‘He was the rock from which we all started’: How Nobel Prize winner David Card influenced thinking on immigration and jobs

One of the better articles on his work and contribution:

Ten years after the Mariel Boatlift brought more than 125,000 Cuban immigrants to Florida, an economist named David Card wrote about the immigrant influx and its impact on Miami’s labor market.

Card determined there was “virtually no effect” on wages and jobless rates of the city’s less skilled workers. Three years after those conclusions, Card’s work on immigration — as well as other research on hot-button topics like minimum wage — have landed him the honor of a 2021 Nobel Prize in economics.

“His studies from the early 1990s challenged conventional wisdom, leading to new analyses and additional insights,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said. The other award recipients were Joshua Angrist of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Guido Imbens from Stanford University.

It’s often difficult to see the immediate implications of research, Card said in a press conference held hours after learning he was one of three people receiving the prominent prize.

Big-picture questions

But for some who focus on big-picture questions of immigration and economic competitiveness, the impact of Card’s research at the University of California, Berkeley, and previously at the University of Chicago and Princeton University is clear to see, even as the debate over immigration reform continues.

“He was the rock from which we all started,” according to Jeremy Robbins, executive director of New American Economy. The organization — founded 11 years ago by Michael Bloomberg, the data-driven former New York City mayor — focuses on the ways to grow local economies that meld immigration reform and access for people coming to America.

Immigrants or their children founded 40% of Fortune 500 companies, according to New American Economy’s first report.

When New American Economy works with local leaders in places where new immigrants are arriving, Robbins said they start with scrutiny of the facts on the ground. “The first thing we always do, we show who is there, where they work. In the same insight of David Card, you have to show with data what impact immigrants are having in the communities where they are living.”

Card’s impact has been “enormous,” according to Alex Nowrasteh, director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. “He really does show the cost of immigration has been systemically exaggerated over the years and decades.”

But still immigration debates continue — and that’s because, Nowrasteh said, “people don’t know or care about what the actual research says and they rely on stereotypes or anecdotes.” There are other other academic methods to show larger immigrant impacts on wages, but Card’s formulas and approaches, Nowrasteh said, set the real standard.

“People seem to want to choose the messages that confirm their opinion,” he said.

Card’s academic recognition on immigration topics stems back to the Mariel Boatlift, which unfolded between April and October of 1980. Fidel Castro allowed Cubans who wanted to flee his repressive regime to exit via the port of Mariel. Approximately 125,000 people fled.

The events were just the type of “natural experiments” Card searched for. In a 1990 paper for Industrial and Labor Review, he said Miami’s labor force jumped 7%, but that growth showed “virtually no effect on the wage rates of less skilled non-Cuban workers.”

Card observed Miami’s job market had been absorbing immigrants into its unskilled labor force from Cuba, Nicaragua and elsewhere long before the boatlift, and the local economy was “well suited” for the situation with its textile and apparel industries.

‘The [immigration] debate isn’t about facts anymore. It’s about a bunch of feelings. That is something statistics can’t explain.’

— Alex Nowrasteh, Cato Institute

Other data-driven studies followed, hitting on the money angle of immigration and challenging the idea that immigrants cut into the job prospects of people already situated in a labor market.

He’s focused on other labor-market topics, including the effect on gender preferences in job listings.

At Monday’s press conference, Card said his research and the research of fellow economists are inputs to an understanding of a complex matter. “The kinds of knowledge we can bring are not necessarily the whole story,” he said.

However, Card said, it would be helpful if lawmakers could evaluate evidence on topics like minimum-wage levels and immigration policies from a “scientific view” and not from “an ideological view” — but he’s “not particularly optimistic.”

Last month, the Senate’s parliamentarian, whose role is nonpartisan, said Democrats could not include a pathway to citizenship in a reconciliation bill geared toward improving the social safety net. At the time, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said leaders would be holding future meetings with the parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough. (Bills passed via the budget reconciliation process require only a Senate majority, rather than a filibuster-proof 60 votes, but have to meet standards as interpreted by the parliamentarian.)

Like Card, Nowrasteh doesn’t express optimism that change to immigration laws will come swiftly in Washington, D.C. “The debate isn’t about facts anymore,” said Nowrasteh. “It’s about a bunch of feelings. That is something statistics can’t explain.”

Source: ‘He was the rock from which we all started’: How Nobel Prize winner David Card influenced thinking on immigration and jobs

This Syrian IT worker was stuck in limbo in Lebanon. Now he works at Shopify — thanks to a Canadian pilot program for skilled refugees

Looks like a success story for this approach even if numbers are relatively small:

With years of experience in IT and surveillance systems, Omar Taha could easily transfer his skills and knowledge anywhere if an employer would give him a chance.

