Citizenship tests set to resume online after 8-month suspension

Better late than never:

The immigration department is resuming citizenship tests that were put on hold more than eight months ago due to the global pandemic, with safeguards in place to ensure proper identification of those taking the tests online.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is launching a new virtual platform today for the citizenship tests, which will be offered online to a small group at first – the roughly 5,000 people who had dates scheduled before the pandemic that were subsequently cancelled, and other priority cases.

IRCC said the platform will be tested over the next few months and more people will be invited to use it — likely early in the new year — after performance monitoring proves it works reliably.

Before beginning the test, participants will be asked to confirm their identity through personal information, and they will have to take a photo of themselves and their ID documents with a webcam before the test can begin.

The system will take photos of participants during the test — a process that has been used to ensure the integrity of other tests that moved online due to the pandemic, such as bar exams or law school admissions tests.

20 questions, 30 minutes

The format of the online test will be the same as the in-person test, with 20 questions and 30 minutes to complete them. 

IRCC said in a notice provided to CBC news that that people do not need to reach out to the department — those invited to take the online test will be notified by email.

People can also wait to take the test in-person, but no date has been set yet for resuming that process. 

IRCC cancelled all citizenship tests, re-tests, hearings and interviews on March 14 due to the pandemic. Citizenship ceremonies were also halted at that time but have resumed since as virtual events.

Before COVID-19 struck, a citizenship modernization program was in the works that included plans for online tests.

Lives in limbo

Today’s development likely will come as welcome news to thousands of newcomers whose lives were in limbo because of the suspension.

All citizenship applicants aged 18 to 54 must pass the test to become Canadian citizens. Citizenship allows a newcomer the right to vote and obtain a passport, and also gives many a sense of security and permanence.

Many argued that if schools and universities can operate virtually, citizenship tests should be offered online as well. But some lawyers have warned that an online process could allow people to cheat the system.

IRCC says people can take the test whenever it’s convenient for them, while offering the test online will help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by limiting in-person gatherings.

Source: https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/citizenship-tests-immigration-pandemic-covid19-1.5815945

In support of a process based on merit

One of the better and more nuanced discussions regarding merit in the judicial appointment process and the involvement of the political levels:

The president of the Canadian Bar Association has written to party leaders in Parliament and justice critics to clarify his comments on judicial appointments, which he says have been mischaracterized in the House of Commons and in news reports. CBA president Brad Regehr states that he has not accused the government of interfering in the appointment process, nor has he suggested that the process has resulted in the appointment of unworthy candidates.

The president of the Canadian Bar Association has written to every party leader in Parliament to clarify his comments on judicial appointments, which he says have been mischaracterized by several of those leaders and in news reports. CBA president Brad Regehr states that he has not accused the government of interfering in the appointment process, nor has he suggested that the process has resulted in the appointment of unworthy candidates.

Regehr also points to leaks about applicants to the media as demeaning the selection process, unfairly tainting those who are appointed, and discouraging worthy candidates from applying.

“One of the things that really concerns me is the naming people who submitted their names in the belief that it was a confidential process, and all of a sudden their names are appearing in the media,” Regehr told the CBA National. “It really bothers me that this happened. The potential impact on those individuals – their relationships with their clients, with their co-workers, with their firm – it was highly inappropriate.”

In recent weeks, news stories based on those leaks have fuelled speculation that the government is appointing friends and donors of the party. Members of the Prime Minister’s Office vet candidates who have been recommended to the Justice Minister by the Judicial Appointments Committees (JACs). They also consult with caucus members to learn if they have heard anything about those candidates that could potentially embarrass the government.

Justice Minister David Lametti stated in Question Period that the PMO has not directed any appointments, nor has it declined any of his recommendations.

According to Regehr, the current appointment process has improved compared to what it once was. His concern is that the process remains free of political interference.

“I understand that government … may do some additional vetting – I’m not unrealistic,” says Regehr. “If there is an indication that a person’s enrollment in a particular party or their financial support to a political party becomes a governing factor, that’s of concern, because the idea should be that these judges are being appointed on merit, and that they are reflective of Canadian society.”

Regehr reiterated that political involvement is an indicator of someone who is devoted to public service.

“It would be best if there could be some further affirmation that this is not the governing factor in the appointment of judges,” says Regehr. “I will take those accusations in the House and allegations in the media with a grain of salt. I have a good relationship with Minister Lametti, and I have had a talk with him about this, and he has assured me that this is not the case.”

In an emailed statement to CBA National Magazine, Lametti said he was pleased to read Regehr’s letter.

“I share his concerns about the confidentiality of the process,” Lametti stated. “Those who have chosen to leak the names of individuals who are seeking a judicial appointment are violating the privacy rights of those individuals as well as undermining public confidence in the appointments process. They may also be discouraging qualified applicants from applying.”

Addressing Regehr’s stated concerns about delays in filling vacancies on the JACs, which in turn delay filling vacancies on the bench, Lametti said the government has worked to reconstitute the JACs in jurisdictions where terms have expired. It has also reduced the number of vacancies nationally, he said.

“It is my responsibility to make recommendations to Cabinet for judicial appointments,” said Lametti. “It is one of the most important tasks I have as Minister. I make my recommendations to Cabinet on the basis of merit and the needs of the particular court. I also believe that an effective bench is one which reflects the diversity of the country it serves, and I am proud of the progress we are making in appointing diverse candidates. More needs to be done, but we are on the right path.”

