Worried about Trump-stoked exodus of immigrants, Canada discourages illegal crossings – LA Times

The government’s outreach in action in LA, and its key messages. Main takeaways from the article: overall message not different from hardliners but “delivered with a nicer Canadian soft sell” and “It’s unclear how effective he was:”

In a private dining room at Zov’s restaurant in Tustin, a Canadian envoy made his pitch to about a dozen immigration attorneys and immigrant rights leaders.
Pablo Rodriguez, a member of Parliament, leaned over from his seat in the middle of the table and asked everyone to spread the word: Please do not cross into Canada illegally.

“Get the facts and make a decision based on the right facts, before leaving your jobs and taking your children out of school and going up there hoping to stay there forever,” Rodriguez said. “Because if you don’t qualify … you will be returned and in this case not to the United States. You will have lost your status and would be returned to your country of origin.”

Worried that anti-immigrant rhetoric and decisions from the Trump administration could drive more people across its border, the Canadian government is trying to nip that in the bud.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dispatched Rodriguez to California. The whip for the majority Liberal Party in Parliament, Rodriguez arrived in the U.S. a few days after President Trump announced his decision to end temporary protected status of an estimated 200,000 Salvadorans in the country.

His message was not that different from immigration hardliners in the U.S. But it was delivered with a nicer Canadian soft sell.

Rodriguez was a young boy when he arrived in Canada as a political refugee from Argentina. He said he can empathize with those looking north.

He said that Canada is “an open country” and a nation of immigrants. But, he stressed, immigrating to the country needs to be done legally.

“You can’t just come to Canada and cross the border and stay there the rest of your life,” he said. “We want to avoid a humanitarian crisis along the border.”

The Canadian government, Rodriguez said, wants to avoid a repeat of what happened last summer when thousands of Haitians crossed Canada’s southern border “irregularly” after losing temporary protected status in the U.S.

The influx created a massive backlog of refugee claimants.

Last week was Rodriguez’s fourth outreach visit to the U.S. since the fall.

Rodriguez is one of several lawmakers and dignitaries Canada has sent in recent months to combat misinformation about gaining asylum in Canada. Recently, Canadian representatives traveled to Haitian communities in Miami and a Somalian enclave in Minneapolis.

During the meeting in Orange County, Rodriquez wore an infectious smile and an easygoing demeanor as he engaged in what he called a “friendly conversation” with immigration attorneys and immigrant community leaders.

It’s unclear how effective he was.

Some of those at the meeting said Canada seemed awfully hospitable compared to the countries some immigrants had left behind.

Countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and parts of Mexico are among the most dangerous places in the Western Hemisphere.

“If you are facing certain death in your country … Canada seems like a very excellent option,” said George W. Abbes, an immigration attorney.

Rodriguez said that so far there isn’t any indication that more Latin Americans are crossing the border from the U.S. to Canada.

But the Canadian government wants to be proactive, he said. Rodriguez said officials wanted to counter false reports in Latin American media that suggest migrating to Canada is an easy way to find immigration relief.

“We want to have an honest, transparent conversation,” Rodriguez said. “Canada is a very open country but there are rules.”

via Worried about Trump-stoked exodus of immigrants, Canada discourages illegal crossings

To Ross Douthat, white immigration is the only good immigration – Salon.com

While the most effective rebuttal to the Douthat piece can be seen in Noah Smith’s Twitter thread, https://twitter.com/NatalieBrender/status/958009393588486144, this article also is powerful:

President Donald Trump’s immigration policy is, increasingly, in the hands of his policy adviser, Stephen Miller. To most, Miller’s history and views should disqualify him from handling the sensitive topic. Even top Republicans have said that they had little faith in Miller’s bona fides.

But, to New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, Miller — the man who has displayed xenophobic and sexist traits since he was a high school student — is bringing to light something Americans should be debating: Do we really want immigrants?

Douthat suggested Sunday that Miller should be a point person on any immigration deal, saying that Miller can appeal to the “conservative” base that successfully blocked bipartisan immigration reform in 2013. And Douthat seemed to be in Miller’s camp, writing that Miller has some good points in not wanting immigrants:

>The foreign-born share of the U.S. population is near a record high, and increased diversity and the distrust it sows have clearly put stresses on our politics. There are questions about how fast the recent wave of low-skilled immigrants is assimilating, evidence that constant new immigration makes it harder for earlier arrivals to advance. . .

Douthat’s displeasure at immigration boils down to the fact that he may have to speak to someone who doesn’t speak English, even though his complaints don’t match the rhetoric of the guy at the end of the bar:

The present view of many liberals seems to be that restrictionists can eventually be steamrolled — that the same ethnic transformations that have made white anxiety acute will eventually bury white-identity politics with sheer multiethnic numbers.

The Stephen Miller wing of negotiations — that starts with the White House and goes down to the Freedom Caucus, with a long detour through the pages of Breitbart — is the dominant one. And that wing doesn’t want to “bury white-identity politics,” despite the fact that “America” has successfully absorbed other cultures for generations.

Remember that, at one time, the problem was that there were too many Irish immigrants coming into the country. At another time, it was Germans. And remember that those cultures gave Douthat the culture and the food that’s now interwoven in Americana — because even apple pie isn’t all that American.

