Douglas Todd: Would Saudi Arabia’s jailed blogger be accused of ‘Islamophobia’ in Canada?

Less contradictory than the article argues. Virtually all of the recommendations that came out of the committee examining M-103 applied to all forms of racism and discrimination (dissenting Conservative recommendations focused more on definitional questions of Islamophobia).

The additional funding for the multiculturalism program was general in application save for programming directed against racism and discrimination encountered by Black Canadians).

Just as one can criticize the policies and practices of the Israeli government without being antisemitic, one can criticize the policies and practices of the Saudi government without being anti-Muslim. In the case of the former, the IHRA definition of antisemitism provides some (imperfect) guidance that could form the basis of discussion for a comparable approach to criticizing the policies of Muslim countries, beyond basic human rights.

So while some Muslims may argue that any criticism of Saudi Arabia is anti-Muslim or Islamophobic, some Jews also argue that any criticism of Israel is antisemitic. It depends on the nature and form of the criticism:

Would jailed Saudi Arabian blogger Raif Badawi end up being accused of Islamophobia if he were released from his Riyadh prison cell and allowed to come to Canada?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is taking contradictory symbolic stands.

In August, it provoked a diplomatic dispute with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by tweeting support for Badawi, who was arrested in 2012 and flogged for criticizing the country’s hardline religious leadership. Canada has even offered citizenship to the free-speech advocate, his wife, Ensaf Haidar, and their children.

But how does that jibe with the federal Liberals also pushing through Motion 103, which urges all-out war against “Islamophobia?” The Liberal politicians behind M-103 refused to respond to requests to define Islamophobia. And their deceptive gamesmanship would end up jeopardizing Badawi’s right to free expression if he were to ever to come to Canada.

Among other things Badawi has equated a host of Saudi Arabian Muslims with terrorists, which many Canadians think is an offensive and Islamophobic accusation to make.

Can Trudeau’s government have it both ways? How can it champion Badawi’s right to freely criticize Saudi Arabia’s form of Islam at the same time that Liberal MPs make a virtue of condemning anyone who disparages Islam, including the deadly rules in many theocratic Muslim countries, which legislate that people should have their heads cut off for leaving the 1.5-billion-member faith?

Ali Rizvi, Canadian-based author of The Atheist Muslim, was one of the first to point out the lack of logic from Canada’s liberal-minded politicians, which include NDP and Green MPs. “People like my good friend Raif Badawi is in jail and he has been flogged 50 times simply for blogging,” Rizvi, who has lived in Saudi Arabia, told CBC’s The Tapestry.

“It’s interesting to me that if he finally made it to Canada and joined his wife and kids here, a lot of his ideas would be considered ‘Islamophobic’ by Liberals over here because of the criticisms he makes.”

An Angus Reid poll suggests many Canadians agree with Rizvi that the Liberal government has muddied the waters of free speech when it comes to criticizing religions and religious people, something which has been going full bore in the West since the Christian Reformation 500 years ago.

Half of Canadians said it’s not necessary for federal politicians to formally condemn “Islamophobia.” And 55 per cent say the problem of anti-Muslim sentiments in this country has been overblown by politicians and the media. Presumably most Canadians feel the country’s existing anti-hate speech laws already cover extreme hostile attacks on ethnic or religious groups.

The federal Liberals have managed through all this to get themselves into a pickle over free speech.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s August tweet calling for the release of Badawi and his sister led to Saudi Arabia retaliating. It cancelled trade deals with Canada and cut short the educations of nearly 15,000 Saudi students in Canada, even while confusion reigns about the fate of the more than 1,000 Saudi physicians in training in the country.

The trans-national furore is taking place as Badawi’s circumstances grow more dire. Even though an initial charge of apostasy, which is punished by death, was withdrawn, his health deteriorates in his small, stinking, shared cell. He has four years left in his sentence, which was to include 1,000 public lashes with a whip (he’s had 50 so far). He’s not alone in his degradation. In other Muslim-majority countries, online critics of the religion have been hacked to death, including a Bangledesh blogger who was also a friend of the Canadian author of The Atheist Muslim.

What has Badawi actually said to suffer such egregious punishment?

He has censured Muslims’ for their intolerance and argued against unequal religious attitudes towards women. He has promoted “live and let-live” secularism to replace Islamic theocracy and attacked Muslim schools that he says are filled with terrorists. And he has criticized Muslims in Arabic countries for failing to follow the lead of Europe, which has a separation of religion and state.

“States which are built on religion confine their people in the circle of faith and fear,” he writes in 1000 Lashes: Because I Say What I Think (published by Vancouver’s Greystone Books).

“We should not hide the fact that Muslims in Saudi Arabia not only disrespect the beliefs of others, but (they) charge them with infidelity, to the extent that they consider anyone who is not Muslim an infidel,” he has said.

Badawi was outraged when Muslims in New York City called for a mosque to be built near the site of the destroyed World Trade Center, where 3,000 people were murdered in the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaida terrorists, whom Badawi directly linked to Saudi Arabia.

“What increases my pain is this (Islamist) chauvinist arrogance, which claims that innocent blood, shed by barbarian, brutal minds under the slogan ‘Allahu Akbar,’ means nothing compared to the act of building an Islamic mosque whose mission will be to … spawn new terrorists.”

Badawi’s costly bid for freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia, for the right to openly denounce Islamic practices, puts him in a similar boat as the staff at France’s satiric Charlie Hebdo magazine, the Danish newspaper editors who published cartoons of Mohammed, and British-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie, whom have all suffered for finding fault with Islam.

In 1000 Lashes, Badawi defiantly chooses to follow the dictum of the late French existentialist Albert Camus, who said, “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

Badawi’s courageous existence is a clear revolt against Saudi Arabia’s bullying Islamic authorities. It should also cause some censorial Canadians to squirm.

Source: Douglas Todd: Would Saudi Arabia’s jailed blogger be accused of ‘Islamophobia’ in Canada?

Stripping Helmut Oberlander, 94, of Canadian citizenship ‘reasonable,’ court rules

Finally. Hopefully this will mark the end of an over 20 year process:

A government decision to strip Canadian citizenship from an elderly man, who argued he was forced as a teenager to join a Nazi death squad, was reasonable, a Federal Court judge ruled on Thursday.

In a ruling that again paves the way to deport Helmut Oberlander, Judge Michael Phelan found the government’s decision more than a year ago to have been justified and transparent.

“It is uncontested that Oberlander obtained his Canadian citizenship by false representation or by knowingly concealing material circumstances by failing to disclose involvement in the SS at the time of his immigration screening,” Phelan wrote. “There is no doubt that to have done so would have resulted in the rejection of his citizenship application.”

The government maintains the Ukraine-born Oberlander, 94, of Waterloo, Ont., lied about his three-year membership in Einsatzkommando 10a, known as Ek 10a. The Second World War Nazi death squad, which operated behind the German army’s front line in eastern Europe, was responsible for killing close to 100,000 people, most Jewish.

In his defence, Oberlander argued he was conscripted as a 17-year-old and faced execution for desertion. He said he served as an interpreter from 1941 to 1943, performed only mundane duties, and never took part in any killings. On that last point, Phelan agreed with him.