Asked about the vetting by the PMO as a function of the appointment process, University of Waterloo political science professor Emmett Macfarlane says that our political system has rested on a set of executive prerogatives of appointments that provide a direct line of accountability for the appointment itself.

“Modernization of a lot of these processes have included establishing a bit of an independent filter, usually through these Judicial Advisory Committees, that have been set up for a lot of the Section 96 courts, and are probably a reasonable step to the extent that historically there was a lot of patronage in these appointments,” says Macfarlane. “A degree of professionalization of the appointments process was reasonable.”

Macfarlane says he is concerned by some of what has transpired over the past week. People have taken to the idea that an independent filter means the government and the prime minister should be cut out of the equation entirely.

“That’s a bit of a naïve view about the nature of courts and the role of the judiciary in our system, in that we obviously want a judiciary staffed with people who can do their best to recognize their biases, but there’s no such thing as an apolitical court,” says Macfarlane. “In fact, the higher up the ladder you go, the more political the nature of the court’s work gets.”

Macfarlane says that having an elected official who must maintain Parliament’s confidence and is responsible for selecting people appointed to our courts provides some measure of democratic accountability to the third branch of government.

“This is important – the quality of people appointed obviously matters, but the political nature of the role matters too,” says Macfarlane. “That’s not to say we slide off the opposite slope in that we should be talking about electing judges – very few people, rightly, in Canada want to go that route, but the reason that we should want that degree of political accountability is reflected in the nature of judicial decision-making, particularly in areas like constitutional and administrative law.”

Source: In support of a process based on merit

Douglas Todd: Rise of mixed-race unions in Canada softening identity labels

An ongoing trend although fear mixed unions in Canada compared to the US along with some interesting variations among visible minority groups:

The elevation of Kamala Harris to vice-president-elect of the United States of America has many probing the significance of mixed-race partnerships.

Many celebrate how the daughter of an Indian mother and Black father went on to marry a white Jewish lawyer named Douglas Emhoff. Optimists see her journey as a creative blurring of ancestries, which might help soften the harder divisions of identity politics.

Interracial couples make up about 10 per cent of all relationships in the U.S. and about five per cent in Britain and Canada.

Source: Douglas Todd: Rise of mixed-race unions in Canada softening identity labels

Canada’s College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act Comes Into Force

Good overview by one of the immigration law firms:

We will see how well the new regime works and whether it results in better practices and more professional immigration consultants:

Canada’s College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act has come into force, representing another step on the way to forming a new self-regulating body for immigration consultants. 

The act provides the framework for the creation of the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants (CICC), the body replacing the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC).

The act, which came into force on Thursday, November 26, 2020, but was first tabled in 2019, will see the introduction of a new licensing regime and a new code of professional conduct for immigration consultants.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says the CICC will be subject to ‘significant government oversight’.

The government will establish the code of conduct, set the composition of the College Board of Directors, and appoint up to a majority of directors, IRCC says.

“We’re taking decisive action to hold immigration and citizenship consultants to account by improving oversight and increasing accountability to protect both the public and consultants in good standing from dishonest consultants who are taking advantage of vulnerable people,” said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.


College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act

1.  Creates a licensing regime for immigration and citizenship consultants and requires that licensees comply with a code of professional conduct established by the minister, through regulations to be tabled by the government.

2. Authorizes the College’s Complaints Committee to conduct investigations into a licensee’s conduct and activities.

3. Authorizes the College’s Discipline Committee to take or require action if it determines that a licensee has committed professional misconduct or was incompetent.

4. Prohibits persons who are not licensees from using certain titles and representing themselves to be licensees and provides that the College may seek an injunction for the contravention of those prohibitions.

5. Gives the immigration minister the authority to determine the number of directors on the board of directors and to require the Board to do anything that is advisable to carry out the purposes of that Act.

6. Gives the new regulatory body to hear complaints regarding licensed members under the former regulatory body (ICCRC).

7. Fines doubled for consultants found to be violating rules.


In reality, the formation of the CICC represents a missed opportunity for the federal government to bring the regulation of immigration consultants directly under its remit. Self-regulatory bodies like the ICCRC and its predecessors have failed to the required job.

Ottawa should follow the example of Quebec, which regulates immigration consultants within the provincial government Ministry of Immigration. There is an established infrastructure that successfully regulates immigration consultants, without the repetitive problems faced by ICCRC and its predecessor.

The new act comes after years of investigations and reports citing abuse and violations by licensed and unlicensed consultants in the Canadian immigration industry.

The regulation of the immigration consultancy industry has long been a source of controversy, even before a Standing Committee report in 2017.

That report called for action in three main areas:

  1. The legislative framework for the body responsible for governing immigration and citizenship consultants.
  2. Investigations and enforcement concerning the offense of practicing while not authorized and other offences.
  3. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada procedures for processing applications and for communicating with clients and with prospective applicants.

Previously there have been a number of damning reports into the conduct of the existing ICCRC, exposing an unprofessional organization beset with infighting and poor practices.

An overwhelming concern is that unregulated ‘ghost’ consultants who operate in Canada and overseas without sanction.

The previous legal framework did not enable ICCRC to police unlicensed consultants inside Canada or abroad.  

This left the task for CBSA and RCMP, as well as the federal government, to try and address this problem. A number of high-profile fraud cases have thus made their way into the Canadian legal system.

The advice for immigration candidates is to exercise caution when hiring an immigration consultant.

