Buying citizenship vs. deportation: The contrasting world of immigration in Tampa Bay

Sharp contrast:

On a Friday morning, many people who traveled far and wide wait inside the Tampa Immigration office, are hoping for a better life.

“I’m from the Netherlands,” said Marjoke.

“To live in Tampa Bay, it’s really pretty awesome!” she told us with a smile, minutes after she was officially sworn in as a U.S. citizen.

Ahmad from Palestine told us, ”I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time in my life.”

Their stories are stories of personal success.

Stories of defeat

But for Army Veteran Elliot Martinez, the Road to the American Dream for his Honduran wife, has taken a heartbreaking detour.

“How can I… ahh… it’s a hard thing to explain,” said Martinez as he takes a deep breath.

“I want my wife back. I need her… I find myself being very lonely. And I’m not a man who cries, but I find myself crying every once in a while because I miss her,” he said.

Like many immigrants from Central America, Martinez’s wife Consuelo, came to the U.S. illegally 18 years ago.

She was allowed to stay as long as she didn’t commit any crimes and she checked in with immigration officials once a year.

But, that all changed two months ago, while she was working on becoming a citizen.

“On the way to the lawyer’s office, we got here, got outside the door, and they called her on the phone and told her she had to leave the next day,” Martinez recalled.

Tampa Immigration Attorney Samson Koyonda is seeing a surge in cases like Elliot’s.

“After the election in 2016… there was a fever pitch atmosphere. The emphasis was no longer on deporting criminal aliens, the emphasis was on deporting everybody,” said Koyonda.

But, there is another path to the American dream.

A path paved with money

It’s called EB-5, a federal program giving rich immigrants the chance to get a green card if they invest at least $500,000 into a local project that creates at least 10 jobs.

Supporters say it creates jobs for people in Tampa Bay and if you need proof that EB-5 money is being pumped into Florida, look no farther than the Tampa skyline.

According to the website of Atlantic American Partners — one of the premiere EB-5 investment firms in Tampa — they raised $4.5 million to build the Aloft Tampa Downtown hotel, $12 million to re-develop The Le Meridian Hotel, which used to be a Federal Courthouse, $19 million to build the 500 Harbour Island high rise, and $23 million for Nine15 apartment building.

And beyond downtown, the new Current Hotel now under construction at Rocky Pointe, fetched $9 million in foreign funds.

Even your non-descript neighborhood strip malls like the Horizon Park Shopping Center on Hillsborough Avenue, got a boost from overseas investors trying to come to America, $3.5 million dollars worth.

It all adds up to thousands of local jobs in the Tampa Bay area and hundreds of rich immigrants and their families now living in the U.S. and on their way to becoming U.S. Citizens.

Statewide, the EB-5 numbers are far greater, especially in South Florida.

“They’re providing things. That money provides jobs,” said Mike Xenick, the CEO of Invest America, which is an EB-5 recruiting firm that seeks foreign investors to fund job creating projects in Tampa Bay.

“That is a huge benefit to the United States, huge benefit to the communities these projects are being built in. They are adding to society here in a positive way,” said Xenick.

Critics of EB-5 point to a contrasting world of immigration in America: those who have money and are able to get in and those who do not, and are facing increased enforcement.

Xenick says that is a very simplistic argument because, ”They (the EB-5 Immigrants) are putting hard money at risk, for a very long period of time.

“They may never see that money back,” he said.

EB-5 Program & Reported Fraud

That kind of money risk has led to allegations of fraud, which are spelled out in a Federal lawsuit against a South Florida Development company that used EB-5 money from Chinese and Russian immigrants. They sued claiming their money was misspent.

The Federal case was dismissed last December, after the company filed Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, but another lawsuit has just been filled in state court in Florida.

Alison Jimenez is a Tampa economist who specializes in money laundering cases.

“The SEC has filed over 32 different enforcement actions since 2013. Specifically over EB-5 programs,” she said.

She said the problem with EB-5 is there is no central regulator who’s looking over the program, and many times the investment documents are in Chinese, making it hard for banks to know if the money is legitimate.

Jimenez said some EB-5 projects have even risen to the level of being a ponzi scheme.

“They have in fact been ponzi schemes, and some have been plain old fraud,” she said.

Mike Xenick, who’s never been sued, admits the industry could use more regulations, but he says the EB-5 program has been a win, win for Tampa Bay.

“The United States provides opportunities for a lot of people, from a lot of different walks of life,” he said.

Dreams and Reality

Elliot Martinez dreams of a day when his wife will be back in his arms.

“I served in the forces to guard our way of life, I was prepared to give my life for their defense, but I will fight for my wife,” he said.

Meanwhile, Martinez’s lawyer, Samson Koyonda, estimates it will probably take two and a half years for his wife to come back to the United States.

Source: Buying citizenship vs. deportation: The contrasting world of immigration in Tampa Bay

Fourth time’s the charm for secularism in Quebec? Not likely

Expect that there will continue to be extensive media coverage and commentary over the coming months:

For the better part of two decades, an emotional debate has raged in Quebec about the compatibility of religious symbols with the province’s modern secular identity.

Premier François Legault seems to think his government can settle the matter in the next few months.

On Thursday, his became the fourth consecutive government to draft comprehensive legislation attempting to regulate what accommodations should be made for religious minorities.

Of the three previous attempts, two died on the order sheet and the third was gutted by an injunction that questioned its constitutionality.

Each seemed to be accompanied by arguments more rancorous than the last. Will this time be different?

Bill 21 sets narrow limits on when accommodations can be considered (as did attempt No. 1). It bars a host of authority figures, including public school teachers, from wearing religious symbols, which had been a feature of the Parti Québécois’s Charter of Values (attempt No. 2).

And it takes up the most controversial provision of attempt No. 3, insisting that government services be given and received without one’s face being covered.

By mixing and matching these elements, Legault is wagering enough Quebecers will be satisfied and move onto bigger and better things.

“I would like that we turn the page and talk about health care, education, economy. I would like that it be settled for the summer,” Legault said after the bill was tabled.

