My articles and issues in 2021, focus for 2022

While a bit self-indulgent, thought it might be interesting to do a recap of my articles and commentary over the past year. 

A major focus has been the ongoing work with Dan Hiebert and Howard Ramos regarding the impact of COVID-19 on immigration and related programs (weekly comparison of Canadian provincial infections, deaths and vaccinations compared to other G7 and top immigration source countries: India, China, Philippines, Pakistan and Nigeria) and compilation of monthly IRCC operational statistics across immigration, citizenship and visitor visas, with partial results for settlement given no recent public datasets.

Citizenship 

Birth tourism in Canada dropped sharply once the pandemic began (Policy Options, 2021)

Likely my most significant article, my analysis shows the impact of the “natural experiment” of the drastic fall in visitor visas issues and related travel restrictions on the number of non-resident self-pay hospital deliveries, confirming that birth tourists form more than 50 percent of non-resident births. My position has evolved from minimizing the issue some 10 years ago, to noting the need for ongoing monitoring and consideration of various approaches to reduce the practice to now advocating for a change in the Citizenship Act as the “cleanest” solution. 

Amid languishing numbers, Canada’s citizenship process needs to be modernized (Policy Options, 2021)

Given the ongoing weaknesses in citizenship program management, ranging from wide fluctuations in annual numbers of new citizens to limited and delayed data sets, this article makes the case for extensive modernization of citizenship operations (some of which has started or accelerated due to COVID).

Immigration 

Increasing immigration to boost population? Not so fast. (Policy Options, 2021)

Increasingly frustrated by some of the simplistic arguments advanced in favour of increased immigration by the Business Council of Canada, Century Initiative and others, I raised some needed questions that governments and policy makers need to consider and advocated a Royal Commission or equivalent to undertake a fundamental review of immigration policies that would take a broader perspective than a larger overall GDP. Some of my thinking was developed in my earlier Why the Canadian government must review its immigration policy (Open Democracy, 2021) and some was reiterated in The Need for a Longer Term Perspective on Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturalism (Canadian Global Affairs Institute, 2021).

Will the pandemic make Canada less attractive to newcomers? (With Howard Ramos, Policy Options, 2021)

At the beginning of the work Dan Hiebert, Howard Ramos and I set out some of the questions we were asking regarding the impact of COVID on immigration, tracking both  COVID numbers in G7 and immigration source countries along with monthly tracking of the impact on immigration and related programs. While the end of the pandemic is not yet completely clear, we do have a good sense of how the government has reacted in terms of policy changes (e.g., massive shift to “two-step immigration”), modernization (more online applications, virtual citizenship ceremonies etc) and operations (backlog increases).

Multiculturalism 

Racism and the need for a national integration commission (Policy Options, Philippine Canadian Inquirer, 2021)

Similar to my frustrations regarding immigration policies, much of the commentary and analysis over racism tended to overly simple framing of the issues, whether visible minority/not visible minority, Black and White differences, with limited discussion of the diversity within and among groups, the discrimination and biases that exist within and between groups, and the need for a better understanding of the neuropsychological basis for racism and discrimination. Again, I advocated a Royal Commission or equivalent, given the importance to social inclusion and cohesion, with a strong focus on lessons learned on what works.

Diversity and Employment Equity

Will the removal of the Canadian citizenship preference in the public service make a difference (Policy Options, 2021) andDiversity and inclusion: public service hirings, promotions and separations (The Hill Times, 2021).

The collection and publishing of disaggregated public service data for employment equity groups (official and likely to become official) provides the granularity needed to assess the different groups in terms of representation by occupational group, including hiring, promotions and separations. With four years of disaggregated data, visible minority representation has increased at three times the rate of not visible minorities, one that may increase further given the removal of Canadian citizenship preference. The other notable finding, in the context of the understandable focus on anti-Black racism, is that representation of Blacks in the public service is reasonably strong compared to a number of other visible minority groups and at the EX level, greater than South Asian, Chinese and Filipinos.

Contrasting pre- and post-pandemic public service survey results (The Hill Times, 2021)

Although we only have two-years disaggregated data for the Public Service Employee Survey (PSES), this provides a comparison pre- and post-pandemic. As one would expect, visible minority groups report more instances of harassment and discrimination than not visible minorities, with Blacks reporting more than other visible minority groups. Most striking for me in analyzing the data was the degree of scepticism if not cynicism regarding the government’s anti-racism initiatives, particularly for Blacks.

The Year Ahead

The big news of course is the release of the 2021 census data, providing a wealth of information to assess and analyze in terms of immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism. 2021 data also includes religious affiliation, providing another aspect to understanding diversity in Canada. So I expect to be busy!

While the government remains committed to its immigration levels plan, how it handles the backlog in all areas remains to be seen. In one sense, in order to deliver on its 401,000 number, privileging two-step immigration meant large backlogs on other immigrants, an issue that opposition parties will correctly focus on.

With respect to citizenship, while I would like to see some action on birth tourism (or at least some serious work!), the government needs to release the revised citizenship study guide (announced in 2016!) and eliminate citizenship fees (2019 and 2021 platforms). Whether the government will feel compelled to respond to some pressure regarding the first generation transmission of citizenship remains to be seen.

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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