Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote eBook – 5 Percent off

Lulu ebook sale 30 Dec

A small saving, one of the rare ones Lulu offers for eBooks. Direct link for eBook: Multiculturalism In Canada: Evidence and Anecdote

Seasons Greetings and Happy New Year

The Marsh In Winter

The Marsh in Winter, Julius Griffith

Whatever your tradition or faith, best wishes for the holiday season and the new year.

My blog will resume in early January.

Implementing diversity and inclusion in Parliament: A more complete picture | My piece in the

With the appointment of parliamentary secretaries and opposition critics, we now have a more comprehensive picture of gender and visible minority diversity in Parliament’s leadership positions. How well has the Liberal government implemented its overall diversity and inclusion commitments, and how have the other parties responded to the “because it’s 2015” challenge?

Although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed a Cabinet with gender parity (15 each of men and women) and almost 17 per cent visible minority ministers (four Sikh and one Afghan Canadian), gender parity was not attained for parliamentary secretaries (12 positions out of 35 or 34 per cent). Visible minority parliamentary secretaries are over-represented (nine positions or 24 per cent) in relation to their share of the voting population (15 per cent).

Moreover, the government addressed some of the criticism regarding Cabinet over-representation of Sikhs by appointing three African Canadians, one Chinese, one Arab, one Latin American and three South Asians (two Sikhs, one Ismaili Muslim). Three of the nine visible minority parliamentary secretaries are women, including Celina Caesar-Chavannes, a parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister.

In total, of the 68 leadership positions (ministers, parliamentary secretaries, whips, and House leaders), 59 per cent are men, and 21 per cent are visible minority men or women. The detailed breakdown is shown in the chart below:

In terms of percentage of caucus, there are 27 women in leadership positions out of 50 elected, or 54 per cent. For visible minorities, there are 14 out of 39 elected, or 36 per cent. In contrast, 30 non-visible minority men are in leadership positions out of 134 elected, or 20 per cent.

No matter how one looks at the data, this marks a major shift in government parliamentary leadership appointments, towards more women and visible minorities.

The Conservative official opposition compensated for their relatively low number of women MPs (17 per cent of caucus), making 35 per cent of critics women (the Harper government’s last Cabinet similarly appointed more women to Cabinet—31 per cent—compared to the 17 per cent in caucus).

However, with a small number of visible minority MPs (six or six per cent of caucus), critic visible minority representation is only slightly compensated at nine per cent, although visible minority MPs form 13 per cent of the smaller number of deputy critics. But in relation to caucus membership, 50 per cent of visible minority Conservative MPs are critics, reflecting again the same drive to present a more inclusive face to Canadians.

The NDP opposition has the largest proportionate female caucus representation: 41 per cent. It is no surprise that women MPs form 45 per cent of critics. With only two visible minority MPs to choose from, only one (three per cent) is a critic (but again, this is 50 per cent of those elected).

So what does all this mean in terms of diversity and inclusion?

The Liberal government, given the large number of women (50) and visible minority (39) MPs elected had little difficulty in meeting its stated goals of Cabinet gender parity (but slipped in other leadership positions). It also was able to significantly exceed visible minority representation in relation to the number of visible minority voters.

This ‘over-representation’ reflects a conscious decision to demonstrate diversity and inclusion, one that started with having the highest percentage of visible minority candidates (17 per cent) compared to the other major parties (13 per cent).

For both opposition parties, the weakness in visible minority representation reflects the small number of visible minority MPs elected. With respect to women, the Conservatives responded to the ‘because its 2015’ challenge, compensating for their small number of women MPs, and applying the same approach to visible minorities. The NDP made the most effort in recruiting female candidates, many of whom were successful, and thus close to gender parity was not a challenge.

All in all, taken together, the Liberal leadership positions reflect a significant implementation of the diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism agenda, one that, given the horizontal ministerial comment for parity and diversity in all government appointments, holds significant promise in ensuring greater representation in government.

