In their mother’s country, Lebanon protesters clamour for citizenship

Ongoing:

Draped in the Lebanese flag, 22-year-old Dana is bursting with pride at taking part in Lebanon’s “revolution” — even if her home country refuses to give her nationality.

Standing among other demonstrators in the capital, she explains she was born in Beirut to a Lebanese mother and has spent all her life in the country.But like thousands of others in Lebanon, her father is a foreigner and, with Lebanese women unable to pass down their nationality, she has been deprived of citizenship.

“My parents divorced before I was even born. I grew up with my mother,” Dana told AFP.
“I see myself as Lebanese, but they don’t want to recognize my identity,” she added.
The politicians who do not want to change the century-old law, she says, are “patriarchal” and “racist.”

The right to citizenship is one of many long-standing demands to have found new life in the mass protests sweeping Lebanon since October 17.

The unprecedented show of cross-sectarian anger in the street brought down the government last month — but many other of the demonstrators’ demands remain unmet.
Outside the seat of government, 17-year-old Omar said he’d only ever been to Syria once, but was consistently suffering the consequences of his father’s nationality.

Each year, he has to make his way to General Security headquarters to renew his residency permit — like all other non-Lebanese.

“They treat us like foreigners. It’s humiliating,” he said, holding the Lebanese red-green-and-white flag.

Last year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) strongly denounced the law, noting that Lebanon lags far behind some other countries in the region on the issue.

Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen all provide equal citizenship rights to the children of both women and men, while Iraq and Mauritania confer nationality to those born in the country, according to HRW.

At a Beirut protest, Samer stood in a small crowd, raising his fist and chanting against political leaders he sees as inept and corrupt, the majority of whom have been in power since the end of the country’s 15-year civil war in 1990.

“But we need it (citizenship) to work, to sign up our children at school and receive social security,” said the 33-year-old, whose father is Palestinian and who is himself the father of three.

Despite activists campaigning to amend the 1925 nationality law, Lebanese authorities have been reluctant to do so.

In this small multiconfessional country of around 4.5 million, the political system relies on a fragile balance of power between communities.

Authorities fear that changing the law would open the door — especially through marriages of convenience — to the naturalization of some of the majority-Sunni 1.5 million Syrians and around 174,000 Palestinians living in the country, according to official estimates.

Last year, then foreign minister Gibran Bassil suggested amending the law to allow for Lebanese mothers to pass on their nationality — but only if the father was neither Palestinian nor Syrian.

“It’s racism,” said Randa Kabbani, coordinator of the “My Nationality, My Dignity” campaign demanding citizenship for children of Lebanese women.

Of the 10,000 impacted households identified by the campaign, some 60 percent are Syrian, 10 percent Egyptian, and just seven percent Palestinian, Kabbani said. Others are Jordanian, Iraqi, American or hold European nationalities, she added.

Around 80 percent are Muslim and 20 percent Christian.
Samer said those pushing for reform are not demanding the naturalization of all Palestinians living in Lebanon, “but only those born to a Lebanese mother. It’s a natural right.”
Kabbani said she was delighted the issue had gained new momentum in the ongoing protests.

“Before the movement, women were almost ashamed to speak up about it. But today they’re clamouring loud and clear,” she said.

On Sunday, hundreds of protesters took part in a march organized by “My Nationality, My Dignity” in the capital.
Volunteers with the campaign have erected a tent in the square by the office of the now deposed cabinet to discuss the issue.

When she is not protesting, Dana — the university student — helps spread the word among other protesters so they too can join in her fight.

But the young student says she is under no illusions.
Whether or not a new cabinet includes independent experts as demanded, the key to her finally obtaining her Lebanese citizenship will boil down to political will.

“The day decent leaders take power, the legal amendment will fly through,” she said.

Source: In their mother’s country, Lebanon protesters clamour for citizenship

How many undocumented immigrants are in the United States and who are they?

Good overview:

Ascertaining the size of the undocumented population is difficult. Estimates vary according to the methodology used. While anti-immigrant groups maintain that the flow of undocumented immigrants has increased, estimates show that over a longer period the number has declined. An often-overlooked fact is that many illegal immigrants pay payroll taxes and sales taxes.

  • Estimates of the number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. range from 10.5 million to 12 million, or approximately 3.2%–3.6% of the population.
  • Immigrants from Mexico have recently, for the first time, fallen to less than half of the undocumented population.
  • In evaluating the cost of illegal immigration, both benefits consumed and taxes paid must be counted.