While he may get his wish of seeing it pass before the summer recess — his party has a sizeable majority — there are a number of reasons to think we haven’t yet heard the last of the debate over reasonable accommodation of religious and cultural beliefs.

Overcoming suspicions

The first of these reasons may be the least apparent.

Bill 21 invokes the notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If passed, the bill would be effectively safeguarded from court challenges that claim it violates basic rights, such as freedom of religion, contained elsewhere in the charter.

The government wants to be able to pass the law, and not worry about it being overturned for at least five years, when the invocation of the notwithstanding clause would have to be renewed.

But foreclosing the option of a legal challenge isn’t likely to quell the widespread concern the bill has already raised. It might, in fact, do the contrary, channeling concern and anger into more public forums: op-eds, TV panels, call-in shows and the street.

There is, moreover, deep-seated suspicion among many groups about whether the government is sincerely weighing competing interests, or simply sacrificing minority rights for the sake of the majority.

The bill’s stated aim is to enshrine the principles of secularism in Quebec law, and in doing so, protect the fabric of a francophone society in a globalizing and largely anglophone world.

But just like past attempts at legislating religious accommodations, this one deals extensively with what people wear, and the clothing of one group in particular is singled out: Muslim women.

It is Muslim women who wear face coverings for religious reasons, and so it is they who will have to unveil when accessing basic public services, such as taking out a library book.

“It’s a discriminatory law,” Gabrielle Bouchard, president of Quebec Women’s Federation said Thursday. “We’re doing that on the back of minority women, basically telling them ‘stay home, we don’t want to see you.'”

Bouchard, in other words, is giving voice to the concern that the government isn’t sensitive to the anxieties of minority groups in the province.

This is a government, after all, whose minister of women, Isabelle Charest, has now twice said she believes the hijab is a symbol of “oppression,” never mind why Muslim women say they wear the headscarf.

And this is a government led by a man who says Islamophobia isn’t a systemic problem in Quebec, again despite what Muslim groups and anti-racism activists have tried to demonstrate.

Balancing the equation

When Gerard Bouchard, a sociologist, and Charles Taylor, a philosopher, teamed up in 2007 to investigate Quebec’s reasonable accommodation crisis, they came to two broad conclusions.

The first: that the crisis was largely a product of widespread misperceptions about how institutions and religious minorities actually adapt to each other.

Unlike what is portrayed in the media, solutions are usually found easily enough, and don’t require litigation, or arbitration, just a bit of informal dialogue.

The second conclusion suggested the sense of an impasse was driven by parallel sets of anxieties: Francophones, on the one hand, worried about the future of their language, and cultural minorities on the other hand, wondered constantly about their own place in Quebecois society.

“The conjunction of these two anxieties is obviously not likely to foster integration in a spirit of equality and reciprocity,” their report reads.

Bill 21, like its predecessors, addresses the first problem, but has nothing to say about the second.

The (still) untested hypothesis of the Bouchard-Taylor report is that until the Quebec government is willing to balance that equation, we’ll be debating reasonable accommodation for some time to come.

Source: Fourth time’s the charm for secularism in Quebec? Not likely

How it will play out in Montreal, where most immigrants and visible minorities live, will be important:

« Très préoccupée » par le projet de Loi sur la laïcité, la mairesse Valérie Plante estime que le gouvernement du Québec « s’engage sur une pente glissante en contournant les Chartes des droits et libertés ». Saluant certains assouplissements introduits, elle demande à Québec de laisser au Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) de décider lui-même du port des signes religieux chez ses agents.

La mairesse de Montréal a réagi cet après-midi au dépôt du projet de Loi sur la laïcité. Elle a émis plusieurs réserves, estimant qu’il nuirait à l’intégration des immigrants en limitant leur capacité à décrocher certains emplois. « Pour moi, l’intégration des nouveaux arrivants passe d’abord et avant par l’accès à un emploi. Avoir un emploi, c’est plus qu’avoir un salaire, c’est une façon de se connecter aux valeurs et à la langue de la communauté d’accueil », a-t-elle dit.

Dans son allocution, elle s’est dite « très préoccupée par le fait que le gouvernement s’engage sur cette pente glissante et contourne certains principes fondamentaux des Chartes québécoise et canadienne des droits et libertés ». La mairesse estime que le port des signes religieux par certains employés ne remet pas en question la laïcité des institutions publiques.

Valérie Plante s’est dite déçue de voir Québec passer outre l’autonomie des Villes avec son projet de Loi. Elle s’est toutefois réjouie que les assouplissements introduits limitent l’impact sur les 28  000 employés de la Ville. « Le projet de Loi actuel offre plus de latitude, est plus connecté sur nos orientations, à savoir que les Montréalais peuvent recevoir les services peu importe ce qu’ils portent. De la même manière, des employés pourront continuer à travailler, peu importe ce qu’ils portent. »

La mairesse déplore toutefois que les règles affectent le SPVM. Elle aurait préféré que celui-ci puisse décider lui-même du port des signes religieux chez ses agents. Pour elle, il importe qu’un corps policier soit « représentatif de sa population. Plusieurs corps ont intégré les signes religieux à leur uniforme et cela n’atteint en rien les services rendus ou la sécurité des policiers et des gens qu’ils servent », a-t-elle plaidé.

Malgré ses réserves, Valérie Plante a salué certains assouplissements, notamment sur la question de l’offre de services à visage découvert. Elle a par ailleurs salué la décision de retirer le crucifix du Salon bleu à l’Assemblée nationale, à l’instar de l’hôtel de ville.

Surtout, la mairesse espère que le débat sur la laïcité sera posé. « Je lance un appel au calme. Ce n’est pas par des insultes sur les réseaux sociaux que nous ferons avancer ce débat. »

Source: Laïcité: Québec s’engage sur une pente glissante, déplore Plante


Les Noirs du Canada : éradiquer le racisme structurel

It will be interesting to see the results and evaluations of the initiatives announced in Budget 2019 in about five years). The funding and programming appears more substantive than that of the Canadian Action Plan Against Racism following the 2001 Durban Conference:

Ce texte s’inscrit dans le contexte de la Décennie internationale des personnes d’ascendance africaine (2015-2024) décrétée par l’ONU. Au cours des 20 dernières années, la taille des communautés noires au Canada a doublé, passant de 573 860 membres en 1996 à 1 198 540 en 2016.

