Mayor Naheed Nenshi to Canadians: ‘We need to talk’

Always worth listening to:

Welcome to Corridors. We’ve been sharing this space with contributors as obsessed as we are with policy and Canadian politics. This week, we bring you a voice from Alberta. Naheed Nenshi has been mayor of Calgary since 2010. He’s studied at Harvard’s Kennedy School and taught at Calgary’s Mount Royal University. Nenshi is a first-generation Canadian. His parents immigrated from Tanzania and, he says, “instilled the ethic of seva — service to the community.” He’s just announced he will not seek a fourth term in office and has been reflecting on lessons to share from his tenure. Over to you, Mayor. — Sue Allan, editor of POLITICO Canada.


When I announced this month that I won’t be running for re-election, I expected conversations about legacy, our historic investments in transportation, Calgary’s state-of-the-art library, or how we transformed government to deliver services more efficiently while maintaining the lowest tax rates in the country.

Instead, I’ve been mostly asked about racism and the increasing divisions in our society. In many ways, the exit interviews are a funhouse mirror to the conversations after I was first elected.

I found myself very famous the day after that 2010 election. Every national media outlet wanted a piece of me, as well as CNN, Time and Al-Jazeera. But no one was interested in my come-from-behind campaign or my radical ideas on how cities can work better; they only wanted to talk about my faith.

At the time, I took part, because I wanted to talk about this place where we live pluralism every day. I wanted to talk about how my race and my faith were not factors in the election, and that people just saw me as a Calgarian. Even in 2010, as I was seeing increasing waves of intolerance and hatred globally, I thought, and still think, that the story of Canada serves as a model for the world.

But now, things are different. We are more polarized than ever. Differences, whether political or cultural, are exploited to sow division. And with division, the threat of hatred, radicalization and violence grows.

You need only look to the dialogue around any of our current challenges. Either you believe climate change is real, or you love oil and gas (hint: most us think both are true). Personal freedoms are pitted against public health measures. This black and white, us-versus-them political positioning is not only a barrier to pragmatic solutions, it creates an environment where political disagreements stray outside the acceptable boundaries of debate.

Nowhere is this more obvious than on social media. In 2010, social media helped me, as a little-known academic, reach Calgarians during my first mayoral campaign. Twitter still held the promise of a platform to engage in constructive discourse. Today, social media is an anti-social battleground for unfiltered, post-truth put-downs and provocations. Whether I post about politics or a lost puppy, I can count on receiving vitriolic, racist and personal attacks.

This behavior isn’t limited to the online sphere. Political life has become increasingly adversarial, confrontational and dangerous. RCMP data shows threatsof violence against Canadian politicians are on the rise, and I’ve felt that in my own life. I’ve been asked to chair Council meetings remotely, or not to step outside. Attacks on gender, religion and race are much more common — all this at a time when we need better representation from women and people from diverse backgrounds.

Meanwhile, reports of anti-Asian hate crimes have risen to disturbing levels in North America, no doubt fueled by the former U.S. president labelling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus.” In Quebec, Bill 21 restricts what job you can have based on your faith. That’s not secularism, that’s bigotry, and we need to call it out no matter the political risk.

I don’t mind taking the arrows. I have broad shoulders and thick skin. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay. Not for me, not for anyone.

I fear that people, at a time when we need diverse voices in the public sphere, will see how I am treated, and how women in politics, who experience far more abuse than I could imagine, are treated, and will shy away, at the moment we need them most.

What we need now is a major shift in thinking. It’s a huge challenge, but one place we can start is with the way we interact with each other.

Politicians need to resist cheap political shots and rhetoric and we all need to hold ourselves and each other to higher standards, listen as much as we speak, and be disciplined in all we do. I know it sounds naive, but we need to learn to be much more deliberate, much less careless, or we risk losing, well, everything.

I still live in gratitude every day that I get to live here. There is no better place in the world to have these conversations. But we have to have them. And we have to have them now.

