The federal government has a toxic workplace problem. Julie Payette is the tip of the iceberg

A bit overblown given the selection of departments, CBSA and CSC enforcement departments. A broader look at departments would indicate a range of workplaces, some better than others.

For example, 19 percent of CBSA employees reported harassment compared to 14 percent for the total public service, satisfaction with resolution, 28 percent CBSA, 35 percent public service.

For CSC, 26 percent compared to the same 14 percent, satisfaction with resolution, 30 percent compared to the same 35 percent.

For contrast, take IRCC; 11 percent, lower than the government-wide 14 percent, satisfaction with resolution, 35 percent, same as the government-wide average.

Analysing 2017-19 staffing data (hirings, promotions, separations) and it is showing a modest improvement compared to the PSC audit. Hope to get this analysis out shortly:

The federal Liberal government has a deepening workplace problem.

Despite all the promises, targets, legislation and regulations, and all the good intentions to bring equity, harmony and respect into the federal public service, things seem to have gotten worse, not better.

For years, news stories have documented harassment or “toxic” workplaces in the unlikeliest spaces, be it in the RCMP, the military or now at one of the top public offices in the country — the governor general’s.

An independent review has described a “reign of terror” at Rideau Hall under Julie Payette and her friend and top aide, Assunta Di Lorenzo.

Its conclusions were powerful enough to lead Payette and Di Lorenzo to resign last week.

And it was maddening to read, in black and white.

The report, rife with redactions to protect the confidentiality of workers who suffered their wrath, was full of adjectives to describe a nightmare work environment: “hostile,” “negative,” “poisoned.”

Employees described “walking on eggshells” and reported “yelling, screaming, aggressive conduct, demeaning comments and public humiliations.”

But by blacking out details of specific incidents, it missed an opportunity to do everyone in the public service — and beyond — a public service. It needed to “show, not tell” exactly what cannot be tolerated in a modern workplace.

Because clearly, people still don’t get it.

Other federal workplaces are undergoing a similar crisis.

Mark O’Neill, the president of the Canadian Museum of History and the Canadian War Museum, is currently on leave, and a review of complaints of workplace harassment is reportedly complete.

The Canadian Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg issued an apology and replaced its top executive after an independent review of complaints of systemic racism, homophobia and workplace issues.

The federal auditor general in 2019 criticized two other sprawling federal departments for failing to maintain respectful workplaces.

Investigations found the Canada Border Services Agency and Correctional Services Canada knew they had problems in the workplace, “yet neither organization had developed a comprehensive strategy to address them.”

“Employees feared reprisal if they made complaints of harassment, discrimination, or workplace violence against fellow employees or supervisors. They also had serious or significant concerns about a lack of civility and respect in their workplaces,” the auditor general found.

It was only on Thursday — the day after the Payette report was released — that the parliamentary public accounts committee examined that 2019 audit.

“A lot of the culture we’re seeing coming out at the governor general’s is embedded in almost every aspect of the public sector,” said NDP MP Matthew Green, “and a good snapshot of that is in CBSA and CSC.”

In the past, Ottawa has tried to effect change, usually through legislation.

In 2015, Justin Trudeau campaigned on a pledge to “take action to ensure that Parliament and federal institutions — including the public service, the RCMP and the Canadian Armed Forces — are workplaces free from harassment and sexual violence.”

His government passed legislation in 2018 to address harassment and violence in Bill C-65. New regulations under that law finally took effect this month.

The new law emphasizes employer accountability to prevent workplace harassment and violence. It defines harassment and violence, and expands the definition to include — as the Defence Department has informed its employees — “a full spectrum of unacceptable behaviours, ranging from teasing and bullying to sexual harassment and physical violence.”

On Thursday, by sheer coincidence, the federal Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety flagged three online training courses for all federal managers and employees on the new workplace regulations.

Too late for Rideau Hall.

The federal government has also set itself equity in employment goals using federal laws like the Employment Equity Act, yet it has failed to diversify the ranks of federal employees and managers.

An audit by the Public Service Commission published Thursday showed visible minorities, Indigenous people and people with disabilities are still not making it past the recruitment and hiring process.

Only women showed an increase in representation through hiring for the federal public service between 2016 and 2017.

The audit tracked more than 15,000 applications across 30 federal departments and agencies.

Disabled people saw the biggest drop, while among visible minority groups, Black Canadians fared worst.

It is likely the federal government wanted to get ahead of the dim picture painted by the Public Service Commission’s audit.

On Tuesday, it floated the notion of bringing in even more legislative changes to make the public service more diverse, this time through “possible amendments” to the Public Service Employment Act.

But the sad reality is, despite existing laws, even when women, visible minorities, Indigenous people and people with disabilities do succeed in getting their feet in the door, their work environments can be oppressive.

A lawsuit filed by a group of Black public service employees in December says they face systemic discrimination, racism and employee exclusion.

So far, some 400 Black public servants, current and former, have joined the effort to have a court certify the claim as a class-action lawsuit against the Canadian government on behalf of 45,000 Black public servants.

Jennifer Phillips, who retired on Dec. 30 after 30 years at the Canada Revenue Agency, is one of the founding plaintiffs.

Based in Toronto, she first started working in CRA’s client services department and got only one promotion in all those years, to collections. She worked with the union to help other employees through the hiring and promotion process, and says she witnessed Black employees passed over, including herself, for jobs, while she saw others face demeaning comments. 

“I’ve seen it happen to others. It exists, but I’m one to brush things off,” she said.

It was after George Floyd’s death last spring, and a tone-deaf response by the department, that Phillips decided to mobilize with another founding plaintiff to organize the lawsuit and seek real change.

When she read about the report into Payette and Di Lorenzo’s treatment of their workers, Phillips said it all sounded very familiar, and she felt for the employees.

The prime minister, she says, owes them “a huge apology.”

“Could you imagine the mental health trauma to these individuals, of having to live it day after day, some of them keeping it to themselves before they start talking about it?”

Finally talking about toxic workplace environments is a relief, she said. “It’s like a weight off your shoulder. But you’re now second-guessing yourself — ‘Why did I take so long? Why did I let it happen?’”

Phillips said Trudeau should follow the example of U.S. President Joe Biden who, on his first day in office, said he would fire any staff member he finds showing disrespect to others. “Have a talk to all your leaders and let them know this type of behaviour is unacceptable and it will not be condoned.”

But Matthew Green, the New Democrats’ government operations critic, said the time for talk is over.