Moreover, to the extent that the opposition parties could, their choices recognize the need to respond to this agenda and ensure that their leadership reflects Canadian diversity.

Source: Implementing diversity and inclusion in Parliament: A more complete picture |

A ‘race lens’ for the labour market? Welcome to 2015, Ms. Wynne

While I am not sure that I agree with all of these recommendations as I am not familiar enough with existing structures to know whether these are needed, or more adjustment of existing mandates and roles would be more appropriate, this helps continue the conversation of the overall need for a diversity lens.

In Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote, the Ontario data confirms some of the gaps and challenges (particularly economic), as do any number of issues (e.g., police carding, Toronto school outcomes, children aid society statistics).

My preference is for a lens that integrates all the different aspects of diversity (gender, ethnic origin, sexual orientation etc) into policy, program and service delivery (see my earlier post, Jim Maclean: In Ontario, a new race-based government | The Limits of Anecdote and Assertion):

Having a racial-equity policy framework is just the beginning, however. If the Premier is sincere about bringing racial justice to Ontario, the following foundational steps are critical:

  • Establish an equity and anti-racism directorate to provide for the collection and analysis of ethno-racially and otherwise appropriately disaggregated data across all provincial ministries and public institutions. The directorate – with a pan-provincial government-wide mandate – would complement this data analysis by providing an ongoing monitoring and program development role for the integrated implementation of comprehensive and inclusive equity and anti-racism policies and practices.
  • Establish an employment-equity secretariat, fully mandated and adequately resourced in order to implement a mandatory and comprehensive employment-equity program in Ontario.
  • Amend the provincial funding formula for publicly funded elementary-secondary schools by introducing an equity in education grant – a more robust redistributive mechanism rooted in a range of relevant equity and diversity measures and considerations – to ameliorate Ontario’s growing ethno-racially defined learning outcome inequities and disparities.
  • Apply equity principles to all current and future government infrastructure investments, particularly “green collar” job-creating initiatives, to best ensure stable and sustainable futures for all.
  • Establish the anti-racism secretariat as mandated under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

With these and other similar measures, first peoples and peoples of colour will have a fighting chance of finally becoming equal members of our society. By 2017, these diverse communities will make up close to one-third of Ontario’s population. The time for action is now.

ICYMI: The False Promise of Meritocracy – The Atlantic

A note of caution of those who believe that hiring and other systems are based on objective meritocracy, without any influence of bias and prejudice, and a reminder of the need to be more mindful and aware of these biases:

Americans are, compared with populations of other countries, particularly enthusiastic about the idea of meritocracy, a system that rewards merit (ability + effort) with success. Americans are more likely to believe that people are rewarded for their intelligence and skills and are less likely to believe that family wealth plays a key role in getting ahead. And Americans’ support for meritocratic principles has remained stable over the last two decades despite growing economic inequality, recessions, and the fact that there is less mobility in the United States than in most other industrialized countries.

This strong commitment to meritocratic ideals can lead to suspicion of efforts that aim to support particular demographic groups. For example, initiativesdesigned to recruit or provide development opportunities to under-represented groups often come under attack as “reverse discrimination.” Some companies even justify not having diversity policies by highlighting their commitment to meritocracy. If a company evaluates people on their skills, abilities, and merit, without consideration of their gender, race, sexuality etc., and managers are objective in their assessments then there is no need for diversity policies, the thinking goes.

But is this true? Do commitments to meritocracy and objectivity lead to more fair workplaces?Emilio J. Castilla, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, has explored how meritocratic ideals and HR practices like pay-for-performance play out in organizations, and he’s come to some unexpected conclusions.In one company study, Castilla examined almost 9,000 employees who worked as support-staff at a large service-sector company. The company was committed to diversity and had implemented a merit-driven compensation system intended to reward high-level performance and to reward all employees equitably.

