Tory History and Its Critics | The Dorchester Review

A good overview on the Canadian “history wars” from C.P. Champion who was my counterpart in Minister Kenney’s office during my time working on citizenship and multiculturalism issues. Champion provides insight into the conservative historical narrative along with a strong  critique of how Liberal governments shaped their historical narrative to their political interests.

Margaret MacMillan’s The Uses and Abuses of History discusses how government’s routinely choose the historical narrative that suits their political and other interests, reinforcing Champion’s point. The themes that governments choose to emphasize in their historical narrative or de-emphasize reflect  political and policy choices. The Conservative government chose to emphasize certain themes of the traditional narrative (e.g., history, military, Crown) and downplay others related to more recent history (e.g., social safety net, human rights, culture), valid political and policy choices. Future governments may choose differently, although hopefully not reverting the insufferable lightness of A Look at Canada, the previous citizenship guide.

One last point. I play a cameo role in the article, given my role in Discover Canada. As readers of Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism will know, this work did challenge my preconceptions and Champion’s article would have been helpful to me and my colleagues had we had it before starting Discover Canada. Champion is correct in his sequence of events, the first draft was prepared by officials. I can see why he interpreted my account (p.24 of my book) differently but that was not the way it was intended.

Tory History & Its Critics | The Dorchester Review.

‘You are as equal as anyone’ | Toronto Star

An alternate “welcome to Canada and Canadian citizenship” speech by Haroon Siddiqui of The Star, with the classic liberal emphasis on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and human rights (as part of the changes introduced along with Discover Canada, the 2010 citizenship guide and test, the Charter was no longer handed out at citizenship ceremonies, replaced by a pamphlet emphasizing the role of the Crown):

Respect that Canada is a Christian-majority nation. But know that it is not a Christian country. Canada has no official religion. All faiths are equal. Canada has no official culture, either. So be free to practise your faith, if you so choose, and live your culture as fully as you like — within the rule of law.

The rule of law is what binds all Canadians together, new and old, the foreign-born and the Canadian-born. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is our common holy parchment.

Canada wants you to succeed. The more you succeed, the more successful Canada becomes.

i‘You are as equal as anyone’ | Toronto Star.

The citizenship review: what to watch for | iPolitics

My opinion piece in iPolitics on the upcoming Canadian citizenship legislation (full article below as behind the iPolitics paywall):

Over the past five years, the federal government has engaged in a comprehensive policy renewal across the whole suite of immigration policies. The major remaining gap was in citizenship, where the government announced its intent in the 2013 throne speech:

Canadians understand that citizenship should not be simply a passport of convenience. Citizenship is a pledge of mutual responsibility and a shared commitment to values rooted in our history …

To strengthen and protect the value of Canadian citizenship, our Government will introduce the first comprehensive reforms to the Citizenship Act in more than a generation.

During the same period, and within existing legislation, the government nevertheless led an intense period of renewal of the citizenship program:

  • Issuing the new citizenship study guide, Discover Canada, and related citizenship test in 2010
  • Implementing new pre-qualification language requirements in 2012
  • Introducing a series of initiatives targeting residency fraud, starting in 2011
  • Increasing the public profile of the citizenship program and ceremonies, aligned to the messaging of Discover Canada
  • Supporting the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC), and its work on strengthening the meaning of citizenship.

All of these reflect the government’s emphasis on making citizenship more meaningful, “harder to get and easier to lose”, to use former immigration minister Jason Kenney’s phrase — in contrast with previous governments’ emphasis on facilitating citizenship.

  • It is likely that the proposed Citizenship Act will continue to emphasize meaningfulness in the following areas, based upon previous bills tabled but not yet passed, and media coverage of ministerial comments:
  • Regulating citizenship consultants
  • Increasing penalties for citizenship fraud
  • Clarifying the definition of residency to mean physicalresidency, not just legal residency, and possibly increasing the required residency period from the current three years
  • Improving the government’s ability to bar criminals from becoming Canadian citizens
  • Streamlining the revocation and removal process
  • Ensuring a first-generation exemption for Crown servants
  • Possibly eliminating the current “birth on soil” grant of citizenship in favour of a more qualified right.

