Jamie Sarkonak: Some are more equal than others, according to Canada’s immigration ministry

One of the early mainstream media commentaries on IRCC’s anti-racism strategy (see my earlier post (IRCC Anti-Racism Strategy 2.0: “Energy, Conviction and Courage” [too preachy for my taste]).
While I did not read it the same way as Sarkonak, reflecting my perspectives, reading this reminded me of my experience when working under the Conservative government and Jason Kenney when I was confronted with a very different worldview (shameless plug for Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism).And while many of the specific provisions in the strategy are fairly standard anti-discrimination and anti-racism tools to help identify biases and discrimination, understandable that the framing of them would attract attention as being overly “woke” given the frame of CRT and the “wheel of privilege and power.”

In terms of some of Sarkonak’s specific solutions to IRCC, some are stronger than others. It makes sense to publish approval rates by country of citizenship as differences in approval rates may, but not necessarily, indicate biases. Similarly, monitoring of staff for arbitrary decision-making makes sense pending the development of more AI and other tools that can provide consistent decision making (as Kahneman and others argue in Noise). On the other hand, simply bolstering staff to address backlogs avoids the necessary policy and administrative changes needed to reduce future backlogs.

Sarkonak criticizes tying EX bonuses to DEI and anti-racism and ensuring targeted career development programs for minority staff but these types of policies have been in place for some time in one form or another (I remember in the early 1990s that Global Affairs identified women with potential to address the gender gap with considerable success).

But perhaps one statement in the strategy is the one that would provoke a possible future Conservative government the most, the policies are intended to survive “regardless of changes in government” as it smacks of bureaucratic arrogance rather than a more neutral phrase of something like “establishing the basis for further inclusion:”

In a corporate plan for an anti-racist “systems change,” Canada’s immigration ministry says it isn’t fair to treat people equally regardless of background. Instead, people should be treated according to their level of innate privilege.

In other words, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has embraced critical race theory — or diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), as it’s called in practice — with a plan called Anti-Racism Strategy 2.0. It openly signals a shift to the ideological left.Unfortunately, concerns about racism within IRCC aren’t unfounded. An external review reported dozens of openly racist comments in the workplace. Perhaps the worst allegation was that those within IRCC often refer to African countries as “the dirty 30” — an embarrassing display of prejudice for a department welcoming new citizens into a country that’s supposed to respect the right to equality.

It’s therefore no surprise that the question of racism comes up when rejection rates for applications vary by country. With few explanations from officials, advocates understandably come up with their own: systemic racism. This was the case when study permit applications from Nigeria were found to be disproportionately rejected by IRCC. Elsewhere, critics have correctly pointed out that Canada committed to taking an unlimited number of refugees from Ukraine, while capping Afghan applicants at 40,000.

The solution should be to bolster staff so that applications can be processed in a reasonable time (the immigration backlog is an astronomical 2.7 million) and to enforce workplace rules against instances of racism in the office.The department can also publish approval rates by country of origin, as it does with approval rates for foreign student study permits. If applications from certain countries are being disproportionately rejected, explanations should be offered as to why.

There isn’t a duty to accept an equally proportionate number of immigrants from each country in the world, and it’s quite possible that acceptance rates are lower for some countries simply because more applicants from there aren’t meeting our requirements — that’s not systemic racism, that’s just the fair application of the rules to everyone.

But Canadians have a right to know what’s going on, and the government can’t have its employees acting out of bigotry. Individual immigration officials should be monitored through annual performance reviews to ensure they aren’t arbitrarily rejecting would-be immigrants due to their country of origin. If unfair discrimination is going on, disciplinary action should be taken.

IRCC’s solution is more complicated. Instead of investigating bad managers and disproportionate immigrations outcomes between countries, it’s adopted the explanation of unconscious and systemic racism that stems from critical race theory. Racism isn’t just hatred, IRCC says, but includes unconscious and unintended actions that lead to any discrimination or prejudice against any group. Similar policies have emerged in Canadian public institutions, including schools (where anti-racist material is beginning to be taught to students), universities (where white males are barred from applying for certain jobs), the military (where applications from diverse candidates are prioritized) and even the Bank of Canada (where DEI is to be kept in mind when setting monetary policy).

Equality isn’t fair anymore, says IRCC. Fairness is traditionally thought to involve treating people equally, but it’s been redefined as a matter of outcome. Unfair outcomes happen when a group of people is “overrepresentative” of their population statistics. IRCC’s plan to “eradicate racism in all its forms” is paradoxical, because it requires identity-based discrimination (what we used to call racism) to achieve this version of a “fair” outcome (elimination of racism).

The ministry doesn’t limit this kind of thinking to race, ranking various identity genres according to privilege to help “correct power imbalances.” These include education level, Indigeneity, skin colour, brain structure, sexual orientation and gender.

