Legault s’emmêle à nouveau – On immigration and particularly citizenship

While the first part points out his lack of knowledge, it is the latter part where he is effectively promoting a separate Quebec version of citizenship with longer residency requirements (3 years to become a Permanent Residents, then the 3 year citizenship residency requirement) along with yet again, a Quebec Values Charter that is more revealing.

He also needs to consider the demographic and financial implications of reduced immigration that Chantal Hébert recently pointed out (By campaigning to cut immigration, Quebec’s opposition parties are playing politics with their province’s future):

François Legault reconnaît ne pas connaître sur le bout des doigts les étapes à franchir par un immigrant pour obtenir sa citoyenneté canadienne.

« Ce bout-là, je n’aurais pas gagné Génies en herbe », a-t-il laissé tomber lors d’une conférence de presse dimanche.

Le chef de la Coalition avenir Québec faisait allusion aux « bonnes questions » posées la veille par un reporter sur le système d’immigrationcanadien. À l’une d’elles, il avait répondu qu’un résident permanent n’a qu’à passer « quelques mois » au pays avant de devenir citoyen canadien. Or, c’est au moins trois ans.

« J’ai lu pas mal toute la nuit là-dessus », a mentionné le chef caquiste, tout en disant maîtriser les ressorts de l’immigration ― ou à tout le moins « l’essentiel, oui ».

Pourtant, le favori des sondages a encore confondu, dimanche, les conditions d’obtention de la résidence permanente et celles de la citoyenneté. En effet, M. Legault a dit qu’un résident permanent doit faire l’objet d’une enquête de sécurité et d’un examen médical avant de demander la citoyenneté, oubliant de dire qu’il doit aussi réussir l’examen de citoyenneté, qui porte notamment sur la géographie, l’histoire sociale, culturelle et politique du Canada, et démontrer qu’il a une « connaissance suffisante » de la langue française ou anglaise. « On va prendre votre question en délibéré », a lâché M. Legault, au terme d’un échange de quelques minutes sur le sujet.

Le chef de la CAQ a dit ne pas croire que les réponses erronées ou incomplètes qu’il a données sur le sujet aux médias nuisent à sa crédibilité. « Les Québécois, ce qu’ils veulent savoir, c’est : “Est-ce qu’on veut 40 000 ou 50 000 immigrants par année ?” La CAQ, c’est 40 000. Les libéraux, c’est 50 000. Les Québécois, ce qu’ils veulent savoir, c’est : “Est-ce que les immigrants, à l’avenir, vont devoir réussir un test de valeurs et un test de français ?” Ils savent qu’avec la CAQ, la réponse, c’est oui. Avec le Parti libéral, c’est non. C’est ça que les Québécois veulent savoir. C’est ça la crédibilité d’un chef de parti. Puis, quand je suis concret et pragmatique, je pense que les Québécois comprennent très bien ce que je dis », a-t-il affirmé à la presse.

Dans cet esprit, M. Legault a réitéré dimanche sa promesse de soumettre les nouveaux arrivants à un test de connaissance de français et des valeurs québécoises, dont la réussite serait une condition à l’obtention d’un certificat de sélection du Québec (CSQ).

D’ailleurs, selon lui, l’examen de citoyenneté préparé par le gouvernement fédéral ― qui constitue un « bon test », à ses yeux ― « vient comme montrer que ce n’est pas si effrayant que ça ce [que la CAQ] demande ». « Pourquoi ce test, au fédéral, serait acceptable et le nôtre pas acceptable ? » a-t-il demandé.

Citoyen canadien en 6 ans ?
Selon l’engagement de la CAQ, il faudrait environ six ans à un immigrant pour obtenir un passeport canadien au Québec ― trois ans pour obtenir un CSQ et la résidence permanente, plus trois ans pour la citoyenneté canadienne ―, comparativement à trois ans dans le reste du Canada. « Le français sera toujours vulnérable au Québec, en Amérique du Nord. Donc, oui, il y aura des exigences plus grandes au Québec que dans le reste du Canada », a soutenu François Legault.

Source: Legault s’emmêle à nouveau

Parrainage de réfugiés syriens: des citoyens passent la nuit dehors

A good news story that Quebec is far from monolithic in its views on immigration and refugees:

Des Québécois ont passé la nuit d’hier à aujourd’hui devant les locaux du ministère de l’Immigration afin de s’assurer que leur demande de parrainage de réfugiés syriens soit parmi les 750 qui seront acceptées pour étude dès la réouverture du programme aujourd’hui.

La file d’attente devant les bureaux du ministère de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion du Québec (MIDI) a commencé vers 16h, hier. Le premier sur place est arrivé avec une chaise et de quoi passer la nuit dans la rue. «On n’a pas le choix d’être ici si on veut être sûr que notre demande passe», a-t-il confié, vers 21h.

Derrière lui, à cette heure-là, neuf autres personnes attendaient rue Notre-Dame, certains sur de petites chaises, d’autres munis de leur sac de couchage.

Depuis janvier 2017, le volume important de demandes de parrainage de réfugiés syriens a forcé le MIDI à arrêter momentanément le programme. Dès aujourd’hui, les demandeurs pourront de nouveau soumettre leur dossier.