Candidates who wish to receive representation are encouraged to hire a qualified immigration lawyer, monitored by a provincial law society.

Source: Canada’s College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act Comes Into Force

Windrush generation: UK ‘unlawfully ignored’ immigration rules warnings

Damning report:

The Home Office unlawfully ignored warnings that changes to immigration rules would create “serious injustices” for the Windrush generation, a report by the equalities watchdog says.

It found the “hostile environment” policy, designed to deter “irregular” migrants from settling, had harmed many people already living in the UK.

The Windrush generation came from the Caribbean to the UK from 1948 to 1971.

The Home Office said it was determined to “right the wrongs suffered” by them.

Labour said ministers should be “deeply ashamed” of the report’s findings.

An estimated 500,000 people living in the UK make up the surviving members of the Windrush generation.

They were granted indefinite leave to remain in 1971, but thousands were children who had travelled on their parents’ passports.

Because of this, many were unable to prove they had the right to live in the country when “hostile environment” immigration policies – demanding the showing of documentation – began in 2012, under Theresa May as home secretary.

This adversely affected their access to housing, banking, work, benefits, healthcare and driving, while many were threatened with deportation.

‘Shameful stain’

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) report found a “lack of organisation-wide commitment, including by senior leadership, to the importance of equality and the Home Office’s obligations under the equality duty placed on government departments”.

It added: “Any action taken to record and respond to negative equality impacts was perfunctory, and therefore insufficient.”

The report also said: “From 2012, this [hostile environment] agenda accelerated the impact of decades of complex policy and practice based on a history of white and black immigrants being treated differently.”

The EHRC recommended that, to ensure “measurable action”, the Home Office should enter an agreement with it by the end of January 2021, involving “preparing and implementing a plan” of “specific actions” to “avoid a future breach”.

This should apply to its immigration work “in respect of race and colour, and more broadly”, it said.

The Home Office has agreed to enter an agreement with the EHRC.

The commission’s interim chair Caroline Waters said: “The treatment of the Windrush generation as a result of hostile environment policies was a shameful stain on British history.

“It is unacceptable that equality legislation, designed to prevent an unfair or disproportionate impact on people from ethnic minorities and other groups, was effectively ignored in the creation and delivery of policies that had such profound implications for so many people’s lives.”

In a statement, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft said they were “determined to right the wrongs suffered by the Windrush generation and make amends for the institutional failings they faced, spanning successive governments over several decades”.

They added that the department was already applying a “a more rigorous approach to policy making” and would “increase openness to scrutiny, and create a more inclusive workforce”.

It was also launching “comprehensive training” for all staff “to ensure they understand and appreciate the history of migration and race in this country”, they said.

But Satbir Singh, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said campaigners had “repeatedly warned the Home Office that their hostile environment policies would inevitably lead to serious discrimination and to the denial of rights, particularly for people of colour”.

He added that “successive home secretaries” had “ignored these warnings” before the situation hit the headlines in 2018.

For Labour, shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “Ministers must work urgently to rectify this, including getting a grip of the Windrush compensation scheme, which has descended into an offensive mess, piling injustice upon injustice.”

And shadow justice secretary David Lammy, who organised the cross-party letter referring the Home Office to the EHRC last year, said: “Black Britons were detained, deported, denied healthcare, housing and employment by their own government because of the colour of their skin.

“Since the scandal broke, the Home Office has only paid lip service to its victims. It must now urgently rectify this gross injustice.”

Source: Windrush generation: UK ‘unlawfully ignored’ immigration rules warnings

Khan: How one organization has broken the silence on abuse within Muslim institutions

Of note:

Recently, more than 95,000 claims of sexual assault were filed against the Boy Scouts of America, while a Vatican report found that Pope John Paul II facilitated the ascent of now-disgraced Cardinal Theodore McCarrick by rejecting explicit warnings of widespread sexual abuse. Tragically, the scourge of sexual abuse cuts across many communities.

Facing Abuse in Community Environments (FACE) was formed in 2017 to address abuse by religious leadership within North American Muslim institutions. It has created a rigorous framework to investigate allegations against Muslim religious leaders and hold them to account.

The organization broke new ground by publishing a series of in-depth investigations into allegations of misconduct by imams. In one case, the plaintiff (“Jane Doe”) was awarded a US$2.5-million judgment against Imam Zia ul-Haq Sheikh for sexual exploitation.

These investigations serve to notify the public about individuals with problematic records of behaviour before hiring them. In the past, an offending individual would be terminated quietly by his Muslim employer, only to reoffend again within a new, unsuspecting community. Mosque boards looking for an imam or parents seeking a private religious studies teacher would conduct minimal due diligence – if any at all.

The work of FACE has added teeth to the accountability process for religious leaders. It has also enabled the discussion of taboo topics, such as sexual abuse. This is revolutionary, for predators take full advantage of the culture of silence, knowing that many of their victims feel like they have nowhere to turn to. Most importantly, FACE has empowered victims to speak up and seek justice.

Muslims have a deferential and respectful attitude toward their religious leaders. Not surprisingly, accusations of impropriety are often disbelieved. Accusers become the object of shame, blame and ostracization. Protection of the vulnerable from harm is sacrificed for the protection of the institution. It takes tremendous courage for a victim to come forth.

Until recently, there had been few avenues to seek redress or accountability, since victims feared they would not be believed.

