In capitals around the world, there is no joy in a Biden win

Authoritarians of a feather, stick together:

In major cities across a divided United States, Americans celebrated this weekend as Joe Biden became their president-elect. A number of liberal democracies joined in congratulating Mr. Biden, hoping for a return to something close to normal after four years of Donald Trump’s chaotic, unpredictable and damaging retreat from the global order.

But not all world leaders are so excited for a change in U.S. administration. For some, Mr. Biden signifies a return to normative Barack Obama-era preaching about human rights, a renewed commitment to multilateralism and to global climate action at the expense of their hyper-nationalist agendas, and a restoration of Chinese appeasement policies in exchange for short-term U.S. trade gains.

Leaders in Israel, Egypt, Saudi and the United Arab Emirates, for instance, have benefited greatly from Mr. Trump’s presidency. His transactional foreign-policy approach, favourable view toward unfettered arms sales, and disregard of their human rights abuses have all resonated positively. A Biden administration, on the other hand, may reverse the sale of advanced F35 warplanes to the UAE, and it will surely be more critical of Saudi bombings using U.S.-made warplanes in Yemen. Despite sending congratulations for the president-elect, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egypt’s autocratic Abdel Fattah el-Sisi have lost a friend with Mr. Trump’s exit. Perhaps more importantly, Mr. Trump’s unilateral “maximum pressure” strategy against Iran was welcomed by these Middle East leaders; Mr. Biden, meanwhile, has vowed to reopen multilateral negotiations on a nuclear agreement with that country.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government in Turkey, which has purchased Russian-made missile defence systems and whose state-owned Halkbank faces indictment in the U.S. for allegedly funnelling money to a sanctioned Iran, will miss Mr. Trump too. Mr. Biden has unreservedly supported the NATO alliance’s military interoperability, which will comfort European allies frustrated by both Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Trump.

Europe isn’t necessarily unanimous in its celebration of Mr. Biden, however. While Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Polish President Andrzej Duda found ideological common ground in Mr. Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-EU, populist-nationalist views, Mr. Biden has referred to those leaders as “thugs.” Meanwhile, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will have to deal with Mr. Biden’s tough talk against a reinstated customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – unwelcome complications to Mr. Johnson’s already fraught Brexit negotiations with the EU.

Despite Russia’s Trump-boosting election-interference efforts, President Vladimir Putin may have a mixed response to Mr. Biden’s win. Mr. Trump added more sanctions on Russian officials, approved arms sales to Ukraine and declined to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea. But the chaos Mr. Trump brought to the United States did help Mr. Putin quash domestic discourse about the virtues of liberal democracy. Mr. Biden, meanwhile, has already affirmed his support for Russian civil society and democracy advocates, surely triggering memories of Hillary Clinton’s perceived interference in Russia’s 2011 pro-democracy protests.

In Asia, Mr. Biden’s criticism of India’s illiberal turn – with its new citizenship law and lockdown of Kashmir – will not go over well with Indian PM Narendra Modi, even though Mr. Trump hadn’t budged on a U.S.-India trade deal. Both Mr. Modi and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte appreciated Mr. Trump’s supportive tough talk on Chinese military expansionism, both on the disputed Himalayan border with India and throughout the South China Sea. While Mr. Trump may be seen by Asian countries such as Vietnam and Taiwan as a more effective countervailing force to China’s ascent than Mr. Biden, who is likely to pursue re-engagement with Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo are relieved all the same to see Mr. Biden elected, given Mr. Trump’s repeated threats that he would remove U.S. troops from South Korea and Japan.

In the Americas, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has been among the ranks of the world leaders remaining silent in the wake of Mr. Biden’s election win. Mr. Bolsonaro, who has been dubbed the “Trump of the Tropics,” has been criticized by Mr. Biden for Brazil’s deforestation of the Amazon and his government’s failure to control raging wildfires. Similarly, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has struck up an unlikely rapport with Mr. Trump, shared Mr. Trump’s interests in increasing investments into fossil fuels and stemming Central American migration. On both of these issues, a Biden presidency – which is likely to bow to progressive forces within the Democratic Party and change course – could potentially complicate the Mexican-American relationship.

In cities such as London, Paris, and Toronto, people reportedly celebrated Mr. Biden’s win with fireworks, the ringing of church bells, and jubilant noise-making from their balconies. But for the international leaders who might have gotten comfortable with the trajectory of the last four years of discord, a Biden administration might now represent a Trump-sized system shock of its own.

Bessma Momani is a professor of political science at the University of Waterloo and senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

The startling impact of COVID-19 on immigrant women in the workforce

Good detailed analysis of disparities:

While the mantra for the COVID-19 crisis has been “let’s build back better,” it will be impossible to do so without acknowledging that this pandemic has hit demographic groups unequally. Immigrant women faced many challenges in the workforce before COVID, but this pandemic has had a way of further exacerbating existing social and economic inequities. To ensure we come out of this crisis with a more resilient economy and better institutions, it is essential that we understand the differentiated impact of the pandemic on our diverse communities and bring forth policy ingenuity to make sure workers and their families are not left behind.

The impact of the pandemic on the labour market has been profound, particularly for women. The overall gender differences in the impact of COVID-19 are partly due to school and daycare shutdowns and the crisis in our long-term care centres. Gendered norms still designate women as the ones to step up and tend to our homefront, which has compounded the daily care responsibilities of many women during the pandemic. But the closure of economic activity has also directly induced larger drops in the employment of immigrant women.