Les portes ouvrent ce matin à 8h30. En tout, 750 dossiers de parrainage seront étudiés par le Ministère. Seulement 100 pourront être déposés par des particuliers qui souhaitent parrainer un groupe de deux à cinq personnes. C’est surtout les parrains pour cette catégorie de dossier qui étaient en file hier. «On imagine qu’il va y avoir bien plus que 100 personnes, donc je m’assure de ma place pour que le messager prenne ma place demain», explique une dame, cinquième en ligne, installée dans une chaise pliante.

Stratégie commune

Tous ont la même stratégie : attendre leur messager, qui prendra la relève pour déposer leur dossier. Car aucun dossier remis en mains propres ne sera accepté, les documents devront obligatoirement être déposés par service de messagerie.

«Moi, il est là avec moi déjà», a lancé une femme, pointant l’homme à ses côtés. Elle a payé le messager pour la nuit, afin d’être certaine que sa demande soit parmi les premières déposées.

«Le fait de devoir venir faire la ligne comme ça démontre qu’il n’y a pas assez de place pour les demandes de parrainage», a observé une jeune femme, assise sur son sac de couchage, à côté d’une amie. «Ceux qui n’auront pas notre chance vont devoir attendre une autre année, a-t-elle ajouté. Mais on parle de réfugiés, et beaucoup d’entre eux ne peuvent pas attendre un an.»

«Chacun pour soi»

«Je ne suis vraiment pas confiante, j’ai peur qu’administrativement, ce soit le chaos demain», a avoué une des personnes en ligne. Autour d’elle, plusieurs ont hoché la tête, en signe d’approbation.

Elle a également indiqué craindre un grand désordre à l’ouverture des portes du ministère. «On ne sait pas ce qui va arriver quand la file va s’étendre et qu’il y aura plus de demandes que ce qu’ils vont accepter.»

«Ce que je trouve dommage, c’est que ça nous oblige à être chacun pour soi, pour s’assurer sa place, alors qu’on veut tous aider des gens», ajoute une autre dame, à ses côtés.

Hier soir, les quelques personnes en file ont inscrit leur nom, en ordre sur une feuille, pour avoir une liste de leur ordre d’arrivée. «C’est très informel, on ne sait même pas si ça va être respecté», s’est-elle inquiétée.

«Je pense que le Ministère fait de son mieux, a quant à lui affirmé le premier citoyen dans la file. Mais ça pourrait être mieux organisé, c’est certain, car la demande est vraiment très haute par rapport au nombre de places. Beaucoup de dossiers se sont accumulés depuis l’arrêt du programme.»

Home Office ‘breaking law’ to expel highly skilled migrants

One story after another about policy and operational failures:

A judge has accused the Home Office of breaking the law and acting in a “nonsensical” way in trying to force two highly skilled migrants out of the UK by triggering a terrorism-related part of immigration law.

The two substantial judgments will boost those campaigning to halt the use of paragraph 322(5) of the immigration rules against people who have made legal amendments to their tax returns.

The judge quashed the Home Office’s decisions to trigger the power, saying the department had made errors in public law.

At least 1,000 highly skilled migrants seeking indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK are wrongly facing expulsion from the UK under paragraph 322(5) for making legal amendments to their tax records, according to the support group Highly Skilled Migrants.

The judgments of the upper tribunal judge, Melissa Canavan, in the cases of Oluwatosin Bankole Williams and Farooq Shaik will strengthen the hand of the 20 MPs and a member of the House of Lords who are to establish separate pressure groups to persuade the Home Office to stop misusing the power.

In the Commons on Thursday, one of those MPs, Alison Thewliss, demanded a debate on what she said was “the incompetence of the Home Office” concerning 322(5).

“We were promised on 21 June that there would be a review in the next few weeks. This has not emerged,” she said. “Too many highly skilled migrants are waiting for this government to make a decision, living in poverty and racking up huge debts.”

The leader of the house, Andrea Leadsom, agreed to take up the issue directly with Home Office ministers on Thewliss’s behalf.

While at least 50% of immigration appeals against Home Office decisions succeed in the courts – a rate the Law Society said suggested the system was “seriously flawed” – the support group for those fighting paragraph 322(5) say their success rate is far higher, at 75.3%.

The figure is so high that it has caused legal experts to question whether the Home Office is cynically pursuing cases without merit.

In one of the recent rulings, Canavan cited a third upper tribunal judgment in which the Home Office was criticised for maintaining that migrants were responsible for the mistakes of their accountants, even when accountants later wrote to the government to admit culpability.

Canavan agreed that “the mere fact that an applicant is responsible for his own tax affairs does not lead to the inexorable conclusion that an applicant has been dishonest”.

Her judgment is at odds with a letter sent to the Lib Dem peer Dick Taverne last week by Susan Williams, a Home Office minister, defending the government’s use of the 322(5) power. “The courts have agreed that our conclusions were reasonable in such cases,” Lady Williams wrote.

Canavan said: “Where an applicant has presented evidence to show that he was not dishonest but only careless, the secretary of state is presented with a fact-finding task … The evidence must be cogent and strong.”

Source: Home Office ‘breaking law’ to expel highly skilled migrants

Prime Minister Scott Morrison exposes Australia’s big immigration myth

Despite his anti-immigration reputation, many of the points he makes in this interview are sensible:

PRIME Minister Scott Morrison has taken aim at Australia’s obsession with population growth, saying it is a “fairly irrelevant statistic” and immigration policy is far more nuanced than many of us realise.

Population growth surged to the top of the political agenda in August as the number of people living in Australia passed 25 million, with prominent figures such as entrepreneur Dick Smith warning our “way of life” would be under threat unless immigration was drastically reduced.

