COLUMN: Interculturalism a viable solution to multiculturalism’s woes

From St. Alberta no less (multiculturalism includes integration into one of the two official languages):

This year, 2021, is the 50th anniversary of Canada’s official multiculturalism policy, which Pierre Trudeau introduced in 1971.

Multiculturalism was introduced in part to respond to the criticisms of the Laurendeau-Dunton Commission, which investigated language and social tensions in 1960s Canada. The Commission initially focused only on Canada’s Anglophone and Francophone “founding peoples.” It was harshly criticized by Canadians of other backgrounds for implying their communities were “second-tier.” The commission incorporated those criticisms into its report, which Trudeau used as the basis for his multiculturalism policies.

Since then, multiculturalism has been praised and criticized. Its supporters praise it for enabling people from all over the world to be Canadian on their own terms, and for recognizing the contributions they’ve made to Canadian society. Its critics reproach it for seemingly undermining immigrants’ ability to integrate into Canadian society, for undermining the founding status of Anglophones and Francophones (conflicting with English and French being official languages), and for treating Indigenous people as an “ordinary” ethnic group without Treaty rights.

Some critics advocate interculturalism as an alternative. Interculturalism states that there’s a majority in any given society that sets out things such as the common language and legal framework. It also recognizes the responsibilities of minorities to integrate into society, such as using the common language. However, interculturalism also recognizes that those minorities have rights of their own that the majority must respect, including the rights in some cases to use their own languages. Interculturalism, at its best, is an attempt to balance the concerns and rights of both the majority and the minorities, while also recognizing their responsibilities to each other.

Quebec has been one of the strongest advocates for interculturalism in recent years. The idea of Francophone Canada as one of the country’s “founding peoples” is very deeply rooted there. Many Franco-Quebecois are genuinely concerned about whether newcomers are integrating into mainstream society. However, Quebec’s language laws also make various exceptions for its Anglo-Quebecois minority, including their rights to be educated in English.

Interculturalism is most popular in Quebec right now, but I wonder if it couldn’t also apply to the rest of Canada, too. Many other Canadians have the same kind of concerns about newcomers integrating into society, including learning English. Other provinces’ Francophone minorities have had the same complaints as the Anglo-Quebecois about language rights. Many Indigenous people have made it crystal clear they won’t accept being treated as “just” Canadians. Newcomers across Canada work extremely hard to fit into society, including learning English and/or French, and deserve to have their efforts recognized.

Interculturalism could go a long way to addressing multiculturalism’s criticisms while keeping its positives. The founding statuses of Anglophone, Francophone, and Indigenous cultures would be formally recognized, but so would the fact that these cultures evolve as new people bring new influences from the rest of the world. Newcomers, regardless of skin colour, would have just as much right to call themselves Anglophone or Francophone Canadians as someone whose ancestors came here 300 years ago.

It might be just what Canadian unity needs.

Jared Milne is a St. Albert resident with a passion for Canadian history and politics.

Source: COLUMN: Interculturalism a viable solution to multiculturalism’s woes

New group of African Canadian senators created to amplify Black voices

Of note:

Seven senators have announced the launch of the African Canadian Senate Group, created to ensure Black voices are heard in the upper chamber.

The coalition is chaired by Sen. Rosemary Moodie, and includes senators Wanda Thomas Bernard, Bernadette Clement, Amina Gerba, Mobina Jaffer, Marie-Françoise Mégie and Mohamed-Iqbal Ravalia.

It is a multi-group coalition, comprising members from both the Independent Senators Group and the Progressive Senate Group.

The group said in a statement Thursday it is devoted to fighting racism and discrimination, and engaging with Canadians while advocating for their priorities.

“For too long, our voices, contributions and priorities have been ignored by our democratic institutions,” Moodie said. “As senators of African descent, we are committed to reversing this trend by working together.”

Jaffer said it is important for African Canadian senators to have this space in an institution with a history of not always considering the unique needs and lived experiences of Black people in Canada.

The group’s priorities for Canada’s 44th Parliament will include seeking a “more inclusive committee process” in the Senate, and working together with community members for progress on issues of “justice, health and economic fairness.”

Asked why the group has been formed at this particular moment, Clement said, “Because we’re energized right now,” adding that the beginning of a new session is a good time to let people know the group wants to hear from them.

Bernard said while the group has formally announced its presence to Canadians, members have been working together for years.