“No evidence was led that indicated (Oberlander) directly participated in the atrocities committed by Ek 10a,” Phelan said. “But he was aware that these atrocities were being committed.”

Neither Oberlander’s lawyer nor daughter, who has said her father was in increasingly poor health, were immediately available to comment on the decision, which Jewish groups praised along with the government’s efforts.

In Ottawa, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the court decision reaffirms the government’s view that Canada “should never be a safe haven for war criminals and people who’ve been accused of crimes, who’ve committed crimes against humanity.”

Oberlander and his wife — she died in 2013 — came to Canada in 1954. He became a Canadian citizen six years later. However, he failed to disclose his wartime experience when he came to Canada, and has been fighting government efforts to deport him since his membership in Ek 10a came to light in 1995.

Among other things, the father of two argued that Ottawa failed to consider whether he had joined Ek 10a under duress.

“If the applicant knew nothing and did only mundane activities, it was unclear why he claimed to have been under duress,” Phelan said.

In June 2017, the government revoked the retired businessman’s citizenship for the fourth time, prompting him again to turn to the courts in an effort to stave off deportation.

In dismissing the challenge, Phelan leaned on a previous court finding of “many inconsistencies and improbabilities” in Oberlander’s evidence and a “pattern of minimizing his wartime role, which gave rise to serious doubts regarding reliability.”

Ultimately, Phelan said, Ottawa’s citizenship action was absent bad faith, and legally and factually defensible. That the case has taken this long, Phelan said, was largely because of Oberlander’s successes to date in fighting efforts to remove him.

In a statement, Jewish groups applauded Phelan’s ruling as thwarting Oberlander’s attempt to evade justice.

“For survivors, this issue remains an open wound,” Sidney Zoltak, past president of the Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants, said on Thursday. “It is painful to think that Oberlander and others who perpetrated heinous crimes against our families have, for so long, concealed their past and taken advantage of welcoming countries like Canada.”

Source: Stripping Helmut Oberlander, 94, of Canadian citizenship ‘reasonable,’ court rules

Provinces need to nix immigrant-investor visas

Nothing really new here in Alan Freeman’s commentary but well stated:

It’s time Canadian provinces stopped selling visas to the highest bidder.

They’re known as immigrant-investor visas, which promise wealthy migrants permanent residence and a path to Canadian citizenship in return for actively investing in a Canadian business or lending money to a provincial government. 

But in reality, these visa programs are simply fancy schemes to sell Canadian passports to wealthy businesspeople, mainly from mainland China, who want a bolt-hole for their family and often have little intention of ever settling in Canada, aside from buying a pricey condo in Vancouver or Toronto and leaving it empty. 

What’s worse, these schemes are an invitation to the unscrupulous to use Canada as a place to launder money, and encourage a slimy network of immigration counsellors, questionable lawyers and investment advisers to collect big fees from would-be migrants.

The fact that Canadian provinces — Quebec, in particular — have been actively courting this trade is an embarrassment and a massive failure of public policy, with shades of corruption thrown in.

The federal government wisely got out of the immigrant-investor visa business in 2014 but several provinces, through the so-called provincial nominee programs, kept them going. Prince Edward Island is a case in point.

Earlier this month, P.E.I. decided to shut down the entrepreneur stream of its provincial nominee program after a new scandal engulfed it, 10 years after a similar program in the province was shut down in the wake of irregularities.

Canada Border Services Agency recently charged two hoteliers in Charlottetown under the Immigration Act with providing fake addresses to 566 new immigrants to the province between 2008 and 2015 who declared the Sherwood Motel as their principal residence. Must have been pretty crowded. 

Under the P.E.I. scheme, would-be immigrants had to make a $200,000 provincial deposit to the province, refundable if they set up a business there, chump change for these would-be Canadians. Last November, the government said that two-thirds of participants had forfeited their deposits because they hadn’t followed through and set up businesses in the province.

It was clear to anybody who was looking that these so-called immigrant investors never intended to set up a souvenir shop or convenience store in Charlottetown or Summerside. They simply wanted a back-door route into Canada so they could set themselves or their children up in Markham or Richmond. P.E.I. officials and politicians, in their desperation to attract immigrants, have been shown to be rubes of the first order.

The Quebec Immigrant Investor Program is bigger and the abuse has been even more flagrant, as demonstrated in a fabulous investigative report this month by the Radio-Canada TV show, Enquête.

The program documents the underbelly of the Quebec program as a conduit for wealthy Chinese businesspeople to buy permanent residency in Canada by stating their intention to settle in Quebec, and seldom even setting foot there. An estimated 85 per cent of the thousands of investors who have passed through the program since 1986 have gone to Ontario and B.C.

In its report, Enquête created Mr. Chen, a would-be investor in Quebec from mainland China and secretly filmed him as he made the rounds of immigration lawyers and consultants in Hong Kong who specialize in the Quebec program. It’s an eye-opener.

When Mr. Chen tells these advisers that he doesn’t intend to live in Quebec, even though it’s a pre-condition of the program, he’s told it’s not a problem. One lawyer suggests he rent an apartment for three months in Montreal to prove he has a Quebec address and leave it vacant. And if that’s too expensive, the lawyer suggests giving the Montreal address of his law firm as the immigrant’s residence.

When Mr. Chen admits the source of his assets isn’t squeaky-clean and he actually runs a pawn shop and money-lending business on the side, one adviser suggests he hide his problem assets in the British Virgin Islands or even procure a second identity by buying a passport in one of the Caribbean islands that will sell one to anybody with cash. “You may be Mr. Chen, but you can change your name to Bruce Lee,” says the paralegal, who identifies herself as a lawyer.

If experience in other jurisdictions is any indicator, these programs are toxic, attract the wrong type of people and seldom reach their economic goals. 

South of the border, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently shut down the EB-5 immigrant-investor program in Vermont after the failure of state officials to stop promoters of the Jay Peak ski resort from misusing US$200 million in immigrant-investor money that flowed into a series of questionable projects. 

In Australia, the Productivity Commission, an independent federal advisory agency, recommended in 2016 that its “significant investor visa” program be scrapped after Austrac, the agency that tracks money laundering, said there were “difficulties in identifying the sources of funds and wealth for customers on significant investment visas, as this wealth is often acquired in foreign jurisdictions.” The Commission said there were minimal benefits from the program and “any benefits accrue mainly to those visa holders and fund managers.”

Australia has since significantly boosted the minimum investment required — to $5 million — and tightened oversight of the program. The result is that there are a lot fewer takers. Why bother with Australia if you can get to Canada through the Quebec scheme, which only requires participants to lend $1.2 million for five years to the Quebec government, interest-free?

While it’s true that the Atlantic provinces and Quebec have major problems attracting and retaining immigrants, it’s an illusion to think that the way to improve these numbers is by selling visas to wealthy migrants. In fact, these are the last people who want to settle in Corner Brook or Drummondville.

The major advantage of these places is the fact that they’re actually not as wealthy as Canada’s big cities, that housing is affordable, and they’re actually easier places to start a new life in Canada. Manitoba has shown that it’s possible to attract hard-working immigrants from places like the Philippines who will make real contributions to society rather than use Canada as a place to stash ill-gotten gains. 

