Canada’s Growing Problem with Trust in Government

Almost a rant, but legitimately so (passports backlogs have largely been addressed, with Service Canada issuing more passports than applications September-November):

The strength of liberal democracies like Canada’s is often measured in terms of social cohesion. It’s the glue that holds society together — the common values and goals shared by citizens that inspire trust in each other and in our country’s institutions.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defines a society as cohesive if “it works towards the well-being of all its members, fights exclusion and marginalization, creates a sense of belonging, promotes trust, and offers its members the opportunity of upward social mobility.”

Social cohesion is much more than “campfires and kumbaya.” Cohesive countries are politically stable, their citizens respect laws and they have robust institutions that reflect competence and trusted governance. As Donald Savoie, the Canadian public services guru, wrote in the Globe and Mail last summer, “The rule of law, sustained economic development, the ability to pursue the national interest, and the need to deal with society’s wicked problems require these institutions to function well.”

Governments are judged by what they do, but it’s useful to distinguish between the normal back and forth of politics, and the specific actions of governments that truly build or diminish social cohesion. Political partisanship is largely irrelevant to trust in government and is regularly discounted by citizens; it’s the policies and programs and how they are implemented that are more likely to impact how we feel about the quality of public governance. In addition, the loud political disagreements of the day often obscure the ultimate impacts of public policy issues on social cohesion.

In the mid-1960s, successive minority governments and the bitter partisan battles between Liberal Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and Opposition Leader John Diefenbaker dominated the political headlines. But despite the day-to-day rancour, those P parliaments also put in the place the basic architecture of this country’s modern welfare state – medicare, the Québec and Canada Pension Plans, the Canada Assistance Plan and national student loans – vital public services that over time became highly prized by citizens. It was only with the perspective of history that Canadians saw how they performed and realized their value.

Canada has traditionally been a “peaceable kingdom,” enjoying traditionally high levels of social cohesion on many fronts. Our political institutions are stable and accessible. Public and charitable programs to help the disadvantaged are relatively strong. We value our health care system as a right of citizenship. Collectively we are a welcoming people and understand that our low birth rate means that we need immigrants if we are to keep economic growth and prosperity rolling.

But only six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, polls began to chart the erosion of social cohesion in Canada and around the world. In October 2020, IPSOS found that “more Canadians have “weak” (30 percent) than “solid” (26 percent) social cohesion.” By March of this year, IPSOS reported that Canadians’ “trust in government to do what is right” had dropped from 58% in late 2020 to 43%. Equally troubling, the survey found that “In Canada, only 33 percent  of citizens believe that most people can be trusted, against 67 percent who believe that you can’t be too careful dealing with people.” Similarly troubling are reports from news organizations that their own research shows a decline in trust in the work that they do.

More recently, there is evidence of additional damage to social cohesion resulting from perceptions of how our federal system works. The Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP) published a “Resentment Index,” indicating that “Canadians in every province are resentful about their province’s place in the federation.” While feelings of resentment are strongest in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador:

  • “On average residents of all provinces think the region where they live contributes more than its fair share.”
  • In the Prairie provinces, “the sense that they contribute more than their fair share is combined with the view that Quebec contributes less.”
  • The practice of asymmetrical federalism (the practice by which national arrangements apply differently to Québec) is seen in the rest of the country as a special benefit for that province.

The authors conclude that alienation is rooted in zero-sum perceptions about how the country works: resentment of Québec is the elephant in the room that needs to be addressed.

There’s no doubt the pandemic stressed Canadians as no other recent event has done. To lead the fight against COVID-19, governments intervened  in people’s personal lives as never before with lockdowns, vaccine mandates and school closures, and for some, this stirred feelings of fear and anger. The resulting bonfire of grievances let loose some nasty demons that are likely to be with us for a long time: many politicians and public officials at all levels still experience personal insults and public threats just for doing their jobs. And the pandemic also highlighted failures in state capacity at all levels and a startling lack of competence that is diminishing trust in government on several fronts.

Nowhere are these failures as stark as in health care. COVID-19 placed intolerable strains on the system, and it is still struggling to address huge surgery backlogs and deliver basic services. Nationally, the pediatric care system is overwhelmed, with some children’s hospitals operating at 180 percent of capacity. Provinces have major problems keeping and finding doctors and nurses, but Canada is the only developed country without a national health care human resources strategy. More than six million Canadians do not have a family doctor. My wife and I have personal knowledge of this problem – we are among that number.

These challenges are a wake-up call for those of us who thought Canada was on the right track on health care. In 2020, Canada spent 12.2 percent of its GDP on health, more than any other countries in the OECD except the US, Germany and the Netherlands. But what do we get for all that money? Not nearly enough. In 2021, a multi-nation study by the Commonwealth Fund found that Canada placed 10th among 11 high income countries in terms of access to health care and its quality, the administrative efficiency of the system, equity and health care outcomes. Only the US fared worse in the performance rankings.

While Canadian health care is on the verge of collapse and crying out for reform and innovation, the federal and provincial governments are locked in a squabble over transfer payments and control over an increasingly failing system. The provinces want money for health care with no strings attached while the federal government wants assurances that its additional dollars will buy much-needed reforms.

While the stand-off continues, due to higher energy prices, a more buoyant economy and inflation, the federal government and most provinces are awash in cash, and several are eying budgetary surpluses in the near term. While a few provinces are investing to fix health care, others have spent billions in taxpayer kickbacks such as cancelled taxes on gasoline, abolition of auto licence fees, or simply to create a rosy glow among voters before their next election. It’s both sad and ironic that health care, which has done so much to build social cohesion, is now diminishing trust in governments’ capacity to deliver the country’s most treasured public program.

