Omidvar and Khanna: Seven deadly sins to avoid on the path to anti-racism

Great commentary:

Canada has a long history of racism: colonization, slavery, the residential school system, the Chinese head tax, the SS Komagata Maru, the Japanese internment and the demolition of Africville. Although Canada became the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy in 1971, Black, Indigenous, and people of colour have continued to face racism from our past to our present.

As a nation, we have realized that we cannot live up to our promise of an equitable society if we continue to uphold overt and covert forms of racism. Race scholar Ibram X. Kendi says we are either racist or actively anti-racist, and there is no in-between. The work we are talking about is not just a necessary change, but one that is long overdue. However, even the best of intentions, strategies and plans can fail if they are not cognizant of the pitfalls ahead of them.

Here are the pitfalls to avoid. Let’s call them the seven deadly sins.

The first is the sin of empty words and a singular action. Some call this diversity theatre or performative ally-ship. We must collectively commit to changing behaviours and policies with timelines and resources. This is not passion, it is work. It is not trendy, it is ongoing. It is not aspirational, it is grounded in practice, unlearning and re-learning.

The second is the sin of ignoring or failing to gather evidence. Anti-racism work is not an opinion sport. It must be grounded in intersectional qualitative and quantitative data and analysis, so that the progress can be benchmarked against evidence.

The third is punting responsibility away from leadership. Anti-racism work needs an ongoing commitment from those in positions of influence, not just when it is convenient. Leaders have the power and resources to create cultural change, to centre Black and Indigenous experiences, and to address systemic racism. The worst thing we can do is underestimate the need for support from the top.

The fourth is the sin of ignoring whom you have influence over and do business with. Organizations often forget that this is, in fact, their most important lever. By using an anti-racist lens on procurement, for instance, it is possible to extend the reach of strategies to a wider circle.

The fifth is the sin of overlooking privilege. This cements access for some and denies it to others. Anti-racism work is about looking inward and looking outward, not from a mindset of “helping” others but helping ourselves understand our own privilege. We can no longer support the idea of meritocracy: that those who work hardest get the furthest without understanding the role that privilege plays.

The sixth is the sin of tokenism. It is never acceptable to invite someone into a role for the sole purpose of ticking off a box. This is insincerity and shallowness of the worst kind. A thoughtful, sincere response can never simply start with a knee-jerk appointment that may salve some consciences, but will do little to embed anti-racism, inclusion and belonging into the culture of an organization.

The seventh and final deadly sin is the sin of centring the dominant group. Anti-racism work is not reaching for comfort but actively seeking discomfort. It is about understanding the importance of continually measuring impact over intent, the idea that how our actions are received is more important than the action itself. We should continue to centre Black, Indigenous, and people of colour. It is up to those experiencing racism to let us know if racism has been eradicated.

As we embark on our anti-racism journey, it is important to remember that this commitment is hard but necessary. We are not free until we are all free. Let’s roll up our sleeves and truly get to work. Our country will be better tomorrow for what we do today.

Sen. Ratna Omidvar is an Independent senator from Ontario. Diya Khanna is a diversity, equity and inclusion manager with Amazon and was appointed to the Seattle Women’s Commission in 2018.

Source: Seven deadly sins to avoid on the path to anti-racism

Justin Trudeau promised action ‘very soon’ to tackle systemic racism. Seven weeks later, where is it?

Very soon is a relative concept to politicians. For the opposition, the shorter the better, even if largely symbolic.

For government, which actually has the responsibility to develop, implement and manage policies and programs, a longer timeframe is involved except under exceptional circumstances such as the various COVID support measures.

The symbolic is easy and can often be meaningful. But tackling long-term structural issues is hard and requires longer-term commitment and effort:

It has been seven weeks since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised action “very soon” to address systemic racism in Canadian policing and other institutions.

For Matthew Green, an NDP MP and member of the cross-party Parliamentary Black Caucus, “very soon” is now long past due — and can’t come soon enough.

That’s especially the case, he says, after more than 100 Liberal MPs and half of Trudeau’s cabinet signed a declaration from the Black caucus in mid-June that called for a wide range of reforms.

“If these ministers are not serious, then they ought not have signed on,” Green told the Star by phone on Wednesday.

“What we’re asking for is not radical. It is actually basic justice principles of applying policy and the legal system in an equitable way,” he said.

Responding to questions from the Star on Wednesday, Trudeau spokesperson Alex Wellstead provided a quote from the prime minister after the Liberal cabinet retreat in early July. Trudeau pledged at the time that his ministers would craft a “work plan” for the summer to build “strong policies” to tackle racism. This would include reforms to police and the justice system, improved protections for temporary foreign workers and legislation to expand First Nations policing of their own communities, Trudeau said.

In 2019, the Liberal government unveiled a $45-million strategy to tackle racism in the public service and federal policies. The party also promised during the election last year to increase funding for the strategy.

But in mid-June of this year, Trudeau pledged further action on systemic racism would come “very soon.” At the time, much of the Western world was roiling from widespread demonstrations denouncing police brutality and racism against Black, Indigenous and other racialized people.

