Editorial: Canada is leading the pack in mixed unions

Citizenship Fraud.021Further to my earlier post on the StatsCan study (Metro Vancouver has highest ratio of mixed couples in Canada), the Macleans editorial on what it may mean (I developed the chart above based on the study):

A couple of trends suggest the overall growth rate will move up in future, regardless of ethnicities involved. First, mixed unions tend to track the percentage of visible minorities in the greater Canadian populace. With visible minorities predicted to account for up to a third of the population by 2031, further growth will no doubt occur as the dating pool changes. Mixed unions are more common within younger age groups, as well, suggesting a gradual progression through society. Higher education is also correlated with mixed unions, as is urban living. Vancouver boasts the highest percentage of mixed unions, at nearly 10 per cent, followed by Toronto, Victoria, Ottawa and Calgary. As the number of mixed unions grows, so, too, will the offspring from these relationships. Whatever taboos may have existed for these children in the past, they’re being erased by sheer numbers.

Putting Canada’s record in global context is complicated by different definitions and the availability of data, but we appear to stand out for several reasons. European figures define mixed unions as between two people with different citizenship, a far lower standard of tolerance. Even so, the figures show no strong trend, with most countries no higher than Canada, despite a much broader definition of what “mixed” means. American research tends to focus solely on marriages, ignoring the prevalence of common-law relationships. When all couples are considered, Canadian figures are substantially above those in the U.S.

As for public attitudes, last year, a Gallup Poll announced that American approval of black-white marriage hit an all-time high of 87 per cent, up from four per cent in 1958. Yet Canadian sociologist Reginald Bibby points out that Canadian acceptance rates have long outstripped those in the U.S. A 2007 poll, for example, showed 92 per cent of Canadians approved of mixed marriages at a time when U.S. figures were 77 per cent. “There is probably no better index of racial and cultural integration than intermarriage,” Bibby writes. And Canada leads the pack in both performance and perspective.

Editorial: Canada is leading the pack in mixed unions.

Professor goes to big data to figure out if Apple slows down old iPhones when new ones come out

Apple Slow iphones

A good illustration of the limits of big data and the risks of confusing correlation with causation. But bid data and correlation can help us ask more informed questions:

The important distinction is of intent. In the benign explanation, a slowdown of old phones is not a specific goal, but merely a side effect of optimizing the operating system for newer hardware. Data on search frequency would not allow us to infer intent. No matter how suggestive, this data alone doesn’t allow you to determine conclusively whether my phone is actually slower and, if so, why.

In this way, the whole exercise perfectly encapsulates the advantages and limitations of “big data.” First, 20 years ago, determining whether many people experienced a slowdown would have required an expensive survey to sample just a few hundred consumers. Now, data from Google Trends, if used correctly, allows us to see what hundreds of millions of users are searching for, and, in theory, what they are feeling or thinking. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook all create what is evocatively called the “digital exhaust,” allowing us to uncover macro patterns like this one.

Second, these new kinds of data create an intimacy between the individual and the collective. Even for our most idiosyncratic feelings, such data can help us see that we aren’t alone. In minutes, I could see that many shared my frustration. Even if you’ve never gathered the data yourself, you’ve probably sensed something similar when Google’s autocomplete feature automatically suggests the next few words you are going to type: “Oh, lots of people want to know that, too?”

Finally, we see a big limitation: This data reveals only correlations, not conclusions. We are left with at least two different interpretations of the sudden spike in “iPhone slow” queries, one conspiratorial and one benign. It is tempting to say, “See, this is why big data is useless.” But that is too trite. Correlations are what motivate us to look further. If all that big data does – and it surely does more – is to point out interesting correlations whose fundamental reasons we unpack in other ways, that already has immense value.

And if those correlations allow conspiracy theorists to become that much more smug, that’s a small price to pay.

Professor goes to big data to figure out if Apple slows down old iPhones when new ones come out

Vietnamese government fears Black April Day bill would open up old wounds

Vietnamese diaspora politics on how to commemorate the events following the fall of Saigon. Not surprisingly, the Conservatives favour an approach that links it to their general approach to events related to Communism; others favour an approach that focuses more on the Canadian story of welcoming Vietnamese refugees:

Conservative Senator Thanh Ngo sponsored the Black April Day Act, currently at second reading in the Senate.