FACE recently announced the publication of a centralized “Historic Transgression List” of North American community leaders charged with abusive behaviour, based on court documents and media coverage of legal proceedings. These men may be living in a community, awaiting trial, incarcerated or have fled. The public can help FACE update this list by submitting documented proof, which is vetted by the organization’s lawyers before being published.

Six of the 16 men listed have ties to Canada. All six have been charged with sexual assault, including three charged with sexual offences against a minor. Two are in prison, one is awaiting trial, one is working as an imam, while the whereabouts of two are unknown.

There is the egregious case of Saadeldin Bahr, charged with sexual assault while counselling a woman at a mosque in Port Coquitlam, B.C. He was sentenced for 3<AF>1/2 years, forbidden from owning a firearm for 10 years and is on the National Sex Offender Registry for 20 years. Financial audits also show he misappropriated $127,000 in donations. He is scheduled for release by 2021.

There is also the troubling case of Abdi Hersy, who was charged with sexual assault involving two female patients in Minnesota in 2006 while working as a respiratory therapist, leading to the revocation of his licence by the Minnesota Board of Medical PracticeMr. Hersy fled to Canada before a U.S. warrant for his arrest was issued, obtaining refugee status in 2008, which was reversed after discovery of the warrant. The reversal was successfully challenged in Federal Court. Upon learning of the warrant, the Muslim Council of Calgary fired Mr. Hersy. However, Calgary’s Abu Bakr Musallah hired him in a position of trust and authority as its imam. Congregants should be demanding his dismissal.

The award-winning film Spotlight illustrated how the culture of secrecy and lack of accountability led to the destruction of so many lives by abusive clergy. As the Muslim community begins to confront this problem within its own institutions, it must remember its duty to protect the well-being of its most vulnerable members, while holding offenders to account. The spotlight of shame belongs on offenders and their enablers, not the victims.

Sheema Khan is the author of Of Hockey and Hijab: Reflections of a Canadian Muslim Woman.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-how-one-organization-has-broken-the-silence-on-abuse-within-muslim/

Diversity isn’t a zero-sum game

Useful look at the linkages between official languages and employment equity, indicating little conflict between two complementary goals. Given that TBS now provides breakdowns by individual groups, further analysis of OL and diversity by group would be helpful given the differences between groups (see my What new disaggregated data tells us about federal public service … and What the Public Service Employee Survey breakdowns of visible minority and other groups tell us about diversity and inclusion).

Little new, however, on the various suggestions to further improve diversity:

Fostering Canada’s rich diversity continues to be a national priority, as emphasized in the latest speech from the throne. Yet, critics often view diversity as a zero-sum game. One recent argument insisted that promoting French-language diversity and racial diversity represents “deeply contradictory goals with little introspection,” claiming that French-language requirements discriminate against racialized people. This trade-off mentality is dangerous because it pits groups against each other. In reality, French-language diversity and racial diversity can thrive in tandem, and the federal workforce is a living example of that.

French-language diversity is increasing

French-language diversity in Canada has always faced challenges but it first gained legal representation in 1969 through the Official Languages Act. Today, its preservation is reinforced by the Liberal Party modelling bilingualism in its speeches and investing a record $2.7 billion over five years starting in 2018–2019 to make bilingualism more accessible to Canadians. Additionally, non-partisan government policies, such as the Directive on Official Languages for People Management,have promoted bilingualism in the federal workplace.

Such political and administrative dynamics have helped bolster the number of government positions requiring bilingualism or French-only from 40.1 per cent in 2017 to 45.1 per cent in 2019, according to the latest data from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. Interestingly, this same data set reveals a story of diversity complementarity rather than contradiction.

Racial diversity is also increasing

Two common ways of measuring diversity are (1) overall representation and (2) access to executive positions. For visible minorities (the government’s term for racialized people), both metrics have increased. Between 2017 and 2019, the number of government-employed visible minorities skyrocketed by 21.2 per cent, expanding their representation in the federal workforce from 15.1 per cent to 16.7 per cent (figure 1). Notably, Black representation increased the most, growing from 2.8 per cent to 3.2 per cent, and it did so without cannibalizing the representation of other visible minority groups (South Asian/East Indian, people of mixed origin, Chinese, and others).

Clearly, representation has improved but what about access to executive positions wielding power over decisions and resources? It has also improved. Between 2017 and 2019, the number of visible minority executives increased by 20.8 per cent, elevating their share of total executive positions from 10.2 per cent to 11.1 per cent. Again, there wasn’t any cannibalization across visible minority groups. However, this gain has been outpaced by the growth in visible minorities’ overall representation. What this means more broadly is that the pipeline of diverse candidates to fill the nation’s top bureaucratic positions has expanded quickly. Yet, more efforts to train, promote and retain these staff are required to ensure that senior leadership is more racially representative.

Promoting diversity can be inclusive

This complementary diversity is even clearer when French-language and racial data are combined. Since 2017, the federal government has added roughly 8,900 positions that require bilingualism or French-only speakers. Visible minorities have filled a whopping 28 per cent of these positions (which is almost double the percentage of working-age visible minorities in Canada who can speak French). This, in large part, is a result of greater access to language training and new initiatives to achieve departmental racial diversity goals. Simply put, visible minorities are fully capable of promoting the French language if they’re equipped with the proper resources.