But the fundamental problem is that in the United States, you can’t eliminate cultures that aren’t white. The U.S. wasn’t founded on an ethnic identity. Native to the country are the Native Americans. There’s a Mexican contingent that lived in the Southwest before it was part of American territory. Puerto Ricans, Samoans, Chamorro, Filipino and Haitians are all American citizens, by birth, because American territory is vast and doesn’t simply cover just White Settlement, Texas.

But Douthat’s claim overlooks one major error that completely blows up his entire argument. You can’t assume that America is built on a white identity — neither then nor now — without realizing that the country was built on the backs of black slavery and of land that once belonged to Native Americans. And Westward expansion was powered thanks to a Chinese-built transcontinental railroad.

Unfortunately for Douthat, white America hasn’t done as much as he may think it has.

via: To Ross Douthat, white immigration is the only good immigration – Salon.com

Meet Trudeau’s lead on multicultural communications, PMO press secretary Amreet Kaur

While much of the article is a personal profile, some interesting comments on ethnic media strategy and tactics:

Canadian political parties are increasingly emphasizing multicultural communications and outreach work, and as the Liberal government’s lead staffer focused on communicating with the country’s many multicultural communities and news outlets, PMO press secretary Amreet Kaur plays a “vital” role in the office.

“The component of multicultural outreach remains one of the vital components of any party’s outreach strategy, and Amreet, from her experience … really is singular,” said John Delacourt, a vice president at Ensight Canada who served as director of communications for the Liberal caucus’ research bureau on the Hill from January 2016 to January 2017.

“I think PMO relies on her [Ms. Kaur’s] working rapport with the multicultural outlets,” he said.

“She just has an intuitive ability to work with a full range of communities across the country, has a strong sense of regional issues, [and] knows the GTA and the 905 area and the Greater Vancouver area really well,” said Mr. Delacourt.

She also has a great “working rapport” across the Liberal caucus and with Canada’s various multicultural outlets, and keeps a political, “strategic lens on everything that she’s doing,” he said.

Ms. Kaur is one of four press secretaries currently working in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s (Papineau, Que.) office—the others being Eleanore Catenaro, Chantal Gagnon, and Vanessa Hage-Moussa, all led by Kate Purchase as communications director—but is the only one focused specifically on multicultural communications and outreach for the office. She’s been in the PMO since January 2016, having arrived straight from a job with the Ontario Liberals at Queen’s Park.

In her current role, Ms. Kaur tackles media relations work—drafting press releases, ensuring they’re disseminated and that outlets are aware of government announcements or other initiatives, helping plan events, and managing incoming media requests—and also does a “great deal” of stakeholder engagement and outreach, all focused on multicultural communities, explained Mr. Delacourt.

“She would cover it from the cabinet side. … All of the components that go into what we call the larger cabinet communications rollout,” said Mr. Delacourt.

The idea of pursuing specific multicultural communications outreach is one that’s been on the rise in modern Canadian politics.

It’s part of the “big shift” that pollster Darrell Bricker and columnist John Ibbitson explored in their 2013 book, The Big Shift: The Seismic Change In Canadian Politics, Business, and Culture and What It Means For Our Future. And while the 2015 federal election results have since tangibly countered their argument that Canada’s immigrant—or ethnic—communities largely lean conservative, the electoral importance, power, and influence of these voting groups was borne out.

The vast majority of ridings with high immigrant or visible minority populations swung Liberal in 2015, and were key to elevating the party to its current majority government status. They’re expected to be equally important in 2019.

Of the 41 federal ridings in Canada with a visible minority population of 50 per cent or more, 27 are located in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area (one represented by a Conservative MP, the rest Liberal), nine are in Vancouver and its surrounding area (two represented by NDP MPs, one by a Conservative MP, and the rest Liberal), two in the Montreal area (both Liberal), and two in Calgary (now held by one Liberal, one Independent). Rounding out that list is Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux’s riding of Winnipeg North, Man.

By another indicator, based on the 2016 census, the top five largest concentrations of immigrant populations in Canada are located in: Peel region, at 51.5 per cent; Toronto, with 47 per cent; York region, at 46.8 per cent; the Greater Vancouver census division, with 40.8 per cent; and Montreal, at 34 per cent.

The Durham and York regions account for 15 federal ridings; Toronto has 25; Brampton, Mississauga, and Oakville have 13 ridings; Vancouver and the Lower Mainland include 15 ridings; and central Montreal contains 10, with another 13 seats in city’s suburbs and Laval—that’s 91 ridings, out of 338 federal seats in all.

Almost 23 per cent of Canadians’ first language is one other than French or English, according to the 2016 census.

“As the government gets ready for the next election, diverse communities are critical to their success—to any political party—so her [Ms. Kaur’s] role becomes even more important,” said Gabriela Gonzalez, a consultant for Crestview Strategy who previously worked alongside Ms. Kaur at Queen’s Park and described her as a friend.