Les communautés noires représentent aujourd’hui plus de 3,5 % de la population totale du Canada et 15,6 % de la population définie comme faisant partie d’une minorité visible ou racisée. Selon les projections démographiques de Statistique Canada, la population noire poursuivra sa croissance et pourrait représenter entre 5,0 % et 5,6 % de la population canadienne d’ici 2036. Une des particularités des communautés noires du Québec et du Canada est la jeunesse de leurs membres. En effet, en 2016, l’âge médian de la population noire était de 29,6 ans, alors qu’il était de 40,7 ans pour la population totale.

La population noire du Canada et du Québec est fortement concentrée dans les grands centres urbains tels que Toronto, Montréal, Ottawa-Gatineau, Edmonton et Calgary.

Les communautés noires, incluant les jeunes, connaissent généralement un taux de chômage supérieur à la moyenne. Le taux de chômage des communautés noires est autour de 12 %, alors que la moyenne générale est de 5 % chez les non-Noirs. Chez les jeunes issus des communautés noires âgés de 15 à 24 ans, le taux de chômage est deux fois plus élevé que la moyenne chez les jeunes Québécois et Canadiens dans leur ensemble. Nés au pays ou ayant immigrés en bas âge, ces jeunes possèdent une formation équivalente aux autres jeunes Québécois et Canadiens d’origine française ou britannique. Pourtant, leurs chances d’accès à un emploi sont moindres. En plus des désavantages relatifs à la jeunesse, tels que le manque d’expérience et le manque de formation, les jeunes provenant des minorités racisées doivent composer également avec leur différence. L’incorporation des minorités ethniques, et plus particulièrement des « minorités racisées », sur le marché de l’emploi et dans d’autres sphères de la société demeure problématique.

La notion de « groupe racisé » ou de « minorité racisée » (qui nous paraît plus appropriée), ici, réfère à un processus de racisation et indique l’extension d’une signification raciale à des relations non classifiées ou caractérisées en termes raciaux dans une phase antérieure. Ainsi le groupe racisé renvoie aux groupes porteurs d’identité citoyenne et nationale précise, mais cibles du racisme. Il est à noter que la Loi sur l’équité en matière d’emploi réfère à la notion de minorité visible, qui désigne « les personnes, autres que les Autochtones, qui ne sont pas de race blanche ou qui n’ont pas la peau blanche ».

Rappelons que la perpétuation des discriminations systémiques et leur reproduction représentent un obstacle important pour les groupes qui en sont victimes. Ces problèmes ont également des répercussions néfastes sur l’ensemble de la société et engendrent des coûts sociaux et humains.

Pour évoquer à quel point la situation est préoccupante, le Groupe de travail d’experts sur les personnes d’ascendance africaine de l’ONU relatait dans un rapport sur la situation des Noirs au Canada en 2017 que le racisme anti-Noirs découle de « l’histoire d’esclavage, de ségrégation raciale et de marginalisation ».

Des organisations à l’avant-garde des enjeux et défis relatifs aux communautés noires

Le Sommet pancanadien des communautés noires, porté par la Fondation Michaëlle Jean, la Fédération des Canadiens noirs et le Centre somalien de services à la famille, en partenariat avec une panoplie d’organismes communautaires, a réclamé des mesures urgentes face à des problèmes auxquels se heurtent les personnes d’ascendance africaine partout au Canada. Une des principales initiatives émanant du Sommet consiste en l’élaboration d’un plan stratégique pancanadien en vue d’offrir une véritable feuille de route permettant aux communautés de collaborer avec les instances publiques et le secteur privé afin de résoudre ces problèmes. Ce plan d’action stratégique s’inscrit explicitement dans le cadre de la Décennie internationale des personnes d’ascendance africaine. Il constitue la version canadienne du Programme d’activités de l’ONU pour la Décennie (ce programme demande que chaque État membre de l’ONU se dote d’un plan d’action pour la Décennie). La mobilisation stratégique générée par le Sommet a su faire en sorte que le premier ministre canadien reconnaisse officiellement la Décennie internationale. Pour la première fois dans l’histoire du Canada, le budget fédéral de 2018 a alloué explicitement des sommes destinées aux communautés noires (renforts aux jeunes Noirs, appuis à la recherche sur la santé au sein des communautés noires, collaboration avec Statistique Canada pour obtenir des données ventilées sur les communautés noires du Canada, etc.). Soutenue par le plan stratégique canadien pour la Décennie internationale, la mobilisation des communautés noires en provenance des quatre coins du pays lors du Sommet de 2019 a débouché sur des rencontres avec des ministres fédéraux. Ces rencontres ciblées et stratégiques auraient contribué à générer une augmentation des sommes allouées spécifiquement aux communautés noires dans le budget fédéral de 2019. En reconnaissance de la Décennie internationale des personnes d’ascendance africaine de l’ONU, le budget fédéral de 2019 propose en effet une somme de 25 millions de dollars sur cinq ans, à compter de 2019-2020, ce qui constitue un pas dans la bonne direction.

Au Québec, le Sommet socioéconomique pour le développement des jeunes des communautés noires (SdesJ) ainsi que le Forum économique international des Noirs (FEIN) proposent également des orientations et des initiatives stratégiques pour contribuer au développement socioéconomique et à la création d’emplois valorisants au sein des communautés noires.