In an exclusive interview with news.com.au, Mr Morrison struck a very different tone.

He identified a pervasive myth at the heart of the immigration debate — that permanent migrants from overseas are the biggest strain on Australia’s infrastructure.

He said temporary migration and natural population growth, caused by the people who already live here having children, were far more significant factors.

“I’ve never bought this idea that the permanent immigration intake is the thing fuelling population growth. Because it’s not borne out in the actual maths,” Mr Morrison said.

“When it comes to population growth at the moment, there are 10 extra people that have got on the bus. Just over four of them are temporary migrants. Just under four of them were born here, a natural increase. And only two of them are permanent migrants.”

A huge chunk of that — 38 per cent — came from the natural increase category. Among the rest, temporary migrants easily outnumbered permanent migrants.

Importantly, growth varied wildly in different parts of the country — a point Mr Morrison felt had often been lost in the national population debate.

“You have got to understand what the population impacts are, not just in terms of how much the national population is growing by. That’s a fairly irrelevant statistic,” Mr Morrison said.

“What matters is what is it growing at in Melbourne; in the western suburbs; in the eastern suburbs. What is it doing in southeast Queensland? What is it doing in Townsville? What is it doing in Perth?”

In some areas, he said, the combination of natural population growth and interstate migration “eclipses international migration a couple of times over”.

“I mean, what are they going to do — stop the Victorians, or stop the New South Welshmen?”

Meanwhile, smaller cities such as Adelaide were simply “crying out” for more immigration, not less.

“The idea of average population growth is about as helpful as average rainfall. It has the same practical meaning,” he said.

“You can have very low levels of population growth that are actually being quite unhelpful in terms of what’s happening in the economy, or social cohesion.

“You can have high levels of it, which if it’s all pretty much skills based and everybody’s in a job and it’s focused on regional areas, it can be quite suitably absorbed.”

The fundamental problem for the government is that most immigrants want to live in our biggest cities, particularly Sydney and Melbourne, and far fewer are interested in staying in regional areas.

The ABS statistics we cited earlier showed 165,000 migrants, or about two-thirds of last year’s net migration figure, went to those two cities.

There is only so much the government can do about it, beyond placing conditions on some temporary visas, or rewarding temporary migrants who move to regional areas. Mr Morrison signalled he was open to expanding on those initiatives.

But he certainly can’t dictate where permanent migrants get to live.

Source: Prime Minister Scott Morrison exposes Australia’s big immigration myth

Machines Will Handle More Than Half of Workplace Tasks by 2025, WEF Report Says

Question is: what kind of jobs and will it truly be a “positive impact:”

Organizers of the Davos forum say in a new report that machines are increasingly moving in on jobs done by people, projecting that more than half of all workplace tasks will be carried out by machines by 2025.

The World Economic Forum also predicts the loss of some 75 million jobs worldwide by 2022, but also says 133 million new jobs will be created.

The WEF said Monday: “Despite bringing widespread disruption, the advent of machine, robots and algorithm could actually have a positive impact on human employment.”

The “Future of Jobs 2018” report, the second of its kind, is based on a survey of executives representing 15 million employees in 20 economies.

The WEF said challenges for employers include reskilling workers, enabling remote employment and building safety nets for workers.

Source: Machines Will Handle More Than Half of Workplace Tasks by 2025, a Report Says

THE 6 DEGREES DICTIONARY: A civic conversation redefined

This is an interesting exercise by 6 Degrees, developing a pro-immigration interpretation of commonly used terms to help change the tenor of immigration discussions and debates. Of course, those with concerns over immigration could develop a version with a more negative slant.

My take, for what it’s worth, is that the wording chosen (e.g., “noble term,” “ferociously loyal”) overstates the more complex reality and mix behind each of the definitions.

It is surprising that they denigrate the word “integration” which was so seminal in the development of the Canadian approach to multiculturalism and diversity in making the distinction with “assimilation,” as expressed so eloquently in the 1960s Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism Volume IV, The Cultural Contribution of the Other Ethnic Groups 5:

Integration, in the broad sense, does not imply the loss of an individual’s identity and original characteristics or of his original language and culture. Man is a thinking and sensitive being ; severing him from his roots could destroy an aspect of his personality and deprive society of some of the values he can bring to it. Integration is not synonymous with assimilation. Assimilation implies almost total absorption into another linguistic and cultural group. An assimilated individual gives up his cultural identity, and may even go as far as to change his name. Both integration and assimilation occur in Canada, and the individual must be free to choose whichever process suits him, but it seems to us that those of other than French or British origin clearly prefer integration.

And their definition of inclusion is overly open-ended, as there are limits to what should and can be included, although these evolve over time.

As a discussion tool among the like-minded, it provides some key messages for use in immigration conversations and discussions. I am less confident, however, how effective a discussion tool it would be to engage those with concerns about immigration numbers and the values of newcomers (a consistent concern in polling):

IMMIGRANT / noun. [From Latin immigrantem, “to go into, to move in,” origins in Latin emigrantem “to move away,” first used in English in 1794.]

1. An individual who leaves one country to become the citizen of another.

2. A noble term describing someone with the courage, decisiveness and consciousness to wish to change their lives by changing their country.

