Blogging break for a few weeks

Black Class Action Secretariat expressing sharp disapproval of new Canadian Heritage hire for multiculturalism, anti-racism

Suspect this is driven as much by the need to keep the organization and its issues in the public spotlight as substantive concerns. Not a political appointee unlike Amira Elghawaby, the special representative on combatting Islamophobia:

An organization working to eliminate systemic discrimination in Canada’s public service is concerned about a new hire for the Department of Canadian Heritage’s acting director general of multiculturalism and anti-racism.

Melanie Mohammed, a former leadership member at the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), took on the job at Canadian Heritage in April.

The Black Class Action Secretariat (BCAS) is expressing sharp disapproval of the decision to appoint Mohammed to the role, as the CHRC was recently found to have discriminated against its Black and racialized employees.

Mohammed’s hiring came less than a month after Treasury Board made a ruling that the CHRC, the mandate of which is to deal with complaints of discrimination, had itself breached the “no discrimination” clause of a collective agreement between the Treasury Board and the Association of Justice Counsel, the bargaining agent for approximately 2,600 lawyers employed by the government.

BCAS executive director Nicholas Marcus Thompson said last month that the appointment of Mohammed, who was the CHRC’s chief of staff, is “disturbing” and “reckless” as it sends a message to Canadians that there is no accountability or consequence for discrimination.

“If the government has moved an employee from an organization that was deemed to be discriminatory to now an even bigger organization to address anti-racism, it’s not only hypocritical, but it’s a farce,” Thompson said. “There’s zero credibility in this type of leadership.”

The role of the director general of multiculturalism and anti-racism is not only to provide funding to organizations led by Black and racialized people but to address racism and hate through federal multiculturalism and anti-racism strategies, including Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy and the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat.

“Employees report being harassed and facing retaliation from Ms. Mohammed after speaking up,” a statement from BCAS stated. “Therefore, it is completely unacceptable for the Government of Canada to appoint this individual as Director General of anti-racism for the entire government.”

This newspaper reached out to Mohammed, who declined to comment on the matter via her lawyer.

Dominique Collin, a spokesperson for Canadian Heritage, said in an email statement last month that the department was taking BCAS’ statement “very seriously” and was looking into the organization’s concerns.

“We remain committed to improving the experiences of Black public servants, but while progress is being made, we know there is still more to do to make our workplaces inclusive and equitable for all equity-seeking employees,” Collin said.

Canadian Heritage confirmed Monday that Mohammed remains in the position.

Thompson added last month that he’d like to see the prime minister take ownership of the issue, and re-affirmed his concern about the lack of accountability within the government in an address to the Senate last week regarding anti-Black racism, sexism and systemic discrimination in the CHRC.

“We have this vicious cycle within the federal public service where there’s no accountability, wrongdoers are often either transferred when it comes to discrimination or promoted,” Thompson told the Senate.

In its statement, BCAS called on the government to rescind Mohammed’s appointment and issue an apology. The group also urged the feds to appoint someone with no connection to CHRC’s leadership and who has demonstrated “an understanding of systemic anti-Black racism.”

BCAS said the appointment also speaks to the “urgent need” to transfer the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat to the Privy Council Office in order for it to have independence and power to implement its mandate.

The organization also called for Mohammed’s appointment to the Federal Executive Leadership Development Program to be revoked and said it would like to see the government mandate that senior Canadian Heritage executives undergo anti-Black racism training and meet with Black employees and address their concerns within the department.

“This appointment is completely counter to the government’s promise and commitment to create a diverse and inclusive workspace that is free from discrimination and harassment,” Thompson said.

Source: Black Class Action Secretariat expressing sharp disapproval of new Canadian Heritage hire for multiculturalism, anti-racism

How Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric Crushed Crowdfunding for Minority Entrepreneurs

Another interesting study. Words matter:

What does fearmongering about immigration have to do with crowdfunding new ideas on Kickstarter?

For Black, Asian, and Hispanic entrepreneurs, such rhetoric can undermine fundraising efforts, making it even less likely that new ideas will come to fruition, argues Harvard Business School Professor William Kerr. In a new paper, Kerr and his collaborators shed light on how discrimination affects fundraising, and ways crowdfunding sites, entrepreneurs, and investors can take action.

Minority business founders already typically face a fundraising disadvantage compared to their white counterparts, but that gap triples during periods of high public anxiety over immigration in the United States.


Banks have historically rejected loan applications from Black, Asian, and Hispanic small-business owners at higher rates than for whites, according to Federal Reserve data, potentially driving some to alternative sources of capital, like Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites. The pullback in support noted in Kerr’s research is national in scope, taking place in cities like Seattle and New York, with reputations as progressive bastions, as well as in more conservative-leaning locales.

“When there is the greatest anxiety, we see this funding shortfall,” says Kerr, the D’Arbeloff Professor of Business Administration. He cowrote the paper with John (Jianqui) Bai, an associate professor of finance at Northeastern University, and Chi Wan and Alptug Yorulmaz, associate professor and graduate research assistant, respectively, at UMass Boston.

Measuring fear during the Trump era

The paper looks closely at two different sets of data. The first is the Migration Fear Index, which counts the number of newspaper articles that include at least two terms associated with the debate over immigration, such as “migrant, asylum, refugee,” and “human trafficking,” as well as “anxiety, panic, bomb, crime, terror, worry, concern,” and “violent.”

Kerr and collaborators then compared the quarterly fluctuations of the Migration Fear Index from 2009 to 2021 to efforts by minority entrepreneurs to raise money on Kickstarter, which has raised $7.3 billion for popular projects such as opening restaurants and publishing comic books.


The fear index surged when former President Donald Trump, with a barrage of anti-immigrant rhetoric, launched his first campaign in 2015, and continued speaking disparagingly of immigrants through his first year in office. Overall, minority entrepreneurs were less likely to meet their fundraising goals during periods like this of high anxiety over immigration, the study finds.

