Trudeau can’t keep juicing the economy with more spending

Some interesting nuggets in this op-ed by Argitis and Asselin, suggesting that some of their “cheerleading” of increased immigration may be undergoing a rethink. Needed greater emphasis on productivity and per capita GDP is an implicit admission that their support for the government’s permanent and temporary immigration has run counter to increased productivity.

And their suggestion for a slowdown in immigration, albeit not for economic class, to give housing a chance to “catch up” again is an implicit admission that their focus on levels (“more”) neglected the very real impacts on housing (in addition to healthcare and infrastructure).

Further (needed) cracks in the overall consensus?

The unexpected pick up in Canadian inflation last month — even if it turns out to be a blip — is a fresh reminder that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is facing a more perilous economic policy landscape going forward, with difficult trade-offs on the horizon.

The natural economic instinct of this government has been generous budget spending and open international migration.

Yet, Trudeau doesn’t need to look much further than Statistics Canada’s inflation numbers or last week’s call from the G7 for global “de-risking” to see how things are changing.

With the world entering a period of scarcity — from more expensive money to supply constraints — the rationale to juice the nation’s economy is weakening.

The housing crisis is a manifestation of that, as are broader price pressures and the Bank of Canada’s historically aggressive run of interest rate hikes.

Trudeau came to power in 2015 on an anti-austerity platform to reverse his Conservative predecessor’s sluggish growth record which, as the Liberals were quick to remind Canadians at the time, was the weakest since R.B. Bennett was prime minister in the 1930s.

The economics were sound at the time, even if the growth dividend didn’t pay off.

Canada’s economy was demand deficient early in Trudeau’s mandate as commodity prices slumped, while the extra spending helped ease financial stability risks by taking some pressure off the Bank of Canada to stoke growth.

Higher international migration drove gains in labour income and provided support to a housing market that was still largely within reach of affordability. Inflation wasn’t a worry. In fact, the concern for policymakers was it may not have been high enough.

New social programs, meanwhile, allowed the government to make significant strides on equality and redistribution — particularly with respect to lowering poverty.

The Trudeau administration’s weighty policy objectives were synergetic to the economic environment. Policies were rowing more or less in the same direction.

The current post-pandemic environment, though, is no longer as accommodating.

While many policymakers and economists still buy into a moderately optimistic outlook, with continued growth and inflation brought into check, less favourable outcomes are increasingly plausible.

There is a real possibility that inflation and interest rates will remain well above pre-pandemic levels, growth becomes more anemic, budget dynamics worsen and the climate transition proves costly.

Instead of working in concert, the government’s three core economic policy objectives — growth, equity and price stability — could become increasingly in conflict.

For example, increasing immigration is a long-term positive for an economy threatened by aging demographics. And more social spending is typically associated with less inequality.

But higher borrowing costs stoked by large increases in population and government spending will impact disproportionately lower income Canadians and young families, potentially creating divisions and threatening new sorts of inequality.

Add energy transition to the mix and national security issues and the landscape becomes a minefield.

The policy arena will be more ambiguous and the government pulled in multiple directions. Policy paralysis, wasted effort and poor allocation of resources are real risks.

There are certain fundamentals and policy guardrails, however, that can help the government navigate this challenge.

First, policymakers should prioritize growing GDP on a per capita basis and increasing productivity over expanding the overall aggregate economy. Both are important, but the former is where true prosperity lies and where Canada is failing. Masking underlying weakness with gains in national income is just a recipe for stagnant wages. Enhanced productivity also helps dampen inflationary pressures.

Second, toolkits and policy precision matter.

For example, supply side solutions are critical to productivity, but policymakers also need to be cognizant of short-term impacts in an inflationary world. Focusing more on economic migration and temporarily slowing the pace of new entrants to allow housing supply to catch up appears a reasonable solution to the current housing crisis.

Another example is industrial policy, which needs to become more sophisticated. Advanced economies will compete in advanced industries, where there is a concentration of R&D and skilled workers. Quick fixes through corporate subsidies, however, are not the answer. Canada needs a modern science and technology architecture that translates ideas into economic outputs, higher wages and better living standards.

The third guardrail is the most Canadian: be reasonable and pragmatic.

This seems obvious but we should not take this principle for granted, particularly as we rush (rightly) to meet ambitious climate targets. Canada remains a resource economy. The sector pays a lot of bills, keeps our currency stable and government finances flush with cash.

It’s also where any global power we may have as a nation lies. That makes an orderly climate transition paramount.

Theo Argitis is managing director at Compass Rose Group. Robert Asselin is senior vice-president, policy at the Business Council of Canada.

Source: Trudeau can’t keep juicing the economy with more spending

Canada on track for 100 million immigrants but public support can’t be taken for granted: Century Initiative CEO 

While not walking back from their fundamental arguments, still a recognition of the reality of the government’s and CI’s approach and advocacy, as is their focus on “growing well” not just growth:

The chief executive of the Century Initiative says Canada “has reached the point of no return” when it comes to welcoming more immigrants, as its modelling shows Canada is on track to more than double its population to at least 100 million by the turn of the century.

But Lisa Lalande warned that existing high levels of public support for increasing immigration cannot be taken for granted.

“If public opinion shifts on immigration, policy will shift, and ultimately that will be detrimental to the future of the country,” she said in an interview.

The Century Initiative, a non-profit lobby group, wants to see Canada’s population grow from 39.5 million to 100 million by 2100. Ms. Lalande says more investment is needed to address problems such as housing shortages, so Canada “grows well” and can accommodate more people.

Current high levels of immigration and government policy decisions – such as making it easier for foreign students to get permanent residence – are putting Canada on track for the first time to meet or even surpass its target, the Century Initiative’s modelling has found.

