Alberta’s COVID-19 crisis is a migrant-worker crisis, too

More on temporary foreign and immigrant workers in relation to COVID-19 working conditions:

The 500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one death tied to an Albertan meat-packing plant are unquestionably tragic. The Cargill plant in High River, Alta., temporarily ceased operations last week following the most serious COVID-19 outbreak in Canada, with cases linked to that plant constituting about a quarter of all cases in the province.

But it must also be understood in its broader context, beyond this pandemic. While this tragedy seems unique to this crisis, this outbreak has only exposed Canada and Alberta’s dependence on temporary labour migration and immigrant workers, the particular vulnerabilities they face, and the deep inequities in Canada’s occupational health and safety system.

Media reports and accounts from community advocates have indicated that most of the workers at the meat-packing plant came here from abroad, including many as temporary foreign workers. This is in line with what the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives recently found, which is that workers who have been deemed “essential” are also disproportionately racialized. Immigrant workers earn less than the Canadian average and lack access to basic protections, including paid sick leave. These workers are systematically disadvantaged with respect to workplace safety, despite the rights due to them under the Employment Standards and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The current OHS system relies on the “internal responsibility system,” which means it is driven by complaints and thus requires that workers have to be the one to assert their rights to workplace safety. This system disadvantages low-wage and precarious immigrant workers who may be unable to exercise these rights, or fear reprisal for speaking out about unsafe work conditions. This is borne out in data which shows that, in their first five years in Canada, immigrant men are at increased risk of work-related injuries that require medical attention compared to their Canadian-born counterparts.

The crisis has also revealed the way public policy intersects with an unequal labour market to exacerbate those vulnerabilities that temporary workers in particular face. While policies around temporary foreign workers change depending on prevailing political sentiments and public attitudes, the fundamentals of the program remain largely unchanged: Workers are recruited for labour that Canadians are unwilling to do.

Much of it, including meat packing, is “3D work” – difficult, dangerous and dirty. Research published in 2014 found that in Alberta, meat-packing employees have the highest probability of a disabling injury of all manufacturing employees, at a rate that is more than double the manufacturing average.

Temporary workers enter Canada on a time-limited work permit that is tied to their employer. The program is divided by skill level: Those in “high-skill” occupations have greater access to Canadian permanent residence than “low-skill” workers, including meat packers. What few pathways exist are largely dependent on a referral from employers, making it less likely for those workers to push for their rights.

Temporary migrant workers in occupations classified as low-skilled are structurally disadvantaged when it comes to workplace health and safety. They pay taxes and contribute to the employment insurance program, but if they become sick or injured, they can be laid off and sent back to their home country without access to the Canadian benefit system. Research shows that temporary migrant workers hide illnesses and injury for fear of being fired, and we cannot rule out that this influenced the Cargill workers who continued to do their job despite being sick.

It is deeply unjust that workers deemed “essential” in this pandemic are the same workers who are unable to access pathways to Canadian citizenship and to equitable workplace health and safety. The temporary foreign worker program is meant to address short-term and geographically specific needs in the labour market, yet as advocates and researchers have noted for years, “temporary” migrant workers often work in jobs that are not temporary at all.

As evidence of the inequities in workplace safety, the last inspection at the Cargill plant happened over video rather than through an in-person inspection. This begs important questions about the actual safety afforded those working in the plant. Workers have disclosed to the media that their concerns over safety and the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 went largely unheeded by management.

And yet, Alberta designated Cargill an essential service. That only ensured that one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world continued operations – while workers suffered the consequences.

Source: Alberta’s COVID-19 crisis is a migrant-worker crisis, too: Bronwyn Bragg

Critics say more action needed from Alberta government on immigration issues in wake of public opinion survey

Reflects the overall more conservative rural base and while the difference with other provinces is significant, there is less polarization than portrayed in the article. The UCP government, like most provincial governments, is generally pro-immigration:

Almost half of Albertans feel that there is too much immigration, a major increase over the national average. But advocates say the Alberta government has not done enough to curve that discrimination.

According to the Canadian Public Opinion on Immigration survey conducted in 2019 by the Environics Institute, 42 per cent of Albertans feel there is too much immigration. This is nine per cent more than the national average, with British Columbia at 30 per cent and Saskatchewan at 34 per cent.