In Canada, demonstrations were fuelled by a series of incidents in which people died during interactions with police. These included Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old First Nations woman shot and killed on June 4 during a wellness check at her apartment in Edmunston, N.B., and 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet, an Afro-Indigenous woman who died in Toronto after falling from an apartment balcony during a police visit.

On June 16, the Parliamentary Black Caucus released its declaration that called on governments to “act immediately” on a wide range of demands to address systemic racism in Canada. The document called for Ottawa to end mandatory minimum jail sentences, create programs to support businesses owned by Black Canadians and improve the collection and release of race-based data. It also called for more Black and Indigenous judges, and to shift money from police budgets to health and social services.

The document was signed by at least 25 cabinet ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Justice Minister David Lametti.

Greg Fergus, a Liberal MP from Quebec who is a member of the Black caucus, said Black Canadians have been waiting for decades for reforms and that he is confident the Trudeau government will take significant steps to address racism. He said he has spoken with Trudeau directly about the issue and that he has been assured actions are going to be taken — though he declined to discuss specific plans because he doesn’t want to “scoop” his own government.

“I know that everybody would like this to be done yesterday, but I’m glad they’re taking the time to get it right,” he said.

“For the first time in my life I actually really feel that, Wow, we’re going to get at this, we’re really going to give this a real say — because Canadians will want things to be done.”

Green was less optimistic, and said he believes the Liberal government has already missed opportunities to implement change. He said several demands in the Black caucus declaration could have been pursued immediately, including the elimination of mandatory minimum jail sentencing and amnesty for people convicted for cannabis-related crimes before it was legalized.

The federal government was also criticized this spring for delaying its promisedresponse to the National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which probed the systemic causes of disproportionate violence against these groups and concluded in June 2019 with a list of demands for change.

Green said he will be looking to Aug. 12, when the House of Commons is next scheduled to sit, as the next chance for the Liberals to follow up with the action they promised.

“This government can move immediately — immediately — within weeks to award their insiders and their friends a contract that would have resulted in the benefit of $43 million,” Green said, referring to the controversy over the Liberal government’s decision to outsource a student grant program to WE Charity.

“They did that without any drawn out or protracted incremental approach. So why can’t they make those same investments in the Black community?” he said.

Source: Justin Trudeau promised action ‘very soon’ to tackle systemic racism. Seven weeks later, where is it?

Black and racialized Canadians lacking on boards, new study finds

Of note:

A new study from Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute says Black and racialized people are under-represented and sometimes non-existent on boards in eight major cities across Canada.

The institute found few members of those groups on the boards of large companies, agencies, hospitals, educational institutions and in the voluntary sector in cities including Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Halifax, Hamilton, London and Ottawa.

The study of almost 9,500 people found Black Canadians occupy just 2 per cent of board positions, despite making up 5.6 per cent of the population of those cities.

Racialized people, defined in the study as all non-Caucasians were found to have only one in 10 board positions, though they represent 28.4 per cent of the population.

The institute’s methodology included analyzing photographs of boards and interviewing members of underrepresented communities.

The study also found women are under-represented boards, but fare much better because they hold 40.8 per cent of board positions.

Source: Black and racialized Canadians lacking on boards, new study finds

Full report: Diverse Representation in Leadership: A Review of Eight Canadian Cities

Timmy Wong: Chinese-Canadian groups that support Hong Kong’s National Security Law do not represent all Chinese-Canadians

Of note:

As Hong Kong-Canadians residing in Metro Vancouver, we are shocked and saddened by local groups supporting Hong Kong’s National Security Law who claim to represent all Chinese- and Hong Kong-Canadians. The National Congress of Chinese Canadians (NCCC), along with the Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver, have both publicly supported this law, which was unilaterally imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing on June 30. They ignore the diversity of opinions among the 1.7 million Hong Kong- and Chinese-Canadians, many of whom chose to immigrate to Canada for freedoms and rights that do not exist under the authoritarian rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

NCCC chairperson David Choi has made a video statement claiming that the majority of Hong Kong- and Chinese-Canadians support the National Security Law. Furthermore, he condones the atrocities committed by Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam and the brutality of Hong Kong police in the name of “National Security.”

Choi further provoked the sensitive issue of Quebec separatism and terrorism, purposely misreading Canadian history to justify his support of this draconian law. NCCC has not been authorized by Hong Kong- or Chinese-Canadians to represent their view or voice since it has not received any mandate to do so from either of these communities.

What is more worrying is that the Beijing government — not any Hong Kong judicial or policy body — will have the ultimate power over how the law should be interpreted. If the law conflicts with any Hong Kong law, the Beijing law prevails. By supporting the National Security Law as Canadians, NCCC is persuading Canadians to support authoritarian rule in Hong Kong and beyond.

This legislation has effectively ended the “One Country, Two Systems” constitutional principle that guided the CCP’s rule of Hong Kong during the 50-year period of handover from Britain. Overnight, Hong Kong has become “just another Chinese city” under the dictatorial CCP. It has also turned into a police state with the establishment of the National Security Bureau, where protesting is essentially prohibited, social media posts are closely monitored, and any slogans supporting Hong Kong’s freedom are outlawed. Any speech that criticizes the CCP could lead to conviction under the charge of subversion. Even the investigation into the Hong Kong Police Force’s brutality against protesters for freedom could lead to charges against people in education institutes or religious and non-profit organizations who are engaged in the exchange of ideas and information. Also their foreign counterparts could be convicted under “Collusion with External or Foreign Forces” provisions in the new law.