Source: Mayor Naheed Nenshi to Canadians: ‘We need to talk’

How one federal agency broke free of outdated IT infrastructure

While written a bit too much as a puff piece, an interesting and relevant example of modernization (some of these remind me of my time in the early days of Service Canada and IT infrastructure renewal, where of course the issues were on a much larger scale and higher risk for CPP and EI):

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the need for modern, agile IT systems as both the public and private sectors grapple with a suddenly remote workforce. Cloud platforms are the backbone of modern IT infrastructure, providing scalability, speed, and remote access, and are secure without the expense of physical infrastructure. Yet less than 10 per cent of federal departments have transferred some of their operations to a cloud platform. Part of this is because the pandemic diverted focus, but it is also due to fear of the unknown and uncertainty over security benefits and procurement rules.

Had the pandemic struck five years earlier, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) would have been crippled by its lagging IT infrastructure. Instead, CMHC’s operations continued without missing a step – even supporting the government’s pandemic response by rolling out critical economic support with record speed, such as the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance for small businesses and the Insured Mortgage Purchase Program to support the financial system.

CMHC’s partnership approach to transforming its IT infrastructure can serve as a model for other federal departments. CMHC and Accenture, a global professional services company, came together five years ago to move CMHC’s outdated and siloed systems to a robust digital service platform.

Back in 2016, CMHC relied on close to 1,000 separate software applications, many of which were customized and hard to maintain. From operations and insurance underwriting to applications for program funding and accounting, every structure had its own siloed system.

Technology was a source of frustration. Twenty-three per cent of CMHC employees rated it their number one barrier, and one in six employees spent their time trying to find data.

Today, those systems have been replaced with enterprise platforms that have automated manual tasks, sped up processing times and offer real-time data to support better decision-making. This endeavour was no small feat. Finding the right partner and doing a thorough analysis of the scope of the challenge took over a year.

Together as CMHC’s deputy chief information officer and Accenture’s federal government practice lead, we helped execute a project that took place over several years and involved hundreds of employees from both organizations. Ultimately, we found that how we implemented the technology was just as important as the technologies we invested in. Sometimes it was even more important.

Here are five key lessons learned that we believe can help other departments successfully approach digital innovation:

1. Leadership buy-in is crucial

The journey for the project – called CMHC in Motion – began under CMHC’s president and leadership team with the goal of becoming a more agile, focused and efficient company with a culture of accountability.

CMHC modernized its organizational structure and focused on communication and training to manage risk, change and execution and to encourage innovation. Fixing technology was the next step.

The leadership team ensured the building blocks were in place for technology and business transformation. Program funding and resources were made available to drive this three-year transformation and its evolution for years to come.

The CIO role was elevated. Now the CIO sits on CMHC’s executive committee and is positioned to influence decisions that affect all parts of the company. Digital and technological thinking need to be able to influence business strategy rather than being made to fit into strategy that is already set. The two need to evolve hand-in-hand.

2. Innovative solutions require innovative approaches

It was clear from the start that the traditional procurement route of a complicated and time-consuming request-for-proposal process would be an obstacle for the project. Inviting potential partners to analyze the scale of the problem was critical to finding not only the right partner but also the right solutions. For three months, two potential partners were given access to CMHC’s infrastructure and systems to fully assess the scale of the situation they would face. More importantly, it allowed CMHC to leverage the experience of external experts in defining the solution. Incorporating this into the proposal process allowed for a broader, more robust and feasible path forward.

When CMHC and Accenture came together there was already an understanding of the challenges and potential solutions, and the project team was able to move straight to planning implementation.

3. A true partnership and governance structure is vital

From day one, CMHC wanted a partner. The vision was an arrangement where both parties shared in the benefits and risks and would collaborate on challenges. Given the complexity and timelines of the project, it was impossible to predict where the work would lead, what outcomes and technologies would be needed or even be available. A risk-sharing fund positioned both parties to carefully consider potential project variances and cost overruns, and both parties came together to solve emerging needs and to consider any potential changes to the scope of work.

