We can have open, respectful debates on immigration

My latest in Policy Options:

How we debate immigration and related issues is as important as the issues themselves. Whether these be broad political or media debates, or more focused consultations or workshops, care needs to be taken to ensure respectful discussion.

Given the need for a diversity of views and the desire to protect free speech, are there criteria that should be used to assess who is likely to contribute to a constructive conversation and dialogue? Should these criteria be used to select speakers and panelists, or perhaps participants and audiences?

Canadian scholar Keith Banting’s one-third snapshot of the population — one-third favouring more immigration, one-third favouring less, and one-third in the middle — is a useful suggestion as to the possible groups that need to be engaged in this debate. But within these broad groupings, there is considerable variation. Moreover, this variation includes both “elite” and “populist” discourses.

Given the importance of immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism to Canada’s overall success as a country, it is essential that people be exposed to and discuss a variety of perspectives, that we get out of our bubbles, whatever viewpoint our “bubble” represents. This would also shed light on opinions that might not have been be aired, and it would encourage a more open conversation.

My goal in writing this article is to provide practical guidelines for organizers of workshops and consultations on the issue of immigration.

Except for the possibility of violence, threats or disruption, audiences should not be preselected. (However, asking panelists to suggest invitees can ensure the audience includes those interested in respectful dialogue.) In contrast, the selection of panelists must be done to at least ensure the dialogue is meaningful, and the exchange in the panel is respectful and polite. To guard freedom of speech there must be an atmosphere of decorum and mutual respect.

Respect also requires some exclusions: for example, of speakers who promote hatred or whose specialty is generating outrage. But within these limits, it should be possible to broaden discussions to help address some of the political and populist undercurrents in Canada that are not being openly expressed.

It may also be easier to have a constructive conversation and to air the deeper motives and values behind specific issues and concern when the focus is on practical issues rather than beliefs and values. But even practical issues can be controversial and divisive. For example, what should the number and mix of immigrants (economic, family, refugees)? What should the requirements of citizenship (language, knowledge, residency) look like? What is reasonable in reasonable accommodation (specific religious exemptions within the overall legal and constitutional framework)?

The objective should be not to convince one’s interlocutors but to increase mutual understanding of various positions and the perspectives, and the biases and values that underlie them. This must go beyond a discussion of mainstream views and engage more populist discourses.

Nevertheless, even conversations focused on practical issues should be guided by some “ground rules”; an agreed-upon etiquette. These include the need to

  • Listen and be open to hearing other perspectives
  • Be aware of conscious and unconscious biases that may inform assumptions and selection of evidence
  • Stick to the evidence, however imperfect, rather than anecdotes, and recognize that people may not interpret evidence in the same way
  • Be respectful in one’s language and tone to and avoid “demonizing” those with perspectives that are different from one’s own
  • Avoid personal criticism or labelling
  • Don’t assume that all members of specific groups have the same beliefs, values and perspectives.

But will a potential panelist want to follow these ground rules and actually enrich the discussion? It’s helpful to consider in advance the tone and language of an individual’s writings and public appearances. Do they focus on the substance of issues or do they engage in personal and/or group attacks? Does their written work appear in mainstream media, whether right- or left-of-centre, or rather in media that has a more extreme/xenophobic political agenda?

Partisanship, meanwhile, is not a reasonable reason for ruling out a potential panelist. Most people have partisan leanings and may approach issues from a specific political perspective.

In applying these guidelines, it is better to adopt a more inclusive approach to diverse views, including populist perspectives, to ensure greater understanding and dialogue. This means risking more uncomfortable conversations.

While these guidelines are written from the perspective of individual events, they are also broadly applicable to general conversations and dialogue. As such, hopefully they will contribute to more civil and informed discussion in general.

To date, Canada has not fallen prey to the world trend of declining support for immigration. Our history of accommodation, our relative geographic isolation, and the large number of immigrant voters mostly protect us from these trends. However, Canada always needs to be attentive to the potential for pressures toward anti-immigration populism and critics who say the country cannot manage its immigration. Greater engagement with diverse perspectives may help in dealing with these pressures.

via We can have open, respectful debates on immigration

In the era of extreme immigration vetting, Canada remains a noble outlier: John Ivison

Ivison’s take on my MPI article Building a Mosaic: The Evolution of Canada’s Approach to Immigrant Integration):

While Donald Trump used Tuesday’s deadly attack in New York to promote immigration restrictions, a remarkable consensus continues to hold in Canada, evident in the response to the government’s announcement that nearly 1 million newcomers will be welcomed over the next three years.

