Japanese firms resist hiring foreign workers under new immigration law – poll

Significant culture change:

Only one in four Japanese companies plan to actively employ foreign workers under a new government immigration scheme, a Reuters poll found, complicating Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to ease the country’s tightest job market in decades.

And the bulk of the firms that may hire these immigrants do not plan to support them in securing housing, learning Japanese language skills or getting information on living in Japan, the Reuters Corporate Survey showed.

The survey results underscore the challenge for Japan to cope with its dwindling and ageing population that has put pressure on the government to relax tight foreign labour controls. Immigration has long been taboo here as many Japanese prize ethnic homogeneity.

The lack of language ability, cultural gap, costs of training, mismatches in skills and the fact that many foreign workers cannot stay permanently in Japan under the new system were among factors behind corporate wariness about hiring foreign workers, the Reuters poll showed.

The law, which took effect in April, creates two new categories of visas for blue-collar workers in 14 sectors such as construction and nursing care, which face a labour crunch. It is meant to attract up to 345,000 blue-collar workers to Japan over five years.

But the survey suggests the government may struggle to get the workers it needs to ease the country’s labour shortage where there are now 1.63 jobs available for every job seeker, the most since the beginning of 1974.

“Taking education costs, quality risks and yields into account, costs will go up” by hiring foreign workers, wrote a manager at a rubber-making company, who said the firm has no plans to hire foreign workers.

“We have failed in the past by employing foreign workers who could not blend in with a different culture,” a manager of a metal-products maker wrote.

Some 41% of firms are not considering hiring foreigners at all, 34% are not planning to hire many and 26% intend to hire such foreign workers, the survey conducted from May 8-17 showed.

Of those considering hiring foreign workers, a majority said they have no plans to support them in areas such as housing, Japanese language study and information on living in the country, it showed.

The survey, conducted monthly for Reuters by Nikkei Research, polled 477 large- and mid-size firms, with managers responding on condition of anonymity. Around 220 answered the questions on foreign workers.

Under the new law, a category of “specified skilled workers” can stay for up to five years but cannot bring family members. The other category is for more skilled foreigners who can bring relatives and be eligible to stay longer.

While foreign workers are generally viewed as cheap labour in Japan, 77% of firms see no change in wage levels at Japan Inc as a whole, when hiring specified skilled workers. Some 16% expect wages to decline and just 6 percent see wages rising.

Foreign workers “will help ease the labour crunch, bringing down overall wages,” a steelmaker manager wrote in the survey.

Abe, whose conservative base fears a rise in crime and a threat to the country’s social fabric, has insisted that the new law does not constitute an “immigration policy.”

Japan has about 1.28 million foreign workers – more than double the figure a decade ago but still just 2% of the workforce. Some 260,000 of them are trainees from countries such as Vietnam and China who can stay three to five years.

Source: Japanese firms resist hiring foreign workers under new immigration law – poll

How The Fight For Religious Freedom Has Fallen Victim To The Culture Wars

Yet another effect of increased polarization, even if issues related to the balance of religious freedom and other rights is often not straighforward:

The promotion of religious freedom in America, a cause that not long ago had near unanimous support on Capitol Hill, has fallen victim to the culture wars.

A high point came in 1993, when Congress overwhelmingly passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, meant to overturn a Supreme Court decision that limited Americans’ right to exercise their religion freely.

Those days are gone. The consensus surrounding religious freedom issues has been weakened by deep disputes over whether Americans should be free to exercise a religious objection to same sex marriage or artificial contraception and whether the U.S. Constitution mandates strict church-state separation.

“It is more difficult to get a broad coalition on religious freedom efforts now,” says Holly Hollman, general counsel at the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. “People have a bad taste in their mouth about what they think the other side thinks of religious freedom.”

“It’s a divisive issue,” says Todd McFarland, associate general counsel at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, a denomination historically known for its advocacy of religious freedom. “For a long time in the country we kept it down to a dull roar. When that’s no longer possible, it’s a problem.”

The religious freedom question could arise again in the months ahead, as the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to take new cases that involve the limits on Americans’ religious rights.

In theory, the commitment to religious freedom is straightforward. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution bars Congress from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Most of the attention, especially in recent decades, has focused on the “free exercise” clause. An important case involved Adele Sherbet, a Seventh-day Adventist, who was fired for refusing to work on Saturdays and then denied unemployment benefits. In a 1963 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Sherbet’s free exercise right had been violated.

In a 1990 decision, however, the Court significantly narrowed the Sherbet precedent, ruling against a Native American man, Alfred Smith, who was dismissed from his job because he had illegally ingested peyote as part of a religious ritual.

The Court’s Smith ruling met with bipartisan outrage in the U.S. Congress and led to passage of the RFRA legislation. Among the sponsors was a first-term liberal Democrat from New York, Jerrold Nadler.

“Unless the Smith decision is overturned,” Nadler argued on the House floor, “the fundamental right of all Americans to keep the Sabbath, observe religious dietary laws, to worship as their consciences dictate, will remain threatened.” The bill passed the House unanimously and was approved in the Senate by a vote of 97-3.

Religious freedom politicized

In the years since, however, the religious freedom cause has been politicized, with conservatives claiming it for their purposes and liberals shying away from it for reasons of their own.

When liberals started pushing for expanded protections for the LGBT population, conservatives grew alarmed, arguing that practices such as same-sex weddings go against biblical teaching. They’ve argued that religious freedom should mean they can’t be forced to accommodate something they don’t believe in. Liberals portrayed that stance simply as discriminatory and argued it should be illegal.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, made the issue a major theme of his campaign when he ran for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

“We’re a nation that was founded on religious liberty,” Cruz told an interviewer, “and the liberal intolerance we see trying to persecute those who as a matter of faith follow a biblical definition of marriage is fundamentally wrong.”

When the conservative Heritage Foundation celebrated the 25th anniversary of the RFRA passage earlier this year, the organization’s president, Kay Cole James, blamed “the left” for the erosion of the original consensus.

“I wish we could get that kind of bipartisan support today,” she said. “The political left has actively worked to undercut our freedoms.”

Religious freedom and discrimination

As conservatives focused the religious freedom debate narrowly around issues of sexuality and marriage, progressives doubled down on the promotion of LGBT rights. The Democrat-controlled House this month approved the “Equality Act,” which would prohibit virtually all discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. One provision actually singles out the RFRA law, prohibiting its use as a defense against discrimination allegations.

