Pratte: Opinion: Questioning whether French is in decline should not be heresy

A very good example of how to analyze language data in a comprehensive and nuanced manner, using the wide range of language measures in the census and the Rapport sur l’évolution de la situation linguistique au Québec (mother tongue, language most spoken at home, language most spoken at work, language of instruction):

In the wake of a question from MP Emmanuella Lambropoulos that included quotation marks, Minister of Official Languages Mélanie Joly said she was “stunned” and maintained that “we cannot deny at this time that there is a decline in the French language in Montreal and across the country. The statistics show it.”

The decline of French would thus have become an absolute truth, statistical dogma that cannot be contested without risking excommunication — a punishment that was, as a matter of fact, administered to Lambropoulos.

However, the reality is much more complex. In its latest Rapport sur l’évolution de la situation linguistique au Québec, published last year (125 pages of statistics!), the Office québécois de la langue française paints a very nuanced picture of the situation.

Is there a decline? Some data suggest that there is, but several other figures show either stability or progress for francophones, particularly since the francization of immigrant children introduced by Bill 101.

In terms of mother tongue, for example, it is true that the proportion of French speakers slipped from 80.9 per cent to 77 per cent between 1996 and 2016. However, the proportion of anglophones also decreased, from 8.3 per cent to 7.5 per cent. No, the shift from French as a mother tongue has been toward “other” languages, that is, the mother tongues of immigrants. Their children, on the other hand, will go to French school, and French will slowly establish itself from one generation to the next.

Moreover, unlike previous generations, the majority (75 per cent) of recent immigrants who speak a language other than their mother tongue at home adopt French. According to this indicator, within the immigrant population, French is not declining at all, it is on the rise.

Data on language of work and language of instruction provide an equally nuanced picture. For example, on the island of Montreal, the number of children entitled to English-language education under Bill 101 dropped by one-third, from 75,256 to 50,416 students between 1986 and 2015.

Where the problem lies is in the language used in downtown retailers. The survey published by Le Journal de Montréal a few days ago confirms the data collected by the Office, according to which the proportion of stores in downtown Montreal where customers are greeted in French decreased sharply from 2010 to 2017, from 86.2 per cent to 72 per cent for stores in shopping centres, and from 89.5 per cent to 73.6 per cent for stores fronting on the street. These drops occurred in favour of English and of Bonjour-Hi. That said, once past the initial greeting, service in French was available in 96 per cent of cases, a proportion that has not changed since 2010.

We cannot therefore speak of a general decline in French. It all depends on what exactly we’re talking about. The government — and Quebec society in general — must certainly act to ensure that customers are received in stores first and foremost in French. It must be clearly indicated that the main language in Quebec is French.

However, the problems with how customers are greeted in stores do not justify an all-out linguistic offensive, even though such a policy would be popular. We will have to think twice, for example, before imposing Bill 101 on businesses under federal jurisdiction, when there is nothing to indicate that the problem of the “decline” of French is rooted in this sector, which accounts for less than four per cent of the province’s workers. It is surprising, moreover, that the government of Canada has not categorically rejected this blatant intrusion into its jurisdiction.

In short, one cannot speak of a decline of French in Quebec without putting a lot of nuances into it. We can say this while affirming that the situation of French in Quebec will always remain fragile and that, consequently, vigilance is required. However, in order to ensure that policies in this area continue to be well informed, it is absolutely necessary to authorize and encourage debate and questioning, even accompanied by quotation marks.

In short, one cannot speak of a decline of French in Quebec without putting a lot of nuances into it. We can say this while affirming that the situation of French in Quebec will always remain fragile and that, consequently, vigilance is required. However, in order to ensure that policies in this area continue to be well informed, it is absolutely necessary to authorize and encourage debate and questioning, even accompanied by quotation marks.

André Pratte, former journalist and former senator, is a principal at Navigator.


Ousted from Labrador Inuit government, ex-politician questions ‘blood quantum’ method

“Blood quantum” was a central part of US slavery and discrimination and Lawrence Hill, in Blood, captures some of the inhumanity (and is critical of the Indigenous focus on blood):

A former member of Labrador’s Inuit government is questioning the methods used to quantify whether he is sufficiently Indigenous after he was removed from his government roles last week.

Edward Blake Rudkowski said he was informed Nov. 20 that he was no longer a beneficiary of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement after a review of his status determined he had just 17 per cent Inuit blood. According to the land claims agreement, beneficiaries must have at least 25 per cent “blood quantum,” as it’s called, to be registered as Labrador Inuit, Blake Rudkowski said.

“This development is entirely related to a group of people throwing darts at a genealogy board,” he said in an interview Friday. “You can sit there with your membership for over three decades — over three decades — and then someone says, ‘Hey man, you’re not in anymore?’”