Canada had record population growth of 703,404 people in 2021-2022, with immigration accounting for 94 per cent.

Ms. Lalande said the Century Initiative was not just in favour of a numerical target. Its research examines housing, investment in infrastructure, and climate adaptation, and it is focused on “making sure we are making investments that accommodate the population growth.”

The Century Initiative, which was co-founded by former Liberal government adviser, Dominic Barton, became the target of sharp criticism in Quebec this month, with Premier François Legault saying its plan for 100 million Canadians was a threat to Quebec.

The backlash in the province followed the announcement of a federal plan for 500,000 more newcomers to Canada in 2025, with some claiming it was part of a government bid to implement the lobby group’s 100 million target.

Referring to the controversy, Ms. Lalande said that its polling shows support for immigration is growing in Quebec, along with the rest of the country.

A poll last fall showed that 69 per cent of Canadians disagreed that there was too much immigration, while just over one in four agreed. Quebeckers as a whole were no less supportive of immigration than Canadians elsewhere in the country.

The Environics Institute survey was based on telephone interviews with 2,000 Canadians conducted between Sept. 6 and Sept. 30, 2022, with an accuracy within plus or minus 2.2 percentage points in 19 out of 20 samples.

Those who felt there is too much immigration thought it posed a threat to Canadian or Quebec culture, will drain the economy and welfare system, or take jobs away from other Canadians.

The Century Initiative’s third annual “score card,” looking at how Canada is doing in achieving growth and prosperity, said this month that “these types of perceptions highlight the importance of continuing to build the public case for the benefits of immigration” and expanding the housing supply as well as improving infrastructure such as roads and public services.

“While there was strong support for immigration among Canadians in 2022, this situation is critical to monitor and could evolve alongside economic and societal pressures,” it stressed.

Ms. Lalande said Canada’s immigration program is admired by other countries, and “we actually do a good job in integration.”

However, people in smaller communities may be feeling “demographic shifts in a more pronounced way” than other parts of Canada.

She says Canada has “reached the point of no return” when it comes to increasing the population, and immigration is a way to plug job shortages, including in health care and retail.

“We are too late to say let’s put a pause on growth so that we can address all these issues,” she said. “Our demographic realities are such that we are already feeling closures of hospital emergency rooms. There’s some pretty serious issues. And immigration is one way to address them.”

Among the obstacles is getting foreign credentials recognized more swiftly so skilled immigrants, including doctors, can practise in Canada. Strides have been made recently, including making it easier for engineers to work in Ontario.

The scorecard found Canadians’ fertility rate remained low and the COVID-19 pandemic had led to a drop in life expectancy. It also found housing costs have escalated, while investment in infrastructure has declined.

“Without planned and strategic investments in infrastructure, population growth will put a strain on Canada’s economy, quality of life and well-being,” it said.

But Ms. Lalande says it’s wrong to blame the growing number of immigrants for the shortage of affordable housing and the rising cost of living, claims which have crept into the public narrative in recent weeks during the debate on immigration in Quebec.

“It’s easier to scapegoat, point the finger at immigration when there are much more complex issues, “she says. “You need to have that big picture.”

“Even if we pulled back nationally on immigration, we’d still have significant housing shortages.”

Even so, existing support for more immigration in Canada is not “something that we can rely on.”

“We can’t take that for granted,” she said. “It’s a Canadian advantage and we must seize on that advantage.”

Source: Canada on track for 100 million immigrants but public support can’t be taken for granted: Century Initiative CEO

A No-Nonsense View of Birth Tourism

National Post picks up on this useful Alberta study:

Last week, Maclean’s magazine published an interesting little one-interview piece featuring Simrit Brar, an OB-GYN physician at Calgary’s Foothills Hospital. Author Liza Agrba had caught wind of an interesting and overlooked study, published in January 2022, on the contentious topic of “birth tourism” — i.e., pregnant foreigners who visit Canada for the purpose of having their babies be born with Canadian citizenship. Past attempts to count birth tourists required some statistical inference, but Dr. Brar led a groundbreaking local effort to enumerate them directly and learn whatever could be discovered about their health outcomes and their effects on Calgary hospital capacity. 

This opportunity was provided through what the economists might call a “natural experiment.” In July 2019, the Calgary health region, which was not quite sure how much birth tourism the region was actually seeing, created a “Central Triage” office designed to capture all prenatal referrals for uninsured maternity patients. 

As Brar et al. describe it, this administrative creature was instituted with a number of goals. It allowed hospitals to distinguish situationally uninsured patients — refugees, persons with expired visas and undocumented residents — from intentional tourists. It established a process for getting full consent from the uninsured, who might have had a nebulous legal status otherwise, and it allowed Alberta Health Services to impose some order on chaotic physician-service pricing. And patients placed in the “birth tourist” category were given pamphlets explaining, basically, “We don’t want you here, although we can’t chase you away,” and were required to hand over a refundable deposit of $15,000. 

The study describes the traffic experienced by this unique Central Triage (CT) system. Of 227 pregnant patients sent to CT without Canadian health insurance over a period of 15½ months, 102 were labelled tourists and 125 were uninsured residents. A few of the birth tourists were lost to follow-up for various reasons (a few went home or gave birth outside Calgary, perhaps as a way of evading the cash deposit), but 83 were treated in Calgary hospitals. About a quarter of the tourists were from Nigeria, 18 per cent were from the Middle East and 11 per cent were from China. 

Calgary has about 15,000 childbirths in a typical year, so those 83 patients represent an added burden on maternity services of about half a percentage point — all other things being equal. But the first thing to note is that the study period ran up to Nov. 1, 2020. About two-thirds of it thus coincided with the COVID pandemic, and doctors did observe a decline in tourism visits when world air travel basically shut down. 

