Ashby: Proof of love is not as simple as immigration officials would have it

One of the best pieces of commentary on the CIC bogus marriage training guide (no longer used but no clarity on what the current training tools say):

A Citizenship and Immigration Canada training guide that leaked last week has exposed the inner workings of CIC’s unique perspective on what makes a good marriage.

Apparently, what makes a good marriage is having a lot of money. Money for a diamond ring. (DeBeers must be pleased. Diamonds are forever, which is approximately as long as it takes to obtain a permanent residency card.) Money for a big wedding — more than “small groups of friends.” (That dream elopement with just a handful of friends and family, away from big fat wedding drama? Sorry, lovebirds. Size matters.) Money for a big wedding venue — no restaurants allowed. (Rubber chicken dinners and serviette swans for everyone! It’ll be romantic, just like an annual general meeting!) Money for a honeymoon. And if one of you comes from a country without much money? Well, your marriage might not be valid.

But above all, the CIC is looking for body language (or at least was when the document, dated 2007, was issued.) Like the “body language experts” employed by supermarket tabloids and gossip rags, officials at the CIC believe they can learn the truth about a relationship based on who is smiling, how far apart they stand, and the expressions on their faces. The irony of a group of Canadians judging the citizens of other nations on their ability to emote and show affection is apparently lost on the CIC. Canada is a great country full of wonderful people, all of whom do everything possible to avoid each others’ eyes.

This dependence on photographic evidence is line with the 2014 findings of McMaster University professor Vic Satzewich, believed to be one of only two Canadian researchers in 50 years permitted to investigate CIC’s visa policies up close. Over two years, Satzewich visited 11 of CIC’s overseas visa application sites. From Hong Kong to Colombia, Canadian officials judge marriages by body language, number of guests at a wedding, seeming amount spent on the wedding, and the contents of love letters. His conclusion? That the system was profoundly vulnerable to racist social engineering.

“The system allows racial biases to creep in the selection process. They could use their authority to put it bluntly and crudely, to keep Canada white,” he told the Toronto Star.

This comes at a time when Canada’s rules for family-class immigrants have changed in an attempt to weed out marriage fraud. Marriage fraud is a real problem. But it’s one that’s often associated with conniving “marriage consultants” and “matchmakers,” who fleece both sides of the marriage. It’s akin to human trafficking. Spouses in Canada are promised a loving partner (or just uncomplicated sex), while spouses elsewhere are promised a ticket out of poverty. Both are expected to pay thousands of dollars in consultation fees. Some couples are trying to hack the system, it’s true. But family-class immigrants already make up less than one quarter of Canada’s immigrant population. And now they are regarded with deep suspicion.

Perhaps that suspicion comes from Canada’s history. Between 1663 and 1673, whole sections of Canada were populated by Les Filles du Roi, who closed their eyes and thought of freedom while the men who’d had them imported did their best to increase the tax base of New France. Perhaps the CIC is simply trying to avoid a similar injustice. And it’s important to realize that the CIC does want to protect people, and that it has mandatory acceptance quotas. The concern is how it fills them.

Judging someone else’s marriage isn’t unusual. It’s the favourite sport of mothers-in-law everywhere. But the prevailing truth about marriage is that it, like immigration, is a “black box” process. No one outside it knows what’s going on inside it — and even the people inside it are occasionally mystified. Yearning emails, dirty texts, and smug selfies only tell part of the story. If the CIC really wanted to know about the validity of a marriage, they would ask about who makes the coffee, who does the laundry, who co-ordinates the social plans. Plenty of “real” marriages have depended on far less. And if spouses needed to demonstrate true love in order to share a household, then plenty of us wouldn’t even be here today.

Ashby: Proof of love is not as simple as immigration officials would have it | Ottawa Citizen.

How we can all stand up against carding | Desmond Cole

Desmond Cole, the author of the Toronto Life article on his experiences with discrimination, on the role that all of us can play:

As the realities of police carding become more known in Toronto, the public is increasingly rejecting the practice. Sixty per cent of respondents to a recent Forum poll disapprove of carding, the Toronto police practice of stopping civilians who are not suspected of any crime, and documenting their personal identification. Black voters, who admittedly made up a small sample size in the survey, rejected carding to the tune of 81 per cent. Given that innocent black people are disproportionately the targets of carding, this is no surprise.