“Trudeau is big on branding and very, very short on delivery,” he said in an interview. “Time and time again, we see policies that on their face look progressive, but as soon as we scratch the surface it’s clear that they’re not actually resulting in outcomes.” 

He said if the Trudeau government “followed through on just a fraction of the promises they made to improve equity and workplace culture, we’d be a lot further along. Time and time again, reports are showing us that the culture remains, and there is zero accountability,” for what Green says is “ongoing workplace harassment and violence that’s being widely reported on.”


Muslim groups on the front lines of Islamophobia aren’t getting funding

Interesting analysis at the level of Muslim sub-group level. From my experience managing the multiculturalism program, including G&Cs 2008-11, never possible to satisfy all groups and having local officials recommend projects often led to their “capture” by particular groups.

Organizational capacity is, of course, a real issue but providing this risks further increasing dependence on governments and is more difficult to sell than project funding.

Given the small size of the most funded initiatives at that time, I was never convinced of the longer-term outcomes of these projects: 

Four years ago a white supremacist walked into a Quebec City mosque and opened fire in a premeditated rampage, killing six Muslim men as they worshipped, injuring and traumatizing countless others, and altering the lives of an entire community forever.

Afterward, Canadians listened as politicians of all stripes made statements and speeches about the tragedy. But the federal government response has involved limited action. Except for passing reference to Muslims in relation to challenging online hate in Canada’s 2019-2022 Anti-Racism Strategy, any targeted focus on addressing Islamophobia appears to have evaporated since the passage of M-103, a non-binding motion condemning Islamophobia, and the ensuing report Taking Action against Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination including Islamophobia.

Yet systemic, institutional, and societal forms of exclusion remain a daily reality for many Canadian Muslims, in part because the nuances of Islamophobia as a phenomenon remain poorly understood by public leaders and institutions. This is arguably because governments aren’t resourcing nearly enough anti-Islamophobia work led by the people and civil society groups who understand the issue and experience it most severely.

Federal anti-racism funding by the numbers

In 2019, the Department of Canadian Heritage, through its Community Support, Multiculturalism, and Anti-Racism Initiatives program, allocated just 3.7 per cent of $21 million in funding to Muslim-led and -serving organizations. (This excludes funds disbursed through the Community Support For Black Canadian Youth Initiative.)

Just 2 per cent of all funds went to organizations meaningfully led by hijab-wearing Muslim women, 0.4 per cent to organizations led by Black Muslims, and 1 per cent to first-time Muslim recipients of federal funding.

The violence targeting Muslims grounded in faith-based spaces continues unabated.

Statistics from the Anti-Racism Action Program are nominally better, with about 10 per cent of $15 million in funding going to Muslim-led organizations, although the pattern of limited engagement with organizations led by Muslims most likely to experience systemic barriers persists. Just over 3 per cent of funds through this program were secured by organizations meaningfully led by hijab-wearing Muslim women, 1.4 per cent to organizations led by Black Muslims, and 2.5 per cent to first-time Muslim recipients of federal public funding.

Both the Anti-Racism Action Program and Community Support, Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Initiatives have been shaped by the Taking Action against Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination including Islamophobia report, which recommends providing resources to communities most impacted by systemic racism and religious discrimination.

This is why it’s concerning that limited funding has made its way to organizations led by the Muslims most impacted by racism, exclusion, and Islamophobia.

Islamophobic violence and exclusion in Canada

In 2018, Muslims were still among those most likely to be targeted by hate crimes, after Jewish and Black Canadians (it’s not clear how hate crimes against persons with multiple and intersecting identities, for example, those who are both Black and Muslim, are classified or captured by Statistics Canada).

Data also shows Muslim women were more likely to be targeted relative to women from other groups, arguably due to the visibility of women who wear the hijab. Additional research shows that Black Muslim women consistently report the highest levels of discrimination among all Muslims across contexts, and Black Muslim men report significant barriers to political participation.

Today, the violence targeting Muslims grounded in faith-based spaces continues unabated. Just months ago, mosque volunteer Mohammed-Aslim Zafis was senselessly murderedoutside an Etobicoke mosque, and at least two mosques in Toronto and Edmonton received threats of violence.

Racism is also a theory about who should be trusted with resources and power.

Researcher and scholar Dr. Siham Rayale of the Black Muslim Initiative, an organization dedicated to addressing issues of anti-Black racism and Islamophobia, notes that hate crime statistics underrepresent the frequency of Islamophobic violence in Canada “because the threshold for what’s considered a hate crime directed at Muslims is often so high.” Statistics also don’t account for violence by state institutions, which typically impact the Muslims most excluded in Canadian society, she adds.

Further, “subtle Islamophobia” — which implicitly relies on harmful ideas about Muslims but occurs behind a polite veneer — is more difficult to measure. This is because it is “nuanced and not always a discrete event,” yet it is equally prevalent in workplaces and academic institutions, according to Raihanna Hirji-Khalfan, who has a legal background and expertise supporting individuals navigating human rights redress systems. Hirji-Khalfan notes this can be equally “violent and horrific … in terms of its impact” on Muslim workers and students, particularly those who are visibly Muslim.

Conversations like these highlight the importance of broadening understandings of Islamophobia from an issue of misguided individuals — hate crimes, online hate, and racial slurs — to a challenge that is both systemic and societal.

Why groups impacted most severely should be prioritized

Arguably, trends in who is impacted by Islamophobia and exclusion should drive how funding is allocated.

Research shows that efforts to address inequality led by individuals with lived experience are more likely to achieve and exceed their goals. And funding groups led by those closest to the issues promotes their self-determination and agency, and signals the legitimacy of their work to other public institutions and funders.

In particular, non-Black Muslims have the option to accept a “racial bribe” by supporting the racial status quo.

At its core, racism is also a theory about who should be trusted with resources and power. Orientalism, the racial theory from which contemporary Islamophobia originates, was used to justify European colonization of Muslim-majority societies and their resources, lands, and labour because Muslims were supposedly too barbaric and backwards to govern themselves. Handing resources over to racialized groups most impacted, therefore, challenges Islamophobia at a fundamental level.

This shows that resourcing the Muslim organizations led by persons who experience Islamophobia and discrimination most intimately is not just the right thing to do. It will also make our fight against Islamophobia in Canada more effective.

Historic resource inequities influence access to funding

With a relatively young and largely immigrant presence in Canada, Muslims here statistically have lower incomes, although they are more educated on average than other Canadians.