Immigration minister Ahmed Hussen said late Wednesday 310,000 new entrants will arrive next year, 330,000 in 2019 and 340,000 in 2020.

In response, Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel complained about the Liberals over-promising and under-delivering on the immigration file, pointing to a backlog at the Immigration and Refugee Board, a lack of mental health services for Yazidi women, wait times for permanent residency for caregivers, and an uneven spread of immigrants across the country. But crucially, those complaints were about management of the system by the Liberals, not the significant uptick in numbers.

In a world where the U.S. president is pushing to step up “extreme vetting,” where even countries like Germany and Denmark with a reputation for being havens are turning against immigrants, Canada is a notable, noble outlier.

As Andrew Griffith, a former senior bureaucrat at the department of Citizenship and Immigration, notes in a new paper for the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute, Canada’s successful immigration policy has its roots in the country’s history and geography.

“The ongoing creative tension between groups (English, French and Indigenous peoples) produced a culture of accommodation central to Canada’s ability to absorb and integrate newcomers. Further, the widely held perception among Canadians that immigrants are an economic boon and cultural asset to the country has made public opinion on the subject generally resilient, even as sharp backlashes have unfolded in the United States and Europe,” he wrote.

The polling bears that out. In fact, fewer people are concerned about immigrants not adopting “Canadian values” than at any time in the past 20 years, according to a major study carried out last year by the Environics Institute.

The study said 58 per cent of Canadians disagree with the statement that immigration levels are too high, compared with 37 per cent who agree. Views on the issue in Quebec reflected the national average.

It said 80 per cent believe the economic impact of immigration is positive, compared to just 16 per cent who disagree.

And it found 65 per cent think immigration controls are effective in keeping out criminals, up from just 39 per cent in 2008.

Since the major liberalization of immigration in the 1960s, when Canada abandoned race-based selection criteria and paved the way for the country’s current diversity, there has been a consistency about the broad parameters of immigration policy, regardless of which party has been in power.

Since 1995, immigrants admitted under economic preferences have consistently accounted for half or more of newly arrived immigrants.

The OECD’s migration outlook survey suggests the Canadian system is successful at attracting some of the world’s best and brightest. In 2014, 260,400 permanent residents were admitted, and more than half of the 25-to-64 year olds in that group had completed post-secondary degrees. The employment rate for foreign-born men was higher than for native-born men.

None of that is to suggest that the system is not used as a source of electoral fodder — particularly by the Liberal Party.

While the Conservatives reduced family-class immigration and increased economic immigration when they were in power, new programs introduced by the Liberals threaten to reverse some of that progress.

In the last election, the Liberals campaigned on prioritizing family reunification, granting points under the Express Entry system to applicants with siblings in Canada and doubling the number of applications allowed for parents and grandparents.

There was plenty more political pandering — watering down language requirements, lifting Mexican visa requirements and reducing the residency requirement for citizenship from four years to three.

The Trudeau Liberals’ emphasis on rights over the responsibilities promoted by the Harper government — and the prioritization of diversity over Harper’s insistence on shared Canadian values and history — paid electoral dividends, shifting the allegiance of a number of visible minority communities toward the Liberals.

Yet the changes were at the margins.

Both governments adhered to the distinctly Canadian model of integration, based on broad agreement about the way immigrants are selected, settled and melded into society.

The demographics defy partisanship and both Conservatives and Liberals have tried to offset the effect of an ageing population, where the working age to retired ratio is set to fall from 6.6:1 in 1971 to 2:1 by 2036.

Beyond the economics, there is a common approach to integration.

Griffiths notes that as far back as 1959 in Statistics Canada’s Canada Year Book, integration was defined as being clearly distinct from assimilation — it provided for the retention of cultural identity.

The niqab ban in Quebec suggests the debate on accommodation is not resolved.

But it is easy to lose sight of the fact that Canadians are broadly at ease with mass immigration to this country, even as it has resulted in a country with one of the largest foreign-born populations in the world.

Source: John Ivison: In the era of extreme immigration vetting, Canada remains a noble outlier | National Post

‘Sunshine’ approach to diversity in federal public service working, [Policy Options] study says

Toronto Star article (excerpt) based on my Policy Options article, Diversity in the public service’s executive ranks:

An employment equity regimen that relies on public disclosure rather than a mandatory quota system seems to have improved representation from women, visible minorities and Indigenous people in the public service, according to a new study.

