New tool could point immigrants to spot in Canada where they’re most likely to succeed

A neat example of algorithms to assist immigrants assess their prospects although human factors such as presence of family members and community-specific food shopping and the like may be more determinate. But good that IRCC is exploring this approach. More sophisticated that the work I was involved in to develop the Canadian Index for Measuring Integration. Some good comments by Harald Bauder and Dan Hiebert:

Where should a newcomer with a background in banking settle in Canada?

What about an immigrant who’s an oil-production engineer?

Or a filmmaker?

Most newcomers flock to major Canadian cities. In doing so, some could be missing out better opportunities elsewhere.

A two-year-old research project between the federal government and Stanford University’s Immigration Policy Lab is offering hope for a tool that might someday point skilled immigrants toward the community in which they’d most likely flourish and enjoy the greatest economic success.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is eyeing a pilot program to test a matching algorithm that would make recommendations as to where a new immigrant might settle, department spokesperson Remi Lariviere told the Star.

“This type of pilot would allow researchers to see if use of these tools results in real-world benefits for economic immigrants. Testing these expected gains would also allow us to better understand the factors that help immigrants succeed,” he said in an email.

“This research furthers our commitment to evidence-based decision making and enhanced client service — an opportunity to leverage technology and data to benefit newcomers, communities and the country as a whole.”

Dubbed the GeoMatch project, researchers used Canada’s comprehensive historical datasets on immigrants’ background characteristics, economic outcomes and geographic locations to project where an individual skilled immigrant might start a new life.

Machine learning methods were employed to figure out how immigrants’ backgrounds, qualifications and skillsets were related to taxable earnings in different cities, while accounting for local trends, such as population and unemployment over time.

The models were then used to predict how newcomers with similar profiles would fare across possible destinations and what their expected earnings would be. The locations would be ranked based on the person’s unique profile.

“An immigrant’s initial arrival location plays a key role in shaping their economic success. Yet immigrants currently lack access to personalized information that would help them identify optimal destinations,” says a report about the pilot that was recently obtained by the Star.

“Instead, they often rely on availability heuristics, which can lead to the selection of suboptimal landing locations, lower earnings, elevated out-migration rates and concentration in the most well-known locations,” added the study completed last summer after two years of number crunching and sophisticated modelling.

About a quarter of economic immigrants settle in one of Canada’s four largest cities, with 31 per cent of all newcomers alone destined for Toronto.

“If initial settlement patterns concentrate immigrants in a few prominent landing regions, many areas of the country may not experience the economic growth associated with immigration,” the report pointed out. “Undue concentration may impose costs in the form of congestion in local services, housing, and labour markets.”

Researchers sifted through Canada’s longitudinal immigration database and income tax records to identify 203,290 principal applicants who arrived in the country between 2012 and 2017 under the federal skilled worker program, federal skilled trades program and the Canadian Experience Class.

They tracked the individuals’ annual incomes at the end of their first full year in Canada and predicated the modelling of their economic outcomes at a particular location on a long list of predictors: age at arrival, continent of birth, education, family status, gender, intended occupation, skill level, language ability, having studied or worked in Canada, arrival year and immigration category.

Researchers found that many economic immigrants were in what might be considered the wrong place.

For instance, the report says, among economic immigrants who chose to settle in Toronto, the city only ranked around 20th on average out of the 52 selected regions across Canada in terms of maximizing expected income in the year after arrival.

“In other words, the data suggest that for the average economic immigrant who settled in Toronto, there were 19 other (places) where that immigrant had a higher expected income than in Toronto,” it explains, adding that the same trend appeared from coast to coast.

Assuming only 10 per cent of immigrants would follow a recommendation, the models suggested an average gain of $1,100 in expected annual employment income for the 2015 and 2016 skilled immigrant cohort just by settling in a better suited place. That amounted to a gain of $55 million in total income, the report says.

However, researchers also warned against the “compositional effects” such as the concentration of immigrants with a similar profile in one location, which could lower the expected incomes due to saturation. Other issues, such as an individual’s personal abilities or motivation, were also not taken into account.

The use of artificial intelligence to assist immigrant settlement is an interesting idea as it puts expected income and geography as key considerations for settlement, said Ryerson University professor Harald Bauder

“It’s not revolutionizing the immigration system. It’s another tool in our tool box to better match local market conditions with what immigrants can bring to Canada,” says Bauder, director of Ryerson’s graduate program in immigration and settlement studies.

“This mechanism is probably too complex for immigrants themselves to see how a particular location is identified. It just spits out the ranking of locations, then the person wonders how I got this ranking. Is it because of my particular education? My particular country of origin? The information doesn’t seem to be clear or accessible to the end-users.”