“The fact that there are seven of us who are working together who are committed to moving forward with issues of significance to people of African descent in this country, that’s huge. And we’re doing it in non-partisan ways.”

Moodie said the group has an opportunity to raise the voices of African Canadians in the Senate’s work, such as calling on Black witnesses for relevant studies and bills. “We saw that there is a bit of an imbalance in terms of the representation of African Canadians within the committee process.”

A priority for the group will be pressing for detailed data on communities in examining bills, she said. “The fact is that we really can’t understand or measure the impact of the policies that we are putting in place and how they affect African Canadians without looking at this data.”

The group will also be supporting the work of other senators, said Bernard, as with Sen. Kim Pate’s private member’s bill to reform the pardon process by having most criminal records automatically expire when a person has no subsequent charges or convictions.

“We will be quite actively involved and engaged in that work because the issue of record expiry has significant impacts on Canadians of African descent who have been through the criminal justice system,” Bernard said.

Clement noted she is a relatively new senator, having just been sworn in last week, but can identify with the group’s goal on a personal level.

She was the first Black woman to be a mayor in Ontario, serving in the eastern Ontario community of Cornwall.

“I’ve spent a lot of my career feeling lonely in all kinds of spaces,”Clement said. Referring to her colleagues in the newly formed Senate group, she added, “It just feels less lonely for me.”

Source: New group of African Canadian senators created to amplify Black voices

New online resources launched to help Ontario schools combat Islamophobia

Of note:

Ontario students and teachers now have access to a set of online resources aimed at combating Islamophobia in schools.

The Muslim Association of Canada, a national non-profit organization, launched a website Thursday that features three courses, four workshops and six hours of educational videos to help address anti-Muslim biases that teachers and students may have.

Memona Hossain, a member of the association’s team that developed the site, said the resources on offer are important to help schools address Islamophobia.

“This is definitely necessary work,” said Hossain, who is also a PhD student at the University of Toronto. “Our hope is that this type of work will inform long-term change, not just short term.”

The federal government convened an emergency summit on Islamophobia in July, a few weeks after a Muslim family was run down in London, Ont., in what police have called a targeted and deliberate act. Four members of the family died and a nine-year-old boy was seriously injured.

In recent months, a spate of hate-motivated attacks have targeted hijab-wearing Muslim women in Alberta. In September of last year, a Muslim man was stabbed to death while volunteering at a Toronto mosque.

The Muslim Association of Canada received a $225,000 grant from the Ontario government in June that supported its work on the website, which can be found at islamawareness.ca.

“The outcome of this project far exceeds the original scope and offers very easy access, practical, and concise resources for educators, students, parents and anybody that is willing to address Islamophobia within the sphere of education,” Sharaf Sharafeldin, the association’s executive director, said in a statement.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said many Muslim students continue to face discrimination in their schools and communities.

“That is why we are investing and partnering with community leaders — who are leading this effort— to counter racism and better support Ontario’s Muslim students and their families,” he said in a statement.

Hossain, who worked on the online platform, said the association used feedback from some of the largest school boards in Ontario to improve the resources on offer.

“We’ve also been getting some good feedback, hearing that they are ready to use this in their classrooms, that they are sharing this with their colleagues,” she added.

The Peel District School Board, which was among those that provided input on the platform, said it was implementing an anti-Islamophobia strategy that mandates anti-Islamophobia training for all staff.

“PDSB unequivocally stands against all forms of discrimination and oppression, including Islamophobia,” said spokesperson Malon Edwards. “We have taken these actions to ensure equitable and inclusive learning environments and experiences for our students and staff.”

Paul Gareau, a Métis assistant professor at the faculty of native studies at the University of Alberta, was also asked to review the new platform and provide his feedback based on his experience in teaching Indigenous perspectives. He said the site tries to dispel myths and misconceptions about Islam.

“That’s always the uphill battle for us as Indigenous-studies folks or Indigenous people, that how do you educate people on Indigenous perspective so that we can sort of break these cycles of anti-Indigenous racism. The same can go for the Muslim communities in Canada,” he said.

“Things like this, dismantling Islamophobia in school or Islam in education, I think those are good things to to have available.”

Source: New online resources launched to help Ontario schools combat Islamophobia

Quebec’s population is changing, but the makeup of the province’s police forces is not, data shows

Lag in most police forces across the country last time I checked, as institutions change more slowly than the population:

In Repentigny, a suburban community east of Montreal, it’s rare to see a person of colour in a police uniform. In fact, there are only two.