It’s a dehumanizing way to look at people. Even so, the IRCC wants to permanently embed identitarianism into every aspect of the ministry, “regardless of changes in government.”

The idea is to transform everything from finances and organizational procedure to the relationships between people in the ministry and the way people think and talk. A number of practical goals are set out to achieve this, which will be monitored by report cards.

For management, IRCC wants to tie bonuses and promotions to anti-racist performance.

For staff, identity-specific career development programs will be made to help certain groups get promotions; “Indigenous, Black, Racialized, Persons with Disability, LGBTQ2+ and individuals with intersecting identities” are to be given special attention for staffing. Targeted workshops and focus groups are planned to teach the ministry’s expansive theory of racism within the ranks.

For the actual business of immigration, IRCC plans to fund resettlement initiatives that promote DEI, or the practice of critical race theory. Any community organization that resists will be risking precious grant dollars.

For the millions of people waiting in Canada’s immigration backlog, government commitments to reshape staff thoughts and civic ideology are about as useful as thoughts and prayers. Worse, these changes to the public service are political. Perhaps it sounds nice to those who believe in this version of social justice, but it’s a radical paradigm shift away from the Canadian values of fair procedure and equality.

If these basic values are going to be completely redefined in government, perhaps they should at least be debated in the House of Commons first. Instead, these political changes to the function of government are being made out of public view. The immigration ministry acknowledges they’re being made at the direction of the Clerk of the Privy Council and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), which have demanded more DEI in the public service.

It sends a bad message to those seeking to come to Canada for equal freedom of opportunity and open debate: Major changes aren’t up for discussion, but are instead the business of the PMO and the unaccountable ministry bureaucrats who write up corporate plans.

Source: Jamie Sarkonak: Some are more equal than others, according to Canada’s immigration ministry

Douglas Todd: Why China’s woes matter to Canada

While China’s numbers have largely recovered to pre-pandemic levels, they have declined as a share of total immigration, compared to India in particular. And not convinced that attracting the “ultra-rich” will benefit Canada and Canadians (part from Realtors, luxury car dealerships etc):

China is in turmoil.

The once-roaring housing market of the world’s second-largest economy is collapsing.The regime’s harsh zero-COVID restrictions are causing bitterness and anger.

Beijing’s stepped-up quest for “common prosperity” has many worried their savings and assets aren’t being treated as actually theirs — and could be confiscated by Communist party rulers in the name of equality.

More people, especially the rich, want to escape.

In the past 30 years, Canada has been one of the top destinations for people from China seeking a financial haven and more stable lifestyle. China has long been Canada’s second-largest source country, after India, for new immigrants.

And the country’s recent outbreaks of both financial and social chaos are igniting more desire to get out. A global investment migration consultancy, Henley & Partners, estimates 10,000 to 13,000 ultra-wealthy residents of China are seeking to pull $48 billion out of the country this year.

Canada is a big draw. The Migration Policy Institute found two years ago that Canada was the third most-popular choice for Mainland’s China’s migrants. That was before this summer, when China’s real-estate sales dived by 59 per cent compared to 12 months earlier.

Now, the 2022 Hurun Report, which surveys the desires of high-net-worth Chinese, has found their No. 1 choice for a country to move to is Canada.

But there’s a problem. The people of China, population 1.4 billion, face increasingly strict homegrown barriers to starting a new life abroad.

The Hurun Report, which each year measures the desires of rich people from China, found that this year that Canada had risen to become their No. 1 destination for immigration. (Source: 2022 Hurun Report)
The Hurun Report, which each year measures the desires of rich people from China, found that this year that Canada had risen to become their No. 1 destination for immigration. (Source: 2022 Hurun Report)

That’s even while there is an emerging term for the exit-minded phenomenon in China — “run-ology.” It’s used widely online to capture both the desire to leave the country and tips on how to do it.

While many Chinese are no doubt happy to stay in their country of birth, many are seeking another shore because of intense frustration over the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.

And that’s not all. A deeply felt mistrust of Chinese leaders came to the fore his month when video emerged of tanks blocking the entrances to some banks in China, ostensibly to stop people from withdrawing their money.

While debate ensued between official Chinese media and Western news outlets over the exact purpose of the tanks, few disputed that China’s police have crushed mass demonstrations after depositors’ funds were frozen as banks have been investigated for fraud.

The backdrop to the bank-savings anxiety has been President Xi Jinping’s stepped-up efforts to develop a patriotic “common prosperity.” It’s already lead him to crack down hard on, among others, the country’s more than 600 billionaires.

One of many notorious cases centres on billionaire Xiao Jianhua, a Canadian passport holder who disappeared after being abducted in Hong Kong five years ago. He is now apparently facing a secret trial in China

China doesn’t recognize that Canada has any diplomatic influence in regard to Xiao. Even though Xiao gave up his Chinese passport because China does not allow dual citizenship, China is still treating him, roughly, as one of its own.

