Citizenship Modernization Case Study

This deck looks at the Canadian citizenship program and the need for modernization in the context of Budget 2021’s allocation of funding to upgrade IRCC’s IT infrastructure. It contrast the current citizenship process with a streamlined process that makes it easier for applicants and more efficient for the government. This was presented at a modernization discussion organized by the Public Policy Forum.

South Korea citizenship law change proposal sparks anti-China backlash

Of note:

South Korea is trying to increase its future working population by making it easier for children of foreign residents to become citizens, but its plans have run into trouble in the face of rising anti-China sentiment.

A measure proposed by the Ministry of Justice — first made public in April — called for easing the pathway to citizenship for children born to long-term foreign residents, by simply notifying the ministry.
But a presidential petition opposing the revision has gathered over 300,000 signatures. The chatroom of an online hearing held to discuss the proposal in May was overwhelmed with expletive-laced complaints by tens of thousands of viewers.
The justice ministry has said it is still taking into account public opinion and the advice of experts before submitting the proposal to the Ministry of Government Legislation.
“Given the strong backlash, I would say the ministry has already lost much of the momentum to push ahead with the proposal,” said Jang Yun-mi, an attorney who specializes in issues related to children.
The controversy highlights the challenges South Korea faces as it seeks to ensure a robust future population in the face of declining birthrates and rapidly aging workers, and the potential policy implications of increasingly negative views of China, its biggest trading partner.
Data from last year suggests only about 3,930 people would be eligible under the rule change, but the fact that 3,725 of them were of Chinese heritage prompted much of the criticism.
South Korean views have been colored by what some see as economic bullying by Beijing, its initial poor handling of the Covid-19 crisis, and the assertion by some Chinese that dearly held aspects of Korean food and culture, such as kimchi and the traditional hanbok dress, have roots in China.
Among immigrant communities, the proposed measures are not seen as worth the backlash, said Kim Yong-phil, editor-in-chief of E Korea World, a local newspaper for Chinese-Koreans.
“Anti-Chinese people could use this issue as a pretext to attack Chinese-Koreans,” he said.

Population decline

Naturalization was rare in South Korea until the early 2000s — just 33 foreigners gained South Korean citizenship in 2000, for example — but rose to nearly 14,000 last year, immigration data show.
Of them, nearly 58% were from China, and 30% from Vietnam. The rest included people from Mongolia, Uzbekistan and Japan, Korea Immigration Service data showed.
The latest proposal is needed to encourage future workers to stay by allowing them to foster a South Korean identity from an early age and stably get assimilated into society, the justice ministry told Reuters in a statement.
Kim Yong-seon, who came from China in 2004 to study and was naturalized in 2014, said the amendment is useful as it provides more options for immigrants, but the more pressing matter is making it easier for adults to become citizens.
“Over the past few years, the requirements for permanent residency and citizenship have only gotten harder,” he said, citing changes that require high amounts of income or assets.
Like the majority of Chinese nationals residing in South Korea, Kim is ethnic Korean — his grandfather migrated to China a century ago.
More than 70% of the 865,000 Chinese nationals residing in South Korea are of Korean descent, according to immigration data.
Negative views of China among South Koreans have hit historic highs recently, with as much as 75% having an unfavorable opinion of them late last year, compared to around 37% in 2015, according to Pew Research.
“Some Chinese people are already committing a ‘cultural fraud’ against the whole world by making unreasonable claims that kimchi and hanbok are also Chinese,” opposition People’s Party chairman Ahn Cheol-soo said.
“If left as is, it will lead to a ‘cultural invasion’ in which they claim that even Korea’s priceless culture is theirs.”

Source: South Korea citizenship law change proposal sparks anti-China backlash

‘It’s about time’ to update citizenship guide, Assembly of First Nations Alberta chief says

Of note:

Assembly of First Nations Alberta regional chief Marlene Poitras hopes newcomers to Canada will learn more about Indigenous history and culture once the federal government updates its citizenship guide.

The 68-page document, Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship, prepares newcomers for the citizenship test. It has not been updated since 2012.

In its 93rd call to action, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for revising the guide and citizenship test to “reflect a more inclusive history,” including material about treaties and residential schools.

Residential schools are mentioned briefly in the current guide.

“The schools were poorly funded and inflicted hardship on the students; some were physically abused,” one sentence reads.

The Liberal government promised in 2016 that changes to the guide were coming but they have not yet materialized.

“It’s about time — it should have happened a long time ago,” Poitras said Wednesday in an interview with CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active.

Beyond consultations for the guide itself, Poitras said she has recommended that elders participate in the ceremonies for new citizens.

“We have been hard at work over the past few years crafting a new citizenship guide that reflects contemporary Canada,” said Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesperson Nancy Caron in an emailed statement.

Caron said the process has included “extensive collaboration ” with leaders of Indigenous organizations as well as historians, academics, parliamentarians and groups representing racialized communities, women, francophones, the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities.

The ministry hopes to share the new guide with Canadians later this year, Caron said.

“From what I understand, from talking to some people who know this better than I do, the new guide will have more extensive coverage of Indigenous history,” said Andrew Griffith, former director general of citizenship and multiculturalism for the IRCC.

On Thursday, the Senate passed Bill C-8, which would revise the citizenship oath newcomers take to include mention of treaties with Indigenous peoples.

“While getting the oath changed is really important, it will really be important to see how the next version of the guide — which apparently is fairly advanced — captures these issues,” Griffith said.

Source: ‘It’s about time’ to update citizenship guide, Assembly of First Nations Alberta chief says

Probe: Cyprus wrongly issued passports despite warnings

No surprise. Like the vast majority of these programs, vulnerable to corruption, both in terms of those applying and administering:

The Cyprus government continued for at least four years to unlawfully issue passports to relatives of wealthy investors under an investment-for-citizenship program, despite warnings by the Attorney-General that this could be in breach of the law, the head of an independent commission said on Monday.

Former Supreme Court President Myron Nicolatos said that, of the 6,779 passports issued during the program’s 13-year run, 53% were issued not to the investors themselves but to family members or top company executives.

The Attorney-General’s Office had warned on separate occasions in 2015 and 2016 that the practice might be unlawful because there was no specific law enabling the government to issue such passports.

