Canada could see Hong Kong immigration bump after crackdown on protesters, experts say

Interesting. The first wave included many who were termed “astronauts,” given breadwinners who maintained their lucrative business activities in Hong Kong while their families settled in Vancouver.

Will be interesting to see if possible future waves repeat that pattern:

Vancouver resident Ivy Li knows what it’s like to flee political uncertainty. She left Hong Kong in 1982 as a university student.

“I knew Hong Kong would eventually be handed over to the (Chinese) regime,” she said. “My friends and I, we feared Hong Kong would be totally under the dictatorial rule.”

On June 4, 1989, Li was in Toronto when she saw the infamous tank scene unfold on TV, where a man stood in front of a line of tanks in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square after Chinese soldiers massacred hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters.

Li, now 63, watched in despair from her Vancouver home as police in Hong Kong shot rubber bullets and used tear gas against protesters who had amassed Wednesday to block a meeting on a proposed extradition bill that has become a lightning rod for concerns over greater Chinese control and erosion of civil liberties in the former British colony.

Hong Kong Police Commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung later said the “serious clashes” outside the government building forced police to use pepper spray, bean bag rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas.

At least 72 protesters were hospitalized and two are in serious condition, according to the Hong Kong Hospital Authority.

Some Hong Kong residents are now making arrangements to leave, saying the extradition law, if passed, would be the last straw in years of increasingly aggressive authoritarian moves from China. Members of the Hong Kong diaspora around the world and in Vancouver are watching as immigration lawyers prepare to help clients make the arrangements.

“The younger generation … and the people who decided to stay and are now fighting, they have my utmost admiration,” said Li.

Li and her family are among tens of thousands of immigrants from Hong Kong who left the city in the years surrounding what is known as the “handover” — when the United Kingdom gave control of Hong Kong back to China in 1997.

Under the “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement, Hong Kong was supposed to retain a high degree of autonomy, including an independent judiciary for 50 years until the year 2047.

The flow of migrants out of Hong Kong transformed Vancouver. Vancouverite and urban planner Andy Yan joked that Vancouver is like the 18th district of Hong Kong.

“Vancouver has a special relationship with Hong Kong,” he said.

There are 74,120 people in Metro Vancouver who were born in Hong Kong, according to 2016 census data.

Historically, most of the Chinese immigration to Vancouver came from the southern part of China, specifically from Hong Kong, said Yan. Cantonese, the dialect spoken by Hong Kongers, was the most commonly spoken Chinese language in Metro Vancouver homes until 2016 according to census data, said Yan. In 2016, Mandarin overtook Cantonese.

But at least one Vancouver immigration lawyer is expecting to see a bump in the number of people travelling from Hong Kong to Vancouver — in the way of international students.

There are more barriers to immigration in Canada now compared to the ’80s and ’90s, said Will Tao, which means many Hong Kong families may compromise and send their children to Canada to go to school, with plans to follow them afterwards if possible.

“I would assume more parents would want their children educated abroad, particularly pursuing North American education, possibly as a path of immigration.”

Immigration from Hong Kong has dropped off in the past two decades, but with growing uncertainty between the territory and China, Hong Kong residents may start looking at their options, he said.

Tao is already seeing an increasing number of inquiries from clients who once lived in Canada, either as children or as parents of children, then moved back to Hong Kong some time in the last two decades, and now want to return to Canada. This movement may not necessarily be captured by immigration numbers because many are already Canadian citizens.

“The political environment, the abundance of home-owning opportunities, or the well-being of their children and reuniting the family here, are all factors in that process,” he said.

Two weeks ago, Dominic Yeung, 30, sat at the dinner table with his family. They were discussing which country they could move to. The family has lived in Hong Kong all their lives.

“We were actively seeking, researching where we could go — where we could possibly afford to go,” said Yeung, a lawyer, in a phone interview from Hong Kong.

It was the first time the family had been serious about leaving their home.

Yeung recalls the Umbrella Movement in 2014, where protesters occupied the central business district in Hong Kong for months in a bid to bring universal suffrage to Hong Kong.

But even after the Chinese government refused to give in to those demands, Yeung and his family did not think to leave.

“It was nothing we had not dealt with before,” Yeung told Star Vancouver, referring to the lack of voting rights in Hong Kong under British rule.

“Liberty is still here. The rule of law is still here.”

But Yeung, like many others, now believes the extradition law amendment would allow China to implement a new rule of law, one that has little regard for human rights or fair trials.

“That is a different beast that we are dealing with,” he said.

“Make no mistake, if this passes, Hong Kong will be forever different. This is what this is about.”

Source: Canada could see Hong Kong immigration bump after crackdown on protesters, experts say

Fake online stories claim Trudeau begged foreign leaders ‘to send him a million immigrants’

Sigh….

Canada’s Prime Minister begs Nigeria President for one million immigrants,” reads the headline on an article published in April on the website CBTV.

The article claims that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had announced the creation of a new employment and migration program for immigrants.

But the program doesn’t exist. Trudeau never had any such discussions with the president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari.

The fabricated story has been shared about 2,600 times and drew negative reactions from the Yellow Vests Canada Facebook group, which is attached to the Canadian arm of the Yellow Vests, a mass movement of protests in France against taxation and high gas prices.

The article also circulated on social media, including WhatsApp groups in Nigeria. It’s impossible to determine how many times it was shared on WhatsApp because the messaging app is encrypted and the conversations aren’t public. But AFP Fact Check — a service of the international news wire service that debunks online hoaxes — and the High Commission of Canada to Nigeria both felt compelled to deny the story.

The High Commission of Canada in Nigeria had to debunk false news about immigration circulating there. This tweet uses a Nigerian expression, “Shine your eyes,” which means ‘be careful’ or ‘be vigilant’. (Twitter)

Nigeria isn’t the only country that’s been targeted by the fake story. Identical articles were published on the CBTV site mentioning the Philippines, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Pakistan, Ghana and Uganda. In each instance the story text is identical — only the name of the country and the head of state who supposedly spoke to Trudeau were changed.

