Feds announce four new passport service sites as backlog continues

https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2063068227573

Good service improvement move but will have limited impact on backlog. That being said, Service Canada data indicates progress compared to earlier months, although the number of applications is still greater than the number of passports issued.

Hopefully, ESDC/Service Canada and IRCC will publish monthly passport stats (applications and issued) on opendata as per other immigration and citizenship stats:

The federal government is adding new passport service locations across Canada as a backlog in processing applications continues.

Social Development Minister Karina Gould announced Wednesday that people can now apply for and pick up passports at Service Canada centres in Red Deer, Alta., Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Trois-Rivières, Que., and Charlottetown, P.E.I.

That’s on top of five new locations added in July, and Gould expects to bring another seven to nine locations into the program soon.

“I think this is a really important and long-overdue change,” she said in an interview. “Those of us who live in more urban areas, we don’t realize that we’re so lucky to be close to a passport office.”

The additions should make it easier for people outside large centres to access services and ease stress on offices in regional hubs, she added.

No new federal money was required to make the change, Gould said. Resources come out of a revolving fund made up of passport fees. 

Gould said the current crisis and complaints over long wait times have accelerated the work but she was already looking at bringing passport services to more locations before the backlog.

She visited Sault Ste. Marie in April, before media began reporting on complaints over wait times. The local Liberal MP, Terry Sheehan, told Gould that people in the Sault had to drive seven or eight hours to Thunder Bay or Toronto to visit a passport office in person. 

Until Wednesday, there was no passport office on Prince Edward Island.

“So I was starting to already look at who is not close, and how can we fix this,” she said. “And then it became that much more acute.” 

Nearly 1.1 million applications for new and renewed passports have been filed since April as pandemic restrictions loosen and Canadians resume travelling. 

More than one-quarter of those hadn’t yet been processed as of early August.

Government statistics show the system is starting to catch up with demand, as the gulf between the number of passport applications each month versus the number of passports issued is getting smaller. 

Call centre wait times have gone down significantly and “triage measures” were implemented at 17 passport offices to mitigate in-person headaches.

Gould said 442 new employees were hired so far this summer and 300 are already trained and working.

But a large backlog remains.

In the first week of August, the number of passports issued within 40 business days of an application fell to 72 per cent from 81 per cent the week before.

That is largely because of mailed applications.

During the first week of August, passports from in-person applications were issued within the government’s 10-day service standard 95 per cent of the time, a rate that has remained steady throughout the summer.

For mailed applications the service standard of 20 days was met only 40 per cent of the time in early August, down from 53 per cent in late July. The government also warns it can take more than 13 weeks to get your passport by mail.

The overall numbers aren’t materially better than in June, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was forced to respond to growing complaints and called the system’s performance “unacceptable.” 

The week of June 20, 76 per cent of passports were issued within 40 business days.

The processing times also don’t take into account the wait to get an in-person appointment and there are only a limited number of walk-ins available.

Proof of upcoming travel is required to get service within two months at offices with 10-day processing times, including those announced Wednesday.

Urgent services for people who can prove they need a passport within 48 hours are only available in bigger urban centres — Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Gatineau, Que., and Quebec City.

As the backlash over the wait times continues, some reports suggest Canadians are making “fake” travel plans to show to passport officers, then cancelling their flights once their application is in the queue. 

Gould said she’s not aware of this being a “widespread issue” but she has heard about it anecdotally. “I strongly discourage Canadians to do that. It’s unfair, it’s unkind and it’s unnecessary,” she said. 

Gould said at the morning press conference that the government failed to predict to what extent demand would sharply spike earlier this year. She insisted an unexpected glut of mailed-in applications is the main culprit in the passport delays.

Although she wouldn’t comment on the specifics of its deliberations, she said a cabinet committee stood up earlier this year — the Task Force on Services to Canadians — is looking at how to make sure that services under federal jurisdiction are being delivered in “a timely and effective way” that takes the toll of the pandemic into account.

Source: Feds announce four new passport service sites as backlog continues

Canadian employers are ramping up their search for temporary foreign workers amid labour crunch

Of note. My concerns regarding productivity implications cited:

Canadian employers are moving to fill more jobs with temporary foreign workers, as they face a sustained labour shortage and the lowest unemployment rate in decades.

In the first three months of 2022, employers received approval from the federal government to fill about 44,200 positions through the TFW program, according to a Globe analysis of figures from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). That was the most in at least five years, and 73 per cent higher than the quarterly average from 2017 to 2021.

As usual, farms were the biggest source of labour demand. Nearly half of the approvals in the first quarter were for general farm workers. Jealous Fruits Ltd., a large cherry producer in Kelowna, B.C., was authorized to fill roughly 640 roles, the most of any employer.

The restaurant industry is turning more to foreign labour as well. The second most in-demand workers in the quarter were cooks, at 2,100 positions, almost double the previous quarter. Companies were also permitted to hire nearly 1,700 food-service supervisors, who often work for franchisees of fast-food chains, such as McDonald’s Corp.

The use of foreign labour is poised to rise even more.

In April, the federal Liberals overhauled the TFW program, largely to give companies more access to low-wage workers from abroad. And employers still have plenty of jobs to fill: At last count, they were recruiting for about one million positions.

Companies say the pool of domestic workers is severely constrained. As of July, Canada’s unemployment rate had ebbed to 4.9 per cent – the lowest in more than four decades of data.

The TFW expansion was cheered by business lobby groups. But the move was panned by labour advocates and many economists. The TFW program has been dogged by controversy in past years over concerns about unpaid wages, unsafe living conditions for migrants and companies passing over Canadian job candidates. Critics also say it shields employers from the need to raise wages for domestic workers or make investments that improve the country’s languishing productivity (meaning its economic output per hour worked).

“How’s this really helping productivity?” asked Andrew Griffith, a former director-general at the federal immigration department. “The government is making it easier for them to bring in more workers and just keep doing the same thing with more labour, rather than trying to really invest in productivity.”