In a related move, Beijing has announced strict 2022 curbs on all “non-essential” overseas travel, purportedly because of COVID. In the face of a spike in outbound trips, leaders have cut the number of travel passports and visas it will issue to a fraction of previous levels.

It’s also harder to get money out of the country.Canadian legal specialist David Lesperance, who specializes in migration for the rich, says he’s receiving three times as many requests from China that he had last year. And Jenga, a firm that handles international money transfers, reports it has seen demand from China double in 12 months.

That’s especially worrying for China in light of its troubled economy. The mammoth speculative bubble that was China’s real estate market, which accounts for an incredible 30 per cent of the nation’s GDP, has been bursting.

China’s Evergrande, the world’s most indebted real-estate developer, is on the verge of bankruptcy. Construction on its new residential towers has halted. China’s housing crisis has wiped a trillion dollars off the value of the sector.

The U.S. Federal Reserve has expressed concern the dramatic downturn in China’s housing market will spillover into Western economies, as many Chinese citizens’ debt grows and an economically weakened China is forced to retrench. The vacancy rate in major Chinese cities is now 15 to 35 per cent, according to the journal Foreign Policy.

Many Chinese nationals who have held onto their assets and wealth are looking elsewhere to invest, even as their leaders make it a challenge. China is talking tougher about enforcing its foreign exchange controls, which allows citizens to send offshore only US$50,000 a year.

But Canadian mortgage broker Ron Butler is among those who share the “growing belief that more capital from China will flow out to other countries’ real estate.”

Yes, we are hearing capital controls are running hot in China. But we know that a workaround is always found and tightness eventually slackens.”

In addition, people from China who obtain foreign residency or citizenship can move money out of their country more easily. Immigration lawyers and consultants say that’s a prime reason for the attractiveness of Canada, which already has 1.8 million people of Chinese ancestry, about half of whom are from China, mostly living in greater Toronto and Metro Vancouver.

Ottawa has long generally welcomed outside money, which typically goes into real estate rather than other businesses. B.C., through its foreign-buyers tax, beneficial ownership registry and speculation tax, is now one of the only provinces trying to monitor such offshore wealth.

Last year, Canada approved 31,005 individuals from the People’s Republic of China as permanent residents. While by no means are all well-off enough to immediately buy a dwelling, that was a jump from 16,525 migrants in the pandemic year of 2020. It was similar to 2019. The pace of immigration from China in the first half of 2022 appears more rapid than ever.

Meanwhile, others from China who want to put money into Canadian real estate, but don’t want to give up their Chinese citizenship, have been opting for Canada’s popular 10-year multiple-entry visas, which permits them to live here six months at a time. Although the Immigration Department didn’t provide the latest figures, Canada had previously issued more than three million 10-year visas to Chinese nationals.

Whichever way you look at it, recent developments confirm that what happens in China matters to Canada.

Source: Douglas Todd: Why China’s woes matter to Canada

Canadian immigration ministers agree on multi-year PNP levels plan

Good initiative. Now the haggling over multi-year levels can begin :).

Seriously, same planning logic that led feds to multi-year planning to assist settlement agencies and others also applies at the provincial level:

The Forum of Ministers Responsible (FMRI) for Immigration met in Saint John, New Brunswick on July 28 to discuss a host of major immigration policy issues.

Topics on the agenda included Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan, a more agile economic immigration system, regional economic immigration, settlement, and refugees resettlement.

The big takeaway is that Canada’s immigration ministers agreed to develop a multi-year Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) allocation plan. Currently, even though Canada sets its permanent residence targets over a three-year period, PNP allocations are determined on an annual basis. Moving forward, the ministers agreed that PNP allocation targets will also be set on a three-year basis. The ministers agreed to determine the multi-year PNP plan by March 31, 2023.

The FMRI is comprised of Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial immigration ministers. They meet each year to discuss immigration issues of national importance. The FMRI is a decision-making body with the goal of supporting a flexible, timely, and effective immigration system for Canada.

Canada’s Immigration Minister Sean Fraser added in the post-meeting press conference that there is no certainty at the moment on the precise numbers on the increased PNP allocations for each province and territory. The reason, he said, is the federal government needs to have follow-up conversations with provinces and territories to ensure they have the settlement capacity necessary to welcome more newcomers.

The rationale for a multi-year PNP plan is similar to why Canada re-introduced a multi-year Immigration Levels Plan back in 2017. The rationale for the Immigration Levels Plan 2018-2020, and subsequent plans, has been to allow stakeholders including government, the settlement sector, and employers the ability to plan in advance for higher immigration levels. Canada is now guided by the Immigration Levels Plan 2022-2024 and Minister Fraser is set to table the 2023-2025 plan by November 1st of this year.

