Vacation Break – June 11 – July 10

Off for the next month and will restart upon my return. Needed break before final push on Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote .

Full 2014 Citizenship Statistics: Declining Applications

PRs, Applications, New Citizens.001

Finally, CIC has released the full operational stats for 2014. The most striking aspects are:

  • the record number of new citizens, given the influx of additional funds to address the backlog, confirming the previous announcements by press release; and,
  • the dramatic decline in citizenship applications from in 2012 (close to 200,000), to about 130,000 in 2013 and 2014, a drop of over 30 percent.

Unless there are methodological changes to explain this drop (CIC’s Quarterly Administrative Data has no notes to this effect), hard to explain. The January-September figure was 126,170, compared to the full-year figure of 129,993 meaning only about 4,000 new applications in the fourth quarter.

Or did CIC not enter new applications into the GCMS database as part of the transition to the provisions of the new Citizenship Act?

I have requested clarification from CIC of the reasons for this drop and will share once received.

Prayer in Canadian Public Life: a Nation Divided – Angus Reid Institute

Prayer_in_Canadian_Public_Life__a_Nation_Divided_-_Angus_Reid_InstituteThe latest polling on the Supreme Court’s ruling against prayer in public meetings. Key Findings:

  • Just over half (56%) of respondents are in favour of the court’s decision while the rest (44%) are opposed.
  • That support drops to one-third (34%) among the religiously inclined, and jumps to nearly four-fifths (78%) among those who say religion isn’t important to them.
  • In spite of the secularist view on prayer at public meetings, very few (7%) of respondents want to see the lyrics to O Canada changed so that reference to God is removed.

Prayer in Canadian Public Life: a Nation Divided – Angus Reid Institute.

Military trying to cut recruitment targets for women despite expert’s report

Military, RCMP, CSIS.001RCMP envy (the RCMP successfully managed to negotiate lower targets). Declaring victory by changing the goalposts.

Seriously, there are particular challenges for both the Canadian Forces and the RCMP, but this approach only gives the impression that changing the targets is more important than improving recruitment and retention.

The above chart summarizes the Canadian Forces, the RCMP and CSIS. Only CSIS has a strong employment equity record, but the nature of their work, analogous to much policy work and IT makes it that much easier.

Interestingly, all three organizations do not post their reports. These have to be requested from the Library of Parliament (which is efficient in providing them):

The Canadian Armed Forces is now in consultations with Employment and Social Development Canada and the Canadian Human Rights Commission over how those targets are calculated in hopes they can be brought down to what the military argues are more realistic levels.

Lt.-Cmdr. Meghan Marsaw said in an email that the most recent consultations with ESDC and the human rights commission were held over the winter, though she couldn’t say when any new targets would be set “as further consultation is required both internally and externally.”

Documents obtained by the Citizen last year showed the Canadian Armed Forces wanting to cut the target for women from 25.1 per cent to 17.6 per cent. It also wanted to change the targets for visible minorities from 11.7 per cent to 8.2 per cent, and for aboriginals from 3.3 per cent to 2.6 per cent.

Military officials would not confirm whether those are still the proposed targets.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission is currently conducting an audit of the Canadian Armed Forces to determine if the military is taking adequate action to increase diversity within the ranks. The commission regularly audits all federal departments and agencies.

Some have previously cautioned against cutting the targets for fear the Canadian Armed Forces will then scale back efforts to increase the number of women as well as visible minorities and aboriginals in uniform. They say the military should strive to represent the country’s demographic make-up.

However, others say that maintaining unrealistic targets could force the military to dilute recruiting standards. They also say it could draw away resources better put to other uses.

Military trying to cut recruitment targets for women despite expert’s report | Ottawa Citizen.

Toronto Mayor John Tory calls for end to carding – Toronto – CBC News

Quite a change from his earlier position (not a bad thing in itself to be flexible and respond to public pressure):

Tory said the issue has been among “the most personally agonizing” since he became mayor.

“After great personal reflection and many discussions … I concluded it was time to say, enough. It was time to acknowledge there is no real way to fix a practice which has come to be regarded as illegitimate, disrespectful and hurtful.

“It was better to start over.”

Tory said his discussions included a talk with journalist Desmond Cole, who recently wrote about his experiences with carding for Toronto Life.

Cole said he was “overjoyed” with the mayor’s move, but cautioned that more action is needed.

“This has been a long time coming,” Cole told reporters. “Now we have to make sure [Tory] and the police services board and Chief Mark Saunders follow-up on this announcement … so carding is actually ended. So we’ll wait and see.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory calls for end to carding – Toronto – CBC News.

