China could keep dual citizenship Canadians from leaving Hong Kong amid protests: lawyer

Legitimate worry:

A Canadian legal activist is warning the federal government to grant asylum to democracy activists in Hong Kong and expanded settlement to those with links to Canada before China prevents them from leaving.

The warning came Monday from Avvy Go, the director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, which has already helped bring Hong Kong pro-democracy activists to Canada.

There are 300,000 Canadians of Hong Kong descent in China, and Go says if Ottawa doesn’t act now to accommodate those who want to leave, Beijing will prevent them from leaving in the future.

“The time to act is now. As China continues to crack down on the democracy movement in Hong Kong, it may soon find ways to prohibit Hong Kong activists from leaving that city, period,” Go said Monday at a joint video press conference hosted by Amnesty International.

“Even with those who are Canadian citizens, China may refuse to recognize their dual citizenship status and deny their exit from Hong Kong.”

MPs from the four major Canadian political parties and one independent senator stood in solidarity with the proposals Go put forward at a virtual press conference convened by Amnesty International.

Canada, along with the United States, Britain and Australia, have condemned Beijing’s imposition of a new national security law that they say violates Hong Kong’s freedom from Chinese communist interference.

“This is the Beijing government’s most breathtaking, threatening and callous attack yet … discarding any pretence of fulfilling China’s international promises made when Hong Kong was handed over in 1997,” said Alex Neve, the secretary general of Amnesty’s Canadian branch.

Go called on the federal government to implement several immigration and asylum measures, to help people get out of Hong Kong before it is too late. They are:

— Expediting family sponsorship applications by Canadians with spouses and parents in Hong Kong.

— Expanding family-reunification sponsorship programs beyond parents and spouses.

— Issuing more temporary-resident permits, work visas and student visas.

— Granting refugee status to democracy advocates, and offering them stepped-up resettlement options.

Last year, Hong Kong residents took to the streets in mass protests against a proposed extradition law from Beijing that was eventually abandoned.

During that unrest, Go’s clinic received requests from Canadians of Hong Kong descent whose relatives participated in pro-democracy protests, she said.

Since Beijing announced the new security law, the clinic is getting calls from Canadians who are worried about their families even though they may not have been involved with the democracy movement, said Go.

“These are our people. And as parliamentarians dedicated to promoting and protecting democracy, we cannot stand by silently. I endorse all of the actions,” said Independent Sen. Marilou McPhedran.

McPhedran said she has travelled across Africa and seen the effect of China’s massive development spending, an influence-buying effort that many analysts say is a power play by Beijing’s ruling communist party.

“The weaponization of economic support is something that we need to understand better as we look at what is happening in Hong Kong,” said McPhedran.

“The violation of the Hong Kong Basic Law, which is the essence of what China is saying it is going to do, is in fact a precursor to threats to democracies in many other countries as well.”

Conservative MP Kenny Chiu, who was born in Hong Kong, said the people of his homeland respect human rights and the rule of law, and they are prepared to commemorate Thursday’s anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre that saw the Chinese army kill scores of pro-democracy student protesters in 1989.

“We’re witnessing in Hong Kong basic dictatorship in disguise, exerting its power out of fear for these values,” said Chiu.

Source: China could keep dual citizenship Canadians from leaving Hong Kong amid protests: lawyer

Fear over coronavirus prompts school board in Ontario to warn parents about racism against Chinese community

Not unexpected and always the challenge in communicating the origins of a specific risk and the impact on the community, irrespective whether historical tropes are involved or not. And I assume that some of these fears are shared by many Chinese Canadians:

The message York District School Board staff had been sending to parents on the coronavirus was pretty standard: Wash your hands; stay home if you’re sick; cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze. Then they saw the petition.

More than 8,000 people were calling for school boards in the region north of Toronto – a region in which the top reported ethnic origin is Chinese – to not allow students whose family members had travelled to China within 17 days to come to school.

On Monday, the York board released a note to parents to address another virus: anti-Chinese xenophobia.

“We are aware of an escalated level of concern and anxiety among families of Chinese heritage,” wrote Juanita Nathan, the board’s chair, and Louise Sirisko, its education director. “Individuals who make assumptions, even with positive intentions of safety, about the risk of others, request or demand quarantine can be seen as demonstrating bias and racism.”

Though public-health officials across the country have urged Canadians to take a measured response to the coronavirus, a panic akin to the one from 2003’s SARS outbreak has already taken hold. To date, there is one confirmed and one presumptive case of the new virus in Canada.

