The Campaign to Cancel Wokeness: How the right is trying to censor critical race theory.

Worth reading:

It’s something of a truism, particularly on the right, that conservatives have claimed the mantle of free speech from an intolerant left that is afraid to engage with uncomfortable ideas. Every embarrassing example of woke overreach — each ill-considered school board decision or high-profile campus meltdown— fuels this perception.

Yet when it comes to outright government censorship, it is the right that’s on the offense. Critical race theory, the intellectual tradition undergirding concepts like white privilege and microaggressions, is often blamed for fomenting what critics call cancel culture. And so, around America and even overseas, people who don’t like cancel culture are on an ironic quest to cancel the promotion of critical race theory in public forums.

In September, Donald Trump’s Office of Management and Budget ordered federal agencies to “begin to identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on ‘critical race theory,’” which it described as “un-American propaganda.”

A month later, the conservative government in Britain declared some uses of critical race theory in education illegal. “We do not want teachers to teach their white pupils about white privilege and inherited racial guilt,” said the Tory equalities minister, Kemi Badenoch. “Any school which teaches these elements of critical race theory, or which promotes partisan political views such as defunding the police without offering a balanced treatment of opposing views, is breaking the law.”

Some in France took up the fight as well. “French politicians, high-profile intellectuals and journalists are warning that progressive American ideas — specifically on race, gender, post-colonialism — are undermining their society,” Norimitsu Onishi reported in The New York Times. (This is quite a reversal from the days when American conservatives warned darkly about subversive French theory.)

Once Joe Biden became president, he undid Trump’s critical race theory ban, but lawmakers in several states have proposed their own prohibitions. An Arkansas legislator introduced a pair of bills, one banning the teaching of The Times’s 1619 Project curriculum, and the other nixing classes, events and activities that encourage “division between, resentment of, or social justice for” specific groups of people. “What is not appropriate is being able to theorize, use, specifically, critical race theory,” the bills’ sponsor told The Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Republicans in West Virginia and Oklahoma have introduced bills banning schools and, in West Virginia’s case, state contractors from promoting “divisive concepts,” including claims that “the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist.” A New Hampshire Republican also proposed a “divisive concepts” ban, saying in a hearing, “This bill addresses something called critical race theory.”

Kimberlé Crenshaw, a pioneering legal scholar who teaches at both U.C.L.A. and Columbia, has watched with alarm the attempts to suppress an entire intellectual movement. It was Crenshaw who came up with the name “critical race theory” when organizing a workshop in 1989. (She also coined the term “intersectionality.”) “The commitment to free speech seems to dissipate when the people who are being gagged are folks who are demanding racial justice,” she told me.

Many of the intellectual currents that would become critical race theory emerged in the 1970s out of disappointment with the incomplete work of the civil rights movement, and cohered among radical law professors in the 1980s.

The movement was ahead of its time; one of its central insights, that racism is structural rather than just a matter of interpersonal bigotry, is now conventional wisdom, at least on the left. It had concrete practical applications, leading, for example, to legal arguments that housing laws or employment criteria could be racist in practice even if they weren’t racist in intent.

Parts of the critical race theory tradition are in tension with liberalism, particularly when it comes to issues like free speech. Richard Delgado, a key figure in the movement, has argued that people should be able to sue those who utter racist slurs. Others have played a large role in crafting campus speech codes.

There’s plenty here for people committed to broad free speech protections to dispute. I’m persuaded by the essay Henry Louis Gates Jr. wrote in the 1990s challenging the movement’s stance on the first amendment. “To remove the very formation of our identities from the messy realm of contestation and debate is an elemental, not incidental, truncation of the ideal of public discourse,” he wrote.

Disagreeing with certain ideas, however, is very different from anathematizing the collective work of a host of paradigm-shifting thinkers. Gates’s article was effective because he took the scholarly work he engaged with seriously. “The critical race theorists must be credited with helping to reinvigorate the debate about freedom of expression; even if not ultimately persuaded to join them, the civil libertarian will be much further along for having listened to their arguments and examples,” he wrote.

But the right, for all its chest-beating about the value of entertaining dangerous notions, is rarely interested in debating the tenets of critical race theory. It wants to eradicate them from public institutions.

“Critical race theory is a grave threat to the American way of life,” Christopher Rufo, director of the Center on Wealth and Poverty at the Discovery Institute, a conservative think tank once known for pushing an updated form of creationism in public schools, wrote in January.

Rufo’s been leading the conservative charge against critical race theory. Last year, during an appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, he called on Trump to issue an executive order abolishing “critical race theory trainings from the federal government.” The next day, he told me, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, called him and asked for his help putting an order together.

Last month, Rufo announced a “new coalition of legal foundations and private attorneys that will wage relentless legal warfare against race theory in America’s institutions.” A number of House and Senate offices, he told me, are working on their own anti-critical race theory bills, though none are likely to go anywhere as long as Biden is president.

As Rufo sees it, critical race theory is a revolutionary program that replaces the Marxist categories of the bourgeois and the proletariat with racial groups, justifying discrimination against those deemed racial oppressors. His goal, ultimately, is to get the Supreme Court to rule that school and workplace trainings based on the doctrines of critical race theory violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

This inversion, casting anti-racist activists as the real racists, is familiar to Ian Haney López, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in critical race theory. “There’s a rhetoric of reaction which seeks to claim that it’s defending these higher values, which, perversely, often are the very values it’s traducing,” he said. “Whether that’s ‘In the name of free speech we’re going to persecute, we’re going to launch investigations into particular forms of speech’ or — and I think this is equally perverse — ‘In the name of fighting racism, we’re going to launch investigations into those scholars who are most serious about studying the complex forms that racism takes.’”

Rufo insists there are no free speech implications to what he’s trying to do. “You have the freedom of speech as an individual, of course, but you don’t have the kind of entitlement to perpetuate that speech through public agencies,” he said.

This sounds, ironically, a lot like the arguments people on the left make about de-platforming right-wingers. To Crenshaw, attempts to ban critical race theory vindicate some of the movement’s skepticism about free speech orthodoxy, showing that there were never transcendent principles at play.

When people defend offensive speech, she said, they’re often really defending “the substance of what the speech is — because if it was really about free speech, then this censorship, people would be howling to the high heavens.” If it was really about free speech, they should be.


Biden Rescinds Immigrant Visa Ban, Keeps Worker Ban: Who Benefits?

