Germany to open up more to migrants under new coalition

Significant changes:

Germany’s incoming government plansto improve asylum seekers’ rights, facilitate immigration for skilled workers, and simplify the process of acquiring German nationality.

Immigration was a defining issue of Germany’s 2017 election campaign after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to open the door to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in 2015.

Although it was not one of the main issues in this year’s election, it has moved up the political agenda again as thousands of migrants have tried to enter the European Union via Belarus in recent weeks.

A coalition deal agreed by the Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) said the new government planned to make Germany a more appealing destination for migrants, while making life easier for asylum seekers who are willing to integrate

The alliance also agreed to introduce a law to make multiple citizenship possible. Becoming a German citizen generally requires a person to give up any other passports, though there are exemptions, including for citizens of other EU countries.

“As a rule, naturalization should be possible after five years, with special integration achievements after three years,” the document said. That compares to eight years and six years respectively at the moment


The new law will grant children born in Germany to foreign parents German citizenship if one of the parents has been legally residing in Germany for five years.

The law targets Germany’s ‘guest-worker’ generation of migrants, who came from southern Europe and Turkey in the 1960s and 1970s and contributed to the postwar “economic miracle”.

Some could not be naturalized even after living in Germany for decades due to language requirements or because they did not want to give up their original citizenship.

The wording of a controversial naturalization prerequisite of “living according to German life style” will be replaced with clearer criteria in the new law.

Keen to tackle a shortage of skilled workers that has held back economic recovery, Germany’s new government will improve access to study and apprenticeship for foreigners. Visa processing will also be simplified.

Asylum seekers with temporary status will be able to obtain more secure residency and bring in their families after four to six years if they integrate well.

Guenter Burkhardt, managing director of PRO ASYL refugee rights group, welcomed the deal but said more was needed to improve asylum seekers’ rights.

“Deportations to war and crisis areas are not clearly excluded,” he said.

Source: Germany to open up more to migrants under new coalition

Denmark Expands Citizenship Exam With ‘Danish Values’ Test

Ongoing trend of hardening Danish policies:

Denmark’s government has introduced changes to its citizenship exam, designed to test potential new citizens’ knowledge of Danish society, culture and history. The new questions will test an individual’s awareness of so-called “Danish values” on areas including free speech, gender equality and the relationship between law and religion.

It’s the latest step in a tightening of immigration policy by Denmark’s center-left government. The latest changes were passed in parliament thanks to support from opposition parties on the center-right rather than the usual allies to the left.

Led by Mette Frederiksen’s Social Democratic party, the minority government has adopted many policies long associated with parties far to the right of the political spectrum. Foreign Policy described the revamp as “one of the harshest refugee policies in the world.”

How Danish are you?

Introduced in 2015, the citizenship exam is designed to verify an individual’s knowledge of Danish society, culture and history as part of a citizenship application.

Previously, candidates had to score 32 out of 40 to pass. Candidates taking the new-look exam will have to score 36 out of 45, but also answer at least four of the five Danish values questions correctly. The time available for the PC-based test remains at 45 minutes but despite this, the government insists the test is no harder than before.

“I do not know what the politicians mean by Danish values,” one candidate told DR prior to taking the exam. One of the issues highlighted by critics is that there is no study material, meaning what is meant by “Danish values” is entirely subjective.

The government’s citizenship spokesperson Lars Aslan Rasmussen said the revised test will prove applicants understand the society they are applying to join.

“I actually think it’s very simple. Should girls be allowed to do the same things as boys, does Denmark have the death sentence? These are very simple questions which I think you should be able to answer if you live in Denmark,” he told DR.

How to become a citizen of Denmark

Becoming a Danish citizen requires far more than passing one exam, of course. The exam is just one part of the process. There is also a requirement to have lived in the country holding valid residence permits for up to nine years, with a positive recent employment history.

There are a few groups of people not required to take the citizenship exam. Exemptions are available for most people from Norway, Sweden or the Schleswig-Holstein region of Germany. Children under 12 are also exempt.

Source: Denmark Expands Citizenship Exam With ‘Danish Values’ Test

Yakabuski: Amid Quebec labour crunch, Legault spurns business demands for more immigrants

A natural experiment: as the rest of Canada increases immigration, Quebec adapts a more restrictive approach.

Will be interesting to contrast Quebec economic outcomes with those of the other provinces, particularly with respect to productivity and income, over the coming years:

Generations of Quebeckers were once forced to leave home for work, fleeing to Ontario or New England for a job, as their native province grappled with a chronic unemployment problem.

Until the turn of the century, Quebec’s jobless rate consistently exceeded the Canadian average by several percentage points. The spread with Ontario stood at as much as five points in the 1980s and never shrank below three points before 2000.

That was then. A falling birth rate, a fast-aging population and lower immigration levels than in the rest of Canada have since combined to make Quebec’s labour market the country’s second tightest after British Columbia.

