Are Canadians prepared to pay for elderly immigrants?

July 2, 2016

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun |

It’s hard to find Canadians who do not claim to want the best for seniors.

It’s why the media is full of stories urging Canadians to support seniors as they become fragile, with many entering facilities with jargonistic labels such as “independent living,” “assisted living” and “intermediate care.”

As Canadian politicians focus on keeping taxes low, many of the faltering seniors who do not have enough family support, cannot afford expensive in-home care aides or are unable to pay for luxurious private facilities end up receiving decidedly average care in government-supported facilities.

Wanting to go further for seniors, many immigrant-advocacy groups are lobbying governments for more “culturally appropriate” residences. That’s where residents can enjoy the food they grew up with and, crucially, speak to staff in the only languages they know; those of their homelands.

In addition, as the people who run Guru Nanak Niwas seniors residence in Surrey emphasized in my piece in Monday’s paper, ethnic-specific facilities are also needed for people who require protection from widespread financial and emotional elder abuse in the immigrant population.

Advocates of ethnic-specific seniors residences justifiably argue that, as Canadian citizens, or even as permanent residents, elderly foreign-born seniors have the same legal rights as other Canadians to taxpayer-funded services.

But calling for more money for “culturally appropriate” senior homes also raises tough ethical questions about the immigration policies that largely make such facilities necessary in the first place.

Since people who immigrate to Canada in their 50s, 60s or older are less likely to learn English or French and more likely to want ethnic-specific seniors facilities, such institutions bring up the kind of issues Britons were exploring during the Brexit debate on leaving the European Union.

Are Canadians willing to pay the extra costs associated with immigrants who arrive in their senior years?

Liberals making it easier to bring in elderly immigrants

Unlike the Australian government, Canada’s new federal Liberal government is operating on the assumption that Canadians are ready to spend more on immigrant seniors, even if they generally pay less in taxes.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have promised to double the number of immigrants who will be welcomed into Canada as sponsored parents and grandparents.

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