Canada’s federal security and intelligence establishment encouraging employees to self-identify

Further to the earlier Hill Times story. Having gone through some of the recent reports (still awaiting a few), my general observation is the lower the representation numbers, the longer the reports and the more words describing the various initiatives underway). That being said, their cultures are different from elsewhere in the public service and thus the challenges greater:

A number of organizations in Canada’s security and intelligence establishment, including the Communications Security Establishment, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Community, the Department of National Defence, and the Canada Border Services Agency have been conducting campaigns to encourage employees who belong to one of the four designated groups listed in the Employment Equity Act—women, Indigenous people, members of a visible minority, and people with a disability—to self-identify, as part of their efforts to improve data collection and hiring practices.

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, composed of 11 MPs and Senators and chaired by Liberal MP David McGuinty (Ottawa South, Ont.), focused on diversity and inclusion issues in the security and intelligence community in its most recent annual report.

The report notes that one of the challenges in the security and intelligence committee surrounds voluntary self-identification.

But the report also notes that “self-identification campaigns and internal communications are [a] way organizations try to increase awareness on these issues,” and that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), and the Department of National Defence (DND) have conducted campaigns to “demystify the self-identification process and encourage employees to self identify.”

The Hill Times reached out to the four organizations noted in the report for more information on how they have done that.

Communications Security Establishment

Diversity and inclusion is an important element in ensuring that the Canadian security and intelligence community can effectively protect Canada, said Ryan Foreman, a media relations representative with the Communications Security Establishment (CSE).

Mr. Foreman outlined a number of initiatives undertaken by the CSE to encourage self-identification, including a 2017 push to increase organizational awareness of the requirements of the Employment Equity Act, and to explain how a diverse workforce strengthens CSE’s ability to deliver on its mandate.

“This included providing data to managers, and developing strategies to attract job applicants from underrepresented groups,” said Mr. Foreman, who also noted that CSE launched a self-identification campaign called “Show us what CSE is made of,” which was designed to encourage employees to self-identify.

“The messaging for this campaign communicated the importance of employment equity data and its impact on other organizational initiatives, such as recruitment and training,” said Mr. Foreman. “Both the 2017 initiative and the self-identification campaign started in 2018 are on-going.”

Canadian Security and Intelligence Community

“As Canada’s security and intelligence service, it is critical that CSIS reflects the communities it protects, wrote CSIS spokesperson John Townsend in an email to The Hill Times. “To this end, CSIS has implemented an ongoing internal communications campaign to encourage employees who belong to one of the four designated groups listed in the Employment Equity Act to self-identify.”

“The campaign includes an annual Employment Equity questionnaire among other tools to advise employees on the importance of self-identification.”

Ninety per cent of CSIS employees have engaged with these tools, according to Mr. Townsend.

“The work of making CSIS more representative of Canada is never finished but our commitment is steadfast and our efforts continue,” wrote Mr. Townsend.

Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces

Staff at the Department of National Defence and members of Canadian Armed Forces have returned self-identification forms at a greater rate this year than in the past, thanks to organizational efforts to spread the word about the importance of self-identification, according to Major Smyth, spokesperson for DND.

The Employment Equity Act requires that every member be provided the opportunity to self-identify as a member of a designated group, but it remains voluntary to do so.

As such, employment equity representation rates are based on a voluntary process and may not represent the actual employment equity representation in CAF, according to Mr. Smyth.

“Overall, the CAF continues to improve upon its self-identification return rates,” said Mr. Smyth. “The first part of the self-identification form is a personal identification portion. For this portion, the regular force achieved its highest return rate yet with 97.5 per cent of [members] having had the opportunity to self-identify as a member of a designated employment equity group.”

“While the return rates are lower in the primary reserve units, the CAF saw an overall increase in self-identification as designated group members from both regular force and primary reserve members compared to 2017/18.”

“Current representation rates, as of July 2020, for the regular force and the primary reserves combined, were as follows: women, 16 per cent; visible minorities, 9.3 per cent; and Indigenous Peoples, 2.8 per cent.”

DND/CAF did not identify the representation of persons with disabilities as of July 2020 in their response to The Hill Times.

The CAF works closely with Statistics Canada to ensure that “labour market data they provide, and upon which the CAF sets its employment equity representation rate goals, is reflective of the unique occupations and employment criteria of the CAF.”

“DND/CAF is committed to reflecting the Canadian ideals of diversity, respect and inclusion. Both long and short term goals have been created, based on the labour market analysis provided by Statistics Canada. We review our progress regularly to ensure that we are always working towards increasing representation rates,” said Mr. Smyth.”

Canadian Border Services Agency

The Canada Border Services Agency’s campaign encouraging self-identification began in 2017 and was repeated in 2018, according to Jacqueline Callin, spokesperson with the agency.

“They stressed the importance of understanding our workforce composition and reinforced that employee information would be protected. Recognizing that the Agency’s manual process might be contributing to response rates of 61 per cent, an online form was piloted with success in 2019 and was set to be launched in March 2020 as part of our ‘Your Voice Matters’ campaign. It has been postponed due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and current efforts are focused on how best to virtually promote self-identification,” she said.

Employment Equity Act ‘has served Canada and the public service well,’ says expert

Andrew Griffith, who is the former director general for Citizenship and Multiculturalism and has worked for a variety of government departments in Canada and abroad, told The Hill Times that the Employment Equity Act has served Canada and the public service well, and that the diversity of virtually every group has increased since the act was introduced.

“So the basic structure of the act, I think, has worked in the reporting structure and the data collection, and the publicity that comes with the results,” said Mr. Griffith, who is a fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and Environics Institute.

“But if you re-open the act, I’m just not sure that it’s worth all that much effort, time, and invariable divisiveness and controversies that it will raise,” said Mr. Griffith. “I’m thinking that if you want to use government time wisely, it would be more effective, I would think, [to look] at specific anti-racism initiatives and look at some of the specific barriers rather than a wholesale of revision of the act, because I think the challenge is less with the act and more with some of the practical stuff.”

Source: Canada’s federal security and intelligence establishment encouraging employees to self-identify

Immigrants urge government to deliver on promise to wipe out citizenship fee

Of note. Applications dipped to about 17,000 monthly in November and December 2019 from an average of close to 24,000 in previous months, perhaps in anticipation of fee elimination:

As the U.S. moves to hike the fee to become an American citizen, Canada plans to eliminate the cost entirely.

Yet nearly a year after the Liberals made an election campaign promise to waive the $630 fee, newcomers to Canada who are now feeling a financial pinch from the pandemic are still waiting for the government to deliver.

Faizan Malik says coming up with that amount for himself and his wife is a “big problem,” especially since he is working reduced hours and facing higher costs of living due to COVID-19. With a single income between them, and because they’re helping to support family members in his native Pakistan, he said it’s tough to put any savings aside.

“It’s kind of difficult for me to scramble that amount of money, and if it’s that difficult for me, I wonder how difficult it would be for a new immigrant or a family of four,” he said.

Malik, a Toronto-based supply chain specialist, says even if the Liberal government doesn’t waive the fee completely, he would welcome a reduction in the amount to make it more affordable.

“Right now I’m just holding my horses and waiting for the right time if something happens, otherwise it’s very difficult to file with the current fee,” he said.