New immigrants often gravitate toward a destination where they have family or friends or based on the perceived availability of jobs and personal preferences regarding climate, city size and cultural diversity.

“This tool will help those who are sufficiently detached, do not have family here and are willing to go anywhere,” says Daniel Hiebert, a University of British Columbia professor who specializes in immigration policy.

“People who exercise that kind of rational detachment will simply take that advice and lead to beneficial outcomes.”

But Hiebert has reservations as to how well the modelling can predict the future success of new immigrants when they are basing the advice and recommendations on the data of the past.

“This kind of future thinking is really difficult for these models to predict. There’s too much unknown to have a good sense about the future,” he says. “These models can predict yesterday and maybe sort of today, but they cannot predict tomorrow.”

Source: New tool could point immigrants to spot in Canada where they’re most likely to succeed

Women landing more leadership jobs, but racialized, Indigenous and disabled women lag: study

Of note:

The share of women in senior leadership positions at Canadian companies is on the rise despite the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. But the number of racialized, Indigenous and disabled women in top roles remains small, and many companies don’t disclose any leadership diversity data, according to a new report that is among the first to explore the varied experiences of women in Corporate Canada.

Over all, women’s representation improved between March, 2019, and September, 2020, among 48 public and private-sector companies surveyed by the Prosperity Project, a non-profit founded by a volunteer group of 62 female leaders.

Women held more than 40 per cent of seats on boards of the surveyed corporations as of September, up from 37 per cent in March, 2019. Nearly 31 per cent of executive roles were held by women, up from 28 per cent. More than 80 per cent of the companies also had at least one racialized woman in the pipeline leading to executive office, up from 68 per cent.

But the gains have been uneven. Black and disabled women each made up fewer than 2 per cent of directors and saw their share of executive positions rise from none to 0.8 per cent. Indigenous women made up only 1.6 per cent of executives and just 2.1 per cent of directors, and saw their share of senior positions relatively unchanged over the 18 months.

The toll of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests of the past year have thrust issues of representation and equality into the spotlight. Companies have responded by joining corporate diversity efforts such as the BlackNorth Initiative and the 50-30 Challenge. But the report shows many corporations have yet to turn those efforts into results.

“We know that companies are pivoting and making some really good decisions,” said Kristine Remedios, chief inclusion and social impact officer at KPMG Canada, who is among the Prosperity Project’s founding members. “But I think that there is a lot of hard work ahead for many organizations to actually lift this off the ground.”

The report also exposed how few companies are willing to share gender and diversity data. Of the 120 organizations invited to participate, 72 either declined or didn’t reply.

Many companies complain about survey fatigue, or are reluctant to require employees to self-identify, making it difficult to understand whether employees of diverse backgrounds are experiencing the workplace differently, said Pamela Jeffery, who founded the Prosperity Project. But the biggest barrier to collecting data is often a reluctance among top leaders to set diversity targets and then track their progress, she said.

Crown corporations have actually achieved gender parity in leadership roles, largely because they’ve set specific gender-representation targets and worked to meet them. “They’ve been deliberate,” Ms. Jeffery said. “Those organizations achieve results because they focus on it. They measure it.”

The Prosperity Project is looking to work with other companies on its planned annual report card of Canada’s 500 largest corporations by revenue, and has developed a process to help companies securely collect anonymized data on employees.

Governments and regulators should also require companies to set and disclose diversity targets, rather than allowing them the option of providing reasons why they don’t have targets – a practice known as comply or explain. “There’s been too much explaining and not enough complying,” said Ms. Jeffery, who previously founded the Women’s Executive Network and Canadian Board Diversity Council.

The recovery from the pandemic offers companies a unique chance to increase representation among diverse groups, said BMO’s Ms. Goulet.

She points to a project the bank worked on last year to create an on-reserve Indigenous technology hub at Batchewana First Nation in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. When the pandemic shifted much of the bank’s work force online, BMO turned the project into a virtual hub, opening up job opportunities for Indigenous workers in other remote and northern communities across the country. “I call this the kind of silver lining of the pandemic, in that we now have remote rules that are enabling us to access new and untapped talent nationwide,” she said.


MPs, advocates urge more government action to combat ‘pandemic of anti-Asian racism’

Of note, both in terms of comments by activists and politicians, as well as some encouraging signs of a downward trendline:

Justin Kong, executive director of the Chinese Canadian National Council’s Toronto chapter, doesn’t want focus paid to his own experiences of racism, which he says most racialized people have experienced, instead emphasizing the importance of the country coming together to make things better.