This image shows how the same false immigration story was re-purposed to target multiple countries, including the Philippines, Liberia, Zimbabwe and Kenya. (Screengrabs from CBTV/Array by Radio-Canada)

Another site called City News — which imitates a local Canadian news site — also published several of these articles. The site seems to be managed by the same person or people who run CBTV; a Radio-Canada analysis determined both sites share the same Google Analytics ID.

Tactics to confuse readers

These sites use the same visual codes as news media and sometimes even publish real news on their sties. According to Herman Wasserman, a media studies professor at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, this serves to confuse the reader.

It’s a popular tactic with the people who run fake news sites. In 2017, Radio Canada discovered imposter websites that looked like Quebec media sites but were actually based in Ukraine, and those sites used the same tactic.

A spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) confirmed that the ministry is aware of the story.

“IRCC regularly surveys online disinformation. When false information is distributed, like in this case, we try to act quickly to provide the facts,” said Rémi Larivière. He said that the ministry published a tweet and posted on Facebook to counteract the story.

Where the one million figure originated

Even though the story is false, the one million immigrants figure does has some basis in reality. The federal government announced in 2017 that it wanted to welcome more immigrants over the next three years. The government planned to admit 310,000 immigrants in 2018, 330,000 in 2019 and 340,000 in 2020, for a total of 980,000 immigrants over three years.

That number includes the total number of immigrants Canada wanted to receive from all countries — not one country in particular.

Another false article on the CBTV website claimed that Trudeau “ordered “Parliament to approve visa-free entry” for visitors from certain foreign countries.

Another false story claimed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had ordered “Parliament” to approve visa-free entry for visitors from Fiji. The rest of the text of the article is similar to other false stories about Trudeau begging foreign leaders for immigrants. (Screengrab from CBTV)

Again, the site published the same article repeatedly, changing only the name of the country and the head of state. Fiji, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Gambia were all targeted by the false story. In Sri Lanka, the article was even translated into Tamil.

If you write stories about immigration, it’s something that lots of Africans think about: immigration, becoming more mobile, having a better life. So this type of story is immediately attractive.– Herman Wasserman, media studies professor, University of Cape Town

Herman Wasserman, a media studies professor at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, said it’s not surprising that Canada is the focus of articles that cater to an African audience, because many Africans aspire to immigrate here.

“If you write stories about immigration, it’s something that lots of Africans think about — immigration, becoming more mobile, having a better life. So this type of story is immediately attractive,” he said.

Wasserman said Canada also has a reputation of being more welcoming to immigrants than the United States, which makes these false stories more credible.

“Trudeau has a more positive and friendly image in the media than (U.S. President Donald) Trump. It’s well known that Trump is anti-immigration, that he wants to build a wall and that the United States is a hostile environment to foreigners,” he said.

Wasserman said he believes that false news stories about Canada are easier for a foreign audience to believe.

“Canada is less well-known,” he said. “In Africa there’s less news about Canada than about the United States.

“If you say that someone has died in Montreal or Toronto, it’s not easy (for a reader abroad) to verify. But if you say someone has died in New York, people will say, ‘If it’s true, it would be all over CNN and we would’ve heard about it, so it’s not true.'”

Who is behind the site?

It’s not possible to determine the identity of the person who runs CBTV and City News because both sites were registered anonymously. They were created several days apart in April this year, and almost immediately started publishing fake stories.

IRCC also doesn’t know the identity of the people who are spreading the fake stories, according to Larivière.

The purpose of the sites could be financial, because they contain ads. The platform that places the ads that appear on CBTV, MGID, didn’t respond to questions from Radio-Canada about whether the company was aware its ads fund sites that spread disinformation.

In 2017, Google announced it would ban fake news sites from its ad platform, Google AdSense. Since then, many false news sites have turned to other sources of revenue.

The strategy of creating repetitive fake articles targeting specific communities to attract clicks and and shares on social media isn’t new. In March of 2016, a site created hundreds of articles about celebrities moving to small towns across North America.

One of the stories, shared numerous times on Facebook in Quebec, said that actor Leonardo DiCaprio had bought a house in Baie-Saint-Paul, in the Charlevoix.

Source: Fake online stories claim Trudeau begged foreign leaders ‘to send him a million immigrants’

The rise of female Sharia judges in India

Of note:

Earlier this year, Maya Rachel McManus, a British Muslim, walked down the aisle in Kolkata on her wedding day and exchanged garlands with her partner in a traditional Hindu ceremony.

Later, her marriage was solemnised by female qazis, or judges, who govern Islamic law. 

“Maybe my multicultural wedding would have been frowned upon if the qazis were men,” McManus told Al Jazeera.

“The ones my husband and I had spoken to had problems with some of my basic rights; like keeping my maiden name and my British passport after marriage.”

She insisted that women perform her wedding rites.

“This was the first time one of our qazis solemnised a marriage,” said Noorjehan Safia Niwaz, cofounder of Bhartiya Mahila Muslim Andolan (BMMA), an organisation that launched in 2007 in India advocating for secular rights.

In 2016, BMMA began training Muslim women to become qazis, a role traditionally held by men.

To McManus, and many of India’s millions of Muslims, the recent rise of female qazis means fewer compromises and a chance at more justice for women.

“What is common between all versions of Sharia or Islamic law that is followed today is that it is extremely patriarchal,” said Niwaz, who is also a qazi.

“Women continue to suffer. They become victims of nikkah halala (a practise in Islam where a woman once divorced by her husband must consummate her marriage with another man if she wants to remarry her first husband), polygamous marriages and unilateral divorces.”

There are no teachings in either the Quran or the prophetic tradition that prohibits women from being qazis. Even the wife of the Prophet Muhammad, known as Sayyida Aisha, performed and solemnised the nikah of several people.

EBRAHIM MOOSA, PROFESSOR OF ISLAMIC STUDIES AT INDIANA’S UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME

To replace what Niwas describes as a “misogynistic syllabus” designed for male qazis, BMMA drafted its own curriculum in which women study the Quran from a feminist perspective and examine the Indian constitution so they can make decisions, keeping in mind the law of the land.

