Hong Kong tensions reach B.C’s Simon Fraser University as notes, posters supporting protests partly torn down

Suspect we will see more of these tensions:

Tensions from protests in Hong Kong appear to be spilling over onto campuses around the world, including a university in British Columbia, where a student-organized campaign supporting Hong Kong demonstrators was disrupted.

Last week at Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby campus, Hong Kong international students and peers who have ties to the territory put up a “Lennon Wall” – a message board full of posters and colourful sticky notes that mainly express solidarity with Hong Kong’s demonstrators. According to some students, these notes, bearing messages such as “Stay with Hong Kong” and “Fight for Hong Kong,” were partly torn down three nights in a row.

There also was unrest at a university in Australia last week, where disagreements on the Hong Kong political turmoil turned violent. As seen in footage circulated on social media, punches were exchanged at the University of Queensland between pro-Beijing students and those who back the Hong Kong protesters, who began marching to oppose China’s proposal to extradite criminal suspects to the mainland.

Some SFU students from Hong Kong said they were disappointed to see those notes being ripped off.

“When the wall got destroyed, [I was] not surprised, but I am just disappointed, really disappointed,” said Michael Chan, president of SFU Hong Kong Society, who is familiar with the incident even though his group didn’t start the wall.

Mr. Chan said damaging the wall infringes on freedom of speech, and he calls on the university to protect such rights on campus.

Taylor Cheng, who left a note on the wall, said she hopes the vandals would express their opposition in a more respectful way. “I thought everyone could communicate in a civilized, well-mannered way,” she said, adding the incident has been reported to the university.

SFU spokesperson Adam Brayford said on Sunday the Campus Public Safety is looking into the vandalism reports.

Rummana Khan Hemani, SFU’s vice-provost and associate vice-president of students and international pro-tem, said the university expects students to express their views in a lawful and respectful manner. “We do not know if these specific posters were approved to be posted. However, the removal of approved posters or unapproved posters in a disrespectful manner is not acceptable,” she said in a statement.

So far, it is not clear who damaged the wall. Both Mr. Chan and Ms. Cheng have seen screenshots from a large SFU student group chat on WeChat that some students are critical of such campaigns and condemned Hong Kong separatism.

The incident has left Mr. Chan and Ms. Cheng with concerns that if tensions escalate on their campus, there may be violence similar to what happened in Queensland. “I don’t want SFU to become the second University of Queensland incident,” Ms. Cheng said.

Mr. Chan said he is worried that some messages on the wall may irritate some students from mainland China who may hold different views on the issue. “They may be angry. … I am worried this kind of [violent] situation may happen,” he said.

William Chen, a third-year student at SFU who is from mainland China, said the Lennon Wall campaign generates “a barrier” between him and some of his Hong Kong friends.

“My first reaction was sad rather than angry,” he said. “The conflicts in Hong Kong happened because some Hong Kong people are unsatisfied with some policies set by China. [But I wonder] who spread the anger to here.”

He said the campaign does not represent the views of all students from Hong Kong and may increase the tension between students from the territory and mainland. He further added that some mainland Chinese students may think these messages encourage Hong Kong independence.

Jia Tiancheng, a student from Douglas College in the Vancouver area, said if the posted notes are purely showing support for the protesters, then they’re acceptable. But if some contain radical political opinion, then it’s just “expressing rage.”

Mr. Jia, who is from Harbin, a city in northern China, said since the extradition bill has been suspended, Hong Kong protesters should have achieved their goal. But the continuing protests that demand the resignation of the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, and the complete withdrawal of the bill doesn’t benefit the city.

Students from Hong Kong and mainland China all expressed their longing for more understanding and communication.

“Hong Kong students are fighting against the extradition law, and is not trying to fight for Hong Kong to become an autonomous country, nor are we attacking Chinese people, “Ms. Cheng said.

“Hong Kong students welcome dialogue and discussion. We are not going against the fact that there will be different political stakes on the issue.”

Mr. Chen said many students from mainland China usually do not care about political issues, however, in this case, he agrees that some mainland Chinese students believe Hong Kong people are using protests to promote Hong Kong independence.

“They find it surprising: why Hong Kong wants independence,” he said.

“There has to be a good communication between students from Hong Kong and China, otherwise, the conflicts are inevitable.”

Source:     Hong Kong tensions reach B.C’s Simon Fraser University as notes, posters supporting protests partly torn down Xiao Xu July 29, 2019     

Sweden sees drastic rise in waiting time for citizenship applications

Of note. Combination of increased demand and reduced resources:
Over the course of just a few years, average waiting times for Swedish citizenship applications have increased dramatically, and currently stand at over two and a half years, new data reveals.

There were 86,853 citizenship applications in processing at the end of June this year, according to the Migration Agency’s figures.

On Monday, the agency’s website showed that applications for citizenship could expect a 30-month (or 913-day) waiting time, adding that this did not necessarily mean all applicants would get a decision within that time. This is two months longer than the estimated waiting time as shown back in January this year, and much longer than was the case a few years ago.

Although the website states that this number “shows how long it has taken for people with similar applications to receive a decision”, a press officer for the Migration Agency told The Local that it represented “the longest expected time if you apply for citizenship today”.

Press officer Mardin Baban told The Local in an email that people receiving their decision on citizenship in July 2019 would have waited an average 284 days, well below the expected 913-day waiting time for those submitting their application in July 2019.

The average processing time for citizenship applications which have already been concluded in 2019 is 292 days, according to Migration Agency figures. This is up from 230 days in 2018, 185 in 2017, 176 in 2016, and 177 in 2015.

Two key factors behind the long wait are, as expected, a rise in the number of citizenship applications, and reductions in the Migration Agency’s staff numbers.

“Since the refugee situation in 2014-2016, many of those who were granted asylum in Sweden have now reached the criteria to be granted Swedish citizenship. Between 2014 and 2016, 131,109 people were granted asylum in Sweden, which is the most ever in such a short time,” said Baban.

“So the easy answer to the question is that there are very many at the moment who want to apply for citizenship in Sweden, which is why the processing time has almost doubled.”

The number of people becoming Swedish citizens has soared over the past decade. In 2010, a total of 28,100 people were granted citizenship, a figure which reached a peak of 65,562 in 2017 and was 61,312 last year.

The Migration Agency’s general director Mikael Ribbenvik has said that cuts to resources have also been an issue, telling the TT news agency: “If you have limited resources, you have to invest in certain areas. You can’t invest in all areas if there aren’t sufficient resources.”

However, he added that citizenship cases were now being prioritized, saying that the agency had allocated more staff to work on these cases as well as digitalizing parts of the process. The Local has contacted the Migration Agency for comment.

Earlier this year, the agency began prioritizing applications from British citizens in order to avoid additional paperwork and delays in the event of Brexit.

People of over 170 different nationalities became Swedish in 2018, with Syria the most common country of origin. Syrians, Somalians, stateless people, Iraqis, and Afghans accounted for almost a third of the total number of new citizens, and the next most common nationalities were Eritrean, Polish, Iranian, Thai, and British.