Avvy Go felt a tickle in her throat on the subway ride to work Monday, but willed herself to suppress the cough. She feared coughing on public transit as a Chinese woman might make her a pariah as it did for so many other Asian-Canadians during the SARS outbreak.

In Yellow Peril Revisited, a 2004 report about the impact of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) on Canada’s Chinese community, Ms. Go, the director of the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, detailed the myriad ways SARS affected her clients: Many suffered job losses after Chinese restaurants saw a steep drop in business; Asian claimants who appeared before the Immigration and Refugee Board faced staff wearing masks; and tenants reported being threatened with eviction by their landlords because they were Chinese.

Ms. Go shared much of this when she testified at Ontario’s public hearings on the SARS crisis but she was disappointed to find nothing about racism in the inquiry’s 2007 report. Recommendations on how to respond to racist rhetoric would have been helpful for future outbreaks such as this one, she said.

“As they prepare for the virus, they [should] also prepare for the virus of racism and have everything in place at the same time,” she said.

When Toronto Chinatown Business Improvement Area chair Tonny Louie addressed the crowd at Saturday’s Lunar New Year parade, he felt the need to explain his sore throat.

“I reminded everybody there that I do not have the virus. I just happen to have a cold,” he said.

The next day, he noticed a drop in business throughout downtown Toronto’s Chinatown and its dozens of restaurants – something he blames on fears about the virus. He repeated the message that the district was safe, as was the food, and called on politicians to have meals in Chinese restaurants as then-prime minister Jean Chrétien did during the 2003 SARS outbreak to signal to Canadians that doing so was safe.

But that sort of PR move might not be enough to counter racist messaging, given the power of social media.

In the past few days, video of a woman eating a bat with chopsticks in a restaurant has gone viral, with many suggesting, in posts heavy with racist rhetoric, that Chinese people eating foods seen as unusual to a Western palate has contributed to the outbreak.

The way in which the video has been shared has vilified and othered Chinese people, says Kevin Huang, executive director of the Hua Foundation, a Vancouver-based non-profit that promotes racial equity.

Rather than thinking of the coronavirus as an us-versus-them situation, Mr. Huang suggests using a global lens.

“Removing our Western exceptionalism and … humanizing [Chinese people] allows us to think about a more global concerted effort to try and contain this virus,” he said.

Why people would share misinformation like that while ignoring facts from public-health agencies speaks to how racist content “feeds into already pre-existing underlying biases or prejudices,” York University sociologist Harris Ali said.

In a research paper about SARS and the stigmatization of the Chinese population in Canada, he found that racist sentiments that had previously been internalized or only shared during private conversations “found explicit expression during the outbreak.”

Mr. Huang says the way some have drawn a connection between the virus and Chinese food is part of a long history of “yellow peril” or anti-Chinese sentiment.

Government policy that disenfranchised Chinese people, such as the head tax (an immigration tax imposed on Chinese arrivals), “fed into these tropes of this disgusting, uncivilized cultural grouping,” he said.

He has seen rampant misinformation and panic spread among Chinese-Canadians, too, some of whom are reacting to alarmist Chinese media reports. Last weekend, two Lunar New Year events in Vancouver were cancelled because of fear of the virus’s spread.

Ms. Go feels confident the Canadian health-care system is much better equipped to deal with containing coronavirus than it was with SARS, but she has little optimism about how it will contain the public’s fears.

“Unfortunately, because of the underlying racist attitudes that exist in Canadian society, it doesn’t matter what scientific evidence is there of how the disease has been contained, people will still believe what they believe,” she said.

Source: Fear over coronavirus prompts school board in Ontario to warn parents about racism against Chinese community Though public-health officials have urged Canadians to take a measured response, a panic akin to the one during 2003′s SARS outbreak has already taken hold
Fear, fear, fear.

The word appears repeatedly in the headlines and stories about the new coronavirus.

But what is fear? What causes us to be fearful? How can we assuage the public’s distress?

The dictionary definition of fear, the noun, is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat;” and the verb, “to be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening.”

In public health terms, “fear” is our perception of risk, of danger.

We tend to be more fearful of new threats to our health, such as coronavirus, than of well-established ones, such as influenza, no matter how irrational that is.

To date, there have been about 4,500 recorded cases of Wuhan coronavirus and 106 deaths. By comparison, three to five million people contract serious flu cases requiring hospitalization annually and somewhere between 290,000 and 650,000 die. Yet, both are respiratory illnesses spread in a similar fashion.