3. An individual whose qualities enrich their new society through public structures, culture, politics and economics.

4. On average, more comfortable with risk than those born in the country.

5. Tends to be more ferociously loyal to their new country and its ideas of justice than those born there.

6. An immigrant is to engagement what a citizen is to marriage.

-John Ralston Saul


MIGRANT / noun. [From Latin migrat- “to move, to shift.”]

1. A bird, animal or butterfly with a regular and circular pattern of movement.

2. In practice, an underpaid industrial or agricultural worker who is expected to return to their home in the off-season.

3. In common usage, a label intended to exclude, marginalize, patronize and dehumanize.

4. As in, “When you’re finished picking our strawberries, go home.”

5. A term that is never self-applied, only imposed on others.

6. Not to be confused with expats or snowbirds.

7. Used to justify withholding citizen rights from immigrants for one or more generations.

8. Europe’s bogeyman.

-John Ralston Saul


CITIZEN / noun. [From Anglo-Norman French citezein; based on Latin civitas “city.”]

1. Athens! The French Revolution!

2. The source and guarantor of legitimacy of any nation-state, democratic or not.

3. Under constant attack and denial by those with power, whether public or private.

4. Not to be confused with a taxpayer.

5. The opposite of stakeholder, a Mussolinian term which reduces an individual to membership in an interest group.

6. Volunteerism is a manifestation of the engaged citizen, not a sector.

7. The citizen cannot be a client of government services. The citizen owns the state.

-John Ralston Saul


REFUGEE / noun. [From French réfugié “gone in search of refuge;” From refuge.]

1. Someone who flees their home to save their life.

2. Not simply persecuted by others, as the legal definitions insist.

3. Victim of everything from war and prejudice to drought and economic collapse.

4. As in, a victim of calamity, human or nature-made. It could be you.

5. Or an identified enemy of the state, for example, someone who speaks up. It could be you.

6. In both cases, an attempt by those with power to dehumanize those without. It could be you.

7. Requires courage.

8. More popular than asylum seekers. Refugees may appeal to everyone’s fear of suffering, but an asylum seeker is a refugee looking for a place to live next door to you.

9. One who escapes despair, walks across the Sahara, is abused, raped, beaten, used as slave labour and finally risks their life on a boat only to be categorized by Europeans as economic migrants. A form of persecution.

10. You don’t want to be one.

-John Ralston Saul


INTEGRATION / noun. [From 1610s, to mean “act of bringing together the parts of a whole,” from French intégration, from Late Latin integrationem “to make whole.”]

1. Probably better than assimilation, but a poor second to inclusion.

2. Unfortunately assumed to be a benign process by which someone is incorporated into a society.

3. A step, once understood as the only one necessary for dominant groups to deal with others.

4. Assumes a list of adjustments that newcomers must make to become acceptable.

5. Views societies as static and brittle that will crumble upon contact with difference.

6. Provokes fear under the guise of stability.

7. Discourages innate human curiosity.

8. Denies happy human complexity.

9. Totally wrongheaded.

[See: inclusion, migrant]

-Adrienne Clarkson


INCLUSION / noun. [From 1839, to mean “that which is included,” from 1600s, to mean “act of making a part of,” from Latin inclusionem “to shut in, to enclose.”]

1. The act of including, the state of being included, with unhelpful Latin roots.

2. Actually, the process of creating an authentic space for belonging, regardless of who you are or how long you have been here.

3. Once established, best left to grow on its own and shape itself.

4. Dead in the water if reduced to government policy.

5. Complicated by realistic expectations on an unrealistic timeline.

6. Essential for gauging a society’s fairness and spiritual health.

7. Ultimately, about learning how to live together.

-Adrienne Clarkson


BELONGING / noun. [From Old English langian- “to go along with, to pertain to,” from late 14th century, meaning “to be a member of,” Germanic origin.]

1. The fundamental human need to be a part of something larger.

2. Once understood as a necessity for survival, now a sign of psychological well-being.

3. Thrives on co-operative sharing and balanced relationships with others.

4. A necessary ingredient for social, cultural, political and economic resilience.

5. I belong, therefore I can.​

-Adrienne Clarkson


MULTICULTURALISM / noun. [From Latin multus “much, many” + cultura “growing, cultivation.”]

1. An Indigenous concept that balances difference with belonging.

2. A policy devised to explain how people from culturally distinct and diverse backgrounds can live together.

3. A Canadian invention supporting – in theory at least – notions of equal rights, recognition and opportunity for all, regardless of their roots.

4. An example of how confused and blissfully optimistic policy-making can become a strength.

5. Misunderstood, to put it politely, by Europeans and Americans. And some Canadians.

6. On paper, the opposite of interculturalisme. In practice, identical.

7. An important step on the road to pluralism and inclusion.

8. A rare unapologetic Canadian mic drop.

-Adrienne Clarkson


POWER / noun. [From 1300s, “ability to act or do, authority, strength,” from Anglo-Norman French pouair, from Old French povoir, “to be able,” from Latin potis “powerful.”]

1. The possession of control, authority or influence over others.

2. An incontrovertible fact, present in all human interactions.

3. Can be found in right hands and wrong hands alike.

4. Historically housed in states, governments, armies and religions.

5. Now being challenged by new actors who seek to wield their own power to affect their desired outcomes outside these institutions.

6. For all that, still predominantly held by white men.

[See: agency, democracy]

-Charles Foran and Scott Young


AGENCY / noun. [From medieval Latin agentia “effective, powerful,” from 1650s to mean: “active operation,” from 1670s to mean: “a mode of exerting power or producing effect.”]