Citizenship gives a person the right to vote and to obtain a passport, and provides a sense of belonging in Canadian society. Some employers, including the Canadian Armed Forces, require citizenship.

The processing fee is $530, which was increased from $100 by the previous Conservative government, plus a $100 “right of citizenship” fee.

The Liberals promised to waive the fee during the fall 2019 election campaign.

Fall campaign commitment

“Becoming a citizen allows new immigrants to fully participate in Canadian society, and the process of granting citizenship is a government service, not something that should be paid for with a user fee. To make citizenship more affordable, we will make the application process free for those who have fulfilled the requirements needed to obtain it,” reads the Liberal campaign platform.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino was also instructed to follow through on that promise in his Dec. 13, 2019 mandate letter. The department will lose $400 million over four years if the fee is eliminated.

The minister’s spokesperson Kevin Lemkay says the Liberal government has made citizenship more accessible by cutting wait times and loosening the language, residency and other requirements to obtain citizenship.

“Our government places great value on Canadian citizenship and is committed to removing barriers and helping newcomers achieve citizenship faster while also protecting the integrity of the program,” he said.

Lemkay said the government remains committed to bringing forward a plan to eliminate the fees, but did not offer a time frame of when that would happen.

The planned move in Canada is in stark contrast to the U.S., where President Donald Trump is nearly doubling the cost of becoming a citizen by hiking the fee to $1,170 US from $640. That, and other immigration fee changes, are scheduled to come into effect in October.

Abhishek Rawat has been “waiting anxiously” for the Liberals to waive the fee, calling it “steep” for people like him with reduced incomes due to the pandemic. Rawat, a Toronto physicist, expects the promise has fallen through the cracks because the government is preoccupied with the pandemic.”I understand the government has due process to go through before they can eliminate the fees. On the other hand just last month they raised the fees for permanent residency applications. So they can move fast if they want,” he said.

‘In Canada’s interest’

Sharry Aiken, an associate professor of immigration law at Queen’s University, urged the government to move.

“It is in Canada’s interest to naturalize newcomers as fast and as efficiently as possible once they are otherwise eligible,” she said. “For many the presence of a fee is a barrier, and they will put off applying simply for financial reasons.”

Even though fees are reduced for children, a family of four would be required to pay $1,460, which Aiken says is prohibitive for many on tight budgets.

Andrew Griffith, author, former senior immigration official and fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, favours a reduced fee over an outright elimination. But since the government has made the commitment, he said it should follow through on it.

Griffith said it could be done quickly with a regulatory change.

The markedly different course that Canada is taking compared to the U.S. underscores the sharp contrast in immigration policies, he said.

“It’s part of the government’s efforts to have an overall message that immigration is good for the country; We want to increase the levels of immigration, they’ll make a contribution both in the short term and the longer term in terms of the demographics and we want you to feel part of the country,” he said.

Source: Immigrants urge government to deliver on promise to wipe out citizenship fee

Disaggregated data key to ensuring representative workplaces, say experts, as PMO skirts Black staff statistic

Partial data on political staffer diversity, with a very low response rate:

A recent Hill Times survey seeking to understand the demographics of staff on Parliament Hill found that, among a small pool of respondent MP offices, 42 per cent of staff identified as a visible minority, while 5.3 per cent identified as Black, but a comparison to cabinet offices, including the Prime Minister’s Office, isn’t possible after a separate survey was circulated by the PMO that excluded a specific category on staffers who identified as Black.  

Instead, results from the PMO, which are said to include responses from a little more than 560 staffers across all cabinet offices and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s (Papineau, Que.), offered an aggregated percentage of staff who identified as “racialized/visible minority/a person of colour.”

But truly addressing gaps in diversity and representation requires being willing to talk about the numbers and breaking them down, “particularly along racial lines,” said York University professor Lorne Foster, as barriers to inclusion—and their solutions—are unique to different groups.

“In education for instance … a large number of the visible minority category are doing quite well in school, but when you disaggregate the data you find that South Asians do well, but Blacks don’t do well,” said Prof. Foster, who is director of York’s Institute for Social Research. 

Moreover, ensuring a truly representative workforce means going beyond just “diversity by the numbers” to look at occupational mobility, who holds senior positions of power, how diversity is being harnessed and empowered, and how diverse perspectives are being integrated into organizational frameworks, he said.

“If you don’t have that disaggregated data, you really don’t know where the gaps are and you really cannot get to any problems or vulnerability, or even develop constructive workplace policies. You know, there’s an old saying, it’s been said a million times but it’s worth noting again: what gets measured gets done,” said Prof. Foster, noting “consistent” calls from the Black community, and others, for disaggregated data across various issues and sectors. “It’s the only way to comprehensively deal with problems that have been with us for centuries.”

“By staying away from those numbers, putting their head in a hole, then they’re actually preserving their own interests, but it really doesn’t do anything for an inclusive and empowering society and the representative society that we all want and we all talk about,” he said.

Recent widespread anti-Black racism and police brutality protests have put a spotlight on diversity and representation among Canada’s public institutions.

Last fall, The Hill Times collaborated with The Samara Centre for Democracy and researchers Jerome Black and Andrew Griffith to analyze more than 1,700 candidates running for the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, Greens, and the People’s Party in 2019. Compiled through candidate biographies, media articles, social media and the like, it found 16.5 per cent of candidates were from a visible minority group, with 2.8 per cent identified as Black, and 3.7 per cent as Indigenous.

Of the 338 MPs elected, roughly 15.1 per cent belong to a visible minority group—within that, five MPs, or 1.5 per cent, are Black—and almost three per cent (10 MPs) are Indigenous. Within Mr. Trudeau’s 36-member cabinet, seven ministers (19.4 per cent) are a visible minority, just one of whom is Black, and one is Indigenous. 

Mr. Griffith similarly spoke to the need for disaggregated data, noting that, through his research, when it comes to political representation, often “South Asians tend to be overrepresented in relation to their share of the population, whereas Blacks are underrepresented and Filipinos are underrepresented.”

While there may be seen to be “less everyday racism in the street” in Canada as compared to the U.S., the story is reversed when it comes to institutional racism and systemic discrimination, said Prof. Foster, with far more instances of Black people in positions of power, as elected officials and otherwise, south of the border.

“It’s really quite remarkable and distinctive in terms of its difference with the Canadian scene,” he said, noting that within Canada’s federal public service, the highest-level Black public servant is the assistant deputy minister for Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada, Caroline Xavier, who was appointed in February and stands alone at her level. 

Just as important as elected officials are the staff who support them—the people at the table or behind the keyboard when laws are being drafted, debated, amended, and passed.

Low response rate, aggregated categories cloud survey findings 

To conduct its survey, The Hill Times reached out to a total of 386 offices on Parliament Hill, including all 338 MPs, all opposition leader offices, House leaders, Whips, research bureaus, 36 ministers’ offices, and the PMO. In reaching out, it was indicated responses would be reported on in aggregate with other like offices. 

The survey was voluntary, and based entirely on self-identification by staff. Offices were asked for a total count of full-time staff (both on the Hill and in riding offices), a gender breakdown (male, female, or non-binary), and how many staff identify as a visible minority, Black, or Indigenous. Offices were also asked about their hiring practices, namely: what they’ve done to ensure diversity in hiring and whether approaches were being reconsidered. For ministers’ offices and the PMO, an extra question was included regarding how many EX-level staff—a Treasury Board Secretariat designation that refers to the senior-most level of ministerial staff, like directors and chiefs of staff—identify as Black or Indigenous.