“It has the general aim of bringing the attention of all Canadians to the events and suffering that followed the fall of Saigon after the Vietnam War in 1975. It would also shed light on the fundamental role that Canadians played in rescuing and welcoming thousands of Vietnamese refugees,” says a page on Mr. Ngo’s website that promotes the bill.

“Too little is known about the struggles and the atrocities that followed the devastating Vietnamese war,” Mr. Ngo told the Senate on April 30 of this year.

Too few Canadians are aware of Canada’s diplomatic work serving on international truce commissions during the Vietnam War, he said.

The war ended on April 30, 1975 with the fall of the then-southern capital, Saigon, to Northern forces. Mr. Ngo arrived in Canada as a refugee from Vietnam in 1975 after working as a diplomat for the government of South Vietnam prior to the fall of its capital. He was unavailable for an interview, spokesperson Tanya Wood wrote in an email.

Mr. Ngo’s experience contrasts with that of Mr. Vu, whose father and brother fought for the Communist forces that would prevail in the war.

Vietnamese loyal to the prevailing North suffered during the war as well, said Mr. Vu. He said an explosion killed his grandmother while she sat in an improvised bomb shelter during the Christmas bombing campaign in 1972.

“Everything was leveled, only a bomb crater was seen,” he said

If passed, the Black April Day Act would bring up bad blood remaining from the war among Vietnamese at home and abroad, he said.

“The war [gave] a lot of wounds to us, to Vietnam, and we have been trying to make every effort to heal the war wounds. So we think that opening up these wounds, that [does] not help, and it only causes continuing hatred and division from inside the country and outside,” he said.

Canada’s government has been supportive of Vietnamese reconciliation efforts in the years since the war, he said, something for which the government of Vietnam is grateful.

Vietnamese government fears Black April Day bill would open up old wounds | Embassy – Canada’s Foreign Policy Newspaper.

L’Écosse, une inspiration pour les indépendantistes, selon Drainville

Quite an amusing read, Drainville praising the approach of the Scottish nationalists in their referendum, given that it is based on a clear, short question, developed in cooperation with the national government, all anathema to the PQ:

L’ancien ministre responsable des Institutions démocratiques et «parrain» de la défunte Charte des valeurs a été charmé par la façon dont les Écossais mènent la campagne. Il a entre autres observé que les tenants du Oui dépassaient largement la base militante du Parti national écossais, la formation indépendantiste dirigée par le premier ministre Alex Salmond.

«La société civile a pris en main ce référendum, des groupes et des citoyens ont décidé de le prendre en main. La campagne du Oui est largement décentralisée, très terrain, très près des gens, cest ce que jai observé», a-t-il relaté.

Le processus référendaire écossais est aussi une affaire de collaboration entre le gouvernement central britannique et le Parlement dÉdimbourg.

…..La limpidité de la question référendaire et la transparence totale entourant la date de la consultation populaire devraient éclairer les débats au sein du mouvement souverainiste québécois, selon M. Drainville.

L’Écosse, une inspiration pour les indépendantistes, selon Drainville | Martin Ouellet | Politique québécoise.

Young Brits join the jihad in Syria

Good overview in Macleans of the UK “terror tourists” but situating this in the broader context of Mid-East societies:

Terrorism, however, has been a real threat in the U.K., with the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland in the latter half of the 20th century and, more recently, the 2005 attack in central London, where suicide bombers killed 52 people. That led to the creation of the 2006 Terrorism Act; a new offence concerned “preparatory acts” of terror.

The changes were controversial. Tayab Ali is a solicitor whose clients include a number of British citizens who have been accused of terrorism. He believes the 2006 legislation “has the tendency to prosecute people who might be angry and expressing strong political views, but who don’t have any real ambition of participating or supporting terrorism in any way.”

Barrett, the former MI6 officer, understands how bewildering it must be to young men who hear about the humanitarian crisis in Syria and want to act. In June, U.S. President Barack Obama proposed funding “moderate” Syrian rebels at the same time the U.S. and its allies were warning nationals not to join the same groups. “It’s very confusing indeed,” Barrett sighs. But, in the end, “the threat of the returning fighter is a small one, compared to the threat of a complete destabilization and destruction of social cohesion in the Middle East.”

Young Brits join the jihad in Syria.