So it is unsurprising that many Muslim-led organizations are small and “don’t always have the organizational capacity — knowledge, relationships, time, and staff resources — to write successful grant applications,” says former Ontario human rights commissioner Rabia Khedr, now CEO of DEEN Support Services, a charity founded by Muslims with disabilities. This offers one explanation for the limited number of Muslim-led organizations funded under the two federal programs.

Additionally, many Muslim-led organizations “are new and it takes time to build up a history of projects to qualify for consideration by governments and foundations for funds,” says Muneeb Nasir of the Olive Tree Foundation, a Muslim-led philanthropic organization.

Public institutions resourcing anti-Islamophobia work need to broaden their understanding of Islamophobia.

Nasir adds that the few Muslim organizations able to secure funding are usually “well established and have [full-time] staff and connections to governments” as well as an ability to forge partnerships with registered charities, historically a requirement to access public funding. This highlights that organizations often need pre-existing resources to access public funding.

Recently, however, access to funding for Muslim-led groups has been improving, say Naeem Siddiqi, Olive Tree Foundation vice chair, and Dr. Katherine Bullock, a lecturer at the University of Toronto and researcher on the lived experiences of Muslims in Canada. In particular, Siddiqi notes that second-generation Muslim organizations that are “more sophisticated” and not faith based are often more successful in securing government grants.

It thus appears that while certain Muslim-led organizations have better access to public funding, barriers for others who face Islamophobia first-hand may persist because of resource and capacity constraints, as well as connections to faith-based spaces. But if we are to ensure those most impacted by Islamophobia, racism, and exclusion are able to lead anti-Islamophobia work, these issues of access to funding will need to be addressed.

‘Good Muslims,’ privilege, and access to public funding

As statistical data and multiple accounts by scholars and practitioners illustrate, not all Muslims experience Islamophobia and social exclusion in the same ways. Further, not all Muslims are willing to meaningfully challenge Islamophobia.

In particular, non-Black Muslims have the option to accept a “racial bribe” by supporting the racial status quo, which subordinates Black, Indigenous, and racialized people in society. “It benefits them financially, socially, it’s essentially self-interested,” says Dr. Rayale.

No intersectional analysis of how public funding is allocated is currently conducted.

Muslims who are visible and grounded in faith-based spaces, however, are less able do this because they are “not perceived as neutral and … already perceived as people with an agenda, and that agenda is not agreeable” to liberal institutions, says Hirji-Khalfan.

She cites an experience on a public board where a Muslim man “challenged me as to whether or not racism actually exists [in Canada] or people just play the race card” as an example of how sometimes Muslim people with power can play the “good Muslim,” upholding whiteness and contributing little to advancing conversations about racism and discrimination in society.

These nuances — visibility, connections to faith-based spaces, social class, and race — impact how Islamophobia is experienced and challenged, and are important considerations when allocating funding for anti-racism initiatives.

Addressing the challenge of underfunded Muslim groups on the front lines

If we are to meaningfully advance the fight against racism and exclusion in Canadian society, public institutions resourcing anti-Islamophobia work need to broaden their understanding of Islamophobia, from hate crimes and online hate to a form of systemic racism that can be implicit or overt and that exists in institutions too.

Public institutions need to prioritize funding for those most impacted. And as shown by the recent controversy in which the Somali Centre for Family Services was denied public funding, those reviewing grant applications must have strong knowledge of local communities and the organizations that serve their needs, and for public officials to build strong relationships with groups on the front lines as well.

Handing resources over to racialized groups most impacted, therefore, challenges Islamophobia at a fundamental level.

Further, public institutions should design funding opportunities through an anti-racism and equity lens — recognizing that those most impacted by exclusion may be running smaller, never before funded organizations and may not have grant applications that are as competitive as those from organizations with resources. Nevertheless, these small organizations may be more innovative and nimble, and have deep roots within an impacted community that can contribute to the effectiveness of their work.

Making capacity-building funding more accessible, so that small Muslim-led organizations doing critical work with limited resources can grow their infrastructure and become competitive, will also help address the challenges of underresourced anti-Islamophobia work.

Finally, while the names of recipients and the amount of federal public funding they receive is published, no intersectional analysis of how public funding is allocated is currently conducted. This data can be a helpful indicator of how the fight against racism, Islamophobia, and exclusion in Canadian society is progressing.

By taking decisive action in these ways, government and civil society organizations led by Muslims with first-hand knowledge of the issues can work hand in hand to challenge the roots of racism, exclusion, and Islamophobia in Canada. In so doing, we can ensure we put an end to national tragedies, as well as systems and structures that exclude and dehumanize.

Sanaa Ali-Mohammed is a community engaged researcher, organizer and human rights advocate based in Dish with One Spoon Treaty Territory. She sits on the board of Urban Alliance on Race Relations, which trustees the grant the Black Muslim Initiative received from the Olive Tree Foundation.

Source: Muslim groups on the front lines of Islamophobia aren’t getting funding

Move to curtail minority-language instruction in schools signals ongoing shift in China’s cultural policy

Of note:

Like many schools in China, the Yanji City Number 6 Middle School posts its school calendar on an outside wall. On the list are the usual subjects: language and literature, math, English, biology, politics, physics, history and sports.

Missing, however, is any reference to the Korean-language instruction that once defined this place. Like many other schools in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, Number 6 has long taught most courses in Korean.

Yanbian borders North Korea and counts 35 per cent of its population as ethnically Korean. But teaching Korean wasn’t just a nod to demographics or history – it was the law. For Koreans, local regulations mandated that courses could be taught in Chinese only with special permission.

Beginning this school year, that suddenly changed.

“Other than Korean class, subjects like math and science are all taught in Mandarin,” said one Korean man in Yanji. “Before, it was all taught in Korean.” A propaganda poster on the wall calls for those at the school to “build up the sense of unity of the Chinese nation.”

It “feels like the suppression of an ethnic minority – or possibly the cancellation of ethnic languages altogether,” the man said. Police closely followed a Globe and Mail reporter on a recent trip to Yanji, and The Globe is not identifying people interviewed there to shield them from retribution.

What happened in Yanji, however, was not accidental.

Last year, a commission under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the permanent body of China’s central legislature, examined rules that mandate use of local languages and found them unconstitutional, according to a disclosure made last week. The review takes aim at language policies nearly identical to those found in Yanbian and Inner Mongolia, where fierce protests and teacher strikes erupted last fall after officials halted most Mongolian-language instruction.

It is one of the strongest indications to date that what is taking place in classrooms on the distant fringes of the country reflects a major change in Beijing’s approach to those whose language and history differ from the dominant Han culture, which makes up more than 90 per cent of the country’s population.

