ICYMI: Biden outpacing Trump, Obama with diverse judicial nominees

Of note.

In Canada, the Trudeau appointments 2016-22 are (2016 baseline in parentheses): 56 percent women (36 percent), 10 percent visible minorities (2 percent), and 3 percent Indigenous peoples (1 percent):

For the Biden White House, a quartet of four female judges in Colorado encapsulates its mission when it comes to the federal judiciary.

One of the judges, Charlotte Sweeney, is an openly gay woman with a background in workers’ rights. Nina Wang, an immigrant from Taiwan, is the first magistrate judge in the state to be elevated to a federal district seat. Regina Rodriguez, who is Latina and Asian American, served in a U.S. attorney’s office.

Veronica Rossman, who came from the former Soviet Union with her family as refugees, is the first former federal public defender to be a judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

With these four women, who were confirmed during the first two years of President Joe Biden’s term, there is a breadth of personal and professional diversity that the White House and Democratic senators have promoted in their push to transform the judiciary.

“The nominations send a powerful message to the legal community that this kind of public service is open to a lot of people it wasn’t open to before,” Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, told The Associated Press. “What it says to the public at large is that if you wind up in federal court for whatever reason, you’re much more likely to have a judge who understands where you came from, who you are, and what you’ve been through.”

The White House and Democratic senators are closing out the first two years of Biden’s presidency having installed more federal judges than Biden’s two immediate predecessors. The rapid clip reflects a zeal to offset Donald Trump’s legacy of stacking the judiciary with young conservatives who often lacked in racial diversity.

So far, 97 lifetime federal judges have been confirmed under Biden, a figure that outpaces both Trump (85) and Barack Obama (62) at this point in their presidencies, according to the White House and the office of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Among them: Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, that court’s first Black woman, 28 circuit court judges and 68 district court judges.

Three out of every four judges tapped by Biden and confirmed by the Senate in the past two years were women. About two-thirds were people of color. The Biden list includes 11 Black women to the powerful circuit courts, more than those installed under all previous presidents combined.

“It’s a story of writing a new chapter for the federal judiciary,” said Paige Herwig, a senior White House counsel.

The White House prioritized judicial nominations from the start and Democratic leaders in the Senate moved quickly on them. Particular focus was placed on nominees for the appellate courts, where the vast majority of federal cases end, and those coming from states with two Democratic senators, who could find easier consensus in a process where there’s still significant deference given to home-state officials.

Democrats hope to speed up confirmations next year, a goal more easily accomplished by a 51-49 Senate that will give them a slim majority on committees. In the past two years, votes on some of Biden’s more contested judicial nominees would deadlock in committee votes.

Schumer said he also hopes to install more judges in appeals courts that shifted rightward under Trump, an effort that the majority leader described as rebalancing those courts.

“Trump loaded up the bench with hard right ‘MAGA’ type judges who are not only out of step with the American people, they were even out of step with the Republican Party,” Schumer said in an interview, using shorthand for Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

Despite their limited power to derail Biden’s judicial picks, some Republicans have fought ferociously against many of them, arguing that their views were out of the legal mainstream. The precarious 50-50 Senate meant several Biden nominees languished for months and were never confirmed before the Senate wrapped up its work this year.

Democrats also say certain judicial nominees, particularly women of color, were unfairly made into lightning rods by their GOP critics.

“The Republicans have just got a problem with this,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told the AP. “Not all of them, some do.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., a committee member, said Biden’s picks were “very, very left, but unapologetically so” and that his colleague’s assertions about Republicans were “absurd.”

Despite the strengthened Democratic majority. the White House could nonetheless struggle to seat some judges over the next two years.

For instance, Biden has made barely a dent in the number of vacancies for district court judges in states that have two Republican senators, confirming just one such person: Stephen Locher, now a judge in the Southern District of Iowa. Home-state senators still get virtual veto power over district picks. Advocates want Democrats to discard that tradition, arguing it only allows for Republican obstructionism.