“You can compare quarters within the same year and find the connection between the hostile rhetoric and greater difficulty in fundraising for minority creators. You can also follow individual minority creators over time and see ups and downs in their rates of success,” Kerr says.

Certain groups feel it more

The heaviest impact was felt by groups that found themselves the most frequent targets of hostile rhetoric.

Hispanic entrepreneurs or creators suffered the sharpest pullback in support from financial backers on Kickstarter during the 2016 election cycle, while Chinese ethnic creators in the US faced a harder time meeting their financing goals during “episodes of Asian hate,” including Trump’s use of the phrase “Chinese virus” to describe COVID-19.

By contrast, while Black entrepreneurs had lower success rates overall in raising money, support did not fluctuate as dramatically with the ups and downs of the Migration Fear Index.

The paper finds that even during periods of low anxiety, minority creators are 2.4 percent less likely to achieve their fundraising goals on Kickstarter. But during periods of higher anxiety, minorities experience an 8.2 percent lower success rate.

Where and why it’s happening

Meanwhile, Kerr and his co-authors considered—then knocked down— several different theories for the decline in support, including the idea that funding support from minority communities may be pulling back during times of heightened tension around immigration or that creators might be posting different types of projects.

Rather, the evidence points to another hypothesis, that spikes in anxiety over immigration trigger a broader, nationwide retraction of support among backers of Kickstarter projects. Most backers are white, the study contends.

The decline in support for minority creators during increases in the Migration Fear Index are most pronounced in conservative counties. But Kerr and collaborators “also find sizable impacts in very liberal counties,” according to the paper.

“A majority of financial backers for typical Kickstarter campaigns live more than 50 miles away from the creator they support, tending to reside in big cities like Seattle and New York,” the researchers note.

Drawing lessons from the data

The report builds upon previous research on “systemic racial bias in entrepreneurial finance,” illustrating a “more direct” connection between shifts in public attitudes and struggles experienced by minority creators in raising money for new ventures, Kerr and his co-authors write.

Still, the study does not have data on potential backers who looked at pitches by minority entrepreneurs, only to take a pass on their proposals. That, in turn, made it hard to draw any conclusions on whether these decisions by white backers were driven by conscious racism, unconscious racism, or a combination of the two, according to Kerr.

However, there might be ways for Kickstarter and similar platforms to offset or at least mitigate some of these tendencies and trends.

Minority entrepreneurs are less likely to have projects promoted as “staff picks” on Kickstarter during period of hostile rhetoric, which is not the case normally. That is likely driven by the algorithms used, which tend to pick up on momentum, Kerr says.

Given this research, platform operators could keep an eye out for this trend and look at ways of compensating for it in the algorithm, Kerr explains.

“One of the hopes for crowd funding is that it will democratize access to capital from those previously excluded,” the authors write. “Prior work has shown that discrimination still exists on crowd-funding sites … we take a step further in understanding how minority creators can suffer acute funding shortfalls in moments when anxiety over immigration is high.”

Source: How Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric Crushed Crowdfunding for …

Les experts avec un accent sont jugés moins crédibles

Interesting study:

Les accents étrangers influencent grandement l’opinion qu’on se fait des nouveaux arrivants et des experts, suggèrent les résultats d’une nouvelle étude. Le fait d’avoir un accent et d’être issu d’une minorité visible « entrave » la possibilité d’être perçu comme légitime, digne de confiance ou même crédible.

Cette étude confirme ainsi d’autres études au Québec sur les barrières à l’emploi et sur la « glottophobie », une forme de discrimination linguistique qui inclut l’accent. Il est déjà connu que la couleur de peau, la religion ou le genre des experts influencent l’opinion qu’on s’en fait. Cette fois, « le point de départ est la discrimination basée sur l’accent », précise le professeur Antoine Bilodeau. Il a notamment mené cette enquête avec son équipe de l’Université Concordia et en présentera les conclusions au congrès de l’Acfas cette semaine.

« On connaît bien le concept de minorité visible, mais beaucoup moins les minorités audibles », affirme ce spécialiste en science politique et en intégration des immigrants. Les résultats actuels montrent que le fait d’avoir un accent étranger, combiné ou non avec le fait d’être racisé, « entrave la possibilité » d’être perçu comme un expert légitime, digne de confiance et même crédible.

Les chercheurs ont demandé à 1200 personnes dans chacune des provinces d’évaluer la crédibilité d’un expert à partir d’une photo et d’un enregistrement audio. L’effet de l’accent est indéniable dans tous les cas de figure soumis au sondage, mais il n’est pas le même au Québec qu’en Ontario.

Chaque répondant au sondage ne voyait qu’une vignette, soit un homme blanc ou noir, puis entendait cette personne parler une seule fois des changements climatiques et de la taxe sur le carbone. Au Québec, cette voix avait soit un accent québécois, ou un accent de type Europe de l’Est ou encore de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (du Togo). En Ontario, c’était plutôt un accent anglophone assez neutre, puis les mêmes accents étrangers.

Ni la « provenance » de l’accent, ni le but de l’évaluation, n’étaient révélés au répondant, précise M. Bilodeau, « puisqu’on voulait que les gens interprètent eux-mêmes cet accent ». On demandait ensuite de juger la crédibilité de l’expert sous plusieurs angles : l’éloquence de son message, sa compétence et son professionnalisme. « Est-il convaincant ? Est-il digne de confiance ? », exemplifie aussi le professeur

Dépend de la conception du « nous »

Au Québec, l’effet de l’accent étranger était plus grand pour la personne non racisée. En Ontario, il était plus « punitif » chez l’expert racisé. « C’est peut-être là, la spécificité québécoise : la langue est tellement centrale que dès qu’on voit une personne blanche on s’attend à ce qu’elle ait le même accent », avance M. Bilodeau.

Il existe ainsi un « effet de surprise » qui contredit cette attente et affecte négativement la perception. Inversement, l’expert racisé avec un accent québécois est celui qui obtient le score le plus haut en termes de crédibilité.