Source: Sweden sees drastic rise in waiting time for citizenship applications

Canada’s only Africentric school was launched amid calls to better support Black youth. Ten years on, has it fulfilled its promise?


The fall term is weeks away, but Kyeron Banton is already thinking about delving into school books to get a jump-start on Grade 9.

“If you don’t do any work, your brain kind of shuts down and then when school starts you don’t remember anything,” says the recent graduate of the Africentric Alternative School, which celebrated its 10th anniversary at a gala last month.

Kyeron, 13, was among the first cohort at the school to complete junior kindergarten through Grade 8, and credits her time there with instilling a strong work ethic.

“Your skin has nothing to do with what’s in your head and has nothing to do with why you can’t be great,” she says. “All of us can be excellent.”

That’s the message behind Canada’s only Africentric school, located on Sheppard Ave. W. near Keele St., nestled amidst rental buildings in a racially diverse working class neighbourhood in the city’s northwest.

“It’s always been a safe spot,” says Kyeron. “People can be their authentic selves, because they’re not being scared that they’re going to be stereotyped as loud or ghetto or stupid … I know who I am. I’ve built up my character over these years. I know history.”

The elementary school, which opened in 2009 to better support and engage Black students, is vital, say parents and educators. Children see themselves reflected in the curriculum and its leadership. It promotes positive Black identity and there’s a strong sense of community.

“Belonging matters, especially for racialized students … (that) is huge to ensuring that they are successful,” says Toronto District School Board Superintendent Audley Salmon, who represents the school and calls it a success. “That is one thing we have certainly learned from the Africentric (school).”

But that success has been hard won and it could be said to be tempered by ongoing challenges. There’s no school bus service, test scores are shaky and enrolment is declining. Supporters of the school say it must be better resourced to continue building on its vision.

The TDSB, the country’s largest and most diverse school board, has 582 schools, serving 246,000 students — 11 per cent of whom are Black.

Statistics show Black students have historically performed below average. They’re more likely to be labelled with special education needs, suspended and expelled, and streamed into programs that don’t lead to university or college.

In fact, efforts had been made to address the issue for decades, including a short-lived Afro-Caribbean alternative high school that operated in the mid-1980s, and a 1995 Royal Commission Report on Learning that recommended Black-focused schools. The idea sparked controversy; some called it segregation, others said it was needed to tackle the 40 per cent dropout rate amongst Toronto’s Black youth. By the mid-2000s, that idea remained divisive, even amongst members of the Black community, however the board voted in 2008 to move ahead with a small innovative school.

The Africentric school opened for students in junior kindergarten to Grade 5 in September 2009, and that fall, 128 kids from across the GTA enrolled.

They share a building, and some spaces, with Sheppard Public School. The library seems divided by an imaginary line: On one side is a poster of Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews, while on the other is a poster of South Africa’s late president Nelson Mandela. One side is filled with typical children’s books, while the other is clearly focused on the Black experience.

Hallways are adorned with images of the Underground Railroad, of Halifax’s Africville and trailblazers such as Canada’s first Black citizenship judge Stanley Grizzle and first Black Governor General Michaëlle Jean.

School days start like most others, with children singing ‘O Canada.’ But twice a week, there’s also an assembly, where they sing the Black National Anthem — James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing” — and recite The School Pledge, promising to be “focused, self-disciplined and ready to learn.”

Teachers, most of whom are Black, incorporate Black history, experiences and contributions into the curriculum. Their role was examined in a recent report co-authored by York University professor Carl James, who holds the Jean Augustine chair in Education, Community and Diaspora.

“Where student potential has been unrecognized, these teachers nurture it,” according to the May article, published in the journal Curriculum Inquiry. “Where Blackness has been negated, these teachers supplant anti-Blackness with pro-Blackness.”

Staff look to best practices in the United States, where Black-focused schools are a success and there’s been extensive research done. The school also shares what it’s doing. Educators from the Durham District School Board and Halifax’s Africentric-focused Delmore ‘Buddy’ Daye Learning Institute have visited.

Many students, most of whom are Black, start in kindergarten, enrolled by parents supportive of the school’s vision. And some join in later grades — the school now goes to Grade 8 — looking for a better fit, sometimes after experiencing racism, bullying and behavioural issues at other schools.

Principal Luther Brown, who retired in June after more than two years at the school, says staff work hard to prepare students for life and improve attitudes about school — and parent feedback has been positive.

Paul Osbourne has been involved with the Africentric school since Day One — his two younger children attend and two older ones are graduates. Growing up in Toronto, he never had a Black teacher, and never learned the accomplishments of historical and contemporary Black figures, noting, “We didn’t see examples that would inspire us.”

Osbourne, a social worker, wanted something different for his kids. He wanted them in a space where their values and customs were shared and they would feel comfortable having dreads, wearing an African shirt and eating Caribbean foods, such as curry goat.

He says good relationships between staff and parents, who have historically felt disenfranchised, make the school “more than just brick and mortar.”

“If a young person wants the help they will get the help,” he says, adding there’s a “family approach” at the school he hasn’t experienced elsewhere. “With teachers, it’s not just about the academics … It’s more of a mentor relationship.”

The sentiment is shared by recent graduate Jesse Mark, 13, who attended from junior kindergarten to Grade 8. Raised by a single mother, he says strong male role models in his teachers were crucial

“It turned me into the person I am,” says the teen. “You can’t find a better community than (this school).”

There’s no Africentric high school for grads such as Jesse. While there was talk of creating one, the TDSB settled on Africentric programs at Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute in the east end and Downsview Secondary School in the west. Jesse, who’s keen on athletics, will go to James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic High School in September. He wants to attend university, after which he dreams of playing professional basketball or becoming a mechanical engineer.

“We have a job of making this school be on the map,” he says.

But the school doesn’t appeal to all, even Black families in the neighbourhood. Sharri Chin, sends her boys — one is going into Grade 3 and another junior kindergarten — to Sheppard Public School. She also plans to send her toddler there.

“I just want my kids to be with everyone,” says Chin. “There’s no reason for our kids to be segregated. We live in Canada, in Toronto, it’s diverse, it’s multicultural.”

She’s heard good things about the Africentric school. That there are teachers who may be better at addressing the needs of Black students and community issues, and that its standardized test scores, done by the province’s Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) have, for the most part, been higher than Sheppard’s. But, it boils down to “personal preference.”

In its first years, the school built on strong test results, which measure reading, writing and math skills in Grades 3 and 6. In 2012-13, most results were far above the board average: Amongst third graders, 86 per cent met provincial standards in reading and math, and 93 per cent in writing. And amongst sixth graders, 79 per cent were reading, 93 per cent writing and 57 per cent doing math at those standards. Each of those grades had 14 students.

Similarly, enrolment during those early years grew, reaching a high of 188 students in 2012-13, according to TDSB figures calculated mid-year. But in 2013-14, test results tumbled far below average — for example, Grade 3 math scores dropped to 33 per cent. And enrolment fell and continued to decline — last year there were 106 students and the same number is projected for September.