Durbin has said he would reconsider the practice if he sees systematic abuse of it. But such roadblocks have been rare, he said, and influential Republicans give some deference to Biden on judges.

One matter Biden has not been willing to address: the structure of the Supreme Court.

Any push to reshape the high court has found little footing at the White House despite its the court’s tilt farther right under Trump.

In June, the 6-3 conservative majority overturned the landmark decision Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional protections for abortion that had existed for nearly 50 years. In the same term, it also weakened gun control and curbed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to manage climate change.

Biden has argued the court is more of an “advocacy group these days.” But he has not embraced calls to expand the court, impose term limits or mandatory retirement, or subject justices to a code of conduct that binds other federal judges.

“I wouldn’t, in any way minimize the progress and the importance of what President Biden is doing on the lower courts,” said Chris Kang of Demand Justice, an advocacy group leading the push to expand the court. But “we need to look at the core problem, which is the Supreme Court.”

Source: Biden outpacing Trump, Obama with diverse judicial nominees

Adams and Parkin: Surveys show Canadian are less polarized and angry than Americans

Of note:

We are living in an era of populism and polarization. Our politics is divided and angry. And if anything is changing, it is changing for the worse. Or so we are often told.

As usual, the U.S. sets the tone. Our recent surveys — run on both sides of the border — bring this into focus. Compared to 1986, in the midst of Reagan era, Americans today are much less likely to be satisfied both with opportunities to get ahead in their country, and with their system of government. Republicans, in particular, are losing faith in the American dream and in their democracy.

Perhaps surprisingly, over the same period of time, there has been no noticeable change of opinion in Canada. Not everyone here is satisfied with opportunities to advance, or with our system of government. But, on average, Canadians are no more dissatisfied than they were in the mid-1980s. Certainly Conservative party supporters are more dissatisfied now that the Liberals are in power. But this is offset by growing satisfaction among Liberals.

A big shift has occurred in Canada, however, when it comes to social programs. In the mid-1980s, Canadians were almost twice as likely as Americans to be satisfied with social services for the poor and the elderly in their country. Today, there is no difference — while satisfaction in the U.S. has remained low, satisfaction in Canada has fallen sharply. And it has fallen among partisans on both the left and the right of the political spectrum.

This hardly fits the narrative of the rise of populism. Yes, there is evidence of growing dissatisfaction in Canada, but the focus of this dissatisfaction is our failure to better protect the most vulnerable in our society. 

If this seems too rosy, consider opinions on two other questions. In 1986, about 3-in-4 people in both Canada and the United States agreed that government should reduce the income gap between the rich and the poor, and that government should do much more to make sure racial minorities are treated fairly. Since then, agreement on both questions has declined in the U.S. In Canada, there has been no change.

True, there are signs of polarization in both countries, as the gap in agreement between the those on the left and right has widened. But the gap today between Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. is about twice as wide as that in Canada between Conservatives and Liberals. On these questions, the opinions of Canadian Conservatives resemble those of American independents much more that those of their Republican “cousins.”

Then there is the notable absence of division in Canada between the views of racialized and non-racialized citizens. Predictably, in the U.S., African-Americans are much more likely than whites to call on government to act to promote both economic and racial equality; the gap emerges because white Americans are much less likely to favour these actions. 

Not so here, where equally large majorities of white and racialized Canadians call for government to act to reduce inequalities. 

Canadians must avoid looking upon these findings with smugness. Public opinion aside, we struggle to confront racism in our society. If Canadians have grown less satisfied with social services, it is a sign not only of social solidary, but also of the failure of our governments to deliver.

Pointing out that we are less polarized or angry than our American neighbours may be reassuring, but it does little to solve the problems we face. However, we at least can tackle these problems with an awareness that our history, society, culture and institutions are our own, with plenty of weaknesses, but also with undeniable strengths.