As the current Citizenship Act dates from the 1970s, the reformed act likely will be more in keeping with current drafting practice, giving ministers more authority and discretion compared to the extremely prescriptive current act, which goes into considerable detail on the citizenship application process and procedures.

While attention will be paid to the specific provisions in the new act, and the balance between facilitating acquisition of citizenship and making citizenship mean “ongoing commitment, connection and loyalty to Canada”, some of the broader issues to watch for include:

  • The balance between ministerial discretion and prescriptive measures in the act. While ministers and officials prefer to have more discretion, citizenship touches all Canadians and there can be advantages in having more constraints on ministers to ensure that changes enjoy wider support. The current act has a mix, specifying “adequate knowledge” of an official language and of “Canada and of the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship”, defining these in regulations, not legislation, while the wording of the citizenship oath is in the Act itself
  • Close review of measures presented as “housekeeping,” to ensure that there are no unannounced or unanticipated substantive implications. Given the technical nature of much of citizenship policy, the devil is in the details
  • Whether the act, or related initiatives, seriously addresses the chronic and ongoing under-resourcing and under-management of the citizenship program, or whether the government is silent on these issues. In 2012, this, along with other changes, resulted in a drop of 37 per cent in new citizens, an example of poor program management. No government has properly resourced the citizenship program; typically the program gets a top-up once the backlog reaches an unacceptable level, as was the case in 2013 when $44 million was allocated in the budget
  • A real commitment to citizen service through meaningful service standards. Currently, it takes an average of over 2 years to acquire citizenship compared to Australia’s two months. Surely Canada should be able to do better, without compromising the integrity of the application process.

Beyond the specifics, the broader question of citizenship policy being faced by many governments is the balance between citizenship as “place” — assuming that citizens remain in their country of immigration — and citizenship as “status”, or a more instrumental view of citizenship as a means to secure employment and other rights.

In contrast to earlier waves of immigration — largely one-way, with limited and expensive two-way travel opportunities — today’s globalization enjoys free communications, low-cost travel, community-specific media (either Canadian or internationally-produced), all of which makes identities more fluid and complex. As governments try to reinforce a strong sense of Canadian identity, they come up against this reality — which is particularly the case for the more well-educated and trained immigrants that we aim to attract, and who tend to be more mobile.

Whether it be to pursue opportunities in their country of origin, or go back and forth to pursue business and other opportunities, citizenship policy has an impact on diaspora linkages and mobility. Make it too restrictive and the linkages may be underdeveloped — make it too easy and citizenship may be instrumental, without attachment.

Hopefully, once the draft bill is tabled, both parliamentary and public comment and discussion will engage in a broader debate about what kind of citizenship approach we want.

The citizenship review: what to watch for | iPolitics.

Canada’s 150th anniversary plans big on battles and birthdays

Not surprising, and consistent with the narrative of Discover Canada, our guide for new citizens, focussing on an arsenal of battles and wars, a smattering of sports and a nod to the Arctic. A bit narrow, however.

Canada’s 150th anniversary plans big on battles and birthdays | Toronto Star.

Former CIC mandarin says several public policies came from minister’s anecdotes | hilltimes.com

Article from Hill Times today on the occasion of my book launch. Open event, The 3 Brewers, Bank and Sparks, today between 5 and 7 pm. Look forward to seeing many Ottawa-based people there. Best price for paper version of book ($15, HST and shipping included).

Andrew Griffith offers an insider’s account about the major cultural shift in the public service when the Conservatives formed government back in 2006.

When the Conservatives won government in 2006, the federal public service was not prepared for the ideological change to public policy-making, says a former top mandarin and author of the new book Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism.

“One of the funny things about the relationship between the political level and official level is that we’re both equally certain in our own truth,” said Andrew Griffith, a former 30-year veteran of the public service, in an interview with The Hill Times. “A party comes in, they’ve developed a platform, they’re absolutely convinced they’re right and that they have the truth and they were elected on that platform and, similarly, we in the public service are convinced that we’re absolutely right, we have the studies, the research, the evidence—how can anybody disagree with us?”

Mr. Griffith, a former director general at the Canadian Heritage Department who worked on multiculturalism policy, is launching his new book in Ottawa on Sept. 23 at The Three Brewers, 240 Sparks St., from 5 to 7 p.m.