Canada is one of the most attractive places in the world for immigrants to settle. Selling visas and passports is humiliating and counter-productive.

Source: Provinces need to nix immigrant-investor visas

UK: Tommy Robinson’s contentious views on Islam spreading beyond UK

Robinson certainly has his followers on the far right media I follow, who are obsessed with him:

The online comments disparaging Muslims as “scum” didn’t appear on a shady message board or a private social media group. Instead, they were out in the open with thousands of others, elicited by a single video uploaded to YouTube and starring a self-styled free speech activist who got his start in a suburb of London.

To his critics, though, Tommy Robinson behaves like a bigoted agitator. In the video made outside a rape trial in Oxford, England, he’s seen antagonizing the accused and their families. “Twenty-nine people [including] two women are involved in this case,” Robinson said in the video. “Thirty per cent of them are called Mohamed.” The video has been seen nearly two million times since it was posted in April 2017.

“I had no idea Muslims in the U.K. were that barbaric,” one comment read.

In the replies, another user added “everywhere Islam goes, it causes trouble.”

“Why are you not killing them?” another anonymous poster asked.

The post and the comments encapsulate the uproar Robinson is known to cause and the visceral reaction he evokes from supporters. It also shows what observers see as Robinson and his allies’ gross generalization of Muslims.

“He’s tapped into a broader movement,” said Joe Mulhall, a researcher with the London-based anti-racism campaign Hope Not Hate. Robinson, 35, appeals to “a group of very angry people” upset about terrorism and highly publicized child rape cases in Britain, Mulhall said.

“He’s taking that legitimate anger and he’s changing into something that’s going to legitimize violence against the whole Muslim community and that’s extremely dangerous.”

Legal trouble

Robinson’s actions have repeatedly landed him in court — under his real name, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon. On Thursday, he appeared before a judge in London to answer to one count of contempt of court. His case was adjourned until a later date.

“People are fully aware this is a political trial and it’s a political persecution,” he told reporters outside England’s Central Criminal Court.

Robinson was greeted by a crowd of several hundred supporters who chanted his name and waved Union Jacks and the English St. George’s Cross flag. About 30 counter-protesters held up signs that read “oppose Tommy Robinson, don’t let the racists divide us.”

Several hundred supporters rallied outside London’s Central Criminal Court Thrusday, chanting Robinson’s name as he appeared on a charge of contempt. (Thomas Daigle/CBC)

Police kept the two groups separated while nearby pubs planned to remain closed in case clashes broke out.

Robinson’s contempt charge stems from a video shot outside a courthouse in Leeds in May and streamed live on Facebook. In it, Robinson was heard discussing an ongoing rape trial and seen confronting the accused.

A judge had banned reporting during the rape trial — a common practice in British courts to avoid prejudicing the jury. Robinson accepted his actions were in contempt of court and, within five hours of the incident, was sentenced to 13 months.

But his supporters saw it as an attempt to curb Robinson’s free speech. Donald Trump Jr., the U.S. president’s son, sympathetically tweeted “don’t let America follow in those footsteps.”

On a radio show in London, the president’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, called Robinson “a solid guy” and suggested he should be released from prison.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 supporters marched through London on July 14, chanting “Tommy, Tommy” and demanding he be freed. Videos of smaller demonstrations in support of him, from Toronto to Sydney, Australia, were posted online.

Mulhall disputes the claim the contempt charge was a way to silence Robinson. “This is a far right, anti-Muslim activist with a history of violence and criminality,” he said, adding Robinson “was sent to prison for breaking the law.” Robinson had previously been convicted of assault and fraud.

In August, the U.K.’s top judge ordered a retrial, calling the initial, swift ruling a “fundamentally flawed process.” Robinson was released on bail.

From the fringes of Brexit

The rise in Robinson’s profile has coincided with Britain’s all-consuming debate over its departure from the European Union. Pro-Brexit campaigners promised the country would have greater control over immigration. And Robinson’s base of support often overlaps with fringe elements in the Leave camp.

The populist U.K. Independence Party (UKIP), in particular, sought to portray Brexit as a way to block refugees from entering the country. And its new leader, Gerard Batten, feels Robinson should be welcomed into the party, especially now that UKIP has achieved its main goal of a successful Brexit vote.

Robinson is “somebody who has chosen to defend the weak and the helpness,” Batten told the July 14 “Free Tommy” rally in London, likening him to Ghandi and Nelson Mandela.

On a British talk show, UKIP’s former leader, Nigel Farage, called Batten’s proposal “a catastrophic mistake.” Pundits say allowing Robinson into the party would signal a move toward deeper fringe politics for UKIP and allow the ruling Conservatives to further dominate the Euroskeptic vote.

Indeed, mainstream British conservatives recoil at Robinson’s rhetoric. London’s Brexit-supporting Daily Telegraph newspaper recently labelled him an “extremist and a thug.”

‘Islamophobic, right-wing extremist group’

Robinson first became widely known under that pseudonym after founding the English Defence League (EDL) in his hometown of Luton, near London, in 2009.

The group held chaotic marches throughout England, speaking out against what it saw as creeping Sharia law and radical Islam.

But a 2016 research paper based on 50 hours of interactions with members — and published in the international journal Political Studies — found the EDL to be an “Islamophobic, right-wing extremist group.”

The study, carried out by British university researchers John Meadowcroft and Elizabeth A. Morrow, found most EDL members were white working-class men. Their motivation to join arose not only from a fear of Muslim dominance in Britain, the study said, but also the EDL’s offers of access to violence, increased self-worth and group solidarity.

The research reflects what former member Ivan Humble experienced.

“There was nobody listening to me and I found a voice in the English Defence League,” he said. Humble, 47, still sports a tattoo with the letters “EDL” on his right arm despite leaving the group in recent years.

Crossing borders

Robinson has said he objects to Islam, not its 1.8 billion adherents worldwide. But an uninitiated audience would be forgiven to believe he dislikes Muslims in general.

“I’d personally send every adult male Muslim that has come into the EU over the past 12 months back tomorrow if I could,” he posted on Twitter in 2016 before he was banned from the site.

His persona attracted the attention of Canadian commentator Ezra Levant, who described Robinson’s views as “clear and philosophical” in a 2016 video.

Levant offered Robinson an overseas platform for his opinions and videos: the Canadian alternative political commentary network, Rebel Media, which has stoked controversy with its coverage of issues such as immigration and climate change.

On The Rebel’s YouTube page, Robinson’s videos regularly racked up hundreds of thousands of views. In one such clip, Robinson sits down with an imam and tells him “we don’t have to stop extremist Islam, we don’t have to stop radical Muslims, we have to stop Islam in the U.K.”

Other international support comes from the U.S.-based Middle East Forum. The think tank says it provided tens of thousands of dollars — “about the mid-five figures” — to support Robinson’s court battle, as well as street demonstrations for his release.

“It’s not about the oxygen it’s giving to [Robinson’s] comments, it’s about his right to say it,” Gregg Roman, the organization’s chief operations officer, told CBC News in an interview in Washington, D.C.

“It’s important for an American organization to stand up for an individual talking about the threat of Islamism in his community,” he said, “because what’s going on there could also — and is also — occurring here in the United States.”