The survey was based on telephone interviews conducted via landline and cell phones with 2,008 Canadians between Oct. 7 and Oct. 20, 2019. The results are accurate to within plus or minus 2.2 percentage points in 19 out of 20 samples.

These results don’t come as a surprise, as Alberta has made headlines for its anti-newcomer sentiments.

In 2016, an article from the National Post reported that a Calgary school was vandalized with anti-Syrian and anti-Trudeau graffiti. These messages included “real Canadians hate Syrians” and “burn all mosques.”

A similar story happened later in 2016 when a Calgary man spray-painted anti-Syrian graffiti to a Calgary LRT station because he was “mad at ISIS.” According to the CBC, the man later apologized in court and stated he had “changed his views.”

Two years later, a video of a woman shouting at a group of men in a Lethbridge Denny’s was uploaded to Facebook. The video shows the women yelling things such as, “Go back to your own f–ing country. We don’t need you here,” and “You’re not Canadian.”

The group of men she was yelling at were of Afghan background.

That anti-immigrant sentiment continues to this day. Dina Farman – an immigrant who moved to Alberta in 2006 – says she still faces discrimination.

“I worked in retail. I know how some people don’t like immigrants,” she says. “And even with me actually, I have black hair and [an accent], and some people give you that look like you’re not welcomed or something.”

One group that has been accused of making newcomers feel unwelcome is the Yellow Vests, a movement that has members in Calgary. The group was inspired by the “gilet jaunes” protests that began in France in 2018 as a result of high gas prices and the rising cost of living there. The movement there has been linked with outbursts of racism and anti-semitism.

But, in Canada, the Yellow Vests Facebook page says the group was created to “protest the CARBON TAX, Build That Pipeline and Stand Against the Treason of our country’s politicians who have the audacity to sell out OUR country’s sovereignty over to the Globalist UN and their Tyrannical policies.”

This movement is also known for opposing the presence of some newcomers in Canada and have been associated with racist and xenophobic behaviour and comments. In Calgary, members advocate for an end to what they describe as illegal migration while supporting immigration of “people who share our democratic values.”

One member of Yellow Vests Calgary — who wished not to be identified to prevent media scrutiny — says that for her, migration and immigration are different. Migrants and refugees have created some negative experiences for her, while the immigrants who “are willing to integrate are a joy.”

“I would consider immigration to be something that’s embedded, that we are choosing people that are going to help us economically, that are going to contribute and integrate and that they’re going to become Canadian. That’s a good thing for this country.”

“But then you have a large faction of people that come, that aren’t integrating and they’re clinging to a nation for which they’ve kind of turned away from but haven’t really [given up],” she says.

“If there’s an idea that they’re bringing with them [from] wherever they’ve come from, and it doesn’t fit with the morals and values of the country that you’ve chosen to come to, then that’s the challenges you face as an immigrant.”

Abdie Kazemipur, a professor at the University of Calgary who studied the socio-economic experiences of immigrants in Canada, says this is a very common argument. However, he says every time there is a pressure by mainstream institutions or populations to force immigrants to adopt their mainstream values, it actually backlashes.

“Even if immigrants [integrating] into the mainstream values and cultures is the desired outcome, the way to achieve that is by opening the society to them and giving them their space and allowing them to have interactions,” he says

Meanwhile, some governments in Canada are trying to reduce discrimination against refugees and immigrants.

In Manitoba, that led to the creation of their Advisory Council on Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism in 2015.

Their council is similar to Saskatchewan’s multicultural council, which was founded in 1975 to raise awareness of the benefits of cultural diversity and the dangers of racism.

More recently, the United Nations Refugee Agency created the campaign #WithRefugees in order to invite cities and local authorities all over the world who are working to promote inclusion, support refugees and bring communities together to sign a statement of solidarity.

While 16 cities across Canada have signed onto this campaign to show support, no cities in Alberta signed on.

But, at a provincial level, Alberta has taken some action. In 2018, the government released a long-delayed report on anti-racism activities. At the time, Global News published an article in which Greg Clark, the now-former MLA for Calgary-Elbow, said “it just fell off the radar and we’ve heard nothing about it. So obviously there is action needed.”