The constitutional review appears to form “part of a concerted effort aimed at changing national policy towards minorities,” said Changhao Wei, a postdoctoral researcher at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center and the founder of NPC Observer, a website that tracks Chinese legislative development.

The broader Chinese ambition is about “Han supremacy. It’s a racial project of domination,” said Gerald Roche, an anthropologist who specializes in language politics at La Trobe University in Melbourne. “They want to be at a point where they are a nation united by language.”

From the early days of Communist Party rule, China has carved out a unique place for its minority populations. Following a Soviet model, it officially recognized 56 nationalities, categorizing people from the dominant Han to the Hezhe, which in 1964 numbered just 718 people. The Chinese Constitution guaranteed ethnic groups “the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages and to preserve or reform their own traditions and customs.”

Though chairman Mao Zedong ultimately suppressed some ethnic policies, since 1949, China’s 55 minority groups have received benefits including government-backed language support, advantages in hiring and education and exemptions from the strictest family-planning policies.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, however, has overseen major changes. Across China, cities and provinces – including Yanbian – are stripping away the additional university placement exam points long awarded to ethnic minorities to improve their scores. Affirmative-action-style hiring policies are being reworked. Officials have rescinded lenient family planning policy for some minority groups, including the largely Muslim Uyghurs.

Mr. Xi has advocated the “forging of a communal consciousness of the Chinese nation,” calling for greater recognition of Chinese culture by people of all ethnic groups. Authorities must strengthen Chinese language education, emphasize patriotic education and “bury the seeds of loving China in every child’s heart,” Mr. Xi said in 2019.

Late last year, Beijing for the first time appointed a Han official to lead the National Ethnic Affairs Commission – Zhu Weiqun, one of China’s most prominent voices on ethnic affairs, has argued that China’s current ethnic policies are in need of replacement, saying recognition of minorities and preferential policies toward smaller ethnic groups fractures national unity.

Banishing minority-language instruction, Chinese authorities and scholars have said, is necessary to reduce poverty and create equal workplace opportunity.

Teaching Mandarin is the best way to “improve the quality of the next generation of ethnic minorities,” said Yang Wenhui, an ethnic studies scholar at Yunnan University. “They can’t afford to always be falling behind.”

The promotion of Mandarin began in earnest in 2001, with the adoption of a national language law. By 2009, half of China’s population was deemed competent in Mandarin. By last year, 80 per cent had reached that level.

Beijing’s insistence on Mandarin education, however, has been interwoven with efforts to suppress ethnic dissent. After riots in Tibet and Xinjiang in 2008 and 2009, a “more oppressive assimilatory dynamic really emerged,” said Prof. Roche, who spent eight years living in Qinghai and working with linguistic minority groups.

In 2017, authorities in Xinjiang placed teachers in intensive Mandarin-language summer instruction. Last year, a similar program was rolled out nationwide, with authorities pledging to increase teachers’ use of “excellent Chinese language and culture.”

In Yanji, the imposition of Mandarin instruction has support within the Korean community. “I went to Korean schools. I couldn’t keep up with my classmates at all when I entered the university,” one man said. “Mandarin was too difficult.” He has placed his own child in a Chinese kindergarten. “Our mother tongue is Korean. We can speak [it] at home if we really want to,” he said. Local bookstores, too, continue to stock large quantities of Korean-language titles.

Others, however, worry what’s happening in schools is a sign their own government has turned on them.

“Our mother tongue has been removed just because we are an ethnic minority group,” a Korean woman says. “We can see from places like Tibet and Xinjiang that for a minority to become too strong isn’t a good thing these days. It feels to me like oppression.”


How to design language tests for citizenship

Immigration-based countries tend to have more pragmatic approach to language training than some of the European examples cited:

“Perfect swedish is overrated. But comprehensible Swedish is deeply underrated,” says Ulf Kristersson, the leader of Sweden’s centre-right Moderate party, which supports a language requirement to become a Swedish citizen. The left has come round, too: the Social Democrat-led government plans to introduce a language test. Sweden would thereby leave the small club of European countries that do not make passing such a test a condition of naturalisation.

To learn the language of the country you live in is the key to a full life there. But many experts in language policy oppose testing for citizenship—because they suspect a less compassionate motive in some who propose them. “Becoming a Danish citizen is something one has to become worthy of,” said Inger Stojberg in 2015, when she was the immigration and integration minister in Denmark’s centre-right government—implying that the unworthy had been slipping through. Her thinly camouflaged goal was not to improve immigrants’ Danish, but to naturalise fewer of them.

Ivison: 300,000 dual citizens in Hong Kong must choose between Canada and China after policy change

To watch the choices that these Canadian citizens make:

Ottawa is growing increasingly concerned about the rights of 300,000 Canadian citizens in Hong Kong, after the territory’s government declared that dual citizens must choose the nationality they wish to maintain.

“Canada is aware of the Hong Kong government’s decision to require dual nationals to declare the nationality they wish to legally maintain while in Hong Kong,” said spokesperson John Babcock. “At this moment, we understand that this policy predominantly affects dual nationals serving prison sentences in Hong Kong. Canada has expressed its concern to the Hong Kong government about the possible loss of consular access that this change implies.”

China doesn’t recognize dual nationals under its Nationality Law and Hong Kong residents of Chinese descent are regarded as Chinese citizens. The Hong Kong government has stated that residents, around 300,000 of whom hold Canadian passports, are not entitled to consular protection unless they make a declaration of change of nationality. If that process is successful, they are no longer regarded as Chinese citizens – but it may affect their right of abode in Hong Kong, which allows people to live and work in the territory without restrictions. Foreign nationals can only acquire right of abode after a seven years residency requirement, which gives them the right to vote but not hold a territorial passport or stand for office.

Source: 300,000 dual citizens in Hong Kong must choose between Canada and China after policy change

British Columbia Appeal Court ‘sorely lacking’ in people of colour: top judge

Of note:

Since the Liberal’s re-election in 2019, nearly 59 per cent of the judges federally appointed or elevated have been women, 16 per cent identify as a visible minority and a further three per cent identify as Indigenous, said the department. (last para highlights increased diversity in appointments since 2016:

B.C.’s top judge admits that the B.C. Court of Appeal is “sorely lacking” in diversity among its judges.

In 2016, the Trudeau government introduced policies aimed at increasing diversity for federally appointed judges, including those on B.C.’s highest court and the B.C. Supreme Court.

But while the gender balance on the Appeal Court has been improved, with 11 of the 24 current full-time and part-time judges being women, there are no judges who are Black, Indigenous or people of colour.