While previously, the “mainstream media approach” largely defined “how media relations was done” in politics, a little over a decade ago—around the start of Stephen Harper’s first Conservative government—focus began to shift towards specific multicultural communications outreach, said Mr. Delacourt. He said in part, this shift was a result of Conservative polling on the question of same-sex marriage legalization in Canada in 2005.

“The Conservatives polled on it and realized that you could almost map, in terms of value questions, map [based] on [ethnic] communities across the country,” he said. “Jason Kenney was one of the key figures in this—they did extensive work with communities across the country.”

In short order, other political parties also came to realize that as multicultural communities evolved across the country, so too did “the opportunities for political engagement” and participation, and that they weren’t being “cultivated to the degree that they should be,” said Mr. Delacourt.

Plenty of ink has been spilled over the previous Conservative government’s multicultural communications and outreach efforts. That includes former citizenship and immigration minister Jason Kenney’s much-touted work to court various ethnic communities in Canada—leading some to dub him the ‘Minister of Curry-in-a-Hurry.’

By September 2014, a manager of cultural media was added to the Harper PMO’s communications team, in addition to a small team of regional communications advisers—and separate from the slate of other, general communications strategists and officers working in the office.

“Multicultural media didn’t really grow until I’d say the last eight years or so. It’s really taken on a life of its own,” said a Liberal source familiar with Ms. Kaur’s work for the party federally and provincially.

A directory developed by the Canadian Ethnic Media Association last year (which is locked to non-members) lists more than 1,200 ethnic media outlets, from print to radio to online to television, according to a piece from the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre last September. That includes the Sing Tao Daily, Radio Tibet, CHIN TV and Radio, OMNI-TV, PTC Punjabi, The Eastern News, New Tang Dynasty TV, among many others.

Currently in her late 20s, Ms. Kaur hails from Mississauga, Ont., and studied an undergrad in political science at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus. Her parents are originally from India….

via The Hill Times

Trump tax reform leads U.S. entrepreneurs in Canada to consider giving up American citizenship

Interesting and complex. No hard handle on numbers potentially affected:

A growing number of American business owners in Canada are considering renouncing their U.S. citizenship following the recent overhaul of the U.S. tax system. The changes could mean a huge financial hit for some American business owners living abroad.

Some lawyers who specialize in helping Americans give up their U.S. citizenship are reporting a spike in interest from potential clients since the Trump administration’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed in late December.

“We have definitely seen an uptick” in outreach, said Alexander Marino, a U.S. tax lawyer at Calgary-based Moodys Gartner Tax Law, who heads the firm’s expatriation-practice group and specializes in U.S. citizenship renunciation.

While the U.S. tax changes – which include a cut in the corporate-tax rate to 21 per cent from 35 per cent – are considered good news for companies operating and doing business south of the border, U.S. citizens living and running privately held companies in other countries could face a one-time “transition tax” of up to 15.5 per cent. The retroactive tax is on corporate assets not taxed in the United States since 1986, which was the last time the country’s tax code was overhauled.

While it’s too late for Americans to give up their U.S. citizenship to avoid the transition tax, there is concern about a new annual tax, going forward, on assets of certain American-owned companies operating outside of the United States. The tax is on global, intangible low-taxed income and is known as the GILTI tax. It can be imposed on a U.S. citizen shareholder if, under the new law, more than 10-per-cent of the non-U.S. corporation’s earnings are deemed to come from intangible assets. The rules are very complicated and vary greatly in how they apply, “but have the potential to affect many Canadian-resident, U.S. citizens,” Mr. Marino said.

More than 230 people signed up for an information seminar on renunciation Mr. Marino’s firm held over the weekend in Toronto, which is more than double the attendance of their past events, even as the number of Americans revoking their citizenship has risen in recent years.

Citing data from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service’s Federal Register, Mr. Marino said 5,411 Americans worldwide renounced their citizenship in 2016, the highest annual number in the country’s history. That’s up 26 per cent from 4,279 in 2015 and nearly triple the 1,781 renouncers recorded in 2011. More Americans are giving up their U.S. citizenship amid stepped up enforcement of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA), passed in 2010, which requires foreign financial institutions to report assets held by Americans living outside of the United States. It took effect in Canada in mid-2014.

For the first three months of 2017, the most recent data available the Federal Register list, 4,448 Americans surrendered their U.S. citizenship. When fourth-quarter results are released in the coming weeks, Mr. Marino expects it to be another record year for the number of Americans revoking their U.S. citizenship.

Max Reed, a cross-border tax lawyer with Vancouver-based SKL Tax, says his office has had nearly a dozen inquiries about renunciation since the tax changes passed about a month ago.

“Absolutely, we’ve had people who have started the process either because of the mandatory repatriation tax or the GILTI [tax],” Mr. Reed said. “Those new tax rules … will make life much more complicated and expensive for Americans in Canada.”

The downside of renunciation for some is no longer being able to easily move to or work in the United States, vote in U.S. elections or hold a U.S. passport. Some of the benefits include no longer having to file tax returns in more than one country, which saves time and money. Mr. Reed said there could also be other changes down the road that could make being an American citizen living outside of the United States more expensive. “Renouncing now insures against this risk,” he said.

There are U.S. rules governing renunciation. For instance, Americans looking to give up their U.S. citizenship must pay a fee of $2,350 (U.S.) and go through an in-person interview at a U.S. consul or embassy explaining why they wish to give up their passport.