Quebec’s unemployment rate stood at 5.6 per cent in October, compared with 7 per cent in Ontario and 6.7 per cent nationally. At 3.8 per cent, the unemployment rate in Quebec City was the lowest of any census metropolitan area in the country.

Premier François Legault considers this a nice problem to have.

“You have to admit it’s good news for [Quebec’s] 4.5 million workers because it puts upward pressure – and we’ve seen it for the past three years – on salaries,” the Premier said last week. “I’d rather have a lack of workers than a lack of jobs.”

Quebec businesses do not see it that way, however. They describe an acute labour shortage – there are currently more than 220,000 job vacancies in the province – as the biggest obstacle to economic growth. The province’s manufacturers have foregone $18-billion in revenues in the past two years because they could not find enough workers to fill orders. Many businesses are closing for lack of employees.

Last week, five of Quebec’s main business groups joined with the Union des municipalités du Québec to demand Mr. Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government boost immigration levels to prevent the current labour shortage from getting even worse. In addition to working with the federal government to accelerate the application process for temporary foreign workers, the groups want the province to permanently boost the number of permanent residents it accepts each year and do more to get newcomers to settle outside the greater Montreal area to more remote regions where the worker shortage has reached crisis levels.

Karl Blackburn, the head of the province’s main employers’ group, le Conseil du patronat du Québec (CPQ), called the province’s labour shortage “an economic catastrophe,” and called on Finance Minister Eric Girard to introduce new measures to address the labour crunch in next week’s fall economic statement.

Mr. Legault, who was elected in 2018 on a signature promise to temporarily cut immigration levels, continues to push back against such demands. The Premier emphasized automation, job training and digitization last week while outlining his government’s strategy for easing the labour shortage and boosting productivity.

Mr. Legault has made closing the wealth gap between his province and Ontario – Quebec’s per-capita gross domestic product remains about 13 per cent lower – his government’s top economic priority. As a result, he has insisted that bringing in more immigrants, who typically start off making less than the average full-time salary of $56,000, would only make this task harder.

“Immigration might be part of the solution, but we have to realize that, at 50,000 [immigrants] a year, we have reached our capacity for integration,” Mr. Legault said. “If we want the next generations to continue speaking French, there is a limit to the number of immigrants we can accept.”

Under a decades-old agreement with Ottawa, Quebec establishes its own immigration targets and selects economic immigrants. The federal government is responsible for choosing newcomers who come to the province as refugees or under the family reunification program.

Mr. Legault’s government recently announced it would seek to bring in 70,000 immigrants in 2022. But the one-time boost would only to make up for a shortfall of newcomers experienced in 2020 and this year because of the pandemic. Despite the one-shot increase, Quebec will continue to receive far fewer immigrants relative to its population than Ontario, B.C. and Alberta.

To keep pace with the rest of the country, Quebec, which accounts for 22.5 per cent of the Canadian population, would need to increase the number of immigrants it accepts to 90,000 starting this year and increase the level annually after that.

In 2019, Quebec accepted only 40,565 immigrants, or 11.9 per cent of the 341,180 permanent residents admitted to Canada that year. Its share is set to rise temporarily to 17 per cent next year, but will fall below 12 per cent again starting in 2023 as Ottawa increases the national immigration target to 421,000.

Beyond the current labour crunch, the CAQ’s immigration policy will leave the province even less well equipped to face the budgetary pressures caused by an increasingly aging population. At 19.7 per cent, the proportion of Quebeckers over the age of 65 exceeded the national average of 18 per cent in 2020. Quebec also has fewer residents under the age of 20 than the rest of Canada, while the size of its working-aged population has been shrinking.

Mr. Legault, who is up for re-election in 2022, continues to portray immigration as a threat to Quebec’s distinct culture. But his policies are damaging his province’s economic prospects and reducing its political influence within Canada. How can that be good for Quebec’s cultural survival?


Human rights hearing on allegations of racial profiling of migrant workers caught in mass DNA sweep begins

Of interest:

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario will hear Monday from migrant workers who allege they were racially targeted by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) as part of a DNA sweep in connection to a 2013 sexual assault investigation.

The 54 applicants argue that the indiscriminate manner in which the DNA sweep was conducted violated their rights under Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

The OPP swabbed 96 Black and brown migrant farm workers from mostly Caribbean countries working on at least five farms in Elgin County, in southwestern Ontario, in 2013 as officers searched for a suspect in a sexual assault.

But human rights lawyer Shane Martínez, who is representing the migrant workers pro bono, says most workers who were swabbed did not fit the physical description of the suspect except for the colour of their skin.

“Workers were West Indian, workers were black from Jamaica, workers with long dreadlocks, ones who were bald — one worker had gold teeth,” Martínez said. “They were as diverse a group as you could potentially imagine.”

“When they tried to provide explanations as to [where they were] and they provided alibis, the police completely disregarded those and wanted nothing more than to collect their DNA because of how they looked.”