Interestingly, these encouraging trends haven’t threatened many other diversity groups. For example, women’s representation and the share of Indigenous executives have both increased over the same period. This may be due to workers having intersectional identities. However, the myriad of diversity personified by top cabinet ministers signals the priority to reflect Canada’s true diversity in the government. Equally, the bureaucracy’s increasing emphasis on diversity since 2016 – through new studies, task forces, departmental diversity and inclusion councils, executive leadership development programs, and the like – has expanded diversity across multiple fronts.

A path forward for French-language diversity

French-language diversity and racial diversity in the Canadian government are increasing but more must be done to reflect Canada’s true diversity. To increase French-language diversity, the government should prioritize improving the quality of language training. Currently, departments use third-party language-training suppliers, which often entails high costs, as noted by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. This decentralization across departments translates into a lack of standardization, inhibiting a high and consistent quality of education, and limited coordination, preventing departments from pooling resources and sharing best practices to teach French.

Instead, the government should offer more virtual group language lessons, workshops and resources through the Canada School of Public Service (the government’s central employee training hub). In-housing more teaching ensures greater quality control, broadens accessibility to more staff and saves on training costs in the long run. To help employees master French, the government should create short and immersive language-exchange programs – across departments and with international agencies – so that staff can work in a different official-language setting. These micro-assignments can include a language-mentoring component, which has also been suggested by the Privy Council Office. In turn, departments would benefit from these staff subsequently spurring more ideas, best practices and collaborations across departments and institutions.

A path forward for racial diversity

To increase racial representation, the government should invest in targeted recruiting programs. As the federal Joint Union/Management Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion suggests, recruiting racialized students has historically been challenging. Programs like the Indigenous Student Employment Opportunity and the Federal Internship Program for Canadians with Disabilitieselevate the importance of specific groups; a similar resource-backed program for racialized people would highlight them in recruitment. Another way to build the diversity pipeline is through sponsorship programs. In the United States, the Charles B. Rangel Graduate Fellowship Program(funded by the federal government) helps historically underrepresented U.S. minorities fund their graduate program, pairs them with mentors and places them in a full-time position at the U.S. State Department. This end-to-end program incubates talent from the start and fosters their long-term success with resources.

To boost racialized employees’ access to executive positions, the government should formalize a career mentorship program available across all departments. This government-wide approach would enable more standardization (while allowing for some departmental customization) and best-practice sharing. Additionally, departments should consider a reverse-mentorship program, whereby junior racialized staff act as mentors to senior non-racialized executives. Research and the United Kingdom Civil Service’s first-hand experiences reveal that such a program elevates a group’s visibility, unlocks more trust between groups and ultimately increases retention. These interactions also create a non-hierarchical feedback loop that enables executives to better understand lived realities and how the organizational culture interacts with those realities. Thus, they can more effectively address diversity and inclusion barriers.

Whether it’s targeted recruiting or mentorship programs, what’s crucial is that these initiatives be incremental to existing efforts and not cannibalize them. Additionally, accountability is integral to their success. For instance, this could mean factoring into executive evaluation and compensation how an organization performs based on its original diversity goals.

Diversity is just one piece of the journey

Canada’s commitments to cherish its French-language diversity and racial diversity deserve some praise. The federal workforce proves how these two can be complementary rather than a zero-sum trade-off. However, the Canadian government can’t rely on this positive trajectory because it’s far from being truly diverse and inclusive. That’s why it should standardize more official language teaching and bring it in-house, promote official language-exchange programs, invest in targeted recruiting for racialized people and institutionalize mentorship programs.

Beyond diversity, workplace inclusion equally needs attention. For example, the 2019 Public Service Employee Survey results show that visible minorities in the government are nearly twice as likely as non-visible minorities to report experiencing discrimination. This can negatively impact an individual’s sense of belonging, trust in a department, willingness to fully contribute at work and even retention.

Be it diversity challenges or inclusion challenges, resolving both is critical to reducing workplace inequities and socioeconomic disparities. Doing so is a necessary step to making diversity, inclusion and equity a reality in the Canadian government.

Source: Diversity isn’t a zero-sum game

IRCC Citizenship Evaluation: Uptake and Fees

Given my earlier work highlighting a recent decline in naturalization, a study guide and test written at more advance language levels, and the possible link with the increases in citizenship fees, found these sections of the recent evaluation of the citizenship program to be of particular interest, providing a nuanced analysis of recent trends and impact of the citizenship fee increases.

Found it somewhat amusing that the evaluation included a similar trend chart to one I shared a number of years ago to provoke some needed discussion, and one that I refined to provide a more accurate picture thanks to the advice of some former IRCC colleagues.

Interestingly, in the management response to the fee issue, no mention was made of the government’s election platform commitment to waive citizenship fees entirely but softer commitments to:

Action 1a: As part of IRCC’s review of citizenship fees, bring forward a plan to EXComm to address affordability.

Action 1b: Bring forward a plan for a free or low-cost option citizenship-specific language test based on the Canadian Language Benchmarks and work toward adding it to the list of acceptable evidence.

There is a wealth of data and analysis contained in the evaluation, including application data which is not published as part of the monthly operational statistics on opendata along with informative surveys on reasons for applying for citizenship:

4.1.1 Overall uptake

Canada has one of the highest naturalization rates among Western countries. Citizenship research based on census data shows that Canada’s naturalization rate (i.e., the proportion of PRs who become citizens) increased from about 81.6% in 1991 to 86.3% in 2016. However, the rate among more recent immigrants (five to nine years in Canada) declined, suggesting that immigrants are taking longer to become citizens.