Under the new National Security Law, anyone from any quarter in the world who is critical of China could be arrested and tried in secrecy and extradited from Hong Kong to Communist China without any opportunity to appeal. Crimes of “secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion” with foreign forces are punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison. The impact is so serious that the Canadian government has issued a travel warning to Canadians that they could be arbitrarily arrested by the Hong Kong government under this draconian law. Yet NCCC still endorses the National Security Law, betraying the core Canadian values of free speech and human rights.

Hong Kongers are looking to the free world for refuge and protection from China’s state-sponsored terrorism, but the members of NCCC ignore their pleas for help. Instead, they endorse the totalitarian policy of CCP for Hong Kong and echo the CCP’s need to “defend National Security.” They do not and must not represent the voices of 1.7 million Canadians.

We, a group of Hong Kong-Canadians, have been protesting and advocating in solidarity with our fellow Hong Kongers in Hong Kong since June 2019. The world has seen the atrocities of how Hong Kong and Beijing governments treat the Hong Kongers and, one by one, countries are making a stand for freedom with Hong Kongers.

Unlike the NCCC, there are many Chinese- and Hong Kong-Canadians who are deeply aware of the privilege they have as settlers, and who are aware of the long history they have had in this nation fighting for political agency. Chinese-Canadians (who include Hong Kong-Canadians) were finally given the vote in 1947 after many of them served the country bravely and proudly in the Second World War. Their right to vote was a sign that Chinese-Canadians were finally accepted as full Canadians and given access to democracy, freedom, equality and human rights.

Unfortunately, the NCCC, the Chinese Benevolent Association, and many Chinese-Canadians appear to have now forgotten the hard-fought battle for their rights and freedoms in Canada. They enjoy the rights and privileges as protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and use their free speech to deny others the same freedom by propping up an authoritarian, power-hungry regime.

Many Hong Kongers who first moved to Canada moved here out of their fear of the CCP when the handover from the U.K. to China was first announced in 1984. On June 4, 1989, the Tiananmen Massacre hit the souls of many Hong Kongers and it triggered another wave of migration to Canada.

Many of us Hong Kong-Canadians are forever grateful to Canada for allowing us to settle and prosper in this free land. It is a duty as Canadians to stand on guard for freedom. It means that we will defend freedom of speech for the oppressed through our political agency. Many Hong Kong-Canadians have voiced their concerns over the deteriorating situation in Hong Kong through petitions, letter-writing campaigns, protest, and other forms of advocacy. The Canadian government has taken a clear stand by calling out Beijing’s crackdown as illegal and a violation of human rights, to the extent of suspending the extradition treaty with Hong Kong indefinitely. What NCCC claimed is in fact a direct contradiction to what many Canadians believe.

Source: Timmy Wong: Chinese-Canadian groups that support Hong Kong’s National Security Law do not represent all Chinese-Canadians

It’s time to confront anti-Blackness in Asian-African communities

Of interest regarding the complexities of mixed identities and some of the biases faced:

When I reflect about being Asian-African, I often think to a fight I had as a five-year-old at school in Zambia. I remember arguing with another girl and explaining to my teacher that “she called me an Indian.” I recall how the teacher looked down at my distraught face before responding, “you are”. “No,” I replied in tears, “I’m Zambian…”

The history of Asian-Africans – and how they have fit into African societies – is complex and varied. Between the 1860s and 1890s, the British Empire brought thousands of indentured labourers from its colony in the sub-continent to its colonies in Southern and East Africa. In the following decades, many other South Asians followed as merchants. And then, as the British partitioned the sub-continent along religious lines in the 1940s, thousands more fled the impending chaos, some to Africa.

Once on the continent, the Asian population largely occupied a kind of middle position in which they were both victims and agents of colonial racism. In East Africa, many functioned as a subordinate ruling class, employed by the colonial police and administrators as part of a divide and rule strategy. In the cruel segregationist system of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), they similarly inhabited a level between white people at the top and Black people at the bottom. In a variety of places, Asians enjoyed success in business during the colonial period and gained significant control of the economy.

At the same time, many Asian communities tried hard to preserve their home cultures, a trait of many migrant groups. Visiting Kenya in the 1970s, Indo-Trinidadian writer V.S. Naipaul commented that “the Indian in East Africa brought India with him and kept it inviolate”. Many Asian communities were perceived to be exclusive, living separately and rarely mixing outside of their own group.

In the 1970s and 1980s, many of these dynamics contributed to widespread anti-Asian sentiment in East Africa. In 1972, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin ordered all Asians to leave the country within 90 days, causing 80,000 to flee. In the 1980s, Asian businesses were attacked and some women were raped in the chaos that followed an unsuccessful coup attempt in Kenya. And around the same time in Tanzania, anti-Asian feeling spurred a programme of nationalisation.