The suspect, meanwhile, was described as between 5-10 and six feet tall, black, with no facial hair and a low voice that might have a Jamaican accent.

The sexual assault survivor told police her attacker was muscular and possibly in his mid-to-late 20s. She said she was confident the perpetrator was a migrant worker and believed she’d seen him near her home in rural southwestern Ontario.

‘I didn’t want to risk my livelihood’

Dwayne Henry recalls being asked to provide a DNA swab eight years ago.

Hailing from Jamaica, Henry says while he was nervous, he initially felt assured when the police approached him.

“We were scared, but knowing this was Canada, this was the first world, I thought I was doing something keeping with the law,” said Henry. “We know what police can do back in our country.”

Henry, who now lives in Stratford, Ont., said he was with his girlfriend at the time of the assault and had dreadlocks that did not match the suspect’s description. But he says that made no difference in the investigation.

Now that he’s a permanent resident, Henry says he could clearly see that both his employer and the police pressured him to comply.

“I think at that time they were taking advantage of us just because we were migrant workers,” said Henry. “We were scared that we were going to be sent back home. This is the place [where we are the] breadwinner for our family, you know?”

Henry says the investigation continues to follow him and his reputation, even back in his home country. That’s why he became part of the human rights claim.

“To this day, it still has a dent in my life.”

Samples didn’t match DNA from scene

Police would later tell an independent review into what happened in 2013 that due to the seasonal agricultural worker program, they felt they had to act fast to find the perpetrator before he left the country.

On Nov. 30, 2013, Henry Cooper, a migrant farm worker from Trinidad and Tobago was arrested after suspicions around his unwillingness to provide a DNA swab and conversations with his employer led to the OPP surveilling him in hopes of getting a discarded sample of his DNA.

He eventually pleaded guilty to sexual assault with a weapon, forcible confinement and uttering death threats and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

In 2016, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) released its report based on a complaint put forth by Justicia for Migrant Workers, a volunteer-run collective that advocates for the rights of migrant workers.

At least 11 other stakeholders made submissions to be considered during the review, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

The report found that while the investigation failed to “recognize the particular vulnerabilities of the migrant worker community targeted by the DNA canvass,” it was not motivated by racial prejudice.

It also questioned whether the “consents obtained were truly informed and voluntary.”

In his report, Gerry McNeilly, the police review director at the time, recommended the OPP adopt a policy on canvassing for DNA that could also be used by other police services.

When asked if the OPP had implemented this recommendation — and the report’s six others, which included training for officers on DNA canvassing and communication surrounding the collection and destruction of DNA — OPP spokesperson Bill Dickson said it “reviewed [the report’s] contents and continues to address the recommendations that were made in the OIPRD review.”

When pressed about what that meant, he replied as follows: “Any further comment would be inappropriate in order to preserve the integrity of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario hearing.”

Martínez says despite acknowledgement of the OPP’s shortcomings, the independent police review did not match the standards of a human rights tribunal in determining racial discrimination — which is one of the reasons the workers moved ahead with their claim.

All of the officers interviewed by the independent police review director said they had told the migrant workers that their decision to participate in the DNA swabbing was voluntary — and that the decision would be kept confidential from their employers so as not to affect their job security.

But the report found the officers failed to do that.

After learning that a few workers had refused to do the DNA test, the main employer “made the decision that none of these men would be invited back to work for our company in the future unless they consented to take [the] test,” the report found.

Case delayed for years

The application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario was filed in 2015.

While the COVID-19 pandemic created some delay in getting to a hearing, Martínez alleges the OPP also tried to have the case quashed.

Martínez says the OPP tried to have the application dismissed because it was filed two years after the DNA swab instead of within the typical one-year deadline.

But he said a pre-tribunal hearing found that the filing delay was “sustained in good faith” and it noted that the applicants are part of a vulnerable population.

A class-action lawsuit on behalf of anyone whose DNA was taken by the OPP in relation to these types of investigations has also been certified.

The lawsuit alleges the Centre of Forensic Sciences has retained DNA profiles in a database, even though the material gathered did not match that of the suspect in the criminal investigation.

Although the 2016 independent police review states that all of the migrant workers’ samples were destroyed in 2014, a spokesperson for Justicia for Migrant Workers says the workers don’t have faith the samples and their profiles are gone — and were never made aware their DNA profiles would be entered into a database.

“These are widespread issues of privacy, of privacy infringement, of racial injustice that I think all of us in the community need to be concerned [about],” said Chris Ramsaroop. This is a systemic practice and policing that’s flawed.”

Fighting for recognition

According to Justicia for Migrant Workers, the case is the first human rights hearing of its kind in Canada to examine allegations of systemic racial profiling and discrimination by the police of migrant farm workers.

“Many of the workers wanted to just basically put this incident past them, and there were other workers who were still fearful of repatriation,” Ramsaroop said. “But the fact that we had 54 of the 96 workers take part in this I think is phenomenal. This speaks to the level of outrage that exists within this community.”