When it comes to being fearful, better the devil we know than the one we don’t, apparently.

If the unknown fuels fear – and it does – then our best weapon against coronavirus is knowledge.

The good news is that the science is advancing at breakneck speed and with an unprecedented level of co-operation.

The coronavirus genome was decoded in fewer than 10 days and the results shared publicly. As a result, researchers are already working on novel treatments and potential vaccine targets.

Scientific journals, normally highly protective of their papers, have agreed to share them with public-health officials prior to publication and lifted their paywalls for articles about coronavirus.

That means we already have a sense of how infectious coronavirus is (moderate) and a sense of who is being infected (a broad range of people) and who is dying (largely patients with underlying chronic conditions).

But, of course, good science alone cannot assuage fear.

The way public-health officials and the media communicate information is key to shaping perceptions. Increasingly, there is a wild card in this equation – social media.

The mainstream media fearmongers, however inadvertently, by using exaggerated language like “killer virus” and by fixating on body counts. When you constantly update the number of cases and deaths, you wildly amplify incremental change. Of course people will be scared. Imagine if we sent out push alerts for every tuberculosis death (1.5 million a year) and every measles death (140,000 annually).

Finding the balance between providing up-to-date information on a new threat and putting that threat into context is not easy.

On social media, there is too often little attempt to do so. From WeChat to Twitter, wild rumours and outright falsehoods fly routinely, as do unhinged demands such as shutting down all air traffic from China, quarantining all travellers and so on, with many of these purported measures driven by thinly veiled racism and xenophobia rather than science. (For the record, there is little evidence that massive quarantines or thermal screening of passengers has any benefit in stemming transmission of diseases like coronavirus.)

The most difficult communications challenge, however, lies with public-health officials who have to simultaneously track the shifting science, ratchet up preparedness and calm public fears.

Peter Sandman, a former professor of journalism at Rutgers University and a risk-communications guru, says the one thing public officials (or the media) should never do is tell people not to panic. That’s because, in crisis situations, people rarely do panic.

Prof. Sandman actually has a brilliant list of tips for those who need to calm people’s fears about unknown threats such as the coronavirus:

  • Don’t over reassure; talk about most likely scenarios rather than worst case ones;
  • Acknowledge uncertainty; paradoxically, saying “I don’t know” reassures the public;
  • Deliver clear, consistent messages;
  • Don’t be dispassionate; when experts speak of their personal fears, it makes them more relatable;
  • Give people things to do to protect themselves, such as urging handwashing; what fuels fear is powerlessness;
  • Don’t worry about panic, as was already mentioned.

What each of these elements has in common is that they are about building trust. What calms people’s fears is not just having information, but trusting the source of that information.

Risk communication is fraught with peril – and more often than not, we won’t get it quite right – but it is also essential.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is … fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Source: What should we fear more: Coronavirus or fear itself? During an outbreak such as the coronavirus, building trust through communication is key: André Picard

How the real issues facing people of colour are struggling to gain election traction

Quite striking that none of the people cited make any reference to the party platforms (Election 2019: Party Platform Immigration Comparison), where there are differences with respect to multiculturalism and anti-racism issues:

Although racism has been a prominent and recurring theme in this federal campaign, there’s little evidence that the real issues facing racial minorities in Canada are on the election agenda.

It’s a paradox, given key elements of this campaign. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was exposed for wearing blackface or brownface three times in his adult life. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is the first person of colour in Canadian history to run for prime minister.

A new Quebec law bans people from wearing a hijab, turban or any other religious symbol while working in the province’s public sector. People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier is campaigning on an end to what he calls “mass immigration.” And some of the most hotly-contested ridings in this election are among the most ethnically diverse in the country.

Yet to people who work on improving the lives of Canadians in racialized communities, the debate remains superficial. They’re calling for a much deeper look at what needs to be done to tackle the effects of racism on poverty, employment and the justice system.”When I’m looking at the campaign and across the parties’ platforms, I have to say I’m very disappointed the issues around racial justice [and] racial equity have not been addressed by any party in any substantive way,” said Avvy Go, director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic in Toronto.Even after Trudeau’s repeated use of blackface exploded into the spotlight early in the campaign, little changed, said Go.

“The focus with respect to that incident was whether Trudeau apologized for his racist act, as opposed to looking at the day-to-day systemic challenges and systemic racism faced by communities of colour and Indigenous people,” Go said in an interview.

