Nicolas: Les réacs attaquent

Of note:

Croyant que les «woke» posent une menace de censure, les républicains censurent.

Enfant, il m’arrivait d’être frustrée que mes séries américaines préférées soient télédiffusées avec deux, trois, voire quatre saisons de retard, dans leur version doublée, par rapport à leur version originale. Ça me donnait l’impression de vivre en décalage, et me donnait hâte de comprendre assez l’anglais pour « aller dans le futur ». Bien sûr, le « retard » n’existerait pas si on ne consommait que des créations locales. Ce sentiment qu’on absorbe des éléments de la culture américaine, comme francophones, avec quelques saisons de retard persiste encore souvent chez moi — et je ne parle pas ici seulement de télévision.

Du moins, c’est ainsi que je m’explique la mode des mots « woke » et « wokisme » au Québec depuis à peu près un an. Fox News et le Parti républicain ont mis en avant ce dispositif rhétorique il y a quelques années pour contrer la sympathie grandissante du public américain pour les revendications du mouvement Black Lives Matter. On s’en est aussi servi pour décrédibiliser toute mesure visant à rectifier l’exclusion historique des femmes et des minorités de la vie universitaire américaine. Du moins, c’est un synopsis qu’on pourrait offrir pour présenter une première saison de « Les wokes attaquent ». Une production de Rupert Murdoch, bien sûr.

Alors qu’on savoure ici les premiers moments de ce grand spectacle télévisuel, vous me permettrez de vous divulgâcher platement la suite. Quelques saisons plus tard, la série introduit un nouveau mot-clé : la critical race theory, ou théorie critique de la race (TCR). En juin et juillet 2021 seulement, Fox News a mentionné l’expression 1914 fois en ondes, selon le Washington Post. Un total de 1914 fois en deux mois. Qu’est-ce que la théorie critique de la race, au juste ? Au sens propre, il s’agit d’un champ de recherche des sciences sociales qui étudie l’histoire du racisme et ses effets contemporains. Au sens de Fox News, il s’agit, comme pour le mot « woke », d’une expression fourre-tout indéfinissable. On ne sait plus trop exactement ce que ça veut dire, mais on sait que c’est haïssable.

De manière générale, on comprend que la TCR, c’est l’opposé du patriotisme, voire une arme de culpabilisation et de dévalorisation massive de la fierté américaine (conservatrice). Le Projet 1619 du New York Times Magazine, qui raconte les origines de l’esclavage sur le territoire ? C’est de la TCR. Les activités de formation continue sur l’équité et l’inclusion dans les entreprises ? Encore de la TCR. Un enseignant qui parle en classe des privilèges sociaux ? Toujours de la TCR. De ses milliers de mentions en ondes découle une mobilisation de parents à travers le pays, qui implorent les conseils scolaires de bannir la TCR de l’enseignement primaire et secondaire (même si la définition pré-Fox News du terme se réfère à une branche de recherche en sciences sociales qui n’a jamais touché les enfants). Tout enseignant qui mentionne en classe un aspect de l’histoire qui ne glorifie pas l’Amérique blanche conservatrice risque de se faire accuser d’avoir « commis » de la TCR. Les enseignants qui ne sont eux-mêmes pas des blancs conservateurs sont particulièrement à risque, bien entendu.

Dans les derniers épisodes de « Les wokesattaquent », on s’est toutefois lassé de la rhétorique, et on est passé à l’action. Alors que Fox News a progressivement diminué l’emploi de l’expression critical race theory vers la fin de l’été, neuf États américains avaient adopté des lois « anti-TCR » à la fin de 2021 : l’Idaho, l’Oklahoma, le Tennessee, le Texas, l’Iowa, le New Hampshire, la Caroline du Sud, l’Arizona et le Dakota du Nord. En étudiant le recensement que l’Institut Brookings a fait de ses différentes pièces législatives, on voit qu’on a aussi profité du mouvement anti-TCR pour compliquer l’enseignement de notions liées au sexe et au genre. Certaines de ces lois posent des limites à ce qui peut être enseigné au primaire, au secondaire, et dans les universités de l’État. D’autres interdisent les formations en équité, diversité et inclusion pour les employés des services publics.

Leur vocabulaire a été choisi avec soin. Au Texas, par exemple, un enseignant causant de « l’inconfort, de la culpabilité, de l’angoisse ou toute autre forme de détresse psychologique » à des étudiants en lien avec leurs identités raciales ou sexuelles en abordant des sujets délicats contrevient à la loi. On interdit aussi de remettre en question l’idée de la méritocratie, d’avancer que l’esclavage est central à la fondation des États-Unis ou d’enseigner que le racisme est « autre chose qu’une déviation, une trahison ou un échec à faire vivre les authentiques principes fondateurs des États-Unis, qui incluent la liberté et l’égalité ». On prohibe aussi carrément le recours en classe du fameux Projet 1619 du New York Times Magazine. On ne manque pas de précision.

Des élus de l’Alabama, de l’Alaska, de l’Arkansas, de la Floride, du Kentucky, de la Louisiane, du Maine, du Michigan, du Mississippi, du Missouri, du New Jersey, de New York, de la Caroline du Nord, de l’Ohio, de la Pennsylvanie, du Rhode Island, de la Virginie-Occidentale, du Wisconsin et du Wyoming ont déposé des projets de loi qui vont dans le même sens. Six initiatives législatives similaires ont aussi été proposées au Congrès américain. On parle ici d’interdire l’enseignement de concepts « divisifs » liés à la race et au genre, là de renvoyer des enseignants ou de réduire les fonds publics aux « promoteurs » de la TCR. Décidément, la saison 2022 de « Les wokes attaquent » s’annonce pleine d’action. Ne devrait-on pas renommer la série « Les réacs attaquent », d’ailleurs ?