Une minorité visible qui a ou adopte l’accent local est en quelque sorte « récompensée », selon ces résultats. « C’est comme si le fait qu’il ait un accent de la majorité [québécoise] venait désamorcer une anticipation de distance. Ça rapproche tout à coup le répondant de l’expert en train de parler », propose comme hypothèse le chercheur.

« Est-ce que c’est suffisant de parler français, ou faut-il le parler de la “bonne manière” pour faire vraiment partie du groupe ? », réfléchit M. Bilodeau.

L’étude allait justement plus loin pour mieux comprendre la réaction des répondants, selon leur propre conception de ce qui forme leur groupe d’appartenance. Il y avait ainsi une série de questions sur les critères importants pour être un « vrai Québécois » ou un « vrai Ontarien » : doit-on être né dans la province, avoir passé la majorité de sa vie dans la province, être blanc, être chrétien, se sentir Québécois ou Ontarien, respecter les lois, etc.

Ceux qui avaient une conception qui exclut davantage de gens sont réagissaient aussi le plus fortement à l’accent chez l’expert blanc au Québec.

Une forme trop socialement acceptable

« L’accent, on n’y pense pas ou on en parle moins », abonde en ce sens Victor Armony, professeur de sociologie à l’UQAM. Dans une étude qu’il a menée à l’Observatoire sur les inégalités raciales au Québec, l’accent figure pourtant au deuxième rang des raisons de discrimination citées par les répondants.

« Je partais d’une sorte d’énigme », décrit-il. Chez plusieurs populations, il persiste des écarts importants de revenus ou de postes pour les mêmes qualifications, même si elles ne sont pas des cibles « directes ou ouvertes » de racisme.

Il donne l’exemple des Latino-Américains : « Il y a parfois des préjugés favorables envers les latinos. On nous trouve chaleureux, on apporte une cuisine, une musique, la joie de vivre, etc. L’autre côté de la médaille : on n’est pas toujours pris au sérieux au niveau intellectuel ou professionnel », explique le chercheur.

Une personne qualifiée, avec un diplôme, « qui fait des efforts considérables pour parler français » et reçue sans hostilité préalable peut tout de même être dévalorisée en raison de son accent.

« C’est l’accent qui fait en sorte que le message devient irrecevable, moins intéressant et parfois laissé de côté », résume-t-il. Arrivé d’Argentine il y a plus de 30 ans, M. Armony l’a lui-même vécu. « C’est le regard moqueur, impatient, méprisant de l’autre qui finit par avoir un impact sur l’assurance, sur l’estime de soi ou dans le goût de s’exposer devant les autres même quand j’ai quelque chose à dire. Alors on finit par se taire et rester à sa place », explique l’homme.

La discrimination linguistique, notamment basée sur l’accent, aussi appelée « glottophobie » est plus insidieuse. « Socialement, la glottophobie n’est pas reconnue comme une discrimination. Alors elle peut servir de prétexte ou d’écran pour cacher une autre forme de discrimination socialement inacceptée », décrit quant à lui le sociologue Christian Bergeron.

À l’instar d’Antoine Bilodeau, mais dans un domaine différent, il note lui aussi une attitude différente selon la perception de soi-même : « Plus un locuteur pense détenir la norme, c’est-à-dire la bonne manière de s’exprimer en français, plus il a tendance à rejeter les autres manières de s’exprimer et parfois même à discriminerl’autre », dit ce professeur à l’Université d’Ottawa.

Plus sournoise ou moins affichée, elle peut néanmoins devenir une barrière réelle à l’emploi, rappelle M. Armony. « On va invoquer par exemple l’idée qu’on a besoin d’une personne qui a “un français parfait”, mais alors on confond la grammaire et la qualité du français du point de vue de l’accent », rapporte-t-il.

La Charte des droits et libertés de la personne du Québec ne nomme pas explicitement l’accent, mais plutôt la langue. Il est toutefois interdit de traiter différemment une personne ou d’avoir des comportements offensants et répétés à son égard en raison de son accent, indique la Commission des droits de la personne et de la jeunesse du Québec.

La France est allée plus loin en 2020, en adoptant une loi qui punit la discrimination fondée sur l’accent avec des peines allant jusqu’à trois ans d’emprisonnement et à 45 000 euros d’amende. « Les minorités “audibles” sont les grandes oubliées du contrat social fondé sur l’égalité », avait alors déclaré l’instigateur du projet de loi, le député Christophe Euzet, lui-même d’une région de France connue pour ses sonorités différentes de celles de Paris.

Source: Les experts avec un accent sont jugés moins crédibles

Schools survey: Non-German students more likely to ‘sit next to a …

Interesting study:

A study on children’s attitudes toward their classmates resulted in some surprising, and other not so surprising, findings.

Based on surveys of ninth-grade children (aged 14 to 15) in Germany, research led by Zsófia Boda at the University of Essex and Georg Lorenz from Leipzig University has found that classes that are ethnically diverse are more welcoming of refugee students.

That’s the unsurprising part.

What it also revealed, however, was that students who were born in Germany to German-born parents were the most likely to reject their refugee classmates, and the least likely to refer to them as friends.

Would you sit next to a refugee?

The study is based on the results of a national survey of 6,390 children in Germany in 2018, which asked the students who their friends were and who they would not want to sit next to in class. Most of the refugee students involved in the survey came from Syria and Afghanistan — the two main countries of origin of people seeking protection in Germany.

The results, published this week in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, showed that the refugee children had fewer friends and experienced more rejection than their non-refugee peers.

But in a more mixed or ‘high-diversity’ classroom, it was much less likely for a child to say they would not want to share a desk with a refugee or asylum seeker, and more likely that they would name a refugee student as a friend.

The research found that there are two processes at work here: In a classroom with a high proportion of ‘non-German’ children, you are more likely to get people who are accepting of other non-Germans, the researchers explained. But also, ethnic majority (i.e. second-generation German) students are less inclined to reject refugee peers if they are surrounded by diversity.