But being a refugee in Lebanon, the Syrian man didn’t know where to start to find an international employer to sponsor him to another country, let alone have the money and proper documentation such as university transcripts for relocation.

Then a fellow Syrian refugee told him about the recruitment drive by Talent Beyond Boundaries, a global non-profit organization that matches skilled refugees with employers around the world in need of their skills.

“It was in October 2018 when I contacted them. Honestly, I thought my chances of getting a job through them was one in a million,” said Taha, who has a master’s degree in computer engineering and years of work experience in IT and system operations in Syria and Lebanon.

“Then they reached out to me in 2019 and told me there’s this job opportunity with a company called Shopify in Canada and asked if I would be interested. And I was like, ‘Hell, yeah!’”

The 31-year-old man finally ended a life in limbo in January when he and his accountant wife, Roula Dannoura, arrived in Hamilton as permanent residents — among 18 former refugees (plus 27 family members) who came under Ottawa’s pilot program to resettle refugees here based on Canada’s labour market needs.

“A lot of the refugees I know in Lebanon have all sorts of skills and knowledge. But we don’t know how, when or where to start,” said Taha, who now works as a support adviser for Shopify, a multinational e-commerce company headquartered in Ottawa.

“I always dreamed of going to Europe or Canada or the U.S. to work there. But it’s very, very hard. How would I go through the process? Why would an international company be interested in someone who was a refugee in Lebanon and didn’t have any Canadian experience?”

With the resounding success of the pilot, Ottawa has expanded the program to recruit up to 500 skilled refugees from around the world.

“We have on a daily basis employers across different sectors now reaching out to us. We’re seeing a significant increase in the private sector engagement,” said Patrick O’Leary, Talent Beyond Boundaries’s Canada director.

“So it’s no longer a proof of concept. And this is really being seen as truly an untapped talent pool in Canada and around the world.”

Since its inception in 2016, the organization has vetted and developed skill profiles of refugees. Its international talent pool currently has 32,000 candidates — in backgrounds from engineering to health care and IT among others — including some 350 Afghans who have registered recently.

Over the last three years, through partnerships with different countries, more than 312 refugees, including 141 principal applicants, have resettled based on this model. While Australia has committed to welcoming 100 skilled refugees, the U.K. is set to usher in 205 refugee nurses in the next six months.

“In terms of the current pandemic, the biggest thing that we’re hearing across sectors in Canada is we need skilled workers,” said O’Leary, whose organization will launch a new online platform soon to allow Canadian employers to glean candidates’ professional profiles directly.

“We are providing a solution that hasn’t been on the table before and employers are coming out now.”

Under Canada’s expanded program, candidates with a job offer are waived permanent residence application fees and biometrics fees. They also have their pre-departure medical services and the immigration medical exam covered.

Those without enough initial settlement fund for their move to Canada are eligible for government loans to help with travel and start-up costs. To make the program more appealing to Canadian employers, immigration officials also aim to process 80 per cent of the cases within a standard of six months through a dedicated team.

Glen Haven Manor, a long-term care facility in New Glasgow, N.S., which has recruited talent locally and globally, welcomes the expanded program. It successfully brought two skilled refugees on staff under the original pilot.

“The long-term care sector throughout Nova Scotia and Canada has been chronically understaffed for many years now,” says Janice Jorden, employee relations specialist at Glen Haven Manor.

“Added pressures from the pandemic have escalated this critical need as well as the growing demands from the constantly increasing care levels of residents. For many nursing homes, being in rural Canada compounds the critical nature of this situation.”

One of the most recent additions to her team is Lamis Alhassan, a former Syrian nurse and nursing instructor, who joined the home in July after living in limbo in Lebanon with her husband, Abd Alazeez Alabaas, also a nurse, and two young daughters for six years.

The 31-year-old registered with Talent Beyond Boundaries in 2016 and spent three years upgrading her English to meet the required language standards before she was offered a job by Glen Haven in late 2019. Due to the visa processing disruption caused by COVID-19, her family received their Canadian visas in April.

“My bosses, colleagues and the residents here really welcomed us with open arms,” said Alhassan, who was matched with a co-worker on the same shift so she can be picked up and dropped off for work because the town only has one bus.

“Life is so quiet and peaceful here. I’m so happy that Canada is expanding this program so more refugees can have a better future and use their skills to make a contribution.”

Alhassan said both she and her husband plan to study toward being licensed to practise nursing in Canada once they are settled.