At present, Canada’s PNP targets over a three-year period are contained in the levels plan. However, each province and territory’s PNP allocation is set on an annual basis. The federal immigration minister sends a letter to their provincial and territorial counterparts each year with their respective allocation, typically in the first quarter of the calendar year.

However, the country’s immigration ministers have now agreed that by the end of March 2023, the federal minister will inform each province and territory of their PNP allocation over a three-year period. This will allow each province and territory to plan ahead, including identifying how to best use their allocation to achieve their economic development goals, as well as to identify what operational steps they need to take to be able to process PNP applications as efficiently as possible. As a province or territory’s PNP allocation increases, they need to ensure they have enough staff and the requisite technology in place to process higher PNP volumes within their service standards.

The PNP has grown in prominence since it was introduced in 1998 to promote a broader distribution of immigration across Canada. Prior to its introduction, most immigrants settled in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia, which made it challenging for the Atlantic and Prairie provinces to support their economic development through immigration. The PNP only contributed to about 400 new immigrant arrivals in 1999, but it is now set to welcome over 80,000 new immigrants in 2022 and over 90,000 by 2024. The PNP, next to the federal Express Entry system, is among the two major pathways for economic class immigrants to land in Canada.

The post-meeting press release noted the immigration ministers also discussed assisting Afghan refugees, supporting Ukrainians, improving application processing times, taking steps to strengthen public support for immigration in Canada, among other topics.

Source: Canadian immigration ministers agree on multi-year PNP levels plan

Uganda’s loss is Canada’s gain

Good reminder of a good program, one that has benefited both the refugees and Canada:

On Aug. 5, 1972, within two years of overthrowing the elected Ugandan government of Milton Obote, General Idi Amin Dada made the following decree: “All British Asians numbering about 80,000 will have to be repatriated to Britain—they must leave within 90 days. Non-citizens of other nationalities (other than Uganda) must also leave within three months.”

Although Amin’s decree supposedly targeted only British and other non-Ugandan South Asians, the reality was that it affected all South Asians; citizens as well as non-citizens. Random incidents of harassment, robbery, arbitrary imprisonment, and intimidation targeted the entire South Asian community—regardless of their status or citizenship. In effect, South Asians in Uganda—who were long-settled and included Hindus, Muslims, Sikh, and Christians—became stateless. While many of the Asians carried British passports, and therefore were the responsibility of Britain, others needed to find countries to accept them.

Canada responded. On Aug. 24, 1972, then-prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau announced Canada’s intervention and the expeditious dispatch of a Canadian mission to Kampala with the following statement: “For our part, we are prepared to offer an honourable place in Canadian life to those Uganda Asians who come to Canada under this program. Asian immigrants have already added to the cultural richness and variety of our country and, I am sure that those from Uganda will, by their abilities and industry, make an equally important contribution to Canadian society.”

A Canadian team was quickly assembled and sent to Kampala under the leadership of Roger St. Vincent, whose instructions stated: “Your Mission is to proceed to Kampala and by whatever means undertake to process without numerical limitations those Asians who meet the immigration selection criteria bearing in mind their particular plight and facilitate their departure for Canada. Your mission must be accomplished by November 8.”

From Sept. 6 to Nov. 7, 1972, Canadian officials worked non-stop to process, interview, carry out medical exams, arrange transport, and grant visas to more than 6,000 South Asians.

Those families who were unable to gain acceptance by any state were assisted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and transported from Uganda into refugee camps in Europe including Austria, Sweden, Italy, and Malta. Subsequently, more than 2,000 of these refugees were accepted by Canada.

On Aug. 24, 1972, then-prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau announced Canada’s intervention and dispatched a mission to Uganda that granted visas to more than 6,000 South Asians by the end of the year. 

In the end, between 1972 and 1974, Canada accepted more than 8,000 South Asian Ugandans, many of whom were Ismaili Muslims and Goans, as they were mostly Ugandan passport holders. Fearing what happened in Uganda, many South Asians from Kenya, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo subsequently immigrated to Canada.

Beyond the obvious humanitarian relief it provided, Canada’s response in the Ugandan South Asian exodus holds important political and historical significance. Although Canada had responded to many refugee movements in the past, this was the first time that it responded to a large-scale non-European refugee crisis, and it came on the heels of the adoption of Canada’s Multiculturalism Policy in 1971.

The successful integration of the Ugandan South Asian community over the last 50 years has been a testament of this policy, which supports linguistic, ethno-cultural, and ethno-racial pluralism.

Today, the Ugandan South Asians, most who fled their homeland with virtually the clothes on their backs, are well represented in all walks of Canadian life due to their pursuit of education, tradition of self-reliance, business acumen, and strong work ethic. After five decades, the community’s social and cultural integration may be explained, in part, by an ongoing reference and dedication to the values of the country which gave it asylum and a permanent home.