But while the gender balance on the Appeal Court has been improved, with 11 of the 24 current full-time and part-time judges being women, there are no judges who are Black, Indigenous or people of colour.

Chief Justice Robert Bauman of the B.C. Court of Appeal said that it was important to the administration of justice that public institutions reflect society.

He said the judiciary and law are enriched by judges bringing a wide range of experiences and perspectives to their work.

“For many years, the B.C. Court of Appeal has achieved gender balance, or near-balance, between male and female judges,” Bauman said in a statement. “However, the Court is sorely lacking in other forms of diversity, especially judges who identify as Indigenous, Black or people of colour.”

Bauman noted that Appeal Court judges are appointed almost exclusively from the pool of judges who make up the B.C. Supreme Court, which he said has had an increasing number of diverse appointments in the past several years.

“That being so, I expect that the Appeal Court will begin to receive appointments in the coming years that will enhance the Court’s diversity, and I look forward to that positive development.”

In September, the Canadian Bar Association urged the federal government to put its stated commitment to diversity in the courts into action, noting that the judiciary in Canada remains overwhelmingly white with judges lacking first-hand knowledge and experience of the racism and systemic challenges faced by people of colour.

Raphael Tachie, the president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, also believes the government is not moving fast enough.

“Good rhetoric is appreciated. To be taken seriously, you need to take concrete steps. If you look at the B.C. Court of Appeal, it’s not a reflection of concrete steps.”

Tachie said he moved from B.C., where he practised law for 11 years, to Ontario in part because he believes his career prospects as a Black lawyer in the eastern province are better.

He said he does not accept the argument made by some in the judiciary and in law schools and corporate law firms that the lower courts need to be stocked with more qualified candidates before the higher courts can become more diversified.

Rupinder Gosal, president of the South Asian Bar Association of B.C., said it’s definitely a goal of her organization to increase diversity among judges but added she understands why there aren’t many diverse Court of Appeal judges because up until recently there weren’t as many appointments of diverse judges at lower levels.

“I think it’s unfortunately a step-by-step process and it’s unfortunately a process that will take some time.”

But Gosal said there were concerns about what she called systemic barriers to judicial applicants, including requirements to provide judicial references, as well as a need to encourage more candidates to step forward and apply.

In 1985, Wally Oppal was the first person of colour appointed to the B.C. Supreme Court. He was elevated to the B.C. Court of Appeal in 2003 where he served for two years before being elected to the provincial legislature and serving as attorney general for four years.

He said that getting more diverse judges on the bench was a “challenging” issue but added that he had never met anyone in positions of power in the justice system, whether judges or justice ministers, who don’t agree that there’s a greater need for diversity.

“The multicultural aspect of the justice system has only started to change within the last 20 years or so, 25 years. So I think there’s a certain amount of catch up that has to take place.”

In a statement, the federal Justice Department said that the face of Canada’s judiciary has changed considerably since the Liberals took office.

“We are committed to having a judiciary that looks more like Canada — one in which all Canadians can see themselves reflected,” said the statement.

“We are proud of the transparent and accountable appointment process we put into place to identify outstanding judicial candidates who reflect Canada’s diversity.”

Since the Liberal’s re-election in 2019, nearly 59 per cent of the judges federally appointed or elevated have been women, 16 per cent identify as a visible minority and a further three per cent identify as Indigenous, said the department.

Source: Appeal Court ‘sorely lacking’ in people of colour: top judge

Boswell: O’Toole’s anti-cancel-culture campaign is really a defence of commemorative status quo

Good contrast between virtue signalling on historical figures versus having a more meaningful discussion on options, ranging from removal or relocation accompanied by interpretive placques:

Erin O’Toole launched his campaign for the leadership of the federal Conservatives one year ago today — on Jan. 27, 2020 — with a video message in which he positioned himself as a champion of Canadian heritage and an avowed enemy of “cancel culture”.

The video was filmed in a snowy Major’s Hill Park in downtown Ottawa, with the Parliament Buildings and a statue of Rideau Canal builder Lt.-Col. John By providing background scenery.

Shots of O’Toole walking and talking about his campaign against this evocative backdrop were interspersed with file footage of a controversial statue of Sir John A. Macdonald being hauled away from the entrance of Victoria City Hall after demands from B.C. Indigenous leaders in 2018.

“Who’s going to defend our history, our institutions,” O’Toole asks, “against attacks from cancel culture and the radical left?”

Since O’Toole’s campaign launch 12 months ago with that one-minute, 46-second video — leading up to and following his unexpected victory in the Tory leadership contest in August — the Ontario MP has repeatedly cast himself as a courageous cultural warrior (with a military pedigree, as we are constantly reminded) who is not afraid to fight those bent on “erasing our history.”

It’s become part of O’Toole’s personal brand as party leader and it’s now a central message in Conservative recruitment and fundraising strategies.

The party’s website features a “Stop Cancel Culture” pitch for donations and new members — superimposed on a photo of the recently beheaded Montreal statue of Macdonald — that echoes O’Toole’s mantra: “We can’t keep destroying our history.”

It’s time for a reality check — and a reminder that what O’Toole monolithically characterizes as “our history” is better understood in 21st-century Canada as a multitude of competing versions of the past, seen from a variety of ethnocultural, regional and other perspectives, many of which have really only begun to find expression in Canada’s landscape of commemoration.

O’Toole and his party are misusing the term “cancel culture” to stoke anger, attract followers and cash, and generally energize a reactionary campaign that could thwart a long overdue, orderly reassessment of how we commemorate history in Canada’s public spaces and honourary nomenclature.

Yes, unthinking vandals like those who knocked down the Macdonald statue in Montreal last summer, or have spray-painted graffiti on other Macdonald monuments in Kingston and elsewhere in recent years, have unwittingly given oxygen to O’Toole’s campaign.

But that’s just the extreme end of a broad spectrum of reformists who recognize that hundreds of years of embedded racism in Canadian society is quite unsurprisingly reflected in place names and monuments and other landmarks honouring the 18th– and 19th-century elites of imperial Britain and colonial Canada.

Defacers and destroyers of public monuments should be punished for their crimes, and those who may sympathize with such counterproductive attacks should direct their reformist energies to legitimate processes — at city halls, provincial legislatures, universities — to push for constructive changes to public commemoration.

Unfortunately, O’Toole has also condemned these kinds of moderate reform efforts, conflating his criticism of extremist actions with his attacks on thoughtful, informed, consultative, democratic decision-making that has also been occurring and which must be at the heart of rethinking and revitalizing our public memorials.

