources of immigration are China, India, Philippines and Pakistan. But in the Toronto census metropolitan area (CMA), the top source is India, followed by China, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

There are now 684,000 South Asians in Toronto. That’s more than the population of Hamilton.

Toronto has 16.2 per cent of Canada’s population but 42.9 per cent of the non-whites. The same 2:6 ratio applies to Vancouver, though on a smaller base.

Visible minorities are younger than the Canadian average and are more likely to have a university degree. Yet they are not adequately represented in Parliament, assemblies and city councils, on public and private payrolls.

In fact, the Public Service Commission reports that the recruitment of visible minorities dropped from 9.8 per cent to 8.7 per cent between 2006 and 2007.

This despite the Employment Equity Act. It decrees that women, the disabled, aboriginals and visible minorities be full participants in the civil service and also federally regulated sectors, such as banking, broadcasting and transportation.

Queen’s Park does not have such a law. Still, the Dalton McGuinty Liberals need to give a public accounting of how the four groups, especially vis-mins, are faring in the provincial civil service, and also on boards and commissions, and among the ministerial staff.

If we can’t deliver the promise of equal opportunity, Canada will not attract the best immigrants, for whom we have to compete globally.

Nearly 96 per cent of non-whites live in urban centres, compared with 68 per cent for the total population.

This is true not only of the bigger cities like Toronto (nearly 50 per cent visible minorities), Vancouver (40 per cent), and Calgary (25 per cent) but also the smaller centres.

Hamilton has 84,290 non-whites; Kitchener, 61,455; London, 50,000; and Oshawa, 33,700.

Urban Canada is where the economic opportunity is, and where newcomers find social and other support, thus reducing the burden on the state. Still, the trend does exacerbate the urban-rural split, and their respective demography.

Despite having 80 per cent of the population, urban Canada has only 68 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons.

In the last election, the Tories did not win seats in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. They have responded by wooing selected groups, such as the Jewish and Hindu communities, and also shovelling funds into ridings they want to win.

But it is doubtful if the tactics will work. Voter preferences are dictated by a host of issues. For example, foreign policy is very important to urban voters, a majority of whom strongly oppose Harper’s.

Immigration and pluralism now define Canada to the world. This has been achieved by adhering to a non-partisan immigration system and the core principle of equality of all immigrants.

Both are at risk in the Harper government’s proposal to run immigration by ministerial fiat.

As we know, this government can be excessively partisan. Second, it has been on record in the past as preferring European immigrants. Third, it wants more temporary workers (which can lead to a two-tier society, like Germany’s, with debilitating long-term effects).

This is such a fundamental issue that the Liberals, New Democrats and others should welcome an opportunity to defeat the government and go to the polls.

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