Useful data and analysis, along with practical recommendations to streamline processes:

President Joe Biden rescinded Donald Trump’s presidential proclamation banning new immigrant visas for most new legal permanent residents coming from abroad. Trump justified the ban based on old, disproven economic protectionist arguments. He claimed immigrants would take jobs. During his campaign and in this proclamation, President Biden rejected this idea. Yet incongruously, he’s keeping an identical ban on temporary work visa holders.

The State Department issued nearly 290,000 fewer immigrant visas in the categories that the ban targeted during the year that it was in effect. If they are not from a country on which Biden has imposed a countrywide entry ban—mostly Europe, South Africa, Brazil, China, and Iran—these immigrants will now be able to immigrate to the United States. This is great news for them and for the Americans with whom they plan to associate.

Altogether, the banned categories saw a 90 percent decline in visa issuances over the last year. The family‐​sponsored categories saw an average decline of 94 percent, while employees of U.S. businesses were least affected (partly due to a favorable court decision that exempted employees of members of the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce). 83 percent of the banned immigrants were family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.

Spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens were exempt from the ban, but they also saw a decline in the number of visas issued due to the travel restrictions. According to a government filing this month, the State Department had nearly 473,000 documentarily qualified family‐​based immigrant visa applicants—presumably some of these cases will ultimately turn into denials, but this will be a huge undertaking for the consulates to process.

Four ideas to help with this backlog (mostly borrowed from our one‐​time Cato author David Kubat):

  1. The government should use “parole‐​in‐​place” authority to waive the requirement to travel to consulate abroad for certain applicants who would otherwise be eligible to adjust in the United States if not for the fact that they initially entered without inspection (illegally).
  2. It should adjudicate applications for waivers on grounds of inadmissibility before conducting the interview to save time and streamline the process. Under the current process, the State Department waits until after they’ve taken your fingerprints, medical evaluation, and other documents and then get denied. Only then do you restart the many months‐​long process of trying again.
  3. It should allow for remote or virtual interviews to speed the interview process. Remote immigration court hearings are already happening.
  4. It should waive as many interviews as possible for applicants with no red flags and a history of travel to the United States.

As Figure 1 shows, the number of immigrant visas had already declined by more than a quarter before the pandemic. This means that even without the visa bans, the new administration will have to go further to rescind the numerous restrictions on legal immigration that led to that decline.

Of course, the other major visa ban—on the most common nonimmigrant work visa categories for skilled and seasonal nonagricultural workers—is still in effect. President Biden states in his order revoking the immigrant visa ban, “The suspension of entry…. does not advance the interests of the United States. To the contrary, it harms the United States including…. industries in the United States that utilize talent from around the world.” These lines apply just as much to the nonimmigrant visa ban, yet Biden has chosen to keep it.

The nonimmigrant visa ban and immigrant visa backlog are just two of the numerous issues that Biden will have to address to get the legal immigration system back to what it was pre‐​Trump. There are also country‐​specific entry bans on Europe, South Africa, Brazil, China, and Iran that lack any health basis. The public charge rule to keep out low‐​income immigrants is also still in force. USCIS has not reinstated its prior deference memo and so is still relitigating past approved petitions and applications in order to increase denials. The immigration forms still contain the bogus, vague, time‐​consuming, and expensive “extreme vetting” questions based on a faulty reading of the data on vetting failures. At the border, Border Patrol is still “expelling” asylum seekers under a political CDC order. The immigration courts and asylum process generally is still in chaos.

With this action, the president makes his first real attempt to reinstate the system to how it once was, but he’s not even 10 percent of the way there. Still, it’s a great first step.

Source: Biden Rescinds Immigrant Visa Ban, Keeps Worker Ban: Who Benefits?

What role do unions have in addressing systemic racism?

Article tries to do too much by discussing police unions and public servant unions. Issues are quite different and it is a mistake to conflate the two:

Reported cases of abuse and murder of people from visible minority groups at the hands of police forces across Canada persist today. Yet, by and large, Canadian police unions have been opposing or watering down efforts to address discriminatory policing practices and unbridled growth in police funding for years. Since 1999, even during times of budget cuts and cutbacks on social expenditure, there’s been a steady increase in real expenditure on policing over the past three decades, according to Statistics Canada.

Last year, unions across Canada issued statements against racism. In October 2020, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) exhorted unions to join the fight to defund police. The CLC argues that defunding the police would strengthen long-underfunded social service and public service sectors, as well as help in the fight against racism and violence in policing communities.

Right now, there’s an opportunity to make the goal of defunding the police part of union negotiations and the work of the broader Canadian labour movement – and we should seize it. Before that happens, however, unions must look inward. They should ask themselves: What can we in the labour movement do to address the power of police unions and associations? What steps can we take to address structural racism within institutions across Canada?

Unions and structural racism

In Canada, the wage gap in the highly unionized public sector is smaller than in the mostly non-unionized private sector. According to research published by Canadian professors Gerald Hunt and David Rayside, unions here have been more responsive than their American counterparts on issues of equity. Indeed, they have some of the largest settlements on equity in the country, and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) is currently supporting a class action lawsuit to address systemic discrimination in the public sector.

That said, data shows that the wage gap between visible minorities and white Canadians in unions persists over generations in Canada. A recent study published in International Migration Review examines the ability of newly arrived non-white immigrants to access union jobs and the impact of unionization on their earnings. The study’s findings are disturbing because not only do non-white immigrants have less access to union jobs, the positive impact of unionization on earnings is somewhat lower for new non-white immigrants than for new white immigrants. The study concludes that unionization does not contribute to reducing the earnings gap of new non-white immigrants relative to white immigrants and native-born Canadians of any background. We need to expand this kind of research to other marginalized and visible minority communities, such as First Nations, and then work on addressing the aforementioned gaps.

A more difficult problem to address is how we root out the structural injustices that are now normalized in collective bargaining agreements, grievance-handling and other union processes. The wage gap between unionized visible minority members and unionized white male members is much smaller than the gap between all visible minority workers and white workers – but it still exists. There are also other issues, such as access to what are considered better positions for members with more seniority, who tend to bedisproportionately white, as well as the preponderance of visible minorities in precarious work that’s sometimes contracted out by public sector employers.

In the United Kingdom, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) launched an anti-racist task force,  which has done work that’s worth emulating in Canada. TUC is compiling decades of research conducted by U.K.-based unions, as well as researchers and analysts, to promote more effective anti-racism work within these unions. It’s also been surveying union membersto ask about discrimination at work, looking at structural racism in union practices and perception, as well as why sometimes cases go unreported. Now that London has declared its city hall to be an anti-racist organization, TUC will leverage its work to develop policies and make this declaration a reality.