Source: This Syrian IT worker was stuck in limbo in Lebanon. Now he works at Shopify — thanks to a Canadian pilot program for skilled refugees

Wells: Michael Wernick has some advice

Good and informative interview and comments:

Brian Mulroney was the prime minister the first time Michael Wernick sat at the back of a cabinet committee room, taking notes. One time the young civil servant found himself transcribing John Crosbie’s remarks as the powerful fisheries minister recited arguments Wernick himself had put into Crosbie’s briefing notes. That particular ouroboros of influence was “quite exciting for a young desk officer,” Wernick said in an interview shortly before the recent federal election.

The venue was my back yard. The occasion was the release of Wernick’s new book, Governing Canada: A Guide to the Tradecraft of Politics (UBC Press). Wernick was a senior official for decades in Ottawa, a deputy minister under Paul Martin and Stephen Harper. Justin Trudeau made him Clerk of the Privy Council, a position from which Wernick retired amid the SNC-Lavalin controversy in 2019, after Jody Wilson-Raybould released a surreptitious recording of a conversation with Wernick.

Wilson-Raybould, clandestine recordings, and the doctrines of independence for attorneys general are not topics of Wernick’s book, and he made it clear he preferred that they not figure in our interview. I relented, mostly. I’ve known Wernick for 26 years. He’s been learning how Ottawa works for longer than that. The lore he’s accumulated, poured between the covers of a slim volume aimed at students of political science, is a valuable contribution to Canadians’ understanding of how they’re governed.

“I didn’t want to write a memoir,” Wernick said. What came out instead is “a kind of an amalgam of many experiences with different ministers and three prime ministers that I got to work with reasonably closely. I was trying to capture those conversations—what it’s like to sit across from the new minister after swearing in, or some of the conversations that go on. Particularly in the early days of a government as they’re finding their feet or learning their skills.”

For the longest time he couldn’t settle on a format. He finally found a model in Renaissance Florence.

“I have a daughter who’s studying political science at U of T. She was doing a political theory course. And she was home for Christmas, but still working on a paper. And one of the things on that second-year political science course, that I took umpteen years ago, is [Niccolo Machiavelli’s] The Prince. It’s second-person advice on statecraft. It’s held up for a long time. And that gave me that sort of lightbulb moment. ‘Oh, I can do something that way. I could do it direct and second-person advice to somebody who’s coming into that position.’ That unlocked the whole thing for me.”

The resulting book is nearly devoid of juicy insider gossip—never Wernick’s style—but full of pithy advice to political leaders in general. “If you can end a meeting early and gain a sliver of time,” he tells prospective prime ministers, “get up and leave.” And, elsewhere, “It is rarely to your advantage to meet the premiers as a group.” And, ahem, “The longer you are in office, the more courtiers you will attract.”

From various perches in the senior ranks of the public service, Wernick watched three prime ministers land in the top job and try to figure out how to govern. “There is a skill set involved in governing,” he said. “We seem to expect people to learn that skill set on the job quickly, without a lot of help.”

And yet the days after a gruelling election campaign are nearly the worst time to be starting a new job. “One of the things I try to emphasize is the human element of it. People come in off an election campaign, exhausted. Physically exhausted. And in a state of considerable disruption. Often they’re new to being a minister. They’re also new to being an MP. They have to make decisions about their family, relocate or not to Ottawa. They’re changing locations. They’re changing careers, fundamentally. And I was always warning public service colleagues, ‘You have to allow for that. Allow for some of that exhaustion and shock.’”

New governments have only a few weeks to get up to speed. And habits that are formed early are not likely to be substantially revised later, with the benefit of hindsight. By then it’s too late. “The Prime Ministers I saw settled into the job very quickly. But then it’s hard to change. They get into a comfort zone or routines and patterns. It’s a very human thing to do. So part of my purpose in the book is just to say, ‘Pause and be a little bit mindful of the how of governing before it all gets locked in.’”

One of the recurring themes in Wernick’s book is how little time everyone has. A federal cabinet will have 100 hours in a year for all of its plenary discussions. Maybe 120. It’s never enough. “It’s overbooked from day one until the day they leave. And you’re always making choices: to do one thing means not doing something else. And mindful management of the allocation of time is really important. It can get away on you.”

The cabinet is going to need a lot of help. That was Wernick’s job, and that of all his bureaucratic colleagues, as well as countless political staff, operating with different aims and methods. “When it works well, you have a certain balance in what I call a triangle between the decision-maker—could be the PM, could be a minister—the support network they get from the public service, and the support network that they get from the political side.”

Sometimes the triangle gets out of balance. “The system gets into trouble when the public service tries to anticipate politics too much. And it clearly gets into trouble when the political side starts trying to run departments administratively. If people keep in their swim lanes and understand each other’s roles, each can add something. I always found it irritating when people chided ministers for being political. They’re supposed to be political in a democracy.”