Of the remainder that were granted to investors, one-third failed to meet all the criteria, Nicolatos said. He was speaking after handing the final, 780-page report of an investigation into the multibillion-euro program to Attorney General George Savvides,

He said 8% didn’t meet the primary condition of investing around 2.5 million euros ($3 billion) into the Cypriot economy, while another 12% failed to meet the bar on owning a permanent residence in Cyprus.

Nicolatos said the four-member commission is recommending that authorities look into revoking citizenship in 85 cases in which the applicants may have committed criminal or other offenses to secure a passport.

He said that revoking the citizenship of investors’ relatives and company executives who weren’t directly at fault could prove “particularly complicated” because of legal clauses enshrined in Cypriot and European Union law.

“It’s obvious that the (program) operated between 2007 and Aug. 17, 2020, with blanks and omissions, without a legal framework and almost without a regulatory framework,” Nicolatos said.

“Also absent were those safety valves, the proper legal guidance as well as adequate supervision regarding existing laws and regulations.”

The program was scrapped last year amid much controversy over an undercover TV report that allegedly showed the parliamentary speaker and a powerful lawmaker claiming that they could skirt the rules to grant citizenships.

They had made the pledge to a reporter posing as a representative of a fictitious Chinese investor who had been convicted of fraud in his country. Both resigned shortly after the report was aired.

The golden passport program ran for 13 years but was ramped up in 2013 following the financial crisis. It generated more than 8 billion euros (almost $10 billion) for the east Mediterranean island nation and proved particularly attractive to foreign investors because obtaining an EU passport allowed them access to the 27-member bloc.

The EU had also taken Cyprus to task over the scheme.

Nicolatos also faulted some lawyers, accountants, banks, real estate brokers and developers who he said “didn’t sufficiently live up to their legal or other obligations” through the application process, while in some instances, supervisory authorities failed to do their job properly.

Politicians and officials may bear “political” responsibility for the debacle and some could face disciplinary action.

Although the program spanned the tenure of three different presidents, the overwhelming majority of citizenships were granted during seven years during which the sitting president, Nicos Anastasiades, held the office.

He called on law enforcement authorities to prosecute alleged law breakers and to mete out punishment to the degree of an individual’s responsibility.

Attorney General Savvides said authorities would examine revoking citizenships, take lawbreakers to court and take disciplinary action in those instances that the report recommends.

In the first such legal action, his office last month took five individuals and four legal entities to court to face 37 charges in connection with the commission’s findings.

A redacted version of the final report — so as not to compromise ongoing legal actions — will be made public in due course, Savvides said.

An interim report released in March also pointed to serious shortcomings in how the Interior Ministry processed applications, including the “complete lack” of a database to properly vet applicants. It said the Finance Ministry was also at fault for “green lighting” certain applications that didn’t fulfil all the criteria due to the size of the investment.

Source: Probe: Cyprus wrongly issued passports despite warnings

Canadian citizenship oath could help newcomers learn more about Indigenous people

Suspect the forthcoming guide along with news coverage will be more significant but nevertheless, important:

Sharon Nyangweso says she first heard of Indigenous people in Canada when she was eight years old. Her family had just moved to Canada for her mother’s job at the Kenya High Commission in Ottawa. At one of the gatherings, a guest approached her mom upon learning they just arrived in the city.

What happened next stuck with Nyangweso.

The person told her mom to avoid Rideau Street because Indigenous people were there and “they were always drunk.” This memory unsettles her to this day, because the comment came not from a naturalized Canadian but from someone in her own circle.

“That came from another immigrant,” she said in a telephone interview Thursday. “Not just another immigrant but one that had intimate knowledge of what it meant to be part of a colonized nation.”

Nyangweso said there’s a wide gap when it comes to dissemination of information to immigrants about Indigenous Peoples and cultures in Canada. One that, she said, causes the perpetuation of misconceptions resulting from the country’s history of colonialism.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which examined the history and legacy of residential schools in Canada, issued 94 recommendations, or calls to action. Numbers 93 and 94 urged the federal government to update the Canadian citizenship guide and test, as well as the oath, to reflect a more inclusive history of Indigenous Peoples and a recognition of their treaties and rights. This way, newcomers and immigrants to Canada would have a more thorough understanding about First Nations, Metis and Inuit, as well as their cultures.

On Thursday, the House of Commons was set to adopt Bill C-8, which would amend the Citizenship Act to update the oath in line with what the TRC recommended.

The new oath would read: “I swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada, including the Constitution, which recognizes and affirms the Aboriginal and treaty rights of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples, and fulfil my duties as a Canadian citizen.”

The House of Commons unanimously agreed to fast-track the proposed legislation, on Tuesday.

At a committee meeting Wednesday, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino thanked all members of Parliament for supporting the passage of the bill, saying he looks forward to working with colleagues in the Senate to ensure it becomes law.

His press secretary, Alexander Cohen, said: “Reconciliation is a whole-of-government initiative.”

Cohen also said the Liberal government is still revamping the content of the new citizenship guide to make it more inclusive. The new guide will have 10 chapters and will paint a diverse image of Canada. It will include stories of Black Canadians, LGBTQ Canadians, francophones and Canadians with disabilities. It will also have a chapter on residential school. There’s still no schedule as to when the updated guide will be released.

Matthew Norris, board president of the Urban Native Youth Association in Vancouver, B.C., said recent immigrants to Canada are in a good position to be allies to Indigenous people.

“I think newcomers to Canada have a role to play to understand where the society has come, where to go, and to be voices of support for Indigenous people, as we’re constantly trying to fight for our rights,” said Norris.

Norris said he encourages people and stakeholders to also look at other TRC calls to action, particularly regarding the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Bill C-15, which deals with that, is currently before the Senate.

Stronger calls to recommit to the project of reconciliation have emerged after Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced last week that ground-penetrating radar located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children in an unmarked burial site on the grounds of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

Over more than a century, some 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children were forcibly sent to government-funded, church-operated schools, where many suffered abuse and even death.