1. Action personified. A grand aspiration of young Westerners in the early 21st century.

2. An ethical belief that the misdistribution of power must be corrected.

3. The determination to let silenced voices be heard.

4. An ability limited or amplified by structural factors, including class, age, gender, religion, education and ethnicity.

5. Often burdened by high expectations.

6. Frequently used by frustrated individuals driven to fury by political orthodoxy.

7. Tends to underestimate the power situated in legislatures, global institutions, corporations and their bureaucracies.

8. Claimed, not given.

[See: democracy, power]

-Charles Foran and Scott Young


COMMUNITY / noun. [From Old French comunité “community, everybody,” from Latin communitatem “society, fellowship,” from communis “common, public, shared by all.”]

1. A group of individuals with shared commonality.

2. A self-declared body with collective religious, political, professional, social or even national affiliations.

3. A way to belong.

4. The experience of empowerment, legitimation, solidarity and security.

5. Gone wrong, a force of atomization, largely unintentional.

6. A term so overused it has triggered skepticism about its intentions.

[See: belonging, citizen]

-Charles Foran and Scott Young


DEMOCRACY / noun. [From French démocratie, from Medieval Latin democratia, from Greek demokratia “popular government,” from demos “common people” + kratos “rule, strength, power.”]

1. In trouble in 2018.

2. An expression of the citizen as the source of legitimacy of the state.

3. An idea that has steadily expanded to enfranchise all adults, including women, people of colour and Indigenous peoples.

4. A system once naively declared to be the endpoint of humanity’s political evolution.

5. Not as parochial as many believe, with roots in many places not named Greece.

6. For some, merged and acquired by private interests over the last half-century.

7. For others, pace Churchill, the least bad of all systems.

8. A form of government built on credible institutions but dependent on engaged citizens. One requires the other.

[See: agency, citizen, power]

-Charles Foran and Scott Young

Advocates fear for future of province’s anti-racism directorate

Expect it will go. Sad, given that one of the main activities was data collection, data needed to inform policy:

What will happen to the province’s anti-racism directorate?

For many who work in anti-racism, this has been the question since June, when Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives won the provincial election with a majority government.

Community members who worked closely with the anti-racism directorate say they’ve received no answers from the government, which controversially moved the directorate to a new ministry and recently disbanded its subcommittees.

Longtime anti-racism advocates who lived through the Mike Harris years are now having flashbacks to 1995, when his Conservative government was elected to Queen’s Park — and promptly moved to eliminate what was then called the anti-racism secretariat, established just a few years earlier.

Two decades would pass before the anti-racism body was revived by the Liberal government in 2016, amid controversy over carding and debate over the acceptance of Syrian refugees. But less than two years into its mandate, the body, this time labelled a “directorate,” has fallen back into the hands of a Conservative government and community activists worry the province’s anti-racism efforts are once again doomed to fail.

“It just feels like 1995 all over again, where we take two steps forward only to go three or four steps backwards,” said Nigel Barriffe, president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations. “What we see is a very hard, right-wing government that I don’t believe has any intention of honouring the commitment that the previous government has made towards the anti-racism directorate’s strategy.”

There are already early signs that changes are coming to the directorate, which had a number of subcommittees, including four community groups that consulted on issues of anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous discrimination, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

In early August, some members of the subcommittees told the Star they were contacted by staff and informed that their services would no longer be needed. “It was basically ‘Yep, your year is up, thank you very much,” said longtime Jewish rights advocate Bernie Farber, who co-chaired the anti-Semitism committee.

Farber said he and other members received no information about the future of the directorate, whose aim is to advance racial equity and address systemic racism in government policy legislation programs and services.

Nothing can be gleaned from Premier Ford’s mandate letters to ministers, either, which might clarify some of his intentions for the anti-racism directorate — the government is keeping these letters secret, even though they were publicly released under the previous administration.

The anti-racism directorate also ignored a list of questions sent by the Star on Aug. 20. These questions included: What is the directorate’s budget? What’s happening with the government-wide plans to collect race-based data? And what are the province’s priorities for the anti-racism directorate going forward?

“We don’t know anything,” said MPP Michael Coteau, who was previously the Liberal minister in charge of the directorate. “One of the most troubling pieces with the new government is that there’s been no transparency with regard to their mandate.”

“People are quite worried,” said MPP Laura Mae Lindo, the NDP critic for anti-racism. “You can’t approach anti-racism that way; you have to be transparent in what it is that you’re doing. You have to be willing to listen to the community organizations.”

To Barriffe, what the Ford government has been transparent on is its views toward issues that matter to racialized communities. He points to comments Ford made during his campaign where he expressed support for TAVIS, a now-defunct police unit that was heavily criticized for its negative impact on racialized communities. When the NDP recently introduced a motion to ban police carding — also known as “street checks,” which disproportionately affect people with black and brown skin — and destroy data collected through the practice, Conservative MPPs largely voted against it.

“I think that we have to believe what we see and what we see is them reversing all of the forward movement that we made in addressing anti-Black racism in society,” he said.

But Barriffe doesn’t necessarily think the Ford government will kill the anti-racism directorate outright. Rather, he suspects it will die from a thousand cuts — neglected and “defanged from its original purpose and intent.”