“The practice of female [qazis] is novel in India, but the idea is not novel,” says Ebrahim Moosa, a professor

of Islamic studies at Indiana’s University of Notre Dame. “Muslims in North India followed the Hanafi school of law for centuries that allows women to be judges.”

According to BMMA, which is funded by private donors and charities, there are 15 female qazis spread across India including West Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Orissa.

“We have over 150 cases in our centre alone,” said 47-year-old Hina Siddiqui, a qazi from Bandra, a western Mumbai suburb. “Though unlike male qazis, in each case we summon both the man and the woman involved. We don’t hear just one side of the story.”

Since triple talaq, or instant divorce, led by Muslim men was criminalised in India, carrying a possible jail sentence, Siddiqui and her colleagues have seen an increase in the number of distressed women in their offices.

“The men are now scared to give triple talaq,” said 60-year-old Zubeda Khatoon, another qazi in Bandra.

“So they abuse their wives both physically and emotionally, hoping that the woman will leave them instead. Another way this works in the man’s favour is that according to Sharia law if a woman asks for a divorce, her husband owes her no liabilities. “

This is where female qazis step in and attempt to ensure that women receive their legal rights during including receiving her mehr – a sum of money given to the bride on her wedding day, alimony and the belongings she contributed to the home after marriage.

For couples who wish to be married by a female qazi, there is a rigorous process. 

Through a period of one month, the judges verify the bride and groom’s details – including their identity, economic status, marital status and even their marzi, or personal reasons for wedlock. This is to reduce the rate of fraudulent marriages.

“They [the female qazis] explained the various aspects of the nikah [wedding] procedure to me. They were extremely helpful,” said McManus. “This kind of support was not forthcoming from the male qazis I had approached earlier.”

‘No such thing as women qazis’

But not everybody agrees that female qazis can better safeguard the interests of Muslim women.

“There is no such thing as women qazis in Islam. It is just a new-age thing,” Muslim leader Syed Moinuddin Ashraf, from Sunni Jama Mosque in Mumbai, told The Hindustan Times.

Moosa, the professor in Indiana, said while some schools of Islamic thought such as Shafiʿi, Ahl-e Hadis, and Salafi, prevent women from becoming qazis, it remains religiously permissible. 

“There are no teachings in either the Quran or the prophetic tradition that prohibits women from being qazis,” he said. “Even the wife of the Prophet Muhammad, known as Sayyida Aisha, performed and solemnised the nikah of several [people].”

In the two years that Siddiqui and Khatoon have been practising as qazis in Mumbai, they have presided over only one mutually consenting divorce. 

“In that case, we were able to get the woman two lakhs ($2,874) as maintenance from her husband,” said Khatoon. “But most people still prefer to have their divorce issued on the letterhead of male qazis.”

According to Niwaz, 30 more women eager to enrol in the second batch of qazi training by BMMA.

“Maya’s wedding [McManus’s] went through without any objections,” she says. “We haven’t had any fatwas issued for the work we [female qazis] are doing. We exist. That in itself is a positive thing.”

Source: The rise of female Sharia judges in India

Chris Selley: The debate over Quebec’s religious symbols bill nears its wretched end

Pointed commentary:

Better late than never, one supposes: Three days before Premier François Legault’s self-imposed deadline for passing Bill 21, which would prohibit certain civil servants from wearing religious symbols on the job, his government proposed an amendment that would actually define “religious symbol.” (It had hitherto argued none was necessary.) If the amendment is adopted, teachers, police officers, Crown prosecutors and others deemed to be in positions of authority would be forbidden to display any “clothing, symbol, jewellery, ornament, accessory or headgear that is worn in connection with a religious conviction or belief and can reasonably be considered as referring to a religious affiliation.”

Kudos to whichever reporter thought on Wednesday to ask whether wedding rings count. The question utterly stymied both Legault and his Diversity and Inclusiveness Minister — you read that correctly — Simon Jolin-Barrette, who’s in charge of this project. “The person who wears an object that for her constitutes a religious symbol, that constitutes a religious symbol,” Jolin-Barrette explained. “And the person who wears an object that in the eyes of a reasonable person represents a religious symbol, that constitutes a religious symbol.”

Many scoffed at the question. Reporters were just playing silly buggers, they said —  “f—ing the dog,” in Quebec parlance. The government quickly clarified that wedding rings would not be covered.

And indeed, there are many 100-per-cent non-religious wedding bands in the Quebec civil service. But many wedding rings are unambiguously religious symbols to the people wearing them. The standard Catholic marriage script suggests priests ask “the Lord (to) bless these rings” before giving them to the bride and groom. Each will ask the other to “receive this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Of course, who’s to know? The religious rings don’t glow a special colour. So long as devoutly religious police officers and public-school teachers do their jobs properly and professionally, without fear or favour, everything will be fine. Only that’s precisely what Bill 21’s opponents have been saying forever: A kippa or hijab is no evidence of a partial or biased civil servant, and the lack of a kippa or hijab is no evidence of an impartial or unbiased one. By definition, a law about religious symbols can’t do anything that’s not symbolic — only in this case, the symbolism involves trampling all over minority rights.

Legault has never shown any particular enthusiasm for this project; rather, he defends it on grounds that it has majority support and that it’s time to put the whole issue to bed. As Bill 21 nears passage, more and more voices have made it clear that won’t happen.

On Saturday Le Devoir ran a huge spread about how much religion is costing Quebecers in terms of tax breaks for churches and faith-based organizations. It gave ample voice to the view that faith itself, separated from the charitable works of faithful people, has no intrinsic value to society (or is even a net detriment). “It is difficult to understand how we can enshrine the secular status of the Québécois state in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, reaffirm the separation of the state and religion and the equality of all citizens, and give away hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue every year,” an editorial argued.

In fact it’s perfectly easy to understand: The government demonstrates its neutrality, and its respect for the equality of all citizens, by treating people the same way regardless of their private faith or lack thereof. If laïcité were incompatible with respecting religious faith and its contributions to society, it’s unlikely the French state would own and maintain so many churches.