The study suggests that this finding – that more diversity does not lead to greater rejection by the ethnic majority group – is an important one, because it challenges critical views of multiculturalism.

A large proportion – about half – of refugees and migrants in Germany are under the age of 18.

These young people need more than just access to education. Having positive and supportive relationships with others their own age in turn leads to them achieving better grades at school and results in overall better health and wellbeing for minority students.

The study suggests that if you take these away, the educational success and psychological adjustment of refugee adolescents will likely be put at risk.

Barriers to acceptance

So what is it that is stopping students from accepting their refugee peers?

There are several possible reasons, the researchers behind the study say. One is language, which is often said to be a major barrier to integration. Traumatic experiences can also make it hard for young refugees to adjust.

Other explanations for refugees having lower levels of social integration or acceptance in the classroom include the fact that they are likely to have joined the class later when friendships between other students have already formed. There is also the dynamics of friendship groups, which often grow and develop between people of the same ethnic group.

Moreover, the study also points out that social integration is not a one-sided process: “[T]he attitudes and behaviors of peers [is] crucial,” it notes.

What should policy makers do with these findings which, taken at face value, seem to suggest that refugee students should attend schools that are already ethnically diverse?

If they were to take this approach, it might jeopardize refugee students’ language development, which usually benefits from having a high proportion of majority-ethnic children in the classroom.

Steering refugee children into diverse schools could also lead to segregation instead of integration, and that would not help in promoting positive attitudes between German and non-German students, the study suggests.

There are some concrete steps that could “mitigate the negative consequences of prejudice,” according to the researchers. They recommend that teachers and principals are made aware of the challenges and that they support integration by, among other things, encouraging cooperation and showing support for mixing ethnic groups.

With global forced migration having become a ‘megatrend,’ Boda and Lorenz argue promoting the social integration of refugees, including adolescents, will remain crucially important for the refugees themselves. According to them, it will also reduce negative attitudes and prejudice towards immigrants — a problem which is widespread in Western societies.

Source: Schools survey: Non-German students more likely to ‘sit next to a …

More Islamic lessons in Swiss schools? – SWI

Of note:

With a “Salam aleikum”, teacher Nimetullah Veseli greets the pupils of year four in the Kirchacker school building. Veseli stands in front of the six boys and six girls in the classroom in Neuhausen, Schaffhausen. Wearing jeans and a white shirt, he explains the Islamic religious teachings.

Imam Nimetullah Veseli gives confession-oriented Islamic lessons at the public school. Confession-oriented means that the children learn about their own religion, in contrast to the inter-faith lessons in most primary school.

Normally, these confession-oriented Islamic lessons take place in mosques. It is an exception that it is offered in a public school. Only ten Swiss schools offer such lessons.

Religious education with quality control

A recent study by the universities of Lucerne and Fribourg corroborates the advantages of this type of teaching: “The school is a neutral place,” says study director Hansjörg Schmid. This also means that children from different Muslim backgrounds receive lessons together.

In addition, more emphasis is placed on instructive elements of its study at the school. “The Islamic teachers are obliged to present their concepts to the school,” says Schmid. “This makes quality control possible.”

The director of the Swiss Centre for Islam and Society at the University of Fribourg, together with three other researchers, has examined all the Islamic instructions offered at schools. The study shows that once the lessons are up and running, the feedback is very positive. Generally the criticism and resistance comes beforehand.

Expand the programme – but how?

The study also shows that the lessons availability are strongly dependent on individuals. Most of the proposals came about as a result of initiatives by imams or Muslim religious teachers. “More stability would be important,” says study director Hansjörg Schmid.

The classes in Kreuzlingen could be a model for future programmes. There, various mosque associations, an interreligious working group and the local parishes have jointly set up Islamic instruction, and an association has taken over the sponsorship.

The study recommends expanding confession-oriented Islamic instruction in public schools. But who will pay for it? At present, the programme is supported by voluntary work as well as parental contributions or subsidies from mosque associations.

Broad-based teachings with trained teachers are lacking. In addition, there is another hurdle as in most cantons, teaching requires recognition under public law.

“Salam aleikum” in chorus

If a comparable religious education as that of the Christian national churches is to be developed, the Muslim communities would first have to be recognised. This is a lengthy process.

But Hansjörg Schmid says, “A lot is possible at the level of pilot trials.” He therefore advises trying out as much as possible at a low-threshold level – as in Neuhausen. There, Imam Nimetullah Veseli ends the lesson with “Salam aleikum”: “What does that mean?” he wants to know from the fourth graders. “Peace be with you and with you,” they answer in chorus.

Source: More Islamic lessons in Swiss schools? – SWI

Qadeer: Canada needs new immigrants, but must plan for the consequences

Another good commentary regarding the failures of governments and stakeholders to acknowledge and address the externalities of immigration:

Despite their success, Canadian immigration and settlement policies are producing some unintended negative effects on post-secondary education, housing, the labour market, and visa and immigration processes. Because these areas are interrelated, when one becomes compromised, others are also affected.

The number of scams, false claims and fake documents in the immigration and temporary workers’ permits process points to this issue. While there appear to be no hard statistics, media accounts and government warnings indicate they are an issue.

Canada is a world leader in accepting immigration. In the past few years, it has been adding about one per cent of its population yearly by immigration. In 2022, apart from permanent immigrants (437,000), the number of non-permanent residents increased by a net of more than 607,000, some of whom were admitted as temporary workers and/or international students. Canada’s population increased by more than a million people, largely as a result of a surge in immigration and temporary residents. The federal government is aiming to add 1.5 million more immigrants by 2025.

So far, these policies seem to have worked out. There is strong support for increased immigration among Canadians. Environics Institute’s recent survey shows that seven in 10 support the present level of immigration, though there is some recognition of the challenges arising from it.

One of these challenges is false documents, which tend to follow the priorities of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). For example, if the protection of people persecuted because of sexual orientation in a country is the priority, suddenly claims in that area increase. Some immigrant consultants, as well as human smugglers, tutor and manufacture documents to support such claims.

