Lawyer who called for elimination of citizenship tests named to bench

I thought the right-wing press might notice Avvy Go’s appointment. Will be interesting to see how she manages the transition from a very public activist to being a more discrete judge:

A Toronto legal activist who questioned the need for immigrants to take immigration citizenship tests and said the COVID-19 pandemic has created an increase in racism in Canada, has been appointed a federal judge.

Blacklock’s Reporter said Avvy Yao-Yao Go has also lamented the “shameful history” of Canada’s first Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald.

Go had been director of a Toronto law clinic that criticized Canadians for “anti-China sentiment and white supremacy.”

Go described herself in a 2020 commentary in the Globe & Mail as a lawyer “fighting for social justice” and cohesion.

“The past several years of turmoil both in the United States and Canada have taught us our democracy is fragile and that structured racism, if left unchecked, poses a serious risk to social cohesion,” wrote Go.

Attorney General David Lametti appointed Go to the bench on Friday saying he was confident she will “serve Canadians well.”

Go was director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic of Toronto. The federally-funded group in a June 1, 2020 submission to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights complained of widespread racism in Canada.

“In contrast to the image of Canada as multicultural and welcoming, many Canadians have been emboldened to use the pandemic as a license to exhibit hate and racism,” said the submission to the UN.

“Moreover, since the outbreak of the pandemic, anti-Asian hate speech has proliferated on social media platforms fueled by right-wing extremists who are using the pandemic as an opportunity to stir up racist ideologies.

“The collision of conspiracy theories, anti-China sentiment and white supremacy has rendered dangerous results, including the movement of racist theories and messaging from the fringe to the mainstream.”

The group earlier received a $301,904 grant from the Canadian Heritage department.

“While the Prime Minister has remarked that ‘hate, violence and discrimination have no place in Canada’ and his government stands with ‘Asian-Canadians across the country,’ his government has failed to take any concrete steps to address the surge of hateful violence and messaging that has arisen during the pandemic,” said the report.

Meanwhile, Go in numerous commentaries and letters to editors criticized Canadians’ treatment of racial issues and proposed abolishing the citizenship test as a “hollow screening” of immigrants.

“The moment I became a true Canadian was the very moment when I began to challenge the Canadian system,” the Hong Kong-born Go wrote in 1998.

In a 2014 commentary in the Toronto Star, Go lamented the “shameful history” of Macdonald, “architect of racist law” that saw Canadians “forced to live in nightmarish conditions while Macdonald pursued his dream to unite Canada.”

“Given the stark human rights record under his belt, why should Canadians celebrate John A. Macdonald’s birthday?” wrote Go.

In a 2013 letter to the Globe, the judge wrote: “The term ‘visible minority’ is fraught with issues, the key one being it uses ‘white’ as a standard against which everyone else is measured.”

“As we prepare to mark Canada Day, Ottawa must admit past wrongs particularly against Chinese-Canadians,” she wrote Toronto Star editors in 2003.

Go was one of thirteen new federal appointees named to the bench Friday.

Source: Lawyer who called for elimination of citizenship tests named to bench

Budget funds tackling anti-Asian racism a ‘symbolic’ move, says expert, but foundation’s plans still in flux

Of note (significant for the CRRF as previous governments have not provided such funding if memory serves me correctly):

A “groundbreaking” boost to the Canadian Race Relations Foundation to help address the rise of anti-Asian racism is a welcome and “symbolic” investment, says one expert, but details of how it plans to spend the $11-million remain up in the air.

The federal government’s 2021 budget, tabled on April 19 by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ont.), earmarked $11-million for the foundation over two years, starting in 2021-22. Funds are designed to help the Crown corporation “scale up” its capacity and establish a “national coalition to support Asian Canadian communities.” A fund to support “all racialized communities directly impacted” by a spike in racist attacks during the pandemic will also be created, according to the 724-page document.

Mohammed Hashim, executive director of the foundation (CRRF), said the group is currently working on creating an anti-Asian racism strategy that it hopes to launch in the fall.

“We recognize that there is no one Asian community. There are many Asian communities, and we need to be able to work with all of them to make sure we’re doing things that are appropriate within each of those,” said Mr. Hashim. The summer will be filled with “a ton of consultations” with groups doing anti-Asian racism work, which will help inform “what a coalition could look like.”

By the fall, the foundation plans to release its organizational strategy in full, detailing different grant streams that will be available to external groups. Work is still underway internally to determine how much of the funding will be set aside to boost the foundation’s capacity—though Mr. Hashim said a “good portion” will be dedicated to ensuring the corp can “function as a national entity”—and how much will be handed to organizations fighting Asian racism. Membership of such a “coalition” is also still being discussed, he said.

Bill C-30, the government’s budget bill, has not yet passed and is being studied by the House Finance Committee. The Senate Finance Committee also launched a pre-study of the legislation.