They might also have to pay an “exit tax,” based on certain criteria. The exit tax can be triggered if an American citizen has a net worth of more than $2-million on the day they renounce, has an average net tax liability for the five preceding years of $165,000 (2018 amount adjusted for inflation) or if they haven’t met their U.S. tax obligations for the past five years.

With renunciation, there is also the risk of being banned from travelling to the United States under what’s known as the Reed Amendment (named after Rhode Island Democratic Senator Jack Reed). This can happen if the person renouncing is considered by the U.S. attorney-general to be “motivated by tax avoidance purposes,” according to the government.

While cases of renouncers being banned from the United States are rare, Mr. Marino said it’s a risk. “Professional advice, if you decide to renounce, is always recommended to avoid the exit tax, to get ready for the interview, or to not be barred,” from the United States, he said.

via Trump tax reform leads U.S. entrepreneurs in Canada to consider giving up American citizenship – The Globe and Mail

Hey, Mike Pence, the Holocaust Didn’t Happen for Your Benefit

Sharp and warranted commentary:

Nothing good came out of the Holocaust. The mass murder of Jewish people, Roma, gay people, the disabled, and other targeted groups was an atrocity of unimaginable proportions, an orgy of needless suffering, cruelty, grief and horror. Genocide doesn’t make the world a better place; it makes the world a worse place.

That should be obvious, you’d think. And yet, in America, we compulsively try to turn the Holocaust into a moral lesson or an inspirational parable. Yes, we say, the Holocaust was evil. But look at the good that came out of it! Hitler’s crimes, we insist, gave us all the chance to be better people. The piles of corpses are an abomination, of course; but even so, if we climb them together, we will ascend to a new moral awakening.

Vice President Mike Pence provided a particularly repulsive example of this logic in a tweetover the weekend commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day. “A few days ago, Karen & I paid our respects at Yad Vashem to honor the 6 million Jewish martyrs of the Holocaust who 3 years after walking beneath the shadow of death, rose up from the ashes to resurrect themselves to reclaim a Jewish future,” Pence declared. Pence turned the Holocaust into a triumphant story of bravery, a monument to Israeli nationalism. The Holocaust here is not a tragedy, but a triumph.

Many Jews have pointed out that Pence, who is an evangelical Christian, imposes a Christian narrative on the Holocaust, comparing victims of the Holocaust to Jesus. His tweet also paints Jewish victims of the Holocaust as martyrs for Israel, as if every Jew who died was an ardent Zionist, deliberately laying his or her life down for a future Jewish state. Pence treats the Holocaust as a holy validation of evangelical support for Israel. Many American evangelicals believe that Israel has a role to play in the apocalyptic end times. The Holocaust, then, for Pence becomes a kind of providential working out of God’s divine plan for the Jews. Israel makes the Holocaust worth it, at least from an evangelical perspective. Hallelujah.

Pence is unusually blunt in framing the Holocaust as Christian resurrection narrative, but he’s not the only one to try to turn Auschwitz into inspiration porn. The majority of high-profile films and fictional narratives about the Holocaust focus on upbeat endings and salvation. Films like Defiance (2008), The Zookeeper’s Wife ( 2017) and, most famously Schindler’s List (1993) all tell stories about people who saved Jews during the Holocaust. They all end, ritually, with text informing the viewer how many people the protagonists rescued from death in the camps.

“Pence is unusually blunt in framing the Holocaust as Christian resurrection narrative, but he’s not the only one to try to turn Auschwitz into inspiration porn.”

All these films are based on true stories; Otto Schindler and others did save some Jews. Every life saved is precious—but every life that wasn’t saved is precious, too, and there were, horribly, a nightmarish number of people who weren’t saved from the Holocaust. The obsessive focus on the handful who escaped gives the Holocaust, over and over, a happy ending. The main characters dodge the Nazis; Israel rises up. The death camps may have been horrible, but they gave good people a chance to demonstrate their goodness.

That’s the message of Lois Lowry’s hugely influential Holocaust novel Number the Stars (1989). The book tells the fictional story of Annemarie, a Danish girl who (like many in Denmark) helps a Jewish friend escape the Nazis. “Young people rejoice when Annemarie takes a deep breath, enters the woods, faces the danger, stands up to the enemy, and triumphs,” Lois Lowry wrote in an introduction. The Holocaust gives young people the chance to vicariously brave danger and do the right thing. It’s heartwarming. But should we really be always be looking to the Holocaust to warm our hearts?

The impulse to find lessons in the Holocaust is natural and almost unavoidable. We’re meaning-making creatures, and the Holocaust was so huge and so terrible that we feel like it must have some sort of moral takeaway, some nugget of truth we can pass on to our children. Even the much-repeated mantra “Never forget” suggests that the Holocaust has some use. If we keep the camps in mind, we hope, it will help us to make better choices, or at least enable us to defend ourselves against similar threats.