Women now make up 54.4 per cent of federal government employees while visible minorities and Indigenous people account for 14.5 per cent and 5.2 per cent of the workforce, respectively, according to the report by the Institute for Research on Public Policy.

The latest government statistics say 50.4 per cent of Canada’s population are women, 20 per cent are visible minorities, and 4 per cent are Indigenous. The Canadian government defines visible minorities as non-white people other than Indigenous people.

Under the Employment Equity Act, the federal government is obligated to report annually on diversity within the government and in the federally regulated private sector.

The growth has been steady for both women and Indigenous people, who started at 46.1 per cent and 2 per cent respectively in 1993 when data became available, said report author Andrew Griffith.

And the almost quadrupling of representation for visible minorities from a mere 3.8 per cent in 1993 was remarkable, he noted.

“The transparency, sunshine-law approach and the politics of shame has shifted the representation of public services by a remarkable extent,” said Griffith, a retired director-general with the Immigration Department and now an independent policy analyst specializing multiculturalism and diversity.

“The organic and uncontroversial approach may have worked better than a quota system that would have created more resistance and tension.” 

Source: ‘Sunshine’ approach to diversity in federal public service working, study says | Toronto Star

Multiculturalism in Canada: Evolution, Effectiveness and Challenges: My latest

The Pearson Centre asked me to do a piece on multiculturalism for the 46th anniversary of the policy and Canada 150.

This article is part of a longer piece I am working on, looking at how immigration, settlement, citizenship and multiculturalism work together to foster integration.

I hope you enjoy it.

Source: Multiculturalism in Canada: Evolution, Effectiveness and Challenges (Pearson Centre), Multiculturalism in Canada: Evolution, Effectiveness and Challenges (pdf)

Todd: Debating immigration wisely means not vilifying opponents

Douglas Todd’s piece on my IRPP article “How to debate immigration policy in Canada”:

Canada is one of the few advanced countries that can’t seem to hold an authentic public discussion about immigration policy.

Canadian boosters of high immigration and those who oppose it are mutually contemptuous. Their verbal boxing matches are dominated by sloganeering and name-calling.

If Ottawa is ever going to take seriously public opinion to fine-tune its immigration policies, the combatants need to follow a few rules. They may need a referee, who acts fairly when others are losing their heads.

Andrew Griffith may not realize it, but he has just stepped forward to be the mediator between those who advocate more open borders and those who seek greater restrictions.

The high-level Immigration Department official, who has helped draw up the country’s citizenship policies, is on medical leave to undergo cancer treatment.

But his time away from the bureaucracy has inspired him to write books and a compelling essay just published by the journal Policy Options, titled, “How to debate immigration policy in Canada.”

I’ve experienced Griffith’s diplomat-like poise. Occasionally, I’ve tried to get him to air stronger opinions, yet he doesn’t take the bait. He’s committed to even-handedness.

But he’s also realistic. To use an edgier phrase than he might, Griffith realizes Canadians are pretty pitiful at openly discussing immigration issues.

Like others, Griffith suggests fear of being labelled xenophobic is the over-riding contributor to Canadians’ unusual silence on mass migration, which has arguably defined this country more than any other.

It doesn’t help the cause of dialogue that almost no politician, and few academics, will critique how Canada’s approach to the complexities of immigration affects the host society.

Source: Todd: Debating immigration wisely means not vilifying opponents | Vancouver Sun

Federal government passes law to end ‘second-class citizenship’

My take (and familiar refrain on fees):

Andrew Griffith, retired director general of the Immigration Department, said the changes are long overdue and should have been passed last year if the opposition parties had not dragged the debate on.

“It’s good that the bill is through,” Griffith told the Star. “It delivered the Liberal government’s campaign commitment to facilitate citizenship, that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. It has shifted the overall balance somewhat to facilitate (access to) citizenship.”

However, Griffith was disappointed that Ottawa has chosen not to deal with the exorbitant citizenship application fees — $630 for adults [$530 administration processing and $100 right of citizenship fee] and $100 for minors [plus $100 right of citizenship] — that some said have prevented eligible applicants, especially refugees, from becoming full-fledged Canadians.

“The issue that remains for me is the fee,” said Griffith. “If the government really believed in diversity and inclusion, they should ensure it is not an insurmountable financial barrier for people to become citizens.”