A recent story in the Toronto Star found that as many as 700 Indian students were admitted to study in Canada on fake admission letters. They lived and found places in different colleges for years before it became known that the letters were bogus. A regulatory body for immigration consultants, the College of Immigration and Citizenship Consultants, has had limited success in supressing such practices.

The post-secondary education sector’s structure and purposes have been widely compromised by the drive to recruit international students. Universities, and especially colleges, including private colleges, have come to depend on the international student enrolment fees. Access to higher learning may only be partially the motivating factor behind the scramble for foreigners trying to access Canadian post-secondary education.

Being an international student also opens the door to permanent residency in Canada. This is a big draw for students from abroad. It has been turned into a business by some post-secondary institutions. Even Ontario’s auditor general has identified the dependence on these fees as a vulnerable point in post-secondary educational finances.

About 500,000 international students contributed  $16.2 billion in 2017 and $19.7 billion in 2018 to this country’s GDP and supported more than 218,000 jobs in 2018. These international students are also being used as a cheap way to combat labour shortages. Recent rule changes allow some international students to work up to 40 hours a week while attending classes. This is to serve the need of the labour market, rather than advance international students’ education. To accommodate their schedule, institutions are arranging classes in the evenings and on weekends. In Toronto, for example, young South Asians dominate the landscape working as delivery workers and van drivers. If they are students, one wonders how much time they can spend on their studies after working a full-time job.

The enrolment of large numbers of international students affects the quality of educational programs in post-secondary institutions. International students generally add to the quality of learning experiences. Many international students are among the brightest. But the aggressive recruitment — combined with studies becoming a path to permanent residence and employment — have affected the classroom. Classes dominated by students from abroad with wide variations of language skills and motivation inhibit discussion and compromise learningThis is hardly the Canadian education for which they paid.

Immigration is a positive force for the Canadian economy, making up for labour shortages and a potentially decreasing population. Yet it has been used for many unethical ends. The downdraft of capabilities and status that immigrants experience on arrival is well-known. The infusion of hundreds of thousands of new job-seekers a year prompts abuses in the labour market.

Gig jobs rather than careers have become the norm. Foreign workers are hired to replace Canadians whose seniority has raised their salaries. Many economists argue that immigration at least initially affects wages of Canadian workers in the fields where immigrant labour supply increases.

In many professions, anecdotal evidence suggests that Canadians and long-standing immigrants are displaced after they have worked out new initiatives and routinized procedures. Foreign workers and new immigrants are then brought in at lower rates to run the programs. This means new immigrants and temporary workers often compete with second-generation Canadians in the labour market.

This affects the mainstream economy. International students and undocumented workers may be paid below minimum wage and off-the-books. A continual supply of young workers at lower salaries pushes older, more expensive and more experienced Canadians off the job market. It is not a surprise that businesses lobby for more workers from abroad.

The ethical responsibilities of attracting professionals in the fields of health and other critical areas from poor countries does not appear to register in discussions of Canadian immigration policies. The Global South needs professionals for development, yet rich countries such as Canada are attracting them to leave their homes with incentives for immigration.

This brain drain has long been an issue for the poor countries. It is particularly damaging in the case of medical professionals, who are direly needed in those places. The World Health Organization has taken note of the dilemma of health professionals emigrating from the Global South. It has established a global code for their recruitment, balancing individuals’ rights of movement and the social costs borne by poor countries.

Problems of housing adequacy, affordability and availability have buffeted Canada in one way or another for a long time. The demand-and-supply laws tell us that accommodating a million persons a year should exacerbate the housing shortages, particularly in major cities. This strain is expected, but what is of equal public concern are the abuses and illegal practices that the excessive demand is fostering.

Immigration funnels “black” money from abroad into real estate, leaving many housing units vacant for speculative gains. Toronto and Vancouver have lately recognized this problem and are restricting foreign buyers and taxing housing units kept vacant for six or more months.

More egregious is the practice of international students and other immigrants crowding in illegal housing, sharing rooms among many other, with their possessions spilling into the driveways. Neighbourhoods become noisy, choked with garbage and traffic. Brampton and Mississauga have been in news for the illegal basement rentals targeted at international students recruited from India.

Of course, a house is more than just a building. It requires infrastructure, schools, parks, sidewalks and roads. Housing requires major public investments and can result in higher taxes at local and provincial levels. Canadian cities are in a frenzy of increasing densities. Regardless of their success, these measures will change the quality of urban life for everybody. Immigration policies will change the form of our cities, potentially creating even more urban sprawl if there’s no careful planning.

Canada undoubtedly needs immigration, but post-secondary education and labour market policies are so interconnected that attention must be paid to the effect of an increase of a million new permanent residents. More enforcement against immigration scams, particularly aimed at post-secondary students, and the over-reliance of those institutions on foreign students should be deterred. The implications of more migrants on a housing market, particularly in specific cities, means a need for more careful planning. All of this suggests that these new immigration targets cannot be viewed as merely an issue of welcoming more faces. It requires careful planning, which to date does not appear to be happening.

Source: Canada needs new immigrants, but must plan for the consequences

Paul: A Paper That Says Science Should Be Impartial Was Rejected From Major Journals. You Can’t Make This Up.

Agree with the concerns regarding the risks to scientific research:

Is a gay Republican Latino more capable of conducting a physics experiment than a white progressive heterosexual woman? Would they come to different conclusions based on the same data because of their different backgrounds?

For most people, the suggestion isn’t just ludicrous, it’s offensive.

Yet this belief — that science is somehow subjective and should be practiced and judged accordingly — has recently taken hold in academic, governmental and medical settings. A paper published last week, “In Defense of Merit in Science,” documents the disquieting ways in which research is increasingly informed by a politicized agenda, one that often characterizes science as fundamentally racist and in need of “decolonizing.” The authors argue that science should instead be independent, evidence-based and focused on advancing knowledge.

This sounds entirely reasonable.