Nombreux sont les fans de l’émission qui ont accroché à la saison 1 à cause de la force du thème de la liberté d’expression dans la trame narrative. Comme on vient de le voir, le récit évolue plutôt vers une campagne de censure étatique en bonne et due forme visant les milieux d’enseignement. Si ce que j’ai divulgâché nous intéresse moins, il est encore temps de changer de poste

Source: Les réacs attaquent

Speer: Let’s not prolong this pandemic for the sake of the expert class

An uncomfortable insight and a reminder how we all need to be aware of the incentives and motivations that affect our behaviour and positions:

I saw a fascinating tweet last week that reflected something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. University of Waterloo labour economist Mikal Skuterud wondered aloud whether the experts whose influence and profile have risen over the past twenty-four months or so may be consciously or subconsciously inclined to prolong the pandemic. 

Skuterud’s question doesn’t attribute malice or ill-intent. He’s not questioning whether academics or public servants would purposefully manipulate data or intentionally provide misleading advice. He’s making a far more subtle yet important point.  

He’s asking if our pandemic-induced emphasis on expertise may inadvertently create a powerful set of incentives in which these same experts may eventually find it challenging to surrender the sense of power and purpose that they’ve been given over the past two years. It’s a question worth asking.

As he rightly notes, the pandemic has necessarily elevated certain experts in our society. We’ve seen doctors, epidemiologists, and other public health experts come to have unprecedented influence over government policymaking and uncharacteristic prominence in the mainstream media and on social media. 

That’s somewhat natural in light of the circumstances. It’s to be expected that policymakers, the media, and the general population would come to value infectious disease experts in the face of a novel coronavirus. 

The result though is that a number of hitherto obscure academics and bureaucrats have never mattered this much before and probably never will again. It’s not normal for them to appear on television each day or increase their Twitter followings tenfold. 

Such a surge of influence and profile can bring with it a powerful set of incentives. It can contribute to a loss of perspective and an inflation of one’s ego. It can encourage individuals who may usually be scholarly and taciturn to be more quarrelsome and vehement. It can preference 280 characters over nuance. It can turn little-known academics into political actors. 

Skuterud’s question is therefore a good and honest one. How might this extraordinary yet temporary increase in the role of certain experts influence how they think about the pandemic and advise on pandemic-related policies including the continuation of public-health restrictions?   

The answer may lie in Public Choice theory, which the Nobel Prize-winning economist James Buchanan famously defined as “politics without romance.” Public Choice came about in the second half of the twentieth century under the intellectual influence of Buchanan, his regular collaborator, Gordon Tullock, political economist Mancur Olson, and various others. 

The basic idea is that our understanding of one’s motivations in the private economy ought to extend to his or her involvement in government, politics, and public policy. As economist Pierre Lemieux has succinctly put it: “He does not metamorphose into an altruist angel.” 

Most economic analysis starts with a basic premise: the market is comprised of rational actors pursuing their own self-interest. Yet these same assumptions about human behaviour aren’t always applied in the political sphere. The underlying presumption can be that activists, bureaucrats, and politicians are somehow beyond self-interest and are instead capable of making judgments about government policy without accounting for their own personal interests. 

Public Choice theory challenges this notion. It uses modern economics to analyse politics and political decision-making. It starts from the premise that different actors in the political process are self-interested agents who will seek to maximize their own utility function just like individuals do in the marketplace. 

In practice, it means that politicians may offer voters popular measures to get elected, public servants might conceive of new programs to obtain more funding and greater resources for their departments, and special interest groups—including unions and corporations—invariably lobby government to obtain new benefits such as tariffs to protect their businesses or laws or regulations that advance their own interests. 

This hardly seems like a revolutionary idea now. Public Choice theory has become a well-respected school of economic thought with a number of prolific exponents and a wide range of applications. But, at its infancy, it was seen as a radical proposition that brought into question the capacity of government to make collective decisions in the public interest.  

The consequence of Public Choice isn’t to challenge government’s basic legitimacy or reject it altogether. It’s instead a call for a clear-eyed assessment of the impulses and motivations behind different actors involved in politics and public administration. This extends to the experts and journalists who form part of the overall system and must be similarly understood as influenced by a broadly defined notion of self-interest. It’s not narrowly about monetary reward either—though financial gain may be a factor for some. It can extend to other rewards including influence, profile, or the sense of meaning and purpose that the pandemic’s emphasis on expertise has granted. 

It’s important to emphasize that this isn’t a description of moral failing. Recognizing the pull of self-interest isn’t a judgement of particular people in positions of authority. It’s an observation about human nature and the fact that government and politics are fundamentally comprised of humans and their inherent fallibilities. 

Which brings us back to Skuterud’s question. There’s no reason to think that most experts haven’t acted in good faith during the pandemic and sought to make a positive contribution to solving the extraordinary public health crisis. But, as Public Choice tells us, it’s also quite possible that at some level these incentives are shaping the questions that they’re asking, the data that they’re collecting, the analysis that they’re bringing to bear, or how they’re engaging in the public sphere.