Blood quantum is a controversial practice of determining the percentage of one’s Indigenous ancestry. Blake Rudkowski calls it “junk science” and says his predicament is an example of how it’s an inadequate and inaccurate measure of who belongs and who doesn’t.

He said he’s been a beneficiary under the claims agreement for 34 years, and in all that time, nobody questioned his status as a Labrador Inuk. His family has a long, respected history in Goose Bay, in central Labrador, and his grandfather was one of two Inuit families in Sheshatshiu, an Innu community about 40 kilometres north of Goose Bay, he said.

“The footprints of my grandparents are all over Labrador, and my great-grandparents, and my great-great-grandparents,” he said.

He now lives in Toronto. In a 2017 byelection, he won a seat as an ordinary member in the Nunatsiavut Assembly representing Labrador Inuit who live outside the land claim area in Nunatsiavut, and outside the Upper Lake Melville area in central Labrador where many beneficiaries live. He won the seat again in 2018 in the regular election. In 2017, he was also appointed Speaker of the assembly.

On Friday, after he was told he was no longer a beneficiary, he says he got a call from Nunatsiavut president Johannes Lampe, who said he could no longer hold his seat in the Nunatsiavut Assembly nor his role as the assembly’s Speaker — only Labrador Inuit can be members of the assembly.

“I feel raw, I feel disappointed, I feel distraught, I feel upset,” he said. “Obviously there’s a whole myriad of negative emotions that get associated with a life event like this.”

In a statement Monday announcing Blake Rudkowski’s removal, the Nunatsiavut government said it “plays no role whatsoever in determining the membership of any individual,” and the beneficiary enrolment process is independent from the Nunatsiavut government.

Nobody from the Nunatsiavut government was available Friday to speak about its decision to remove Blake Rudkowski from government, or about the blood quantum determination process.

Blake Rudkowski said the documents he received indicating his status was under review showed the review was triggered by a political opponent.

“I had to apply as anyone who never had any experience with Nunatsiavut would have to apply,” he said. “It’s as if that previous 34 years didn’t exist.” As required, he included extensive details of his family history in his application.

“Their determination was that my blood quantum was 17.4, or it might be 17.3 . . . . So you would think with a number that precise would imply there was an empirical calculation . . . to arrive at that output. And for love nor money, I couldn’t tell you what the process was,” he said.

Blake Rudkowski said he hasn’t been offered any means to appeal the decision. He wonders what kind of precedent the decision sets. “If it could happen to me, then who’s next?” he said.

As for his own next steps, Blake Rudkowski said he hasn’t yet figured those out but he’s not defeated.

“I feel a calling to public service, and my days in the political arena aren’t over,” he said. “I’m really upset that my path with Nunatsiavut came to a halt the way it did, especially when it came to questions of my heritage, which are not questionable in my mind.”

Source: Ousted from Labrador Inuit government, ex-politician questions ‘blood quantum’ method

Universities urge Biden to end curbs on foreign students

Not surprising and warranted with respect to the curbs:

Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education (ACE), has written to United States President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris on behalf of 43 US university associations calling on them to move to ensure that American colleges and universities are “once again, the destination of choice for the world’s best international students and scholars”.

To accomplish this aim, Mitchell says the Biden administration should move to: 

• Withdraw the proposed regulations that would limit an international student’s ‘duration of status’ and create a fixed duration of admission. Mitchell says there is no evidence to suggest that such a restriction is required or that the issues raised cannot be addressed through the existing Student and Exchange Visitor Program.

“The amount of time the Trump administration proposes to give students is less than the average amount of time it takes an international student to complete his or her education. Such a policy is not fair to international students or institutions,” Mitchell says. 

• Withdraw the interim final rules and the proposed rule that make it harder and more expensive for individuals to receive H-1B visas. These new requirements imposed by both the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security were finalised without allowing for public comment, Mitchell says. 

“The business and higher education communities vigorously oppose the proposed rules, and two lawsuits have already been filed to block them. In addition, the proposed rule regarding subject caps will make it difficult for recent international students graduating from US institutions to participate in the H-1B programme.” 

• Make clear that the Optional Practical Training (OPT) programme remains in place as it was at the end of the Obama administration. The Trump administration’s constant signalling that it might change OPT created a serious disincentive for students to enrol in post-secondary education in the United States, Mitchell says. 

Most international students see the OPT programme as a transitional stage to obtaining an H-1B visa. More than 5,000 assistant professors and over 1,700 research associates hold H-1B visas, according to an online visa tracker. The H-1B visa programme is one of the very few pathways for foreign-born researchers to remain in the United States on a long-term basis. 

The demands are among a list of steps that Mitchell says “could and should” be undertaken quickly by the new US administration once it is sworn in in January.

In the open letter, ACE President Mitchell says: “First and foremost, we welcome and applaud the announcement that the Biden administration will move quickly to reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections that the Trump administration repealed. 

