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.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/british-columbia/article-bc-city-sees-most-non-resident-births-in-canada/

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.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/british-columbia/article-bc-survey-shows-racialized-people-most-likely-to-suffer-from-effects/

How diverse is your police force? After anti-racism protests, we analyze the makeup of B.C.’s policing

Above chart shows diversity data based upon the 2016 Census.

Good look at the diversity of British Columbia police forces:

As a growing number of protests in the U.S. and Canada call for reimagining how police are funded and structured, we wondered how closely B.C.’s various departments reflect the demographics of the people they serve.

We asked B.C.’s 12 municipal police agencies and the RCMP, which has jurisdiction in the rest of the province, how many of their officers identify as visible minorities and how many are women.

The significance of these numbers varies widely depending on who you ask.“Overall, I’d say it’s good to have these kinds of statistics. However, even if we made a lot of progress in terms of having RCMP and local city forces more reflective of the general population in B.C. in terms of proportions of visible minorities, I’m not sure how much actual change we could expect,” said Samir Gandesha, director of the institute for humanities at Simon Fraser University.

There needs to be a cultural shift within law enforcement, Gandesha argued, that addresses “deep-seated” inequities around racism and sexism. “Talking about the demographics, I think, is a great place to start, but there are some much harder questions.”

Protesters demanding a different type of policing have marched on local streets since the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, after a white officer knelt on the Black man’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Many local activists want the police to be “defunded,” a concept that would allocate some — or all — of hefty law-enforcement budgets to social workers or psychologists better equipped to respond to mental health calls.

For Sgt.-Maj. Sebastien Lavoie, a Black Mountie based in Surrey, the statistics mean the RCMP needs to find new, innovative ways to hire qualified officers from varied backgrounds, especially from communities in which recruitment has been challenging. The video of Floyd’s agonizing death was sickening to Lavoie, but he believes the vast majority of police officers are good people, and says sensitivity and cultural training of new recruits is “a million light years” ahead of when he went through the process 20 years ago.

“We do want to represent the society as best we can in terms of demographics,” said Lavoie, whose job is to advise rank-and-file members about decisions made by management, while also bringing officers’ concerns to the higher-ups.“So the challenge is how do we get the good candidates from those demographics coming to us? We want to get the quality and the equality. … For me the biggest focus has to be to reach out to the communities and bridge the gap and actually have people interested in policing in those communities.”

‘Not an overnight fix’

The RCMP polices large areas of the province, including parts of Metro Vancouver and most of rural B.C. It employs nearly three-quarters of B.C.’s 9,500 police. The RCMP says 18 per cent of its officers are visible minorities and another five per cent are Indigenous persons.

Those statistics come close to reflecting the demographics of a rural city like Prince George, where 24 per cent of the population identifies as one of those two groups, the census says, or in Kelowna, where the two groups comprise just 16 per cent of the population. But the statistics are out of whack for diverse cities such as Richmond, where visible minorities and Indigenous peoples represent 77 per cent of residents, or in Surrey, where they represent 61 per cent.
The Vancouver Police Department employs the second largest number of officers in B.C., and says 26 per cent of its 1,340 officers are visible minorities or Indigenous, which is one of the highest percentages in the province. However, the 2016 Census found twice that amount — 54 per cent — of Vancouver’s population identified as one of those two groups.

Vancouver police Chief Adam Palmer agreed it is important for his department to reflect the community, and suggested it is “on the path” towards that, but cautioned “it’s not an overnight fix.” He said each recruiting class today is far more diverse than the officers who are retiring, that his officers speak a combined 50 languages, and that a quarter of the force is female.“I think a lot of people would think that, ‘Oh, policing in Vancouver, it’s a bunch of six-foot-tall, 200-pound white guys running around,’ when that’s not the case,” Palmer said.

He added, though, that hiring cannot be focused on demographics alone. “Diversity is important, but it’s also important to get the right person, the right temperament and background and just the right personality and mindset to be a police officer.”