Undoubtedly, the pandemic has had devastating effects on new entrants to the labour market, young adults and recently arrived immigrants. Yet among workers with more secure jobs – those aged 25 to 54 and immigrants arriving more than 10 years ago – the differentiated impact on immigrant women is startling. Employment rates for these immigrant women dropped by 12.2 percentage points between May 2019 and May 2020, according to our calculations using Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey. This compared to drops of 7 percentage points for Canadian-born men and women and of 8 points for immigrant men.

Employment rates offer one view of the labour market. A falling number indicates that workers have quit or lost their jobs. Unemployment rates, on the other hand, measure the fraction of individuals who do not currently have jobs but are actively looking for work.

In the year between May 2019 and May 2020, the unemployment rate of these immigrant women dramatically increased, by around 7 percentage points. During that time, the unemployment rate of Canadian-born men and women and of immigrant men rose significantly less, approximately by 4.5 points. It is worth noting that increases in unemployment rates were even higher among recent immigrant women (9.6-point increase) but not recent immigrant men (4.3-point increase). Even more troubling is the fact that immigrant women with high levels of education were particularly disadvantaged. University-educated immigrant women experienced the largest unemployment rates, 12.6 percent in May 2020, 7.3 percentage points higher than in May 2019. In contrast, university-educated Canadian-born women experienced unemployment rates of 5 percent, only 2.7 percentage points higher than last year.

We know that workers in the service sector were more negatively impacted than in other industries. Clearly, we are travelling less, eating out less, and we shifted our purchases to online shopping instead of visiting bricks and mortar retailers. However, even within the service sector, shutdowns affected immigrant women workers differently.

To illustrate, the bars in Figure 1 show the year’s growth in unemployment (May 2019 to May 2020) across service industries for immigrant women and Canadian-born women. Unemployment rates are most pronounced in retail trade and information, culture and recreation sectors, and are quite significant in finance and insurance. In the retail sector, unemployment rates of immigrant women increased by 9 percentage points, whereas that of Canadian-born women rose only by 2.3 percentage points. To get a rough sense of the severity of the shutdown across industries, the blue dots in Figure 1 show the increase in the number of women from these sectors who report that they are unemployed. The hospitality and retail trade industries have seen the largest of such increases with 142,000 and 132,000 more women being unemployed, respectively, this year over last.

As well as realizing the differential impact of the pandemic, it is important to understand the differences in the recovery process so far. Even if preliminary, the most recent Labour Force Survey data indicates that immigrant women are still further below pre-pandemic employment levels than men and other Canadian women.

Figure 2 shows the difference in employment rates between August and February 2020 for different groups. Larger bars indicate that employment rates are still far from those seen in February, before the pandemic, with immigrant women showing the largest differentials.

The differentiated labour market impact of the pandemic on immigrant women compared to other groups, including the differences within sectors, is more likely to be related to the precariousness of their work. They tend to work in hourly jobs rather than salaried jobs and have weaker protections in their labour contracts. Many immigrant women are underemployed, working in low-skill, part-time, and high-risk occupations. This has been decades in the making.

It is particularly worrisome that education does so little to mitigate the adverse effect of the pandemic for immigrant women.

Among the longstanding challenges immigrant women face in the workforce, the lack of recognition of their foreign credentials, their lack of Canadian work experience, and their limited access to social capital and professional networks are some of the most important. Since many immigrant women are also racialized, these constraints feed into systemic biases in hiring and advancement that affect immigrant women’s careers. It is particularly worrisome that education does so little to mitigate the adverse effect of the pandemic for immigrant women. In the retail and accommodation service sector, for instance, settled immigrant women are more than twice as likely to hold bachelor and postgraduate degrees than Canadian-born workers in the sector, but during this crisis their higher levels of education did not insulate them from being more likely to lose their jobs. These trends in the recovery are worrying and require policy action to course-correct.

As much of the Canadian federal government funding to businesses and workers is winding down, we need to ask what other policy instruments can help us get out of our economic predicament, particularly with increased recognition that some of the economic activity, and the jobs associated with it, will never return. So where do we go from here?

Undoubtedly, business trends point to an acceleration of the digital economy, increased automation of tasks, rise of artificial intelligence, reshoring production in response to supply chain disruptions and increased reliance on gig workers. These plausible trends will challenge policy-makers in charting an economic recovery path and finding the right policy instruments to ensure equality of opportunities for all workers. Looking to emerging economic sectors might be part of the answer. The green economy remains under invested in and society’s normative turn in favour of climate action and sustainability means that green jobs will be needed.

The time is ripe, then, to invest in workers to take advantage of the new economy. The opportunity to direct these investments in ways that address the diversity of our communities should not be passed over. Government should increase support for projects of social value – shovel-worthy over shovel-ready projects – that make use of diversity talent and promote fairer access to employment for immigrant women and those who are racialized, whose talents are currently underutilized. Further, investment in upskilling and retraining displaced workers – those hardest hit by the pandemic – will be needed across the country. Given the large portion of immigrant and racialized women who fall into this unemployed group, training needs to be designed, tailored, and delivered to improve their employment outcome.