Ruth Klüger, a Holocaust survivor, rejects this logic in her memoir Eline Jugend, or Still Alive (1992). “Auschwitz was no instructional institution…” she writes. “You learned nothing there, and least of all humanity and tolerance. Absolutely nothing good came out of the concentration camps…They were the most useless, pointless establishments imaginable. That is the one thing to remember about them if you know nothing else.”

Similarly, survivor Alain Rensais’ documentary Night and Fog (1956) treats the Holocaust as a horrible, bemusing puzzle, a bleak, heavy lock without a key. “We survey these ruins with a heartfelt gaze, certain the old monster lies crushed beneath the rubble,” the voice over of the film muses. “We pretend to regain hope as the image recedes, as though we’ve been cured of the plague of the camps.”

As Resnais says, much discussion of the Holocaust seems designed to provide a cure, or offer some sort of world-historical closure. The Holocaust was terrible—but Israel rose up, and (the Christian) God is great. The Holocaust was terrible—but some people saved some victims, and children can learn valuable lessons from that. It was terrible but—it’s done now, and we’ve learned from it, and we’re moving on. Isn’t that inspiring?

The answer, again, is no. The Holocaust was not inspiring. The people murdered by Hitler did not die to advance some greater cause, or to teach us courage. Remembering the Holocaust is a moral imperative, because to forget evil is to collaborate with evildoers. But while memory is a necessity, it’s not clear it protects us. There have been other genocides since Hitler’s. Trump flirts with anti-Semitism and fascist demagoguery while his Vice-President dragoons Holocaust dead for his own political purposes. Evil people still take inspiration from the Nazis; they marched in Charlottesvile and murdered yet another woman there. Hitler’s been dead for 70 years, but his death toll keeps mounting.

We aren’t wiser because of the Holocaust. We aren’t kinder, or braver, or more noble. Evil diminishes us—not least when, like Pence, we act as if the senseless death of millions of people somehow made the world a better place.

via Hey, Mike Pence, the Holocaust Didn’t Happen for Your Benefit

Let’s Talk about culturally sensitive treatments for depression

One of the more interesting articles I have recently read and of particular importance given mental health issues is a diverse population:

Each week Dr. Yusra Ahmad, a psychiatrist and clinical lecturer at University of Toronto, meets six to eight women with a range of mental health disorders at a mosque in the city’s west end. She leads them through a program that combines mindful meditation with concrete skills to manage negative thoughts and regulate emotions.

However, this is not your typical mindfulness therapy. Each session began with prayers from the Qur’an and incorporates teachings from Islamic scholars.

She also uses imagery familiar to the women. For example, when leading a session on mindful eating, instead of using the example of a raisin, as she does with other audiences, she focuses on a date. The reason: Dates have an important role in Muslim traditions, enabling the women to relate to meditation techniques on a more personal level.

Dr. Ahmad is among a growing group of mental health experts who advocate a more culturally sensitive approach to treatment for disorders such as anxiety and depression than the conventional “one-size-fits-all” methods that currently apply.

An approach that recognizes Canada’s diversity, these experts argue, should become an integral part of the conversation on mental health, including during events like Bell Canada’s annual Let’s Talk campaign, which takes place on Jan. 31.

Immigrant mental illness

The argument for more culturally nuanced treatments rests, at least partly, on the idea that many Canadians come from a background where mental disorders are stigmatized and associated with hospital treatment for severe disease such as psychosis.

This stigma not only harms the patient, but often the entire family is ostracized.

Take Saira (not her real name), a 31-year old Muslim African-Canadian human resource manager, who was diagnosed last year with an anxiety disorder. Saira recalls being brushed off by friends and family with words like: “What do you have to be worried about, there’s nothing wrong with you.” Or, “you need to pray more.”

Such advice ended up worsening her feelings of isolation and her anxiety, to the point where she had to take health leave from her job.

Saira found Dr. Ahmad’s Mindfully Muslim program by chance on a Facebook group, after exhausting her options with conventional psychiatric treatment and medications. Dr. Ahmad’s six-week mindfulness program, with elements rooted in Muslim and African culture, gave her renewed hope, she says.

The latest data from Statistics Canada shows that in 2012, 16 per cent of Canadians met the criteria for a mental illness diagnosis.

But the Centre for Research on Inner City Health has found that although immigrants have similar rates of mental illness as people born in Canada, they make far less use of mental health services.

Managing difficult memories

Dr. Ahmad is not alone in her campaign to infuse cultural elements into mental health treatment of specific communities. Leysa Cerswell Kielburger, community program leader at The Centre for Mindfulness Studies in Toronto, has collaborated with Sistering, an organization for “at-risk” women in Toronto, to develop a drop-in mindfulness program for Syrian refugee women.

The program brings about 10 women together every week and facilitates a mindfulness program that centres on the trauma of being a refugee. A mindfulness-based cognitive therapy combines meditation with concrete skills to manage your thoughts, such as learning how to observe your thoughts and not to judge them.

The emphasis during the workshops is on managing difficult memories, taking care of the body and easing the stress of being a newcomer to Canada.

The women benefit from the program, Ms. Kielburger says, because they are in the company of others with the same refugee experience.

What’s more, they are able to talk about their experiences in their mother tongue and can access mental health services where they live, rather than in the more conventional but also more intimidating hospital setting.