The risk, of course, is that these forces come to obtrude collective decision-making and in turn prolong the pandemic. It’s hard to know the magnitude of the risk. But it’s presumably not zero. It must be something that we are cognizant of—especially as the policy choices become more complex and the subject of greater debate. 

The ultimate solution to the COVID-19 pandemic is imperfect: it will require a combination of critical thinking and judgement calls without any altruistic angels. This pandemic’s end will necessarily involve a series of trade-offs, calculated choices, and second-best options. It must in short be an exercise in a politics without romance. 

Source: https://thehub.ca/2022-01-20/lets-not-prolong-this-pandemic-for-the-sake-of-the-expert-class/?utm_source=The%20Hub&utm_campaign=dd5b5eb714-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2022_01_19_06_47&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_429d51ea5d-dd5b5eb714-475403886&mc_cid=dd5b5eb714&mc_eid=7832dd2817

Antonius: Réflexion critique sur l’usage du terme «woke»

Balanced perspective:

Le terme « woke » est utilisé de façon tellement polémique par divers acteurs politiques qu’il a perdu sa valeur analytique. Il est trop chargé de jugements (généralement négatifs) et son sens est imprécis. Je préfère l’éviter.

Dans les luttes contemporaines pour la justice sociale aux États-Unis, être woke (« éveillé » en slang américain), c’est :

a) être conscient des injustices sociales, surtout quand elles sont masquées par le discours dominant et encore plus quand on les subit soi-même, et

b) en fonction de cette prise de conscience, prendre position contre une hégémonie culturelle des dominants dont le discours tend à nous rendre aveugles aux injustices sociales. C’est dans ce sens, par exemple, que la « critical race theory » vise à rendre visibles les logiques raciales qui ne disent pas leur nom et qui se déguisent en postures universalistes. J’estime que ces logiques raciales sont beaucoup plus marquées aux États-Unis qu’au Canada ou au Québec.

En somme, le terme a désigné une posture de prise de conscience des injustices, et de la nécessité de mener des luttes pour dénoncer leurs manifestations dans le langage et la culture. C’est là que la posture woke s’exprime, et elle tire son sens positif (aux yeux des militants pour la justice sociale) de la contestation des rapports de pouvoir qui s’expriment dans le discours.

Mais comment a-t-il fini par prendre des connotations négatives ? Et négatives pour qui ?

Pour diverses raisons, les postures woke ont fini par donner lieu à des dérapages, c’est-à-dire des actions injustifiables, qui les ont discréditées et qui sont responsables de l’usage péjoratif du terme « woke ». Mais qu’est-ce qui constitue un dérapage ou une action injustifiable ?

Deux perspectives

La première perspective (qui est la mienne) se situe en appui aux luttes pour la justice sociale, et elle est globalement de gauche, mais elle est critique de l’usage inadéquat de certaines accusations de « racisme » ou de « transphobie », surtout lorsqu’elles sont accompagnées d’actions pour « faire taire ».

La deuxième perspective est celle des groupes hégémoniques, qui voient d’un mauvais œil la contestation de l’ordre établi. Ils vont alors se saisir de chaque dérapage pour accentuer son danger. Et leur critique portera d’autant plus que les dérapages se multiplient.

Quand une militante contre le racisme, qui encourage ses étudiants et étudiantes à participer aux manifestations de Black Lives Matter, se fait traiter de raciste par certains de ses étudiants et étudiantes parce qu’elle a utilisé le fameux mot en n pour analyser les stratégies de retournement du stigmate, il y a là un dérapage qui ne sert pas la cause des luttes pour la justice sociale. Mais jusque-là, il n’y a encore rien à signaler. Il y a une longue tradition de radicalisation des luttes pour la justice sociale, et particulièrement des luttes étudiantes. On ne peut pas reprocher à des jeunes de 19 ans de faire ce que les jeunes de 19 ans font souvent : contester. Le problème survient quand l’université, sous couvert d’appui aux luttes pour la justice sociale, appuie des actions de censure, et valide, à tort, les accusations de racisme contre l’enseignante avant d’avoir examiné adéquatement si ces accusations tiennent la route.

Dans cette logique, il est arrivé que plusieurs établissements d’enseignement, ou encore de grandes institutions médiatiques regardent d’un œil favorable ces excès, pour diverses raisons qui méritent une analyse séparée. J’ai examiné dans une publication récente* deux aspects de ces dérapages, dans lesquels : a) la posture morale remplace souvent la posture analytique, et b) les concepts (racisme, « phobies » diverses) sont étirés bien au-delà de leurs limites de validité. Et cela a pour conséquence que les « détenteurs et détentrices de la vertu inclusive et de la vérité absolue » se sentent le droit de faire taire les discours qu’ils n’aiment pas, y compris au sein de l’université. C’est cela qui permet de considérer que la posture woke, au départ libératrice, est devenue contre-productive dans les luttes pour la justice sociale.

Dans ce contexte, les groupes hégémoniques (porteurs d’une perspective de droite) ont beau jeu de délégitimer ces formes de critiques de l’ordre social dominant, à cause de ces dérapages. Cette situation permet alors un discours démagogique qui associe à une posture de droite et à une « panique morale » toute critique des dérapages associés à la posture woke.

Voilà pourquoi il est urgent que les forces contestataires de l’ordre dominant restent critiques et vigilantes face aux dérapages qui discréditent leurs luttes.