Henry says he’s fighting for recognition, compensation and justice so that other people don’t have to go through something similar.

“We are taking a stand to protect the rights of migrant workers who are coming,” Henry said. “I’m doing this not just because of us; I’m doing this for other migrant workers also.”

Source: Human rights hearing on allegations of racial profiling of migrant workers caught in mass DNA sweep begins

Why the Modi government is unlikely to repeat the farm laws pullback with the citizenship law

Of note:

On November 19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did something that he isn’t known for – revoke a major policy decision under public pressure.

He even topped it off with a public apology, which is a far cry from his otherwise haughty and unrepentant style of leadership. Whether it was a faux apology or a genuine one is a different matter.

Why did Modi walk back on the controversial farm bills after a year?

To put it simply, the costs of defending and maintaining the laws in the face of a year-long resistance by farmers had risen dramatically. With elections in the agrarian states of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh looming over his head, Modi couldn’t afford to appear dismissive of farmer unions, which have a strong sway in both states. And he certainly can’t afford to lose a crucial state like Uttar Pradesh – the hearth of the modern Hindutva political project.

But, the electoral imperative is a secondary, derivative factor. This isn’t the first time important state elections are taking place in Modi’s India. More importantly, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s current senior leadership isn’t quite the type to reverse major policy decisions before state polls. It has other political tricks up its sleeve to stay ahead in the game and offset any negative impact of its national-level decisions on state-level constituencies.

Meeting its match

What really made a difference this time was the extraordinarily defiant nature of the farmers’ movement, which not just successfully weathered all kinds of pressure from the top, but also handled its internal contradictions and shortcomings with much aplomb. This is a government that has mastered the art of attrition when it comes to protests. But this time, it met it’s match in the farmers who kept at it through four seasons.

From overt force to covert subterfuge, the Modi government deployed every single strategy in its playbook to diffuse the protests, but failed miserably. Even a concerted attempt by the pro-regime media to demonise the protesting Sikhs as Khalistani terrorists, anarchists and what not fell flat on the ground. Let’s be clear – we don’t get to see this very often in Modi’s India.

Thus, to only attribute Modi’s turnaround to sheer electoral realpolitik, would be to underplay the movement’s own role in creating fertile ground for a pullback. Without the grit, tact, conviction and consistency that the farmer unions showed in the face of an insolent administration, the farm laws wouldn’t have become an election issue in the first place, that too an issue big enough for Modi to do the unthinkable – retrench and apologise.

A movement with an edge

But here’s another important thing about the farmers’ movement that helped it win – it had a certain degree of social, political and economic leverage that other mass movements in Modi’s India have lacked. This is both an organic leverage, and one that the movement leaders crafted from scratch.

First, the Hindutva regime can’t target farmers in a manner that it can target religious minorities like Muslims. Even for a government as malevolent and divisive as this one, a strategy of ignoring and vilifying the large agrarian voter base can be a huge political gamble. It can backfire not just at the polling booths, but also at a deeper social level within the ambit of the Hindutva project.

Second, the farmers’ movement cut across specific identities, which allowed the union leaders to forge a rare cross-sectional coalition and stand up for each other. While Sikhs, a religious minority that is routinely profiled with various derogatory political markers, remained a dominant force within the movement and were repeatedly demonised by pro-government elements, the North Indian agrarian class straddles many sub-regional and religious identities, which reflected very well in the movement.

For instance, Hindu Jats from the sugarcane belt in western Uttar Pradesh played a central role in the second phase of the movement. The leadership of Rakesh Tikait, who eventually became one of the most prominent faces of the movement, was instrumental in this. Even some Muslim farmers from the sub-region rallied behind him, despite his murky past as a prime agent of the anti-Muslim Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013.

Show of defiance

One could even argue that it was Tikait’s tactful show of defiance and emotions at Ghazipur in late January that took the spotlight away from the “Khalistani infiltration” narrative that reared its head after the dramatic farmers’ march into the Red Fort on Republic Day. It might have been an unintended outcome of his actions, but was effective nonetheless.

This multiplicity of identities, sub-regional leaderships and the solidarity between them erected a protective fence around the movement. More significantly, despite the many sub-regional identities at play, the farmers, as a class of protestors, had become a singular political force. It was clear that eventually, the Modi government ran out of ways to deal with such a kaleidoscopic body of protestors with a common set of demands. It was no longer viable to launch sectarian attacks at one group of protestors without insinuating the others. Add to this the constant political risk of losing the agrarian constituencies for good.

This is where we come to the movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act – how it is very different from the farmers’ movement and why Modi is highly unlikely to kneel before it.

No pullback

The most obvious difference between the farmers protest and the movement against the citizenship initiatives is that unlike farmers, Muslims are not a core voter base for the BJP. Modi will not lose anything by plainly ignoring them. In fact, he stands to gain additional political points by crushing a movement that is primarily led by Muslims – the number one cultural enemy of Hindutva.

