Emails Outline Anti-Immigration Group’s Connection to Stephen Miller

Not a surprise:

Stephen Miller, President Trump’s hard-line immigration adviser, has long relied on data produced by the Center for Immigration Studies, a right-leaning think tank, to shape policy at the White House. Shortly after Mr. Trump was elected, Mr. Miller became well-known in the West Wing for putting printouts of studies published by the group on the president’s desk.

A new set of emails first published by a civil rights advocacy group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and shared with The New York Times illustrates the degree to which Mr. Miller used the work of the think tank, which advocates restricting immigration, to shape coverage at Breitbart News, a conservative news site, while he served as a communications aide to Jeff Sessions, the former Republican senator from Alabama.

“He was almost a de facto assignment editor for the political writing team at Breitbart,” said Kurt Bardella, the site’s former spokesman and now a frequent critic of the Trump administration.

In one instance in January 2016 — around the time he joined Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign as a senior policy adviser — Mr. Miller sent Breitbart employees a study from the think tank that tracked Muslim population growth in the United States: “Huge Surge in U.S. newborns named ‘Mohammed,’” Mr. Miller wrote in the subject line. A related story appeared on Breitbart the next day.

Judge rules woman who joined ISIS is not US citizen based on birthright citizenship exception

Child of a diplomat. Clear cut case:

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled from the bench Thursday that an Alabama woman who joined the Islamic State group and traveled to Syria is not a U.S. citizen because of an exception to the Constitution’s grant of birthright citizenship.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton ruled in the case of Hoda Muthana, who is with her 2-year-old son in a Syrian refugee camp. Her father filed the lawsuit before Walton in a bid to bring Muthana and her son home and to obtain a declaratory judgment that she is a citizen.

The New York Times, the Guardian and BuzzFeed News have coverage.

Muthana had at one time advocated terrorist attacks in social media posts, but she since said she was young and ignorant and she wants to return to the United States. She surrendered to Kurdish forces after fleeing ISIS-controlled territory in December 2018. She says she is willing to face prosecution here.

Muthana’s father, Ahmed Ali Muthana, had been a United Nations diplomat from Yemen. Under federal regulations and international law, children born to diplomats in the United States aren’t subject to the 14th Amendment’s citizenship requirement because they are under the jurisdiction of another country, according to BuzzFeed News.

The 14th Amendment partly reads: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”

Ahmed Ali Muthana was fired from his diplomatic post shortly before his daughter was born in 1994. He did not notify the United Nations of his firing, however, until after the birth. The U.N. then notified the United States, which now contends that diplomatic status applied until it received the notice.

Ahmed Ali Muthana stayed in the United States after his firing, and he and his wife obtained permanent residency. Although he applied for naturalized citizenship for his other children born overseas, he did not make out an application for Hoda Muthana because he thought she was a citizen.

Hoda Muthana had received a passport in 2005 after her father supplied proof of the date of his firing. The U.S. government revoked the passport in January 2016.

Walton expressed sympathy for Ahmed Ali Muthana, but he ruled that there was enough evidence that Hoda Muthana was born while her father still had diplomatic status, according to BuzzFeed News.

“Kids do crazy things,” and parents don’t quit loving their children no matter what they do, Walton said. But that perception can’t influence his decision, he said.

Walton also said he was not intimidated by messages that he had received that were “spewed with hate” and threatened consequences if he was to rule for Hoda Muthana. Walton said his office received at least 6,000 communications, and most were hateful.

Muthana’s lawyer, Christina Jump, said she thought there was a likely basis for appeal, but she would wait until she sees Walton’s written decision.

Source: Judge rules woman who joined ISIS is not US citizen based on birthright citizenship exception

Our reply to the co-chairs: Petition to reconsider location of the 2020 International Metropolis migration conference in Beijing

Further to our petition on and the email received from the co-chairs of the Conference, Jan Rath of the University of Amsterdam and Paul Spoonley, Massey University New Zealand, we have sent and posted on our reply:

Thank you for your comprehensive and thoughtful response to our questions and concerns.

Under normal circumstances, holding a migration conference in China would be of interest.

Equally, in principle we do not disagree that cultural, academic and policy exchanges can sometimes be useful in generating shifts in repressive regimes and that isolation only worsens and alienates such regimes. 

However, this depends on the subject matter and country circumstances.

Is it appropriate to hold a migration conference, where so many issues are linked to human rights, in a country which does not enshrine human rights and the associated values of promoting integration, tolerance, academic freedom, multiculturalism, and protection of refugees?

While Metropolis may view itself as an apolitical network, the host organization in China, the Centre for China and Globalization (CCG), is not, as it is effectively part of the Chinese government through the United Front Work Department.

The decision to hold the conference in Beijing at a time of the repression of the Uighurs and other minorities along with general human rights abuses is in itself a political decision to turn a blind eye to those abuses. 

There can be little doubt that it will be presented as such by the Chinese government. We are also convinced, based on experience, that Chinese authorities will not permit a free and open exchange of ideas on relevant Chinese policy or practice. Foreign speakers will be discouraged from raising issues that might ‘offend’ the government, Chinese participants will be prohibited from doing so, and ‘minders’ will be present to monitor and intervene in the event of any real or perceived criticism.