In the corridors of Parliament, Senator Mobina Jaffer was the first South Asian woman appointed to the Upper House in 2001, and Liberal Arif Virani has served as Member of Parliament for Parkdale–High Park, Ont., since 2015 and is currently the parliamentary secretary to the minister of international trade. In Alberta, the Honourable Salma Lakhani was installed as Alberta’s 19th lieutenant governor in August 2020, and in the Canadian foreign service, Arif Lalani has served as Canada’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

In the world of news media, Omar Sachedina, whose parents fled Uganda, is a well-known national affairs correspondent and also serves as a fill-in anchor on CTV National News. After working on Parliament Hill for a number of years, Farah Mohamed went on to be a founder of G(irls)20, and previously served as the CEO of the Malala Fund.

One of the world’s largest transportation engineering software companies is co-founded and led by Milton Carrasco. Dax Dasilva, whose parents also fled Uganda, founded Lightspeed Commerce, which is one of Canada largest publicly traded technology companies in Canada.

In business-philanthropy, Pyarali and Gulshan Nanji and their children have exemplified giving back to Canada, including significant donations to many hospitals. Recently, to mark the 50th anniversary of the South Asian exodus from Uganda, the Nanji Family Foundation announced that it would be providing university scholarships to 50 young refugees across the world with a $1-million family donation to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

In opening its doors to the Ugandan Asians in 1972, Canada gained a community, which has since become renowned for both entrepreneurial enterprise and community service. The process of their settlement and integration has left an indelible mark upon the conscious of the community, including civic responsibility, pride in culture and community, ethically compassionate, and pursuing the public good. Uganda’s loss was Canada’s gain.

Michael Molloy was a member of the team that travelled to Kampala and arranged for 6,000 Ugandan Asians to come to Canada in 1972. He was subsequently involved in redesigning Canada’s refugee-resettlement system and was senior co-ordinator of the program that brought 60,000 Indochinese refugees to Canada in 1979-80. Salim Fakirani is a senior lawyer with the Department of Justice. Fakirani’s family fled Uganda when he was two years old. His family immigrated to Canada after spending almost a year in a refugee camp administered by the UNHCR in Italy.

Source: Uganda’s loss is Canada’s gain

With more than 2.4M immigration applications in Canada’s backlog, many here and overseas feel lost – Excerpt Need for race-based data

Not convinced by the additional value of obtaining race-based data given that country of citizenship provides enough information in most cases to assess trends and impacts.

It would, of course, be interesting, particularly with USA and European immigrants, given that many of those may be visible minorities.

The practicality of how it would be collected (visible minority definitions, ethnic ancestry or other?) is another is another issue. More tick boxes on an already long form and process?

A higher priority, IMO, is to have regularly monthly updates on backlogs, broken down by citizenship (IRCC used to provide updates on “inventory” but this stopped with the shift to monthly data):

Many applicants raised concerns about IRCC taking longer to process their applications based on their country of citizenship.

CBC News obtained data from IRCC breaking down more than 2.4 million applications by country of citizenship.

Of more than two million temporary and permanent residence applications, nearly a million came from India.

“In the case of India, country-specific restrictions during the pandemic made it harder for individuals to submit documents, obtain medical appointments, provide us with their biometrics and for us to finalize applications,” IRCC said.

Aside from France, Ukraine and the U.S., the 30 countries with the most pending applications are in the global south.

India also has the most temporary residence applications in the backlog with 430,286, followed by Ukraine at 329,920.

“There’s systemic racism and discrimination within IRCC,” Amir Attaran, professor of law at the University of Ottawa, said.

Toronto-based immigration lawyer Lou Janssen Dangzalan said the department lacks transparency and accountability. He said since many countries have very diverse ethnic and racial demographics, “collecting race-based data is very important.”

A report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration released in May recommended that IRCC collect race-based data.

Source: With more than 2.4M immigration applications in Canada’s backlog, many here and overseas feel lost

‘Lineups still exist’: Is Ottawa’s task force on passport and service delays a ‘political stunt’? [rhetorical question]

The question answers itself. Such “virtue signalling” only further undermines trust in government:

The union representing passport officers says it hasn’t been approached by the government task force looking at passport delays, as questions swirl around the cabinet committee’s work to date.

Amid massive lineups at passport and Service Canada offices across the country, as well as major delays at airports, the Prime Minister’s Office announced on June 25 the creation of a task force made up of 10 cabinet ministers.

The cabinet committee was specifically instructed to “review service delivery, identify gaps and areas for improvement, and make recommendations to ensure Canadians from coast to coast to coast receive the highest quality of service.”

One month later, the Union of National Employees, which represents passport officers, says it hasn’t had any interaction with the task force meant to tackle the delays still affecting their members every day.

“I have not had any contact whatsoever with the task force as identified just over four weeks ago … I am not even aware if that task force has met,” said the union’s national president, Kevin King.

“There has not been any outreach at all from anyone representing a task force of 10 cabinet ministers.”