“We hope that your administration will take steps to make the DACA protections permanent and will work with you to support whatever measures are necessary to accomplish this worthy goal.”

An estimated 450,000 undocumented immigrants are college students and about half of those are eligible for the DACA programme.

In addition to DACA, Mitchell said the associations believe that the Biden administration should take immediate action in a number of areas to terminate, revise or replace a number of decisions that the Trump administration has put in place regarding higher education. 

He called on the Biden administration to work with all stakeholders to address “aspects of the Title IX regulations [the law against sex discrimination in education provision] that are deeply problematic and that micromanage campus processes in an inflexible manner and undermine college and university efforts to effectively, fairly and compassionately address the problem of campus sexual assault”. 

In particular, Mitchell said, the administration “should eliminate the mandate for a live hearing with cross examination, which could have a chilling effect on the willingness of survivors to come forward and raises serious concerns about re-traumatisation”.

Foreign gift reporting requirements

He also demanded a halting of the expanded reporting requirements, including the new Information Collection Request (ICR) and Notice of Interpretation (NOI) on Section 117, which relates to conditions of transparency and reporting of institutions’ foreign gifts or contracts worth US$250,000 or more. 

The higher education associations regard the new interpretation imposed by the Department of Education as part of an effort to expand those reporting requirements beyond existing requirements. The ACE letter says the Higher Education Act prescribes the information that institutions are required to disclose, and, in the absence of a regulation, the Education Department has no authority to impose new requirements beyond those in statute. 

The letter also accuses the Trump administration of launching “politically motivated” investigations of higher education institutions conducted by political appointees. Examples given include investigations launched by the department’s Office of the General Counsel of “racism at Princeton” and “academic freedom at UCLA”.

Mitchell said: “The [Education] Department’s response to instances of insufficient institutional reporting should have focused on reporting remediation to enhance the intended transparency rather than launching investigations that forced institutions to invest scarce resources in responding to burdensome document requests that sought information beyond the statutory authority.”

Limits on the effectiveness of student aid

Mitchell called for the withdrawal of the interim final rules regarding the eligibility of higher education students for funds under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act. Mitchell said this rule “contradicts congressional intent as to which students should be eligible for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund and limits the effectiveness of such aid”.

In order to “enhance the integrity” of student aid programmes, he called on the Biden administration to rewrite the rules to protect the risk to students and taxpayers and ensure that students’ financial aid eligibility is limited to “quality programmes”.

The letter calls for the reinstatement of Obama-era guidance on the use of race in admissions and the immediate termination of the Department of Justice’s “unprecedented demand that Yale University cease any consideration of race in its admissions practices”. 

Mitchell says: “There is no evidence that Yale is in violation of Supreme Court decisions that bear on this issue.”

Similarly, ACE calls on the Department of Justice to withdraw its support for the plaintiffs in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard

“The trial and appellate court decisions, both of which found for Harvard, have established a clear and compelling record that Harvard is in no way violating the law,” Mitchell says.

The letter also calls for the repeal of the Executive Order on Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency and Accountability at Colleges and Universities and the portion of regulations related to that order included in the Education Department’s 23 September 2020 final rule, “Direct Grant Programs, State-Administered Formula Grant Programs…” 

Mitchell said: “Colleges and universities are committed to free inquiry and academic freedom. It is improper for federal officials, including those at the Education Department, to insert their own political judgments about what speech should or should not be permitted on campus. 

“In fact, federal law specifically prohibits the Education Department from interfering in academic matters.”

Mitchell also demanded the repeal of the president’s Executive Order on Race and Sex Stereotyping. “Needless to say, colleges and universities are totally opposed to race and sex stereotyping, but the executive order is sweepingly overbroad and has chilled the implementation of critical diversity training programmes that ensure more respectful and productive work and learning environments,” Mitchell writes.


Somin: The “I’m for Legal Immigration” Dodge

Good critique of what is often a dodge:

Imagine a debate about marijuana legalization. One participant avows that “I’m for legal marijuana. I’m only against the illegal kind.” Most people will readily see that he is evading the issue: the whole point under discussion is whether existing laws banning the sale and possession of marijuana should be liberalized, or perhaps abolished entirely.

Along the same lines, imagine a debate over racial segregation circa 1960. One participant says: “I’m for legal integration. But I’m against the illegal kind.” Here too, it’s obvious that the person who said that is missing the point. The question at issue was whether existing segregation laws should be abolished (or at least severely curtailed). If she wants to argue that segregation laws are fine in some states (those that had them at the time), but wrong in others (those that did not), she needs to provide some explanation for why segregation is right and just in the former locations, but wrong elsewhere.

The same goes for almost every other context where there is a debate about liberalizing laws restricting some activity. Everyone who follows such questions recognizes that “I’m for legal X” is an evasion of the real issue, one that does nothing to advance the discussion.