Source: Surveys show Canadian are less polarized and angry than Americans

U.S. Immigration Flaws Cause Ripple Effect in Canada

Of note:

While the U.S. grapples with questions of immigration reform, border security, and an ever-increasing visa backlog, neighboring Canada is experiencing immigration-related changes of its own.

Unlike the U.S., where population growth has steadily declined for decades, Canada is seeing the fastest population growth since 1957 — a demographic shift driven entirely by immigration. A significant percentage of this growth in recent years can be attributed to an increase in asylum claimants entering the country along the U.S.-Canada border. According to official government data, the number of asylum seekers crossing into Canada at informal entries along the country’s U.S. border reached the highest level since 2017.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) statistics show 23,358 asylum seekers have crossed into Canada at unofficial border points since the beginning of the year. While asylum seekers who enter Canada at official land border crossings are typically sent back to the U.S. for processing, migrants who cross elsewhere along the 5,500-mile border may remain in the country and file asylum claims with the Canadian government instead. These types of unauthorized crossings shot up during the Trump administration and have not slowed since President Biden took office.

Unofficial entries have become a common way for migrants to seek refuge in Canada and avoid being returned to the U.S. based on a decades-old agreement between the two countries. Ratified in 2004, the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) was designed as a way to manage U.S.-Canada land border crossings. Under the STCA, asylum seekers must request protection in the country where they first arrive, so migrants who enter Canada at official entry points are sent back to the U.S. — and vice versa. The idea underpinning the agreement is that both Canada and the U.S. are equally “safe” for refugees and offer access to fair asylum systems.

The pact has drawn widespread criticism from rights groups in recent years, with its future now being considered by Canada’s Supreme Court. Many in Canada argue that the U.S. is no longer a safe country for refugees, and therefore the U.S. government is unable to uphold its end of the agreement. Immigration advocates claim the policy forces asylum seekers to take increasingly dangerous journeys in order to cross the border, and migrants that do manage to cross are put at risk of immigration detention or deportation upon return to the U.S.

Canada’s asylum system and border policies are not the only areas to be impacted by grim immigration realities in the U.S. The sentiment that Canada may be a safer country for immigrants has rippled into other facets of the Canadian immigration system, namely the study and work permit sectors.

International student enrollment at Canadian colleges and universities doubled between 2016 and 2020 based on new analysis from the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP). By comparison, Boundless’ data report on international students found that U.S. schools experienced a 72% decrease in international student enrollment in 2020 compared to the previous year. NFAP’s analysis cited Canada’s friendlier immigration policies as a possible explanation, as the lack of reliable paths to a green card in the U.S. could also make Canada a seemingly safer immigration choicefor prospective international students. International graduates in Canada jump through far fewer hoops to obtain temporary work visas and permanent residence than their counterparts in the U.S.

In addition to losing international students, many highly skilled foreign nationals are choosing employment opportunities in Canada over the U.S. In 2021, House Immigration Chair Rep. Zoe Lofgren warned that the U.S. is losing immigrant talent to Canada because of “outdated and restrictive U.S. immigration policies.”

There is no numerical limit on how many work visas can be issued under Canadian immigration law. In contrast, it has become increasingly more difficult to get an H-1B work visa, which is typically the only practical option for immigrants to work in the U.S. long-term. The H-1B system itself is plagued with complex requirements and yearly caps that applicants and sponsoring employers must navigate. For example, in March 2021, sponsoring employers filed around 308,000 H-1B applications and over 72% of petitions were rejected.

Unlike the U.S., Canada also does not have a per-country limit on permanent residence, and immigrant workers are generally able to declare immigrant intent after working in temporary status for one year, regardless of country of origin. Meanwhile, the employment-based green card backlog stood at around 1.4 million in 2021, with applicants from certain countries like India estimated to wait several years to a decade before becoming eligible for a green card.

