Holiday break

Best wishes to readers and their families for the holidays and hopefully and eventually, a post-pandemic new year.

1975, 19” x 28”

Former Mayor Bloomberg: The Pro-Immigrant Case Against New York City’s Noncitizen Voting

Good arguments. I agree, the goal should be full citizenship and voting rights, not partial:

I have always strongly supported immigrant rights and worked to protect immigrants, expand visa opportunities, and provide a pathway to citizenship for those who are here. A decade ago, I co-founded a bipartisan coalition of leaders to push for immigration reform, a group that recently merged with the American Immigration Council. And during my time as mayor, we created a program to help more New Yorkers apply for citizenship, which became a national model.

To me, being pro-immigrant has always meant incentivizing and rewarding citizenship — but some cities, unfortunately, are in danger of making it a less attractive proposition.

Generations of immigrants have sought U.S. citizenship to gain full access to the American dream, including all the rights and responsibilities that go along with it — chief of them, the right (and responsibility) to vote. But this month, the New York City Council voted 33-14 to authorize noncitizen voting. The bill would grant some 800,000 immigrants with green cards or work permits, and who have been living in the city for 30 days, the right to participate in elections for mayor, city council and other offices, as well as in local ballot questions.

The bill is likely to be challenged in court, because it conflicts with the plain language of the state constitution, which repeatedly uses the word “citizen” in its suffrage clause: “Every citizen shall be entitled to vote at every election for all officers elected by the people and upon all questions submitted to the vote of the people provided that such citizen is eighteen years of age or over and shall have been a resident of this state, and of the county, city, or village for thirty days next preceding an election.”

For good measure, the bill also appears to violate state election statutes, which list mandatory qualifications for voters: “No person shall be qualified to register for and vote at any election unless he is a citizen of the United States and is or will be, on the day of such election, eighteen years of age or over and a resident of this state.” This is hardly ambiguous language.

Should the plan somehow survive a legal challenge, there’s also the small matter of putting it in place. Ballots in local elections often include state offices (judgeships, for instance) and statewide referendums that noncitizens wouldn’t be eligible to vote for. Preventing noncitizens from voting on those matters would be extremely difficult under any circumstances. Leaving it to the city’s board of elections, a notoriously incompetent patronage mill, is a recipe for disaster.

Other jurisdictions may not face exactly these legal and logistical obstacles, but the biggest problem with noncitizen voting isn’t a legal or technical obstacle: It’s the way it devalues citizenship.

Proponents of the concept argue that voting gives the noncitizen more civic connections and a bigger “stake” in the community. This gets things precisely backward: Voting is a major reason many immigrants seek to obtain citizenship. They recognize that citizenship brings greater rights and responsibilities. If cities want more immigrants to become citizens — as they absolutely should — stripping away that incentive won’t help.

There’s no question that the route immigrants must travel to obtain citizenship is too slow and too restrictive. Fixing this process requires the White House and Congress to work with Republicans on a bipartisan deal, which noncitizen voting will make even more difficult and unlikely.

In fact, it will lend credence to the Republican argument that Democrats support immigration reform purely to pad their own voter rolls. This view is false, but pushing for noncitizen voting will only make it harder to refute, while also making the national conversation on the topic more toxic than it already is.

Immigrants deserve to be heard and protected. But that will not happen with local attempts to supersede the broken federal system. Instead, we must do the hard work of fixing it through federal legislation — without making that even more difficult than it already is.

Historically, incentivizing citizenship by combining it with the right to vote has benefited both immigrant communities and America as a whole — not only by integrating diverse cultures, but by cultivating a shared sense of purpose and national identity.

Local leaders should not attempt to break that compact. They should instead unite their efforts on Washington, so more immigrants have the opportunity to become full-fledged citizens — and voters.

