Five Ways to Have Better Conversations About Immigration

Good suggestions, applicable more broadly than immigration and the USA:

If having a conversation about immigration with people in your life feels hard, frustrating, or scary, you’re not alone.

In recent years, the topic has become increasingly contentious and difficult. You may find that the conversation quickly transforms into a pitched debate, with each side digging in and feelings getting hurt.

After going through this experience once or twice, it’s easy to imagine why people avoid the topic altogether. Yet, as a society, we lose when a charged topic like immigration becomes off-limits or taboo and people stop exploring—and bridging—their divergent opinions. The debate drags on without a solution, with grave consequences for immigrants, their families, and the many Americans whose lives are intermingled with theirs through work and community life. As a result, it’s critically important for us to find new ways to connect and engage on the issue.

Is that possible? We can’t promise that each individual conversation will be productive, but here are five suggestions for making that outcome more likely.

1. Counter the zero-sum mindset

We often hear about the vulnerability of people who fled their home countries, which we might call the “struggle” narrative. We might also learn about the value of educated individuals to our high-tech and medical industries, which is a narrative of exceptionalism.

The trouble with both the struggle and exceptionalism narratives is that they can trigger competitiveness in the minds of many. This is because people often carry the false belief that if immigrants get more of something (safety, jobs, rights, education, etc.), then the American-born would get less of that same thing. If you believe that resources are finite and that any piece of the pie that goes to an immigrant means less for you, then you might feel threatened by immigrants.

To correct zero-sum thinking, we need an abundance mindset that allows us to explore how good immigration policies can benefit everyone living in America. What would an immigration system look like that created a win-win rather than a win-lose scenario in people’s minds? Can we tell stories and have discussions that explore shared struggles, dreams, and aspirations of everyone who calls America home, and avoid some of the pitfalls of immigrant struggle/exceptionalism narratives?

2. Tread lightly around the sacred

“Research shows that when perceived threat and social identity become involved, our policy stances can become sacralized, transforming into absolutist, moralized, non-negotiable values,” write Nichole Argo and Kate Jassin in a recent report from the American Immigration Council. “These sacred values do not operate like regular values, which can be reevaluated if one is willing to make trade-offs.”

As a result, significant numbers of Americans hold their immigration positions so tightly that they wouldn’t abandon them for any amount of money. The issue is so dear to them, in fact, that trying to negotiate around it could backfire. For some, ending the practice of family separation is sacred, while for others it’s the idea of securing a border wall. Both groups are unlikely to be persuaded otherwise.

What’s the solution to such an impasse? Knowing how sacred immigration issues have become for different groups of people helps us understand why conversations on the topic are so hard and sometimes explosive. Thus, when discussing immigration with someone, it’s important to listen carefully and try to understand what they deem sacred—and why.

For example, we can learn what is behind positions like the need for a border wall. Is it safety or security? How do we satisfy those needs? Is that a bridge to helping them understand the desire of so many to migrate to the U.S. seeking a safe place to live?  Perhaps we can connect people across these fundamental feelings and concerns. After all, who doesn’t want to feel safe?

Through this process, you might find where you have the most agreement and common ground—and from there, you can build the trust necessary for deeper and more specific policy discussions.

3. Tell binding, values-based, and emotional stories rather than cite facts

The Nobel prize–winning behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman says that people are not persuaded by numbers but by stories. Yet we often start with data to make the case for immigration. We cite economic data, crime data, and demographic data. We bring facts to what is a highly emotional issue for many.

This approach usually fails because the lived experiences, prior knowledge, and in-group norms (peer pressure) informing an individual’s views on immigration won’t be undone by a data set.

Rather, sharing stories of your own lived experience with the issue can produce more powerful shifts. Stories that highlight the common identities that foreign- and U.S.-born people share as parents, sports fans, foodies, and coworkers help bind people as they learn about what they have in common with each other rather than what they don’t.

Once these commonalities have surfaced, people are better able to process the facts. That’s why facts should follow, not lead, in an immigration conversation.

4. Consider who the best messengers are

There is a growing body of evidence that shows that Americans are increasingly less trusting of national leaders and more trusting of people closest to them at the community level. In fact, people are most likely to believe what their peers and family members believe. For this reason, “in-group” messengers are often the best to reach people on any topic, but particularly the hard ones.

For example, when a fellow parent, parishioner, or soccer mom shares an opinion or story, we process it differently than when we hear the opinion of a stranger or out-group member. If an in-group member tells us a personal story about an immigrant family they were close to, that might shape our thinking about interactions with immigrants. Members of our own in-groups hold more credibility and they shape our behavior, which is why in-group members can be powerful influencers of thoughts and behaviors.

In the event that a particular group is leaning anti-immigrant in their thinking and behavior, in-group moderates (people with more moderate thinking within the group) can help shift the conversation by showing that opinion is not uniform within an in-group. It’s helpful to lift up those people who share your audience’s values or identities to address immigration issues—and it’s important that we resist attempting to enlist people who don’t have the right level of credibility with our intended audience.

5. Help shift the norms in your local community

Social norms are what we perceive to be a typical or desirable behavior. While national norms exert influence, of course, there is evidence that localities can carve out their own distinct norms.