Research based on Census data allows for the study of citizenship uptake over a longer period of time (30 or more years), but is less robust as it is based on self-reporting, and does not consider the immigrant’s decision to apply for citizenship as part of uptake process. The decision to apply is also a valid proxy of desire for citizenship. It does not exclude individuals with an interest whose applications are refused, or those who may be delayed in obtaining it due to limitations with IRCC’s application processing capacity. With this in mind, the evaluation examined citizenship uptake using administrative data from GCMS, and looked at the initial uptake of PRs admitted to Canada between 2005 and 2015, who had obtained or applied for citizenship by the end of 2018.

Overall, the analysis found that citizenship uptake was 57% for this population, with 50% of PRs having become citizens, and 7% having applied. The analysis also showed that the more years in Canada, the greater the percentage of PRs who had obtained or applied for citizenship (Figure 1). Citizenship uptake ranged from 21% after 3 years in Canada as a PR (2015 cohort) to 76.5% after 13 years in Canada as a PR (2005 cohort).

4.1.2 Challenges related to fees

Finding: The citizenship application fee is a common challenge for permanent residents, particularly refugees, families and those with lower income.

Sections 31 and 32 of the Citizenship Regulations deal with the structure of two fees related to citizenship: the Fee for Right to be a Citizen, and the Fee for Application to be a citizen. The Fee for Right to be a Citizen is payable only by applicants aged 18 years or older, at a cost of $100. The Fee for Application varies from $100 for minor grant applications, to $530 for adult grant applications.Of note, these fees do not account for extraneous costs related to applying for citizenship that applicants may incur.

The adult grant application fee increased twice during the evaluation period.A review of citizenship grant application data did not reveal a significant decrease in the volume of applications received after these changes were implemented.Interviews also suggested little to no impact of these changes overall, but pointed to possible challenges for vulnerable people, like refugees.

Evaluation survey results were consistent with interview findings. While many respondents did not indicate a problem with the application fee, 28% indicated that it had delayed or was preventing them from applying for citizenship at the time of the survey. This percentage was greater for resettled refugees and protected persons, respondents with a personal income of $60,000 or less, and those with 5 or more people on their application (or future application) (Table 4). Moreover, about half of evaluation survey respondents who had not applied for citizenship felt a lower application fee would encourage them to apply.

Census-based research also showed evidence of a more pronounced decline in naturalization among recent immigrants (5 to 9 years in Canada) with low family income. Findings from the interviews and focus groups with PRs suggested that economically disadvantaged newcomers, such as those who are unemployed, are not able to afford the costs associated with applying (e.g., costs associated with third-party language testing). Moreover, the fear of being unsuccessful in an application (e.g., not passing the knowledge test) and losing the applications fees (or paying to reapply) was also noted in the focus groups with PRs and program-led consultations on Discover Canada.  The impact of the fees was also thought to be amplified for larger families with multiple applications.

Citizenship test and study guide:

Interviews generally noted that the test is efficient, easy-to-grade, and objectively scored. However, the language level of the test and study guide was viewed as higher than the language requirement. Moreover, the evaluation observed that the two requirements involve different skills. The official language criteria are based on oral communication skills (speaking and listening), while the knowledge test is generally written and requires reading skills. Although applicants can access an audio version of the study guide and an oral knowledge hearing, this does not address comprehension challenges related to language level.

Program-led consultations on Discover Canada (to update the study guide) also found that the language level can be difficult for many newcomers. Similarly, research findings suggested challenges with the approach, as the knowledge test pass rate dropped sharply for applicants (18- 54) after the Discover Canada study guide was introduced – from about 96% to 83.5% in 2011. Consultation findings highlighted a need for the wording and tone to be more inclusive and easier to understand, and included suggestions for the use of plain language and definitions, having less text and more visuals, and providing additional tools and support to increase accessibility and effectively communicate the information in the study guide. As a result of these consultations, a new approach, including a new guide and additional tools, is being developed to help address these concerns, but it had not yet been implemented at the time of the evaluation.

Source: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/ircc/documents/pdf/english/corporate/reports-statistics/evaluations/e1-2018-citizenshipprogram-eng.pdf

Green: Canada should revive the investor immigrant program and fix its past failures

Not aware of any studies that show meaningful benefits from investor immigration programs in OECD countries. Green is notably vague with respect to how he proposes to “fix its past failures” beyond increasing the investment threshold. The IRCC evaluation was devastating (https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjN2Z6D2qDtAhX8GFkFHWXyCD4QFjAAegQIAxAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.canada.ca%2Fcontent%2Fdam%2Fircc%2Fmigration%2Fircc%2Fenglish%2Fpdf%2Fpub%2Fe2-2013_fbip.pdf&usg=AOvVaw2KiDUWqxbDR2xBXtujZnYm) and census data indicates the median incomes based on tax data to be minimal and lower than refugees. Quebec’s comparable program largely serves as a backdoor entry to other parts of the country:

From the earliest days of Confederation, immigration has been essential to Canada’s evolution and identity as a country. The labour – and tax dollars – of successive waves of people from around the world have supported universal health care, pension plans, education, national infrastructure, and the creation of small businesses and employment.

The economic stress caused by a global pandemic, on top of the dual realities of an aging population and a slow-growing population, make immigration more important than ever. It is also an opportune time for Canada to revive the investor immigrant program that was terminated in 2014, with a view to integrating it into our long-term economic strategy.