Since I wrote a Toronto Life feature on discrimination, in which I documented the many times I have been needlessly stopped or carded by Toronto police, I’ve received hundreds of messages from people asking what they can do to counter this shady practice. I propose a simple but revolutionary intervention that nearly anyone can take up: if you see a black person being stopped in public by Toronto police, simply approach that person and ask, “Are you OK?”

In my experience, this suggestion evokes a curious amount of anxiety in people, particularly white people, the vast majority of whom are never arbitrarily stopped by police. They wonder if they might be putting themselves in danger by intervening in a police interaction.

To this I can only reply that in 2013, black Torontonians were up to 17 times more likely than white residents to be carded by police in certain neighbourhoods, particularly those with a majority of white residents. Those who are not targeted in this way might consider how scary it is for those who live it every day.

How we can all stand up against carding | Toronto Star.

Hero or extremist?: Tables turn on man who helped Canadian government with would-be jihadists

More on the Government’s removal of Hussein Hamdani from the Cross Cultural Roundtable on Security and the limited background information of the organization, Point de Bascule, that made the accusations (see earlier Hussein Hamdani says federal election politics behind his suspension):

Hamdani has also helped CSIS and the RCMP approach sometimes reluctant groups, while intervening with youths showing signs of radicalization on behalf of their parents.

“I’ve probably done more than anyone else in Canada,” Hamdani says. “And because we’re exposed to certain information that’s not public and we work with the RCMP and CSIS, I have security clearance and my background has been vetted. There are no links to anything of concern.”

That was until a Quebec blog, Point de Bascule, re-published some of his student writings in April and alleged he was linked, through his charitable donations, to organizations like IRFAN-Canada, designated a terrorist group by the federal government in 2014 for its links to Hamas.

Point de Bascule, which has been active since 2006, describes itself as an “an independent and non-partisan website describing the means and methods used by Islamist organizations and leaders in order to further their program in Canada.” It is run by Marc Lebuis.

Point de Bascule highlighted the fact that Hamdani urged Muslims to vote against same-sex marriage, for example.

What is curious, Hamdani says, is that none of this information is new. “Islamicization” meant something different in the pre-9/11 world, he explains. Besides, he says, his views on same-sex marriage have evolved.

‘We work with the RCMP and CSIS, I have security clearance and my background has been vetted. There are no links to anything of concern’

The federal government knew about his student activism, as well as his role in organizing a World Muslim Summit in Toronto in 2003, another point raised by Point de Bascule as evidence of his radical nature (and listed on his roundtable bio).

In 2004, Hamdani also wrote openly about studying Islamic movements in the occupied West Bank, where he met with Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin, an article published the year after Yassin was killed in an Israeli air strike, and the year before Hamdani was named to the Roundtable.

Blaney had Hamdani suspended from the roundtable the day the story appeared on TVA, “pending a review of the facts.”

…. So who is Marc Lebuis [and his Point de Bascule website] , and who is behind his website?

Efforts to reach Lebuis through the website, by phone, or through his Twitter account over the last week have been unsuccessful.

Adam Thompson, the clerk for the Senate’s Committee on National Security and Defence, said the committee had no CV or other form of biography on file for Lebuis. Lebuis was presented by the chair of the committee, Conservative Senator Daniel Lang, as the “founding director of the Montreal-based independent research organization Point de Bascule,” but no further qualifications were given.

There is no business or charity listed as Point de Bascule, or under Lebuis’s name, although the website does accept donations.

Seigfried Mathelet, a post-doctoral researcher at the Université du Québec à Montréal, said he knows of Lebuis as a “pseudo-expert” who has worked for years to gain influence with political decision-makers and the mainstream media, even though he has no links to academic research.

His modus operandi, like that of numerous anti-Islam bloggers and organizations based in the U.S., Mathelet explained, is to take anything problematic associated with Islam – like the Boko Haram or ISIS attacks – and link them to people in Canada.