By telling stories, engaging in discussions, and acting in ways that exemplify your values and hopes for how your community should treat your foreign-born neighbors (as well as your U.S.-born neighbors), you shape the social norms in your community, which in turn may shift the views of some of its members—or influence their public-facing behavior at the very least.

Beyond the level of one-on-one conversation, it’s important to connect neighbors, both immigrant and American-born, and bring them into community with one another. Find the safe and welcoming spaces where those interactions would be the most organic and most likely to recur. They could be houses of worship, worksites, playgrounds, sports leagues, volunteer projects, food programs, job training, schools, and universities where people can come together for themselves and for the good of their community. We can build bridges and relationships through activities that leave politics behind and help us to find common ground.

While these tips for how to have productive conversations seem pretty simple, we know it’s hard to navigate contentious topics in a polarized environment. The point is to try new approaches that are more likely to get us there than what we’re doing now.

We know it’s possible. In 2018, the Kettering Foundation hosted 86 conversations about immigration in local communities across the country. The forums brought people together who agreed, disagreed, changed their minds, and challenged one another’s thinking on immigration. They were able to have respectful, nuanced conversations on a complex and emotional area of public policy.

If we can reimagine our conversations on immigration, we’ll create a new way forward on the immigration question, but we’ll also strengthen our civic bonds, increase social trust, and take one more step toward building the pluralistic democracy that we want to live in.

Source: Five Ways to Have Better Conversations About Immigration

Black business owners raise concerns about government loan fund

This has echoes of the WE Charity political scandal given the sole source process followed with an organization close to the PM (his riding), an untested organization in program delivery, and complaints by applicants regarding the program requirements.

Will be interesting to see the results one year from now in terms of disbursements and areas of activity, and at the five year program evaluation benchmark.

And while I always welcome more information of the demographics of applicants, this does seem overly intrusive:

Some Black businesspeople say a new government program meant to bolster Black entrepreneurship is hard to access, offers unclear repayment terms and asks invasive questions about applicants’ sexuality.

The Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund was announced in September by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Its application portal launched late last month.

The $291.3 million program offers loans of up to $250,000 to businesses that are majority Black-owned. Black entrepreneurs starting companies or operating existing small businesses can also apply for funding.

Source: Black business owners raise concerns about government loan fund

Stephens: The New Racism Won’t Solve the Old Racism

When the pendulum swings to far:

Last month, Lori Lightfoot announced that, for her second anniversary as Chicago’s first openly gay, Black female mayor, she would give one-on-one interviews only to “POC reporters,” referring to “people of color,” on the grounds that she wanted to push for equity in the composition of the overwhelmingly white City Hall press corps.

It took Gregory Pratt, a Latino reporter for The Chicago Tribune, to call her out for the misuse of power. Politicians, he wrote in a tweet, “don’t get to choose who covers them.” Pratt had been granted his interview request with Lightfoot but canceled on principle.

This month, two Jewish clinicians at Stanford filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that one of the university’s diversity, equity and inclusion programs pressured them to attend a “racially segregated ‘whiteness accountability’ affinity group, which was created for ‘staff who hold privilege via white identity.’”

“No affinity group was created for persons of Jewish ancestral identity. As a result, there is no ‘space’ in the D.E.I. program for Jewish staff members to safely express their lived Jewish experience,” read an overview of the complaint filed by the Brandeis Center.

Also this month, a federal judge, Marcia Morales Howard, temporarily blocked a $4 billion Biden administration program to provide debt relief to “socially disadvantaged farmers” — provided the farmers were from racial minorities — even as she acknowledged the Department of Agriculture’s ugly history of racially discriminatory practices.

“Socially disadvantaged farmers,” the judge noted, could get 120 percent debt relief under the program, even if they were “not remotely in danger of foreclosure.” Meanwhile, “a small white farmer who is on the brink of foreclosure can do nothing to qualify for debt relief. Race or ethnicity is the sole, inflexible factor that determines the availability of relief.”

The three cases raise distinct legal and ethical questions. But they’re all variations of the same basic debate between newfangled equity and old-fashioned equality — between those, like the writer Ibram X. Kendi, who want new forms of what he calls “antiracist discrimination” to remedy past forms of racial discrimination, and those who, to paraphrase Chief Justice John Roberts, think we can stop discrimination on the basis of race without discriminating on the basis of race.

It shouldn’t be hard to guess who is going to win that debate.

This isn’t just because conservatives hold the commanding heights in the courts, where at least some of the core legal questions will be settled. Courts can do only so much to change culture, though it’s hard to imagine President Biden’s farm relief program surviving in current form.

The deeper reason is that advocates of equity do two things that offend ordinary sensibilities — one of them sly, the other blunt.

Sly is the redefinition of the word “equity,” which in common English means the quality of being fair and impartial, to mean something closer to the opposite: the quality of being anything but impartial to achieve a desired, supposedly fairer result.

And blunt is the racial preference, the explicit segregation, the insulting assumption-making and the overall intellectual sophistry that is antiracist ideology in action.

To have something called a “whiteness accountability” group is insulting to everyone who still believes we should be judged by the content of our character. To expect Jewish staff members to be assigned to that group is obscene, particularly when the Holocaust is still a living memory. To suggest that the federal government should be in the business of lending discrimination when lending discrimination is otherwise a crime makes a mockery of the law the government is supposed to enforce. To disfavor reporters purely on the basis of their race is definitionally racist, whatever the higher justification.

