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Chinese object to Canada policy they claim will hurt immigrants

Updated: 2014-02-19 07:03
By Yang Yao ( China Daily)

Some Chinese immigration applicants are ready to use the Canadian legal system to protect their rights in response to Ottawa's sudden change to the immigration plan, Qi Lixin, honorary president of the Beijing Entry and Exit Service Association, said on Tuesday.

On Feb 11, the Canadian government released its 2014 Economic Action Plan, saying without prior warning that it is planning to terminate its Immigration Investor Program and Federal Entrepreneur Program, and it intends to refund the applicants' fees.

This plan, if endorsed by Parliament, would shut the door to more than 57,000 Chinese investors who have submitted immigration applications to the Canadian immigration office, Qi said.

The reason for the policy change is that the immigrants have made limited contributions to the Canadian economy, according to Sonia Lesage, spokeswoman for the Canadian Immigration Authority, who made the comments in an interview with Beijing Youth Daily.

"Except for the C$800,000 ($729,000) interest-free loans, immigrants from the investor program contributed little to the economy," Lesage told the newspaper.

She said that over the past 20 years, an investor immigrant paid C$200,000 less in taxes than skilled immigrants.

That doesn't sit well with some Chinese participants.

"It is unreasonable to measure the value of investment immigrants only by tax," Qi said. "If the government puts that plan into policy, we will file a lawsuit to overturn it."

Qi said that many Chinese investors are preparing for a court fight to protect their rights. They will file a class action suit in Canada's Federal Court, Qi said.

An applicant, surnamed Su, from Panjin, Liaoning province, said his family has been waiting three years for document screening.

"I heard there is a quota of several thousand applicants before they will cut IIP," Su said. "If that is the case, I will definitely join the litigation. Just refunding the application fee will not solve the problem."

Su said that besides money, he has invested time, and his daughter is also studying in Canada.

"This change is too sudden and we haven't got an alternative plan yet."

The IIP requires investors to have a minimum net worth of C$1.6 million and to invest C$800,000 in the form of a five-year, interest-free loan to the government.

"The investments of the immigrants have created job opportunities. The government has used the money to build public facilities," he said. "What's more, the investment immigration contributed to trade between China and Canada."

According to data provided by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, trade volume between China and Canada is estimated to be $50 billion a year since 2010.

"More than 130,000 people have immigrated to Canada through the program since 1986. Chinese investment immigrants to Canada have contributed a lot to the business exchange between the two countries," Qi said. "The benefit should not be neglected, and they cannot say the contribution is little."

Qi also listed examples of the government using the interest-free loans to build public facilities.

"Take British Columbia in western Canada, for example. In the past seven years, the province used a loan of more than C$400 million to facilitate many social service programs, such as using C$260 million to improve hospital and school facilities and creating more than 2,500 jobs."

Citizenship and Immigration Canada also said in a written interview on Monday that China "has been among the top sources for more than a decade", and immigration is a key part of Canada's plan to "grow our economy, spur job creation, and ensure long-term prosperity for all Canadians".

Qi said most Chinese investors have been following the rules, and the sudden change of plans violates their interests since a lot of them have waited years for citizenship.

Despite Canada's suspension of its Immigrant Investor Program, the country remains near the top of the list most desirable relocation spots for Chinese. In a poll by Sina Weibo, 70 percent of 64,191 voters would invest in and move to Canada if they could.

yangyao@chinadaily.com.cn

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