Marrying up

This colonial and post-colonial history continues to reverberate today. Within Asian-African communities, many older generations hold on to bitter memories of persecution. As scholar Mahmood Mamdani reflected on returning to Uganda after the overthrow of Amin: “Even though I had come home, in the eyes of those who did not know me, I would be a foreigner. I knew I would never be able to take ‘home’ for granted.”

At the same time, many Asian-Africans have internalised the white supremacy of the colonial era and the belief that being closer to whiteness offers more opportunities and privilege. Although the community no longer has the same economic and political influence it had during colonial times and first few decades proceeding it, anti-Black racism still plays out in various forms. It can be seen from the discriminatory ways in which some Asian-Africans treat Black employees, to widely held negative viewstowards intermarriage. I have experienced disapproval for being in a relationship with a Black man much as my aunt did for marrying a “coloured” man (the crude colonial term for people of mixed race) in the 1970s. Marrying a white person is still regarded by many as “marrying up”.

Almost 30 years ago, Mira Nahir’s film Mississippi Masala attempted to create a wider conversation around this issue with its rare depiction of an interactional relationship between a Black man and Asian-African woman. Writer Mayuku Sen observed that: “Nair parsed the anti-Blackness endemic to the South Asian diaspora with an honesty that public discourse on the topic has rarely, to this day, broached.”

Anti-Blackness also manifests internally in the form of colourism. Having a lighter skin is valued in many Asian communities, leading to the sales of skin lightening creams, the dominance of lighter-skinned people in the media and even skin tone filters on dating websites.

Young change

Some things are changing, albeit slowly. Interracial relationships between Asian-Africans and Black Africans are gradually becoming more common among younger generations. Young people are also increasingly growing up in mixed environments where class is a more important dividing factor than race.

I am still regularly interrogated about my Zambian identity and reliving the fight I had as a five-year-old. But there are now more conversations exploring race and what it means to embrace multiculturalism. We are seeing more examples like rap duo Young Cardamon, an Asian Ugandan, and HAB, a Ugandan of Nubian descent. The two men rap in six different languages – including Luganda, Hindi and Nubi – and confront social issues in their music such as racism and diversity. There have also been some political strides. In 2017, Kenyan Asians were officially recognised as Kenya’s 44th tribe, hailed by some as a step towards more inclusion.

Yet there is still a long way to go. Anti-Black racism and the Asian-African community’s long history of facilitating colonial racism still resonates. That is why the global protests ignited by the brutal murder of George Floyd should be a wakeup call for all Asian-Africans too. We must interrogate and root out our own racism. We must listen to Black communities about the prejudice they experience, challenge our own biases, and change our individual behaviours. It is long overdue that we better understand and dismantle our legacy of white supremacy and confront racism close to home.

Source: It’s time to confront anti-Blackness in Asian-African communities

Migrant workers have paid their dues and should be given a path to permanent residency

In looking at the issues related to migrant workers, it is important to unpack the different categories of these workers, ranging from the more specialized and higher skilled under the International Mobility Program to the smaller group of lower wage more vulnerable agriculture and related industry workers as shown in the chart below.

So while there is a need for stronger and higher regulation of agriculture workers and other vulnerable groups, including better and safer living conditions, the needs are lower for those coming in under the IMP (about 40 percent of IMP are from Europe and USA, in contrast to TFWP where less than 10 percent are).

Some questions. Does one need to grant permanent residency for what is essentially seasonal work in agriculture, or should the focus be on working and living conditions? If granted permanent residency, would agriculture workers remain in the sector? Do we have data on language fluency as an indicator of ease of integration or surveys that give a sense whether some workers prefer the seasonal nature of the work or not?

Canada has expanded its temporary migration system to bring in a steady supply of exploitable and interchangeable migrant workers who are coerced into accepting low wages and miserable working conditions below standards that Canadians would accept. Now, exposure to COVID-19 has been added to the terms of the bargain.

As scholars, researchers, and teachers of immigration in Canada, we urge our government to adopt long overdue measures to end the vulnerability and exploitation of migrant workers—many of whom are now deemed essential. A litany of studies and reports have long documented the adverse health, human rights, economic, and living conditions experienced by migrant workers, particularly among those in “low-wage positions” and in agriculture.

Contracting COVID-19 is just the latest price these essential workers have paid for sustaining Canada’s economy. Since March 2020, in the agricultural sector alone, more than 1,000 migrant workers have contracted COVID-19, and three workers have died. Migrant workers are also heavily represented in meat-packing plants, and long-term care facilities. Migrant workers do not bring the virus to Canada; the virus infects them here, because the system fails to ensure that workers live and work in safe environments.

Canada’s economy has hundreds of thousands of permanent jobs that depend on temporary migrant workers—harvesting crops, caring for children and the elderly, working in construction and meat packing, and a host of jobs across the service sector. Yet, the numbers of “temporary” migrant workers have skyrocketed—driven, unchecked, by employer demand, while governments and sectors spend little resources on protecting the health and safety of migrant workers. And, the system remains unchallenged, in part because workers do not have universal protection of collective bargaining rights, and employers vote; migrant workers do not.

Under numerous temporary worker program streams, Canada has annually rendered some 300,000 migrants a permanent underclass. Most come from the global south. Many are required to leave families behind, and must leave Canada when their visas expire. As a racialized workforce, their precarious position in the country is a marker of systemic racism. Despite their essential contributions to the Canadian economy, most have no direct pathway to permanent residency.