While indeed all countries have “blemishes in its policies and actions,” there is a difference between China and the countries that have typically hosted Metropolis. 

Placing restrictive immigration policies among Western countries on the same level as the Chinese government “re-education” camps for Uighurs or its lack of respect for human rights and the rule of law lacks credibility.

The bilateral disputes between China and Canada have nothing to do with broader issues raised by the petition and its signatories.

To claim that “the Government of China is not involved in setting the agenda or the terms of the debate” when the host organization, the CCG, is effectively part of the Government of China, is not credible.

Once again, the decision to hold the Conference in China given the current circumstances is in itself a political decision and it is disingenuous if not naive to pretend otherwise.

Once again, grateful that you consider signing the petition ( and spreading the word as the more signatures we get, and the broader the geographic coverage, the better (as of November 15, we have about 150 signatories, about 70 percent from Canada with the vast majority of the rest being from the US.


Don Cherry, Colin Kaepernick and why ‘stick to sports’ doesn’t work

Good column by Balkissoon:

Seen one way, Don Cherry and Colin Kaepernick lost their jobs in similar fashion, after widespread objections to their bringing politics into their respective games. Seen more clearly, the situations are completely different, as Mr. Cherry used his Hockey Night in Canada platform to broadcast a prejudiced diatribe unsupported by facts, while Mr. Kaepernick silently took a knee in NFL stadiums to protest documented examples of police killings of unarmed civilians.

Both men were in the news this week, with Mr. Cherry being fired from Coach’s Corner on Monday after he refused to apologize for a rambling accusation that “you people that come here” don’t respect veterans and soldiers. Mr. Kaepernick’s story has a new twist – on Tuesday, the NFL announced it was playing host to a workout this weekend where coaches and owners could assess how game-ready the quarterback is after three years off the professional field.

These are just two recent examples of professional sports being used as a lens through which to view current affairs. Which is hardly a surprise, as sports have always reflected and refracted the day’s politics; African-American sprinter Jesse Owens’s 1936 Olympic success in a rising Nazi Germany is just one way-back example. What’s silly, but also unsurprising, are futile calls to keep athletics and politics separate. That’s impossible and not desirable, either.

Other relevant stories from the past week include a Woman of the Year award won by U.S. soccer midfielder Megan Rapinoe. In her speech at the ceremony, put on by Glamour magazine, she said that Mr. Kaepernick is still “effectively banned from the NFL” for protesting “known and systematic racial injustice.”

Ms. Rapinoe also referenced a continuing gender discrimination suit against U.S. Soccer. The same day, she was quoted elsewhere criticizing a revamped pay structure that would benefit female soccer players – but only new signees, not those already on the national team.

As well, former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice stoked the fire burning between China and the NBA. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said the Chinese government told him to fire Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey for a pro-Hong Kong comment made in October. (Beijing denies this happened.) On Monday, Ms. Rice called China’s harsh response “a violation of American sovereignty.”

Unbelievably, not one of these four stories was covered by the smart, snarky U.S. sports website Deadspin. That is, the formerly smart website Deadspin, which was full of killer sports reporting, alongside great pieces about politics, parenting, culture and ephemera. That all changed in October, when the site’s new-ish owners, G/O Media, advised the editorial staff that their new mandate was to “stick to sports.”

In response, acting editor-in-chief Barry Petchesky filled the homepage with non-sports stories and was fired. The entire editorial team then resigned. The hollowed-out site that remains is now missing both fun commentary and real journalism – in 2014, Deadspin was one of the first outlets to obtain audio of then-L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling making overtly racist comments that eventually got him ousted from the NBA.

“Do I make the game, or do they make the game?” Mr. Sterling said about players on that tape, as quoted by Mr. Petchesky in a New York Times op-ed from Monday. Pointing out that not sticking to sports had made the site quite successful, the former editor furiously rebutted the idea that athletics exists separately from the wider world, saying that “Deadspin’s position was that it’s all in the game.”

Since its 2004 founding, “Deadspin’s approach was a reaction to the predominant strain of sports writing at the time, which treated athletes as either Greek demigods unconcerned with the dealings of the world or spoiled millionaires playing children’s games,” Mr. Petchesky wrote.

That’s a brave approach considering the power those demigods can wield – British journalist David Walsh endured years of public insults from Lance Armstrong before the cyclist’s doping scandal finally broke wide. Following his work, genuine journalism focused on sports has led to an overdue airing of dirty secrets, from the effects of rampant concussions, to attempts to hide domestic violence, to multiple coverups of the sexual abuse of minors. That’s a good thing.

Sure, it’s a downer that such revelations encroach on the thrill of watching elite athletes in action, but ignoring concussions, unequal pay and the rest of it was a pretty distasteful way to be entertained. Sports are part of real life and denying that has never made problems go away.

Source:     Don Cherry, Colin Kaepernick and why ‘stick to sports’ doesn’t work Denise Balkissoon 11 hours ago Updated       

Douglas Todd: How Quebec’s religious restrictions compare to harsh regimes

Not sure of the utility of such comparisons compared to more like countries:

Continuing to prove Quebec is a distinct society in North America, the francophone province’s decision to restrict certain public servants from wearing religious symbols has got the rest of the world buzzing.