The federal government has clearly flagged that expediting immigration to Canada is a priority over the next several years.

In addition to setting a target to welcome 401,000 permanent residents in 2021, Ottawa recently made it easier for Hong Kong students and youth to quickly come to Canada on work and study permits, as well as offering new ways to stay permanently. The new permanent residence rules will also benefit people from Hong Kong already in Canada under existing work and study permits.

Then there’s the 300,000 Canadian citizens living in Hong Kong, many of whom, in light of recent political developments there, may be contemplating a return.

Also consider that although many applications were delayed by COVID-19, most are already well down the approval pipe and will proceed quickly once embassies and visa agencies fully reopen. Ottawa has already flagged that it will work to fast-track increased admission to Canada in 2021.

For all of that, there is much more that can be done for both prospective immigrants and Canada. At the top of that list is a practical reassessment of the investor immigrant class.

In 2020, the practical benefits of reviving the program far outweigh any misplaced concern about those “buying” Canadian citizenship.

Let’s not be hypocritical: Those of us already fortunate enough to live here stand to benefit as much as anyone who is new to the country.

The key to making it work this time around is to be clear-eyed about past failures, to refine the tax structure and better manage the five-year deposits required by these immigrant investors. It does not seem excessive to increase the $800,000 fee that was required before the Harper government cancelled the program. But in the past, those deposits were directed to provinces to foster the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises – a well-intentioned initiative that never took shape.

By learning from that disappointing experience, Canada can win on several counts.

It can seize opportunity to create a COVID-19 fund to help offset the economic cost of the coronavirus and attract immigrants who have the means to make a big difference in short order.

It can also attract a group of educated and financially secure immigrants who, along with their families, will make a lasting contribution to our economy. It is also an opportunity to bring regional and local governments into the process to ensure the funds are put to the best use.

Nowhere would that difference be felt more immediately than in the stabilization of the domestic residential real estate market, small business and employment, something of great importance to all Canadians and their families.

For some time now, there have been claims that housing markets, especially condominiums in urban centres, are threatened by an imbalance of supply and demand.

That’s a tough prospect for municipalities and provinces that have already been economically ravaged by the effect of the coronavirus.

Higher immigration levels – especially in the economic class – address this on a number of levels.

Furthermore, while much has been made of the pandemic-driven urban exodus, new Canadians tend to gravitate to and revitalize our cities.

Immigration is an important way for Canada to build long-term economic, social and cultural bridges around the world. Does anyone think it will be anything but beneficial to our relations with Washington that vice-president-elect Kamala Harris had such a positive experience as a student in Montreal?

We have always been justifiably proud of being a country of immigrants. Clearing the 2020 backlog, expediting new permanent residency applications and reinstating the investor immigrant class is both timely and strategic at a time when we need to reinforce our country as seldom before, and to ensure the long-term prosperity of all Canadians.

Green is a Managing Partner at Green and Spiegel and past chair of the Canadian Bar Association, National Section, Citizenship and Immigration

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/commentary/article-canada-should-revive-the-investor-immigrant-program-and-fix-its-past/

Krauss: Why Is Scientific Illiteracy So Acceptable?

Good question and discussion:

In the mid-1980s, when I taught a Physics for Poets class at Yale University, I was dumbstruck when I gave the students a quiz problem to estimate the total amount of water flushed in all the toilets in the US in one 24-hour period and I started to grade the quiz. In order to estimate this, you have to first estimate the population of the US. I discovered that 35 percent of my Yale students, many of whom were history or American studies majors, thought the population of the US was less than 10 million! I went around campus interrogating students I met, asking them what they thought the population of the US was. Again, about one-third of the students thought it was less than 10 million and a few even thought it was greater than a few billion.

How was such ignorance so common in a community commonly felt to contain the cream of the crop of young US college students?

Then it dawned on me. It wasn’t that these students were ignorant about US society. It was that they were rather “innumerate,” as the mathematician John Allen Paulos had labeled it in a book he wrote in the 1980s. They had no concept whatsoever of what a million actually represented. For them, a million and a billion were merely both too large to comprehend.

It remains a badge of honor for many who like to describe themselves as highly cultured or artistic to describe themselves as mathematically challenged, or to say that their brains aren’t wired for mathematics. Because many of those they hold in high esteem have made similar claims, there is no real social penalty to them for doing so.

When it comes to science rather than mathematics, it isn’t so simple. Proudly proclaiming scientific illiteracy is not de rigueur. Instead another refrain has recently become popular among politicians and public figures: “I am not a scientist, but…” Equally prominent, is the statement “I believe in science” (as if there is a choice) which is then followed by some scientific gibberish.

Science fiction writer Philip K. Dick once said, “Reality is that which continues to exist even when you stop believing in it.” The line between being scientifically or empirically controversial vs being politically controversial has been blurred to the point of erasure. In Washington, and many other seats of government throughout the world, belief trumps reality.

Different aspects of the problem were on display recently during the confirmation hearings of Amy Coney Barrett. When asked by Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy about her views on climate change, she said: “You know, I’m certainly not a scientist,” and added, “I have read things about climate change—I would not say I have firm views on it.” Later, following questions from Kamala Harris about whether she acknowledged a relationship between smoking and cancer, and whether the coronavirus is infectious, both of which she answered in the affirmative, she was asked, “And do you believe that climate change is happening and is threatening the air we breathe and the water we drink?” Coney Barrett responded, “I will not do that. I will not express a view on a matter of public policy, especially one that is politically controversial…”

It would have been appropriate for Justice Coney Barrett to argue in both cases that the confirmation hearing was not an appropriate place to discuss her scientific expertise but rather her legal expertise. However, that is different than claiming, as she did, to have insufficient knowledge of the issue to possess any viewpoint at all.