Mr. Hashim, who was named to the post for a five-year term last fall, underscored the significance of the boost, noting it’s the first time the Crown corporation has seen money earmarked as a line item in the budget. Typically, the organization has relied on its endowment income and fundraising, but Ottawa’s “groundbreaking” investment will go toward helping it “embolden” its programming, he said.

The foundation, which falls under the portfolio of the Heritage department, “can play a national leadership role in anti-racism efforts,” said Mr. Hashim, adding the allocation signals the government has “confidence” in it to become just that.

Avvy Go, a director with the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic in Toronto (CSALC), agreed it’s a “good thing” that anti-Asian racism has been listed as a budget item for the first time, as it carries “symbolic” weight.

“But my question is whether $11-million is really enough. The Asian community is a very large community,” she said. According to the 2016 census, nearly 1.8 million people of Chinese origin alone live in Canada, amounting to five per cent of the population. For the Asian diaspora, that figure could climb to just under 20 per cent, she predicted. “So maybe $11-million, if we think of it as seed funding, that’s OK. But if that’s the total amount going forward, then we’ll probably fall short in addressing the complexity of the problem,” she said.

While she supports a coalition being formed, Ms. Go said funds need to be directly and quickly shared with groups that have “very strong track records” with members of the community, including hers and the ChineseCanadian National Council for Social Justice (CCNC-SJ).

“These organizations, some are run by volunteers, so if funding stops, some of the work may have to stop,” she said. “So it would be good for the government to continue to support them.”

The CCNC-SJ recently launched a campaign urging the public to “open its eyes” to anti-Asian racism, which includes a two-minute video that can be shared on social media. It features prominent members of the Asian community, like environmental activist David Suzuki, ice skater Patrick Chan, and Ms. Go herself.

Last year, the CCNC-SJ and South Asian Legal Clinic helped launch an online tool encouraging the public to log their experiences of racism. Heritage provided more than $300,000 for the project to help Ottawa in its efforts to tackle false and misleading information, and the racism and stigma that follows.

The grassroots initiative, which also partnered with other national groups, produced  preliminary results, reporting 138 cases between February and May 2020, with the vast majority (110) registered in May. (At the time, officials said the tool would be in place at least into 2021, and it still appears to be active.)

In the council’s final report, released in March, the organization found most of those who used the tool to report incidents felt they were being scapegoated for the pandemic. A total of 643 incidents were logged, 73 per cent of which included verbal harassment, 11 per cent that involved physical aggression or unwanted contact, and 10 per cent that involved being coughed or spat at. The budget frames the $11-million to the CRRF as an investment in recognition of this “especially disturbing trend.”

Keep the door open for more funding, says expert

Ms. Go’s group is among the “important partners” that will be consulted in the summer, said Mr. Hashim. “This is a groundbreaking investment for the organization from the federal government, and I think it’s one that we’re hoping to rise to the challenge to prove the organization deserves long-term funding,” he added.

To help inform its work on the file, Mr. Hashim said the group is hoping to take part in a virtual national summit on anti-Asian racism, organized by the University of British Columbia. (That event is from June 10 to 11, with the first day open to the public and the second day reserved for “sector leaders.”)

Mr. Hashim said he’s well aware that groups have been working on the ground for years. “There’s a lot of community groups that have a lot of interest in this and we don’t want to get ahead of them by saying, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ ” he said. “They are certainly leading the charge and we want to make sure we are working in tandem with them.”

As the foundation works to iron out details for its funding, there appears to still be a gap in the government’s overarching anti-racism strategy, unveiled in June 2019.

Last summer, Ms. Go noted this blueprint does not carve out specific efforts to tackle anti-Asian sentiments, though it does make reference to anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, Islamaphobic, and anti-Semitic discrimination. The recent budget does not outline any new funds for this strategy, but Ms. Go said she hopes “the door is still open.”

Over the last year, her group has been talking about the uptick in reported incidents with the anti-racism secretariat, which was established through the strategy and is headed by Peter Flegel. The feds appear to be working toward a definition of anti-Asian racism, she said, which could help “guide” work under its overall strategy, including the creation of specialized funding streams. “I’m hoping that as these conversations continue, there will still be an opening for the government to think about other streams of funding,” she added.

Ottawa ‘behind the eight ball,’ says Kwan

NDP MP Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, B.C.) said there are “a lot of unknowns” about how the foundation will spend its money, and pressed Ottawa to step up in a “key area” and directly assign funds to non-government organizations.

“The fact of the matter is, they have the trust and relationships with the people on the ground and they can also break down the cultural and language barriers,” she said. Ms. Kwan, who was born in Hong Kong, said she is worried the money will be project-based or temporary, instead of “dedicated, stable, and predictable funding” for the groups to better tackle anti-Asian racism.