What’s happening in health care is closely matched by what’s been revealed at the recent public hearings of the Public Order Emergency Commission on the invoking of the Emergencies Act. It’s been a master class in provincial/municipal dysfunction in crisis management and policing. The disclosure that members of the Ottawa police, the OPP and the RCMP were leaking policing plans to the demonstrators, and to the far right-group Diagolon, is particularly chilling. If the police lack the leadership, capacity and will to uphold the rule of law, it’s no wonder that public trust in institutions is plummeting.

Meanwhile, Canadians continue to face other reminders of diminished institutional capacity and performance. Waiting for passports is still an eight-to nine-month challenge, long after the federal government promised it was on the way to be fixed. This fall, thousands of international students coming to Canadian universities and colleges met weeks of delays in receiving their study permits, as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) struggled with a backlog of 1.5 million applications for study permits and other temporary resident visas, further diminishing Canada’s reputation for simple competence in providing necessary services.

For immigration generally, as of October 31, IRCC had roughly 2.2 million applications in its inventory, with around 1.2 million in backlog, meaning that they exceed the department’s service standards. As the Globe and Mail recently reported, these processing delays have caused a surge in mandamus applications, a legal procedure aimed at achieving a court order that tells the department to do its job. Eight hundred such applications were filed in federal court last year and another 709 so far this year; and 333 came from people in the economic streams of immigration, the very people Canada needs most. These delays are just another example of high-sounding policy promises made by government being sandbagged by a failure to deliver. It seems the government’s earlier focus on “deliverology” has been forgotten.

Another spectacular policy and implementation failure is the federal protection program for air travellers seeking compensation for travel delays. The Airline Passenger Protection Regulations spell out the conditions under which air carriers must compensate passengers who have experienced cancellations or delays, including arranging alternate flights, providing refunds or paying compensation.

The large airline carriers have been playing fast and loose with these requirements for as long as they have existed. They regularly deny compensation by claiming that crew shortages caused the delay or cancellation, but the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTC), the complaints adjudication body for the regulations, says “Crew shortages are within the airline’s control, unless the airline could not have prevented the flight disruption despite proper planning.”

In the 2021-22 fiscal year, the CTC received 28,673 complaints, up from 26,742 a year earlier. By the end of this November, the agency had received another 19,000 complaints since April. The backlog of complaints now totals a stunning 30,000, meaning the CTC is yet another federal agency overwhelmed in doing its job. It’s difficult to imagine a government that doesn’t recognize that with over 47,000 citizen complaints over two years a system is not working and take steps to fix it. Insult is added to injury when the complaints systems for failing programs are themselves swamped by public demand and do not perform with speed and efficiency.

The ubiquity and reach of social media have raised the stakes for governments at all levels to deliver public programs on which millions of people depend competently and effectively. When public-facing services fail or triumph, the performance of governments is available for all to see. With faults and failures instantly apparent, the resulting anger of citizens is amplified by social media and seen by millions in the global commons. The result is a destructive cycle of disappointment, leading to grievance and anger, and further distrust of government institutions. The message that “everything seems broken in Canada” is gaining in resonance.

Governments at all levels face peril if they ignore their responsibility for delivering necessary services smartly, effectively and on time. Canada’s social cohesion, along with the public’s trust in our institutions of governance, are at stake.

Contributing Writer Geoff Norquay was Senior Adviser on Social Policy to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and later served as Director of Communications in the Opposition Leader’s Office under Stephen Harper.  He is a Principal of Earnscliffe Strategies in Ottawa.

Source: Canada’s Growing Problem with Trust in Government

USA: Asylum rates drop as immigration cases are fast-tracked, research finds

Balance between speed/efficiency and fairness, there are trade-offs:

Fast-tracked immigration cases appear to be hurting migrants’ chances of being granted asylum, researchers are finding.

“The big takeaway message is that the Biden administration really is trying to speed up cases but data shows when you speed up cases they lose,” Syracuse University professor and researcher Austin Kocher told Border Report as he toured the South Texas border on Wednesday.

Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, orTRAC, one of the nation’s leading researchers on immigration court cases, on Tuesday released a study that found that since July, asylum grant rates have fallen and it “coincides with the extremely rapid increase in expedited cases.”

Although Fiscal Year 2022 had the largest number of individuals granted asylum of any year in immigration court history, in digging into the data, researchers found that the quicker the cases went through the courts, the lower the asylum seekers’ chances.

TRAC found that when asylum cases were completed within three to 18 months, only 31% of cases were granted asylum.

“More asylum cases were granted last year than any other year but the grant rate is actually going down in recent months,” Kocher said.

(TRAC Graphic)

Border Report met up with Kocher on Wednesday as he was on day 5 of his visit to South Texas as part of a seven-week research tour of the entire Southwest border.

He said immigration cases require collecting massive amounts of evidence and documents, and TRAC data has found that migrants who retain lawyers have a higher chance of being granted asylum. He said the rushed cases could be limiting and preventing asylum-seekers from gathering all the data they need to present full cases to the judges, and it could be preventing them from getting legal counsel altogether.

“We definitely know that the Biden administration has tried to accelerate these cases to try to clear out the backlog,” Kocher said. “They really are taking the backlog seriously and they really do want asylum cases to get decided more quickly but the problem is, as the data shows, that if you really speed cases up individuals don’t always have time to get attorneys and they don’t always have time to gather the full application materials that are necessary.”

Kocher crossed into Reynosa, Mexico, early Wednesday, and said he spoke with several migrants there who expressed their lack of resources and lack of legal aid as they wait across the border due to Title 42 restrictions.