Questions were sent to offices by email on June 16 and 17, with a deadline of June 29 to respond.

It’s important to note that, along with being based on self-identification, the survey did not capture part-time staff, students, or interns—a decision contested by at least one office, noting an increased level of part-time staff due to efforts to provide flexible work arrangements. 

In the end, excluding cabinet and the PMO, The Hill Times received 38 responses from 36 MP offices, the Liberal research bureau, and the Liberal Whip’s office. Among MPs, 26 of the 36 respondents were Liberal, six were Conservative, three were NDP, and one Bloc Québécois, for a total response rate of about 10 per cent.

Based on Elections Canada’s riding assessments, of those MPs who responded, 27 represent urban ridings, five represent urban/rural ridings, and four represent rural/urban ridings. 

One MP office that responded declined to provide a gender breakdown, and another declined to provide a breakdown of Black or Indigenous staff. In turn, percentages for those categories were calculated using modified total staff counts. 

In all, these 38 offices reported a total of 212 full-time staff, of whom 119 identified as women (57.2 per cent), 88 as men (42.3 per cent), and one as non-binary (0.5 per cent), and 89 identified as a visible minority (42 per cent). Eleven staff identified as Black (5.3 per cent of the adjusted total), while five identified as Indigenous (2.4 per cent).

Graph created with Infogram

Reacting to The Hill Times’ findings from MPs, Mr. Griffith said he was “surprised” at the “very high percentage of visible minority staffers,” but stressed it’s hard to draw conclusions as the results don’t reflect “the total universe of MPs and their staff” due to the small sample size and self-identifying nature of the survey. Mr. Griffith also hypothesized that MPs from more diverse ridings—namely, urban ridings, which 75 per cent of MP respondents were—may be more likely to have diverse offices. 

The results are different when it comes to cabinet and the PMO.

Though The Hill Times reached out to these offices individually with a similar set of survey questions, only one minister’s office responded directly, and in doing so, declined to provide a specific breakdown of Black or Indigenous staff.

Instead, The Hill Times understands the PMO circulated a different, voluntary survey among ministers’ offices, with responses collected and aggregated by the PMO before being emailed on the evening of July 3. 

While these findings in ways present more data than was sought—providing insights into language, disability, and LGBTQ2 diversity among political staff—they also lack one of the two key aspects The Hill Timessought to understand, specifically: how many political staff identify as Black. Instead, numbers were provided for staff who identify as “racialized/visible minority/a person of colour” as one combined category. 

“As many of the offices you surveyed have a smaller number of staff, information shared detailing individual’s race and gender by each office could very much identify individual staff. So to ensure the privacy of individuals is maintained, we asked Minister’s Offices to share information in a manner that was both anonymous and voluntary,” said PMO press secretary Alex Wellstead in an email. 

“With that in mind, we sent a confidential survey to staff to help collect information on the diversity of our team.”

Graph created with Infogram

In all, the PMO reported a response rate of 82 per cent to its survey, with a little more than 560 respondents from all ministers’ offices, including the PMO. The Hill Times was only provided the aggregated, total percentages for each category.

Of the total, 24.7 per cent of staff identified as racialized/visible minority/a person of colour and 3.4 per cent identified as Indigenous; 51.2 per cent identified as male and 48 per cent as female; 2.3 per cent identified as a person with a disability; 15.8 per cent identified as LGBTQ2; 68.5 per cent identified English as their first language, while 23.8 per cent said it was French, and 6.2 per cent identified another language as their first.

Graph created with Infogram

Among senior staff in the PMO and ministers’ offices (directors, senior advisers, chiefs of staff) who responded, 19.1 per cent identified as racialized/visible minority/a person of colour and 1.9 per cent identified as Indigenous; 57.4 per cent identified as male and 42.6 per cent as female; 3.1 per cent identified as a person with a disability; 11.7 per cent identified as LGBTQ2; 71.6 per cent identified English as their first language, while 24.1 per cent said French, and 2.5 per cent identified another language. 

Graph created with Infogram

Picking out the PMO specifically, the office reports that 29.9 per cent of its staff self-identified as racialized/visible minority/a person of colour and 1.1 per cent as Indigenous; 52.9 per cent identified as male and 47.1 per cent as female; 3.4 per cent identified as a person with a disability; 12.6 per cent as LGBTQ2; and 69 per cent identified English as their first language, while 25.3 said French, and 4.6 said another language.

“As all our offices are always striving to provide a safe and healthy workplace, and one where employees feel valued and be treated with dignity and respect, this information will also help us continue our work toward a more diverse and inclusive workplace,” said Mr. Wellstead.

“We are committed to creating a workplace that truly reflects the full diversity of our great country and we will continue to recruit, retain, and train diverse staff from across Canada. The current conversations around systemic racism and discrimination in our society have made it even clearer that we need to continue this work,” said Mr. Wellstead. 

“We will be offering opportunities for staff to participate in future confidential and voluntary surveys to better understand our team later this summer. Topics on this survey will include greater granularity on demographics, mental health in the workplace, the impacts of COVID-19, systemic inequalities, education and training, and more,” he said, noting the upcoming survey would use Statistics Canada’s list of visible minority groups. That list includes “Black” as a distinct group.

The Hill Times reached out to Diversity, Inclusion, and Youth Minister Bardish Chagger’s (Waterloo, Ont.) to speak with the minister about diversity on Parliament Hill but was told she was not available by filing deadline.

Source: Disaggregated data key to ensuring representative workplaces, say experts, as PMO skirts Black staff statistic

Virtual citizenship ceremonies coming for new Canadians whose dreams were crushed by COVID-19

Needed albeit imperfect compared to in-person ceremonies:

Citizenship tests and ceremonies have been cancelled for more than two months because of the global pandemic — but newcomers could soon be taking their oaths online through virtual citizenship events.

On March 14, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said it would cancel the ceremonies “until further notice.”

Dhiti Nanavati has been working hard for years to reach her “life goal” of becoming a Canadian citizen. The Toronto-based software company marketing manager said she was deeply disappointed when her scheduled March 27 ceremony was called off.

“I was really looking forward to becoming a Canadian citizen and not knowing when the oath ceremony will take place is naturally very distressing,” she said.”A lot of personal sacrifices have gone into making this a reality and the uncertainty about the ceremony is unsettling. It’s like you’re almost at the finish line of a race, only to be told you have stop because the race is cancelled.”

She said she would welcome an online option. She may soon get one.

In a statement to CBC, the department said the citizenship ceremony represents “the culmination of years of hard work for new Canadians and their families.” It said it will begin scheduling virtual ceremonies, starting with those who already had ceremonies scheduled and have a pressing need for Canadian citizenship.

“IRCC will then work to implement virtual citizenship ceremonies for other cases as quickly as possible,” it said.

Since the pandemic hit, IRCC has considered granting citizenship only in exceptional cases, to people who need it for employment or essential travel.