Already, the directorate has been relocated to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, which is headed by MPP Michael Tibollo — the minister who was heavily criticized by opposition parties for making “blatantly racist” comments in July, when he described wearing a bulletproof vest during a visit to the Jane and Finch neighbourhood.

The move diminishes the directorate’s influence within the government, said Avvy Go, director of the Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, who served on the directorate’s consultative body.

Previously, the directorate was based at the Cabinet Office. “The idea behind that was that anti-racism is important across the board, not just for any one ministry, and that all the ministries must pay attention to the issue of racism and finding ways of eliminating it,” she said. “Once you’ve slated it under one particular ministry, then we lose that cross-departmental knowledge-sharing and accountability measure.”

But the decision to move the directorate to this ministry — the same one in charge of police and prisons — also sends a troubling message, says longtime community activist Nene Kwasi Kafele, who also served on the consultation group with Go.

“The implication (is) that racism is simply an issue of policing and safety,” he said. “In my view, there’s some dog-whistle stuff around Black people and racialized communities being a danger, and therefore targeted approaches to them generally need to be subsumed under an area that addresses security and safety. It’s a terrible message.”

Lindo notes that the directorate, under the previous government, did have its flaws, however. For one, she believes it could have done a better job of folding in the work of community groups, many of which have already been on the front lines of anti-racism for decades.

Farber also has his criticisms of the directorate. He felt issues relating to anti-Semitism and Islamophobia were not prioritized as much as they should have been during the early stages of the directorate — though he started seeing signs of progress in the months leading up to the election.

“We started to make some headway; there were resources there that we were looking at to provide education on anti-Semitism,” Farber said. “And that’s what we were working towards, during the time leading up to the last provincial election. And then, quite frankly, things sort of grinded to a halt.”

Kafele points out, however, that while the directorate was just getting started, it did achieve some major accomplishments. The provincial government now has a legislative mandate towards combating racism in the province, he said, as well as a commitment to collecting disaggregated race data; commitments were also made towards underserved and marginalized populations, like Black youth in Ontario.

None of this existed back in the early ’90s, when both Kafele and Farber were involved with the anti-racism secretariat the first time around. And despite some of its early hiccups, Farber agrees the need for an anti-racism directorate is as urgent as ever, especially with the rise of right-wing extremist groups and an increasingly polarized political climate.

“The government gives (importance) to concepts like a buck-a-beer but not when it comes to racism, which has huge impacts on society,” Farber said. “The world is getting not just more complex but more dangerous, and we need to have policies and understandings in place as these issues go forward.”

Source: Advocates fear for future of province’s anti-racism directorate

The many meanings of freedom: A new set of essays offers a sobering look at Islam and human-rights discourse

Interesting discussion piece on the interface and compatibility of Muslims with liberal democracy and human rights. Some of the same concerns he raises, of course, can be applied to more traditional or fundamentalist strains of all religions.

Try substituting the names of other religions for Islam and Muslims to see some common threads:

MOHAMMAD FADEL, an associate law professor at the University of Toronto, is one of North America’s most thoughtful commentators on the interface between Islam, liberal democracy and Western understandings of the rule of law. He has made an elaborate case for the possibility of Muslims, including theologically conservative ones, finding a comfortable place in a diverse, noisy liberal democracy where many value systems co-exist. He draws on the ideas of John Rawls, perhaps the greatest American political philosopher of the late 20th century, to show that “public reason” can serve as a kind of common denominator between citizens with utterly different world views.

So it is sobering to find that in a newly published set of essays on Islam and the Western understanding of human rights, Mr Fadel puts more emphasis on difference than compatibility. His contribution is the sharpest of the essays, published by the Atlantic Council, an influential think-tank based in Washington, DC, under the title “The Islamic Tradition and the Human Rights Discourse”.

Mr Fadel artfully uses a Western source to show that basic concepts like freedom and happiness have one meaning for a liberal humanist and another for a theist idealist who sees the purpose of human life as devotion to God. For somebody in the latter camp, an addicted gambler is anything but free; but to the secular liberal, that way of life could simply be one way of exercising formal freedom.

Islamic thought about the family, as Mr Fadel adds, is oriented not only to the short-term happiness of individuals, and also to other perceived desirables such as “a reasonably stable household that produces a new generation of Muslims.” So Muslim thinkers could not be expected to see religiously mixed marriages in the same light as a secular libertarian would. He concludes that:

It is impossible to expect a complete convergence between human rights norms and Islamic norms: human rights norms are almost entirely concerned with securing the autonomy of individuals to make choices for themselves, while Islam is about influencing individuals’ choices about how to live their lives.

Asked if he had become more downbeat about Muslim communities finding a place in Western societies, Mr Fadel told Erasmus that he believed more passionately than ever in the need for such co-existence. But it was an observable fact that in Western societies, that effort was growing harder. Arguments, for example over female attire and the raising of children, suggest that in many Western countries, “liberals don’t trust Muslims, and therefore want to regulate their lives more closely, and Muslims don’t trust liberal society, which means they are less likely to have confidence in a neutral, rules-based political system and more likely to focus on their own communal life,” he says.

All the contributors to the new volume are themselves Muslim, and they bring to the subject of human rights concepts and assumptions that would be unfamiliar to most non-Muslims. Perhaps the most upbeat note is struck by the volume’s editor, H.A. Hellyer, who argues that Islam must rediscover the virtue of “rejuvenation”—new thinking about old texts and concepts—which, contrary to what many people say, is “deeply held within the Islamic tradition”. The oft-repeated proposition that in Islam, the gates of ijtihad (theological reasoning) were slammed shut a millennium ago is simply false, in Mr Hellyer’s view.