Unlike the U.S. websites, where many are registered charities or funded by foundations that have to declare their donations, it is not known who, if anyone, is funding Lebuis or Point de Bascule, which is said to employ 10 researchers.

Hero or extremist?: Tables turn on man who helped Canadian government with would-be jihadists

Goodbye, citizenship! Australia takes a cynical turn on Muslim radicalisation | Jason Wilson | Comment is free | The Guardian

Some of the initial critical commentary on Australian plans for citizenship revocation and approach to radicalization, along with the perennial values debate. Echoes of C-51 Government messaging and issues:

You may notice if you read the transcript of Abbott’s press conference that this is political communication that doesn’t impart any information. Is “radicalisation” the same as “violent extremism”? Does one cause the other?

Are they linked in a causal chain? What should we be looking for? What is acceptable for citizens in a democracy to say, think, or read and what isn’t? What is the distinction between “extremism” and ordinary Muslim belief that the government keeps insisting that they respect? From whence comes the assumption that this is related to an insufficient inculcation of the virtues and responsibilities of citizenship?

Anyone who looks to the attorney general’s department’s materials will find a lack of clarity on all of this that is either chilling or embarrassing, depending on your point of view.

We’re told that “People can become radicalised to violent extremism due to a range of factors.” We’re also informed that people can get grants for combatting it to provide support for a range of activities, including mentoring, counselling, “case management” and sport, “But we are open to a wide range of ideas!” And we’re also told that the list of organisations offering services in this area will be collated without being made public. All in all, it’s bewildering.

To the observer, it may seem that debate without any specific terms is being had about existing schemes without clear public criteria of success, with the promise of further discussion whose terms are murky. There’s no reference to the extant scholarly and professional discussion about why and how people drift to Islamism, which emphasises the role of perceived injustice.

More cynically, you might say that this all works pretty well to keep terms like “radicalisation” and “extremism” as content-free, flexible terms that do little more than gesture towards the Muslims in our midst as a source of potential danger, and authorise governments to protect us from that danger, whatever it is, and empower them to police deviations from an equally imaginary moderate middle. A lot of reporting is not helping to clarify the situation: it’s simply taking all of this as read.

This effort by government to produce a vague sense of insecurity, then offer to protect us from it, can lead us in strange and alarming directions. Last week Christopher Pyne mooted a “jihadi-watch” scheme for schools, where education authorities would move to train students and teachers “to watch for shifts in behaviour such as students drifting away from their friends, running into minor trouble with the law and arguing with those who have different ideological views to their own”.

Goodbye, citizenship! Australia takes a cynical turn on Muslim radicalisation | Jason Wilson | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders’s secret carding report

Unfortunately, The Star’s analysis appears more methodically sound than the internal police report:

The police analysis did not — as the Star has done in four analyses since 2010 — single out people with black and brown skin who had been carded, and compare those figures to the baseline populations for those groups in Toronto.

The police carding database divides people into four skin colours: white, black, brown and “other.” The police lumped all non-white groups together in determining there was no bias. The Star has used neighbourhood-level census data and police carding data to show that blacks in Toronto are more likely than whites to be carded in each of the city’s 70-plus patrol zones. To a lesser extent, the same was true for people with “brown” skin.

The Saunders report included a recommendation that the service react to “deliberate misinterpretation” of carding data by the Star and “misleading, inflammatory” stories. That did not happen.

Saunders, in his first press conference as chief-designate, referred to innocent people who get carded as “collateral damage.” He later admitted it was a poor choice of words, saying the “proper term should be the ‘social cost’ … in which members of the community do not feel that they are being treated with dignity and respect.”

Saunders has said he is open to making sure officers are not conducting “random” stops.

The Star sought comment from both Saunders and Sloly on the early “community engagement” report and on the context of the internal correspondence.

Instead, the service issued a two-page response crafted by the “PACER Team,” on behalf of Saunders. In it, the police say “we have adamantly opposed the (Star’s) analysis” and methodology since 2002 and “stand by” the criticisms of the Star made in Saunders’s secret 2012 report.