Source: Asylum rates drop as immigration cases are fast-tracked, research finds

Dutrisac: La loi 96 ne suffira  pas [#cdnimm aspects]

Yet more, highlight temporary foreign workers and that about half are working in English:

Dans son discours d’ouverture de la 43e législature à l’Assemblée nationale, le premier ministre François Legault a reconnu que l’application des dispositions de la loi 96 sur la langue commune, adoptée en mai dernier, ne suffira pas à stopper le déclin du français. « On ne doit pas en rester là », a-t-il dit.

À juste titre, François Legault estime qu’il « est impératif de mettre fin à ce déclin et de renverser la tendance ». Il y voit son « premier devoir » comme premier ministre du seul État à majorité francophone en Amérique du Nord. Ce déclin est en effet « existentiel », comme il l’a affirmé, dans le sens qu’il détermine l’existence même de la nation québécoise.

Le premier ministre a mandaté le titulaire du nouveau ministère de la Langue française, Jean-François Roberge, pour concevoir un « tableau de bord » affichant des indicateurs et des projections mis à jour tous les ans sur l’état de la situation linguistique au lieu de s’en tenir aux données quinquennales produites par Statistique Canada. Les mesures seront ainsi ajustées afin de « remettre le Québec sur la trajectoire d’une relance du français ». Mais ça reste du domaine de l’intention.

Devant les refus répétés de Justin Trudeau, François Legault n’a pas tout à fait renoncé à obtenir davantage de pouvoirs en immigration de la part d’Ottawa. Mais, il semble évident que ses attentes sont aujourd’hui réduites. Avant la campagne électorale, le premier ministre se faisait fort d’obtenir d’Ottawa un transfert de pouvoirs en immigration pour éviter la « louisianisation » du Québec. Aujourd’hui, il demande à Jean-François Roberge, qui est aussi le ministre responsable des Relations canadiennes, d’élaborer, avec la ministre de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration, Christine Fréchette, « une base de négociation précise » afin d’entamer des discussions avec le gouvernement fédéral sur les enjeux de la langue et de l’immigration.

Avant de réclamer davantage de pouvoirs au gouvernement fédéral en matière d’immigration, encore faut-il utiliser pleinement ceux que Québec possède déjà. On parle beaucoup du seuil de 50 000 immigrants admis annuellement, c’est-à-dire le nombre de nouveaux arrivants, souvent déjà présents sur le territoire, qui obtiennent leur résidence permanente. Mais on oublie l’immigration temporaire, que ce soit les travailleurs et les étudiants. Par exemple, plus de 60 000 travailleurs étrangers sont présents au Québec en vertu du Programme de mobilité internationale administré par le gouvernement fédéral. Selon une évaluation du ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration, environ la moitié de ces travailleurs étrangers travaillent en anglais. On compte également plus de 90 000 étudiants étrangers dans nos cégeps et universités, dont 45 % fréquentent des établissements de langue anglaise. Il est temps que le gouvernement québécois exerce pleinement ses prérogatives en vertu de l’Entente Québec-Ottawa sur l’immigration.

C’est un début : le gouvernement Legault entend s’impliquer dans la sélection des immigrants temporaires qui, par la suite, sont admis de façon permanente. Il souhaite attirer davantage d’étudiants étrangers au Québec pour qu’ils décrochent un diplôme de cégep ou d’une de nos universités de langue française. Pour y arriver, il devra convaincre les autorités fédérales de cesser leurs pratiques discriminatoires qui empêchent des étudiants africains francophones, admis dans nos établissements d’enseignement supérieur, d’entrer au Québec.

Dans son discours, François Legault a aussi abordé la question des demandeurs d’asile qui entrent par le chemin Roxham. On en attend 50 000 d’ici la fin de l’année. Les services publics et les organismes communautaires sont submergés, tandis que les autorités fédérales prennent plus de deux ans pour traiter ces demandes irrégulières, sans parler des procédures d’appel. Le Québec est prêt à faire sa part, a dit le premier ministre. Mais il faut lui donner raison d’exiger qu’Ottawa mette fin à une situation qui ne peut durer éternellement. À voir le gouvernement Trudeau octroyer des contrats à des amis libéraux pour construire des résidences sommaires afin d’accueillir les demandeurs d’asile, on doit douter de son empressement.

On ne peut que constater « la forte attractivité de l’anglais », comme l’a rappelé le premier ministre, ce qui complique l’intégration en français des immigrants. En ce sens, le gouvernement Trudeau devrait s’engager à cesser de nuire. Ce serait la moindre des choses.

Source: La loi 96 ne suffira  pas

David: Au-delà du discours

Quebec commentary on PM Legault’s inaugural speech and focus on language and immigration (language worries based on mother tongue rather than more important language of work). And the realists in cabinet recognize that 100 percent francophone immigration will exclude some needed expertise and talent;

En 2018, le succès de Québec solidaire durant la campagne électorale avait fait soudainement découvrir à François Legault l’urgence de s’attaquer aux changements climatiques. Cette fois-ci, on a l’impression que le discours du Parti québécois sur le recul du français a provoqué le même genre d’illumination.

Le discours inaugural est rarement très excitant, à plus forte raison quand un gouvernement est reconduit dans ses fonctions après avoir fait campagne sur la continuité. Et à force de multiplier les priorités, on finit par donner l’impression de ne pas en avoir.

Le premier ministre a néanmoins senti la nécessité d’un rattrapage sur la question linguistique. D’entrée de jeu, il a évoqué le « destin improbable » des compagnons de Champlain, débarqués en terre d’Amérique il y a plus de quatre siècles, qui avaient « réussi à tenir », ce qui a imposé à leurs descendants l’obligation de continuer.

Son « premier devoir », a-t-il dit, est d’enrayer le déclin du français et même d’inverser la tendance. Il a reconnu du même coup que ce qui a été fait durant son premier mandat demeurait insuffisant, même s’il faut du temps avant que la loi 96 produise son plein effet.