Outright anti-religious sentiment is one thing Bill 21 won’t get rid of. It also won’t quiet people who think it should apply to daycare workers and teachers at state-subsidized religious schools — or indeed to the entire civil service, as was contemplated by Pauline Marois’ popular Values Charter. And Bill 21 certainly won’t dissuade bigots from taking out their inadequacies on Quebec’s minority populations. This week a Montreal woman who wears a niqab tracked down the driver of a bus that blew past her at a stop — deliberately, she alleges, based on anti-niqab sentiments the driver had previously expressed on Facebook. When the woman complained in the same medium, CBC reported, respondents included a Société de Transport de Montréal union rep who suggested “a normal Quebecer would have waited for the next bus.”

It’s one of many alarming incidents that Muslim Quebecers in particular insist have become more and more frequent as this interminable debate drags on. The government has proposed no solutions except to make the majority more comfortable — perhaps by banning women wearing niqabs from riding public buses. That particular question will have to wait for a while, tied up as it is in the courts. But Bill 21 will pass before MNAs break for the summer.

At least those affected will finally know where they stand (pending further restrictions). At least greener pastures await elsewhere in Canada if they decide, not unreasonably, that they are no long welcome.

Source: Chris Selley: The debate over Quebec’s religious symbols bill nears its wretched end

The case for having a federal evaluator general

While I respect the opinions of Steve Montague and Frank Graves, my experience has been that the OAG does go beyond financial accountability and departmental evaluations generally provided insights on outcomes.

Whether another agent of parliament would improve the situation is unclear to me, although I understand the need for longer-term analysis of program effectiveness and outcomes as well as cross-departmental analysis of program effectiveness:

A decade ago, a group of policy wonks obsessed with gathering hard evidence for decision-making began meeting regularly over beers in Ottawa. They put together a campaign for the creation of an independent evaluation watchdog to make sure taxpayers’ money is spent on federal programs that work.

The idea hasn’t quite gotten off the ground, but the group is more convinced than ever that Canada needs an evaluator general reporting to Parliament, making sure data, evidence and evaluation drive policy and funding decisions.

“We need someone to do the deeper dives and wade into and understand at a level of some depth what policies and programs work for whom, in what conditions and why,” said Steve Montague, a member of the advocacy group and an Ottawa-based management consultant.

“An evaluator-general could act as a check in an era when government doesn’t have enough independent analysis.”

Government evaluators do a systematic examination of a program’s design, its implementation and ultimate results to understand why it worked or not. They examine the context or events that triggered the program, such as a terrorist attack, opioid crisis, economic downturn or, at a local level, an increasing number of cyclists killed on a particular route. They look at the relevance or need for the program. Was it effective? Are recipients of program assistance and/or the broader community better off?

The Ottawa group proposing the creation of an evaluator general say this new agent of Parliament would be positioned between the auditor general and the parliamentary budget officer with the three of them providing independent “advice on the propriety of government spending, the credibility of government budgets and the likelihood that programs and policies will achieve desired objectives.”

The auditor general investigates whether programs are run in compliance with accounting rules. The evaluator-general would investigate whether programs are achieving the expected results.

Management consultant Michael Obrecht, considered an architect of the proposal, said the evaluator general would collect and synthesize evaluations, gathering studies from around the world to help improve decision-making and the determine the likelihood that programs and policies will achieve desired objectives.

The proposal calls for an office with a $2-million start-up budget and a team of experts in program evaluation that could do its own evaluations as well as assess the reliability and validity of data it gathers globally.

Four decades of evaluations

The government has had an evaluation function in departments for 40 years, but the scope of evaluations is typically narrow – often focused on a specific program rather than on the big policy issues that straddle various departments and other levels of government. Treasury Board has an online database of more than 1,600 evaluations conducted by various departments and agencies over the years.

The advocacy group, however, has long argued the evaluation function is not a priority for departments and has been underutilized for years. For parliamentarians, the reports are too narrow to help them wrestle with complex national and international issues that transcend a single department.

The evaluations have also been criticized as poor and questionable in their quality because departments are evaluating their own work and deputy ministers don’t want to receive bad news that they’ll have to share with the ministers.

“It would be a naive MP who took a departmental performance report or evaluation at face value,” the evaluator general group concluded in one of its papers.

Frank Graves, president of Ekos Research Associates, is a strong supporter of the group’s proposal and argues it’s more needed today than a decade ago, when he wrote a paper calling for an evaluator general “to champion and raise public consciousness about the importance of knowing what works and what doesn’t.”

“The capacity to assemble and interpret rigorous empirical evidence to test causal hypotheses about program effectiveness atrophied badly from the mid-’90s on,” Graves said.

“Despite a [Liberal] commitment to restoring evidence-based policy and decision-making there appears to be little progress to recovering that capacity in the federal public service.”

Are evaluations being marginalized?

New digital technologies that are changing the world at an unprecedented pace are ramping up the pressure on a risk-averse public service.

The Impact and Innovation Unit within the Privy Council Office has been examining new ways to improve the delivery of government programs and to ensure their efficacy. This new focus is partly in response to the unprecedented pace of technological change, which is putting pressure on normally risk-averse federal policy-makers to keep up with Canadians’ expectations. Public servants can no longer create and map out a new policy or program over five to 10 years and assess how well they work after that.

The unit recently released a “Guide to Impact Measurement, while its sister organization within PCO, the Results and Delivery Unit, was behind the controversial “deliverology” approach to achieving results on political promises and priorities.

The Impact and Innovation Unit is also overseeing a pilot project called the “Impact Genome,” which is using meta-analysis of research studies and predictive analytics to help develop the government’s Youth Employment Strategy.

But some in the evaluation field are worried that the government is marginalizing the traditional theory-based evaluations for which Canada is still seen as a world leader.

At the centre of these concerns is that a focus on results tends to prioritize short-term targets and on what can be measured simply and easily while missing out on the bigger picture. A similar concern was flagged in a recent report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on results-based management.