“We can’t expect NGOs to be doing this work off the side of their desk,” said Ms. Kwan, adding she wondered why the feds took the route of providing the foundation with money instead of what “it normally does,” which is dole out funds directly to groups. (The overarching anti-racism strategy falls under Heritage, with the department responsible for evaluating and accepting proposals through its various funding streams.)

While the pandemic has seen a rise in anti-Asian hate and reported incidents, “it’s not like this is new to us,” said Ms. Kwan. “It’s always been here, and it comes and goes in different cycles at different times. Some sort of incident or some sort of interaction might spur some activities,” she added. Ms. Kwan recounted herself being subjected to such incidents, at times hearing the virus being referred to as the “Kwan-avirus.”

“Right from the beginning, this was happening. People were being attacked. So the government’s been talking about it for a year, about how to define anti-Asian racism? And they still haven’t figured it out?” she said. “That makes me want to weep.”

It’s clear the government is “behind the eight ball,” said Ms. Kwan, when anti-Asian racism is not captured in the feds’ overall strategy and it’s still talking about defining it. The timeline of “deliverables” is also up in the air, like when the funds will start flowing from the foundation to the groups.

Former Liberal Senator Vivienne Poy, whose appointment in 1998 made her the first Canadian Senator of Asian ancestry, said the foundation’s funds could go toward outreach efforts to younger Canadians.

“Racism is learned. Nobody is born with it,” said Ms. Poy, who spearheaded a motion designating May as Asian Heritage Month, which was ultimately adopted by the Senate in 2001.

“They can spend hours and hours consulting with whatever group, but the most important thing” is unlearning on the part of perpetrators, said the retired Senator, and helping them “learn about the positive sides of different cultures” to better understand the people they are attacking are Canadians too. “You can’t legislate and pass laws telling people how to behave.”

Source: Budget funds tackling anti-Asian racism a ‘symbolic’ move, says expert, but foundation’s plans still in flux

In the fight against anti-Asian racism, advocates say federal funds a ‘good start,’ but more support needed

As always…:

The head of an organization tasked with combating racism in Canada says the group is building a collaborative strategy to tackle the issue, but some advocates say more government support is needed to directly address the rise of anti-Asian racism.

Mohammed Hashim, executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF), said a centralized plan is needed to create real change, and that his group will consult directly with community organizations across the country to hear what supports are needed.

April’s federal budget allocated $11-million over two years to the CRRF to combat racism and empower racialized Canadians affected by racism during the pandemic. The budget document also specifies that the money can go towards establishing a “national coalition to support Asian-Canadian communities.”

Though many advocates see the funding as a positive step, some say the government is not doing enough to ensure the safety and well-being of Asian-Canadian communities.

“It’s a good start,” said Avvy Go, director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, “but it’s just as important for the government to support organizations that have a more specific mandate to address anti-Asian racism as an issue.”

Amy Go, president of the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice (CCNC-SJ), said she agrees the funding falls short. “Given that people’s lives are still being threatened – that we are still targeted, that we are being attacked and assaulted – hopefully the government would do more than just the $11-million,” she said.

A report released in March by the CCNC’s Toronto chapter and other advocacy groups found that 1,150 racist attacks against Asian-Canadians took place across Canada between March, 2020, and February, 2021, compiled from incidents reported to online platforms Fight COVID Racism and Elimin8hate. One thousand thirty-two incidents have been reported to date through Fight COVID Racism alone. Verbal harassment, targeted coughing and spitting, and physical aggression made up the majority of the incidents.

The CCNC-SJ’s Ms. Go said while the report presented a starting point for understanding anti-Asian racism during the pandemic, the incidents are underestimated because many cases go unreported. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

She added that the creation of a national coalition, as suggested in the budget, risks erasing the differences between Asian communities and not addressing their diverse needs and concerns. “We are not one monolith,” she said, adding that many heritages and backgrounds exist within Asian-Canadian communities.

Mr. Hashim said the CRRF’s plan is to consult with local groups across the country to understand their needs, and also empower them to do their own work. The $11-million in funding will go towards researching and developing a strategy to combat racism, with a portion also allocated to community organizations.

“A Crown corporation is not going to solve racism,” he said. “It’s going to work in collaboration with community groups, who are deeply connected to the people that they serve.”

Xiaobei Chen, a sociology professor at Carleton University, said she wants to see the government invest in public education on the existence of anti-Asian racism and rising hate crimes against Asian-Canadians during the pandemic.

“People don’t think it’s serious,” Prof. Chen said. “People don’t think that it’s something that we actually need to think about, what we can do to actually invest seriously in solving.”

Investments to combat anti-Asian racism should take many forms, CCNC-SJ president Ms. Go said, adding that money isn’t the only thing Asian communities need from the government.

“We need to think more broadly – along the lines of the systemic policies that will bring about long-term change.”