The big exception is immigration policy. There, we routinely hear variants of “I’m for legal immigration, but against the illegal kind.” And many see this is as a serious argument.

In reality, it is no more valid than similar statements in the context of segregation, the War on Drugs, or anything else. The whole point at issue in discussions of immigration policy is whether various types of immigration should be legal. Saying “I’m for legal immigration” does nothing to address that question.

If the idea is that you support currently legal immigration but oppose any that is not currently legal, than you need to explain how and why status quo policy draws the right line—much like the person who supported segregation in some states but not others in the example given above had to explain what the difference between the two types of states is. The “I’m for legal immigration” mantra does nothing to refute arguments to the effect that current immigration restrictions are unjust, cause enormous economic harm, and threaten the liberty of natives as well as would-be immigrants.

If the claim here is that people have a moral duty to obey immigration restrictions until such time as they are properly repealed by Congress, that still isn’t a response to claims that some or all of those restrictions should be abolished. Indeed, the greater the obligation we might have to obey even unjust and harmful laws, the greater the moral imperative of repealing such laws as quickly as possible.

Even on its own terms, the duty-to-obey-the-law theory has to confront arguments to the effect that many immigration restrictions are so severely unjust that migrants do not have a duty to obey them. That challenge is especially hard to meet if you, like many Americans, accept the idea that it’s perfectly fine to routinely disobey a wide range of less onerous laws, such as speed limits and various petty economic regulations. Regardless, the issue of whether people have a duty to obey a given law is conceptually separate from the issue of whether that law should exist in the first place. Most debates over immigration policy are actually about the latter issue.

Similarly, if your objection to currently illegal immigration is that it undermines respect for the rule of law, then that’s a great justification for legalizing it! That would solve the problem far more thoroughly than any crackdown possibly could. If you think that illegal immigration undermines the rule of law in ways that the lawbreaking most of us engage in on a routine basis does not (most adult Americans have violated federal criminal law at some point in their lives), then you must explain what it is that makes immigration law special.

Finally, if you really do support all currently legal immigration, and oppose only the illegal kind, then you should oppose Donald Trump’s and some other Republicans’ efforts to severely truncate currently legal immigration. If you are indifferent to such plans or actually back them, then you are not for currently legal immigration. You’re for massively cutting it, and you should defend that position.

There are plenty of intellectually serious arguments for restricting immigration, including some for cutting it below current levels. I address a wide range of such claims in my recent book Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom. But the “I’m for legal immigration” trope is not a serious contribution to the discussion. The sooner we can retire it, the sooner we can focus on the real issues at stake in debates over immigration policy.

Source: The “I’m for Legal Immigration” Dodge

Israel’s Pick to Head Holocaust Memorial Stirs International Uproar [petition includes 19 Canadian signatories, some notable non-signatories]

Striking and disappointing that none of the Canadian delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance signed the petition, including the recently appointed head, Irwin Cotler nor any of the participating organizations. The 19 Canadian signatories are largely academics:

For years, his name was synonymous with intolerance and right-wing extremism.

So when Israel’s conservative-led government nominated Effie Eitam to be chairman of Yad Vashem, the country’s official Holocaust memorial and one its most hallowed institutions, it prompted an uproar.

Mr. Eitam, a 68-year-old retired brigadier general and former minister, has spent the last decade in the private sector. But his provocative statements from the early 2000s advocating the mass expulsion of Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and barring Israel’s Arab citizens from politics linger on the public record.

The appointment could have “devastating consequences,” said Israel Bartal, a professor of modern Jewish history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who said he would be forced to cut all contacts with Yad Vashem’s research institute after years of cooperation. “An institute headed by a person with such extreme opinions and controversial human values will never be taken seriously within the global academic community,” Mr. Bartal said.

Holocaust survivors, Jewish organizations and an international array of historians have denounced the appointing of such a contentious figure to head Yad Vashem. They say that in addition to recognizing the Nazi genocide of six million Jews as a unique event, the institution is also responsible for upholding universal moral values and educating people about anti-Semitism and racism.

Yet despite the pushback, a government appointments committee vetted and approved Mr. Eitam’s candidacy in mid-November. Only a cabinet vote now stands between him and the post.

“This is more than a colossal mistake — it’s a tragedy,” said Deborah E. Lipstadt, a professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University in Atlanta who has written several books on the subject. “Appointing Eitam to this position would be a blot on Yad Vashem’s reputation and Yad Vashem’s record.”

Mr. Eitam and Yad Vashem declined to comment on the appointment.