To hire through the TFW program, an employer must submit a Labour Market Impact Assessment to the federal government, demonstrating that it can’t find local workers to fill positions. Once the government approves the roles, foreign workers must get the required permits to begin their employment in Canada. The quarterly IRCC figures refer to approved positions, rather than workers with permits.

Companies are inclined to fill whatever positions have been approved, said Meika Lalonde, an immigration lawyer in Vancouver. “It’s administratively burdensome” for employers to apply, she said, and they also pay a filing fee of $1,000 for every position requested.

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. has ramped up its use of foreign labour, chief executive officer Michael McCain told analysts on a call last week. And Recipe Unlimited Corp., which owns several restaurant chains, including Swiss Chalet, Harvey’s and the Keg, is helping franchisees use the TFW program, CEO Frank Hennessey said on an Aug. 3 investor call.

At the end of 2021, there were roughly 82,000 foreign workers with TFW permits, the most since 2014, when the Harper government tightened access to the program following a string of controversies. Companies rely more on the International Mobility Program – which was hived off from the TFW program in the 2014 overhaul – to recruit temporary foreign labour.

The IMP includes a range of foreign workers, such as company transfers from abroad and those with postgraduate work permits. Notably, companies do not need to file LMIAs to hire through the program. At the end of 2021, there were more than 695,000 people with IMP permits.

International students have become another major source of labour supply. The number of international students with T4 earnings – that is, employment income – has soared to 354,000 in 2019, from 22,000 in 2000, according to Statistics Canada.

Source: Canadian employers are ramping up their search for temporary foreign workers amid labour crunch

Griffith: Passport delays risk undermining our trust in government

Interesting to see the reaction on Twitter to my op-ed in The Star. Most reaction to anything I have written over the past 10 years. A real mix. Beyond the usual Trudeau or Conservative derangement syndromes, some of the themes that emerged:

  • Interest in and support for the analysis and background
  • People have personal responsibility to renew in time rather than expecting government to ramp up quickly to meet demand
  • Not important compared to healthcare wait times, war in Ukraine, SCOTUS decision on abortion etc
  • Generalized distrust of media coverage

With some of the comments, clearly people reacted to the tweet or other comments rather than reading the op-ed (I have also been guilty of doing the same).

The depth and breadth of reactions, along of course with general media coverage, indicates the extent to which wait times and delays have captured public attention. But of course, this is very much a “first world” problem compared to the more fundamental short and longer term challenges facing Canada and the world:

Though the government anticipated that the relaxation of travel restrictions would mean long waits and delays in passport issuance, it neglected to act on the knowledge. This lack of attention to service delivery risks undermining overall trust in government.

Part of the reason for the government’s failure to ramp up capacity for the pent-up demand post-pandemic is the complexity of interdepartmental roles. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has overall policy and program responsibility; Service Canada is responsible for processing and service delivery; and Global Affairs Canada is responsible for international delivery, following the 2013 transfer of the passport program from Global Affairs to IRCC.

Service Canada has evolved from initially providing a limited receiving agent function (verification of passport applications at a number of locations) to being responsible for all in-person passport offices and passport processing centres.

As Service Canada’s responsibilities increased, co-ordination and accountability issues became more apparent. The 2020 evaluation of the IRCC passport program identified the need to “review and clarify departmental accountabilities and responsibilities for the Passport Program, as well as reconfirm decision-making authorities and governance processes to effectively support program management and delivery.” Given the pandemic, it is unlikely that this and other recommendations were fully acted upon.

So while IRCC, in its 2022-23 departmental plan, anticipated increased passport demand as travel restrictions were relaxed and Canadians resumed travel — “Forecasts predict that a recovery to pre-COVID-19 demand will begin in Spring of 2022” — this analysis was not acted upon by Service Canada, resulting in the delays we are seeing today.

Analysis by others confirms that while demand has increased significantly, it remains only about 55 per cent of pre-pandemic demand, highlighting the degree that Service Canada has failed to provide timely service.

Other consequences of these unclear accountabilities and responsibilities, along with weak management, include the absence of regularly published passport data on the open government portal website (also flagged in the 2020 IRCC evaluation), and the fact that the last Passport Canada annual report dates from 2017-18. The departmental plans of both IRCC and Employment and Social Development Canada have minimal details on the passport program.

While attention has understandably been placed on Service Canada as the public face of the delays, more attention needs to be placed on IRCC for failing to exercise policy and program oversight for passports. Unfortunately, this adds to IRCC management failings — as the large backlogs in temporary and permanent immigration, along with citizenship, attest.

These short-term problems cast doubt on the ability of IRCC and Service Canada to deliver on current passport modernization initiatives, particularly a new passport issuance platform to replace the current IT infrastructure and online applications. Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Karina Gould has floated a longer-term goal of issuing “passports to people as they get their citizenship.” It’s a meaningful and overdue improvement, but highly improbable given the complexity of the IRCC/Service Canada relationship.

Passport delays are not the only government implementation problems being encountered by Canadians. Airport customs and screening delays are a related element impacting Canadians wishing to travel again, whether to see loved ones or to discover the world.

Despite the success of pandemic financial measures and vaccination efforts, these various delays are adding to a general sense of government not being able to deliver on its core responsibilities. 

This risks further undermining trust in government and public institutions. The government needs to focus as much on service delivery and implementation aspects as on policy and program development.

Source: Passport delays risk undermining our trust in government

Federal government scrambles to address hordes of passport applicants at overwhelmed offices

Ongoing story. Short-term measures sensible but this was anticipated and should not have happened (quoted in article):

Families Minister Karina Gould, the minister responsible for passport services, said Thursday the government is adding more staff on the ground to help triage hours-long lineups at many passport offices as tens of thousands of people look to get their hands on travel documents.

The strategy shift comes as policy experts, and the government’s Conservative critics, say the situation should never have been allowed to get so dire when it was obvious to many that there’d be a strong interest in travel as the pandemic receded.

Gould said, after reports of chaos at some passport offices in the Montreal area this week, Service Canada is deploying managers to walk the lineups that have popped up at some offices.

These managers will speak to would-be travellers about their applications before they get to a customer service agent — a system that will help staff identify people who are most in need of a passport.