“We talk about Indigenous history but it’s also the Indigenous presence,” Norris said. “Residential schools weren’t that long ago. It’s affected our family members. It’s affected younger generations. Intergenerational trauma is continuing to rear its ugly head throughout our lives.”

Nyangweso, who just took her citizenship test recently, said adequate information about Indigenous lands, peoples and cultures will help newcomers and immigrants to better engage in civic processes and become better allies for Indigenous rights.

She added she hopes teaching newcomers about Indigenous people and cultures should not just start and end with the citizenship guide or the oath.

She said good information, that’s accessible outside of the citizenship guide, will equip immigrants and new Canadians to be more respectful inhabitants on Indigenous lands.

Source: Canadian citizenship oath could help newcomers learn more about Indigenous people

Tribes to Confront Bias Against Descendants of Enslaved People

Of interest:

With pressure growing from the Biden administration, two Native American tribes in Oklahoma have agreed to consider reversing their policies of denying citizenship to descendants of Black people who were enslaved by them before the Civil War.

The tribes, the Choctaw Nation and Muscogee (Creek) Nation, said they would take initial steps to address the long-running demands of the descendants that they be granted equal rights as tribal citizens, an issue that has split their communities and highlighted clashes over identity and racism among Native Americans.

But the two tribes stopped short of a commitment to grant citizenship to the Black descendants, who are known as Freedmen, instead saying they would open discussions about the issue. In February, the Cherokee Nation eliminated from its constitutionlanguage that based citizenship on being descended from “by blood” tribal members listed on a federal census, the biggest step by a tribe so far to resolve the issue.

Those tribes and others, which had originally inhabited the Southeast, purchased enslaved Black people as laborers in the 18th and 19th centuries, and had brought them along when they were forcibly relocated by the federal government in a deadly ordeal known as the “Trail of Tears.”

Post-Civil War treaties in 1866 gave the formerly enslaved people all the rights of tribal citizenship. But in practice they were segregated and their citizenship rights later denied by a requirement that they be descended from non-Black tribal citizens who were on census lists more than a century ago, a situation that prompted increasing protests in recent years.

“Today we reach out to the Choctaw Freedmen. We see you. We hear you. We look forward to meaningful conversation regarding our shared past,” Gary Batton, chief of the Choctaw Nation, said in a letter announcing that the nation would consider “tribal membership for Choctaw Freedmen.”

David Hill, the principal chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, also wrote to the tribe’s national council proposing town hall events and a period of public comment to discuss citizenship for Creek Freedmen.

Freedmen said the tribes took action only after being pushed into it.

“Black Indians were a part of this tribe, the Choctaw Nation, they lived in the Choctaw Nation,” said Verdie Triplett, a descendant of both Choctaw and Chickasaw Freedmen, and who lives on the Choctaw reservation in Fort Coffee, Okla.

He added: “For them to do this now, they didn’t do it on their own. This right here is a prime example of pressure.”

The announcement from the Choctaw Nation followed a statement this month from Deb Haaland, the first Native American secretary of the Interior, addressing the Freedmen of Native American nations in Oklahoma and acknowledging their rights as citizens of the tribes that had enslaved them.

“The Cherokee Nation’s actions,” Ms. Haaland said, referring to the tribe’s decision to amend its constitution in February to grant equal status to its Freedmen population, had fulfilled “their obligations to the Cherokee Freedmen.”

“We encourage other Tribes to take similar steps to meet their moral and legal obligations to the Freedmen,” Ms. Haaland said, naming four other Native American nations in Oklahoma — the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, the Choctaw Nation, the Chickasaw Nation and the Seminole Nation — that had owned slaves and allied themselves with the Confederacy to preserve slavery as an institution.

With those words, Ms. Haaland waded into a painful reckoning within Native American nations in Oklahoma that had historically owned slaves.

Changes to the Choctaw constitution in 1983 and the Muscogee (Creek) constitution in 1979 required that a citizen of the nation must be descended from “by blood” citizens, disqualifying the Freedmen who were counted separately in the federal census known as the Dawes Rolls of 1906. The Cherokee Nation had also previously expelled its Freedmen, and the Seminole Nation currently grants only limited citizenship to its Freedmen.

Equal citizenship in a Native American nation would qualify the Freedmen for a number of tribal services — including housing, health care and education — much of it funded by the federal government. Older Choctaw and Creek Freedmen recall being eligible for these services before they were expelled from the nations.

Funding in the CARES Act distributed to tribal nations recently funded services exclusively available to “by blood” tribal citizens. Seminole Freedmen who applied were denied because of their limited citizenship in the Seminole Nation.

The Choctaw and Creek Freedmen would also be guaranteed civil and political rights within their nations, such as the ability to vote and run for tribal office.

In interviews, descendants of Freedmen described repeated appeals to the tribes for inclusion as equal citizens and repeated denials on the basis of their race.

“It’s heartbreaking. It really is heartbreaking,” the Rev. McKinley Rice, the senior pastor at St. Matthew Baptist Church in Okmulgee, Okla., and a Creek Freedmen, said. “In the day that we live in, and in the time that we live in, we was hoping and praying that racism and discrimination was, you know, gone.”

The letter from Mr. Batton marked a shift by the Choctaw Nation. Mr. Batton wrote to Speaker Nancy Pelosi nearly a year ago condemning efforts by Representative Maxine Waters, the chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, to compel the tribe to re-enroll its Freedmen as citizens by withholding federal funding.

“The Freedman issue is a problem caused by the United States, not the Choctaw Nation,” Mr. Batton said at the time, referring to “America’s enslavement of African Americans” while making no mention that the Choctaw Freedmen are descendants of people enslaved by the Choctaw Nation.

In an interview, Mr. Batton said the federal government played a role in facilitating racist policies like the “by blood” requirement for citizenship. He added that the Interior Department ultimately accepted the constitutional changes from the Native American nations that had expelled the Freedmen in violation of Reconstruction treaties.

“My issue with the federal government is because they’ve implemented policies, and we followed those, and now they’re saying that we should not abide by those policies.” Mr. Batton said. “It’s kind of a Catch 22 as far as I’m concerned.”