After that release, the Anti-Racism Advisory Council was created as the first government organization to fight the increase of racism in Alberta. A $2 million anti-racism community grant was also introduced to do the same thing.

However, since the UCP government has come into power, there has been no update found on the Anti-Racism Advisory Council’s webpage.

The UCP government has also eliminated the Alberta Human Rights Commission’s human rights education and multiculturalism fund as of November 2019 under the recent budget cuts. This $1-million grant has helped fund anti-racism and anti-discrimination in Alberta since 1988.

Additionally, the $2-million anti-racism community grant was replaced with the multiculturalism, indigenous and inclusion grant program with a budget of $1.5 million under the UCP government. In other words, less money is now being used to address a lot more problems – just one of which would be anti-immigrant sentiment.

Sam Nammoura, the co-founder of the Calgary Immigrant Support Society, says the government of Alberta can be doing more to bring awareness towards the discrimination of immigrants.

“Instead of making a one-week event to create awareness, it should be addressed constantly,” he says.

Kazemipur, who wrote his PhD thesis on the economic experiences of immigrants and ethnic minorities in Canada, also says the Government of Alberta is taking too minimal of an approach.

“They can actually try to encourage the population to develop better views and better experiences of immigrants and minorities,” he says.

“After this happens and after this population blends into one larger population, then this distinction between immigrant and non-immigrant becomes basically meaningless. So all these negative feelings towards immigrants will disappear as a result.”

Kazemipur thinks that the best way to encourage this solution would be through educational programs that bring people together.

“Educational programs are definitely a starting point to emphasize the cultural competence and to expose people to different lives despite different cultural orientations and the values that are embedded in any of these alternative lifestyles,” he says.

“I think there could be more education in order to move people from their own comfort zones so that they can engage with people from other cultural backgrounds.”

Nada Bodagh, who moved to Canada from Iraq in 2009, agrees.

“People just don’t understand yet because they need answers to their questions,” she says. [Immigrants need to] feel they are involved so they are not isolated because the worst feeling when they are new here is feeling lonely and isolated.”

Kazemipur says that the government needs to make improvements to strengthen the bond between the population.

“The provincial government could be more proactive and could make this a priority knowing that without [social interaction] in the population, the economic plans and political plans wouldn’t succeed,”

“I think there’s a lot more work that needs to be done,” says Nammoura.

To better understand the work that is being done by the Alberta government, the Calgary Journal attempted to contact Leela Aheer, the minister of culture, multiculturalism and status of women for an interview involving the lack of programs in place that create inclusiveness for immigrants and refugees.

Instead, we received a statement from the press secretary, Danielle Murray.

“Our government is working to build a province where all people feel safe, welcome and valued. We are working with the Alberta Anti-Racism Advisory Council to determine how they can support our work to address racial and multicultural barriers in Alberta,” the statement read.

We did not receive any further response after a second request for an interview with Aheer.

Source: Critics say more action needed from Alberta government on immigration issues in wake of public opinion survey

You don’t stop a virus by bleeding democracy

Why is it that governments, no matter their political stripe, cannot resist the temptation to over-reach and reduce oversight, whether with respect to bloated omnibus budget bills or during the current COVID-19 pandemic?

And while the federal Conservatives, supported by the NDP, correctly forced the Liberals to back down given a minority government, in Alberta, there is no such check on the UCP government as this Globe editorial details.

Even more shameful than the attempted federal Liberal element given the UCP’s majority and its disregard for parliament (ironic, given that Premier Kenney was an effective parliamentarian at the federal level).

Hopefully, the same conservative-leaning pundits that rightly condemned the Liberal attempted power grab will also call out the Alberta UCP power grab (the first one to do so, John Carpay: Alberta’s Bill 10 is an affront to the rule of law):

Three weeks ago, the Trudeau government tried to use the cover of the coronavirus crisis to give itself unchecked powers once enjoyed by 17th-century European monarchs.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had recalled the House of Commons on March 23 to debate and pass emergency measures to shore up the economy and help Canadians who were losing their jobs.

The opposition were willing to back the minority government’s economic measures, but once they saw the draft bill, they realized the Liberals had something more in mind.