A Closer Look

The issue of undocumented immigrants has been front and center in American elections since 2016; it has elicited passionate responses from all parts of the political spectrum. Here are a few facts voters need as they wade through the thicket of rhetoric on this issue.

How do we count people who are here illegally?

Ascertaining the size of the illegal population is difficult because, as is obvious, people who are here illegally don’t always want to tell pollsters their legal status (or absence thereof.) The first step estimators use is to take data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, or ACS, which interviews over 2 million households a year. This survey asks people where they were born and whether they are U.S. citizens, but it does not ask if they are here illegally. This yields a total number for the “foreign-born” population.

The next step is to subtract from that total the number of foreign-born residents who we know for certain are here legally. Among them are naturalized citizens, people who have permanent resident status (green cards), and people who have been admitted as refugees. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) keeps careful records of the first two groups and the Department of Health and Human Services keeps careful records of the third. By subtracting the number of people who we know for certain are here legally from the overall number of foreign-born in the ACS survey we can estimate the number of undocumented residents.

Of course, not all undocumented people take part in surveys, and for good reason—they do not want to be found out. So, most estimates assume that there is an “undercount.” The Pew Research Center relies, in part, on survey and census data from Mexico. They estimate the undercount to be somewhere in the range of 5 to 15 percent, which is then added to the number of undocumented immigrants. DHS believes that the undercount is 10% and adjusts its estimates accordingly.

The size of the undercount is a matter of controversy. Opponents of illegal immigration such as FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform) argue that the undercount is in fact much bigger. To get to their estimates they analyze other data such as the percentage of migrants who failed to show up for their immigration hearings and those who have overstayed their visas.

So, what are the numbers?

The numbers of undocumented vary according to the methodology used, and there’s also a lag in the estimates because it takes time for accurate data to become available. The last estimate released by the Office of Immigration Statistics at DHS came in December 2018: As of January 1, 2015, there were 11.96 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. The most recent Pew Research estimate puts the total number of unauthorized immigrants at 10.5 million in 2017. Overall, this represents a minority of the foreign-born population, which in 2017 numbered 44.5 million—45% of whom are naturalized citizens, and 27% of whom are lawful permanent residents.

While anti-immigrant groups maintain that the flow of illegal immigrants has increased, estimates show that over a longer period the number of undocumented immigrants has declined, from 12.2 million in 2005 to 10.5 million in 2017 according to Pew’s estimates. DHS figures don’t go beyond 2015, but they estimate that the population of undocumented immigrants increased by 70,000 people per year between 2010 and 2015, compared to increases of 470,000 per year between 2000 and 2007.

Who are the undocumented?

Immigrants from Mexico have recently, for the first time since 1990, represented less than half of the undocumented population. According to Pew, in 2017, about 4.95 million of the 10.5 million undocumented population were from Mexico, 1.9 million from Central America, and 1.45 million from Asia. About two-thirds of undocumented immigrants have been in the U.S. for 10 years or longer. In 2017, just 20% of undocumented, adult immigrants had lived in the U.S. for 5 years or less.

In contrast to the President Trump’s rhetoric about building a wall at the Mexican border, illegal migration has shifted since 2010 from border-crossing to visa overstays—the latter share has been greater than border crossings since 2010. The Center for Migration Studies estimates that in 2016, 62% of the undocumented were here because they overstayed their visas versus 38% who crossed the border illegally.

Another controversy is over how much illegal immigrants cost the system. An often overlooked fact is that illegal immigrants are taxpayers. The anti-immigrant lobby tends to ignore the money the immigrants often pay in payroll and sales taxes while counting the money spent on educating children born in the United States to immigrants. Numbers vary widely depending on the source, but undocumented immigrants are not eligible for most federal benefit programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. In evaluating the cost of illegal immigration, the voter has to make sure that the argument takes in both benefits consumed and taxes paid.

What about the Dreamers?

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was implemented by President Obama to allow many undocumented individuals who came to the U.S. before their 16th birthday to work in the U.S. and defer any action on their immigration cases for a renewable two-year period. About 800,000 immigrants have been covered by DACA at some point since it was implemented; 690,000 are currently in the program. According to Pew, the gap consists of approximately 70,000 who were rejected for renewal or opted not to renew, and 40,000 who were able to obtain a green card. At present no new applications are being accepted by USCIS, so the number of Dreamers is not likely to grow.