All this would have been too obvious for words until just a few years ago. The new dispensation in which racism is justified in the name of antiracism, discrimination in the service of equality, and favoritism for the sake of an even playing field, is exactly as Orwellian as it sounds. It may find purchase in the usual institutional and political progressive circles, but it’s not a good way to win converts when most of us believe that the promise of America lies in escaping the narrow prisms of race and identity, not being permanently trapped by them.

Thoughtful liberals who think this is much ado about nothing should spend some time pondering how perfectly people like Lightfoot are now playing into right-wing stereotypes. They should also spend time wondering whether the ideal for which they have long fought — a society that, if not colorblind, can at least see past color — is being jeopardized by progressives who apparently can see only color.

Whichever way, it shouldn’t be hard to see that trying to solve the old racism with the new racism will produce only more racism. Justice is never achieved by turning tables.


Poland, Israel in diplomatic spat over Poland’s property law

Ongoing Polish government denial:

Poland and Israel have summoned each other’s diplomats in a growing dispute over Poland’s planned changes to property restitution rules that Israel and Jewish organizations say would prevent Jewish claims for compensation or property seized during the Holocaust and communist times.

On Monday, Israeli charge d ’affaires ​Tal Ben-Ari Yaalon met with Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski, who insisted the new regulations do not bar any property claims, which should be made through courts. Poland also says it mustn’t be made responsible for property seizures by Nazi Germany during its World War II occupation of Poland.

“These regulations are not directed against anyone,” Jablonski said, adding that there is a lot of misunderstanding of their aim as they give the law a steady framework.

Jablonski later said Ben-Ari Yaalon repeated the embassy’s statement from last week, which called the new regulations “immoral” and said they “will have a serious impact” on bilateral relations.

Poland’s ambassador to Israel, Marek Magierowski, was at the Israeli Foreign Ministry on Sunday, explaining the new regulations made to align with a 2015 ruling by the top constitutional court.

Poland’s parliament is processing the changes to prevent ownership and other administrative decisions from being declared void after 30 years. It says this is a response to fraud and irregularities that have emerged in the restitution process. The changes still require approval from the Senate and the president.

The World Jewish Restitution Organization said it was “deeply disappointed” by Poland’s response to the concerns.

“The house or shop or factory in a town in Poland affected by this legislation was not taken by Germany, it was taken by Poland. It sits today in Poland and its use has benefited Poland for over 70 years. It is time to recognize this fact and for Poland to do justice for those who suffered so much,” said the group’s chief, Gideon Taylor.

Last week, the U.S. State Department weighed in, with spokesperson Ned Price tweeting that the changes were a “step in the wrong direction” and urged Poland “not to move this legislation forward.”

Before World War II, Poland was home to Europe’s largest Jewish community of some 3.5 million people. Most were killed in the Holocaust under Nazi Germany’s occupation and their property was confiscated. Poland’s post-war communist authorities seized those properties, along with the property of non-Jewish owners in Warsaw and other cities. The end of communism in 1989 opened the door to restitution claims, most of which would be coming from Poles.

The still unresolved matter has been a constant source of bitterness and political tension between Poland and Israel.

In 2001, a draft law foreseeing compensation for seized private property was approved in parliament but vetoed by President Aleksander Kwasniewski. He claimed it violated social equality principles and would hurt Poland’s economic development, implying that compensation claims would result in large payouts. He also said individual claims should be made through the courts.

Poland is the only European country that has not offered any compensation for private property seized by the state in its recent history. Only the remaining communal Jewish property, like some synagogues, prayer houses and cemeteries, mostly in disrepair, have been returned where possible or compensated for.

Source: Poland, Israel in diplomatic spat over Poland’s property law

British Jews’ fear and defiance amid record monthly anti-Semitism reports

Of note:

A monthly record number of reports of anti-Semitic incidents were recorded following the 11-day conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in May, a charity says. So how does it feel to be Jewish in the UK?

Rabbi Nicky Liss had been preparing to give a midnight talk at a north London synagogue last month, when he began to feel nervous.

A rabbi of 13 years, he was used to giving speeches. This one, to mark the start of the Jewish festival of Shavuot on 16 May, should not, on the face of it, have been any different.

But that afternoon, events built to what he describes as a “crescendo”.

He’d learned that his good friend and fellow rabbi, Rafi Goodwin, had been attacked outside his synagogue in Chigwell, in Essex – allegedly struck over the head with a brick.

Two men have denied causing grievous bodily harm, robbery and religiously aggravated criminal damage and are due to appear at Chelmsford Crown Court for trial in November.

In a separate incident that afternoon, a man was filmed apparently using a megaphone to shout anti-Semitic abuse from a convoy of cars with Palestinian flags that travelled through St John’s Wood in north-west London – an area that is home to a Jewish community. Four men were arrested and remain on bail until mid-July.

Over the next few hours, worried phone calls and messages buzzed through Mr Liss’s community. Some feared the situation in north London could become “very threatening” by the evening.

Orthodox Jews do not use cars on religious holidays or the Sabbath, so Mr Liss had planned to walk the 25 minutes from his home on-site at Highgate synagogue to the synagogue in Hampstead Garden Suburb.