Le SdesJ entend miser sur la cohérence d’une stratégie gouvernementale pour la jeunesse québécoise et favoriser des synergies dans les communautés de pratique en préconisant notamment une approche structurante et holistique. Il souhaite encourager le financement conjoint de projets et de différentes initiatives (par les gouvernements, les communautés et la société civile). Le FEIN, quant à lui, promeut l’entrepreneuriat et l’investissement comme des moteurs essentiels de la création de la richesse au sein des communautés noires. L’entrepreneuriat est au cœur de sa stratégie, puisque le FEIN mise sur l’autonomisation économique des populations noires. Il propose notamment « des solutions pragmatiques aux enjeux économiques que vivent les populations noires » en mobilisant les différents acteurs concernés par ces problématiques et enjeux pour catalyser le progrès économique des Noirs.

Ces organisations réclament un travail concerté et continu avec les différents ordres de gouvernements —municipaux, provinciaux et territoriaux, fédéral — afin d’évaluer plus précisément la situation des communautés noires à travers le Canada, en vue de définir des politiques publiques et des programmes gouvernementaux qui contribueront à produire des résultats tangibles et mesurables pour les communautés noires.

La pleine participation des communautés noires : un enjeu majeur pour le Québec et le Canada

Les membres des communautés noires continuent d’être sérieusement désavantagés. En outre, les Noirs sont moins susceptibles d’avoir accès à des emplois gratifiants dans les postes stratégiques de direction. Plus souvent qu’autrement, les Noirs sont relégués dans des positions hiérarchiques moins favorables au sein des organisations publiques comme dans le secteur privé. Ces lieux où se concentre le pouvoir décisionnel demeurent-ils « la prérogative d’un segment relativement homogène de la population ? La composition de ces lieux stratégiques de pouvoir est-elle représentative de la population québécoise et canadienne, caractérisée par une grande diversification des origines ethnoculturelles ? » Les difficultés liées au fait d’être Noir et d’être confronté de manière récurrente à la discrimination et au racisme structurels, en milieu de travail et dans d’autres sphères d’activités, créent un profond malaise démocratique et une injustice sociale qu’il faut nommer afin d’apporter des correctifs sur une base pérenne et structurelle.

En effet, une démocratie véritable requiert des institutions et des modes de fonctionnement offrant des voies d’accès ouvertes à la participation de tous les individus aux différentes sphères d’activités (sociales, politiques, économiques ou culturelles) de la vie commune.

C’est pourquoi promouvoir la pleine participation des communautés noires aux différentes instances du pouvoir administratif, par exemple, c’est œuvrer à moderniser, sinon à légitimer notre démocratie en examinant à nouveau ce qui constitue les fondements d’une société juste et équitable. Il est fondamental, en ce sens, de porter une attention particulière aux normes et pratiques en cours qui obstruent l’atteinte de cette équité souhaitable.

Source: Les Noirs du Canada : éradiquer le racisme structurel

After Christchurch, Commentators Are Imitating Sebastian Gorka

Interesting and sophisticated take, and good call for greater understanding of the differences within and between ideologies and perspectives:
After the 2015 Paris attacks by ISIS commandos, Donald Trump’s counterterrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka wrote these notorious lines, blaming the ideology of “radical Islam” for the atrocity:

These attacks are the latest manifestation of a growing and globalized ideology of radical Islam that must be addressed at its source—which includes the mainstream imams and media personalities who nurture, promote and excuse it … They were inspired by a thriving online ideological structure that recruits and radicalizes mostly men to save “the caliphate” from “the kuffar [infidels]” … The threat we’re facing isn’t just individual terrorists. It’s the global ideology of radical Islam. We have to take it seriously, and call out imams, academics, and media personalities who give it a platform under the guise of exploring both sides, fostering debate or avoiding political correctness.

Except these words weren’t by Sebastian Gorka at all. They were written in The New York Times by Wajahat Ali, hours after the massacre of 50 Muslims at prayer in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15. I swapped white nationalism for radical Islam, politicians for imams, and Western civilization for the caliphate.

A funny thing happened after the tragedy of Christchurch: Everyone discovered, all at once, that ideology matters. Four years ago, commentators were contorting themselves to attribute jihadism to politics, social conditions, abnormal psychology—anything but the spread of wicked beliefs that lead, more or less directly, to violence. Ideology for thee but not for me. Imagine the contempt any thinking person would feel for someone whose reaction to Christchurch was to wonder whether a few Muslim street hoods had once roughed up the shooter, or if during his trip to Pakistan the authorities had given him a hard time at the airport. Did he have trouble getting a job? Feel unsettled by modernity?

In dismissing these tendentious explanations so breezily—so breezily that they receive not even a mention—Wajahat Ali is absolutely right. So are the countless other commentators, Muslim and not, who have belatedly come to the conviction that if bad ideas permeate communities (virtual and real), their effect is not incidental but decisive. Ali has, in fact, been direct in his acknowledgment of the role of belief in some contexts. Others have treated it as an embarrassment, especially in their own communities. In the neighborhoods that were targets of recruitment by ISIS, community leaders emphasized nonideological causes publicly. But they all knew, on some level, that ideas mattered, and any parents who detected a whisper of ISIS ideology in their household understood that it was as deadly as bubonic plague.

Almost two years ago, I opined, meekly, that Sebastian Gorka was not wrong about everything. I complimented him for noting the role of jihadist ideology, and then roasted him for botching the particulars of that ideology. Gorka’s view of jihad is monolithic; he believes, erroneously, that “radical Islam” is a vast and united front against which the next patriotic generation should prepare to fight. In fact, jihadism is a complicated network, with mutually antagonistic elements (Hezbollah and al-Qaeda, say) and even some elements that aren’t violent at all.

I regret that the commentators post-Christchurch are imitating Gorka’s main virtue as well as his signature flaw. The transposition is astonishing. Gorka treats Hezbollah like al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood like Hizb al-Tahrir—all different Islamist groups, with salient resemblances; his post-Christchurch doppelgängers seem ready to treat Tarrant like Trump, and Trump like Tarrant. In The New York Times, Omer Aziz accused the neuroscientist and atheist Sam Harris, as well as the Canadian psychologist and lobster enthusiast Jordan Peterson, of complicity in mass murder for objecting to what they argued are overbroad applications of the word Islamophobia. C. J. Werleman, a columnist for Middle East Eye, tweeted last weekend that “ISIS appeals to roughly 0.0000001% of Muslims,” whereas “right-wing extremism represents the views and attitudes of roughly 30-40% of white people.”