What are the candidates saying?

In the 2020 campaign, President Trump has continued his push for a wall at the southern border, on top of increased enforcement both at the border and in the interior. On the Democratic side, all the candidates support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, which would require getting legislation through Congress. There are also shorter-term proposals that a new president could enact on their own, like Elizabeth Warren’s plan to reinstate DACA and to expand deferred action to include more than the Dreamers. Kamala Harris has said she would reinstate DACA and implement DAPA, the shelved policy to protect the Dreamers’ parents. Pete Buttigieg has stated that he would restore the enforcement priorities set by the Obama administration. A number of the Democratic candidates have voiced support for repealing the law that makes it a crime to cross the border without authorization.

As we have seen during the Trump administration, the president can do a great deal even absent legislation to affect the situation of those seeking to come to the United States.

Source: How many undocumented immigrants are in the United States and who are they?

Réforme de l’immigration: Québec présente ses excuses

Hopefully, some lessons learned, for both the Premier and the Minister:

« Je m’excuse pour le travail qui n’a pas été fait de façon aussi parfaite qu’on l’aurait souhaité. […] L’objectif était le bon, mais l’exécution n’a pas été bien faite », a affirmé mardi le premier ministre François Legault.

« À l’avenir, quand [on fait] des changements importants, [on va] s’assurer que nos listes sont bien faites », a-t-il ajouté.

Un peu plus tôt, le ministre de l’Immigration, Simon Jolin-Barrette, a affirmé qu’il « [s’] excuse auprès des Québécois » et qu’il prend « l’entière responsabilité des erreurs qui ont été commises dans la réforme du Programme de l’expérience québécoise [PEQ] ».

Une semaine de crise

Cette réforme en matière d’immigration, qui a plongé le gouvernement Legault en crise, la semaine dernière, a été mise en application trop rapidement, a admis mardi M. Jolin-Barrette.

« J’ai voulu aller rapidement relativement à la réforme du PEQ. J’aurais dû prendre davantage mon temps », a dit M. Jolin-Barrette, le teint blafard.

Le PEQ est un programme qui sert de voie rapide pour les étudiants et les travailleurs étrangers temporaires présents au Québec afin d’obtenir leur certificat de sélection du Québec (CSQ), nécessaire à la résidence permanente.  Dans sa réforme, Québec a établi une liste des formations et d’emplois pour accéder au programme, mais cette liste était remplie de désuétudes.

Dans un premier temps, la semaine dernière, le gouvernement Legault a accordé un droit acquis aux étudiants et travailleurs étrangers qui étaient présents au Québec avant la mise en place de sa réforme. Vendredi, il l’a finalement suspendu en début de soirée.

« J’aurais dû davantage consulter les différents partenaires du milieu économique et du milieu éducatif. C’est ce que je vais faire au cours des prochaines semaines », a dit M.  Jolin-Barrette, mardi.

« J’aurais dû mieux faire les choses. Pour la prochaine, je vais m’améliorer. Ce que je peux vous dire, c’est qu’une telle erreur ne se reproduira pas », a-t-il dit.

L’opposition veut un nouveau ministre

En matinée, le chef de l’opposition officielle, le libéral Pierre Arcand, a demandé au premier ministre François Legault qu’il retire au jeune ministre ses responsabilités en immigration.

« Ce qui m’apparaît aussi très clair, c’est qu’à plusieurs reprises le premier ministre a passé l’éponge parce qu’il y a eu beaucoup de gaffes faites par M.  Jolin-Barrette. Il ne doit plus passer l’éponge », a affirmé M.  Arcand.

« Avec tout le cafouillage qu’on a vu, avec l’insensibilité qu’on a vue par rapport à la question de l’immigration, nous, à Québec solidaire, ça fait un petit bout qu’on dit : Bien, enlevez-lui, s’il vous plaît, ce portefeuille-là », a pour sa part affirmé la cheffe solidaire, Manon Massé.

« Ça a passé plusieurs étapes, des comités ministériels. Personne n’a rien vu. Alors c’est une erreur de tout le gouvernement au complet, y compris du premier ministre qui a défendu jusqu’à la fin, bec et ongles, ce règlement », a pour sa part affirmé Pascal Bérubé du Parti québécois.