She wants political parties to move on from the blackface incidents — “however repugnant and appalling” — to focus on policy discussions and concrete actions to deal with discrimination and its impacts.

So why didn’t that happen?

“Conversation about race is often difficult in Canada,” said Go. “A lot of Canadians still are not able to come to grips with the idea that there’s a lot of racism in our country.”Debbie Douglas, director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, agrees that the campaign has failed to address issues of racism. Her theory is it’s rooted in what she describes as a “polite Canadian” tendency to pretend that racism doesn’t exist, and a misguided belief that talking about it would conjure racism into being.Anti-racism groups have been trying to get the issues on the campaign agenda.

The Toronto-based Colour of Poverty Campaign issued a “racial justice report card” last week. The report card examined the Liberal, Conservative, New Democratic and Green parties’ platforms and rated their positions on such issues as criminal justice, employment, immigration and poverty reduction.

It declared that the leading federal political parties are not addressing the concern that “racial inequities are growing and deepening in Canada.”

In a pre-election nationwide survey of Muslims, a group called The Canadian Muslim Vote found that 79 per cent named Islamophobia as an important issue.

“This election was an opportunity for our party leaders and all parties to address this and I don’t think that it’s been done in a way that’s been satisfactory,” said Ali Manek, the group’s executive director. “Overall, I’ve been disappointed.”

He’s also critical that no leader has taken a strong stance against Quebec’s religious symbols law, Bill 21.

“I think all parties have let down the Muslim community and ethnic communities tremendously by not addressing it more head on,” said Manek.

He said he believes minority communities must get out and vote next Monday at a better-than-average turnout rate to put pressure on the parties for change.

“I think that’s a real message that we would be sending to the future prime minister of this country that we want a seat at the table and we want our issues to be addressed,” he said.

So how have race and racism been addressed in the campaign? “Laughably bad, just an all-around disaster from my point of view,” said Andray Domise, a contributing editor for Macleans’ magazine and a black community activist in the Toronto area.

Domise says the parties and most media coverage have been too focused what he calls “spectacle” over substance.

“The purpose of the campaign has been defeated because we’re not talking about people’s lives, we’re talking about how much we like or dislike certain candidates,” said Domise. “I’m a lot more interested in structural matters, what is it that policy can affect, that can improve people’s material lives.”

There’s a palpable sense of frustration and missed opportunity coming from everyone interviewed here. There’s also a clear call for the parties to propose ideas to tackle the disproportionate rates of unemployment, poverty and incarceration on people of colour. But with just a week left in the campaign, there’s little optimism that’s going to happen.

Source: How the real issues facing people of colour are struggling to gain election traction

NGOs tell UN panel Canada is failing on racism: Paradkar

Shree Paradkar reports on the NGO critique of Canada’s record in combatting racism (Debbie Douglas of OCASI, Avvy Go of the Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, Shalini Konanur, of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario).

While their points are largely valid, they portray a completely bleak picture when surely the reality is more nuanced. This may be the nature of the process when their role is to prevent an alternative view to the more positive portrayal of the government response.

But it is surprising, given that all three are Ontario based, that they do not mention the province’s anti-racism strategy as an example that the federal government should emulate.

And surely, is the change of federal language towards diversity and inclusion, the increased diversity of appointments, and other policy initiatives of the current government not worthy of note, while allowing for criticism where needed?

Every day when I read news from around the world, I have occasion to feel thankful to be in Canada.

Yet, I was surprised this weekend to hear many Canadians, revolted by the events unfolding in Charlottesville, Va., say: At least we’re not as bad. In reality, our history, too, involves slavery, indentured labour, brutal oppression and colonization. Our country, too, has thriving right-wing extremism.

It’s not Canadian to be flashy and to shout out our deeds from the rooftops. The flip side of this modesty is, when history judges those actions to be misdeeds, we are able to dismiss them as trivial because they were not as glorified as they were down south.

The dismissal allows us to masks the past and ease our collective conscience.

It’s precisely a recognition of those past misdeeds, their present consequences and a reckoning of current laws that a group of prominent Canadian NGOs are seeking in Geneva Monday, when they ask a UN body to hold Canada’s feet to the fire for failing to keep its promises to end discrimination.

The Colour of Poverty — Colour of Change and its members are asking the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) to recognize how Canada has “failed to comply with its international human rights obligations . . . and domestic human rights laws.”

“Racism is a matter of life and death,” for Indigenous peoples, their joint statement says, citing dismal socio-economic health indicators, suicides, murders and disappearances of thousands of people.