Canada’s social and economic well-being cannot afford to let marginalized groups repeatedly fall through the cracks. We need to find innovate ways for immigrant women, particularly those who are racialized and newcomers, to not be left behind in the post-COVID economic recovery. Otherwise, building back better will be for some and not for all.

Source: The startling impact of COVID-19 on immigrant women in the workforce

A GBA+ case for understanding the impact of COVID-19

Agree. Starts, of course, with better and more comprehensive data:

In the COVID-19 era, Canada needs to better understand the relationship between identity and health. To do that, we need to use intersectional analysis, the study of the way identity categories such as gender, race and ability interconnect to create discriminatory systems that impact individuals in different ways. Fortunately, we have a policy tool in our policy toolbox for precisely this purpose, and it can and should be deployed by provincial ministries of health across this country: Gender-Based Analysis plus (or GBA+). Our federal government has been using GBA+ for years across many departments, though it is not mandatory for all federal departments. But it is in use at the Privy Council Office, Finance, the Department of National Defence and Health Canada. There is therefore a wealth of Canadian policy experience with this tool, and we need GBA+ now more than ever. 

The GBA+ tool was developed by the federal Department of Women and Gender Equality (WAGE), formerly Status of Women Canada. It is an approach to understanding sex and gender alongside other identity factors such as race, ability and age, to assess how various groups experience policies, programs and initiatives. The aim of GBA+ is the creation of equitable policies, programs and initiatives — equitable from inception to execution. Awareness of the differential impacts that government policies and actions have on different identity groups is central to that goal.

There are no hard and fast rules on how GBA+ should be done; in fact, it is perhaps best thought of as a competency rather than a methodology. In other words, there is no set formula to achieve equity in all situations; rather, progressing toward equitable change requires the continued cultivation of knowledge about various groups, the challenges they face and potential avenues for change. Nevertheless, GBA+ consistently relies on the use of disaggregated data, in addition to other forms of research, to gain insights into policy. Reliable data are essential to effect change, especially with identity-based issues. Showing patterns of discrimination is more compelling than anecdotal accounts in documenting a need for policy change. GBA+ also requires the monitoring and evaluation of the effects of policies on Canadians. It is not enough to enact change; change must be equitable.

Properly applied to the government’s COVID-19 response, GBA+ would have directed policy-makers to draw on fine-grained differentiated data to evaluate equity considerations. In asking whether policies are equitable, GBA+ analysts ask whether policy outcomes track a range of identity factors, including race, ethnicity and socio-economic background. Thus, if GBA+ had been applied to provinces’ public health response to COVID-19 from the start, requisite data would have been collected from the outset. These data, as the trickle of international evidence is making increasingly apparent, are key to targeting necessary medical supplies, policies and programs to those most affected, and hence helping to curb the spread of the virus.

GBA+ directs policy-makers to include identity-based considerations in the formulation, deployment and evaluation of their policies. Of course, GBA+ is not perfect: critics sometimes charge that it is too abstract, offering little actionable guidance to policy-makers. While its goals may be commendable, it is not always readily apparent how GBA+ should influence decisions within a specific portfolio or policy. This is why proponents of GBA+ argue it is a competency rather than a methodology. Policy-makers need to develop the ability and experience needed to make equitable decisions. Whether or not this response satisfies critics, it is true that GBA+ has clear implications in the context of COVID-19. If it had been employed in the appropriate offices before the pandemic, it would have helped policy-makers see and act upon considerations of identity in the making of health policy, including in their collection of data. Even at this later stage, the deployment of GBA+ would significantly improve our understanding of the virus and our response to it.

Several Western countries have discovered that factors linked to social determinants of health, most notably race, ethnicity and socio-economic status, are closely related to infection, hospitalization and death rates In Canada, however, we are flying blind, as COVID-19 data collection has been limited so far to age and sex.

Our obliviousness to the potential relationship between race, ethnicity and socio-economic status and infection, hospitalization and death rates will negatively impact our ability to control the spread of the virus in the short term and impair our understanding of how this virus impacts societies’ well-being in the long term. In response to criticism about this gap in data collection, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, for example, has said that statistics based on race aren’t collected in Canada unless certain groups are found to have risk factors.

Frankly, this position just does not align with mounting international evidence that race, ethnicity and socio-economic status have an impact on health outcomes related to COVID-19. A recent study released by a United Kingdom think tank, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, finds that minority groups are overrepresented in hospitalizations and deaths from the virus, with Black Britons nearly twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as the white British majority. Similar patterns have emerged in the United States, where the Centers for Disease Control confirmed that current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups. New York City, for example, has recorded a disproportionate death rate among African-Americans (33.2 percent) and Hispanics (28.2 percent), and a Washington Post analysis shows that American counties that are majority-black have three times the rate of infections and almost six times the rate of deaths as counties where white residents are in the majority

There is further reason to apply a GBA+ lens to race, ethnicity and socio-economic data of those infected, hospitalized or succumbing to COVID-19. Academic studies have noted that racial discrimination, specifically when directed against Canada’s Black and Indigenous people, may itself be a determinant of chronic diseases and their underlying risk factors. Clearly, racial and ethnic inequalities in health outcomes are found throughout Canada, but the severity of these inequalities varies across racial and ethnic groups, further illustrating the importance of intersectional analysis. Moreover, academic evidence notes that a failure to distinguish between Canadian-born visible minorities and visible minorities who are immigrants to Canada is a key gap in Canadian health data of racialized individuals. This further indicates the importance of taking intersectionality into account when collecting health data.