Source: https://www.ledevoir.com/opinion/idees/661371/idees-reflexion-critique-sur-l-usage-du-terme-woke

Themrise Khan: The incoherence of Canada’s refugee policy

Overly simplistic in its focus on the “whiteness” of refugee policy given the many restrictions on refugees and discrimination of minorities in non-white countries.

And while one can characterize Afghan interpreters and the like as “helping imperial forces during an (illegal) occupation,” seems a bit divorced from the reality of the Taliban’s rule.

As for her recommendations, fine as far as they go but the challenge is not at the general principles, which most policy makers agree with, but actually implementing them in a real-time basis, where I believe the main failures likely were:

Over the past year the lives of refugees and asylum seekers of the Global South have been put at risk more than ever by potential receiving countries of the Global North. Militarized migrant pushbacks at the Poland-Belarus border. Increasing migrant deaths in the English Channel. Draconian asylum and refugee policies being proposed by the U.K. A United States that continues to be refugee-averse despite a change in government. In essence, we are witnessing the “whiteness” of refugee policy – a shift by countries of the Global North toward using the lives of refugees to wield greater power over the Global South, all the while retaining the false narrative of the white saviour.

Canada’s current refugee policy is nowhere as extreme as those examples, but it is not so distanced from this narrative either. The Afghan refugee crisis in the summer of 2021 was meant to be a moment for Canada to exhibit its good policy, particularly since it played an active part in post-conflict Afghanistan and maintained a presence in the country. Instead, the Canadian response exposed the contradictions in its refugee policy, many of them a long time coming. Whiteness does not only mean discriminating against the “other.” It also means being completely disconnected from the situation outside the Global North. Canada’s response to the Afghan crisis has provided us with several illustrations of this disconnect.

Canada’s response – gaps and discrepancies

From being one of the first northern countries to shutter its embassy when the Taliban took over to when it ended its evacuation mission in the following days, Canada’s disconnect from reality was clear. There were thousands of refugee and asylum cases that had been pending since at least 2014, and the decision to create new refugee programs or expanding existing ones at the 11th hour was a bureaucratic scramble, rather than a well thought out policy response. It stranded people in other countries, which meant Canada had to negotiate special agreements so these countries would temporarily house refugees destined for Canada. The ethics and optics were particularly weak when this involved countries like Pakistan that had closed their borders and were hostile to Afghan refugees.

The situation of Afghan interpreters and fixers who assisted Western forces, including Canada, illustrates the biggest policy disconnect from reality. Their roles were prone to being romanticized in the media, as they perfectly invoke the image of the Western white saviour and the oppressed Afghan working together against a common evil. However, Afghans did not necessarily help Western forces because the West came to save them. They did it primarily for economic survival, as some studies have found, and as a way out of the country for their families in the aftermath of a brutal conflict. This does not negate their right to seek refuge. But suggesting the prospect of asylum in return for helping imperial forces during an (illegal) occupation is a flawed and incoherent premise in the context of refugee policy.

In effect, Western interventionism created multiple tiers of refugees in a system that was never meant to view some as being more deserving than others. In Canada’s case, this threatens the lives of Afghans who directly worked with us by encouraging them with the prospect of asylum and then failing to deliver even before it was too late – all because such cases required a force-fit within a law that recognizes them as just one of many deserving groups.

What the Afghanistan situation most clearly illustrates is the absence of mechanisms within Canada’s refugee policy to respond to complex emergencies on the ground. Canada’s refugee system, like many others, looks to the United NationsHigh Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) referral program. Inthis program the UNHCR refers the applications of refugees officially registered with the organization to third countries thatare offering resettlement opportunities. These third countries, such as Canada, then select who to admit by applying their own criteria to the applications referred to them by the UNHCR. This is how Canada responded to the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015. In the recent Afghan case, however, the system was redundantsince the urgency created by the Taliban takeover was to removeAfghans from within Afghanistan, not from refugee camps elsewhere. Not anticipating this, and also leaving existing Afghan applications stagnating within our refugee system, was perhaps Canada’s worst failing in this crisis. 

Recommendations for better policy and practice

The Afghanistan case blindsided Canada’s refugee response system, but it didn’t have to. We must redesign our refugee policy to be proactive instead of reactive. For this, Canada must:

  • Design better mechanisms to predict and understand conflict-induced displacement

The West obsessively predicts large-scale displacement related to climate change and hunger. But it does little to predict or understand how armed conflict or political power imbalances can force people to flee, especially in the Global South. This includes ignoring voices within the Global South that are better able to judge tension and displacement in their countries. Afghanistan has been a location of conflict for as long as the Taliban have existed. Misjudging this was a tactical error that exposed Canada’s disregard for the views of potential refugees themselves. Refugee policy must invest in a more Southern-led understanding of how conflict manifests over time and can affect people’s lives, including the voices of refugees. It must move away from being simply a paper-pushing exercise.

  • Integrate inter-departmental efforts to respond to refugees and displacement 

Canada was involved in pre- and post-conflict Afghanistan not just militarily, but also via its development programming and humanitarian support. Information gathered by the various departmental channels is vital to developing an integrated response to potential human displacement across government. Better inter-governmental co-ordination would improve refugee response systems, particularly in countries where Canada is diplomatically present.