Quebec’s government, with firm support from voters, will no longer allow its judges, police officers, teachers and others in positions of “authority” to wear head scarves, turbans or other religious symbols on the job.

Although widely condemned in English-speaking Canada and the U.S., Quebec says Bill 21 protects the religious neutrality of the secular state, similar to France’s laïcité laws. Quebec politicians cemented their secularist approach by removing a large crucifix from the legislative building.

How does Quebec’s ban compare to less-discussed religious restrictions in the rest of North America? And how does it contrast with the world, where constraints on religious minorities often lead to imprisonment, mass detention, job termination, clandestine worship, floggings and even execution?

I attended two conferences in October at which the convolutions of religious freedom were front and centre. You couldn’t have asked more informed scholars, journalists and officials from around the globe for perspective on what is happening in Quebec, which, somewhat like France, emphasizes that diverse religious beliefs are fine, but should be private.

Penn State sociologist Roger Finke, who charts a startling range of global religious-freedom conflicts, is concerned about Quebec’s new law, but knows it pales in comparison to elsewhere.

Theocratic Saudi Arabia, for instance, allows no other religion than Islam to be practised. In Egypt “societal discrimination against non-Muslims is extremely high,” with members of minority faiths frequently thrown into jail. In China, an officially secular state, Christians and others are “forced underground.” About one million Uighurs Muslims have been imprisoned in China’s mass camps.

“When compared to the beheadings in Egypt, the re-education camps in China and the numerous imprisonments and killings around the globe, Quebec’s Bill 21 is mild,” Finke said after speaking at a religion and law conference at Brigham Young University.

“However, it is clearly denying a freedom. This can deny people the ability to openly express their beliefs as well as follow the guidelines of their faith by wearing hijabs, turbans, veils and other dress,” Finke said, expressing a widespread view among English-speaking North Americans.

But it’s not as if the rest of multicultural Canada lacks quarrels of freedom of religion and belief. Diverse religious leaders rebelled when the federal Liberals launched a summer-jobs program that required groups to declare themselves supportive of abortion rights to get funding.

And the Supreme Court of Canada’s refusal of Langley’s Trinity Western University request to open a law school, because it has a Christian code of conduct that restricts LGBQT people, is seen by many in the U.S. as a stark infringement of religious freedom.

Still, such North America battles are relatively minor. After a conference of the International Association of Religion Journalists in Salt Lake City, executive director Endy Bayuni outlined ways religion is restricted in his homeland of Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

The biggest threat to religious freedom in Indonesia, population 264 million, is its decades-old blasphemy laws, says Bayuni, a senior editor at The Jakarta Post.

“Hundreds of people have gone to jail under this law, on the pretext that they have insulted religion. A Buddhist woman was given a two-year jail term under the blasphemy law for complaining about the sound of the call to prayer from a mosque near her home,” said Bayuni.

“Her home was attacked and several Buddhist temples in the town were razed by a mob. The perpetrators only received one- to two-month jail terms. The leaders of the Ahmadiyyah and Shia (schools of Islam) have also gone to jail for blasphemy because their faith is considered an affront to Sunni Islam.”

Although Indonesia, like 95 per cent of countries, formally guarantees religious freedom in its constitution, the twist is it only officially recognizes six faiths: Islam, Protestant Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism. Therefore, people from smaller religions often can’t get birth certificates, marriage licences or hereditary rights because of their beliefs. That’s not to mention, Bayuni said, “anyone going around proclaiming to be an atheist would be attacked.”

Asked about Quebec’s new law, Bayuni said former Indonesian strongman Suharto also banned head scarves, mainly because they were seen as signs of radicalism. Nowadays more Muslim women are wearing them. The only thing banned in Indonesian schools and workplaces is the burqa, which covers the entire body and face (with a mesh over the eyes).

A journalist from Malaysia, Zurairi Abd Rahman, helped explain just how different religious freedom frictions are in each nation. After the International Association of Religion Journalists conference (disclosure: I’m on the board of the organization) Zurairi said the main threat in his country, in which Islam traditionally gets highest official status, is the way non-state organizations are pressing to ensure Muslims dominate the country’s top posts.

“The same lobby is now pushing the narrative that Christians and liberals are trying to take over the government, which would then abolish Islamic institutions,” said the news editor at The Malay Mail, who goes by the pen name Zurairi AR.

Muslims are also being squeezed by “Islamicization,” said Zurairi. “Activist Maryam Lee was recently investigated for allegedly insulting Islam” after writing a book, Unveiling Choice, “detailing the personal experiences of women who have stopped wearing head scarves.” Shariah law, which applies only to Muslims, is becoming increasingly harsh, he said, and broadened to govern such things as “adultery, ‘cross-dressing’ and ‘insulting Islam.’”

Malaysia would not follow the lead of Quebec and attempt to ban displays of faith in the public service, Zurairi said. A key threat to religious freedom in Malaysia is in many ways the opposite of that in Quebec: Some companies and schools are forcing women to wear hijabs.