When policy-makers truly embrace GBA+ as a lens for equitable policy-making, we can then better assess the toll of the pandemic. Only with an intersectional lens on the impact of COVID-19 on society will we see the differentiated impact of this virus on individuals and communities. Thus far, we have been flying blind, but it may not be too late to make a course correction in our COVID-19 policies.

Source: A GBA+ case for understanding the impact of COVID-19

How Syrian refugees to Canada have fared since 2015

Early indications for Syrian refugees. Given timing of Census (about a year after arrival), too early to draw definite conclusions. However the longer term analysis of refugee economic outcomes, broken down by private sponsorship and government selected, along with country of birth, are more interesting and informative:

The life of a refugee can be many things—dangerous, wearying, heart-rending, boring, nerve-racking, expensive and full of countless unexpected challenges to overcome. It also appears to be quite noisy.

Right now, for instance, the Kitchener, Ont., apartment of Jehad and Baraa Badr is cacophonous—much of it baby noise. Their older son, Hussam, has dropped by with grandson Zain for a playdate with a neighbour’s young child, who is also visiting. Younger son, Adam, makes his own contribution to the din. As do various electronic devices: some reminders for prayer time, others bringing texts and phone calls from friends and family. Rising above all this clamour, however, is Jehad’s exuberant account of the wonders of life in Canada, his gratitude for the help his family has received so far and his many plans for the future.

“I love being here. I love my friends. I love Canada,” he says loudly and with enthusiasm, his expressive body language making up for obvious struggles with language. “Good equality in Canada. Good government. No Syria government. No help.”

After spending three years in Egypt and Turkey—having left war-torn Syria behind in 2012—Jehad, Baraa and nine-year-old Adam arrived in southwestern Ontario in spring 2016 as part of the massive wave of Syrian refugees admitted into Canada following the last federal election. Hussam and his young family arrived a month later. Two other sons, however, will never arrive. Frustrated by the long wait in Egypt, they paid smugglers to take them across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy and then made their way to Austria, where they now live permanently.

This separation of their family is just one of the many tests the Badrs have had to endure since fleeing their homeland. As with the rest of the more than 50,000 Syrian refugees who have arrived in Canada since 2015, settling into Canadian society requires grappling with the many cultural nuances and obligations of their new home. But most significantly, it means mastering a new language and finding employment. “I need a job,” says Jehad, 59, in his halting, declarative style. “I need English. But job and school? Problem.” It is a problem with both personal and political implications.

If there was a single defining issue of the 2015 federal election, it was debate over the proper national response to the Syrian refugee crisis—a question seared into our collective consciousness by that heart-wrenching photo of young Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body being carried away on a Turkish beach.

Demands for a political response to the humanitarian emergency immediately changed the course of the federal campaign. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government would take a total of 10,000 additional Syrian refugees—arguing that to accept any more would create security risks—while maintaining Canada’s military presence in the Middle East as a check on further crises. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau upped this to 25,000 refugees by the end of the year, and vowed to withdraw our squadron of CF-18s. NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair topped both of his competitors by saying he’d accept 46,000 over several years, as well as end Canada’s military contribution.

In the end, Canadian voters apparently found Trudeau’s offer of 25,000 refugees the most persuasive. And while he failed to make good on his initial deadline, the Prime Minister’s goal was realized by mid-2016. Since then, the flow has slowed but is nowhere near stopping. The most recent count of Syrian refugees admitted into Canada since the election stands at 58,650, exceeding even Mulcair’s highest bid. For this effort, Canada has earned many admirers. “Thank God for Canada!” read a headline in the New York Times this year, lamenting the fact America under President Donald Trump had accepted only 12,000 Syrian refugees.

But taking in large numbers of refugees to widespread international acclaim is one thing. Integrating them successfully for their own happiness and well-being, and to prevent any urgent political or social issue, is quite another. With nativist sentiment rising around the world, and with the emergence of irregular refugees as a new hot-button political issue in the upcoming federal election, it seems both appropriate and necessary to check on the progress of the class of 2015/16. So how are Canada’s Syrian refugees doing?

Statistics Canada recently took a close look at that first cohort of 25,000 Syrian refugees who landed as of May 10, 2016. Employment is the most important metric by which to gauge the integration of refugees into Canadian society. And here the news seems rather disappointing. Only 24 per cent of adult male Syrian refugees were working, according to census data. For government-sponsored male refugees (as opposed to those sponsored by charities, churches or other private organizations), the employment rate was a mere five per cent. These figures are substantially below the 39 per cent average for male refugees from other countries. The gap between female Syrian refugees and those from other countries is equally significant: eight per cent versus 17 per cent.

Such low rates of employment are largely explained by the demographics and timing of the Syrian refugee cohort. In response to the humanitarian crisis, Canada adjusted its acceptance criteria to include more young families with children and fewer working-age males. Standards for language skills and education were also lowered. More than half the Syrian refugees could not speak an official language, compared to just 28 per cent of refugees from other countries. Among adults, less than half had even a high school diploma. (Neither Jehad nor Baraa Badr are high school graduates.)