Chuck Hoskin Jr., the chief of the Cherokee Nation, who has been a longtime supporter of the Freedmen, said tribes had worked tirelessly to make sure the federal government upholds its treaty obligations. Cherry picking which treaties to uphold undercuts that fight, he said.

“I don’t think any nation is as strong as it can be when it denies its history and suppresses part of its society,” Mr. Hoskin said. “I think that’s what’s happened in respect to the Freedmen.”

The Chickasaw Nation had jointly signed its Reconstruction treaty with the Choctaw Nation, but did not comply with the condition to enroll its Freedmen as citizens. Some Chickasaw Freedmen enrolled as citizens of the Choctaw Nation, but were never included as citizens of the tribe that had enslaved them.

Bill Anoatubby, the governor of the Chickasaw Nation, said in a statement responding to Ms. Haaland’s remarks that “Chickasaw citizenship is a matter of sovereignty and is clearly defined in the Chickasaw Constitution.”

The Seminole Nation did not respond to requests for comment.

LeEtta Osborne-Sampson, a Seminole Freedman who serves on the tribe’s governing council, said she did not expect the Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma to follow suit voluntarily. Ms. Osborne-Sampson said the tribe’s position had long been that it would take a ruling by a higher court to compel them to allow Freedmen to be recognized as equal citizens.

Eli Grayson, a Creek citizen with Freedmen heritage, said he was skeptical of the statements from tribal leadership. He noted that the Freedmen barred from citizenship would have no influence over a vote to change the tribes’ constitutions, and predicted the measures would ultimately fail.

“Citizens today do not have a right to vote on an issue that was settled during the Civil War,” Mr. Grayson said. “They’ve already settled this treaty with the U.S. They don’t have a right to change the conditions of that treaty.”

For the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, race was a key motivation for changing the constitution. In a national council meeting in 1977discussing the changes, the principal chief at the time, Claude Cox, expressed fear that the nation would be outnumbered and replaced by its Black citizens over time.

“The full-bloods lost control. That’s what we’re fighting,” Mr. Cox said.

Mr. Hill, the current principal chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, said in his proposal that citizenship for Freedmen “is a polarizing issue for our citizens.”

“This deeply personal and highly emotional issue goes to the heart of identity for both Creek citizens and the descendants of Freedmen,” Mr. Hill said. “As a nation committed to truth and justice it is important that we reflect upon this issue with an open heart and seek to understand what is right and equitable.”

Mulcair: A sneak attack on language rights

Of note for those who remember these “battles” and those who do not:

Quebec and the Constitution are back in the headlines and anyone who remembers Meech and Charlottetown will understandably want to duck and cover. This time around though,  no one is asking for consent from other provinces or from Canadians via a referendum.

Quebec has included what it claims to be unilateral amendments to the Constitution Act 1867 (the B.N.A. Act) in a sweeping proposal  (Bill 96) that seeks to reinforce the status of French there. Many of those changes are indeed provincial in nature and deal with things like labour and consumer rights. The scope and effect of those types of changes will be the object of a good debate in Quebec’s legislature, the National Assembly, and given Legault’s majority most will pass into law.

Because it also affects rights concerning the language of legislation and the courts, Bill 96 deserves a much more thorough review than the nodding approval party leaders in Ottawa have quickly given to that part of it that seeks to amend the constitution unilaterally.

This is a subject I’ve spent much of my career working on. My first job in the Legislative branch of the Quebec Justice Ministry included a memorable mad dash as everyone scrambled, in December of 1979, to react  to a Supreme Court decision that had just been rendered in the Blaikie case. We had to quickly prepare, for re-enactment, all of the Québec laws adopted since the original Charter of the French Language (Bill 101) went into force in August of 1977. Bill 101 removed the obligation that had existed since 1867, in that same B.N.A. Act,  to simultaneously enact all laws in English and in French.

The Blaikie case, as it is called, was important for several reasons. First, the judges unanimously ruled that section 133 of the B.N.A . Act, that requires English and French in laws and in the courts, was not part of Quebec’s constitution and therefore could not be amended unilaterally by the province. Second, the Supreme Court simultaneously corrected a much older illegal Act, the Manitoba Official Language Act of 1890, that removed the French-language rights that had been promised in the Manitoba Act of 1870.

Language rights go to the core of our nation because they deal with the promises we made as this great country of ours came together. It’s been a rocky road at times but the Official Languages Act provided, over 50 years ago, a fresh boost to those promises. Pierre Trudeau even lost one of his prominent Western ministers over the issue. That minister, James Richardson, was from one of the most prominent Winnipeg families and he stood firmly against official bilingualism.

I wound up working in Manitoba after the Supreme Court ruled, a second time,  that all the laws there had to be translated and French and English had equal standing in the courts. That second ruling, in 1985, had become necessary because the Manitoba  government had ignored the first one, arguing (without much of a straight face) that the prior ruling was directive and not mandatory. Keen observers will note that it took over 95 years for Manitoba francophones to have their rights restored and and barely two years for anglophones in Quebec to get theirs.

It was of course mandatory and right after that second Supreme Court ruling, I’d been hired to help oversee and revise the translation of some 10,000 pages of laws and regulations. It was a Herculean task and the Supreme Court was there to monitor and ensure compliance with its definitive ruling.

It’s that history that makes Justin Trudeau’s acquiescence so surprising. He appears to sincerely believe that section 45  of the 1982 Constitution applies to Quebec’s unilateral changes to the B.N.A. Act and that the proposal is legitimate because it only affects the province’s own constitution.

But there’s another section, 43, that says that if the changes affect the right to use English or French, then you need a debate and a motion from both the House of Commons  and the Senate before the change can take place.

Section 43 was ably used by former premier Lucien Bouchard to change Quebec’s constitutionally guaranteed Catholic and Protestant school boards into a French and English system. The House of Commons and the Senate had had to discuss and vote and the English-speaking community of Quebec was consulted and widely agreed. That’s how you change a constitution: you discuss, debate and vote.

Legault’s proposed changes to the B.N.A. Act do indeed affect language rights. Trudeau, Erin O’Toole and Jagmeet Singh with their “move along, nothing to see here” attitude are trying to convince themselves and us that this is simply about Quebec amending its own constitution. That’s the argument Quebec had unsuccessfully argued before the Supreme Court in the Blaikie case back in the 1970’s. With these changes, it could win that case today.