Source: Federal government passes law to end ‘second-class citizenship’ | Toronto Star

High fees blamed for sharp decrease in Canadian citizenship applications | Toronto Star

Another article on the impact of the increase on citizenship fees, just before Minister Hussen testifies before the Senate committee studying the bill:

The number of immigrants applying for citizenship has plunged by a whopping 50 per cent at the same time as Ottawa has stripped a record number of Canadians of their citizenship.

According to the latest data from the Immigration Department, only 56,446 new citizenship applications were received in the first nine months of last year, a sharp decline from the 111,993 during the same period in 2015.

The number of new citizens approved also dropped by 48 per cent from 198,119 to 111,435 over the same period, said Andrew Griffith, a retired director general of the department who obtained the data.

While the tightened language proficiency and longer residency requirements have contributed to the decline, the steep increase in citizenship application fees under the former Conservative government is a key factor, Griffith said.

The processing fee was raised from $100 to $300 in February 2015 and again to $530 later that year, with an additional $100 right-of-citizenship fee required once the application is approved. Historically, citizenship applications have averaged close to 200,000 per year.

“The fee hike is a huge part. When you increase the price, you are not going to be able to afford it,” noted Griffith, a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. “The fee is a significant barrier. If you are a professional, you can pay it with no problem. But if you are low-income, it becomes a burden.”

The federal Liberals have tabled Bill C-6 to amend the Citizenship Act, which would make citizenship less restrictive by reducing the residency requirement to three out of four years from four out of six and limiting the language and knowledge tests to applicants aged 18-54, instead of 14-64. However, there is no mention of a fee reduction in the bill.

Toronto lawyer Avvy Go, who spoke at Senate hearings into the bill, said the fees are a problem for the low-income households she serves at the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic.

The legal clinic organized a number of workshops in 2015 to urge eligible immigrants to apply for citizenship before the changes by the Tory government came into effect. Many attendees to the workshops said they were not able to afford the fees, Go told the Star.

“When you look at who the poor are, they are people from racialized communities, women and the disabled, who are bearing the consequences. You are going to further disenfranchise the vulnerable,” said Go.

“Many of my clients work long hours in restaurants and are paid minimum wages. They have to choose between putting food on the table and applying for citizenship. Many have no choice but choose to put food on the table first.”

Source: High fees blamed for sharp decrease in Canadian citizenship applications | Toronto Star

Canadian citizenship applications decline after processing fees triple

citizenship-metropolis-2017-017

Citizenship Country Comparisons

Article based in part on my brief, C-6 Senate Hearings: Expected Impact on the Naturalization Rate.

The IRCC comment that the government has no plan to reduce fees is notable and surprising, given its diversity and inclusion agenda and expanded Immigration levels.

Equally notable that the IRCC spokesperson is incorrect on the level of Australia’s citizenship fee, our most appropriate comparator country (above comparison chart). He also cites that the increase in citizenship fees was not raised in recent consultations on immigration levels despite there being no questions in the consultation document on citizenship (IRCC Discussion guide on immigration: What about citizenship?):

A sharp fee increase has helped fuel a dramatic drop in the number of immigrants applying to become Canadian citizens, according to immigration advocates.

In the first nine months of 2016, there were 56,446 applications filed for citizenship, a decrease of nearly 50 per cent from the same period a year earlier, when 111,993 applications were submitted.

The figures are included in a briefing by former Immigration and Citizenship director general Andrew Griffith prepared for the Senate social affairs, science and technology committee, which begins hearings this week on Bill C-6, a law to amend the Citizenship Act.

Griffith, an author on immigration issues and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, calls it an “alarming” trend that can be linked directly to a steep increase in fees.

The processing fee jumped from $100 to $530 in 2014-2015, which amounts to a tripled price tag when the additional $100 “right of citizenship” fee is added.

“If you’re a professional doing reasonably well, you may not like it, but you pay it. It’s important to you,” Griffith told CBC News. “But if you are a struggling immigrant or refugee, suddenly $630 may become prohibitive, and especially if you’re talking about a family of four or more.”

Newcomers face other costs associated with the citizenship process, including language testing, he said. He recommends cutting the processing fee to $300, abolishing the right-of-citizenship fee, and considering a waiver for refugees and low-income immigrants.