Along with tens of billions of dollars in aid for Canadians in need, the bailout legislation also included clauses that would have given the government the power to raise or lower taxes, and to spend money, without going through Parliament. These extraordinary powers were to last until Dec. 31, 2021.

The opposition, along with many in the media, this page included, were having none of it. By the end of the day on March 23, the government relented. It removed the offending clauses, the opposition offered its backing and, the next day, the bill became law.

Team Trudeau has not explained its attempted end run around democracy, probably because it can’t. There is never any reason to usurp Parliament’s critical role as overseer of government and keeper of the public purse. Every Canadian government, provincial or federal, should get that.

And yet, barely a week later, it happened again.

In Alberta, the United Conservative Party of Premier Jason Kenney used its overwhelming majority to push through a bill on April 2 that gives cabinet ministers unilateral power to write and enact new laws in public health emergencies, with zero oversight by the provincial legislature.

Under Bill 10, the only requirement for enacting a new law is that the relevant minister “is satisfied that doing so is in the public interest.” The only limit on that power is that a new offence cannot be applied retroactively.

It is utterly wrong for democratic governments to seek unilateral powers under the cover of an emergency. It is also unnecessary. There is no justification for it – especially not the one that says governments need to move quickly in a crisis.

Alberta passed Bill 10 in less than 48 hours; the Trudeau government, having secured the support of the opposition, passed its original bailout measures in the same short period. Last weekend, it took less than a day for Parliament to adopt a wage subsidy package. The government shared the legislation with the opposition in advance and made changes to ensure it would pass.

Giving legislators the chance to study, debate and vote on bills doesn’t result in unacceptable delays – if anything, as shown time and again, it improves legislation. More importantly, the transparency and accountability that comes from having to pass a bill through Parliament is the foundation of our system of government.

The Liberals and the opposition parties are now arguing about how often the House of Commons should sit during the remainder of the crisis, and whether sessions should be held in person with a skeleton crew of members, or with all MPs, via teleconferencing.

However it does so, Parliament must sit. Committees, too. And Question Period must happen, so that the government remains answerable to the House and to Canadians. That holds in Ottawa and in each of the provinces. It goes for both minority and majority governments.

Under no circumstances should any government see this emergency as an excuse to sideline the elected representatives of the people.

Thanks to their daily crisis briefings, government leaders are dominating the news coverage. Opposition voices have been sidelined, but they must be given their due in order for our democracy to function properly. That happens best in Parliament.

This crisis is demanding a lot of Canadians. They are self-isolating at home with their families. Many have lost their jobs, or are watching their businesses teeter on the precipice.

They will be able to decide for themselves whether federal and provincial opposition parties have helped the situation, or simply been a partisan nuisance. But Canadians must not come out the other end of this only to discover that their institutions and rights have been compromised by governments that grabbed for powers they were not entitled to.

Source:    You don’t stop a virus by bleeding democracy Editorial <img src=”×0:4746×3055/600×0/filters:quality(80)/” alt=””>     

Race-based coronavirus data not needed in Canada yet, health officials say

Big miss here IMO, given the confluence of race and socioeconomic disparities.

While it may not be an immediate priority during the pandemic, better data of health disparities among visible and non-visible minorities would be helpful, not just during pandemics:

Despite a growing awareness in the United States that some minority groups might be at higher risk for the coronavirus, provincial health officials in two of Canada’s hardest hit provinces say race-based data isn’t needed here yet.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said Friday that statistics based on race aren’t collected in Canada unless certain groups are found to have risk factors. The World Health Organization hasn’t yet said that’s the case for coronavirus, he added.

He said resources are much more effectively used tracking down the people each infected patient had been in contact with, rather than targeting entire groups.

“Right now we consider our main risk groups (to be) the elderly, those with other co-morbidities, regardless of what race they are,” he said. “Regardless of race, ethnic or other backgrounds, they’re all equally important to us.”

There is early evidence from the United States that shows African Americans may be disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Some large cities are seeing higher rates among their large Black populations who historically have had poorer access to health care and higher rates of poverty.

Among them is Chicago, whose mayor vowed Monday to launch aggressive public health campaigns aimed at her city’s Black and brown communities after numbers showed Black residents accounted for 72 per cent of deaths from complications from COVID-19, despite making up only about one-third of the population.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot told The Associated Press that the disparities in Chicago “take your breath away” and required an immediate response from the city, community activists and health care providers.