Elizabeth Clark, professor of law at Brigham Young University, said she understands why Quebec and France have responded to the once-overwhelming political power of the Roman Catholic Church by ensuring schools and government remain “religion-free zones.”

Quebec is attempting to uphold both gender equality and LGBQT rights by emphasizing religious belief should be purely private, Clark said. But she believes it’s going too far “with regards to the impact it has on the religious freedom of those seeking to manifest their beliefs through wearing head scarves.”

Religious freedom dovetails intimately with other human rights, including freedom of opinion, says Finke, making a strong case. Even though Bill 21 will only affect a small number of Canadians, and no freedom is absolute, its implications are worth understanding and questioning.

Source: Douglas Todd: How Quebec’s religious restrictions compare to harsh regimes

The ‘Dark Side’ of Citizenship

Captures well some of the inherent discrimination of citizenship –who is in and who is not. Completely divorced from some of the practicalities and political realities undermining some of this discrimination but nevertheless an interesting and challenging interview:

Accounts of the glories and dignity of citizenship are everywhere, yet it is the arbitrariness, violence, and servility attending the concept that we must focus on when we interrogate it, argues Dimitry Kochenov, an expert on citizenship, nationality, and immigration law, in his book “Citizenship.”

1) One of the more popular politicians in our country often talks of “pull-effects” on immigration, claiming that allowing “too many” migrants or making the path to asylum or citizenship too easy increases the number of immigrants and refugees coming to our country. Is there any evidence for this? Additionally, and more controversially maybe: I hang with often radical people who are often very into open borders (or more precisely, claiming that borders shouldn’t exist). What’s your view on that?

Dimitry Kochenov: Having no borders is not really as radical as it might seem: We have this in the majority of modern democracies today (unlike the states in the past) — and even at the level of larger entities, offering free movement, which includes settlement and work rights to citizens of several countries at once. The EU or the GCC are great examples. Citizenship is thus not always about creating the borders — it can also be about, precisely, removing them. And on this count being an Icelander with dozens of countries welcoming you to stay is much better than holding a passport of Madagascar, opening zero doors for settlement and work outside of the country. Given that no borders works for the Icelanders and it is perfectly fine, to claim that it is outrageous and radical for the citizens of Madagascar seems somewhat unfair.

And concerning “too many” and “too few” immigrants, the world is too diverse to make easy generalizations — the “immigrant,” just like a “citizen,” is the creature of the law: if naturalizing is easy, immigrants are never in the majority. If naturalizing is virtually impossible, like in the Gulf, then everyone is suddenly an immigrant. This is exactly the totalitarian nature of citizenship at play: The persons themselves have zero say in the matter, while public authorities claim people right from the moment of birth (or later) and these claims cannot usually be refused.

2) Would you be able to summarize your suggested improvements or replacements for citizenship? Example: One of the advantages of citizenship is the fact that you can get a passport, which is a way for your home country to vouch for you. Absent citizenship, what mechanism would you propose to control travel across borders?

D.K.: This is a wonderful question, which takes the current shape of the world for granted: Borders are taken for granted, passports are taken for granted, just as the hostility to someone, who is not “from here.” This world, the world of nation-states, is quite new and will obviously not last forever. One of my main problems with citizenship, as I try to explain in the book, is that the idea of citizenship goes radically against all the core ideals our current notion of freedom, liberty and deserving are building upon. That this is the case had great reasons in the past. Citizenship as an absolute abstraction from the individual features of the bearer had to emerge when the core struggle was the struggle against caste systems in society: The vote of a baron had to count the same way as the vote of a peasant. The contemporary world, however, is radically different. The legal fiction — the absolute abstraction — which is citizenship has a difficult time when discrepancies between different citizenships in terms of the rights one can enjoy on the basis of these statuses are huge, while the status of citizenship as such is distributed purely at random. Consequently, from an instrument to guarantee and promote equality, citizenship emerged as the key tool of suppressing the idea of giving reasons to underpin the distribution of the most important rights. The question of “how can the world be without citizenship?” is thus a question, in essence, about how to stop distributing privilege at random, while using randomized distribution in order to impose glass ceilings and be legally allowed as well as morally safe to say “she is not a citizen, she has no rights, reasons do not matter.”

To come to the bottom of the question, the Schengen zone offers an excellent example of “mechanisms to travel across borders” — the borders are sometimes marked and crossed by speed train lines and wonderful highways.

From an instrument to guarantee and promote equality, citizenship emerged as the key tool of suppressing the idea of giving reasons to underpin the distribution of the most important rights.

3) Do you think the non-EU part of Eastern Europe will ever have a visa-free regime with the EU (I mean Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, etc.) in the same terms as there is within the EU right now?

D.K.: Borders, suspicions, and hatreds are policy choices. It is important to realize, however, that borders exist at different levels: These can be the boundaries for simple travel for a short-term stay (on this count Ukraine is already part, together with Moldova and Georgia of the larger European space); boundaries for settlement and work (on this count Ukraine is out, but Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway still are in); and the boundaries of citizenship, when the nationals of some countries would be excluded from the beginning. Take a national of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus or South Ossetia, for instance. Such people are legally claimed by the entities too questionable to be palatable for the majority of the European nations, so they cannot even naturalize in the EU, should they meet all the conditions of the country of residence, with such documents.