So, his government can go on dismissing them for years and still win one election after another. Occasionally, he can get a few of them thrown behind bars for “terrorism” or sedition and win a few extra votes in the next poll. While the government has filed hundreds of cases against protesting farmers too, the political costs of doing so are far lower in the case of Muslims.

Next, the farmers’ movement is based on a narrative that is primarily economic in its persuasion. Political concerns about the ruling party’s attacks on federalism and state excesses do routinely feature in union speeches and pamphlets, but the collective anxiety against privatisation of the agrarian market and the demand for a guaranteed Minimum Support Price continue to take centrestage in the movement repertoire.

This is compelling for all social groups invested in the agricultural sector in one way or the other. Even for the non-farming urban and semi-urban middle classes from the majority community, agrarian concerns matter as daily consumers of farm products. If not anything, farmer strikes affect them directly. That’s also why it eventually became a poll issue that the government had to take seriously.

This isn’t true in the case of the movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act, which is primarily centred around a single minority religious identity. The pool of stakeholders is much narrower here. While many conscientious Hindus participated in the movement, their numbers remained low and their commitment inconsistent. The social elite, including the Hindu middle classes in urban/semi-urban settings, remained apathetic – even hostile – to the movement.

The reality here is truly bleak: only Muslims stand to lose the most from the dangerous Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens combine while the others couldn’t care less. In fact, most of the others see the movement as, at best, an irritant and at worst, a destructive force.

Further, by strategically decoupling the proposed all-India National Register of Citizens from the Citizenship Amendment Act (despite Home Minister Amit Shah unambiguously linking them both in the beginning), the government was able to project the sectarian citizenship law as a benign amendment that doesn’t really affect Indian Muslims in any way. This diffused overall participation. No such tactical decoupling was possible in the case of the three farm laws.

In all, the movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act lacked a watertight social coalition that could cut across identity and class lines, of the kinds seen in the farmers’ movement. It had no safety net that could absorb the state’s repressive and divisive offensives. This made it fairly easy for the Modi government to use the law enforcement machinery, pliant media and belligerent proxies to go after the protestors. The pandemic only came as a force multiplier.

Finally, if Modi revokes the Citizenship Amendment Act after repealing the farm laws, it would be nothing short of political suicide for the BJP. While the core party machinery is busy lauding him for the farm laws pullback, large sections of the wider Hindutva ecosystem are incensed. They see it as a betrayal, a meek surrender that is reminiscent of the seemingly weak Congress regimes. This is not the valiant prime minister they have grown to love.

Defying logic

There’s nothing to suggest that the Modi government isn’t aware of this. Modi is a leader who is highly conscious of what his people think about him. For him, his image is paramount. After all, that is literally the only pillar on which he has erected his shining political career. While he possibly has a plan to manage the publicity fallout (we don’t quite know what it is yet), bad PR from his own cheerleaders can very quickly spiral into a situation that even he could lose control over.

In such a scenario, revoking the Citizenship Amendment Act would defy all logic. It would only add to the badmouthing and alienate both hardliners and moderates. A strategy of attrition based on brute force, sectarian vilification and state intimidation has worked well for Modi with the protestors against the Citizenship Amendment Act so far. There’s no reason for him to abandon that playbook.

As far as the electoral imperative is concerned, several state polls have happened since the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act began, but BJP never considered repealing the divisive amendment. In fact, it has used the legislation to energise the Hindu voter base and strengthen their numbers. For instance, in Assam, defying popular belief, the BJP secured a landslide win this year despite months of fierce protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

In short, the Citizenship Amendment Act has been a winning formula for the BJP from the beginning, unlike the farm laws. So the Modi government has no reason to junk it now.

This might be a cynical reading of the future, but it is crucial to understand the distinctions between the two movements precisely so that lessons can be learnt and strategies replicated. It is worth noting that the movement against the citizenship initiatives did manage to secure a critical concession – temporary rollback of the proposed all-India National Register of Citizens, which Shah had promised in the Parliament. Since the protests, he hasn’t mentioned it again. This too was no less than a victory, even if partial.

So, for the movement against the Citizenship Amendment Act , the possibility of a total triumph remains. But for now, it remains hidden behind a thick fog of cynical politics, anti-Muslim majoritarianism and authoritarian arrogance.

Angshuman Choudhury is a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, Delhi, and a former visiting fellow to the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, Berlin.

Source: Why the Modi government is unlikely to repeat the farm laws pullback with the citizenship law

McCuaig-Johnston: We should boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics — but what kind of boycott?

Good commentary. Test for all: governments, sport organizations and athletes, broadcasters, and viewers. CBC has a particularly annoying ad “get close to the action” whereas without sparing a thought about the repressive actions of the Chinese regime:

Athletes and sports organizations around the world have been speaking out about the disappearance of renowned Chinese Olympic tennis star Peng Shuai, who said Nov. 2 on social media that she had been sexually assaulted three years ago by former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli. The Women’s Tennis Association threatened to pull its events from China.  Such disappearances have become standard procedure for those who have the temerity to speak out against the Chinese Communist Party or its leaders.