People who require a passport for travel in the next 12, 24 and 36 hours will get priority service while others will be told to come back at another time, Gould said.

The minister said, after the first day it was in place in Montreal, the process “didn’t go as smoothly, quite frankly, as we had hoped, but today we’re seeing much better progress.”

While Gould reported “progress,” the government website that tracks wait times was warning people to expect delays of at least six hours at busy sites like Montreal’s Guy-Favreau complex and Ottawa’s only passport office on Meadowlands Drive.

The minister said a similar process is being rolled out in Toronto Thursday and Vancouver-area offices will also have managers triaging passport applicants as of Monday.

Gould also said more passports will be printed in bulk at the Gatineau, Que. processing centre near Ottawa and ferried to other locations, which will take some of the stress off of smaller passport offices that don’t have large industrial printers to churn out hundreds of passports each day.

“We have received a large volume of passports. That doesn’t make the situation acceptable,” Gould said. “Canadians should never have to experience this.”

Bureaucrats warned government about passport onslaught

Andrew Griffith is a former director general with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and a former top official at Service Canada and the Privy Council Office.

In an interview with CBC News, Griffith said the government should never have allowed the situation to get to this point.

In Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada’s 2022-23 department plan, bureaucrats told the government there would almost certainly be a surge in passport applications as COVID-related travel restrictions were relaxed, Griffith said, and yet not enough was done to prepare passport offices for the onslaught of applicants.

In that department plan, which Griffith shared with CBC News, internal experts advised the government that “forecasts predict that a recovery to pre-COVID-19 demand will begin in spring of 2022, and that demand for passports will continue to increase over the next three years.”

Griffith said the passport situation is a clear instance of the government “neglecting its core responsibilities and not planning or preparing properly.”

“It’s very clear that the policy folks were aware that there would be an increase but it wasn’t connected to the operations side to make sure they were putting adequate preparations in place. It’s one of those unfortunate examples of where the government sort of tends to over promise and under deliver,” he said.

Speaking to CBC Radio’s The House in an interview that will air Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended the government’s record on the passport issue but vowed to do more to address an “unacceptable” situation.

Trudeau said the government did hire 600 more passport workers in January to support the existing workforce and it’s looking to add more in the coming weeks to clear mounting backlogs.

Griffith said subjecting thousands of Canadians to hours-long lineups risks undermining faith in government institutions. Canadians expect a certain level of service from the federal government and, when it fails to deliver, there’s an erosion of trust, he said.

“If they can’t get service in a timely manner, people become disillusioned. People are understandably frustrated about these things. I think it’s a really serious issue,” Griffith said.

‘This is a waiting nation’

Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre said Thursday, in a video posted to his social media channels, that Canadians deserve better than what has transpired at passport offices in recent weeks.

Poilievre is seen walking the lines that have formed at Ottawa’s passport office in the video, speaking to applicants who have camped out since 3 a.m. to get to an agent.

“What’s the deal folks? Well, this is a waiting nation. We are asked to wait for everything as sleepy bureaucrats and government gatekeepers stand in the way of you getting the basic services to which you are entitled — one of them is a passport,” Poilievre said.

“You see what’s happening here? The government is doing a lot of things poorly rather than a few things well.”

Source: Federal government scrambles to address hordes of passport applicants at overwhelmed offices

Immigration minister says he’s working on a faster path to permanence for temporary residents

Of note. Quoted in article as is CERC’s Rupa Banergee:

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says his government is preparing to reinstate a program that would help to speed up the process of turning newcomers in Canada under temporary permits into permanent residents.

“We are looking right now at the best path forward to create a permanent pathway for temporary residents,” he told CBC’s The House in an interview airing this weekend.

A previous program called the “temporary resident to permanent resident pathway” — or TR to PR — was put in place last year for eight months after COVID-19 lockdowns shut the border to newcomers to prevent the spread of the virus.

It gave 90,000 essential workers, front-line health care workers and international students like Kushdeep Singh an accelerated path to permanent status.

Singh arrived in 2019 to study business administration at Norquest College in Edmonton. The temporary TR to PR program was announced just as he was preparing to write his final exams.

“When I first came to Canada I thought, ‘It’s gonna take almost about four years.’ Two years of my studies then two years of waiting for my PR application,” he said.

Instead, the approval came through in less than a year.

“And I told my mom. She was so, so happy,” he said. “I think she was happy because I know how hard she also worked for me, like all my journey since I came here and … how she also sacrifices, like sending me away from her, so that was a good moment.”

Clock is ticking

Fraser said the new program won’t be identical to the old one. He said he’s working under a tight 120-day timeline established in a motion approved by the Commons last month.

“That actually puts me on a clock to come up with a framework to establish this new permanent residency pathway, not just for international students, but also for temporary foreign workers,” he said.

“We’re in the depths of planning the policy so we can have a policy that’s not driven by a need to respond urgently in the face of an emergency, but actually to have a permanent pathway that provides a clear path for those seeking permanent residency who can enter Canada.”

Rupa Banerjee is a Canada research chair focusing on immigration issues at Toronto Metropolitan University. She said continuing to fast-track some people to permanent resident status is good policy.

“Focusing on individuals who are already in the country, that was an essential move at the time, when we had border closures and a lot of the pandemic restrictions,” she said during a separate panel discussion on The House.

“It also is really beneficial because we know that those who already have Canadian work experience, Canadian education, they do tend to fare better once they become permanent residents relative to those who come in one step straight from abroad.”

The federal government set a goal of accepting 432,000 newcomers this year alone. Fraser said his department is ahead of schedule, despite the pandemic and the unexpected pressures of working to resettle thousands of people fleeing conflict in both Afghanistan and Ukraine.

“This week we actually resettled the 200,000th permanent resident, more than a month and a half ahead of any year on record in Canada,” he said. “We are seeing similar trends across other lines of business like citizenship, like work permits, which in many instances are double the usual rate of processing.”

Too many pathways?

Despite the higher numbers, concerns remain about processing backlogs and what Andrew Griffith — a former senior bureaucrat with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada — calls an overly complicated immigration system with too many programs.