He, along with several Members of Parliament and advocacy groups, have called for more to be done by the federal government to combat anti-Asian racism, in response to the surging number of racist incidents affecting Asians in Canada—and those who look Asian to some—since the start of the pandemic.

A September report from Project 1907, a group which has been tracking incidents, found that more than 600 instances of racism have occurred in Canada since the onset of COVID-19, with a higher number of anti-Asian incidents reported per capita than the United States. Women were impacted the most, reporting 60 per cent of all incidents. The data expanded on the type of harassment, too, with verbal abuse occurring in 65 per cent of incidents, and nearly 30 per cent reporting assault or targeted coughing, spitting, or other physical forms of violence.

A July Statistics Canada report, meanwhile, found that discriminatory incidents were perceived to happen sometimes or often by 26 per cent of Koreans and 25 per cent of Chinese respondents. It also found that 43 per cent of Koreans, and 38 per cent of Filipino people reported feeling unsafe walking home alone at night. Strikingly, in a recent report presented to Vancouver’s police board, the increase in anti-Asian racism was up 717 per cent from the year before, going from 12 reports in 2019 to 98 in 2020.

Some standout incidents that Conservative MP Kenny Chiu (Steveston-Richmond East, B.C.) said he’s noticed in Vancouver include reports of vandalism and even one incident where an elderly gentleman with dementia was attacked.

For Lynn Deutscher Kobayashi, vice-president of the National Association of Japanese Canadians, these types of occurrences relate to the idea of Asians being untrustworthy foreigners no matter how long they’ve been in Canada.

“It’s just this inability of people to see you as Canadian because of the colour of your skin,” she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) has condemned racism in the past via news conferences.

Mr. Kong said the main impetus for more recent racism was COVID-19 and the political rhetoric circulating.

“Irresponsible politicians have scapegoated Chinese people as the cause of this virus,” he said.

Liberal MP Han Dong (Don Valley North, Ont.) noted that racism towards the Asian community is historic, and that continued, systemic issues, like around fair employment opportunity, plague the system.

Queenie Choo, CEO of B.C. social service agency S.U.C.C.E.S.S., described systemic racism as issues with policy that ignore privilege and create unfair inequities.

This system, Mr. Kong said, leads to issues like Chinese-Canadians being disproportionately represented under the poverty line, or having difficulties with accessing good housing or good education.

“The racism is systemic racism that puts racialized people in precarious working conditions and life conditions,” he said.

In Mr. Dong’s view, COVID-19 has simply created the setting for racist thinking to come out.

“It’s always been there, but the pandemic has created a perfect [mix] for some of these people to come out pointing fingers at Chinese-Canadians,” he said.

NDP MP Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, B.C.) raised similar historical issues, pointing towards segregation laws and head taxes that existed in the past, which unfairly targeted Chinese- and other Asian-Canadians.

Also contributing to the issue is negative sentiment towards the Chinese government over issues like its crackdowns in Hong Kong and detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, with Mr. Dong noting that Canada-China relations have worsened over the last three years.

“I think this will sharpen the sort of racial view on Chinese-Canadians,” he said. “I think the racism against Asian-Canadians is deeper than what’s going on between Canada and China.”

Mixed opinions on level of anti-Asian racism since pandemic start

Mr. Kong said there have been consistent levels of racism since the pandemic started: “Whether or not it’s gotten worse, it’s bad, it’s really bad.”

He was also impressed with how many Chinese organizations and individuals got together as citizens and donated to help their neighbours and their community.

“That’s a real positive out of COVID-19,” he said.

Mr. Chiu echoed these sentiments, and said the trend appears to be going down.

Less satisfied with the status quo, Ms. Choo emphasized that racism will continue if nothing is done about it. While she said she’s glad the government is openly talking about racism, she said she wants to see more sustained efforts over time and continuous vigilant action.

Ms. Kobayashi, meanwhile, expected there to be a new wave of racism as a result of the Capitol Building storming in the United States, with white supremacists and extreme groups emboldened by the attack.

And in Ms. Kwan’s eyes, racism directed at Asian-Canadians has existed for a long time, with COVID-19 giving it a chance to re-emerge “with a vengeance.”

How the government can combat anti-Asian racism

For Mr. Kong, fighting the problem of racism requires the first step of recognizing that racial inequities exist. He said he wasn’t able to offer firm policy suggestions owing to an incoming report on the topic.

In Ms. Choo’s opinion, there should be more concrete legislation around hate crimes.