In a Sunday video call with International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials, who had been largely silent until then, Peng said she was safe at home but would like her privacy respected. With many calling for more complete answers as to what happened to her, the IOC is desperate to squelch further calls for a boycott of the 2022 Winter Games in China in February.

The IOC has already been struggling with the boycott campaign, which has successfully named 2022 the Genocide Olympics for the increasing evidence that 1.8 million Uyghurs have been subject to incarceration, brainwashing, mass sterilization, forced labour or, in many cases, death.  The IOC and the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) suggest that sport is the great unifier, but the Games will whitewash China’s human rights infractions, not resolve them.

The calls to boycott the 2022 Olympics remind us that leading up to the 2008 Beijing Games, Chinese officials promised they would improve China’s human rights record. That didn’t happen, and no promises are even offered for the upcoming Games. We realize that the 1936 Berlin Games helped legitimize the Nazi government, responsible for the deaths of millions. Therefore, a boycott is appropriate in the face of another genocide, but what kind of boycott?

The crescendo of voices around the world over the past year calling for a complete boycott of the Games because of the Uyghur genocide appears to have found few sympathizers among governments.  In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it is up to the COC to decide on a boycott — an idea that the COC has firmly rejected. And many are sympathetic to the athletes whose careers would be affected by countries cancelling their attendance.

Another proposal is to move the Games to one or more other countries, perhaps holding it a year later. Of course, that would require the support of the IOC, which has no process for such a move. Any attempt to persuade IOC leaders and member countries would have to have started years ago. In any event, no country is volunteering to take on the significant expense, not to mention the wrath of China.

A diplomatic boycott is now under consideration in the United States. It has bipartisan support, and other countries are expected to join. But Beijing has already signalled that only Chinese residents will be permitted to attend sporting events, and there are tight COVID-19 protocols, so this may only impact diplomats who already live in China. However, a diplomatic boycott is an initiative that could attract more nations, including Canada, to sign on.

But a diplomatic boycott is not enough. More powerful would be an athletes’ boycott of the opening and closing ceremonies.

These ceremonies are where the host country puts on a big extravaganza for the world. Some athletes already skip the opening ceremonies when their sport is being held in the several days following; they’re resting up to focus on their performance. Athletes themselves have it in their power to sit out the ceremonies in recognition of genocide, and to focus on their sport, which is why they’re there.

This would take strong leadership from a few prominent athletes to generate widespread athlete support for such action, and ideally in Canada it would have the tacit support of the COC. An athletes’ boycott of the ceremonies would send a strong message, and could be a big loss of face for China, on top of a diplomatic boycott.

And ultimately it comes down to you and me. It is within the power of each of us to boycott the Genocide Olympics. It may seem like a small thing simply to not watch coverage on TV.  But wouldn’t be at all small if millions did it. Certainly, advertisers would take notice and the message would register with Beijing that people around the world are disgusted by China’s treatment of its own citizens — whether it is one lone Olympian or millions of Uyghurs.

Margaret McCuaig-Johnston is a former Assistant Deputy Minister in the Canadian Government, and is now focused on China issues as a Senior Fellow with the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa.

Source: McCuaig-Johnston: We should boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics — but what kind of boycott?

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 24 November Update

The latest charts, compiled 24 November. Canadians fully vaccinated 76.9 percent, compared to Japan 76.6 percent, UK 69.1 percent and USA 59.7 percent.

Vaccinations: Minor shifts: UK ahead of Atlantic Canada, Italy ahead of Japan, Prairies ahead of New York. China fully vaccinated 77 percent, India 30.1 percent, Philippines 40 percent.

Trendline Charts:

Infections: Recent trends of increased infections in Europe more apparent. Canadian provincial trends showing minimal change from last week, with some levelling off in West.

Deaths: G7 less Canada (driven mainly by USA) continue to increase, West still increasing but at relatively stable rate.

Vaccinations: Ongoing convergence among provinces and G7 less Canada and narrowing gap with immigration source countries given China, India and Philippines.


Infections: No relative change.

Deaths: No relative change

À quoi peut-on s’attendre au chemin Roxham? 

Quebec advocate perspective. Will be interesting to see how fast and how far numbers climb:

Entre 2017 et 2019, 95 % des personnes ayant présenté une demande d’asile à la frontière terrestre canadienne l’ont fait au Québec, et pratiquement toutes au chemin Roxham, où l’on ne trouve aucun poste frontalier officiel. Près de 18 mois après l’avoir interdit en raison de la pandémie, le gouvernement fédéral permet, depuis dimanche dernier, aux personnes qui traversent la frontière entre les postes frontaliers de déposer une demande d’asile. À quoi peut-on s’attendre à la suite de cette réouverture ?