In Alberta, chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said they know some groups in Canada are systematically disadvantaged based on their appearance or socioeconomic status.

While the province also doesn’t currently collect the race of someone who is tested or treated for coronavirus, she suggested it’s something that may be looked at in future.

“The information that we collect is really focused more on risk activities and less about ethnicity,” she said Friday. “But it’s certainly something we need to look closely at to determine if we need to start collecting that going forward.”

Hinshaw said the province has good information-sharing agreements with many First Nations in particular, so that is one way they might be able to compare numbers, though it’s not something they could release publicly without the Nations’ consent.

Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatric infectious disease specialist who co-chaired the Indigenous Health Conference at the University of Toronto, says First Nations are almost certainly at higher risk.

“A lot of Indigenous people have a lot of co-morbidities. For almost any disease out there they have higher prevalence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive lung disease,” she said.

They were also significantly overrepresented in the last pandemic to hit the country. Despite representing 4.3 per cent of the population, they accounted for 27.8 per cent of hospital admissions reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada during the first wave of H1N1 in 2009, according to the National Collaborating Centres for Public Health.

Many First Nations are small or remote and face the added challenge of a historic lack of funding for things like medical services.

Banerji launched a petition last week to demand more action from the federal government, arguing Indigenous leaders have asked for more access to things like health care workers or rapid testing, but their communities have not received the same financial support as non-Indigenous towns and cities.

But while Banerji said it’s important to document how coronavirus is affecting Indigenous communities, she stresses that information is only useful if it leads to more supports.

“I think it’s good to collect that data,” she said. “But collecting data on how we failed Indigenous people is not a very useful thing, unless you act on it.”

Source: Race-based coronavirus data not needed in Canada yet, health officials say

Alberta government drops anti-racism focus of community grant

Similar shift as that occurred 2010-11 under then Minister Kenney, when multiculturalism program was reoriented towards integration among all groups with greater emphasis on antisemitism than other forms of racism or discrimination:

Some community organizations are breathing a sigh of relief after a popular anti-racism grant has been saved from provincial budget cuts.

The Alberta government announced on Monday that the Anti-Racism Community Grant will be offered under the new banner of the Multiculturalism, Indigenous and Inclusion Grant program.

The new grant “revitalizes the Anti-Racism Community Grant to support a broader range of projects,” Ministry of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women spokesperson Danielle Murray said.

“By promoting understanding and appreciation of our Indigenous and multicultural society, we will reduce discrimination and create welcoming and inclusive communities so that all Albertans feel their culture is valued.”But the replacement is not quite apples to apples, said Irfan Chaudhry, director of MacEwan University’s office of human rights, diversity and equity, in an interview on CBC Edmonton’s Radio Active on Wednesday.

“I think it’s good to see that there still is funding available around these programs, so I think that’s really promising to see,” Chaudhry said, noting that the funding could be a boost for cultural awareness and harmony.

The coalescing of the specific anti-racism scope of the previous grant — which addressed more systemic issues — with the broader program, is a disappointment, Chaudhry said.

“What made it powerful is it addressed a specific issue. You’re naming racial discrimination as the issue that wants to be addressed from a provincial level — that’s fairly powerful.”

‘Smaller pot’

“Something like this kind of combines everything together and doesn’t really get at some of those critical issues as well,” Chaudhry said.

“And I think this pool of funding which includes multiculturalism, Indigenous programming and inclusion programming — which can address discrimination —  I think the pot’s a little bit smaller. So this is going to be a very competitive grant to get to begin with.”The government has earmarked $1.5 million for the grant program in 2019-20, Murray said, noting that the previous Anti-Racism Community Grant distributed similar funding of approximately $1.56 million in 2018-19.

After the provincial budget was released in October, questions swirled about the future of the anti-racism grant, which was thought to be axed.

Jean Claude Munyezamu, founder and executive director of Soccer Without Boundaries —one of the organizations who received funding from the previous grant — was worried the government was going to discontinue the grant completely.

“I thought it was a really bad idea,” said Munyezamu.

“Anyone who works with newcomers knows that [racism] is becoming worse and worse.”