Pierre Richard Thomas, a local advocate, said Black residents often feel like they aren’t treated equally.

“For an adult or a young teen, seeing a police officer is worrying. It’s frustrating,” said Thomas, a spokesperson for Lakay Média, a Haitian community organization.

The situation in Repentigny is among the most extreme examples of the gap in representation between Quebec police and the general population, an analysis by CBC News shows.

Only two per cent of the police service in Repentigny identifies as a visible minority, and none as Indigenous, compared with 12 per cent of the general population.

CBC requested the latest figures on staffing from 12 police services across the province and compared them to the latest census data from 2016 for the areas they serve.

Suburbs becoming more diverse

The results show police officers across the province remain overwhelmingly white, even as visible minorities (the term used by Statistics Canada and police to describe people of colour) account for a growing percentage of those living in Montreal and municipalities farther afield.

The fast-expanding suburbs outside the city, in particular, are becoming more racially diverse.

But the police services remain mostly white, even though recruiting officers from a wider variety of backgrounds is a stated goal of the provincial government.

The chart below illustrates the divide between police services and the populations they serve, with the RCMP’s Quebec division coming closest to being representative of the population.

Quebec police forces don’t reflect population they serve

Representation of Indigenous and visible minorities among police is far lower than in the general population.

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The issue of racial inequity in policing was thrust to the forefront again this week, after a video captured Quebec City police officers dragging, hitting and pinning down Black youths in the snow.

Five officers were suspended in connection with the incident. The Quebec City police service, which has come under scrutiny in the past for a lack of diversity and allegations of racial profiling, is investigating.

Quebec City police did not provide up-to-date statistics this week, but as of June 2020, it had no Black officers out of a total of 853. According to the most recent census figures, there were more than 12,300 Black residents in Quebec City, accounting for 2.4 per cent of the city’s population.

Findings from CBC’s analysis include:

  • Thérèse-De Blainville and Deux-Montagnes have only one officer each who identify as visible minorities.
  • Châteauguay has the most representation of visible minorities and Indigenous people of any of the 12 police services.
  • Laval and Montreal have the widest discrepancy between their populations and police services.
  • There has been little change since CBC’s last analysis of police data in 2016, although the number of visible minorities in Montreal police is up by two percentage points.

Troubling, but not surprising, expert says

Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, an expert in policing and an assistant professor in sociology at the University of Toronto, reviewed the data.

He said the findings are troubling but not surprising — given similar gaps in representation have been documented across Canada.

Research has found that a greater diversity in police departments improves trust in those institutions.

But there’s also no clear indication it leads to more equitable policing.

“I don’t think that the diversification of police agencies is necessarily a panacea to dealing with all of the issues of racial and other forms of bias that we have. But I do think that representation is important,” said Owusu-Bempah, an adviser on anti-Black racism to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“It’s something that we should be striving for.”

Improved oversight of police and better training are also crucial, said Rashawn Ray, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a sociology professor at the University of Maryland.

“Police officers, regardless of their race or their gender, their background, they’re trained in a similar way. They’re socialized to police people in a similar way,” said Ray, who oversees a training program that uses virtual reality simulations to improve equity in policing.

He added, though, that the mere optics of more people of colour in uniform can build a stronger relationship with the communities police serve.

Hiring a challenge, police say

Repentigny typifies the struggles seen in smaller municipalities outside Montreal. A report released by academic researchers in September found Black residents were 2.5 to three times more likely to be stopped by local police than their white counterparts.

In the wake of those findings and the shooting death of a Black man last August, the Repentigny police service announced a five-year plan that includes a commitment to “inclusive” hiring practices.

But the police service said it will take time to make changes, given they rarely have full-time jobs available and don’t offer the potential for career advancement as a job in a bigger city.

“As a smaller police service with limited possibilities of advancement, hiring in itself is a challenge for us,” said Éric Racette, assistant director of the police service.

“This being said, we acknowledge that we must do better to increase those numbers.”

Quebec police services have tried to address the problem with programs aimed at encouraging people of colour and Indigenous people to become officers.

The Montreal police and the Quebec provincial police are among those taking part in a fast-track program through the provincial police academy in Nicolet aimed at bringing in a more diverse range of hires, including women.

In separate statements, both police services said they were committed to improving the diversity of their ranks.