When asked about the downward trends, some community members seem reluctant to be critical of the school, which opened to great fanfare, attracting committed parents with bright kids. But there have been setbacks: Some parents pulled their kids out. Some were disappointed that more programming and resources had never materialized. Others were tired of long commutes because there is no school bus service. And some were frustrated over parental disputes about what an Africentric curriculum should look like. Plus, there has been a high turnover rate amongst the school’s principals, which meant they had to start from scratch on building up relationships with students and parents.

Although enrolment is at its lowest with 106 students, Brown notes the numbers are on par with alternative schools. Still, he’d like to see enrolment grow, “with the appropriate kinds of resources,” including teaching assistants for literacy, numeracy and social skills.

In a small school, a few academically weak, or strong, students can skew statistics. Brown says EQAO scores aren’t where they’d like them to be, but are improving. The most recent figures available show 2016-17 scores still below board average but appear to be on the rise. Grade 3 results, for example, jumped between 10 and 20 per cent from the previous year. But Grade 6 scores aren’t as clear because results from the previous year aren’t public due to low class size.

“There was a turbulent time, but we’ve come through the storm,” says Osbourne, who’s also chair of the parent council. “Now, there’s an upswing, in terms of academics, parents and community members are more engaged, the student-teacher relationship is a lot better and leadership has been strong in the last couple of years.”

Professor James, who led a three-year research study between York University, the TDSB and the nascent school that culminated in a 2015 report, says when assessing the school, it’s important to look beyond EQAO scores.

“We must use other measures, especially when the idea for establishing the school is based on addressing the educational needs of students, taking into account their cultural and social backgrounds,” James told the Star. “There is certainly an irony assessing the students using such a tool when we are trying to be culturally responsive to their learning.”

Brown agrees: “We also have to look at how are students feeling and behaving, and what’s the climate in the school … These are all measures that are hard to quantify, but are important.”

Parent Jessica Vorstermans has been awed by what daughter Saskia is learning. She comes home from school talking about everything from civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. to issues such as shadism. Saskia is 4.

“She’s like ‘Black is beautiful. All shades of Black are beautiful,’” says Vorstermans. “That’s amazing that she’s having access to that in junior kindergarten.”

Teachers in other schools may talk about these issues, but at the Africentric school “it’s a guarantee,” she says. It was important to send her mixed-race daughter to a school where she can access a piece of her identity she wouldn’t get at a regular school, and intends to send her toddler there too.

“We feel so lucky that our daughters are able to learn, grow and thrive in a school community that honours them as beautiful Black children who are going to make big changes in our world,” says Vorstermans, an assistant professor at York University.

Plus, they’re “living in a world with a lot of anti-Black racism” and will be “equipped to meet that.”

That’s a key goal of the school, explains Brown.

“It is a space where students are better able to understand themselves within the context of racism and, therefore, be better able to move around in that environment in a safe way,” he says. “In spite of the pressure that will come — economic or social — they can still be resilient, to the point where they can become whatever it is they want.”

Former student Kemora Manning, at 15, has already faced some of those pressures head-on.

“I can be anything I set my mind to,” says Kemora, who dreams of being a politician. She credits the Africentric school with broadening her definition of being Black, given the negative stereotypes of Black culture that abound in media and on TV. Learning about the Black community’s challenges and accomplishments fuelled her with “a positive pressure to do my best … to carry the torch and continue to represent my community in a positive light.”

Kemora left the school after Grade 6 to attend a gifted program in Grades 7 and 8, and now goes to Etobicoke School of the Arts, where she’ll be starting Grade 11. She says going to schools where she was among the minority as a Black student was “kind of jarring” because of the racism and ignorance she encountered. In the gifted program, one student likened her complexion to cow manure and another told her to get over slavery. And in high school, she’s met students, including Black kids, who have never heard of apartheid, and are surprised she doesn’t “act Black.”

While those situations can leave her feeling like, “It’s me against the world,” Kemora always talks it out with her peers about what it means to be Black. And she’s got the facts to back up her arguments.

Her mother Debby Ennis, who spent part of her childhood in Jamaica, never learned about Black history and culture the way her daughter has. Ennis, who’s an early childhood educator, has five children, but only her youngest — Kemora and Trevon — attended the Africentric school. She says they have a much stronger “knowledge of self” and deeper connection to the Black community compared with their siblings who went to regular schools.

When it comes to the key issue the school set out to tackle — the high dropout rate of Black teens — Principal Brown notes, “One school won’t solve the problem — it’s a systemic problem that has to be addressed in a broader context.”

According to the TDSB, there have been improvements. The board no longer tracks dropout rates, because many students eventually return to school. Rather, it tracks high school graduation rates of students over a five-year period. When you look at grad rates in recent decades, the fastest improving group were those who identified as Black, especially females.

The five-year graduation rate for Black students in 1992 was 44 per cent, meaning the remainder dropped out, switched school boards or took longer to get their diploma. By comparison, the average overall graduation rate was 56 per cent. By 2016, the graduation rate for Black students was 78 per cent, compared with an 84 per cent overall average. This 34-percentage-point increase represents the largest graduation rate increase for any racial group. And by gender, 88 per cent of Black females graduated, compared with 71 per cent of Black males.

But, when you look at a range of other TDSB data — things such as school readiness in kindergarten, attendance rates, grades, suspensions and credit accumulation in Grade 9 — Black students are either the lowest-performing or in the bottom three with Latin American and Middle Eastern students.

“There are a lot of kids out there who aren’t seeing themselves in the day-to-day instruction taking place and that’s a huge challenge,” Superintendent Salmon told the Star, adding he believes the TDSB has learned from the Africentric school on how to better meet the needs of racialized students. For instance, providing professional development for educators who serve predominantly non-white communities. He suggests the TDSB’s work at creating a more inclusive learning environment across the board could explain why parents are keeping their kids in neighbourhood schools, rather than enrolling them in the Africentric school.

But for some, the Africentric school continues to have a strong appeal — despite the fact there’s no busing, which makes the commute a challenge. Osbourne, who lives in Scarborough, spends about an hour in morning traffic driving his children, Andwele and Abeni, to the Africentric school. They then spend up to 90 minutes taking the TTC home. It’s tiring, but the kids are committed, he says.

Osbourne has long advocated for another Africentric grade school in the city’s east end. He, and other parents, have submitted a proposal to the TDSB, met with a trustee and spoken with administrators at Winston Churchill Collegiate Institute about establishing a feeder school for its Africentric program. But they’ve been unsuccessful.

University of Toronto professor George Dei, an early proponent of the Africentric school, says “equity costs money.” He says more resources are needed at the school — including transportation, curriculum materials, computers and more staffing. Even its own separate building — so it doesn’t have to share spaces like the library, computer lab and gym — is important, because “otherwise people see it as being secondary or second class.”

“You cannot treat an Africentric school like any other alternative school because it’s intended to address a problem, and therefore it calls for more resources directly to the school. It calls for different responses,” says Dei, a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, whose research includes anti-racism education. “Groups that have historically been disadvantaged demand targeted responses.”