Munyezamu said the decision to drop the word ‘racism’ from the name of the new grant will bring participants of his organization — which includes Canadian-born-and-raised families as well as newcomers — together.

“I think that this is the better wording,” Munyezamu said. “Sometimes when you tell people ‘racism’ people are afraid. However when you use the word ‘inclusion,’ or something else, then you can come to that word later, once you have the people together.”

The deadline for the Alberta government’s first intake of the Muliticulturalism, Indigenous and Inclusion Grant Program is Jan. 7.

Community organizations that address racism will still be able to apply for projects under the new grant, Murray said.

Source: Alberta government drops anti-racism focus of community grant

Alberta Tories launch new program to subsidize “multiculturalism” and “inclusion”

Sounds familiar to Kenney’s reboot of the federal multiculturalism program in 2010-11 and its objectives (which were needed in their re-emphasis on the civic integration purpose of multiculturalism):

Alberta’s UCP government has created a new grant program to provide up to $25,000 a year in subsidies to organizations promoting “cross-cultural understanding, celebrating diverse backgrounds and helping Albertans understand the impacts of discrimination.”

In a news release, Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women Minister Leela Aheer said that the new Multiculturalism, Indigenous and Inclusion Grant will make Alberta “a place where all people feel their culture is valued and respected.”

Organizations can apply for the $25,000 matching grant if their proposal supports multiculturalism, indigenous issues or “inclusion projects.”

Source: Alberta Tories launch new program to subsidize “multiculturalism” and “inclusion”

Program link: Multiculturalism, Indigenous and Inclusion Grant Program

Anti-racism council unsure if it will continue its work under UCP government

More a rhetorical than a real question. Unlikely:

A government-led council dedicated to combat racism in Alberta appears to be in limbo, with its members saying they haven’t received any concrete direction on the future of their mandate from the new United Conservative government.

The Anti-Racism Advisory Council was put together under the NDP government in February, shortly before April’s provincial election that ended with a change in government. Spearheaded by then-education minister David Eggen, the council was the first of its kind in Alberta, and advised the government on the development of anti-racism and anti-discrimination programs.

The council has since been shifted to Multiculturalism and Status of Women Minister Leela Aheer, her ministry has confirmed. But since the change of government, the 24-member council hasn’t been active and hasn’t received any direction from Aheer on their mandate.

Heather Campbell and Lucenia Ortiz, the co-chairs of the advisory council, said they were introduced briefly to Aheer in a phone conversation May 24.

“We have not heard from minister Aheer or from any of her staff since then,” the co-chairs said in an email. They added they worry about the future of the council, as the new fiscal plan for the ministry makes no mention of funding allocated specifically to the council.

“It would be difficult for the council to hold meetings when there are no resources to cover travel and accommodation for many out-of-town members,” the co-chairs said. The council was intended to do the bulk of its work with the government in Edmonton, they added.

Aheer’s spokesperson Danielle Murray said in a statement that continuing to support diversity and inclusion is a priority of the government. Murray, however, did not answer questions about whether funding has been specifically allocated for the council to continue its work.

The Anti-Racism Advisory Council is part of a larger initiative that began under the previous government to take more bold action on addressing racism in the province, following the Quebec mosque shooting that killed six people and injured 19 in early 2017. Following the announcement of the council, the province received more than 300 applicants for its 24 seats.

Source: Anti-racism council unsure if it will continue its work under UCP government

Alberta cancels decades-old grant for anti-racism initiatives

Part of overall cuts, although Jason Kenney was sceptical of these kinds of grants when federal minister (not without reason):

A grant that helped fund anti-racism and anti-discrimination programs for decades in Alberta has been eliminated under the budget cuts of the United Conservative government.

The Alberta Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund, valued at $1 million per year, has been dissolved, according to Cam Stewart, the Commission’s manager of communications. The grant, he said, has existed in some form or another since 1988.

Stewart said the grant has helped fund initiatives and projects across the province that dealt with education and raising awareness about discrimination, racism, and issues marginalized communities face in Alberta. For example, the grant has helped fund the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee, which has been working since 2002 to develop resources and best practices that address hate-motivated crimes in Alberta.