What is and what is not part of the province’s constitution? To begin with, a few paragraphs above, I committed the unpardonable by referring to Quebec’s legislature as…a legislature! The Quebec National Assembly is called that because Quebec decided it preferred the terminology from France and it unilaterally changed the name of its legislature to l’Assemblée Nationale. Pas de problème.

So too when Quebec decided  (like every other province that had one) to deep-six its ‘Legislative Council’ decades ago. It had every right to axe its provincial senate. It was Quebec’s call as it was, indeed, purely the jurisdiction of the province.  Not so with the changes being proposed now by Quebec.

Here they are in detail: “Quebecers form a nation” and  “French shall be the only official language of Quebec. It is also the common language of the Quebec nation”.

When you go through Bill 96, you see proposals to change a series of laws including the Civil Code and the Code of Civil Procedure, to remove the right to produce certain official documents if they’re written in English. An English-language birth certificate from B.C. will henceforth have to be officially translated as if it were from some obscure corner of the world with a little-known language. This is not just the Quebec constitution. This is the right to use English and French as contemplated by section 43. It is impossible that the lawyers at the Justice Department in Ottawa didn’t see this.

Bill 96 has to be read as a whole. Sections have to be construed in context, one with regards to the other in order to understand the overall effect. The context includes changes to existing language rights. The legislator is never presumed to be talking for no reason, the unilateral  changes to the B.N.À. Act are intended to produce and shield the desired overall result: less English in Justice, legislation and the courts.

Québec Justice minister Simon Jolin-Barrette was recently in a knock-down, drag-out fight with the Chief Justice of Quebec Court, Mme Justice Lucie Rondeau. Jolin-Barrette didn’t like the fact that the postings for new judicial appointments required a knowledge of English. She patiently pointed out that there is a constitutional right to a trial in English and that it’s up to the courts to ensure respect of that obligation. Jolin-Barrette didn’t agree and he’s using Bill 96 to remove  bilingualism as a systematic requirement for future judicial appointments even in areas with large anglophone populations. The right to a trial in English will rapidly become theoretical.

Years before Bill 101, Robert Bourassa’s Bill 22 had already proclaimed French to be the official language of Quebec. Stephen Harper had championed a motion in the House of Commons proclaiming Quebecers to be a nation. So what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that Bill 96 does indeed remove existing rights. Professionals, including lawyers, will lose their right to practise law if they fail to maintain what will become a new continuing requirement for a mandatory knowledge of French. Tests or other qualification at the beginning of their career (I had to take one to join the Bar) used to remain valid througout. They would henceforth be deemed to be subject to review and revocation of licensure in case of insufficient knowledge of French.

The big deal is that once those unilateral constitutional amendments are in place, the Quebec attorney general might succeed where their predecessors had failed in 1979. They could point to the new sections as proof that Quebec can indeed adopt its legislation in French only and provide an English translation later on. That could negatively effect everyone’s language rights across Canada as other provinces such as Manitoba and New Brunswick could take note and follow suit.

In 2019, the Quebec and Montréal Bar Associations settled lawsuits that sought to ensure that Quebec respect its constitutional obligation to produce an English version of statutes had equal footing with the French, especially in terms of preparation of amendments. The “Mulcair precedent” referred to in those proceedings was mine. Having worked in Manitoba and been part of the debates there, I knew what the Supreme Court required and I raised it repeatedly when I was a member of the National Assembly. That constitutionally guaranteed equivalent of the English and French versions is in peril with these changes being endorsed by Trudeau and his pliant justice minister David Lametti.

There is a constant whittling away of the status of French and of French-language institutions throughout Canada and all Canadians should  be aware of it and demand their governments help to right that wrong. The most recent heartbreaking example is the scuppering of key French-language programs at Laurentian University in Sudbury leaving many francophone Masters and PhD students high and dry. There is money in the most recent federal budget to come to the aid of minority francophone education in just such a case but so far language minister Melanie Joly has done nothing.

That type of continuing tragedy for the French minority in Canada is correctly pointed to as deux poids deux mesures when comparing the institutions of the English in Quebec and the French outside Quebec.

The essential question for our country’s future is this: do we want to aspire to greater rights for all Canadians or are we going to simply level things downwards, to the lowest common denominator?

Trudeau seems to have veered away from his often espoused vision of a bilingual multicultural Canada towards one where linguistic and religious minorities are on their own. When he and Lametti refused to lift their little fingers to help hard-pressed religious minorities fighting in court against Quebec’s discriminatory Bill 21, the writing was on the wall.

Rights are essential. Failure to defend those rights comes at a cost to our strength, unity and well-being as a country, long term. Short term electoral priorities are no substitute for thoughtful defence of fundamental values and rights.

It’s clear that neither Trudeau nor O’Toole nor Singh has given a great deal of thought to the substantive sections Bill 96. The great irony is that even if they went the route of the more demanding section 43, there’s absolutely no doubt that the House would pass a motion approving it. Trudeau has claimed that he has a legal opinion stating that Québec can indeed proceed on its own to amend the Canadian constitution without even bringing the issue before Parliament. When Lametti was asked on an English Montréal radio station if he was willing to share that legal opinion with Canadians, he skated.

Legault has a clear plan for pulling Québec away from, if not out of, Canada. That plan, as revealed by Legault himself, has three components: language, immigration and culture. He is running circles around our current crop of leaders in Ottawa.

Despite the historical long odds, if done right, there really is reason to hope that this could be turned into a rare opportunity for a deeper understanding of the real differences that exist between the two solitudes. But it can’t be done in a sneaky, backhanded way, without a proper debate as required by the Constitution.

Trudeau is wrong to say the constitution of Canada can be amended unilaterally by Québec. It is not wrong to follow the constitution to bring about change that can close a tough chapter in our history. After all, the much maligned 1982 Constitution, that Quebec never signed, could wind up being used by Québec to try to improve things for the future, as long as rights are guaranteed and respected from coast to coast to coast.