To move closer to your question: Russia is currently the most atypical country in the world from the point of view of tourist and business visa policy, since it lets all the nationals of the poorer and less developed nations in visa-free, locking its doors behind a visa wall for Europeans and Americans. All the other countries are the exact opposite, offering visa-free travel to the citizens of richer and higher-developed nations. Picking friends is a matter of taste though, even if taste is peculiar. In the long term it would be illogical to keep the European continent cut by visa walls. The world, however, is frequently illogical.

4) What’s your take on abusive spouses that don’t let you leave, that is, states that make it extraordinarily difficult for people to renounce their citizenship?

D.K.: Not all the states refusing their citizens the right to renounce could correctly be compared to abusive spouses, it seems to me. The inability to renounce can definitely be an asset, a weapon against a different kind of abuse, when states of naturalization require the renunciation of previously held citizenships, thereby legally mandating a sacrifice of rights, which is difficult to justify. Both the inability to renounce and the obligation to renounce thus can be problematic. The core of the matter, of course, is whether the citizen herself can decide.

In the contemporary understanding of freedom and liberty, we expect to be able to make this kind of decision as we see fit. Yet, citizenship logic is quite different from the logic of liberty and freedom — since citizenship is a legal status attributed in the absolute majority of cases immediately following someone’s birth without any consent or ability to disagree with this attribution. A foreigner born to tourists passing through the U.S. is an American, however “incidental,” grandson of a Greek whose father has never visited Greece is of course Greek (and unable to renounce). The totalitarian logic of citizenship thus constantly clashes with our idea of freedom — and this is a constantly recurrent story, ultimately undermining citizenship’s justifications and annihilating its moral appeal.

5) Given that citizenship and ethnicity are often connected in the context of European nation-states, just look at Eastern Europe, should we be giving out citizenships to immigrants after a number of years compared to just some type of “long term residency”? What would be the advantages (if any) and disadvantages of that and how do you think the far right would react to such a move? Would such a move even matter in the EU?

D.K.: Citizenship and ethnicity is a difficult connection, since it breeds intolerance. In terms of equal human worth ethnicity is an irrelevant feature. Citizenship, as a status of legal recognition of full belonging to an authority cannot be made dependent on the color of someone’s eyes, or pigmentation of the skin. Nor only Eastern Europe, also many other countries and places not infrequently come with racist undertones in their citizenship policy. After all, citizenship has traditionally been a truly racist concept, since the Western empires dominating the world would not guarantee non-discrimination on this ground, often explicitly enforcing “whites only” policy. Their former colonies learned the lesson well — in Liberia one still needs to be a “Negro,” if I am not mistaken, to enjoy the status of citizenship. The official explanation, from the extreme right in Poland to the racist Liberian constitution, is always the same: social cohesion, culture and the like. Human culture is much richer, however, then policing the dispensation of liabilities based on the pigmentation of someone’s skin, and the developments of the second half of the 20th century allow us to trace a huge evolution on this count. The U.S., France, the Netherlands — formerly deeply racist countries as far as their citizenship policy was concerned, now play a totally different tune.

There is another side of this coin, which is not necessarily positive: Racist citizenship policy — that a Chinese or an Indian could not naturalize in the U.S.; that a woman marrying a colonial “native” in the Netherlands would lose her birthright Dutch citizenship, etc. gave way, with decolonization, to an essentially racist gradation of citizenship rights and liabilities around the world. Now that the former colonial subjects who used to have second-rate statuses in the Empires enjoy their own states, the citizenships those states distribute are often — in the majority of cases — steeply inferior in terms of the rights they bring to the citizenships of the former colonial masters. In other words, although individual citizenship outside of some African states are, by law, not any more racist, the world of rights and liabilities related to the different citizenship statuses in the world remains quite a racist place.

Source: The ‘Dark Side’ of Citizenship

Tech firm blacklisted in U.S. over facial-recognition allegations invited to Vancouver conference

Yet another story on the obliviousness, wilful blindness and complicity of institutions and individuals with respect to serious human and minority rights violations in China:

A Vancouver conference promoting business links between Canada and China is under fire for inviting a company that’s blacklisted in the United States for its work monitoring the Uighur ethnic group in China.

Jimmy Zhou, executive director of SenseTime, is one of the Chinese corporate leaders invited to speak at the China Forum to be held Nov. 16 and 17 and sponsored by BizChina Club from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.

SenseTime is an artificial intelligence startup based in Hong Kong that has worked with Chinese tech giant Huawei to launch a facial recognition program, according to the latter’s website.

In early October, the U.S. Department of Commerce blacklisted SenseTime with other Chinese tech companies for alleged human rights violations against Uighurs in Xinjiang province. Facial recognition technologies from these firms have reportedly been used by the Chinese government to monitor the Muslim minority in the northwestern Chinese province.