Star Edmonton reached out to the office of Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice, for comment on the cancellation of this grant, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of reported hate crimes has risen in both Edmonton and Calgary from 2016 to 2018. Both cities saw a combined total of 149 hate crime incidents in 2018, up from 103 in 2016 — a 45 per cent increase.

With the rise of reported hate crime incidents in Alberta and Canada as a whole, Irfan Chaudhry, Director of MacEwan University’s Office of Human Rights and Equity, said an appetite for education and awareness in Alberta has been increasing, and many of those education programs are funded by the Multiculturalism Grants program.

“There’s still a lot of division that us as Canadians maybe haven’t acknowledged, and these types of programs at least provide the space for targeted approaches for these conversations to happen,” Chaudhry said.

The grant helped fund one of Chaudhry’s projects — a podcast out of MacEwan University that was geared towards exploring narratives of hate and counter-hate in Alberta, and opening up honest conversations about these issues. He said he was hoping to tap into the grant’s funding for similar projects in the future as well.

“Because the grant is gone, there isn’t a comparable funding stream available locally, and that’s definitely going to impact future variations of projects like this,” Chaudhry said.

Stewart said the grant not only helped fund educational initiatives about racism and discrimination on a smaller scale, but also on a more systemic scale. The grant, for example, helped fund training programs on harassment and bullying in the workplace for human resources professionals, and sensitivity training for nurses about discrimination against Indigenous people in the healthcare system.

“(These projects) empowered people to address issues so they could fully participate in society without discrimination,” Stewart said.

Both Chaudhry and Helen Rusich, a program manager at REACH Edmonton who has worked on various anti-discrimination initatives in the city, expressed concerns on what the cancellation of this grant would mean as hate crimes become a more prevalent issue in society.

Rusich, who most recently worked on the Coalitions Creating Equity under the grant’s funding to develop educational material on hate crimes and hate incidents, called the government’s decision to cancel the grant “shortsighted.” She said it will be detrimental to the province in the long-run if issues of hate and racism against marginalized communities go unaddressed.

“Mosques are attacked, synagogues are attacked,” Rusich said. “I think the cost is huge, not just the emotional cost but the economic cost as well.”

Chaudhry said the funding cut also sends a message that the new government doesn’t consider racism and discrimination in the province to be an important issue that needs to be addressed.

“Collectively, this sends a strong message in terms of where priorities are for addressing racial discrimination in our province,” Chaudhry said. “It’s not looking good.”

According to Stewart, no other grant funding exists on a provincial that is aimed specifically at tackling issues of racism and discrimination in Alberta. The only funding available would now be through the Federal government, but Choudhry said those programs are not as localized, and exist on a much larger scope.

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Stewart said the Alberta Human Rights Commission is now looking for other means of funding to honour grant commitments they have already made, as well as to support future projects. Rusich said REACH Edmonton is now exploring either municipal or provincial funding to continue the work of Coalitions Creating Equity across the province.

“We will continue to do this work because it is so necessary,” Rusich said.

Source: Alberta cancels decades-old grant for anti-racism initiatives

Alberta teachers lack resources, support to address racism in the classroom: study

Suspect any study, in any Canadian province, would show similar results. Any one know of any comparative provincial studies?

Many Alberta teachers say racism is present in their classrooms — but don’t feel they have the support to teach multiculturalism or anti-racism.

A study by the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation (CCMF) surveyed 150 teachers of kindergarten to Grade 12 students from rural and urban schools about a variety of topics, including whether they thought racism was happening in their school.

Fifty-two per cent of respondents said students engage in racism at their school, and respondents from urban schools were more likely to say racism is an issue at their school.

This can mean anything from students demonstrating preconceived notions about other cultures or ethnicities to discrimination on the playground.

Iman Bukhari, CEO of the foundation and an author on the study, said the findings confirmed what she and others already knew anecdotally.

“We’ve done so many presentations and programs within schools across Alberta, whether it’s rural or urban schools, and we had heard a lot from the teachers as well as the students,” she said. “This was really just a way to validate our concerns that we had already been hearing.”

Many respondents said they weren’t sure whether racism was happening at their school. Bukhari said this shows many teachers don’t have the time or experience to notice incidents of racism, especially if they aren’t racialized themselves.