But Privy Council Office officials insists that high-quality evaluations are as important as ever, and are central to its guide to impact measurement. New measurement tools, however, enable policy-makers to gauge the likely success of a program before it is rolled out and to make tweaks and adjustments to it once implemented.

International interest in evaluations

Governments around the world are wrestling with how to determine what policies are achieving outcomes based on evidence rather than politics, ideology or gut feelings.

In fact, Obrecht said the advocacy group’s campaign for an evaluator general got new life when other countries recently called for creation of similar posts.

In Australia, the Labour Party supports the creation of an evaluator general office. The evaluator would be housed inside the Australian treasury to help assess what policy programs are working.

Last year, a parliamentary working group in France urged the creation of an autonomous Parliamentary Evaluation Agency in a bid to boost Parliament’s oversight and role in evaluating policies.

Still, it’s unclear how much appetite there is for another agent of Parliament in Canada. A recent report by Public Policy Forum on the nine existing parliamentary watchdogs concluded “fewer, stronger agents” would better serve Parliament. The report recommended a high bar for creating new agents and to consider consolidating the work of agents with similar mandates.

The group advocating for an evaluator-general agrees on the need for the job but the structure of the office has generated much debate.

Some argue that a full agent of Parliament position isn’t necessary, and the work could be done by a chief evaluation officer, similar to the chief science officer appointed by the Liberals. Others say the work could be handled by expanding the role of the auditor general or the comptroller general.

Obrecht argued an independent evaluator general is even more critical with so much more information and misinformation floating around.

“Decision-making seems to be contracted into sound bites, and the capacity to collect extensive information and digest it seem to have been weakened by instant access to easy answers.”

Source: The case for having a federal evaluator general

A growing source of Canadian asylum-seekers: US citizens whose parents were born elsewhere

Sean Rehaag, who has done some good work analyzing trends of decision making by IRB adjudicators, looks at the recent rise in the number of asylum seekers from the US:

Jokes about moving to Canada became common among progressives in the United States during Donald Trump’s presidential bid. When he won, a spike in U.S. citizens seeking information about how to relocate crashed Canada’s immigration website.

I’m a scholar of Canadian immigration law and will soon become the director of the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University in Toronto. My friends and colleagues in the United States, who still make those jokes, are often surprised when I fill them in on how U.S. immigration patterns in Canada have changed during the Trump administration.

Overall, the number of U.S. citizens who have immigrated to Canada for any reason rose from 7,522 in 2015 to 9,100 in 2017. In contrast with this modest 21% increase, the number of U.S. citizens applying for refugee protection during the same two years spiked by more than 1,000%. It grew from 69 in 2015 to as much as 869 in 2017.

The more than 1,500 U.S citizens who have sought a safe haven in Canada are mainly the children of people fearing deportation due to a change of their immigration status after spending years in the United States. Even with the recent increase, they still account for a small share of total applicants for refugee protection in Canada – only 1% in 2018, for example. Nonetheless, the dramatic growth in the number of refugee claims by U.S. citizens illustrates some of the differences between Canadian and U.S. immigration policies.

Long history

People from the U.S. have been seeking asylum in Canada since at least the 18th century.

Fearing mistreatment in the newly established United States, and drawn by offers of free land, as many as 100,000 British Loyalists fled to what is now Canada during and after the American Revolution.

Many enslaved people seeking liberty via the Underground Railroad, prior to the Civil War, headed to Canada. Around 20,000 to 40,000 made lives for themselves there.

In the 1960s and 1970s, some 100,000 young U.S. men, many with wives and children, came to Canada during the Vietnam War to avoid being drafted into military service – or in some cases after deserting. Canada enacted a law that let these “draft dodgers” immigrate with lawful status. Even though President Jimmy Carter issued a blanket pardon for them when he took office, about half remained in Canada.

More recently, dozens of U.S. soldiers who had voluntarily enlisted in the military and served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan sought asylum in Canada to avoid jail time when they deserted because they came to object to those wars. This time, the Canadian government denied most of their refugee claims, saying that they could have possibly qualified for conscientious objector status back home. However, the Canadian public expressed substantial support for these war resisters.

Change of status

The more recent wave of asylum applicants is related to changes in U.S. immigration policy.

Before Trump took office, the U.S. had granted hundreds of thousands of immigrants without papers from Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, El Salvador and other countries temporary protected status. These policies protected formerly undocumented immigrants from deportation and let them work legally.

The Trump administration has tried to end temporary protected status for eligible immigrants of many nationalities, despite evidence that many of their countries remained dangerous or their economies were still too unstable for them to return.

For example, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous agency of the Organization of American States, asserts that Nicaragua operates as “police state” with government-sponsored repression that is resulting in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that 62,000 Nicaraguans have fled to neighboring countries in the past year.

For now, the fate of about 300,000 of these immigrants from multiple countries awaits resolution in the courts.

A big share of the families with U.S. citizen-children seeking asylum in Canada today are immigrants from Haiti and other countries who fear losing their temporary protected status. Some people with this status from Nicaragua and Honduras have had it since 1999. Qualifying Sudanese immigrants have been shielded from deportation since 1997. The U.S. granted 59,000 Haitians temporary protected status in 2010, following a big earthquake.

Canada will probably deny the refugee claims of the U.S. citizen children because the system requires applicants to prove a well-founded fear of persecution in their country of origin. In this case, that would be the United States rather than, say, Haiti, Sudan or El Salvador.

But parents who obtain refugee protection in Canada will be able to obtain permanent residence for their children as well, putting them on the path to citizenship in Canada. Many likely will succeed with their claims. Canada approved about half of the refugee claims made in 2018after migrants crossed the U.S. border.

Indeed, some of the families with U.S. citizen children seeking asylum in Canada may figure that they are more likely to succeed in Canada than in the U.S. For example, Canadian refugee law is more permissive than U.S. asylum law for people fleeing gender-based violence or gang violence – both common types of claims for Central American asylum-seekers.

Different policies

Canadian and U.S. immigration policies have always been distinct but the contrast is becoming more stark.

Trump campaigned on an anti-immigrant agenda, while Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised voters he would increase the number of resettled Syrian refugees welcomed in Canada. On the same day that Trump first decreed a Muslim travel ban, Trudeau famously tweeted out his hospitality: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith.”