Another contributor is Mustafa Ceric, the grand mufti emeritus of Sarajevo, who  makes a pointed rejoinder to Western critics of Islam. It takes the form of a riff on the word “dhimmitude”. Among contemporary Islamo-sceptics, that term has been used in two senses. It refers to the second-class but still protected status which traditional Muslim empires offered to non-Muslim, especially Christian and Jewish, subjects. Today’s sceptics also use the word to denounce Westerners who seem excessively deferential to Islam.

As Mr Ceric notes, the “dhimmi” status in Ottoman times did at least allow religious minorities to remain alive, as long as they were loyal and law-abiding. His co-religionists who suffered genocide in Bosnia did not benefit from any such concession. That is a fair point. But if we are to judge any religion (Islam, Christianity, even Buddhism) or secular creed (Marxism, nationalism, fascism) by the respect shown by its adherents for the right to life over the last couple of centuries, then none fares too well.

Source: The many meanings of freedomA new set of essays offers a sobering look at Islam and human-rights discourse

John Ivison: Maxime Bernier launches people’s party but he’s an unconvincing populist

Good commentary by Ivison on the shallowness of Bernier’s thoughts on immigration and his new party, the People’s Party of Canada:

Maxime Bernier is set to reveal details about his new party, including its name Friday in Ottawa.

In an interview in his Parliament Hill office late Thursday, he admitted he has registered the People’s Party of Canada but that he also likes the Citizens’ Party.

Whatever Canada’s newest party ends up being called, some of its traits are already clear, and others will become less opaque after the press conference.

It is apparent, for example, that Bernier will oppose corporate welfare in all its forms, as he has done so since he told a bicycle factory owner in his riding of the Beauce, Que., that as Conservative industry minister he would not support quotas on cheap Chinese bicycles because it would increase the price of bikes for all Canadians.

We know that Bernier will advocate for an end to the cartel of supply management for dairy and poultry — a system he argues is unfair and regressive for low-income earners. This has been another Bernier staple for more than a decade.

“People are fed up of politicians who say one thing one day and another the day after. What I’m looking for is doing politics like I believe. People like authenticity and I think I have the courage of my convictions and am authentic. That’s why people like what I’m doing,” he said.

But when we discuss the murky topic of what he calls “extreme multiculturalism” there is a sense that Maxime Bernier is not as authentic as he would like you to believe.

He makes much of the fact that he is not looking to promote policies simply to win votes. “I’m very different from other politicians,” he said.

But elected officials tend not to be that distinct from one another — the business of reaching for power contorts them all in similar fashion.

On the diversity issue that sparked such controversy when he suggested on Twitter that there should be limits, Bernier’s thinking sounds muddled. He denies he’s playing the race card, invoking dog-whistle politics or engaging in the same nativism that resulted in him lampooning former Conservative leadership rival Kellie Leitch as a “Karaoke Trump.”

But when I suggested his references to “diversity” led many people to assume he is referring to people of colour, his denial ends up sounding like an affirmation.

“They are misinterpreting what I am saying. When I talk about diversity, I am talking about diversity of opinion, diversity of values, diversity of what you believe,” he said. “I’ll give you an example, if you have two people coming to Canada and one of them wants to kill Jewish people and the other one doesn’t, are we better to have two people who believe in different things or two people coming to Canada who don’t want to kill Jewish people?”

A charitable interpretation is that Bernier is musing aloud, that he hasn’t really thought it through and the example quoted came to him in the moment.

I remind him that in the Conservative leadership platform that will form the basis for the new party’s policies, he described tolerance for diversity as a “Canadian value.”

“I still believe that,” he said, before adding quickly, “I don’t believe in mass immigration.”

The leadership platform advocated the admission of 250,000 new entrants a year — a figure in line with the Harper government’s average intake.

Yet, the Trudeau Liberals have increased the level to 310,000 this year, a number the Conference Board of Canada said will help sustain long-term economic growth, given the rapidly aging population and low birth rate. The number is high by historic levels but reflects that the number of deaths will outpace the birth rate by the 2030s.

On the one hand, Bernier says he believes in immigration in line with the economic needs of the country but, on the other, says the rate should be reduced from the target that many economists believe will help drive growth.

The reasons are not clear.

“I believe in unity also — sharing the same values. Diversity is good. This country is built on diversity and people coming from different religions and points of view,” he said. “But what I’m asking is that the people coming to Canada share our Canadian values — respect for rule of law, equality of men and women, the tolerance of diversity. What I’m asking is that if you come to Canada, you must share our Canadian core values.”

I ask him if he thinks there is a problem with integration of immigrants, given studies suggest employment, earnings and language outcomes between second-generation visible minority groups and whites with Canadian-born parents are negligible; that the children of immigrants learn Canadian values, social norms and official languages through schools, friends and neighbourhoods, all of which makes Canada a model for integration. Is he focusing on a non-existent problem?

“I’m saying we must question this extreme multiculturalism — people who come must integrate and yes, you’re right, they are doing (that). The history of immigration in Canada is great, it’s very positive. The change has happened under the Trudeau government. People who come here have more points if they speak English, they have more points if they speak French, so we have a system and the system was working for the last half century. The Trudeau government changed that in this mandate. I’m saying we must go back to what we did in the past.”