Moreover, Calgary was the only place in Canada where birth tourists were, and are, being discouraged by means of a deposit. (Dr. Brar told Maclean’sshe is concerned that the Central Triage system may be diverting tourism patients to suburban and rural hospitals that are even more overmatched than the city’s.) 

Most of the birth tourists ended up using less than the $15,000 deposit and received refunds, but the study reveals that even in a city determined to address birth tourism consciously, it might create external problems. Birth tourists often arrive in Canada late in pregnancy, when air travel is risky, and some arrive with health problems from the Third World. One tourist was diagnosed with HIV in Calgary and three needed to have cervical cerclagesremoved. Since uninsured patients are on the meter while in an Alberta hospital, they may leave against medical advice. Nine birth-tourist babies required time in the neonatal intensive care unit, including a pair of twins who were in the NICU for 50 and 63 days at the worst conceivable time. 

The kicker is that collecting hospital fees from birth tourists can be tricky if the cost of their care goes over the deposit. During the 15½ months of the study, the tourists ran up about $700,000 in Alberta health bills that are still unpaid. Brar takes a surprisingly unsentimental view of the birth-tourism phenomenon in her Maclean’s interview, emphasizing the “finite” nature of Canadian health care and the affluent nature of the tourists. Her team’s paper suggests making the Central Triage setup province-wide, and perhaps it ought to be imitated even more widely.

Source: A No-Nonsense View of Birth Tourism

B.C. creates anti-racism data committee, releases research priorities

Reasonable research priorities:

The British Columbia government has released 12 priorities for anti-racism research in its first update since the Anti-Racism Data Act came into effect last June.

The province says the focus will be in areas such as racial diversity within the public service, interactions with the justice system and how health care and education differs for various demographic groups.

The act allows for the safe collection and use of personal information for the purposes of identifying and eliminating systemic racism, and requires the province to release statistics annually while establishing research priorities every two years.

Attorney General Niki Sharma says the priorities for 2023 to 2025 were identified by people of various racialized groups and will provide “a road map for how government can meaningfully improve services” for them.

The province has also released its first-year progress report outlining the work done under the act, including the creation of an 11-person anti-racism data committee appointed last September.

Mable Elmore, the parliamentary secretary for anti-racism initiatives, says the province will also develop “broader anti-racism legislation,” which is expected to be introduced next year.

“The work we’re doing not only outlines a path forward, but it illustrates our commitment to transparency and collaboration every step of the way as we work together to eliminate systemic racism,” she told a news conference Monday.

“The next step is to move us beyond identifying barriers and to hold governments accountable.”

June Francis, chair of the anti-racism data committee, said she welcomes updated legislation, but hopes the government begins taking action on anti-racism initiatives now.

“I think that there is no reason for all … governments to not take action. These 12 areas will model, will work hard, will focus, but all governments should be paying attention and starting their own process of anti-racism and decolonization,” she said.

“There’s no reason to pause. I hope this will model the change, and that this change will trigger and ripple across all of government.”

Research priorities identified by the anti-racism data committee include:

1. Racial diversity within the B.C. Public Service;

2. Interactions with the justice system and analysis of complaints model;

3. Health outcomes and understanding of how the system is performing for different demographic groups;

4. Understanding how students across demographic groups access and use education supports and their outcomes;

5. Children, youth and family wellness at home and away from home;

6. Economic inclusion;

7. Homelessness, housing supply and security.

Research priorities identified by Indigenous Peoples:

1. Health outcomes for Indigenous Peoples to understand experiences from an intersectional and holistic perspective;

2. Education outcomes for First Nations, Métis and Inuit students from kindergarten to Grade 12 to understand experiences, including their access to and use of available supports;

3. Social determinants of safety from a holistic lens and fill related data gaps;

4. Commitment to advance the collection and use of disaggregated demographic data;

5. Conduct research in a way that acknowledges, respects and upholds the rights of Indigenous groups.

Source: B.C. creates anti-racism data committee, releases research priorities

Ottawa is doing little to eliminate discrimination against French-speaking African students: More data and less rhetoric please

Unfortunately, we do not have enough transparency and data to assess whether this discrimination is evidence-based or not. And of course these arguments do not question the fundamental value and, in some cases, lack thereof, of the ongoing increases in international students and two-step immigration:

The fact that Immigration Canada discriminates against Black students from French-speaking Africa is something researchers and observers of Québec and Canadian politics have been documenting and denouncing for years. 

Once again this month, we learned from a study by the Institut du Québec (IDQ) that the federal government is refusing half of the applications for study permits to foreign students who were selected by Québec and accepted by a Québec university. This figure increases to 72 per cent for African students.

Denunciation of this discrimination, and of the federal government’s inaction on it, goes far beyond the circle of immigration experts. Leaders of French-language higher education institutions, political actors and civil society are now speaking out as well. 

As researchers in the fields of political sociology and the sociological and ethnological study of nationalisms and interethnic relations, we are interested in social transformations in Québec and Canada, as well as social representations of immigration. 

On a global scale, this discrimination sends a very bad message to Canada’s partners in the Organisation internationale de la francophonie. At the Canadian level, it has an impact on the vitality of institutions in francophone communities outside Québec

At the Québec level, it has an impact on the vitality of programs in regional colleges and universities. At the Montréal level, it also has an impact on the vitality of French language higher education institutions and, in particular, on the capacity of the Université du Québec to fulfill its social mission. 

Québec has done its homework

This situation was well known when the Liberal Party of Canada became a minority government in 2019. It was also known when the same government won again in 2021, still as a minority government. The data just published by the IDQ are indisputable: the situation continued in 2022. 

Although there have been modest improvements in some places, this has not reversed a stubborn and persistent underlying trend. The data show that despite warnings, denunciations and investigations by many journalists, Immigration Canada is still dragging its feet. 