Yet the paper was rejected by several prominent mainstream journals, including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Another publication that passed on the paper, the authors report, described some of its conclusions as “downright hurtful.” The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences took issuewith the word “merit” in the title, writing that “the problem is that this concept of merit, as the authors surely know, has been widely and legitimately attacked as hollow as currently implemented.”

Instead, the paper has been published in a new journal called — you can’t make this up — The Journal of Controversial Ideas. The journal, which welcomes papers that “discuss well-known controversial topics from diverse cultural, philosophical, moral, political and religious perspectives,” was co-founded in 2021 by the philosopher Peter Singer and is entirely serious. This particular paper was rewritten multiple times and peer-reviewed before publication. However controversial one judges the paper’s claims, they deserve consideration.

According to its 29 authors, who are primarily scientists (including two Nobel laureates) in fields as varied as theoretical physics, psychology and pharmacokinetics, ideological concerns are threatening independence and rigor in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. Though the goal of expanding opportunity for more diverse researchers in the sciences is laudable, the authors write, it should not be pursued at the expense of foundational scientific concepts like objective truth, merit and evidence, which they claim are being jeopardized by efforts to account for differing perspectives.

Consider the increasingly widespread practice of appending a “positionality statement” to one’s research. This is an explicit acknowledgment by the author of an academic paper of his or her identity (e.g., “nondisabled,” “continuing generation”). Positionality statements were first popular in the social sciences and are now spreading to the hard sciences and medicine. The idea is that one’s race, sex, relative privilege and “experiences of oppression” inherently inform one’s research, especially in ways that perpetuate or alleviate bias.

But whatever validity “alternative ways of knowing,” “multiple narratives” and “lived experience” may have in the humanities, they are of questionable utility when it comes to the sciences. Some defenders of positionality statements maintain that these acknowledgments promote objectivity by drawing attention to a researcher’s potential blind spots, but in practice they can have the opposite effect, implying that scientific research isn’t universally valid or applicable — that there are different kinds of knowledge for different groups of people.

Another concern is the rise of “citation justice” — the attempt to achieve racial or gender balance in scholarly references. The purpose of a citation in an academic publication is to substantiate claims and offer the most relevant supporting research. Advocates of citation justice say these citations too often prioritize the work of white men. But in a field like chemistry, in which fewer than 30 percent of papers are written by women, according to data from the American Chemical Society, and where the foundational texts are almost entirely written by men, “justice” means disproportionately favoring studies by women, regardless of relevance. Many prominent science journals now recommend that before submission, authors run their papers through software programs that detect any citation bias.

A third worrisome development is the statements that researchers are often required to write in order to apply for faculty jobs (and to advance in those positions) describing their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, something my colleague John McWhorter, one of the paper’s authors, has written about in The Times. These are noble goals that in practice, however, can amount to discrimination, and such statements strike many as a kind of political litmus test. At the University of California, Berkeley, for example, in the hiring cycle from 2018 to 2019, three-quarters of applicants for faculty positions in the life sciences were eliminated on the basis of these statements alone. (Grant programs also often require applications for funding in the sciences to include D.E.I. goals.)

Of course, nobody wants to hire a racist. But that’s not what we’re talking about. For a prospective faculty member to say he is determined to treat all students equally rather than to advance diversity initiatives can be enough to count someone out of a job.

Marisol Quintanilla, an assistant professor of nematology at Michigan State University, was required to take a multiple choice D.E.I. test for continued employment, along with all faculty members; she was also asked to write a D.E.I. statement as part of her annual performance evaluations, which weigh heavily in the tenure process. Several designated answers in the test didn’t align with her religious or scientific beliefs, she said. The statement requirement was abandoned in March, but not without a protracted battle. “I’ve heard colleagues of mine saying they need to get rid of white men in academia,” Quintanilla, a Chilean immigrant of mixed ethnicity, told me. “It amounted to clear discrimination. I feel very uncomfortable with this because I think hiring the best qualified candidates would be best for the advancement of science.”

Those are just three troubling practices detailed in the new paper. Sadly, they are part of a much larger set of developments.

“What’s being advocated are philosophies that are explicitly anti-scientific,” Anna Krylov, a chemistry professor at the University of Southern California and one of the paper’s authors, told me. “They deny that objective truth exists.” Having grown up in the Soviet Union, where science was infused with Marxist-Leninist ideology, Krylov is particularly attuned to such threats. And while she has advocated on behalf of equal treatment for women in science, she prefers to be judged on the basis of her achievements, not on her sex. “The merit of scientific theories and findings do not depend on the identity of the scientist,” she said in a phone interview.

It should go without saying — but in today’s polarized world, unfortunately, it doesn’t — that the authors of this paper do not deny the existence of historical racism or sexism or dispute that inequalities of opportunity persist. Nor do they deny that scientists have personal views, which are in turn informed by culture and society. They acknowledge biases and blind spots.

Where they depart from the prevailing ideological winds is in arguing that however imperfect, meritocracy is still the most effective way to ensure high quality science and greater equity. (A major study published last week shows that despite decades of sexism, claims of gender bias in academic science are now grossly overstated.) The focus, the authors write, should be on improving meritocratic systems rather than dismantling them.

At a time when faith in institutions is plummeting and scientific challenges such as climate change remain enduringly large, the last thing we want is to give the public reason to lose faith in science. A study published last month, “Even When Ideologies Align, People Distrust Politicized Institutions,” shows that what we need is more impartiality, not less.

If you believe bias is crucial to evaluating scientific work, you may object to the fact that several of the authors of the study are politically conservative, as are some of the researchers they cite. One author, Dorian Abbot, a geophysicist at the University of Chicago and a critic of some affirmative action and diversity programs, inspired outcry in 2021 when he was invited to speak at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But to deny the validity of this paper on that basis would mean succumbing to the very fallacies the authors so persuasively dismantle.

One needn’t agree with every aspect of the authors’ politics or with all of their solutions. But to ignore or dismiss their research rather than impartially weigh the evidence would be a mistake. We need, in other words, to judge the paper on the merits. That, after all, is how science works.