The federal budget took steps toward racial justice — but activists say more must be done

As always. The funds allocated in Budget 2021 are significant compared to earlier budgets and we will see how effective they are through the regular evaluation processes and other analyses:

Advocates for Black, Chinese, South Asian and other racialized Canadians say the federal budget takes a number of positive steps toward building a more inclusive country, but more work needs to be done to address systemic racism in Canada.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland tabled the Liberal government’s first budget in two years on Monday. The budget proposes massive amounts of spending to contend with the uneven impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and pledges to create a million jobs within a year by funding an inclusive, equitable economic recovery.

To address systemic racism, the document sets aside $11 million over two years to expand the activities of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, a non-profit Crown corporation tasked with combating racial discrimination.

Source: The federal budget took steps toward racial justice — but activists say more must be done

Asian Canadians see flaws in federal anti-racism strategy

Not surprising. The challenge is that once you name one group, others understandably feel their circumstances should also be referenced, with recent increases in anti-Asian attitudes and actions prompting this latest call. Unfortunately, no magic bullets or solutions, just an all too long slog:

Advocates for Asian Canadians are calling for improvements to the federal government’s anti-racism strategy to confront a surge in anti-Asian racism.

Avvy Go, executive director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic in Toronto, said the strategy failed to specifically mention anti-Asian racism in its foundational policy document. The document does cite anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia as key targets.

“It’s a serious flaw in the current strategy,” Go told CBC News.

“We hope that the government will amend the strategy and, more importantly, they will develop concrete actions to address racism of all forms.”

The call comes amid a reported surge in anti-Asian hate crimes across the country and abroad during the pandemic.

According to a report published in March by the Chinese Canadian National Council, more than 1,150 instances of anti-Asian racism were reported through two websites — and — between March 10, 2020, and Feb. 28, 2021. Misinformation and racist beliefs related to the fact that the novel coronavirus first emerged in China are behind the surge in attacks, the authors wrote.

In Vancouver, the police department reported that anti-Asian hate crimes climbed from just 12 cases in 2019 to 98 in 2020 — an increase of 717 per cent.

And data from Statistics Canada released in July 2020 suggest that Canadians with Asian backgrounds were more likely to report increased racial or ethnic harassment during the pandemic than the rest of the population. The largest increase was seen among people of Chinese, Korean and Southeast Asian descent.

Go, a Canadian citizen who was born in Hong Kong, said she’s had several frightening experiences herself.

Source: Asian Canadians see flaws in federal anti-racism strategy

Physical assaults, spitting on older people and children among soaring number of anti-Asian hate incidents reported in Canada

Of note. Shameful, whether directed against Asian Canadians or other minorities. Still waiting for 2019 police-reported hate crimes data to see what they captured (only have general by motivation and most serious violation, no breakdowns by group or religion):

Avvy Go was walking home from work on a summer day in Toronto last year when a group of young people blocked her route on the sidewalk.

Without a word, one person spat at her, the spittle landing at Go’s feet.

Horrified, Go yelled, “Excuse me!” but the group continued on, laughing among themselves.

“I was just taken aback. I was just stunned,” said Go, director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. “For some of us, every time we step out, we have to worry if we will be targeted again.”

Go’s fears are common: anti-Asian racism has been growing across the country, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC) Toronto chapter, which for the first time details the nature of attacks that seem to have intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

From verbal insults to physical assaults, including being spat upon, 643 complaints were submitted to the council’s online platforms from March 10 to Dec. 31, 2020. Overwhelmingly, these incidents were fuelled by false and racist beliefs about the spread of COVID-19, according to the study’s authors.

“In addition to the ways we know COVID transmits, the spitting and coughing symbolizes a revenge, as if an act of ‘Go back where you came from, where the virus came from,’” said Kennes Lin, a social worker and co-chair of the CCNC Toronto chapter, who was one of the report’s authors.

The document’s release comes just days after six Asian women were shot dead at multiple massage parlours in Atlanta, Ga. The March 16 killings prompted protests against anti-Asian racism in major cities in North America, including Montreal.

Canada has also witnessed an increase in anti-Asian racism. Last July, Statistics Canada reported that more than 30 per cent of Chinese Canadians perceive themselves to be at a higher risk of possible violence or harassment. In February, data released by Vancouver police showed a 717 per cent increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in the city last year.

While the majority of incidents in the CCNC report involved verbal harassment, close to 11 per cent of victims reported physical force being used against them and nearly 10 per cent said they were coughed or spat upon.

Notably, youth under 18 and adults age 55 and older were 233 per cent and 250 per cent more likely to be coughed and spat upon during a hate incident. Attacks described in the report range from a young child being thrown off a bicycle to an older woman being punched in the eye on public transit.