Nine per cent of Montreal police identify as visible minorities, compared with 33 per cent of the city’s general population. The provincial police are nearly entirely white, with only three per cent identifying as visible minorities.

A spokesperson for Montreal police said the service is “increasing its resources and efforts to interest young people in police careers, particularly those from ethnocultural and Indigenous communities” in order to “be like the population it serves.”

Montreal police launched a recruitment campaign last May urging Montrealers, including women and people of colour, to “become an agent of change.”

Change in approach needed, advocate says

If police want to improve trust and help citizens feel less fearful, they’ll have to change the way they operate, said Margaret Wilheim, an anti-racism advocate in Châteauguay, on Montreal’s South Shore.

Wilheim recently helped a Black community consultation group look at systemic racism in Châteauguay. The consultation group heard about instances of racial profiling, allegations of excessive service and increased scrutiny during traffic stops.

While Wilheim is encouraged that Châteauguay has a higher percentage of Indigenous people and people of colour than other municipal police services, she said better representation isn’t enough on its own.

“Then you have to look at retention and better policing practices so people don’t feel like they are being questioned arbitrarily,” she said.

Although police services often lament the difficulty in attracting people of colour, Wilheim said they need to be proactive and remove barriers to inclusion.

“It’s easy to say we have the problem, but maybe [they] should look at some of [their] practices, hiring retention, training programs,” said Wilheim.

In Repentigny, hiring more Black officers needs to be paired with real change from the public administration on down so the Black community feels like it’s being treated fairly, said Thomas.

“It has to come from above,” said Thomas, who is looking for a clear signal from the newly elected mayor and counsellors that it is committed to rebuilding trust between the Black community and the police.

“We need a new approach,” he said. “This is 2021 and society is changing. Everything is changing. We can’t stay stuck in the policing of the 1950s.”

Source: Quebec’s population is changing, but the makeup of the province’s police forces is not, data shows

UK, Islam and media: This is bullying, not journalism

Of note. Similar to other countries:

Watching and reading news on Muslims and Islam is not always a pleasant experience. At least one-fifth of all articles on the topic pertain to terrorism and extremism. This was among a number of concerning facts and figures that I and others at the Centre for Media Monitoring found when we analysed more than a year’s worth of material from British newsrooms that referenced Muslims and/or Islam.

This included around 48,000 online news articles and 5,500 clips that aired between October 2018 and September 2019, giving us a clearer picture of how Muslims are reported on and where the problems lie.

Certain publications – the same ones that lambaste ‘cancel culture’ – often target individual Muslims or organisations

The right-leaning media, which includes most of the country’s heavyweight publications, fared worst across our rating metrics. Using a methodology designed alongside seasoned academics who have studied how Muslims are represented in the media, we pinpointed everything from the reproduction of tropes, to the misrepresentation of Muslim beliefs, to problematic headlines and imagery.

A disproportionate number of articles were biased on the subject of religion, with discussions around Islam mired in Orientalism. Islam was repeatedly framed as a hostile threat to the West, as right-wing pundits trotted out tropes with impunity, while Muslim characters in fictional dramas were shown as intolerant – and were often played by non-Muslim actors.

Around half of the news articles and clips we examined associated Muslims with negative aspects and behaviours. While this might not seem alarming given that news generally tends towards the negative, we did not discriminate between items that were predominantly about Muslims or those that contained only a passing mention, which is a cause for concern.

Platforming marginal figures

Our study was not just about identifying what was bad; we also found pieces that were fair and balanced, punching up against those in power, rather than punching down against Muslims, as is so often the case. Examples included the BBC’s John Sudworthreporting on the persecution of Uyghur Muslims in China, and the Spectator’s Stephen Daisley opining on the Birmingham schools affair, even as his publication was frequently rated poorly across our metrics.

I am often asked whether reporting on Muslims and Islam is getting better over time. But this is difficult to assess, as much depends on the news cycle and which subjects or events are in focus.

We have, however, seen a return in recent days by British tabloids to platforming marginal and unrepresentative figures as the face of British Muslims. In addition, certain publications – the same ones that lambaste “cancel culture” – often target individual Muslims or organisations, in an attempt to delegitimise and de-platform them.

Our report features close to a dozen instances in which individual Muslims were misrepresented in the media; in some cases, the victims spent years of their lives on a quest for justice and an apology. Some of the cases involved neoconservative organisations feeding information to newspapers who appeared happy to lap it up, targeting Muslims in the public space.