Blatant lying loses family its citizenship — but earns them a $63K bill from Canadian government

Further to my article Overstating “Fraud” – New Canadian Media, an example of particularly egregious misrepresentation (polite term for lying) about residency:

Ottawa has stripped a Lebanese family of their Canadian citizenships — and handed them a $63,000 bill — after they were caught blatantly lying about living in Canada, part of a government crackdown on bogus citizens that could extend to thousands of cases.

The family — a father, mother and their two daughters — signed citizenship forms claiming they lived in Canada for almost all of the previous four years when they really lived in the United Arab Emirates, a fact even posted online in the daughters’ public résumés on LinkedIn.

The bold nature of the fabrications — that successfully won them citizenship in 2008 and 2009 — and their attempts to fight Ottawa’s decision brought rebuke from both the government and the Federal Court of Canada: not only have their citizenships been revoked, but they have been ordered to pay all of the government’s $63,442 in legal bills.

It is a punishment historically associated with only the most egregious cases, usually accused Nazi war criminals who hid their involvement in atrocities when fleeing to Canada after the Second World War.

This case is only the beginning. The RCMP has targeted about 11,000 people from more than 100 countries suspected of fraud by misrepresenting their residency in Canada.

RCMP identified more than 3,000 citizens and 5,000 permanent residents under suspicion in ongoing large-scale fraud investigations. Most are residency claims like in this case.After questions from officials, nearly 2,000 other people have withdrawn their applications, said Nancy Caron, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration.

A few points to note:

  • If I am correct, it is the same Judge McTavish that threw out the Government’s elimination of refugee claimant health care, partly on grounds of lack of evidence. This case shows that when the Government has sound evidence, it can successfully defend policy before the Courts;
  • The new Citizenship Act makes such revocation decisions at the discretion of the Minister, not the Courts. Yet the Courts have handed the Government a significant victory;
  • My estimate of fraud, based upon numbers provided (no change in this article), was a maximum of 3 percent, calculated on the unlikely assumption (CIC not providing information to the contrary) that the number of fraud investigations pertained to a single year. This case dates from 2008, suggesting that the 3,194 fraud investigations cover multiple years, reducing the percentage of fraud considerably;
  • In addition to requiring the family to cover court costs (appropriate deterrent), the bigger financial risk is that the father will lose his Canadian expatriate status with his UAE employer, and the benefits that go with it. As a Lebanese national, his package will likely be significantly less. I expect he will not rush to tell his employer, however;
  • In addition to Hong Kong and Chinese nationals, the breakdown of fraud investigations reveals mainly Mid-East and Pakistani nationals, likely working in the Gulf, given the incentives mentioned above; and,
  • Lastly, the role of social media in exposing fraud provides another useful tool for CIC and the RCMP. I expect that some will likely be revising (i.e., scrubbing) their various profiles as a result.

It is appropriate for the Government to take a serious approach to reducing fraud and this, and likely other cases in the hopper, strengthen the Government’s case.

However, one can question whether the Government is casting the net too broadly in its review of current applications, and delaying too many applications of those following the rules, rather than focussing on the higher risk cases.

Blatant lying loses family its citizenship — but earns them a $63K bill from Canadian government | National Post.

For Somalia, “Team Canada” means more money, fewer jobs

Interesting profile in the Star about returning members of the Canadian Somali diaspora:

A study released last month by the Mogadishu think-tank Heritage Institute notes that “the relationship between returnees and locals in Somalia is complex.”

Security measures often keep the diaspora segregated since they are seen as influential, and therefore targeted by the Shabab. Also, as the report points out, “returnees often find it easier — and more advantageous from a professional networking point of view — to socialize disproportionately with other diaspora returnees.”

Of course the returning diaspora are not a cohesive group. “Generally, non-diaspora Somali communities grasp the diversity among the diaspora returnees,” writes report author Maimuna Mohamud. “They distinguish, for example, between the ‘good diaspora’ who have been successful in their host countries, and the ‘bad’ ones who failed to take advantage of the opportunities available to them.”

Al-Jazeera journalist Hamza Mohamed poked fun at the stereotypes of the returning diaspora by their country of citizenship, dubbing those from Canada who are not part of Mogadishu’s who’s who as “Team Canada YOLO you only live once.”

“They are everyone’s friends. This group treats life as a party and Somalia as a dance floor,” Mohamed wrote in a column that went viral. “They usually arrive with few things — like a minor criminal record and a Mongolian scripture tattoo they got while under the influence on a night out in Toronto. It’s hard to find them talking about serious issues. Don’t mention school — they have usually dropped out of school and are sensitive discussing this subject. If you want them to unfriend you on Facebook, tag them in photos from your graduation ceremony.”