As policy-makers, the most difficult question for any union to answer is what to do when marginalized communities report that members are complicit in practices that are racist. When it comes to complaints about individual members, unions have a duty to represent those individuals during the grievance process, but as Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) points out, that doesn’t mean the union must represent the individual over the needs of the collective or those of marginalized communities. Union-bargaining agents and stewards must be reminded of this when they defend reprehensible behaviour.

Carceral unions and the labour movement

Since police and corrections officers first sought recognition as bargaining agents, they faced widespread opposition from different stakeholders. Many governments and businesses felt that police forces, which are an essential service to maintain law and order, shouldn’t be allowed to organize and withhold their labour to demand improvements to their work conditions.

Meanwhile, social justice and workers’ rights activists who faced repression and violence from police organized to keep them out of labour federations (for the most part, police associations and unions aren’t affiliated with the Canadian Labour Congress, except in the few cases where police forces chose to be represented by larger public sector unions).

An important aspect of demanding justice for visible minorities is demanding justice in policing. How do we influence the actions of police unions and their members? How do we stop them from obstructing efforts to change discriminatory police practices and create oversight? Is there any way they can become partners in the effort to defund police?

Currently, there are movements in Canada to demand the expulsion of police and correctional officers from unions affiliated with the larger labour federations, such as PSAC and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). But this gesture, if made, would be largely symbolic because the lion’s share of police unions aren’t part of Canada’s labour federations.  Indeed, many call themselves associations and bargain outside of the labour movement. If expelled, the correctional officers and police in unions affiliated with the labour federations could easily form powerful independent bodies or join the majority non-affiliated police associations. Currently, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) is facing a campaign by its member correctional officers to disaffiliate and create an independent corrections-only association.

As Ryan Hayes points out in Briarpatch Magazine, “In the United States, along with the call to expel police unions from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), policy analysts have made the case for barring police associations from the right to collectively bargain. Others have called for limiting the scope of their bargaining to strictly wages and benefits.” But how will restricting the power of police officers to organize prevent the prison industrial complex from growing and further influencing policy, and disproportionately imprisoning racialized people? The right to bargain collectively is a universal right, not limited by ideology, so won’t attempts to curtail it set a dangerous precedent?

There are many union members who have been leading and coming out in support of movements against racism. However, many join as volunteers without bringing their local union or the larger labour movement along. In 2020, deaths at the hands of police in Canada and the United States made the call for defunding the police more urgent. The fact that the Canadian Labour Congress has issued a statement saying that unions should join the fight to defund the police is an opportunity. This statement is an opening for us, the progressive union members, the majority of whom work in the public sector, to bring the force of our locals and our unions to the fight against police violence.

If defunding police is officially adopted as a part of a union’s work, unions could bring staff resources, relationships with politicians and their staff, intimate knowledge of how to lobby and move different political bureaucracies to the movement. If the movement for racial justice successfully defunds police, it would grow long underfunded social service and public service sectors and budgets again, which makes economic sense for our locals and unions.

Successfully dismantling structural racism in police unions and in our work as unions more broadly will take sustained effort. Last year, many Canadian unions made important statements and launched renewed efforts toward these goals, but we must be willing to commit to making them a reality.

Source: What role do unions have in addressing systemic racism?

Conservatives Back Bloc Québécois Push To Make French The Mandatory Language For Quebec Immigrants

Pandering. Quebec already selects its economic class immigrants where it sets language criteria. Citizenship is exclusive federal jurisdiction which the Conservatives know and should respect. And the “decline” of French is more a myth than reality as it pertains to the language most often spoken at home, where immigrant languages have increased rather than English (see André Pratte’s

Conservatives MPs voted nearly unanimously with Bloc Québécois members Wednesday in favour of making French the mandatory language for all immigrants to Quebec.

Bloc MP Sylvie Bérubé’s private member’s bill, however, was defeated — 147 in favour to 172 against — with the Liberals, NDP and Green Party members opposed.

In a statement, the Bloc accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly of failing to act to counter the decline of the French language in Quebec. “[They] have a big credibility deficit,” MP Mario Beaulieu, the Bloc’s critic for official languages declared.

Last week, Joly proposed several new measures to achieve what the government calls “substantive equality” of both official languages. Among the proposals, the federal Liberals proposed giving workers employed by companies under federal jurisdictions in Quebec the right to work in French, as well as those in other regions of the country with a strong francophone presence.

Right now, the Citizenship Act states that applicants aged 18 to 54 must demonstrate an adequate knowledge of one of the official languages of Canada before obtaining citizenship. The Bloc campaigned in 2019 to change the law so that those residing in Quebec need to demonstrate only knowledge of French.

The bill also suggested that anyone 18 to 65 should have to demonstrate their language capability.

Several dozen Grit MPs sought to register their objection to the bill en français.

Over on the Conservative side, less French was spoken but all but one vote — New Brunswick MP John Williamson — lined up with the Bloc.

Ontario MP Marilyn Gladu, who registered her support in French, told HuffPost Canada there are about 8,000 francophones in her Sarnia–Lambton riding, and they’re seeking a bilingual designation from the province to obtain French-language services in the region. “This is an important issue,” she said.

“I think it is important to protect the French language in Canada, especially in Quebec.”

As someone who previously travelled frequently to Quebec for work, Gladu said, she believes receiving services in French is particularly important.

“Our party supports strengthening the French language in Canada,” she said, “and we would like to see this bill go to committee.”

British Columbia MP Dan Albas told HuffPost Canada that he had concerns about the bill’s changing the maximum age for requiring linguistic knowledge to 65 from 54 but felt that the bill “warrants study at committee.”

That line was also repeated by Quebec MP Pierre Paul-Hus, who told HuffPost that while the bill has the commendable objective of protecting French, it might be hard to impose language requirements on those 54 to 65, “because the change can be difficult for new arrivals.”

That said, he added that his party believes the bill should be sent to committee and amended.

Pressed about his personal opinion on the bill, Paul-Hus said he was “before anything else, a Quebecer who is proud of his francophone heritage.

“And I want Quebec to remain that way,” he said, in French.

During a debate in the House of Commons last fall, Bérubé said her bill’s objective was to ensure that anyone who becomes a citizen and resides in Quebec can “integrate into their host society.”

“In Quebec, the common language is French. The purpose of the [province’s] Charter of the French Language is to make French the official and common language of Quebec,” she said. “Right now, a permanent resident who wants to become a citizen and reside in Quebec could do so without knowing a single word of French.”