Last month, University of Manitoba researcher Adolf Ng, who is working on a study related to supply chain management issues during the pandemic, became the first person to be awarded Canadian citizenship through a virtual ceremony.The government says it’s working out a way to administer the ceremonies that protects the integrity of the legal process and also reflects the significance of the occasion. No firm timeframe has been established.

Andrew Griffith — author, fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a former senior immigration official — said that in a pandemic climate, virtual ceremonies are probably the most efficient and practical way to avoid a growing backlog of citizenship cases. No one who has paid the fees and passed the tests should be forced to wait, he said.

But Griffith said something will be lost in the translation from an in-person ceremony to an online one.

“I think there’s something particularly special about when the group of 30 or 40, or however many there are, actually sit down together, look around the room and see the diversity of the people who are applying for Canadian citizenship and take the oath as a group,” he said.

Typically, a person takes the solemn oath before a citizenship judge or official, usually in a group setting. Taking the oath of citizenship is the final legal requirement that applicants older than 14 years old must meet to become Canadian citizens.

A sense of security

“It gives you that security,” Griffith said, adding that a sense of security “is pretty valuable, given the state of the world right now.”

Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Zool Suleman said those who have “gone through all the hoops” to become a Canadian should be granted citizenship, even during a pandemic.

Despite global travel restrictions, some people may still need to obtain passports quickly for essential work or other types of travel, he said. Others, he said, might have other reasons for not wanting to wait to obtain their citizenship — tax reasons, for example, or a wish to relinquish citizenship in another country.

“There could be financial reasons, or purely political or social reasons,” he said.

Suleman agrees that the communal experience of becoming a Canadian is precious, but he predicts people will find their own ways to mark the special day.

“Legally, it will all be the same,” he said.

Once people get to the point of taking the oath at a citizenship ceremony, they’ve already checked off a number of other requirements regarding residency and language. They’ve also passed a test on Canadian history and values and paid fees of $630 each.

Stuck in limbo

Citizenship comes with the right to vote and apply for a Canadian passport. Some jobs, including employment with the Canadian Armed Forces, require citizenship.

Last year, nearly 250,000 people became Canadian citizens.

Yasir Naqvi, chief executive officer of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, said that final step of taking the oath provides a profound sense of belonging. It’s also a way for people to express affection for their adopted home, he said.

“They understand why the process is halted at the moment, but at the moment the delay is a source of anxiety because they want to become Canadian citizens and move on with the next chapter of their life as a Canadian,” Naqvi said.

Soran Kareem of Hamilton, Ont. arrived as a refugee from the Kurdistan region of Iraq five years ago.

He said 2020 was shaping up to be a joyous year: his college studies were wrapping up, his son was learning to walk and he and his wife were on their way to becoming Canadian citizens.They filed their applications in October 2019 but are now in limbo due to delays caused by the pandemic.

“We have been living in stress and uncertainty because we do not know when we can do the test and the ceremony,” he said.

“My wife and I have a lot of stress and worry about this situation because we have many plans (for) when we get the citizenship, especially for studying and moving to another city. We cannot do anything because we do not want to change our address. That could make the citizenship process longer.”

Kareem said allowing people go through the citizenship process online could put to rest many of those concerns.

Parvinder Singh of Toronto took his test on March 10 and hasn’t heard anything since. He said he understands the unprecedented situation officials are dealing with but hopes the government will act fast to help those waiting for citizenship.

“It’s a long process and just coming on to the last point and finding yourself stuck is frustrating,” he said.

Source: Virtual citizenship ceremonies coming for new Canadians whose dreams were crushed by COVID-19

‘Non-advertising’ hiring up due to feds’ new appointments policy, data shows

My latest – links below:

The new appointments policy allowing for greater flexibility in the hiring of federal public servants came into effect in April 2016, resulting in a greater number of “non-advertised” hiring compared to formal publicly advertised hiring processes and competitions.

The Public Service Commission has reported on an overall increase in non-advertised appointments to 34 per cent of hires in 2017-18 compared to 25 per cent in the previous fiscal year, reflecting the attractiveness of this easier way to staff. 2018-19 data shows a further increase to 35 per cent. Greater use of non-advertised staffing raises the potential risk of the “who you know” factor playing a greater role in hiring and this analysis aims to assess this potential risk.

Source: ‘Non-advertising’ hiring up due to feds’ new appointments policy, data shows (Hill Times)

pdf: TBS New Appointments Policy Impact, New Appointments Policy: Annex A Departmental Comparisons (clearer table than in the HT piece)

The risk of oversimplifying the birth tourism debate

My latest take on recent birth tourism debates (excerpt):

Did the CBC Fifth Estate really demonize pregnant migrant women in its investigative report into the number of non-resident births in Canada? That is the argument made by Megan Gaucher and Lindsay Larios, writing recently in Policy Options. A letter of complaint was also submitted about the report to the CBC Ombudsperson by 30 organizations, including groups representing migrant workers. Is discussion of birth tourism essentially a form of xenophobia given its focus on visible-minority foreigners? Or are the underlying concerns of the critics less about birth tourism and more about gaps in healthcare coverage for temporary residents?

Source: The risk of oversimplifying the birth tourism debate

Douglas Todd: How the election is playing out in local Chinese-language media

More in-depth look at Chinese-language media election and related coverage:

The conflict between Hong Kong and China. The pros and cons of immigration and refugees. Beliefs on abortion and same-sex issues. The tension between paying taxes and benefiting from social services.

Specialists who monitor Canada’s roughly 290 Chinese-language newspapers, websites, radio stations and TV channels say the political coverage not only echoes the mainstream media, it also reveals the distinct concerns of people with origins in East Asia.

Immigration and refugee issues garner more attention in the Chinese-language media than they do among the general Canadian public, say professional observers.

And even though Chinese-Canadians with roots in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China show a complex range of political opinions, Andrew Griffith, a former senior director in Ottawa’s immigration department, has concluded: “There is more of a conservative trend among Chinese-Canadians than, for example, South Asians.”

Like other Canadians, the 1.3 million people of Chinese origin switch party allegiances according to broader political patterns, said Griffith, who works with Diversityvotes.ca, a website highlighting political coverage in the country’s ethnic media. But their votes could make a crucial difference in dozens of urban swing ridings with large immigrant and visible-minority populations.

Roughly three out of four Chinese-Canadians live in either Greater Toronto, where they make up 11 per cent of voters, or Metro Vancouver, where they account for 20 per cent of voters. In the Vancouver suburb of Richmond, which has two federal ridings, 54 per cent of the population is ethnic Chinese.

Andres Malchaski, president of MIREMS International, which monitors the ethnic-language media and helped create Diversityvotes.ca, says that, while a large portion of Canadians tell pollsters the environment is their top election issue, that issue is far outweighed in the Chinese-language media by debates over immigration and refugees.

Chinese-Canadian media outlets, including their discussion forums, contain frequent criticism of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau for bringing in more than 60,000 Syrian refugees since 2015, said Machalski, who has analyzed Canada’s ethnic media for three decades.

Media outlets that target Canadians from China are often wary of refugees from Muslim countries, Machalski said, an attitude that reflects the way China’s authoritarian leaders have restricted the religious freedom of millions of Uighur Muslims.