But Mr. Eitam’s defenders say he is the victim of a kneejerk left-wing campaign purely because he is right-wing and religious. They view him as a war hero and an experienced manager who could steer Yad Vashem out of a severe financial crisis that has been compounded by government budget cuts and a drop-off in donations because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The upshot is that Yad Vashem, an almost sacred institution that world leaders are expected to visit while in Jerusalem, has gotten caught up in the political and culture wars of a polarized country where the dominant right-wing battles the liberal left and is increasingly at odds with the more liberal streams among world Jewry.

Worse, experts say, it comes at a time when anti-Semitism is resurgent and far-right forces in other parts of the world are promoting Holocaust denial.

“You don’t play politics with the Shoah, and this is playing politics with the Shoah,” Professor Lipstadt said, using the Hebrew term for the Holocaust.

Worse, experts say, it comes at a time when anti-Semitism is resurgent and far-right forces in other parts of the world are promoting Holocaust denial.

“You don’t play politics with the Shoah, and this is playing politics with the Shoah,” Professor Lipstadt said, using the Hebrew term for the Holocaust.

She is one of 750 historians, Jewish studies experts and cultural figures who signed a petition protesting the appointment, which was submitted to Yad Vashem’s board of trustees and Israel’s Parliament this month.

Yad Vashem’s current chairman, Avner Shalev, 81, is a respected, apolitical figurehead. He announced in June that he was stepping down after a 27-year tenure.

Zeev Elkin, the minister with responsibility for Yad Vashem from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party, chose Mr. Eitam with Mr. Netanyahu’s full support.

Still, government approval may not be imminent. Because of coalition infighting, all senior appointments are frozen, and Benny Gantz, who leads the centrist Blue and White party in Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition, is likely to block Mr. Eitam’s advancement by denying him a majority if it comes to a cabinet vote.

But Mr. Elkin and Mr. Netanyahu insist that he is still their sole candidate. 

Mr. Eitam, a resident of a settlement in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, grew up as a secular Jew and became observant after the 1973 Middle East war.

He was decorated for his role in one of the war’s most desperate battles and later took part in a raid to free mainly Israeli hostages in Entebbe, Uganda. Mr. Netanyahu’s older brother, Yonatan, a legendary figure in Israel, was killed while leading the raid.

But Mr. Eitam once compared Israel’s Arab citizens to a cancer and a “ticking bomb” and said Israel would ultimately have to expel most Palestinians from the West Bank.

During the first Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s, when he was a brigade commander, some of his soldiers were prosecuted for beating a Palestinian man to death. The soldiers said they had beat him on the commander’s orders.

Ultimately, Mr. Eitam received a severe reprimand, and his promotion to the rank of brigadier general was long stalled. Yet his military career spanned nearly three decades.

Mr. Elkin, the minister responsible for Yad Vashem, denounced what he called an “ugly” and “hypocritical” campaign spearheaded by political forces who never objected to appointments from the left wing of the political spectrum.

“True, he made a few unsuccessful remarks,” Mr. Elkin said of Mr. Eitam in a telephone interview, “but that was 15 or 20 years ago.” Mr. Elkin also said that some of those statements had been taken out of context.

Mr. Elkin cited as a reference point Joseph “Tommy” Lapid, a Holocaust survivor and acerbic leader of a liberal, secular, centrist party who went on to become chairman of Yad Vashem’s advisory council. Mr. Lapid once said that Palestinians “might begin to think” of the effects if 10 car bombs were to go off in 10 Palestinian cities and kill 500 Palestinians.

“That’s a more shocking statement to my mind,” Mr. Elkin said, “and nobody opposed his appointment.”

One leader of the campaign against the appointment is Colette Avital, a former Israeli diplomat and Labor party lawmaker who now chairs the Center Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, an umbrella group for 58 Holocaust organizations. She said she had suggested alternative candidates to Mr. Elkin from the political right.

“There are people who don’t represent the left but can project an image of tolerance, understanding and moderation,” she said. Regarding the claims against Mr. Lapid, she said, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Other apolitical bodies have criticized Mr. Eitam’s nomination, including the Anti-Defamation League and some Yad Vashem donors.

“Yad Vashem should stay above Israeli politics and keep its irreproachable record and moral high ground,” Joel Herzog of the Swiss Friends of Yad Vashem wrote in an email.

Critics are baffled as to why Mr. Elkin settled on Mr. Eitam. But it might signal a desired shift that would bring the institution more in line with the government after some recent run-ins.

In 2018, Yad Vashem issued a stinging critique of a joint statement by the prime ministers of Israel and Poland that was meant to resolve a rift between the countries over a Polish law criminalizing some statements on the Holocaust. Complicating matters, Yad Vashem’s chief historian, Prof. Dina Porat, was involved in drafting the joint statement, apparently in a private capacity.

Supporters of Mr. Eitam said that he could project a more muscular, Jewish and Zionist-centric image from Yad Vashem for Israel’s battle against anti-Semitism. Mr. Elkin said Mr. Eitam’s whole army career had been devoted to the lesson of the Holocaust summed up by the phrase “Never again.”