I asked Wernick about a favourite Ottawa worry, that the public service is losing its ability to generate new ideas and policies. He didn’t bite. “I think there’s a little bit of a mythology that there was some other time when the great and good mandarins of the town—all white males, by the way—generated the ideas and pushed them towards the political system,” he said.

“I think there’s a competing narrative that the policy space is much more open and inclusive than it ever was. The costs of entry are much lower. Anybody with a laptop and a Google account can be a policy analyst. When I joined government, we had a quasi-monopoly on the ability to run big simulation models on income-security programs. Now many university professors can do it better.”

Besides, “I don’t think it’s really the role of the public service to be the originator of new ideas. Those usually come from democratic politics: ‘We wish to decriminalize cannabis.’ And then you work through the problem of how to do it competently.”

Governing Canada includes some pointed advice to cabinet ministers about the fact that they’re probably not going to get a chance to choose the date of their departure from politics. Prime ministers and voters have a way of making those decisions quickly and at inconvenient moments. Did I detect an autobiographical element to these passages?

“That’s largely true of clerks and public servants as well,” Wernick said. “Or hockey coaches. Like, there’s a lot of job jobs where you can’t arrange a perfectly-timed departure. I’m not the only person who’s been backed into a corner where it was impossible to continue to do the job. It’s unfortunate, but it happened.”

“But it’s happened to other people. Circumstances get away on people. People fall into all sorts of things that make it untenable for them to continue in the job.”

When things got weird for Wernick, did he draw any comfort from those earlier examples?

“No. I mean, that’s not the way I’d put it. I was conscious, during those last few months, that I was drifting towards a zone where I couldn’t do the job anymore. I was becoming part of the story. You have to enjoy at least some basic level of trust from the opposition leaders. I didn’t have that. And that just made it impossible to carry on.”

If he had a do-over, would he handle SNC-Lavalin differently? “That’s probably for another day, in another interview. I did not pick up on some of the warning signs about the trouble that was coming…. But I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that. You work and live in the moment and you do the best you can at the time.”

I tried one more question that was a little closer to the concrete example of the current government than to the trends and aphorisms Wernick’s book prefers. In the book, he writes to a hypothetical prime minister: “You will not be successful if you hang on to the same closed circle of close advisors and confidants for your whole time in office. There is an inevitable drift into a comfort zone and a form of groupthink that can create blind spots and put you at risk.”

Gee, did he have anyone in mind?

Butter would not melt in Wernick’s mouth as he told me he had no examples from current events. “The example I was actually drawing on was Stephen Harper in 2011. You know, the opposition leaders [Erin O’Toole and Jagmeet Singh, in the election that had not yet happened when Wernick and I spoke] probably have a transition team, who will give them some advice on how to set things up. And I worked with Derek Burney from the Harper team, and Mike Robinson from the Martin team, and Peter Harder from the Trudeau team.” Those new governments are always “very conscious and mindful about how they want to set things up.” But re-elected prime ministers “tend to just start up again, with the same people in the same processes. People have argued, and I think I agree, that Stephen Harper missed an opportunity in 2011, to pause and think.

“I would say to any Prime Minister, when they’re going into a second or third mandate: ‘You should pause. It’s going to be different. Think about the processes and the people.’”

Source: Michael Wernick has some advice

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 13 October Update

The latest charts, compiled 13 October. Canadians fully vaccinated 73.2 percent, higher than USA 57.2 percent and the UK 67.6 percent).

Vaccinations: Minor changes in Canada, with Ontario ahead of the Canadian North. France and Italy are now ahead of the UK, Japan is ahead of the Prairies, and Sweden and Australia are ahead of the USA. China fully vaccinated 75 percent (unchanged), India 20 percent.

Trendline Charts:

Infections: UK now has more than California, and the Canadian North has more than the Philippines. The chart also shows the number of infections in Alberta starting to level off.

Deaths: New York and the USA have more infections than Italy, with California having more than France. Alberta deaths, along with the Prairies albeit to a lesser extent, continue to climb.

Vaccinations: Alberta vaccinations have surpassed the Prairies.

Weekly

Infections:

Deaths per million:

Cardozo: Canada is celebrating 50 years of multiculturalism, a policy that is working but still needs lot of work

Another article mentioning the 50th:

Multiculturalism is working when the top Canadian health officials giving a recent national briefing on COVID-19 were Dr. Theresa Tam, Dr. Howard Njoo and Dr. Supriya Sharma.

Multiculturalism is working when our top-selling Canadian authors include Thomas King, Dionne Brand, Esi Edugyan, Souvankham Thammavongsa, Michelle Good, Joy Kogawa and Jesse Wente.