In this, and all areas where scientific evidence is both public and sufficiently overwhelming, public figures who even feign ignorance for reasons of political expediency should be called out. In her second exchange, having established her bona fides regarding the science of smoking or the coronavirus, an appropriate response from Justice Coney Barrett to Harris’s last question might have been to answer that yes, climate change is a scientifically established fact, but that she was not going to be roped into commenting on related controversial public policy questions.

By the same token Senator Harris’s last question reflects a pseudo-religious “I believe in science but I don’t need to think about what it actually means” mantra. Climate change, which is happening, presents numerous potential threats, but not to the air we breathe, as if it were akin to industrial pollutants.

I raise this point, which may seem like mere semantics, because we have to encourage intelligent and literate discourse from both sides of the aisle. Inappropriate claims like this by politicians who want to be on the right side of science but who can’t be bothered to think about what it implies don’t help. Rather they encourage rational skeptics and irrational deniers alike to reject the actual science by dismissing the statements of those who claim to defend it. Similarly, it also helps encourage a distrust of scientists.

I wrote my new book, which presents the fundamental science behind climate change, in part to specifically respond to this sorry state of affairs. Outrageous denials, or outrageous doom and gloom predictions equally subvert the ultimate goal, which is to develop rational public policy. Gaining a perspective of the fundamental science, which I would argue is not beyond the grasp of a Supreme Court Justice, or a United States Senator soon to be Vice-President, is a precursor to proposing rational policies to address one of the most significant global challenges of the 21st century.

I should underscore that when I discuss scientific illiteracy, I am not focusing on how many scientific facts people may remember. I rather mean the process of science: empirical testing and retesting, logical analysis, and drawing conclusions derived from facts and not hopes. The impact of increased CO2 on heat absorption in the atmosphere is something that can be tested, as can the expansion coefficient of water as heat is added, one of the key factors affecting measured sea level rise. Accepting the reality of these is not something that should disqualify you from, or assure you of, a government appointment.

An equally pernicious misunderstanding of the scientific process involves confusions about uncertainty, as we are witnessing with the current pandemic. Epidemiology is a very difficult part of science because it often relies on sparse data that is very hard to accumulate. Like all aspects of science, the conclusions one draws are only as good as the data one has. Yet, politicians and the public alike have often accepted sweeping claims about the perceived lethality or transmissibility of COVID-19 well before appropriate data has been available. Donald Trump was at one extreme, but others who exploited for political reasons early predictions that millions would die usually did not qualify their remarks with either a reasonable estimate of uncertainties, or with the proviso that this dire prediction was for a world where no ameliorative actions were taken.

It is possible, and indeed I expect likely, that we will not have firm knowledge about the details of its lethality or transmissibility for years, or at least until after the current pandemic is over. And even then, uncertainties will remain. This issue has recently taken on a more personal aspect for me, as I write this while convalescing from what appears to be COVID-19. (Thanks to the vagaries of the US healthcare system, and the recent surge of cases, the results of my test will take seven days to arrive, by which time I am hoping to be well on the way to recovery.)

When it comes to public perceptions of medical or scientific prowess, I blame in part science fiction programs on television or in feature films that give the illusion that faced with a technical problem, sufficiently talented scientists and engineers can both ascertain the cause and create a solution in hours instead of years or decades. That is just not the way science often works. Most important scientific developments are not revolutionary. More often than not they are baby steps taken along a long road of discovery. The recent announcement of two new COVID vaccine efficacies has been remarkable, so that perhaps by the end of 2021 most people will be vaccinated. But while two years is lightning speed in this area, many people remain surprised that it has taken this long.

Fewer people may proudly proclaim their scientific illiteracy than their innumeracy, but our cultural role models nevertheless often openly express their lack of comfort with questions that you shouldn’t have to be a scientist to understand or appreciate. I saw it when I taught at Yale, and I saw it in the Senate confirmation room. It is considered quaint to say something like, “my mind just doesn’t work that way” when it comes to science, as an excuse to stop thinking. But we wouldn’t accept that statement so easily if the question related to Shakespeare’s contributions to literature, or the historical impact of the Holocaust.

The Enlightenment was well-named because it led to a greater understanding of ourselves, our society, and our environment, and was accompanied by the rise of the scientific method. Acting for the common good requires subjecting our own ideas to empirical scrutiny, being open to considering and empirically testing the ideas of others, and letting empirical data be the arbiter of reality. The most compelling reason that all of us, most importantly our public figures, should take science seriously, and honestly, was expressed best by Jacob Bronowski, a personal hero who exemplified the union of the two cultures of science and humanities:

Dream or nightmare, we have to live our experience as it is, and we have to live it awake. We live in a world which is penetrated through and through by science and which is both whole and real. We cannot turn it into a game simple by taking sides.

Lawrence M. Krauss is a theoretical physicist and president of The Origins Project Foundation. He was Chair of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists from 2007–2018. His newest book, due out in January, is The Physics of Climate Change. 

Source: Why Is Scientific Illiteracy So Acceptable?