  • Adopt emergency measures to respond to crises

Canada rather proudly states that it responded to the Afghan crisis by effectively accommodating on-ground challenges. This included bypassing and altering screening and documentation requirements. But this was done only after the realization that regular, peace-time processing measures were not working. Precious time was lost in the process of coming to this realization. Had such measures been in place beforehand, the response would have been immediate. Therefore, it is imperative to acknowledge the distinction between and the need for peace-time and conflict-related refugee processing mechanisms.

A Canadian government official recently commented on Canada’s refusal to bring in relatives of Afghan refugee applicants who were deemed inadmissible. He said: “the hard part of the job has been telling people: ‘I’m sorry, this is the policy.”

This comment in a nutshell sums up Canada’s disconnect from reality as it relates to its refugee response. The Afghan case has demonstrated that whiteness manifests itself not only in racial discrimination but also in policies that are largely oblivious to reality outside our borders. Canada prioritized its bureaucracy and interventions over the risks faced by the Afghan people, and the system ignored the urgency of a country on the brink of collapse. If this is what our refugee system is built around, it is clearly geared toward helping Canada, and not the vulnerable.

Source: https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/january-2022/the-incoherence-of-canadas-refugee-policy/

The Decline of Legal Immigration | Cato at Liberty Blog

Useful stats. MPI had a very good webinar assessing the Biden administration immigration policy and program changes. Lot more happening through executive orders (close to 300 in the past year, about 100 related to reversing Trump administration measures) than the high level debates would indicate:

Legal immigration collapsed in the last year of the Trump administration. The number of green cards issued abroad were declining prior to the pandemic, partly for policy and other reasons, but the American government’s overreaction to COVID-19 caused immigration to collapse as we’ve detailed here, here, here, here, and here.

Since President Biden took office in January 2021, the recovery of legal immigration has been much slower than we anticipated. The new vaccine mandate for immigrants (as we’re seeing in other countries with the Novak Djokovic scandal), the remaining closure of many embassies and consulates that reduce interviews for visas and their subsequent issuance, the delayed release of extra visas approved by Congress, and additional haphazardly imposed travel restrictions have greatly reduced the scope of legal immigration.

Despite those restrictions, the number of legal immigrant visas issued abroad has partly recovered from a low of 697 (that’s not a typo) in May 2020 to 35,647 in November 2021 (Figure 1). That’s 16 percent below the average of 42,390 immigrant visas issued monthly from January 2017 through February 2020, during Trump’s presidency but prior to COVID-19. December 2021 and January 2022 will likely show lower numbers.

As bad as the numbers for immigrant visas are, the number of non‐​immigrant visas issued abroad every month is even worse. Non‐​immigrant visas are for students, temporary workers, tourists, and others who can temporarily travel to the United States or reside here for a specific time and purpose. Figure 2 shows that 40,939 were issued in May 2020, the low point of the series, down from a monthly average of 738,642 from January 2017 through February 2020 – a 95 percent decline. The numbers have since climbed to a paltry 391,022 in November 2021 – far shy of their pre‐​pandemic numbers.

The Biden administration needs to rapidly reverse this situation, recover the lost visas through legislation, and go even further or the U.S. economy will suffer long run drags on its growth.

Source: The Decline of Legal Immigration | Cato at Liberty Blog

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 19 January Update

Steep rise of infections remains the main story, along with resulting increases in hospitalizations and ICUs.

Vaccinations: Some minor shifts but general convergence among provinces and countries. Canadians fully vaccinated 79 percent, compared to Japan 78.9 percent, UK 71.4 percent and USA 63.4 percent.

Immigration source countries are also converging: China fully vaccinated 87.3 percent, India 48.2 percent, Nigeria 2.5 percent (the outlier), Pakistan 36 percent, Philippines 51.8 percent.

Trendline Charts:

Infections: Effects of Omicron seen in steep curve in all G7 countries and provinces. No such effect in immigration source countries

Deaths: No relative changes but Quebec uptick more visible.

Vaccinations: Ongoing convergence among most provinces but lower rates for Alberta and Prairies. Gap between G7 less Canada continues to grow despite overall convergence, with narrowing gap with immigration source countries. Nigeria remains the laggard.

Weekly

Infections: New York ahead of UK, France ahead of USA, Australia ahead of Canada less Quebec, Atlantic Canada ahead of India. 

Deaths: No relative change.

‘Anxious’ Chinese rethink study-abroad options, from Canada to Malta and beyond

Significant. May reverse the relative decline in Chinese students choosing Canada compared to other nationalities. Study permits issued to Chinese students fell from 24 percent in 2018 to 13 percent in 2021 (January-November numbers):

Amid the pandemic and geopolitical tensions with the West over the past two years, members of China’s middle class found themselves increasingly compelled to postpone plans to emigrate overseas, while others refrained from sending their children abroad to study.

But as a growing number of international schools in China have announced in recent months that they were shutting down or were accepting only foreign students in the wake of a nationwide crackdown on education, obtaining a Western-equivalent education at home has become more difficult.

As a result, a rising number of Chinese families are re-evaluating their emigration and foreign-study options.

Industry insiders also say there has been increased demand for Canadian immigration programmes, as well as for fast-track schemes to obtain foreign citizenship via investment opportunities in some small European countries and island nations.

Daisy Fu, who is based in Shenzhen and helps Chinese people obtain Malta citizenship, said business is up 20 per cent in the past two months. “Most of the clients are parents who are anxious about the new education policy,” she said.