Agreeing up front to share in the financial risk is not the norm for public sector transformation projects, but it eliminated years of delay as we avoided time-consuming project scoping, trying to describe the perfect solution. It meant that CMHC was not dictating a solution, but rather defining the problem and getting fresh outside perspectives on how to address it through a cohesive joint team.

Managing outsourcing relationships isn’t easy, so CMHC created a partner relationship management team. Three levels of governance are used at CMHC. It starts at the highest level, with the executive team, then flows to the management and operational governance structures. On a bi-weekly basis CMHC and Accenture Canada’s CEOs met to discuss program performance, relationship status and planning. Five years after the contract was signed, these meetings still take place.

4. Commit to an uncharted path

A multi-year transformation will not follow a straight path. Innovative, agile organizations need to be open to imperfection and experimentation. Innovation requires an acceptance that not all ideas work, and that getting out of planning mode and into testing mode happens so we can learn, adapt and move forward. Progress over perfection and timeliness was important, and we made risk-based decisions to move quickly.

For CMHC, technology was also used to help drive a change in culture around risk-taking, speed and being ok with failure. For CMHC and Accenture, there was an understanding that immediate answers would not always be available, especially with rapid advances in technology. This enabled the delivery team to take risks and push forward at a quicker pace, knowing that it was ok to fail fast to avoid the lengthy detours of searching for the “perfect” solution.

Along the journey, unforeseen events – like the introduction of the National Housing Strategy in 2017 and the COVID-19 pandemic – required significant changes to plans and priorities. CMHC was able to adapt, demonstrating that with the right culture and committed senior leadership, organizations can become resilient and better equipped to respond to unexpected changes in their business environment.

5. Create a feedback loop to guide the pace of change

Engaged and enabled employees can make or break transformative IT projects. Change management is often the first thing to cut when an organization is trying to save its resources, yet it is one of the areas we found to be critical. Continuous dialogue and check-ins through surveys and consultations ensured employees believed in the transformation and had the skills and confidence to adopt transformed business approaches. It is essential to communicate early and often to employees in a transparent and simple way.

To get early buy-in from employees and to show our commitment to making this transformation work, the first project we tackled was the one with the biggest positive impact for our employees – moving off Lotus Notes email to Outlook and Skype. The success of this implementation was instrumental in gaining buy-in from employees and made the transformation real for them.

We were cognizant of the massive cultural shift we were asking employees to make. Their entire technological world was being altered, from a new email platform and filing systems, to a client relationship management system, invoicing and how they manage client requests. We developed a “heat map” to identify which areas of CMHC were undergoing the most change. With the map and employee feedback, we were able to adjust our approach and ease up where the pace of change was too intense. We worked alongside senior management and human resources to continuously evaluate progress and identify areas that needed more training or support.

Moving forward

We find ourselves at an exciting time, where rapid innovation in technology has the potential to drastically change the way we develop and deliver public programs and policy. Over the past few years, technology companies have improved the ease of use, security, scale and interoperability of their offerings. The flexibility and cost-effectiveness of cloud services are undeniable.

The pandemic has highlighted the need for agility in our IT infrastructure. As Canadians look to all levels of government to lead them through these unprecedented times, they have seen the tangible results of government in action to keep them safe, provide them with financial support and navigate the road to economic recovery. Now is the time to build a better, more resilient IT environment for our public sector, one that will allow us to weather storms and continue to provide Canadians with world-class government services.

Source: How one federal agency broke free of outdated IT infrastructure

Farber: The under reporting of hate crimes in Canada

Of note:

Seven months after 58-year-old Mohamed-Aslim Zafis was brutally slain outside a Rexdale mosque, Toronto police have released a new report that details statistics and specific types of hate-motivated offences committed against individuals in 2020.

Zafis’s killing is not among those crimes.

The glaring omission of the slaying is striking — especially consideringZafis’s family and the community itself pleaded with police to treat it as a hate crime.

When the suspect’s name was released, the Canadian Anti-Hate Network immediately reviewed his social media. Our findings suggested that the suspect is someone who subscribes to the most dangerous hate-promoting conspiracy theories, including “the Great Replacement.”