Salmon says the board would like to provide more resources to all of its schools, but has limited funds.

Reflecting on the last decade, Dei says there have been successes and challenges, “We must learn from both.”

“We are a long way from realizing the dreams of an Africentric school,” said Dei. “We need to attract multiple solutions to the question of Black education. The Africentric school is not a panacea, but at least it is something to think about. It cannot be taken out of the equation.”

His comments are echoed, in part, by Professor James. He says the TDSB needs to determine the kinds of supports necessary beyond basic staffing requirements. The school has attracted students of all academic backgrounds, including those with special needs, but hasn’t had the appropriate supports, he says.

“I’m not sure that we can say that (the school) has made the impact that we all looked forward to,” says James, noting it didn’t have “the kind of infrastructures to really accomplish as much as it would have wanted.”

The first decade was “a good start that we need to build on,” adds James.

Kyeron, the recent grad, sees a bright future for herself. She says her teachers boosted her confidence and taught her to persevere, qualities that will guide her when she goes to Earl Haig Secondary School for the Claude Watson Arts Program, and eventually university, where she plans to study law.

“They’re going to really judge how we turn out in life based on where we got our education for the first 10 years,” she says. “We’re going to make them very proud.”

Source: Canada’s only Africentric school was launched amid calls to better support Black youth. Ten years on, has it fulfilled its promise?

In a push for diversity, medical schools overhaul how they select Canada’s future doctors

This is what it takes to move the needle to address socioeconomic diversity:

Have you ever used a food bank? Were you raised by a single parent? What was your family income in the second decade of your life? And how should the answers to those questions influence who gets into medical school?

Medical schools used to say their job was to find the best and the brightest. But the selection method, based on grade-point averages, the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and a face-to-face interview, has resulted in classes that fall short of some universities’ goals for racial and socio-economic diversity.

Now some schools are asking if the process is truly fair, and if not, how it ought to change. Across Canada, medical schools are taking steps to shape incoming classes by offering advantages to applicants from certain demographic groups.

In a given year, only 10 per cent to 20 per cent of applicants are admitted. Many schools could probably choose a similarly capable cohort from among the applicants they reject. But finding the right demographic mix is increasingly an important concern.

Medical schools in Canada exercise overwhelming influence over admission to the profession. About 75 per cent of physicians in this country are Canadian graduates, so the process by which admissions decisions are made is crucial not only to the applicants but to society as a whole. They shape the future of health care.

At the University of Manitoba, the admissions committee studied years of data and found a pretty clear pattern: Wealthy white students from big cities were more likely to be interviewed and more likely to get in, partly because of built-in advantages. As undergrads they don’t have to work part-time to pay for school, they’re able to pay for MCAT prep courses and, in interviews, they can cite an impressive range of travel and volunteer experiences.

The result is that a public university’s system seems to ensure opportunity for the already fortunate.

Bruce Martin, the U of M’s dean of admissions, set out to tinker with the crucial first stage of the admissions process so that more applicants from different backgrounds got through. He knew he could do so by systematically boosting scores based on certain attributes or experiences. But which attributes to target?

Sample questions appearing on University of Manitoba medical school applications: family history
  1. Were you raised by a single parent due to divorce, death of a parent, or a teen parent?
  2. Were you ever a child or youth in care?
  3. Are you a parent taking care of one or more children on your own?
  4. Did your parents or guardians graduate from college or university?
  5. Were you or your family admitted to Canada with refugee status?

Source: Dr. Bruce Martin, University of Manitoba Admissions

He convened a panel of people from outside the university with experience in race relations and alleviating poverty and asked them to consider how the medical school could diversify its student body.

They decided to add a section to the application that would elicit the information they sought. They came up with more than 30 questions, many of them deeply personal and revealing, including factors such as visible minority status, sexual orientation, involvement with the child-welfare system and living with family members who suffer from addiction.

The committee then ranked each question based on the perceived level of disadvantage suffered by the applicant. Should having a family member with a disability be a greater consideration than whether your parents graduated from university, or having a child-welfare file?

U of M sample questions: economic information
  1. Did you or your family ever have to use a food bank?
  2. During the second decade of your life, was the annual gross income in the household in which you lived between $40,000-$75,000?
  3. During the second decade of your life, did you have to work to contribute to family income?
  4. Will your parent(s) be paying for the tuition fees if you get accepted to our medical school?
  5. Do you currently receive student aid?

Source: Dr. Bruce Martin, University of Manitoba Admissions

The numerical values assigned to each answer are combined to create an arithmetic modifier meant to reflect the degree to which the applicant’s background would put them at a disadvantage in the application, Dr. Martin said. (It turns out that a history of substance abuse moved the needle more than being a visible minority, while needing student aid rated well below using a food bank.)

The goal was relatively modest: a 5-per-cent increase in the number of medical students with diversity attributes.

“We didn’t want to have a quota system. But we want to increase the number of diverse individuals on an incremental basis,” Dr. Martin said.

U of M sample questions: other sociocultural determinants
  1. Do you consider yourself to be a member of a Visible Minority?
  2. Do you identify as First Nations, Metis, Inuit or other North American Indigenous ancestry?
  3. Is your primary language other than English or French?
  4. Do you have a participation or activity limitation that has an impact on your day-to-day life?
  5. Were you raised or are you living in a household in which there was/is a person living with substance abuse?

Source: Dr. Bruce Martin, University of Manitoba Admissions

Other schools have set a similar goal but have taken a different approach. The University of Saskatchewan, for example, now reserves six of its 100 seats for applicants whose families earn less than $80,000 a year. At the University of Toronto, a special stream has been created for black applicants. At Dalhousie University, in Halifax, the medical school says it recognizes that affirmative action is required to increase admissions of African-Nova Scotians and Indigenous people. And at the University of Calgary, applicants from underrepresented groups are asked to “highlight their background and experiences.”

Many schools have the same goals as the University of Manitoba, Dr. Martin said, but are not as transparent about how they aim to achieve a diverse incoming class.

At Newfoundland’s Memorial University, for example, acting dean of admissions Paul Dancey said the school takes a “holistic approach,” which is common at Canadian universities. He said it involves looking in great detail at all aspects of the candidate, not just their academic record, and paying particular attention to barriers that may have affected their grades or extracurricular activities. (Dr. Martin said Manitoba chose not to take the holistic approach because it relies on the judgment of individual evaluators and can be susceptible to bias.)

The drive to consider racial and socio-economic equality in admissions is also leading major changes in the U.S. college system. The College Board now includes what’s being called an adversity score in SAT test results based on demographic factors such as crime and poverty levels in a student’s neighbourhood and school district. The board said it could no longer ignore the extent to which differences in wealth and race were reflected in test scores, which are very influential in the admissions process. The method for calculating the score has not been released, but it’s based on public information, not answers submitted by students.

For students, the application process remains slightly mysterious, to prevent someone from gaming the system.