Financial and other barriers

Griffith’s brief points to a broader pattern of declining naturalization rates. He warns that a growing part of the population may not fully integrate by becoming citizens due to financial or other barriers and that could lead to marginalization.

“We’ve always prided ourselves where we have a model where we don’t just encourage immigration, but we encourage immigrants to become citizens so they be fully part of society. They can take part in political discussions, they can vote and do all the things that are part of it,” he said.

Bill C-6 reverses reforms brought in by the previous Conservative government and takes steps to streamline and strengthen the integrity of the citizenship process. Those include reducing the time permanent residents have to live in Canada to become eligible for citizenship, counting time for work or study in residency requirements, and reducing the language proficiency requirements for younger and older immigrants.

Oath

A man raises his hand while taking the Oath of Citizenship at a ceremony in Mississauga, Ont. (Jonathan Castell/CBC)

But the government does not appear prepared to reverse the fee hike brought in by the Conservatives.

Bernie Derible, a spokesman for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, said citizenship fees in Canada are “significantly less” than other comparable countries such as the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. Throughout the cross-country consultations last summer, there was little discussion or concern raised about the fee, he added.

Dory Jade, CEO of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants, said he has heard from plenty of clients who are delaying citizenship because they can’t afford the fees.

Make process ‘accessible and easy’

“If we want to bring immigrants, especially under a Liberal government which believes in nation builders, making it accessible and easy to become members of your society is a big, big issue,” he said.

Jade has met with officials from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to propose a way to address the financial burden.

He said he was told by officials that the current fees are not cost-recovery, which means they are still financed in part by the tax base despite the increase. [Note: IRCC costing study indicated processing cost $555, about the same as the current fee of $530.] But he suggested the government could ease the cost barrier by adopting a tax-like formula based on income, developing a loan program, or capping the total fee for a family.

Stephen Green, a Toronto-based immigration lawyer, said he has not heard of the fee being a significant factor in seeking citizenship. He said many of his firm’s clients who don’t currently qualify under the existing law are anxiously awaiting C-6 to become law so they can apply for citizenship.

The Senate social affairs committee hearings will be held Wednesday and Thursday this week, with a number of immigration and refugee lawyers and academics scheduled to testify.

Various Commentary on Citizenship Act Changes

Commentary on the Liberal government’s planned changes to citizenship (Bill C-6), from those advocating a more facultative approach (including myself) and former Minister Alexander:

“We are very pleased with the government’s decision to rescind the previous government’s Bill C-24 that made it far more difficult to obtain citizenship and far easier to lose,” said Debbie Douglas of the Ontario Council for Agencies Serving Immigrants.

“We are particularly pleased that we are moving away from two-tier citizenship where dual citizens could have their citizenship revoked. We commend the Liberal government for taking this principled decision.”

The new citizenship bill also makes some new changes by extending immigration authorities’ power to seize documents suspected of fraud and barring those serving conditional sentences from seeking citizenship or counting the time toward the residency eligibility.

Andrew Griffith, a former director-general with the immigration department, said the proposed legislation surprisingly retained many of the provisions passed by the previous government to improve enforcement and integrity of the citizenship system while reducing unreasonable hurdles for would-be citizens.

“They are removing some of the worst abuses the Conservatives did, promoting its diversity and inclusive agenda, without changing the fundamental value of real and meaningful commitment to Canadian citizenship,” Griffith said.

“These proposed changes reflect, apart from revocation, relatively modest changes, in line with the Liberals’ public commitments, and that retain virtually all of the previous government’s integrity measures.”

While he is pleased with the proposed citizenship changes, veteran immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman said those who face citizenship revocation on the grounds of misrepresentation are still not entitled to a hearing – a practice that is under a legal challenge in the federal court.

“Why are we keeping this Harper legacy?” Waldman asked.

Under the Harper government, the citizenship application backlog had ballooned with processing time significantly lengthened. New resources were brought in last year to reduce the wait time.

McCallum said new citizenship applications are now being processed in 12 months and the backlog is expected to be cleared by the end of this year.

In an email to The Canadian Press ahead of the announcement, former Conservative immigration minister Chris Alexander said the changes his government made were in keeping with Canadian values.

“Terrorism, espionage and treason are serious crimes, representing gross acts of disloyalty. They are far more serious violations than covering up minor crimes from one’s past — a common form of misrepresentation,” he said.

The Conservative bill was attacked as setting a dangerous precedent and even challenged, unsuccessfully, as unconstitutional.