Christie Blatchford’s take:

Carding aside, what’s interesting here is that as of last week, presumably shortly before he hopped that plane to Edmonton, Tory was proudly standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Toronto’s new police chief, Mark Saunders, in defending the practice — always with a view to reforming it and improving it, he said (as indeed does the chief) but defending it nonetheless, and seemingly with sincerity.

It was a brave, if politically dangerous, position to take, I thought, and reinforced the romantic notion I think I had of the new mayor. (Before running for mayor, he was the host of a radio show on Newstalk 1010, where I was a regular guest, and I came to like him very much, and still do.)

But he is a politician, after all, and one who after several unsuccessful forays in politics has landed in a job he absolutely loves and for which he seems tailor-made: He works like a dog, is out and about every weekend at this festival or that, and has been by most measures a pretty good mayor.

And politicians, perhaps particularly those who enjoy the work and relentless social contact it entails, don’t like being unloved.

The voices against carding were rising; nothing said that better than a press conference last week featuring all manner of former civic leaders (why, they ran the gamut from A to B, from Gordon Cressy to David Crombie) denouncing the practice. And the voices against it were also louder (the Star has made it a veritable campaign, with at least one of its columnists suggesting pretty directly that Tory was a racist for supporting carding) than any on the other side.

I suspect internal polling numbers told Tory this was not a fight he would win, and that his support, even for a reformed version of carding, might define his mayoralty. And it’s a more believable explanation than the revelation-in-a-taxi or the epiphany-on-the-streetcar.

Christie Blatchford: Epiphanies on playing the cards right

The wrong way to tackle forced marriages: Porter

Good commentary on how to address forced marriages — not by criminalization but by education, awareness and protection:

Besides being unenforceable (if proving rape is difficult, imagine proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a person knew the bride had not consented), survivors like Sajiha say the bill is potentially harmful.

“Even when I was 10 or 13, I wouldn’t have wanted to put my family in jail,” she said. “My family was my everything.”

That’s a common story among young women who have escaped forced marriages, said Deepa Mattoo, a lawyer with the South Asian Legal Clinic, who works on cases of young women concerned they will be forced into marriage, or struggling to return to Canada, having escaped a forced marriage “back home.”

“Lots of girls I’ve worked with, they don’t want to leave their families,” Mattoo said. “They just want the situation to go away.”

A study Mattoo co-led from 2010-2012 found 219 cases of forced marriage in Ontario over three years. The majority of victims were women between 18 and 34 years old. About half were citizens, while the other half were permanent residents. Most experienced other forms of family violence — threats, physical violence, sexual violence and stalking. Almost half of them were entirely dependent on their families financially.

While the majority were Muslim, many were Hindu, Sikh and Christian.

“The law in Canada creates a narrative that this is a problem about faith and community,” said Farrah Khan, a counsellor with the Barbra Schlifer clinic. “It’s violence. That’s the problem.”

For the past two years, Mattoo and Khan have been training social workers, guidance counsellors, police officers and other service providers across Canada about forced marriage — how to detect it and how to devise safety plans for young women who sense they’ll be victims.

The solution, they say, is public education and a safety net for women fleeing attempted forced marriages.

Money should be put into counselling services, they say.

If any laws are passed, they should be ones that insist shelters accept young women escaping attempted forced marriages (many still don’t, according to both Khan and Mattoo), and social workers bump them to the top of the waiting list for social housing, as women fleeing family violence. (It now depends on the worker, Khan and Mattoo said.)

Those were among the recommendations made at the end of Mattoo’s groundbreaking report.

What was the final recommendation?

“Do not criminalize forced marriage as a separate criminal code offence.”

That would create stigma and push victims underground, it said.

Funny that Alexander didn’t speak to the women he’s busy trying to save.

The Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act has passed through the Senate and two readings in the House of Commons. Alexander expects it to become law later this month, his spokesperson says.

The wrong way to tackle forced marriages: Porter | Toronto Star.

Tory MP sees ‘wiggle room’ in site for victims of communism memorial

Trial balloon by Galipeau? Pre-election local candidate positioning? But Minister Polievre is the lead minister and responsible for Ottawa and has, typically, showed no flexibility.

I’m with Jen Gerson of the National Post: use this site for a memorial to the victims of the residential schools given that this is a fully Canadian historical tragedy, that haunts us still:

Throughout the ongoing controversy over the proposed Memorial to the Victims of Communism, opponents have focused on its prominent location on Wellington Street and its destructive impact on the Long Term Vision and Plan for the parliamentary and judicial precincts.