King said while there have been improvements, the delays continue at passport offices and there remains a need for more properly trained passport officers to vet applications.

“It doesn’t matter who they hire off the street, doesn’t matter who they bring in from other government departments, doesn’t matter how many other executives they bring in,” King said.

“The fact of the matter is they still don’t have enough passport officers who are fully trained to entitle a passport. It’s that simple, and that’s why lineups still exist.”

He noted that with a cabinet retreat expected in August, “the days are becoming less and less available for (the task force) to have a cohesive plan.”

King said his union and others have, however, been in talks to set up a meeting directly with Social Development Minister Karina Gould, who is responsible for the passport file, possibly in August.

The union representing Service Canada workers, including those who deal with passport intake, did have one meeting with the task force, where they were given updates similar to those given by government departments, said Crystal Warner, national executive vice-president of the Canada Employment and Immigration Union.

“They told us we would be invited to future discussions but haven’t received anything yet,” she said.

There hasn’t been much progress on delays, Warner said, with lineups still happening in some parts of the country. She said the union again had a meeting recently with government to push for more weekend office hours, and some kind of triage system.

“We’re still in a situation where there are ongoing needs at the front end,” she said, mentioning that soon international students will be coming in for SIN numbers. “So we’re waiting for the next influx at the front lines.”

The PMO release in June said the task force would also “monitor the situation” regarding delays at airports.

The National Airlines Council of Canada told the Star it reached out to the task force but never heard back. The Canadian Airports Council said it had been “in touch with PMO on the work of the task force,” but declined further comment.

The task force’s co-chair, Women and Gender Equality Minister Marci Ien, told reporters in June she’d “like to see something tangible in the next several weeks.”

Ien said the committee was first speaking with the ministers responsible for files including passports, immigration and air transportation. (Those ministers are not members of the task force.)

When asked this week about the task force’s work and who else they’ve consulted, Ien’s office provided the Star with a response similar to the PMO’s June statement, almost word for word.

“The recent service delays are unacceptable, and Minister Ien alongside the other members of the task force are working hard to resolve these issues,” the statement said.

“The committee of cabinet ministers has reviewed service delivery protocols, identified gaps and areas for improvement, and made recommendations to ensure Canadians from coast to coast to coast receive the highest quality of service.”

The statement said the actions being taken by each department are contained in regular updates provided by those departments to the public.

An update from Gould last week acknowledged that passport services “are not yet back to normal,” while announcing a new web page that includes steps being taken to improve services and statistics on delivery.

She said passport issuance has remained “relatively stable” over the last five weeks, with between 45,000 and 48,000 passports issued for each of those weeks, with the exception of the week of July 4 when 54,000 passports were issued.

“We’re doing everything we can to ramp that pace up every week,” she said, including adding more staff at Service Canada. The government also announced Monday the addition of five more passport pickup sites across the country.

The task force “is a political stunt that’s more about optics than solutions,” said Conservative social development critic Laila Goodridge, who said it’s “incumbent” on the government to be more transparent about its work.

“We were told when the task force was announced we would see change within weeks, and here we are a month out and only two days ago did we see a small change and it was providing additional pickup locations,” she said.

“If they’re working and they’re trying to find a solution here, they should be letting us know.”

NDP transport critic Taylor Bachrach said thousands of Canadians are still struggling to access basic government services, and that it’s “fair to expect” some level of transparency from the task force.

“The question is why they felt it was necessary to make so much public relations hay out of the formation of the committee. The formation of a committee is not an outcome,” he said. “And what we need here are outcomes and results.”

Source: ‘Lineups still exist’: Is Ottawa’s task force on passport and service delays a ‘political stunt’?

Australia: Home Affairs told to allocate staff to clear visa backlog

Canada not the only country to have backlogs:

The government has directed the Department of Home Affairs to devote more staff to clearing the visa backlog, naming it an ‘urgent priority’.

Minister for immigration, citizenship and multicultural affairs Andrew Giles cautioned the backlog would not be cleared overnight.

“People reallocated to dealing with the visa applications on hand need to be trained and skilled before they can go about this important work,” Giles said.

Since May 2022, 140 new department staff have been placed in visa processing roles.

The minister added the number of applications in June was 6.5% higher than in May, with a 10.6% increase in applications finalised. Since June 2022, 745,000 visa applications have been finalised.

Giles was also critical of the previous government, saying the backlog had risen to nearly one million under it.

Former immigration minister Dan Tehan — now shadow minister for immigration and citizenship — has said the visa backlog was due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“One of the commitments that we had when we were in government was obviously to make sure that we got rid of that backlog and we had put extra resources to ensure that would happen,” Tehan told SBS Hindi.

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) is currently assessing the Department of Home Affairs’ management of family reunion and partner-related visas, due to be tabled in November. The ANAO is currently taking contributions from the public on this matter.