Shalina Nurly, youth leader for the Vancouver Uighur Association, said the event at the Vancouver Convention Centre is a disappointment, and the group is considering mounting a protest.

“We have been let down by the UBC community,” said Nurly in an email to CBC News.

“At a time where the world is re-experiencing the Nazi concentration camps [in Xinjiang], we as Canadians should be joining the U.S. as it takes a stand against Communist China for the basic fundamental rights of the Uighur and other Muslim minority groups.”

Promoted as ‘great opportunity’

The event has been promoted by UBC president Santa Ono and George Chow, B.C. minister of state for trade, who describes the two-day conference in a promotional video as “a great opportunity to bridge Canadian and Chinese business and culture.”

The conference has also received support from the Chinese consulate in Vancouver, according to a message on the Chinese instant messaging platform WeChat.

Nurly, a 19-year-old student at Simon Fraser University, also expressed concern about Lina Chen, the chief editor of Sina Weibo, appearing at the conference.

As China’s major social media platform, Sina Weibo has censored topics that Beijing deems politically sensitive, including the animated TV series South Park and the June 4 anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

“What is peculiar about Lina Chen is that she is the deputy secretary of the Chinese Communist Party for her company. How that works is in China, every private company has such a committee in place for the party to get control of the private sector,” said Nurly.

According to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, 68 per cent of China’s private companies had an internal communist presence by the end of 2016, and that continues to grow.

Business with China carries ‘high risks’

Mabel Tung, the president of the Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement, which organizes the Tiananmen anniversary vigils and rallies in support of Hong Kong protesters, said Canadians should be vigilant about Chinese business ties.

“The recent case of Canada’s two Michaels [Kovrig and Spavor], arbitrarily detained in China since December 2018 without formal charges … serves as a blunt reminder to us Canadians that doing business with communist China carries very high risks that are entirely unpredictable.”

BizChina Club’s president, Michelle Lau, said she was “surprised to hear” about the concerns from local Uighurs, but added that her association “will certainly take these concerns into consideration moving forward.”

A UBC spokesperson said the university is “proud of the initiative and work of all students who are engaging on global issues and ideas.”

Both SenseTime and Sina Weibo have not responded to interview requests.


Latest StatsCan Citizenship Study: Declining naturalization

This latest study by Statistics Canada on the naturalization rate is both humbling and gratifying.

Humbling in its methodological rigour and thoroughness, compared to my more rudimentary analysis. 

Gratifying, in that it confirms my earlier sounding the alarm that the recent naturalization rate has been declining, for lower income, lower educated and less official language fluent immigrants.

The paper also strengthens the case for IRCC to adopt a meaningful performance standard for the citizenship program, one based upon the naturalization rate for those immigrants who have been in Canada between five and nine years (previous census period) rather than the current meaningless performance measure related to all immigrants, whether recent or many years ago.

Conclusion excerpted below:

This paper uses census data from 1991 to 2016 to examine changes in the citizenship rate among recent immigrants who meet the residency requirement to become citizens. The results show that the citizenship rate among recent immigrants peaked in 1996 and declined considerably since then. This decline primarily occurred after 2006. Furthermore, the decline in the citizenship rate varied across socio-demographic characteristics, and the timing of the decline varied across immigrant groups as well.

Immigrants with lower family incomes experienced a much larger decline in citizenship rates than did those with higher family incomes. The decline among lower income immigrant families largely occurred between 2006 and 2011. The citizenship rate also declined much more among immigrants with poorer official language skills than it did among immigrants whose mother tongue was English or French. The citizenship rate among immigrants with poorer official language skills has been declining since 2001 and was observed over all intercensal periods. Education was also a factor, with citizenship rates declining much more among immigrants with lower than higher levels of educational attainment. This was primary observed between 2011 and 2016.

When all three of these factors—family income, knowledge of official languages, and educational attainment—are combined, the citizenship rate was more or less constant between 1996 and 2016 for the most advantaged group of recent immigrants (i.e., with a high income, university education, and English or French as a mother tongue). In contrast, it declined significantly among the more disadvantaged group (i.e., with a low income, high school or less education and mother tongue not English or French).

There was also significant variation in the extent to which citizenship rates declined among immigrants from different source regions. Most striking was the large decline in citizenship take-up among immigrants from East Asia—mainly China. Indeed, by 2016 the citizenship rate among recent Chinese immigrants more closely resembled the rate among immigrants from developed rather than from developing countries.

Source: Trends in the Citizenship Rate Among New Immigrants to Canada (11-626-X2019015)

The CP story on the study:

Fewer newcomers from disadvantaged groups became Canadian citizens during a 10-year period that coincided with the previous Conservative government’s changes to the citizenship program, new Statistics Canada research shows.

The decrease was part an overall trend in declining citizenship rates among those who have been in Canada less than 10 years, despite the fact the actual citizenship rate in Canada is among the highest in the Western world, Statistics Canada said in the study released Wednesday.

The researchers found that between 1991 and 2016, the citizenship rate in Canada – the percentage of immigrants who become citizens – rose about five percentage points, but the increase was largely driven by people who had been in Canada for over a decade.

But beginning in 1996 and until 2016, the citizenship rate for those who’d been in the country for less than 10 years began to fall.