“The feelings expressed by some of the calls and comments on phone-in shows and in newspaper columns (in Canada) certainly support the idea there will be segments of Chinese voters that might even go so far as to support the People’s Party of Canada,” which is calling for reducing immigration and refugee levels, Machalski said.

Still, Machalski emphasized that the views expressed in the Chinese-language outlets in Canada offer a “kaleidoscope” of perspectives, which often reflect whether their respective audiences are connected to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Hanoi or Beijing.

That is especially so in regards to the recent anti-Beijing protests in the financial centre of Hong Kong.

More than 300,000 people living in Hong Kong hold Canadian passports — and Oct. 21 marks the first Canadian election in which they can cast a ballot, says a Diversityvotes.ca article by Blythe Irwin.

The Chinese media is picking up on everything Canadian politicians are saying about the special administrative region of China. Ethnic-Chinese media commentators, she says, are both approving and sceptical of the way Trudeau says he is “extremely concerned” about Hong Kong, while Conservative leader Andrew Scheer went further by declaring in a tweet: “We are all Hong Kongers.”

Fenella Sung, a former Chinese-language radio show host, said that Chinese-media perspectives about the conflict largely reflect whether the Canadian-based outlets are aimed at audiences rooted in Hong Kong or China.

It’s not surprising that readers of media directed at the large mainland-Chinese population in Canada “would think the Hong Kong issue is China’s internal affair and that it would not be appropriate for Canadian politicians to comment,” said Sung, who is a member of Canadian Friends of Hong Kong.

Long-time immigrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan and other parts of East Asia, Sung said, tend to have political concerns that are in line with Canadians at large, such as jobs, housing and protecting the environment.

“But newer and younger immigrants, mostly from mainland China, are very consistent and focussed on economic growth, expansion of trade, less government bureaucracy, and lower taxation. They don’t like social spending.”

Prior to the B.C. election in 2016, some opinion polls suggested that, even while the province’s more than 500,000 ethnic Chinese voters held diverse views, they generally leaned to the centre-right B.C. Liberals, and had almost no interest in the Greens.

In an article on politics and Canada’s ethnic media published Wednesday in Policy Options magazine, Griffith said Liberal and Conservative party approaches to same-sex marriage and abortion have been widely commented upon, suggesting so-called “family values” are important to many recent immigrants and people of colour.

“While the Liberals and Conservatives get widespread coverage of their electoral promises and commitments, the NDP and Green Party are under-covered,” Griffith added, after reviewing 1,200 recent articles in the ethnic media.

“In contrast, the People’s Party of Canada, given its focus on restricting immigration and its initial exclusion from the leaders’ debate, received more than twice as much substantive coverage as the NDP and Greens combined.”

Chinese-language and other ethnic media outlets in Canada don’t necessarily reinforce cultural silos, Griffith says. But it’s clear they also offer a special window into political discussions of particular concern to certain ethnic groups.

Source: Douglas Todd: How the election is playing out in local Chinese-language media

41 circonscriptions multiculturelles pourraient faire pencher la balance

Some interesting on the ground reporting in addition to the overall story:

Le Canada compte désormais 41 circonscriptions composées majoritairement de minorités visibles. C’est huit de plus que lors des dernières élections fédérales. Ces champs de bataille clés, souvent des comtés pivots, pourraient jouer un rôle décisif le 21 octobre. Les conservateurs qui avaient perdu la grande partie de ce bloc en 2015 sont-ils mieux placés pour regagner ces sièges?

Quelque chose d’ironique s’est produit dans la circonscription d’Ajax, en banlieue de Toronto.

Elle a connu la plus forte hausse de résidents issus des minorités visibles. Un bon de 11 % en 5 ans.

L’ironie? Ce comté était représenté par l’ancien ministre de l’Immigration, Chris Alexander, défait en 2015.

C’est lui qui avait présenté la promesse électorale conservatrice d’instaurer une ligne de dénonciation pour signaler des cas présumés de pratiques culturelles barbares. Cette annonce lui a collé à la peau et s’est ajoutée aux prises de position controversées des conservateurs, tant sur la révocation de la citoyenneté que sur le niqab.

Tout cela allait être néfaste pour Stephen Harper et son parti, qui avaient mis tant d’efforts à conquérir les communautés culturelles.

Linda et Ernest Ombrog d’origine philippine sont assis sur un banc.

Linda et Ernest Ombrog, d’origine philippine, demeurent à Ajax. En cinq ans, cette circonscription à l’est de Toronto a connu la plus forte hausse de population de minorités visibles au Canada.

PHOTO : RADIO-CANADA / MARC GODBOUT

À la gare de train de banlieue d’Ajax, un couple originaire des Philippines attend le prochain départ. Linda et Ernest Ombrog ont entendu parler de cet épisode même s’ils sont arrivés au Canada après l’élection fédérale de 2015.

Nous n’avons pas tout à fait confiance, dit Ernest Ombrog. Je ne crois pas que nous voterons pour les conservateurs, ajoute sa femme.

Quelques mètres plus loin se trouve Abdol Nadi, un chirurgien devenu chauffeur de taxi. Cet Afghan raconte que la plupart des immigrants qui se sont installés à Ajax dans les dernières années sont surtout originaires du Tadjikistan, de l’Inde, du Pakistan et de l’Afghanistan. Plusieurs sont ses clients.

Abdol Nadi, d’origine afghane, est au volant de son taxi.

Abdol Nadi d’origine afghane est au volant de son taxi à Ajax, en Ontario.

PHOTO : RADIO-CANADA / MARC GODBOUT

Je sens une méfiance chez certains, à tort ou à raison. Même si je trouve que les libéraux sont loin d’être parfaits, je préfère encore les appuyer, affirme-t-il.

Les stratégies de campagne de 2015 semblent toujours avoir laissé un goût amer, à tout le moins dans ce comté.

De 33 à 41

À l’époque, Ajax ne faisait pas encore partie des circonscriptions fédérales dont la population est majoritairement composée de minorités visibles. Elle est une des huit circonscriptions qui se sont ajoutées à la liste depuis 2015.

Andrew Griffith, expert en multiculturalisme, a décortiqué les données. Cet ancien haut fonctionnaire du ministère de l’Immigration constate que 27 de ces 41 circonscriptions sont situées en Ontario, 9 en Colombie-Britannique, l’Alberta et le Québec en ont chacune 2 tandis qu’une autre se trouve au Manitoba.

On ne peut pas gagner de gouvernement majoritaire sans gagner ces comtés-là.

Andrew Griffith, expert en multiculturalisme

Lors du scrutin de 2015, les libéraux ont décroché 85 % de ces circonscriptions, 35 sur 41. Les conservateurs et les néo-démocrates ont dû se contenter de trois sièges chacun.

La population du comté de Scarborough-Nord, en Ontario, est composée à 92 % de minorités visibles. Au Canada, 17 circonscriptions fédérales ont maintenant une population composée de plus de 70 % de minorités visibles.

Andrew Griffith explique qu’on ne peut plus parler des populations immigrantes comme d’un bloc monolithique. Les groupes qui sont arrivés il y a 20 ans ont peut-être une tendance à être plus conservateurs. Mais ceux qui ont suivi ne sont pas liés automatiquement et continuellement à un parti politique, précise le chercheur.

Les placer dans des cases précises serait une erreur, selon lui. Ils peuvent faire un virage plus à gauche comme ils peuvent faire un virage à droite.