The Québec government has not always been immune to criticism in this area. The immigration reform piloted in 2020 by Simon Jolin-Barrette drew criticism for a variety of reasons. One of these was a change to the Québec Experience Program that slowed, if not hindered access to citizenship for foreign students studying in Québec. 

Québec’s new immigration minister, Christine Fréchette, has been much more far-sighted, informed and pragmatic. Her promise to reorient the Québec government’s immigration policy is in tune with the higher education community. These circles have long recognized the importance of offering a fast track to citizenship for students who have gotten work experience through their studies, internships and the networks they developed in Québec. 

Immigration Canada’s inaction is incomprehensible

This shift by Québec’s Minister of Immigration, Francization and Integration is in line with the informed opinions of Quebec’s higher education institutions. It also brings hope to Montréal’s French-language higher education community, which has been complaining for several years that it is not competing on a level playing field with English-language institutions of higher learning. 

The latter operate in a completely different market than French-language universities. Since the removal of the ceiling on fees for foreign students, English-language higher education institutions have been earning significantly more revenue than French-language institutions. Many actors in the education sector have denounced how this systemic inequality reduces the attractiveness of French-language institutions, and in particular, the ability of the Université du Québec network to fulfill its mission of academic and social integration. 

Faced with this major change in direction by the Québec government, the inaction of Immigration Canada is all the more incomprehensible. 

After Sean Fraser blamed his department’s discriminatory practices on algorithmic errorssubcontracted the work of its officials to the McKinsey firm, acknowledged a problem of systemic discrimination within its own organization and promised to address this problem, the 2022 figures from his department show the same misfires and the same discriminatory practices as in previous years. 

In an embarrassing moment, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister was asked to defend his record. The slight increase in acceptances that she mentioned does not meet the legitimate expectations of students whose applications have been accepted by a Québec institution. 

Minister Fraser no longer has the legitimacy required

Ottawa must draw conclusions from this new data. If the Trudeau government were not championing the fight against systemic racism in every forum, it might be possible to overlook this lack of credibility on the part of its minister. But at this point, federal Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Fraser no longer has the legitimacy to retain this file.

The failure of the Liberal Party to act on such an important issue for Québec and Canada’s francophone communities is regrettable. It casts a shadow over the important success of the update of the Official Languages Act, the passage of which was rightly celebrated by both federal and Québec governments. 

If we want to celebrate the new version of the Official Languages Act, we must be consistent and provide access to French-language higher education institutions to all students who want to contribute to the vibrancy of Canada’s francophone communities. 

We should be pleased that the Québec government got this message. It is more than regrettable that it is taking so long for Ottawa to understand it.

Source: Ottawa is doing little to eliminate discrimination against French-speaking African students

IYMI: La diversité mise au ban de la magistrature québécoise 

Contrast between federal and provincial appointments of note:

Depuis l’arrivée de la Coalition avenir Québec au pouvoir en 2018, trois juges issus de « communautés culturelles » ont été nommés à la Cour du Québec sur un total de 63 nominations, révèle une compilation du Devoir. Même si ces données montrent une tendance légèrement à la baisse, le cabinet du ministre de la Justice se dit « très sensible à cette préoccupation ».

Quatre membres des communautés culturelles ont accédé à la fonction de juge en 2016-2017, la première année pour laquelle des données étaient disponibles. Mais depuis, leur nombre a chuté : il a atteint, au maximum, le chiffre de deux en 2020-2021. En 2019-2020 et 2021-2022, aucun juge issu de la diversité ne figurait parmi les 23 nominations à la Cour du Québec.

Au total, depuis l’élection du gouvernement Legault en octobre 2018, moins de 5 % des nominations du ministre de la Justice ont permis à des membres des communautés culturelles d’accéder aux plus hautes fonctions de la Cour du Québec.

Il est difficile, cependant, « d’établir avec certitude le nombre de juges ou candidats issus de la diversité », souligne le cabinet du ministre de la Justice, Simon Jolin-Barrette. Comme le relève également Martine L. Tremblay, juge en chef adjointe de la Cour du Québec (chambre civile), l’appartenance à ces communautés fait l’objet d’autodéclaration. « Par conséquent, ces données ne peuvent être considérées comme entièrement fiables », fait valoir le cabinet.

La juge Tremblay se questionne aussi sur la notion de communauté culturelle, soit l’attribut de la case à sélectionner lors des candidatures. « Est-ce que ce sont les immigrants de première génération, est-ce que ce sont les Juifs, est-ce que ce sont les anglophones ? La juge Peggy Corbel Warolin, en Abitibi, est très fière de dire qu’elle est Belge et la juge Hermina Popescu, dans l’Est-du-Québec, est très fière de dire qu’elle est d’origine roumaine. Et quand vous parlez à la juge Popescu, l’accent est notoire », explique la magistrate lors d’un entretien téléphonique avec Le Devoir.

Cette définition fait aussi débat au sein même des comités de sélection. « J’ai eu une situation où la personne était une immigrante caucasienne et réclamait le statut de communauté culturelle », relate-t-elle. « La personne du comité de sélection, elle-même issue d’une communauté culturelle, disait : “Voyons donc ! Elle ne peut pas être victime de discrimination” ».

Selon le décompte de la juge Tremblay, 33 des 289 juges en poste à la Cour du Québec représentent la « diversité culturelle ». Cette diversité « n’est peut-être pas noire, n’est peut-être pas racialisée, mais 33 juges sur 289, ce n’est quand même pas rien », souligne-t-elle. Selon elle, la magistrature doit refléter la société. « Mais quand on est juge, on doit être impartial et neutre. »

Un « déficit »

Les candidats à la fonction de juge à la Cour du Québec sont d’abord identifiés par un comité de sélection, qui fournit ensuite trois noms au ministre de la Justice afin que celui-ci recommande un candidat au conseil des ministres.