He moved over to the Citizenship and Immigration department when Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, Alta.) was named the minister in 2008 and took the multiculturalism files with him. Using his experience with implementing multiculturalism and citizenship policy, Mr. Griffith wrote an insider’s account about the major cultural shift in the public service when the Conservatives formed government.

“In this particular transition, the perspective, or worldview, of both sides was so different. We had the Calgary crowd—by and large the Conservative Party wanted smaller government, less government intervention and was more skeptical of the power of government to actually do good,” Mr. Griffith told The Hill Times in a phone interview last week. “We live in the Ottawa bubble, Central Canada, and, by and large, civil servants are small ‘l’ liberals. You know, you don’t join government because you want to shrink it generally, maybe the people in Finance do, but, generally speaking, the people who join government have a belief in the power of government to do good. It doesn’t mean they’re big government people, it’s just a different world view.”

Mr. Griffith said the differing worldviews “sharpened tensions” between the public service and the new government.

“Previous transitions hadn’t had, I don’t think, such a sharp tension. I don’t recall that during the Mulroney government, because, again, it was more of a Central Canadian government,” he said. “They came with strong ideas and knew what they didn’t like.”

In the case of multiculturalism and citizenship policy, he said, the Conservative government’s worldview was a complete departure from that of former prime ministers Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, and Jean Chrétien.

“They didn’t like much of the traditional approach in multiculturalism and everything like that, sort of the old-style focusing on visible minority issues. On citizenship, it was very clear they wanted a stronger reference to Canadian history, military, Crown, etc., and so the way they would come at the issues is we’d have a meeting, and they’d say, ‘Here’s what we want,’ and we’d initially figure it out. In many cases, it appeared very foreign to us in terms of what we knew about Canada, so it took us time to absorb it and react to it and find a way to say, ‘Now we understand it so we can actually work with you,’ ” he said.

Mr. Griffith said several of the policies generated were based on anecdotes that the minister or his staff would bring back and attempt to fix.

For example, in Policy Arrogance, he outlined that in the case of making changes to citizenship rules around “birth tourism”—or dealing with people who planned trips to Canada so that their baby would be born on Canadian soil and be granted automatic citizenship—anecdotes “trumped” evidence he said, because there was very little data to begin with.

“The minister admitted that he did not know the extent of the problem even as he made the case to crack down on birth tourism,” Mr. Griffith wrote. “Officials struggled with this lack of hard numbers as stories emerged in the Quebec and B.C. media.”

Mr. Griffith wrote that the CIC later engaged with medical associations and hospitals to “ascertain the extent of the issue,” but did not consult with provincial health systems that would have allowed them to see how many births were paid or not paid through the public system for which citizens and permanent residents are eligible.

“Such analysis would help quantify the extent of the issue, and help inform cost-benefit analysis of any change to citizenship legislation to align Canadian policy with other jurisdictions that no longer allow automatic citizenship upon birth,” Mr. Griffith wrote. “In developing policy and program advice, the paucity of data and analysis made it hard to provide advice on the likely impact of any policy changes. More, the minister’s wishes for early implementation meant there were limits to appropriate due diligence.”

Mr. Griffith told The Hill Times that public servants couldn’t discount Mr. Kenney’s anecdotes, however, because he went to at least 20 community events three weekends out of four.

“His anecdotes had a reasonable amount of weight,” he said, noting that officials did not take the anecdotes wholly; as the people Mr. Kenney was seeing was not entirely representative of the Canadian population.

“He was more in touch with the communities than we were. Our evidence tended to be large-scale research and surveys, which are very valid, and his evidence tended to be anecdotal, but it was such a large base of anecdotes that it was something that we actually had to take into account.”

When it came time to rewrite the citizenship guide, Discover Canada, the public servants working on it “didn’t get it right at all,” so the ministerial and political staff “actually wrote it for us” and the department went from there, Mr. Griffith said.