“That is something fundamental in his character, the essence of his character,” Mr. Elkin said.


Citizenship tests set to resume online after 8-month suspension

Better late than never:

The immigration department is resuming citizenship tests that were put on hold more than eight months ago due to the global pandemic, with safeguards in place to ensure proper identification of those taking the tests online.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is launching a new virtual platform today for the citizenship tests, which will be offered online to a small group at first – the roughly 5,000 people who had dates scheduled before the pandemic that were subsequently cancelled, and other priority cases.

IRCC said the platform will be tested over the next few months and more people will be invited to use it — likely early in the new year — after performance monitoring proves it works reliably.

Before beginning the test, participants will be asked to confirm their identity through personal information, and they will have to take a photo of themselves and their ID documents with a webcam before the test can begin.

The system will take photos of participants during the test — a process that has been used to ensure the integrity of other tests that moved online due to the pandemic, such as bar exams or law school admissions tests.

20 questions, 30 minutes

The format of the online test will be the same as the in-person test, with 20 questions and 30 minutes to complete them. 

IRCC said in a notice provided to CBC news that that people do not need to reach out to the department — those invited to take the online test will be notified by email.

People can also wait to take the test in-person, but no date has been set yet for resuming that process. 

IRCC cancelled all citizenship tests, re-tests, hearings and interviews on March 14 due to the pandemic. Citizenship ceremonies were also halted at that time but have resumed since as virtual events.

Before COVID-19 struck, a citizenship modernization program was in the works that included plans for online tests.

Lives in limbo

Today’s development likely will come as welcome news to thousands of newcomers whose lives were in limbo because of the suspension.

All citizenship applicants aged 18 to 54 must pass the test to become Canadian citizens. Citizenship allows a newcomer the right to vote and obtain a passport, and also gives many a sense of security and permanence.

Many argued that if schools and universities can operate virtually, citizenship tests should be offered online as well. But some lawyers have warned that an online process could allow people to cheat the system.

IRCC says people can take the test whenever it’s convenient for them, while offering the test online will help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by limiting in-person gatherings.


In support of a process based on merit

One of the better and more nuanced discussions regarding merit in the judicial appointment process and the involvement of the political levels:

The president of the Canadian Bar Association has written to party leaders in Parliament and justice critics to clarify his comments on judicial appointments, which he says have been mischaracterized in the House of Commons and in news reports. CBA president Brad Regehr states that he has not accused the government of interfering in the appointment process, nor has he suggested that the process has resulted in the appointment of unworthy candidates.

The president of the Canadian Bar Association has written to every party leader in Parliament to clarify his comments on judicial appointments, which he says have been mischaracterized by several of those leaders and in news reports. CBA president Brad Regehr states that he has not accused the government of interfering in the appointment process, nor has he suggested that the process has resulted in the appointment of unworthy candidates.

Regehr also points to leaks about applicants to the media as demeaning the selection process, unfairly tainting those who are appointed, and discouraging worthy candidates from applying.

“One of the things that really concerns me is the naming people who submitted their names in the belief that it was a confidential process, and all of a sudden their names are appearing in the media,” Regehr told the CBA National. “It really bothers me that this happened. The potential impact on those individuals – their relationships with their clients, with their co-workers, with their firm – it was highly inappropriate.”

In recent weeks, news stories based on those leaks have fuelled speculation that the government is appointing friends and donors of the party. Members of the Prime Minister’s Office vet candidates who have been recommended to the Justice Minister by the Judicial Appointments Committees (JACs). They also consult with caucus members to learn if they have heard anything about those candidates that could potentially embarrass the government.

Justice Minister David Lametti stated in Question Period that the PMO has not directed any appointments, nor has it declined any of his recommendations.

According to Regehr, the current appointment process has improved compared to what it once was. His concern is that the process remains free of political interference.

“I understand that government … may do some additional vetting – I’m not unrealistic,” says Regehr. “If there is an indication that a person’s enrollment in a particular party or their financial support to a political party becomes a governing factor, that’s of concern, because the idea should be that these judges are being appointed on merit, and that they are reflective of Canadian society.”

Regehr reiterated that political involvement is an indicator of someone who is devoted to public service.

“It would be best if there could be some further affirmation that this is not the governing factor in the appointment of judges,” says Regehr. “I will take those accusations in the House and allegations in the media with a grain of salt. I have a good relationship with Minister Lametti, and I have had a talk with him about this, and he has assured me that this is not the case.”

In an emailed statement to CBA National Magazine, Lametti said he was pleased to read Regehr’s letter.

“I share his concerns about the confidentiality of the process,” Lametti stated. “Those who have chosen to leak the names of individuals who are seeking a judicial appointment are violating the privacy rights of those individuals as well as undermining public confidence in the appointments process. They may also be discouraging qualified applicants from applying.”