There are just so many pathways to immigrate to Canada. And I’m not convinced that anybody applying to Canada — or even the people who try to manage the program — that they have a full grip in terms of the program,” he said. “So there’s a real case, I think, to be made for simplification.”

Griffith argued the number of newcomers being accepted is less important than who is coming to Canada — what skills they bring and whether they can help this country improve productivity and economic growth.

Banerjee agreed that the number of newcomers is less important than who they are and whether there are services available to help them adjust to life here.

“The question is, can we actually integrate these individuals so that they can really contribute to the Canadian economy and also to Canadian society, more importantly?” he said.

Source: Immigration minister says he’s working on a faster path to permanence for temporary residents

Employment Equity Act Review: My submission

John Ivison: Liberals thwart badly needed skilled immigrants with mendacious political meddling

Header overly strong but substance important:

In a recent article in Foreign Policy, Parag Khanna of globalization experts FutureMap predicted that the Great Lockdown will be followed by the Great Migration, as the best and brightest move to exploit opportunities and fill labour shortages.

It would seem an inopportune time for the government of Canada to stop accepting applications from highly skilled workers from overseas. Yet that is exactly what the Liberals have done.

As my colleague Ryan Tumilty reported on Saturday, the high-skilled worker stream is backlogged, so despite nationwide labour shortages, the government is pausing new invitations because the department can’t process them.

The reason why Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is so backed up are entirely political.

For a variety of reasons, not least of which is that more immigration means more economic growth, the Liberals have committed to bringing in more than 400,000 permanent residents a year for the next three years.

Canada’s growth rate has been tepid in recent years, even with high levels of immigration. Absent the new arrivals, we’d be going backwards, as is clear from real GDP per capita data (in 2015, it was $51,158 per person; in 2020, it was $50,510, in constant 2012 dollars).

High levels of immigration are integral to the Liberal economic plan.

Yet those targets looked untenable during the pandemic, as international travel was suspended. Ottawa worked around the problem by granting permanent residency to thousands of temporary residents who were already employed or studying in Canada – the so-called Canada Experience Class.

The subsequent torrent of applications from students and temporary workers in Canada, coupled with the commitment to double the number of refugees coming from Afghanistan to 40,000, has resulted in bureaucratic resources becoming swamped. IRCC now has around 1.8 million applicants in a queue which is growing by about 20,000 every couple of months.

Part of the solution, according to an internal memo, is to cut the 110,500 skilled workers in the government’s target for next year by about half. The government says that there are still 76,000 skilled workers in the queue, so 2022 numbers won’t be affected. “The pause is temporary,” said a spokesperson for new immigration minister, Sean Fraser, who added that the government provided $85 million in new money to increase processing capacity.

But with around half of all businesses claiming to be experiencing labour shortages, the government has decided to meet its numerical targets, rather than focus where the needs are most pressing.

This is political meddling at its most mendacious. The government was able to boast about breaking the all-time immigration record in 2021, yet a quarter of those people were already here.

On refugees, no-one disagrees that Canada owes a duty of care to many people in Afghanistan but doubling the number of refugees from 20,000 to 40,000 will take two years to honour.

Andrew Griffith, a former director general at IRCC and author of a book on citizenship and immigration policy, said that the political choice to meet numerical targets, by allowing temporary residents to become permanent residents, meant that all other classes of immigrants became a lower priority. “It was a trade-off and, personally, I’m not convinced it was the right trade-off to make,” he said.

Griffith said the department would have warned the minister about the consequences of “bringing in the bodies” on the capacity constraints of other immigration streams. That advice appears to have been ignored.

The Liberals have so far stuck within the bounds that have traditionally governed Canada’s immigration policy, and which have ensured it has support in virtually all parties.

Immigration programs that are fair and economically-driven will continue to have widespread public support. People appreciate that we need new taxpayers to spread the burden of paying for an aging population.

In 2021, 58 percent of new immigrants were drawn from economic class programs; 26 percent from family class; and 16 percent from refugee and humanitarian class.

But the 2023 numbers may look quite different, if the number of high-skilled workers drops off dramatically and the number of refugees rises.

It has been a hallmark of this government that it has not been very effective at implementing policies, often because it is too focused on communications, and not enough on making things happen after they’ve been announced. This reflects a prime minister, who, in the words of one of his own senior members of staff, it “much more about: ‘what’s new?’”.

“He’s good at getting people super-excited, setting bold visions. But it creates real challenges in execution,” the staffer said.

This is a classic example. The “1 percent of population” immigration target probably got the inner circle “super-excited”, as, no doubt, did the 40,000 Afghan refugee promise.

But it may well be that there are consequences to those decisions which will see Canada miss out on tens of thousands of the globe’s most able engineers, heavy duty mechanics, plumbers, computer programmers, carpenters and database analysts.

Source: John Ivison: Liberals thwart badly needed skilled immigrants with mendacious political meddling

And, slightly different take, from Matthew Claxton:

What with COVID-19, and winter storms bearing down, and two days left until Christmas, it’s fair to say that few of us were paying attention to Canadian immigration policy on Dec. 23.

Which is a shame, because an announcement from the Department of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship showed that we’ve had a quiet revolution in how Canada accepts new permanent residents.

The government announced that 2021 was a record year for the arrival of new permanent residents – in total, 401,000 people had “landed” as permanent residents. Permanent residency is a major step towards Canadian citizenship, and it’s a massive driver of our population growth.

But in that announcement was a confirmation of something that Immigration has mentioned a few times in passing during the pandemic.

More than half of the folks who officially “landed” as permanent residents were already here.

“As we continue to struggle with the pandemic, we made the most of the talent already within our borders,” the announcement said. “The majority of these new permanent residents were already in Canada on temporary status.”

Yep. We increased our population of permanent residents by moving a bunch of people from one column in a government ledger to the other!

A significant number of permanent residents have always come from the ranks of temporary residents. In 2019, 74,586 of the 341,180 new permanent residents were already here on temporary status. But that’s just 21 per cent of the total number of new permanent residents, not more than 50 per cent!