Ce sont des circonscriptions pouvant passer d’un parti à l’autre. Bien entendu, cela a une incidence constante sur les stratégies électorales des différents partis.

Andrew Griffith, expert en multiculturalisme

Une photo d'Andrew Griffith.

Andrew Griffith, expert en multiculturalisme et ancien haut fonctionnaire au ministère de l’Immigration.

PHOTO : RADIO-CANADA / MARC GODBOUT

En 2011, les conservateurs avaient gagné la majorité de ces comtés. En 2015, ils sont passés aux mains des libéraux. Et fait à considérer, lors de l’élection provinciale ontarienne de 2018, Doug Ford et les progressistes conservateurs les avaient presque tous raflés.

Kenney, la carte maîtresse?

Les conservateurs aimeraient bien pouvoir compter sur le premier ministre albertain Jason Kenney dans cette campagne pour venir donner un coup de main à Andrew Scheer dans certaines de ces circonscriptions en Ontario. Ce scénario est toujours sur la table même si aucune stratégie n’a encore été arrêtée.

Jason Kenney, autrefois ministre de l’Immigration du gouvernement Harper, avait été l’architecte de la grande séduction du Parti conservateur à l’endroit des communautés culturelles.

Mais le simple fait de vouloir avoir recours au premier ministre albertain démontre que les efforts de rapprochement n’ont pas été suffisants depuis l’arrivée d’Andrew Scheer à la tête de son parti, estime Ghanaharan S. Pillai.

L’interaction entre les communautés et le Parti conservateur n’est plus celle qu’elle était sous les années Harper.

Ghanaharan S. Pillai

Pourtant, ils auraient une occasion à saisir.

Selon cet animateur à la radio et télévision tamoule de Toronto qui observe depuis des années le jeu politique dans les communautés culturelles, Justin Trudeau ne jouit pas nécessairement de la même popularité qu’en 2015. Si les libéraux ont maintenu leur base, ils ne l’ont pas pour autant élargieajoute-t-il.

Mais les conservateurs ne contrôlent pas tout. Au-delà du travail sur le terrain, pour Ghanaharan S. Pillai, le principal défi pour eux est de surmonter un obstacle susceptible d’avantager ses adversaires : Doug Ford.

Le premier ministre ontarien a été porté au pouvoir notamment grâce à l’appui de cet électorat composé majoritairement d’immigrants. Or, depuis, Doug Ford a particulièrement mauvaise presse dans les médias multiculturelsconstate Andrew Griffith qui analyse régulièrement leur contenu. Ils sont très sévères à son endroit.

Le facteur médiatique

C’est un facteur non négligeable.

Il existe pas moins de 600 médias multiculturels au Canada. Plus de la moitié se trouvent dans la grande région de Toronto. Leur influence est importante dans les communautés.

Un résident de Brampton, en Ontario, lit un journal en pendjabi.

Un résident de Brampton, en Ontario, lit un journal en pendjabi.

PHOTO : RADIO-CANADA / MARC GODBOUT

Dans ses émissions de radio, Ghanaharan S. Pillai est à même de constater le sérieux bris de confiance envers Doug Ford qui s’est créé après à peine 15 mois.

À quel point cette méfiance se répercutera-t-elle contre Andrew Scheer?

À quel point le chef conservateur réussira-t-il à faire oublier les stratégies de campagne de 2015?

L’enjeu est majeur. Après tout, 41 circonscriptions, c’est désormais 9 de plus que celles des quatre provinces de l’Atlantique réunies. 41, presque le même nombre de sièges qu’en Colombie-Britannique.

Source: 41 circonscriptions multiculturelles pourraient faire pencher la balance

Why race and immigration are a gathering storm in Canadian politics: Glavin; Could all the parties just cool the rhetoric on racism and immigration? Cardozo

Two good columns on the politics and perils of immigration as an election battleground. Starting with Terry Glavin dissecting some of the recent polling data along with some good thoughtful commentary by Frank Graves of Ekos:

Going by quite a few headlines, commentaries and social media hot-takes making the rounds these days, you’d never know it, but Canadians are not working themselves up into a lather about immigrants or people of colour. We’re not suddenly becoming mean to refugees. There is no surge in bloody-minded racial bigotry arising among ordinary Canadians, and there’s no evidence for any dramatic spike in the numbers of Canadians who don’t like non-whites coming to this country.

That’s the good news.

Some politicians continue to blow their vulgar anti-immigrant dog-whistles, and some make partisan mischief by whatever means seem plausible enough to make their adversaries look bad. But when it comes to immigrants and refugees, Canadians in general tend to be a lot less excitable or inclined to racism than is convenient to certain strangely popular narratives at the moment.

It’s true that having once exerted themselves to out-compete the Opposition in their efforts to show mercy to Syrian refugees, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are pulling off a complete U-turn on the alleged “asylum-shopping” of refugee claimants. They’ve tucked away a series of amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in an omnibus budget implementation bill that would seriously impair the access of some refugees to a full and fair hearing of their claims. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has moved to eliminate funding for refugee and immigration aid law services.

At the fringes, hate crimes are up, and white-nationalist delirium is becoming fashionable among a creepy subset of far-right and friendless unemployable young men. It would be easy to misread the public mood. But the public mood is not taking any dramatic turns for the worse.

Nonetheless, something new and alarming is definitely happening in Canadian public opinion, says Frank Graves, president of EKOS Research Associates. EKOS has been annually tracking Canadian attitudes about immigration since the 1990s, and you don’t have to drill down very deep into the latest EKOS data to see it. It’s right there in the fine tuning of the findings the firm released last week.

The bad news is that for the first time since EKOS began its tracking in the 1990s, dyspepsia about the pace of immigration has coalesced with resentments about the rate of non-white newcomers to Canada. And that bloc of public opinion is consolidating for the first time behind a single political party—Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives.

This is happening whether Scheer’s Conservatives want it or not. Whether or not voters with unfavourable and in some cases decidedly unseemly views about Canada’s current immigration policies are being actively drawn to the Conservatives, or are simply being repelled by the annoying, not-racist-like-you histrionics of the Liberals, something unprecedented is happening.

The EKOS poll finds that roughly 40 per cent of Canadians harbour an unfavourable view of both the pace of immigration and the proportion of “visible minority” people among immigrants. Among the EKOS poll respondents who said there were too many non-whites among Canada’s newly-arrived immigrants, 69 per cent identified as Conservatives, while only 15 percent identified as Liberals. As NDP and Green voters, 27 percent and 28 percent, respectively, said the same.

The reason this is so dangerous is that the conflation of immigration policy with race is threatening to determine the way Canadians vote. It doesn’t matter which party benefits from this in the short run. It’s bad news all round. It’s the marker of what could be a descent into the same debilitating authoritarian-populist abyss into which the United States and much of Europe has fallen, Graves told me. “The inevitable result is a partisan polarization into two irreconcilable camps.”

It’s bad enough that the Scheer’s Conservatives have allowed these tendencies to become normalized among the party’s supporters, Graves said. What’s just as bad is a tendency among Liberals and the liberal-left generally to conflate genuine concerns people might have about refugees, or about how Canada’s demographics are changing, with the crudest xenophobia and the lowest types of racism.