But according to Conservative MP Royal Galipeau, who has represented Ottawa-Orléans since 2006, the site for the memorial has yet to be finalized.

“It’s nowhere right now,” Galipeau said in an interview. “It’s planned to be on Wellington Street between the Library and Archives and the justice building. There’s a lot of wiggle room there.”

Galipeau confirmed that he has privately urged the government to locate the memorial a bit further west on Wellington, on a site closer to Library and Archives Canada — an idea he had not previously shared publicly.

“Since I don’t sit on the opposition side of the house,” he explained, “I generally don’t make my recommendations to the government by way of the media. I work in a way to bring results.”

Galipeau wouldn’t comment on the current status of his suggestion, saying only: “I think that after the monument is built, the people who oppose the monument no longer will. That much I can say.

“I suspect that everyone is getting their knickers in a snit for nothing. The monument will be of the right scale and will be located in a manner that it will not impede the architecture of the Supreme Court.”

Galipeau’s comments followed a call to the Citizen from Ludwik Klimkowski, the chair of Tribute to Liberty, the charity that proposed the monument and is raising money for it.

Stressing that he was not speaking for the government, Klimkowski floated the “purely hypothetical” idea of leaving the memorial where it is and designating the more westerly site eyed by Galipeau for a future Federal Court building.

The current Long Term Vision and Plan calls for the Federal Court building to be built on the 5,000-square-metre site on Wellington Street the government has publicly earmarked for the memorial.

Tory MP sees ‘wiggle room’ in site for victims of communism memorial | Ottawa Citizen.

Why Are Only Three Observant Sikh Men Serving In The U.S. Military? : NPR

Interesting. US appears to be the exception, given Canada, UK and India all allow:

If a Muslim woman may wear a headscarf at work, as the U.S. Supreme Court has now affirmed, perhaps a Sikh man should be able to wear a turban while serving in the U.S. military.

So argues the Sikh Coalition, an advocacy organization that has long opposed a Pentagon ban on facial hair and religious headgear among service members. That campaign got at least a moral boost with this week’s court decision.

“What I’m anticipating with this decision is that we will have a move in this country to recognize the right of individuals from different religious backgrounds to live in an America that does not discriminate against them on the basis of how they appear,” says Simran Jeet Singh, the senior religion fellow for the Sikh Coalition.

As a general rule, the Department of Defense prohibits facial hair and the wearing of religious headgear among service members, though it offers “accommodation” on a case-by-case basis in recognition of “sincerely held beliefs.”

Such waivers, however, are given only when they would not undermine “military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, discipline, health and safety, or any other military requirement.”

In practice, those considerations can present major obstacles. Currently, just three observant Sikh men serve in the U.S. military, all in the Army, and all are in noncombat positions. That’s out of an active-duty military force of 1.4 million.

…Sikh men are currently allowed to serve with beards and turbans in the military services in Canada, the United Kingdom and India, among other countries, and they were permitted in the U.S. military until the early 1980s, when the policy was changed.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 1986 decision, upheld the military’s right to ban facial hair and religious headgear, finding that the military is a “specialized society separate from civilian society” and that to “accomplish its mission the military must foster instinctive obedience, unity, commitment and esprit de corps.”

That ruling would suggest that this week’s court decision upholding the right of a Muslim woman to wear her hijab headscarf does not apply to observant Sikh men wishing to wear a turban in the U.S. military, but it may nonetheless hold some political significance.

“The military has shown on many occasions that it is influenced by the court of public opinion and by social change,” says Eugene Fidell, a specialist in military law at the Yale Law School.

Why Are Only Three Observant Sikh Men Serving In The U.S. Military? : NPR.

Justice Murray Sinclair’s challenge for Canada as it seeks reconciliation

Good interview with Justice Sinclair. My two highlights:

“We didn’t write this report for this government,” he said. “We wrote this report for all governments including this government. We expect there will be other opportunities to talk with people when governments change, and governments always change.”

….Many of the people who come to Canada today are from developing nations that were themselves at one time oppressed by colonial powers. “They will be able to say, if we let them, ‘I had nothing to do with that, so therefore I don’t need to worry about it,’” he said. “But on the other hand, everyone coming here has a responsibility to the future.”

That is one reason why the commission wants the residential school experience to be incorporated into school curricula, into citizenship guides, into law and journalism programs, into the very fabric of national life.

And Mr. Sinclair points out that Canada’s robust immigration policies may mean that visible minorities could be a majority in 50 years’ time. Those who see Canada as a nation founded by French and English settlers and inhabited by their descendants may one day know what it’s like to struggle to preserve one’s culture and heritage.