Source: Réforme de l’immigration: Québec présente ses excuses

Conservative Supreme Court justices lean toward Trump on ending immigrant program

And so it goes…:

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority signaled support on Tuesday for President Donald Trump’s bid to kill a program that protects hundreds of thousands of immigrants – dubbed “Dreamers” – who entered the United States illegally as children, even as liberal justices complained that the move would destroy lives.

The court’s ideological divisions were on full display as it heard the administration’s appeal of lower court rulings that blocked the Republican president’s 2017 plan to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, created in 2012 by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.

DACA currently shields about 660,000 immigrants – mostly Hispanic young adults – from deportation and provides them work permits, though not a path to citizenship. Trump’s bid to end it is part of his hardline immigration polices.

Conservative justices questioned whether courts even have the power to review Trump’s action and also seemed to reject the views of lower courts that his administration had failed to properly justify ending DACA, a program Obama implemented after Congress failed to pass bipartisan immigration reform.

The court’s 5-4 conservative majority includes two Trump appointees – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – who both indicated support for the president’s action.

Liberal justices emphasized the large number of individuals, businesses and others who have relied on the program and indicated that the administration did not sufficiently weigh those concerns. Justice Sonia Sotomayor referred to Trump’s decision as a “choice to destroy lives” and indicated that his administration had failed to supply the required policy rationale to make the move lawful.

Kavanaugh said he assumed that the administration’s analysis of the impact rescinding DACA would have on individuals was a “very considered decision.”

“I mean, this is a serious decision. We all agree on that,” Kavanaugh added.

A ruling is due by the end of June.

Trump’s administration has argued that Obama exceeded his constitutional powers when he created DACA by executive action, bypassing Congress. Trump has made his hardline immigration policies – cracking down on legal and illegal immigration and pursuing construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border – a centerpiece of his presidency and 2020 re-election campaign.

The challengers who sued to stop Trump’s action included a collection of states such as California and New York, people currently protected by the program and civil rights groups.

Even if Trump were to lose this time, his administration would be free to come up with new reasons to end the program in the future, a point picked up by Gorsuch.

“What good would another five years of litigation over the adequacy of that explanation serve?” Gorsuch asked.

Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, who could be the pivotal vote in deciding the case, likewise indicated he was satisfied with the administration’s rationale.

Roberts, however, had appeared sympathetic to Trump in a case this year on the administration’s attempt to add a contentious citizenship question to the 2020 census – a move critics said was intended to deter immigrants from being included in the nation’s official population count. Roberts cast the decisive vote against the president in a 5-4 ruling.

TRAVEL BAN

The Supreme Court previously handed Trump a major victory on immigration policy last year when it upheld as lawful his travel ban blocking people from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, finding that the president has broad discretion to set such policy.

Lower court rulings in California, New York and the District of Columbia left DACA in place, finding that Trump’s move to rescind it was likely “arbitrary and capricious” and violated a U.S. law called the Administrative Procedure Act.

The young people protected under DACA, Obama said, were raised and educated in the United States, grew up as Americans and often know little about their countries of origin.

Sotomayor, the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, wondered if the court should take into account the fact that Trump has said he would look after “Dreamers.”

“He hasn’t” taken care of them, she said. “And that, I think, is something to be considered before you rescind a policy.”

Much of the administration’s reasoning was based on then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ conclusion in 2017 that the program was unlawful. Liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pressed U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who argued the case for the administration, on the government’s reliance on the assertion that DACA was unlawful.

The administration could have just said “we don’t like DACA and we’re taking responsibility for that instead of trying to put the blame on the law,” Ginsburg said.

Francisco, who also argued the travel ban case, said the administration was not trying to shirk responsibility for ending a popular program.

“We own this,” Francisco said, referring to Trump’s decision to kill DACA.

Trump has given mixed messages about the “Dreamers,” saying in 2017 that he has “a great love” for them even as he sought to kill the program that protected them from deportation.

Trump on Tuesday took to Twitter to attack “many” DACA recipients as “tough, hardened criminals,” without offering evidence, and again dangled the possibility of a deal with congressional Democrats to allow people protected under the program to remain in the United States. Trump has never proposed a detailed replacement for DACA.

Several hundred DACA supporters gathered outside the court on a gray and chilly Tuesday morning, chanting, banging drums and carrying signs that read “home is here” and “defend DACA.”