Migrant workers understandably fear retribution if they complain, try to improve their working conditions, seek health care, or attempt labour organizing. For doing so, precarious migrant workers can face abuse, termination of employment, loss of earnings and future employment, loss of status, and deportation.

Now is the perfect time to rectify this wrong. Canadians recognize, as never before, the essential contribution immigrants and migrant workers make to this country. Further, Canada will fall far short of its annual immigration targets due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada aimed to admit 340,000 immigrants this year as permanent residents. Only about half that number will actually arrive. Future intake will also lag.

Canada needs permanent resident immigrants to address the challenges of its socio-demographic realities. Low birth rates, an aging population, and rural depopulation mean long-term skills shortages and labour market gaps across the country. Continuing to fill these gaps through temporary intake programs hurts not only migrant workers but also deprives hundreds of smaller communities of revitalization from the immigration advantage of permanent settlement.

It is a popular misconception that Canada does migrant workers a favour by allowing them to work hard, for little money, in hazardous and degrading conditions. The truth is that we are in their debt. We can no longer continue treating this work as essential and the people who do it as dispensable.

Migrant workers have paid their dues to Canada. It’s time for Canada to reciprocate by offering them permanent residency.

Dr. Harald Bauder is a professor and director of the Immigration Settlement and Studies Program, Ryerson University. Dr. Jenna Hennebry is an associate professor, International Migration Research Centre, Balsillie School of International Affairs, Wilfrid Laurier University. Audrey Macklin is a professor, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. Dr. Myer Siemiatycki, is a professor emeritus and past founding director, Immigration Settlement and Studies Program, Ryerson University.

Source: Migrant workers have paid their dues and should be given a path to permanent residency

Poor and Desperate, Pakistani Hindus Accept Islam to Get By

Of note:

The Hindus performed the prayer rituals awkwardly in supplication to their new, single god, as they prepared to leave their many deities behind them. Their lips stumbled over Arabic phrases that, once recited, would seal their conversion to Islam. The last words uttered, the men and boys were then circumcised.

Dozens of Hindu families converted in June in the Badin district of Sindh Province in southern Pakistan. Video clips of the ceremony went viral across the country, delighting hard-line Muslims and weighing on Pakistan’s dwindling Hindu minority.

The mass ceremony was the latest in what is a growing number of such conversions to Pakistan’s majority Muslim faith in recent years — although precise data is scarce. Some of these conversions are voluntary, some not.

News outlets in India, Pakistan’s majority-Hindu neighbor and archrival, were quick to denounce the conversions as forced. But what is happening is more subtle. Desperation, religious and political leaders on both sides of the debate say, has often been the driving force behind their change of religion.

Treated as second-class citizens, the Hindus of Pakistan are often systemically discriminated against in every walk of life — housing, jobs, access to government welfare. While minorities have long been drawn to convert in order to join the majority and escape discrimination and sectarian violence, Hindu community leaders say that the recent uptick in conversions has also been motivated by newfound economic pressures.

“What we are seeking is social status, nothing else,” said Muhammad Aslam Sheikh, whose name was Sawan Bheel until June, when he converted in Badin with his family. The ceremony in Badin was notable for its size, involving just over 100 people.

“These conversions,” he added, “are becoming very common in poor Hindu communities.”

Proselytizing Muslim clerics and charity groups add to the faith’s allure, offering incentives of jobs or land to impoverished minority members only if they convert.

With Pakistan’s economy on the brink of collapse in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the pressures on the country’s minorities, often its poorest people, have increased. The economy will contract by 1.3 percent in the 2020 fiscal year because of the pandemic, the World Bank predicts. And up to 18 million of Pakistan’s 74 million jobs may be lost.

Mr. Sheikh and his family hope to find financial support from wealthy Muslims or from Islamic charities that have cropped up in recent years, which focus on drawing more people to Islam.

Home Office to scrap ‘racist algorithm’ for UK visa applicants

Of note and a reminder that algorithms reflect the views and biases of the programmers and developers, and thus require careful management and oversight:

The Home Office is to scrap a controversial decision-making algorithm that migrants’ rights campaigners claim created a “hostile environment” for people applying for UK visas.

The “streaming algorithm”, which campaigners have described as racist, has been used since 2015 to process visa applications to the UK. It will be abandoned from Friday, according to a letter from Home Office solicitors seen by the Guardian.

The decision to scrap it comes ahead of a judicial review from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), which was to challenge the Home Office’s artificial intelligence system that filters UK visa applications.

Campaigners claim the Home Office decision to drop the algorithm ahead of the court case represents the UK’s first successful challenge to an AI decision-making system.

Chai Patel, JCWI’s legal policy director, said: “The Home Office’s own independent review of the Windrush scandal found it was oblivious to the racist assumptions and systems it operates.

“This streaming tool took decades of institutionally racist practices, such as targeting particular nationalities for immigration raids, and turned them into software. The immigration system needs to be rebuilt from the ground up to monitor such bias and to root it out.”