“Right now, we have no clear definition. What is a hate crime? Is it a hate crime online? Is spitting on people of colour [a hate crime]?” she said.

She further advocated for serious legislation to prosecute offenders in order to send a message to people.

Ms. Choo also said race-based data should be collected in consultations with the affected communities. “If we don’t even know who is targeted, who is affected, and what communities we are talking about, how are we going to take corrective action?”

To treat this “pandemic of anti-Asian racism,” Ms. Kobayashi agreed there should be support for people targeted by hate crimes, and that more funding should be provided for data collection efforts on racism.

In Ms. Kwan’s view, a hate crime unit should be placed in every single police department across the country. Alongside this, she said there should be high-level standards that ensure every single incident is investigated fairly.

“We can talk about we’re doing to get rid of racism and hate, but we need to match those words in action, and to properly resource a hate crime unit at every single department, I would think, is the bare minimum that we should be in,” she said.

Also critical is educating the Canadian public, Ms. Kwan said. Her comments were echoed by Ms. Choo, who said that teaching around historical and contemporary racism should be funded .

Some things that the Trudeau Liberal government has already done include shortlisting a Chinese-born Canadian, Won Alexander Cumyow, for appearance on the $5 bill and acknowledging the role of Chinease railway workers every year, said Mr. Dong.

Other concrete actions taken, according to Diversity and Inclusion Minister Bardish Chagger’s (Waterloo, Ont.) press secretary, Emelyana Titarenko, include the setup of an equity-seeking communities and COVID-19 taskforce, which asked East Asian communities about the impact of the virus, and funding for more than 85 different anti-racism projects, worth $15-million.

Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Man.) said Parliamentarians should call out racism whenever they can and said the government acts by providing grants to “all sorts of non-profits.”

Ms. Titarenko also noted that a multicultural, open, and inclusive society is always “a work in progress. It demands our effort, our attention and our care.”

Mr. Chiu, who has experienced racism himself, said it made him question whether he belonged in Canadian society when he was pointed and yelled at.

But he said he doesn’t think that the government is the only group with a part to play in fighting racism.

“In Richmond, for example, our community is already diverse and multicultural … my younger daughter’s best friend is a hijab-donning Muslim girl. They don’t see each other as different places, they see each other as friends, so I don’t know if the government can actually do anything to do that. It’s up to us as a society.”


Law firms scramble to help clients capitalize on shift in Canada’s immigration policy

Money quote: “it doesn’t speak favourably of the integrity and predictability of our immigration system:”

Law firms are urging their clients to get in Canada’s express pool of immigration candidates as soon as possible after the federal government invited a record number of people in that system to apply for permanent residency to help hit ambitious targets.

On Feb. 13, Immigration Canada issued the invitations to more than 27,000 people in the Express Entry system, which is aimed at expediting the intake of skilled workers. That round of invitations – known as a draw – focused on those who had at least one year of recent work experience in Canada.

The number was more than five times larger than the previous record. To hit that mark, the federal government had to drastically reduce the immigration scores needed for an invitation to apply.

The decision sent a jolt through the legal community, with initial confusion giving way to a flurry of phone calls. Many lawyers had steered clients away from Express Entry because it was unlikely they could get a high enough score.

The situation has prompted a rethink. Several law firms contacted by The Globe and Mail are now telling clients that anyone who can get into the Express Entry pool should do so, given the potential for the federal government to surprise again.

“At this point, it seems like all bets are off, and we have no predictability in terms of who’s going to be selected and who’s not,” said Meika Lalonde, partner at McCrea Immigration Law in Vancouver. “We do know that the government has some ambitious immigration targets that it wants to fill this year. So there is a possibility that they’ll draw again at a remarkably low score.”

Owing to the pandemic, Canada has just had an exceptionally weak year for immigration. About 184,000 new permanent residents were added in 2020, well short of the 341,000 target. To make up for that, Immigration Canada raised its targets for the next three years, starting with an intake of 401,000 in 2021.

With border restrictions still in place, Ottawa is focused on foreign workers and students already here. Most of the invitations issued on Feb. 13 were to people in Canada, the federal government said.

Launched in 2015, Express Entry is one of several pathways for immigration. When people go into that pool, they’re assigned a score in points based on age, education, work experience and other factors. Draws are usually held every two weeks and have a cut-off score for who gets invited.

The cut-off is usually at much more than 400 points. Successful candidates in the category of people with Canadian work experience have often been under 30 years old and had advanced degrees and strong English or French skills.

This time, the cut-off score was slashed to 75. That meant nearly everyone in the Canadian-experience stream of Express Entry got an invitation, all but depleting that source of candidates.