For Bessma Momani, professor at the Balsillie School of International Affairs and senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, the relatively poor performance of the Syrian refugees in finding work is entirely understandable given their profile. “Canada did a good job of targeting the most vulnerable people,” she says. “This group includes semi-skilled and mostly uneducated people. Some were also injured.” It makes sense that a group chosen for humanitarian reasons would take longer to find their footing in a new country than migrants selected for their employability, she says. Plus, it’s still early days. Many of the Syrian refugees had been in Canada for only a few weeks or months when the census was taken. It would be a supreme accomplishment for anyone to have found a job and learned a new language in such a short time.

As for political fears raised during the 2015 election about security risks and the national capacity to absorb such a large influx of refugees, Momani notes time has proven such claims misplaced. “Canada is a big country with a lot of capacity,” she says. “The debate between 10,000 and 25,000 was really just an arbitrary distinction since we have now taken in over 50,000.” And she highlights how popular providing aid to Syrian refugees proved to be among voters. “I think that surprised many Canadian politicians,” she adds.

Syria’s diaspora may no longer be the dominant political topic in Canada, but refugees remain a key election issue—except that now it’s marked by a growing note of skepticism. After years of pressure from federal Conservatives over the influx of more than 40,000 irregular refugees through unauthorized border crossings, mostly in Quebec, the Trudeau government is now adopting a much tougher stance toward these asylum seekers. The 2019 federal budget, for example, proposes to take away their right to a full refugee hearing; it also boosts funding for border measures to “detect and intercept individuals who cross Canadian borders irregularly.” These irregular border-crossers are mostly from Africa and the Caribbean, not the Middle East.

In another recent development signifying a change in mood toward refugees, the 2019 Ontario budget eliminates all legal aid funding for refugee and immigration programs.

As for the long-term consequences of Canada’s mostly generous approach to refugees, another recent StatsCan study looked at all 830,000 refugees who entered Canada between 1980 and 2009 and found their employment and earnings tend to improve slowly over time, but with some significant variations. Refugees who were privately sponsored seem to do better than those sponsored by the federal government, but this difference evaporates after about a decade.

One puzzle that appears permanent, however, is the role played by culture in the integration process. After 15 years in Canada, StatsCan notes that refugees from certain countries (Yugoslavia, Poland, Colombia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and El Salvador) had earnings largely indistinguishable from immigrants accepted on strict economic criteria. But refugees from some other countries (Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and China) appear to do noticeably worse, even after accounting for factors such as education, language skills and age. StatsCan admits it has no real answer as to why such differences persist.

It is perhaps too soon to tell which category the Syrian refugees will fall into, but the early figures show those who arrived in late 2015 are already more likely to have a job than those who came a few months later, suggesting a fairly rapid process of integration. “I think we’ll see a lot of new small businesses coming out of this group of Syrian refugees,” says Momani, noting anecdotally that the national shawarma shop sector appears to be undergoing substantial growth. “I suspect by the next census, the numbers [of employed Syrian refugees] will have greatly improved. There is a lot of early success out there.”

Of course the biggest barrier to early success in the job market remains language. And this often requires some difficult choices for newcomers to Canada.

Shortly after arriving in southwestern Ontario, Jehad [Badr] enrolled in an English language school located in the basement of Waterloo’s First United Church, which supported his family’s refugee claim. “First six months, I go to English school. But I need job. I have rent. You need money,” says Jehad, who owned an auto upholstery repair shop back in Syria.

Mounting bills and a gnawing desire for independence eventually convinced him to drop out in favour of a job at a local patio furniture manufacturer. “I wish I go back to school. Maybe when I am old man,” he laughs. Sometimes Jehad answers questions twice, first in Arabic to his son Hussam, who acts as a language coach, and then again in English.

In contrast, Baraa, 49, has stuck with her language training and is now close to graduating. “When I am done, maybe I study more or look for a job,” she says.

Having chosen work over study, Jehad has already weathered two layoffs in the past two years as a result of the seasonal nature of the patio furniture business. A monthly $3,000 stipend from the church has long since run out and now rent consumes more than half his income. But he remains determined to pay his own way. Responsible for reimbursing the federal government for the cost of his family’s flight from Turkey, Jehad declined the option to pay it back at the modest rate of $9 per month.

“The government got $200 every month. Finished. No debt,” he states proudly, wiping his hands together. To supplement his income, he has also been doing small upholstery jobs on the side. And to save on expenses, he has discovered the wonders of Kijiji. “Six chairs and table. Twenty-five dollar!” he exclaims in disbelief, pointing across his small but homey apartment to his family’s “new” dining room set.

Independent, proud, hard-working and frugal. In many ways, Jehad already seems plenty Canadian. Perhaps the fact the enormous influx of Syrian refugees no longer constitutes a federal election issue can be partly ascribed to Jehad’s impressive work ethic and gregarious nature. As well as his family’s determination to fit into Canadian society. (They will be applying for citizenship shortly.) He even claims to love winter.

“In Syria, when winter comes one day, we drive 50 kilometre to see ice and snow. Everyone excited. Here… ” Jehad tails off, searching for the words to explain how Canadians don’t seem to get quite as excited about the cold stuff. But you get the sense he’ll eventually figure it out. A new home always takes some getting used to.

Source: How Syrian refugees to Canada have fared since 2015

Chris Selley: What — and who — comes after Rahaf Mohammed?