Other findings in the report include:

  • About 73 per cent of those who reported incidents said they suffered emotional harm or mental distress from what occurred. About eight per cent reported physical injuries. 
  • Individuals who reported an incident in a Chinese language as opposed to English were 34 per cent more like to suffer emotional distress from the incident and 100 per cent more likely to have experienced a physical assault.
  • Close to 50 per cent of incidents occurred in public spaces (park/street/sidewalk), while another 17 per cent took place in grocery stores or restaurants.

Though Go chose not to report the incident she experienced, as she felt nothing would come of it, hundreds of Asian Canadians have turned to community organizations like the CCNC and their partners to report racist incidents.

The council launched a web portal in March 2020 specifically because it was being inundated with calls about disturbing attacks across Canada in a way it hadn’t seen prior to the pandemic. Many said they were not comfortable reporting to law enforcement as there is a lack of trust or they feel they won’t be heard.

Another 507 hate incidents were logged on the site from Jan. 1 to Feb. 28 this year, but were not included in the analysis.

Go said the prevalence of spitting and coughing toward Asian people in Canada is due to the false, racist belief that Asian people are responsible for bringing COVID-19 to the country. 

“It’s almost like this is the way of saying: You give me the virus, I’m giving it back to you,” she said. Go was one of many individuals who provided an initial review of the CCNC report.

Spitting or coughing on someone deliberately, while a deadly virus continues to devastate the population, is done not only to infect Asian Canadians, but also to follow through on a warped sense of vengeance that feeds into long-standing stereotypes around Asian people and disease, said Lin.

“It means an intense level of dehumanizing, disrespect, scorn and disregard,” said Lin.

Building the railroad in the late 19th century in Canada, Chinese migrants had to live in crowded, substandard housing that led to people falling ill, fuelling stereotypes about Asian people being “diseased.” A head tax was in place from the late 19th to early 20th centuries to deter immigration, throwing migrants into poverty before they even arrived.

Meanwhile, the British had characterized Chinese people as “full of diseases” during the Opium Wars in the mid-19th century and those stereotypes rooted in colonialism show up in the hate incidents Asian Canadians are experiencing during the pandemic, said Josephine Pui-Hing Wong, a professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, who specializes in health disparities.

Wong says the Atlanta shootings last week evoked memories of racist incidents she faced growing up in Canada. She recalls classmates comparing her to sexualized Asian women in western movies, or men accosting her, claiming they had an “Asian fetish.” 

“(Racism) is in the Canadian psyche because for hundreds of years, white supremacy has constructed this kind of knowledge that racialized people are inferior,” she said. “But then when COVID-19 comes out, when the United States president says racist things, people feel that they’ve been given a permit to go out and be violent,” she added, referring to statements made by former president Donald Trump.

The fetishizing of Asian women and the targeting of migrant women, specifically sex workers, as some of the more vulnerable groups amid rising anti-Asian hate incidents is an element the CCNC is highlighting as well, said Kate Shao, a lawyer and board member.

The report shows about 60 per cent of the incidents have impacted Asian women. The Atlanta shootings, resulting in the deaths of Asian women, struck a chord on that data point, she said. 

“There’s an additional impact that women feel, and especially women in precarious immigration status. A lot of that is heightened because of the hypersexualization, fetishization that we’ve seen,” she said, referring to the treatment of women during the Vietnam and Korean wars.

Children are also emotionally impacted by the racism they’ve experienced in schools, said Lin. The CCNC had reports of hand sanitizer being sprayed at Asian children, she said.

In the wake of the Atlanta shootings, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce released a statement acknowledging that “anti-Asian racism is on the rise” and said he’s working to curb hate incidents occurring in the school community.

The CCNC report shows that most incidents have occurred in public places. For places like local businesses such as restaurants and grocery stores, their report recommends implementing specific anti-Asian racism policies to protect employees and customers, said Shao.

It’s disheartening that the Atlanta attacks are what has caused some institutions or groups to finally speak out on anti-Asian racism, when groups like the CCNC have been speaking on it for months, she said.

In order to create their data analysis, the CCNC used one-time funding from the Canadian government that ends this month.

“We have over 1,000 reports of racism, and where do we go from there?” she asked. “There’s a lot the government needs to do to step up and fill in these gaps.”


Federal government must allow for immigrants and refugees to receive Canada Child Benefits

Would be helpful to their case if they would provide some estimates of the number of “refugee claimants and other individuals with precarious immigrant status” affected. The total number of refugee claimants as of December 2020 is about 80,000 (IRB data) with no reliable numbers for others, a relatively small number. However, there is merit to their arguments for those who are working and paying income tax:

Given that As COVID-19 rages on, the federal government has rightly extended several emergency benefits, including the Canada Recovery Benefits (CRB) — though not to all in need.

This is welcome news for many Canadians, particularly women and racialized community members, who are among the hardest hit by the pandemic triggered economic downturn. The January 2021 Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey showed unemployment rate has increased to the highest level since August 2020, with core-age women posting the largest employment declines in the month and many racialized groups continuing to experience disproportionately higher job loss rates.