Both Indigenous and Black people are disproportionately poor and disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system.

“This is not the first time we brought this concern to the CERD committee, and yet very little has changed in more than a decade of our submitting shadow reports,” said Debbie Douglas, executive director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI).

The NGOs are calling for a national action plan on racism for Canada that would commit to combating discrimination in hiring, and funding anti-racist organizations.

Chiefly, it is seeking the collection of “disaggregated” data across all government departments.

This kind of data collection that specifies identities such as race, gender or disability is the minimum Canada needs so it can measure the impact of its policies whether in health or housing or jobs.

How do you try to solve a problem when you can’t quantify it?

“For instance,” says Avvy Yao-Yao Go, clinic director at the Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, “Under the Federal Employment Equity Act, the federal government has data on the representation of women, ‘visible minority,’ Indigenous peoples and people with disabilities in the federal public service.

“However, we do not know, for instance, of the “visible minority” categories, what are the percentages for people of African descent versus people of Chinese descent versus people of South Asian descent. Or under (the category of) women, how many are women of colour and from which communities.” [Comment: Actually we do from census data – see my Federal Employment Equity and Religious Minorities in the Public Service)]

Or, take Canada’s immigration law that allows people detained for immigration purposes to be detained indefinitely. More than 6,000 people were held in 2016-17, the agencies say, although more than 90 per cent of them were not considered a security threat.

“We recently participated in a case in federal court that sought to challenge indefinite detention,” says Shalini Konanur, executive director of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario.

“During that case we spoke with several detainees, and the vast majority were racialized. Currently, there is no race-based data being collected about detainees but we know anecdotally that racialized persons in Canada are disproportionately impacted by indefinite detention.”

The NGOs also want the federal and provincial government to remove barriers to the recognition of international training, and to amend the Ontario Human Rights Code to stop discrimination based on police data.

They are drawing attention to domestic laws that discriminate against specific groups.

In addition to immigrant detainees affected by law, migrant farm workers and caregivers such as nannies — the majority of whom are people of colour — are also vulnerable.

Migrant agricultural workers do not have access to permanent resident status. As for caregivers, their once guaranteed pathway to permanent residence was revoked in 2014.

Both groups have their work permit tied to a specific employer leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.

“While migrant workers contribute to social entitlement programs in Canada, their temporary status largely precludes them from accessing these programs,” said Amy Casipullai, an OCASI staffer.

The UN committee is expected to release its review on Aug. 25.

Source: NGOs tell UN panel Canada is failing on racism: Paradkar | Toronto Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate Hearings on C-6: Witnesses February 15-16

The Senate’ Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) committee started hearings this week on Bill C-6 repeal and other changes to the previous government’s C-24 legislation that made citizenship “harder to get and easier to lose”

Witnesses reflected a balance of views on the proposed changes with few surprises compared to the House Citizenship and Immigration Committee hearings last year, or for that matter, much of the discussion around C-24 in 2014.

The changed composition of the Senate compared to the 2014 C-24 review (more non-affiliated senators, Trudeau appointments) was reflected in the selection of witnesses and questions.

As expected, discussion focussed on the main elements of C-6:

Revocation (terror or treason): Witnesses from the CBA, Quebec Bar, Audrey Macklin, and Craig Forcese all supported repeal of this provision, Reis Paghtakan opposed its repeal but only for terrorist convictions in Canada, and CIJA and Julie Taub opposed its repeal in all cases. Questioning by Senators included the legal and constitutional aspects of revocation, whether or not this acted as a deterrent, and the possible impact this could have with respect to war crimes.   There was a useful discussion on the difference between revocation for misrepresentation and for crimes of terror or treason; the former pertaining to crimes committed before being granted citizenship, where misrepresentation was the issue, and crimes committed after being granted citizenship, where the issue was whether the criminal system was sufficient to handle such cases or a supplementary punishment through revocation was warranted. Needless to say, the issue of differential treatment for dual nationals and Charter rights was raised repeatedly. Forcese and Macklin noted the negative impact such differential treatment had with respect to integration and countering violent extremism.

Revocation (misrepresentation): While not part of C-6, the absence of procedural protections – paper process, no right to a hearing, no right to an appeal – was raised repeatedly with virtually all witnesses indicating this remained an issue. Most favoured a return to the previous system of appeals to the Federal Court. Taub, however, emphasized how easy it was to commit residency fraud and misrepresentation, the need for smart Permanent Resident cards to track entry and exit, but did not comment on the need or not for protections. CIJA acknowledged the need for some procedural protections but wanted to ensure that these did result in endless appeals as happened in the Oberlander case.