“It doesn’t help. The moral critique, calling people out as Nazis or racists, and painting large portions of the population with this kind of inflammatory language, it’s really not helping. It makes things worse,” Graves said. That’s the way things went in the United States, and the result was the last thing either liberals or traditional conservatives wanted—the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. “The Americans don’t have anything to teach us,” Graves said.

“We have largely been inoculated from the vicious debates that have torn the United States and a lot of Europe apart. That’s why I’m so troubled to see this informing voters’ choice in Canada.”

It’s perfectly reasonable to conclude, for instance, that Trudeau was dead wrong to insist that there was no “crisis” involved his government’s handling of the roughly 40,000 irregular refugee claimants who have walked across the border since early 2017. By last August, two-thirds of Canadians in an Angus Reid poll said “crisis” was a perfectly suitable description. More than half the respondents who said so were Liberals.

Team Trudeau found itself in a similar predicament two years ago during the fractious House of Commons debates surrounding M-103, the Liberals’ proposed resolution to establish a committee inquiry into the spectre of “more than one million Canadians who suffer because of Islamophobia, who are victimized on a daily basis.” Awkardly, a CBC-Environics poll and a CBC-Angus Reid Institute poll were in hand that painted quite a different picture. While 68 per cent of Canadians said minorities should work harder to “fit in” to Canadian culture, the same view was offered by 57 per cent of Muslim respondents. Only nine per cent of the Muslims surveyed identified discrimination as a factor that made them uncomfortable living in Canada—a third said the worst thing was all the snow. A follow-up Angus Reid poll found that 33 per cent of respondents who opposed the Islamophobia motion were Liberal supporters.

Neither is there anything louche in the proposition that Trudeau was just the tiniest bit hypocritical to dispatch Border Security Minister Bill Blair with instructions to attempt a renegotiation of the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States in hopes of shutting down the border-crossing upsurge—after making ugly accusations about xenophobia and hysterics among the Conservatives who’d been urging him to do that very thing, all along.

Still, Trudeau is dead right to say, as he has been saying quite a lot at his round of town halls lately, that Canadians remain mostly “positively inclined” towards immigration and towards Canada’s immigration policies. More importantly, Trudeau has pointed out that Canadians must have confidence that they are in control of immigration, that immigration is managed. It’s the loss of control, a sense of a lost sovereignty, that has fuelled far-right populism from Brexit in the United Kingdom to the Make America Great Again hyperventilation in the United States.

The EKOS poll finding that roughly 40 per cent of Canadians think too many immigrants are allowed into the country every year isn’t even especially newsworthy. Last December, an Ipsos poll found nearly half of its respondents agreed, at least somewhat, that immigration is changing Canada in ways they didn’t like, and at least four in ten agreed “too many” immigrants were coming to Canada. In the EKOS poll trend lines over time, the proportion of Canadians who hold that view is not growing. It’s shrinking. More than 60 per cent of the annual EKOS poll respondents held to a “too many immigrants” view in the 1990s. The percentage wobbled on a downward trajectory to 2005, then wavered up towards 50 percent, and dropped down to 40 per cent again this year.

Canadians who say there are “too many visible minorities” among immigrants have always been fewer in number than the “too many immigrants” respondents, and the trajectory of that opinion bloc has similarly tracked downward over the years. But from a low of 30 per cent in 2005, the EKOS poll respondents who say there are “too many visible minorities” among immigrants has climbed back up to meet the “too many immigrants” response, at 39.9 per cent in the latest EKOS poll.

This is dangerous. Opposition to immigration is no longer driven by more easily remediable anxieties, ill-informed or not, that Canada’s high pace of immigration is bad for jobs, or housing costs, or community stability, or stresses on public services. About 300,000 people settle in Canada every year, and Ottawa wants to see the number rise to 350,000 by 2021. That’s a small number compared to Canada’s population of nearly 38 million. But roughly one in five Canadians is foreign-born—the highest proportion of any G7 country—and most immigrants since 2001 have not been “white.” They come mainly from Asia and the Middle East. About one in five Canadian citizens now falls into the Census Canada “visible minority” category.

Still, the EKOS poll does not tell anything like a straightforward story of white people with an attitude problem about non-white newcomers. Non-white Canadians appear even more likely than most Canadians to say there are too many non-white immigrants coming to Canada. While 39.9 percent of respondents overall said there were too many “visible minorities” among Canada’s newly arriving immigrants, the percentage of “visible minority” respondents who agreed with the statement in the EKOS poll was 42.8 per cent.

Xenophobia, racism and divisive rhetoric about immigration is something that Canada’s political leaders should take extremely seriously. But the Liberal government has occasionally and quite casually attributed those lurid motives to Conservative and popular alarms over the rapid rise since 2017 in the number of “irregular” border-crossing by asylum claimants. About half the claimants have been from Nigeria and Haiti, and the overall number of border-crossers is now declining. Racists shouted as loudly as they ever do about this, but as for widespread public concerns that the border-crossers were not genuine refugees, that wasn’t necessarily a judgment rooted in racism or xenophobia. It turns out that less than half the border-crossers’ claims that have been finalized so far have been accepted; about 40 per cent were rejected and the balance were abandoned or withdrawn.

As is necessary in any deep dive into an opinion poll’s findings, it’s worthwhile to look closely at its margins of error. The EKOS poll random sample of 1,045 Canadians comes with an error margin of plus or minus three per cent, 19 times out of 20. And when you get down into the weeds of respondent subcategories—Conservative voters, Liberal voters, visible-minority respondents and so on—the margin of error can increase quite dramatically.

But when you weigh the data statistically across the board to reflect the composition of Canada’s population, as EKOS does, you get a pretty clear picture of what people think. And because “visible minority” is becoming an increasingly obtuse category as Canada’s population grows more ethnically and racially diverse, EKOS conducted some experimental testing, and it showed that the term “non-white” produces the same results.

But getting back to some good news that similarly upsets the usual “narrative” apple carts, last month another opinion poll, this one a global survey by the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., found that ordinary Canadians have the most favourable view of immigrants among the world’s 18 highest immigrant-taking countries. Canadian respondents were more likely than anyone else to say immigration is a public good. Canadians were the least likely to identify immigration as a burden, or a source of crime, or a risk of terrorism.

Importantly, Canada turns out to be less polarized on the issue of immigration than any of the other countries surveyed, too, the Pew Center concluded. Canada’s conservatives are more upbeat about immigration than “left-wing” opinion in several of the other countries surveyed. Only 27 per cent of Canadian respondents said immigrants were a liability or that immigrants took away jobs, and on the bright side, 68 per cent of Canadian respondents said immigrants make Canada stronger.

Meanwhile, the federal government’s own annual tracking survey, carried out last August and September, produced results fairly similar to the EKOS poll. The federal survey benefited from a much larger sample size—2,800 respondents, with an error margin of plus or minus 1.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20. And it adds a couple of insights consistent with the EKOS findings.

Canadians who say immigration rates are too high do not appear to hold that disfavourable view solely on account of some mistaken belief that immigration rates are higher than they actually are. When told that the actual number of immigrants coming to Canada every year was 300,000, the proportion of respondents who said there were “too many” immigrants jumped from 28 per cent to 37 per cent—a figure close to the 39.9 per cent in the EKOS findings.