The CRB and its predecessor CERB have kept many struggling families afloat, including many migrant workers and people with precarious status, who could access these benefits with a valid work permit.

During the pandemic, the government has also made an additional one-time payment of $300 per child for families who are receiving the Canada Child Benefits (CCB) and a promise of an additional $1,200 for eligible families with children under six in 2021.

However, not every child in Canada, and not every family in need, is able to enjoy this quasi-universal benefit.

To qualify for the CCB, an applicant parent must be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, protected person, or a visitor who has lived in Canada for at least 18 months. 

Excluded from accessing CCB are refugee claimants and other individuals with precarious immigrant status, even though many are working legally and filing personal income tax return. In some cases, these families have Canadian-born children, but are still denied CCB because of the parents’ immigration status.

The denial of CCB has a disproportionate impact on women who are still the primary caregivers for children in most Canadian families. Given that the vast majority of people with precarious immigration status are people from the Global South, the denial of CCB adversely affects individuals from racialized communities, who have long been overrepresented among the low income population in Canada.

The federal government has been promising since 1989 to end child poverty. Most recently, the government reprioritized this issue with the release of its national poverty reduction strategy in 2018, followed by poverty reduction legislation that received royal assent in 2019. This strategy calls for a “human rights-based approach to poverty reduction, [one that] reflect[s] principles that include universality, non-discrimination and equality, participation of those living in poverty, accountability and working together.”

Despite this, 1.3 million children, or 18.2 per cent of children, live in poverty in Canada today. Before the pandemic, in many parts of the country, that rate was on the rise.

Child poverty is more prevalent for communities marginalized by race, gender, and their immigration status. 

The exclusions of CCB based on immigration status have been in our law books for many years. Former bureaucrats involved in the design of the child benefits scheme could not explain why these exclusions were introduced in the first place, other than noting that the government of the day did not anticipate that refugee claimants and others in similar situations would be working legally and filing income tax. 

The CCB is a proven tool to reducing child poverty. Access to this benefit for families with precarious status is a matter of equity and justice.

As the federal government prepares for its 2021 budget, there is no better time than right now for the federal government to move swiftly. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has set forth an economic vision of an intersectional feminist and green recovery in the last fall fiscal update. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that no one will be left behind in pandemic response and recovery efforts to build back better. 

But without investments to support families who are falling through the cracks, these words are empty.

People with precarious immigration status are important members of our communities. They are doing the essential work to keep us safe and the economy going.

The federal government should honour its human right obligations and stop discriminating against low-income children and families with precarious status by providing them with immediate access to the Canada Child Benefit.


Online forum launched to fight racist backlash Chinese Canadians face during the pandemic

From the more activist Chinese Canadians. Will be interesting to see the information that the forum collects on the backlash and related analysis:

Brad Lee is a fourth generation Chinese-Canadian man who was born in Calgary.

Yet, despite those strong ties to Canada, he still sometimes gets treated like an outsider because of his race — especially since COVID-19 came to Canada.

One instance Lee, a historian and consultant, talks about and that makes this point clear happened just before the first lockdowns in Ontario hit.

It was March of last year, while the coronavirus was spreading. Lee was sitting in a medical office waiting to do a routine test unrelated to COVID-19.

A white woman walked in with her son, Lee recounts, stared at Lee and said loudly while glaring at him: “You guys, you front-line workers are so brave. You never know who will walk in here.”

It was part of the backlash that people of Chinese and Asian descent in Canada and around the world have faced since the pandemic spread.

That’s why Lee, who is also a former Toronto Star editor, decided to launch the #FaceRace Campaign, a new online resource tool that explores the lived experiences of what it’s like to be Chinese during the pandemic.

#FaceRace includes links to stories about Chinese and Asian Canadians and the micro-aggressions, racist comments and outright attacks they regularly face, as well as racism they’ve experienced since COVID-19 hit.

The online resource also provides tips on what to do when faced with racism — “stay calm” is the first step recommended — and how to reply when someone makes a racist comment such as saying “Like you, I’m also stressed and hurting from this virus — but your racism is making it worse, for all of us” and “most Canadians aren’t racist. What’s your excuse?”

Members of the Chinese community are also encouraged on the website to continue building allies in the Black and Indigenous communities, whose members are fighting back against racial inequities as part of a worldwide movement sparked by the killing of George Floyd, a Black, man slain by a white police officer in the U.S. last year

The online forum is a joint project between the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice (CCNC-SJ) and the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (CSALC), in partnership with other Canadian organizations. The project is funded by the Government of Canada.

Avvy Go, director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, says the most important point of the resource is that Canadians don’t understand the long history of Chinese and other Asian Canadians in this country.