Cette procédure est inscrite dans le règlement sur la sélection des candidats au poste de juge, en révision à Québec. Celui-ci prévoit que les membres des comités de sélection reçoivent des formations pour être « sensibilisés à l’objectif de favoriser la parité […] ainsi que la représentation des communautés culturelles au sein de la magistrature ».

« [Mais] on est d’accord là, ce n’est pas d’un Noir dont vous avez besoin, c’est d’un juge, soutient la juge Tremblay. Par contre, à qualité égale, on doit être sensible à la nécessité d’avoir des avocats noirs, innus ou asiatiques » parmi les juges sélectionnés.

De l’avis du juge suppléant Daniel Dortélus, le règlement ne prévoit tout de même pas de « disposition concrète pour faire une place à la diversité » chez les juges.

En mars 2022, le magistrat — qui est Noir — avait transmis une lettre au ministre de la Justice afin qu’il comble le « déficit » en matière de diversité à la magistrature. Il y déplorait qu’après des décennies de représentations, l’enjeu « demeure toujours d’actualité en 2022 ».

En 2020, par exemple, il écrivait aux juges en chef de la Cour du Québec souhaiter que « le vent d’ouverture » dont témoignait la nomination de huit femmes par Ottawa à la magistrature de l’Ontario, dont plusieurs minorités visibles, « atteigne le Québec ».

Selon les données compilées par Le Devoir, les nominations de personnes issues des communautés culturelles sont généralement plus nombreuses au fédéral. Par exemple, l’an dernier, plus du cinquième des juges nommés aux cours supérieures (13 des 58 nominations) s’auto-identifiaient comme « minorités visibles ».

Le gouvernement de Justin Trudeau a par ailleurs nommé deux juges issus de la diversité à la Cour suprême, soit le premier juge non blanc, Mahmud Jamal, en 2021 et la première juge autochtone, Michelle O’Bonsawin, l’été dernier.

Dans un échange de courriels avec Le Devoir, le juge Dortélus propose que le règlement sur la sélection des candidats au poste de juge à la Cour du Québec soit modifié pour « qu’un ou les deux membres représentant le public [dans le comité de sélection] soient issus des groupes minoritaires et racisés, qui demeurent sous-représentés à la limite de l’exclusion en 2023 ».

Il ajoute que sans la diversification des comités, « le cercle vicieux d’exclusion des avocates et avocats issus des groupes minoritaires va continuer, en dépit des principes du droit à l’égalité ».

Un problème partagé

Selon la juge Tremblay, le manque de diversité au sein de la magistrature est le reflet de celui des universités et du Barreau. « Il faudrait d’abord qu’ils fassent des études de droit, c’est là qu’est le nerf de la guerre. Après, il faudrait qu’ils restent au sein de la profession pendant au moins dix ans », dit-elle.

Dix pour cent des membres du Barreau du Québec étaient Autochtones ou identifiés à un « groupe ethnoculturel » en 2020-2021. Le Barreau-mètre 2022, qui dresse le portrait de la profession en statistiques, souligne que la proportion d’avocats qui s’auto-identifient à un groupe minoritaire (y compris les minorités sexuelles et en situation de handicap) est passée de 8 % en 2014-2015 à 13 % en 2020-2021.

Or l’attachée de presse du ministre Jolin-Barrette, Élisabeth Gosselin, souligne que « peu d’avocats issus de la diversité soumettent leur candidature à la magistrature ». Le Barreau de Montréal a d’ailleurs mis sur pied un comité pour se pencher sur les questions de manque de diversité. « Nous suivons ces travaux de près », assure Mme Gosselin.

Source: La diversité mise au ban de la magistrature québécoise

ICYMI ‘Game changer’: Ontario engineers remove Canadian work experience requirement for immigrants


Internationally trained engineers will no longer be required to have Canadian experience to be licensed in Ontario, as the province adopts a new law that’s meant to remove the barriers keeping skilled immigrants from working in their former professions.

On Tuesday, Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO), which represents the fourth largest regulated profession in the province with 85,649 members, becomes the first professional regulatory body to remove the requirement from their application criteria.

“By no longer requiring proof of Canadian experience when applying for an engineering licence, PEO will effectively ensure that qualified international applicants are licensed fairly and without undue delay so they can actively work as engineers,” said Jennifer Quaglietta, the regulator’s CEO registrar.

“Our new application process for professional engineering licences is efficient, transparent and fair, and will provide most applicants with a registration decision within six months of submitting a completed application.”

The lack of Canadian work experience has been cited as a key barrier to earning professional designations in Canada by skilled immigrants in returning to their fields of training. In 2021, amid a labour shortage during the pandemic, the Ontario government introduced new regulations to force some professional regulators to drop Canadian work-experience requirements from their licensing criteria — and to speed up processing times.

“This is, quite frankly, a game-changer for newcomers coming here, but also for businesses who are struggling with a huge labour shortage,” said Labour Minister Monte McNaughton, whose ministry also oversees training, skills development and immigration.

“Only a quarter of internationally trained immigrants in our province are working in the professions they studied for. This is an injustice to these workers, and it doesn’t take a math major to figure out the current numbers don’t add up.” He said roughly 300,000 jobs continue to go unfilled across the province every day, including thousands in engineering and it costs billions in lost productivity.

The amended Fair Access to Regulated Professions and Compulsory Trades Act covers 36 non-health-related professions and trades, ranging from architecture to teaching, social work, plumbing, electricians’ work, autobody repair and hairstyling.

McNaughton said the regulatory bodies have until Dec. 2 to remove the Canadian work experience requirement, unless an exemption is granted for public health and safety reasons. Regulators will be fined up to $100,000 for non-compliance.