There’s been much speculation about what Robinson will do with his newfound worldwide support if he doesn’t return to prison. Bannon is reportedly considering Robinson for a role in his new European populist foundation.

Humble, the former EDL member, worries about increased divisions in society stoked by the likes of Robinson. He likens Britain to a volcano “just simmering, waiting for the eruption.”

That eruption, he says, could be triggered from something simple like “Tommy getting jailed again.”

Source: Tommy Robinson’s contentious views on Islam spreading beyond UK

Three ways to rethink the concept of citizenship @6DegreesTO

Some reflections from 6Degrees on citizenship concepts. Not surprisingly, these broad concepts are hard to translate into concrete citizenship policies:

This week, a range of start-up founders, digital experts, thinkers and doers from around the world are gathering at the annual 6 Degrees forum in Toronto, a three-day event that delves into the challenges and opportunities around inclusion.

Digital pioneer Sue Gardner helped kick off the event by delivering the LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture Monday evening, setting the tone for this year’s themes of connection and isolation, on and offline.

While those in Toronto look at how technology is both empowering and dividing society today, we asked three 6 Degrees guests to shine a light on how citizenship, as a community membership tool, also helps to both empower and divide. Has the general concept of citizenship brought people together as much as it now keeps us apart? Could it be more inclusive? If so, how?

Here are three ways to envision a revised version of the concept:

A call for a new way to define ourselves

As john a. powell asks, how can we move beyond the idea of citizenship to a more inclusive kind of belonging?

Citizenship is a complex concept that spans thousands of years and cultures across the globe. The concept of citizenship is often used in conjunction with the relationship between a formal body, such as the nation-state, and the people.

Although it is often associated with geography, that is both over- and under-inclusive. Consider Indigenous peoples dispossessed from their land and not included or recognized as citizens in a nation-state. Consider migrants or people forced to move who often live outside of a place they claim as their nation-state. Consider temporary workers in Germany, many of whom were born there but still are not considered citizens. Consider religious minorities in India who may have called a place home for hundreds if not thousands of years and who are technically citizens but functionally are not. Consider people with disabilities in Russia who often are hardly seen as people and certainly not citizens in a meaningful way.

“People need a place of belonging and also need to be able to move.”

Citizenship is an aspiration that is always being defined and challenged. I prefer the terms “membership” and “belonging” to citizenship. As I’ve previously written about, there is little doubt that a nation-state owes something to its members. The rightful good it owes them is membership and belonging. Out of membership all other rights flow or are withheld. Without membership and belonging, it is not just citizenship that is being denied but also full personhood.

While we recognize the nation-state owes something to its members, that is just a start. It is increasingly clear the nation-state owes something to those who are not full citizens and/or who live outside of a nation-state’s defined geographic borders. We are in a period where, in order to thrive, people need to be protected from threats that transcend any one border. In order for people to thrive they need things beyond the nation-state.

It is not just enough to engage the role of the citizen, we must engage the role of the nation-state. We recognize globalization, climate change and capital are not limited to the nation-state — why would we try to limit people? People need a place of belonging and also need to be able to move. We need engagement with each other and with the land. We also need to be free. We are embodied spirits that have moved long before there was ideas of the nation-state and citizenship. We need to have citizenship and nation-states that are in service to people, not just credit, capital and stuff.

We live in a world today where we no longer have connections and family in just our village, we increasingly have friends and family all over the world. While a nation-state cannot have the same support for all people on the planet, we can no longer accept citizenship or membership as just a narrow and set category. In a world that is inter-dependent and inter-connected, the well-being of citizens of one nation-state is influenced by what happens in other countries as well.

What does citizenship mean in the twenty-first or twenty-second century? Let’s start by asking people. If we are to have a future, we must participate in its creation, and it must belong to us all and we must all belong.

john a. powell is the director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society and a professor of law, ethnic studies, and African American studies at UC Berkeley.

Citizenship of the future must have agency at its core

A ‘citizen’ should one day be defined as someone who is actively involved in governance of the commons, writes Renata Avila.

The current use of “citizenship” is outdated and fails to meet the standards of the twenty-first century in any of its three dimensions — social, legal or political.

Legally speaking, we are currently applying an outdated concept of citizenship, which is rigid, exclusive and granted by municipal or state authorities to those who fulfil a list of requirements. The logic here is that citizenship can be (and is) denied to those who fail to meet what are often arbitrary criteria.

This means citizenship is a socially created category, imposed by those in power, designed to exclude some and include others. As a result, even if a group of people share a space, there is a division between those who are granted the status of citizen and those who fail to meet the requirements. Those with rights and those with duties, those who are entitled and those who are policed.

“Citizenship could be not limited to the place we inhabit but to those places where we interact.”

Politically, even if some progress has been made on citizen participation, such as the exercises in participatory budgeting of the last decade, active platforms to participate, beyond votes on budget or the allocation of a small amount of resources, are rare.

We should be able to think beyond this. In the future, citizenship could be more fluid and ubiquitous, not limited to the place we inhabit but to those places where we interact. Citizenship could be broad, with equal recognition of the diverse social identities of those who can claim it, rather than assessing those identities against a checklist of bureaucratic requirements.

Citizenship should be about being politically active; it should have an active discourse on rights and be a means of direct influence in the formulation, governance and operation of the urban commons. The citizenship of the future should be one that enables each of its members and collectives to shape the space and dynamics they want to live in. The citizenship of the future should have fundamental rights at its core, not only for its members but also for its visitors and those the community decides to shelter.

A citizenship of the future must be rooted in the local but connected with the global. It must be able to visualize the social obligations that exist beyond the borders of nation-states and enable citizens to bear their quota of shared responsibility in global matters, not least the global struggle against inequality. And any worthwhile conception of citizenship has individual agency at its core. The ideal has to be one of smart, empowered citizens shaping the future they want, rather than high-tech smart cities “nudging” the behaviour of their inhabitants without their oversight or consent.

Renata Ávila is the director of Ciudadano Inteligente, a Guatemalan international human rights lawyer and a digital rights advocate.

Membership for all, with or without papers

As Jai Sahak argues, Canadian municipalities still have a ways to go to offer sanctuary — and help others understand what that means.

Over the next three years, approximately one million new immigrants will be admitted to Canada from various streams; namely, economic migrants, family reunifications and refugees. As Canada’s reliance on migration hits an all-time high, municipal governments need to prepare for new realities and deal with the complexities of citizenship and belonging. Immigration poses unique challenges for municipalities — as the number of new residents increases, Canadian cities find themselves on the frontlines around issues of inclusion, accommodation and representation.

The most effective way local governments can engage in the federal immigration conversation is through the declaration of a sanctuary status, or similar ‘access without fear’ policies affecting municipalities’ most vulnerable residents, namely, those with precarious immigration status. Too often, these are women in abusive relationships with broken sponsorship agreements, or children and teens not attending school while working in unsafe work environments.

A sanctuary designation educates the wider community on these issues and allows non-status residents to fully engage with their city and live more meaningful lives. It provides a glimpse of what citizenship can mean on a sub-national level and creates safer, more cohesive neighbourhoods while also educating the public on the plight of the undocumented.