But Castilla’s analysis revealed some very non-meritocratic outcomes. Women, ethnic minorities, and non-U.S.-born employees received a smaller increase in compensation compared with white men, despite holding the same jobs, working in the same units, having the same supervisors, the same human capital, and importantly, receiving the same performance score. Despite stating that “performance is the primary bases for all salary increases,” the reality was that women, minorities, and those born outside the U.S. needed “to work harder and obtain higher performance scores in order to receive similar salary increases to white men.”

These findings led Castilla to wonder if organizational cultures and practices designed to promote meritocracy actually accomplished the opposite. Could it be that the pursuit of meritocracy somehow triggered bias? Along with his colleague, the Indiana University sociology professor Stephen Bernard, they designed a series of lab experiments to find out. Each experiment had the same outcome. When a company’s core values emphasized meritocratic values, those in managerial positions awarded a larger monetary reward to the male employee than to an equally performing female employee. Castilla and Bernard termed their counter intuitive result “the paradox of meritocracy.”

The paradox of meritocracy builds on other research showing that those who think they are the most objective can actually exhibit the most bias in their evaluations. When people think they are objective and unbiased then they don’t monitor and scrutinize their own behavior. They just assume that they are right and that their assessments are accurate. Yet, studies repeatedly show that stereotypes of all kinds (gender, ethnicity, age, disability etc.) are filters through which we evaluate others, often in ways that advantage dominant groups and disadvantage lower-status groups. For example, studies repeatedly find that the resumes of whites and men are evaluated more positively than are the identical resumes of minorities and women.

This dynamic is precisely why meritocracy can exacerbate inequality—because being committed to meritocratic principles makes people think that they actually are making correct evaluations and behaving fairly. Organizations that emphasize meritocratic ideals serve to reinforce an employee’s belief that they are impartial, which creates the exact conditions under which implicit and explicit biases are unleashed.

“The pursuit of meritocracy is more difficult than it appears,” Castilla said at a recent conference hosted by the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford, “but that doesn’t mean the pursuit is futile. My research provides a cautionary lesson that practices implemented to increase fairness and equity need to be carefully thought through so that potential opportunities for bias are addressed.” While companies may want to hire and promote the best and brightest, it’s easier said than done.

Source: The False Promise of Meritocracy – The Atlantic

ICYMI: Dumb Inspirational Quotes, Dumber People – The Daily Beast

Next time you are tempted to post an ‘inspirational quote’, this study may prompt second thoughts:
A new study finds that people who love bulls**t inspirational quotes have lower intelligence and more “conspiratorial ideations.” Sounds about right.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Stars can’t shine without darkness. A goal without a plan is just a wish.

Feeling inspired? Well, perhaps you shouldn’t be, because those who post motivational quotes on social media have been found to display lower levels of intelligence than those who are more discerning over such ‘profound’ messages.

“On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit,” a studyundertaken at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, surveyed nearly 300 students on their reactions to so-called meaningful statements, which were in fact syntactically sound but quasi-nonsensical lines made up of buzzwords. They were asked to rate each statement on its level of profundity on a scale of one to five.

“Bullshit, in contrast to mere nonsense, is something that implies but does not contain adequate meaning or truth,” the paper explains. It takes its meaning of the word from Harry Frankfurt’s 2005 work “On Bullshit,” which defines it as something engineered to impress yet requiring no direct concern for the truth. “It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction,” he wrote.

In this particular study, participants’ personality traits were also analyzed in order to create a clear picture of those who were most likely to be impressed by motivational quotes.

“More analytic individuals should be more likely to detect the need for additional scrutiny when exposed to pseudo-profound bullshit,” the researchers posit. For those who scored highly on the profundity levels of buzzword-filled sayings, researchers detected lower numerative and cognitive abilities, as well as lower general intelligence levels. The bullshit-lovers were also found to have more “conspiratorial ideations” than those unimpressed by such statements, as well as lesser ability in verbal fluidity and being reflective.