Under Trudeau’s leadership, the Canadian government has decided to boost the number of immigrants it grants permanent resident status yearly, from 286,000 in 2017 to 340,00 in 2020.

The U.S., with a population that is nearly nine times bigger than its northern neighbor, grants permanent resident status to 1.1 million newcomers. The Trump administration is trying to overhaul the nation’s immigration policy in ways that could cut that number considerably and it has slashed refugee admissions. In April 2019, Trump addressed the rising number of asylum-seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. “We can’t take you anymore,” he said. “Our country is full.”

As long as these sorts of divergences persist, I believe that immigrants who have been living in the United States for years, some with children who are U.S. citizens, will keep coming to Canada seeking asylum.

Source: A growing source of Canadian asylum-seekers: US citizens whose parents were born elsewhere

Australia: ‘You don’t belong here’: A Muslim MP on racism in politics

Of note:

It’s true what they say. Some Australians would rather have our prime minister than theirs. They looked across the Tasman after the March 15 terror attack in Christchurch and saw what Australian politician Mehreen Faruqi​ calls “authentic, compassionate leadership”.

Faruqi is a Green Party senator for New South Wales. In 2013, she became the first Muslim woman ever elected to an Australian parliament. When March 15 happened, shock and devastation were followed by mourning, because it all seemed very close to home. It could so easily have happened there. Faruqi remembers her first speech in the senate was about the normalisation and legitimisation of hate, and the people it was hurting.

“I felt it very close to my heart when Jacinda Ardern said, ‘You belong here’,” Faruqi says. “That’s what we were waiting to hear from many people. What we’ve always heard is, ‘You don’t belong here, get out of my country’.”

Born in Pakistan, Faruqi moved to Australia 27 years ago. It is home for her, she stresses. It is where she studied, where her children grew up. But she has seen the mood worsen since the early 1990s. Muslims became an obvious target after 2001, and Muslim women seem to bear a disproportionate amount of the abuse. It is a “toxic mix of sexism and racism” that manifests for Faruqi as online bullying and harassment, hate mail and abusive phone calls.

“I’ve had my face photoshopped onto Isis flags,” she wrote in the Guardian in February. “I’m now used to the tabloid media amplifying lies about me and other Muslims for clickbait.”

“It doesn’t matter what I say or do,” she says. “It could be something I’ve said in support of public education, women’s rights or animal welfare, but it always ends up being about my race or where I come from or what I look like. It seems that for some I’ll never be Australian enough.”

​Faruqi came to Christchurch to pay respects and show solidarity with those affected by the mosque attacks before heading to Auckland for a conference on racism on Friday, organised by Shakti Community Council. Other participants include Green MP Golriz Ghahraman​, whose experience of being targeted by online trolls “is very similar to mine and other women of colour in public life”.

Faruqi is looking forward to comparing notes with Ghahraman. As far as overcoming racism goes, she agrees that there is more Australia can learn from New Zealand than the reverse. A lack of diversity is a major problem in Australian politics.

“Our parliaments don’t actually look like our streets or suburbs. Politicians often highlight that we are one of the most multicultural countries in the world but our representation should be reflective of that multiculturalism.”

Another problem she notices is a lack of understanding of the diversity of Muslim communities. There is a lazy assumption that Islam is not compatible with the freedoms of liberal democracy. It is the clash of civilisations theory – see all the Right-wing agitators warning about Sharia law.

“As a Muslim, I grew up with strong values of social justice, kindness, compassion and equality for all,” she says. “Those values brought me into politics and a party like the Greens. I’ve never been shy as a Muslim of talking about rights for LGBTQI people. I brought the first bill in the history of New South Wales to decriminalise abortion.

“There is a very negative stereotype of what Muslims are and what they look like. Often we are presented as ‘the Muslim community’, like a monolith. We are as wild and wonderful as any other community.”

Source: ‘You don’t belong here’: A Muslim MP on racism in politics

Award-winning professor Salim Mansur disqualified from seeking Conservative nomination

A sign of who the vetting process of the CPC is catching (the right wing press, Rebel, Clarion, True North have been critical of this decision, will be interesting to see if Mansur is picked up by the PPC):

Professor, author and columnist Salim Mansur has been disqualified from seeking the Conservative nomination.

Mansur, a recently retired Western University professor, announced his candidacy last September in his home riding, London North Centre.

Despite being told by the Conservative Party of Canada’s regional organizer last November that he was allowed to launch his campaign and begin campaigning, Mansur received notice from the party’s executive director Monday morning that his nomination candidacy was “disallowed.”

“The (National Candidate Selection Committee of the Conservative Party of Canada) has disallowed your candidacy as a candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada,” said an email from Dustin Van Vugt.

No reason was provided in the email, but Mansur told me in a brief interview that Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s campaign manager, Hamish Marshall, advised him last week of the party’s concerns with Mansur’s past writing and public speaking on Islamism and the politics of radical Muslims, which Marshall said will likely be portrayed by Liberals and others as Islamophobic, and become disruptive to the party’s national campaign.

It’s Mansur’s academic career that has held him in such high esteem by the Conservatives in the past, however. Mansur has testified before parliament on numerous occasions at the invitation of the Conservatives. In 2017, he was awarded the Canadian Senate’s 150th Anniversary Medal for his work promoting interfaith understanding, presented by Conservative senator Linda Frum.

Mansur, a devout Muslim, has been a stalwart opponent of radical Islamism and the groups advancing it within Canada. He’s chronicled this fight as a Muslim and as an academic in his bestselling book Islam’s Predicament: Perspectives of a dissident Muslim.

The retired professor said in an open letter on his website that his mission is to “elect a Conservative government in Ottawa with Andrew Scheer as our next Prime Minister.” On his platform page, Mansur cites economic growth, strengthening Canada’s security, and vigorously protecting individual freedoms as his priorities.

In the interests of disclosure, I have introduced Mansur to a number of political activists in London as a personal favour, and have served as a sounding board for some ideas he had about his campaign. I have received no compensation for these or any other efforts related to his candidacy.