Le ministre de la Langue française, Jean-François Roberge, avait mis la table 24 heures plus tôt. « Il va vraiment falloir que les Québécois comprennent qu’en ce moment, on ne marche pas, on court vers le mur ! On a un vrai problème. Le recul du français est plus important dans les 20 dernières années que dans le siècle précédent », avait-il déclaré.

Il n’y aura cependant pas de « réveil national », à moins que le gouvernement ne donne lui-même l’exemple. Certes, chacun doit agir, que ce soit dans le choix des produits culturels qu’il consomme ou encore en exigeant d’être servi en français, mais il revient aux élus de définir le cadre légal à l’intérieur duquel le combat pour la survie du seul état à majorité francophone en Amérique du Nord pourrait peut-être être encore gagné.

Si le français ne cesse de reculer comme langue de travail, le ministre peut-il sérieusement penser que la responsabilité revient aux francophones, qui ne sont pas suffisamment exigeants envers leurs employeurs ? Quand ils se présentent dans un hôpital de la région de Montréal où ils sont incapables d’être soignés en français, devraient-ils claquer la porte et aller ailleurs ?

S’il est possible d’exploiter un commerce ou de travailler dans un service public sans être en mesure de parler la langue de la majorité, ou même en refusant de le faire, c’est manifestement que rien ne l’empêche.

M. Legault exclut toujours d’étendre les dispositions de la loi 101 au niveau collégial, estimant que cela n’aurait pas d’effet majeur sur la francisation des immigrants. Il n’a jamais semblé comprendre qu’une politique linguistique est un tout dont chacun des éléments n’est pas nécessairement déterminant, mais dont la conjugaison permet d’arriver au résultat souhaité.

Le premier ministre dit maintenant miser sur une immigration à 100 % francophone ou presque, et il découvre maintenant que beaucoup pourraient être faits sans les nouveaux pouvoirs qu’il réclame au gouvernement fédéral depuis des années.

La nouvelle ministre de l’Immigration, Christine Fréchette, a voulu calmer quelque peu l’emballement de son patron, qui a toujours eu du mal à maîtriser ce dossier, en disant qu’il fallait plutôt « tendre vers » cet objectif et que des immigrants simplement « francotropes », qu’ils aient pour langue maternelle l’arabe, le créole ou le swahili, pourraient faire l’affaire.

Le superministre de l’Économie, Pierre Fitzgibbon, s’est également empressé de mettre des bémols et réclame déjà des exceptions, notamment pour le développement de la filière des batteries, en attendant les autres projets qui ne manqueront pas de lui venir à l’esprit. « Ce serait l’fun d’avoir 100 %, mais il faut être réaliste et balancer ça avec les besoins », a-t-il expliqué.

M. Fitzgibbon pourra toujours rappeler au premier ministre que c’est exactement ce qu’il disait lui-même il n’y a pas si longtemps. En février 2019, M. Legault avait exprimé clairement sa vision des choses lors de la présentation du projet de loi 9 sur l’immigration. « Le PQ préfère dire : on va exiger le français avant l’arrivée. Moi, je pense que ça n’aiderait pas à bien répondre aux besoins du marché du travail », avait-il déclaré.

Il ne fait aucun doute que M. Legault aimerait que le Québec soit le plus français possible, mais sa priorité, pour ne pas dire son obsession, a toujours été d’abord de l’enrichir et de rattraper son retard par rapport à l’Ontario, thème sur lequel il est revenu à plus d’une reprise dans le discours inaugural. M. Fitzgibbon lui fera sans doute valoir qu’il est toujours hasardeux de courir deux lièvres à la fois.

Source: Au-delà du discours

Immigration backlog leads to surge of legal cases against federal government

Yet another good analysis in the Globe, collateral damage from the government’s immigration policies and operational weaknesses that frustrate applicants and increase workload:

The federal government is facing a barrage of legal cases related to its backlog of immigration applications, which has led to slower processing times and plenty of frustration for those waiting years on a decision.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has been named in 709 mandamus applications filed in federal court this fiscal year, which started in April, according to figures provided by IRCC as of Nov. 14. The filings are easily on pace to surpass the total for the previous fiscal year.

Mandamus is an order issued by a court to a lower court, or government entity, to carry out their duties. Thus, hundreds of people are seeking a judicial order that compels Immigration to finish processing their applications.

Mandamus cases are generally filed when there is an excessive delay in processing an immigration application and without a reasonable explanation provided by the federal government for that delay.

Ottawa is ramping up its intake of immigrants, which it says is crucial to fuelling economic growth and alleviating labour shortages. However, some of its moves to boost immigration have led to significant processing delays, affecting applicants that include skilled workers who are highly sought after by employers.

In search of resolutions, more people are turning to the courts. Slightly more than 800 mandamus applications against IRCC were filed in the 2021-22 fiscal year, an increase of 465 per cent from 143 applications in 2019-20.Glo

While lawyers told The Globe and Mail that mandamus is a last-resort option, it’s increasingly one that immigration applicants are advised to take, given their mounting frustrations over a sluggish and opaque system.

“It’s an effective remedy,” said Mario Bellissimo, founder and principal lawyer of Bellissimo Law Group. “However, it’s a remedy that really shouldn’t be used as frequently as it is, when the system is running the way it’s meant to run.”

The federal government is trying to process a stockpile of immigration applications. As of Oct. 31, there were about 2.2 million applications in IRCC’s inventories. Around 1.2 million were in backlog, meaning they’ve been in the system for longer than service standards for processing. Processing times vary by immigration stream. The mass of applications has fallen since September, but is still much larger than before the pandemic.

The federal government has blamed the buildup on office closings related to COVID-19, hindering its ability to process files efficiently. However, several economists and legal experts say that Ottawa had a large hand in creating the situation.