Rep. Nadler, having originally been a RFRA backer, co-sponsored the new “Equality” legislation as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

“Religion is no excuse for discrimination in the public sphere, as we have long recognized when it comes to race, color, sex, and national origin,” Nadler argued in a committee markup hearing, “and it should not be an excuse when it comes to sexual orientation or gender identity.”

When the bill came up on the House floor, another co-sponsor, Democrat Bobby Scott of Virginia, explained why it may seem that progressives have turned cool on the Religious Freedom act.

“RFRA was originally enacted to serve as a safeguard for religious freedom,” he said, “but recently it’s been used a sword, to cut down the civil rights of too many individuals.”

Some traditional advocates of religious freedom issues are dismayed by how the debate has evolved among both conservatives and liberals.

“When you [tell people] you work for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, they want to know, ‘What kind of religious liberty?'” says Hollman. She is evenhanded in her assessment of responsibility for the breakdown of bipartisan sentiment around the issue.

“It is unfortunate that some on the right will use religious freedom in order to advance a particular partisan issue,” she says. “I think it is problematic on the left to cede arguments about religious freedom, to just say, ‘Oh, people will use that now to advance an anti-LGBT perspective.’ These are tough issues to work on, and religious freedom should not take the fall.”

Fired for observing the Sabbath

One current religious freedom case, in fact, is similar to those that led to the court fights of the last century. In 2005, a Seventh-day Adventist named Darrell Patterson interviewed for a trainer job at Walgreens in Orlando, Fla.

“I was completely up front with them that I observed the Sabbath and that the Sabbath was important to me,” Patterson told NPR.

He got the job, and six years passed without a problem. But one Friday afternoon he was told to report to work the next morning.

“The Sabbath is a beautiful, beautiful day,” Patterson said, explaining why working Saturdays is for him unthinkable. “If you were to come to my house on the Sabbath, you would find that our house is in order. There is a peaceful, serene atmosphere. My wife and my family spend time in prayer. We sing hymns together.”

Patterson skipped work that Saturday. When he went in the following Monday, he was called into a supervisor’s office and told that he was fired.

He sued.

In a statement to NPR, Walgreens says it is “committed to respecting and accommodating the religious practices of its employees” and “reasonably accommodated” Patterson’s requested scheduling, but that doing more would have imposed “an undue hardship on our business.” The Eleventh Circuit court ruled in favor of Walgreens, but Patterson is appealing.

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to hear the case and revisit, yet again, the question of what religious freedom means.

McFarland from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists is tracking the case closely. He expects Patterson to be broadly supported, but he also recognizes that the politics around religious freedom issues have shifted in recent decades.

“One of the most unfortunate things is that religious liberty has become the issue of one party,” he says. “For Democrats, it’s viewed as a divisive issue, especially in a primary context. [They say] ‘how is this going to help me?’ They used to feel that being on the right side of religious liberty was an important value, and they don’t anymore.”

Like the Baptist Joint Committee, however, the Seventh-day Adventists fault Republicans and Democrats alike for the politicization of religious freedom issues in recent years. The Adventists are bothered by the apparent reluctance of Republicans to embrace the “establishment’ clause in the First Amendment, barring government from endorsing a religion. Conservatives have pushed for prayer and Bible readings in public schools and government funding for some religious institutions. Some have even suggested the United States be identified as a Christian nation.

“We have a strong interest in having a vigorous establishment clause,” McFarland says. “That’s something evangelicals and other conservative churches historically have not been as interested in. We are not trying to see the U.S. government impose any type of ideology. We have concerns about that. We have long believed that government and church need to stay in their separate spheres.”

The Adventists’ support for the establishment clause has allied them on various occasions with the American Civil Liberties Union, an unlikely partnership for other conservative Christian denominations.

The two parts of the freedom of religion provision in the First Amendment are sometimes seen as conflicting: Is the government in favor of religion or against it? But traditional American religious freedom advocates say the two clauses can also be read as complementary: The free exercise of religion is guaranteed only if it applies to all faiths. That can happen only if government does not take sides.

In Orlando, Fla., Darrell Patterson went back to school after being fired from Walgreens. He is now working as a mental health therapist. His campaign for the right to rest on the Sabbath, now possibly headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, no longer has to do with his own work situation.

“It’s about other people that are going to come after me,” Patterson says “that deserve to be able to practice their religious faith and conviction without putting their livelihoods in jeopardy.”

Source: How The Fight For Religious Freedom Has Fallen Victim To The Culture Wars

Étude sur l’immigration: à la recherche d’un seuil… inexistant

Good and interesting study, using scenarios to capture some of the nuances in relation to choices over immigration levels. And the sensible recommendation to move towards a multi-year plan, with annual adjustments as needed, as was introduced by the federal government a few years back:

Les chefs de parti en ont débattu pendant toute la campagne électorale. Les économistes le cherchent partout. La vérité, c’est que le seuil magique du nombre d’immigrants à accueillir au Québec, à couler dans le béton pour qu’on n’en parle plus, eh bien, il n’existe pas, concluent les auteurs de l’étude Seuils d’immigration au Québec : analyse des incidences démographiques et économiques.

Pour en finir avec le débat dogmatique

En fait, les pénuries de main-d’oeuvre changent à ce point la donne – et améliorent tellement l’intégration en emploi des immigrants ces dernières années – qu’on erre complètement si on essaie sérieusement d’y aller de prédictions de seuils optimaux qui tiendraient la route pendant plusieurs années, résume en entrevue Mia Homsy, directrice générale de l’Institut du Québec.

« On se retrouve devant une question tout en nuances qui ne peut pas se régler par un débat dogmatique de chiffres », insiste-t-elle.

Selon l’étude, « le gouvernement devra avoir l’ouverture de revoir les seuils d’immigration à la hausse sans tergiverser », si les immigrants continuent de s’intégrer au marché du travail comme ils le font ces années-ci.

Les scénarios étudiés

Ce n’est pas que les chercheurs de l’Institut du Québec n’ont pas essayé de le trouver eux aussi, ce fameux chiffre. Ils ont étudié quatre scénarios : d’abord, à des fins de comparaison, celui d’un Québec sans immigration, qui fermerait ses portes ; ensuite, celui du seuil de 40 000 immigrants en 2019 (et de 54 000 en 2040) ; troisième scénario, celui d’un seuil de 53 000 immigrants en 2019 et de 71 000 en 2040 ; enfin, celui d’un Québec très ouvert, qui accueillerait 103 000 immigrants en 2040*.

Ils ont ensuite étudié l’impact de chaque seuil sur la démographie, puis sur l’économie (le PIB réel, la croissance du PIB réel par habitant et la proportion des dépenses en soins de santé par rapport aux recettes fiscales).