Using adjusted income measurements, Statistics Canada found that for those with incomes below $10,000, the drop was 23.5 percentage points, compared to just three percentage points for those with incomes over $100,000.

In the same decade, the citizenship rate fell 22.5 percentage points among people with less than a high school education, compared with 13.8 percentage points among those with university degrees.

In the case of both income levels and education, the gaps widened between 2011 and 2016.

Between 2011 and 2015, the Conservative government of the day overhauled the citizenship program, hiking citizenship fees from $100 to $630 and implementing stricter language, residency and knowledge requirements.

The Statistics Canada research does not provide specific reasons for the decline in citizenship rates.

“Multiple policy changes were made throughout the 2006 to 2016 period,” Laurence Beaudoin-Corriveau, an agency spokesperson, said in an email. “It is difficult to pinpoint the effect of a particular policy change with the census data, which are collected every five years.”

The Conservatives defended the decision to raise citizenship fees – they had not increased since 1995 – by arguing that the fee didn’t come close to covering the cost of actually processing the applications. They had foreseen that the rise could impact applications, noting at the time it might mean people wait longer in order to save the money required.

In their platform during the recent federal election, the Liberals took the opposite approach, promising to eliminate the fee beginning next year.

“The process of granting citizenship is a government service, not something that should be paid for with a user fee,” the platform said.

The Liberals pegged the cost of removing the fee at $391 million over four years.

In 2017, they also eased other citizenship requirements, including residency obligations and the age range for being required to pass language and knowledge tests.

According to the latest numbers from Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada, 176,473 people became Canadian citizens in 2018, up from 106,373 the year before.

Source: New Statistics Canada study suggests decline in citizenship rate tied to income

Quebec’s values test: Why not focus on everyday gender equality?

Another good and thoughtful column by Sheema Khan.

One point of interest is her call for the long-promised revision of the citizenship study guide to include everyday examples of what gender equality means, not the criminal ones cited in the current guide.

As the government did not manage to get its revision published during its first mandate, it should consider this suggestion if not already included in the revision:

Galloping from one controversial social policy to another, the government of Quebec recently unveiled its “Values Test” for prospective immigrants. Derided by some, the test requires newcomers to the province to be aware of a few “key” values. French is the official language of la belle province. Polygamy is illegal, whereas marriage between two individuals is not. Men and women are equal before the law. There’s nothing wrong in letting immigrants know what to expect about their future society. However, in view of Bill 21, one can’t help but be cynical about the Coalition Avenir Québec’s attempt to narrowly define who is – and who isn’t – vrai Québécois.

Quebec’s stance on gender equality is laughable in view of Bill 21 – hijab-clad Muslim women are barred from teaching in public schools, whereas Muslim men are not. Jewish men who sport a kippa or yarmulke cannot serve as prosecutors or clerks in a provincial court, while Jewish women face no such restrictions. The courts will decide if the notwithstanding clause overrides the violation of gender equality (as enshrined in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms).

Nevertheless, we should emphasize gender equality to those arriving from countries where women are accorded fewer resources and rights than men. According to the 2016 census, three of the top 10 countries of birth of recent immigrants were Pakistan, Iran and Syria – all of which finished in the bottom five (of 145 countries) of the World Economic Forum’s 2015 Global Gender Gap Index.

The culture shock can be great. I still remember my cousin’s surprise when he could not access his mother’s bank account as a matter of right, as he used to do in Saudi Arabia. Or one Middle Eastern relative who was dismayed that his wife was automatically a co-owner of the marital home. Or one husband’s disbelief that he would have to split marital assets 50-50 in the case of divorce. These are hard-won rights for women that should never be compromised. Immigrant men have complied and adapted to the new reality. And that’s a good thing.

While current guidelines from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada reiterate the equality of women and men before the law, they might want to add a line or two referring to everyday examples – such as financial independence and property rights of women. Instead, these guidelines leap to examples of criminal behaviour, stating: “Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, ‘honour killings,’ female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other gender-based violence.”

Such dramatic pronouncements, however, don’t help immigrants learn about the positive aspects of gender equality. And they lull Canadians into a sense of complacency that women in Canada are doing just fine. Not so fast.

In her compelling memoirs, Truth Be Told, Beverley McLachlin chronicles her own efforts to combat sexism within the legal profession but points to the broader fight for women’s equality throughout Canadian society. A fight that is by no means close to over.

According to the 2018 Gender Gap Index, Canada ranks 16th in the world (out of 149 countries) for its equitable distribution of resources between men and women. While we are tied for first in the field of education, we are 21st in political empowerment, 27th in economic participation and 104th in health/survival. The relatively high placements in politics and economics, however, mask absolute inequities.

For example, in 2018, Statistics Canada reported that Canadian women earned 87 cents for every $1 earned by men. A 2018 Angus Reid study indicated that women are more likely than men to experience poverty. Women in Canada live at greater risk than men of domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, and sex trafficking. Even with the #MeToo movement, women still underreport sexual assault and harassment. Women and girls are often subject to online hate and sexualized abuse. While women make up roughly half the population, they are underrepresented in political and professional leadership positions. As MacLean’s Anne Kingston rightly observed, sexism permeated the 2019 election, culminating in a vicious, sexist slur painted on Catherine McKenna’s campaign office.