Source: READ MORE

Bob Hawke: Why Chinese Australians are mourning a ‘tender-hearted’ PM

Moment in history, important to remember in the current context of China’s behaviour domestically and internationally and how politicians choose to act. If any reader has a Canadian angle to share, that would be welcome as I didn’t recall seeing a comparable piece during the coverage of the Tienanmen “anniversary”:

On Friday, Australians will honour beloved former leader Bob Hawke in a memorial service at the Sydney Opera House. Among them will be many Chinese Australians – including my parents – whose lives changed forever when Mr Hawke offered them asylum after the Tiananmen Square massacre.

In June 1989, Chinese troops used guns and tanks to suppress protesters calling for democracy in Beijing, killing an unknown number of people.

Half a world away in Australia, my father Cong Hui Mao watched in horror as the crackdown unfolded on his television set.

He had recently moved from China to Sydney, aged 30, on a one-year student visa. In Australia he found a vast nation with the kind of political freedoms that protesters in China had been calling for. The Tiananmen demonstrations had given him hope, and for weeks he closely followed the “promising flickers” of a new China.

“It was an exciting time – we felt that we were at a crossroads where we could bring up new ideas,” he says.

“So when Tiananmen happened, it was like a great fire had been quashed.”

In the days following, he joined crowds of Chinese students in Sydney who poured on to the streets to march for their peers at home. “We were grieving but also angry,” he says. “So angry at our government who had attacked its own people.”

The images from Beijing horrified the world, including then-Prime Minister Bob Hawke. At a national vigil in Canberra, he cried openly while reading out graphic details from a diplomatic cable: “When all those who had not managed to get away were either dead or wounded, foot soldiers went through the square, bayonetting or shooting anybody who was still alive.

“Tanks then ran backwards and forwards over the bodies of the slain, until they were reduced to pulp.”

Immediately afterwards, Mr Hawke granted visa extensions to all Chinese students in Australia.

Mr Hawke later confirmed that he did not consult his cabinet before announcing the decision. He told The Guardian in 2015: “I have a deep love for the Chinese people… when I walked off the dais I was told: ‘You cannot do that, prime minister.’ I said to them: ‘I just did. It is done.'”

‘Everyone felt grateful’

Ultimately, about 42,000 Chinese people took up the offer and forged new lives in Australia. They were given working rights and social support, and later their temporary visas were made permanent.

“Everyone felt so grateful to Hawke for his decision to allow us to stay,” says my father, who met Mr Hawke on numerous occasions at Chinese community functions held in the politician’s honour. “If he hadn’t said that, many of us would have returned to China where we feared it was unsafe, and where we feared China would go backwards.”

My mother, Ying Zhu Wang, flew to Australia in 1990 on a student visa. In Sydney, my parents met and married, set up a home and had their first two children. They didn’t return to visit China until five years after the massacre.

When Mr Hawke died on 15 May, my parents – like many Chinese Australians – contacted their friends and reminisced. Many will join other Australians at Friday’s state memorial service.

There is also much gratitude towards Mr Hawke for his attitude towards China after the Tiananmen Square protests. “He had good relations with China and its development. He understood us,” my mother says.

Jia Lu, a Chinese interpreter and researcher at the University of New South Wales, agrees: “Of course, we are thankful to him for his action after Tiananmen and the visas that allowed us to bring our families over. But people forget too that he was an Australian politician – a rare politician who kept a positive view of China’s development.”

She estimates that he attended more than 100 events held by community groups over the years.

“He was a real friend to the Chinese. For me and so many of my friends, we will really miss him.”

Transforming Australia

Mr Hawke felt the disappointment of Tiananmen deeply because he had been engaging directly with a newly West-looking China, says historian Prof Frank Bongiorno of the Australian National University.

“It’s almost beyond inconceivable today for a prime minister to make a unilateral and radical decision like Hawke did,” he says. “And he wanted to show Australia as a generous and compassionate society.”

The decision drew resistance from some officials and ministers who feared it could overwhelm Australia’s migration programme, or lead to resentment among other communities.

But it ended up “transforming the face of Australian multiculturalism”, says Dr Christina Ho, a migration expert at the University of Technology.

“They were a particular group – young, students who then went on to be educated, professional people who have made a huge contribution to Australian society.”

Not that it was an easy integration. During the 1980s and 1990s, there was ongoing political debate about the rate of Asian immigration and social cohesion. Many migrants were highly educated but had a poor grasp of English and struggled to find well-paying jobs, says Prof Ho.

“A lot of de-skilling happened in that generation,” she says. “But still, they worked hard, integrated into Australian society and raised their own families. Now they’re part of the vibrant multicultural society that is Australia today.”

This diaspora also became a cultural asset as Australia expanded its trade relationship with China in the 1990s, says Prof Bongiorno.

“You had a significant group of Chinese Australians who were a real resource,” he says. “They had the linguistic skills and native sense of the cultural dynamism of Chinese society.”

He cites the post-Tiananmen Square intake and Vietnamese migration in the 1970s as two critical points in steering Australia more towards Asia as a society.

Those Chinese students provided support for the next stream of Chinese migrants – largely middle class and from the mainland – who have moved to Australia in the past decade. Asia now accounts for more than half of Australia’s migration intake.

“Back in 1989, after Tiananmen, we were all scared – China was a closed door,” says my father.

“Bob Hawke – he showed kindness to us students. He gave us opportunity. Although he’s died, we still think of him in our hearts and remember him.”

Source: Bob Hawke: Why Chinese Australians are mourning a ‘tender-hearted’ PM

Saint-Léonard: un ex-député libéral outré par la candidature d’un non-Italien

More on Saint-Léonard-Saint-Michel which some in the Italian Canadian believe should “belong to them” despite demographic changes:

« Libéral ou Italien ? » C’est la question-choc posée par l’ex-député libéral fédéral de Saint-Léonard-Saint-Michel, Nicola Di Iorio, qui s’insurge contre l’élection d’un candidat non italien à l’assemblée d’investiture. Une première en près de 50 ans.