Appears the government overplayed its hand in its communication strategy, both with respect to the Ministerial welcome (all too tempting) and the ongoing (and understandable) gap between the welcoming rhetoric and actual numbers.

However, Ms. Alqunun’s social media sophistication and poise in her CBC interview is impressive:

If Canada were a proud and principled beacon unto the world’s most downtrodden, as so many so often claim, then one might have expected Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun to arrive at Pearson Airport in Toronto on Saturday with relatively little fanfare.

Canada resettles tens of thousands of refugees every year, after all, and many are fleeing circumstances just as horrific as the Saudi teenager’s abuse by her family. Canadian government officials are guarding Alqunun’s current whereabouts partly on grounds she might still be in danger even halfway around the world — an idea given credence by Dennis Horak, who was Canada’s ambassador in Riyadh until he was expelled over the summer.

Indeed, Saudi-Canadian relations are not in terrific shape just at the moment, thanks to our public rebukes of its treatment of activists, and granting immediate asylum to the world’s highest-profile Saudi refugee seems unlikely to help matters. One might very reasonably not give a damn about the House of Saud’s amour propre, but Ottawa would clearly prefer to repair those relations. Quite apart from anything else, it would give Canada more-than-zero leverage in lobbying on behalf of those activists — including imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi, whose wife is a Canadian citizen.

There were no good reasons to make a big show of Alqunun’s arrival, in other words, and plenty of good reasons not to. Furthermore, Justin Trudeau has been very clear about what he thinks of using refugees as political props. He was at his most thespian back in 2015 when it was alleged Stephen Harper’s office had been sifting through applications from Syrian asylum-seekers in search of potential photo ops.

“That’s DIS-GUST-ING,” Trudeau hissed at a campaign stop in Richmond, B.C. “That’s not the Canada we want; that’s not the Canada we need to build.”

In the end, though, there was Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland with her arm draped around Alqunun, announcing that this “brave new Canadian” would not be taking questions. Luckily, Freeland herself had arrived equipped with some crimson talking points.

“I believe in lighting a single candle,” she said. “Where we can save a single person, where we can save a single woman, that is a good thing to do. … And I’d like to also emphasize, this is part of a broader Canadian policy of supporting women and girls in Canada and around the world.”

“Canada is a country that understands how important it is to stand up for human rights, to stand up for women’s rights around the world,” Trudeau chimed in.

It would be well-nigh impossible to argue against hearing, at the very least, Alqunun’s claim for asylum. But at this point, she is certainly also a political prop — a living symbol of the Liberal view of Canada’s place in the world, and an always-welcome opportunity for self-congratulation.

“We are demonstrating our moral leadership on the issue of gender equality,” University of Waterloo professor Bessma Momani wrote in The Globe and Mail. “It was another proud moment for Canada,” gushed Catherine Porter, The New York Times’ Toronto correspondent. It “further cement(ed) the country’s status as a bastion of refuge in a world where Western nations have become increasingly hostile to refugees,” the Times’ Twitter account effused.

“Any woman from Saudi Arabia should be able to make a credible case for asylum in this country based on the human rights abuses they endure there,” the Toronto Star’s editorial board averred. And on and on and on.

Saudi Arabia is a country of 33 million people. So no, not every woman there can claim asylum in Canada. I suspect the Liberals might balk at five high-profile claims in rapid succession. That’s what they do. The Liberals made a big show of resettling 25,000 Syrian refugees while various European nations accepted many multiples of that; now they brag about how accepting Canadians are of refugees relative to Europe, as if one didn’t largely explain the other. They denounce any worries about asylum-seekers crossing the border illegally as rank intolerance, while waving the new arrivals into an interminable and disastrously under-resourced queue.

There are millions upon millions of displaced people around the world in whom you might expect a giant, wealthy and mostly empty country that prides itself on resettling refugees to take an interest. They aren’t even on the radar. NDP MP Charlie Angus has a more realistic take on what Canada is: “Thousands languish in camps and Chrystia Freeland promotes sale of death machines to Saudis as children die in Yemen,” he tweeted in response to Freeland’s airport press conference. “Foreign policy must be more than smug theatre,” he added.

Well, there’s the rub: Must it?

Canadians of all political stripes take inordinate pride in objectively modest contributions to all manner of global problems. There is nothing inherently disreputable in feeling pride when your country does the right thing — but only if you insist that your country does the right thing continually, coherently and consistently once the warm, fuzzy feeling fades away. Once she’s settled, if she is inclined to remain in the public eye, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun might be the ideal person to hammer that point home.

Source: Chris Selley: What — and who — comes after Rahaf Mohammed?

Diversity Dividend: Canada’s Global Advantage

The report by Bessma Momani and Jillian Stirk has now been posted on their website.

Their main recommendations, largely familiar, focus on domestic policies. Not much that is new, but nevertheless worth repeating and been given broader distribution.

They have been holding a series of cross-country roundtables and discussions to share the results and follow-up the earlier round of consultations that helped inform report.

Source: Diversity Dividend Report

Every day, immigrants are busting myths and building Canada

Useful vignette:

Riverside Natural Foods, launched just three years ago this August, began with one syrup kettle, a few baking trays and just 10 employees. Today it has 100. The Riverside plant near York University has production lines running from the pre-dawn hours till past midnight in two buildings, with a third expected to open in January. MadeGood bars are popping up everywhere from corner stores to major supermarkets. Riverside clients include giants like Loblaws, Costco and Whole Foods. “It’s been quite a ride,” says Ms. Fotovat.