Il leur est arrivé ce qui déplaît souvent aux chercheurs (et aux journalistes) : un résultat mi-figue, mi-raisin.

« Ce qui nous a étonnés, c’est qu’il n’y avait pas beaucoup de différences entre les divers scénarios », dit Mia Homsy, directrice générale de l’Institut du Québec

La pénurie qui change tout

Aux fins de leur étude, les chercheurs se sont basés sur des hypothèses du Conference Board du Canada. Elles sont notamment fondées, écrivent les auteurs, sur des tendances selon lesquelles, par exemple, les nouveaux arrivants du Québec rencontreraient les mêmes obstacles sur le marché du travail que les cohortes d’immigrants précédentes.

Ainsi, en se basant sur ces modèles, les chercheurs en sont arrivés à la conclusion qu’un plus grand nombre d’immigrants plombe le PIB par habitant. C’est même avec le scénario d’un Québec sans aucun immigrant que la croissance annuelle du PIB réel par habitant serait la plus élevée, soit de 1,4 % pour la période allant de 2019 à 2040.

Le hic, constatent les auteurs après avoir calculé le tout, c’est que les modèles traditionnels ne tiennent plus. La discrimination traditionnelle dont les immigrants étaient victimes et qui minait le PIB par habitant est de moins en moins présente. La personne au nom étranger, qui n’était jamais appelée en entrevue il y a à peine quelques années, a soudainement pris beaucoup de valeur.

Un chiffre entre tous, cité dans l’étude, en témoigne tout particulièrement, dit Mme Homsy.

Chez les immigrants arrivés il y a de 5 à 10 ans, « le taux de chômage a chuté, passant de 12,7 % en 2009 à 6,7 % en 2018 ».

Les vraies conclusions à tirer

Que faire, alors ? Déterminer le fameux seuil d’immigrants à accueillir « en fonction de notre capacité à les intégrer sur le marché du travail », peut-on lire dans l’étude.

« Plus l’intégration sera rapide et efficace, plus la contribution à l’économie et à la qualité de vie des habitants sera importante. Les seuils annuels d’immigration devraient donc être fortement liés à la capacité d’intégration des nouveaux arrivants au marché du travail québécois et être fréquemment ajustés. »

Autrement dit, insiste Mme Homsy, va pour le plan triennal que veut mettre en place le gouvernement, « mais tous les ans, il faudrait réévaluer ce seuil à la lumière de l’intégration réelle et ponctuelle des immigrants en emploi ».

Les correctifs à apporter

« Le gouvernement doit mettre les bouchées doubles pour pallier aux faiblesses du système actuel comme les délais et la lourdeur du processus de sélection des immigrants, les difficultés de la reconnaissance des qualifications et de l’expérience étrangères et les succès mitigés de la francisation », peut-on lire dans l’étude.

Alors que la population vieillit et que la main-d’oeuvre se fait rare, « il faut plus que jamais tout mettre en oeuvre pour que les progrès récemment observés se poursuivent et permettent enfin à l’immigration de déployer son plein potentiel ».

* Les chiffres ont été choisis en se basant sur différentes proportions d’immigrants (0 %, 12 %, 15 % et 23 %) que le Québec accueillerait par rapport à l’ensemble du Canada.

Source: Étude sur l’immigration: à la recherche d’un seuil… inexistant

An English summary can be found here: Should Quebec reduce immigration to 40,000 newcomers per year?

UN human rights observers warn Quebec about secularism bill

While I agree with the concerns, not sure how credible it will appear given the significant UN members who do not respect religious freedoms and have rigid dress codes that apply to women in particular:

High-ranking human rights monitors with the United Nations are concerned the Quebec government will violate fundamental freedoms if it moves ahead with legislation to limit where religious symbols can be worn.

Three UN legal experts, known as rapporteurs, signed and sent a letter written in French last week to the Canadian mission in Geneva. They asked the diplomats to share the letter with Quebec’s Legislature.

The letter says the province’s so-called secularism bill, which the Coalition Avenir Québec government is rushing to pass by next month, threatens freedoms protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“We are particularly concerned … about consequences for those people susceptible to being disadvantaged or excluded from a job or public position because of the potential effects of the proposed law,” the letter reads.

Tabled in March, Bill 21 will bar public teachers, government lawyers and police officers from wearing religious symbols at work. It will also require government services to be received without religious garments covering the face.)

The bill has already attracted widespread criticism from minority groups and anti-racism advocates in Quebec, who fear it will, among other things, significantly limit work opportunities for Muslim women.

The Quebec government maintains the legislation is moderate and represents the desires of a majority in the province.

But according to the UN observers, if passed, the bill could violate rights to freedom of conscience and religion, as well as a number of equality guarantees contained in the covenant.

‘Extremely inappropriate’

The letter also notes the bill doesn’t define what a religious symbol is, adding that it would be “extremely inappropriate” for a government to decide whether a symbol is religious or not.

Critics of the bill, including several teachers unions, highlighted this point repeatedly during the six days of legislative hearings that wrapped up last week.

It is unclear, for instance, whether the Star of David is a religious or political symbol.)

The letter goes on to take issue with the requirement that government services be received with an uncovered face, a measure that singles out Muslim women who wear the niqab.

“The bill constitutes a restriction, or limitation, of the freedom to express religion or belief,” the letter reads.

At multiple points, the letter reminds the Canadian government that it is bound by various human rights instruments, including the covenant on civil and political rights, which it signed in 1976. Quebec is also bound by these agreements.

The letter is signed by the rapporteur for minority relations, Fernand de Varennes; the rapporteur for racism, E. Tendayi Achiume; and the rapporteur for religious freedom, Ahmed Shaheed.

It closes with a series of questions about how minority rights will be protected once the legislation is passed. The rapporteur also wants to know how minority groups will be consulted in the legislative process.

Of the 36 groups and individuals who were invited by the Quebec government to take part in the legislative hearings for the bill, only two represented religious communities in the province.

Rules broken, lawyer says

Pearl Eliadis, a Montreal human rights lawyer with extensive experience working with the UN, said it is noteworthy the letter was written in French.

“The United Nations is signalling … that majority will is constrained or bound by or limited by rules about how you treat minorities,” she told CBC News after consulting the letter.

“And those rules have been broken in this case. They have manifestly been broken in this case.”)

Quebec Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, the bill’s sponsor, has received the letter and is “analyzing it in detail,” a spokesperson for the minister said in a brief written statement Tuesday.