This is not journalism. It is bullying, and it impinges on the civil rights of British Muslims, ultimately aiming to silence them.

Willingness to change

Our report also looked at how words are used to delegitimise Muslims, such as by describing any Muslim organisation or individual in the public sphere as “Islamist” or practicing “Islamism”. Such terms have been used in a scattershot fashion, targeting everyone from Islamic State fighters, to democratically elected leaders, to schoolchildren who eat halal food at lunch.

Muslims cannot, and most do not, expect special treatment from the media. What they do expect is fairness

Producing a report as detailed as ours was an arduous task, and not always a pleasant one. But it was done in good faith, with the hope that it will inform and guide members of the media.

Better reporting on Muslims and Islam is not an impossible task, as shown by Daily Express editor Gary Jones, who in 2018 lamented that past front pages at the newspaper had contributed to an Islamophobic environment. He has worked to change that, setting an example for others.

Another encouraging sign came from the editors of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Times, who welcomed our report, even though it criticised some of their coverage. This suggests that there is a willingness at the highest levels to produce better journalism – and we welcome that.

Muslims cannot, and most do not, expect special treatment from the media. What they do expect is fairness and to be treated no differently than any other community. As the former chair of the Independent Press Standards Organisation pointed out a couple of years ago, Muslims have been treated differently by British newspapers. Our findings would agree with him, and it’s up to news editors and journalists to change that.

Faisal Hanif is a media analyst at the Centre for Media Monitoring and has previously worked as a news reporter and researcher at the Times and the BBC. His latest report looks at how the British media reports terrorism.

Source: UK, Islam and media: This is bullying, not journalism

Most Canadians are fed up with online hatred and discrimination and want to see Parliament act, new survey says

Of note. As always, questions remain in terms of how Parliament should act, and what actions would be most effective:

Canadians seem to be on the same page when it comes to fighting discrimination issues and they want to see Parliament take action, according to a national survey released Tuesday.

The survey, conducted by Nanos Research for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF), gauged how Canadians feel about online hatred, employment equity, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and RCMP reform. The majority of Canadians surveyed showed support for action on all four priorities, and they also weighed in on seeing more diversity in arts and culture, and the impacts of climate change on racialized communities.

Among the strongest response was regarding fighting online hate, which doesn’t surprise Mohammed Hashim, executive director of the CRRF, a Crown corporation.

“They see it challenging their sense of identity, and increasing polarity in very negative ways. There’s real impact and harm that has been created,” he told the Star.

Nearly four in five Canadians support the government creating legislation to combat serious types of harmful online content, according to the survey. About three in four support strengthening the Canada Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to more effectively combat online hate and close to the same number want to see social media platforms legally responsible for auditing extremist and hateful posts before they’re viewed widely.

And about 70 per cent showed concern with the rise of right-wing extremism and terrorism as well as growing polarization.

In its most recent Forum on Minority Issues at the end of last year, the UN noted minorities are more vulnerable to online hate speech, particularly minority women. They make up three-quarters of victims in many countries.

The responses also showed that two-thirds of Canadians want to see the calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada implemented soon on behalf of Indigenous peoples, and an overwhelming majority want safe drinking water for all Indigenous communities.

The survey also suggested that Canadians want to see employment equity addressed by the federal government, but there was less consistent a response regarding the actions behind it, like management being held accountable for equity goals or increasing funding for Employment Equity Act initiatives.

When it comes to RCMP oversight, 58 per cent support the creation of an independent civilian body, and about 53 per cent support the collection of race-based data regarding health, employment, and policing; the same share, 53 per cent, want the Mounties barred from using excessive force in crowd control.

The statements the survey sought responses about came from a combination of community groups, past surveys the CRRF has done and political party platforms.

Hashim said these action items aren’t at all far-fetched. There is movement in Parliament on some of these issues, he said: “Everything is within the realm of possibility.”

Nanos conducted an online representative survey of 2,018 Canadians, age 18 and older between Nov. 3 to 8, and weighed by age, gender and geography to be representative of the country. Nanos says no margin of error applies to this research.

Source: Most Canadians are fed up with online hatred and discrimination and want to see Parliament act, new survey says

CILA: IRCC is disadvantaging its clients with its new citizenship application process

My understanding, based on articles as well as discussions with immigration lawyers, is that citizenship is a relatively small part of their practice, given that immigration is vastly more complex with many more pathways and requirements, than citizenship which is a relatively simple program with most applications being straightforward.