This is, in fact, the kind of fair and open process that is being undertaken to determine the fate of the Macdonald statue in Victoria.

The statue had been erected just a few metres from the front entrance of Victoria’s municipal headquarters in 1982 after it was gifted to the city by the B.C.-based Sir John A. Macdonald Historical Society.

To B.C. Indigenous leaders, who had to pass the statue every time they attended meetings of a city committee crafting Victoria’s reconciliation strategy, the unavoidable sight of a bronze tribute to the man they hold chiefly responsible for the cultural genocide of their peoples posed a serious obstacle to their participation in that process.

A 2018 decision by city council to remove the monument was followed by further public consultations in March 2020 about its possible relocation. Then the pandemic put the issue on pause. The statue is likely to be relocated and adorned with a history-balancing plaque once the pandemic eases and final consultations can proceed.

A similar multi-stage decision-making effort was made at Queen’s University in Kingston, where there was overwhelming support from students and faculty members — despite some well-argued dissent during an extensive consultation process — to rename John A. Macdonald Hall, the main law building on campus, out of respect for Indigenous law students.

O’Toole’s churlish reaction? “Another victim of cancel culture,” he tweeted when Queen’s announced the decision, just as he has repeatedly lambasted Victoria for what he falsely insists is “erasing history.”

In a similar case with a different outcome, the citizens of Picton, Ont., were consulted about what should happen to a Macdonald statue in the centre of that town before municipal councillors cast their decisive vote in November. The bronze tribute to Macdonald’s early law career will remain in place alongside “respectful and historically accurate messaging” to be displayed on a plaque offering a more balanced perspective on Macdonald’s legacy. Other initiatives will be undertaken to promote “anti-racist attitudes and inclusiveness of marginalized peoples.”

People of good conscience will disagree. Some communities will remove statues or names. Others will choose a different path. But local decisions for local reasons should prevail, once the public has had an informed, reasoned discussion about the challenges involved in both preserving and balancing Canada’s complicated history in our public commemorations.

Why dismiss such moderate measures as “cancel culture”? Because that’s a term that increasingly conjures negative reactions from free-speech advocates and the broader public. It typically describes a mob-like, online ostracizing of an individual that can happen to just about anyone perceived to have publicly uttered some irredeemably wrong-headed, hurtful remark — or to have committed some unforgivable act — that exposed that person’s alleged racism, misogyny, homophobia or transphobia.

If it seems odd that O’Toole and such luminaries of progressive politics as Noam Chomsky and Gloria Steinem are on the same side of a contemporary cultural debate as opponents of “cancel culture,” be reassured they’re really not.

Conservative politicians in both Canada and the U.S. have appropriated the term for their own purposes.

O’Toole has suggested on several occasions that he is aligned with the likes of Chomsky and Steinem, J.K. Rowling, Malcolm Gladwell and the other signatories of an open letter against increased “censoriousness,” “public shaming” and “illiberalism” in society, which was publishedin Harper’s Magazine last July.

They sounded an alarm about preserving space and freedom in public discourse for thoughtful dissent from absolutist stances on various social, cultural and political issues without fear of ostracization, firing and other forms of career cancellation.

Significantly, the signatories emphasized their support for “powerful protests for racial and social justice” and “wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society,” but expressed worry that certain intolerant voices on the left are pushing their “own brand of dogma or coercion — which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting.”

Canada’s Conservative leader (who typically neglects to mention Margaret Atwood and former federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff as Harper’ssignatories) obviously has a much different agenda than those decidedly non-Conservative individuals do — one that has no real relationship to the internet bullying that the letter-writers are campaigning against.

Yet O’Toole enjoys the supposed company of Atwood, Ignatieff et al. The public figure O’Toole wants to save from social media de-platforming — a certain booze-loving Father of Confederation who genuinely deserves great credit for overcoming linguistic, religious and geographic challenges in forging modern Canada — has been dead since 1891.

“When I launched my campaign in January and said I wanted to stand up to cancel culture and the erosion of our history, the media mocked me for that,” O’Toole said in an Aug. 1 interview.  “And now a few weeks ago … J.K. Rowling, Malcolm Gladwell, 150 prominent authors all signed a letter saying we need to fight back against cancel culture.”

What O’Toole is really doing is exploiting the “cancel culture” debate to rally opposition to anyone messing with the reputation of Macdonald and other Conservative luminaries. In effect, he’s shutting down opportunities to have civil discussions about reconsidering how we do commemoration in Canada, ill-advisedly suggesting citizens should rally around one version of “our history,” and to condemn “erasing our history,” even reasonable efforts to update, diversify and (yes, in some cases) deodorize our commemorative landscape.

Does anyone really think 19th-century slave owners who resisted abolition efforts in Britain and Upper Canada — and were relatively minor figures in Canadian history anyway — should be honoured in the names of Eastern Ontario’s Russell Township, Ottawa’s Rideau-Goulbourn municipal ward, or Vaughan Secondary School in Thornhill?

O’Toole’s interventions in the debate over statues, landmarks and placenames have focused primarily on the reputational fate of Macdonald. But his recent, unguarded remarks on 19th-century Residential Schools promoter Egerton Ryerson — in that ill-fated, leaked November video call to Ryerson University’s young Tories, when he said Residential Schools were “meant to try and provide education” to Indigenous children — were in keeping with O’Toole’s broader aim to defend Canada’s pantheon of patriarchs from adversaries whom he sees as “erasing” such figures from the country’s collective memory.

For O’Toole, this is a partisan battle. The Conservative leader wants to make sure Conservative historical figures such as Macdonald and Hector-Louis Langevin — both men key players in the Confederation story but also tarnished as authors of the Residential Schools tragedy and other racist policies of the 19th century — are held no more responsible for the sins of Canadian history than Liberal icons like Wilfrid Laurier and Pierre Trudeau.

The latter is routinely (and gleefully) mentioned by O’Toole as having been prime minister when several residential schools were opened. This was a key theme in a Facebook Live video he recorded last summer in front of the former Langevin Block in Ottawa, where O’Toole took aim at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s June 2017 renaming of the building as the Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council.

“I was the only one who publicly took a stand against him, because I said if we start this trend of eliminating the history to meet his political narrative, where is it going to end?” he said in a June 30 Facebook Live video message.

“You know who opened more residential schools that Hector Langevin? Your father, Justin! … I don’t see the left demanding Trudeau’s airport be renamed in Montreal. Where do they take their attack? To Conservative icons like Langevin, like Sir John A. Macdonald statues.”