Canada’s Immigrant Nominee Programme may also become a popular and practical solution for worried Chinese parents.

“The number of Chinese families applying for professional immigration to Canada will reach a new high in 2022,” said Jack Ho, chairman of Famed Star Group, an international consulting company helping clients immigrate to Canada.

“Whether they are high-net-worth individuals or middle-class white-collar workers, the rapid changes in China’s policies on education, property and wealth markets have prompted them to urgently start their immigration programmes as soon as possible,” Ho said.

In the past, around 95 per cent of families would opt to wait in China until obtaining their permanent residency in Canada, he said. But in recent months, that percentage has plummeted, and he said more than half of his customers told him that they wanted to move to Canada immediately upon receiving a work permit, so their children could begin school there more quickly.

He said his company has assisted with the Canadian immigration process for more than 1,000 families since 2017. This year, he expects their annual business could reach a record high, surpassing pre-pandemic numbers.

Under President Xi Jinping, ideological control has been tightened as the Communist Party tries to instil patriotism in younger generations and stifle dissent. In May, China passed new regulations tightening party oversight of private schools and restricting foreign players in the sector.

For years, Xi denounced the after-school tutoring sector as disruptive, burdensome and in need of regulation. That culminated in Beijing introducing tough new curbs on the lucrative private-education sector last year, despite strong demand from middle-class families for foreign education.

Under the Regulations for the Implementation of the Private Education Promotion Law, no new licences will be granted to international schools offering compulsory education – six years of primary education followed by three years of junior high school education. Chinese-run private schools teaching compulsory education are also banned from using foreign textbooks, though private schools teaching grades 10-12 can continue offering international curriculums.

“Two of my children had been attending an international school in Chengdu that used Singaporean textbooks and had a Western teaching style, with baseball lessons and other foreign languages,” said Zhang Na, who runs a tech-and-culture start-up in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

“The tuition ran about 70,000 yuan (US$11,000) a year, and I was very happy with everything the school offered, but it closed this semester due to a sudden change in policy, so I had to temporarily transfer my sons to a private local school that teaches only a Chinese curriculum.”

Zhang said her sons became extremely stressed amid the fierce competition and pressure to excel in examinations.

“I once set aside my wish to immigrate, but now I may have to put it back on the agenda for my children,” she said.

In December, international schools in Shenzhen – including the Bay Academy, Shenzhen Harrow Innovation Leadership Academy and the King’s School Shenzhen International – which had previously enrolled Chinese students, announced that they would either close or pivot their business model to focus on only foreign students.

And in November, one of Britain’s most prestigious private schools, Westminster School, said it would abandon its first overseas school in Chengdu, four years after the project had begun.

The school had ambitious plans to open six bilingual institutions in China, but “recent changes in Chinese education policy” forced the school to axe the entire project, according to Mark Batten, chair of the school’s governing body.

“It is highly unfortunate – the landscape for developing such schools now is very different from 2017,” Batten said in a letter to past and current students and staff.

In Beijing, education authorities are also pushing ahead with curriculum reform in private bilingual schools by requiring students to use Chinese textbooks adopted by public schools, and to take compulsory exams – known as the zhong kao – for admission to public senior high schools.

The Beijing World Youth Academy, with more than 1,200 students aged 5 to 18, complied with the mandate last year by requiring its grade 9 students to sit the exam – the first time the academy had done so in its 20 years.

A faculty member who spoke on condition of anonymity said the school had integrated subjects required by China’s statutory curriculum, such as Chinese language courses and maths to its Middle Years Programme – an International Baccalaureate programme requiring students aged 11 to 16 to study eight subject groups: two languages, humanities, sciences, mathematics, arts, physical education and technology.

“By doing so, we can help students acquire a [junior middle school] graduation certificate and an academic track record acknowledged by Chinese authorities,” the staff member said.

According to implementation regulations outlined in the Private Education Promotion Law, which went into effect in September, private schools can develop their own curriculums based only “on the standards of the state curriculum”. And the curriculums must be submitted to education authorities first. Students in grades 1-9 are also not allowed to be taught from foreign textbooks.

“More schools offering international curriculums are expected to require students to sit the zhong kao, as China is unifying admission standards for private and public senior high schools,” said Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the Shanghai-based 21st Century Education Research Institute. “But regardless, international schools will only use zhong kao performance as a reference.”

Stephen Wang, the father of a grade 8 student at the Beijing World Youth Academy, said that although the zhong kao requirement has doubled his daughter’s workload, the academy’s inclusion in the national academic system may benefit her career in the future.

“My daughter makes painstaking efforts to study two sets of subjects. However, it may prove worth it someday. After returning from overseas, she’ll have the freedom to choose to develop a career in China,” said Wang, a 48-year-old private entrepreneur.

Susan Li, the mother of a grade 6 student at an international school in Beijing, said: “Our school hasn’t announced whether it will make the exams compulsory. But I’m afraid it will come sooner or later with the government’s tightened scrutiny of private schools.”

Nonetheless, the 45-year-old corporate executive said, “it would be a waste of time”.

“As we are determined to go to a university in the UK, preparing for and sitting domestic exams is really unnecessary,” Li said.

Source: ‘Anxious’ Chinese rethink study-abroad options, from Canada to Malta and beyond

Indo-Canadian leaders say Elections B.C. oversight would end questionable tactics in party races

Of note. Look forward to comments from British Columbia readers:

Leaders in the province’s Indo-Canadian community say the recent controversy surrounding B.C. Liberal party memberships would not be happening if a third-party organization such as Elections B.C. was given an oversight role in political party leadership elections.