Fatemeh Bakhtiari, a second-year medical student at the U of M, was born in Afghanistan and came to Canada as a child. Growing up in Winnipeg, her family was not wealthy. Her mother worked as a grocery clerk and her father was a truck driver. Ms. Bakhtiari excelled in school and at university set her sights on medicine. But she didn’t have many of the advantages that other applicants could rely on, such as a family member who is a doctor. She also had to work part-time in restaurants and retail while studying.

“I had no idea where to start,” she said. “If it wasn’t for Google, I don’t where I would’ve been.”

She remembers answering questions on her application about her family income and whether she identifies as a visible minority or LGBTQ, but she didn’t understand why those questions were being asked. She said she has no idea whether her answers had any role in her success. She said her GPA was strong, she wrote her MCAT three times to improve her score and felt very confident about her interview performance.

“I don’t know the scoring system or how it works,” Ms. Bakhtiari said. “I don’t know if it was my MCAT, my GPA or my interview that got me through. They don’t tell you.”

At the white coat ceremony where new medical students are welcomed and take the Hippocratic Oath, the U of M’s dean of the faculty of medicine, Brian Postl, said the school was proud of the diversity of Ms. Bakhtiari’s class. More than half are women, 10 per cent are Indigenous, 20 per cent are from rural areas and 50 per cent are from families with incomes of less than $75,000. Ms. Bakhtiari said she believes the diversity of her class is valuable for two reasons: Diverse groups have been shown to be more innovative, and physicians should reflect the population they serve.

Manitoba’s diversity initiatives started more than 30 years ago with attempts to get more Indigenous people into medicine. About a decade ago, the medical school also began to see rural candidates as particularly desirable. Canada was facing a staffing crisis in rural and remote hospitals and medical offices, and researchers began trying to identify what made a medical student more likely to stay and practise in a rural area. A key factor was having grown up in a small town or farming community. That’s when Manitoba began using an arithmetic modifier to place students with a rural background at an advantage.

The university was following a path laid by the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM), which opened in 2005 with a mandate to turn out doctors for the region – and made no bones about giving priority to students with a rural or remote upbringing.

Roger Strasser, until recently the dean and chief executive officer of the NOSM, said his program gets about 2,000 applications a year. It whittles those down to 320, who are invited for interviews based on a three-pronged score comprising a grade-point average, a personal statement and what’s called a context score, derived from answers about a person’s background and upbringing. The algorithm for deriving the context score is confidential, Dr. Strasser said, but he was transparent about its key implication.

“Applicants who’ve grown up in Northern Ontario or other remote, rural, Indigenous or francophone settings, they get the highest score. The people who are not Indigenous or francophone or come from big cities like Toronto get the lowest score,” Dr. Strasser said.

Ninety-two per cent of NOSM students have grown up in Northern Ontario, and the other 8 per cent are from rural and remote parts of the rest of Canada. About 2 per cent of applicants are Indigenous, but in the past few years the selection system has been tweaked to increase the number of successful Indigenous applicants, including giving them training to succeed in the interview process. The class went from about 7-per-cent Indigenous over the school’s first decade to about 12 per cent for the past three years, Dr. Strasser said.

He said one of his biggest challenges as dean is the criticism from families in Toronto, who believe their children are excluded from his school.

“My response is, if you look at the numbers, this is just the reverse of the way it is for people from Northern Ontario applying to med school in Toronto or the other big cities. So in a sense, you could say it’s true, there is, let’s call it a bias, but what we’re doing is just countering the bias that’s built into the admissions process of other medical schools,” Dr. Strasser said.

It has become conventional wisdom, supported by research, to say medicine is done better when doctors come from diverse backgrounds, Dr. Martin said. A cohort of physicians with a broad range of life experiences are better able to understand the needs of the population.

The applicants selected under Manitoba’s diversity initiative all meet the school’s admissions criteria, but they might not otherwise have reached the top of the admissions heap. The flip side, however, is that some people who’ve worked hard and achieved a great deal won’t get in, Dr. Martin said. That’s difficult for some to reconcile.

Even his own colleagues, worried about their children’s prospects, have cornered him on this matter. The conversations were uncomfortable, he said.

“We in medicine have generally been white, socio-economically advantaged and male. And that’s not who we serve,” he said.

“It’s my mission to pick people who are suited to the profession and can meet the needs of the population.”

Source: In a push for diversity, medical schools overhaul how they select Canada’s future doctors

Uncovering the roots of discrimination toward immigrants

Interesting study and approach:

All over the world, immigration has become a source of social and political conflict. But what are the roots of antipathy toward immigrants, and how might conflict between immigrant and native populations be dampened?

His newest research on identity politics, an experimental approach that explores the causes of discrimination against Muslim immigrants in Germany, was just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Opposition toward immigration can be due to economic reasons because of competition for jobs or due to the perceived cultural threat that immigrants pose to their host country by challenging dominant norms and changing the national identity,” he says.

He finds arguments centered on cultural threat more convincing than economic explanations of opposition to immigration, especially in Europe.

“Most previous research is limited to presenting survey-based attitudinal measures of antipathy toward immigrants or refugees and correlating them with socio-economic characteristics of the survey respondents or their political beliefs,” Sambanis says. “We wanted to go beyond that and measure actual behavior in the field. We wanted to figure out what particular aspects of refugees or immigrants generate more hostility. Is it racial differences? Ethnic differences? Is it linguistic or religious differences? Is there merit to the idea that discrimination toward immigrants is due to the perception that they do not follow the rules and threaten dominant ?”

There’s very little experimental research, Sambanis says, on the causes of anti- bias and even less research on how to reduce it.

Working with University of Pittsburgh assistant professor Donghyun Danny Choi, a former PIC Lab postdoc, and Mathias Poertner, a PIC Lab fellow and postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley, Sambanis designed the experimental study. They targeted Germany because of the high influx of immigrants and refugees and the political salience of immigration issues in recent elections there and because Germans are strongly inclined toward conforming with social norms, especially around keeping order.

Their hypothesis: If it is true that opposition to immigration is driven by the perception that immigrants threaten valued social norms and pose a cultural threat, then in a country that values norm adherence they would see a reduction in discrimination toward immigrants if immigrants show that they respect local social norms and care about their new society.

They staged an intervention against a native male German who littered in a public space, since not littering is a social norm there. A female researcher would approach the person littering, asking him to pick up his trash and dispose of it properly. Bystanders, unaware that they were being studied, observed the interaction. Shortly thereafter, the woman would take a call and while speaking on the phone would drop a bag of groceries, causing oranges to spill out on the floor. The observing researchers recorded whether the bystanders who had witnessed this entire interaction helped the woman pick up her oranges.

In some versions, the woman dropping the oranges would have sanctioned the norm violator, signaling her integration with the German culture. In others, she did not intervene so as to seem indifferent to the littering.

Researchers also used the woman’s identity as a variable: In some versions, she was a native German, in others a Muslim immigrant wearing a hijab. Her degree of religiosity, her ethnic background, and her linguistic assimilation to German society were all manipulated as part of the experiment.

This allowed the researchers to measure whether immigrants who are more socially distant than the average German receive less assistance and whether following social norms offsets any bias toward them.