But the day’s events left Mr Liss with an agonising dilemma over whether he should go ahead with his talk – and what, as chair of United Synagogue’s rabbinical council, he should advise concerned colleagues to do.

Advice was sought from the Community Security Trust (CST), a Jewish charity that provides security support and monitors reports of anti-Semitic incidents.

Mr Liss says the advice was to go ahead with the events – but with increased vigilance and precautions, including local patrols being stepped up.

“This is the first time I’ve felt physically threatened,” he tells the BBC.

“I can’t believe that in 2021, I was thinking, was it safe for me to go on the street and walk to another synagogue to give a talk. It was incredibly worrying.”

A record number of anti-Semitic incidents have been recorded in the UK since the start of last month’s violence between Israel and the Palestinians, the CST says.

From 8 May to 7 June, 460 incidents were reported to the charity – the highest monthly total since records began in 1984 – with 316 happening offline and 144 online.

The previous record was 317 in July 2014 – coinciding with the last major eruption of violence between Israel and the Palestinians as part of a decades-long conflict.

In the month before 8 May, 119 anti-Semitic incidents were reported to the CST.

On 17 May, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told the House of Commons that there had been a “deeply disturbing” upsurge in anti-Semitism in recent years, particularly on social media.

Police forces in London, Greater Manchester and Hertfordshire did not have readily available data on the number of anti-Semitic incidents reported to them in May.

Last month, Greater Manchester Police’s Det Ch Insp Paul Coburn said that “following recent tensions in the Middle East”, officers had seen a “rise in hate crime directed towards members of specific communities” – which he told the BBC has since “stabilised” since the force launched a dedicated response, Operation Wildflower.

Dave Rich, CST’s head of policy, says 416 of the 460 incidents “used language or some other evidence” related to Israel. He adds that generally, most incidents involve verbal abuse, with a “relatively small” number involving violence.

“Every time Israel is at war… 2014, 2009, 2006 being the main ones, we’ve seen record totals each year, each time, [that are] always higher than the last,” he tells the BBC.

Mr Rich says the current trends that have “stood out” are the car convoys that have driven through areas where Jewish people live – as well as the “disproportionate impact” on school pupils, teachers, and university students – with 30% of all reports recorded linked to the educational sector.

The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not the only global event to spark a backlash against minority groups in the UK.

Whether it is the targeting of East Asian and South East Asian people at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic; or Islamophobic attacks following terrorist incidents, major news events have real-life consequences for ordinary people.

Tell Mama UK, which monitors anti-Muslim hate incidents, says it received a “rise in reports both online and offline” after last month’s violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

From 8 May to 31 May, it says it recorded 131 incidents – up from 59 in April. Of the 131, Tell Mama says 93 were directly linked to the conflict.

Iman Atta, the organisation’s director, says the majority of cases involved “abusive behaviour” – with some including threatening behaviour, and others mentioning assault.

“Although the political conflict in the region can stir up a lot of emotions, there is absolutely no room for anti-Muslim or anti-Semitic rhetoric,” she says.

“We fear that such behaviour threatens to harm social cohesions between Muslim and Jewish communities here in the UK.”

From 8 May to 15 June, around 50 anti-Semitic incidents were reported that were related to university campuses, according to the Union of Jewish Students.

Rebecca Lyons, vice-president of the UCL Jewish Society, says “threats of death and physical violence” have been sent to the social media accounts of the Jewish and Israel societies.

In one private message, an Instagram user told the student-run Jewish society: “See you on campus. We’ll be waiting to say hello to you, Arab style.”

Rebecca, 21, says initially she feared the online threats and comments “might be actualised,” adding that the abuse had left her feeling a “loss of identity” as a British Jew.

“I was born and raised in London, I worked hard to achieve highly in a British academic curriculum and yet I’ve been made startlingly aware of how clearly unwelcome I am in my own university space.”

She says the “memory of how intense and bloodthirsty” those weeks were was “embedded” in her mind – and has added to her uncertainty over her future in London.

Despite the abuse, Rebecca adds that “we as a Jewish student community remain very much Jewish and proud… and no amount of harassment will deter that”.

Jonny Eintracht, a 26-year-old PhD student from London, says there are always going to be pockets of anti-Semitism – and the best way to tackle them is by staying true to your own values.

“As long as I can behave in a way that… if people looked at me, or my friends and family, and think ‘my experience of observant Jews, or Jews is general, is different to what I thought,’ or ‘that’s someone that I would like to emulate one day’ – I think that’s the best way to combat anti-Semitism.

“It’s a kind of responsibility that I feel. We stay proud, and we stay true to what we believe in and we continue to contribute to the world however we can.”

Jonny, who wears a kippah, the head covering traditionally worn by male Jews, says since moving to London from Australia three years ago he has never felt unsafe or that he needs to change his behaviour – even after facing recent verbal anti-Semitic abuse in the street.

He says when events have become more volatile, he has felt a “large sense of unity” as Jewish people around the world come together – adding that he’s also had support from people who aren’t Jewish.

“I’ve had non-Jewish colleagues ask me if I’m OK or if I want to talk about the situation… I think when you’re able to sit down and talk about it in a calm way, and out of concern for one another, then that’s the first step to having any sort of constructive way forward.

“It gives me hope for the future.”