Trudeau’s renaming of Langevin Block was made unilaterally — and thus foolishly — without public consultation or transparency. That’s the kind of move, however well-intentioned, that fuels O’Toole’s torqued rhetoric.

And it’s why communities that have thoughtfully, deliberately, honestly examined the darker chapters of Canadian history are providing a good model for reimagining our commemorative landscape — despite the Conservative leader’s campaign of resistance to change.

Randy Boswell is a Carleton University journalism professor and a former Ottawa Citizen and Postmedia News reporter.

Source: O’Toole’s anti-cancel-culture campaign is really a defence of commemorative status quo

New work permit program for international graduates in Canada taking applications

Makes sense, given that they are already here in Canada and thus unaffected by travel restrictions, not to mention being familiar with Canada with fewer integration challenges:

A new work-permit program aimed at encouraging international students to settle in Canada opened for applications Wednesday, offering hope to some eager graduates who were still seeking more details on the program.

The federal government announced the program this month after international students argued the pandemic had disrupted the job market, making it hard to gain work experience required to apply for permanent residency before their permits expired.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said the new permit offers people more time to find work in Canada after graduating from post-secondary studies.

Former students with post-graduation work permits that have expired or will soon expire can now apply for open work permits.

Under the new program, people have 18 more months to stay in the country to look for work.

The federal department estimates that about 52,000 graduates could benefit.

Shiva Montazeri, a Brock University graduate originally from Iran, said Wednesday that she felt relief again after a difficult year.

Montazeri, 37, said she lost eight months of work before her permit expired in October, and she was “happy and surprised” when the government announced the open work permit program this month.

She plans to apply, and is eager to accept a recent job offer for an online teaching position. But she still had uncertainties Wednesday about whether her husband is also eligible to apply for a work permit, and how soon after applying she can start working.

“We were impacted in a very bad way. Now are hopeful again, because we can apply for a new work permit,” she said by phone from St. Catharines, Ont. “But still, we have some concerns.”

Post-graduation work permits allow international graduates to gain work experience in “skilled” Canadian jobs and later apply for permanent residence in the country.

Sarom Rho, who leads a migrant student campaign with Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, said the change is a major win for the thousands of people who feared potential deportation once their non-renewable permits expired.

“This is a massive change and it’s absolutely a step in the right direction,” Rho said in an interview.

“However, there are many who are still left behind.”

Some people whose permits were near expiring have already left the country and can’t apply under the new rules, Rho said, or they went home to visit their families and have been unable to return due to travel restrictions.

Others whose permits are set to expire after November 2021 are also ineligible to apply, Rho said.

Rho’s group, Migrant Students United, also wants Ottawa to consider hours worked in essential jobs unrelated to graduates’ programs of study towards their permanent residency applications.

The group is holding an online session Thursday to take field questions about the program and how to apply.

Source: New work permit program for international graduates in Canada taking applications

Audit of Employment Equity Representation in Recruitment

PDF Version

Significant and useful, in that it breaks down the various steps in staffing and how different groups are affected at the organizational screening and assessment stages.

Like all research, this begs further work to assess the particular factors that resulted in visible minority and Indigenous candidates being rejected at those stages.

Notable that Black candidate respresentation declined more than other visible minority groups, again suggesting the need for some qualitative analysis of the reasons and rationales for them being selected out:

This audit was undertaken as part of the Public Service Commission (PSC)’s oversight mandate to assess the integrity of the public service staffing system. It is part of a series of initiatives that looks at the performance of the staffing system with respect to the representation of employment equity groups.

Achieving priorities related to diversity and inclusion in the federal public service will ensure that Canadians benefit from a public service workforce that is representative of Canada’s diversity. To date, progress towards a representative federal public service is being made. Of the 4 employment equity groups, 3 are represented at or above workforce availability; persons with disabilities are currently underrepresented in the federal government. These results show that more work and a sustained focus on diversity are required.

This audit focused on advertised recruitment processes as one of the key drivers to improving the representation of employment equity groups in the federal public service. The audit had 2 objectives:

  1. to determine whether the 4 employment equity groups remain proportionately represented throughout recruitment processes
  2. to identify factors that may influence employment equity group representation

This audit looked at 15 285 applications to 181 externally advertised appointment processes from 30 departments and agencies.

We examined employment equity group representation at 5 key stages of the external advertised appointment process (Figure 2 in this report provides more detail on each of these stages):

5 key stages of the external advertised appointment process: job application, automated screening, Organizational screening, Assessment, Appointment

Our focus was to explore whether employment equity groups experienced changes in representation at each stage of the appointment process, and to examine these stages for factors that may have influenced their representation.

Main findings

We found that employment equity groups did not remain proportionately represented throughout the recruitment process.

Our audit results showed that:

  • women were the only group to experience an overall increase in representation from job application to the appointment stage
  • Indigenous candidates experienced a reduction in representation at the assessment stage
  • persons with disabilities experienced the largest drop in representation of any of the employment equity groups, with decreases in representation at the assessment and appointment stages
  • visible minority groups experienced reductions in representation at the organizational screening and assessment stages
  • of the visible minority sub-groups examined in our audit, Black candidates experienced a larger drop in representation than other members of visible minorities, both at the organizational screening and assessment stages

Our ability to identify factors that may influence employment equity representation in recruitment was limited to the information available in the staffing files. Some factors were identified to partially explain the drop in representation of members of visible minorities at the organizational screening stage. However, limited information in staffing files did not provide conclusive evidence of other factors that may be associated with lower success rates of employment equity groups at later stages of the recruitment process. More research will be required to determine potential barriers in externally advertised appointment processes and to develop concrete solutions.

This audit report makes 3 recommendations intended to address the lower success experienced by some employment equity groups in external advertised recruitment processes. The development and implementation of concrete corrective measures will require collaboration between multiple stakeholders including deputy heads, the PSC, other central agencies and employment equity groups.

The audit makes clear that despite efforts across departments and agencies to advance diversity, work remains to achieve inclusive hiring processes in the public service. The PSC will need to further support organizations by providing systems, tools and guidance for implementing a barrier-free appointment process. Most importantly, deputy heads are responsible for reviewing their staffing framework and practices to ensure barrier-free appointment processes for all employment equity groups, including visible minority sub-groups.


COVID-19 scrutiny has stopped some women headed to Canada to give birth, documents allege

While the article is unbalanced, only citing Jamie Liew who dismisses the importance of the issue and the data (Jamie and I continue our debate at Policy Options and elsewhere), good to know that officials are identifying women suspected of misrepresenting their purpose of travel.