“Working toward gender equality is not only still relevant. It is urgent,” observes the Canadian Women’s Foundation. It’s a message we should all take to heart. The fight for gender equality begins here.

Why the People’s Party of Canada election result shouldn’t be underestimated

Overblown risk IMO. PPC did not even appear to influence CPC immigration-related positions. And as someone who spent some time looking at the bios, backgrounds and campaigns of PPC candidates, most of their candidates were more placeholders than active campaigners:

As Canada’s federal election fades from the headlines, temperatures drop, and the hockey season shifts into full swing, Maxime Bernier’s first campaign as head of the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) might begin to fade from memory. After all, the PPC’s results were forgettable. Bernier lost in his own riding, and PPC candidates tallied only 1.6 per cent of the national vote.

Yet progressive Canadians dismiss the PPC at our peril.

In the party’s first campaign, Bernier managed to find candidates for 94 per cent of Canada’s federal ridings.

These candidates delivered the PPC message at doorsteps, schools, and town halls from coast to coast.

The party received almost 300,000 votes in its inaugural run, a foundation on which it might well build.

Its ideology of exclusionary, anti-immigrant nationalism is eerily similar to political movements across Europe. The PPC derides the United Nations as “ridiculous” and “dysfunctional,” worrying that participation may “dilute” our “national sovereignty.”

It sees no moral justification for international aid.

It contends that immigrants threaten “to forcibly change the cultural character and social fabric of our country” and that we should build physical barriers to stop refugees.

Bernier urges that the Multiculturalism Act be repealed to “ensure social cohesion.”

This mashup of anti-globalism, hostility to immigrants, and cultural nationalism draws from an international populist right that, in most cases, was not taken seriously at first.

Not long ago, in countries such as Hungary and Poland, anti-immigrant nationalist parties were considered alien to a liberal, post-Communist political culture. Now they have swept to power.

The Lega in Italy was once frowned upon as a fringe regionalist party. It recently morphed into a nationalist-populist voice that, according to current polls, would win a plurality of seats if Italians voted today.

These movements distort national histories to buttress their exclusive visions of national community.

In Europe, right-wing nationalists replace the painful lessons of the 20th century with glorified national histories, and assert the cultural superiority of their own national community. According to the Alternative for Germany Party, Hitler and the Nazi regime were just a “petty mistake.” In Poland, the governing Law and Justice Party has introduced a law banning anyone from blaming Poland for crimes committed during the Holocaust.

The PPC likewise hearkens to an imagined past in decrying the supposed decay of the present.

In a speech at a July rally in Mississauga, Bernier claimed that immigration to Canada was once uncontroversial: “immigrants who came to Canada gradually integrated into our society . . . They became Canadian, but with a distinct flavour.”

It is only over the “past decades,” the Party’s platform explains, that immigration has become problematic — a period in which, not coincidentally, immigrants have been more globally diverse than ever before.

In reality, Canada has a difficult history of xenophobia.

In the early 1900s, when the government recruited southern and eastern Europeans to farm the prairies, alarmists decried diversity. “Assimilation,” ranted one leading parliamentarian, “means the intermarriage of your sons or daughters with those who are of an alien race.” His prejudice was written into an exclusionary new immigration law in 1910.

In the 1920s, Canada changed immigration policy to virtually ban arrivals from China.

In the 1930s, Canadians prevented the arrival of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, and in the following decade officials interned 22,000 innocent Japanese Canadians.

After the Second World War, Canadians fretted over the suitability of newcomers from Communist countries and delayed signing the United Nations convention on refugees.

It is also worth remembering that Canadian history has seen cross-burning, segregated neighbourhoods, race riots, and looting. Our recent turn away from race as the basis of national identity and immigrant recruitment has been a step toward social cohesion and justice, not the opposite.

Canada has struggled to become a more just, inclusive nation. What progress has been made on that front is by no means set in stone.

Government action is warranted to address the unease exploited by populism. Canada needs to bring its immigration and multicultural policies into the 21st Century:

  • In the economic hubs where we need immigrants, we have allowed housing to become unaffordable.
  • Annually, we accept thousands of workers on pathways to citizenship, but our laws prevent their families from joining them.
  • Accessing the labour market is a major challenge for many newcomers.
  • Our education and health systems need help to support the social, linguistic, and cultural needs of global migrants.

The list could easily be continued.

The European liberal political mainstream, like that in the United States, laughed at right-wing populism before awaking to falsified histories and an unrecognizable political landscape. Canadians should not make the same mistake.

The ideology of the PPC, and not recent immigration, constitutes a threat to the social cohesion and unity of Canada. Who we think we have been in the past will shape our answers to these challenges.

Canada has always struggled to integrate immigrants with decency, pragmatism, and justice. To achieve a more just Canada and safeguard against the politics of hate, we must preserve an authentic and critical memory of our past and build boldly for our future.

Source: Why the People’s Party of Canada election result shouldn’t be underestimated