If we cannot distinguish Harris and Peterson from Richard Spencer, let alone Brenton Tarrant, then our problems are bad indeed. (Among those problems is arithmetic: 0.0000001 percent of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims is 1.8 Muslims, a substantial undercount of ISIS’s adherents, even when you round up to a whole number.) Harris and Peterson seem to think America under Barack Obama was a good place and getting better; this view is not compatible with fascism. To support Donald Trump (which Harris and Peterson in any case do not) is not to support the slaughter of Muslims in New Zealand. Just as there are many, many steps between believing in Sharia law and following ISIS, there are countless shades of difference between, say, supporting a border wall and wanting to snipe at Mexicans along the Rio Grande. If sharing a cause with ISIS or Tarrant makes you uncomfortable, perhaps it should. But it does not make you guilty of every crime they committed.

To differentiate on an ideological spectrum is hard. But to fail to differentiate leads to catastrophic blunders. If you blindly swat at enemies, and blindly extend courtesies to friends, the predictable result is that your friends get swatted and your enemies indulged. They may not send thank-you notes, but I promise they are grateful.

Source: After Christchurch, Commentators Are Imitating Sebastian Gorka

Black people in Halifax 6 times more likely to be street checked than whites

Not unique to Halifax:

A new report released Wednesday on racial profiling by Halifax-area police found black people were street checked at a rate six times higher than white people in Halifax.

The independent report found that in Halifax, the odds of being stopped for a street check were highest for black men, followed by Arab males and black females.

The number is about double the CBC News estimate that triggered this review. The new report comes more than two years after data showed black people were three times more likely than whites to be subjected to the controversial practice in the municipality.

The report by Scot Wortley, a University of Toronto criminology professor, also found that police in the Halifax region do more street checks than police in Montreal, Vancouver or Ottawa. There were comparable rates in Edmonton and Calgary.

Street checks allow police officers to document information about a person they believe could be of significance to a future investigation, and record details such as their ethnicity, gender, age and location.

In Halifax, the odds of being stopped for a street check were highest for black people, followed by Arab and west Asian people. (CBC )

The 180-page report also found the practice of street checks has a disproportionate and negative impact on the African Nova Scotia community, contributing to the criminalization of black youth.

Wortley reported that black community members interviewed for the study said they are afraid of police, they feel targeted by police, and they are treated rudely and aggressively. They also said police treatment of black people has not improved significantly in the past 20 years.

Blacks more likely to be charged

Wortley was hired by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission in 2017 after a report from Halifax RCMP in January of that year found that in the first 10 months of 2016, 41 per cent of 1,246 street checks involved black Nova Scotians.

Halifax Regional Police figures showed that of the roughly 37,000 people checked between 2005 and 2016, almost 4,100 were black — about 11 per cent of checks — despite making up only 3.59 per cent of the city’s population, according to the 2011 census.

In what Wortley described as a “difficult statistic,” the report showed that 30 per cent of Halifax’s black male population had been charged with a crime, as opposed with 6.8 per cent of the white male population, over that period.

Wortley said this likely means black people are more likely to be charged for the same behaviour than white people. The charge rate for black males with cannabis offences was four times higher than for white males, even though there’s no evidence that black people use more cannabis than white people.

He said police street checks have contributed to an erosion of trust in law enforcement and undermined the perceived legitimacy of the entire criminal justice system.

Wortley presented several recommendations including that street checks must be banned or at least regulated.

He said it’s clear that street checks have a disproportionate effect on the black Nova Scotia community and consequences of current street check use “clearly outweigh and crime prevention benefits.”

Nova Scotia Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard said she supports stopping the practice of street checks.

“The rest of Canada will be watching what happens here,” she told an audience gathered at the Halifax Central Library, where the report was unveiled.

‘Anti-black bias’

Lindell Smith, the first black city councillor elected in Halifax in 16 years, said in a statement on his website that he hopes this is an opportunity to “repair the broken relationship with the black community and our police force.”

“As a member of the African Nova Scotian community, I certainly do not need Dr. Wortley’s report to tell me that for decades the community has felt that there is anti-black bias, and racial profiling when policing black communities. I hope that with the release of this report that we as the black community don’t see this as a ‘I told you so’ moment,” he said.

Smith said he’s been stopped many times by police, both while driving and walking in the Halifax area. He said in those instances he had the felling of “humiliation and being racially profiled.”

Across Canada, the report found the average annual street check rate was highest in Toronto, with Halifax in second place. Despite an overall reduction in street checks in Halifax in recent years, Wortley says the over-representation of minorities has remained constant.

Ontario banned police carding in specific situations in 2017 — a controversial practice that is similar to street checks.

However, Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais has argued in the past that the valid street checks performed by police officers in Halifax differ from the random stops or carding practices that are now restricted in Ontario.

Source: Black people in Halifax 6 times more likely to be street checked than whites

Kenney’s misdirection on candidate woes would make David Copperfield proud

Would have expected more from him given his past federal experience in community outreach and understanding of these kinds of sensitivities. Noteworthy change to the pre-election period:

I don’t know if United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney has ever thought of a job as a magician.

This week he displayed the kind of misdirection that would make David Copperfield proud.

When asked about the Islamophobic and homophobic posts from one of his candidates in Calgary, Kenney didn’t address the controversial posts. Instead, he praised the candidate, Eva Kiryakos in Calgary-South East, as “selfless” for voluntarily stepping done to avoid becoming a “distraction” for the party during the election campaign.

And he didn’t stop there. He tried to describe her as a victim: “Eva’s also from a minority community herself. She is from a Middle Eastern refugee family, from a community that has faced a history of genocide.” She can’t possibly be guilty of intolerance, he seemed to be saying, because she’s from a community that has been the victim of intolerance.