‘Most immigrants who live in Quebec speak French,’ says Liberal MP

The Liberals’ response came from Soraya Martinez Ferrada, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship. She spoke of her own experience arriving in Quebec as a political refugee, and seeing her single mother and grandparents take French classes.

“We all received our citizenship before we could speak French. Today, my children and my cousins are all young Quebec francophones who work and study in French. That was possible in 1980, and I think it is still possible today,” she said.

Martinez Ferrada said the federal government is determined to help all newcomers obtain the language skills they need to integrate into their host community and noted that Quebec already selects its economic-class immigrants.

“Most immigrants who live in Quebec speak French. Census data show that, 10 years after they arrive in Canada, 90.5 per cent of economic immigrants, 71.1 per cent  of immigrants under the family reunification program and 84.3 per cent of refugees speak French,” she said during the bill’s only debate in November.

Montreal MP Anthony Housefather told HuffPost that he believes the current requirement — to have adequate knowledge of French or English no matter where you are in the country should stay that way.

“We live in a bilingual country and when becoming a citizen you should be able to do this in French or English anywhere in Canada you happen to live,” he said. “These qualifications for citizenship should not be different based on the province or territory someone happens to live in.”

Housefather added that the Tories’ position was “very much a reversal on previous Conservative positions on Quebec and language issues, which is consistently happening these days to compete with the Bloc.”

Tories have high hopes in Quebec

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has made no secret that his goal is to obtain 30 seats in Quebec during the next election. The party currently has 10. For the Liberals and the Tories, securing a large portion of Quebec’s 78 seats is often seen as a ticket to a majority government.

Manitoba Conservative MP Raquel Dancho told the Commons last fall in declaring the Tories’ support for the bill that the Conservatives were doing so because they have “great respect for the Quebec nation and understand the cultural importance of protecting the French language.

“The Conservatives are offering Quebeckers a serious alternative to the Liberals. We are the only ones who can beat them in the next election and form the next government,” she said.

But standing in either party’s way is a popular Bloc Québécois, which currently has 32 seats and, according to the latest Angus Reid survey, 29 per cent support among respondents, compared with 31 per cent for the Liberals and 18 per cent for the Conservatives.

The Liberals tried to quash a previous version of the Bloc’s bill back in 2018. Bill C-421 — as it was then called — was deemed by a subcommittee to be unconstitutional and non-votable. The Bloc appealed and a secret vote was held in the House that the Liberals — who had a majority of the seats back then — were successful in defeating.

Three years ago, things were different.

The Conservatives did not participate in the bill’s only debate.

Bloc bill riddled with errors, says lone Quebec NDP MP

Pierre Nantel, at the time an NDP MP, spoke in favour of the bill, saying his party’s Quebec caucus would surely have sent the bill to committee for further study if it had been given a chance.

“It is shameful and disrespectful for any Quebec MP to ignore the vulnerability and value of Quebeckers’ quiet nationalism and to fail to proudly defend Quebec’s distinct identity,” Nantel said in the chamber. (Nantel was later dumped by the NDP and was defeated running as a Green candidate in the 2019 election.)

This time round, the party’s lone Quebec MP, Alexandre Boulerice, told HuffPost the Bloc’s bill is riddled with errors and he doesn’t think his party’s support in the province will suffer because of the New Democrats’ opposition.

For example, Boulerice said, the bill doesn’t take into account future interprovincial moves, doesn’t make note that Quebec already gives francophones priority through its economic immigrants, or that it places an unfair and unnecessary burden on those that arrive as refugees.

“La fausse bonne idée quoi,” he wrote, in an email, loosely translated as a bad good idea, or a good idea at first glance.

Source: Conservatives Back Bloc Québécois Push To Make French The Mandatory Language For Quebec Immigrants

ICYMI: Evangelical Leaders Condemn ‘Radicalized Christian Nationalism’

Of note and overdue:

A coalition of evangelical Christian leaders is condemning the role of “radicalized Christian nationalism” in feeding the political extremism that led to the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by supporters of former President Trump.

In a new open letter, more than 100 pastors, ministry and seminary leaders, and other prominent evangelicals express concern about the growing “radicalization” they’re seeing, particularly among white evangelicals.

The letter notes that some members of the mob that stormed the Capitol carried Christian symbols and signs that read, “Jesus Saves,” and that one of rioters stood on the Senate rostrum and led a Christian prayer. It calls on other Christian leaders to take a public stand against racism, Christian nationalism, conspiracy theories, and political extremism.

The letter reads, in part:

“We recognize that evangelicalism, and white evangelicalism in particular, has been susceptible to the heresy of Christian nationalism because of a long history of faith leaders accommodating white supremacy. We choose to speak out now because we do not want to be quiet accomplices in this on-going sin.”

‘Baptizing’ extremism with religion

“I am not trying to assign to people something that they didn’t want assigned to them — that they were moving and marching in Christ’s name,” organizer Doug Pagitt said during a recent Zoom call with other signers of the letter. Pagitt, who leads the progressive evangelical group Vote Common Good, highlighted the prayer shouted from the Senate rostrum, which was conducted in a style typical of many charismatic and evangelical churches.

“People from our very communities called people to this action in the days before, unleashed them into the Capitol, and then chose to baptize that action in the name of Christ,” Pagitt said. “And this is our time where we need to stand up.”

White evangelical Christians made up a critical part of Trump’s base, and a majority supported him in both 2016 and 2020. A recent survey by the American Enterprise Institute found that three in five white evangelicals believe – falsely – that President Biden was not legitimately elected.

Prominent white evangelical leaders have been among Trump’s most vocal supporters. Several, including Ralph Reed of the Faith & Freedom Coalition and Dallas-based pastor Robert Jeffress, have condemned the insurrection but remained steadfast in their support for Trump.

Signers of the open letter calling out Christian nationalism include Jerushah Duford, a granddaughter of the evangelical preacher, the late Rev. Billy Graham. In an interview with NPR, Duford said she was “heartbroken” by the events of Jan. 6, a feeling she said she experienced throughout the Trump years as she watched many white evangelical leaders align themselves with him.

“It felt like this was a symptom of what has been happening for a long time,” she said.

‘White evangelical brothers and sisters, where are you?’

During last week’s Zoom call, Mae Elise Cannon of the ecumenical group Churches for Middle East Peace, called out unnamed evangelical leaders who she said have declined to sign, citing concerns including how it would go over with their churches or religious organizations.

“White evangelical brothers and sisters, where are you?” Cannon said. “There’s a few of us on this call today, but let me tell you how many people said ‘no.’ ”

Another signer, Kevin Riggs, pastors a small church near Nashville affiliated with the Free Will Baptist denomination, which he describes as “to the right of everybody.” Riggs said in an interview with NPR that he may receive pushback from other pastors for signing the statement, but he expects his congregation, which devotes much of its time to working with people facing homelessness, incarceration, and addiction, to support him.