Pour répondre à cette question, il faut retourner aux années prépandémie. La transformation du chemin Roxham en point névralgique de cette frontière n’est pas une coïncidence : elle découle de plusieurs décennies de politiques migratoires qui visent à empêcher l’arrivée spontanée de demandeurs d’asile. Répondant à une anxiété liée au fonctionnement du système fédéral d’asile dans les années 1990, ces politiques ont pris une tournure antiterroriste à la suite des attentats du 11 septembre 2001. Cette année-là, le Canada et les États-Unis se sont mis d’accord sur la Déclaration pour une frontière intelligente, dont fait partie l’Entente sur les tiers pays sûrs (ETPS). Mise en place en 2004, l’ETPS permet de renvoyer la majorité des demandeurs d’asile qui se présentent à la frontière canado-américaine vers les États-Unis.

Cette entente est à l’origine de ce que l’on a appelé la « crise migratoire » du chemin Roxham. En effet, parmi les exceptions qu’elle prévoit, l’ETPS ne s’applique pas aux personnes qui traversent la frontière à un endroit autre qu’un point d’entrée. En raison de sa situation géographique et à la faveur de la conjoncture politique, le chemin Roxham s’est imposé en tant que principal point d’entrée non officiel au Canada. Si les premières arrivées se sont déroulées de manière chaotique, les autorités ont par la suite mis en place certains dispositifs permettant d’accueillir ces personnes de façon ordonnée. Néanmoins, cet arrangement temporaire a permis aux autorités canadiennes d’exercer une surveillance sur les arrivées irrégulières, de garder un certain contrôle sur ces personnes et, ultimement, d’examiner leurs demandes de façon à respecter les droits des demandeurs d’asile ainsi que la législation canadienne.

Durant les premières semaines de la pandémie, le Canada a presque entièrement fermé sa frontière terrestre aux demandeurs d’asile. Alors que le gouvernement a par la suite rétabli les quelques exceptions à l’ETPS, les personnes se présentant entre les points d’entrée officiels ne pouvaient toujours pas déposer leur demande, étant renvoyées aux États-Unis dans l’attente du moment où les autorités leur permettraient de venir le faire. Bien que l’Agence des services frontaliers du Canada ait commencé à contacter ces personnes en août dernier, cette fermeture fait en sorte que de nouveaux chemins plus reculés sont maintenant empruntés. Du côté américain, des organismes d’aide aux réfugiés déplorent les conditions difficiles dans lesquelles se retrouvent les personnes qui attendent de pouvoir déposer leur demande.

La levée de cette exception annoncée dimanche aura des conséquences au chemin Roxham et ailleurs le long de la frontière terrestre. Il s’agit d’un bon moment pour considérer l’abrogation de l’ETPS et ainsi permettre aux demandeurs d’asile de se présenter directement aux postes frontaliers. Sinon, les images de 2017 risquent de revenir à la une de nos journaux : des familles entières qui se présentent de façon irrégulière au chemin Roxham, leurs valises à la main, puisque cela constitue leur unique option pour demander le statut de réfugié au Canada. Ou, pire encore, des demandeurs d’asile qui, comme ce fut le cas en 2017, périssent dans les régions rurales enneigées des Prairies à la recherche d’un passage entre deux postes frontaliers. Ce jeu du chat et de la souris entre les autorités et les demandeurs d’asile ne sert finalement personne.


Skilled immigrant women already faced obstacles finding employment. The pandemic made it worse

Of note. Law may be one of the harder regulated professions for internationally-trained professionals, both men and women:

Tolu Adeyemi had been working as a corporate and commercial lawyer in her hometown of Lagos, Nigeria for four years when she immigrated to Calgary in late 2019.

Her sister and brother already lived in Canada and she knew there would be a transition period to get her law qualifications recognized in Alberta. While waiting for her transcript to be sent from Nigeria and for the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) to evaluate her qualifications, Ms. Adeyemi found work in sales at a beauty supply store to tide her over. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She was laid off in June 2020 and picked up work as a delivery driver with Amazon and SkipTheDishes.

At the beginning of 2021, Ms. Adeyemi caught COVID-19 and reached a low point.

“It sort of made me reevaluate,” she says. “My father was like, ‘This is not what you came to Canada to do, to work different survival jobs.’”

By this point, the NCA determined that Ms. Adeyemi would need to complete five examinations and a year of articling to qualify to become a lawyer in Alberta. She has written three of the five exams and plans to finish the last two by the end of 2021. Meanwhile, she has been applying to legal assistant jobs, over a hundred by her estimate, to no avail.

“People usually say it’s because I don’t have Canadian experience, or they would say something about [not] being the right fit,” Ms. Adeyemi says.

She also participated in a three-month career services program for foreign-trained professionals at the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association (CIWA) to learn digital skills, cross-cultural communication and career counselling, followed by a three-month practicum at an employment and business law firm in Calgary.