Kenney wasn’t the only one trying to make Kiryakos into the injured party. She was vigorously doing that herself when explaining why she resigned for the campaign.

“Someone outside of our party has been threatening to smear me, and I have had enough of the bullies and the threats,” she said in a statement. That’s why she quit.

She’s the victim of bullying and a smear campaign. Except that it might be more accurate to say she’s the victim of her own intolerant postings on social media that include, but are not limited to, this example: “Muslim forces continue to use murder, rape, kidnapping, terror and forced breeding in pursuit of Christian Genocide in the Middle East while the world turns a blind eye.”

And this post about gay-straight alliances in schools: “You’re not interested in protecting children with GSAs, you’re interested in converting them.” When Kiryakos stepped down she was angry, she was defiant and she painted herself as a defender of free speech: “I voiced my honest opinion.” But she was not repentant.

Welcome to the new normal in Alberta politics. Well, in UCP politics. It would appear that when UCP members find themselves brought down by their own controversial histories, they no longer apologize or explain. They defiantly point fingers at anonymous others, claim victimhood and try to change the channel.Probably because this is becoming such a familiar narrative from the UCP.

On the eve of the election last week, another candidate, Caylan Ford in Calgary-Mountain View quit because of her own witless postings about how she was “somewhat saddened by the demographic replacement of white peoples in their homelands.” She never apologized but Kenney did at least address the comments as “completely inexplicable” and said she made the right decision by resigning.“Let me be clear, I condemn the remarks included in the texts that she had sent,” said Kenney.

By the time Kiryakos’ comments came to light, though, Kenney apparently didn’t want to repeat the slander, so to speak, by directly addressing the postings. This is a different tack to what Kenney and the UCP have done the past year when faced with members who have a history of hateful or ridiculous postings on social media.

Last July, the UCP disqualified Todd Beasley, who was vying for the party’s nomination in Brooks-Medicine Hat, for Islamophobic tweets.

Later that month, Sandra Kim found herself in trouble in the nomination race in Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin for social media posts critical of same-sex marriage. Then there were the three UCP nomination candidates for Edmonton-West Henday who found themselves in trouble in October for posing for photos with members of the anti-immigrant organization, Soldiers of Odin.

In several of these cases, the UCP issued condemnations.

In August, for example, the party denounced the social media postings of businessman Jerry Molnar who was contesting the nomination race in the riding of Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland. He had, among other things, called the now-former premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynn, who is openly gay, a “tranny.”

The party’s executive director, Janice Harrington, wrote Molnar a letter bluntly saying his posts would be used by the NDP to cause “serious reputational harm” to the UCP and its members.

“We would not let a candidate for the NDP off the hook for an offensive comment simply because it was said on his or her personal Facebook,” added Harrington.

Harrington, of course, was correct.

The NDP these days is happy to use the posts of Ford and Kiryakos to help cause serious reputational harm to the UCP.As a defence strategy the UCP is no longer condemning the posts or vilifying those doing the posting.

That’s because we’re in the middle of an election campaign where the NDP is trying to focus people’s attention on the social conservative background of UCP leader Kenney.

Last week, NDP leader Rachel Notley said, “I personally do not believe that Jason Kenney is racist, but I believe that the UCP as a party has a problem with racism.”

And this ongoing question from the NDP: why does the UCP seem to attract an inordinate number of people with extreme or bigoted views? And pointing out that even though Ford and Kiryakos are no longer candidates, they are still UCP members.

This is a deliberate strategy by the NDP to help recreate the conditions that led to the meltdown of the right-wing Wildrose party (one of the legacy parties of the UCP) in the final days of the 2012 campaign over racist and homophobic utterances from several candidates. The Wildrose committed political suicide by defending the culprits.

The big difference for Kenney this time around is that he has the miscreants tossed overboard quickly. But he’s doing it more and more gently, praising the latest as “selfless.” He doesn’t want to make a fuss and he’s hoping when they hit the water they won’t even make a ripple, never mind a splash.

Source: Kenney’s misdirection on candidate woes would make David Copperfield proud

H-1B: U.S. employers say Canada’s immigration policies better, as tech booms north of border

These articles keep on coming:

About two-thirds of U.S. employers see Canada’s immigration policies as more favorable than those at home, while a single Canadian city has seen more tech job growth than the Bay Area, Seattle and Washington, D.C. combined, according to a new report.

“Canada has been using friendly immigration policies as one of its key tools to aggressively attract tech companies,” said the 2019 Immigration Trends Report from Envoy, a firm selling immigration services to companies.

Of the 405 HR professionals and hiring managers who participated in Envoy’s survey late last year, 38 percent said their companies were thinking about expanding to Canada, and about a fifth said they already had one or more offices there, according to the report.

Toronto in 2017 added more tech jobs than the Bay Area, Seattle and Washington, D.C. together, and the nation’s capital, Ottawa, boasts more than 1,700 tech companies, the report said.

The firm’s findings come amid a fierce national debate over immigration, with significant controversy over the H-1B visa. The immigration trends report highlights heightened scrutiny of H-1B applications by federal authorities carrying out President Donald Trump’s “Buy American and Hire American” executive order.

San Francisco immigration lawyer Pavan Dhillon, who specializes in helping people obtain work permits and residency in Canada, pointed in a tweet to “Green card backlogs & attacks on legal immigration” as reasons why it appears from Silicon Valley that the American Dream is being replaced by the Canadian Dream.

A Quartz magazine article Tuesday argued that Canada is in fact eating our American Dream. Tech founder Vartika Manasvi told Quartz she chose Calgary over Silicon Valley as the location for StackRaft, a startup making a jobs platform.

“People don’t want to risk long-term careers and live with uncertainty in the U.S.,” Manasvi said. “Finding another visa or transferring the H-1B can be stressful. The Canadian immigration system is gradually moving towards becoming more and more skill-based.”

Among the benefits of immigrating to Canada instead of the U.S., Quartz reported, are faster visa processing times and cheaper fees; a more predictable visa-allocation system than America’s H-1B lottery; employment for visa holders’ spouses at a time when the Trump Administration is moving to ban H-1B holders’ wives and husbands from jobs; and permanent residency in two years or citizenship in three, compared to a green card wait that can last many years in America.