Multiculturalism is working when our top Canadian athletes include Andre De Grasse, Leylah Fernandez, Patrick Chan, Mo Ahmed, Bianca Andreescu, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Milos Raonic.

Multiculturalism is working when our Members of Parliament have included Marci Ien, Navdeep Bains, Lori Idlout, Olivia Chow and Ya’ara Saks.

When merit is allowed to work all sorts of talent rises to the top.

Fifty years ago on Oct. 8, 1971 Canada ushered in the world’s first Multiculturalism Policy. As a federal initiative it has always been small as government programs go, but has always punched well beyond its weight. 

Importantly, it has created an ethic, a value, a defining characteristic of Canada that is known across Canada and also across the world. 

Take the TTC bus along Wilson or Jane Sts. and you see a veritable reflection of the world. Take a walk through a food court in a Bay St. office tower, same thing. But it’s not the world, it’s Canada.

Often times people point to the colourful symbols of diversity as its great benefit to Canada: the song and dance, the food and restaurants, the summer festivals, and exclaim how wonderful it is.

To be fair, multiculturalism did begin as a fairly celebratory idea. “Celebrating our differences” was one of the early slogans. And politicians of all parties, then, as now, are always only too happy to attend cultural and religious events. 

But a lot of our success exists because of immigration and the multicultural society we have built. Our health care and seniors care systems only exists because immigrants are the undisputed backbone of it, with doctors, nurses, pharmacists, personal support workers pulling together to save Canadian lives.

The bulk of low paid grocery store and plant workers are immigrants from many countries, working to get our food packed and on store shelves. And all these diverse people work together relatively harmoniously, because they accept the diverse society we have built. 

That’s the good story.

Then there’s another side. Here are the questions worth asking:

  • Why are all the low-wage and essential professions filled by immigrants?
  • Why do many of these workers still face racism in the workplace?
  • Why is there still systemic racism in so many systems — police, armed forces, health care to name three.
  • While many racialized Canadians are highly qualified, why are there many fields where they cannot advance, in the public and private sectors? 

Multiculturalism was designed to be an organizing principle that allows for diverse peoples to thrive together, respecting the diversity that exists, while also focusing on the common ties that bind. And that’s not simple. And despite its shortcomings it still works

So here we are at 50? A multicultural society that does work well in many ways and is a beacon to many societies. But which also has many flaws and many unfinished initiatives towards equality.

Today in 2021, we find a world where divisions with countries the world over are more divided than ever before. 

And here’s the growing chasm in Canadian society and many other societies: On the one hand is the assimilationist view point … make us great again! Time to stand up for our history (the predominant version of it), and stop catering to the growing number of calls for equality.

On the other hand is the growing determination for the rights of the nonprivileged. There are number of calls for equality from different perspectives and they add up to a sizable number of people who more strongly and loudly articulating their demand to be heard and responded to.

As we get more serious about who we are as a country and about our values, we find lip-service isn’t enough. A starting point is acknowledging our past, be that residential schools, or slavery. Yes it existed in Canada.

It means sharing the economic pie, paying better wages, stopping the systemic racism, so that we can have more Theresa Tams, Patrick Chans, Michelle Goods and Olivia Chows.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2021/10/12/canada-is-celebrating-50-years-of-multiculturalism-a-policy-that-is-working-but-still-needs-lot-of-work.html

The link between image and influence: why Canada needs cultural diplomacy

It was one of the more short-sighted decisions of the previous government, more ideological given the small funding provided:

A decade ago John Baird, then Canada’s foreign minister, withdrew the funding for the Canadian Studies Overseas program, then in its 38th year. The reason: it was part of a government-wide squeeze to balance the budget in advance of an election—wherein so called expendable programs were cut. The shock was felt around the world by foreign students, universities, and by the many Canadian diplomatic missions which had benefitted from the link with Canadian studies.

How could this have happened? How could a program be cancelled that provided seed money to over 7,000 international scholars to teach about Canada so that foreign publics, media, and decision makers better understood what modern Canada was about and one that generated impressive financial returns to Canada? And the savings? At the time the program was cut, the cost to the federal treasury was about $5.5-million—peanuts in the context of a federal budget, especially for a program that was regarded as one of Foreign Affairs’ most cost effective small scale programs. And cost effective because the greater part of the financial burden was borne by foreign universities.

How Canada and Canadians are seen from abroad is more than a casual question. A thorough answer embraces our gross national product, our exports, the richness of our scientific and medical research, our commitment to reconciliation with our Indigenous peoples, our governance, the flow of students, immigrants, and much else. These perceptions help define our sense of who we are.