Dr. Melinda Fowler, a Métis and Mi’Kmaq primary care physician in Winnipeg, approaches mental health treatment with an emphasis on spirituality — which most Indigenous peoples regard as a core tenet for effective treatment of mental illness.

Thus, Dr. Fowler begins each session with a traditional smudging ceremony aimed at developing a connection with her patients, and at helping them connect to their spirituality.

“There is a legacy of trauma, and mistrust of institutions such as health care in the Indigenous community,” says Dr. Fowler. She takes the view that by incorporating Indigenous customs in the management of mental disorders, patients are able to slowly regain a measure of trust in a system that has eradicated many traditional practices that used to be cornerstones of medical treatment in their communities.

Dr. Fowler is also taking her approach to indigenous mental health into the federal prison system. She has started a pilot program among inmates in the Prairie provinces that incorporates traditional ceremonies as well as Indigenous medicines such as weekay root, or wiikenh, a popular antidote for anxiety.

Spirituality in health

Arji Elmi, a social worker and PhD candidate at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, enrolled in Dr. Ahmad’s Mindfully Muslim program as a learning opportunity to improve her skills as a crisis social worker. She says the experience has been transformative in her work.

She often found in the past that religion and spirituality were discouraged in the structured therapy programs offered in crisis centres — due to concerns that patients might feel they were having religion forced on them. Yet for for those Canadians whose spirituality embraces all aspects of their lives it must play an important part in their treatment.

Ignoring the key role of spirituality or religion in a person’s health can deepen the isolation that often leads to mental breakdowns, Elmi says.

Diversity means that therapy must take different forms for different groups, whether it is women discussing their stresses as they farm the land, or of Indigenous ceremonies designed to achieve emotional balance, or Catholic churchgoers filing into the confessional box each week to share their struggles with a priest.

When mental health providers incorporate cultural nuances and engage in community based treatment, they can go a long way towards improving the mental health of the most vulnerable Canadians.

via Let’s Talk about culturally sensitive treatments for depression

Robin V. Sears: How Jagmeet Singh can teach a lesson on tolerance

Interesting and credible advice, including how to handle Air India questions:

Next year, Canada may face a test of our national foundations, that is our commitment to social inclusion and tolerance. Will this fragile consensus survive the bloodletting of a national election when one of the leadership choices is an ambitious Sikh man, in a time when some partisans would stir the embers of racism?

In the naïve euphoria of a “post-racial Presidency,” how many Americans would have predicted an openly racist American president would follow? The Conservative Party has yet to be persuasive about how deeply it has learned the lessons of its disastrous flirtation with Islamophobic racism. The Quebec political elite still needs to acknowledge the black crow feathers dangling from their lips.

The ability to set these boundaries of acceptable discourse falls heavily on one man.

In 2019, Jagmeet Singh faces Obama’s choice. Obama did not run as a black candidate — to the chagrin of many black activists, like his hopeless pastor who almost single-handedly torpedoed his candidacy. He ran first as the candidate of “the outsiders” — by race, by ethnicity, and by class. Later, he became the candidate and the president, of social justice and race. The sequencing was essential to his success.

Jagmeet Singh might consider a similar story arc. He need not present himself as a Sikh candidate, or even as the champion of non-white Canadians: those credentials are given. Until now, even dog whistle racism gets slapped down here.

So Singh can frame himself as the champion of all that we have achieved, the defender of that edifice against any who would undermine it, and the advocate of what more remains to be done to build a discrimination-free Canada. He can be the candidate who frames the debate on these questions — helping to ensure no one is tempted to whisper against Canadian Muslims, or him, on the basis of his skin or his religion.

Those journalists tempted to use the tragedy of Sikh terrorism to humiliate him should remember this: Singh comes from one of the most persecuted, and discriminated against religions in the world. Thousands of young Sikhs have died in recent decades in circumstances that pass no credible legal test.

Some Sikh zealots, as a result, have taken up arms and dreamed impossible independence dreams. This has been a tragedy for one community, Sikhs themselves. There is virtually no sympathy for the Air-India bombers in the Sikh community here — after all, those who died were predominantly their own children and their parents.

What those journalists who taunt Singh, insisting on a condemnation they dictate, need to understand why that stand-alone demand is so offensive. If the question were, “Given the persecution of your community, the destruction of your temples, and the death of thousands of innocent Sikhs in civil conflict, do you understand why some are tempted by terrorism in response?” You would get a resounding, “No!” and then an explanation of why. Singh might want to deliver that cultural history lesson proactively.

He could also deliver a hammer blow to anyone tempted to again try on a racist subtext by speaking out in Quebec. Attacking the slurs against that mostly progressive and socially inclusive community could be powerful. In preparation, quiet discussions with Quebec civic leaders about how to deliver the message, would be valuable in themselves and a powerful signal to Quebecers that he is listening, not lecturing, advocating not admonishing.

He could cite brave Quebec activists’ resistance to anti-Semitism and the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Duplessis era; the fight for civil rights for all Quebecers, by Lesage and Levesque. And he could celebrate the solidarity among Jewish and Catholic and Muslim leaders in Quebec City after the tragedy there. Tomorrow is the first anniversary.