There is not an all-encompassing definition of a sanctuary city, but broadly speaking, a sanctuary designation means:

  1. Residents can access municipal-run programs and services, regardless of immigration status.
  2. Immigration status cannot hinder a resident from enrolling and engaging with municipal-run programs and services, and cannot be a requirement.
  3. Municipal staff are not required to cooperate with local police or share information on an undocumented resident, unless it is relevant during the course of an investigation.

There are currently six sanctuary-declared municipalities in Canada (Toronto, Hamilton, Vancouver, Montreal, London and Ajax ). While some adhere to these elements in part (Vancouver and London), others have embraced them completely (Toronto), but not without challenges. The policies and approaches may differ depending on the location, but the spirit of the movement remains the same: sanctuary for these Canadian municipalities means access to the city and its services without fear. The movement is not new to Canada. The City of Toronto officially declared itself a sanctuary in 2013 but it had been exploring the idea since the 1980s.

“To be part of a wider, accepted public discourse, Canada’s sanctuary movement still needs to undergo a transformation.”

For some, however, the term “sanctuary” is associated with aiding and abetting a fugitive, thereby undermining local and federal laws. For that reason, to be part of a wider, accepted public discourse on citizenship and immigration, Canada’s sanctuary movement still needs to undergo a transformation.

For instance, it is important to remember that non-status residents pay all municipal and provincial taxes such as HST and property taxes. Some even pay income tax through the use of other people’s social security numbers. In Ontario, under the Education Act (section 49.1), children under the age of 18 have the right to full access to schools in the province, regardless of immigration status. However, far too many school administrators are unaware of this fact. Non-status residents have access to housing, healthcare and social assistance. However, many agencies are unaware of their own policies and procedures as they pertain to undocumented clients.

Unlike the sanctuary movement in the United States, which has historically challenged state sovereignty by undermining federal immigration operations and emphasizing a lack of cooperation with authorities, sanctuary movements in Canada should provide a counter-narrative to systemic exclusion by stressing the gaps in the immigration system and highlighting the stories of families and children. The sanctuary movement in Canada should not be an act of civil disobedience but rather take the form of civil initiatives to challenge and improve existing systems.

Current criticisms and backlash of sanctuary policies in the US have exposed the limits of city power. With threats of funding cuts and an increase in immigration raids in sanctuary cities, the White House has made it clear that it sees sanctuary cities as an affront to its sovereignty.

To avoid similar hurdles, Canadian municipalities must clearly define their purpose in declaring sanctuary status. Their stated objectives should set out to: ensure residents have access to all municipally administered programs and services, regardless of status; work collaboratively with local police to ensure community cohesion and trust are a priority over detention and deportation; provide resources to frontline agencies to ensure every resident pursues a path to legal citizenship; and create public education campaigns to inform residents about sanctuary practices.

None of these objectives undermine the sovereignty of the state, but still hold true to the spirit of sanctuary. As we move forward with redefining the relationship between government and residents, let’s ensure sanctuary policies in Canada are seen as civil initiatives rather than acts of civil disobedience.

Jai Sahak is the diversity and community engagement coordinator for the Town of Ajax.

Source: Three ways to rethink the concept of citizenship

What happens when artificial intelligence comes to Ottawa

More on the note of caution of government adoption of AI for decision-making (Ottawa’s use of AI in immigration system has profound implications for human rights):

There is a notion that the choices a computer algorithm makes on our behalf are neutral and somehow more reliable than our notoriously faulty human decision-making.

But, as a new report presented on Parliament Hill Wednesday points out, artificial intelligence isn’t pristine, absolute wisdom downloaded from the clouds. Rather, it’s shaped by the ideas and priorities of the human beings who build it and by the database of examples those architects feed into the machine’s “brain” to help it “learn” and build rules on which to operate.

Much like a child is a product of her family environment—what her parents teach her, what they read to her and show her of the world—artificial intelligence sees the world through the lens we provide for it. This new report, entitled “Bots at the Gate,” contemplates how decisions rendered by artificial intelligence (AI) in Canada’s immigration and refugee systems could impact the human rights, safety and privacy of people who are by definition among the most vulnerable and least able to advocate for themselves.

The report says the federal government has been “experimenting” with AI in limited immigration and refugee applications since at least 2014, including with “predictive analytics” meant to automate certain activities normally conducted by immigration officials. “The nuanced and complex nature of many refugee and immigration claims may be lost on these technologies, leading to serious breaches of internationally and domestically protected human rights, in the form of bias, discrimination, privacy breaches, due process and procedural fairness issues, among others,” the document warns. “These systems will have life-and-death ramifications for ordinary people, many of whom are fleeing for their lives.”

Citing ample evidence of how biased and confused—how human—artificial intelligence can be, the report from the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program (IHRP) and the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy makes the case for a very deliberate sort of caution.

The authors mention how a search engine coughs up ads for criminal record checks when presented with a name it associates with a black identity. A woman searching for jobs sees lower-paying opportunities than a man doing the same search. Image recognition software matches a photo of a woman with another of a kitchen. An app store suggests a sex offender search as related to a dating app for gay men.

“You have this huge dataset, you just feed it into the algorithm and trust it to pick out the patterns,” says Cynthia Khoo, a research fellow at the Citizen Lab and a lawyer specializing in technology. “If that dataset is based on a pre-existing set of human decisions, and human decisions are also faulty and biased—if humans have been traditionally racist, for example, or biased in other ways—then that pattern will simply get embedded into the algorithm and it will say, ‘This is the pattern. This is what they want, so I’m going to keep replicating that.’”

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says the department launched two pilot projects in 2018 using computer analytics to identify straightforward and routine Temporary Resident Visa applications from China and India for faster processing. “The use of computer analytics is not intended to replace people,” the department said. “It is another tool to support officers and others in managing our ever-increasing volume of applications. Officers will always remain central to IRCC’s processing.”

This week, the report’s authors made the rounds on the Hill, presenting their findings and concerns to policy-makers. “It does now sound like it’s a measured approach,” says Petra Molnar, a lawyer and technology and human rights researcher with the IHRP. “Which is great.”

Other countries offer cautionary tales rather than best practices. “The algorithm that was used [to determine] whether or not someone was detained at the U.S.-Mexico border was actually set to detain everyone and used as a corroboration for the extension of the detention practices of the Trump administration,” says Molnar.

And in 2016, the U.K. government revoked the visas of 36,000 foreign students after automated voice analysis of their English language equivalency exams suggested they may have cheated and sent someone else to the exam in their place. When the automated voice analysis was compared to human analysis, however, it was found to be wrong over 20 per cent of the time—meaning the U.K. may have ejected 7,000 foreign students who had done nothing wrong.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation that came into force in April 2018, on the other hand, is the gold standard, enshrining such concepts as “the right to an explanation,” or the legal certainty that if your data was processed by an automated tool, you have the right to know how it was done.

Immigration and refugee decisions are both opaque and highly discretionary even when rendered by human beings, argues Molnar, pointing out that two different immigration officers may look at the same file and reach different decisions. The report argues that lack of transparency reaches a different level when you introduce AI into the equation, outlining three distinct reasons.

First, automated decision-making solutions are often created by outside entities that sell them to government agencies, so the source code, training data and other information would be proprietary and hidden from public view.