Jenny Tamari, a mother-of-three from north-west London, says she is reconsidering her family’s future in the UK, as she feels it has become “open season on the British Jews”.

The former marketing consultant says she has “been feeling anti-Semitism for a while” in Britain, but with every “flare-up” of tensions in the Middle East, “people always see how far they can go… to let out their hatred for the Jews”.

After watching the widely-circulated video of the car convoy that travelled through north London, Jenny thought of her six-year-old daughter.

“At the time, I heard cars beeping and I didn’t actually know what was happening. But then I saw the video and went to my kitchen away from my kids and just cried.”

Jenny, 40, admits recent events have left her increasingly scared for her family’s safety.

She says she even took off her son’s kippah as they walked to a friend’s house for a recent Sabbath lunch.

“I told my son he had to take his kippah off. And he said, ‘why Mummy, I don’t want to’, and I got really frustrated and said, ‘you can’t wear it in the streets’. I got really scared and he felt that, as a four-and-a-half-year-old child, and just said ‘It’s OK Mummy, I’ll take it off’.

“I just feel so disappointed in myself, so sad for him, so sad for my grandfather who came from Vienna and escaped the Holocaust, so that he could be actively, outwardly Jewish in Britain – the country that took him in.”

Jenny has recently started a podcast called Jewish in the City, which despite being “born out of” anti-Semitism, is designed to “uplift, inspire and encourage” Jews; and to highlight their “positive contributions” to communities.

In Essex, Lindsay Shure, the chair of the Chigwell and Hainault synagogue, is “determined that something good” will follow the attack on their own Rabbi Goodwin.

Lindsay, 70, says the Jewish community and the residents of Chigwell’s Limes Farm estate – where the synagogue sits – had never had “terribly much to do with each other”, but the support from non-Jewish people has been “incredible”.

He says people have left flowers and cards outside the synagogue and others have left kind messages on social media, including one which said: “Your community is our community”.

For him, the outpouring of support “emphasises that it’s the people on the extremes who show the hatred… generally, people are very supportive and treat each person on their merits”.

He says he is meeting the local residents’ committee soon to discuss how they and the Jewish community can work together on future social projects. They are hoping to do some work in a care home later this year.

“If we get closer, we get a better understanding of people as human beings… I hope this will lay the foundations for something even more important and longer-lasting.”

Source: British Jews’ fear and defiance amid record monthly anti-Semitism reports

Angus Reid: As Ottawa prepares to ramp up immigration post pandemic, Canadians are divided over target levels

Of course, Canadians are divided on this and other issues.

But still striking to me, despite the large increases planned by the government, overall acceptance and support for levels of 400,000 and over (34 % about right, and 13 % number should be higher, for a total of 47% compared to 39 % believing the numbers too high). Equally interesting is the drop since 2018 of those thinking immigration levels too high, from 49 to 39 %:

As travel restrictions in Canada brought by COVID-19 begin to lift, the impacts will not only be felt by people living in this country, but those waiting to settle here.

An unprecedented, pandemic-related slowdown in immigration over the last year and a half is poised to ramp up against news last Monday that some 23,000 approved immigrants to Canada could immediately begin their journey to their new home country.

Public health, economic and perhaps even electoral outcomes pending, the Canadian government has signalled it plans to land more than 400,000 newcomers next year.

New data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute in partnership with the University of British Columbia finds Canadians divided along age, gender, and political lines about whether that number represents an appropriate target.

Overall, one-in-three (34%) say that this is the right level. A plurality of past NDP (43%) and Liberal (47%) voters believe the current target of 411,000 new permanent residents is the right amount. One-quarter of past CPC voters agree (23%).

On the other hand, a plurality of 39 per cent feel that the target is too high. This proportion rises to a majority in Alberta (50%) and Saskatchewan (54%) and is the opinion of nearly two-thirds (64%) of past Conservative voters.

One-in-eight (13%) Canadians say the 411,000 target is not ambitious enough, rising to one-in-five among past Liberal and New Democrat voters.

As to which regions of the globe Canada should prioritize for new permanent residents, three-in-five Canadians say that it does not matter to them, and that no region should have priority over another. One-quarter (26%) prefer Europe, while one-in-five (20%) say the United States and Mexico. Immigration from South Asia is chosen by just four per cent, a finding starkly contrasted against the fact that Canada’s largest source of immigration is currently India.


Full report:

Residential Schools: Now ain’t the time for your tears

Good overview of all the times Canadians were informed about what happened in residential schools:

In 1964 Bob Dylan released The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol, one of his masterworks. The song chronicles the circumstances of the atrocious murder of an African American woman and the hypocrisy of the society that produced her killer.

As the horrifying revelations from Kamloops and Cowessess of graves at the sites of former residential schools have unfolded I am reminded of Dylan’s refrain aimed at mainstream American society:

“Take the rag away from your face, now ain’t the time for your tears.”

Surely just like many Americans who were bystanders on civil rights in America, too many non-Indigenous Canadians have turned a blind eye to the grotesque injustices of the residential school system for decades.

As a non-Indigenous person of English and Italian background I have no difficulty describing myself as a settler in these lands. As an educator and storyteller I have attempted to inform myself about the Indigenous history of Canada. This is an extremely painful moment for many, particularly Indigenous people. What it is not, is surprising.