Do we have any data on how many citizenship applicants engage a lawyer? A client-centric perspective, as advocated by CILA, would essentially do that for all but the more complex cases.

Needless to say, the policy and program objective should be to eliminate the need for counsel through simplification, streamlining and technology:

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has been beta testing a new Citizenship Portal which enables future new Canadians to submit their citizenship applications electronically. The ability to submit applications electronically should help reduce backlogs and speed up processing by removing the bottleneck caused by IRCC having to manually scan applications as they arrive in the mailroom. Electronically submitted applications can also more easily be resubmitted if found to be incomplete. For these reasons applications submitted through the Citizenship Portal are likely to be processed faster.

Under normal circumstances, the modernization of Canada’s immigration system at a time of historic backlogs should be celebrated. Regrettably, however, the creation of this portal is problematic since IRCC has once more made the deliberate choice to exclude those assisted by counsel. The beta version of the portal explicitly excluded all applicants who were represented by an authorized representative. Today, IRCC has amended the instructions on the Citizenship Portal, to permit applicants who are being assisted by a lawyer to use the portal, with one very large caveat.

Representatives are still not permitted to actually access the portal, input data, upload documents, or review applications for their client. IRCC’s expectation appears to be that representatives would screenshare while an applicant inputs the data and uploads the supporting documents themselves. The representative would have to rely on screenshots or what they are able to see via screensharing to ensure that the information is accurate. There is no way for a representative to ensure that the applicant has uploaded the correct supporting documents.

This latest iteration of the IRCC beta Citizenship Portal only does lip service to including counsel while still excluding them from actually being able to properly represent applicants and ensure that a complete and accurate application has been submitted. It also ensures that clients who need the most assistance, who do not have the language skills or technological savvy to use the portal on their own, are not able to benefit from this improved submission method. The courts understand the benefits representatives bring to their clients and the efficient operation of the justice system; why does IRCC not understand the benefits of including counsel?

From a representative’s perspective, the time involved in having to screenshare and talk an applicant through completing an application on their own, and the resulting additional expense to clients cannot be justified. Applicants share the most private details of their lives with their representatives, and so there is no reason that applicants should not be permitted to share their login credentials with their counsel provided there is a way that applicants can advise IRCC that they have used a representative, for example by including a Use of Representative Form (IMM5476), and requiring that clients confirm within the application that they and not the representative have reviewed and signed off on the information being submitted.

Authorized representatives had been promised that a representative portal for citizenship would be available early in 2022. However, it now appears that a representative portal will not be available any time soon. This means that applicants who are represented will either not be able to benefit from the new electronic portal, and will have to submit a paper application, or they will have to complete their applications largely on their own.

CILA also wishes to stress that Canadian citizenship applicants voluntarily choose to hire immigration lawyers. As anyone that has gone through the process before will tell you, applying for, and gaining Canadian citizenship is a defining life moment.

Due to the magnitude of this event, many citizenship applicants choose to hire an immigration lawyer for competent and professional representation. They hire a lawyer they can trust to submit a complete and accurate application to IRCC so that they can gain Canadian citizenship as quickly as possible. They understand fully that any error or omission in their application can delay the citizenship application process by months, or even worse, years. Hiring a lawyer that is familiar with the legal requirements, the forms and the documents needed not only offers peace of mind for an applicant but helps to ensure that the application is processed without delay and is ultimately successful. Using legal counsel conserves valuable department resources so that applications are not filed prematurely and are complete on submission.

At the end of the day, the exclusion of counsel is an access to justice issue. However, there is also a significant operational consideration at stake. Canada is currently grappling with a backlog of some 1.8 million applications, of which some 468,000 are Canadian citizenship applicants. It is in everyone’s best interests for IRCC to receive complete and accurate applications. As we all know too well, however, errors and omissions do occur during the application process which creates additional work and stress for all involved parties. In this vein, it is imperative for IRCC to see counsel as an ally in the shared pursuit of a fast and efficient immigration system. Enabling immigration lawyers to submit Canadian citizenship applications online increases the likelihood that IRCC will be able to render a decision at the first possible opportunity, and reduces the likelihood of unnecessary delays for clients and additional work for IRCC.