Source: A sneak attack on language rights

USCIS: Citizenship agency eyes improved service without plan to pay

Canada also needs to modernize its citizenship program (https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/april-2021/amid-languishing-numbers-canadas-citizenship-process-needs-to-be-modernized/), including full integration into the GCMS modernization project):

Less than a year after being on the verge of furloughing about 70% of employees to plug a funding shortfall, the U.S. agency that grants citizenship, green cards and temporary visas wants to improve service without a detailed plan to pay for it, including granting waivers for those who can’t afford to pay fees, according to a proposal obtained by The Associated Press.

The Homeland Security Department sent its 14-page plan to enhance procedures for becoming a naturalized citizen to the White House for approval on April 21, It involves U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is part of Homeland Security and has been operating entirely on fees, without funding from Congress.

The plan describes short- and long-term changes that reflect “a realistic assessment of our aspirations and limitations,” including more video instead of in-person interviews with applicants, authorizing employees to administer citizenship oaths instead of having to rely on federal judges, and promoting online filing to reduce processing times.

Homeland Security says it can all be done without the approval of Congress, where consensus on immigration has proven elusive for years.

Taken together, the changes mark a complete break from the Trump administration, when the agency focused on combatting fraud and adjusted to shrinking immigration benefits, such as ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to shield young people from deportation.

The plan also seeks to give potential U.S. citizens the benefit of the doubt. For instance, it specifies that an immigrant who mistakenly registers to vote in U.S. elections before becoming a citizen won’t be punished. Doing so now can lead to deportation or criminal charges, likely ending a person’s chance for citizenship.

The issue has been in the spotlight amid a recent surge in automatic voter registration and former President Donald Trump’s repeated unsubstantiated claims that millions of people voted illegally in 2016. Last year, Illinois’ automatic voter registration program mistakenly registered hundreds of people who said they weren’t U.S. citizens. At least one voted.

The document that aims to improve the citizenship process is designed to “encourage full participation in our civic life and democracy” and to deliver services effectively and efficiently.

It doesn’t provide cost estimates for any of the proposed changes, though some measures appear designed to save money as well as achieve efficiencies. It also acknowledges success depends on long-term financial stability, which includes asking Congress for money.

Under the plan, the agency would continue subsidizing the costs of becoming a citizen to make sure the process is available to as many people as possible. Guidelines on fee waivers would be consistent and transparent, it said.

The administration “recognizes that the cost of fees can be a barrier to certain individuals filing for naturalization and is committed to providing affordable naturalizations,” the document reads. “This will mean that other fee-paying applicants and petitioners will continue to subsidize this policy decision to ensure full cost recovery.”

The White House and Homeland Security Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Fiscal challenges came to a head last summer when the agency threatened more than 13,000 furloughs to tackle a projected $1.26 billion shortfall. But a few tense months later, it said it didn’t need the money after all and would end the year with a surplus. The agency’s then-acting director, Joseph Edlow, said application fees rebounded more than expected as offices reopened from coronavirus shutdowns and contracts were reviewed for cost savings.

The anticipated shortfall first surfaced in November 2019, when the agency proposed major fee increases — well before COVID-19 threatened finances.

The budget whiplash raised doubts about how the agency’s finances deteriorated so rapidly then suddenly recovered. Ur Jaddou, who was nominated by President Joe Biden in April to lead the agency, was among those with questions.

Jaddou, who served as the agency’s chief counsel under President Barack Obama, said in October that the agency needed a financial audit. She questioned some changes under the Trump administration, including justification for a major expansion of an anti-fraud unit and a requirement, since abandoned by Biden, to reject applications that left any spaces blank.

“It really is a bunch of bureaucratic red tape,” she said when discussing the agency’s financial woes.

Fees were set to increase by an average of 20% last October but a federal judge blocked them days before they were to take effect. The fee to become a naturalized citizen was set to jump to $1,170 from $640. Fee waivers were to be largely eliminated for people who could not afford to apply.

Other Trump-era fee changes that were stopped included a first-ever charge to apply for asylum of $50. Asylum-seekers would also have to pay $550 if they sought work authorization and $30 for collecting biometrics.

The wait to process a citizenship application grew to more than a year by the end of Trump’s presidency from less than eight months four years earlier.

How imperial hopes for the Commonwealth led to British citizenship being redefined along racial lines

Interesting history of the policies and policy objectives:

It’s just over a year since the government released the Windrush Lessons Learned Review, an attempt to come to terms with the Windrush scandal. Recommendation six of the Review states among other things that Home Office staff should ‘learn about the history of the UK and its relationship with the rest of the world’. Meanwhile, recommendation eleven states that the Home Office should make sure its staff ‘understand the history of immigration legislation’. Policy reviews don’t usually redirect to history in such a definite way, and we should pay attention to the fact that this one does.

As it turns out, the connections and correlations between immigration laws and Britain’s relationship with the rest of the world in the post-war era are many and strong. The legal architecture (a mix of immigration law and nationality law) at stake in the Windrush scandal did not begin with the 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts. Nor did it begin with Theresa May’s tenure as home secretary. The story is much bigger and more intrinsic to Britain’s gambit in the post-war world. This story began in 1948 and was largely complete by 1971 (a year mentioned 35 times in the Review). Fifty years ago this year, the 1971 Immigration Act was the legislative culmination of Britain’s struggle against its own nationality law, and began Britain’s modern immigration system.

The 1948 British Nationality Act set the tone for post-war Britain. It was greeted by a New York Times headline that declared ‘British empire gets new nationality act’. In other words, the act might have been named the British Imperial Citizenship Act. The 1948 act created a single, non-national citizenship around the territories of the British Isles and the crown colonies. It was momentous because it gave rights of entry and residence in Britain to millions of non-white people around the world on the basis of their connection to existing crown colonies or independent Commonwealth states. These citizenship rights were given to  ‘citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies’ – the forerunner to what is now called British citizenship – and to ‘Commonwealth citizens’.

The true motivations behind the 1948 Act were squarely imperial – namely, keeping the colonies and Commonwealth unified at the level of nationality, and keeping a soon-to-be-republican India in the Commonwealth. Yet, despite the fact that Britain’s formal empire was all but over by 1965, successive governments refused to dismantle these imperial structures of British nationality and citizenship, instead passing immigration laws as so many bandages on nativist wounds as the imperial heartland became home to more and more non-white migrants.