They ran this experiment more than 1,600 times in train stations in 30 cities in both western and eastern Germany using multiple teams of research assistants, with more than 7,000 bystanders unwittingly participating. Then, the researchers measured whether women who wore a hijab received less assistance than native Germans, whether ethno-racial differences between immigrants matters less than religious differences in generating bias, whether immigrants who wore a cross received more help than those who did not wear any outward symbols of religiosity, and whether good citizenship—enforcing anti-littering norms—generated more help from bystanders, eliminating any bias against immigrants.

“We found that bias toward Muslims is too pronounced and is not overcome by good citizenship; immigrant women who wore a hijab always received less assistance relative to German women, even when they followed the rules,” Sambanis says.

“But we also found that good citizenship has some benefit, as the degree of discrimination toward Muslims goes down if they signal that they care about the host society. And ethnic or racial differences alone do not cause discrimination in our setup. Nor is religious assimilation—wearing a cross rather than a hijab—necessary to be treated with civility.”

On average, women wearing a hijab who did not enforce the norm got help in about 60% of cases, whereas “German” women who did scold the litterer got help in 84% of the cases. The rates of assistance offered to a Muslim who enforced social norms by scolding the litterer were equivalent to those for a German who did not enforce the norm.

“The reason to run such an experiment focusing on everyday interactions is that it gives you a sense of the accumulated impact of discrimination in shaping perceptions of identity and belonging,” Sambanis says. “Getting help to pick up something you drop on the floor seems like a small thing. But these small things—and small slights—add up to form lasting impressions of how others perceive you and, in turn, can inform the immigrants’ own attitudes and behavior toward the host society.”

Now, Sambanis, Choi, and Poertner are extending their research to new questions trying to understand the mechanisms underlying the effects they picked up with their experiments in Germany.

They found gender was a key factor, as it was German women who discriminated against Muslim women. Sambanis says he didn’t expect this result since existing research implies that men are more likely to discriminate, and certainly media portrayals of anti-immigrant backlash tend to center on men.

“We puzzled over the fact that German women withheld assistance from Muslim women who needed help. Based on survey data we collected after our experiment, it seemed that this effect was particularly due to secular women, women who do not register a religious preference,” he says. “This led us to hypothesize that part of the reason we observed this behavior is that German women who might otherwise be open to immigration have developed hostile attitudes toward Muslims because they perceive their cultural practices as threatening to hard-won advances in women’s rights. It’s basically a feminist opposition to political Islam.”

The team has now designed a new experiment that explicitly tests this hypothesis. Two new experiments test whether signaling one’s political ideology regarding key issues related to women’s rights can offset discrimination toward Muslim women.

This collaborative effort between Sambanis, Choi, and Poertner will become a book on how conflict between immigrants and native populations can be managed and whether norms can form the basis for the reduction in discrimination. The German experiments will be expanded next year and applied to a different social context in Greece, which also faces an intense political crisis due to unsustainably high levels of immigration and which differs from Germany with respect to the degree of public adherence to laws and rules.

Individuals there are less likely to follow rules and contribute less to the public good. So Sambanis and his co-authors think they may observe even lower effects of the ability of social norms to offset discrimination due to ethno-religious differences. That research will provide a useful comparison to better understand the existing experimental results.

“A key idea in socio-biological theories of inter-group conflict is that there is an almost innate antipathy or suspicion toward members of “out groups” [immigrant], however those groups are defined. But clearly societies can manage sources of tension and avoid conflict escalation since there is very little observed conflict relative to how many different types of inter-group differences exist out there,” Sambanis says. “A lot of the literature on immigration has suggested that assimilation is the key to reducing conflict between natives and immigrants: Immigrants must shed their names, change their religion, or hide their customs so they can be more accepted.

“Is this really necessary? Or is it enough for immigrants to just signal credibly that they care about being good citizens as much as everybody else?”

Understanding these types of questions is at the heart of the PIC Lab’s mission. A unifying theme of Sambanis’ work has been reducing inter-group conflict, particularly inter-ethnic conflict.

His interests were shaped by the wars in Bosnia and Rwanda, which were going on when he was in graduate school and pushed him away from international economics and toward studying peacekeeping. At the PIC Lab, researchers tackle questions both at the larger country level and at the smaller individual and group level, integrating ideas from political science, social psychology, and behavioral economics to understand human behavior and explore the outcomes of different policy interventions to reduce conflict. The lab conducts data-based, mostly quantitative research that can inform policy design but also theory-building in political science, Sambanis says.

“Ethnic differences, religious differences, —they all matter for politics, but they do not need to produce conflict,” he says. “When people are faced with the hard realities of ethnic wars, separatist conflicts, genocides, or hate crimes, they usually assume that these are inevitable outcomes of innate human prejudices or fears and that people just can’t get along because of deep differences in their preferences or their customs.

“A lot of the work that I do shows that ethnic conflict is not inevitable. The key is to understand the conditions that make salient and then find ways to defuse or manage conflict.”

Source: Uncovering the roots of discrimination toward immigrants

Sunstein: In Politics, Apologies Are for Losers


Suppose that a public figure has said or done something that many people consider offensive, outrageous or despicable — for example, lied about his military service or insulted people’s religious convictions. Should he apologize?

Let’s assume that his goal is not to be a good person, but only to improve his standing — to increase the chance that he will be elected, get confirmed by the Senate or keep his job.

Recent evidence converges on a simple answer: An apology is a risky strategy.

A case in point, now receiving reconsideration as a result of recent reporting in The New Yorker about the allegations against Al Franken. In response to claims of inappropriate physical contact with several women, Mr. Franken, then a member of the Senate, publicly apologized. But the apology did not appear to do him much good, and it might have fanned some flames. Soon after apologizing, he was forced to resign.

Mr. Franken’s post-apology experience may not be so exceptional. According to recent surveys that I have conducted, apologies do not increase support for people who have said or done offensive things.

Rohingya tell Myanmar they won’t return without recognition as ethnic group with right to citizenship

Of note:

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh refuse to return to Myanmar unless they are recognised as an ethnic group in their home country, leaders told visiting Myanmar officials on Sunday as fresh repatriation talks started.

A campaign by Myanmar’s military in response to insurgent attacks in 2017 drove 730,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh’s southeastern border district of Cox’s Bazar, where they live in squalid camps, fearing further persecution if they return.

U.N. investigators have said Myanmar’s operation included mass killings, gang rapes and arson and was executed with “genocidal intent.” Myanmar denies the charge.

This is the second time Myanmar officials have visited the camps in Cox’s Bazar in an effort to persuade Rohingya refugees to kick-start the repatriation process. In October, Rohingya rejected an offer to go back to their homeland when a Myanmar delegation held talks with leaders of the group.

The Myanmar delegation, led by permanent foreign secretary Myint Thu, held talks with 35 Rohingya leaders in Cox’s Bazar on Saturday and Sunday amid tightened security in the camps.

Rohingya leaders said they wanted Myanmar to recognize them as an ethnic group with the right to Myanmar citizenship before they return.