“We had IT professionals, HR professionals, accountants from different countries,” says Ms. Adeyemi of her fellow program participants. “Even if they had 10 years of experience, they had serious trouble breaking into the job market.”

‘Gendered effect’ of the pandemic

Despite halting immigration last year due to COVID-19, the Liberal government is on track to meet its goal of bringing in 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021. But skilled immigrant women continue to face increased barriers in finding employment, and the pandemic has only made it more difficult.

Luciara Nardon, a professor of international business at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business in Ottawa, published a paper in June 2021 showing how skilled immigrant women had their career trajectories delayed, interrupted or reversed during the pandemic. These roadblocks were due to layoffs, fewer job opportunities and increased domestic burden during lockdowns.

“The pandemic was particularly difficult for women in general because kids [were] at home,” Dr. Nardon says. “It’s a very gendered effect that way.”

Jenny Krabbe, manager of the employment services department at CIWA, has seen married immigrant women having to set aside their own goals to prioritize their spouse’s career, even prior to the pandemic.

“In many cases, the male [in the relationship] has the better education in the country they came from and the reason they could get into Canada under our point system was that he qualified,” Ms. Krabbe says. “She may be a professional in her own right, but now she has to figure out her way forward.”

Confidence is another factor that Ms. Krabbe says hinders skilled immigrant women in their career progression in Canada. Training in career services programs, like the one that Ms. Adeyemi participated in at CIWA, can help build that confidence, she says.

Networking helps build confidence too, and is what leads most skilled immigrant women to find meaningful work in their fields, notes Dr. Nardon. But the pandemic has limited these opportunities.

“If you already know somebody, you can meet on Zoom instead of meeting in person,” she says. “But if you don’t know them, that becomes very difficult.”

A necessary culture change

Support programs like those at CIWA provide a great opportunity for immigrant women to network, says Dr. Nardon, but she hopes to see more government initiatives to support the employment journeys of skilled immigrant women. In particular, she highlights the need for programs with longer, more flexible eligibility terms.

“Sometimes women take a longer time to integrate because the men’s career will have priority and the women stay home taking care of the kids,” she says. “By the time the woman is ready to enter the workforce, then services are no longer available because they lost eligibility.” Childcare support can also help relieve some of the domestic burdens that immigrant women face, allowing them to spend more time building their careers.

But the onus isn’t solely on the government. Dr. Nardon also calls for a “culture change” in societal attitudes towards immigrant women, especially from employers and hiring managers.

“There may be assumptions that [immigrant women] didn’t get the right experience or the right training, so they are not as capable as somebody else,” she says. As employers head into the “great resignation,” (Statistics Canada reported 731,900 job vacancies in the second quarter of 2021, which is nearly 26 per cent more vacancies than in the same quarter two years earlier), Dr. Nardon encourages companies to consider how skilled immigrant women can benefit their businesses, as opposed to searching for candidates to fulfil a particular set of needs.

“Look at the talent that immigrants bring and have a more open mind instead of trying to fit them into boxes,” she says. “Some employers are thinking of different ways of recruiting. They’re not picking specific characteristics, but instead they’re saying, ‘We need talent.’ They’re creating jobs around the talent that is available.”

Dr. Nardon adds that all Canadians can play a part by making connections among skilled immigrants in their communities or industries.

“Professionals can give time for mentoring, for sharing knowledge and sharing networks,” Ms. Nardon explains. “This is not one person’s job. The whole society has to work together.”


Khan: A quiet revolution: the female imams taking over an LA mosque

Of interest:

When Tasneem Noor got on the stage at the Women’s Mosque of America in Los Angeles, she felt butterflies in her stomach. Facing about fifty women on praying rugs, ready to deliver a sermon – khutba in Arabic – she took a deep breath.

During the prayers, the women would follow Noor’s lead, but several would pray four more times after it ended, to make up for any potentially invalid prayers. That is the result of a 14-century-old disputed hadith, that leads some to believe women are forbidden to lead prayers and deliver sermons.

“I don’t mind,” Noor told me later. “Some people function better with rules.”

Noor, 37, is part of a quiet revolution in America: at the all women’s mosque, she was celebrating its five year anniversary of practicing the female imamat, a rare and often controversial practice in Islam.

Women aren’t even allowed to pray in many mosques across the world. In some mosques in the US, women may enter, but are often forced pray in separate rooms – leading some to call it the “penalty box”. Spiritual leaders that have pushed boundaries – by running mixed congregation mosques or running an LGBTQ mosque – have received death threats.

But at the Women’s Mosque of America, women are using their sermons to cover previously untouched topics like sexual violence, pregnancy loss and domestic violence.

One of Noor’s most memorable sermons happened in 2017 – a surprise, considering it was largely an improvisation. After a scheduling hitch left Noor with less than half of the 45-minutes she should have had, she shortened her talk and changed tack: leading the congregation into a meditation.

Source: A quiet revolution: the female imams taking over an LA mosque