Source: Conservative Supreme Court justices lean toward Trump on ending immigrant program

Canadian newcomers resent illegal immigrant queue-jumpers

Not particularly surprising. Mirrors what I hear anecdotally:

Those who legally enter Canada from other countries have a disdain for illegal immigrants who jump the queue, according to research by the country’s immigration department.

According to the government administration news website Blacklock’s Reporter, a survey conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs stated there’s an “underlying sense of unfairness when compared to experiences of other immigrants.”

“Some felt this situation was unfair, that these individuals are jumping what they view as an immigration queue,” the survey noted.

An official estimate pegs the federal government has lost $1.4 billion in three years thanks to illegal immigration.

Between January 1, 2017 and October 1, 2019, the RCMP has picked up 52,097 people entering the country illegally, Blacklock’s Reporter reported. Those individuals mainly composed of Haitians and Nigerians.

Hosting the illegal immigrants comes with a cost — which includes food, shelter, transportation and schooling. According to the Parliamentary Budget Office, about $1.1 billion in direct federal costs were spent on hosting, with an additional $371.5 million paid to authorities in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba in cost compensations.

The Ipsos survey, entitled 2018-19 Annual Tracking Study, got feedback from landed immigrants who participated in focus groups. The groups called the number of asylum seekers “a significant number” with some Chinese participants noting the number is “disproportionately higher than Canada’s population can absorb.”

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada paid Ipsos $249,823 to conduct the survey.

Ipsos interviewed 4,004 people in 14 focus groups in Toronto, Mississauga and North York, Ont., Winnipeg, Vancouver and Moncton. Participants were from Chinese, Filipino, Middle Eastern, Caribbean and African descent.

One of the participants reportedly told Ipsos researchers that there’s an apparent “loophole in the system” that allows illegal immigrants to “cross (the border) and just put in their papers.”

“They can lie to the Canadian government,’ another told researchers, according to Blacklock’s Reporter.

Others in the focus groups told researchers they worked really hard to get here and there was no support and no help”, or that they are angered that “everybody is coming in.”

One citizen survey noted: “Your English has to be good, you do all these tests, your health has to be good, then you land in Canada and find people here who don’t speak English and you wonder, are there double standards?”

Those surveys felt the federal government was doing a poor job at regulating illegal immigration and felt the United States should take some responsibility to prevent irregular crossings in order for Canada to “effectively screen asylum seekers.”

Blacklock’s Reporter noted officials previously told the Senate national finance committee that asylum seekers spend an average of two years in Canada waiting to hear if they will be deported.

Associate deputy immigration minister Michael MacDonald said the processing time for illegal immigrants has gone up to about 24 months.

In testimony to the Commons immigration committee in March 2018, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen told MPs he considered asylum seekers as illegal immigrants.

“I’m happy to use ‘illegal’,” he said. “I have used the word ‘illegal’ and I have used the word ‘irregular’ and I think both are accurate. I have no qualms in using the term.”

Source: Canadian newcomers resent illegal immigrant queue-jumpers

Study: Diversity is Shaping Pet Owner Population

Part of integration may be getting a pet:

Pets live in 67 million U.S. households, a statistic that is being driven by the increase in multicultural pet owners, according to a new report by market research firm Packaged Facts. Compared to a decade ago, pet owners are now more likely to be a member of a multicultural population segment, 28 percent in 2018 versus 22 percent in 2008, the report further noted.

“Between 2008 and 2018 the increase in the number of Hispanic, African American, Asian and other multicultural pet owners was five times higher than the increase in the number of non-Hispanic white pet owners,” said David Sprinkle, research director of Packaged Facts, which is headquartered in Rockville, Md.

Pet Population and Ownership Trends in the U.S: Dogs, Cats and Other Pets, 3rd Edition also revealed the following findings:

  • The number of Latinos owning pets increased 44 percent from 15 million in 2008 to 22 million in 2018, a growth rate vastly greater than that experienced among non-Hispanic white pet owners, according to the researchers.
  • Although a much smaller population, the number of Asian pet owners grew at the same rate (45 percent), between 2008 and 2018.
  • During the same period, the number of African American pet owners increased 24 percent.

The impact of Latinos on dog or cat ownership has been especially pronounced, the researchers also noted. Over the past decade, the number of Hispanic dog owners increased 59 percent. Likewise, the number of Latino cat owners increased 50 percent.