There was something strange going on here: immigration laws were targeting citizenship rights provided in British nationality law. Bizarrely, it was the post-war immigration laws (in 1962, 1968, 1971), not British nationality law itself, that dictated who ‘belonged’ in Britain, both politically and legally. At the level of British nationality and citizenship, decolonisation did not begin in Britain until 1981 and the British Nationality Act of that year. In other words, British nationality and citizenship remained imperial throughout the age of decolonisation.

These confusions intensified in the late 1960s. Worried about South Asian British citizens in East Africa migrating to Britain, a Commonwealth Office official wrote to his colleagues in 1967 that ‘we had obviously made a big mistake’ in passing the 1948 Act, which was equivalent to ‘handing out British citizenship to large numbers… Having made this mistake, we have somehow now got to pay for it’. Most of the South Asians in Kenya facing majoritarian policies in the late 1960s held an identical citizenship to Labour prime minister Harold Wilson himself and an unrestricted legal right of entry to Britain. The 1968 Commonwealth Immigrants Act was designed to block their entry and left them with ‘the husk of citizenship’, as the home secretary put it in a key Cabinet meeting. This was the first time that an immigration law had been levelled at British citizens per se, and left them stateless in reality, despite their still being described as British citizens in law.

Three years later, the 1971 Immigration Act was an attempt to bring order to Britain’s immigration system. By placing the administrative burden of proof on individuals themselves, it also laid the foundation for the Windrush scandal. The 1971 Act created a peculiar new concept – a ‘patrial’, a term that referred primarily to a person’s birth in or ancestral connection to the territories of the British Isles. The home secretary himself admitted that he was not quite sure how to pronounce the archaic word. It was the patrial who now commanded the right of entry (now called ‘right of abode’) in Britain. Because patriality now served to grant rights of citizenship (entry and residence), this effectively detached citizenship rights from both citizenship of the UK and Colonies and Commonwealth citizenship. Being a patrial meant that you ‘belonged’ in Britain. As Violet Bonham Carter, daughter of Henry Asquith and grandmother of Helena Bonham Carter, put it in a House of Lords debate during this period, ‘a belonger usually has a white face’. The Economist, meanwhile, described the word patrial as ‘a nasty piece of tribal jargon’.

This was indirectly a tiering of British citizenship (citizenship of the UK and Colonies) and Commonwealth citizenship along racial lines, allowing in practice white settlers to ‘return’ to Britain but keeping out non-white migrants. Tanzania’s prime minister, Julius Nyerere described British immigration policies as ‘decadent racism’. Swaran Singh, India’s minister of external affairs, lambasted the ‘racial overtones’ of the proposed 1971 Act in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian parliament, adding that it ‘introduces the concept of “patrials” as a privileged category’. In Port of Spain, the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Eric Williams, subsequently condemned Britain’s ‘open unadulterated and ambiguous racialisms’. But the most devastating criticism came from the veteran Indian diplomat, Apa Pant, then the Indian high commissioner to the UK. Pant intervened with home secretary Reginald Maudling, telling him that the ‘concept of “patrials”’ was ‘unmistakably racialist’ and ‘breaks up the Commonwealth into white and non-white’. Its provisions on police registration would make ‘the already tense police-immigrant relation more tense and intolerable’, while those on employment turned the working migrant into ‘virtually a “brown/black” slave labourer’. This was to say nothing of the executive powers of deportation attendant on the 1971 Act.

Britain suffered a significant reputational cost at the hands of its exclusivist immigration laws, including at the European Court of Human Rights in 1973. Why did Britain create such laws without dismantling the imperial structures of the 1948 British Nationality Act? The answer is that the 1948 Act was a constitutional pillar of what various officials, diplomats, and politicians hoped would be a British-led imperial Commonwealth – a vehicle by which to contend in the making of the post-war world. To dismantle the 1948 Act was to give up on the imperial promise of the post-war Commonwealth.

‘There is in the Commonwealth a complex of links, not only political, but economic, educational, administrative and professional’, wrote Commonwealth Office officials in 1967. The Commonwealth was ‘a special asset which could give Britain a position of central importance in the world in, say, the last two decades of this century, out of proportion to her comparative economic and military strength’. Britain wanted to have it both ways: a grand Commonwealth based on a perceived ‘Anglocentricity’ abroad and exclusivist immigration laws at home.

Source: How imperial hopes for the Commonwealth led to British citizenship being redefined along racial lines

After Australia Banned Its Citizens in India From Coming Home, Many Ask: Who Is Really Australian?

Valid questioning:

When Ara Sharma Marar’s father had a stroke in India in early April, she got on the first flight she could from her home in Melbourne, Australia to New Delhi.

She had planned to return to Australia, where she works in risk management at a bank, on May 14. But then her government banned her from coming home. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on April 27 that travelers from India—including citizens—were barred from the country. The government emphasized that anyone who tried to come home would face up to five years in jail and a $50,000 fine.

“It’s immoral, unjustifiable and completely un-Australian because, you know, Australia prides itself saying that we are multicultural, we embrace all cultures, we welcome everyone,” she says.

Morrison faced a furious backlash from many corners from the country—especially from Australians of South Asian ethnicity, many of whom said the ban was racist—and quickly backed down. On May 15 the first repatriation flight from India landed in Darwin. But around 9,000 Australians remain stranded in India and the saga has revived the debate about what it means to be Australian—a longstanding, at times acrimonious, national conversation driven by the country’s ever-changing demographics.

Today, there are more foreign-born Australians than at any time since 1893, when Australia was still a British colony. Migrants make up 30% of all Australians, and Indian-born Australians are the second-largest group. (British immigrants remain the largest foreign-born population, with people from China in third place). Immigration is now the main driver of population growth in several states and migrants are a significant driver of economic growth. But some immigrants say they aren’t always accepted in a country that once closed its doors to non-Europeans.

“Many Anglo-Celtic Australians still believe that we are but guests in this country and that to acknowledge us as equals they will somehow lose their Australianism,” says Molina Asthana, co-founder of advocacy group Asian Australian Alliance. “Does being Australian mean you have to be light skinned, blond, love your barbies, brekkies and beers?” she asks.