Language and knowledge assessment: All agreed language was important to integration. No witnesses disagreed with the proposed removal of language and knowledge testing for 14-17 year olds. Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (MTCSALC) noted time, money and educational challenges for their low-income and refugee clientele, the need for expanded language training and related supports such as child care and income support and greater flexibility to waive requirements on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. The cost of language assessment was also mentioned. CBA noted that writing the knowledge test in english or french imposed a double requirement and they would have been happy with keeping the testing requirement for 55-64 year olds but with the flexibility to do the test with an interpreter.

The most interesting recommendation was from Paghtakan, where he continues to advocate for scrapping language assessment as is a pre-requisite for economic class immigrants for permanent residency status. Duplication meant more expense to the government and more costs to immigrants. Most family class immigrants are parents and grandparents who would thus be exempt given the proposed change in age requirements while refugees could wait until they attain 55.

Chair noted earlier work by committee that showed 55-64 year olds formed about one-third of the active workforce.

Residency: Taub questioned the change in residency from four out of six years to three out of five, arguing that it was more generous than other countries and that this and other measures would increase the number of citizens of convenience. Paghtakan, while he had supported the four of six requirement of C-24, had no issue with the change to three of five given the maintenance of physical presence. The strength of Taub’s intervention on residency-related questions prompted Senator Petitclerc why all Taub’s points were so negative without mentioning the positive benefits of citizens contributing abroad. Taub cited citizens who install their family and return to the Gulf or Hong Kong where they can make more money and not pay Canadian income tax.

Intent to reside: Only Taub supported maintaining the intent to reside provision given its symbolic importance. The other lawyers testifying noted that situations can change following applying for citizenship and the consequent risk of misrepresentation cases and thus supported its repeal.

Pre-Permanent Residency time partial credit: Again, only Taub opposed restoring this pre-C-24 provision for Temporary Foreign Workers and international students, stating that this facilitated citizens of convenience.

Other issues

Oath: Paghtakan endorsed the TRC recommendation to amend the citizenship oath by adding the words “including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples” to assist new Canadians appreciate and understand this aspect of Canadian history and society.

Parental passing citizenship to children with no genetic link (in vitro): Quebec Bar raised gap in current legislation which based parental status on the genetic link (save for adoptions) rather than the relationship as in case of in vitro children.

Religious accommodation language testing: CIJA noted that many language testing centres only provided this service on Saturday (Sabbath), with extensive delays in accommodation.

Smart permanent resident card (chip or magnetic strip): Taub argued strongly that the PR card should be a smart card like any gym card that would allow tracking of entry and exit and make it easier for applicants to prove they met the residency requirements without having to search through documentation. (Comment: sounds good in theory but not a simple change, compounded by government challenges in managing complex IT projects as seen with Phoenix and Shared Services Canada.)

Fees: MTCSALC noted that the increase in citizenship processing fees from $100 to $530 made it prohibitive for many low income and refugee immigrants. The recent CBC article on the impact of citizenship fees on the number of applications was cited by Senator Eggleton. Taub argued that reduction was not just related to the increase of fees, that other factors — change in residency requirements, language testing — were also factors. She supported full cost recovery but with subsidies for low-income applicants.

For racialized communities, electoral reform is about more than voting | Toronto Star

While Avvy gets the numbers wrong – there are 47 visible minority MPs, not 46  (14 percent), close to the 15 percent of visible minorities who are also Canadian citizens and who can vote, her broader point on the need for better representation would benefit for more attention to the declining naturalization rate, and how that disproportionately affects visible minorities, and hence participation in elections (see Citizenship Applications: Third Quarter Continues to Show Decline).

Moreover, while it is legitimate to criticize the specific choices of which  visible minorities made it into Cabinet (four Canadian Sikhs, one Afghan Canadian), a broader look at senior political positions (parliamentary secretaries etc) and Senate appointments presents a more nuanced picture (see my Government appointments and diversity).

My focus is more on the declining naturalization rate given the longer term impact on social inclusion/cohesion and representation:

When the 46 so-called “visible-minority” MPs were elected to the Canadian Parliament in the 2015 election, some media called it a “watershed” moment in our history and a victory for Canada’s multiculturalism. In reality, out of a total of 338 seats, the politicians from different communities of colour represent just over 13 per cent of Parliament, while about 19 per cent of Canada’s population is made up of people of colour, with the largest three groups being South Asian, Chinese and black, who together made up 61 per cent of all communities of colour. When Trudeau named his cabinet, one that he described as looking like Canada, not one Chinese or black made it to his short list.