“I actually thought it was a mistake,” said Adrienne Smith, partner at Battista Smith Migration Law Group in Toronto. “I was completely shocked.”

Once she learned it was real, Ms. Smith advised clients to try to get into the express pool. “I just don’t want to have another client that misses out on this potential draw,” she said.

The message was the same from Sonia Matkowsky, an immigration lawyer in Toronto: “I do advise individuals [who would get] lower scores to enter the pool,” she said. “Especially this year. Anything can happen.”

It’s unclear how the coming months will play out. While the Canadian-experience stream was nearly emptied, it’s undoubtedly starting to grow again. The question is whether the cut-off score will be low in future draws.

Several lawyers say they think the federal government will eventually shift its focus outside the country. Thousands of Express Entry candidates are abroad and lack Canadian work experience, but otherwise have desirable credentials. Their entry is complicated by border restrictions.

“A lot of our clients overseas were also contacting us,” Ms. Smith said. “I think the hope and the anticipation is that in order to meet the 400,000-person target, that [the government is] going to have to move to overseas applicants next.”

Even then, the 2021 target should be tough to hit. In a recent report, RBC Economics estimated that Canada would add only 275,000 new permanent residents this year.

Some lawyers said the recent draw undermined the purpose of the Express Entry system, which is intended as a way to fast-track the top candidates rather than send a blanket invitation to virtually everyone.

“It’s a very good news story for a lot of individuals,” Ms. Lalonde said. “But I would say it doesn’t speak favourably of the integrity and predictability of our immigration system.”


#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 24 February Update

The latest charts, compiled 24 February.

Vaccinations: The gap between all G7 countries save Japan continues to grow with the effect of increased deliveries to Canada not yet apparent.

Trendline charts

Infections per million: The overall trend of a flattening curve is seen in G7 countries and most provinces save for the Prairies and British Columbia.

Deaths per million: Most Canadian provinces continue to flatten the curve, Quebec most dramatically. Overall G7 death rate will likely surpass Quebec.

Vaccinations per million: Gap between G7 and Canada, driven not only by the UK and USA, remains largely unchanged.


Infections per million: No relative change.

Deaths per million: California ahead of Sweden and Quebec, Sweden ahead of Quebec 

Omidvar: The diversity deficit in the boardrooms of Canada’s charities

Good op-ed and practical recommendations by Senator Omidvar:

As we celebrate Black History Month, we continue to hear loud calls for more diversity in newsrooms across the country, in corporations, and in Parliament. Canadians have correctly pointed out a diversity gap in all those power structures.

But the diversity deficit doesn’t end there; it’s also in the boardrooms of charities and non-profits. It’s always been an open secret that, despite the amazing work it does to help Canadians from all backgrounds, the sector’s leadership wasn’t that diverse.

In June last year, I issued an open letter challenging charities and non-profits to take a hard look at themselves, and ask what they could do to increase diversity in the sector. Many heard my call and wanted to do more. The first step was getting data.

After learning about my challenge, Statistics Canada, along with sector leaders, designed a survey to provide the first-ever snapshot of diversity in governance. The recently released survey found that, outside of gender, the boards of charities were not yet inclusive of Indigenous peoples, racial minorities, LGBTQ2+, and the disabled.

From Dec. 4, 2020, to Jan. 18, 2021, 8,835 people completed the survey. Among them, 14 per cent identified as immigrants to Canada; 11 per cent said they belonged to a visible-minority group; eight per cent identified as LGBTQ2+; six per cent said they had a disability; and three per cent identified as First Nations, Metis, or Inuit.

Readers may well ask: Why does it matter who sits on the boards, as long as people receive their services? It matters, because the boards of charities set the course, decide on priorities, determine how money gets allocated and spent, and approve institutional policies ranging from hiring to procurement, from harassment to promotions.

Charities are not an insignificant part of our society. More than 85,000 charities and 85,000 non-profits are registered in Canada. Before the pandemic, they employed close to two millions Canadians and contributed eight per cent to the GDP. What they do and how they do it matters.

Now there’s some hard evidence to stand on, we have a clear way forward. Both the government and the sector must respond.

The government must collect diversity data every year. The StatCan survey is a start, but no further studies have been planned. For the sake of certainty, the Canada Revenue Agency should include questions about diversity on boards of directors on the T3010 and the T1044 tax forms.

This way, the data could be fulsome, disaggregated, and provide an accurate picture of diversity in the sector every year. Based on clear, ongoing evidence, the country and the sector could see if progress is being made.