After failing to hit its immigration targets in 2020, owing to the pandemic, the federal government found various ways of encouraging more people to apply for permanent residency, and the subsequent increase in applications overwhelmed IRCC’s ability to process files in a timely manner.

This has led to a number of grievances. For instance, some high-skilled foreign workers in Canada are nearing the end of their work permits, but have yet to hear about their status. Others applied for their permanent-resident cards years ago, but are unable to find out why processing of their files has stalled.

That is forcing more people to seek legal action.

Out of the 809 mandamus applications that were filed against IRCC in the 2021-22 fiscal year, 333 came from those in economic streams of immigration. Another 183 came from the family class of immigrants. (Many of these are spousal cases, with a partner stuck overseas.)

The mandamus process can be expensive. Max Chaudhary, an immigration lawyer in the GTA, said it can cost roughly $6,000 to $15,000 for a single case, depending on how many stages are involved.

Kerry Molitor, an immigration consultant, is concerned that processing delays are creating a situation in which wealthier individuals are better positioned to force the government’s hand.

“It’s a solution that’s out of reach for most people,” she said.

Lev Abramovich, an immigration lawyer in Toronto, says his firm has filed more than 300 mandamus applications over the past year, which makes him one of the more prolific users of this legal option.

“We take an aggressive approach. We’ve also been successful with it,” he said. “Generally speaking, a mandamus application will wake IRCC up and will put pressure on them to finalize the pending application.”

The process starts with a demand for performance to IRCC, often in the form of a letter. In some cases, the federal government will start processing the file at this point.

If the case remains stalled, lawyers will proceed to file an application for mandamus in federal court. At this stage, the federal government will usually resume working on a file and issue a decision, several lawyers said.

In rare instances, however, cases will proceed to a hearing.

That is what happened to Siavash Bidgoly and his wife, Iranian nationals who moved to Toronto from the U.S. in July, 2018. That same month, Mr. Bidgoly submitted his application for permanent residency, having recently been invited to apply by the federal government. His wife was listed as an accompanying dependent.

Mr. Bidgoly expected an approval within six months, based on the experiences of some friends. Shortly after he arrived, he started a company, Tribe Technologies Inc., which employs about 50 people today.

Instead, the process dragged out for years. Mr. Bidgoly made several attempts to learn more about his application status, often hearing that his security check was still in progress.

Mr. Bidgoly filed a mandamus application in February, 2021. A federal court justice ruled in his favour in March, 2022, ordering IRCC to issue a decision within 90 days. Mr. Bidgoly and his wife were later approved for PR status.

“It is stressful. It is draining. I love Canada, but I questioned myself,” he said. “You are here because you trust their immigration system, and now this is what you get.”

In the hearing, IRCC argued that the delay was not excessive, in light of the pandemic’s effect on processing times. Justice Paul Favel did not find that argument satisfactory.

“Simple statements to the effect that a security check is in progress or that the pandemic is responsible for the delay are insufficient,” read the decision, adding that IRCC “had to provide evidence.”

Source: Immigration backlog leads to surge of legal cases against federal government

Crawford: Size doesn’t matter? A small population may enhance Canada’s media — and its democracy

A new angle to me:

The federal government’s recent announcement that it would boost annual immigration to half a million people per year by 2025 coincides with conflicts over Ottawa’s Online News Act and the Competition Bureau’s blocking of a proposed mergerbetween telecommunications giants Shaw and Rogers. 

While these developments may appear to be unrelated, they aren’t. They raise questions about how Canada’s population growth might affect the changing media landscape and its ability to inform and underpin our democracy.

Few policy prescriptions have more transformative potential than the deceptively simple idea of doubling or tripling our population. 

An influential slice of elite opinion — represented by a non-profit group called the Century Initiative — was echoed in a 2017 report by the federal government’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth and detailed in the book Maximum Canada: Why 35 Million Canadians Are Not Enough by journalist Doug Saunders.

It urged Canadians to consider increasing our immigration rate by as much as 50 per cent and to aim at having a population of 100 million by the year 2100. This, we are told, will mean more economic growth, more innovation, more domestic autonomy and more international clout. 

But is bigger better for the truth? In particular, is it conducive to the kind of shared truths about basic facts and norms, spread through the media, that make meaningful discussions about public policy possible? 

‘Thin on the ground’

In Canada, Saunders argues those in Canadian media, publishing, the arts and broadcasting are the most acutely aware of the limitations of under-population. 

A dispersed population stretched across 10 provinces in six time zones means that “we have never had the size of audience to support the level of culture that befits a G7 nation … we are very thin on the ground as far as our ability to talk to ourselves.” 

A bigger Canada would have the economies of scale to facilitate “national conversation” and “our ability to talk to ourselves” — and that surely spells more and better democracy, right? 

Unfortunately, not if the American experience is any guide. 

The current media ecology in the United States has allowed extreme and false conspiracy theories to become normalized, with disturbing implications for the legitimacy of political and civic institutions. 

That’s because media silos are big enough to incubate people like Donald Trump, the Q-Anon movement and baseless voter fraud allegations without having their “truths” tested and effectively disproven in a common national forum. 

Operating in a larger country did little to save America’s newspaper industry, with its accumulated expertise and generally high standards of investigative reporting. The number of working journalists has been cut in half over the past 25 years

If anything, more resources and greater economies of scale on the internet and in think-tank networks have merely facilitated the growth of news and information silos.

They cater to what some citizen-consumers like to read (ideologically slanted analysis or partisan infotainment carefully micro-targeted to appeal to cognitive biases) or what powerful advertisers or devious hackers want them to read (news that is more congenial to foreign powers or economic elites) rather than what they need to read (quality, fact-based journalism). 