Several long-time Liberals and New Democrats of Punjabi heritage are concerned that the blame for questionable memberships is being unfairly placed on racialized communities, instead of on the parties’ membership and voting rules.

“Punjabi-Canadians are a demographic that loves their politics, and you have the traditional loyalty to family and friends, so that is why this community is able to sign up large number of members in a very short period of time. It does not mean their memberships are illegal,” said long-time B.C. Liberal Barj Dhahan.

“Whenever this question comes up, it is Punjabi-Canadians who get stereotyped that they are not following the rules. The real question is: Are the rules being followed by the candidates and their campaign teams and volunteers?”

The controversy came to a head last month, after six of the seven B.C. Liberal leadership campaign teams demanded the party audit close to half of its new memberships over concerns that rules were not being followed. They pointed to addresses that were not residences, including one on a forest service road. One campaign said its canvassers found one residence where only one of the five people signed up using that addressed lived there. The campaigns questioned whether the party was capable of catching potential cheaters.

Since then, the party has been accused of singling out members from the South Asian and Chinese communities for review and audit.

Former NDP MLA Harry Lali said there is a long history of groups, including lawyers and teachers, that launched large membership campaigns for their favoured candidates, but those campaigns were never questioned. He believes all leadership elections over the past two decades in every party have been tainted by dubious membership recruitment tactics.

Lali said when that happens, the party suffers.

“What ends up happening is the old-guard membership is pitted against the new membership, so it often becomes white people being pitted against non-white people,” he said. “It’s time that political parties were dragged into the 21st century.”

That is why Lali recommended that Elections B.C. take over the process of vetting memberships and overseeing leadership votes more than a decade ago, when he was running for the NDP leadership.

Vikram Bajwa also supports calls for involvement by Elections B.C. Bajwa has been a member of the B.C. Liberal party for more than 20 years, and was one of the whistle-blowers in the so-called “quick wins” scandal in 2013, when the party under former premier Christy Clark planned to use government funds to target ethnic support.

Bajwa now claims more than 6,000 international students from India and China have been signed up as Liberal party members in the current leadership race. Bajwa said he and several other party members have sought legal advice and have written a letter demanding the party take action.

“The Liberal party membership form does not ask you to state your citizenship or permanent resident status,” explained Bajwa. “It was overlooked during Christy Clark’s time, and this time we want to put a stop to this.”

Bajwa said if the issue is not properly addressed at the final Liberal leadership debate on Tuesday night, as promised by the party, he and several concerned members will be filing a judicial review of the memberships in B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the party has not responded to a request for comment about foreign student memberships.

The leadership election organizing committee issued a public statement last week, saying that more than 3,000, or six per cent, of the party’s 43,000 current active members have been flagged for an audit. It said some audits were triggered when a non-Canadian IP address was used to buy a membership.

It added that, so far, no membership has been rejected.

Critics say they are not working for any of the B.C. Liberal campaigns and their only agenda is to rid the system of the abuses within it. They say it will take political will not seen so far to introduce legislation allowing Elections B.C. to oversee all party leadership elections.

“Not doing something about it, for all political parties, it ends up creating a schism and that erodes to less and less participation in the political process,” said Lali. “And on a wider scale, when you’re talking about someone who wants to be the premier of the province, you want to make sure that individual has won fairly and that the general public can have that confidence.”

Source: Indo-Canadian leaders say Elections B.C. oversight would end questionable tactics in party races

The AP Interview: Exiled artist Ai Weiwei on Beijing Games

Refreshing to have a sports journalist do this kind of reporting:

Ai Weiwei is one of China’s most famous artists, and many regard him as one of the world’s greatest living ones. Working with the Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron, he helped design the Bird’s Nest Stadium, the centerpiece of Beijing’s 2008 Summer Olympics.

The stadium in northern Beijing, instantly recognizable for its weave of curving steel beams, will also host the opening ceremony for Beijing’s Winter Olympics on Feb. 4.

In the design phase, Ai hoped the stadium’s latticework form and the presence of the Olympics would symbolize China’s new openness. He was disappointed. He has repeatedly described the stadium and the 2008 Olympics as a “fake smile” that China presented to the world.

Ai expects the Winter Games to offer more of the same.

Even before his fame landed him the design job, Ai had been an unrelenting critic of the Chinese Communist Party. He was jailed in 2011 in China for unspecified crimes and is now an outspoken dissident who lives in exile in Portugal. He has also lived in exile in Germany — he still maintains a studio there — and in Britain.

His art — ranging from sculpture to architecture to photography, video and the written word — is almost always provocative, and he’s scathing about censorship and the absence of civil liberties in his native country.

His memoir — “1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows” — was published last year and details the overlap of his life and career with that of his father Ai Qing, a famous poet who was sent into internal exile in 1957, the year Ai Weiwei was born.

Ai writes in his memoir: “The year I was born, Mao Zedong unleashed a political storm — the Anti-Rightist Campaign, designed to purge “rightist” intellectuals who had criticized the government. The whirlpool that swallowed up my father upended my life too, leaving a mark on me that I carry to this day.”

He quotes his father: “To suppress the voices of the people is the cruelest form of violence.”