Like Obama, he could acknowledge both the sins of the past, but also Lincoln’s “better angels” — our progress won by courageous Canadians in every generation. Underline the need to continue “bending the arc” of history toward justice.

He can remind Quebeckers and all Canadians of the personal bravery of Baldwin and Lafontaine staring down the Protestant and Catholic bigots among their own clans, creating the space that made a nation like Canada a possible dream.

The Canadian sanctimony that says there is no possibility of a racist nativism here is dangerous. The Ontario Human Rights Commission reported in December that nearly half of recent immigrants and refugees reported incidents of discrimination against them.

So, let’s pray that Jagmeet Singh and progressive Canadians can succeed in framing the discussion of inclusion versus racism as a path forward, not one sliding into Trumpian depths.

Source: Robin V. Sears: How Jagmeet Singh can teach a lesson on tolerance

One year after mosque massacre, Quebec still in denial about event that traumatized province: Konrad Yakabuski

Good commentary:

On the first anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shooting, Quebec is still working through its grief. While those directly affected by the tragedy are still coming to terms with their own loss, much of Quebec remains in denial about the event that traumatized the entire province.

That is why the first anniversary of the Jan. 29 massacre of six innocent Muslims will not be deemed a National Day of Remembrance and Action against Islamophobia. And even many of those who first proposed the idea agree that it’s probably better that way.

“I’m disappointed,” Imam Hassan Guillet told Le Devoir with respect to the Quebec government’s rejection of the proposal put forward by the National Council of Canadian Muslims. “But if it is adopted [amid] discord, quibbling and bitterness, I prefer that it not be adopted.”

That discord and bitterness should prevail in the place of generosity and compassion is not that surprising. While the past year has witnessed thousands of acts of kindness on the part of non-Muslim Quebeckers toward their Muslim brothers and sisters, the shooting thrust into the open a debate that many feared Quebec was not ready to have. They turned out to be right.

Before tempers rose over the proposal for a National Day against Islamophobia, there were flare-ups over proposed government hearings into systemic discrimination and racism, a municipal referendum on a Muslim cemetery near Quebec City and, most bitterly, Bill 62. The latter, adopted last fall, forbids face coverings when receiving or providing public services in the province.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard has spent the past year walking on egg shells. His initial reflexes have generally been the right ones, embodying a generosity of spirit that should do Quebeckers proud. But the Liberal Premier struggles with the identity issues that remain the main currency politics in Quebec. The opposition Parti Québécois and Coalition Avenir Québec have managed to portray any gesture toward religious minorities as a sign of weakness, as if the task of combatting prejudice and defending minority rights doesn’t concern all Quebeckers.

Hence, Mr. Couillard must preface any discussion on the topic with a disclaimer. “I repeat, Quebec is not any more racist or different than any other society and we face the same challenges as all societies that have to manage diversity,” the Premier declared last week as he explained why his government would not support the proposal for a day against Islamophobia.

“It’s preferable to mobilize around a day or week of action against racism and discrimination of all kinds, rather than single out one,” he said. “One kind of racism is not worse than another.”

It’s true that Quebec is hardly alone in grappling with how to address discrimination toward Muslims. The debate last year over a House of Commons motion condemning Islamophobia demonstrated the degree to which the issue stirs passions across the country. And almost no European country has avoided the ugliness of a far-right backlash against Muslim immigration.

Still, it is not accusing Quebec of being any more racist than anywhere else to suggest that conflicts involving the province’s Muslim population suffer from the added strain of Quebeckers’ own self-perception as a threatened minority within Canada. Not only does this Québécois minority in Canada speak French, it has embraced a particular brand of secularism that makes room for public manifestations and symbols of cultural Catholicism, but draws the line there.

This creates a clash of cultures that has become increasingly difficult to resolve as newcomers seek to practise their religion in accordance with their constitutional rights, while a culturally Catholic majority worries about a return to the bad old days when religious authorities ruled their parents’ and grandparents’ lives.

The conflict is least visible in Montreal, where diversity is the norm, mixed marriages are common and hijabs, turbans and kippahs are as unremarkable as tuques in winter. But Montreal is not Quebec and Muslim congregations can now be found in more than a dozen smaller communities, from Shawinigan to Rimouski, and from Mascouche to Saint-Hyacinthe. These new neighbours are changing the identities of their communities – for the better, I would argue.

But they are easy prey for the haters. They might once have been easy to ignore. But they have found validation in the echo chamber created by social media and trash-radio hosts. The Quebec City shooting only seems to have emboldened them. The more Muslims seek to assert their rights, the more they push back.

How many anniversaries of Jan. 29 need to pass before Quebec faces up to them?

via One year after mosque massacre, Quebec still in denial about event that traumatized province – The Globe and Mail

StatsCan Study: How temporary were Canada’s temporary foreign workers?

Spoiler alert – apart from Agricultural Workers program – is that the overall trend is temporary workers staying for longer periods with most temporary workers in Canada for 10 years or more transitioning from temporary to permanent residency status:

Temporary foreign workers are admitted to Canada through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and the International Mobility Program (Government of Canada) with the objectives of addressing short-term labour shortages and advancing Canada’s broad economic and cultural interests. The number of temporary foreign workers present in Canada increased from 52,000 in 1996 to 310,000 in 2015. Given the growing presence of temporary foreign workers, their rate and length of stay in Canada are relevant to national immigration and labour market policies.