The enhanced ability to “talk to themselves” takes place in the proverbial echo chamber of as much as half of the country , plus countless smaller ones. That makes a truly national conversation more difficult to achieve, not less.

Public broadcasters

PBS and NPR offer a quality of national programming that is comparable to the CBC at its best, without regular commercial interruption. 

But they’re simply too small relative to the size of the marketplace to provide the influential standard-setting function that the CBC has historically provided for Canadian broadcast journalism or that public broadcasters have achieved for the United Kingdom, France, Australia and other nations. 

There are concerns about our cultural institutions’ dependence upon public subsidy, yet public funding has arguably enabled the CBC to serve as an authoritative national forum that has no equivalent in the United States.

How the question of scale might be intersecting with technology and public policy right now can be illustrated by the attempts to provide “alternative” news and sources of policy-relevant information and opinion here in Canada. 

Consider the failures of the Sun News Network to achieve its goal of becoming “Fox News North” or of its online successor, Rebel Media, to become Canada’s Breitbart News

The Sun News Network tried to get around the problem of a small market for its product by obtaining a basic cable licence across the country. The CRTC did not oblige them.

Rebel Media then suffered from its mistake of having a reporter provide favourable live coverage of the infamous Charlottesville Unite the Right rally that spun out of control, killing a counter-protester and injuring 19 others.

Larger markets aren’t always beneficial

Some progressive nationalists have been self-congratulatory about these setbacks, surmising that Canada’s political culture is essentially different from America’s in being less receptive to extreme right-wing politics. 

Yet supporters of the Sun TV model and Rebel Media can plausibly argue that all they really need to do in order to be more successful is to wait for an increase in the size of their potential audience. A more favourable political environment could also enable them to achieve a larger market share.

This serves to remind us why a larger domestic market for political news would not necessarily yield an improved public sphere. Social cohesion — and the encouragement of dialogue and debate in a good faith common effort to arrive at the truth — are public goods that require something more than demographic or economic growth to survive.

These qualities may even be easier to come by in a smaller Canada.

Paying closer attention to the dangers of growth, especially the modern threats to democracy posed by the internet, allows us to best plan for a brighter future — not just a bigger one.

Source: Size doesn’t matter? A small population may enhance Canada’s media — and its democracy

B.C. to license more internationally trained doctors to combat physician shortage

Progress:

British Columbia announced several new measures to bring more doctors to the province, amid an ongoing shortage of physicians and strained emergency departments.

Premier David Eby says the province is tripling the number of seats in the Practice Ready Assessment program, going from 32 spots to 96 by March 2024.

The program allows internationally-educated family doctors to become licensed to work in B.C, placing them in rural and urban communities who need more physicians and requiring they work that placement for at least three years.

Source: B.C. to license more internationally trained doctors to combat physician shortage

Canada leads the G7 for the most educated workforce, thanks to immigrants, young adults and a strong college sector, but is experiencing significant losses in apprenticeship certificate holders in key trades

From the last data release of the census, with evidence of mismatches between immigration skills and occcupation:

Canada continues to rank first in the G7 for the share of working-age people (aged 25 to 64) with a college or university credential (57.5%). A key factor in this is Canada’s strong college sector: nearly one in four working-age people (24.6%) had a college certificate or diploma or similar credential in 2021, more than in any other G7 country.

From 2016 to 2021, the working-age population saw an increase of nearly one-fifth (+19.1%) in the number of people with a bachelor’s degree or higher, including even larger rises in degree holders in the fields of health care (+24.1%) and computer and information science (+46.3%).

In contrast, the number of working-age apprenticeship certificate holders has stagnated or fallen in three major trades fields—construction trades (+0.6%), mechanic and repair technologies (-7.8%) and precision production (-10.0%)—as fewer young workers replace the baby boomers who are retiring. Job vacancies in some industries related to these trades, such as construction and fabricated metal product manufacturing, reached record highs in 2022.

Recent immigrants made up nearly half of the growth in the share of Canadians with a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, some immigrants’ talents remain underutilized, as over one-quarter of all immigrants with foreign degrees were working in jobs that require, at most, a high school diploma. This is twice as high as the overqualification rate for Canadian-born or Canadian-educated degree holders.

Even foreign-educated immigrants with credentials in high-demand areas such as health care faced high rates of job mismatch: 36.5% of immigrants with a foreign degree in registered nursing worked as registered nurses or in closely related occupations, and 41.1% of immigrants with foreign medical degrees worked as doctors. This compares with job match rates of approximately 9 in 10 for the population with Canadian nursing (87.4%) or medical (90.1%) degrees.

The share of Canadian-born young adults (aged 25 to 34) with a bachelor’s degree or higher is also rising (+2.7 percentage points from 2016 to 2021). The increase was larger among Canadian-born young women (+3.3 percentage points, reaching 39.7%) than Canadian-born young men (+2.2 percentage points, reaching 25.7%). Nonetheless, among young men the increase in this 5-year period from 2016 to 2021 was nearly as large as the increase during the 10-year period from 2006 to 2016 (+2.3 percentage points). 

Educational gaps faced by First Nations people, Métis and Inuit are narrowing at the high school level. In 2021, over half of Inuit aged 25 to 64 had completed high school, up from 45.4% in 2016. At the same time, gaps are widening at the level of a bachelor’s degree or higher for all Indigenous groups.

People with credentials above the bachelor level were better able to weather the labour market shocks of the pandemic, partly due to working in industries that were more suited to remote work. They had higher employment rates and earnings in 2021 than 2016, while those with most other levels of education saw lower employment rates.