Le député démissionnaire, qui ne sera pas candidat aux prochaines élections, demande à Justin Trudeau, dans un texte paru dans un journal local de langue italienne, d’annuler le résultat du vote à l’investiture du 27 mai.

C’est Hassan Guillet, ancien imam révélé au grand public par son discours après le drame de la mosquée de Québec, qui a été choisi par les membres comme candidat du Parti libéral du Canada.

« La communauté se sent tassée », déplore M. Di Iorio, dont le siège à la Chambre des communes est vacant depuis sa démission en janvier dernier. En entrevue à La Presse, l’ex-député se confie sur la course à l’investiture, qu’il qualifie de « chaotique ».

Sans parler d’irrégularités, M. Di Iorio se plaint notamment d’une salle trop petite et d’une file d’attente trop longue, ce qui aurait, selon lui, défavorisé les électeurs italiens, en moyenne beaucoup plus âgés. Autour de 600 personnes n’auraient pas pu voter et seraient reparties bredouilles, dénonce-t-il.

« Si on est pour faire des investitures, qu’on en fasse des vraies », a-t-il dit durant l’entrevue, visiblement irrité.

Les libéraux affirment que tout s’est déroulé dans les règles de l’art.

« Le processus d’investiture a été mené en totale conformité avec nos règles nationales de sélection des candidats. »

– William Harvey-Blouin, stratège du Parti libéral, dans un courriel

Une deuxième course à l’investiture n’est pas envisagée. Personne ne semble y croire, pas même M. Di Iorio : « Est-ce que je pense que mon parti va faire ça ? Est-ce que je pense que mon chef va faire ça ? J’ai appris à être réaliste dans la vie. »

La réplique d’Hassan Guillet

« C’est de la foutaise », a affirmé d’entrée de jeu Hassan Guillet à propos de la requête de M. Di Iorio. « Il peut dire ce qu’il veut, mais il n’y a aucune raison pour faire une autre course à l’investiture simplement parce qu’il en demande une. »

M. Guillet souligne ses « bons rapports » avec la communauté italienne et rappelle qu’il a commencé son discours de victoire dans la langue de Dante. M. Di Iorio tempère. « Hassan ne s’est jamais manifesté auprès de la communauté italienne de sa vie », soutient-il.

« Je trouve que c’est un faux débat, signale M. Guillet. [M. Di Iorio] avait juste à mobiliser plus de monde, à obtenir la confiance des gens et la confiance du parti. Maintenant, les gens ont choisi. Je ne sais pas pourquoi on s’éternise sur ce débat-là. »

La circonscription Saint-Léonard-Saint-Michel est depuis belle lurette un château fort libéral grâce à une loyauté indéfectible de la population d’origine italienne qui s’y est installée et y a pris racine.

Le président du Congrès national des Italo-Canadiens, Antonio Sciascia, est clair.

« C’est un désastre. Ça nous met en tabarouette, en bon québécois. On a commis une grande bêtise. »

– Antonio Sciascia en entrevue avec La Presse

Comme d’autres au sein de la communauté, il préfère imputer la faute à la division du vote italien. Deux candidats d’origine italienne se sont présentés, ce qui a laissé la voie libre à M. Guillet. Francesco Cavaleri, le dauphin de M. Di Iorio, est arrivé troisième. « Je pense qu’il [M. Di Iorio] doit prendre une partie de la responsabilité de ce qui s’est passé à Saint-Léonard », a dit M. Sciascia.

Ce nouveau contexte causera-t-il un réalignement des allégeances politiques dans la circonscription ? S’il est trop tôt pour le dire, selon M. Sciascia, un grand nombre de « mécontents » pourraient retourner leur veste. Pour la première fois, un non-Italien au Parti libéral devra affronter un candidat conservateur italo-québécois connu, l’avocat Ilario Maiolo.

Alors, libéraux ou Italiens ? « Jusqu’à maintenant, libéral et Italien ont toujours été synonymes », a répondu M. Sciascia, sans toutefois se prononcer sur l’avenir.

Qui est Nicola Di Iorio ?

Nicola Di Iorio s’est fait connaître après avoir lancé Cool Taxi, une OBNL qui lutte contre l’alcool au volant. L’avocat spécialisé en droit du travail s’est présenté aux élections fédérales de 2015 pour le Parti libéral du Canada dans Saint-Léonard-Saint-Michel. Son passage en politique a été marqué par de longues périodes d’absence. M. Di Iorio avait annoncé sa démission en avril 2018 pour des « raisons personnelles », mais il s’était ravisé quelques mois plus tard. Alors qu’il était toujours député, il s’est associé au cabinet d’avocats BCF. M. Di Iorio prétendait qu’il avait été libéré par le premier ministre pour travailler sur une « mission secrète », qui reste secrète à ce jour. Il a finalement annoncé sa démission le 29 janvier, après avoir remis 100 000 $ à un organisme non identifié. En entrevue avec La Presse, M. Di Iorio est demeuré évasif sur ce mystérieux revirement de situation.

Qui étaient les candidats à l’investiture ? 

Le vote à l’investiture de Saint-Léonard-Saint-Michel pour le Parti libéral s’est tenu le 27 mai à la salle de réception Le Rizz, à Saint-Léonard. Trois candidats étaient sur la ligne de départ : Patricia R. Lattanzio, conseillère de la ville pour Ensemble Montréal à Saint-Léonard ; Francesco Cavaleri, avocat chez Cavaleri Donatelli, un bureau situé à Saint-Léonard ; et Hassan Guillet, ingénieur et avocat qui a fait carrière chez Bombardier avant de devenir imam. Selon les règles du parti, une course à trois requiert un vote à deux tours où les électeurs doivent choisir les candidats par ordre de préférence. M. Cavaleri a été exclu au premier tour avec seulement 275 voix, contre 588 pour M. Guillet et 474 pour Mme Lattanzio. C’est finalement Hassan Guillet qui l’a emporté au deuxième tour.

Source: Saint-Léonard: un ex-député libéral outré par la candidature d’un non-Italien