Today, tens of thousands permanent residents of Canada are denied the right to vote because of the strict naturalization law, not to mention the 200,000 or immigrants with precarious status who have lived and worked in Canada for years, in some cases decades, without ever given a chance to regularize their status.

As Canadians ponder which electoral system will be best for our democracy, considerations should be given for the following two questions:

  • Which electoral system will be best able to engage the marginalized communities, including racialized communities and new Canadians, in order to ensure their full participation in the democratic process.
  • Regardless of which system is chosen, what can we do to make our political bodies more fully reflect the makeup of Canada?

On both questions, the special committee report fell short. While the Report did make some passing references to the need to increase representation of “visible minorities,” no specific recommendation — or an attempt to come up with one — was made to address this issue.

This is in contrast with the committee’s treatment of some of the other under-represented groups, or groups that are not as engaged in the political process as they should, such as indigenous peoples, students, youth, people with disabilities, and women, where there were specific sections in the report devoted to analyzing how to increase their democratic purification, and in the case of indigenous people and women, their political representation. But even then, the committee did not offer any concrete solutions for these critical challenges.

The government has since been hosting its own online consultation to gather public opinion. Apart from offering no public education or information about the electoral reform process or the various possible options, the questions posted on Mydemocracy.ca are replete with false dichotomy.

Canadians are asked a number of “either-or” questions, as if the choices presented are mutually exclusive. One question assumes, for instance, a system that requires greater collaboration among parties would be less accountable. Another asks Canadians to choose between improving representation of under-represented groups and greater political accountability.

While there is no perfect system, there is no reason why we cannot aspire to design a system that is inclusive, accountable, and above all, responsive to all Canadians.

Source: For racialized communities, electoral reform is about more than voting | Toronto Star

‘Widespread’ workplace abuse persists for Chinese restaurant workers | Toronto

Worth noting, including some of the methodological limitations:

Chinese workers in Greater Toronto restaurants face “widespread and persistent” workplace abuse, including being routinely denied minimum wage, overtime pay and vacation pay, according to a new report.

The report to be released Monday finds that some 43 per cent of Chinese workers earned less than the minimum wage, currently set at $11.25. Over half of the respondents reported working more than 40 hours a week, but only 11 per cent of those eligible for overtime pay said they received it.

The majority of workers were also cheated out of their statutory entitlements, the report shows: 61 per cent said their employers denied them public holidays, and 57 per cent said they did not receive vacation pay.

“The experience of Chinese restaurant workers stands out as a powerful illustration of the atrocities suffered by some of the most vulnerable workers in our economy, as well as a demonstration of the complete failure of the Ontario government to act on its legal obligation to protect workers,” says the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic report called “Sweet & Sour: The Struggle of Chinese Restaurant-workers.”

Avvy Go, director of the clinic, said the findings were no different from a similar survey it did almost three decades ago.

“Unfortunately, nothing has changed in the last 30 years. Our clients come to us asking for help on the same issues over their employment rights. They are still paid half in cash, half by cheque, with a pay stub,” Go said in an interview.

“We are still banging our heads against the same system over and over again. We call the report Sweet & Sour because it is a good deal for restaurant patrons and owners but sour for the workers.”

The clinic undertook the survey to identify the scale of workplace exploitation experienced by Chinese workers, after being contacted by more than 600 clients with complaints about employment standards violations over the past three years.

 Because the 184 workers surveyed were identified using the clinic’s client database and through other organizations working in the Chinese community, the report acknowledges that there is a “high probability” that participants with legal issues are over-represented in the data. The report argues that the consistency of responses across multiple workplaces suggest a general trend within the restaurant industry, rather than isolated incidents involving a “few bad apples.”

Source: ‘Widespread’ workplace abuse persists for Chinese restaurant workers | Toronto Star

Ontario’s anti-racism directorate is a promising start: Op-ed

Commentary from community activists on Ontario’s planned anti-racism directorate and their proposed additional measures to reduce racism. Overly ambitious, given resource and other constraints (e.g., across all ministries and institutions – some prioritization would be helpful), but helpful to internal and external discussion of scope:

The Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate, on the other hand, is understood to be part of the government apparatus and is tasked with, among other things, helping the government to “apply an anti-racism lens in developing, implementing and evaluating government policies, programs and services.”