Second, full disclosure of the guts of these programs might be a bad idea anyway because it could allow people to “game” the system.

“Third, as these systems become more sophisticated (and as they begin to learn, iterate, and improve upon themselves in unpredictable or otherwise unintelligible ways), their logic often becomes less intuitive to human onlookers,” the authors explain. “In these cases, even when all aspects of a system are reviewable and superficially ‘transparent,’ the precise rationale for a given output may remain uninterpretable and unexplainable.” Many of these systems end up inscrutable black boxes that could spit out determinations on the futures of vulnerable people, the report argues.

Her group aims to use a “carrot-and-stick approach,” Khoo says, urging the federal government to make Canada a world leader on this in both a human rights and high-tech context. It’s a message that may find a receptive audience with a government that has been eager to make both halves of that equation central to its brand at home and abroad.

But they’ll have to move fast: If AI is currently in a nascent state in policy decisions that shape real people’s lives, it’s growing fast and won’t stay there for long.

“This is happening everywhere,” Khoo says.

Source: What happens when artificial intelligence comes to Ottawa

Church sign meant to spread word of God sparks human rights complaint

The Canadian equivalent of the US baker refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple

A United Church minister in west-end Toronto is pitted against a Christian business owner over an outdoor signboard used to spread the word of God.

In a rare complaint filed with the Ontario Human Rights Commission on Wednesday, Rev. Alexa Gilmour, minister of Windermere United Church, alleges Archer Mobile Signs refused to post a message encouraging people to “wish your Muslim neighbours a Ramadan Mubarak (Happy Ramadan)” and another that promoted the celebration of diversity during Pride Week.

“Interfaith dialogue and action is a central part of my faith and ministry,” Gilmour told the Star. “If Windermere United cannot post the messages we choose, then we cannot do the ministry we feel called by God to do.”

According to the human rights complaint, the church had rented a mobile sign from Archer Mobile Signs since 2012 and its owner, Steven Thompson, was responsible for updating the text on the sign every week.

One side of the sign generally displayed announcements about church life and events, while the other displayed a message of faith, entitled “This Week’s Spiritual Exercise,” that was authored by Gilmour as “an expression of my faith and an act of Christian ministry.” Gilmour or her staff would dictate the weekly text to Thompson by phone or email.

In the past, there had been disagreements over some of the messages on the signs, but Gilmour said the two instances flagged in the human rights complaint were the first in which he clearly defined his reasons for objecting to the minister’s choice of words.

In May, Gilmour claimed, church administrator Michelle Maldonado wrote to Thompson and requested the Ramadan message. However, Thompson only updated the announcement on the board and refused to put up the Muslim greeting.

In an email from Thompson dated May 16 that was included in Gilmour’s human rights submission, he said he found himself confused by Gilmour’s spiritual message.

“I am all for befriending Muslims in order to reach them for Christ … There is a sense in which your spiritual exercise goes beyond wishing Muslims well, to actually encouraging them in their ideology. I have no problem with wishing them well, but I would violate my own conscience before God to encourage them in their pursuit of Allah,” according Thompson’s email.

“Because I do not see any support in the scriptures to encourage anyone in a false ideology, Islam or otherwise, I must refrain from posting your spiritual exercise. For me, this would be a sin.”

Thompson did not respond to several requests from the Star for comment and waved off a reporter who approached him in person.

The church’s allegations have not been proven. As part of the human rights process, Thompson has 35 days to respond to the complaint. He has not yet filed a response.

Gilmour said she respects Thompson’s right to his opinions and did not ask him to give up his beliefs and embrace hers, but she said he has no right to censor her religious values.

“People may say it’s just a sign,” said Gilmour, “but I use the sign to post my messages of welcome and inclusion.”

Gilmour pointed out to Thompson that he had not objected to prior interfaith messages to the Jewish community (Happy Chanukah) or people of African heritage (Happy Kwanzaa).

In his email reply, Thompson explained he had concerns about his signs being vandalized and that he has the right to refuse to let customers “say what they want’ and to “limit messaging on an Archer Sign where a threat is deemed possible.”

According to Gilmour, Thompson proposed alternatives to her message such as “Wish your Muslim neighbour well,” “befriend a Muslim” or “Invite a Muslim over for dinner” to avoid the “trigger word” Ramadan.

But Gilmour refused the suggestion because “we wish to acknowledge this holy time in the Islamic calendar and believe that treating the faith traditions differently is prejudicial and possibly racist.” Thompson then reportedly said the continued sign rental was contingent on the church accepting his company’s discretion to control its messaging, and mentioned that the placement of the mobile signs at Windermere violated city bylaw.

The minister also asked Thompson if he would post the message “Celebrate God’s diverse LGBTQ2S community with Pride” in June. According to the complaint, Thompson responded: “I think you have an idea as to my view of scripture.”

In mid-June, Thompson emailed the church to say he was removing the sign on the front lawn of the church, at Windermere Ave. and Bloor St. W., in order to comply with municipal code.

City rules on mobile signs specify they cannot be on the public right of way, such as sidewalks or boulevards. Gilmour said she believed the sign was in compliance with the bylaw.

The United Church of Canada is known for championing interfaith relations and gay rights, values that Gilmour said she always stands by.

“It’s not acceptable for a service provider to limit the way I express my Christian ministry,” she said. “I’m taking this step only because many attempts to resolve this issue through dialogue or mediation have failed.”

Source: Church sign meant to spread word of God sparks human rights complaint

Des cours de francisation jugés inefficaces

Basic level versus advanced level for professionals. Likely unrealistic to expect immigrant language training to cover the latter (just think of the mixed success of federal official language training for anglophones trying to learn French and the amount of time required).

Much better to address during selection process (as current Express Entry give weight to language):

Les programmes de francisation ne sont pas efficaces pour permettre aux immigrants de bien s’intégrer au marché du travail et à la société québécoise, déplore Nima Madani, immigrant d’origine iranienne installé au Québec depuis 2015.

En suivant les débats autour de l’accueil des nouveaux arrivants, cet ingénieur mécanique de 40 ans a l’impression, comme beaucoup d’autres immigrants, que les chefs politiques ne comprennent pas vraiment les enjeux et qu’ils proposent des solutions sans lien avec la réalité.

«Ils parlent du taux élevé d’échec aux cours de francisation, mais personne n’a comme priorité de les améliorer», souligne-t-il, se basant sur ce qu’il a vécu depuis son arrivée à Montréal.

La CAQ propose d’abord de réduire le nombre d’immigrants, tandis que le PQ veut exiger qu’ils connaissent mieux le français à leur arrivée.

«Mais on a tellement de choses à faire quand on se prépare à quitter notre pays, c’est très exigeant», témoigne Nima Madani.

«Les politiciens ne semblent pas savoir comment ça se passe pour un immigrant qui arrive. La majorité fait de gros efforts pour s’intégrer, mais on a l’impression d’être abandonnés, même en étant très motivé pour apprendre le français.»