In 2020, massive disruptions in travel due to the pandemic caused immigration rates to plummet just as the federal Liberal pledge to ramp up immigration levels was supposed to be coming into effect.

In the first year of the pandemic Canada admitted just 184,500 new permanent residents barely more than half the number from the year before.

I don’t actually have any particular objection to this change as policy. Making it easier to transition from being a temporary resident to a permanent one seems only just and fair, to me. If you’re good enough to work here or go to school here, surely you’re good enough to stay.

But the federal government didn’t make this change because they wanted to change the mix of people coming to Canada and becoming permanent residents. It wasn’t based on the idea that allowing increasing temporary residents to become permanent would be good for them, or good for Canada’s economy or culture.

It was done to hit an arbitrary number. The government had pledged to bring in more than 400,000 new permanent residents. Never mind how many were already here, some of them for years.

It doesn’t speak well that the government would see people, most of whom are future Canadian citizens, as mere numbers, a target that needed to be hit to meet an arbitrary goal.

Source: Painful Truth: Liberals hit artificial milestone on immigration – Aldergrove Star

Will the removal of the Canadian citizenship preference in the public service make a difference

My latest:

In recent employment equity reports, the federal government has provided disaggregated representation for visible minorities, Indigenous people and persons with disabilities to help assess how well the public service represents the public it serves. Previously, disaggregated data for visible minority and Indigenous groups in public administration was available only through census data every five years.

The 2020 speech from the throne included a commitment to implementing an action plan “to increase representation in hiring and appointments, and leadership development” within the public service, which was later confirmed in changes to the Public Service Employment Act.

The changes include longer-term and more-complex policies to address “bias and barriers” that impact all equity-seeking groups, as well as one change that will have an early impact for visible minorities  ̶  removing the preference for Canadian citizens: “Permanent residents now have the same preference as Canadian Citizens when appointments are made through external advertised hiring processes.”

There was no debate on this change when the legislation was considered by the House of Commons finance committee  ̶  despite its impact  ̶  because it was included in an omnibus budget bill.

A recent Public Service Commission study on the “citizenship of applicants and external appointments” highlighted the impact of this policy: while visible minority citizens were 17.2 per cent of all applicants and 19.5 per cent of all hires, visible minorities who are only permanent residents formed 5.1 per cent of all applicants and only 1.2 per cent of all hires in 2018-19.

The former preference for citizens was subject to criticism by some visible minority groups because it effectively reduced the opportunities for non-citizen visible minorities. Its removal should ensure more equitable opportunities for all visible minorities at all stages of selection, although other barriers  ̶  such as education, official language knowledge and possible bias  ̶  may remain. Whether this change represents a theoretical or practical change will be known only after a few years when we can compare pre- and post-change hiring numbers.

Table 1 (below) looks at overall visible minority representation, contrasting the total visible minority population, the older citizenship-based benchmark, the 2019-20 employment equity report numbers, and the degree to which there is over-representation or under-representation, compared to the new and old benchmarks.

By way of comparison, the government estimates that the visible minority workforce availability (WFA)  ̶  the share of the Canadian workforce eligible for public service work  ̶  based on the 2016 census is 15.3 per cent based upon the citizenship preference. The removal of the citizenship preference and the inclusion of permanent residents will result in WFA being revised upward closer to the overall visible minority population number following its recalculation in the 2021 census.

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The representation of most groups is relatively close to their share of the citizenship population and greater than WFA for all employees, with larger gaps for executives. The population benchmark shows larger gaps, particularly with respect to executives. Non-identified and mixed-origin visible minorities are relatively over-represented for all employees and executives.

Table 2 takes the same approach with respect to Indigenous representation with the exception that total and citizenship-based populations are identical. It shows relative over-representation of Métis, and under-representation of First Nations and Inuit for all employees, with all groups under-represented at the executive level. The government Indigenous workforce availability estimate, based on the 2016 census, is 4 per cent.

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Table 3 compares the representation of each visible minority by occupational group, expressed as the percentage difference with employees who are not a visible minority and not Indigenous for 2020. Visible minorities are slightly under-represented among executives, more so among technical, with the greatest gap in operational groups. Visible minorities are over-represented in scientific and professional with some exceptions, and in administration and foreign service, although there is a mixed pattern with respect to admin support.

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Table 4 highlights the change in representation from 2017 to 2020, comparing the percentage change in representation for each visible minority group with the percentage of all public servants who are neither a visible minority nor Indigenous for each occupational category. Overall, visible minority representation has increased by 35.9 per cent compared with only 11.8 per cent for those who are neither a visible minority nor Indigenous. This applies to virtually all groups and categories, with Japanese being the exception and Chinese having a relatively lower increase.

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Table 5 similarly compares the representation of each Indigenous group by occupational categories expressed as the percentage difference with employees who are neither a visible minority nor Indigenous for 2020 (for the executive and technical occupational groups, there are fewer than five Inuit and Other public servants and thus no reporting). All Indigenous groups are under-represented among executives, with the largest gap in scientific and professional categories, but are relatively over-represented in the admin and foreign service, and admin support areas.

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Table 6 highlights the change in representation from 2017 to 2020. Overall, the growth in Indigenous representation has been comparable to the growth of not-a-visible minority, not-Indigenous public servants, 11.9 per cent compared to 11.8 per cent. However, Inuit representation has increased significantly, as has that of Métis executives, with First Nations declining relative to not-a-visible minority, not-Indigenous employees.

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While this analysis highlights the differences in visible minority and Indigenous representation among the different occupational categories, it does not break it down by level or salary. Census data for the federal public service shows, however, that Black, Filipino and Latin American workers had the lowest median incomes compared to not-a-visible minority. Among Indigenous Peoples, First Nations have the lowest median incomes compared to non-Indigenous.

Given political and public service focus on Black representation, Blacks are the visible minority group with the strongest representation compared to their share of the population with respect to all public servants, and Blacks have stronger representation than South Asian, Chinese and Filipinos in the EX category. Moreover, the percentage increase over the past four years has been comparable or stronger than that of most other visible minority groups. Representation of visible minority groups has increased at three times the rate of not-a-visible minority, not-Indigenous public servants. In contrast, Indigenous representation has matched only the rate of increase, suggesting more effort is needed.