The theory dangerously asserts that white Europeans — and North Americans — are being intentionally replaced through immigration and low birth rates. While the original theory focused on an alleged Muslim invasion, more recent proponents of the theory overlay it with antisemitism

In August 2017, it inspired over 200 American neo-Nazis to march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in a torch light parade bellowing “Jews will not replace us,” injuries, and the tragic murder of anti-racist Heather Heyer by one of the white supremacists. 

In March 2019, another hate-monger attacked the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, N.Z., murdering 51 innocent Muslims and leaving 40 injured. The New Zealand government’s Royal Commission on the attack singled out the terrorist’s belief in the Great Replacement as one motivating racist factor.

While the story of Zafis’s death made worldwide news, the issue of police not treating what are arguably self-evident hate crimes as hate crimes is not new.

An Angus Reid survey, released in mid-2020, revealed that almost one-third of Chinese Canadians report being physically attacked during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet only 12 incidents of hate-motivated crimes against Chinese Canadians are included in the report. 

Studies tell us that only one to five per cent of hate incidents in Canada are reported to police. The real number of hate crimes and incidents is actually 20 to 100 times higher.

Members of communities targeted by hate-motivated attacks often don’t report them. In some cases, the number of victims who don’t report is over two-thirds. When attacks are reported, the police treat many as unfounded — they either don’t believe the victim, don’t see the point in pursuing the report, or are unsuccessful in their investigations. They only report forward a small subset that they have at least partially successfully investigated. 

Laudably, Toronto police made an arrest within a week of Zafis’s slaying. So why was his death not included in the 2020 hate crimes report? Some answers may lie in a new study by Barbara Perry of Ontario Tech University’s Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism that involved interviewing police officers in Ontario. 

Officers expressed frustrations with the process. The only hate crime under the Criminal Code is wilful promotion of hatred. Other offences, such as assault or vandalism, could be subject to enhanced sentencing provisions if the offence is hate-motivated, with police providing evidence to the Crown. Officers told Perry that they are usually not successful and cases just “disappear into a vacuum.” 

Some officers candidly admitted that they feel police departments are falling short in their obligations to ensure communities feel comfortable coming forward. 

“I don’t think we do enough to ensure the community feels that it will be taken seriously,” one officer noted.

So, then, what does this tell the Muslim community when Zafis’s slaying is not counted among hate crimes? 

The alleged killer’s YouTube channel had saved xenophobic videos perpetuating the myth of roving migrant gangs, and clips from Russian propaganda outlets about the “Belgian Muslim State.” 

And, of course, the Great Replacement. 

It isn’t hard to draw the line between those toxic ideas and the cold-blooded killing of a Muslim man serving his community in front of his neighbourhood mosque. 

Surely one can understand the fear within racialized communities when self-evident hate crimes like the Zafis death is not seen as such.

According to the new report, hate crimes in Toronto have risen 51 per cent. But considering only 1 to 5 per cent of hate incidents and crimes are reported, the question remains: what about the other 95 per cent?


Ibbitson: China’s population decline poses challenges and opportunities

We need to broaden thinking beyond “more immigration is the solution” to how Canada could adapt to a world of population decline, where fewer higher-skilled Chinese and other groups may wish to come here:

China is reportedly holding back census data because it shows the country’s population has started to decline, years ahead of even the most aggressive predictions.

If so, every game changes: global warming projections, global population projections, geopolitical and economic projections.

The world’s most populous nation is now a nation on the wane.

The Financial Times reported Tuesday that China has delayed the release of its 2020 census, which was expected earlier this month, because the data reveals that China’s population has declined from a peak of more than 1.4 billion in 2019 to less than 1.4 billion now.

If true, this is one of the most momentous events of our time. Many analyses of the geopolitical rivalry between China and the United States are predicated on the assumption of continued Chinese growth and relative American decline.

But it now appears United Nations population projections, which had China’s population peaking in the 2030s before levelling off and gradually starting to decline, were off by more than a decade.