Police again criticized the Star’s use of census data, and again said contacts with the public “will never be in proportion to census figures.” The response reiterates a longstanding police statement that officers police where violent crime goes on.

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders’s secret carding report | Toronto Star.

Canada takes a step back on immigration policy | Bauder and Omidvar

Harald Bauder and Ratna Omidvar overview on citizenship and immigration policy changes and their implications:

Ottawa has failed in our eyes to provide a convincing justification for these changes. Many dependants and elderly family members seem to be excluded not because they would be eligible for social benefits but simply because they are from low-income families.

Canada has a story of exceptionalism to tell and it is widely regarded by others as model in how it manages immigration and succeeds in integrating immigrants. However, the evidence now tells another story, one that is somewhat more tarnished than we know.

The new data signals a shift and encourages us to reflect on the most alarming trends and redirect where necessary. But there is good mixed in with the bad. Canada still leads in labour market integration, anti-discrimination and creating a sense of belonging for newcomers. The one-point drop is smoke and not fire.

Canada takes a step back on immigration policy | Toronto Star.

A Qatari sheikh, Picasso’s censored breasts and the west’s confusion over Islam

PicassoJonathan Jones on the rumours that the Picasso painting, Women of Algiers, was sold to Qatar and what the press coverage of that rumour says about West and Islam:

And yet, there is very solid evidence that it offends the conservative Christian scruples of some in the west. We have no proof that a Middle Eastern billionaire is sitting on this salacious picture, but we do know that the breasts in the painting were blurred out by a Fox news channel. How peculiar, to project this bizarre outbreak of American puritanism on to Qatar. We are modern: they are bigots. So how come “we” are the ones censoring Picasso?

As it happens, Picasso’s painting is itself a fantasy of the orient. Picasso, in his villa in the south of France, created for himself an imaginary harem of buxom babes. Women of Algiers (Version O) is one of his remakes of an 1834 masterpiece by Eugène Delacroix in the Louvre. The original Women of Algiers by Delacroix is a richly coloured, flamboyantly sensual scene of Algerian concubines smoking drugs from a hookah in the seclusion of their harem apartment.

Delacroix, the great Romantic who also painted France’s national icon Liberty Leading the People, travelled extensively in north Africa, so it would not be quite true to call his Women of Algiers an orientalist fantasy. It is, at least, partly rooted in real observations by an artist who genuinely loved the Maghreb, as can be seen from the travel sketches and Moroccan artefacts that fill his preserved studio in Paris.

Above all, the light and colour of north Africa – which were also to inspire Matisse – pervade Delacroix’s Women of Algiers with an intense shadowy heat. But, clearly, it creates an image of harem life for western eyes – an erotic idyll of Arabian Nights decadence. This idea thrilled French artists in the 19th century, and was taken to fleshy heights in The Turkish Bath by the neoclassical painter Ingres. In his versions of Women of Algiers, Picasso revives that orientalist license for lust.

What strikes me here is how the west’s image of Arabia has reversed since the 19th century. Once, the Islamic world was equated with sexual license and harem decadence. Today, Islam is imagined as sexually prudish, although, in fact, it is Christian theology that is darkly preoccupied with sexual sin. The idea of Picasso’s painting being locked away in shame in a sheikh’s cellar appeals to the current image of Islamic intolerance, which Islamic State are doing nothing to discourage. When it comes to images of Arabia, the west goes from fantasy to fear, from idyll to hysteria, without it seems ever waking up to the complexity of a real place where real, individual people live in a messy human way – whether they have a painting by Picasso or not.

A Qatari sheikh, Picasso’s censored breasts and the west’s confusion over Islam | Art and design | The Guardian.

Counterterrorism strategy: Take the long view – The Globe and Mail

Two interesting pieces on counter radicalization strategies, with both focusing on the Prevent aspect.