The public service is clearly making significant progress with respect to visible minority representation. The removal of the citizenship preference will likely accelerate this trend toward increased representation.

Given the expected upward revision of the WFA, the gap between actual representation and WFA will increase despite the public service already hiring and promoting more visible minorities. The degree to which the removal of the citizenship preference results in greater increases in representation will be known only after a few years and further public service analysis of citizenship status of visible minority hires and promotions.

Ironically, advocates for this change and greater representation will likely focus more on the larger gap due to the benchmark change, rather than the progress in representation.

Methodology

Data was provided by the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) for visible minorities, Indigenous Peoples and persons with disabilities, based upon self-identification for the fiscal years 2016-17 to 2019-20 by occupational group. 2020 data was compared to 2017 data to indicate changes over this period, with visible minority and Indigenous Peoples being compared against the not-visible minority and not-Indigenous for the different occupation categories on a percentage basis. The formula used: (2020 number of public servants minus 2017 number of public servants) divided by 2017 number of public servants. 

For example, in 2020, there were 99 Black executives compared with 73 in 2017 or an increase of 26. That is a (26 ÷ 73 =) 35.6 per cent increase. The overall increase in the number of executives who were neither a visible minority nor Indigenous was 5,244 – 4,592 or 652; 652 ÷ 4,592 = 14.2 per cent. Subtracting the percentage increase of all executives from the percentage increase of Black executives: 35.6 per cent – 14.2 per cent = 21.4 percentage points.

While the visible minority group definitions are similar to those used by Statistics Canada, TBS groups Arab and West Asians together under “Non-White West Asian, North African or Arab.” “Mixed Origin” refers to those with one visible minority parent. By contrast, Statistics Canada uses a “multiple visible minorities” category to include persons with more than one visible minority response.

While the employment equity reports also provide disaggregated data regarding persons with disabilities, the totals do not match with the disability total (10,622 persons) in the annual reports because one person can have multiple disabilities, making it difficult to perform a similar analysis by particular disability.

Source: https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/septembe-2021/will-the-removal-of-the-canadian-citizenship-preference-in-the-public-service-make-a-difference/

Here’s how the federal election could change Canada’s immigration system

The Star’s take on the party platforms:

Jhoey Dulaca isn’t eligible to vote in the upcoming election, but the migrant worker from the Philippines is keeping an eye out for the political parties’ immigration plans.

The Toronto woman says she feels migrants’ voices have once again been muted and lost as the issue that matters most to them — ballooning backlogs and endless processing times as a result of the pandemic — have drawn little attention or debate from party leaders.

“No one is talking about the immigration backlog and long wait times,” says Dulaca, who came as a live-in caregiver in 2016 and just received her permanent residence in Canada on Aug. 18 after two long years of processing.

The 41-year-old single mother is unsure how long it will now take to reunite with her two daughters, Tess, 19, and Thea, 16, whom she has not seen for five years.

“All these parties are making policies that affect us and our families, but our voices are not heard because we cannot vote and we don’t matter.”

In recent election campaigns, immigration has rarely made headlines. The major parties’ platforms generally have more elements in common than those that distinguish them. The outlier was the 2015 election, when the Syrian refugee crisis dominated the campaign.

Experts say immigration has been a non-issue because parties — with the exception of the People’s Party of Canada under former Conservative cabinet minister Maxime Bernier — recognize the importance of minority votes and don’t want to appear racist or xenophobic.

“The parties try to focus on issues that are going to make them look good and will help them move up in the polls,” said Kareem El-Assal, policy director for CanadaVisa.com, an immigration information site run by a Quebec-based law firm.

“Most people that are being affected by the backlogs are not voters. There aren’t many votes to be won.”

But there are major issues that will determine the future of immigration in this country — not least among them Canada’s plans to deal with applications that have been piling up during the pandemic.

Digging out of a major backlog

To El-Assal, one of the biggest issues missing in the parties’ platforms is how they plan to manage growing backlogs as Canada’s immigration system slowly returns to normal in the wake of the pandemic.

“Immigration is going to be one of the most formative government policy areas over the next decade and beyond, especially amid the damage that’s been caused by the pandemic,” he said.

As a result of the pandemic, Ottawa closed the border with the U.S. with few exemptions. That has greatly reduced this country’s refugee backlog.

However, between February 2020 and this past July, the backlog of permanent residence applications skyrocketed by 70 per cent to 375,137, with the number of applications for temporary residence currently sitting at 702,660 cases. The backlog of citizenship applications has also ballooned to 369,677 people in the queue from 208,069 before the pandemic.

Experts and advocates have said Ottawa must prioritize and bring in the migrants who have already been vetted and approved for permanent residence but have been kept outside of Canada during the pandemic, while expediting the transition to online processing and eliminating red tape to quickly reduce backlog as new applications continue to flood the system.

In its 2021 budget, the Liberal government announced plans to invest $429 million over five years to modernize its IT infrastructure to manage and process immigration applications, but its campaign platform mentions none of that or its plan to streamline processing.

The Conservatives vows to address “administrative backlogs” by simplifying and streamlining processes, investing in IT infrastructure and tech to speed up application vetting, letting applicants correct “simple and honest” mistakes instead of sending back their applications.

The New Democrats say they would “take on the backlogs that are keeping families apart.”

Both parties’ plans lack details and specifics.

Beyond the numbers

None of the parties mention what they plan to do with Canada’s annual immigrant intake of 401,000 for 2021; 411,000 for 2022; and 421,000 in 2023 — except for the People’s Party of Canada, which proposes to reduce the annual intake to between 100,000 and 150,000.

However Andrew Griffith, fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and the Environics Institute, says Canada is in need of a “more fundamental re-examination” of what the immigration level should be: “What the mix should be, how the integration process works, how do we actually reduce hate and racism, and all of those things.”

Griffith proposes the establishment of an immigration commission to investigate those issues and the related policies.

“They can’t really be addressed by Parliament in an effective way because of the partisan nature.”