The paper, which uses the word “bullshit” more than 200 times, addresses Twitter’s role in the surge of online meaninglessness. It cites a Deepak Chopra tweet—which reads, “Attention and intention are the mechanics of example”—to reinforce its claims.

“The vagueness…indicates that it may have been constructed to impress upon the reader some sense of profundity at the expense of a clear exposition of truth.”

“Bullshit is not only common, it is popular,” note the researchers of Chopra’s appeal (that line is, in fact, a more meaningful tweet from The New Yorker‘s Maria Konnikova). Indeed, Chopra has amassed more than 20 New York Times Bestsellers and over 2.5 million Twitter followers. The latter site’s stringent 140 character limit is key to the proliferation of such “woo-woo nonsense” posts, as having to shrink down statements is a surefire way of reducing the quality and clarity of meaning.

Source: Dumb Inspirational Quotes, Dumber People – The Daily Beast

ICYMI – The U.S. Senate: Still One of the World’s Whitest Workplaces – The Atlantic

Not that surprising. Have not seen a comparative Canadian study on staffers (anyone know one?) but I would suspect that visible minority percentages would be higher:

The U.S. Senate is famously known as the world’s most deliberative body, but it has never been its most representative. And that remains true not only of the 100 people elected to serve, but of the hundreds more hired as their top advisers.

Just over 7 percent of congressional aides who hold senior staff positions in the Senate are people of color, according to a new study set to be released Tuesday by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. That amounts to just about 24 of the 336 people who hold top job titles, and it is a far lower percentage than the country as a whole, where people of color—defined as African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans—comprise about one-third of the population. The lack of diversity is particularly glaring among African Americans (0.9 percent of top staff positions) and in the offices of senators hailing from states with large black and Hispanic populations. And it suggests that little has changed in the decade since the online magazine Diversity Inc. called the Senate the nation’s worst employer for diversity.

In one way, the finding is not surprising. While the 114th Congress as a whole is the most diverse in history (admittedly a low bar), the Senate itself is notoriously unrepresentative as an elected body. There are just two African American senators and three Hispanics to go along with 20 women out of 100 senators. Yet the report’s author, James Jones of Columbia University, said he was still shocked to find the staff numbers to be so low, particularly in the offices of Democratic senators. “I didn’t expect it to be this bad,” he told me. The social demographics of senators naturally influences the social demographics of the people they hire as their senior advisers, Jones said. But, he added, “I don’t think diversity in the Senate—especially racial diversity—should be dependent on the racial backgrounds of senators. All senators come from states with racially diverse demographics, and so I think they have a responsibility to have staffs that look like the states that they represent.”

The Senate’s static diversity also bucks a trend in the federal government under President Obama, who has appointed a record percentage of minorities and women to posts requiring confirmation. The Senate, therefore, is approving a lot of minorities; it just isn’t hiring them. Jones told me that his research indicated that staff diversity in the top rungs of the Senate hadn’t changed much since the 1980s, despite periodic efforts to highlight and remedy the problem. In the mid-2000s, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid created a diversity initiative to encourage minority hiring by Democratic offices. But Jones said the impact of that effort had been mixed: It helped staffers of color get their foot in the door with entry-level positions, but it didn’t make much difference in senior-level jobs. “Senior positions are more competitive, they’re more political, and the opportunities to fill these vacancies are more rare,” Jones said.

Source: The U.S. Senate: Still One of the World’s Whitest Workplaces – The Atlantic

Norway Offers Migrants a Lesson in How to Treat Women – The New York Times

Interesting approach, and a far cry from the former Conservative government’s approach of labelling bills and documents with ‘barbaric cultural practices’ rather than meaningful programming and engagement:

The program he helped design focuses on getting newly arrived refugees to open up about their attitudes toward sex, through discussions in small groups supervised by a monitor, usually a native Norwegian. A manual prepared for the course includes sections on “Norwegian laws and values,” as well as violence against children and women.