“We told them we won’t return unless we are recognized as Rohingya in Myanmar,” Dil Mohammed, one of the Rohingya leaders who joined the talks, told Reuters by telephone.

He also said they will not return to Myanmar unless demands for justice, international protection and the ability to go back to their original villages and lands are met.

“We want citizenship, we want all our rights. We don’t trust them. We will return only if international protection is in place,” he said.

“We will return to our own land … (we) don’t want to end up living in camps.”

In November, a formal move to start the repatriation process stalled as no Rohingya agreed to return to Myanmar.

The U.N. refugee agency and aid groups are also doubtful about the plan as they fear for the safety of Rohingya in Myanmar.

“We are ready to begin the repatriation anytime. It is up to Myanmar to create a conducive environment to allow the Rohingya to return to their homeland,” said Abul Kalam, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and repatriation commissioner.

With the repatriation plan largely stalled, Bangladesh has been considering relocating Rohingya refugees to an island in the Bay of Bengal, but some have expressed concern this could lead to a new crisis given the island is vulnerable to cyclones.

Myanmar has made “minimal” preparations for the return of Rohingya sheltering in Bangladesh, an Australian think-tank said.

Source: Rohingya tell Myanmar they won’t return without recognition as ethnic group with right to citizenship

The unknowns of US immigration policy are increasing anxiety among first-generation Latinx teens

Not surprising:

Despite the fast-moving news cycle nowadays, shifting immigration policies and policy guidelines make headlines every week. At the end of one dizzying week that included a serious discussion on the decriminalization of border crossings and a Supreme Court ruling againstadding a citizenship question on the 2020 U.S. Census, the Supreme Court announced it would hear the Trump administration’s appeal to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) next fall, just in time to issue their ruling the summer before the election. And that was just one week in June.

Dreamers have faced uncertainty about their immigration status since September 2017 when the Trump administration moved to terminate the program and the federal courts took up several lawsuits challenging these actions. Now, new research shows that immigration policy concerns are taking mental tolls on first-generation Latinx (Latino/Latina) adolescents.

Using data from a long-term study of primarily Mexican families living in California’s Salinas Valley region, researchers surveyed 397 sixteen-year-olds with at least one immigrant parent. In the year following the 2016 presidential election, nearly half of the teens reported that they worried about how immigration policies could affect themselves and their families. Compared to before the 2016 election, the teens who worried more about immigration policy also reported an increase in symptoms of anxiety. Particularly among teenage boys, higher anxiety was correlated with poor sleep quality.

As we debate changes to U.S. immigration policy, many immigrant families are having difficult conversations about planning for the worst-case scenario. This research shows that the uncertainty regarding immigration status has effects on mental health in children as well as adults. More studies need to be done to address the long-term health consequences of these policies on immigrant families, both directly and indirectly through their access to healthcare services.

Source: The unknowns of US immigration policy are increasing anxiety among first-generation Latinx teens

Trump’s immigration policy is caging indigenous children. This is the America Native people know.

Although intemperate in language and tone, does not diminish some uncomfortable parallels within both the Canadian (e.g., residential schools, 60s scoop) and US context:

Donald Trump and his nasty administration are anything but unique. In fact, whether they know it or not, they are repeating U.S. history in more ways than one.

Here, in McAllen, Texas, indigenous people fleeing violence and seeking asylum are, right now, locked in chain-link cages and lying on concrete floors, where the sound of frightened, crying kids and mothers and fathers fearing for their children is eerily audible if you just listen closely.

I know because, on Saturday, I joined a caravan of fellow Native Americans who traveled to McAllen from as far away as Los Angeles and Denver and New York City to protest and call for the immediate end to these camps of loss and anguish.

As Native Americans, we have a unique perspective on such cruel American government policies that rip brown babies from their mothers’ arms and, in some cases, turn them over to white families to raise in the white way.

That has already happened to at least one woman locked in the fangs of this immigration crisis, Encarnacion Bail Romero. A judge gave her baby to a white family, and they immediately changed his name to Jamison. But the boy already had a name; his name is Carlitos.

Even the Trump administration’s former director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Scott Lloyd, admitted in a deposition to trying to connect a pregnant minor in his agency’s care — who wanted an abortion — with a couple that had written the agency interested in adopting babies to which the American government might have access, as though they were some child repository for white folks.

This is a frightening thing for these brown, immigrant families because only after their child is taken from them do they learn U.S. law allows the government to terminate parental rights of any child in foster care for 15 of the last 22 months — and the same groups handling many of the foster care arrangements for separated children are well known in the mostly-discredited international adoption community.

But this type of evil behavior — separating families and stealing children — is nothing new, says Juan Mancias, the tribal chairman of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. “They’ve been doing [this] for 500 years,” he said. McAllen is on Mancias’s ancestral territory.

“When [the white people] came we didn’t consider any of them illegal,” he said. “We were open to them. They were two-legged; we knew they were relatives.” But it didn’t take long, he said, before “they began taking our women and children and killing our men. Then we got an idea of who they really were.”

Chrissie Castro, the organizer of the protest and chair person of the Los Angeles City and County Native American Indian Commission, said Native peoples have migrated freely across this continent since time immemorial, and now they’re being demonized for crossing an imaginary border. “The false narrative that our relatives are somehow foreign to these lands is inaccurate and hateful,” she said. “We’re not going to sit by and let this cruelty and injustice happen again.”

At the demonstration, indigenous folks lined the street holding banners reading, “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us!” and “Ban ICE” and “Can’t call my folks illegal if yours crossed the sea!” and “No ban on stolen land!”

At one point, an elder, Emma Ortega, of San Antonio, Texas, who is of the Carrizo Comecrudo and Lipan Apache tribes, took the microphone and denounced a colonial government who’d dare call this “their land.” “This is free land. This is our land!” she bellowed. “And it will always be our land, no matter what they say!”

This is all part of a larger movement: All across the nation, people of all stripes and creeds are protesting America’s latest concentration camps. Catholic priests and Jewish rabbis, peace activists and parents who have never even carried a sign are turning out and even getting arrested in protest of the Trump administration’s family separations, the cruelty of ICE, the foul treatment of children in their care and the ongoing, forcible separation of brown families seeking safety.

But this is America being what America has always been — racist, vicious and vile to indigenous people, whilst standing on a soapbox of morality as a beacon for the world. There’s no decency in this country because there never was any, not from day one when Columbus and the rapists he towed with him blundered onto our shores.

And that’s what we saw at McAllen on Saturday — the same racism with a different name in a different century, and many of the descendants of the very same people brutalized by Columbus and those who followed in his footsteps locked in new chains.

We’ve seen this type of raw racism when Native babies were ripped from the loving embrace of moms and dads, stolen away to Christian boarding schools in the east where they were flogged with Bible passages and pierced with sewing needles through the tongue if they dared speak their language.

For more than 500 years, this country has viewed the original inhabitants as nothing more than animals. They’ve called us “savages” and “uncivilized,” and in places like North Dakota and Washington, D.C., they still do. Even prison inmates and dogs are treated more humanely than the indigenous peoples in these concentration camps, one congresswoman said.