While debates about immigration are important, some say they can also open the door for all sorts of racist views around newcomers, further polarizing public opinion.

Robert Falconer, a research associate at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy who focuses on immigration and refugee policies, said parties and voters need to discuss what objectives immigration is going to serve and what the composition should look like.

“Sometimes,” says Falconer, “we have dumbed immigration down to just immigrants as economic agents — all they do is contribute or detract from our economy; when there is cultural, spiritual, religious, demographic considerations that are very, very important.”

Trying to maintain a labour market growth amid an aging population and low birth rate is part of the challenge, he said, but how to manage the demographic makeup and ensure newcomers from diverse background are welcomed is often overlooked.

“What are the parties saying about issues not directly stemming from immigration, but (that) strongly relate to it, which is issues of anti-racism, hate and multiculturalism?” Falconer asked.

In tackling anti-racism and hate, the Liberals are committed to a national plan on combatting hate, new legislation to police online content and strengthening the Human Rights Act and Criminal Code against perpetrators.

The Conservatives say they will protect Canadians from online hate while “preserving free speech” and celebrating Canadian heritage, including a $75-million fund to municipalities for the repair and restoration of historical monuments, statues and heritage buildings.

The NDP would ensure all major cities have dedicated hate-crime units within local police forces, and convene a national working group to counter online hate.

The Bloc includes “Quebec bashing” in relation to its platform on racism.

New ideas from the Conservative party

While there is much in common when it comes to immigration policies of the major parties, Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives have some “innovative” ideas, Griffith said.

Among them:

  • The introduction of a fee for those who would like to have their immigration applications expedited, with the revenues directed toward hiring additional staff to streamline processing time;
  • Replacing the current lottery system for immigration sponsorship of parents and grandparents with a first-come, first-served model that prioritizes applicants on criteria such as providing child care or family support, and language proficiency;
  • Replacing government-assisted refugee spots with private and joint sponsorship places, so all refugees resettling in Canada will do so under private or joint sponsorship programs, with exceptions in cases of emergency or specific programs.

“There are some interesting ideas in the Conservative platform that merits some discussion and debate. I mean, some I don’t think will go anywhere, but others may,” said Griffith, who has studied and compared the immigration platforms of all six parties in this election.

The proposed expedited processing fee, for instance, could create a two-tiered system between rich and poor applicants. A sponsorship of parents and grandparents based on an applicant’s ability to babysit may not sit well with the spirit of family reunification.

What to do with the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement?

In the 2019 federal election, a major issue was the surge in asylum seekers via the U.S. land border as a result of U.S. President Donald Trump’s anti-migrant policies. The development prompted a fierce debate over the so-called Safe Third Country Agreement.

The bilateral pact, which has been in place between Ottawa and Washington since 2004, is not mentioned in either the Liberal or the New Democrat platform.

That accord allows Canada to turn back potential refugees who arrive at land ports of entry on the basis they should pursue their claims in the U.S.

Like the People’s Party, the Conservatives propose a complete ban on migrants from the U.S. seeking asylum in Canada and recommends joint Canada-U.S. border patrols similar to what’s happening at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Green Party and Bloc Québécois, meanwhile, want the pact revoked altogether.

Refugee claimants and advocates have taken Ottawa to court over the constitutionality of the bilateral pact and the case is now before the Supreme Court of Canada, after the Liberal government successfully challenged a lower-court decision that found claimants’ charter rights were being breached.

Critics say the agreement, implemented under both the Liberal and Conservative governments, has not helped deter would be refugee claimants from crossing through unguarded parts of the border.

“I don’t know why the Liberals don’t take a position on it, but everything I’ve seen the Liberals do tells me that they actually align with the Conservatives’ position,” Falconer said.

“There are much more humane ways to address concerns in surges of asylum seekers that would again address the backlog that the Liberals and Conservatives tear their hair out over.”

Queen’s University immigration law professor Sharry Aiken said both parties understand patrolling the world’s longest shared border requires massive government resources. It would also likely encourage people to seek help from traffickers to sneak through the border and move underground for lack of access for asylum once inside Canada.

“That’s the exact problem in the United States, where there’s millions of undocumented people because there hasn’t been a way for them to actually make a claim through legal channels because of all of the different barriers in place that preclude access,” Aiken noted.

Temporary resident to permanent resident pathway

During the pandemic, the recognition of migrant workers doing essential work on farms, in nursing homes and driving food-delivery trucks prompted Ottawa to introduce one-time immigration programs for migrant workers and international students to become permanent residents.

The Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats all are in favour of expanding those pathways.

The Liberals categorically said the party would expand the pathways to permanent residence for migrant workers and former international students while the Conservatives would do it by offering a path for “low-skilled workers,” whose demand is “justified by concrete labour market data.”

All the NDP has to say about this issue is: “If someone is good enough to come and work here, then there should be a path for them to stay permanently.”

Expanding these temporary-to-permanent pathways, say migrants’ advocates, is wrong-headed because they reinforce, legitimize and justify Canada’s increasingly two-tiered immigration system, which exploits vulnerable temporary residents by dangling before them the prospects of permanent residency in the country down the road.

Political parties can’t adopt a Band-Aid approach and create a new pathway each time a group is falling through the cracks — Canada currently has more than 100 different skilled worker immigration programs, said Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

Leaders and policymakers need to be bold and ensure equality and equity for migrants from the get-go, which can only be achieved by granting them permanent residence in Canada upon arrival, he noted.

“The term pathway to permanent residence misrepresents what it is,” said Hussan. “It’s really a pathway to precariousness.”

His group estimated there are half a million work permits issued in Canada today, up from 60,000 two decades ago, but only a fraction of the migrant workers will get a chance to become permanent residents.

“The entire immigration system has been turned into a system of temporariness. It has created a fundamentally divided society. The natural progression of a system of temporary migration, which we now have, is more people who are undocumented and more people who are being even more exploited,” Hussan said.

“We have turned this country’s immigration system into a revolving door temp agency run by employers that profits from it. Instead, we want to ensure equal rights for everyone in the country. And to do that, we must ensure that everyone has the same citizenship rights.”