Source: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/221130/dq221130a-eng.htm?CMP=mstatcan

McWhorter: Harvard, Herschel Walker and ‘Tokenism’

Valid observations on tokenism:

We are at a moment in which tokenism is on trial. This is true both in terms of the Supreme Court’s consideration of affirmative action in higher education and in terms of the candidacy of the former running back and political airhead Herschel Walker, who will become a U.S. senator from Georgia if he wins his runoff against Senator Raphael Warnock next Tuesday.

Remember how common the term “token Black” once was? Back in the day — the phrase really took off in the 1960s — tokenism was considered a prime example of racism. The hipper television shows would offer story lines in which Black people were put into jobs for which they were transparently unqualified just so the company could show a little color.

I learned the term “token” in 1975 at the age of 9. An episode of the Black sitcom “Good Times” had the teenager Thelma recruited by an elite private school sorority solely because she was Black. A white sorority sister visited the household to chat Thelma up. But after Thelma’s father saw through the ruse, the white woman dismissively referred to Black people as “B’s.” My mother told me that Thelma was being used as a “token Black.” She liked me to know about such things.

It was normal that a Black mom would teach her kid such things back then. But you don’t hear the terms “token Black” and “tokenism” as much as you used to. (Yes, “South Park” had a character named Token — now spelled Tolkien — as late as the 1990s. But part of the joke was how antique the term had already become.) The term has a whiff of the ’70s about it, and it went out of fashion because, frankly, today’s left cherishes a form of tokenism.

Our theoretically enlightened idea these days is that using skin color as a major, and often decisive, factor in job hiring and school admissions is to be on the side of the angels. We euphemize this as being about the value of diverseness and people’s life experiences. This happened when we — by which I mean specifically but not exclusively Black people — shifted from demanding that we be allowed to show our best to demanding that the standards be changed for us.

I witnessed signs of that transition when racial preferences in admissions were banned at the University of California in the late 1990s. I was a new professor at U.C. Berkeley at the time, and at first, I opposed the ban as well, out of a sense that to be a proper Black person is to embrace affirmative action with no real questions. I’m not as reflexively contrarian as many suppose.

There was a massive attempt at pushback against the ban among faculty members and administrators, and I attended many meetings of this kind. I’ll never forget venturing during one of them that if the idea was that even middle-class Black students should be admitted despite lower grades and test scores, then we needed to explain clearly why, rather than simply making speeches about inclusiveness and openness and diversity as if the issues of grades and test scores were irrelevant.

I was naïve back then. I thought that people fighting the ban actually had such explanations. I didn’t realize that I had done the equivalent of blowing on a sousaphone in the middle of a bar mitzvah. There was an awkward silence. Then a guy of a certain age with a history of political activism said that in the 1960s and ’70s he was, make no mistake, staunchly against tokenism. And then he added … nothing. He went straight back to rhetoric about resegregation, laced with the fiction that racial preferences at Berkeley were going mostly to poor kids from inner-city neighborhoods. It was one of many demonstrations I was to see of a tacit notion that for Black kids, it’s wrong to measure excellence with just grades and scores because, well … they contribute to diversity?

When the Supreme Court outlaws affirmative action in higher education admissions, as it almost certainly will, it will eliminate a decades-long program of tokenism. I’ve written that I support socioeconomic preferences and that I understand why racial ones were necessary for a generation or so. But for those who have a hard time getting past the idea that it’s eternally unfair to subject nonwhite students to equal competition unless they are from Asia, I suggest a mental exercise: Whenever you think or talk about racial preferences, substitute “racial tokenism.”

At the same time, Republicans, despite generally deriding affirmative action and tokenism as leftist sins, are reveling in tokenism in supporting Walker’s run for Senate and are actually pretending to take him seriously. But to revile lowering standards on the basis of race requires reviling Walker’s very candidacy; to have an instinctive revulsion against tokenism requires the same.

There’s no point in my listing Walker’s copious ethical lapses. Terrible people can occasionally be good leaders. With him, the principal issue is his utter lack of qualification for the office. Walker in the Senate would be like Buddy Hackett in the United Nations. It is true that Republicans have also offered some less than admirably qualified white people for high office. But George W. Bush was one thing, with his “working hard to put food on your family.” Walker’s smilingly sheepish third-grade nonsense in response to even basic questions about the issues of the day is another.

And it matters that Walker would have been much, much less likely to be encouraged to run for senator in, say, Colorado. In Georgia, it was the clear intent that he would peel Black votes from his Black rival, Warnock. Walker’s color was central to his elevation. A swivel-tongued galoot who was white would not likely have been chosen as the Republicans’ answer to Warnock.

But if Bush, like Walker and others, implies a questioning of standards — here, the idea that a high-placed politician be decently informed — is that so very different from those on the left questioning why we concern ourselves overly with grades and test scores in determining college admissions?

Yes, there are times when one needs to question the rules regarding traditional qualifications. But the Georgia runoff isn’t one of them. The last thing Black people — who are often assumed to be less smart — need is for anyone to insist that Walker is a legitimate candidate because, say, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene isn’t the most curious or coherent sort, either.

White Republicans have elevated a Black man to a position for which he is cartoonishly unfit. They have done so in spite of, rather than because of, the content not only of his character but also of his mind. Walker is essentially being treated the way Thelma was in that “Good Times” episode almost 50 years ago.

The past was better in some ways. The prevalence of the term “token Black” from the 1960s to the ’80s was one of them. And I promise — although I shouldn’t have to — that this does not mean I think Black America was better off in 1960.

But when Black students submitting dossiers of a certain level are all but guaranteed admission to elite schools despite the fact that the same dossiers from white or Asian students would barely get them a sniff, they are being treated, in a way, like Walker. The left sings of life experience and diversity, while the right crows about authenticity and connection. I hear all of them, intentionally or not, thinking about “the B’s.”