Most developed countries have long recognized that leaving these impressions to conventional media interaction was leaving too much of their well-being to chance. Seventy years ago, the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences (also known as the Massey Commission) characterized our cultural landscape as “bleak,” accepted that the image we projected abroad was critically important for the country, and recommended that the care and improvement of that image be a central function of our foreign policy.

Massey ignited the domestic cultural scene, producing an explosion of the arts and of institutions (like the Canada Council for the Arts and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) that promoted them. Internationally, there were stunning successes and at home there were efforts to erect a “third pillar of foreign policy” comprising arts and science, but there was no sustained pressure to ensure that the new Canadian vitality was understood abroad. Meanwhile our competitors shot past us and continue to do so.

Focusing on this dilemma, in 1994 a Special Joint Committee of Parliament disclosed the annual per capita expenditures on cultural diplomacy (including international education) of four of our major competitors and ourselves: France—$26.50; Germany—$18.49, United Kingdom—$13.37; Japan—$12.60; and Canada—$3.08.

Given the scale of our foreign operations, this may appear to be a mini-crisis. However, it raises a fundamental question about whether we understand the relevance of cultural diplomacy and the consequences of our failure to invest in it. In the case of Canadian Studies, our neglect threatens an invaluable program. Of 28 national associations, only 17 are still more or less operational. Numbers, academic programs and academic outreach are in steep decline. Money for research grants came largely from Ottawa and the absence of that funding has meant that it is almost impossible to replace departing faculty.

Canadians deeply engaged in our cultural trajectory have been appalled. Advancing Canada Coalition, a national campaign to restore funding and update the program is led by Nik Nanos. Included in the campaign’s distinguished leadership team are Margaret Atwood, Daniel Beland, Robert Bothwell, Progressive Senator Patricia Bovey, Independent Senator Peter Boehm, former prime minister Joe Clark, John English, Louise Fréchette, Lawrence Hill, Jane Urquhart, Munroe Eagles, and Alain G. Gagnon.

For too long this has been a bad news story and few observers who have followed the saga over the years would disagree. Certainly not the Senate, whose Foreign Affairs Committee deplored Canada’s lack of interest in its own culture, concluding in its 2019 study that “cultural diplomacy should be a pillar of Canada’s foreign policy,” and urging unanimously that Global Affairs Canada “support the creation of a modernized Canadian Studies program that would contribute to knowledge about Canada in the world”—along with other basic components of cultural diplomacy.

The opportunity for change recommended by the Senate committee lies just ahead—in the budget, now in preparation for the new Parliament.

John Graham is a former Canadian diplomat, including as High Commissioner to Guyana, minister at the Canadian High Commission in the United Kingdom, Director General of the Caribbean and Central America, and Ambassador to Venezuela. 

Source: The link between image and influence: why Canada needs cultural diplomacy

Canada issues tender notice to improve face biometrics for immigration applications

Of note (passport has been using facial recognition technology for some time) as does NEXUS:

The Government of Canada has issued a tender notice inviting industry engagement to improve its biometric immigration system.

The document was published by Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) on behalf of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

The Invitation to Qualify (ITQ) is the first phase of a two-phase procurement process, which will initially see suppliers of facial recognition technologies invited to pre-qualify in accordance with the terms and conditions of the ITQ.

Qualified Respondents will then be permitted to submit bids on any subsequent Request for Proposals (RFP) issued as part of the procurement process.

According to IRCC, the biometric system’s requirements should be a “reliable and accurate system for establishing and confirming a person’s identity throughout the passport program continuum,” considered as “an integral component of immigration and border decision-making processes.”

Furthermore, the facial recognition system should also include both a front-end component with a user interface and a back-end component. The former will be used by IRCC to collect, enter, and view biographical and biometric data, as well as passport and potential passport clients, while the latter should store databases, tables, algorithms, permissions, code, IT and security rules, and infrastructures.

The back-end system will be also responsible to perform the validation, transformation, and dissemination and integration of face biometrics data in alignment with Government of Canada IT guidelines.

The first phase of the tender notice will end on 9 November. The full text of the document is available in both English and French.

The publication of the new tender comes months after a similar one the Government of Canada posted in July for biometric capture solutions for IRCC.

Source: Canada issues tender notice to improve face biometrics for immigration applications

Falconer: Why Joe Biden should emulate Canada and go big on private refugee resettlement

Unlikely that it will happen given current polarization but agree with the potential:

As attention turns from the evacuation of Afghanistan to the arrival of refugees, U.S. President Joe Biden has an opportunity for large-scale engagement of the American public in a deeply personal fashion. 

If Canada’s history is any indicator, the capacity of private American citizens to resettle refugees is large and untapped. It may even bridge the divide over immigration in the United States.