While the EKOS poll found that visible-minority Canadians are oddly more likely than Canadians in general to say there are “too many” visible-minority immigrants coming to Canada, the federal tracking survey found a similar irony. Forty-one percent of third-generation Canadians said that 300,000 immigrants a year was too many, but 15 per cent of recently-arrived Canadians, even—immigrants who have lived in Canada for less than five years—said they felt the same way. But overall, roughly half of the federal tracking survey respondents said Canada’s immigration levels were just about right.

Andrew Griffith, former director general of the Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Citizenship and Multiculturalism Branch, and the author of Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote, says that for all the uproars and controversies, Canada is still doing well as an experiment in multiculturalism.

The country maintains a generous immigration policy and a reasonably generous refugee policy, and that should not be expected to change without an enormous upheaval. Canadian public opinion on these matters is a fairly steady-state phenomenon. About a third are enthusiasts, about a third are sufficiently content, and a final third have serious reservations.

But that last third is not a homogeneous constituency of irredeemable bigots. If you want the surprisingly successful Canadian experiment to continue, you can’t corral that constituency into the same roped-off quarantine area where actually-existing racists and alarmists properly belong. They’ll all just stew in their own juices.

“People are far too quick to whip out the racism card when it serves their interests,” Griffth said. “But you can’t write off a third of the population. Those people are the people you have to engage with.”

Source: Why race and immigration are a gathering storm in Canadian politics

Andrew Cardozo, of the Pearson Centre, offers some good advice to both sides:

White supremacists. Islamophobia. Systemic racism. Racialized people. Irregular entrants.

These are hot words on Parliament Hill these days. These are all terms that identify problems facing Canadian social cohesion and are often discussed without a common understanding.

Discussion around race and racism are delicate at the best of times, but when they get hotter and more serious it gets harder to have a discussion. Add politics and it’s just not a good mix.

It is fair to say that today the activists who work to combat racism are getting further and further from those who have concerns about the changing nature of our society and the changing power balances.

Critical race theory is an area that has been attracting increased analysis and debate. To put it very generally it is the academic field of research that examines racism. This field has developed exponentially in the last few decades, and with each passing phase of advancement, there is a new terminology; where the old terminology can be seen as both inaccurate and often offensive. An example is the change in terminology to describe African Americans or First Nations peoples.

And as this has grown, so has the resistance to it.

Research on racism in recent years has found that four groups are particularly affected by hardcore racists—a phenomenon that is both uniquely Canadian, in some ways, and universal in others.

The four groups are Indigenous peoples, African-Canadians, Jews, and Muslims. Many others face discrimination to varying degrees too.

Indigenous peoples are coming into a new reality and self-awareness. The First Peoples of this land are finally being recognized for their rights in a manner that has always been enshrined in the Canadian Constitution but was never taught in school or practised by governments. So today when pipelines are delayed or halted, there is a new conflict of values which was just ignored in the past.

But the racism they have faced covers everything from state-imposed colonialism, on-reserve housing, and residential schools, to troubled police relations, and child welfare systems that are hugely inappropriate. They also face simple old-fashioned racism from some members of the public, going from ill-informed stereotypes to name calling and occasional violence.

All this while the Indigenous population is the fastest growing group in Canada with more than 50 per cent of the population under 25 years old, and a growing sense of confidence and assertion of their rightful and constitutional place in Canada.

The movement of peoples in the world has been growing significantly in recent decades, and a large part of this is non-white people moving to predominantly white countries (although there are significant movements among non-white people too, think of the Syrian and the Rohingya refugees and their neighbouring countries).

The black community is both very old, dating back to the Loyalists on the East Coast to new arrivals from the Caribbean and Africa. The racism faced here is both of the everyday name-calling variety, to job discrimination and troubled relations with police that has an uncanny resemblance to that faced by African Americans south of the border.

Their contributions are significant in many sectors including medicine and nursing, education, small business and labour, and increasingly in politics. For example, Rawlson King was the most recent addition to Ottawa City Council through a byelection (making him the city’s first-ever black councillor), adding to the more than 50 African Canadians who have served at all levels of government.

Anti-semitism goes back to the time of Jesus Christ if not before, and while there is little questioning of the contribution of Jews to our society, this racism is of a variety that either has its strength in neo-Nazi movements, which are growing and becoming more strident and open, or to politics of the Middle East, where opposition to Israel can get conflated with anti-Jewish sentiment and certainly anti-Jewish movements. Anti-Semitic violence at synagogues for example is prevalent and threatening.

Muslim immigration to Canada has increased significantly and they are among the fastest growing religious groups in Canada. This is happening in a geopolitical context where there are significant terrorist movements who proclaim their work to be in the name of Islam. While Canadian Muslims have little or nothing to do with those groups and condemn the violence, it is a dark cloud that bhangs over their heads. The coincidental growing traditionalism, most evident in head coverings of some Muslim women, is a movement which is separate, but not unrelated, as some feel increasingly isolated and/or need to assert their cultural particularities. Some Canadians feel threatened or uncomfortable with this as there is opposition to traditional or religious garments of Jews, Sikhs, and Indigenous peoples. The contribution of Muslims in Canada tells an interesting story, as their numbers grow in major professions including medicine, law, politics, business, academia, entertainment, and even the NHL.

So we have a third Quebec government trying to bring in a law that limits religious symbols, a project that can never be trouble free.

A new Ekos poll which finds that 42 per cent of Canadians feel there are too many non-white immigrants to Canada is noteworthy, and more significant is that that number is at 71 per cent among Conservative voters, 34 per cent among Greens, 28 per cent among New Democrats and 19 per cent among Liberals. The high numbers on resistance to non-white immigration is worrisome, but also explains why Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pursue their particular lines of argument these days.

It would be terribly facile and unhelpful for Conservative opponents to brand them all negatively. Even 19 per cent is high, as is the 42 per cent average for Canadians.

On the one hand, the Conservatives should consider toning down their messaging—it usually doesn’t work well for any one, not even electorally. And for any progressive purists—don’t allow a “basket of deplorables” moment in Canada. It didn’t work out well for Hillary Clinton and it won’t work out well for Liberals here either.

Rather than finger-pointing and name-calling, it would be better for the country, as a whole, to calm the rhetoric on all sides.

And to the anti-racism activists, it is important to make the movement more accessible rather than less. Terminology needs to be easier to use and less exclusive. Every community, whether they be environmentalists, stock brokers or doctors, have a constantly evolving set of terms and acronyms that have the effect of excluding others. Now is not the time to insist the exact right and latest jargon, but rather to tone down the rhetoric.

All sides have a choice: politicize and drive wedges or lower the temperature and bring people together. Weaponize the debate or bring more people on to the side of combating division, supremacy, and phobias. It’s that simple.

Taking stock of Ottawa’s diversity promises

My latest in Policy Options:


Each of the mandate letters given to cabinet ministers by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the past three years has included the following commitment: “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.”

With three years of appointments under the Trudeau government’s belt, it’s possible to conduct an analysis of its record with respect to judicial, Governor-in-Council, deputy minister, head of mission and Senate appointments, using available data and public records.

The government has largely delivered on its commitment, but with mixed results on its promise to be more transparent on appointments…

Full article: Taking stock of Ottawa’s diversity promises