Source: Harvard, Herschel Walker and ‘Tokenism’

In major SCOTUS immigration case, both sides look to academia to untangle three knotty questions

Good explainer:

Can the Biden administration issue guidelines setting priorities in the enforcement of immigration law? Do states have standing to challenge these guidelines? And if the guidelines are unlawful, does the Administrative Procedure Act give lower courts the power to vacate them — a universal remedy that goes beyond the parties to the case? These are the three questions before the Supreme Court in United States v. Texas, set to be argued on Nov. 29. Legal scholars have addressed all three issues, and their work is prominently cited in the briefing on both sides.

In her book Beyond Deportation: The Role of Prosecutorial Discretion in Immigration Cases(NYU Press, 2015), Professor Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia of Penn State Law observes that discretion in immigration enforcement is unavoidable in a system that lacks the resources to remove more than a few percent of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. The debate over how that discretion should be exercised has created a sharp policy divide between the Obama and Biden administrations, on the one hand, and that of former President Donald Trump on the other.

In 2011, John Morton, then the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, issued a seriesof memos setting enforcement priorities. Morton explained that his agency “only has resources to remove approximately 400,000 aliens per year, less than 4 percent of the estimated illegal alien population in the United States.” Accordingly, he declared that ICE would prioritize apprehension and removal of certain categories of undocumented immigrants, such as those who had committed crimes or were recent arrivals. In contrast, undocumented immigrants without criminal records, who had lived in the United States for many years, and who had U.S. citizen family members were low priorities for removal.

The “Morton Memos” were often ignored by ICE officers, and in any case did not give legal protection from removal to those undocumented immigrants categorized as lower priorities. But if nothing else, they set the tone.

That tone changed abruptly when Trump took office in 2017. Within the first week of his administration, Trump replaced the Morton Memos with an executive order directing immigration officials “to ensure the faithful execution of the immigration laws of the United States against all removable aliens.” The goal, Trump explained, was to end “exempt[ions] [for] classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.” To be sure, the Trump administration also lacked the resources to deport the vast majority of undocumented immigrants. But the new executive order sent the message that no one in the United States without status was safe from removal.

The Trump administration followed an “attrition through enforcement” approach proposed in 2008 by Kris Kobach, who was at that time a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law and later became Kansas’ secretary of state. (Earlier this month, he was elected as Kansas’ incoming attorney general.) Acknowledging the limited resources to remove undocumented immigrants, Kobach advocated for policies that encouraged self-deportation.  Accordingly, he opposed any categorical use of prosecutorial discretion, advocating instead for enforcement policies that would leave all undocumented immigrants in fear that they were imminently removable.

Now, in United States v. Texas, Texas and Louisiana have asked the court to weigh in on this debate. At issue is whether the Immigration and Nationality Act permits the Biden administration to adopt guidelines prioritizing removal of certain categories of undocumented immigrants over others, just as Obama did before him. These states also argue that the guidelines violate the Administrative Procedure Act.

The case is perhaps even more important for its challenge to states’ standing to sue the federal government. A glance at the court’s docket in recent years reveals the rapid rise in state challenges to executive branch changes in policy, with red states taking the lead under Presidents Obama and Biden and blue states doing so during the Trump administration. In April of 2022, Texas issued a press release celebrating its 27th lawsuit against the Biden administration (the number is certainly higher by now). Likewise, California filed 122 lawsuits against the Trump administration during Trump’s four years as president, averaging one new lawsuit every 12 days.

Many of these cases challenged executive branch changes to immigration policy. In United States v. Texas, Texas and Louisiana argue that the new enforcement priorities will increase the number of undocumented immigrants in their states, and so increase their incarceration, education, and health care costs. They claim these higher costs are a cognizable injury that gives them standing to sue.

In its brief, the United States cites University of Virginia Law Professors Ann Woolhandler and Michael Collins’ recent article, Reining in State Standing, which argues in favor of a “return to [states’] traditional disfavored status as plaintiffs.” Under the tripartite requirements for standing, a plaintiff must show an “injury in fact” that is traceable to the challenged action and redressable by a court. But that standard gives states enormous leeway to claim injury on behalf of themselves as sovereigns or to their parens patriae interests (that is, the interests of their citizens), because almost any change to federal policy will have a fiscal impact on a state and its residents. Woolhandler and Collins propose that state standing to sue should be limited to cases in which states are “the direct regulatory objects of federal statutes and regulations,” which would fit more comfortably with states’ traditionally limited role as litigants before federal courts.

Finally, the Supreme Court is asked to decide the scope of the permissible remedy if the guidelines violate federal law. Over the past few years, courts and commentators have debated the power of lower federal courts to enter universal injunctions — that is, injunctions that bar defendants from enforcing a challenged law against anyone, not just the plaintiffs. United States v. Texas raises an offshoot of this question: whether a court’s power “to hold unlawful and set aside agency action” under Section 706(2) of the APA permits courts to vacate agency action such that it cannot be applied to anyone.

The United States cites a recent article by Professor John Harrison of University of Virginia Law arguing that Section 706(2) does not give courts authority to issue universal remedies, but rather only allows courts to decline to enforce unlawful agency action in cases before them. Texas and Louisiana rely on University of San Diego Law Professor Mila Sohoni’s article, “The Power to Vacate a Rule,” asserting that Section 706(2) authorizes (but does not require) vacatur, and citing longstanding precedent in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and other lower federal courts supporting that position.

As Sohoni puts it, perhaps the most “astonishing” aspect of the case is that the scope of Section 706(2)’s remedy remains uncertain nearly 80 years after that statute’s enactment. That uncertainty will likely be resolved by the court’s decision this term.

Source: In major immigration case, both sides look to academia to untangle three knotty questions