Palmer, who is also president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, denied this week there is systematic racing in Canadian policing. His department, though, is falling under increasing scrutiny.Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart asked the province for a “comprehensive review” of policing in B.C., including investigating the “systemic racism and disproportionate violence” faced by Black and Indigenous peoples. Stewart, who chairs the police board, has also said he wants Vancouver police to end the practice of street checks, when people are randomly stopped and their identification often recorded, because the checks have disproportionately targeted Indigenous and Black people in his city.

On Thursday, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs and the Hogan’s Alley Society echoed calls for street checks to end, after alleging racist and other inappropriate behaviour by two Vancouver police officers.And Vancouver Coun. Pete Fry has introduced a motion asking council to support a “community-based crisis management strategy” that would send mental-health experts, rather than police, to help people in crisis.

Also this week, trustees with the Vancouver and Victoria school boards voted unanimously to review the use of police liaison officers, who often work with at-risk youth and sometimes coach sports teams.

‘Change in a radical way’

Meenakshi Mannoe, criminalization and policing campaigner with Pivot Legal Society, co-wrote a letter last week to B.C.’s attorney general and the RCMP’s B.C. commander, calling for immediate action to address issues such as the disproportionate policing of some groups and low-income communities.

Mannoe does not, though, believe the answer is hiring more Indigenous or visible-minority officers, but rather a defunding of law-enforcement budgets, with the money routed to areas that can “prevent a crisis,” such as housing, medical care, a safe drug supply, peer counselling and cultural programs.

“We are in a moment where people are really talking about change within the police in a radical way,” said Mannoe, a trained social worker.“If we address inequalities at their core, we wouldn’t need to over-police communities like the Downtown Eastside or communities with people who experience homelessness or use drugs.”

She rejects the argument that policing in B.C. is not as racist as south of the border and therefore doesn’t need a major rethink, pointing to several local police incidents involving visible minorities. In 2014, Tony Du, a schizophrenic man waving a piece of wood, was shot dead in a Vancouver intersection. And last December, police handcuffed an Indigenous man, Maxwell Johnson, and his 12-year-old granddaughter outside a Vancouver bank after tellers questioned the pair’s identification.

These high-profile incidents are not just happening in Vancouver, of course. This week, University of B.C. Okanagan nursing student Mona Wang sued the RCMP, alleging a Kelowna officer dragged her out of her apartment, kicked her in the stomach and shouted phrases like “stupid idiot” during a wellness check.

B.C.’s policing rules outdated: Minister

The province has not yet responded to Mannoe’s letter. But earlier this month, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth promised to set up an all-party committee to modernize B.C.’s 45-year-old Police Act, “with a specific focus on systemic racism.” He added the “outdated” act is “out of step with our government’s approach” on issues including harm reduction and mental health.

Policing in B.C. is a patchwork quilt, with the RCMP taking up most of the fabric. Eleven municipal departments oversee 12 cities and communities, while the Transit Police patrols the SkyTrain, bus routes, the SeaBus and the West Coast Express.

After the two largest agencies, the RCMP and Vancouver, here is how the rest of the departments report on the combined percentage of visible minority and Indigenous officers they employ, based on statistics they supplied to Postmedia:

Transit Police: 31 per cent of officers are visible minorities or Indigenous, the highest percentage in B.C. It provided the most detailed breakdown of its officers’ ethnicities, which included three Indigenous and two Black officers.

New Westminster: 21 per cent of officers in a city where 42 per cent of the population identifies as visible minority or Indigenous. The agency is trying to recruit more diverse applicants through social media, community liaison officers, and lower application expenses for underprivileged people, said Sgt. Jeff Scott.Saanich: 11 per cent of officers compared to 25 per cent of the general population that is a visible minority or Indigenous. It provided detailed five-year data, which showed a slight improvement over 2016, when nine per cent of officers belonged to those two groups.