CILA expresses its disappointment that IRCC continues to exclude counsel despite a multitude of conversations and correspondence between the immigration bar and the department on this very issue throughout 2021. CILA has submitted letters to IRCC on this matter on August 5August 18, and October 27. Prior to that, the immigration bar has raised alarm on this matter, including in spring 2021 on how the exclusion of counsel would prejudice those looking to apply to the time-limited TR to PR pathways. The crux of the matter here is that IRCC continues to make the choice to disadvantage its own clients.

CILA wishes to offer two major recommendations to IRCC. First, keep your clients front-and-centre of all your modernization initiatives. Having a client-centric view will allow you to unveil modernizations which are inclusive to as many of your clients as possible at the outset, and avoids the creation of a two-tiered system, where some are disadvantaged. Second, consult with as many stakeholders as possible before going live with modernization initiatives; this includes beta testing portals with all stakeholders. Representatives are more effectively able to identify issues with new systems than applicants who only have experience with one application. Canada has a vibrant immigration ecosystem with plenty of stakeholders that can provide IRCC with beneficial guidance that will allow the department’s modernization efforts to be as successful as possible. Again, this will represent a win-win for both IRCC and its clients, including during life-defining events such as the Canadian citizenship uptake process.

Source: https://cila.co/ircc-is-disadvantaging-its-clients-with-its-new-citizenship-application-process/

‘Almost unprecedented’ spike in number of Australians who see racism as a problem, survey finds

Of note:

Australians are increasingly aware that racism is a problem in their country, while positive sentiment about immigration and multiculturalism has also increased over the past 12 months, according to an authoritative survey on social cohesion.

The annual Mapping Social Cohesion Report from the Scanlon Foundation Research Institute, released on Tuesday, has charted a 20 percentage point increase in 12 months in response to the question “How big a problem is racism in Australia?”

Back in 2020, 40% of respondents thought racism in Australia was either a very big or fairly big problem. But in the 2021 survey of 3,572 respondents, 60% held that view.

The survey authors note “an increase of 20 percentage points in response to a general question of this nature is almost unprecedented in the Scanlon Foundation surveys”, which have been conducted annually since 2007. But they say there is no clear trigger or cultural catalyst explaining such a large shift.

The research suggests Australians were also more enthusiastic during the period of pandemic-induced international border closure about the contribution migrants make to the economy, with 86% of the sample agreeing with the proposition “immigrants are generally good for Australia’s economy” (compared with 76% in 2019, the year before Covid-19 hit).

Similarly, 86% of respondents agreed “multiculturalism has been good for Australia” compared with 80% agreeing with that proposition in 2019. A super-majority (90% – the highest affirmation in the survey) also endorsed the importance of the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and the wider Australian community.

Source: ‘Almost unprecedented’ spike in number of Australians who see racism as a problem, survey finds

A more independent Canadian foreign policy requires embracing bilingualism

While I will leave to others to comment on the foreign policy aspect,  was struck by this para:

“No doubt, Canadians of diverse backgrounds have important contributions to bring to the foreign service. If a candidate brings energy and intellectual heft to the table but cannot speak one of the official languages, this should not constitute an absolute barrier to employment. But those recruits should be required to spend the first year or two of their careers focused almost exclusively on language training.”

Grudging in tone and ignorant in substance. All foreign service officers must be bilingual (CCC) or undertake language training to become so. One can, of course, debate whether CCC is truly bilingual but the requirement is clearly there.

Knowledge of other languages is an asset given the cost of language training, particularly for more difficult languages (I benefitted from Arabic language training during my time at GAC but only achieved an beginner-to-intermediate level):

In the recent controversy over Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau’s language skills, his defenders have advanced the usual arguments: English is the language of international business; knowing French is an asset, but not essential.

Of course, at issue is not whether a unilingual anglophone can be an effective CEO; it is that an inadequate embrace of bilingualism is a national failure. However, a less often appreciated fact is that Canada’s place on the world stage also depends on us embracing our bilingual history and character. More than ever, Canada’s national sovereignty in a changing world needs to be expressed both domestically and internationally, in French and in English.

Many Canadians may feel relieved by the declining visibility of last century’s tortuous national unity debates. However, this has come at the cost of our commitment to conceive of Canada as a shared political community. Our future as a country depends on the ability of francophones to feel that all of Canada is their home.

Moreover, Canada’s core national unity and identity dilemma remains a challenge. But today, it must be addressed in the context of a more complex international environment

Canada’s decades-long national unity struggles unfolded against a mostly consistent international backdrop: the Cold War and its immediate aftermath, during which our country was fortunate to be neighbours with the world’s unquestioned hegemon. By contrast, in today’s world, change is the norm. The rules that will inform the international order of the coming decades are currently being contested and are far from being settled.