Trudeau’s track record is certainly wide open to criticism. This year just 57 per cent of immigrants will come from the economic class, compared to 63 per cent of the 260,411 entrants in the last full year of the Harper government (28 per cent will be family class, compared to 25 per cent in 2014, while 14 per cent are set to be refugees, in contrast to just 11 per cent four years ago).

The changes to increase family unification numbers by 20,000 people a year were transparent electoral bribes to immigrant communities in the suburbs.

But Bernier hasn’t made the thoughtful policy case for reversing those changes. Instead he has made vaguely illiberal noises that attract the kind of fellow travellers who do not respect the values the leader of Canada’s newest political party claims to espouse — equality, respect for the law and tolerance of diversity. Anyone who has followed Maxime Bernier’s career over the past decade or more knows it is just not him. Authentic? Not so much.

Source: John Ivison: Maxime Bernier launches people’s party but he’s an unconvincing populist

Multiculturalism doesn’t divide, it encourages belonging: Adams and Omidvar

Another good contribution to ongoing debates about multiculturalism:

Maxime Bernier has argued that multiculturalism is a divisive policy that encourages Canadians to identify with their own “tribes” at the expense of their wider society. But there’s abundant evidence that, far from dividing Canadians into factions and hyphenated identities, multiculturalism (or “interculturalism” in Quebec) actually encourages belonging, participation and integration. Critically, it does this by treating all Canadians – not just immigrants – as part of the country’s multicultural fabric (with the exception of the 5 per cent of people in Canada who are Indigenous, few of whom would see themselves as part of the multicultural experiment).

Let’s clarify our terms. “Multiculturalism” refers to a specific policy framework with a history – it was adopted in 1971 – and a budget. The 2018 federal budget allocated $23-million for “multiculturalism” programs over the next two years, primarily the development of a national anti-racism strategy and support for community groups working to help newcomers integrate. That sum is a fraction of 1 per cent of the total federal budget expenditures of about $338-billion.

But multiculturalism is also something less concrete and more powerful: it’s a sensibility that millions of Canadians have adopted as they navigate diversity in daily life in their communities.

We believe that in most places the sensibility of multiculturalism boils down to two key elements. One is simple respect for diversity of race, ethnicity, culture and religion: the sense that diversity is normal, not a problem to be solved. The other is acceptance of the idea that integration works best when it works both ways: Newcomers should do their best to adapt, and those who came before have a role to play in creating environments that support that integration. You can’t integrate into a group that refuses to accept you or treat you fairly.

The idea of multiculturalism pervades Canadian institutions: public schools, neighbourhoods, workplaces, civic life and politics. And this is true far beyond Canada’s three largest cities. Resource jobs have drawn tens of thousands of newcomers to smaller centres in Alberta and Saskatchewan; Atlantic Canada has been courting settlement aggressively; and the Northwest Territories recently recorded its largest-ever immigrant inflow. As communities across Canada become more diverse, they begin to draw on the formal practices and informal habits that constitute day-to-day multiculturalism.

We believe both the policy and practice of multiculturalism help to explain why 85 per cent of immigrants eventually become citizens, which is a higher naturalization rate than in other major immigrant-receiving countries. Citizenship, in turn, enables voting and other forms of political participation; 46 sitting MPs were born outside Canada – the highest share of foreign-born legislators in any country. (And, no, these MPs are not just elected by members of their own groups; only four ridings in Canada are dominated by a single minority ethno-cultural group.)

Multiculturalism is so much a part of our society that in a recent Environics Focus Canada survey, in response to an open-ended question (no response categories provided) about what makes Canada unique, the overwhelming first choice was “multiculturalism/diversity.” It’s true that Canadians sometimes like the general idea of multiculturalism more than they like specific real-life implications – but this doesn’t make multiculturalism meaningless. For one thing, even the aspiration toward genuine inclusion and equity for all groups is not one that all societies share. Multicultural principles have also given rise to many concrete accommodations that have reshaped both daily life and familiar symbols such as police and military uniforms.

When asked what values immigrants should adopt, those born in Canada and those born elsewhere give the same top answers: respect for Canada’s history and culture comes first, followed by knowledge of English or French, tolerance of other people and religions and respect for the law.

Large majorities across both groups believe immigrants can be just as good citizens as anyone born here. Immigrants tend to express slightly more pride in Canada than the Canadian-born do, although large majorities of both groups are proud of their country. The vast majority of immigrants identify more with Canada (78 per cent) than with their country of birth (12 per cent).

The architects of the original policy framework of multiculturalism might not have anticipated that it would become so central to the national identity, or so deeply embraced by people whose ancestors fit easily into old, colonial ideas of monocultural or bicultural Canada.

But while they might not have foreseen the exact contours of contemporary Canada, they did understand the importance of a strong social fabric. Canadian multiculturalism has always aimed at integration, not fragmentation. Three of the four original pillars of the policy focused on participation and inclusion, while only one committed to supporting groups’ efforts to sustain their heritage cultures.

Almost a half-century later, multiculturalism is larger and deeper than a government policy. It’s notable that our surveys find Canadians’ identification with multiculturalism varies so little according to migration status and identity group. If Mr. Bernier intends to attack Canadian multiculturalism, his opponents will include Canadians from every corner of the globe, and plenty of Canadians whose families have been here for generations. In other words, they’ll look a lot like Canada.

Source: Multiculturalism doesn’t divide, it encourages belonging