In the immediate aftermath of the fall of Saigon in 1975, some 130,000 Vietnamese refugees were lifted by sea and air to Guam and military bases in the southern United States. They were quickly resettled in the U.S., Canada and other countries, and were soon followed by an even larger exodus of refugees from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. 

Another three million refugees would flee these countries as communist regimes were consolidating power. Many fled on ramshackle boats where almost one in three were lost at sea. Others died of abuse and neglect in camps, where they were preyed upon by unfriendly governments. 

Despite the situation, the international community was slow to respond — only 8,500 refugees were resettled in the four years between the fall of Saigon and May 1979. In Canada, the government of Pierre Trudeau had committed to resettle 5,000 Indochinese refugees, but only 1,100 had arrived. Then, something remarkable happened.

Canada steps up

On the eve of a United Nations conference in Geneva to discuss the issue, Canada announced its intention to resettle 50,000 refugees by the end of 1980, which was just 18 months away. This would later be revised to 60,000. 

Just as astounding was its intention resettle half of these through its new private refugee sponsorship program. Canadians from all walks of life, from rural Manitoba to urban Toronto, could respond to the situation by volunteering their homes, funds and time to receive and resettle Indochinese refugees.

This announcement coincided with swelling Canadian support for refugee resettlement. In February 1979, 89 per cent of Canadians were opposed to inviting more refugees; only seven per cent wanted more. Within months, opposition had tumbled to 38 per cent, while 52 per cent supported increased resettlement. 

Groups ranging from churches to bowling clubs signed up to sponsor individuals and families, while kids sold lemonade at $50 a glass ($175 in 2021 dollars) to fund new arrivals. Rural townships called into Ottawa to ask when they would receive their family, and townhalls that had been convened to debate the topic of refugees turned into spontaneous sponsorship drives.

Pairing sponsors with refugees

In Ottawa, the government was busy matching sponsors to refugees. An enterprising policy officer drew inspiration from the Berlin Airlift to avoid overcrowding at arrival points. In the late 1940s during a Soviet blockade of Berlin, western allies flew continuous supplies to airports in Berlin. 

Thirty years later, the policy officer obtained one of Ottawa’s first computers that matched refugees to sponsors or immediately placed them in a government-assisted stream. This was aimed at ensuring the smooth transition of Indochinese refugees to their new homes.

Despite some hiccups, more than 80 per cent of eligible refugees were matched with sponsors before the planes landed, and by the end of 1980, all 60,000 had arrived. Adjusted to 2020 U.S. population terms, that’s an equivalent of almost 890,000 people resettled in just 18 months.

Subsequent generations of Canadians have responded with equal enthusiasm to new arrivals from the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Ethiopia and Syria, among others. Private sponsorship continues at a steady, moderate level during years between crises, spurred by cultural groups and family members of refugees, but when sudden large displacements capture public attention a large pool of first-time sponsors step forward. 

Roughly five per cent of the Canadian population has sponsored a refugee, while millions more have donated couches, cash or labour.

Bridging American divides

Perhaps this large constituency of people with experience resettling refugees is one explanation for positive Canadian attitudes towards immigration. If so, private refugee resettlement is a policy that could bridge American divides on migration. 

It would also fill the gap left by drastic cuts to the government-funded resettlement sector under the previous Donald Trump administration. Evidence suggests that those sponsored under a private resettlement program do just as well, if not better.

Contrary to their perceptions, polling suggests the answer is yes — support for resettling Afghan interpreters and other allies sits at around 81 per cent and is unusually consistent across party affiliation. 

Sixty-five per cent support expanding resettlement to other Afghans, and 61 per cent are in favour of hosting refugees in their home state.

While the U.S. State Department has announced its intention to start a private sponsorship program, its size or scope isn’t clear yet. Lessons from history teach us that a limited pilot program risks drastically under-utilizing the American capacity for resettlement.

Now is the time for Biden to ask the American people to invite homeless and war-ravaged Afghan refugees into their homes and their communities. Experience has taught us that, like the Statue of Liberty, many will raise their hand in enthusiastic response.