Source: The Pro-Immigrant Case Against New York City’s Noncitizen Voting

Ontario to accept 100 immigrants after each invests $200,000 in local companies

Hard to see that this will work any better than other investor immigration programs in terms of contributing to the economy:

Ontario is planning to accept 100 immigrants in the next two years under a program allowing foreign entrepreneurs to apply for immigration to the province after they invest a minimum of $200,000 in its economy.

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton says the government will focus on attracting international entrepreneurs to Ontario communities outside the Greater Toronto Area.

He says these entrepreneurs will be nominated for immigration under the province’s economic immigration program after they start a new business or purchase an existing one in Ontario.

McNaughton says the new initiative will cost the government $6 million, but it will be recovered through fees paid by immigrants who are coming to the province to start or buy businesses.

He says the province is expecting at a minimum $20 million in business investment generated through this immigration stream.

The previous Liberal government in Ontario had founded this stream in 2015 but only two immigrant investors have been nominated using it since then.

“I see immigration as one of the key economic drivers of Ontario’s growth,” McNaughton said. “There’s an opportunity to create new businesses outside of the GTA, to create more jobs for people across the province.”

McNaughton said the program will help with the recovery of the Ontario economy after COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have to be aggressive as we build back better out of the pandemic to recruit entrepreneurs to Ontario,” he said.

Last month, Ontario called on the federal government to double the number of immigrants allowed under the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program — from 9,000 to 18,000 a year — a program aimed at boosting the skilled workforce.

McNaughton said the province is facing a significant labour shortage that has been intensified by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Source: Ontario to accept 100 immigrants after each invests $200,000 in local companies

UK tightens criteria for Afghans to enter despite ‘warm welcome’ pledge

Yet another example by far too many countries:

The Home Office has tightened the criteria allowing Afghans to enter the UK despite promises from Boris Johnson to give a “warm welcome” to those who assisted British forces or worked with the government.

The department announced changes to the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) which narrows the criteria from that used during the Operation Pitting evacuation in August 2021.

After the UK’s chaotic exit from Kabul in August, the prime minister launched “operation warm welcome” to ensure the safety of staff in fear for their lives from the Taliban.

“I am determined that we welcome them with open arms and that my government puts in place the support they need to rebuild their lives,” Johnson said at the time. “We will never forget the brave sacrifice made by Afghans who chose to work with us, at great risk to themselves.”

Source: UK tightens criteria for Afghans to enter despite ‘warm welcome’ pledge

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 15 December Update and the rise of Omicron

The latest charts, compiled 15 December, with the effects of Omicron.

Canadians fully vaccinated 77.8 percent, compared to Japan 77.7 percent, UK 70 percent and USA 61.7 percent.

Vaccinations: Numerous minor shifts but general convergence: UK ahead of Canadian North, Atlantic Canada ahead of British Columbia, France ahead of Canada, New York ahead Sweden and Australia, Prairies ahead of California, Japan behind California. China fully vaccinated 83.2 percent, India 38.4 percent, Nigeria 2 percent, Pakistan 26.8 percent, Philippines 38.9 percent.

Trendline Charts:

Infections: Effects of Omicron becoming more apparent.

Deaths: No significant relative changes.

Vaccinations: Ongoing convergence among provinces and G7 less Canada and narrowing gap with immigration source countries. Nigeria remains a laggard.


Infections: Germany now ahead of Alberta.

Deaths: No relative change

Lise Ravary: Disparaging laïcité is Canada’s new national sport [disparaging multiculturalism is Quebec’s national sport]

Far too many Quebec commentators (and some English commentators) mischaracterize multiculturalism as an “anything goes” type policy, when fundamentally it is about civic integration and full participation of minorities in social, economic and political spheres. Multiculturalism takes place within the context of integration into either English or French communities:
A teacher who wears a hijab was hired by an English public school in Chelsea, in Western Quebec, despite the fact that the law forbids teachers to wear religious symbols at work. As expected, the school board had no choice but to apply the law. But why was she hired in the first place?

Many think it was a set-up job to embarrass Quebec and pressure Ottawa to act.