I am appalled to hear in 2021 many Canadians who claim to be well meaning and would self-identify as progressives state that they ‘didn’t know’ about residential schools.


“Now ain’t the time for your tears.”

As early as the 1860s, people like Florence Nightingale were calling attention to the atrocious death rates in state-run boarding schools for Indigenous children.

Federal medical inspector Peter Henderson Bryce exposed horrific conditions and high death tolls in residential schools prior to the First World War. His book The Story of a National Crime: An Appeal for Justice to the Indians of Canada published almost a century ago garnered parliamentary and press attention, but little political action.

Conservative and Liberal governments, with the willing cooperation of senior civil servants like Duncan Campbell Scott, better known to Canadians at the time as an admirable poet, journalist and musician, worked assiduously to pursue residential school policy and stifle whistleblowers like Bryce. Despite Scott’s reluctance to engage in full scale residential school reform, he contributed the following to Canada And Its Provinces in 1914 about the beginnings of the residential school system:

The well-known predisposition of Indians to tuberculosis resulted in a very large percentage of deaths among the pupils. They were housed in buildings not carefully designed for school purposes, and these buildings became infected and dangerous to the inmates. It is quite within the mark to say that fifty per cent of the children who passed through these schools did not live to benefit from the education which they had received therein.”

Over the last several decades writers including Olive Patricia Dickason, John S. Milloy, J.R. Miller, E. Brian Titley and Richard Wagamese documented the residential school horrors. Since the 1960s several acclaimed filmmakers including Hugh Brody, Gil Cardinal, Nadia McLaren, Alanis Obomsawin and Loretta Sarah Todd have explored the issue with intelligence and passion. All these works have been readily available to Canadians.

In 1996 The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples led by co-chairs Georges Erasmus, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and Justice René Dussault tabled a comprehensive investigation on many issues including the history, impact and legacy of residential schools.

In 2015, Truth And Reconciliation Canada led by Justice Murray Sinclair issued its own extraordinarily detailed report on the system. Sinclair and his team stated clearly there were unmarked graves waiting to be found.

Just two years ago The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls sadly documented a saga of injustice for many women, some of whom or whose families, had been harmed by the residential school experience. Chief Commissioner Marion Buller and her team asserted categorically based on their investigation that Canada’s assault on Indigenous women and girls was genocide.

It is disingenuous at best for any reasonably educated Canadian to excuse her or his self with the ‘I didn’t know’ refrain in regards to residential schools. Like the architects of Canadian “Indian” policy from the late 19th and early 20th centuries too many of us were prepared to see Indigenous people as marginal and their negative experiences as regrettable, but inevitable collateral damage on the path to Canadian civilization, economic development and expansion.

In June 2015, Buffy Sainte-Marie performed in downtown Ottawa on the occasion of the release of the Truth and Reconciliation report. Before beginning to play, she clearly stated an unwelcome truth. Ms. Sainte-Marie said Canadians had every means to learn the truth about residential schools for a long time.

When I began my career in the 1980s, many of my journalistic colleagues were preoccupied with injustices in El Salvador, Nicaragua or South Africa. There was much less concern about conditions in Chisasibi, New Ayainsh, Pangnirtung, Sheshatshiu or Temagami even though many of the same issues of decolonization, brutality and mismanagement were in play domestically rather than in exotic foreign lands. It seemed to me then, as it still does, that too many Canadians would rather focus on injustice and benighted thinking abroad rather than in their own community.

Today some politicians want us to believe that residential schools are behind us, part of the past. Current prime minster Justin Trudeau presents himself as a champion of Indigenous rights. Critics such as Indigenous children’s advocate Cindy Blackstock beg to differ. Mr. Trudeau would do well at this time to better historicize the enduring role played by governments led by his Liberal party in residential school management in cooperation with several Christian churches.

At a recent virtual meeting in the aftermath of the revelations concerning the Kamloops 215 Anishinaabe Elder Edna Manitowabi, professor emerita of Indigenous Studies at Trent University, a residential school survivor and cultural worker, implored her audience that it was time for the truth to come out:

“I ask the citizens of this country. It is time to do something. It is a heavy thing, a crime, a national crime.”

At the conclusion of The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, Mr. Dylan sings:

“Bury the rag deep in your face, for now’s the time for your tears.”

In our current national tragedy, tears, especially Indigenous tears, are understandable, but as Dr. Manitowabi asserted the hard, painful, vitally important work of truth recognition must begin in earnest for many non-Indigenous Canadians.

James Cullingham is an adjunct graduate faculty member of Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies at Trent University, a professor at Seneca College and president of Tamarack Productions in Nogojiwanong – Peterborough Ontario. He directed and produced Duncan Campbell Scott – The Poet and The Indians (Tamarack-NFB 1995). This autumn he will release a book Two Dead White Men – Duncan Campbell Scott, Jacques Soustelle and the Failure of  Indigenous Policy and a documentary film The Cost of Freedom – Refugee Journalists in Canada.


Canada’s tragic residential-school reckoning could be grim harbinger for U.S.

Of note. Will reinforce efforts here I suspect:

It took just two weeks for the first Indigenous cabinet member in American history to publicly express her deep personal dismay at the grim residential school revelations emanating from north of the border.