“You are going to be the aboriginal people of the future,” he predicted. “So let’s talk about how you are treating aboriginal people today.”

Justice Murray Sinclair’s challenge for Canada as it seeks reconciliation – The Globe and Mail.

Doug Saunders’ take:

The period of what we now call cultural genocide lasted just a century, though its consequences could continue much longer if we do not intervene to reverse the toll of this period.

In many ways, the artifacts of this system continue to function. We still have the forced collectivization of reserves, and large-scale non-ownership of aboriginal land. We are still perhaps the only country in the world with federal government offices whose function it is – under the “status Indian” policy – to determine racial purity. We still have terrible schools, staffed with ill-equipped teachers and given pathetic levels of funding, on reserves.

Compared with other “cultural genocide” events, the number of people affected is small: Aboriginal peoples are 4.3 per cent of the Canadian population: 1.5 million people, only half of whom live on reserves. To strike a new settlement with these populations as recommended in the commission’s report (we have already done so, to a large extent, with the Inuit) would not, then, be an overwhelming challenge.

This newly named crime may be a source of national shame, but it does not have to define Canada: Another century of progress and co-operative relations could transform it from a current event into a piece of history. We have a chance, in the aftermath of this report, to begin a less shameful era of Canadian and indigenous history.

Residential schools, reserves and Canada’s crime against humanity – The Globe and Mail.

Lastly, John Ralston Saul:

The Commission’s report is very clear about how reconciliation works – respectful relationships, restoring trust, reparations, concrete actions leading to societal change. To put it bluntly, reconciliation without restitution would be meaningless. It is not so difficult to work out what restitution means. Part of it is laid out in this report. Above all, it is not about winners or losers. If indigenous peoples have more and do better, we will all do better.

In 1996, Georges Erasmus and his fellow commissioners wrote, “Canada is a test case for a grand notion – the notion that dissimilar peoples can share lands, resources, power and dreams while respecting and sustaining their differences. The story of Canada is the story of many such peoples, trying and failing and trying again, to live together in peace and harmony. But there cannot be peace or harmony unless there is justice.”

Since then, indigenous peoples have more than played their part – leading the way with constructive arguments, developing an ever larger new leadership, re-establishing their cultures, winning repeatedly at the Supreme Court. The rest of us have done very little.

And the Canadian people – you and I – have not taken the stand we need to take. We have not given that fundamental instruction – the instruction of the ethical, purposeful voting citizen. Justice Sinclair and his colleagues have shown us what to do. We are the only barrier to action being taken.

Truth and Reconciliation is Canada’s last chance to get it right

Don Cayo: Policy decisions made without facts can only fall back on whim, bias and ideology

More on anecdotes vs. evidence, this time in the context of Vancouver house prices but a broader message by Cayo:

But populism, political pandering, intuition or ideology — call it what you will, the made-up facts that are spewed in so many debates — are always a poor basis for decision-making. Yet we see a heavy reliance on this at every level of government, not to mention with voters every time we go to the polls. And, sadly, we seem doomed to see a lot more.

Every government is prone to ignore relevant data, even when it’s available, or to spin it to favour their ideological or political priorities. And there are lots of gaps in the data they can draw on — like the gaping hole in the Vancouver housing picture that invites us to jump to any conclusion that suits our mood.

Worse, the federal government has been refining this shortcoming. It has launched what looks like a focused assault on the sources of information that could inform debate on myriad issues.

The worst step in this direction was the 2010 decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census. Despite continuing outcries of not just political opponents but also of apolitical researchers and analysts in many important fields, the government won’t budge.

This move didn’t have many immediate consequences, but its effect will multiply over time. Because the response rate to the voluntary replacement for the mandatory long form plummeted from well over 90 per cent in 2006 to less than 70 per cent in 2011, and because most non-responders are from smaller places and poorer segments of society, the resulting data is skewed. It’s no longer reliable enough to do the job it once did: informing intelligent planning and the like.

The result will be more policy debates and decisions driven by ideology, bias or whim, just like Robertson’s and Clark’s conflicting views on housing policy. And no side will be unable to authoritatively back its case or counter the other side’s without trustworthy data.

The list of growing impediments to intelligent debate goes on: Cutbacks to research budgets; the muzzling of federal scientists and other experts with information to contribute; the chill on non-profits, some with considerable expertise, because they fear loss of funding and/or being singled out for audits that seem to be targeting perceived advocates of positions not favoured by the federal government.

Don Cayo: Policy decisions made without facts can only fall back on whim, bias and ideology.