Source: A Paper That Says Science Should Be Impartial Was Rejected From Major Journals. You Can’t Make This Up.

Ivison: Liberals’ passport redesign latest attempt to reshape Canada’s symbols

Valid critique: “But the criticism remains the same for the Liberals as it was for the Conservatives — it should not be the sole preserve of political parties to present their own vision of the country as a fait accompli, without consultation or debate with its citizens,” even if some of the proposed changes have merit (while some do not):
The Liberals are engaged in a “radical” redesign of the Canadian passport that is likely to leave it looking very different, including replacing the Royal Coat of Arms on the cover and substituting pictures of the Fathers of Confederation, the National Vimy Memorial, the RCMP and the Stanley Cup with images “more reflective of what Canada is today,” sources say.
The changes will be announced in the coming weeks and be introduced in July, according to one official.The government is obliged to update security features every five years to embed new anti-counterfeit measures, but the Liberals have not modernized the passport since coming to power. The current passport contains a hidden chip to prevent forgeries and officials say the new technology being employed is “world-renowned and state of the art.”

According to a senior government official: “The new passport will feature state-of-the-art security measures that are critical in protecting the integrity of our passport system and in line with best practices and international standards.”

As with past governments, the Liberals are using the security overhaul to feature images that more closely reflect their values, including more prominent representation of women and Indigenous Canadians.

The Trudeau government is even said to have investigated the concept of changing the dark blue passport to Liberal red — an idea that has apparently been put on hold, subject to quality testing.It is the latest example of the Trudeau government making a calculated effort to reshape Canada’s symbols to reflect its own values.

The National Post reported earlier this week that Ottawa is set to unveil a new design for the Canadian Crown that sits atop the Royal Coat of Arms in time for the Coronation of King Charles this weekend. The so-called “Trudeau Crown” removes all religious imagery — crosses and Fleur-de-lis — and replaces them with maple leafs and snowflakes, sources said.

Nothing is new in politics and governments of all stripes have tried to redefine what it means to be Canadian by introducing symbols that more closely reflect their agenda.In late 2009, then Immigration minister Jason Kenney, unveiled a new Canadian Citizenship Guide that he said focused on the history, values and institutions of Canada. The booklet provided detailed accounts of Canada’s wars and emphasized the obligations that come with citizenship.

Kenney was heavily criticized at the time when it emerged he had taken steps to nix references to gay rights and same sex marriage.

The Conservatives also ordered all foreign embassies and consulates to display portraits of the Queen, reinstated the word “Royal” in the titles of the air force and navy, and bankrolled the commemoration of the War of 1812 (while ignoring the anniversary of the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms).

Critics at the time accused the Conservatives of politicizing history and adopting a “Victorian” view that highlighted militarism, monarchism and imperialism. Defenders of the new symbols pointed out that Canada has long struggled with the idea of what it means to be Canadian and the Conservatives’ more “muscular” image was intended to articulate a national identity.

We have not yet seen the Liberal passport or even the redesigned Canadian Crown, so judgment must necessarily be reserved.

But if the Harper government was intent on erasing all symbols introduced by Trudeau senior, it is fair to suggest the Liberals’ co-ordinated campaign is aimed at wiping away all vestiges of the Harper years.

It all smacks a bit of Seinfeld’s George Constanza choosing to do the opposite of his natural inclination — if the Conservatives leaned heavily on the military and the monarchy, the opposite would have to be right.

But the criticism remains the same for the Liberals as it was for the Conservatives — it should not be the sole preserve of political parties to present their own vision of the country as a fait accompli, without consultation or debate with its citizens.

Source: Liberals’ passport redesign latest attempt to reshape Canada’s symbols

Egypt’s Debate on Music in Islam: Between Religious Austerity and Spiritual Ecstasy

Interesting discussion. During my time in the Mid-East (Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran) gained an appreciation for the richness of Arabic and Persian classical music:

In Youssef Chahine’s 1997 historical film Al Maseer(‘Destiny’), twelfth century Caliph Yaqub Al-Mansur’s youngest son, Abdallah (Hani Salama) is recruited by Islamist extremists, who launch war on Andalusian philosopher Ibn Rushd (Nour Al-Sherif) and the band of bohemian artists who rally behind him in support.

Amidst the ideological battle, Abdallah finds himself torn between the Islamists’ austere views and his lifelong passion for music and dance — an internal conflict which culminates in the film’s most powerful musical sequence.

The character’s journey points to a larger debate in the Muslim world surrounding the status of music in Islam.

I lived happily indifferent to this debate until last April, when I shared a list of Ramadan concert recommendations, under which several people expressed the view that music was contrary to the spiritual ethos of fasting from drink, food, and activities which are deemed sinful.

A few days later, just before Eid, a widely shared threadon the topic stirred controversy on Twitter. The author voiced her shock at the number of Muslims who attend concerts despite what she perceived as an obvious religious prohibition.

Reading through the replies, I wondered: where did the notion of an inherent opposition between music and Islam come from? Moreover, how have these views made their way to Egypt — a country with a long and rich tradition of spiritual music?

An Age-old Relationship

The relationship between Islam and music is as old as it is contentious. When the Prophet first instituted the call to prayer, adhan, in the early seventh century, he selected the Abyssinian Bilal as the first muezzin, chosen for his beautiful singing voice.

In pre-Islamic times, poet-musicians were revered in tribal society and held a special place in the courts of Arabian kings. Following the advent of the Muslim faith, religious music swiftly grew from the Bedouin tradition of lyrical poetry, which was primarily vocal but occasionally accompanied by instruments.

As such, the first four Caliphs (~632 – 661 AD) were marked by a vibrant cultural life in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, where wealthy families hosted salons and contests among both locals and foreign converts to crown the most talented musical performers.

As a result of the Islamic conquests, religious music was also influenced by the musical traditions of the conquered territories, leading to the introduction of new instruments, like the oud, a descendant of the Persian lute. Vocal methods inspired by Coptic chanting were also adopted.