In the National Post, John Ivison harshly criticizes the repeal of the revocation provisions (as well as pandering to ethnic voters):

It’s true, as Immigration Minister John McCallum pointed out, that this fulfils an election pledge, made to drive a wedge between the Tories and the ethnic communities that supported them in three elections.

The Conservatives signed their own death warrant by tightening up the family reunification criteria, raising the income threshold necessary for new immigrants to bring in parents and grandparents.

The Liberals campaigned hard on easing those restrictions and on their intention to revoke the Conservative citizenship bill, exploiting fears in ethnic communities that they could be stripped of their citizenship and deported if convicted of a crime.

…. the central failing of this bill. Dual nationals can now be convicted of terrorism, high treason or spying and retain their Canadian citizenship.

You can be supportive of civility, tolerance and inclusion and still believe this move is dangerous and misguided.

Loyalty is the measure of good citizenship.

When you betray that trust, you should forfeit the rights, privileges and duties of being a member of Canadian society.

Dual nationals convicted of terrorism, high treason or spying don’t deserve to keep Canadian citizenship

I am waiting for Ivison’s colleague, Chris Selley, to weigh in given his previous strong criticism of revocation (National Post | Chris Selley: Stripping jihadis’ citizenship feels good. But what good does it do?)

Tasha Kheiriddin in iPolitics starts from the same place but ends with a more nuanced criticism, making a distinction between those who became citizens as children, which should be treated no differently from Canadian-born, and those who became citizens as adults:

But the fear of losing one’s citizenship struck a deep chord with immigrants and native-born Canadians alike. Trudeau’s impassioned defence of citizenship was widely seen as a highlight of that debate — that rare sort of knockout punch pundits and audiences yearn for. The Liberals carried that punch from the debate to the doorstep, where it — coupled with their defence of the niqab and opposition to the Conservatives’ barbaric cultural practices tip line — helped cement the Liberals’ reputation as pro-New Canadian, and the Conservatives’ image as anti-immigrant.
This week, Immigration Minister John McCallum announced that the government would be reversing Bill C-24. “Canadian citizens are equal under the law, whether they were born in Canada or were naturalized in Canada or hold dual citizenship,” McCallum said in a statement. …

The bill also will restore Canadian citizenship to anyone stripped of it under Bill C-24. As a result, Amara will have his citizenship reinstated once the Liberals’ new bill becomes law.

Opponents of the Conservative law decried the creation of two different “classes” of citizens — those born in Canada and those who have dual nationalities. But those individuals are arguably already in two different classes — in fact, more than two, depending on how they obtained their citizenships. Some did so by birth, some due to a parent’s move to Canada, and some by their own choice as an adult. And the implications of revocation for each group can be very, very different.

In Amara’s case, he came to Canada as a 13-year-old. While he arguably took his oath as a child, nothing would have prevented him from renouncing his Jordanian citizenship as an adult. Maintaining it, however, gave him certain advantages, including freedom to live, work and travel in Jordan, where he was born. Those advantages are not available to other Canadians. Should they complain that they’re second-class citizens, because they don’t have the same privileges? Should he complain that he received unequal treatment, when he himself maintains an unequal status?

In the case of dual citizens born in Canada, who hold dual citizenship by virtue of their parents, the situation is somewhat different. Saad Gaya, also one of the Toronto 18, was deemed to have Pakistani citizenship retroactively, due to his parents’ possessing Pakistani nationality. Unlike Amara, Gaya had no connection to his parents’ country, and claimed that he didn’t even have said citizenship. Furthermore, as a child born here, he did not choose Canada. Because of this, he claimed that sending him to Pakistan would constitute “cruel and unusual treatment”.

A better version of the law would be one that allows the state to cancel the Canadian citizenship of a person convicted of treason who obtained that citizenship consciously and deliberately as an adult. This would deter those seeking citizenship for no other reason than to enable them to strike back at their adopted country, or who used their ability to move freely in Canada to facilitate terrorist acts.

While there is no doubt that withdrawal of citizenship should not be subject to the whim of the state, neither should citizenship be completely taken for granted. For citizenship to have value, it must not just be a passport of convenience — or worse, a cover for crime.

Dual nationals convicted of terrorism don’t deserve to keep Canadian citizenship

Comparatively little to no coverage or commentary in Quebec media, unless I missed it.