“If you don’t experience racism yourself, it’s harder for you to recognize it,” she said, adding, “It’s so incredibly important to have teachers from diverse backgrounds, whether it’s ethnic, religious, cultural.”

The majority of respondents listed limited time and resources as barriers to teaching about multiculturalism. Twenty-two per cent said they felt they had limited knowledge to teach the subject, while 21 per cent selected their identity as a major limitation to teaching multiculturalism. Some said they felt the community they work in doesn’t value education about multiculturalism.

Many teachers identified systemic challenges, notably a Eurocentric curriculum, as well as a lack of policy or funding for teaching multiculturalism.

Bukhari said the curriculum is a “big issue,” and that teachers need not just an updated curriculum, but more training to help them tackle multiculturalism and racism in a classroom setting.

The report recommends two anti-racism campaigns, one held for teachers with opportunities for progress reporting and evaluation, and another for students, ideally led by youth. It also recommends that schools have strict no-tolerance policies when it comes to racism.

Bukhari said the CCMF is also planning to create a resource hub for teachers to equip them with the tools to talk to their students about multiculturalism and racism.

Adam Quraishi, an elementary teacher in Calgary, says he has often seen children get asked where they are from and he finds there are two reasons why they get asked this question.

“There is a curious question and then there is the, ‘Once I know that you are from somewhere else, I can treat you a certain way,’” he said. “I find that the racism that students go through is more about henpecking people.”

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Quraishi, whose mother is Irish and father East Indian, said his own daughter has gone through similar experiences in her junior high school despite the school’s reputation for its multiculturalism.

“She said that she wasn’t white enough for the white kids and she wasn’t brown enough for the brown kids,” he said.

Quraishi believes at the elementary level, schools are doing a good job teaching about racism, but in his experience, “teachers are not necessarily of the same mindset of what they teach.”

“It’s one thing to say to the kids that we embrace everybody, but it’s another thing to have those subtle little messages that are from a time long past,” he said.

Barb Silva, communications director for advocacy group Support Our Students, said the results of the study weren’t surprising to her either. In fact, she said she suspects incidences of racism in schools may be higher than reported in the study, but that many teachers aren’t aware of them.

“We fail to recognize the systemic and institutional barriers for people living on the margins,” she said, adding that in many schools, especially rural ones, teachers don’t necessarily represent their diverse student populations.

She said the outdated curriculum only serves to further alienate students who may be experiencing racism.

Silva said the fact that 21 per cent of respondents said they felt their own identity was a barrier to teaching about multiculturalism shows a lack of resources and support. While many teachers may be aware of their own lack of understanding, Silva said more resources are needed to help them feel comfortable addressing multiculturalism and racism in the classroom.

Silva said it’s important that school policies don’t shy away from calling racism what it is. She said terms like “diversity” and “inclusion” often don’t do enough to point out the reality of what some children face.

“Call it what it is. It’s racism,” she said.

Source: Alberta teachers lack resources, support to address racism in the classroom: study

Why Jason Kenney’s workaholic style may not work when he’s premier [diversity numbers]

The numbers:

I pointed out on Twitter that Kenney’s UCP caucus contains a record-setting five Jasons. Yet, this change of government does bring in more ethnic diversity to Alberta’s legislature, as the NDP previously struggled to recruit non-white candidates. The new MLAs include 16 visible minority candidates (five NDP, 11 UCP) up from 10 elected overall in 2015. Say what you will about the racists who were exposed in the UCP ranks throughout this long campaign—and please do, it’s an important discussion—but Kenney has clearly brought with him from Ottawa an aptitude for bringing multicultural leaders and activists into the Conservative fold.

This legislature will have one openly LGBTQ member—rookie New Democrat Janis Irwin in Edmonton—down from three in the previous term. There was nobody from the community running as a UCP candidate. Should Edmonton–West Henday flip to Williams, who self-identifies at Métis, she will be the lone Indigenous MLA.

While Canada now has no female premiers for the first time in more than a decade, the legislature’s gender makeup didn’t suffer tremendously. There stands to be 26 or 27 female MLAs, just behind the record of 28 set last election—still far from parity in the 87-seat assembly.

Source: Why Jason Kenney’s workaholic style may not work when he’s premier