The trend of individuals selecting Canada over the U.S. for future immigration plans, regardless of which visa category they may fall under, is likely to continue with increased incentives from the Canadian government. Prime Minister Trudeau’s government announced plans to roll out new policies and programs to better recruit immigrant workers in industries suffering the most from labor shortages. Trudeau also set an ambitious target to bring in a record number of new permanent residents (more than 1.3 million) over the course of the next three years.

Source: U.S. Immigration Flaws Cause Ripple Effect in Canada

Douglas Todd: People of Indian descent a rising force in the U.S. and Canada

While the understandable focus is with respect to those of Indian descent holding leadership and senior positions, there is a larger group of workers in such industries as agriculture and trucking. From a political perspective, the outsized influence of Sikh and other Indo-Canadians reflects their geographic concentration: 47 ridings in Canada have 10 percent or more South Asian residents (2016 Census).

List: VM Ridings South Asian 10 percent

India is on the rise across the United States and Canada — in education, high-tech and politics.

The CEOs of five of the most powerful high-tech companies in North America have origins in India. They’re heading Microsoft, Google, IBM, Twitter and Match Group (which owns Tinder).And people of Indian ancestry are punching above their weight in politics in the U.S. and Canada. “There may well be an Indian-American president before there is an American Indian one,” says The Economist.

The educational achievements of people of Indian origin are above the norm in North America. And their are among the strongest of any ethnic group in the U.S. and Canada. This is not to mention one study showing people of Indian origin are almost four times more likely to own a home than the average Canadian.

India is the second highest source country for immigrants to the U.S., where 4.6 million have Indian origins, or 1.4 per cent of the total. They are mostly from southern India and tend to live in the U.S. South and East.

In Canada, India is the No. 1 source country for immigrants by far, accounting for 30 per cent of all newcomers since 2016.

There are 1.4 million people with Indian roots in Canada, most of whom are immigrants. They make up four per cent of the population. Generally from Northern India, most live in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

Even though many are already flying high in U.S. high-tech, the impact of people of Indian background on Canadian business, especially, is growing sharply.

The influence of Indo North Americans is destined to expand further. Let’s look at why.

The tech sectors in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are expanding on the strength of a workforce where two of five are foreign born. And U.S. immigration rules designed to protect homegrown workers means our southern neighbour is losing thousands of Indian high-tech experts and others to Canada.

With the U.S. restricting its coveted H-1B working visa (including with a rule that no one country can be the source of more than seven per cent of recipients), many computer specialists are among the more than 217,000 people from Indian who can work in Canada as foreign students (they make up 30 per cent of all international students).

Canada also accepted 128,000 people from India last year as new immigrants, many of them programmers. And it’s on track for a similar number in 2022. That compares to just 39,000 immigrants from India in 2015, when Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were first elected.

Such business success is made possible in large part because educational levels soar among those of Indian descent.

In the U.S. three of four of adults of Indian background have bachelors degrees or better, according to Pew Research. That’s the highest of any Asian immigrant group, with Chinese Americans coming in at 57 per cent. The overall bachelor’s degree average in the U.S. is 38 per cent.

In Canada, educational achievement is also pronounced. A recent Statistics Canada study by Theresa Qiu and Grant Schellenberg found 50 per cent of South Asian-Canadians (mostly from India) had bachelors degrees or more. The portion rose to 62 per cent among South Asian women.

The portion of bachelors degrees among Canadians with origins in South Asia is much higher than the 24 per cent for white men and 38 per cent for white women, as well as the 17 per cent for Latin American men and 28 per cent for Latin American women. One of the few ethnic groups scoring higher than South Asians are Chinese Canadians.

And wages reflect education levels. The median household income in the U.S. of Indian households is by far the highest of any ethnic-Asian group, at US$119,000, according to Pew.

The typical Chinese American household brings in US$82,000. The median household income across the U.S. is US$67,000.

While U.S. figures on housing are not readily available, a consumer survey by Vivintel, based in Toronto, found that South Asians, a solid majority of whom are from India, are almost four times more likely to buy a homethan the average Canadian.