‘More migrants are falling through the cracks’

Dulaca said she has had her share of owed wages and unpaid overtime from her Canadian employers, and she put up with it because she needed the jobs to support her daughters back home and, more importantly, to meet the employment requirement for her permanent residence.

“The politicians are creating more and more pathways, but these pathways are not the solutions and more migrants are falling through the cracks,” said Dulaca, who runs a support group on Facebook to help other migrant caregivers.

“We all come to Canada so we can give our children a better life, a better future. I can’t vote now and you bet I will exercise my voting rights when I become a Canadian citizen three years from now.”

Source: Here’s how the federal election could change Canada’s immigration system

Racism and the need for a national integration commission

My latest, complements my earlier Increasing immigration to boost population? Not so fast.

Protests by communities affected by prejudice, discrimination and racism appear to be on the rise, as evidenced by the Black Lives Matter, and the Indigenous-led Cancel Canada Day and Land Back advocacy movements. These are in response to deaths by Black people and Indigenous youth in police custody, and anti-Muslim, anti-Asian and anti-Semitic hate incidents and crimes in both Canada and the United States.

At the same time, there has been greater understanding amongst most Canadians regarding systemic issues and broader support of individuals and groups most affected. But government and societal responses have been largely reactive, involving symbolic measures such as summits, funding and communications initiatives.

The 2021 summits on Islamophobia in response to the London killings and on antisemitism, following increased tensions between Israel and Palestine, are examples that did little to reduce hate incidents. The most current evaluations of the multiculturalism program by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Canadian Heritage (2017) highlight the limited evidence as to the effectiveness of government programming.

Why aren’t current approaches working? These types of targeted initiatives generally preach to the converted, and thus have limited reach and impact. They often understate the diverse experience within communities, and how racism intersects with gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic ancestry, mixed identities and class. The problems are complex and multi-faceted, and there are no easy or quick solutions. Summits, conferences and even parliamentary hearings are designed for the short-term, and do not commit the time and resources for in-depth examination and discussion of fundamental issues.

While these approaches respond to the community and political needs, a deeper examination of the common issues across all groups and a more integrated approach is needed.

Racism is a concern in Canada, present and future, given the rapidly increasing Indigenous and immigrant-origin population. An in-depth and independent examination of the issues, challenges and possible solutions is needed, and there must be broad consultations and engagement with all affected groups.

What would be some of the requirements for such an enquiry?

The overall approach should be akin to the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, held between 1963 and 1969. At that time immigrants formed about 16 per cent of the population, compared with 21.9 per cent in 2016.

Canada has changed dramatically since 1963, and an enquiry would have to address the impact of today’s increased and more varied diversity. Immigrant source countries have shifted away from Europe, which was the source of 61.6 per cent of recent immigrants in 1971, compared with 11.6 per cent in 2016. Christian affiliation declined from 78 per cent of immigrants who arrived prior to 1971 to 47.5 per cent of those who arrived between 2006 and 2011. One-third of those arriving between 2001 and 2011 identified as Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist. LGBTTQ issues were not discussed in the 1960s, and the major gap in employment equity legislation and reports is an indication of this silence, even though these groups have become more visible and accepted. And more Canadians have complex, mixed identities, reflecting this increased diversity within and between different groups.

Essential aspects of an enquiry

While it should be established by the government, the enquiry’s deliberations and recommendations should also be independent and nonpartisan.

It needs to have a broad mandate that includes research, independent studies and public consultations on barriers to inclusion. We have more than enough research and data by sociologists, political scientists and economists regarding the socio-economic, education and health disparities of different groups.

However, more interdisciplinary research and analysis by social psychologists, neuroscientists and policy-makers is needed on how bias and prejudice form, which groups are most vulnerable and why, and the most effective ways to counter prejudice, discrimination and hate.

It would need to have an adequate budget and resources to fulfill its mandate, comparable to other major commissions.

It would have to adopt a broad intersectional lens, not looking at individual groups in isolation but at the inter-relationships among gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic ancestry, mixed identities and class. It would have to look at minorities and majorities within each group and the degrees of inclusion and exclusion within and between them.

The consultations would have to be designed to go beyond the normal advocacy groups, and include more diverse and marginal voices to help break down the silos and identify commonalities. It is important to recognize that Canadians are affected by immigration and diversity in different ways, depending in part on their socio-economic status, workplace and education. And while this is not without risk, the consultations need to include individuals and groups that have some discomfort with increased diversity or have been negatively affected by immigration.

The enquiry must look not just at bias, discrimination and racism between the “mainstream” majority and minority groups, but also at that between visible, religious and gender minority groups. In other words, it must break away from the simplistic dichotomy that has mostly characterized the current diversity and inclusion discourse, which does not adequately reflect Canada’s present and projected diversity.

Practical solutions and approaches should be the focus; ones that can be implemented by governments and organizations over time; and where progress can be tracked, measured and reported. The tracking of the progress of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action could provide a model.

Canadians, long-established and newcomers alike, are increasingly coming to terms with our legacies of injustice against Indigenous peoples, as well as against racialized, religious, LGBTTQ, and other minorities. Despite considerable progress in removing legislative and other barriers to inclusion, the effects of these legacies linger in ongoing inequalities and inequities.

While many Canadians are reaching out and supporting communities that experience hate, the increase in hate crimes and incidents against individuals and groups indicates we cannot be complacent.

Reducing the influence of the more extreme groups that undermine social inclusion and cohesion would be a key aim. Developing practical recommendations to do this would be an important first step.

As we saw with Quebec’s Bouchard-Taylor Commission, there is a risk that a broad enquiry will provide space for those with more xenophobic views. However, not allowing any space for those with immigration and diversity concerns would mean missing those who need to be reached.

Canada depends on immigration to address an aging population, and it also needs to provide better opportunities for younger Indigenous populations, so a comprehensive national enquiry is needed to ensure that we have the evidence-based knowledge to reduce bias, prejudice and discrimination so all Canadians, whatever their origin, ancestry or religion, can fully participate and contribute.

Source: https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/august-2021/racism-and-the-need-for-a-national-integration-commission/