Overall, the report found that out of the more than half (54 percent) of American households that have a pet, dogs and cats are the most popular, coming in at 39 percent and 24 percent, respectively. One in eight households has other pets, including fish, birds, reptiles or small animals such as rabbits, hamsters or gerbils.

Source: Study: Diversity is Shaping Pet Owner Population

A.I. Systems Echo Biases They’re Fed, Putting Scientists on Guard

Yet another article emphasizing the risks:

Last fall, Google unveiled a breakthrough artificial intelligence technology called BERT that changed the way scientists build systems that learn how people write and talk.

But BERT, which is now being deployed in services like Google’s internet search engine, has a problem: It could be picking up on biases in the way a child mimics the bad behavior of his parents.

BERT is one of a number of A.I. systems that learn from lots and lots of digitized information, as varied as old books, Wikipedia entries and news articles. Decades and even centuries of biases — along with a few new ones — are probably baked into all that material.

BERT and its peers are more likely to associate men with computer programming, for example, and generally don’t give women enough credit. One program decided almost everything written about President Trump was negative, even if the actual content was flattering.

Feminist Senators are critical actors in women’s representation

Interesting take. Would also benefit from possible impact of visible minority and Indigenous senators:

The results of the federal election have produced much scrutiny over the number of women in Canadian Parliament. The Senate is nearing gender parity, with 60 percent of Prime Minister Trudeau’s appointments being women. Gender and politics scholarship has shown that meaningful representation of women’s interests is likely to occur not just because of a critical mass of women, but because of the presence of critical actors. It seems that a group of independent feminist senators have the potential to be critical actors in the representation of Canadian women’s policy interests. Their efforts will be ones to watch in the next Parliament.

The new Parliament will start in the coming weeks, and politicians will descend on Parliament Hill ready to get to work. They certainly haven’t forgotten the near-constitutional crisis at the end of the last Parliament. The Liberal government pushed many pieces of legislation through the House of Commons only to have them stall in the Senate. While some bills were passed, a few significant pieces of legislation died on the Senate’s Order Paper. Amidst the intensity of the last legislative session, a cadre of feminist independent senators worked hard to ensure that the interests of Canadian women were represented. When Parliament starts up again, these senators will surely continue to work together to pursue feminist initiatives in policy-making.

For decades, the Senate has had a better balance of men and women than the House of Commons has. However, we have no studies that show whether the presence of women senators has led to the effective representation of Canadian women’s policy interests.

In recent years, research on women’s representation has shifted focus. Rather than looking just at the number of women in Parliament, researchers are looking at the critical actors who represent women’s interests. We know that increasing the number of women in a legislature is likely to improve the representation of women’s policy interests. However, researchers have found the most important factor is that there are actually people in Parliament who are willing to stand up for women. The group of feminist Canadian senators could be those critical actors.

The new Senate appointment process allows individuals to nominate others or apply directly, and it emphasizes proficiency over partisanship. As a result, many feminists with specific expertise have been appointed as independent senators with free rein to form their own alliances.

Under the new appointment system, a number of Canadian feminist powerhouses have been introduced to Parliament. They bring with them a myriad of experience advocating for women’s interests. Donna Dasko helped found Equal Voice, which is a nonpartisan organization that supports women running for office in Canada. Kim Pate was formerly the director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, which advocates for women in the criminal justice system. Another senator who has fought for women’s rights is Marilou McPhedran, who was instrumental in getting section 15 equality rights into the CanadianCharter of Rights and Freedoms, and who helped to found the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund. Mary Coyle has also promoted the rights of women and Indigenous peoples, setting up the First Peoples Fund to provide microfinancing to First Nations and Métis communities in Canada. Before entering politics, Frances Lankin was an active member of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, where she acted as the provincial spokesperson for the Equal Pay Coalition. Rosemary Moodie comes from a career in maternal medicine, where she advocated for the expansion of quality health care to marginalized populations. The specific expertise that these senators bring to Parliament informs their work in the Senate.

There are also senators who have particular experience with advising governments on women’s issues. Wanda Thomas Bernard was the chair of the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Nancy Hartling cochaired the New Brunswick Minister’s Working Group on Violence Against Women. Julie Miville-Dechêne was the chair of the Quebec government’s Conseil du statut de la femme. These formidable women represent a few of the feminist senators who, along with many other senators, are working hard to represent women’s interests in the chamber as well.