Addressing Regehr’s stated concerns about delays in filling vacancies on the JACs, which in turn delay filling vacancies on the bench, Lametti said the government has worked to reconstitute the JACs in jurisdictions where terms have expired. It has also reduced the number of vacancies nationally, he said.

“It is my responsibility to make recommendations to Cabinet for judicial appointments,” said Lametti. “It is one of the most important tasks I have as Minister. I make my recommendations to Cabinet on the basis of merit and the needs of the particular court. I also believe that an effective bench is one which reflects the diversity of the country it serves, and I am proud of the progress we are making in appointing diverse candidates. More needs to be done, but we are on the right path.”

Asked about the vetting by the PMO as a function of the appointment process, University of Waterloo political science professor Emmett Macfarlane says that our political system has rested on a set of executive prerogatives of appointments that provide a direct line of accountability for the appointment itself.

“Modernization of a lot of these processes have included establishing a bit of an independent filter, usually through these Judicial Advisory Committees, that have been set up for a lot of the Section 96 courts, and are probably a reasonable step to the extent that historically there was a lot of patronage in these appointments,” says Macfarlane. “A degree of professionalization of the appointments process was reasonable.”

Macfarlane says he is concerned by some of what has transpired over the past week. People have taken to the idea that an independent filter means the government and the prime minister should be cut out of the equation entirely.

“That’s a bit of a naïve view about the nature of courts and the role of the judiciary in our system, in that we obviously want a judiciary staffed with people who can do their best to recognize their biases, but there’s no such thing as an apolitical court,” says Macfarlane. “In fact, the higher up the ladder you go, the more political the nature of the court’s work gets.”

Macfarlane says that having an elected official who must maintain Parliament’s confidence and is responsible for selecting people appointed to our courts provides some measure of democratic accountability to the third branch of government.

“This is important – the quality of people appointed obviously matters, but the political nature of the role matters too,” says Macfarlane. “That’s not to say we slide off the opposite slope in that we should be talking about electing judges – very few people, rightly, in Canada want to go that route, but the reason that we should want that degree of political accountability is reflected in the nature of judicial decision-making, particularly in areas like constitutional and administrative law.”

Source: In support of a process based on merit

Douglas Todd: Rise of mixed-race unions in Canada softening identity labels

An ongoing trend although fear mixed unions in Canada compared to the US along with some interesting variations among visible minority groups:

The elevation of Kamala Harris to vice-president-elect of the United States of America has many probing the significance of mixed-race partnerships.

Many celebrate how the daughter of an Indian mother and Black father went on to marry a white Jewish lawyer named Douglas Emhoff. Optimists see her journey as a creative blurring of ancestries, which might help soften the harder divisions of identity politics.

Interracial couples make up about 10 per cent of all relationships in the U.S. and about five per cent in Britain and Canada.

Source: Douglas Todd: Rise of mixed-race unions in Canada softening identity labels

Canada’s College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act Comes Into Force

Good overview by one of the immigration law firms:

We will see how well the new regime works and whether it results in better practices and more professional immigration consultants:

Canada’s College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act has come into force, representing another step on the way to forming a new self-regulating body for immigration consultants. 

The act provides the framework for the creation of the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants (CICC), the body replacing the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC).

The act, which came into force on Thursday, November 26, 2020, but was first tabled in 2019, will see the introduction of a new licensing regime and a new code of professional conduct for immigration consultants.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) says the CICC will be subject to ‘significant government oversight’.

The government will establish the code of conduct, set the composition of the College Board of Directors, and appoint up to a majority of directors, IRCC says.

“We’re taking decisive action to hold immigration and citizenship consultants to account by improving oversight and increasing accountability to protect both the public and consultants in good standing from dishonest consultants who are taking advantage of vulnerable people,” said Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.

College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act

1.  Creates a licensing regime for immigration and citizenship consultants and requires that licensees comply with a code of professional conduct established by the minister, through regulations to be tabled by the government.

2. Authorizes the College’s Complaints Committee to conduct investigations into a licensee’s conduct and activities.

3. Authorizes the College’s Discipline Committee to take or require action if it determines that a licensee has committed professional misconduct or was incompetent.

4. Prohibits persons who are not licensees from using certain titles and representing themselves to be licensees and provides that the College may seek an injunction for the contravention of those prohibitions.

5. Gives the immigration minister the authority to determine the number of directors on the board of directors and to require the Board to do anything that is advisable to carry out the purposes of that Act.

6. Gives the new regulatory body to hear complaints regarding licensed members under the former regulatory body (ICCRC).

7. Fines doubled for consultants found to be violating rules.

In reality, the formation of the CICC represents a missed opportunity for the federal government to bring the regulation of immigration consultants directly under its remit. Self-regulatory bodies like the ICCRC and its predecessors have failed to the required job.

Ottawa should follow the example of Quebec, which regulates immigration consultants within the provincial government Ministry of Immigration. There is an established infrastructure that successfully regulates immigration consultants, without the repetitive problems faced by ICCRC and its predecessor.

The new act comes after years of investigations and reports citing abuse and violations by licensed and unlicensed consultants in the Canadian immigration industry.

The regulation of the immigration consultancy industry has long been a source of controversy, even before a Standing Committee report in 2017.

That report called for action in three main areas:

  1. The legislative framework for the body responsible for governing immigration and citizenship consultants.
  2. Investigations and enforcement concerning the offense of practicing while not authorized and other offences.
  3. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada procedures for processing applications and for communicating with clients and with prospective applicants.

Previously there have been a number of damning reports into the conduct of the existing ICCRC, exposing an unprofessional organization beset with infighting and poor practices.

An overwhelming concern is that unregulated ‘ghost’ consultants who operate in Canada and overseas without sanction.

The previous legal framework did not enable ICCRC to police unlicensed consultants inside Canada or abroad.  

This left the task for CBSA and RCMP, as well as the federal government, to try and address this problem. A number of high-profile fraud cases have thus made their way into the Canadian legal system.

The advice for immigration candidates is to exercise caution when hiring an immigration consultant.

Candidates who wish to receive representation are encouraged to hire a qualified immigration lawyer, monitored by a provincial law society.

Source: Canada’s College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants Act Comes Into Force

Windrush generation: UK ‘unlawfully ignored’ immigration rules warnings

Damning report:

The Home Office unlawfully ignored warnings that changes to immigration rules would create “serious injustices” for the Windrush generation, a report by the equalities watchdog says.

It found the “hostile environment” policy, designed to deter “irregular” migrants from settling, had harmed many people already living in the UK.

The Windrush generation came from the Caribbean to the UK from 1948 to 1971.

The Home Office said it was determined to “right the wrongs suffered” by them.

Labour said ministers should be “deeply ashamed” of the report’s findings.

An estimated 500,000 people living in the UK make up the surviving members of the Windrush generation.

They were granted indefinite leave to remain in 1971, but thousands were children who had travelled on their parents’ passports.

Because of this, many were unable to prove they had the right to live in the country when “hostile environment” immigration policies – demanding the showing of documentation – began in 2012, under Theresa May as home secretary.

This adversely affected their access to housing, banking, work, benefits, healthcare and driving, while many were threatened with deportation.

‘Shameful stain’

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) report found a “lack of organisation-wide commitment, including by senior leadership, to the importance of equality and the Home Office’s obligations under the equality duty placed on government departments”.

It added: “Any action taken to record and respond to negative equality impacts was perfunctory, and therefore insufficient.”

The report also said: “From 2012, this [hostile environment] agenda accelerated the impact of decades of complex policy and practice based on a history of white and black immigrants being treated differently.”

The EHRC recommended that, to ensure “measurable action”, the Home Office should enter an agreement with it by the end of January 2021, involving “preparing and implementing a plan” of “specific actions” to “avoid a future breach”.

This should apply to its immigration work “in respect of race and colour, and more broadly”, it said.

The Home Office has agreed to enter an agreement with the EHRC.

The commission’s interim chair Caroline Waters said: “The treatment of the Windrush generation as a result of hostile environment policies was a shameful stain on British history.

“It is unacceptable that equality legislation, designed to prevent an unfair or disproportionate impact on people from ethnic minorities and other groups, was effectively ignored in the creation and delivery of policies that had such profound implications for so many people’s lives.”

In a statement, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft said they were “determined to right the wrongs suffered by the Windrush generation and make amends for the institutional failings they faced, spanning successive governments over several decades”.

They added that the department was already applying a “a more rigorous approach to policy making” and would “increase openness to scrutiny, and create a more inclusive workforce”.

It was also launching “comprehensive training” for all staff “to ensure they understand and appreciate the history of migration and race in this country”, they said.

But Satbir Singh, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said campaigners had “repeatedly warned the Home Office that their hostile environment policies would inevitably lead to serious discrimination and to the denial of rights, particularly for people of colour”.

He added that “successive home secretaries” had “ignored these warnings” before the situation hit the headlines in 2018.

For Labour, shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “Ministers must work urgently to rectify this, including getting a grip of the Windrush compensation scheme, which has descended into an offensive mess, piling injustice upon injustice.”

And shadow justice secretary David Lammy, who organised the cross-party letter referring the Home Office to the EHRC last year, said: “Black Britons were detained, deported, denied healthcare, housing and employment by their own government because of the colour of their skin.

“Since the scandal broke, the Home Office has only paid lip service to its victims. It must now urgently rectify this gross injustice.”

Source: Windrush generation: UK ‘unlawfully ignored’ immigration rules warnings