In this new and uncertain era, our interests will not always align with those of our southern neighbour. While Washington may wish to compete with Moscow and Beijing in a bid to maintain its position as the world’s pre-eminent power, Ottawa may legitimately fear that unbridled great power competition will destabilize the rules-based international institutions that have buttressed Canada’s economic prosperity and international position for decades.

By embracing its bilingual identity on the world stage more fully, Canada would distinguish itself from its American neighbour and counter its growing reputation as a “vassal state” of the United States.

Canada requires a more independent foreign policy – one in which we are allied to the US but not necessarily aligned on every file of importance. This, in turn, warrants a term-setting mentality: rather than reacting to threats as they unfold, we must identify and stand by our own interests and vision for international order, even at the cost of occasional disagreements with our allies.

We currently lack the foreign policy framework necessary to develop and sustain such an approach. Looking ahead, a renewed commitment to bilingualism – both in Ottawa and among the population at large – can help to change that. And while some assert that the task of enhancing the diversity and representativeness of Canada’s federal institutions should supersede bilingualism, these goals are not mutually exclusive.

No doubt, Canadians of diverse backgrounds have important contributions to bring to the foreign service. If a candidate brings energy and intellectual heft to the table but cannot speak one of the official languages, this should not constitute an absolute barrier to employment. But those recruits should be required to spend the first year or two of their careers focused almost exclusively on language training.

If individuals wish to join our foreign service, or the federal public service more broadly, they must be willing to advance the interests of Canada. Fostering an independent foreign policy is one such interest – and one that cannot occur in a vacuum. It will rely upon the development of a national strategic approach and school of thought fit for a world in transition, replete with its own vocabulary.

Such a task must, in large part, be pursued through the use of both of our own distinctive national languages. The growing Americanization of our political and intellectual culture – owing to factors such as the gravitational pull of U.S. media and the dominance in policy circles of American concepts – casts doubt on whether a Canada that only thinks in English will ever be able to think for itself.

At a time of significant global change, a strengthened commitment to bilingualism would not only infuse our national project with renewed energy at home, but also signal that Canada is willing to set the terms of its international position.

Jean Charest is a partner at McCarthy Tétrault and was premier of Quebec from 2003 to 2012. Zachary Paikin is a research fellow at the Institute for Peace & Diplomacy, a Toronto-based international affairs think tank. Stéphanie Chouinard is associate professor of political science at the Royal Military College and a fellow of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.

Source: A more independent Canadian foreign policy requires embracing bilingualism

Far-right groups like The Base will radicalise Australians until we confront their beliefs

Perspective of interest:

As one of the reporters who worked to uncover the operations of white power accelerationist group, The Base, I view the Australian federal government’s listing of them as a proscribed terror groupthis week as a belated but important recognition of the danger presented by white supremacist organisations.

But the national security state is a blunt instrument, and the apparatus of anti-terrorism is no substitute for making anti-racism principles central to a more inclusive democracy.

At its height, The Base was a transnational network of white nationalists who were seeking to collectively plan and prepare for what they saw as the inevitable collapse of liberal democracies they saw as decadent and corrupted by the values of feminism and multiculturalism.

In the Guardian US, I was the first reporter to identify Rinaldo Nazzaro, an American former US intelligence contractor now based in Russia, as the group’s founder and leader.

Previously he had only been known by the aliases Norman Spear and Roman Wolf.

An infiltrator gave me unprecedented access to the group’s internal communications. There I saw that although their group claimed only to be preparing for disaster, their conversations functioned to further indoctrinate members in a poisonous ideology of racial hatred, and the group’s relentlessly repeated fantasies of terroristic violence, for some of them, translated into real-world acts of destruction.

Members of the group are now facing trial for offences ranging from vandalising synagogues to assassination plots

Late last month, one member, former Canadian serviceman Patrik Mathews, was sentenced to nine years in federal prison for engaging in a terror plot with other members of the group.

Later, I showed how The Base’s efforts to recruit in Australia had led to them vetting Dean Smith in 2019, who was a federal election candidate for One Nation in Western Australia the same year. Smith ended up withdrawing his application and there is no evidence he has engaged in or planned any violence.

Source: Far-right groups like The Base will radicalise Australians until we confront their beliefs