Wesley Wark notes the risks of politic rhetoric with respect to radicalization and the relative neglect of the Government’s Prevent element (compared to the other elements of the national security strategy, Deny, Detect and Respond):

The more that political rhetoric swirls around national-security threats such as the foreign-fighter problem, the more difficult it will be to establish the exact scale of the threat. In reality, the danger posed by the relatively small Canadian foreign-fighter stream is threefold – it bolsters IS psychologically; it conjures up concerns about battle-hardened veterans who might return to Canada to incite and commit terrorism; it puts Muslim communities in Canada under an unwanted spotlight and may create a new set of tensions for them as they work to contribute to de-radicalization measures. Our biggest concern is not about how we prevent Canadian foreign fighters from blowing things up in Iraq and Syria, or even blowing things up if they manage to return to Canada, but how we stop them from blowing up community stability and inciting tensions within Canada.

When the government first announced a counterterrorism strategy in 2012, it used a model borrowed from the British, with four “pillars”: Prevent, Detect, Deny, Respond. The respond pillar is meant to ensure a capacity to deal with terrorist attacks that occur on our soil. When the CT strategy was launched, there hadn’t been any. Now there have been two – the attacks in Quebec and near Parliament Hill in October of 2014. The one good thing the October attacks brought to light is the degree to which Canadian society poses a strong, innate resilience to terrorist violence.

…But what about Prevent? Here, the greatest challenge lies, and potentially our greatest weakness. Some will always slip through the cracks, notably the convicted “Toronto 18” member, Ali Mohamed Dirie, whose incarceration and subsequent release did nothing to dissuade him; who obtained false identity documentation, travelled to Syria and was killed in the fighting in 2013. We risk failure on the “prevention” front if the RCMP’s efforts at community engagement do not gain a stronger foothold, if CSIS is too emboldened by its soon-to-be-granted “disruption” mandate and if the government (of whatever stripe after October, 2015) fails to find a better way to justify Canada’s actions in the world, especially its international efforts against terrorist groups.

Counterterrorism: Is it working? – The Globe and Mail.

Although Zekulin does not mention the word Prevent, he essentially echoes other critics of the Government for its apparently exclusive focus on security measures rather than the ‘softer’ prevention approaches:

As long as IS exists, their message will continue to spread. This has the potential to create additional numbers of young Canadians with whom their message might resonate. Several months ago, I wrote that Canada’s counterterrorism strategy needed to address two separate but interconnected aspects in order to meet the threat posed by IS. These included measures to deal with the imminent threat posed by the current cohort of radicalized Canadians and a counter-radicalization strategy to prevent or at least minimize the next generation of radicalized young Canadians.

IS is selling a product – themselves and their vision of what the world should look like. A counter-radicalization strategy is based on challenging the messages espoused by the group and its supporters. We need to develop our message, identify the most credible messengers and the most efficient and effective way to distribute it. This will at least begin to counter IS’s efforts. We recognize that this approach will not deter every individual. However, as our messages circulate and gain momentum, it will become increasingly difficult for IS’s perverted ideas to find fertile minds. The end goal is to minimize the number of individuals who might adopt the ideas and become a threat in the future.

We cannot be lulled into a false sense of security by our recent successes. IS’s ideas pose the real threat and they continue to circulate, incubate and entrench themselves in our society. Our intelligence and law-enforcement agencies have done an admirable job, but we need to ask ourselves whether our current strategy is sustainable. Financially, our government has limited resources; it is not realistic to continuously increase our investigative capacity every few months. We run the risk of falling into a never-ending cycle where those we identify and disrupt are quickly replaced by others. Eventually, some individuals or incidents will slip through the cracks. In the context of the current threat, that means very bad things will happen.

Counterterrorism strategy: Take the long view – The Globe and Mail.

Dual-national jihadists face loss of Australian citizenship, but not sole nationals yet

Out of the Canadian Conservative government (and UK) playbook, with interesting internal disagreement over whether or not this should include revocation in case of statelessness:

Tony Abbott will push ahead with proposed changes to strip dual citizens of their Australian nationality if they are suspected of terrorism, but has deferred a decision on strong new powers against sole nationals after a cabinet backlash.

The prime minister confirmed a bill to be introduced to parliament in coming weeks would grant the immigration minister the discretion to strip dual nationals of their citizenship if they were deemed to be involved in terrorism, even if the person had not been convicted of an offence.