For Somalia, “Team Canada” means more money, fewer jobs | Toronto Star.

Multicultural Britain: Conviviality The Sociological Imagination

Sadia Habib on a number of initiatives demonstrating a more open approach to multiculturalism than often mentioned in the media in the #ShareRamadan social media campaign:

Yet in spite of the politicians and the mainstream media falling short in highlighting examples of how British people experience multiculturalism amongst their friends, colleagues and family, there are glimpses of good that prove that difference and diversity are respected. There is much going on that contradicts this spiel that multiculturalism has failed. Here comes in social media democracy that allows the spread of stories illustrating the significance of small-scale social interaction between diverse Britons of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. One such example of Gilroy’s concept of conviviality in action is #ShareRamadan, which shows British people engaging in social practices that are beyond the confines of giving lip-service to tolerance and civility.

Ramadan 2014 is part-way through, and an interesting project aiming to #ShareRamadan with non-Muslims has been trending on social media. Those taking part in #ShareRamadan have been providing video logs of the experience of the fasts that British Muslims are experiencing this lunar year. Non-Muslims are getting to know first-hand how it feels to not eat or drink in daylight hours, and have been waking up at Suhoor time to eat a pre-dawn meal, and then breaking their fast with Muslim friends at sunset (around 9.40pm for most some parts of Britain). Throughout the world the lengths of the fasts vary according to the time of the Fajr and Maghrib prayers, with the fasts in Brazil and Australia being relatively short compared with Iceland and Britain. The Guardian online has provided a space for user-generated content where contributors from all around the world are sharing their photos and tales about Ramadan.

Multicultural Britain: Conviviality The Sociological Imagination.

Retour discret des toiles de Pellan aux Affaires étrangères | Le Devoir


Alfred Pellan est de retour au ministère des Affaires étrangères. Les deux toiles du peintre québécois, qui avaient été écartées du hall d’entrée du ministère au profit d’un portrait de la reine Elizabeth II, sont de retour… timidement, sur un mur adjacent.

Les deux tableaux avaient été remplacés à la veille de la visite du prince William et de sa femme Kate, à l’été 2011. Plutôt que les peintures colorées du peintre québécois, les diplomates et visiteurs du ministère sont désormais accueillis par une grande reproduction d’un portrait de la reine, jonché au-dessus du comptoir de la réception — où se trouvaient les Pellan depuis l’inauguration de l’édifice par la reine en 1973.

I suspect that any change of government would result in a quick reversal of the current government’s fetish for all things related to the Monarchy, including in our missions abroad.

Retour discret des toiles de Pellan aux Affaires étrangères | Le Devoir.

Everyone line up: Canada’s tradition of orderly queuing ‘foreign and strange’ to many newcomers

Nice piece on Canadian queuing etiquette:

Nobody is quite sure why Canadians hold lineups so dear, although Westerners are prone to get quite jingoistic when justifying the practice.

In the 1959 book The Silent Language, anthropologist Edward T. Hall claimed that queuing reflected the “basic equalitarianism” of Western culture.

“To us it is regarded as a democratic virtue for people to be served without reference to the rank they hold in their occupational group,” he wrote.

At the Canadian School of Protocol and Etiquette, Ms. Mencel teaches her students that lining up is a holdover from class-conscious Britain. “People try to better themselves in society by learning all the rules of etiquette that the Upper Class knew, and line etiquette is part of that,” she said.

Marina Nemat is the Ontario-based author of Prisoner of Tehran, her memoir about being imprisoned and tortured as a teenager by Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

To explain her adopted country’s penchant for lining up all the time, she had a simply answer: Canadians — just like their line-upping counterparts in Germany, the United States and Britain — are rich.

“I see the lineups that we have in Canada as a luxury; an absolute luxury,” she told the National Post by phone.

Most Canadians, she noted, have never endured an eight-hour lineup for water, food or scarce medical supplies, situations where “if you start being polite, or if you stay at the end of the line, your child can die.”

“We can afford to be polite, we can afford to respect one another,” she said. “If we Canadians, heaven forbid, one day have to line up with our lives at stake, what then?”

Everyone line up: Canada’s tradition of orderly queuing ‘foreign and strange’ to many newcomers