The government should also compel the sector to disclose its diversity plans, as it did with corporations under Bill C-25. Only 30 per cent of the survey participants said their organization had a diversity plan. That is unacceptable, and the government should require that this information be made public.

I’m encouraged that the sector responded to the survey by saying, “(These data are) an important opportunity for us to look critically at who is at the table and who has decision-making power in our organizations.” Now that the evidence is clear, it needs to take concrete action.

First, charities and non-profits must proactively create diversity plans and publish them for their members and Canadians to see; they mustn’t wait for the government to compel them. Second, the plans should include diversity targets to increase the representation of under-represented groups on boards and in senior management. Last, they should convene a sector-wide conversation about race, racism, and diversity.

If we’re truly determined to stamp out racism, we need all sectors to step up to the plate. Charities and non-profits do so much good for Canadians. Now is the time for them to look inward, be intentional, and truly reflect the diversity of Canada.

Source: The diversity deficit in the boardrooms of Canada’s charities

Thousands of asylum seekers stuck at home as work permit approvals slow during pandemic

IRCC operational difficulties:

Marius Tapé is bored, restless and frustrated.

The engineer arrived in Canada from the Ivory Coast in July with his teenage daughter, joining his wife and three other children who had already settled in Granby, Que.

Tapé says his family fled the Ivory Coast after he and his wife were attacked for his political affiliation. They are trying to start a new life here, but it’s been tough.

Source: Thousands of asylum seekers stuck at home as work permit approvals slow during pandemic

Normalizing diversity in newsrooms is how we’ll tackle racial equity in the media

Some good practical suggestions:

I grew up in a radio station – specifically, the first Chinese-language radio station in Vancouver. It was run by my parents who saw demand turn their hour-long volunteer program in the 1970s into a full-fledged media business. My mother set up office dividers to create a play space for me at the station while she produced programs like my dad’s weekly phone-in talk show.

Over the 25 years my parents worked in broadcasting, non-Chinese-Canadian politicians, public service agencies, businesses and local celebrities realized that Cantonese and Mandarin programming was a valuable conduit to a captive audience: new Canadians who could vote, influence their social circles and buy things. These authority figures whom mainstream media had to chase down were knocking on the doors, trying to get time and attention on a Chinese-language radio station’s airwaves.

Years later, when HuffPost Canada hired me as an editor, I walked into a news operation where more than 50 per cent of the staff were people of colour, including my boss and his boss. When it came to coverage of certain communities of colour, story meetings and staff pitches started from a place of understanding because we were part of these very communities. The HuffPost Canada team once pursued a story idea that some people may have interpreted as a complaint about WestJet baggage fees, but our newsroom recognized immediately as a potentially discriminatory policy against the practice of remittance, which is commonly used by immigrant families to send money or items to their countries of origin.

Needless to say, I was privileged to be immersed in unique media environments where the norm was people of colour leading editorial, business and hiring decisions; where “others” were re-situated as the centre of stories; and where an authentic connection to the audience was rewarded with engagement and revenue. I’m well aware it’s a rare experience.

A demographic survey of newsroom staff at Canadian newspapers in 2004 found that 3.4 per cent were non-white, even though 16.7 per cent of Canada’s population identified themselves as Indigenous or a member of a visible minority group at the time. Since then, there’s been scant research into Canadian newsroom diversity, partly because few media operations here have been willing to collect or share that data with researchers. (The Canadian Association of Journalists launched a newsroom diversity survey in November 2020, and responses are still being collected. CBC/Radio-Canada, which is mandated to report its staff demographics, said in 2020 that 14.1 per cent of its overall workforce of 7,600 – including non-editorial staff – identifies as a visible minority and 2.1 per cent as Indigenous. A breakdown of the 1,900 English-service news staff is not available.)

Along with the ongoing charges that Canada’s mainstream newsrooms and their coverageare not truly representative of the country’s racial (and I’d also argue geographic and class) diversity, there’s been discussion about the real and perceived barriers that hinder easy progress: the general decline of media revenue and jobs, a lack of qualified BIPOC journalists, systemic racism and unconscious bias.

Solutions that have already been proposed – independent reviews, unconscious-bias training, mentorship programs, scholarships and fellowships, targeted hiring percentages – are noble and welcome. But they’re also generally short-term initiatives. Unconscious-bias training, for example, may unlock some deep conversations and self-reflection, but it’s over in a day or two.

Normalizing diversity in all facets of newsroom operations is a focused way to build the critical mass necessary to have any chance of tackling racial inequity in Canadian media, and to create the audience connections that are required for its survival. Achieving racial equity in journalistic content doesn’t have to be costly, but it does require an evolution in how news is defined, and in who is involved in that process.