“The government of Quebec is proud of Bill 21,” the statement said. “It is pragmatic, applicable and moderate. It reflects the consensus of the majority of Quebecers.”

But Hélène David, the provincial Liberal critic for secularism issues, says the UN letter “underscores once again the attack on fundamental rights and the lack of justification for such a measure.”

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism Minister Pablo Rodriguez did not comment on the UN letter but said the federal government’s position is clear: “It’s not up to politicians to tell people what to wear or what not to wear. Canada is a secular and neutral state, and that is reflected in our institutions.”

“The Quebec government’s bill has raised numerous questions. We will continue to follow it very closely.”

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has criticized the bill (as have the federal NDP and Conservatives), he hasn’t indicated whether the federal government will intervene if it is passed.

The letter itself carries no legal weight. But it could provide ammunition to groups who will seek to challenge the law before the UN’s Human Rights Committee, Eliadis said.

Such challenges can take several years before the committee offers a decision (known as a “view”). When they are delivered, though, the federal government comes under considerable pressure to comply.

But beyond its possible legal ramifications, the UN letter indicates that what is at stake with Bill 21 is Quebec’s reputation as a tolerant society, Eliadis said.

“I think the average person should care,” she added.

“I think many people in Quebec do care because they understand that what the Quebec government is setting aside are our most fundamental values as a nation.”

Source: UN human rights observers warn Quebec about secularism bill

Kenney will campaign in Ontario during federal election as Tories look to win back immigrant voters

As noted, these ridings can flip back and forth (and Doug Ford’s PCs largely won the same 905 ridings that the Liberals had won back federally).

I have considerable discomfort with such a partisan role for provincial premiers in a federal election and vice-versa whatever the party.

It will nevertheless be interesting to see how effective this strategy works with one premier who knows the issues and related limits, and one who appears largely oblivious. And obviously, Kenney will be capitalizing on the close relations he developed with many of the communities he actively courted in the past.

And the obvious question is why premiers are campaigning when they should be governing:

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney will campaign in Ontario during this fall’s general election in an effort to convince new Canadians living in suburban ridings that Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives are a safe choice for their votes.

Mr. Kenney’s journey to the Ontario heartland is a remarkable intervention by a premier in a federal campaign, a move targeted at defeating Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government.

Premiers have involved themselves in federal elections in the past. Danny Williams, when he was Progressive Conservative premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, waged an Anything But Conservative campaign against Stephen Harper’s federal Conservatives during the 2008 election in a dispute over equalization formulas.

Liberal Kathleen Wynne, then-premier of Ontario, worked actively in 2015 to defeat Mr. Harper and to make Mr. Trudeau prime minister, going so far as to throw her party’s provincial machine into local fights to defeat both Conservative and New Democrat candidates.

But Mr. Kenney is taking a very different approach, according to a source close to the United Conservative Party Premier; The Globe and Mail granted them anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the Premier’s behalf. Mr. Kenney will be inserting himself into what is known as the 905: the large swath of seats outside Toronto, named after its area code, whose millions of voters often determine the outcome of federal elections.

In many of those ridings, immigrant Canadians make up a majority or a large minority of voters. As immigration minister in the Harper government from 2008 to 2013, Mr. Kenney worked tirelessly and successfully to convince immigrant voters, many of whom are socially and economically conservative in outlook, that the federal Conservative Party best reflected their values.

A swing by 905 voters away from the Liberals delivered a strong minority government for the Conservatives in the 2008 election and a majority in 2011. But many of those same voters abandoned Mr. Harper for Mr. Trudeau in 2015, helping to deliver a majority government for the Liberals.

In a statement to The Globe on Wednesday, Mr. Kenney reiterated his hope that the Liberals would modify their positions on pipeline approvals and carbon taxes. However, if the Liberals do not reverse these policies, he said, “I will openly and vocally campaign here in Alberta and wherever I can make a difference across Canada to elect a Conservative government that will stand up for Alberta and for Canada.

“As I said many times during the recent [provincial] election campaign, if the Trudeau government continues with the destructive policies that undermine Alberta’s vital economic interests and put Albertans out of work, the impact on our province will be disastrous,” he said. “If Trudeau’s policies don’t change, then the federal government needs to.”

The new Alberta Premier has many bones to pick with Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals. In the Throne Speech delivered by Lieutenant-Governor Lois Mitchell Wednesday, the new government vowed to immediately scrap the carbon tax enacted by the previous NDP government of Rachel Notley. The Liberals have imposed a federal tax on any province that does not put a price on carbon. The tax is one reason Ontario Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford will also be campaigning to unseat Liberals in the next general election.

Mr. Kenney is also incensed by Bill C-69, which would impose stricter environmental conditions on proposed infrastructure-projects, including new pipelines, and Bill C-48, which would ban tanker traffic along British Columbia’s north coast. Both bills have been passed by the House of Commons and are currently before the Senate.

The federal Liberals have accused the federal Conservatives of catering to nativist voters, pointing to a pro-pipeline rally that Mr. Scheer attended at which far-right-wing activist Faith Goldy was also present, along with “yellow vest” protesters, many of whom oppose Canada’s open-door immigration policies.

The Conservatives have fought back against these accusations. “There is no home in the Conservative Party of Canada for anti-immigrant or racist sentiment,” Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said earlier this month. “Anyone who harbours those beliefs does not have a political home in our movement.”

But Mr. Kenney’s appeal to immigrant voters may carry special weight. As immigration minister, he was indefatigable in his efforts to woo visible-minority voters, earning the nickname “minister for curry in a hurry.”

The source close to Mr. Kenney said the Premier will only campaign in Ontario if his participation is welcomed by the federal Conservatives. Some observers might speculate that looking to Mr. Ford and Mr. Kenney for help only illustrates the weakness of Mr. Scheer in the key battleground of Ontario.

But Mr. Kenney’s supporters will say that the more allies Mr. Scheer has during the campaign, the better.

At press time, Mr. Scheer’s office had not responded to a request for comment.

Liberal supporters will assert that having Mr. Kenney and Mr. Ford campaign in support of the federal Conservatives will strengthen Mr. Trudeau’s claim that only he can be counted on to fight global warming, which threatens the environment and human habitations.

But Conservatives at all levels believe that voters will join them in opposing carbon taxes as a tool to fight climate change. The outcome of the next election could hinge on which side suburban voters in Ontario choose.

Source: John Ibbitson writes

Bollywood actor who campaigned for Stephen Harper was granted Canadian citizenship by Conservative government

Undermines some of the language used to describe citizenship:

But I can tell you – as someone who attends quite a few more Citizenship Ceremonies than do most people – I have never met a single newcomer to Canada who fails to appreciate how precious and how meaningful it is to be a citizen of this free, democratic and diverse country.