On student visas, Department of Education secretary Michele Bruniges is working alongside Department of Home Affairs secretary Michael Pezzullo to clear the backlog of student visas, as previously reported in The Mandarin.

Last week, education minister Jason Clare said Home Affairs had brought on more than 100 staff to deal with the backlog.

Source: Home Affairs told to allocate staff to clear visa backlog

Quebec’s Conservative party surges in the polls as some of its candidates spread conspiracy theories

To watch. May make Quebec’s provincial election more interesting but more worrisome:

When Éric Duhaime took over as leader of the Quebec Conservatives last year, the party had never held a seat in the legislature, never been invited to a major debate and never raised more than $60,000 in donations in any given year.

It was, basically, a fringe party, unaffiliated with the federal Conservatives and considered too libertarian for most Quebec voters since it was formed in 2009.

In the last 15 months, though, Duhaime’s party has wrangled a seat in the legislature, started polling near 20 per cent. It has racked up nearly $500,000 in donations this year alone.

Source: Quebec’s Conservative party surges in the polls as some of its candidates spread conspiracy theories

Nicolas: Doctrine de la découverte

More important to focus on concrete issues but understand the importance:

Le pape François est venu au Canada cette semaine tenir un discours qui ne correspond pas tout à fait à ce qui était demandé dans le rapport de la Commission de vérité et réconciliation de 2015. En arrivant à Edmonton, le pape s’est excusé pour les actes de « plusieurs chrétiens » et « membres de communautés religieuses », mais pas au nom de l’Église comme telle. Le discours papal a déploré la collaboration de certains catholiques aux projets d’assimilation et de destruction culturelle pilotés par les gouvernements, mais n’a pas admis la responsabilité de l’Église, comme institution, dans la direction de ces projets. Légalement, politiquement, et même spirituellement, la nuance est majeure. C’est aux survivants des pensionnats et à leurs proches de réagir à ce choix de mots, et d’omissions.

Mais quoi qu’en dise le pape François, l’Église catholique a joué un rôle central dans la dépossession territoriale des peuples autochtones à travers les Amériques. C’est pourquoi dans les derniers jours, plus de 4800 gazouillis incluant le mot-clé #DoctrineofDiscovery ont été lancés dans la twittosphère canadienne. À l’initiative de plusieurs personnalités autochtones, la mobilisation en ligne cherche à obtenir un commentaire du pape sur la doctrine de la découverte, un concept de droit international vieux de plus de 500 ans, durant les jours qui lui reste à passer au Canada.

Alors, qu’est-ce c’est, au juste, la doctrine de la découverte ? Il s’agit d’un concept émanant de la bulle papale Inter caetera, émise en 1493 par le pape Alexandre VI à la demande des monarques d’Espagne, après que leur émissaire, Christophe Colomb, a atteint les Caraïbes.

Une bulle (ou édit) papale précédente avait donné au monarque du Portugal le « droit » de s’approprier le continent africain, ou plus précisément « la pleine et entière faculté d’attaquer, de rechercher, de capturer, de vaincre, de soumettre tous les sarrasins et les païens et les autres ennemis du Christ où qu’ils se trouvent […] et de réduire leurs personnes en servitude perpétuelle ».

Dans le contexte, les monarques espagnols cherchent donc à avoir la bénédiction de l’Église pour faire de même sur le « nouveau » continent. La bulle de 1493 trace essentiellement une ligne dans l’Atlantique, laissant toutes les terres « découvertes » à l’ouest aux Espagnols (la majorité des Amériques) et celles à l’est aux Portugais (l’Afrique et ce qui deviendra Brésil).

En 1533, le monarque français François 1er réussit à faire spécifier par le nouveau pape, Clément VII, que la bulle de 1493 ne concernait que les terres déjà « découvertes » à l’époque. L’Église instaure en quelque sorte une règle du « premier arrivé, premier servi » pour toutes les terres non chrétiennes encore inconnues des Européens. C’est dans ce contexte que Jacques Cartier est envoyé par la France l’année suivante, et plante une croix dans la péninsule de Gaspé pour « prendre possession » du territoire au nom de son roi. Ainsi, on peut tracer une ligne directe entre l’autorité papale et le déni de la souveraineté autochtone sur les terres d’Amériques, y compris sur le territoire canadien.

Parmi les personnalités qui parlent de la doctrine de la découverte ces jours-ci, on compte le juge et sénateur à la retraite Murray Sinclair, qui a présidé à la Commission de vérité et réconciliation. En plus des excuses du pape, le rapport de la commission demandait « aux intervenants de toutes les confessions religieuses et de tous les groupes confessionnels qui ne l’ont pas déjà fait de répudier les concepts utilisés pour justifier la souveraineté européenne sur les terres et les peuples autochtones, notamment la doctrine de la découverte et le principe de terra nullius ».