Source: Lise Ravary: Disparaging laïcité is Canada’s new national sport

Raj: Quebec is using the Constitution to take away the rights of minorities. What if that becomes the norm?

Good question although the solution of opening the constitution to provide “guardrails” for use of the notwithstanding clause would be opening a Pandora’s box given that other issues would emerge, not to mention garnering sufficient provincial support:

Fatemeh Anvari has started a national conversation.

The school teacher in Chelsea, Que., removed from her classroom this month because of her hijab, has put a face to Bill 21, the Quebec law that prevents those wearing religious symbols from holding certain public-sector jobs.

The law is popular in Quebec, where Premier François Legault defended it again Monday as reasonable and important to ensure secularism and the appearance of neutrality.

“People can teach if they take off their religious symbol while they teach, and when they are in the streets, at home, they can wear a religious symbol,” Legault told reporters.

The shocked parents of students at Chelsea Elementary School want to use their outrage to cast a light on Bill 21’s injustice.

But a Quebec Liberal MP hopes Anvari’s case prompts broader thinking. Anthony Housefather wants a national discussion on the use of the notwithstanding clause, and how to prevent the majority from using its position to curb the rights of minorities.

Anvari lost her ability to teach because Legault pre-emptively used the Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ notwithstanding clause, section 33, giving the Quebec government the ability to trample on fundamental rights and shield its action from the courts. (It is doing so again with language Bill 96.)

“I’m not naïve about it,” the Mount Royal MP told me. Amending the Constitution to add parameters around the clause or eliminate it completely requires the approval of at least seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the Canadian population. The only other direct option would be Ottawa’s power of disallowance, last used to invalidate provincial law in 1943.

Source: Quebec is using the Constitution to take away the rights of minorities. What if that becomes the norm?

How the Grinch stole Chanukah: secularism is not a veil for systemic racism

Legitimate observation on timing, whether this was intentional or blindness:

In the same week that an elementary school teacher was removed from her classroom in Quebec for wearing a hijab, the Legault government announced it will loosen the rules for indoor gatherings right in time for Christmas.

I hate to be a Grinch, but in this multi-faith household as we put away the menorah and bring out the Christmas lights, I question when Quebec will stop pretending to be a secular society.

What a coincidence that at this time last year, the CAQ also considered allowing larger gatherings for Christmas, right when holidays from other faiths, such as Chanukah and Diwali, had ended. 

The Legault government preaches about separation between church and state, puts into law Bill 21 preventing public servants (teachers, police, judges, etc.) from wearing religious symbols, and insists that systemic racism is not an issue in Quebec; yet we are expected to believe that loosening of public health measures on Dec. 23 is linked to the state and not the church.

Quebec is not a religiously neutral society; it is a Catholic-based society. Its institutions close for Christmas and Easter; countless streets, towns, hospital, and schools are named after saints; and the crucifix that hung prominently in the national assembly for decades was only recently removed, following much debate and push back. 

Even Bill 21, an act respecting the laicity of state, accommodates those who practice the Catholic faith, since donning a cross around the neck can be concealed, unlike a hijab, turban, or kippah worn on the head.

As this questionable bill impede the lives of marginalized Quebecers, the CAQ government dares, once more, to tempt pandemic fate in the name of Christmas.

Linking new rules for private gatherings to one specific holiday will, of course, never be publicly stated. Instead, it is conveniently suggested that the timing is due to a stabilization in the number of hospitalizations, the fact that the Omicron variant is not circulating widely in the province, that children over five are now being vaccinated. 

This pandemic has brought many issues to light, including the value of critical thinking. Much information is believable when taken at face value, but even evidence-based facts, like statistics, can be misleading when twisted the right way. 

There is no denying that Quebec has done well in its vaccination and public health efforts, but as the world grapples with mutations of a virus that aims to outsmart us, are we to naively believe that this province will be spared because it is Christmas?