A class held on Wednesday in Lunde, a village southwest of Oslo, focused on differing perceptions of “honor” and how violence that might be seen as honorable in some cultures is shameful and also illegal in Norway.

A rival program, developed by a private company called Hero Norge, which runs asylum centers under a contract with the government, also promotes discussion as the best way to expose and break down views that can lead to trouble.

Hero Norge’s teaching material studiously avoids casting migrants in a bad light and instead presents a fictional character called Arne, a native Norwegian, as a model of predatory behavior. The main immigrant character, a 27-year-old called Hassan, is, by contrast, introduced as a “good man” who is “honest and well liked.”

In one episode, Arne, the Norwegian, tells Hassan he plans to ply a young woman with alcoholic drinks “to soften her up.” People taking the course are asked questions such as: “How should Hassan react?” “What do you think Arne means when he says he wants to ‘soften her up?’ ” “Is it O.K. to ‘soften someone up’ with alcohol?”

Berit Harr, a course monitor at a refugee center in Ha, a coastal village south of Stavanger, said it was important to avoid making migrants feel as if they were under suspicion while getting them to talk about their own views on relations between the sexes.

“It is difficult to talk about sex,” she said. But, she added, doing so can help refugees navigate potentially dangerous situations in a strange land.

“It is normal here for boys and girls to be friends,” she said. “Smiling and flirting are normal. It doesn’t mean anything. If a girl is drunk it does not mean she is willing to do anything.”

Source: Norway Offers Migrants a Lesson in How to Treat Women – The New York Times

The Soft Power of Militant Jihad – The New York Times

An angle that has not received much coverage by Thomas Hegghammer, Director of terrorism research at the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment.:

Why have tens of thousands of people from around the world chosen to live under the Islamic State’s draconian rule and fight under its black flag? To understand this phenomenon, we must recognize that the world of radical Islam is not just death and destruction. It also encompasses fashion, music, poetry, dream interpretation. In short, jihadism offers its adherents a rich cultural universe in which they can immerse themselves.

For the past four years I have been studying what jihadis do in their spare time. The idea is simple: To really understand a community, we need to look at everything its members do. Using autobiographies, videos, blog posts, tweets and defectors’ accounts, I have sought a sense of the cultural dimensions of jihadi activism. What I have discovered is a world of art and emotions. While much of it has parallels in mainstream Muslim culture, these militants have put a radical ideological spin on it.

When jihadis aren’t fighting — which is most of the time — they enjoy storytelling and watching films, cooking and swimming. The social atmosphere (at least for those who play by the rules) is egalitarian, affectionate and even playful. Jihadi life is emotionally intense, filled with the thrill of combat, the sorrow of loss, the joy of camaraderie and the elation of religious experience. I suspect this is a key source of its attraction.

The corridors of jihadi safe houses are filled with music or, more precisely, a cappella hymns (since musical instruments are forbidden) known as anashid. There’s nothing militant about this traditional genre, which dates from pre-Islamic times. But in the 1970s, Islamists began composing their own ideological songs about their favored themes. Today there are thousands of jihadi songs in circulation, with new tunes being added every month. Jihadis can’t seem to get enough anashid. They listen to them in their dorms and in their cars, sing them in training camps and in the trenches, and discuss them on Twitter and Facebook. Some use them to mentally prepare for operations: Ayoub El Khazani, a 25-year-old Moroccan man who attempted a shooting attack on a Paris-bound train in August, listened to YouTube videos of jihadi anashid just minutes before his failed operation.

Anashid are closely related to poetry, another staple of jihadi culture. Across the Arab and Islamic world, poetry is much more widely appreciated than it is in the West. Militants, though, have used the genre to their own ends. Over the past three decades or so, jihadi poets have developed a vast body of radical verse. Leaders from the Islamic State’s spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani to Al Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahri often include lines of poetry in their speeches and treatises. Foot soldiers in Syria and Iraq sometimes hold impromptu poetry performances or group recitals in the field.