C’est que dans les siècles qui ont suivi ces décisions de l’Église, le droit international a continué de se construire sur les mêmes bases. On s’est demandé, par exemple, si le pape avait l’autorité de décider qui pouvait prendre possession des terres des peuples autochtones — plutôt que de seulement organiser leur conversion massive. Certains ont cru qu’il valait mieux ne s’approprier que les territoires inhabités, dit « terra nullius », et chercher à conquérir le reste par des traités.

En réponse, des penseurs influents (dont le philosophe John Locke) se sont affairés à développer une définition de la terra nullius incluant toutes les terres qui n’étaient pas occupées… à l’européenne — soit sur un mode sédentaire, agricole, puis industriel. Ces débats ont eu une forte influence sur le développement du droit canadien, alors que bien des Premières Nations au mode de vie traditionnel nomade ont dû aller devant les tribunaux « prouver » une occupation ancestrale du territoire.

En 1792, Thomas Jefferson a décrété que la doctrine de la découverte formait une base du droit international et s’appliquait aussi à la nouvelle république des États-Unis d’Amérique. Et en 1823, la Cour suprême américaine s’est appuyée explicitement sur cette doctrine pour arbitrer un conflit entre deux citoyens prétendant posséder une terre. L’un l’ayant acquis auprès de la communauté autochtone locale, l’autre auprès du gouvernement, le tribunal donnera raison au dernier.

Au fil des décennies, les tribunaux canadiens se sont appuyés sur cette décision américaine pour construire leurs propres traditions légales. C’est pourquoi plusieurs experts de la question croient qu’il serait très complexe, mais aussi éminemment nécessaire, de refonder le contrat politique et légal entre le gouvernement du Canada et les peuples autochtones afin de se dissocier, pour de bon, de la doctrine de la découverte. Ce serait là la seule façon de cesser, en tout point, d’asseoir la légitimité de l’État sur un principe colonial dont la généalogie remonte aux papes de la Renaissance.

Il serait, disons, extrêmement optimiste de croire que la mobilisation actuelle autour de la doctrine de la découvertesera commentée par le pape actuel d’ici la fin de son périple. Mais la campagne informelle contribue déjà efficacement à attirer l’attention publique sur cette question fondamentale pour les Amériques.

Source: Doctrine de la découverte

USA: How anti-immigrant groups are misrepresenting border data

Of note:

Recently, there has been increasing concern over the growing number of encounters (the number of people apprehended) reported on the southwest border. U.S. Custom and Border Protection (CBP) data show 207,416 encounters in June 2022 — a record high. Many anti-immigrant groups misinterpret — or purposefully misuse — this data, suggesting encounters are akin to admissions or arrests. But citing that number alone to demonstrate the need for more robust deterrence policies ignores the impacts of Title 42 expulsions and discounts historical migration trends.

CBP tracks the number of noncitizens apprehended each month, known as “encounters.” Anti-immigrant groups have cited the high number of encounters in June 2022, stating that it is a dramatic departure from the typical amount of migrants entering the U.S. in other years — but that’s not the case.

The number of migrants at the southwest border demonstrates a return to regular migration trends. In a study of migration trends over the last decade, researchers found that there is consistently an increasing number of encounters between January and May, with a sharp decrease after June.

The Covid pandemic significantly disrupted these patterns. As a result, between March and June of 2020 the U.S. saw the lowest rate of encounters in years. In 2021, that number steadily increased, but the overall was still drastically lower than average. This year, we have seen a return to regular patterns, with numbers increasing in the spring and decreasing starting June.

CBP Southwest Land Border Enforcement data for 2019-2022. Data prior to 2019 can be found here.

Since March 2020, a significant portion of migrants at the southwest border have been subjected to rapid expulsion under Title 42. Although the administration has attempted to terminate the health order, the courts blocked its termination. The result is a recidivism rate for border crossers that is more than triple what it was before the pandemic. Moreover, the encounter data alone does not account for the continued rapid expulsions nor the amount of people who repeatedly attempt to enter the U.S.

Indeed, the number of people that CBP is processing now is comparable to FY 2019, before the implementation of Title 42 in response to the pandemic. There is only an eight percent difference in the number of people processed in FY19 compared to FY22. In February and May, the Trump administration processed more people in FY19 than the Biden administration in FY22.

CBP Southwest Land Border Enforcement data for FY 2019-2022. CBP Title 42 Expulsions data for FY 2022.

Whenever there is a “surge” at the border, anti-immigrant groups use it as an excuse to call for and implement deterrence policies. Citing numbers of encounters without additional context has led to administrations repeating the mistake of using previously failed deterrence measures.

To counter this pattern, we should learn to anticipate when there will be higher numbers of people arriving at the border and improve processing capacity to efficiently and humanely process those seeking admittance to the U.S.

Source: How anti-immigrant groups are misrepresenting border data