“We’re not going to have any regulatory body stand in our way. We want to help lift immigrants up so they can earn more money for themselves and their families and also fill labour shortages and grow our economy,” he told the Star in an interview. “There’s going to be a zero tolerance.”

Despite the removal of the Canadian experience requirement, licensing applicants to the engineering profession are still subject to a rigorous process that covers their knowledge and competencies in technical communication, project management and professional accountability. Candidates are still required to have 48-months of professional experience in engineering and pass a national professional practice exam that includes ethics, professional practice, engineering, law and professional liability.

“This multi-faceted process will continue to ensure that all professional engineers meet rigorous qualifications for licences and that only properly qualified individuals practise engineering,” said Quaglietta, adding that up to 60 per cent of the engineering licence applications each year are from internationally trained engineers.

Source: ‘Game changer’: Ontario engineers remove Canadian work experience requirement for immigrants

ICYMI: British voters want more immigrants but less immigration

From the Economist (many countries and issues have similar contradictions):

The biggest lie in British politics is that voters want honest debate. Whenever a policy problem emerges, sensible types call for the trade-offs to be laid out before an informed voting public who will carefully weigh the options. Anyone who has sat through a focus group or gone canvassing with a politician knows this is nonsense. When faced with an either/or question, British voters usually give a decisive answer: “yes”. Listen to this story.

Nowhere is this more true than immigration. A majority of voters think migration is too high, according to most polls. Almost nine out of ten Conservative voters think this; a plurality of Labour voters agree. At the same time, British voters say they want more nurses, doctors and fruit-pickers. Carers, academics, computer whizzes and students are welcome, too. Big-hearted Britons thought the country was completely right to let swathes of refugees from Ukraine and Hong Kong into the country. Britons may not much like immigration, but they are keen on immigrants. 

If so, then the Tories have come up with an impeccably botched policy response. A Conservative government that has pledged to cut immigration at the past four elections has instead overseen an increase to a record level. Net migration hit 606,000 in Britain last year, according to figures published on May 25th, as people took advantage of a more liberal post-Brexit immigration regime. The British government has thrown open the country’s doors while complaining about the people who walk through them. It is utterly incoherent. But when it comes to immigration, so are voters. 

Public opinion on immigration was not always so confused. Attitudes used to move in lockstep with numbers. In the 1940s and 1950s Britain accepted workers from across the Commonwealth, who could enter the country as they pleased. By the 1960s eight out of ten people wanted lower immigration; hard-nosed and rather racist legislation followed. Likewise, when immigration increased during the 1990s and 2000s, so did concern. This trend reached its apex in 2016, when, with just a month to go until the Brexit referendum, the government announced a then-record net influx of 330,000 people. Britain voted to leave the eu, with immigration cited as one of the main reasons. 

This tidy relationship has broken down. Immigration has increased sharply since the Brexit vote but concern about it has, if anything, gone down in the past decade. In 2012 a quarter of voters thought immigrants boosted Britain’s economy; half thought immigrants harmed it, according to British Future, a think-tank. Now those proportions have reversed. The number of people who cite immigration as the number-one problem facing the country has plunged, while issues such as lousy health care and high inflation top the worry-list. 

Attacking immigration was once an easy win for politicians. In 2015 almost 70% of voters wanted immigration reduced. Now, only 42% do. At the same time, a hard-core minority of people now want migration to increase. In 2015 only one in ten wanted this. Now about a quarter do. James Dennison and Alexander Kustov, a pair of academics, label this phenomenon a “reverse backlash”. Politicians have tried to placate voters tempted by anti-immigrant populist parties and ignored others in the process. Once-silent liberal voters have started demanding to be heard. (Intriguingly, about half of people think the British public has become less tolerant overall, even though most polling points to the opposite; when discussing immigration, Britons think in irregular verbs: “I am tolerant; you are prejudiced; he is a complete bigot.”)

Conservatives are split on how to deal with this change. For some, the increasingly liberal views of British voters when it comes to immigration should be seized on. Dominic Cummings, the architect of the Vote Leave campaign in 2016, argued that voters would be happy with high levels of immigration as long as it was controlled. Judging by the positive shift in attitudes on immigrants, he was right. If the government can stop people crossing the English Channel in small boats (some 45,000 arrived last year in this manner) voters will not care about the larger numbers of migrants arriving through official channels. There are few benefits of Brexit. But Britain’s immigration policy could be one. 

For other Conservative advisers—including those currently in Downing Street—immigration simply must come down if the government is to have any chance of surviving. In their view, the liberal turn is a mirage. When voters eventually notice that immigration has, in fact, hit an all-time high they will be furious. People have mistaken a drop in salience with an increase in liberalism. This hypothesis is about to be tested in real life: if voters want control rather than reductions, what if more than half a million arrive every year? Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, thinks he knows the answer to that question, and has pledged to reduce the numbers. 

Welcome. Now get out

Taking numbers down a little is easy. Unless another war breaks out in Europe, there will be fewer refugees next year. Bringing them down a lot is harder. If the British government wants fewer people to come, it can change the law and suffer the consequences. Suella Braverman, the home secretary, has already tightened rules on the number of international students who can bring dependents, even though voters are broadly comfortable with people coming to Britain to study and universities rely on their fees. The government could crack down on fruit-pickers, but farmers in Lincolnshire would scream. Few voters would thank a government that turns away nurses. Cutting immigration comes at a cost that voters show no willingness to pay. 

Rolling out the welcome mat and then shouting at anyone who wipes their feet on it may be an imperfect approach. But from the government’s point of view, it will have to do. Voters do not want to live with the consequences of their opinions. When voters are hypocrites, politicians must be too. 