This Statistics Canada study documents the length of time that temporary foreign workers remain in Canada and the extent to which longer durations of stays are the result of extended use of temporary residence permits or transitions to permanent resident status.

In the study, temporary foreign workers are defined as individuals who were aged 18 to 64 at the time of their arrival in Canada, who received a work permit between 1990 and 2009, and whose first admission to Canada was primarily for work purposes. These individuals were followed for at least five years, and for up to 15 years, after their first admission to Canada. The study is based on the Temporary Residents File.

Durations of stay among temporary foreign workers became longer through the 2000s. Of the 264,000 temporary foreign workers first admitted to Canada from 1995 to 1999, 13% (or 35,000) were still in Canada five years after their initial arrival. This was the case for 37% (or 187,000) of the approximately 500,000 temporary foreign workers first admitted to Canada from 2005 to 2009. The same pattern was evident 10 years after arrival among earlier cohorts. Specifically, 11% of temporary foreign workers first admitted to Canada from 1995 to 1999 and 18% of those first admitted from 2000 to 2004 were still in Canada 10 years after their initial arrival in Canada.

Almost 90% of temporary foreign workers who were still in Canada after 10 years had obtained permanent resident status, having made the transition from temporary foreign worker to landed immigrant. This was the case among temporary foreign workers in virtually all ongoing programs, with the exception of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program. Temporary foreign workers in this program were unique in that almost one-quarter continued to receive work permits for seasonal employment 10 years after their initial arrival in Canada. Temporary foreign worker programs, such as the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, have been associated with different options for transitioning to permanent residence status.

via The Daily — Study: How temporary were Canada’s temporary foreign workers?

Australia: Road to citizenship gets longer for ‘demonised’ applicants

Australia generally has had a better track record than Canada in processing times with short processing times and limited backlogs:

An 18-month investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman, released in December, found the number of people subject to heightened identity checks and waiting more than two years on the outcome of a “citizenship by conferral” application – such as former refugees – had skyrocketed 450 per cent.

This increase – a jump from 338 cases requiring enhanced screening in November 2016 to almost 2000 by the middle of last year – was despite an overall drop in the number of complex applications awaiting a decision, the ombudsman found.

As of early January, there were 167,820 outstanding conferral applications, 5680 of which were more than two years old.

The ombudsman’s investigation focused on those subject to “enhanced screening and integrity checks” due to background factors such as country of origin, an “irregular” arrival or due to any changes made to personal information.

The oldest of these case had been “on hand” for more than four years, according to the report. This compared to the department’s “service standard” for processing most cases of just 80 days.

“In early 2016, the Commonwealth Ombudsman started to experience an increase in complaints from people awaiting decisions on their citizenship applications for more than a year, and sometimes over two years,” the December report said.

“In the past year and a half, we have received approximately 300 complaints about delays by the department.”

‘Enhanced’ identity checks

Applicants from Afghanistan topped the list of those facing delays, the ombudsman found, noting those hailing from the war-torn nation had been singled out by the department as a particular caseload with “integrity issues”.

A finding from the ‘Delays in processing of applications for Australian Citizenship by conferral’ 2017 report.
Commonwealth Ombudsman

“Although the department has made progress in reducing the overall backlog of applications, its assessment of more complex cases is still an area for improvement,” the report said.

But critics say the delay is part of a deliberate policy shift that “demonised” those from refugee backgrounds and exacerbated problems caused by inadequate staffing.

“It doesn’t make sense that the department is satisfied with someone’s identity to grant them a permanent visa so they can stay in Australia for their whole life, yet when it comes to citizenship they have no idea about their identity,” the Refugee Council of Australia’s Asher Hirsch said.

Refugee community ‘demonised’

Mr Hirsch said beyond denying many refugees a sense of belonging and security, the citizenship delay effectively halted bids by some to see their loved ones. According to a 2014 ministerial directive, boat arrivals are given the lowest processing priority for family reunification visas.

The ombudsman recommended the department work on improvements to its processes to help it meet the “various challenges” of its caseload.

A 2016 Federal Court case brought by two Afghan men that found it should have reasonably taken between six and seven months to process their cases was “important guidance” for the department, the report said.

The department denied there was a backlog or delay in processing citizenship applications, and noted that Australia has “non-discriminatory migration and citizenship programs”.

“Applicants for Australian Citizenship must meet the legislative criteria, regardless of how and when they arrive in Australia,” the department said in a statement.

“The department has a duty to thoroughly assess the genuine nature of all citizenship applications.”

The report acknowledged the department’s concerns:

“In recent years, the increased awareness of identity fraud and the increased focus on ensuring the applicant is who they say they are before they are granted citizenship, has most likely caused decision-makers to take more time with high-risk applications,” it said.

“The department is acutely conscious of the fact that after a person has been approved for citizenship, it is difficult to cancel it later if it is determined the person has lied about their identity.”

via Road to citizenship gets longer for ‘demonised’ applicants