Source: https://theconversationcanada.cmail19.com/t/r-l-trjluyll-kyldjlthkt-a/

#COVID19 Immigration Effects: August Update

  • IRCC is well on the way to meeting its 2021 target of some 400,000 Permanent Residents: To date 221,360 Jan-Aug 2021 compared to 228,410 in 2019, with close to 40,000 in July and August. The vast majority are transitioning from temporary residency, primarily the PGWP and IMP.
  • Great percentage increase is, not surprisingly, with respect to Afghans, both in terms of applications (from an average of 200 in the first six months of the year to close to 8,000 in August) and admissions (from an average of 170 to over 1,000).
  • The number of Temporary Residents/IMP continues to increase, particularly with respect to “Canadian interests” (post-graduate employment accounting for more than half, spouses of skilled workers accounting for 9 percent, and intra-corporate transferees 3 percent). On the other hand, the number of Temporary Foreign Workers Program decreased, reflecting lower demand in the agriculture sector.
  • Applications for study permits have largely recovered from pre-pandemic levels (down only 5 percent), as have the number of study permits issued albeit to a lessor extent (down 13 percent).
  • Asylum Claimants slightly increased but still more than three-quarters down from pre-pandemic levels.
  • The number of new citizens seems to be stuck around 9-10,000 per month, compared to pre-pandemic numbers of about 20,000. 
  • Visitor Visas issued increased sharply from monthly average of 4,200 in the first six months of the year to close to 40,000 in August, likely reflecting increased vaccinations and reduced travel restrictions.

Fakih: A court has finally said ‘enough’ to my harasser – and that’s a win for Canada

Good result and good reflections:

I am an immigrant – a proud Canadian and a proud Muslim. I have built a restaurant business and raised a family in this country. If there is such a thing as a “Canadian Dream,” I have lived it.

But I have also been exposed to the hate that is growing in the dark corners of our society. And so, when an Ontario judge sentenced a man named Kevin Johnston to 18 months in prison for contempt of court this week, the decision was, to me, critical in ensuring that Canada remains a diverse, inclusive and welcoming country.

In 2017, Mr. Johnston made a series of vile and false accusations against me. He used hateful language at rallies and online. He followed and harassed me and my children in public. He refused to back down. To protect my family, my reputation and my livelihood, I took him to court for defamation. Ultimately, in 2019, I won a financial judgment against him.

In that case, Ontario Superior Court Justice Jane Ferguson described Mr. Johnston’s behaviour as “a loathsome example of hate speech at its worst, targeting people solely because of their religion. Left unchallenged, it poisons the integrity of our democracy.”

Unsurprisingly, however, Mr. Johnston refused to pay a penny of what she said he owed. But even worse, he continued to use the same hateful language against me.

I felt powerless and unsafe. I was afraid for my family and my employees. I was also frustrated about why this was allowed to happen.

I had won my court case; the law was on my side. So why had nothing changed? In an online video, Mr. Johnston was heard to boast: “Eleven times I’ve been arrested just for talking, and I’m still smiling. And all they’ve done is make me more popular than ever before.”

Was this really justice?

Part of me wished that I could ignore the man and be done with him, but I thought about Mr. Johnston and what he represented every day. I couldn’t stop asking myself: Is this the kind of Canada we want to live in? A Canada where hatemongers show no fear of being held responsible for their dangerous words?

I decided to once more put my faith in our justice system. And this week, Ontario Superior Court Justice Frederick Myers sentenced Mr. Johnston to prison on six counts of contempt. As he wrote in his decision: “There is a need in this case for a sentence that makes the public sit up and take notice.”

Justice Myers’s wider point was what’s truly important. “The thin veneer of civility represented by the rule of law requires protection,” he wrote. “Our society only continues if people voluntarily respect the law. Canada is not a society with soldiers on street corners policing the population with machine guns at every turn. It is our shared values, including our commitment to the rule of law, that differentiates our democracy from so many other cultures.”

Free speech is the foundation of strong democratic society. Hate speech is a perversion and violation of that right. It is, for good reason, against the law. It is a threat to the safety of many in our country, and a threat to the values and ideals that our country strives to represent.

To combat hate in Canada, we need action and accountability. Law enforcement must act against those who promote hate; the courts must hold these people accountable and make them pay a price. That’s the path to Canadians having the confidence that the law can protect them, and to meaningful deterrence. The thin veneer must be protected. Those who willfully violate the law – and ignore its sanctions – must be punished.

“Perhaps jail is a blunt tool and risks making Mr. Johnston a martyr to his cause,” Justice Myers acknowledged. “But at some point, society simply needs to protect its members and itself from those who would use our democratic freedoms to deliberately hurt others and strike at the democratic and Charter values and the democratic institutions that are Canada.”

The sentence against Mr. Johnston isn’t a solution to the broader problem. There are too many others who echo and amplify his hateful words. But it’s a start. After four long years, I can tell you that this Canadian was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief that a measure of justice had at last been served. It should not have required this years-long ordeal, but I am grateful to be able to live in a country where, finally, its institutions have said: Enough.

Mohamad Fakih is the founder and CEO of Paramount Fine Foods.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-a-court-has-finally-said-enough-to-my-harasser-and-thats-a-win-for/