Source: British voters want more immigrants but less immigration

Shielding Israel from criticism is not part of US strategy for combating anti-Semitism

Of note (on the IHRA and other definitions):

Supporters of Israel advocating for the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism have suffered a major blow in their ongoing effort to shield the apartheid state from criticism, following the release of a strategy document by the White House detailing its plan to combat the rise of anti-Jewish racism. Since at least 2016, anti-Palestinian groups have been clamouring to place the IHRA at the heart and centre of regulatory frameworks, which critics say is designed to police free speech on Israel and Palestine.

Yesterday, the US President Joe Biden had his say on the issue and the outcome is far from what advocates of the IHRA had been calling for. Instead of adopting the IHRA as the only definition of anti-Semitism, which hundreds of pro-Israel groups had been advocating for during consultation, its status has been demoted as one of the definitions of anti-Jewish racism alongside others that “serve as valuable tools to raise awareness and increase understanding of anti-Semitism.”

The White House’s strategy for combatting anti-Semitism refers to IHRA as “most prominent” but also “non-legally binding working definition” alongside other definitions it “welcomes and appreciates”. The US Administration also cites the non-controversial “Nexus Document” as a valid definition of anti-Semitism. Unlike the IHRA, the Nexus Document does not conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Interestingly, the IHRA is only mentioned once in the report, alongside other less controversial definitions of anti-Semitism, that do not mention Israel.

Noticeably, the White House did offer its own definition of anti-Semitism: “Anti-Semitism is a stereotypical and negative perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred of Jews” said the strategy document, without mentioning Israel once. “It is prejudice, bias, hostility, discrimination or violence against Jews for being Jews or Jewish institutions or property for being Jewish or perceived as Jewish. Anti-Semitism can manifest as a form of racial, religious, national origin, and/or ethnic discrimination, bias, or hatred; or, a combination thereof. However, anti-Semitism is not simply a form of prejudice or hate. It is also a pernicious conspiracy theory that often features myths about Jewish power and control.”

To the disappointed of pro-Israel groups, the White House’s definition does not mention the apartheid state once. Seven of the eleven examples of anti-Semitism in the IHRA conflate criticism of Israel with ant-Jewish racism. Because of this fact, opponents of the IHRA have warned that instead of focusing on how to keep Jews safe, the so called “working definition” is fixated on shielding Israel from accountability. The Biden administration seems to be implicitly sympathetic to this view. With no mention of Israel in the White House’s own definition of anti-Semitism, there is no other way to interpret the position of the Biden administration other than to view it as a snub to advocates of the IHRA. Having campaigned hard and long to make sure that the IHRA was at the heart and centre of the White House’s strategy to combat anti-Semitism, it was mentioned once and only in passing.

The Biden administration’s strategy represents “the most comprehensive and ambitious US government effort to counter anti-Semitism in American history”. To develop this strategy, the White House held listening sessions with more than 1,000 diverse stakeholders across the Jewish community and beyond. These sessions have included Jews from diverse backgrounds and all denominations. The White House also met with Special Envoys who combat anti-Semitism around the globe to learn from their best practices. Bipartisan leaders in Congress and from across civil society, the private sector, technology companies, civil rights leaders, Muslim, Christian and other faith groups, students and educators and countless others were engaged during “listening sessions”.

A bitter row had ensued during the consultation period over the status of the IHRA. Though there is said to have existed a broad consensus that anti-Semitism in America is a crucial problem and must be addressed, some Jewish organisations tried to undermine this effort, according to Hadar Susskind, the President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now. By insisting on the prioritisation of the IHRA above all other issues, Susskind claimed that a number of American Jewish organisations had prioritised shielding Israel from criticism over combatting anti-Semitism.

“Rather than support this far-reaching  plan to truly combat anti-Semitism, there are those in our community who, instead, insist that this plan should be about the IHRA definition, and only the IHRA definition,” said Susskind on twitter, while revealing details of the polarisation in the Jewish community over the IHRA. “Why are some insisting that the IHRA definition is so unique that it alone is worthy of inclusion in this effort?” Susskind asked. “Why do those same people insist that the Nexus definition and the Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism are so unacceptable as tools to combat anti-Semitism?”

Explaining the difference, Susskind said that “the IHRA definition and only the IHRA definition has been weaponised by the Israeli government and those who defend its worst policies and actions”. He mentioned how the IHRA definition has been used repeatedly to define anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism and “honed into a weapon to shut down criticism of Israeli policy and discourse on Israel-Palestine.”

J Street, another liberal pro-Israel advocacy group, which had urged the Biden administration not to incorporate the IHRA in its strategy, also welcomed the report. “Importantly, the strategy avoids exclusively codifying any one specific, sweeping definition of anti-Semitism as the sole standard for use in enforcing domestic law and policy, recognising that such an approach could do more harm than good” said J Street. “While some voices have pushed the White House to give the full force of US law to the IHRA Working Definition of Anti-Semitism and its accompanying examples, the Biden Administration rightly cites this definition as just one of a range of illustrative and useful tools in understanding and combating anti-Semitism.”

J Street went on to add that it was supported by many other advocates in the Jewish community – including the definition’s original author, Kenneth Stern – in warning that the IHRA and examples of anti-Jewish racism cited in the definition have been used to focus attention disproportionately on criticism of Israel and advocacy of Palestinian rights.

In refusing to endorse the IHRA as the only definition of anti-Semitism, President Biden has shown that a genuine effort to combat the rise of anti-Jewish racism cannot have a document shielding Israel from accountability at the heart and centre of its strategy.

Source: Shielding Israel from criticism is not part of US strategy for combating anti-Semitism

German Plan Would Ease Path to Citizenship, but Not Without a Fight

Of note and encouraging government is moving ahead:

Young, educated and motivated, José Leonardo Cabrera Barroso is just the kind of immigrant the government says Germany needs.