It was only another 11 days before Deb Haaland, one of the first Native Americans ever elected to Congress and President Joe Biden’s newly appointed secretary of the interior, took matters into her own hands.

“The department shall undertake an investigation of the loss of human life and the lasting consequences of residential Indian boarding schools,” Haaland wrote in a memo last week.

“Only by acknowledging the past can we work toward a future we are all proud to embrace.”

In geopolitical terms, the time between Haaland’s June 22 memo and May 27 — the day a B.C. First Nation announced the grim discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former residential school — was the blink of an eye.

Rarely do developments on Canadian soil prompt such rapid, dramatic policy decisions in the U.S., a telling measure of magnitude for what Haaland’s investigation may uncover in a country where Indigenous issues are seldom considered front-page news.

“There is a reckoning happening,” said Chase Iron Eyes, a prominent U.S. Indigenous activist and lead counsel for the North Dakota-based Lakota People’s Law Project.

“They don’t teach this in schools — not in Canadian schools, not in American schools — that there are mass graves of children at church-run, government-sponsored residential schools and boarding schools.

“And now we’re no longer able to hide from those truths.”

Haaland’s own heritage doubtless helped move things along.

“My great-grandfather was taken to Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania,” Haaland wrote in a moving column in the Washington Post this month that opened with the news out of Canada.

“Its founder coined the phrase, ‘Kill the Indian, and save the man,’ which genuinely reflects the influences that framed these policies at the time.”

It’s a chilling echo of words frequently attributed to Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald — “take the Indian out of the child” — in his 19th century defence of Canada’s residential school system.

The similarities between the systems that existed in Canada and the U.S. likely don’t stop there.

“I think the scale, in terms of sheer numbers, is fairly comparable,” said Circe Sturm, an anthropology professor and Indigenous issues specialist at the University of Texas at Austin.

By the turn of the century, after the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs had taken over Indigenous schooling from the Christian missionaries who started the effort, the department was operating 147 day schools and 81 boarding schools on U.S. reservations, and another 25 boarding schools off-reserve, Sturm said.

In Canada, an estimated 150,000 Indigenous children are believed to have attended one of about 150 residential schools that operated between the 1880s and when the last one closed in 1996.

Haaland’s “Indian Boarding School Initiative” will seek to identify all of the schools that were part of the program, with a particular emphasis on “any records relating to cemeteries or potential burial sites … which may later be used to assist in locating unidentified human remains.”

The department will also liaise with Indigenous communities across the U.S., including in Alaska and Hawaii, on how best to handle any such remains, with plans for a final report by April of next year.

“Many who survived the ordeal returned home changed in unimaginable ways, and their experiences still resonate across the generations,” Haaland wrote.

“The work outlined will shed light on the scope of that impact.”

The potential scale of the situation in Canada took a dramatic turn Thursday when the Cowessess First Nation announced the discovery of what are believed to be 751 unmarked graves at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School on southern Saskatchewan.

That news generated uncommon media interest Friday in the U.S., where the Post played it on the front page and the New York Times devoted a full inside page to coverage of the discovery, as well as Haaland’s announcement.

Sturm demurred when asked whether she expects broad change in U.S. attitudes toward Indigenous Peoples on a scale comparable to last year’s social upheaval in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

“I suspect that many Americans will struggle with the hard truth about the founding of this country — some by choosing to ignore it, others with guilt and anger,” she said.

“But because we are talking about the senseless death of children, there is a good chance that a significant number of Americans would be moved enough to insist on action.”

If such discoveries are what it takes to finally end public complacency about the plight of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, so be it, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested Friday.

The federal government intends to help with “the healing and the fixing of the generations of trauma that Canadians have all too often turned an eye from, all too often shrugged away from,” Trudeau said.

“And if it took discovering these graves for Canadians to wake up to how much we need to continue to do, then that perhaps gives us a starting point to continue to do even more.”‘

Indigenous leaders in Canada have been pressing Trudeau to secure an apology, on Canadian soil, from Pope Francis himself for the role the Catholic Church played in operating residential schools.

Those demands — which Trudeau repeated again Friday — have so far gone unheeded. But they may carry more weight if, in the fullness of time, Biden is in a position to join the call.

“I think Trudeau and Biden together is a stronger force than either of them alone. I do believe that,” Iron Eyes said.

“We need those calls to come from within the Christian community, because those ‘ideals’ upon which these countries were founded were very much informed by Christian and Western theology and world views.”

Source: Canada’s tragic residential-school reckoning could be grim harbinger for U.S.

Canadian Muslims are forced to balance faith, safety after anti-Islamic attacks

Sad and unacceptable:

Every time Sana Chaudhry’s daughter sees her father getting up to pray, the two-year-old toddler picks up a scarf and waddles behind him to the prayer mat.

As she watches her little girl wrap the hijab around her head, Ms. Chaudhry says she prays she will be able to practise her faith the same way when she’s older.

“I wish this girl could go out in the world and be this carefree about her religion and her culture,” the 31-year-old psychotherapist said in an interview from her home in Oakville, Ont.

“And then I feel bad because I know that’s not going to be the case.”

Discrimination against women who wear a hijab isn’t new, but Ms. Chaudhry and others say they are more fearful as Islamophobia and attacks against Muslim women increase across the country. They say they are navigating between their safety and their faith.