Source: Home Office to scrap ‘racist algorithm’ for UK visa applicants

If Corporations Really Want to Address Racial Inequality, Here Are 9 Things That Actually Make a Difference

A few articles of interest regarding racial inequality and options to address it. While largely focussed on Black inequalities and disparities, broadly applicable to most minority groups.

Starting with the most concrete by Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation. While some of the recommendations pertain to the private sector, some are more broadly applicable:

Since protests over the killing of George Floyd erupted across the country, I’ve received numerous calls from corporate CEOs who want to know what they should do, and where can they quickly donate $10 million dollars to advance the cause of racial justice?

The first thing I do is remind them of Martin Luther King Jr.’s caution that philanthropy must not be used to obscure the economic injustices that make it necessary. The frustration and rage we’re seeing across the country aren’t just about a racist system of policing.

It’s also about original sins–a genocide of Native Americans and enslavement of Black Africans whose stolen land and labor built this country’s wealth, enriching countless white people and their descendants in the process. It’s about the predations of modern-day capitalism that have allowed a privileged few to hoard the lion’s share of the nation’s wealth, effectively consigning Black folks to the bottom rung of the economic ladder.

This time the usual corporate playbook–issue a statement, gather a group of Black leaders for a conference call, give a hefty grant to the Urban League, resume business as usual–isn’t going to work. Here are 9 things every corporate leader can do to improve Black lives.

1. Remake your C suite

Change starts at the top. Do you have African-American board members? Black executives in your leadership team? If you do, are they token appointments, or do they have real power to recommend changes that would make your company more racially equitable?

2. Hire and advance more Black people

As leaders of large corporations, you have the power to transform Black lives immediately, simply by hiring and promoting more of us. Blind tests show that when identical resumes are submitted for the same job – one with a white-sounding name, the other with a Black-sounding one – the white applicant receives a callback 50% more often. Taking racial inclusion seriously means telling your managers that they cannot go forward with a hire or a promotion, at any level, unless the candidate pool is racially diverse.

3. Get involved in the Fair Chance Hiring Initiative

One legacy of the “tough on crime” era is that about one-third of American adults now have a criminal record, mostly for minor crimes that nonetheless hamper their ability to get a job. Black people are hugely overrepresented in that group, in significant part because of the kind of over-policing that sparked today’s protests.

That’s why the Society of Human Resource Management has urged employers to take the Getting Talent Back to Work Pledge as part of the Fair Chance Hiring Initiative by employing qualified job applicants with criminal backgrounds. Five years ago, the Ford Foundation committed to hire 10 formerly incarcerated business associates every year, and they are among our most dedicated employees.

4. Pay your employees a living wage

The federal minimum wage–$2.13 per hour for tipped workers and $7.25 per hour for others–is not a living wage. In 2016, nearly half of government public assistance went to people who worked full-time but still fell below the federal poverty line.

Black workers make up about 11% percent of the workforce, but 38% of Black workers who now work for the minimum wage would get a raise. Raising the pay of the workers at the bottom of your scale would disproportionately help people of color.

Commit to paying your workers a living wage of at least $15 per hour, and more in higher-cost parts of the country.

5. Provide a safe and healthy workplace

Valuing Black lives in a pandemic also means doing everything possible to create a safe workplace. Lack of adequate health insurance coverage are big reasons Black, Latinx and Native American people have contracted the coronavirus at a disproportionally higher rate than white Americans, with Black people dying of COVID-19 at a rate of almost 2.5 times the rate of white people. Does your company manipulate the schedules of your workers to fall just below the threshold for health coverage? Does it label people independent contractors even if they spend the bulk of their days working for you? If so, this is what advocates mean when they talk about structural racism.

6. Provide paid sick and family leave

Black workers often cannot afford to take time off to care for a newborn or sick family member. The lack of paid sick leave is another reason so many people of color have suffered higher rates of illness and death from COVID-19. If there were ever a question about whether paid leave is a moral issue, the pandemic should have laid it to rest.

7. Reconsider executive compensation

You might be asking, “but where am I going to find the resources to give my workers more?” Here, CEOs would do well to look in the mirror. According to the Economic Policy Institute, CEO compensation has grown 940% since 1978, while the salary of the average worker has increased only 12%. The economy would suffer zero harm if CEOs were paid less.

We know this, because many of those same executives are steering their excess wealth into philanthropic foundations, which have proliferated in the past two decades as their compensation has skyrocketed. While that charitable instinct benefits some of my foundation’s favorite causes, it would be better for the economy and for racial equity if more of that largesse were directed toward workers.

8. Advocate for a more progressive tax code

Standing up for Black lives means investing in the essential building blocks of social equality, from adequately funded schools to universal health care and affordable housing. These things require government action at scale.

Moving money from police budgets should be just the start. What we really need is a progressive tax code that will reduce income inequality, shore up our crumbling infrastructure, create a proper public health system and provide the social safety net that people need in a crisis. Five months into a pandemic that has shuttered the economy, Canada is subsidizing wages at 75% of full salary, while Americans are left to queue at food banks, wondering whether the next unemployment check will be their last.

Instead of deploying your lobbyists only on issues of narrow self-interest, detail them to advocate for tax reform and the expansion of social programs for poor people.