But the government is yet to settle on a position on punishing Australians who hold no other citizenship after several ministers raised significant concerns in cabinet on Monday evening.

It is understood Abbott backed the push by the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, for the power to strip sole nationals of their Australian citizenship in cases where they were entitled to apply for citizenship in another country.

But the attorney general, George Brandis, the defence minister, Kevin Andrews, and the communications minister, Malcolm Turnbull, are believed to be among numerous ministers who raised concerns during the cabinet discussion.

Fairfax Media reported that the foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, had also questioned whether another country would be likely to approve a citizenship application for a person from whom Australia had deprived citizenship.

In an interview with Sky News on Tuesday, Brandis emphasised that the government had not made any decisions about second-generation Australians and had instead opted to “lead a national conversation about the rights and obligations associated with citizenship”. This will begin with the release of a discussion paper for community feedback on Tuesday.

Dual-national jihadists face loss of Australian citizenship, but not sole nationals yet | Australia news | The Guardian.

New Zealand Prime Minister Kay takes a different tack with respect to an Australian/New Zealander dual national:

NZ ‘unlikely’ to strip woman’s citizenship – PM

‘Tomorrowland’ (The Movie) And the Future of the Past | Re/code

On science fiction, dystopias, nostalgia and the film Tomorrowland:

But let’s be honest: “Tomorrowland”’s longing for a hopeful future has absolutely nothing to do with looking forward and everything to do with looking back. The real culprit behind this moaning and complaining is nostalgia. And like most exercises in nostalgia, the time to which we’re trying to return never really existed in the first place.

The first thing that has to happen in science fiction, though, is we have to stop looking backward for inspiration on how to look forward.

You can’t lose your virginity twice. We can’t return to the sci-fi of rayguns and jetpacks and moral simplicity unless we acknowledge we’re making and enjoying works of retro-fiction, a throwback to a dead past. As great as Ray Bradbury’s works are — and oh, lord, Bradbury’s fiction is incredible — they are very much a product of their time and place, the America of the 1950s. It’s difficult to remember now that the description of billboards Bradbury wrote into “Fahrenheit 451″ (“cars started rushing by so quickly they had to stretch the advertising out so it would last”) were written shortly before the national highway system, and therefore the concept of billboards, was created.

Those stories may have been set in the future, but they were really about documenting the time in which he lived. Bradbury’s Martian colonists were products of a homogenous, unselfconscious America. The stories still have great value today, but emulation should not be our goal.

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad I don’t live in the America of the 1950s. The Internet may be a cesspool at times, but I’m glad that everyone, regardless of race or class or religious belief (or lack thereof) has a megaphone and a platform. I’m glad that women are speaking up about the thousand little injustices they suffer every day, because it gives us an opportunity to change the system, to make things better.

It’s unpleasant to know about the human cost of American drone strikes, say, or the brutal history of colonialism, or the human rights violations that make Chinese-made products so cheap, but I would rather know about these things than not know about them. We can’t go back to innocent stories of space exploration, now that we know the real stories of what white Europeans did to indigenous people. We can’t plug our ears and shake our heads and relive our grandparents’ fantasies until the whole world goes away.

So, yes. We don’t need any more “Hunger Games” knockoffs, but that’s an aesthetic argument, and not a moral one. I think the idea of a “Walking Dead” spinoff show is frankly a bit much. But it’s easier for a multinational entertainment megaconglomerate to sell cynicism than optimism, so I suspect this dystopian trend isn’t going to end anytime soon.

The first thing that has to happen in science fiction, though, is we have to stop looking backward for inspiration on how to look forward. The real future — multicultural, inclusive, aware of injustice and striving for something better — looks brighter than anything the glamorous, mostly white cast of “Tomorrowland” can offer us.

Let’s tell each other stories about our future. Let’s stop trying to live up to the present as dreamed up by the past. Once we free our sci-fi from the heavy chains of nostalgia, we can start pointing the way to something better. Let’s turn our backs on “Tomorrowland.” That’s not where the future is.

‘Tomorrowland’ (The Movie) And the Future of the Past | Re/code.