“Prisoners in the United States in my estimation are treated better than migrants,” House Representative Jackie Speier, Democratic representative from California’s 14th Congressional District, wroteafter visiting the McAllen. “If dogs were kenneled in the overcrowded, unhealthy conditions we observed at the Border Patrol Station, the Humane Society would immediately shut it down,” she added.

And this is just one of many of the new concentration camps sprawled across this morally bankrupt nation. But it’s nearly as old a concept as separating indigenous babies from indigenous parents.

Today, the president is resurrecting that kind of good ol’ American racist fear with his wretched propaganda, and he has convinced millions of Americans that caging these children is part of making American great again. But this is a lie. This country was never great; it was always the opposite of great, because it has always had this capacity for cruelty, and it has, more often than not, acted on that capacity with the flag in one hand and the Bible in the other.

If this capacity for cruelty is what we deem great, it’s a great testament to our depravity as a nation, and as humans, because there’s nothing as perverse and disturbing as a country that voluntarily separates families and tortures and traumatizes innocent children.

There were no walls or borders or prison camps until the white man came. Now they’re everywhere — and that’s not patriotism, that’s hate.

Source: Trump’s immigration policy is caging indigenous children. This is the America Native people know.

Douglas Todd: Dramatic jump in guest workers hurts Canadians on low wages

Not sure where Todd is getting the numbers to state his case. The largest part of the increase actually happened under the Conservatives, 2007-15: from 92,000 to 234,000 (IMP), with only Temporary Foreign Workers showing a decline following the reversal of their facilitating their entry in response to business pressures (from 78,000 in 2007, rising to a peak of 104,000 in 2013 before declining to 60,000 in 2015).

The bulk of the Temporary Foreign Workers increase under the Liberal government has been with respect to agriculture workers (a doubling to 52,000, 2016-18), not fast food workers.

And while there are linkages with international students, better to focus on IMP and Temporary Foreign Workers in this kind of analysis:

A big jump in the number of guest workers is hurting low-wage employees and others across Canada, according to economists.

The number of non-permanent foreign workers arriving in Canada each year has doubled in the past decade, escalating particularly after the federal Liberal government was elected in 2015.

Partly as a result of the increasing flow of guest workers, UBC economist David Green and Carleton University’s Christopher Worswick say in a paper that new immigrants are doing “worse and worse” in regards to earned incomes. And it’s Canada’s low-wage workers who are suffering the most.

Even though businesses frequently lobby politicians to allow more guest employees, Green says the latest hikes are putting downward pressure on wages and threatening respect for workers. They’re exacerbating the kind of scenario, he said, that lead to the rise of Donald Trump and Britain’s Brexit movement.

Saying it’s “truly dumb” for the federal government to continue boosting low-skilled guest workers in the country, Green emphasized the vast majority of Canadians don’t appear to be aware of the labour-market shift. “It’s totally under the radar.”

While temporary workers were initially billed as a way to rescue businesses that needed to make up short-term skill shortages in certain sectors, low-skill guest workers from overseas are now increasingly being brought in to staff fast-food restaurants, fill shelves at supermarkets and perform basic kitchen duties.

In the face of a 2013 backlash against the increased volume of foreign workers in Canada, former Conservative immigration minister Jason Kenney drastically cut their numbers. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has jacked up the totals much higher.

The new river of guest workers in Canada “releases the pressure on firms to provide better jobs, jobs where you have control over your time, where the pay is decent. It lets the steam off. And that pushes us toward a society that doesn’t respect workers so much,” said Green, a professor in the Vancouver school of economics and a fellow at the Institute for Fiscal Studies in London.

It’s difficult for the public to recognize that guest worker numbers have grown at a much faster pace than more-often discussed immigration levels, which have expanded by 30 per cent since 2015, with about 320,000 now being approved annually.

The official temporary foreign worker program, which attracted such controversy in the Conservatives’ era, has not greatly expanded. But other guest-worker efforts have.

One jump has come through the doubling of international students. In 2015 about 200,000 foreign students were arriving each year. By last year the number arriving annually on study visas had ballooned to more than 400,000. Most foreign students are allowed to work 20 hours a week, plus full-time during their summer or other breaks.

The least-known migration policy change, however, has arguably been the biggest one for the labour market. That is the fourfold expansion of the so-called “international mobility” program, about which few Canadians have heard.

In 2005 about 70,000 guest workers arrived under the “international mobility” category. But by 2018 Canada was accepting more than 250,000 in this category, which is typically made up of people on two-year visas, many of whom find jobs in the service sector.

Informally known as travellers on “holiday worker” visas, such employees are often associated with young Australians working at ski resorts like Whistler, or with British globe trotters serving beer in pubs in Vancouver or Toronto.

A UBC-backed website called Superdiversity, which has created interactive graphics based on immigration department data, shows the largest group of the more than 250,000 “international mobility” workers who arrived in Canada last year were from India, followed by those from the U.S., China, France and South Korea. Toronto took in about 70,000 international mobility workers in 2018, while Vancouver absorbed 30,000.

In line with the research of American economist Giovanni Peri and the University of Ottawa’s Pierre Brochu, Green described how owners of a Tim Horton’s franchise, a café or a supermarket often try to justify bringing in more guest workers by saying they can’t find anyone to fill the low-skill slot.

“So they go to their local MP and say, ‘I’m in trouble here. I can’t get enough workers for my front counter.’ The real response to them should be, ‘Well, pay them more.’ But it’s not the answer they want to hear, because they want to make more profit,” Green said.

Economists don’t really think it’s a problem that a fast-food restaurant owner or other service sector employer can’t hire workers at low wages, said Green. “When something is scarce, the price for it goes up and people and companies adjust. That’s the whole wonder of the capitalist system.”

The low-wage problem is exacerbated in places like Metro Vancouver, where the cost of renting or owning homes is extreme. Instead of offering decent living wages to the people who live here, Green said many bosses are inclined to hire “people who live in housing with five other foreign workers.”

A second trouble with Canadian companies increasingly relying on low-wage guest workers, Green said, is it leads to a more fearful workforce, incapable of demanding adherence to local labour standards or of forming a union.

“Everyone knows these guest workers have no rights. If they lose their jobs they’re gone. They’re not about to complain. Canadian firms are now not only getting just lower-wage workers these days, they’re getting very compliant workers,” said Green.

Even though a lot of commentators write off the supporters of Trump and Brexit as just “stupid people,” Green said, many have been workers who have felt that the promise of globalization, the transnational movement of capital and labour, has not benefited them.

“These are people who feel there was a deal promised to them, where everyone would share in the benefits of deregulation and a more flexible labour market,” said Green.

“But then governments did things like bring in more temporary foreign workers and those people are feeling like, ‘What the hell just happened?’ If you want people to feel like they have a share, don’t bring in somebody to replace them every time their wages start looking like they’re going to go up.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Dramatic jump in guest workers hurts Canadians on low wages