Ses observations sur les lacunes en francisation sont corroborées par plusieurs études, notamment celle du Conseil supérieur de la langue française (CSLF), publiée en février dernier, ainsi que par le dernier rapport de la Vérificatrice générale du Québec, dévoilé en novembre 2017. «L’offre de francisation de base ne permet pas aux immigrants d’atteindre un niveau de maîtrise de la langue suffisamment élevé pour réaliser une intégration socioprofessionnelle réussie», a démoncé le CSlF dans son rapport sur La francisation et l’intégration professionnelle des personnes immigrantes.

De nombreux immigrants sont inquiets de ce qu’ils entendent depuis le début de la campagne électorale, renchérit Stephan Reichhold, directeur de la Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI).

«Ils se sentent dénigrés, alors que plusieurs font de gros efforts pour apprendre le français et que les inscriptions aux cours de francisation augmentent, dit-il. Certains se demandent s’ils devront quitter le Québec si la CAQ prend le pouvoir.»

Le test des valeurs proposé par François Legault cause aussi de l’irritation. «M. Legault ne semble pas réaliser qu’on fait déjà tout ce qu’il demande, note Nima Madani. Dans les entrevues de sélection, nous sommes interrogés sur les valeurs québécoises.»

Il rappelle aussi que la demande de certificat de sélection du Québec inclut la signature d’une Déclaration portant sur les valeurs communes de la société québécoise. «Si je n’étais pas d’accord, je ne serais pas venu au Québec», fait-il remarquer.

Les immigrants invisibles

Alors que le thème de l’accueil des immigrants occupe une place centrale dans la campagne électorale, on a peu entendu les nouveaux arrivants se prononcer eux-mêmes sur cet enjeu, alors qu’ils sont les premiers concernés.

Sollicités pour ce reportage, les représentants du Regroupement des organismes de francisation du Québec ont décliné notre demande d’entrevue, préférant «ne pas se mêler de politique», a expliqué un porte-parole.

Nima Madani veut contribuer au débat de façon constructive en témoignant de son expérience d’immigrant très motivé à apprendre le français: il a suivi plusieurs sessions de cours à Téhéran, en plus de deux séjours d’un mois à Paris dans des programmes d’immersion, pour se préparer à son arrivée au Québec.

«On m’a dit que mon français était assez bon, même si j’avais encore besoin de cours de francisation, raconte-t-il. Mais les cours ici ne sont pas efficaces, les progrès sont beaucoup trop lents pour atteindre un niveau suffisant pour travailler. Et quand on a terminé le programme de francisation, c’est très difficile de trouver des cours pour continuer de progresser.»

Trop élevé d’élèves par classe, trop peu de temps consacré à la conversation, méthodes d’enseignement archaïques et inefficaces, groupes composés d’élèves aux objectifs disparates, peu adaptés aux besoins des travailleurs qualifiés, horaires qui ne conviennent pas à tous, faibles moyens financiers des élèves… La liste des observations de M. Madani est longue!

«Je ne veux pas avoir l’air de chiâler!», dit-il, dans un français teinté d’un très léger accent, en hésitant à peine sur certains mots. «Les professeurs étaient très gentils et accueillants, mais certains n’enseignaient simplement pas bien. C’était un monologue. C’est bien que les cours soient gratuits, mais il faut surtout qu’ils soient performants.»

Autre aberration, selon lui: les enseignants donnaient à l’avance aux élèves les questions des examens du ministère de l’Immigration visant à vérifier les acquis.

Pour continuer ses progrès en français, M. Madani s’est inscrit à un cours à HEC-Montréal et a trouvé des Québécois avec qui se pratiquer.

«Dans mon réseau, dans la communauté iranienne, la plupart des gens parlent anglais, alors je ne peux pas compter sur mon entourage pour pratiquer», souligne-t-il.

Il se désole aussi de voir que l’on ne parle pas de cinéma québécois, ni de littérature ou de chanson dans les cours de francisation, mais qu’on apprend aux élèves comment se débrouiller si leur lavabo coule.

«Tout est fait en fonction de survivre et non de vivre, dit M. Madani. On ne parle jamais de ce qui est agréable dans la culture québécoise. Je n’ai jamais eu de lavabo qui coule depuis que je suis arrivé ici, ça ne me sert à rien pour entrer en contact avec les Québécois!»



Un projet de guichet unique pour faciliter l’accès aux cours de francisation, dans les cartons du ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion (MIDI) depuis plus de 15 ans, n’a toujours pas vu le jour, malgré des années de travaux. Un contrat de plus de 200 000$ a même été accordé en 2009 pour la mise en place de ce guichet unique, visant à simplifier l’inscription aux cours, qui peuvent être offerts dans les commissions scolaires, les cégeps ou les organismes communautaires. Le ministère promet maintenant que ce service sera implanté en 2019. «Depuis août 2017, le MIDI est devenu la porte d’entrée unique pour les personnes immigrantes admissibles à l’allocation de participation et aux cours à temps complet, qu’ils soient offerts par un partenaire du MIDI ou en commission scolaire», note cependant une porte-parole du ministère, soulignant que le dernier budget prévoyait 50 millions sur cinq ans pour bonifier les services.


Les principales lacunes des cours de français destinés aux immigrants:

«La capacité de communiquer en français ne garantit pas l’intégration professionnelle et sociale, certes, mais ce facteur constitue néanmoins le premier élément d’intégration à la société québécoise.»

«L’hétérogénéité de la composition des groupes de francisation est considérée comme un frein à l’apprentissage de la langue.»

«Même s’ils reçoivent une allocation, il n’est pas rare que des immigrants qui suivent le programme de francisation soient obligés de travailler en même temps.»

Source: Conseil supérieur de la langue française, La francisation et l’intégration professionnelle des personnes immigrantes, février 2018.

«La vaste majorité des participants aux cours de français du ministère n’ont pas atteint le seuil d’autonomie langagière, lequel facilite l’accès au marché du travail et permet d’entreprendre des études postsecondaires. Les personnes immigrantes qui ont commencé des cours de français offerts par le Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion (MIDI) en 2015 ont atteint ce seuil dans une proportion de 9,1% à l’oral et de 3,7 et 5,3% à l’écrit.»

«Le MIDI ne mesure pas le délai d’attente réel des personnes immigrantes entre leur demande d’inscription et le début d’un cours à temps complet. De plus, il ne collige pas de données sur les raisons des désistements et l’information qu’il collecte au sujet des motifs d’abandon de cours durant une session est incomplète.»

Source: Rapport du Vérificateur général du Québec sur la francisation des personnes immigrantes, novembre 2017.

Source: Des cours de francisation jugés inefficaces

Dozens of Doctors Who Screen Immigrants Have Record of ‘Egregious Infractions,’ Report Says

Not unique to the US I suspect, given the power imbalance and potential for abuse. In percentage terms small (0.2 percent) but still unacceptable:

The doctors tapped by the federal government to medically screen immigrants seeking green cards include dozens with a history of “egregious infractions,” according to a report from a federal watchdog agency.

The report looked at more than 5,500 doctors across the country used by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services as of June 2017 to examine those seeking green cards. More than 130 had some background of wrongdoing, including one who sexually exploited female patients and another who tried to have a dissatisfied patient killed, the report said.

The report, made public Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, said the failure to effectively screen the doctors put immigrants “at risk of abuse.”