Courageous, dedicated, and hard-working people come from all over the world to Canada. They make enormous personal and family sacrifices to obtain citizenship and to earn the opportunity to contribute to our society and our economy. (Jason Kenney on citizenship residence fraud issues, 9 December 2011)

It would be of interest to do a study of individuals who have been granted this “fast-track” citizenship, without meeting the basic requirements (I am aware it has been awarded to Olympians given their training schedules make it difficult to meet the residency requirements). Unlikely, however, that IRCC could provide the data, given privacy concerns.

Doesn’t pass the smell test:

In the thick of the 2011 federal election, Stephen Harper appeared in the Indo-Canadian heartland of Ontario with a ringer.

At a campaign stop in Brampton, Bollywood mega-star Akshay Kumar praised the then prime minister, danced on stage with his wife, Laureen Harper, and thrilled the audience.

It’s unclear if Kumar’s stumping had any impact on voters, but a few weeks later the Conservatives swept every riding in Brampton and nearby Mississauga that has a large south Asian population.

And at some point, the Harper government invoked a little-known law to grant the actor Canadian citizenship, circumventing the usual, stringent residency requirements for would-be Canadians, says a former Conservative cabinet minister.

That Canadian passport recently caused a commotion in Kumar’s native India, where he has fashioned himself as an Indian patriot – and promoted nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the election that just ended.

But the way he became a Canadian raises questions about his participation in this country’s politics, too.

MP Tony Clement, who as industry minister met with Kumar in Mumbai, says the citizenship grant was just a thank you for the actor’s help in promoting Canadian tourism and trade to a huge emerging economy – not a reward for partisan support.

“Basically, he had offered to put that star power to use to advance Canada-India relations, our trade relations, our commercial relations, in the movie sector, in the tourism sector,” said Clement. “He earned it … He has a great attachment to Canada as well as India, so he was doing all this free work.”

But at least one critic of the citizenship system said Tuesday he is appalled by the gesture, especially since countless people with far deeper roots in Canada have struggled for years to gain citizenship.

“This is so unjust,” said Don Chapman, a U.S.-based airline pilot who has made “lost Canadians” a life-long cause, even authoring a book on the topic. “Why was Harper denying us and accepting him? … I think it was, pure and simple, ‘You campaign for me, I’ll get you in’.”

Representatives for Harper and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who was federal immigration minister at the time, did not respond to requests for comment.

Kumar first attracted controversy last month when he conducted a lengthy, televised interview with Modi that was criticized as little more than campaign propaganda.

“I think it was, pure and simple, ‘You campaign for me, I’ll get you in’.”

Then under pressure he admitted he had obtained Canadian citizenship several years ago, an act that would require him to relinquish his Indian nationality. Kumar said he hasn’t stepped foot in Canada for seven years and pays all his taxes in India.

Many members of the Indian elite obtain foreign passports, allowing them to travel the world more widely, says Chinnaiah Jangam, a Carleton University history professor.

In Canada, people born in other countries to non-Canadian parents typically have to first be accepted as permanent residents and live here for three of the previous five years before they can apply to be citizens.

But under section 5 of the Citizenship Act(4) , the minister can grant the privilege at his or her discretion in cases of statelessness or unusual hardship, or “to reward services of an exceptional value to Canada.”

Kumar did, in fact, provide such services to Canada, as an official ambassador of the Canadian Tourism Commission – now called Destination Canada – and in other roles that included carrying the Olympic flame through Toronto in 2009, said Clement.

“It became bedlam and mayhem as like 10,000 people showed up to watch him jog the flame into Toronto,” he recalled. “He’s been a great friend to Canada and certainly promoted Canada-India relations when we were in power.”

But Chapman said giving Kumar a passport was simply not fair. He said he’s worked with numerous people who have lived much, or all, of their lives in Canada and been repeatedly denied citizenship, often because of arcane aspects of the federal legislation. They include Second World War veterans classified as British citizens, and crooner Robert Goulet, whose parents were Canadian and who lived in this country from age 13 until his early 20s.

“I feel Canadian,” Goulet said in 2006. “I tried to become a citizen for a long time but the red tape is going to drive me nuts … It’s always the red tape.”

He died a year later aged 73 and, said Chapman, still had not obtained that passport.

Source: Bollywood actor who campaigned for Stephen Harper was granted citizenship by Conservative government

Backlash over the Women’s Mosque of Canada is predictable – and misplaced

Of note:

Across the country, makeshift mosques are popping up in various towns and cities. Many Canadian Muslims are observing Ramadan and renting out community centres, or taking up space in each other’s living rooms, basements and local dining halls to join in congregational prayers before breaking fast or to perform extra evening prayers.

There isn’t anything controversial about these gatherings. As meals are set out on tables, patterned prayer rugs, large colourful linens or simple mats are laid out nearby. Men, women and children eventually line up together in prayer.

Yet, one such pop-up gathering has received particular attention – and not all of it positive. A few weeks before Ramadan, a group of women launched the Women’s Mosque of Canada. The inaugural Friday prayers were held inside Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church in Toronto. Roughly 40 Muslim women and allies from various faith traditions listened to co-founder Farheen Khan give the sermon.

While the prayers proceeded in tranquility, reaction to the event was less calm. The debate that emerged once again symbolizes the divide that continues to exist in our communities when it comes to the place of women in traditional sacred spaces.

Why do we need this, wondered people writing in an online discussion group of more than 300 Toronto Muslim activists, leaders and scholars and posting to the Women’s Mosque’s Facebook page. One community leader admonished the effort, saying there was nothing in Islamic tradition to support the notion of a women-only mosque. Others suggested the effort would only divide people and would reinforce harmful stereotypes about the oppression of women.

Then there were the supporters, including several men who have themselves witnessed the unequal treatment of women and girls. They are sometimes banished to cramped rooms and poorly maintained areas, or made invisible behind barriers – physically and spiritually separated from a wider community in which they expect to belong.

“It’s been 30 years. How long should I tell my daughters to wait before they get taken as equal partners where they worship?” asked Naeem Siddiqui, a long-time community advocate.

Many women have decided they’ve already waited long enough.

Ms. Khan, herself deeply tied to the traditional mosque environment, was hoping to avoid any backlash. She simply aims to provide an opportunity for women and girls to regularly gather for Friday prayers and together reclaim their religious inheritance.

“Like many women, I grew up in a religious family and attended mosque. In fact, my father was one of the founders of the first mosque in Mississauga, so faith is an essential part of my life,” she wrote in a recent essay for NOW Magazine. “But as I got older I felt less connected to the experience. I didn’t see myself reflected in the scholarship, in the language and in the programming offered to women. Women’s Mosque of Canada is an attempt to engage women, like myself, to reconnect with their religion in a space with other women.”

That Muslim women, often facing the brunt of Islamophobia, need a place to heal is not lost on many. “Sadly, the reality today is that many women feel welcome everywhere except in what we believe are the best places on Earth, the mosques,” Ottawa Imam Sikander Hashemi acknowledged in an e-mail.

Indeed, a 2016 Environics survey of Muslims in Canada confirmed that women were much less likely to attend places of worship than their male counterparts.

Canadian filmmaker Zarqa Nawaz chronicled the growing alienation she felt in her own local community in a 2005 National Film Board documentary, Me and the Mosque. Little has changed since then, although many continue to push for better representation of all levels of mosque governance and participation.

Following in-depth studies of American mosques titled Re-Imagining Muslim Spaces, the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding launched a toolkit in 2017 to encourage religious leaders to nurture more welcoming spaces. Other American national institutions have similarly called for more inclusion and provided advice on how to achieve it. Last year, the Muslim Council of Britain launched a six-month program to train women to become mosque leaders.

“Muslim women, Muslim male allies and non-Muslim supporters of mosque reform are participating in one of the most significant struggles presently happening in our global Islamic communities,” Canadian researcher Fatimah Jackson-Best wrote in 2014 for the magazine Aquila Style. “Mosque reform is not some fringe movement or a bunch of troublemakers trying to jeopardize the image of Islam. This is about spiritual equality and destroying archaic notions that are based in culture and custom and have little to do with the religion.”

Growing alienation has sparked the UnMosqued movement in which women, young people and converts eschew traditional institutions, including multimillion-dollar mosques, in search for alternatives or third spaces. These are formal and informal gatherings outside of traditional religious centres and homes, where there is often less rigidity and an authentic embrace of diversity.

Those anxious about the Women’s Mosque of Canada should be less concerned with the thought of women reconnecting with their faith and instead commit to addressing the schism that drove them out of the mosques in the first place.

Source: Backlash over the Women’s Mosque of Canada is predictable – and misplaced Amira Elghawaby

How Syrian refugees to Canada have fared since 2015

Early indications for Syrian refugees. Given timing of Census (about a year after arrival), too early to draw definite conclusions. However the longer term analysis of refugee economic outcomes, broken down by private sponsorship and government selected, along with country of birth, are more interesting and informative:

The life of a refugee can be many things—dangerous, wearying, heart-rending, boring, nerve-racking, expensive and full of countless unexpected challenges to overcome. It also appears to be quite noisy.

Right now, for instance, the Kitchener, Ont., apartment of Jehad and Baraa Badr is cacophonous—much of it baby noise. Their older son, Hussam, has dropped by with grandson Zain for a playdate with a neighbour’s young child, who is also visiting. Younger son, Adam, makes his own contribution to the din. As do various electronic devices: some reminders for prayer time, others bringing texts and phone calls from friends and family. Rising above all this clamour, however, is Jehad’s exuberant account of the wonders of life in Canada, his gratitude for the help his family has received so far and his many plans for the future.

“I love being here. I love my friends. I love Canada,” he says loudly and with enthusiasm, his expressive body language making up for obvious struggles with language. “Good equality in Canada. Good government. No Syria government. No help.”

After spending three years in Egypt and Turkey—having left war-torn Syria behind in 2012—Jehad, Baraa and nine-year-old Adam arrived in southwestern Ontario in spring 2016 as part of the massive wave of Syrian refugees admitted into Canada following the last federal election. Hussam and his young family arrived a month later. Two other sons, however, will never arrive. Frustrated by the long wait in Egypt, they paid smugglers to take them across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy and then made their way to Austria, where they now live permanently.

This separation of their family is just one of the many tests the Badrs have had to endure since fleeing their homeland. As with the rest of the more than 50,000 Syrian refugees who have arrived in Canada since 2015, settling into Canadian society requires grappling with the many cultural nuances and obligations of their new home. But most significantly, it means mastering a new language and finding employment. “I need a job,” says Jehad, 59, in his halting, declarative style. “I need English. But job and school? Problem.” It is a problem with both personal and political implications.

If there was a single defining issue of the 2015 federal election, it was debate over the proper national response to the Syrian refugee crisis—a question seared into our collective consciousness by that heart-wrenching photo of young Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body being carried away on a Turkish beach.

Demands for a political response to the humanitarian emergency immediately changed the course of the federal campaign. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government would take a total of 10,000 additional Syrian refugees—arguing that to accept any more would create security risks—while maintaining Canada’s military presence in the Middle East as a check on further crises. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau upped this to 25,000 refugees by the end of the year, and vowed to withdraw our squadron of CF-18s. NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair topped both of his competitors by saying he’d accept 46,000 over several years, as well as end Canada’s military contribution.

In the end, Canadian voters apparently found Trudeau’s offer of 25,000 refugees the most persuasive. And while he failed to make good on his initial deadline, the Prime Minister’s goal was realized by mid-2016. Since then, the flow has slowed but is nowhere near stopping. The most recent count of Syrian refugees admitted into Canada since the election stands at 58,650, exceeding even Mulcair’s highest bid. For this effort, Canada has earned many admirers. “Thank God for Canada!” read a headline in the New York Times this year, lamenting the fact America under President Donald Trump had accepted only 12,000 Syrian refugees.

But taking in large numbers of refugees to widespread international acclaim is one thing. Integrating them successfully for their own happiness and well-being, and to prevent any urgent political or social issue, is quite another. With nativist sentiment rising around the world, and with the emergence of irregular refugees as a new hot-button political issue in the upcoming federal election, it seems both appropriate and necessary to check on the progress of the class of 2015/16. So how are Canada’s Syrian refugees doing?

Statistics Canada recently took a close look at that first cohort of 25,000 Syrian refugees who landed as of May 10, 2016. Employment is the most important metric by which to gauge the integration of refugees into Canadian society. And here the news seems rather disappointing. Only 24 per cent of adult male Syrian refugees were working, according to census data. For government-sponsored male refugees (as opposed to those sponsored by charities, churches or other private organizations), the employment rate was a mere five per cent. These figures are substantially below the 39 per cent average for male refugees from other countries. The gap between female Syrian refugees and those from other countries is equally significant: eight per cent versus 17 per cent.

Such low rates of employment are largely explained by the demographics and timing of the Syrian refugee cohort. In response to the humanitarian crisis, Canada adjusted its acceptance criteria to include more young families with children and fewer working-age males. Standards for language skills and education were also lowered. More than half the Syrian refugees could not speak an official language, compared to just 28 per cent of refugees from other countries. Among adults, less than half had even a high school diploma. (Neither Jehad nor Baraa Badr are high school graduates.)

For Bessma Momani, professor at the Balsillie School of International Affairs and senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, the relatively poor performance of the Syrian refugees in finding work is entirely understandable given their profile. “Canada did a good job of targeting the most vulnerable people,” she says. “This group includes semi-skilled and mostly uneducated people. Some were also injured.” It makes sense that a group chosen for humanitarian reasons would take longer to find their footing in a new country than migrants selected for their employability, she says. Plus, it’s still early days. Many of the Syrian refugees had been in Canada for only a few weeks or months when the census was taken. It would be a supreme accomplishment for anyone to have found a job and learned a new language in such a short time.

As for political fears raised during the 2015 election about security risks and the national capacity to absorb such a large influx of refugees, Momani notes time has proven such claims misplaced. “Canada is a big country with a lot of capacity,” she says. “The debate between 10,000 and 25,000 was really just an arbitrary distinction since we have now taken in over 50,000.” And she highlights how popular providing aid to Syrian refugees proved to be among voters. “I think that surprised many Canadian politicians,” she adds.

Syria’s diaspora may no longer be the dominant political topic in Canada, but refugees remain a key election issue—except that now it’s marked by a growing note of skepticism. After years of pressure from federal Conservatives over the influx of more than 40,000 irregular refugees through unauthorized border crossings, mostly in Quebec, the Trudeau government is now adopting a much tougher stance toward these asylum seekers. The 2019 federal budget, for example, proposes to take away their right to a full refugee hearing; it also boosts funding for border measures to “detect and intercept individuals who cross Canadian borders irregularly.” These irregular border-crossers are mostly from Africa and the Caribbean, not the Middle East.

In another recent development signifying a change in mood toward refugees, the 2019 Ontario budget eliminates all legal aid funding for refugee and immigration programs.

As for the long-term consequences of Canada’s mostly generous approach to refugees, another recent StatsCan study looked at all 830,000 refugees who entered Canada between 1980 and 2009 and found their employment and earnings tend to improve slowly over time, but with some significant variations. Refugees who were privately sponsored seem to do better than those sponsored by the federal government, but this difference evaporates after about a decade.

One puzzle that appears permanent, however, is the role played by culture in the integration process. After 15 years in Canada, StatsCan notes that refugees from certain countries (Yugoslavia, Poland, Colombia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and El Salvador) had earnings largely indistinguishable from immigrants accepted on strict economic criteria. But refugees from some other countries (Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and China) appear to do noticeably worse, even after accounting for factors such as education, language skills and age. StatsCan admits it has no real answer as to why such differences persist.

It is perhaps too soon to tell which category the Syrian refugees will fall into, but the early figures show those who arrived in late 2015 are already more likely to have a job than those who came a few months later, suggesting a fairly rapid process of integration. “I think we’ll see a lot of new small businesses coming out of this group of Syrian refugees,” says Momani, noting anecdotally that the national shawarma shop sector appears to be undergoing substantial growth. “I suspect by the next census, the numbers [of employed Syrian refugees] will have greatly improved. There is a lot of early success out there.”

Of course the biggest barrier to early success in the job market remains language. And this often requires some difficult choices for newcomers to Canada.

Shortly after arriving in southwestern Ontario, Jehad [Badr] enrolled in an English language school located in the basement of Waterloo’s First United Church, which supported his family’s refugee claim. “First six months, I go to English school. But I need job. I have rent. You need money,” says Jehad, who owned an auto upholstery repair shop back in Syria.

Mounting bills and a gnawing desire for independence eventually convinced him to drop out in favour of a job at a local patio furniture manufacturer. “I wish I go back to school. Maybe when I am old man,” he laughs. Sometimes Jehad answers questions twice, first in Arabic to his son Hussam, who acts as a language coach, and then again in English.

In contrast, Baraa, 49, has stuck with her language training and is now close to graduating. “When I am done, maybe I study more or look for a job,” she says.

Having chosen work over study, Jehad has already weathered two layoffs in the past two years as a result of the seasonal nature of the patio furniture business. A monthly $3,000 stipend from the church has long since run out and now rent consumes more than half his income. But he remains determined to pay his own way. Responsible for reimbursing the federal government for the cost of his family’s flight from Turkey, Jehad declined the option to pay it back at the modest rate of $9 per month.

“The government got $200 every month. Finished. No debt,” he states proudly, wiping his hands together. To supplement his income, he has also been doing small upholstery jobs on the side. And to save on expenses, he has discovered the wonders of Kijiji. “Six chairs and table. Twenty-five dollar!” he exclaims in disbelief, pointing across his small but homey apartment to his family’s “new” dining room set.

Independent, proud, hard-working and frugal. In many ways, Jehad already seems plenty Canadian. Perhaps the fact the enormous influx of Syrian refugees no longer constitutes a federal election issue can be partly ascribed to Jehad’s impressive work ethic and gregarious nature. As well as his family’s determination to fit into Canadian society. (They will be applying for citizenship shortly.) He even claims to love winter.

“In Syria, when winter comes one day, we drive 50 kilometre to see ice and snow. Everyone excited. Here… ” Jehad tails off, searching for the words to explain how Canadians don’t seem to get quite as excited about the cold stuff. But you get the sense he’ll eventually figure it out. A new home always takes some getting used to.

Source: How Syrian refugees to Canada have fared since 2015

Immigration program aims to boost Canada’s high-tech sector

More on Canada becoming an attractive destination for tech:

For Hafsa Imran, the decision to come to Canada to work in the high-tech sector was a no-brainer.

“At this point no one in IT wants to go to the United States, and Canada is the natural choice,” said the 26-year-old software engineer, who arrived from Pakistan last September after she was brought in by her Toronto employer under the federal Global Talent Stream pilot program.

The program is aimed at attracting top talent to Canada’s tech industry by fast tracking approvals; the federal government can issue a work permit in less than two weeks, while in the non-migrant-friendly U.S. under President Donald Trump and in protectionist Europe, the process can take months.

“With a work permit, we can see if Canada is for us or not. If we like it, we have a pathway to stay as permanent residents,” Imran said. “It’s a win-win.”

According to the federal government, since the launch of the two-year program in 2017 to this past January, more than 1,000 Canadian companies have used it to hire more than 4,000 highly skilled foreign workers. The program received such positive feedback from employers and applicants that Ottawa announced in the March budget that it was making the pilot permanent.

As part of the application process, an employer is required to develop a company-specific plan that outlines their commitment to generate lasting benefits for Canada, including creating jobs for Canadians and investing in both training and skills development.

The program has spurred the creation of 21,000 new jobs for Canadians as well as 3,500 paid co-op positions, and these employers have invested $9.3 million into skills training for Canadians, according to Employment and Social Development Canada.

“In the global race to attract the investment of innovative companies, competitors in the European Union as well as the United States have considerably larger pools of talent and labour to draw from than we do in Canada,” said immigration department spokesperson Nancy Caron. “By facilitating the faster entry of top talent with unique skill sets and global experience, the goal is to help innovative companies in Canada grow, flourish and create more jobs for Canadians.”

Head hunters for Canadian high-tech companies said since Global Talent Stream was turned into a permanent program, they have noticed a surge of interest from foreign high-tech workers.

Global Skills Hub, a Toronto-based company that helps Canadian startups find international talent, said 249 overseas high-tech workers responded to its recruitment efforts in the month before the government’s March announcement. Since then, the number has shot up to 2,370.

The company’s co-founder Yousuf Khatib said Canada lacks senior tech talent, many of whom have been poached by Silicon Valley. A recent report by the Information and Communications Technology Council projected that Canada has to fill 216,000 tech-related jobs by 2021.

“Whether it’s a startup or big corporation, every company has become a tech company and is looking for IT talent,” said Khatib, whose firm also handles the work permit application process for clients. “This program issues foreign tech workers with a two-year work permit and gives them a chance for permanent residence. The process is quick and it can stay relevant to the needs of the fast-changing tech world.”

Alisha Patel, vice-president of finance and human resources of Toronto-based TWG, a software company, said the Global Talent Stream helps Canada fill the gaps with foreign workers who can, in turn, assist in helping Canadians develop their skills.

TWG tests and screens prospective foreign workers online before issuing job offers. The new arrivals are then provided with an orientation and mentorship to help them settle in, said Patel. TWG has already brought in a handful of foreign software developers and engineers, including Imran, through the government program.

Imran, who has a university degree in electrical and software engineering, previously worked in Lahore for an electronic design automation software company, a subsidiary of electronics giant Siemens, before she was recruited by TWG. She underwent two technical tests and a series of online interviews before she was offered a job. At that time, Global Skills Hub, the head hunter, took over her work permit application.

Although she feels homesick from time to time, she said she is in love with Toronto and plans to apply for permanent residence when her two-year work permit expires.

“The best of the world are here in Toronto. It’s not just work, work and work, like in Pakistan. My employer invests in training me and is helping me develop my career path,” said Imran, who has found more personal time here to pursue her interests in books and sports.

Source: Immigration program aims to boost Canada’s high-tech sector

Australia’s new parliament is no more multicultural than the last one

Dramatic contrast with Canadian numbers: 56 foreign-born (44 MPs, 12 Senators, 2017), and currently 48 MPs who are visible minority:

Politicians often say Australia is the most successful multicultural country in the world – but it would seem the country’s growing diversity is failing to make its mark in the corridors of power.

The newly elected 46th parliament will likely have little more cultural diversity than the previous one, according to figures compiled by the Parliamentary Library and SBS News.

The number of MPs born overseas in the new parliament is down from 23 in the previous parliament, to 22, across the House of Representatives and Senate. While the number of MPs with one or more parent from a non-European background rose slightly, from eight in the previous parliament to nine in the new one.

45th Parliament versus the 46th Parliament

SBS News (source Parliamentary Library and SBS News)

Some of the notable exiting MPs include the Liberal’s Tony Abbott, born in England and Lucy Gichuhi, born in Kenya. As well as Labor’s Lisa Singh whose parents were born in Fiji.

Some of the newly elected MPs from diverse backgrounds include Liberal’s Dave Sharma, born in Canada to an Indian father; the Green’s Mehreen Faruqi, born in Pakistan; and the Liberal’s Gladys Liu, born in Hong Kong, who as of Tuesday was on track to pick up the closely fought Victorian seat of Chisholm.

According to the 2016 census 28.5 per cent of Australians were born overseas. While the United Kingdom remains the largest country of origin within that, China and India are in second and third place respectively.

UTS sociology professor Andrew Jakubowicz said he wasn’t surprised parliamentary diversity hasn’t grown in the new parliament.

“Parliament is essentially a white club, it is essentially a white boys club … The dynamic of change which is sweeping through the Australian community more widely is very apparent at the state level, but the federal level it seems to have been squeezed out,” he told SBS News.

The figures on multiculturalism for the 45th Parliament come from the Parliamentary Library and were accurate as of April 2019.

Data for the new parliament is compared with the previous figures and available public biography information of all new incoming MPs on their official websites.

Parliament is essentially a white boys club.


SBS News has reached out to both the Labor and Liberal parties to confirm the birthplace of several new members who haven’t mention their place of birth on their official websites.

The analysis is also based on the likely results, with some Senate and Lower House results still not finalised on Tuesday, following Saturday’s election win for the Coalition.

Where there has been change, is in the number of women who will take their place in parliament, with at least 81 women having confirmed to have won seats in the Senate or the House of Representatives.

This is compared to 73 female MPs in the previous parliament. There are 227 seats across both houses of parliament.

The number of Indigenous Australians in parliament will also likely increase from four to five with the return of Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie.

During her first stint in Parliament, Ms Lambie used her maiden speech in 2014 to reveal her family connection to Tasmania’s Indigenous population.

According to an Essential Research poll commissioned for SBS News prior to the election, 71 per cent of Australians believed the country would benefit from a greater representation of under-represented groups in parliament.

Of those who agreed with the sentiment, 46 per cent said they would like to see more women in parliament, 32 per cent said more Indigenous Australians and 17 per cent said more Australians born overseas should be in parliament.

Professor Jakubowicz said he believed the Section 44 controversies and dual-citizenship concerns may be a barrier for multicultural Australians who are thinking about getting into politics.

“I think people from ethnically diverse communities who might want to make a run might be fairly intimidated by the sorts of hoops needed to jump through,” he said.

He also added that until the major parties change their internal processes and begin pre-selecting diverse candidates in winnable seats, little would change.

“The idea is that the parliament represents the range of the Australian people … that isn’t happening,” he said.

Source: Australia’s new parliament is no more multicultural than the last one