In 750 AD, the establishment of the Abbasid dynasty, which ruled for five-centuries, propelled what is now known as the golden age of Islamic music, chronicled in tenth century scholar Abu Al Faraj Al-Isbahani’s Kitab Al Aghani (‘Book of Songs’).

Scholars like Al-Kindi wrote extensively on the theory of ethos (ta’thir) and the cosmological aspects of music. Ibn Sina, meanwhile, studied sound, rhythm, composition, and instruments, laying the foundations of a rich body of Islamic musical theory.

Among the era’s most prominent musicians were Ibrahim Al-Mawsili and his son Ishaq, credited with developing the practices of Ibtihalat and Inshad Dini — two forms of devotional poems recited with musical accompaniment and expressing the believer’s reverence to and love of God and the Prophet Mohamed.

Nowhere was the relationship between music and spirituality more overt than in Sufism, which is said to be as old as Islam itself, but developed into different orders formed around spiritual founders in the twelfth century.

Mass chanting, dance, long instrumental solos, and devotional love poems formed an integral part of Sufi Dhikr (remembrance of God) ceremonies, with music seen to bring its listener into a trance-like state, facilitating internal self-knowledge and unity with God.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Egypt led the revival of these musical traditions with regional icons like Umm Kulthum, Abdel-Halim, and Shadya all performing Ibtihalat throughout their careers. The artforms were further mainstreamed through radio and later television broadcasts in the 1960s, with voices of legendary munshideen like Sheikh Sayed Al Naqshabandi’s coming to form pillars of Egyptian spiritual life.

A Contentious Status 

The Quran makes no explicit mention of music, and yet, throughout history, many scholars have held the viewthat it is prohibited or regarded negatively in Islam. Opponents of the artform base their arguments on hadiths (sayings of the Prophet), and one in particular, reported by ninth century scholar Imam Al-Bukhari.

This hadith reads, “There will be people from my Ummah [nation] who will seek to make lawful the following matters: fornication, the wearing of silk, the drinking of alcohol, and the use of musical instruments.”

People on both sides of the debate have interpreted the saying differently. Followers of more orthodox schools of thought, like Salafism or Wahhabism, understand it as a plain prohibition on music and the use of instruments.

Others, including eleventh century Persian scholar Imam Al Ghazali, have put forward the mitigated view that music in itself is not sinful, but songs which entice their listener to immorality should be avoided — a view echoed by former Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Ali Gomaa.

In 2017, an article published by Egypt’s Dar Al-Ifta contributed to the now-widespread debate. It argued that reference to music in the hadith was included to paint a clear picture of ‘the licentious night,’ but unlike alcohol and adultery, it is not sinful in and of itself.

Whatever the argument’s merits, it did not gain particular prominence in Egypt nor interfere with the country’s rich musical life until the 1970s, a period which marked an important turning point for Egyptians Muslims’ relationship to their faith.

Egypt’s defeat in the 1967 war against Israel, the contentious signing of the Camp David Accords in 1978, and the spread of Wahhabism among Egyptian migrants returning from Saudi Arabia, were all factors that laid the groundwork for a growing Islamist movement to rise in popularity.

Over the next decades, debates about Islamic morality took center stage in public discourse and cultural life. A study published by the American University in Cairo finds that this surge in piety had a two-fold effect on the relationship between Islam and music in the country.

On the one hand, the 1980s witnessed growing religious animosity towards the arts, and particularly women’s involvement in the musical profession. Figures like Mohamed Metwally Al Shaarawy, Islamic scholar and former Minister of Endowments, advised women artists to renounce their profession and turn to a life of religious devotion.

On the other hand, spiritual and religious music grew in popularity and gained new audiences as proponents of moderate Islam turned to the artform as a means to explore, express, and deepen their faith — or to cope with mounting socio-economic pressures.

The latter trend was reinforced in the 1990s by the emergence of a centrist Islamist movement led by journalists, scholars, and a younger generation of preachers, in response to the parallel rise of extremism. Proponents of centrism encouraged the production of ‘clean art,’ a standard defined by adherence to Islamic morality and the spread of positive socio-political messages.

Those teachings, popular among Egypt’s educated youth, compelled pop artists like Amr Diab, Hisham Abbas, or Aida Al Ayoubi to put out one or more devotional songs; while international artists like the British Sami Yusuf grew to local stardom for their spiritual music.

Conversely, the move to bring music in line with a perceived adherence to religious values also fuelled calls for the censorship or outright banning of works which supposedly did not meet that standard — as seen to this day with purists’ ongoing war on mahraganatmusic, a politically charged and archetypally working class genre, denounced for overstepping moral boundaries in its tackling of socially contentious topics.

Fear of God or a Desperate Bid for Control?

In Chahine’s Al Maseer, the extremists’ bid for power rests on a darkly threatening view of Islam. Citizens of the Caliphate can either abide by their stringen norms, or risk not only the wrath of the extremists, but of God.

Through their practice of music, Ibn Rushd and his companions seek to counter this grim narrative with love, hope, and an unwavering call for freedom. In this way, the film’s central conflict rings true across borders and centuries, shedding a possible light on the source of religious extremists’ opposition to music and the arts.

Contention about the religious status of music is not unique to Egypt. Religiously austere movements in Sudan and Afghanistan have also pushed for or implemented stringent regulations on music as part of broader conservative social policies.

The debate is also not unique to the Muslim world. In the United States, one hallmark of the so-called ‘satanic panic’ of the 1980s — a period of nationwide hysteriaprompted by false allegations of mass satanic ritual abuse — was conservative Christians’ crusade against rock music.

I have neither the authority nor the theological expertise needed to make definitive statements about the status of music in Islam or any other religion. I do, however, believe that austere religious movements have historically opposed music for the same reason that Sufi mystics revel in its practice: because it nurtures a spirit of love, passion, communion, and hope — all things which stand as a direct counter to fear.

Source: Egypt’s Debate on Music in Islam: Between Religious Austerity and Spiritual Ecstasy