While the ATIP under question pertains only to Abu Dhabi, would be interesting to have comparable reports from other main source countries of birth tourists particularly China.

As to the question of the numbers, have written extensively on the strengths and weaknesses of the CIHI numbers (far from perfect but more realistic than the StatsCan/vital stats dramatic understating).

2020 numbers, likely available mid-summer, will provide a good indication of the practice given that visitor visas have declined 96 percent post-COVID, in contrast to other temporary residents where the decline has been much less (international students: 32 percent, IMP and TFWP down by 14 percent, April to November 2020 compared to the same period in 2019).

IRCC work on linking health and immigration data does not appear to have advanced much given COVID-19:

Greater scrutiny of travellers, prompted by COVID-19, has yielded new instances of women from other countries coming to Canada with what officials say is an unspoken plan to deliver their baby here, documents obtained by the Star show.

Some observers have repeatedly cautioned that the practice controversially dubbed “birth tourism” — which is legal — is being overblown and that focus on it has been driven as much by racism as real concern.

The federal government, meanwhile, has said it is studying the issue in an effort to understand the scope of what is happening.

An August 2020 report, obtained through an access-to-information request, offers a look at some of the information the government is getting. 

It was prepared by Canadian government staff in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. It says that over a two-week period in June, airline staff, with support from Canada Border Services Agency liaison officers, “intercepted” prior-to-boarding 19 foreign nationals from the Middle East, who were all carrying temporary resident visas, because they were suspected of misrepresenting the purpose of travel.

The report suggests new restrictive citizenship measures in the United States, falling oil prices and economic vulnerability due to the pandemic could be driving more pregnant women from the region to seek to give birth in Canada.

All babies born in Canada receive automatic Canadian citizenship.

Language in the government document states: “While birth tourism is not illegal in Canada, it can undermine Canadians’ confidence in (the government’s) management of migration and citizenship programs.”

Observers, however, say the trend has been exaggerated and that critics are unfairly demonizing non-resident mothers. They note that, generally speaking, many of the foreign women giving birth in Canada are, in fact, not “birth tourists” but international students, migrant workers, foreign government personnel, those seeking to become permanent residents, as well as Canadians living abroad who have chosen to return to Canada to give birth.

“There isn’t enough contextualized data out there to know why people are giving birth in Canada as foreign residents,” said Jamie Liew, a law professor at the University of Ottawa.

“It’s not clear to me that it’s people just floating in and floating out.”

Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, foreign nationals cannot be prevented from travelling to Canada to give birth. They can be, however, if they lie about the purpose of travel on their temporary resident visa application.

For its part, the Trudeau government says it is trying to understand the extent of the practice and is in the middle of collecting better data, including how many non-resident mothers are short-term visitors who come to Canada to give birth then leave. A spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says the government’s analysis is expected sometime this year.

In some Canadian cities, unregulated for-profit businesses, including so-called “maternity hotels,” have emerged catering to non-resident expectant mothers.

In the Vancouver suburb of Richmond, B.C. — whose main hospital has seen the highest number of non-resident births in Canada outside Quebec, according to the federal government — the city council last year passed a motion urging Ottawa to end birthright citizenship altogether. Most non-resident mothers at that hospital list a permanent address in China, provincial records say.

There is wide discrepancy in the existing national data. The Canadian Institute for Health Information says the number of non-resident births in Canada (outside Quebec) has steadily climbed from 3,600 in 2017-18 to 4,400 in 2019-20, representing about one per cent of the 380,000 births in Canada each year. Data from Statistics Canada has previously shown that the number is only in the hundreds.

The report obtained by the Star says “COVID-19 travel restrictions have brought to light a number of birth-tourism related temporary resident visa applicants within IRCC Abu Dhabi’s caseload, as the restrictions have led to closer scrutiny of the purpose of travel at the time of boarding.”

According to the report, the purpose of travel most commonly cited at the time the 19 applied for their visas was “tourism” or “family visit.”

Five of the 19 travellers were women who had previously given birth in Canada and were travelling to give birth in Canada a second time. They were travelling with family members or other companions.

“Some foreign nationals are using their relationship to their children previously born in Canada to attempt to justify entry to Canada to give birth a second time,” the report states. Others cited medical needs of their Canadian-born child.

Ultimately, 18 of the 19 were not allowed to board and their visas were referred back to immigration offices in Abu Dhabi or Riyadh for review. The one traveller who was permitted to board was refused entry in Canada but eventually allowed in due, in part, to possible risk to her pregnancy.

The 18 who were denied boarding were allowed to make their case in writing in response to “procedural fairness letters.” Some acknowledged they had given birth in Canada on a previous trip but noted they had also visited family or done tourism.

“If a traveller visited family and also gave birth, it is harder to reach a finding of misrepresentation as the declared purpose of travel is not false, but incomplete,” the report says.

It is unclear how many of the 18, if any, were eventually allowed to travel to Canada.

The report noted that since the start of the pandemic travel restrictions, the Canadian immigration office in Abu Dhabi had received 30 online requests from individuals seeking an exemption to travel to Canada to allow them to give birth as a “medical procedure or treatment.” The requests for travel were all denied.

“Few, if any, of the above cases would have come to IRCC’s attention in the absence of the COVID-19 travel restrictions,” the report contends. “The considerable number of cases over a short period raises questions regarding the frequency with which residents of the Gulf region are travelling to Canada for birth tourism under normal circumstances, and remaining under the radar. Indeed, the present numbers might be even higher were it not for limited flight availability and hesitation among expecting parents to board a 14-hour flight during a pandemic.”

The report notes that the decision by the U.S. in early 2020 to stop issuing temporary visitor visas to foreign nationals believed to be travelling to the U.S. to give birth, along with increasing economic uncertainty in the region and falling oil prices “will increase push factors for birth tourism to Canada.”

Asked if the pattern cited in the summer report was continuing, a CBSA spokesperson said the agency does not comment on trends or fluctuations.

An IRCC spokesperson said in an email a person is not inadmissible nor can they be denied a visa solely on the grounds that they are pregnant or that they may give birth in Canada.

However, providing false information is considered misrepresentation and has “immigration consequences.”

“While these statistics indicate that birth tourism is not widespread, the Government of Canada recognizes the need to better understand the extent of this practice,” the email said.

Liew, the law professor, said she worries the government could be prematurely concluding that cases represent birth tourism or that birth tourism is on the rise.

“There is very little data out there that indicates this is a growing problem,” she said. “I would say it seems like a very benign problem in my estimation.”