“There’s a lot of hidden anti-Asian racism that has existed for a long time and not talked about and addressed in mainstream society. During times like this (COVID) it pops up in the open. COVID made this visible,” Go said.

She said the goal of the project is for Asian Canadians to confront racism.

“Very often Asian Canadians don’t want to talk about race or racism. They want to pretend it doesn’t happen to them,” she said.

Go also wants the issue out there so the federal government and other levels are moved to address anti-Asian racism.

Lee, the content developer of the online resource, says a major motivation for developing the tool kit is the fact that the coronavirus was “deeply racialized from the beginning in a way that is detrimental to my community.”

Reading all the reports about the backlash and the racism against Chinese people sparked by the coronavirus, Lee says he has felt “super disappointed, saddened and ashamed as a Canadian” — to see the attacks in Canada.

“I felt ashamed because we have these vaunted values of multiculturalism, diversity and appreciation for each other and yet the first reaction in Canada — likely out of fear — was racist blaming of Chinese (people).”

The history of Chinese Canadians is one of resilience, he goes on to say. In that vein, Lee says he wants #FaceRace to encourage Chinese people to speak up when faced with discrimination — whether or not it relates to COVID-19.

“Victims become more knowledgeable about racism than perpetrators ever will because the victims have to process what happened, think about it and figure out what to do about it.

“They have to speak out about it. Even if that means talking to a friend, they’re on the pathway to putting their victimhood behind them,” Lee says.

Source: Online forum launched to fight racist backlash Chinese Canadians face during the pandemic

Avvy Go: Canada’s immigration rules kept families apart even before COVID-19. Now, as immigrants suffer from the pandemic, family reunification seems impossible

Given that the underpinning of immigration policy is to address an aging demographic, calling for an increase in parents and grandparents beyond the 30,000 is unrealistic. In many ways, the overall increased levels provided the government with flexibility for this increase.

With respect to spousal sponsorship, Go cites a 2015 memo that was rightly condemned as being overly simplistic and biased in its guidelines to visa officers and is no longer being used, I believe.

But like in other areas, spousal sponsorship fraud exists and the government has an obligation to counter it. The question is more in the how, and it is ducking that hard question by only suggesting “anti-oppression” and “anti-racism” training. Perhaps the authors could develop an alternative draft manual or operational guidance bulletin as a more concrete approach to the issue:

The COVID-19 pandemic has made many of us reassess our priorities. It has made us realize that the most important thing in our lives is not money or wealth, but family and health.

Story after story of Canadians losing their loved ones to the deadly virus are gut-wrenching. 

Equally devastating are reports of individuals being barred from visiting their parents or grandparents languishing in nursing homes overrun with COVID-19 cases, and essential workers in the health care being kept apart from their family to keep them safe. 

But for some Canadians, these people are the “lucky ones” — that they’re at last able to see their loved ones through a window, or live in the same area to drop off goods and gifts. But when your parents and spouses live on a different continent, it’s heartbreaking and isolating with the pandemic, and that isn’t even the reason why families and loved ones are being kept apart.

Even before COVID-19, Canada’s immigration policy had already made family reunification an impossible dream for many. The stringent income requirements imposed on sponsors of parents and grandparents (PGP,) and the mean-spirited quota system for this class of immigrants, have disqualified many low income Canadians from becoming sponsors. While the Liberals have relaxed the income rule and promised to increase the quota to 30,000 people in 2021, these measures are insufficient to meet the needs of tens of thousands of Canadians, whose ties with their parents are strengthened not only by love, but by culture and a strong sense of filial piety — to honour and respect their elders.

It should not come as a surprise that the top two source countries of PGP immigrants are India and China, which have both embraced the notion of extended family as a norm. However, given the racialization of poverty in Canada, Canadians of South Asian and Chinese descent are also among those least likely to meet the tough income rule to render them eligible sponsors.

These two communities, along with other racialized communities, have also been hardest hit by the pandemic-triggered economic downturn. With the rising unemployment rates among these communities, it may take years before they could earn enough income to make themselves eligible sponsors again.

While income eligibility is no bar to spousal sponsorship, Chinese and South Asian Canadians who want to bring their spouse to Canada often have their application denied due to systemic bias and racism within the immigration system.

Under the pretext of stopping “fake marriages,” Immigration Canada routinely rejects spousal sponsorship applications, particularly from countries like China, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. According to an internal IRCC documentrecently released by the Star, IRCC sees visa officers as “first line of defence” against marriage of convenience, rather than as civil servants whose job is to assess all applications fairly and objectively. 

The internal document is also filled with culturally and racially biased notions of what a genuine marriage should look like, and what evidence must be presented to support such applications. For instance, IRCC appears to rely on a three-page training which warns officers about sham marriages based on “photos of couples who are not kissing on the lips during the ceremony; university-educated Chinese nationals who marry non-Chinese; a small wedding reception; a Canadian sponsor who is relatively uneducated, with a low-paying job or on welfare.”