A diversity of experiences that comes with a diverse staff tends to elicit more robust conversations that lead to more unique story ideas.

For example, the story meeting is a hallmark of most newsrooms, and what’s defined as the day’s “news” depends on the makeup of the people debating it. If most of them spent the weekend at a cottage, for example, frustrating highway construction delays might be top of mind. But is that truly reflective of what the audience cares about? A diversity of experiences that comes with a diverse staff tends to elicit more robust conversations that lead to more unique story ideas.

On the issue of hiring, experts estimate that 70 per cent of jobs are filled through networking; in other words, “friends and acquaintances hiring other trusted friends and acquaintances,” Matt Youngquist, the president of Career Horizons, said on NPR. BIPOC journalists certainly bring those kinds of contacts, but there’s also nothing stopping current senior leaders from expanding their own networks. I’ve been to dozens of journalism mixers, panels and events focused on diversity and attended by talented BIPOC journalists and promising students, but I rarely see white newsroom leaders who have hiring influence show up to make some new connections. It’s not the responsibility of a diversity and inclusion committee or BIPOC staff to hand over their contacts list.

I’ve been to dozens of journalism mixers, panels and events focused on diversity and attended by talented BIPOC journalists and promising students, but I rarely see white newsroom leaders who have hiring influence show up to make some new connections.

Of course, creating an environment where interesting ideas can surface means moving the editorial lens from a white-majority focus to an inclusive one. Which audience are you framing this for? Who is being left out and why? And how can we shift them to the centre? Again, this is not solely the realm of BIPOC staff, but of all newsroom staff.

CBC News, where I work now, is piloting a project to track diversity in our content. Early data from one show confirms the tendency to speak to a racialized person about racialized issues, rather than interviewing someone with a strong point of view or experience who happens to be BIPOC.

Put another way, instead of contacting an imam only when his mosque is vandalized or a Black business owner only to discuss racism, ask them for their thoughts on tax increases or the NHL season restarting during the pandemic to broaden how the audience sees themselves and to ensure the lived experiences of these communities are reflected back to them.

As this kind of news-gathering approach becomes status quo, the perspectives and stories that flow into the wider media landscape can then create more trust and support for the industry as a whole.

Source: Normalizing diversity in newsrooms is how we’ll tackle racial equity in the media

Biden DHS Scraps Trump Administration’s Longer, More Difficult Citizenship Test


The Department of Homeland Security is discarding a new citizenship test that just went into effect in December, reverting back to an older version after the Trump Administration’s test was blasted for allegedly containing conservative biases.

A new citizenship test, which took effect on December 1, upped the question pool for naturalization candidates from 100 to 128 questions and required 12 out of 20 questions randomly assigned to be answered correctly, up from 6 out of 10.

The test was also blasted for its content, with five questions in the pool referring to the Federalist Papers—a favorite topic among conservatives—with only two questions about the civil rights movement and three about women’s suffrage, for example.

Those who file for naturalization after March 1 will be given the 2008 test the Biden Administration is reverting to, while those who filed between December 1 and March 1 will be given the option of taking either the 2020 or 2008 version.


Around 2,500. That’s how many comments from the public U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received about the 2020 changes.


“Multiple commenters noted that there was little advance notice before implementation of the 2020 civics test, which raised concerns about limited time for study and preparation of training materials and resources,” the Department of Homeland Security said in its policy change announcement Monday.


The Trump Administration was known for its tough stance against immigration into the U.S., whether the immigration was legal or not. One of Trump’s signature campaign promises was the construction of a wall along the southern border with Mexico, which was never completed, and his administration became notorious for unwavering enforcement of family separation policies aimed at combating illegal immigration. The Trump Administration also curbed legal access for noncitizens to work in the U.S., tightening the rules around H-1B visas. The Administration made numerous policy changes committed to enforcing what it touted as traditional American values, but what critics denounced as pushing conservative views. One of Trump’s final acts was creating the 1776 Commission to promote “patriotic education” in schools, which was almost immediately zapped by President Joe Biden.


Democrats have proposed an immigration bill that could give around 11 million undocumented immigrants U.S. citizenship through an eight-year process, but the bill faces a difficult path of passing through the 50-50 Senate.

Source: Biden DHS Scraps Trump Administration’s Longer, More Difficult Citizenship Test

Why the Canadian government must review its immigration policy

My latest:

Immigration can be a politically charged topic but the beauty of economics is that there is no arguing with the numbers. Canada’s birth rate has not kept up with an ageing population and so its future prosperity depends significantly on attracting migrants to fill jobs and pay pension contributions.

Immigration is less emotionally charged in Canada compared to most countries, with public debate and discussion focussed more on the specifics of selection criteria and priorities than on fundamental questioning of immigration.

The Canadian government continues to prioritise skills that don’t fully reflect the reality of the country’s needs – which has been laid bare by COVID-19.

Last October, when hopes were high of a flattened curve, the government published an immigration plan for the coming years. The target was to admit 401,000 migrants in 2021 to catch up on the 50% drop in immigration in 2020, with an overall emphasis on skilled economic immigrants.

Yet, this pandemic – which has proven to be far more of a long-term crisis than anticipated – has shown which workers Canadian society actually depends on. Low-paid grocery staff, truck drivers and healthcare support workers were deemed essential, even though they are not prioritised in immigration plans or rewarded monetarily.

The pandemic bottleneck

Between April and December last year, permanent residencyapplications and admissions were down by about 60% compared with the previous year (from 275,000 to 115,000 admissions).

During the same period, the total number of temporary workers residing in Canada fell by 6.3% (from 272,000 to 254,000), except in the agriculture sector where it dropped by 1.5 % (from 45,000 to 44,000). In this period, only 149,000 foreign students applied for study permits – a 59% decrease compared with 364,000 the previous year.

Newcomers are still subject to travel restrictions that are likely to remain in place until this summer, given the ongoing waves of infections and the fact that most people won’t be vaccinated until early autumn. So all of this will create a bottleneck for welcoming in workers that the country urgently needs.

COVID has shown which workers Canada depends on. Low-paid grocery staff, truck drivers and healthcare support workers were deemed essential, even though they are not prioritised in immigration plans or rewarded monetarily.

The reality is that the government’s immigration target levels set last year are no longer realistic for this year and possibly won’t be for next year either.

In fact, maintaining these target levels is questionable as to do so may undermine the credibility of the government’s whole immigration plan.

“Immigrants with higher education levels benefit most from services designed to support economic integration – putting the lower educated at further disadvantage.”

While selection criteria and settlement programming can be adjusted to improve economic outcomes, or at least attenuate the impact of the pandemic-induced downturn, this will be harder to achieve given that the downturn is likely to continue well into the year.

In 2018, the government department Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada evaluated the settlement programme and highlighted several areas for improvement. These included the labour market and the services that support immigrants’ economic integration. The evaluation showed that immigrants with higher education levels or more work experience were benefitting most from these services – further deepening the disadvantage that the lower educated face.

Shouldn’t such programmes serve the essential workers who need this support more? And shouldn’t settlement agencies better support those who are, as John Shield explained, “less digitally adept, lacking in technology and with more limited official language abilities?”

Immigration policies are selective by design: who can obtain permanent residency; who can only stay on a temporary basis; and what are the criteria they have to meet (e.g. language knowledge, education, age, professional qualifications).

Policy steeped in inequality

These criteria invariably raise equality issues between permanent and temporary residents. This can be seen most clearly in the realisation that lower-skilled workers are deemed ‘essential’. These frontline workers are more exposed to COVID-19 than those able to work remotely yet are poorer.

Personal support and healthcare workers – mostly women and visible minorities – are vital to an increasingly ageing population yet remain under-appreciated. Many of these workers come from migrant backgrounds but aren’t supported in immigration policies.

Other inequalities exist in the ability to obtain permanent residency – it’s an easier process for those considered to be higher skilled and less so for those considered lower skilled.

Agricultural workers, given their crowded living conditions, should be prioritised for permanent residency. Some of this work is clearly seasonal, but many jobs, such as meat-packing, are not. This is where a more direct path to permanent residency would be appropriate.

One approach to improve equality in this area would be to draw from the live-in caregivers experience, whereby two years’ full-time work as a temporary resident provided a pathway to permanent residency in Canada. Why not apply this approach to any immigrant who has worked two years full-time?

Recession hits migrants hardest

The Canadian government has essentially adopted a Keynesian approach: more immigration means more demand and thus economic growth.

This approach considers growth only in terms of a country’s GDP, ignoring the more important GDP per capita that shows the total value of all the goods and services produced in a year, divided by the number of people living there. In this way it ignores the importance of equality among all, immigrants and citizens alike.

Yet it’s been proven from prior recessions that recent immigrants suffer the most in a downturn and some remain impacted in the long term.

This is why an increase in migration at this time could likely contribute to an increase in inequality over time, given poorer economic integration for those arriving during this downturn. The Canadian government has yet to adjust its policy though to address these important issues.