“Normally that isn’t done,” he said, adding that later, the minister’s office would have “a challenge session” going through each page one by one. “We were able to understand why they wanted it and the why is actually more important than the what because if you understand the why, then you can figure out a way to make it work. It would be difficult at the beginning … and then as you got through those discussions, you could get to more pragmatic ‘okay, now that we understand what you want, we can move in this direction.’ It served as a bit of a dance.”

Mr. Griffith said that while he was “never afraid” to give advice under these circumstances, his four years at Citizen and Immigration Canada was a “real learning experience.”

Writing that experience down “was actually satisfying and cathartic,” he said.

“My intent was actually to provoke a bit of a discussion initially within the public service about the relationship issue between the government and the public service because my sense was that we didn’t manage the relationship very well at the beginning,” Mr. Griffith said about writing the book.

“We weren’t responsive enough to the change in direction of the government so we appeared obstructive at best or resisting or even disloyal perhaps to the incoming government so I think there were some lessons learned for the public service in terms of how we manage that transition that hopefully by having a more open discussion about how we actually deal with a situation where we have an incoming government that has a very different worldview from our worldview in a way that actually doesn’t exacerbate tensions, but actually sort of helps develop a more normal working relationship.”

There was a difficult line between the public servants giving “fearless advice” and putting into practice the “loyal implementation” role, he said.

In the end, Mr. Griffith said, he felt at CIC that public servants were able to balance both, despite going through the “Kübler-Ross stages of grief and loss—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—in dealing with the traumatic challenge to their role, as well as to the long-standing consensus between previous Liberal and Conservative parties on citizenship and multiculturalism issues.”

Mr. Griffith told The Hill Times that, for the most part, Mr. Kenney was “actually quite good” at listening to advice, although “he wouldn’t necessarily accept it.”

While he couldn’t say whether this was widespread in other departments, Mr. Griffith said politicians are likely more drawn to anecdotes than scientific evidence and statistics because they are people’s people.

“This government is more ideological than previous governments. This government does tend to discount evidence. This government does actually tend to cut things that do provide evidence, like the census. All that’s on the public record,” Mr. Griffith said.

“How it works in individual departments, I’m not close enough to know that. I do know from some people that yes, some ministers are more receptive to listening to advice but again that always gets run by ‘The Centre’ [the PMO]. In the end, whether the minister listens or not is almost less important than whether ‘The Centre,’ i.e. the PMO, listens to it,” Mr. Griffith said.

As for whether things will change if and when a new government is elected, Mr. Griffith said it would likely be easier under a non-Conservative government.“My sense is that this Conservative government situation with the public service is probably fairly unique,” he said, noting that if the Liberals or NDP formed a government, they would likely have more confidence in the public service. “But either way, the public service has to be prepared to respond to whatever decision Canadians make at the polls. That’s always the bottom line in terms of the loyal implementation part.”

Bea Vongdouangchanh, The Hill Times, 23 September 2013

Former CIC mandarin says several public policies came from minister’s anecdotes | hilltimes.com.

ATIP Documents – Batch 2 – Delayed

Now formally overdue as of 22 July.

But with a perverse sense of humour – sending me the English and French 2010 Discover Canada citizenship study guide, a public document. Waste of postage.

Meanwhile we wait some substantive documents.

The Queen and I find middle ground – The Globe and Mail

Nice piece by Ratna Omidvar on how one’s background influences one’s perception of the Monarchy and the citizenship oath. Warm embrace of our British heritage, despite the difficult elements of British Colonial history for some groups.

Despite the efforts of Discover Canada and related publications to explain the role of the Crown in the Canadian system, discussion tends to revolve around the question what should the wording of the Canadian citizenship oath be within context of our current system of government.

The Queen and I find middle ground – The Globe and Mail.

Scholars, authors wary of government review of Canadian history – Politics – CBC News

Canada’s version of Australia’s ‘history wars’ (under the Howard governmetn)?

Scholars, authors wary of government review of Canadian history – Politics – CBC News.

Citizenship Management Quarterly Report

Link here.

More people failing revamped citizenship tests – Politics – CBC News

History repeats itself. Lack of focus group testing and detailed question-by-question analysis leads to predictable result of more unsuccessful applicants. Undermines the sound policy rationale for stronger knowledge of Canadian citizenship and greater program integrity.

More people failing revamped citizenship tests – Politics – CBC News.