Her brother Nima is company president, her sister Salma is in charge of the supply chain. She is head of operations. She arrives at the plant every weekday around 7 a.m. After scrubbing her hands, putting on a lab coat and pulling a net over her hair, she walks onto the floor to see how things are going. In one part of the plant, workers are pouring oats into a mixing machine; in another, a group of women are packing snacks into boxes for shipment; in another, a big ultrasonic cutting machine is dividing a sheet of cooked oats into bars.

With production ramping up so fast, the company is always bringing in new, more sophisticated machinery from Italy, Germany or the United States. But Ms. Fotovat says the key to its success, and the hope for its future, is the people.

She relies on their quick wits to fix production glitches and help figure out how to do things better. “What I’ve learned over the years is you’ve got to give people time to show what they can do,” she says. “You don’t think they can do it and then they blow your mind.”

The Riverside staff is a typical Toronto mix. One manager comes from Venezuela, another from Peru. Most of the workers on the floor come from the Philippines. Ms. Fotovat hired many through a temp agency.

One of her finds was Renato Resurreccion, who walked in the door as a temp and now manages 20 to 30 people on the morning shift. Another is Fernando Yarcia, who oversees the mixing machine. “He just cares,” says Ms. Fotovat. “If he sees a piece of garbage on the floor, he’s the one who will pick it up and put it in the garbage.” He wept when he heard the company was hiring him on full time.

Riverside doesn’t just want to be a big company. It wants to be a model company, where employees feel that they have a stake and share in its success. It is the kind of place where they remember your birthday and listen to your ideas.

In other words, it is about as far as you could imagine from the sweatshop that Trump fans and their Canadian cousins have in mind when they complain about how immigration is wrecking everything. Here is a business that rather than lowering standards and undercutting more established firms is setting high standards for innovation and creativity, while going out of its way to treat its employees right.

A paper by University of Waterloo professor Bessma Momani for this week’s 6 Degrees Citizen Space event in Toronto finds that “Canadian immigrants are more likely than Canadian-born people to start their own businesses. They employ other Canadians, innovate new products and services, disrupt business as usual and generate wealth and prosperity for Canada and all Canadians.”

Source: Every day, immigrants are busting myths and building Canada – The Globe and Mail

In a highly competitive world, is diversity Canada’s advantage? Momani and Stirk

Op-ed by Bessma Momani and Jill Stirk on their research supported by the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation on the business benefits of multiculturalism or pluralism (disclosure: I have been discussing with them how some of my data from my research and book Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote could assist their work):

Research shows that diverse organizations make better decisions, and companies with diverse leadership see rewards in their bottom line. A 2015 study by McKinsey and Co., for example, shows that “companies in the top quartile for gender, racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians.” A recent study by the Peterson Institute found that 22,000 companies whose executive management was gender-diverse realized 6-per-cent higher corporate earnings.

Business leaders, both at home and abroad, tell us that the country’s diverse work force makes Canada an attractive partner for investment and trade. As one executive of a high-tech company noted, “I want my team to be diverse, and I know I can get that in Canada.” Research from the Conference Board of Canada shows that businesses operated by immigrant entrepreneurs are twice as likely to export outside Canada and the United States, and not necessarily to their country or region of origin.

But despite all this anecdote and evidence, it’s not clear that business leaders, even in today’s knowledge-based economy, truly embrace diversity of thought, experience, gender and ethno-cultural background as a key input into an innovative service or product. They understand that they must invest in science and technology, and generate ideas to create value. But is Canada taking full advantage of its rich diversity? Are we leveraging our globally connected citizens to the same extent as India, Australia or Britain?

Even though it’s increasingly clear that pluralistic societies are a magnet for talent and investment, governments too often focus on reinforcing borders or on protecting local monopolies, while businesses fail to see the opportunities that come with diverse international experience. Going forward, a national strategy to realize the benefits of diversity must involve a closer look at policies on labour mobility, taxation, fast-track visas for specialized needs, international research collaboration, foreign credential recognition and bridging, and ways to expand young Canadians’ opportunities to study and work abroad so they can gain vital international experience and build global connections.

With support from the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, we are taking an in-depth look at the links between pluralism and economic prosperity. Together with our partners, we are generating new academic research and consulting with business leaders, industry associations, universities and civic organizations to compile a comprehensive study of how diversity can be leveraged for greater economic advantage. We are documenting how Canadians are contributing to and benefiting from global connections, and how the growing Canadian diaspora – three million people living and working abroad – contribute to our role in an interconnected global economy.

Now, more than ever, as the discussion of global migration and diversity are increasingly polarized and scrutinized, it’s time to demonstrate the economic value of having a pluralist society. A diverse work force could be the comparative advantage for us to capitalize on in a highly competitive but slow-growing global economy.

Source: In a highly competitive world, is diversity Canada’s advantage? – The Globe and Mail

Banking on Arab youth to turn Arab countries around – Bessma Momani’s Arab Dawn: Arab Youth and the Demographic Dividend They Will Bring

Interesting study and conclusion:

Is the Arab world a lost cause? You’d be forgiven for reaching that conclusion. At a moment when the world’s other once-poor regions have all experienced significant improvements, the 22 Arabic-speaking countries stretched between Oman and Mauritania, with few exceptions, are stuck with stagnant economies, backward strongman political systems and simmering threats – and that’s the luckier ones.