Originally from Venezuela, he settled into Germany, learned the language and got his German medical license. At 34, he is specializing as a trauma surgeon, working at a hospital in the northern port city of Hamburg. It took him a full six years — and because of his expertise, he was allowed to apply for citizenship sooner than the eight years required for most others.

“For me, this date was a must,” he said at the champagne reception in Hamburg after his citizenship ceremony in February. “After all the work I did to get here, I finally feel like I can celebrate.”

But if his path to becoming a German citizen was not easy, neither has been the effort to simplify that process for others who want to realize the same dream.

After months of political wrangling, the government presented a plan this month to make it easier and faster for employed immigrants to become citizens, shortening the time, for people with special skills like Dr. Cabrera Barroso, to as little as three years.

The changes, supporters argue, are urgently needed to offset an aging population and a dearth of both skilled and unskilled workers. Given the majority that Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-party coalition government holds in Parliament, the new law is expected to pass this summer.

But before then, even within the government — and certainly for its conservative opponents — the proposals have set off a wrenching debate over a fundamental question: Is Germany a country of immigrants?

On the ground, the answer is clear. Germany is more populous than ever — an additional 1.1 million people lived in the country, now of 84.3 million people, at the end of 2022 — thanks to migration.

One in four Germans have had at least one of their grandparents born abroad. More than 18 percent of people living in Germany were not born there.

In Frankfurt and a few other major cities, residents with a migration history are the majority. People with non-German sounding names run cities, universities and hospitals. The German couple that invented the Pfizer Covid vaccine have Turkish roots. Cem Ozdemir, a German-born Green politician whose parents came from Turkey, is one of the current government’s most popular minsters. Two of the three governing parties are run by men born in Iran.

Many of those changes have only accelerated since reunification 33 years ago, but many Germans still do not recognize the diversification of their country.

“The opposition does not want to accept or admit that we are a nation of immigrants; they basically want to hide from reality,” said Bijan Djir-Sarai, who came to Germany from Iran when he was 11 and is now the secretary general of the Free Democratic Party, which is part of the governing coalition.

The changes to the citizenship law are part of wider set of proposals that will also make it easier for skilled workers to settle in Germany and for well-integrated immigrants to stay.

Besides reducing the time an immigrant must live in the country to apply, the plan will allow people to keep their original citizenship and make language requirements less onerous for older immigrants.

The proposals are the most sweeping since 1999, when, for the first time in modern German history, people who were not born to German parents could get German citizenship under certain conditions.

Before then, it was virtually impossible to become German without proving German ancestry, a situation that was especially fraught for the nearly one million Turkish citizens who started coming to Germany in the 1960s to help rebuild the economy as “guest workers” and their descendants.

Since the government announced its plans in November, the conservative opposition has staunchly resisted easing citizenship requirements, criticizing them as giving away the rights accorded German citizens too easily to people who are not integrated enough.

Those arguments have resonated with some Germans at a moment when migration remains a fixation of the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party, which has risen in polls, pulling the mainstream opposition Christian Democrats farther right with it.

“Hocking citizenship does not promote integration, but has the opposite effect and will have a knock-on effect on illegal migration,” Alexander Dobrindt, the parliamentary leader of the Bavarian Christian Social Union, told the mass-market tabloid Bild.

Not all of those who have already gone through the longer, arduous process, agree with lightening the requirements, either.

“I think you have to make sure it’s not given away too easily,” said Mohammed Basheer, 34, who came to Germany from Syria eight years ago and was among the roughly 200 immigrants who received their citizenship this year at the ornate Renaissance-revival City Hall of Hamburg. “I had to fight really hard for it.”

Over the months of negotiations, the smallest and most conservative of the parties in the governing coalition fought for changes to make sure applicants are self-sufficient and — apart from few exceptions — did not rely on social security payments.

“If we want society to accept immigration reform, we also have to talk about things like control, regulation and, if need be, repatriation,” Mr. Djir-Sarai said, acknowledging the opposition’s concerns. “It is simply part of it.”

Still, surveys show that more than two-thirds of Germans believe that changes making immigration easier are needed to alleviate rampant skilled-worker shortages, according to a recent poll. Industry; employers, like the German association of small and medium-size enterprises; and economists welcome the changes, seeing them as a way to attract skilled workers.

Petra Bendel, who researches migration and integration at the Friedrich-Alexander-University in Erlangen-Nurnberg, thinks that in addition to attracting new workers, the changes are crucial for integrating those immigrants already living in Germany.

“The problem is that we exclude a very large number of people who have long been part of us, but who still do not have full citizenship and are therefore also excluded from full political participation,” she said.

Although it naturalized the fifth largest number of people in the European Union in 2020, the most recent year for which such numbers are available, Germany ranks comparatively poorly in naturalizing permanent residents: 19th out of 27 E.U. member states, one spot lower than Hungary.

“Other European countries,” Professor Bendel noted, “naturalize much faster, namely mostly after five years and not after eight years, and that is why we ended up in the bottom third.”

In the coming weeks, the bill will be presented to Germany’s 16 states for comment before returning to the cabinet for approval. The government hopes to get it to Parliament for discussion and a vote before lawmakers break for the summer in early July, though the vote could be delayed until they meet again in September.

For some, like Bonnie Cheng, 28, a portrait photographer in Berlin, the changes are welcome, if too late. She had to give up her Hong Kong citizenship status when she became German last year.

Ms. Cheng is happy that others will not have to face the same choice. If she ever had any doubts about becoming German, she said, it was when she realized she would be the only one in her family with a different citizenship.

“If you want make people to feel integrated,” she said, “you should not tear apart their identities.”

Source: German Plan Would Ease Path to Citizenship, but Not Without a Fight