With this influx of wide-ranging expertise, there have been questions about whether ad hoc Senate caucuses will form on different issues, especially because Liberal senators were removed from the party’s national caucus. Former senator Hugh Segal has been a supporter of that change. With the removal of party discipline, he says, “you could have a caucus on women’s issues, you could have a caucus on defence, you could have a caucus on First Nations issues, you could have regional caucuses.” The efforts of feminist senators seem to be an example of that prediction at work.

In fact, Pate, McPhedran and Coyle allied with NDP MP Christine Moore to found the Canadian Association of Feminist Parliamentarians in late 2018. It already has more than 60 members, and it is working on getting parliamentary approval. The association demonstrates the drive for collaboration and support among Canadian feminist senators.

In an illustration of collaboration between feminist senators, Senator Dasko has worked with her colleagues on oversight of Bill C-78, an Act to Amend the Divorce Act, which she identifies as a bill with vast importance for women: “I took on the responsibility for delving into it. A responsibility on behalf of a small group of senators, feminists as we were, who wanted to make sure that we understood the bill and made changes where we felt necessary.” She recounts a time when the group strategized that she would take the lead. Another senator gave her seat on the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee to Senator Dasko as a replacement, to ensure that she could deliberate and vote on the Divorce Act at the committee stage (since she had studied the bill’s subject matter and its weaknesses). This access to expertise is an example of the benefits of a cooperative feminist group.

Senator Dasko says she finds that “with the ISG senators, there are a lot of women…it really is a quite congenial work environment. I think we try to get along and we get along very well. I think we work very collaboratively.”

Before the Senate reform, senators’ memberships in party caucuses meant that they did a lot of collaborating behind closed doors, in caucus meetings. We cannot know the specifics of what feminist alliances might have been formed there, or the effects that they had. Now, a group of openly feminist senators operates within the context of a more independent Senate. This provides evidence that some members of the Senate are working in the interests of Canadian women.

Source: Feminist Senators are critical actors in women’s representation

Newsrooms not keeping up with changing demographics, study suggests

Likely not but not sure that focussing on columnists is the best measure of whether or not diversity is improving or not.

The analysis would also benefit from examining diversity in J-schools to see how that has changed over time:

Over the past two decades, as Canada’s demographics have shifted, news organizations have failed to reflect the country’s increasing diversity in both content and staffing.

Research on media coverage of race-related stories on politics from scholars like University of Toronto professor Erin Tolleyhas highlighted how far newsrooms have still to go.

But in Canada, most print and digital news organizations have resisted processes to examine their staffing. The conversation on the impact of industry job losses on newsroom diversity cannot advance until fundamental questions about staffing numbers are answered.

Our new study aims to fill in important information about newsroom staffing by showing how the demographics of national newspaper columnists compare to the increasing diversity of the Canadian population.

When it comes to news, who makes the decisions behind the scenes is just as important as whose byline is on the front page.

While Canadian broadcasters are federally mandated to report on their workforce demographics, newspapers and digital publications have no such requirement. In the United States, several national news organizations, including the New York Timesand BuzzFeed, have begun self-reporting the race and gender make-up of their newsrooms.

The American Society of News Editors (ASNE) has been conducting annual diversity studies of major newsrooms since 1978, allowing for the mapping of meaningful trends in how newsrooms hire, retain and promote journalists from diverse backgrounds.

“Counting gives us a starting point,” said Linda Shockley of the Dow Jones News Fund, which uses such demographic data to design training for U.S. journalists, in a recent interview with Poynter.

Racialized journalists drive diversity conversations

Recent conversations around diversity in media have been largely driven by racialized journalists, including the Toronto Star’s Shree Paradkar. Former Globe and Mail reporter Sunny Dhillon wrote about his decision to leave the paper after 10 years, frustrated by a continued editorial pattern of approaching complex stories through a “colour-blind lens.”

Columnist Desmond Cole stopped writing his twice-monthly freelance column for the Toronto Star after the paper’s editorial board editor barred him from his civic activism.

“If I must choose between a newspaper column and the actions I must take to liberate myself and my community, I choose activism in the service of Black liberation,” Cole wrote in a blog post.

There is little data on the breakdown of Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) journalists in Canadian newsrooms. In 2004, Ryerson School of Journalism professor emeritus and former Toronto Star editor John Miller relied on voluntary participation for a survey on the demographic makeup of Canadian news organizations.