But imagine for a moment that the current chaos and unrest is only a period of turbulence between two eras. Imagine if, a century from now, we were to look back upon the Arab 2010s as something like the French 1790s or the American 1770s or the English 1640s – a terrible time that foretold the creation of a better time.

To imagine this, you’d have to conclude that the current Arab “youth bulge” – the extraordinary proportion of the region’s population (at least a fifth) who are between 17 and 25 and whose unemployment, disappointment and youthful zealotry are currently key sources of its violence, instability and chaos – largely come of age, in a few years, as a new generation of adults seeking better economic and political futures.

Once the civil wars, riots, coups and countercoups played themselves out and some uneasy semi-democratic détente was reached, that generation’s education and literacy, urbanized and connected aspirations and entrepreneurial outlook gave rise to a period of improvement and reform that, while far from utopian, put the Middle East and North Africa onto the same modernizing track as the rest of the world.

This is exactly the mind exercise performed by Bessma Momani, a political scientist based at the University of Waterloo (and frequent Globe and Mail contributor) who specializes in the economies of the Middle East, in a new book surprisingly titled Arab Dawn: Arab Youth and the Demographic Dividend They Will Bring.

She spent several years surveying and interviewing young Arabs in half a dozen countries. She finds plenty of troubles – staggering unemployment, rising religiosity, sexism – but beneath it an emerging generation who are modern, educated and unwilling to settle for the closed nationalist economies, authoritarian politics and enforced subservience their parents endured.

Arabs are young, but aren’t having huge families, so are in a demographic sweet spot. Dr. Momani foresees this combination of factors paying the dividend her subtitle suggests.

Source: Banking on Arab youth to turn Arab countries around – The Globe and Mail

Family, friends of radicalized persons wary of reporting: experts

Some of the challenges in encouraging families and friends to play a greater part in de-radicalization:

Part of the problem is that friends and family members of individuals who are radicalized believe their only resort is to report their loved one to the police, which might then lead to criminal charges, according to Dr. Lorne Dawson, a terrorist radicalization expert and professor of sociology at the University of Waterloo.

“They (family members) have conflicting loyalties. They don’t know where to report the individual except for the police and they don’t want to be responsible for their loved one being arrested.”

As well, he says, family members may not take the threat seriously. “Maybe the person has a reputation for being over-the-top, or exaggerating things, or being rather extreme in their judgment and views on things.”

Calling the authorities is not ideal for a family that believes it may simply have an emotionally strung-out individual on their hands, he says.

Staff Sgt. David Zackrias heads the Diversity and Race Relations Section of the Ottawa Police Service, which aims to provide outreach and build bridges between police and diverse ethnic communities in Ottawa. He’s also the vice co-chair on the policing side of the Community and Police Action Committee (COMPAC), a community-police advisory body in Ottawa that meets once a month.

He urges family and community members to report an individual who is seemingly in the early stages of radicalization so the person can get help before a violent threshold is crossed.

“If public safety is in jeopardy, we need to make sure the right people are notified,” he says. “But if this is something that we could work with in terms of engagement and there’s an issue with a certain person who is in the infancy stage of being radicalized, then we engage the community and address those issues and share what resources are out there in the community.”

Such community resources may include a psychiatrist or social worker with the skills to help the person address the issue.

Most of Zackrias’ work within the Muslim community involves taking part in panel discussions with imams and Muslim community leaders, in which their concerns and grievances are brought forward.

“When the community comes and informs us about certain things in terms of they’re concerned that certain people are coming to town and giving hate speech, we provide them with the information to make an informed decision,” he says.

Last year, Public Safety initiated a strategy for countering violent extremism with a major focus on engaging and interacting with communities and individuals in order to research the root causes of terrorism and how to combat them, according to the department’s website.

Bessma Momani, a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, a non-partisan international governance think-tank based in Waterloo, Ont., says one of the biggest challenges facing a CVE strategy is building trust between communities and law enforcement.

“The RCMP and different municipal police forces have worked with vulnerable communities and leaders,” she said. “They’ve reached out and some of these programs are really fantastic.”

As well, she says that having an open dialogue among family members about the risks of extremism is vital, because young people are adept at hiding their lives on the Internet from others, and many people may not believe that radicalization could happen in their own homes.

“Having parents and families involved is a really important tool for not only deradicalization but also in preventing wannabe foreign fighters. Like any social problem, dialogue, bringing it to the fore, and having a conversation can be helpful,” she said.

According to a Dec. 2013 study in the Journal of Forensic Science of 119 lone-actors who engaged in or planned to commit acts of terrorism in the United States and Europe, in about 64 per cent of cases friends and family members knew of the individual’s intent to commit terrorism-related acts because the individual had verbally told them.

In more than 65 per cent of the cases, the individual expressed intent to hurt or harm others while in almost 80 per cent of the cases, others knew of the individual’s commitment to an extremist ideology. These findings suggest “friends and family can play important roles in efforts that seek to prevent terrorist plots.”

Of course, recent federal government messaging makes it harder for this kind of outreach and engagement.

Family, friends of radicalized persons wary of reporting: experts | Ottawa Citizen.