Central Saanich: It has one visible minority and one Indigenous officer, representing seven per cent of its 27-member department, numbers that have stayed roughly the same for a decade in a small community where 10 per cent of the population identifies as one of those two groups. “We are consulting with the Greater Victoria diversity committee to identify ways to reach a greater, more diverse audience” when the department is ready to hire new officers, said Sgt. Paul Brailey.

Nelson: It has two Indigenous officers but no visible-minority officers, representing nine per cent of its 22-officer department. Chief Paul Burkart noted his community is unique in B.C., because the census says its overall population of visible minorities and Indigenous people is only 11 per cent of the total.

Oak Bay: Like Nelson, nine per cent (two) of its 22 officers identify as visible minorities, compared to 12 per cent of the general population. It is seeking ways to find more diverse officers, but only hires from other departments, which limits its pool of potential candidates, said spokesperson Lindsay Anderson.

Victoria, the second largest department after Vancouver, and smaller Port Moody do not keep ethnicity statistics and did not explain why they don’t. Neither does Delta, but it “believes there may be value in collecting this data,” so in 2018 started asking recruits to volunteer this information. Since then, half of its new employees have identified as visible minorities, said Delta spokesperson Cris Leykauf.Abbotsford did not respond to requests for the data, and West Vancouver did not provide it by deadline.

To find more ethnically diverse officers, the VPD held information sessions for LGBTQ2S+ candidates, and attended events like Hoobiyee, National Indigenous People’s Day, the Chinese New Year Parade and Vaisakhi, said Simi Heer, public affairs director. The RCMP attends career fairs and cultural events, and has also launched a pilot program to help Inuit people navigate the recruitment process, said Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet.

‘This is the worst I’ve ever seen it’

The fallout from Floyd’s “heartbreaking” death and the public’s animosity toward police hit local Mounties harder than any other similar case that has been in the news, said the RCMP’s Lavoie.

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen it. We have seen family members turn on each other, spouses turn on their spouse,” he said. “This is one of the most emotional topics that I’ve seen in my 20 years. It’s been really bad.”

He believes the RCMP does good work and is trying to make up for past errors with modern-day efforts to change. For example, before officers respond to a major situation involving Indigenous people, such as the Wet’suwet’en pipeline protests, Lavoie says he reminds them of the Mounties’ role in seizing children to force them into residential schools and that officers need to be sensitive about this history.

“We need to own exactly what we have done, and I think we are doing a much better job of this than ever before. And that is critical,” he said.Lavoie added he has not felt racism directed at him by anyone in the RCMP, noting he was promoted while on the emergency response team and into his position today with no consideration of the colour of his skin.

Gandesha, the SFU prof, argued that hiring more racialized, or ethnically diverse, people or even having them in positions of power is not a quick fix on its own, unless everyone in the organization believes in change. For example, Minneapolis has a Black police chief, but that didn’t stop a white officer from kneeling on Floyd’s neck until he died.

He notes police budgets have risen as crime has fallen in Canada, and believes there should be a rebalance that results in more investment in social services. Then when someone is in distress, as happened west of Toronto on the weekend when Ejaz Choudry, who had schizophrenia, was shot dead by Peel police, social workers or psychologists would ideally respond to the call, not armed officers, Gandesha said.

‘It raises an eyebrow’

Another statistic we requested from B.C.’s police departments was the number of female officers they employed. That ranged widely, including 30 per cent in New Westminster, 26 per cent in the VPD, 23 per cent within the RCMP, and 15 per cent in Port Moody.

“It raises an eyebrow” that, in 2020, women are not closer to representing half of the police officers in the province, said Genevieve Fuji Johnson, an SFU political science professor who just published a study on the “whiteness” of the upper echelons of Canadian universities.She wonders about the retention rate of women in policing careers, if they perhaps leave prematurely if they don’t feel valued. Earlier this year, for example, an estimated 2,000 former female employees of the RCMP won final court approval to proceed with a multimillion-dollar class-action lawsuit against the force over gender-based abuse and discrimination.

Another question to ask these departments, she said, is whether women and visible minorities have a proportional number of high-ranking jobs or if they mainly fill the lower ranks.“Our police departments, and the RCMP, you want them to look, to the extent that’s possible, like the people they are serving. So you want that representation for a whole range of reasons,” said Fuji Johnson, who is not sure that substantive change will happen soon.

“Right now there are tons of demonstrations going on and people are making noise and I think that is super important. But is anything going to change? I don’t know.”

In a letter posted on the Stl’atl’imx website this month to the people of the St’at’imc Nation, near Lillooet, Doss-Cody wrote that many police agencies have promised to check past behaviour and build a better relationship with the people they serve.

“I wish them all of the best, but like you, I can only believe that this change can come about if there is a serious effort to deal with the systemic racism that has existed that has led to much strife with our people, including our interaction with police,” the police chief wrote.

Source: How diverse is your police force? After anti-racism protests, we analyze the makeup of B.C.’s policing

A lesson learned early: How B.C. has avoided major COVID-19 outbreaks among migrant farm workers

British Columbia seems to have gotten virtually everything right compared to the other larger provinces:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was forced to grapple last week with the treatment of migrant farm workers after hundreds of agricultural labourers, mostly in Ontario, tested positive for COVID-19, prompting the Mexican government to suspend the annual exodus of its workers to Canadian farms.

But planeloads of temporary foreign workers from Mexico are still expected to arrive in British Columbia, because of a unique program the province implemented in April designed to avert the kind of outbreaks Mr. Trudeau now promises to address in other provinces.

An investigation by The Globe and Mail has shown that the living and working conditions of some of the country’s most vulnerable workers allowed the pandemic to spread.

As Mr. Trudeau promises to find ways to do better by the migrant workers who are essential to Canada’s food system, he could look to B.C. for at least part of the answer.

British Columbia, like Ontario and Quebec, relies heavily on temporary foreign workers for farm labour.

The difference is that B.C. responded to a single COVID-19 outbreak at a plant nursery early in March with a plan designed to prevent a repeat. The cost of the program is not known yet, but it is expected to be tens of millions of dollars.

Since April 13, the B.C. government has organized and paid for quarantine services for migrant workers who arrive in B.C. to take seasonal farm jobs. The employers must pay wages during this time. So far, 2,800 people have been housed in Vancouver-area hotels, where they are provided meals, health care and other supports during their two week isolation. Of those, 23 have tested positive for COVID-19 while in quarantine.

Because of the pandemic, new arrivals to Canada are legally required to self-isolate for two weeks. But housing on the farms is typically crowded, with shared kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms.

Providing these services is a tacit admission that those operations relying on migrant workers cannot effectively provide quarantine in their housing.

David Geen, owner of Jealous Fruits, a cherry producer in B.C.‘s Okanagan Valley, said he has invested millions of dollars in housing for the migrant workers who make up the majority of his workforce at harvest time. But even with that, he said, he could not imagine how to safely provide quarantine facilities.

“We were seriously contemplating sitting out the year. We could not figure out how to properly do this,” Mr. Geen said in an interview. “We’re farmers, we’re not epidemiologists.”

His cherry farms and packing facility employ 150 local and 500 migrant workers at peak times. “We have spread people out in the dorms, and in the fields, but if you have an infected person arrive in your dorms, it’s difficult to keep [the virus] out.”

So far this year, he has 155 temporary foreign workers on site, and another 130 are in quarantine. He expects another group later in June, and still more in early July. Even after their quarantine, the farm provides the workers with groceries and amenities so that they can remain isolated while working.

There have been no reports of COVID-19 cases on B.C. farms since the quarantine housing program began. Mr. Geen said B.C. deserves credit for that success, but he believes Ottawa should have stepped up to ensure farmworkers and farms across the country were similarly protected.

“I feel ill reading about the tragic situation in Ontario,” he said.

Still, the living and working conditions for migrant workers remain an ugly aspect of food production in Canada, including in B.C. The fact that many farms cannot recruit local workers, even as unemployment spikes due to the pandemic, is telling.

Weeks before B.C. unveiled its quarantine plan, the Dignidad Migrante Society, a Vancouver-based non-profit organization that provides services, support, representation and assistance to migrant workers, called attention to those working conditions.

Raul Gabica, a former farm worker who is now a Canadian citizen, said B.C.‘s response has been a very good step. “But the workers are still in overcrowded housing, with no space for social distancing.”

Typical accommodations on B.C. farms provide one bathroom and one kitchen for every 10 workers, he said, with two or three people in each bedroom. “The housing standards have to change,” he said.

The pandemic has exposed that putting cheap food on the table comes at a high price for some.

Source:    A lesson learned early: How B.C. has avoided major COVID-19 outbreaks among migrant farm workers    

Horgan says lessons to be learned from Komagata Maru racism during pandemic

Good messaging:

B.C. Premier John Horgan is paying tribute to nearly 400 South Asians who were forced to leave Canada due to discriminatory policies more than a century ago.

Horgan says racism faced by the Sikh, Muslim and Hindu men who arrived at Vancouver’s harbour aboard the Komagata Maru on May 23, 1914, hurt generations of people.

“This event stands as a reminder for how racism, discrimination and hate have hurt generations of people. But it also reminds us of the incredible resiliency in our province — including all those who stand up against injustice and work to make B.C. a place where everyone is welcome and safe.

“As we live through the COVID-19 pandemic, racism has tarnished our community’s response. People have been attacked and assaulted. Racism has no place in our province. We must stand firm against hate and learn from our past as we build a better, more inclusive future.”

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy.

Horgan had earlier spoken out against racism toward Asians during the pandemic.

Vancouver police said this week that the number of anti-Asian racism cases since March had jumped markedly compared with the same period last year.

Police say they have opened 29 cases since B.C. declared a state of emergency over the pandemic, compared with only four cases of racism in 2019. The first case of COVID-19 was found in China.

Source: Horgan says lessons to be learned from Komagata Maru racism during pandemic

B.C. redesigns funding program that targets racism and hate

Small change, so likely minimal impact:

The B.C. government is redesigning the programs it uses to fight racism and intolerance, unveiling a new structure on Wednesday.

Premier John Horgan said the former Organizing Against Racism and Hate funding program has been redesigned into the new Resilience B.C. Anti-Racism Network.

The government will spend $540,000 annually offering grants and funding to communities and groups committed to cultural diversity and multiculturalism. The funding will also be used to respond to and prevent incidents of racism and hate.

The province will identify a central service provider for the program in the coming months, and estimates up to 40 local service providers will be linked into the network and funding.

“Resilience B.C. will be the beginning of increasing capacity in comms so they can do the work they need to do with the blessing and resources we can give them from the province,” said Horgan.

“Resilience B.C. Nice tag line, but it has got to be about people, it has got to be about communities.”

NDP MLA Ravi Kahlon, who served as parliamentary secretary on multiculturalism until a recent move to forestry, said the program will build upon a recent multiculturalism report he issued, as well as the restoration of the B.C. Human Rights Commission.

Source: B.C. redesigns funding program that targets racism and hate

4 B.C. sisters victorious in court after parents left them tiny share of $9M estate

Interesting case where traditional and Canadian values collide, resolved in favour of the latter. Also of interest is that the male heirs did not contest the fundamental injustice of the original will, although they argued that they still should have a greater share:

When they died three years ago, Nahar and Nihal Litt left behind an estate valued at more than $9 million. They willed 93 per cent of that to their two sons, leaving their four daughters to split what was left.

That’s despite the fact that the daughters, now in their 50s and 60s, took on most of the work of caring for their aging parents in the years before they died, according to a B.C. Supreme Court judgment. They also helped build their parents’ fortune, working on family-owned farms beginning when they were children.

And so the sisters decided to contest their parents’ will in court, arguing that their parents discriminated against them based on outdated traditional values, the judgment says.

“One of the reasons that they wanted to pursue the claim was not just out of self-interest, but so other South Asian women in the same position would also have the courage to do so,” their lawyer, Trevor Todd, told CBC News.

This week, Justice Elaine Adair agreed to redistribute the Litt estate, granting about $1.35 million to each of the sisters: Jasbinder Kaur Grewal, Mohinder Kaur Litt-Grewal, Amarjit Kaur Gottenbos and Inderjit Kaur Sidhu.

That adds up to 60 per cent of the family fortune, much higher than the $150,000 each they were initially promised.

Their two brothers, Terry Mukhtiar Singh Litt and Kasar Singh Litt, will split the remaining 40 per cent, or about $1.8 million each.

The brothers both agreed that their parents had failed to meet their “moral obligations” to their daughters, though they argued in court for larger inheritances for themselves. Terry Litt testified that he had tried to convince his mother and father that the wills were unfair, but he was unable to persuade them to make changes.

‘The hurts were deep’

Adair’s judgment lays out more than five decades of history in an immigrant family whose frugal lifestyle and hard work helped build a multi-million-dollar legacy. It reveals a network of complicated family relationships touched by resentment that led one daughter to become estranged from her parents for 20 years.

The Litts arrived in B.C. from India in 1964, when their children were between the ages of three and 14 years old, according to the judgment.

Dad Nahar found a job at a sawmill, and the family gradually began acquiring real estate, including a number of farms.

“As soon as they were old enough, the siblings were expected to work during the summers alongside their mother, picking fruit and vegetable crops,” Adair wrote.

The difference, according to the daughters, is that they were expected to take care of household chores, while their brothers were not. They testified that, as girls, they were treated as less valuable.

“There is little doubt that Nihal, over her lifetime and without justification, treated her daughters very cruelly. Jasbinder and Mohinder, the two oldest, were particular targets,” Adair wrote.

“The hurts were deep and are still keenly felt.”

Despite that cruelty, the two eldest daughters took on most of the work caring for their ailing parents in the years before they both died in the span of two months in early 2016.

‘They consider it a victory’

Today, the siblings all have their own families and are financially independent. Even before they receive their inheritance, some of them have assets valued in the millions of dollars.

But Adair wrote that the parents’ wills were not adequate to support their daughters.

B.C.’s Wills, Estates and Succession Act gives judges wide leeway to make drastic changes to a will to make sure there’s a “just and equitable” distribution to someone’s surviving spouse and children. At the same time, they’re expected to consider the “testamentary autonomy” of the dead person — in other words, a person’s right to decide who gets their money.

Todd said he believes the judge did a good job of balancing those two concerns.

“The clients are very happy with the result. They consider it a victory,” he said.

Source: 4 B.C. sisters victorious in court after parents left them tiny share of $9M estate

Douglas Todd: B.C. launches rare immigration plan for small towns

Seems like most governments are now developing comparable initiatives: the federal government with the Atlantic Immigration Pilot and the just announced Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, the Alberta UCP’s proposed program, and Manitoba’s approach to the Provincial Nominee Program.

The numbers are small in terms of total immigration but nevertheless can be significant for rural communities:

The B.C. government is venturing out on a rare Canadian effort to lure immigrants to the struggling hinterlands.

Aware that the vast majority of immigrants to the West Coast move into hectic Metro Vancouver, the B.C. government is launching a pilot program to lure entrepreneur immigrants to cities of less than 75,000 people that are distant from major urban centres.

Bruce Ralston, the minister of jobs, trade and technology, said 30 city mayors are already on board with the pilot program, which will give preferential treatment to well-off newcomers who commit to setting up a business in and living in a rural community for at least three years.

Maintaining that B.C.’s overall fertility rates are declining, the website for the so-called entrepreneur immigration regional pilot adds that small cities “face the additional challenge that young people are leaving for larger centres to find opportunities.”

The federal government’s immigration program has never put much effort into directing immigrants to rural areas, largely because immigrants have mobility rights under Canada’s charter and can move wherever they want.

But many migration specialists have urged Canada to develop incentives to shift immigrants to small towns, since 80 per cent of immigrants end up choosing the country’s major cities. About six in 10 recent immigrants squeeze into the three biggest metropolises, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

Manitoba is one of the few innovative provinces that has used its own immigration scheme to divert new workers away from Winnipeg to towns such as Winkler and Altona. And after B.C. quietly announced it’s pilot small-city program months ago, Alberta Opposition Leader Jason Kenney this week promised something similar.

“This has not been tried before in B.C.,” said Ralston, noting that B.C.’s current provincial nominee program, which is sanctioned by the federal government, brings in about 6,000 potential immigrants a year.

The majority come from Asia; choosing Metro Vancouver for the wide job variety and the cultural familiarity of living in a place that already has large populations of Chinese, South Asians, Filipinos, South Koreans and other ethnic groups.

“This pilot program is designed to get people to commit to small communities. They would have to establish a business and stay for a minimum of one year until they obtain permanent resident status, which usually takes another 18 months,” Ralston said .

“Once they have permanent residency the law says they can move wherever they want. But we think the stickiness of establishing a business in a warm community that would be enthusiastic and would wrap their arms around you would be important.”

The pilot program, which may initially accept a couple of hundred applicants, requires would-be immigrants to first visit their chosen community, invest a minimum of $100,000 in a business, have a net worth of at least $300,000 and create at least one job.

The pilot program also requires the applicant to understand English, which, controversially, has not been expected of the hundreds of newcomers welcomed in recent years through B.C.’s existing provincial immigration program for entrepreneurs.

The B.C. government intends to work closely with small-community officials to make the program work and help new arrivals connect with members of their diaspora group, said Ralston. The entrepreneur immigrants will not be allowed to start certain businesses, such as real estate development, bed and breakfasts or hobby farms.

Asked how B.C. officials will monitor whether participants actually live in the towns in which they start a business, Ralston said, “The communities have an interest in this working. The monitoring will be done by the mayors and councils and communities themselves. So if it doesn’t work, I will hear about it pretty fast.”

Simon Fraser University political scientist Sanjay Jeram is one of those who have encouraged Canadian jurisdictions to follow the lead of European nations and create incentives for immigrants and others to settle outside metropolises.

The fact most immigrants to Canada move to Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary adds undue pressure not only to those cities’ housing costs, Jeram said, but to infrastructure, such as traffic and transit.

The inter-provincial migratory flows within B.C. travel many complex directions, however.

Even while it’s accurate to say some young people are leaving rural B.C. towns, a recent Statistics Canada report showed that Aboriginals and whites are leaving Metro Vancouver for other regions of B.C. (especially the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan).

A net total of 9,345 whites and 460 Indigenous people left Metro for other parts of the province in the one-year period ending July, 2016, according to a 2018 Statistics Canada report. The two other demographic groups that are tending to say goodbye to Metro Vancouver are those born in Canada and those between ages 55 and 65.

However, the idea that governments can encourage more immigrants, and perhaps the native-born, to make their lives in the small towns of Canada appears to be picking up steam in Canada, at least provincially.

The idea gained a boost this week when Kenney, a former federal immigration minister who now leads Alberta’s United Conservatives, announced a government led by his party would launch an immigration plan that would attract newcomer entrepreneurs to rural Alberta, in order to get “the best bang for the buck” on who settles in the province.

Meanwhile, Manitoba has been successfully focusing on attracting would-be immigrants to rural towns who are skilled workers, not wealthy business people. While Ralston said a similar small-city program for skilled newcomers has been discussed, he first wants to find out whether the two-year entrepreneur pilot program works in B.C.

dtodd

Source: Douglas Todd: B.C. launches rare immigration plan for small towns