9. Advocate for shareholder reforms

But I hear you saying, “I have public shareholders to whom I’m accountable. Supporting tax policies that work against my company’s bottom line will only drive down our share price.” Yes, and this is why the current model of shareholder-driven capitalism that puts quarterly profits over people is bad for the long-term social and economic health of the country.

The Business Roundtable acknowledged as much last year, when 181 CEOs signed a statement revising the purpose of a corporation as one that benefits customers, employees, supplies and communities – not just shareholders. This was an important first step. Now, companies must turn that resolution into action, by committing to the kinds of tangible changes in practice and policy that will reduce inequality.

The uncomfortable truth is that if what you’re changing in your corporate practices doesn’t affect your bottom line, you’re not doing enough.

So to my friends in the Fortune 500: while the millions in onetime donations are appreciated, a permanent commitment to reducing racial inequality through changes in your own practices would be more meaningful. Outsourcing the work of racial justice isn’t sufficient when a broken system of capitalism has produced indefensible levels of wealth for owners and daily insecurity for workers. The corporate sector has the responsibility–and the ability–to act now.

Source: If Corporations Really Want to Address Racial Inequality, Here Are 9 Things That Actually Make a Difference

On the more abstract and process side, two examples starting with the call by Mireille Apollon, Sébastien Goupil and David Schimpky of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO:

Earlier this year, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, put out a call for feedback on efforts underway to achieve the objectives of the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024).

Given the dramatic events and protests that have marked the year so far, one could say that little has been done to advance the spirit of this important Decade. Unfortunately, it remains too-little known among nation states and institutions.

United Nations international years and decades are not celebratory; they are calls to concerted action on issues that need attention over a long period. The International Decade for People of African Descent expresses an urgent need for states to eradicate systemic racism and ensure recognition, justice, and development for Black people and communities.

For some time now, the UN has done its part to sound the alarm and remind us that our world faces a crisis of racism and racial injustice. In 2001, it convened the Durban Conference, which was intended to unite the world around fighting racism, but was overshadowed by strife among the participants and the 9/11 attacks. The conference nonetheless ended with the adoption of a vigorous program of action to be implemented by member states to fight racism and discrimination.

This conference was also the origin of flagship initiatives, such as the creation by UNESCO of the International Coalition of Sustainable and Inclusive Cities, which are across the world. This network includes our own Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities, whose principal objective is expressly to fight racism and discrimination.

The conference also led to the creation of a Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, which looked at the situation in Canada in 2016. Their well-researched and thoughtful report should be mandatory reading for every Canadian. It concludes:

“Despite the reputation for promoting multiculturalism and diversity and the positive measures taken by the national and provincial governments …, the Working Group is deeply concerned by the structural racism that lies at the core of many Canadian institutions and the systemic anti-Black racism that continues to have a negative impact on the human rights situation of African Canadians.”

An important step was taken in 2018, when Canada recognized the International Decade for People of African Descent, and announced significant funding programs and the creation of an Anti-Racism Secretariat. But let’s return again to the question from the high commissioner: how much progress have we seen over the past five years?

The Decade has been embraced by many Black organizations and activists, and there have been remarkable strides in Nova Scotia, which last year launched a historic action plan related to the International Decade. The Michaëlle Jean Foundation and the Federation of Black Canadians convened historic summits to mobilize Black communities and propose concrete actions.

Our Commission has undertaken new partnerships, including working with the Canadian Institute for Identities and Migrations on two special editions of Canadian Diversity dedicated to the voices of African descent leaders, thinkers, and activists. In addition, we are working with the UNESCO Chair on the Prevention of Radicalization leading to Violence and Project SOMEONE on a recently launched toolkit to tackle racial and social profiling.

That said, the International Decade remains largely overlooked. The past few weeks have demonstrated that anti-Black racism is alive and well, and not just south of the border. Black Canadians are right to demand real action, and governments and intuitions everywhere need to respond. We need to implement policies and significant measures that promote diversity and inclusion, and address racism and discrimination in all their forms.

Let’s have the courage in 2020 to go beyond grand words and promises. This is the time for action. The way forward is clear, we just need to take it.

Source: A roadmap already exists to advance the rights of Black communities

Lastly, similarly efforts by DND and the CAF to address anti-Black racism are heavy on process:

Addressing anti-Black racism in the ranks of the Canadian military is a matter of national security, with recent bad press likely to dampen recruitment, says the head of the Federal Black Employee Caucus.

“For a long time this work has been piecemeal and people kind of do it at the corner of their desk, but now there is such a higher level of importance that [is] being put on it and getting it right,” said Richard Sharpe, founder of the Federal Black Employee Caucus (FBEC).

The Department of National Defence convened a meeting on July 27 to have its management “listen and learn directly from visible minority defence team members about the lived experience and systematic barriers that they and other colleagues face on a daily basis,” according to a July 28 statementfrom outgoing chief of the defence staff Jonathan Vance and national defence deputy minister Jody Thomas.

The meeting came after a June 19 letter that Gen. Vance and Ms. Thomas sent to DND members apologizing for the delay in addressing the outpouring of response to the police killing of George Floyd and reports of systematic racism within DND and the Canadian Armed Forces.