Perhaps more important than poems for jihadis are dreams, which they believe can contain instructions from God or premonitions of the future. Both leaders and foot soldiers say they sometimes rely on nighttime visions for decision making. Omar Hammami, the Alabama-born man who fought with the Shabab in Somalia in the late 2000s, said he thought of defecting, “but it was really a few dreams that tipped the scales and caused me to stay.” Mullah Omar, the mysterious one-eyed Taliban leader who died in 2013, reportedly made no consequential strategic decision before getting advice from his dreams.

Jihadi culture also comes with its own sartorial styles. In Europe, radicals sometimes wear a combination of sneakers, a Middle Eastern or Pakistani gown and a combat jacket on top. It’s a style that perhaps reflects their urban roots, Muslim identity and militant sympathies. The men often follow Salafi etiquette, for example by carrying a tooth-cleaning twig known as a miswak, wearing nonalcoholic perfume, and avoiding gold jewelry, as they believe the Prophet Muhammad did.

As new recruits shed their jeans and track suits for robes, as they memorize the words to the Islamic State’s anashid and learn to look for glimpses of paradise in dreams, they discover a whole new lifestyle. Music, rituals and customs may be as important to jihadi recruitment as theological treatises and political arguments. Yes, some people join radical groups because they want to escape personal problems, avenge Western foreign policy or obey a radical doctrine. But some recruits may join because they find a cultural community and a new life that is emotionally rewarding.

As the West comes to terms with a new and growing threat — horrifically evident in the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif. — we are not only confronting organizations and doctrines, but also a highly seductive subculture. This is bad news. Governments are much better equipped to take on the Slaughterer than they are He Who Weeps a Lot.

Source: The Soft Power of Militant Jihad – The New York Times

Refugees can move us from multiculturalism to multifaithfulness

While I think the existing legal frameworks (Charter, employment equity, Multiculturalism Act etc), along with related institutions, are largely adequate, this article by David Pfimmer is of interest given its call for more multifaith (or interfaith) interaction with society.

A bit overly general, without specific examples:

The issue for faith communities is not responding to secularization, but offering what I would term a new public multifaithfulness to address the growing polarization in our communities. Many Canadian Muslims in particular are developing their own distinct narrative that takes seriously Canada’s multifaith and multicultural context. The resettlement of Syrian newcomers may well help further this new narrative.

Multiculturalism has served Canada’s national narrative well. But it does not consider adequately the important role faith plays for people, especially for newcomers. We all have examples where religious belief can exacerbate problems. Yet faith is the force that gives us meaning. It reminds us of who we are, guides our life’s work and shapes our vision of the world we want.

A public multifaithfulness — a spirit of faith community activism building partnerships across religious and political boundaries — may offer a more positive path to building human relationships, constructing a culture of peace, and safeguarding the integrity of creation. It may also foster faith communities’ self-understanding.

What does public multifaithfulness involve?

A public multifaithfulness would be different than the role churches once played in Canada. Public multifaithfulness expects state neutrality and equality toward all faiths. Governments are expected to not give preference to, nor discriminate against, any faith group.

Nevertheless, faith communities will be expected to make non-partisan contributions to political life. After all, if faith communities enjoy religious freedom, they have a responsibility to support the process that safeguards those very freedoms. Their expertise can partner with governments to achieve our important common goals. Government refugee sponsorships are one example where partnerships with faith communities have worked well.

A public multifaithfulness will mean new types of relationships between different faith groups with emerging new institutions. This is already happening in many places. These relationships will be guided by a principle of engaged mutual respect.

Multifaithfulness is not a replacement for faithfulness to one’s own tradition. Such engagements will understand that others, in being fully faithful to their own tradition, help us to be more authentic and live with integrity within our own tradition.

A public multifaithfulness needs to take seriously the public purpose, affirming human dignity and building communities, or publics, that are guided by a commitment to the common good and the well-being of our neighbours whether they live across the street or around the world.

Source: Refugees can move us from multiculturalism to multifaithfulness