Source: H-1B: U.S. employers say Canada’s immigration policies better, as tech booms north of border

As Quebec tables religious symbol ban, the rest of Canada should stay zen

Bit of an odd piece by Konrad Yakabuski. Yes, all debates have nuances, yes, historical contexts are important, but Bill 62 is problematic on so many counts.

The other aspect I have always found interesting is just how much of a colony Canada appears to be when it imports these debates from Europe, whether critiques of multiculturalism without acknowledging Canada’s aims at integration and participation of much of the language around laicité from France:

The most popular movie in France this year is a comedy about a Roman Catholic couple with four daughters, each of whom marries a member of a religious or racial minority. When the daughters announce they and their husbands are leaving France – for Algeria, Israel, China and India – their parents wonder if they are being punished by God.

The film’s French title, Qu’est-ce qu’on a encore fait au Bon Dieu?, roughly means: What did we do to deserve this? It is the top-grossing film of 2019 in France, drawing twice as many moviegoers as any Hollywood movie. It has also been doing a brisk box office in Quebec, and sparking plenty of discussion about the state of la mère patrie, as France is known.

The film’s success may lie in the fact that it allows members of the white Catholic French majority to laugh at the prejudices they hold toward newcomers, rather than feeling ashamed of them. The French aren’t racist. They’re just nostalgic for a simpler time when they didn’t have to deal with interracial marriage, Muslim rites or Afghan refugees. But once they get used to them, they’ll come around and everyone will get along famously. Cue the happy ending.

Of course, that day hasn’t yet arrived in France. The country remains deeply divided over how to integrate its fast-growing Muslim population, which continues to feel excluded from mainstream French society. Anti-Semitism has been rising again, prompting thousands of French Jews to leave their country, mostly for Israel, the United States and Canada.

To an outsider, it may seem obvious that the French approach to solving the challenges raised by multiculturalism has been a failure. Instead of fostering integration or promoting what the French call le vivre ensemble (“living together”), bans on the Islamic headscarf in public schools and the burka in public spaces have only served to further stigmatize Muslims.

Yet, I have spent enough time in France to know that plenty of its leading thinkers, few of whom could be accused of racism, support such bans in the name of state secularism. No one, much less any foreigner, is going to persuade them otherwise. Even French President Emmanuel Macron, who is undeniably progressive on most issues involving immigration and multiculturalism, would not dream of repealing these measures.

For better or worse, the French approach to secularism has coloured the political debate over religious accommodation in Quebec. As in France, many Quebec intellectuals believe that any society that declares secularism to be a fundamental value must prohibit religious symbols in public institutions. For many, freedom from religion is as important as freedom of religion.

So, while many commentators in English Canada depict Quebec’s seemingly endless debate over religious accommodation as the work of opportunistic politicians seeking to exploit the cultural insecurities of some francophone Quebeckers, such characterizations fail to capture the complexity of the debate and only contribute to a polarization of opinions on the matter.

Make no mistake, as Premier François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government prepares to table legislation to ban state employees in a position of authority (including teachers) from wearing ostentatious religious symbols, politics is its principal motivation. The CAQ’s conservative and nationalist base is not concerned so much about secularism – it supports maintaining the crucifix in the legislature – as it is with the impact Muslim newcomers are having on the face and customs of their province. Mr. Legault campaigned on a promise to do something about it, even if it means going down the dangerous path of trampling on individual rights in the name of a white francophone majority that seeks to assert its supposed collective right to live in a secularist society.

The CAQ government may be making a fateful mistake by proceeding with a discriminatory and patently unconstitutional legislation. At the very least, it is displaying crass insensitivity in tabling its religious-symbol ban in the wake of the massacre of 50 Muslims at mosques in New Zealand, which revived the pain of the 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting.

Yet, those outside the province should refrain from making blanket statements or condemnations. The debate within Quebec is far more nuanced than the rest of Canada seems to understand. Charging racism is the lazy way to go. It perpetuates a situation that only serves the interests of those who like to stir up polemics, rather than foster reconciliation.

As jurist Rim Gtari and sociology professor Rachad Antonius wrote this week in Le Devoir, invoking the recent conviction of an Iranian lawyer who defended women who went veil-less in public: “One cannot reduce the hijab to a simple piece of cloth, the wearing of which is a sign of piety and its interdiction a sign of racism. The historical context removes this restriction from the domain of the violation of rights or from the logic of stereotypes tied to racism.”

Source: As Quebec tables religious symbol ban, the rest of Canada should stay zen

Laïcité: des organisations juives sonnent l’alarme

A reminder that it is not just Muslims that will be affected by Bill 62:

Interdire à certains fonctionnaires de porter la kippa ou d’exhiber une étoile de David représenterait une grave atteinte aux droits garantis par les chartes et serait contesté devant les tribunaux, préviennent d’importantes organisations juives.

B’nai Brith et le Centre consultatif des relations juives et israéliennes (CCJI) s’inquiètent du dépôt imminent par le gouvernement Legault du projet de loi sur la laïcité.

Selon La Presse et Radio-Canada, Québec va interdire le port de signes religieux aux fonctionnaires en position d’autorité, y compris les enseignants, les directions d’école et ceux qui portent une arme.

« Ce qu’on entend du projet de loi est contraire aux valeurs canadiennes et québécoises. La CAQ doit éviter la pente glissante qui consiste à réduire les droits fondamentaux », prévient Harvey Levine, directeur du bureau québécois de B’nai Brith.

Le débat public sur les signes religieux au travail s’est surtout centré sur le hidjab. Mais les organismes juifs canadiens rappellent que la kippa serait aussi visée, tout comme le turban sikh ou la croix chrétienne.

« Il s’agit selon nous d’une menace pour les libertés religieuses des juifs, des musulmans, des sikhs, et tous les autres groupes religieux visibles dans cette province », indique M. Levine.