Using these criteria, none of the clients served by our two legal clinics would ever qualify. On reflection, our own long-term spousal relationships could easily have been considered “fake marriages.” Whoever came up with these preposterous indicia are probably white, belong to middle or upper-middle class, and know nothing about any other culture but their own.

Instead of relying on any “manual,” immigration officers should receive anti-oppression and anti-racism training to ensure all their decisions are biased free, so that all Canadians, regardless of their race and income, would have an equal chance to family reunification. Let’s hope the COVID-19 is not the only virus that will disappear after the pandemic. 

Let’s get rid of the virus of racism once and for all.


Canada’s fiscal update may be feminist in its approach, but it’s not so intersectional

A bit of a tortured piece as the authors struggle between finding fault and faint praise. The government has made significant investments in anti-racism initiatives (even if more could be done) but these are targeted initiatives. The various benefit programs have been relatively generous in terms of their coverage, with the main inequalities being between front-line service workers (disproportionately women and visible minorities) and those being able to work remotely. And most of these are residence-based, not on being a citizen or permanent resident, contrary to their assertions:

On Monday, Canada’s first female Finance Minister delivered the fall economic statement (FES), and appropriately, she declared that Canada’s pandemic recovery “must be feminist and intersectional.” But while Chrystia Freeland’s proposed mini-budget arguably meets the former aspiration, it does not seem to meet the latter.

The FES provides a modest increase in child-care investments, additional dollars for the child-care work force, and a promise to make these increases permanent. The Liberal government deserves praise for making child care a priority for economic recovery.

But a feminist budget must also be anti-racist, or else the government would end up privileging a certain segment of the population while leaving groups that already experience pre-existing structural inequities in worse shape.

The government gave an encouraging nod to supporting anti-racism initiatives with $50-million over two years to expand the anti-racism action program and multiculturalism program. It also allocated funding to expand the anti-racism secretariat, restated a previously announced pilot program to build opportunities for Black-owned businesses, and promised to review the Employment Equity Act as it is applied to the federal public sector.

However, it lacks an overall anti-racist framework for budgeting, or targeted investments for communities of colour. The FES does not state how the government plans to redress long-standing racial gaps in the labour market, which have significantly widened during the pandemic.

Statistics Canada’s most recent labour-force survey confirms that Canadians in Arabic, Black, Chinese and South Asian communities experienced much higher unemployment rates and much higher increases in unemployment rates over the past year compared with white Canadians. The government promised to create more jobs through massive infrastructure investments, but it did not guarantee these jobs will be made equitably accessible to those under-represented in the labour market due to structural racism and other forms of discrimination.

It’s also worth noting that the government earmarked $238.5-million to be spent on body cameras for RCMP officers to “respond to concerns about policing from racialized communities.” That money could have been used to strengthen programs for racialized youth, or more directly combat systemic racism within Canada’s national police force.

The government rightly decided to boost the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) for low-income families, but has again failed to repeal the discriminatory provision under the Income Tax Act that links CCB eligibility to immigration status. Low-income racialized women with precarious status who dutifully file income tax still cannot access the CCB, even for their Canadian-born children.

They are the same mothers, along with others, who are denied access to almost all COVID-19 emergency benefits, including the CRB and CERB, because they lack permanent status in Canada – despite disproportionately being the ones who put their and their families’ lives at risk by doing essential work.

The FES promises long-overdue investment in long-term care to improve their infection control, but does nothing to enhance the sorely needed culturally appropriate long-term care facilities for racialized seniors.

The pandemic has amplified major racial inequalities in employment, health care, access to senior care, housing, justice and education.

While the government works on a “feminist and intersectional” pandemic recovery plan, we must also reimagine what a society founded on justice, equity and dignity should look like.

Let’s not revert to the common refrain of austerity and deficit fighting that will only benefit the privileged few at the expense of everyone else. We have here a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make government spending count.

The government can start by making anti-racism more than just the “plus sign” of its gender-based analysis and elevating it to equal footing with its stated feminist agenda. Specifically, it should create a national action plan against racism, with concrete strategies, actionable goals, measurable targets, timetables and necessary resource allocation to address all forms of racism including anti-Indigenous, anti-Black and anti-Asian racism, as well as Islamophobia.

The government claims to want to proceed with a recovery for all. Strengthening employment equity for the federal public sector, attaching employment equity measures to all federal investment and recovery programs through mandated Community Benefits Agreements (which would give racialized and other under-represented groups equitable access to any new jobs created and equal benefit from all investment), and eliminating immigration status as a gateway requirement to accessing federal benefits would be the place to start.

Avvy Go is the clinic director at the Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. Debbie Douglas is the executive director of Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants. Shalini Konanur is the executive director of South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario.