Govender: B.C.’s new anti-racism legislation allows us to turn intersectional data into systemic change

From BC’s Human Rights Commissioner:

The “grandmother perspective” to data collection, which I first learned from Gwen Phillips of the Ktunaxa Nation, suggests that government should collect data as a grandmother would collect information about her family: to better care for them, rather than exercise control with a big-brother mentality. This perspective formed the basis for the recent recommendations on disaggregated data collection from British Columbia’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner to the provincial government.

A grandmother collects her grandchildren’s stories like pencil marks on the wall, measuring their growth. Data can also tell a story – one that helps us to understand people’s needs at a community level. Policy makers, too, need good information to design good law, policy and services.

This week, the B.C. government introduced the Anti-Racism Data Act, new legislation to collect disaggregated demographic data. The new law, if passed, facilitates the collection of personal information for the purposes of identifying systemic racism and advancing racial equity.

Disaggregated demographic data are information based on different aspects of our identities: for example, information broken down by race, gender or educational status. While the Statistics Canada census already collects disaggregated data in relation to the general population, this new law will facilitate the collection of such data in relation to government policies, practices and services, such as health care. Comparing statistics based on these two datasets can reveal patterns and inequalities. Information about inequalities, in turn, can help us design better policies to tackle systemic discrimination. We can’t act on what we don’t know.

B.C. opens consultation on anti-racism legislation as groups praise data collection

Importantly, data must be collected on more than just racism in order to be effective. If we can’t understand how gender, race, age and other factors work together or intersect to inform our experiences in the world – and more accurately, how sexism, racism, ageism, ableism and so on inform our experiences – then we won’t be able to create good public policy that meets people’s real needs.

Race-based data only tell part of the story. For example, we know that in Canada, racialized men earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by white men, according to a 2019 Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report. But that gap widens significantly for racialized women, Indigenous women, transgender women and women with disabilities. Indeed, racialized women earn only 59 cents for every dollar earned by white men.

Treating all racialized people as a homogenous group not only obscures the problem, but it also reinforces it by leading to solutions that are only tailored to the experiences of the dominant subgroup within that category.

We may identify racist stereotypes as being one of the barriers contributing to the wage gap. But we also need to understand that stereotypes of racialized women may be quite different than stereotypes of racialized men. Ignoring these gendered differences silences and omits the experiences of racialized women. We need to truly understand the scope and complexity of the wage gap in order to solve it; intersectional data collection and analysis is key to that end.

However, there is a serious downside to collecting all this information. Despite its power to focus the gaze of policy makers on real world inequities, data also have the power to reinforce negative stereotypes, and some people have legitimate concerns about sharing this information.

In recent recommendations from my office, we called on the provincial government to put control over data in the hands of those from whom the data are being collected. For example, disaggregated demographic data about a First Nation should only be collected in service of that community and upon the consent of that Nation, and used at their direction. The new legislation creates advisory roles for those who are directly impacted to embed this democratic approach to data and to counter any harms it may cause.

For decades, racialized communities, scholars and activists have been calling for this kind of legislation. Over the last two years, the public calls for disaggregated-data collection have grown louder. Protests against police brutality, a growing awareness of the ways in which racism impacts health outcomes, including those of COVID-19, and a movement to push back on the mainstream emergence of white nationalism have brought systemic racism into the consciousness of the masses. While data may not be the most glamorous call to action, they may be one of the most fruitful.

The new legislation is an important marker of our growth toward a more equal society. However, data collection is just one pencil mark on the wall; the next milestone to measure will be whether we are able to use it to create real social change. Implementation requires using intersectional data and a meaningful community governance model to turn information into action.

Kasari Govender is British Columbia’s first independent Human Rights Commissioner. BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner exists to address the root causes of inequality, discrimination and injustice in the province by shifting laws, policies, practices and cultures.

Source: B.C.’s new anti-racism legislation allows us to turn intersectional data into systemic change

Indo-Canadian leaders say Elections B.C. oversight would end questionable tactics in party races

Of note. Look forward to comments from British Columbia readers:

Leaders in the province’s Indo-Canadian community say the recent controversy surrounding B.C. Liberal party memberships would not be happening if a third-party organization such as Elections B.C. was given an oversight role in political party leadership elections.

Several long-time Liberals and New Democrats of Punjabi heritage are concerned that the blame for questionable memberships is being unfairly placed on racialized communities, instead of on the parties’ membership and voting rules.

“Punjabi-Canadians are a demographic that loves their politics, and you have the traditional loyalty to family and friends, so that is why this community is able to sign up large number of members in a very short period of time. It does not mean their memberships are illegal,” said long-time B.C. Liberal Barj Dhahan.

“Whenever this question comes up, it is Punjabi-Canadians who get stereotyped that they are not following the rules. The real question is: Are the rules being followed by the candidates and their campaign teams and volunteers?”

The controversy came to a head last month, after six of the seven B.C. Liberal leadership campaign teams demanded the party audit close to half of its new memberships over concerns that rules were not being followed. They pointed to addresses that were not residences, including one on a forest service road. One campaign said its canvassers found one residence where only one of the five people signed up using that addressed lived there. The campaigns questioned whether the party was capable of catching potential cheaters.

Since then, the party has been accused of singling out members from the South Asian and Chinese communities for review and audit.

Former NDP MLA Harry Lali said there is a long history of groups, including lawyers and teachers, that launched large membership campaigns for their favoured candidates, but those campaigns were never questioned. He believes all leadership elections over the past two decades in every party have been tainted by dubious membership recruitment tactics.

Lali said when that happens, the party suffers.

“What ends up happening is the old-guard membership is pitted against the new membership, so it often becomes white people being pitted against non-white people,” he said. “It’s time that political parties were dragged into the 21st century.”

That is why Lali recommended that Elections B.C. take over the process of vetting memberships and overseeing leadership votes more than a decade ago, when he was running for the NDP leadership.

Vikram Bajwa also supports calls for involvement by Elections B.C. Bajwa has been a member of the B.C. Liberal party for more than 20 years, and was one of the whistle-blowers in the so-called “quick wins” scandal in 2013, when the party under former premier Christy Clark planned to use government funds to target ethnic support.

Bajwa now claims more than 6,000 international students from India and China have been signed up as Liberal party members in the current leadership race. Bajwa said he and several other party members have sought legal advice and have written a letter demanding the party take action.

“The Liberal party membership form does not ask you to state your citizenship or permanent resident status,” explained Bajwa. “It was overlooked during Christy Clark’s time, and this time we want to put a stop to this.”

Bajwa said if the issue is not properly addressed at the final Liberal leadership debate on Tuesday night, as promised by the party, he and several concerned members will be filing a judicial review of the memberships in B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the party has not responded to a request for comment about foreign student memberships.

The leadership election organizing committee issued a public statement last week, saying that more than 3,000, or six per cent, of the party’s 43,000 current active members have been flagged for an audit. It said some audits were triggered when a non-Canadian IP address was used to buy a membership.

It added that, so far, no membership has been rejected.

Critics say they are not working for any of the B.C. Liberal campaigns and their only agenda is to rid the system of the abuses within it. They say it will take political will not seen so far to introduce legislation allowing Elections B.C. to oversee all party leadership elections.

“Not doing something about it, for all political parties, it ends up creating a schism and that erodes to less and less participation in the political process,” said Lali. “And on a wider scale, when you’re talking about someone who wants to be the premier of the province, you want to make sure that individual has won fairly and that the general public can have that confidence.”

Source: Indo-Canadian leaders say Elections B.C. oversight would end questionable tactics in party races

Lawyers say they should be excluded from money laundering policies in B.C.

Really? “Better call Saul:”

Two groups representing lawyers say their profession should be excluded from any government regulations aimed at fighting money laundering in British Columbia in order to protect the confidentiality of the lawyer-client relationship.

Kevin Westell made joint closing submissions at a public inquiry into money laundering on behalf of the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Bar Association and the Criminal Defence Advocacy Society.

The bar association representing 7,000 lawyers in the province is also concerned about suggestions that there is a high risk of money laundering inherent in the work of lawyers, Westell told the inquiry as it wrapped up on Tuesday.

The province announced the launch of the hearings in 2019 after three reports outlined a money laundering crisis fuelled by billions of dollars being funnelled through the gambling, real estate, horse racing and luxury car sectors as well as the illegal drug trade.

The inquiry heard from 198 witnesses since hearings began in May 2020.

Westell told inquiry commissioner Austin Cullen that his ultimate recommendations could significantly affect how lawyers do their jobs and the extent to which members of the public will continue to feel confident that their dealings with lawyers would remain strictly confidential.

The Canadian Bar Association maintains that the proper approach to dealing with concerns about money laundering in the legal profession must be through ongoing self-regulation to ensure that lawyers aren’t forced into a situation where they’re spying on their clients, he said.

The groups’ concerns about potential infringement of confidentiality as part of solicitor-client privilege as well as the independence of lawyers stem from findings in one of two government-commissioned reports on “dirty money” authored by Peter German, a lawyer and former RCMP deputy commissioner.

German said in the second report that lawyers in B.C. are at high risk of being targeted by money launderers, not only because they are exempt from financial reporting, unlike notaries, but due to the risks that are part of dealing with real estate transactions.

“Lawyers are the ‘black hole’ of real estate and of money movement generally. With no visibility by law enforcement on what enters and leaves a lawyer’s trust account, many investigations are stymied,” German wrote in the March 2019 report.

He also said the “no cash rule” governing the acceptance by lawyers of no more than $7,500 is limited in its effect because it does not prevent someone from giving tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to a lawyer for bail money, or for fees and expenses.

However, Westell said German offered no suggestions on how third-party reporting of cash and suspicious transactions should be handled.

“An external reporting requirement for lawyers would inevitably breach solicitor-client confidentiality. Cash and suspicious transaction reporting would require documentation and disclosure of the source of funds to a party outside (the Law Society of B.C.),” he said.

Criminal defence lawyers are particularly concerned that the government and police may take increasingly invasive anti-money laundering measures that could be unproven in their effectiveness and “unfairly trample on the rights of British Columbians,” Westell said.

However, lawyer Toby Rauch-Davis, who represents a coalition that includes the group Transparency International Canada, told Cullen that lawyers, bankers and accountants should be included in any policies in order to allow for public scrutiny of how the advice of those professionals could be sought by criminal enterprises involved in money laundering.

“A finding that accountants and other professionals pose no money-laundering risk is akin to the kind of wilful blindness that led us to these proceedings,” he said.

“Given the fact that there can be no public scrutiny of the solicitor-client relationship, there’s an enhanced public interest in having complete transparency on the measures that the law society takes to ensure lawyers are not facilitating money laundering.”

The commission’s terms of reference say Cullen’s final report is due Dec. 15.

Source: Lawyers say they should be excluded from money laundering policies in B.C.

B.C. gives $2M to Japanese Canadian seniors as step toward righting internment wrongs

Of note:

British Columbia is offering tangible recognition of the historical wrongs caused by the province when it helped to intern thousands of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.

The province has announced a $2-million fund for the Nikkei Seniors Health Care and Housing Society to enhance programming for seniors and local communities.

A statement from the Ministry of Attorney General says the fund will be used to develop and deliver health and wellness programs to Japanese Canadian internment survivors.

The society and the National Association of Japanese Canadians will also spread the funding to other organizations supporting survivors.

The ministry statement says the grant is a first step toward fulfilling a provincial promise to honour Japanese Canadians by recognizing the traumatic internment of almost 22,000 people beginning in 1942.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the funding will allow internment survivors to connect with others in their community, helping them stay healthy and remain independent.

“The terrible loss suffered by thousands of Japanese Canadians in the 1940s is still impacting the community today, with many experiencing lasting health issues and trauma,” Dix says in the statement.

The Canadian government detained thousands of Japanese Canadians in early 1942 under the War Measures Act. They were held in crowded internment camps in B.C.’s Interior or were offered the option to work on sugar beet farms in Alberta and Manitoba for the remainder of the Second World War.

Their homes, farms, businesses and other property were sold off by the government and the proceeds were used to pay the cost of their detention.

Ruth Coles, president of the Nikkei Seniors Health Care and Housing Society, says many Japanese Canadian seniors were forced to rebuild their lives outside B.C. and now have “unique needs stemming from internment, forced uprooting, dispossession and displacement.”

Many still feel “shame and a lack of resolution” caused by the internment that have led to a lifetime of challenges, she says.

Then-prime minister Brian Mulroney formally apologized in 1988 for Canada’s role in the internment of Japanese Canadians and British Columbia recognized the discrimination and tremendous losses they suffered when it issued its own apology in the legislature in 2012.

Source: B.C. gives $2M to Japanese Canadian seniors as step toward righting internment wrongs

B.C. premier ‘alarmed’ by systemic racism allegations, promises anti-racism law

To watch and see similarities and differences with other provinces:

British Columbia’s premier says the government is working on anti-racism legislation that may be introduced this year.

John Horgan also said Wednesday he was “alarmed” to hear allegations of racism at the Royal B.C. Museum, which should be a welcome and respectful place for all Canadians.

Horgan said Melanie Mark, the minister of tourism, arts, culture and sport, is working with the Public Service Agency to ensure allegations of racism are followed up on as part of its investigation.

He said the museum’s board and senior staff have taken multiple allegations of racism by employees seriously and the findings of the investigation will be made public.

The resignation of Jack Lohman, the chief executive officer of the museum, was announced earlier this week after nine years in the position.

In a news release, the museum’s board of directors said Lohman’s departure on Friday was “mutually agreed” to be in the best interests of the organization as it “addresses current internal issues,” without elaborating.

Last month, the First Nations Leadership Council said in a statement that it was “disturbed by several recent media reports” alleging “ongoing systemic racism and toxic working conditions” at the museum.

The museum said Lohman was not available for comment this week and board chair Daniel Muzyka would not be available until Thursday.

Horgan said Mark is well placed to help the museum, which operates as a Crown corporation.

“Nobody takes this more seriously than minister Mark and I’m grateful that she is in place at this difficult time for not just the leadership, of course, at the museum but (for) all of those across British Columbia who look so fondly at the museum as a public asset, a real jewel for all British Columbians,” he said.

Horgan says a revitalization plan for the museum is underway as the province works with the federal government to understand the value of the facility’s archival materials.

“We need to have a respectful workplace, we need to make sure that it’s open for everyone to come, free of persecution or any hints of racism.”

Muzyka will serve as acting CEO until a replacement is found for Lohman, who was described by the board as “an internationally recognized expert in museums.”

It said “the board of directors acknowledges, with appreciation, his nine years of vision and service.”

Source: B.C. premier ‘alarmed’ by systemic racism allegations, promises anti-racism law

British Columbia Appeal Court ‘sorely lacking’ in people of colour: top judge

Of note:

Since the Liberal’s re-election in 2019, nearly 59 per cent of the judges federally appointed or elevated have been women, 16 per cent identify as a visible minority and a further three per cent identify as Indigenous, said the department. (last para highlights increased diversity in appointments since 2016:

B.C.’s top judge admits that the B.C. Court of Appeal is “sorely lacking” in diversity among its judges.

In 2016, the Trudeau government introduced policies aimed at increasing diversity for federally appointed judges, including those on B.C.’s highest court and the B.C. Supreme Court.

But while the gender balance on the Appeal Court has been improved, with 11 of the 24 current full-time and part-time judges being women, there are no judges who are Black, Indigenous or people of colour.

But while the gender balance on the Appeal Court has been improved, with 11 of the 24 current full-time and part-time judges being women, there are no judges who are Black, Indigenous or people of colour.

Chief Justice Robert Bauman of the B.C. Court of Appeal said that it was important to the administration of justice that public institutions reflect society.

He said the judiciary and law are enriched by judges bringing a wide range of experiences and perspectives to their work.

“For many years, the B.C. Court of Appeal has achieved gender balance, or near-balance, between male and female judges,” Bauman said in a statement. “However, the Court is sorely lacking in other forms of diversity, especially judges who identify as Indigenous, Black or people of colour.”

Bauman noted that Appeal Court judges are appointed almost exclusively from the pool of judges who make up the B.C. Supreme Court, which he said has had an increasing number of diverse appointments in the past several years.

“That being so, I expect that the Appeal Court will begin to receive appointments in the coming years that will enhance the Court’s diversity, and I look forward to that positive development.”

In September, the Canadian Bar Association urged the federal government to put its stated commitment to diversity in the courts into action, noting that the judiciary in Canada remains overwhelmingly white with judges lacking first-hand knowledge and experience of the racism and systemic challenges faced by people of colour.

Raphael Tachie, the president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, also believes the government is not moving fast enough.

“Good rhetoric is appreciated. To be taken seriously, you need to take concrete steps. If you look at the B.C. Court of Appeal, it’s not a reflection of concrete steps.”

Tachie said he moved from B.C., where he practised law for 11 years, to Ontario in part because he believes his career prospects as a Black lawyer in the eastern province are better.

He said he does not accept the argument made by some in the judiciary and in law schools and corporate law firms that the lower courts need to be stocked with more qualified candidates before the higher courts can become more diversified.

Rupinder Gosal, president of the South Asian Bar Association of B.C., said it’s definitely a goal of her organization to increase diversity among judges but added she understands why there aren’t many diverse Court of Appeal judges because up until recently there weren’t as many appointments of diverse judges at lower levels.

“I think it’s unfortunately a step-by-step process and it’s unfortunately a process that will take some time.”

But Gosal said there were concerns about what she called systemic barriers to judicial applicants, including requirements to provide judicial references, as well as a need to encourage more candidates to step forward and apply.

In 1985, Wally Oppal was the first person of colour appointed to the B.C. Supreme Court. He was elevated to the B.C. Court of Appeal in 2003 where he served for two years before being elected to the provincial legislature and serving as attorney general for four years.

He said that getting more diverse judges on the bench was a “challenging” issue but added that he had never met anyone in positions of power in the justice system, whether judges or justice ministers, who don’t agree that there’s a greater need for diversity.

“The multicultural aspect of the justice system has only started to change within the last 20 years or so, 25 years. So I think there’s a certain amount of catch up that has to take place.”

In a statement, the federal Justice Department said that the face of Canada’s judiciary has changed considerably since the Liberals took office.

“We are committed to having a judiciary that looks more like Canada — one in which all Canadians can see themselves reflected,” said the statement.

“We are proud of the transparent and accountable appointment process we put into place to identify outstanding judicial candidates who reflect Canada’s diversity.”

Since the Liberal’s re-election in 2019, nearly 59 per cent of the judges federally appointed or elevated have been women, 16 per cent identify as a visible minority and a further three per cent identify as Indigenous, said the department.

Source: Appeal Court ‘sorely lacking’ in people of colour: top judge

Groundbreaking investigation shows ‘pervasive racism’ against Indigenous people in B.C. health-care system

Of note:

Racism against Indigenous people is pervasive in British Columbia’s health-care system, concludes an investigation that is being touted as the first complete review of racism in a Canadian medical system.

It’s racism that is hurting the health of Indigenous people and leaving them more harshly affected by health crises in the province, including the opioid crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, finds the newly released report.

“What it looks like are abusive interactions at the point of care; verbal and physical abuse; denial of service,” Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a well-known Indigenous lawyer and former B.C. advocate for children and youth, who led the investigation at the request of the provincial government, said Monday.

“We have a major problem with Indigenous-specific racism and prejudice in B.C. health care.”

Turpel-Lafond said her team’s recommendations could provide a blueprint for the rest of the country for rooting out racism and discrimination.

The B.C. probe was initiated in June, after B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said he found out about allegations that health-care workers in an emergency room had played a game in which they guessed the blood-alcohol level of largely Indigenous patients before they received treatment.

Métis Nation British Columbia told CBC that health-care staff called the game “The Price Is Right.”

Turpel-Lafond said the investigation did not find evidence of an organized “Price is Right” game, but that it unearthed an even more insidious picture of a system rife with racism and prejudice, that is making the B.C. health-care system an unsafe place for Indigenous people to seek care.

The report, called In Plain Sight, is based on input from 9,000 people, including Indigenous people and health-care workers.

Turpel-Lafond said a second report, a data-analysis of Indigenous-specific health outcomes, will be released in the next month.

The report’s 24 recommendations deal with implementing systems and cultural expectations to root our implicit and explicit racism in B.C.’s health-care system, including the creation of a B.C. Indigenous officer of health and an associate deputy minister of Indigenous health at the provincial government.

Dix on Monday offered an “unequivocal” apology for the findings of racism in the report, and vowed to implement recommendations immediately, including by introducing new Indigenous health liaisons in each of the province’s health authorities.

Indigenous leaders were quick to express their support for the recommendations, saying they were especially urgent in view of the ongoing pandemic.

“There is no time to wait; the current COVID-19 pandemic necessitates constant engagement by First Nations with the health care system, and we categorically demand a safe health care system for our people at this time and going forward,” reads a portion of a statement by the First Nations Leadership Council.

The treatment of a Quebec woman in hospital earlier this year also served to highlight the barriers Indigenous people face to getting care.

Joyce Echaquan, an Atikamekw mother of seven, died soon after she filmed herself from her hospital bed in late September while she was in clear distress and pleading for help. Toward the end of the video, which was streamed live, two female hospital staff enter her room and are heard making degrading comments, including calling her stupid and saying she’d be better off dead.

The video has created widespread indignation, several inquiries and a lawsuit from Echaquan’s family against the hospital where she died in Joliette, Que.

Source: Groundbreaking investigation shows ‘pervasive racism’ against Indigenous people in B.C. health-care system

Vaughn Palmer: Failure to recruit female and minority candidates killed Liberal hopes in BC election

One element:

The B.C. Liberal party executive is calling on members and supporters to join “open and honest conversations” and “serious and exciting debates” about the party future.

But two recent statements from Liberals — one a defeated MLA, the other a former candidate — may be more honest and exciting than the current leadership can survive.

Taking direct aim at party leader Andrew Wilkinson was Jane Thornthwaite, beaten in her bid for a fourth term as Liberal MLA for North Vancouver-Seymour.

Source: Vaughn Palmer: Failure to recruit female and minority candidates killed Liberal hopes

B.C. city sees most non-resident births in Canada

More coverage of the latest non-resident birth numbers, including MA graduate Yousif Samarrai’s proposal to use SIN as a gatekeeper for those on visitor visas (in contrast to students and temporary residents who are issued SIN).

Those without a SIN would not be issued a birth certificate by the provincial vital statistics agencies (hospitals would still issue attestations of birth).

Like all proposals, there would be a number of complications, operational, jurisdictional and legal, but if doable, it would be a targeted approach that would reduce collateral impact.

Three hundred more non-resident women gave birth at a handful of Canadian hospitals in 2019 compared with the year prior, with the largest increases occurring at two Toronto-area hospitals and one within Vancouver.

The statistics from the Canadian Institute for Health Information show that Richmond, B.C., still registers the highest number of these births in the country, with 502, or one out of every four babies born last year involving women who are not Canadian residents.

The national tally of births from non-resident mothers represents only 1.6 per cent of all births across Canada last year, save Quebec, but locals in and around Richmond have denounced the practice of “birth tourism” – where women travel to Canada to deliver a baby who will then gain Canadian citizenship.

While municipal, provincial and federal politicians want the practice banned, Andrew Griffith said the data he obtained from the Crown corporation captures those women, as well as students studying in Canada and women who live here but who have not completed the citizenship process.

Mr. Griffith, an Ottawa-based fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a former high-level federal bureaucrat, said because of the lack of precise data, the long-term impact of any birth tourists remains unclear.

It is legal for non-residents to give birth in Canada, which then grants the baby citizenship, but Mr. Griffith said changing birthright citizenship probably isn’t worth the effort at this time given the numbers.

“And if you assume that roughly half of those numbers are pure birth tourists, you’re still talking about less than 1 per cent of the total number of live births in Canada, and you’re still talking about less than 1 per cent of the total number of immigrants to Canada,” Mr. Griffith said.

“Are you going to penalize the 99 per cent to address a problem that affects the 1 per cent?”

The data show that after Richmond Hospital, North York’s Humber River Hospital had the next-highest number of these births last year at 329, followed by Mackenzie Health’s facility in Richmond Hill, Ont., with 287. Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital recorded 203 during the 2019 fiscal year, more than double the number recorded five years earlier.

Spokespeople for these various hospitals told The Globe and Mail on Monday they never deny or delay care to anyone based on their residency status, but they do seek compensation for this care from patients without medical coverage, with these fees covering the treatment.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said steps need to be taken to prohibit birth tourism, which he said is creating pressure on resources of the city’s lone hospital.

“It is fundamentally not right that people would adopt a strategy to come here and have their babies and then go back without contributing in any meaningful way to the local economy or paying taxes here or any other form of support,” he said in an interview.

In February, Richmond City Council wrote letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other federal and provincial politicians requesting a change to immigration laws to end “this strategic opportunity taken by people who have no official connection to Canada.”

A year ago, Joe Peschisolido, Liberal MP for Steveston-Richmond East, called on his government to end the practice of birth tourism, telling The Globe that he had spoken with then-minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship minister Ahmed Hussen about the issue.

On Monday, the federal Immigration Minister’s head spokesperson said Ottawa is focused on cracking down on immigration fraud and while “birth tourism is not widespread” the department is researching the extent of the practice to see how many of these non-resident mothers are tourists.

Yousif Samarrai, who recently wrote his master’s thesis in public policy on the issue at Simon Fraser University, said “birth tourism” has become so controversial in B.C. because unlicensed hotel companies in Richmond have been caught marketing packages to expectant Chinese mothers.

He said a simple fix to this issue would be to require a new parent to submit their own social insurance number in order to get a birth certificate – and the resulting citizenship – for their child. Every class of visitor to Canada receives a SIN except tourists, he said.

“The whole idea of changing these laws is you don’t want to impact anybody that’s coming here through legitimate means,” Mr. Samarrai said. “However, if we change the administrative way that people attain a birth certificate, that’s a little more practical.”


B.C. survey shows racialized people most likely to suffer from effects of COVID-19 pandemic

Confirming patterns elsewhere:

An official survey shows the tumult created in B.C. by the novel coronavirus has hurt racialized people the most, with more than one in five Latin American, West Asian and Black respondents reporting job losses due to the pandemic.

Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry said at Thursday’s daily COVID-19 briefing that the results of a recent online survey of 394,000 people confirmed a trend seen in many other places: The virus and the measures taken to slow its growth have disproportionately affected non-white people. The results did not touch on who has been infected, but charted how people of different ethnicities have fared with regards to unemployment, financial stress, and access to health care and food.

“The challenge has not been shared equally,” she said as she revealed the results of the survey done by the BC Centre for Disease Control, a government agency.

The information comes as British Columbia logs an additional 78 confirmed cases of the virus. The numbers have been creeping up all summer, leading to a recent spike that Dr. Henry says is driven by younger people socializing.

The provincial average for losing a job due to the pandemic was 15.5 per cent, according to the survey. Only white respondents reported recent unemployment at below that rate, 14 per cent. People of every other ethnicity reported rates above the provincial average, with the highest affecting Latin American people at 22.6 per cent, West Asian or Arabic people (21.5 per cent), and Black people (21.1 per cent).

That same inequality was seen when respondents were asked about whether they had more money troubles. The provincial average was 32 per cent of respondents saying they had increased financial problems, with 29 per cent of white people reporting these issues.

Neither Dr. Henry nor the provincial health ministry explained why Indigenous respondents were not represented in the survey results released on Thursday.

Japanese, multi-ethnic and Korean respondents were the most likely to report difficulty accessing health care. On the other hand, Latin American, Southeast Asian and Black respondents were the most likely to report feeling more connected to family since the province began its state of emergency in March.

The survey also showed people at the income level of less than $60,000 reported having a harder time meeting their financial needs and putting enough food on the table, and that they were more likely to be out of work.

Among respondents with school-aged children, lower-income households reported more stress on their kids, more barriers to learning and a decreased connection to their friends.

At Thursday’s briefing, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Henry spent most of their time addressing the increase in cases. Mr. Dix warned anyone ignoring physical distancing at parties this weekend that public-health inspectors will be out enforcing rules at bars and banquet halls.

Since early July, people in their 20s have made up the highest proportion of new cases, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. From July 29 to Aug. 4, more than 40 per cent of cases nationally for which data were available were reported in people 29 or younger.

In B.C., this group accounts for about 32 per cent of cases since July 1, while people in their 30s make up about 22 per cent. In Alberta, people in their 20s make up the largest proportion of active cases, at 22 per cent, while people in their 30s followed with 19 per cent.