Ai responded to a list of questions by email from the Associated Press. He used his dashed hopes for the Bird’s Nest to illustrate how China has changed since 2008.

“As an architect my goal was the same as other architects, that is, to design it as perfectly as possible,” Ai wrote to Associated Press. “The way it was used afterwards went in the opposite direction from our ideals. We had hoped that our architecture could be a symbol of freedom and openness and represent optimism and a positive force, which was very different from how it was used as a promotional tool in the end.”

The 2008 Olympics are usually seen as a “coming out” party for China, When the IOC awarded Beijing the Olympics in 2001, it said they could help improve human rights. Ai, instead, termed the 2008 Olympics a “low point” as migrant workers were forced out of the city, small shops were shuttered and street vendors removed, and blocks-long billboards popped up, painted with palm trees and beach scenes to hide shabby neighborhoods from view.

“The entire Olympics took place under the situation of a blockade,” Ai told AP. “For the general public there was no joy in participation. Instead, there was a close collaboration between International Olympic Committee and the Chinese regime, who put on a show together in order to obtain economic and political capital.”

Ai writes in his book that he watched the opening ceremony away from the stadium on a television screen, and jotted down the following.

“In this world where everything has a political dimension, we are now told we mustn’t politicize things: this is simply a sporting event, detached from history and ideas and values — detached from human nature, even.”

The IOC and China again say the Olympics are divorced from politics. China, of course, has political ends in mind. For the IOC, the Olympics are a sports business that generates billions in sponsor and television income.

In his email, Ai described China as emboldened by the 2008 Olympics — “more confident and uncompromising.” He said the 2008 Olympics were a “negative” that allowed China’s government to better shape its message. The Olympics did not change China in ways the IOC suggested, or foster civil liberties. Instead, China used the Olympics to alter how it was perceived on the world stage and to signal its rising power.

The 2008 Games were followed a month later by the world financial crisis, and in 2012 by the rise of General Secretary Xi Jinping. Xi was a senior politician in charge of the 2008 Olympics, but the 2022 Games are his own.

“Since 2008 the government of China has further strengthened its control and the human rights situation has further deteriorated,” Ai told AP. “China has seen the West’s hypocrisy and inaction when it comes to issues of human rights, so they have become even bolder, more unscrupulous, and more ruthless. In 2022 China will impose more stringent constraints to the Internet and political life, including human rights, the press, and We-media. The CCP does not care if the West participates in the Games or not because China is confident that the West is busy enough with their own affairs.”

Ai characterized the 2022 Winter Olympics and the pandemic as a case of fortunate timing for China’s authoritarian government. The pandemic will limit the movement of journalists during the Games, and it will also showcase the state’s Orwellian control.

“China, under the system of state capitalism and especially after COVID, firmly believes that its administrative control is the only effective method; this enhances their belief in authoritarianism. Meanwhile, China thinks that the West, with its ideas of democracy and freedom, can hardly obtain effective control. So, the 2022 Olympics will further testify to the effectiveness of authoritarianism in China and the frustration of the West’s democratic regimes.”

Ai was repeatedly critical of the IOC as an enabler; interested solely in generating income from the Chinese market. The IOC and China both see the Games as a business opportunity. Ai suggested many Chinese see the Olympics as another political exercise with some — like athletes — trying to extract value.

“In China there is only the Party’s guidance, state-controlled media, and people who have been brainwashed by the media,” Ai wrote. “There is no real civil society. Under this circumstance, Chinese people are not interested in the Olympics at all because it is simply a display of state politics. Nationally trained athletes exchange Olympic gold medals for economic gains for individuals or even for sport organizations; this way of doing things deviates from the Olympics’ original ideas.”

Ai was asked if the planned to go back to China. He said he was doubtful.

“Judging from the current situation, it is more and more unlikely for me to be able to return to China,” he said. “My main point here is that the situation in China has worsened. The West’s boycott is futile and pointless. China does not care about it at all.”

Source: https://apnews.com/article/winter-olympics-sports-business-ai-weiwei-beijing-1be58fc1f4c7e2ad67a24fdf02ff7690?user_email=493060eb1cb5da6f90ab22a591bc627176b5cc39456eeb420f43f5376b912d43&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=MorningWire_jan18&utm_term=Morning%20Wire%20Subscribers

‘Racist’ junior high immigration assignment has advocates calling for curriculum change

Not convinced by the arguments advanced against the approach of having students contrast and compare opposing perspectives and develop their critical thinking.

Most of the immigration opposing points reflect polling and other data and students will likely be exposed to these positions in any case outside of the more controlled space of a classroom.

Of course, the role of teachers in leading and framing the issues is critical.

And while I hate the term “snowflake,” (which can apply both the “woke” and “non-woke”), this is a classic example of underestimating the ability of people to handle such material:

Advocates and university professors are calling this school assignment ‘dehumanizing.’ (Name withheld)

Anti-racism advocates and a university professor are calling an assignment handed out at a junior high school in St. John’s “racist” and say it could result in bullying and discrimination.

A textbook assignment that was sent to CBC News by a concerned parent asked students to write down two reasons why immigrants and refugees should be allowed into the country — and two reasons why they should not be.

The textbook provides a list of reasons why immigrants and refugees should be allowed in the country; for example, “Canada is a big country with room for many more people” and “Immigrants provide new ideas and skills.”

Source: ‘Racist’ junior high immigration assignment has advocates calling for curriculum change