Those members of DND who presented gave three recommendations for the Canadian military to implement: establish a secretariat for members of DND to report on racial discrimination, make clear who is responsible for implementing policies and processes to tackle racism, and align DND with the rest of the public service to collect disaggregated data and renew the Employment Equity Act.

“I don’t want to fawn all over them, but I think they’ve been doing a very good job of addressing some of these issues—at least at the senior levels of the organization—head on,” said Mr. Sharpe, who took part in the July 27 meeting. “I appreciate the fact that we had a very frank and open discussion about race and anti-Black racism.”

He said changes to the Employment Equity Act are “long overdue.” The act, which was passed in the 1980s, outlines four classes of people that receive special protections: persons with disabilities, women, Indigenous people, and visible minorities.

“It refers to Black and racialized people as visible minorities and our experiences are masked within that visible minority term,” Mr. Sharpe said.

During the meeting, Gen. Vance and Ms. Thomas wrote, the leadership of the Canadian military heard about the need to “re-imagine and re-design,” so the new policies work for those without power within the structure of DND.

“The experiences they shared exposed persistent and deeply painful occurrences of aggressively racist behaviours, micro-aggressions, and failures of leadership to address both,” Gen. Vance and Ms. Thomas’ statement read.

The statement also referred to the creation of a DND Black Employee Network, something Mr. Sharpe called “really important.”

He noted that FBEC has been pushing for the establishment of Black employee networks—which create a safe place to gather to establish recommendations and have their own voice within institutions to push for change as a distinct group—across the public service.

“So with DND committing to do this, I think it gives great space for this to happen and a focus that we’ve never had. There’s never been a focus on Black employees in the public service,” Mr. Sharpe said.

The DND Black Employee Network is made up of both military and civilian members, who can “come together to share their experiences and discuss ways to respond to anti-Black racism within the Defence Team,” according to a DND spokesperson, who added that the group’s mandate is provide space for Black members of DND and the Canadian Forces to “explore, discuss, and create ways to tackle anti-Black racism.”

It will be made up of departmental volunteers who will act as a consultative body for senior DND and military leaders.

“It really does continue to feel like historic times here, with all that’s been happening, and there’s been movement on this work [that the FBEC] has been pushing for two years,” said Mr. Sharpe.

Given the new territory of DND’s initiative, Mr. Sharpe said it’s difficult to establish concrete timelines, but added he’s heard from DND leadership that they want to enact changes “very quickly.”

“This is a national security threat for DND. …The bad press, the reputational damage impacts on the ability on the organization to recruit people,” he said. “So I think they’re trying to get this stuff in place as soon as possible, addressing any kind of reputational damage that they may be experiencing due to the ongoing incidents of racism within the ranks and intolerance in the various defence [branches].”

Canadian Forces College professor Alan Okros, an expert on diversity in the military, said the networks provide a way for individuals to have a voice and have their concerns illuminated.

“In the current context, there is more of an interest at the senior leadership level in listening to [advisory groups] and hearing what’s going on,” he said.

Gen. Vance and Ms. Thomas said in their statement that National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver South, B.C.) is “fully seized with addressing racial discrimination” within DND, adding that he “expects bold, decisive action” from both DND and the Canadian Armed Forces.

Mr. Sajjan told CTV last month that during his early days in the Armed Forces he realized “how intense racism can be.”

“I remember one person … saying to me, ‘I let you join my military.’ Just that position of power and privilege that he was throwing in my face, it just upset me so much,” he said.

Prof. Okros said the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States and Canada have given an increased impetus to diversity and inclusion work that started with Marie Deschamps’ 2015 report on sexual assault in the Canadian military, which led the Canadian government to launch Operation Honour to tackle sexual assault and misconduct.

“It’s moved it up a notch in terms of the level of attention and focus on it,” he said, adding that Gen. Vance and Ms. Thomas have made it clear this is how they want to lead.

Prof. Okros said now that the senior leaders have held a meeting to listen, the big question is: what have they heard and what is going to be done?

A DND spokesperson said implementation timelines and funding have not yet been determined.

“As we work towards establishing the appropriate framework and resources for this critical initiative, we are continuing to be open and transparent with the entire Defence Team,” the spokesperson said.

The recommendations being put forward are “good first steps,” Prof. Okros said, adding that there will be individuals who will be expecting more to be done to fully achieve what’s required.

“I think they’re definitely going to be interested in moving as quickly as they can,” he said. “It likely is going to result in some staged or staggered implementation, recognizing that in some of these cases there are legal issues involved and it takes time, and there’s a requirement to be prudent if you are going to make changes that have legal consequences.”

“Creating the secretariat, clarifying roles and responsibilities are things that can be moved forward fairly quickly,” said Prof. Okros. “I think part of what the next steps are is going to depend on having some legal review and some policy review to make sure they get it right.”

Gen. Vance and Ms. Thomas called the July 27 meeting “just a start.”

“We will be meeting with the other defence advisory groups to hear their stories on discrimination and systematic barriers. We know there is so much more to do, and that we will be judged based on our actions and results, not our sentiments and promises.”

Source: ‘It’s a national security threat’: DND launches anti-Black racism initiative

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 5 August Update

Latest update, along with chart for infections. Recent uptick in infections can be expected to lead to an uptick in deaths. No major change in ranking.