“I wanted to sign this statement just to say that Christian nationalism is not only wrong, but it’s heretical,” Riggs told other leaders on the Zoom call, adding that evangelical leaders must take responsibility for “rooting out this evil in our churches.”

Source: Evangelical Leaders Condemn ‘Radicalized Christian Nationalism’

Douglas Todd: Economists question decision to boost immigration during pandemic

Good and needed questioning:

Canadian economists are questioning why Ottawa is setting record immigration targets in the middle of unprecedented unemployment caused by the pandemic.

More than 1.7 million Canadians are looking for work, and the economists are warning that the Liberals’ aggressive new target of more than 400,000 new immigrants in 2021 will likely hurt the country’s low-skilled workers, particularly those who have recently become permanent residents.

Source: Douglas Todd: Economists question decision to boost immigration during pandemic

Fear and discomfort shouldn’t block anti-racism efforts in schools

Some interesting practical suggestions towards greater inclusivity:

In 1920, Duncan Campbell Scott, then-deputy superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs is quoted for suggesting that his goal was to “get rid of the Indian problem.” Scott’s solution was to expand the residential school system forcing Indigenous people to assimilate. One hundred years later, the legacy of residential schools continues to impact Canada’s current school systems. Research shows that Indigenous children across the country continue to experience systemic racism by their peers, teachers and the larger community. Needless to say, shaming and assimilation persist today.

Over the past 16 years, I’ve worked in education in various roles as a teacher, board lead, university course director and now as a vice-principal. Throughout this time, I’ve noted many advancements in championing Indigenous education and narrowing the Indigenous achievement gap by increasing graduation rates. But time and time again, I’ve also noticed deep discomfort and fear among educators when it comes to addressing anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism in schools.

“I don’t feel comfortable!”

For the most part, educators want to have a positive effect on their students. But when asked to participate in creating that change by addressing racism, I’ve witnessed some who squirm and say they prefer not to “rock the boat.” For systemic racism to be dismantled in Canadian schools, however, we need to address the discomfort and fear that some educators feel in disrupting anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism in schools.

For example, during a staff meeting at a Scarborough school where I previously worked, an administrator asked staff members how racism was being spread at school. Was it the curriculum? Our choices of books? The way we speak to students? I thought these were excellent questions to ask to encourage self-reflection and to prompt discussion about potential areas for improvement. In response, however, there was a long silence.

By comparison, I asked colleagues at different schools if race-related conversations were also happening during their staff meetings. For example, looking at race-based data and examining in-school practices that might hinder Black and Indigenous students. Most said yes, but added that they were led largely by Indigenous, Black and racialized educators.

Why are some white educators so uncomfortable? Perhaps it’s fear that openly and honestly engaging in these critical conversations may result in being labelled “racist” or “insensitive.” That said, many racialized and white educators do want to speak up. They are on a journey towards unpacking their racist ideologies or internalized oppression – but they don’t know how and where to begin or what language to use. Sometimes, it helps if a critical friend engages them in discussion. But this responsibility usually falls on Indigenous, Black and racialized people, which is problematic because the work of becoming anti-racist is a personal journey that doesn’t involve others.

“ I do not feel safe”

This makes me wonder what the union’s role is in protecting racialized teachers from microaggressions and unintentionally or intentionally racist remarks. Whose safety matters when having these discussions? What role will the union play in dismantling racism at Canadian schools?I’ve witnessed colleagues respectfully correcting white educators for saying: “I do not think racism is that bad in our school…is it?” Unfortunately, some have complained to the teachers’ union that they “do not feel safe” or feel “attacked” whenever they’re corrected for making a racist or problematic statement.

There’s also significant discomfort among educators when it comes to using anti-racist language when teaching elementary students. I’ve consistently heard some say that children at this age have “tender minds” or are “too young” to learn, and that “we don’t want to instill fear” in them. Yet research suggests that kids begin to perceive racist ideologies from the age of two. That’s why anti-racist education shouldn’t be just one lesson or unit plan. Instead, it needs to be embedded in everyday practices, starting from kindergarten. And if a student uses the term “racist” incorrectly, teachers should take that as a learning opportunity to address the class.

“I have good intentions!”

There is no doubt that educators have good intentions for student safety when participating in school board-wide events, such as Orange Shirt Day, Remembrance Day and Treaty Week. But what happens when these events cause harm to students?

For example, the purpose of Orange Shirt Day is for educators to teach students about the cultural genocide committed against First Nations, Métis and Inuit children, so it’s an opportunity for the school community to unite in the spirit of reconciliation. Specifically, students learn that the RCMP forcefully removed Indigenous children from their families and communities, as the Canadian government’s goal was to “kill the Indian in the child.”

That’s why, on Sept. 30, they read about Phyllis, a residential school survivor from Northern Secwpemc in British Columbia. As the story goes, Phyllis’ grandmother bought her an orange shirt to wear to St. Joseph’s residential school, but when she arrived, school officials took her shirt away. As a 6-year-old, Phyllis expresses that she felt worthless and like no one cared about her.

Despite this focus on Phyllis and other Indigenous residential school survivors, though, their experiences are often decentered on Orange Shirt Day. How? I’ve seen students receive handouts with the sentence starter, “I matter because…” Students’ responses, which ranged from “I am lucky I have a safe school” to “I have a mom and a dad,” are all valid but the voices of Indigenous people are erased in the process. It’s essential that educators focus on Phyllis’ story because only then can Canadians move forward towards reconciliation. For example, educators can dive deeper into researching residential schools’ objectives, and then explain how they were wrongly informed by white supremacist ideologies.

Another board practice we need to reimagine is “spirit days” like Crazy Hair Day, which can be problematic if students choose to wear an Afro, cornrows or Native long braids as a costume. Students also learn that this type of hairstyle is “crazy,” which dehumanizes Indigenous and Black people for the sake of “making school fun” or “keeping old traditions.” What’s more, Sikh and Muslim students can’t participate in these activities because some wear a turban or hijab, so they’re automatically excluded.

Educators need to understand that some school traditions promote racism, sexism, classism and other forms of discrimination against marginalized groups. We can no longer say, “But we’ve always done it this way” or “It’s a school tradition.” For example, hold a spirit day when students identify acts of kindness among their peers and compliment them, or wear their favourite piece of clothing and share why it’s special to them. This would enable students to participate without having to assimilate or adhere to antiquated norms.

It’s time to involve students in critically rethinking past practices and reimagining new inclusive school traditions. Educators can no longer hide behind fear when Indigenous, Black and racialized students’ lives depend on it.

Source: Fear and discomfort shouldn’t block anti-racism efforts in schools

Benoit Charette devient le ministre responsable de la Lutte contre le racisme

While hampered by his government’s refusal to recognize systemic racism, he and the government will be judged more by any concrete improvements they are able to realize:

Le premier ministre François Legault compte sur son nouveau ministre responsable de la Lutte contre le racisme, Benoit Charette, pour poser des « gestes concrets » pour combattre la discrimination, mais aussi pour sensibiliser les Québécois « de souche » aux périls du racisme.

« Ce n’est pas parce que quelqu’un est parmi le groupe qui est victime que nécessairement, la personne est mieux placée pour lutter », a fait valoir M. Legault pour justifier son choix de ministre. « On s’adresse entre autres aux personnes qui font partie des Québécois qu’on appelle blancs, ou “de souche”, pour qu’eux autres — s’il y en a une minorité qu’on doit faire changer d’idée — [puissent] poser des actions. »

M. Legault a ensuite rappelé sa volonté de voir davantage de représentants des minorités visibles ou des nations autochtones dans les conseils d’administration. « C’est ça qu’on veut : que ceux qui sont en situation de pouvoir traitent de la même façon les représentants des minorités visibles et les Autochtones », a-t-il affirmé.

En entrevue au Devoir, Benoit Charette a réfuté les informations voulant que ses collègues Lionel Carmant et Nadine Girault aient d’abord été approchés pour occuper les fonctions qui lui ont été dévolues. Or, diverses sources sûres ont confirmé au Devoir que les deux ministres — qui faisaient partie du Groupe d’action contre le racisme (GACR), contrairement à M. Charette — ont refusé le mandat, après réflexion, en raison de leur emploi du temps chargé. Quant au ministre responsable des Affaires autochtones, Ian Lafrenière, sa nomination avait déjà suscité de fortes réactions, et son réseau de contacts auprès des communautés culturelles n’est pas aussi développé que celui de son collègue.

À l’annonce de sa nomination, Benoit Charette a dit de la lutte contre le racisme qu’il s’agissait d’un « dossier qui lui tient à cœur depuis longtemps ». Il a rappelé qu’il est en couple avec une femme d’origine haïtienne et que ses enfants sont « métissés ».

Au Devoir, il a déclaré que la question du racisme systémique anime parfois des échanges qu’il a avec ses enfants. « Ce sont des discussions que nous avons à la maison de manière très franche et ouverte », a-t-il déclaré. « Mon garçon, il y a quelques mois à peine, a eu un premier emploi et a été confronté à une situation moins agréable, donc ce sont des situations qui peuvent être bouleversantes », a-t-il illustré.

Lui-même a dit être sensible aux enjeux d’inclusion des personnes racisées, notamment dans les plus hautes sphères de l’État. Il a toutefois reconnu ne pas avoir nommé d’Autochtones ou de personnes issues des communautés culturelles à la tête des sociétés relevant du ministère qu’il dirige depuis deux ans. « C’est pour très bientôt », a-t-il assuré, en évoquant un « renouvellement clé » qui sera annoncé dans quelques semaines.

Pas question de reconnaître le racisme systémique

À l’instar du premier ministre, Benoit Charette a rejeté les appels à une reconnaissance du racisme systémique, puisque le concept est à son avis « mal défini » et surtout, « à l’origine de beaucoup de confusion ». Ni la définition proposée par la Commission des droits de la personne et de la jeunesse (CDPDJ) ni celle de la discrimination systémique formulée par la commission Viens ne lui conviennent. « C’est l’interprétation que plusieurs en font, malgré cet exercice-là [qui pose problème], a-t-il affirmé.  Le système est là pour protéger les citoyens. »

Pour preuve, il a évoqué une expérience de discrimination qu’il a vécue, il y a plus de 20 ans, lorsque sa femme et lui se sont fait refuser l’accès à un logement. Après une dénonciation à la CDPDJ et au bout de trois ans de démarches, il a obtenu gain de cause et le propriétaire a été condamné.

Pour M. Charette, le débat sur le racisme systémique « donne un faux sentiment de sécurité [et permet] de rejeter la faute sur l’autre ». « Mais en matière de racisme, on peut tous — qu’on soit noir, blanc, peu importe notre origine — alimenter certains préjugés. Donc si on se replie uniquement derrière un concept qui est très vague, qui est mal défini, ça nous enlève un peu une responsabilité qui nous revient », a-t-il plaidé.

Lui-même a dit avoir été victime non pas de racisme, mais de « méconnaissance et de préjugés » lorsqu’il a voyagé dans des pays où il se trouvait en « situation minoritaire ». « Peu importe la couleur de notre peau, peu importe nos origines, nous sommes tous susceptibles d’alimenter un racisme, d’alimenter certains préjugés à l’égard de certaines communautés ou de certains groupes, donc la solution est en partie à l’intérieur de chacun d’entre nous », a-t-il affirmé.

Un ministre capable d’agir ?

À ses côtés, le premier ministre a dit s’attendre à « une bonne réponse » de la part des communautés culturelles au sujet de cette annonce. « J’ai l’impression que si j’avais nommé quelqu’un qui est membre des minorités, on aurait dit : “Ben on le sait bien, il l’a nommée parce qu’il est membre d’une minorité”, a-t-il affirmé.  Pourtant, c’est tous les Québécois qui doivent lutter contre le racisme. Donc je pense que ce qui était le plus important, c’était de trouver une personne qui a le dossier à cœur et qui est habituée à agir. »

Or, là n’est pas la plus grande force de Benoit Charette, s’est inquiétée la cheffe libérale Dominique Anglade. « L’engagement et la capacité d’agir, ce n’est pas ce qu’il a démontré par le passé. C’est une chose d’être sensible aux enjeux, c’en est une autre de montrer qu’on est capables d’agir et ce n’est certainement pas ce qu’on a vu en matière environnementale », a-t-elle affirmé au Devoir. Pour elle, la nomination de M. Charette n’est ni plus ni moins qu’un geste de distraction de la part du gouvernement, qui cherche à attirer l’attention ailleurs que sur le dossier du tramway ou sur la diffusion d’avis de la Santé publique.

Mme Anglade a notamment déploré le fait que le ministre Charette s’en soit remis à sa collègue à la Sécurité publique, Geneviève Guilbault, lorsqu’un journaliste lui a demandé s’il comptait interdire les interpellations aléatoires, comme l’a recommandé le GACR.

Manon Massé, de Québec solidaire, a dit de Benoit Charette qu’il était « le ministre que le PM envoie dormir sur la switch ». « Il a tellement le pied sur le frein pour lutter contre les changements climatiques, il est taillé sur mesure pour “lutter” contre le racisme systémique à la sauce caquiste : nier le problème et freiner les solutions », a-t-elle écrit sur Twitter.

« Avec cette nomination, le gouvernement nous confirme que Benoit Charette est le ministre des dossiers dont la CAQ ne reconnaît pas l’importance : le racisme et la lutte contre les changements climatiques », a ajouté son collègue Andrés Fontecilla.

Méganne Perry Mélançon, du Parti québécois, a quant à elle dit s’attendre à des actions rapides de la part du ministre. « Il y a plusieurs mesures concrètes qu’on peut appliquer rapidement pour lutter contre le racisme. Je pense entre autres à l’interdiction de la condition “première expérience canadienne de travail” et au CV anonyme. Je tends la main au ministre pour qu’on y travaille ensemble », a-t-elle réagi.

Le chef de l’Assemblée des Premières Nations Québec-Labrador, Ghislain Picard, a quant à lui dit vouloir « laisser la chance au coureur ». Il s’est cependant inquiété de la nomination d’un « ministre à temps partiel ». « Il détient un portefeuille passablement important, donc ça laisse quelle place au racisme ? » a-t-il demandé.

En entrevue à Radio-Canada, l’entrepreneur Fabrice Vil s’est lui aussi dit inquiet de voir M. Charette délaisser « l’enjeu fondamental de la planète » qu’est l’environnement. « Et s’il était si compétent, pourquoi il n’était pas au Groupe d’action contre le racisme ? Pourquoi il n’était pas considéré à l’époque » a-t-il lancé, en précisant néanmoins qu’il ne souhaitait pas « exclure de facto » le ministre.


English article on his appointment:

Quebec Premier Francois Legault has enlisted his environment minister to spearhead the fight against racism in the province, naming Benoit Charette to the newly created post on Wednesday.

Charette added the responsibilities as part of a small cabinet shuffle announced in the provincial capital.

One of the recommendations of a task force that Legault had convened last summer to look at racism in the province was the appointment of a minister to implement its anti-racism action plan.

The 25 recommendations outlined in the final report released in December aim to tackle racial profiling and discrimination faced by minorities and Indigenous people in the province. Charette said he’s given himself until the end of the current mandate in 2022 to see those measures implemented.

“The fight against racism is first and foremost a question of human dignity,” he said, calling Quebec one of the most welcoming and tolerant societies in the world.

The Legault government has maintained that systemic racism does not exist in Quebec, and Charette echoed that Wednesday, saying what is most important is acting swiftly to fight racism. Charette noted the “system” in place includes the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the province’s Human Rights Commission to protect against discrimination.

Legault was asked Wednesday why the post didn’t go to one of the Coalition Avenir Quebec members who sat on the task force, in particular co-chairs and cabinet ministers Lionel Carmant and Nadine Girault, both of whom are of Haitian origin.

The premier said he spoke to Carmant and Girault and both have seen their workload increase in recent months. Carmant, the junior health minister, is in charge of reforming the youth protection system. Girault, the international relations minister, recently took on the immigration portfolio as well.

Charette, 44, is white. His wife is of Haitian origin and they have three children. He rejected the notion that not coming from a visible minority means lacking credibility fighting racism.

“In any case, whatever the reason, in my opinion, the colour of skin should not be an argument to disqualify someone,” Charette said.

He said he is no stranger to racism, having been refused an apartment, allegedly because of prejudice aimed at his wife. He recounted filing a human rights complaint that led to the landlord being sanctioned.

“It is at times subtle, it is at times direct, but in all cases, it is very offensive. It is very hurtful,” Charette said.

Legault said he has confidence in Charette, who was responsible for dealing with cultural communities when the party was in opposition. “And Benoit, I’ve known for many years and I know it’s a very important subject for him, so I think he’s the best person to fight against racism,” Legault said.

Charette said he’ll be meeting with leaders from different groups and communities in the coming days.

Charette was given the environment portfolio in January 2019. Some environmental groups raised concerns his new responsibilities would mean less time for environment and climate change issues. Charette assured that wouldn’t be the case, noting he has a dedicated staff.

Legault also announced Wednesday that Lucie Lecours would be joining cabinet as junior economy minister.

Source: Legault government taps Environment Minister Benoit Charette to oversee racism fight

International students aren’t making as much money as their Canadian classmates in the first years after graduation, report suggests

Significant study on the importance of work experience:

Despite equal Canadian education credentials, international students earn less than their Canadian peers after graduation, Statistics Canada says.

That’s because they fail to secure enough local work experience before they graduate, data from the agency indicates.

International students earned “considerably” less than domestic students during their first five years after graduation, said a report released Wednesday in collaboration with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

“Fewer years of pre-graduation work experience and lower levels of pre-graduation earnings among international students accounted for most of their observed disadvantage in post-graduation earnings.”

This revelation will be crucial for Canada to address as the federal government has increasingly drawn on its pool of international students as future immigrants. In 2019 alone, more than 58,000 international graduates successfully applied to immigrate permanently.

They are favoured over immigrants who are traditionally selected directly from abroad because they’re generally younger and have more years to contribute to the labour market after immigration. There is also less uncertainty about their quality of education and language ability, and little barrier related to credential recognition when joining the labour force.

Based on Canada’s Post-secondary Student Information System and tax data, researchers compared early labour-market outcomes and sociodemographic information of international students and domestic students who graduated from post-secondary institutions between 2010 and 2012.

International students comprised six per cent or 66,800 of the sample, with Canadian citizen and permanent resident students accounting for 87 per cent and seven per cent of the population (about 927,700 and 71,900), respectively. The classification was based on the students’ immigration status at their time of graduation.

Overall, 43.6 per cent of international students had no Canadian work experience prior to graduation, compared with 2.2 per cent of Canadian citizens and 9.7 per cent of permanent resident students.

The average number of years of pre-graduation work experience was 6.2 for Canadian citizen students, 3.9 for permanent resident students and just 1.2 for international students.

Four in 10 domestic students earned more than $20,000 in a year before graduation, whereas only one in 10 international students did so.

One year after graduation, the income gaps between international graduates and Canadian citizens were larger for graduates with an advanced degree than for their international peers with a lower education. The difference was about 10 per cent for bachelor’s degree holders and 40 per cent for the ones with master’s degrees.