Making progress in halting a global pandemic is hardly an excuse for loosening rules, which miraculously coincide with the birth of Jesus. 

If we really want to understand secularism, pay attention to COVID-19, which makes no distinction for any faith in its path of destruction. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus … one multicultural society battling this virus together.

As the candles go out on Chanukah and the Christmas trees light up, let’s be reminded that a secular society caters not to any one faith. Secularism, Mr. Legault, is not a vail for systemic racism.

Susan Mintzberg is a PhD candidate in social work at McGill University. Her research focuses on the role of family caregivers in mental health care.


Malaysia: ‘Multiculturalism is the country’s prized asset’

Of note:

Civil society leaders have rebuked Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s reference to the continued use of chopsticks by the Chinese community to highlight challenges in assimilating the country’s non-Malay population.

Former ambassador Datuk Noor Farida Mohd Ariffin said it was “totally unacceptable” for the former prime minister to criticise the Chinese community for using chopsticks to eat.

“It does not mean that because of this practice, they are unable to assimilate. Is he questioning the loyalty of the Chinese community to the country because of this practice?

“Malaysians of all races use the knife and fork to eat Western food like steaks or lamb chops. Does this mean these Malaysians are unable to assimilate?” she said when contacted yesterday.

Noor Farida, who is the spokesman of the G25 group of eminent former civil servants, said one should not forget the debt of gratitude the country owed to the Chinese Special Branch officers who fought the communists during the insurgency.

“It is a well-documented fact that these police officers infiltrated communist strongholds in the jungle at considerable risk to themselves, and killed many communist insurgents,” she said.

As a leader of a multiracial country, Noor Farida said Dr Mahathir should show greater respect for the cultural practices of all the races in the country.

“There are Chinese living in many other countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. We have never heard of leaders publicly criticising the Chinese community in their countries for using chopsticks,” she added

Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia president Tan Sri Goh Tian Chuan said the Chinese have long integrated into Malaysian society.

“Malaysia is where we were raised and will die. As the second-largest ethnic group in Malaysia, being Malaysian Chinese is our only identity,” he said.

Despite speaking various Chinese dialects and several languages, Goh said national policies and Malaysian law were what bound the Chinese community.

“For a multiracial and multicultural country like Malaysia, diversity and openness are the unique characteristics of our nation,” he said.

On Dr Mahathir’s view that a single-stream education system was best for Malaysia, Goh said the Federal Constitution clearly states and guarantees the country’s existing multi-stream education, including mother-tongue education.

Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman Institute of Chinese Studies Assoc Prof Dr Khor Boon Eng said Dr Mahathir’s remarks on assimilation was no longer relevant in terms of multiculturalism.

“In Indonesia, many assimilation policies were scrapped from 1999 on. Since then, the Chinese community there emerged as one of the keenest to learn the Chinese language,” he said, describing the world as a borderless global village.

He added that following China’s opening up, Thailand – which closed Chinese schools during the 1950s – has been encouraging their citizens to learn the Chinese language.Dr Khor said being multicultural was the country’s prized asset “like how it has been said and repeated over time”.

“It is not a bane to racial unity but one that makes us stronger and better,” he added.

Moderation advocate Mohamed Tawfik Ismail pointed out that the use of chopsticks, which was uniquely oriental, does not make anyone alien within a culture, “just as using and forks and spoons did not make a laksa Johor eater a European.”

“Dr Mahathir has overlooked the attractiveness of Malaysia, which is its diversity because historically, it has been a crossroad of cultures and is considered a hub of international trade and commerce.

“There is nothing wrong with anyone looking for the history of their ancestors and it doesn’t make them less loyal to their country.

“There are Malays who have no ancestral ties to the Middle East but seem comfortable adopting the Arabic dress and head covers. Are they less Malay?” he asked.

Source: ‘Multiculturalism is the country’s prized asset’

Multiculturalism in the DDR

Source: Multiculturalism in the DDR