A promising start, but this anti-racism lens should also be used to evaluate legislation. Moreover, we are not convinced that the adoption of an anti-racism lens alone will eradicate racism. Clearly, there are a few more things that the directorate should and can do.

The directorate can be a repository of anti-racism expertise that different government departments can draw on in order to address racism systematically, and be responsible for research, analysis, and policy development based on the data collected and expertise of staffers.

It should take the lead in the creation of provincial standards for race-based data collection, and intra-governmental and inter-governmental implementation of the disaggregated data collection policies.

It must support the policy, legislation and program development and design process across the Ontario government by applying a racial justice lens so as to mitigate any harmful impacts on racialized communities (both First Peoples and peoples of colour).

And finally it should be a point of contact for communities to share their experiences, concerns and ideas about identifying and dismantling all forms of racism in Ontario

And to ensure greater accountability and government support, the head of the Anti-Racism Directorate should have the same power and role as a deputy minister, and be given similar capacity and budget as that assigned to the Ontario’s Woman Directorate and the Office of Francophone Affairs.

The establishment of the Anti-Racism Directorate is an important first step to redress racial inequality in this province. More must be done, however, if the government is serious about eradicating racism.

The government of Ontario must implement other necessary structural, program and policy changes including:

  • Establishing an Employment Equity Secretariat fully mandated and adequately resourced in order to implement a mandatory and comprehensive employment equity program in Ontario.
  • Collecting and analyzing ethno-racially and otherwise appropriately disaggregated data across all provincial Ministries and public institutions.
  • Amending the provincial funding formula for publicly funded elementary and secondary schools by introducing an Equity in Education Grant – a more robust redistributive mechanism rooted in a range of relevant equity and diversity measures and considerations – to ameliorate Ontario’s growing ethno-racially and otherwise defined learning outcome inequities and disparities.
  • Applying equity principles to all current and future government infrastructure investments – particularly renewable energy and “green collar” job-creating initiatives – to best ensure stable and sustainable futures for all Ontarians.
  • Establishing both the Anti-Racism as well as Disabilities Secretariats as mandated under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Minister Coteau has indicated that he will set up an advisory body to assist him with the next step. It is critical for the minister to engage in a full and meaningful consultation process to ensure that the voices of racialized communities are heard and included.

Source: Ontario’s anti-racism directorate is a promising start | Toronto Star

A ‘race lens’ for the labour market? Welcome to 2015, Ms. Wynne

While I am not sure that I agree with all of these recommendations as I am not familiar enough with existing structures to know whether these are needed, or more adjustment of existing mandates and roles would be more appropriate, this helps continue the conversation of the overall need for a diversity lens.

In Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote, the Ontario data confirms some of the gaps and challenges (particularly economic), as do any number of issues (e.g., police carding, Toronto school outcomes, children aid society statistics).

My preference is for a lens that integrates all the different aspects of diversity (gender, ethnic origin, sexual orientation etc) into policy, program and service delivery (see my earlier post, Jim Maclean: In Ontario, a new race-based government | The Limits of Anecdote and Assertion):

Having a racial-equity policy framework is just the beginning, however. If the Premier is sincere about bringing racial justice to Ontario, the following foundational steps are critical:

  • Establish an equity and anti-racism directorate to provide for the collection and analysis of ethno-racially and otherwise appropriately disaggregated data across all provincial ministries and public institutions. The directorate – with a pan-provincial government-wide mandate – would complement this data analysis by providing an ongoing monitoring and program development role for the integrated implementation of comprehensive and inclusive equity and anti-racism policies and practices.
  • Establish an employment-equity secretariat, fully mandated and adequately resourced in order to implement a mandatory and comprehensive employment-equity program in Ontario.
  • Amend the provincial funding formula for publicly funded elementary-secondary schools by introducing an equity in education grant – a more robust redistributive mechanism rooted in a range of relevant equity and diversity measures and considerations – to ameliorate Ontario’s growing ethno-racially defined learning outcome inequities and disparities.
  • Apply equity principles to all current and future government infrastructure investments, particularly “green collar” job-creating initiatives, to best ensure stable and sustainable futures for all.
  • Establish the anti-racism secretariat as mandated under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

With these and other similar measures, first peoples and peoples of colour will have a fighting chance of finally becoming equal members of our society. By 2017, these diverse communities will make up close to one-third of Ontario’s population. The time for action is now.