The reason, according to a report this month by the Bank of China, is steadily falling fertility. Even after the ban on more than one child per family was lifted in 2015, China’s fertility continued to fall, to a level well below that needed to sustain the population.

For that reason, Darrell Bricker and I, in our book Empty Planet, predicted that population decline would hit China sooner and harder than expected. The question was how soon and how hard. If the answer to the first question is right now, then China could lose nearly half its population by the end of the century – more if fertility continues to fall.

The decline could have been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has suppressed birth rates across much of the world, as couples put off having a child during this period of economic insecurity. A post-pandemic baby boom is unlikely: Past experience shows that once couples put off having a child, they don’t make up for it later on. Instead, they settle for having fewer children than they’d planned.

Population decline will present both opportunities and challenges for China. Environmentally, the news is encouraging: There will be fewer new coal-fired generating stations needed, as the number of people on the grid goes down instead of up.

The problem of labour shortages could be addressed by bringing in temporary foreign workers and improving productivity through automation.

But preserving economic growth becomes difficult when there are fewer young people every year buying their first refrigerator, their first car, their first baby stroller. Fewer young consumers also means fewer taxpayers to sustain the pensions and health care costs of older people, and fewer adult children to look after the needs of aging parents.

Countries that lose population every year stagnate economically: Italy, Spain, Japan. China is the new Japan. And that could lead to problems containing the discontent of an overtaxed, overworked, increasingly frustrated population. China announced this week that it planned to gradually raise the age of mandatory retirement, which is currently 60 for most men.

This delivers a huge competitive advantage to the United States. That country’s fertility rate has also reached record lows. But despite the effort of former president Donald Trump to seal the country’s borders, the U.S. continues to let in immigrants, both legal and illegal.

The U.S. needs to return, as quickly as possible, to its former practice of welcoming a million new permanent residents each year. That may be difficult, given rising nativism among conservatives, but if Americans want to stay ahead in the race for economic and political power, immigration is the not-so-secret weapon.

In any event, as my colleague Doug Saunders noted Tuesday on Twitter, the news about the Chinese census “will help make immigration a seller’s market.” As fertility rates decline in China and other source countries, such as Philippines and India, and as labour shortages grow in China, Japan and elsewhere, the question for immigrant-friendly countries such as Canada will shift from “how many should we let in?” to “how many can we convince to come?”

That is another reasons why former prime minister Brian Mulroney and others are right to maintain that Canada should greatly increase its immigration intake. We need to get them while we still can.


Ottawa says it only learned Chinese police ran visa centre this year

Appears to be lack of due diligence as should have been caught earlier:

Ottawa says it only learned in February that Canada’s visa-application centre in Beijing is managed by Chinese police, the same month The Globe and Mail reported the arrangement.

The federal government has trusted its visa centre in Beijing to a police-owned company since 2008, and has been required to conduct due-diligence screenings during renewals of the contract in subsequent years including 2018.

The government acknowledged its lack of awareness in documents tabled in the House of Commons this week in response to written questions from NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan.

“In February, 2021, Public Services and Procurement became aware that Beijing Shuangxiong Foreign Service Company is ultimately owned by the Beijing Public Security Bureau,” the government said in an answer to Ms. Kwan that was signed by Steven MacKinnon, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement.

The Globe reported the ownership structure of the company managing the visa-application centre on Feb. 8.

Ottawa said in the documents that government officials have conducted three site visits to visa-application centres in China “since becoming aware of the subcontractor ownership,” according to another response to Ms. Kwan signed by Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino.

Ms. Kwan said she’s surprised by the government’s admission. “That to me is absolutely shocking. … How on Earth did they not know about the ownership structure?”

She blamed both the Liberal government and previous Conservative government for failing to stop this arrangement and said she remains concerned about how Canada can safeguard visa applicants’ private and confidential information. “I fear for the applicants who use the Canadian government’s services there.”

Canada’s visa-application centre in Beijing is operated by Beijing Shuangxiong Foreign Service Company, which is owned by the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, The Globe discovered. And at least some of the people working inside the centre are members of the Chinese Communist Party, recruited from a school that trains the next generation of party elite.

Beijing Shuangxiong is a subcontractor for VFS Global, a company headquartered in Zurich and Dubai that holds a wide-reaching contract to provide visa-processing services around the world for the Canadian government. VFS offices collect personal and biometric information that is then forwarded to Canadian immigration officials for decisions on who will be granted visas.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has given no indication that it intends to end the Beijing arrangement.

Alexander Cohen, press secretary for Mr. Mendicino, said Wednesday that Immigration officials regularly audit and inspect visa-application centres for compliance, including through unannounced audits, and that video cameras are used for ongoing monitoring.

He said no privacy breaches have been reported at these centres by those operating them and that VFS Global has complied with all security requirements in its contract. “Since 2018, [the Immigration department] has conducted over 20 site visits to visa-application centres in China,” Mr. Cohen said.

The government had acknowledged earlier this year that it was unaware from the start of the contract that Chinese police ultimately owned the company that is the facilities manager of the Beijing visa-application centre. At the time, though, it did not reveal when precisely it learned of the matter.

Richard Fadden, a former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, who served as national security adviser to two prime ministers, has said that Ottawa should end the visa situation in Beijing.

“An instrument of the Chinese government has access to a facility in China with connections to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada,” he said. “I cannot think of a more promising entry point for China’s cyberspies.”

The 2018 contract was not the first time VFS and affiliated companies had won federal contracts to operate visa-application centres, including the ones in China. Earlier contracts were awarded under the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. And during parliamentary hearings in February, MPs learned that Beijing Shuangxiong has actually provided facilities and staff for Canada’s visa-application centre in China’s capital since 2008.

VFS told the hearings it informed Ottawa in 2008 that it intended to use Beijing Shuangxiong as the local subcontractor, or as it calls the company, its local facility-management company.

However, two former Conservative immigration ministers Jason Kenney, now the Premier of Alberta, as well as Chris Alexander, have told The Globe that they were unaware the subcontractor for the visa-application centre in Beijing was a company owned by the Chinese police.

“There was a public tendering process, and as you know there can be no political interference in tendering. If this happened during my tenure and I had been made aware of it, obviously I would have stopped it,” Mr. Kenney told The Globe earlier this year.

Mr. Alexander, for his part, said: “I was never informed of this arrangement in Beijing: it should never have happened. No state body in any region should be controlling access to our immigration or any other programs.”

Jeremy McIntee, a spokesman for former Conservative immigration minister Diane Finley, who was in charge of the department in 2008, said she does not recall whether she was informed of the subcontractor’s ownership.

VFS has said it is obligated to use local partners under Chinese law. It has also said it conducts “deep identity, credit, criminal, residency, education and employment checks” on employees, uses encrypted systems to send application information to Canadian servers, and employs a raft of measures to secure information, including an obligation for employees to hand over mobile phones to managers inside the visa centre.

Beijing Shuangxiong also acts as a subcontracted facility manager for VFS in Beijing for other Western countries, including New Zealand, Britain and Ireland. Immigration New Zealand has said it knew “from the outset” that the Beijing police have ownership of Beijing Shuangxiong.

VFS spokesman Peter Brun has previously said the Chinese companies it works with “are managed by VFS Global and we ensure they operate entirely according to all VFS Global security processes and protocols, and according to the Canadian government’s visa-application process and data-protection requirements, which are audited regularly by the Canadian government.”


RCMP looks to redraft its entrance exam as it pushes for a more diverse police service

Of note. An appropriate review to assess the validity of criteria and the impact on recruitment. My earlier tweet generated some negative commentary from former RCMP members:

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is looking to scrub its entrance exam of cultural biases and “outdated criteria” as it tries to confront what’s been called its “toxic culture” and the problem of systemic racism in the ranks.

The RCMP posted a tender this week looking for a contractor to provide pre-screening exams for applicants. It’s part of the RCMP’s modernization plan, known as Vision 150, which also includes changes to the criteria for becoming an RCMP officer.

“A thorough review of these processes has determined that despite significant changes made to the processes and tools over the past decade, systemic challenges remain,” says the tender.

“Most notably, a gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) review of the current RCMP exams concluded that even when prospective applicants possess both the interest and qualifications, there is evidence that the exams themselves may create barriers to a diverse applicant pool. Outdated criteria, lacking strong supporting evidence, may result in high-potential candidates being unable, or unwilling, to apply.”

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki has been signalling that changes are coming to the recruitment process. She told a House of Commons committee late last year that the force needs to better reflect the communities it serves.

“We’re looking at our organization as a whole, and we’re looking at those systems and those processes, those policies and procedures that will eliminate systemic racism,” she said in November.

“We are going to be testing for those types of behaviours that could negatively impact their interactions.”

RCMP faces a decline in applicants

The move to redraft the exam comes as the RCMP struggles with a staffing crunch — particularly when it comes to attracting candidates of colour.

As of April 1, 2020 (the most recent period for which statistics are available), just under 12 per cent of the RCMP’s 20,000 rank-and-file members identified as visible minority, according to figures posted online late last week. That figure hasn’t changed dramatically over the past few years and remained lower than the general rate in the workforce nationwide.

Source: RCMP looks to redraft its entrance exam as it pushes for a more diverse police service

CATO Poll: 72% of Americans Say Immigrants Come to the United States for Jobs and to Improve Their Lives

The top level finding, with the report having a wealth of detail, with some of the same characteristics as in Canada such as age, education, political affiliation in terms of support or not for immigration:

The Cato Institute 2021 Immigration and Identity National Survey, a new national survey of 2,600 U.S. adults, finds that nearly three‐​fourths (72%) of Americans believe immigrants come to the United States to “find jobs and improve their lives” while 27% think immigrants come to obtain government services and welfare.


Support for More Immigration Is on the Rise

Support for more immigration has tripled from the mid‐​1990s when about 10% of the public supported more immigration and two‐​thirds wanted less. Today 29% of Americans want more, 38% want to maintain current levels, and 33% want less.

Chart 1


Democrats’ views largely account for this shift. Starting around 2008–2010, Democratic support for more immigration rose from about 20% to 47% today.


Source: Poll: 72% of Americans Say Immigrants Come to the United States for Jobs and to Improve Their Lives

Did Trump’s botched census citizenship push cost red states?


Among the many haphazard and politically transparent moves by the Trump administration, few rank quite as high on both measures as its botched push for a census citizenship question. The move was widely criticized as a thinly veiled attempt to dissuade undocumented immigrants from responding and to give the GOP a tool to draw more favorable political maps. The Supreme Court wound up rejecting the whole thing, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. effectively accusing the administration of hiding its true motives.

But even when the administration succumbed, some warned that damage might already have been done — that certain immigrants might still shy away from responding because of fears engendered by the lengthy battle. And there was data to back that up.

So did it happen? It’s not quite clear that it did in significant measure, but there are some indications it might have — though perhaps to the detriment of Trump’s red-state allies rather than Democrats.

Source: Did Trump’s botched census citizenship push cost red states?

Montreal latest Canadian city to consider granting voting rights to non-citizens

Unlikely to happen given provincial decision. Relatively few studies regarding the experience of jurisdictions that have granted voting rights, with Leslie Seidle’s review of the Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium showing mixed results: “Finally, those who advocate local voting rights for non-nationals should be modest in their claims. Although the expanded franchise can have symbolic as well as practical value, more equitable elected representation of immigrant-background communities requires explicit efforts on the part of political leaders and party organizations, as well as the commitment of the broader society.“:

Montreal officials are looking into extending voting rights to more than 100,000 non-citizens in order to better integrate immigrants and encourage more racialized people to participate in municipal politics.

The idea isn’t new: for years, Canadian cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Saint John, N.B., have debated or proposed giving the vote to permanent residents — but none have succeeded in convincing provincial or federal governments to modify citizenship and voting laws.