A spokesman at an Edmonton mosque says he’s been having more conversations with women who are trying to find ways to be more vigilant against attacks.

“There’s been an increase [in conversations about] ‘How do [I] continue to be who I am and what are some supports that we can put in place for me to continue to be?’ ” said Jamal Osman, vice-president of the Muslim Community of Edmonton Mosque.

“I’ve had a lot of conversations with other brothers as well. Their wives, their daughters, their mothers have been exposed to various expressions of hatred. But we’re not going to sit idly by and continue to be victimized.”

For example, he said, more women are taking self-defence classes.

Ms. Chaudhry said wearing the hijab is a form of worship in Islam. It signifies modesty and beauty.

She made the difficult decision to remove hers in 2016 after twice being assaulted. In the first case, a man ripped off her hijab when she was shopping. In the second, a man came from behind and tried to close a door on her hand as she unloaded groceries in her car.

Ms. Chaudhry said she wants to wear her hijab, but her experiences and reports of violent attacks on Muslim women – including at least 10 in Edmonton in the past six months – continue to deter her.

That fear was heightened when four members of a family in London, Ont., were killed in a targeted attack. Two of the women were wearing hijabs when a 20-year-old man drove into the family with his truck. Only a nine-year-old boy survived.

“It’s underlying subconscious fear that seeps into every aspect of your life and it’s really hard to feel safe,” Ms. Chaudhry said.

Her friends who do wear hijabs feel the same, she said. “Some of them have told me, ‘When we embrace our hijab, we embrace death.’ ”

“We live in a society that doesn’t truly accept Islam or this decision to wear a hijab,” added Nadia Mansour, 18, of Prince George.

While reports of attacks against Muslim women have scared some, Ms. Mansour said they haven’t deterred her from her religious conviction.

Ms. Mansour points to a Quebec court ruling in April that upheld the province’s decision to ban government workers in positions of authority – including police officers and judges – from wearing religious symbols, including hijabs and turbans, on the job.

“It’s a huge indication for Muslim women who choose to wear a hijab that they are not accepted in our society and that they are different.

“People stare at you. I’ve been bullied in high school for wearing a hijab. I even took it off for a short period of time. But honestly I’m tired of hearing the crap. I actually feel more unafraid. This is my religion and I will defend it.”

Aruba Mahmud, an artist based in London, Ont., said all women are feeling the effects of the recent attacks.

“I am more vigilant. I have fear that’s not going to go away, but I don’t want that fear to start dictating major decision,” she said. “I’m sick of just explaining my existence”

Mr. Osman said he’s angry because it shouldn’t be the responsibility of Canadians to keep themselves safe.

“It is frustrating that we have to take things into our own hands and push our so called representatives to meet their commitment to the safety of Canadian citizens,” he said.

“It boils down to the law, and if the law is not able to defend its own citizens, then what kind of a social contract is that?”

Source: Canadian Muslims are forced to balance faith, safety after anti-Islamic attacks

Statement by the Prime Minister on Canadian Multiculturalism Day

For those interested in the government political messaging, largely the same as last year:

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on Canadian Multiculturalism Day:

“Today, we celebrate a pillar of our national character, and recognize the many contributions that people of all backgrounds have made, and continue to make, to our society.

Canada’s commitment to multiculturalism is an example to the world, and at the heart of our success as a country. For generations, Canadians have known we are stronger when we recognize and honour our differences and diverse roots, and work together to build a more inclusive future for all.

“This year, we mark an important anniversary. Fifty years ago this fall, Canada became the first country in the world to adopt a policy of multiculturalism, which was later enshrined in law through the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. While we have made important progress toward a more inclusive and equitable society since then, much work remains to be done. Every day, far too many racialized Canadians, Indigenous peoples, and religious minorities continue to face systemic racism, discrimination, and a lack of resources and opportunity.

“Sadly, over the last year and a half, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed and deepened social, health, and economic disparities, and seen a rise in threats and violence against many of these communities. The tragic events of the past several weeks are painful reminders that Canada has not always lived up to its ideals, and that many Canadians continue to feel fear and insecurity simply because of the colour of their skin, their background, or their faith.

“This is unacceptable and must change. That is why the Government of Canada must and will continue to take meaningful action to right past wrongs, fight racism and discrimination, and foster a fairer, more equitable society.

“As individuals, we all have a role to play in building a more inclusive and resilient country. The values of openness, compassion, and respect have the power to bring us together, but they are only meaningful if we embody them. When we choose to put them into practice, we choose to shape a better tomorrow for everyone.

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I invite Canadians to celebrate Canadian Multiculturalism Day by taking part in online events and in-person activities, and recognizing the invaluable contributions that Canadians of all backgrounds continue to make to our country. Together, we can make Canada a stronger, more welcoming, and inclusive place.”

Source: Statement by the Prime Minister on Canadian Multiculturalism Day

No statement by Conservative leader Erin O’Toole but this tweet:

Multiculturalism and inclusion are pillars of Canada. Canada’s Conservatives will always fight to protect our diversity and ensure equal treatment for all that respects and celebrates that diversity. Today we are wishing all Canadians a happy Multiculturalism Day.
Nothing from NDP leader Singh, Green leader Paul or Bloc leader Blanchet.