“USCIS is not properly vetting the physicians it designates to conduct required medical examinations of these foreign nationals, and it has designated physicians with a history of patient abuse or a criminal record,” the report states. “This is occurring because USCIS does not have policies to ensure only suitable physicians are designated.”

Alma Rosa Nieto, an immigration lawyer and vice chairwoman of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s media advocacy committee, called the report’s findings “very troubling and frightening,” particularly given that the people undergoing the examinations are vulnerable.

“These are people that are in great need,” she said. “They are desperate to get their green card.”

Doctors must apply to be part of the government’s pool of screeners. Once approved, they conduct the mandatory medical exams for immigrants who are looking to become permanent residents and get green cards. Immigrants can be turned down if they are found to have a disease that could be a public health threat, have a mental disorder that could threaten others or are drug addicts.

The report did not identify the doctors who engaged in misconduct, nor did it reveal whether they are still on the government’s approved list.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services said it “agreed that stricter eligibility requirements for civil surgeon designation and a strengthened vetting process will improve the quality and integrity of the program.” The agency said it was working to strengthen its screening process with new regulations by 2019.

A spokeswoman for the Office of Inspector General declined to comment further on the report Wednesday.

From a total pool of 5,569 doctors, 132 had been convicted of crimes, been penalized by state medical boards or had faced some other form of punishment, the report found. They included doctors convicted of health care fraud, doctors who had defaulted on health education loans or scholarships and doctors “engaged in dishonest, gross, and repeated negligent conduct in patient care and treatment.” It did not give a specific breakdown.

In a sample of 135 physicians, 14 percent were missing required papers, including proof of medical degrees.

“To guard against risking the health and safety of these foreign nationals, USCIS should more thoroughly scrutinize physicians before allowing them to become civil surgeons,” the report advises.

The report also found fault with the medical tests themselves, saying they possibly exposed the public to health hazards. An analysis of 151 files of immigrants approved for green cards found errors in 44 forms, such as missing proof of vaccinations or required medical tests.

“As a result, USCIS cannot be certain the civil surgeons actually administered all required tests and vaccinations and may have granted lawful permanent residence status to medically inadmissible foreign nationals who could pose a health risk to the U.S. population,” the report said.

Ms. Nieto said that she was not surprised at the findings, and that her clients routinely had errors in their files. She said she advised clients to get independent medical tests done, if possible, even if it costs extra money and time.

“I see my clients coming back with reports that are either incomplete or inaccurate,” she said.

The Latest Attack on Islam: It’s Not a Religion

Please. (Wilful) ignorance knows no bounds:

Religious liberty has become a particularly politicized topic in recent years, and recent months were no different. In a long-awaited June decision, the Supreme Court decided in favor of a Christian baker who refused to make a custom wedding cake for a gay couple. In July, Attorney General Jeff Sessions introduced a “religious liberty task force” that critics saw as a mere cover for anti-gay discrimination. And Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s record has been scoured for evidence of what his appointment to the Supreme Court would mean for future decisions in which Christian beliefs clash with law and policy.

But when it comes to religious liberty for Americans, there’s a disturbing trend that has drawn much less attention. In recent years, state lawmakers, lawyers and influential social commentators have been making the case that Muslims are not protected by the First Amendment.

Why? Because, they argue, Islam is not a religion.

This once seemed like an absurd fringe argument. But it has gained momentum. John Bennett, a Republican state legislator in Oklahoma, said in 2014, “Islam is not even a religion; it is a political system that uses a deity to advance its agenda of global conquest.” In 2015, a former assistant United States attorney, Andrew C. McCarthy, wrote in National Review that Islam “should be understood as conveying a belief system that is not merely, or even primarily, religious.” In 2016, Michael Flynn, who the next year was briefly President Trump’s national security adviser, told an ACT for America conference in Dallas that “Islam is a political ideology” that “hides behind the notion of it being a religion.” In a January 2018 news release, Neal Tapio of South Dakota, a Republican state senator who was planning to run for the United States House of Representatives, questioned whether the First Amendment applies to Muslims.

The idea that Islam, which has over 1.6 billion adherents worldwide, is not a religion was even deployed in a 2010 legal challenge of county approval of building plans for a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The plaintiffs argued that Islam is not a religion but rather a geopolitical system bent on instituting jihadist and Shariah law in America. Because Islam is not a religion, the argument went, the mosque construction plans should not benefit from the county or federal laws that protect religious organizations. The local court ruled against the mosque, but the Tennessee appellate court overturned the ruling and the mosque prevailed.

This argument about land use is particularly distressing because not too long ago, a bipartisan coalition in Congress helped enact the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act to prevent discriminatory or burdensome regulations from restricting religious exercise. In 2000, it passed both the House and the Senate by unanimous consent, as lawmakers expressed concern that minority faiths disproportionately faced zoning conflicts, and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It’s jarring that some would now argue that these protections do not apply to Muslims.

At the root of the push to deny that Islam is a religion is a misguided belief that Muslims are anti-American. An industry of anti-Muslim fearmongering has helped stoke and perpetuate moral panic about Islam taking over America and subverting American values.

A 2016 survey by the Pew Research Center found that almost half of all American adults believed that “at least some” American Muslims are anti-American; this number included 11 percent who think “most” or “almost all” American Muslims are anti-American. Fourteen percent thought that about half of all American Muslims are against America. A 2017 poll found that half of United States adults believed that Islam does not have a place in “mainstream American society,” and almost half (44 percent) thought there was a “natural conflict between Islam and democracy.” The fear is so real that in 2010, when the mosque opponents in Murfreesboro argued against the religious validity of Islam, the Department of Justice filed an amicus brief explaining that “under the United States Constitution and other federal laws, it is uncontroverted that Islam is a religion, and a mosque is a place of religious assembly.”

The fear is not limited to mosque cases. There have been legislative efforts in 43 states to ban the practice of Islamic religious law, or Shariah law; 24 bills were introduced in 2017 alone, according to the Haas Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. This year, Idaho introduced an anti-Shariah bill, bringing the number of measures introduced since 2010 to at least 217. Of those, 20 have been enacted.

The laws’ backers seem to see them as necessary stopgaps to protect against their imagined Muslim takeover of America. When an Idaho state representative, Eric Redman, a Republican, introduced his anti-Shariah bill in January, he said it was needed so that “foreign law” would not “defile our constitutional laws” and to “protect our state and our country.” That’s a similar sentiment to the one expressed by the conservative political activist Pamela Geller, who argued in a 2016 commentary published by Breitbart that Muslim women seeking accommodations to wear a head scarf in the workplace are part of a “Muslim effort to impose Islam on the secular marketplace.”

It’s not hard to imagine what the reaction from these corners would be if Muslims sought other exemptions, including ones routinely sought by Christians — from performing certain medical procedures, providing certain medications or, say, from baking a wedding cake for a gay couple. A June poll by Morning Consult showed that white evangelicals are more likely to support religious business owners refusing services to L.G.B.T. individuals if the business owner is a Christian, Jew or Mormon — but less so if the business owner is a Muslim.

If Islamophobes are successful in their efforts to strip American Muslims of the same protections that Christians enjoy, it’s they — not the Muslims they irrationally fear — who will be responsible for curtailing religious liberty.