Some editors returned the survey empty; one scribbled across the page, “I find these questions insulting.” A few years later, Miller and Wendy Cukier, a professor at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management, examined visible minority leadership at Toronto media organizations by using publicly available information and having it reviewed by researchers trained in employment equity.

Publications such as Canadaland (in 2016) and J-Source (in 2014and 2017) have also sought voluntary co-operation from news organizations and individual journalists with limited results.

‘Self-reporting’ offers window into staffing

To address the failure to engage in self-reporting by many Canadian news organizations, our study looks at the section of the newspaper where journalists often self-identify: the op-ed pages. In the process of expressing their perspectives on the issues of our time, columnists often disclose their identities.

We focused on news, city, opinion page and political columnists as they are most likely to shape social and political discussions.

For our 21-year study, we looked at Canada’s three largest publications, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the National Post, narrowing the scope of our research to include only those who wrote weekly columns or a minimum of 40 columns a year. In the end, we analyzed the work of 89 columnists, beginning in 1998 with the birth of the Post and ending in 2018.

Using terms of self-identification found in the columnists’ own words, in their published work and on their social media posts, we categorized their race and gender by census category.

Examples of self-identification that we found include phrases from columns such as “I, for one (old WASP),” “I, middle-class white lady” and “(as an) affluent white woman.” We then compared the numbers with corresponding census blocks over the 21-year period to chart how closely, along the lines of race and gender, columnists at Canadian newsrooms reflect Canada’s demographics.

In the 1996-2000 census period, white people comprised 88.8per cent of all Canadians, with two per cent Black, 2.8 per centIndigenous, 2.4 per cent South Asian and 3.5 per cent East Asian. By 2016, the numbers changed significantly: white, 77.7 per cent; Black 3.5 per cent; Indigenous 4.9 per cent; South Asian 5.6 per cent; and East Asian 5.4 per cent.

Our preliminary research shows that this demographic shift was not reflected in the makeup of Canadian columnists. Over the 21 years, as the proportion of white people in Canada’s population declined, the representation of white columnists increased.

Between 1998 and 2000, 92.8 per cent of columnists at the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the National Post were white, over-representing corresponding census statistics by four per cent. And during the 2016-18 comparative period, while overall representation of white columnists dropped to 88.7 per cent of the columns pool, those numbers over-represented against the census numbers by 11 per cent.

Over the period of our study, not one of the publications had an Indigenous columnist who appeared regularly. Only three Black men and no Black women met our criteria for columnists.

Upholding trust and accountability

Our preliminary findings are concerning. For more than two decades, the voices that these publications chose to give prominence to did not reflect the perspectives and interests of a large segment of Canada’s population.

Self-reporting on newsroom diversity would encourage a culture of trust and accountability, one that the journalism profession upholds in its role as a watchdog of public institutions.

We are working on the development of a self-reporting tool for Canadian newsrooms, with the hope that such a strategy will be seen by media outlets as an invitation for redress.

After all, it’s impossible for Canada’s newsrooms to address a problem they can’t see. We are concerned that for the many who refuse to co-operate, that just may be the point.

Source: Newsrooms not keeping up with changing demographics, study suggests

New Trump Administration Proposal Would Charge Asylum Seekers an Application Fee

More fulsome article and information than posted previously. Not to improve service but to pay for ICE. Clear intent to reduce immigration and citizenship uptake:

The Trump administration on Friday proposed hiking a range of fees assessed on those pursuing legal immigration and citizenship, as well as for the first time charging those fleeing persecution for seeking protection in the United States.

The rule, which will be published on Thursday and will have a monthlong comment period, would increase citizenship fees more than 60 percent, to $1,170 from $725, for most applicants. For some, the increase would reach 83 percent. The government would also begin charging asylum seekers $50 for applications and $490 for work permits, a move that would make the United States one of four countries to charge people for asylum.

It would also increase renewal fees for hundreds of thousands of participants of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA. That group, known as “Dreamers,”would need to pay $765, rather than $495, for a renewal request. The fee hike comes days before the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the validity of President Trump’s justification to terminate DACA.

“Once again, this administration is attempting to use every tool at its disposal to restrict legal immigration and even U.S. citizenship,” said Doug Rand, a founder of Boundless Immigration, a technology company in Seattle that helps immigrants obtain green cards and citizenship. “It’s an unprecedented weaponization of government fees.”