Montreal can “show leadership” on this issue and rekindle the debate in the country, according to an April 19 report by the city’s committee on social development and diversity.

“Granting voting rights to permanent residents is one of the ways to foster political participation and ensure better representation of the various groups that form society,” the report said.

“Montreal, the city that welcomes the largest number of immigrants to Quebec each year, should ensure it reflects the diversity of its population.”

The committee, composed mostly of elected officials from the two main parties at city hall, wants Montreal to publicly affirm its desire to grant voting rights to permanent residents who have lived “for at least 12 months on the territory of the city of Montreal.” It also wants the city to lobby the provincial and federal governments to change laws to allow non-citizens to vote in municipal elections.

The idea has its critics. Frederic Bastien, history teacher at Montreal’s Dawson College and former leadership candidate for the Parti Quebecois, says allowing non-citizens to vote could endanger the foundations of the nation state.

He says citizenship comes with an understanding of the culture, language and history of a country, adding that the idea could be a political strategy by Mayor Valerie Plante ahead of next November’s municipal election.

“It is part of a series of gestures from the Plante administration,” Bastien said in a recent interview. “It’s a ‘woke’ trend among Projet Montreal and it’s a toxic vision of social and public life,” he added, referring to Plante’s political party.

Chris Erl, doctoral candidate in McGill University’s geography department who researches municipal politics, disagrees that granting voting rights to marginalized communities would undermine the country’s democratic values. Rather, he said, doing so would provide a voice for many people who have been excluded from politics.

“Where all the political parties have failed in the past is in recruiting candidates from communities of colour,” Erl said. “Something like this could certainly help inspire people that may feel isolated from the political system to get involved.”

He said he questions the fairness of refusing to allow people who are actively engaged in the urban life of a city the right to select those who represent them in office.

“People need to look at this from the very basic idea that their neighbours, who might not have citizenship, are paying the same property taxes, they use the same services and they have the same ideas and opinions about how the city could be better run, so why shouldn’t they be able to send people to city hall to make decisions?” Erl said.

The city’s diversity committee noted that permanent residents compose about 9 per cent of Montreal’s population, equalling about 170,000 people — roughly 105,000 of whom would qualify as voters.

Montreal’s city administration says it’s interested in letting non-citizens vote in order to attract more people to the political process — especially immigrants. Voter turnout in the 2017 municipal election was 22 per cent in Cote-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grace, the most ethnically diverse borough in the city, according to government data.

But it’s unclear what the Quebec and federal governments think of Montreal’s idea. A spokesperson for Quebec’s municipal affairs minister didn’t return a request for comment. And Corinne Havard, spokesperson for federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc, said Ottawa doesn’t play a role in municipal elections and directed questions about reforming voting laws to the Quebec government.

Montreal doesn’t seem interested in pushing the issue at the moment — at least not ahead of November’s city election.

Genevieve Jutras, spokeswoman for Plante, said the city will take its time to examine the report, adding that it is up to the provincial government to modify voting rights.

“The administration doesn’t have the intention to request a modification before the next municipal election,” Jutras said.

Source: Montreal latest Canadian city to consider granting voting rights to non-citizens

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 28 April Update

The latest charts, compiled 28 April as the third wave has started. The spike of infections and deaths in India per million, although dramatic, has not resulted in a change in the relative ranking given the size of India’s population.

Vaccinations: Overall, Canada and most provinces continue to be comparable or greater to EU countries. On a personal note, received my vaccine last week.

Trendline charts

Infections per million: Recent spikes in Ontario and Alberta continue to be more apparent.

Deaths per million: Canadian North ahead of Atlantic Canada.

Vaccinations per million: Vaccination rates in Canadian provinces continue to increase more quickly than overall G7 less Canada countries. Increases among immigration source country reflect China and India mass vaccination roll-out.


Infections per million: Surge in Ontario has not changed overall ranking but surge in Alberta has resulted in Alberta surpassing Quebec.

Deaths per million: As noted, Canadian North now ahead of Atlantic Canada.