Trudeau Cabinet takes diversity, inclusiveness to an unparalleled extent | hilltimes.com

My piece in The Hill Times:

The Liberal government has emphasized its diversity and inclusive language in speeches, in Cabinet, in Cabinet committees, and in Cabinet ministers’ mandate letters. This emphasis has been reinforced by the return of the multiculturalism program to Canadian Heritage. All together, these initiatives represent the mainstreaming of diversity, inclusiveness and multiculturalism to an unparalleled extent.

It starts with the language of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who regularly emphasizes that: “Canadians understand that diversity is our strength. We know that Canada has succeeded—culturally, politically, economically—because of our diversity, not in spite of it.”

It continues with the creation of the Cabinet Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, with a strong inclusion mandate for indigenous and new Canadians: “Considers issues concerning the social fabric of Canada and the promotion of Canadian pluralism. Examines initiatives designed to strengthen the relationship with indigenous Canadians, improve the economic performance of immigrants, and promote Canadian diversity, multiculturalism, and linguistic duality.”

It is reflected in his choice of ministers: 50 per cent women, 17 per cent visible minority. And is further reinforced in the shared mandate letter commitments for all ministers with two strong multiculturalism-related commitments: “Canadians expect us, in our work, to reflect the values we all embrace: inclusion, honesty, hard work, fiscal prudence, and generosity of spirit. We will be a government that governs for all Canadians, and I expect you, in your work, to bring Canadians together.

“You are expected to do your part to fulfill our government’s commitment to transparent, merit-based appointments, to help ensure gender parity and that indigenous Canadians and minority groups are better reflected in positions of leadership.”

Holding all ministers to account, with PMO tracking of these and other shared commitments (in addition to minister-specific commitments), should ensure greater progress on the two objectives of multiculturalism:  recognition and equality.

It will take some time to see how well these commitments are implemented.

Equally important, the previous government’s weak record on the diversity of judicial appointments (less than two per cent visible minority) will start to be addressed.

Overall, the new government made few changes to how government is formally organized (machinery changes). This was wise given the disruption and turmoil that such changes can entail (e.g., the Martin government’s splitting apart Human Resources and Skills Development and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in 2004, reversed by the Harper government in 2006).

This makes the return of the multiculturalism program to Canadian Heritage all the more striking, after some eight years at Citizenship and Immigration (now Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship or IRCC).

The original transfer to CIC was largely driven by political reasons given then Immigration minister Jason Kenney’s political outreach role with ethnic groups. However, there was also a policy rationale. Multiculturalism deals with longer-term multi-generational issues (along with ‘mainstream’ visible minority relations) in contrast to the newcomer focus of the immigration, integration and citizenship programs, and multiculturalism could be seen as a logical extension of CIC’s mandate, and was portrayed as such in one of CIC’s strategic objectives, ‘building an integrated society.’

In practice, however, the multiculturalism program withered away at CIC.

When the program moved to CIC in 2008, it had a $13-million budget: $12-million for grants and contributions and 73 full-time positions. The last departmental performance report (2013-14) showed 29 full-time positions (a decline of 60 per cent) with a $9.8-million budget. Money for grants and contributions fell to $7.9-million.

Negotiations over the resources to be returned to Canadian Heritage will be challenging, given the impact may be felt in other program areas in IRCC that benefited from the redistribution of Multiculturalism funds. Moreover, the weakened capacity will require a major rebuilding and restaffing effort.

From a policy perspective, the return of multiculturalism to Canadian Heritage reinforces the overall government diversity and inclusion agenda, as well as the Canadian identity agenda, which fits nicely with Canadian Heritage’s overall mandate.

However, Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly’s specific mandate letter commitments make no mention of multiculturalism. This apparent oversight may just be to provide the public service time to manage the return of multiculturalism and reintegrate within Canadian Heritage. Furthermore, the lack of a junior minister may make it harder for the multiculturalism program to define its new role within Canadian Heritage and, more broadly, across government.

Joly’s public statements to date have not included any significant references to multiculturalism. Her general orientation, however, has been clear: to promote the “symbols of progressiveness. That was (sic) the soul of our platform.”

Overall, the commitment to a diversity and inclusion agenda, supported by a Cabinet committee and shared ministerial mandate letter commitments, and the rebuilding of multiculturalism back at Canadian Heritage bode well for a more effective inclusion, diversity, and multiculturalism strategy across government.

Source: Trudeau Cabinet takes diversity, inclusiveness to an unparalleled extent | hilltimes.com