La laïcité de l’État peut être atteinte sans que l’on s’attaque aux droits religieux, estime le Centre consultatif des relations juives et israéliennes (CIJA).

« Bien qu’il existe un fort sentiment en faveur de la réaffirmation de la laïcité au Québec, notre communauté estime que la laïcité de l’État est un devoir institutionnel et non personnel. L’attachement à la laïcité ne repose pas sur l’apparence des individus », indique Reuben Poupko, coprésident du CIJA-Québec.

Pour le chef de l’opposition à l’hôtel de ville de Montréal, qui porte la kippa, l’idée d’interdire les signes religieux à certains fonctionnaires est basée sur une mauvaise prémisse : celle selon laquelle un employé de l’État qui porte un signe religieux ne peut être neutre.

« Il est difficile pour moi de croire qu’en 2019, on remette en question les motivations des gens selon leur manière de s’habiller, a récemment écrit Lionel Perez dans Montreal Gazette. Retirer les signes religieux n’éradique en rien les préjugés. »

Jusque devant l’ONU

Le B’nai Brith et le CIJA craignent que le projet de loi sur la laïcité n’enfreigne des droits garantis par les chartes. La Charte canadienne des droits et libertés protège certaines libertés fondamentales, parmi lesquelles les libertés de religion et d’expression.

Le premier ministre François Legault se dit prêt à utiliser la disposition de dérogation (communément appelée clause nonobstant) pour soustraire sa future loi aux tribunaux. Pour lui, il s’agit de « protéger notre identité ».

Selon l’avocat montréalais Julius Grey, la disposition de dérogation ne peut toutefois protéger le Québec et le Canada contre un camouflet devant le Comité des droits de l’homme de l’Organisation des Nations unies (ONU).

« Si le gouvernement espère éviter le débat judiciaire en invoquant la clause nonobstant, il doit se rappeler qu’il existe un forum international où ce genre de chose peut être débattu », souligne Me Grey.

« Il est téméraire de préjuger de ce qui sera dans le projet de loi, dit-il. Mais il me semble que la confrontation judiciaire est plus ou moins inévitable. »

Ce comité de l’ONU a par exemple épinglé la France à au moins deux reprises sur la question des signes religieux. Dans un cas, l’ONU a donné raison à une employée d’une garderie congédiée car elle portait le voile islamique. Les décisions de ce comité ne sont toutefois pas contraignantes.

« Bien sûr, la décision du Comité des droits de l’homme des Nations unies n’est pas contraignante comme le jugement d’une cour québécoise ou de la Cour suprême », explique Julius Grey.

« Mais je vois mal comment le Québec, malgré un jugement de cette nature, justifierait de maintenir sa position. »

Source: Laïcité: des organisations juives sonnent l’alarme

Notwithstanding clause could stop debate over Quebec’s secularism bill before it starts

To watch:

As the Quebec government prepares to table its secularism bill, constitutional experts are raising concerns about Premier François Legault’s reported plans to pre-emptively invoke the notwithstanding clause to ensure public workers in positions of authority are banned from wearing religious symbols.

Robert Leckey, dean of McGill University’s law faculty, said doing so would effectively make it impossible to challenge the constitutionality of the legislation.

“It really immunizes the law from the more obvious charter challenges,” Leckey said in an interview.

Montreal’s La Presse newspaper reported last week that a provision to invoke the clause could be written into Bill 62 itself.

The notwithstanding clause, officially called Section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, allows provincial or federal authorities to override certain sections of the charter for a period of five years.

Sources told Radio-Canada earlier this week the bill will go further than originally expected. New teachers, as well as school principals, would be subject to the ban, which would also apply to lawyers, judges, police officers, courthouse constables, bodyguards, prison guards and wildlife officers.

‘Collective rights’

Civil rights groups have already vowed to challenge the legislation, but Legault has repeatedly said he’s prepared to use the notwithstanding clause to impose the ban.

He said so again on Tuesday.

“It’s not a small thing. It’s a big decision. But sometimes, in order to protect collective rights, we have to use it. I think we have to protect our collective identity,” Legault said, pointing out the clause has been invoked numerous times by different premiers.

“To separate religion and politics is important in Quebec.”

The bill by his Coalition Avenir Quebec governement will be the fourth successive attempt at laying out a framework for religious neutrality in the province, following previous efforts by the Jean Charest Liberals, the Parti Québécois under Pauline Marois and the Liberal government of Philippe Couillard.

The most controversial sections of Couillard’s legislation are still before the courts after being subjected to a charter challenge.

But given the province’s long history of debate about religious neutrality, Leckey is skeptical that moving quickly will allow the CAQ government to settle the matter once and for all.

“I just don’t think it’s the case that it will put a lid on these things,” he said.

“I think there will be a messiness in applying the law.”

Rarely used, except in Quebec

Political leaders across the country have been reluctant to use the notwithstanding clause, which is viewed by many as politically perilous. It has only been invoked three times outside Quebec.

“The view was that this would be a clause used infrequently and in very specific circumstances. I’m not sure whether that is what’s qualifying the use of it today,” said James Kelly, a constitutional expert and political science professor at Concordia University.

The clause is more commonly invoked inside Quebec, where it has served as both a means of symbolic resistance and as a tool to defend Quebecers’ collective identity.

The most controversial use of the notwithstanding clause was in 1988, when then-premier Robert Bourassa used it to override a Supreme Court ruling on minority language rights, passing a law requiring outdoor commercial signs to be in French only.

The possibility of the clause being invoked pre-emptively harkens back to how a former PartiQuébécois government used it.

Between 1982 and 1985, the PQ objected to the terms of the new Canadian Constitution by including a notwithstanding clause in every piece of legislation it introduced.

Philippe-André Tessier, the head of Quebec’s Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, said the CAQ’s proposed bill should be put to a debate at the National Assembly.

“The commission believes that it’s only in exceptional circumstances that the notwithstanding clause should be used,” he said.

Source: Notwithstanding clause could stop debate over Quebec’s secularism bill before it starts