However, by the fifth year, the gap narrowed for international students with graduate degrees, while it increased over time for their peers with a bachelor’s degree or college diploma only.

International students had lower earnings on average than domestic students in many fields of study, with a few exceptions where they had similar earnings: visual and performing arts, and communications technologies; humanities; health and related fields.

For the four most popular fields of study among international students, graduates from the STEM fields (architecture, engineering and related technologies; and mathematics, computer and information sciences) suffered a smaller earnings gap than their non-STEM peers in business, management and public administration; and social and behavioural sciences and law.

The disadvantage faced by international students in securing pre-graduation work experience can be explained by language proficiency, cultural differences, concentration in fields of study, course grades, employers’ reluctance to recruit and train job applicants with temporary residency status, and possible employer discrimination, the study suggested.

“International students may face these barriers when looking for a job while studying, before they formally enter the labour market, and after they graduate,” it said. “Another possible answer is the difference in participation rates between domestic and international students in work-integrated learning (which) provides participating students the benefits of workplace-related skill accumulation and connections to potential employers.”

International students lack knowledge about the local labour market, have limited local networks, and face financial barriers, such as relocation costs and the additional tuition fees required for delayed graduation — all contributing to their lower participation in internship and co-op, said the report.

Although the federal government has relaxed the off-campus employment rules for international students during school year since 2014 by allowing them to work up to 20 hours a week without requiring a work permit, they still have limited access to government-sponsored student hiring programs where priorities are given to Canadians.

“The disadvantage for international students in pre-graduation work experience hampers their ability to compete for a high-paying, high-quality job after graduation,” said the report.

“The results of this study imply that policies to reduce the pre-graduation work-experience gap are crucial to reducing the post-graduation earnings gap between international and domestic students.”

Source: International students aren’t making as much money as their Canadian classmates in the first years after graduation, report suggests

Federal documents show sharp decline of Canada’s pandemic warning system, and debate over who was to blame

Looks like decision was mainly at the bureaucratic, not political level:

Newly released government documents paint a stark picture of how quickly Canada’s pandemic early warning system fell into decline before COVID-19 hit.

E-mails between staff at the Prime Minister’s Office show how alerts issued by the Global Public Health Intelligence Network, or GPHIN, dropped precipitously from 2009 to 2019, when key parts of the operation were curtailed.

The numbers confirm internal Public Health Agency data obtained by The Globe and Mail last summer, which showed how Canada’s internationally renowned pandemic early warning system was effectively shuttered less than a year before COVID-19 began spreading.

GPHIN was created in the 1990s to provide Canada and its allies with the earliest possible warnings of outbreak threats, so that governments could move quickly and decisively. A Globe investigation last year detailed how GPHIN played an integral role in detecting and helping the international community respond to past outbreaks such as SARS, H1N1 and MERS.

The e-mails between PMO staff are part of a release of thousands of federal documents that are being disclosed in response to a production order for COVID-19 records that was approved by the House of Commons in October over objections from the Liberal government.

In those e-mails, PMO advisers are responding to The Globe’s GPHIN investigation, which reported that the pandemic early warning system had issued more than 1,500 alerts on potential outbreak threats between 2009 and 2019. The probe found that GPHIN suddenly fell silent on May 24, 2019, less than eight months before COVID-19 started to become a world crisis.

The investigation detailed how shifting priorities within Public Health led to GPHIN’s resources being moved to other areas. With no apparent pandemic threats on the horizon, analysts were reassigned to study domestic issues, such as the effect of vaping and the spread of syphilis in Canada. When GPHIN’s alert system went silent last year, its surveillance of international outbreaks was also significantly curtailed.

According to an e-mail between PMO staff on Oct. 8, GPHIN issued 1,598 alerts between 2009 and 2019, including 877 in 2009, the year of the H1N1 outbreak. These alerts spanned a wide range of threats – from Zika to Ebola, yellow fever and Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever – and most never evolved into a crisis, though GPHIN would have kept close tabs on each situation as needed.

But the numbers began to decline sharply. After issuing 198 alerts in 2013, when an outbreak of H7N9 bird flu emerged, GPHIN’s alerts dropped in half the following year and soon declined further. By 2018, GPHIN issued just 21 alerts, a drop of 97 per cent from 2009 levels.

The e-mails suggest that as staff inside the PMO deliberated on how to respond to The Globe’s investigation, they appeared concerned about whether the Liberal government could be blamed for financial cuts to the operation, or whether the decisions that shifted GPHIN’s focus and resources inside the department rested solely with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

“PHAC may have reprioritized its efforts, but it is an Agency that gets to decide, to an extent, their own priorities – those would be internal, bureaucratic decisions, not political ones,” Elise Wagner, a senior special assistant in the PMO wrote to a colleague. “Our government did not cut funding for the global early warning system.”

The shuffling of resources within the department had a significant effect, though. GPHIN’s role was not only to detect the first signs of an outbreak, but to provide continuing, rapid intelligence of an evolving situation, so that Ottawa could quickly bolster stockpiles of personal protective equipment and ensure hospitals and long-term care homes were ready if needed.

The goal was to inject urgency into government decisions, including when to implement physical distancing, mask wearing and stricter border measures. However, scientists inside PHAC told The Globe that they struggled to get important messages up the chain of command.

Members of the Canadian intelligence community have since raised concerns about the curtailing of GPHIN, given its role in informing the government’s risk assessments on COVID-19. Through January, February and into March of 2020, Ottawa rated the outbreak a low threat to the Canadian public, even as evidence emerged about how deadly the virus was and how easily it was spreading, and despite other countries implementing unprecedented measures.

Faced with criticism over the government’s early response, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he wasn’t sure what role added intelligence could have played in Ottawa’s decisions, but said he regrets not acting sooner to bolster stockpiles of personal protective equipment. However, informing such decisions is exactly what GPHIN was created to do.

The federal documents show GPHIN first picked up on the outbreak on Dec. 31, 2019, after news of a strange pneumonia in China made international headlines and a New York based disease-tracker called ProMed issued an alert to doctors and hospitals around the world. Scientists now believe COVID-19 had likely been spreading several weeks by that point, and that China did not fully disclose the problem.

Epidemiologists say the speed at which governments can implement containment measures has a major effect on the spread of a virus and its death toll, even if only by a few days or a week.

The problems surrounding GPHIN are now the subject of two federal probes; the Auditor-General of Canada has launched an investigation while the Minister of Health has ordered an independent federal review. The results of both are expected sometime this spring.