‘Fortress Australia’ strands citizens overseas

Several countries, including the U.S., restricted flights from India or tightened quarantine rules on travelers coming from the country as a devastating second wave hit it. But Australia’s total ban on arrivals from India follows a pandemic policy of imposing of some of the strictest COVID-19 border controls in the world.

Australia bans nearly all non-residents from traveling to the country, and those who are able to enter must quarantine for 14 days in a hotel. Caps on international arrivals have prevented tens of thousands of Australians from returning from overseas during the pandemic. The hashtag #strandedaussies has been used hundreds of times on social media, and some have started referring to the country as “Fortress Australia.” One group of Australians is taking a complaint against the Australian government to the United Nations Human Rights Committee for not allowing its citizens to return home.

Nevertheless, the controls are very popular. A poll in conservative newspaper The Australian found that 73% of voters supported international borders remaining closed until at least mid-2022. That’s likely because the policies—along with swift, strict lockdowns when cases pop up—mean that the country has had remarkable success against COVID-19. With a population of 26 million, it has recorded fewer than than 30,000 coronavirus cases and just 910 deaths. Life appears normal. Employees have returned to their offices. Thousands of mostly maskless fans packed into a Melbourne stadium to watch the Australian Open in February and the following month saw tens of thousands of not-so-socially-distanced revelers attend the LGBT+ celebration Sydney Mardi Gras.

Authorities justified the blanket ban on arrivals from India as necessary to protect public health; India is facing a devastating second wave of COVID-19 and a variant first identified there—which scientists say is likely more infectious and better at evading human immune systems—is being detected across the Asia-Pacific. Australia’s chief medical officer Paul Kelly said on May 7 that the ban was explicitly linked to Australia’s limited quarantine capacity.

But many Australians of Indian descent feel singled out because the Australian government has not barred citizens returning home from other countries with large outbreaks. “Why weren’t these steps taken when it was America or U.K.?” asks Sharma Marar, who believes that the government has failed all of its nationals stuck overseas. She says that she is suffering from panic attacks and having trouble sleeping as the result of the stress of not being able to return home.

Kim Soans-Sharma, who remains stuck in Mumbai, India after she traveled there in January following her father’s death, says the ban has made her feel “unwanted.” That’s something she has never felt in Perth, Australia, which she’s called home since 2013. She adds that vitriolic comments from some Australians on social media showing no sympathy for other citizens like her stuck in India have been hard to bear.

“At this stage, I’m not proud to call myself an Australian,” she says.

How Australia became an ‘immigration nation’

Australia’s rising diversity in recent decades follows the expressly racist White Australia Policy that prevented migration by non-Europeans for much of the 20th century. When it became clear that immigration from Britain couldn’t provide the necessary population growth, more migrants from continental Europe were allowed, and the policy was slowly eased after World War II. The first step towards dismantling it was made in 1966, when the government allowed migration based on what skills people could offer Australia, instead of race or nationality. The White Australia Policy was then formally renounced in the early 1970s, and the government officially embraced multiculturalism.

However, the topic of immigration has been used as a political football for decades, with some successive governments unsupportive of migration. Many who arrive in Australia are skilled migrants, and some economists say that the country’s 27-year recession-free streak would not have been possible without immigration. A report by the research institute the McKell Institute calls the country “the world’s most successful” multicultural society. “Australia has truly embraced multiculturalism following an approach of integration between the different ethnicities and cultural groups where the dominant and minority groups are expected to respect each other’s cultures,” it says.

There are some tensions, however. Concerns over immigration have sparked a nativist movement, including a right-wing populist political party with an anti-immigration platform that has had minor success at the polls. A 2020 report on social cohesion released by the Scanlon Foundation, a foundation focused on fostering social cohesion in Australia, found that a large majority of Australians think that having a multicultural society makes Australia better, but 60% of people agreed with the statement that “too many immigrants are not adopting Australian values.” The report also noted substantial negative sentiment towards immigrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

In one 2019 survey, more than two-thirds said that Australia did not need more people. The same year, Morrison announced a cap on permanent migration at 160,000, a cut of 30,000 a year, to address crowding in cities that has increased real estate prices and caused congestion. “This plan is about protecting the quality of life of Australians right across our country,” he said.

Like in many places in the world, immigrants in Australia have faced racism as the result of the pandemic. The Asian Australian Alliance has received 530 reports of COVID-19-related racism since April 2020. When a COVID-19 surge hit Melbourne in mid-2020, representatives from a Muslim migrant community spoke out about being unfairly blamed. In March, Australia’s race discrimination commissioner Chin Tan called for a new national anti-racism framework to address prejudice against Asian-Australians related to the coronavirus pandemic and the legacy of “hatred” towards Muslims.

Asthana, of the Asian Australian Alliance, says the India travel ban is emblematic of the racism that migrants can face in Australia. “Whether it is overt racism or unconscious bias, most migrants have been at the receiving end of discriminatory treatment,” she says. “Only the communities change over time, from Greek and Italian to Chinese, then the Vietnamese, Indian and African and now back to the wider Asian Community during COVID.”

Tim Soutphommasane, Australia’s former race discrimination commissioner, says that Australia’s multicultural diversity is not represented yet in its major institutions. “It’s not yet there among our leaders of politics, government, and business. Nor is it there among the faces you see in the national media,” he says. “So that can feed into a sense within our elite political, business and media circles that being Australian is still essentially being Anglo-Celtic or European.”

Other experts say that what it means to be Australian is shifting along with its demographics. “Australia is a settler country,” says Catherine Gomes, an ethnographer at RMIT University in Australia, with a “social and cultural identity, that keeps on changing. Those identities start to adapt, according to how demographics are also changing.”

But for some Australians, those changes aren’t coming quickly enough. Despite the lifting of the ban, Sharma Marar says she won’t forget being barred from coming home.

“I think the scars of these policies and what has been done in last few weeks,” she says, “will live with us forever.”

Source: After Australia Banned Its Citizens in India From Coming Home, Many Ask: Who Is Really Australian?