“Home ownership is very important to South Asians … because they’re told by their parents that renting is just throwing away your money,” says Rahul Sethi, a 38-year-old director of Vivintel who immigrated to Canada from India with his family.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the rise of Indians in North America is their oversized affect on politics.And it’s not just because of U.S. vice-president Kamala Harris, who went to an English-language high school in Montreal after her scientist mother from India, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, got a job researching breast cancer at McGill University.

Even though Harris is a front-runner as a future Democrat presidential nominee, she’s far from alone in U.S. halls of power.

Karthick Ramakrishnan, who surveys Asian American attitudes from the University of California, maintains Indo Americans are far likelier than other immigrant groups to get involved in politics as donors, voters and candidates. They tend to favour Democrats by a margin of three to one.

Ram Villivalam, a state senator in Illinois, says having Harris running to be president gives confidence to Indo Americans. Pramala Jayapal, the first woman of South Asian descent to preside over the Congress, is now one of four influential Indo American politicians, dubbed the Samosa Caucus, in the House.

A similar movement is happening in Canadian politics.

The Indo Canadian population, like the Indo American, leans liberal-left. More than 38 per cent of respondents to a 2021 YouGov poll would cast a vote for the Liberals — twice the number that planned to go with the Conservatives.

One in five backed the left-wing New Democratic Party, the country’s third largest party, which has been lead for five years by Indo Canadian Jagmeet Singh.

More than 12 per cent of cabinet ministers in the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are Indo Canadian, including Harjit Sajjan and Anita Anand. At least 14 Liberal MPs are Indo Canadian.

This impact list goes on in politics, as well as in business and education. Indo North Americans are on a roll.

Source: Douglas Todd: People of Indian descent a rising force in the U.S. and Canada

Ali-Khan: Finding the American Dream in Canada

Of note, getting some coverage in major US media:

This is a festive period for Muslims around the world. One Eid, or Muslim celebration, has just passed, and another is coming up in July. I’ve left strings of starry lights in the tall windows of our family room, where they can be seen twinkling from the street in our neighborhood outside of Toronto. There’s a shadowbox-like window by the front door, where I’d hung a colorful garland of star ornaments at the start of Ramadan in April.

I wasn’t always willing to mark my family publicly as Muslim. In fact, we were three years in to becoming Canadian when I first realized that I could put up lights for our celebrations without any of the trepidation I’d felt in my hometown in Pennsylvania. There is a huge contrast between being Muslim in Canada and being Muslim in America today and it has a lot to do with Canada’s decision to tell the truth about its history, while America buries its own.
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We left America in 2017, eight months into Donald Trump’s term in office. That was not a coincidence. There was something malignant about the leap from ordinary, private Islamophobia to a state sponsored anti-Muslim agenda that made leaving feel urgent, for me and for my husband, but especially for our children. We worried for their physical safety, but also for the sense of themselves they were developing at four and six years old.

Recent studies and surveys by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) tell us our concerns were justified. ISPU has been a boon to American Muslims, who had previously lacked good data about themselves, helping us see more clearly how we’re faring. In 2020, half of all Muslim parents reported having a school aged child who experienced bullying related to their religious identity in the previous year. In almost a third of those cases, the perpetrator was a teacher or school official. In 2021, Muslims reported experiencing institutional discrimination at levels much higher than other religious groups, for example 25% of Muslims vs. 5% among those of other religious affiliations reported religious discrimination while receiving health care. At the airport, those figures are 44% for Muslims contrasted with 5% of the general public, applying for jobs, it’s 33% for Muslims and 8% for the general public. It’s increasingly clear that the appropriate comparison for the rate at which American Muslims are experiencing discrimination is not with other religious groups, but other racialized groups. It is also increasingly clear that anti-Muslim attitudes in America are durable, as attitudes towards other racialized groups have also been.

All of the myriad ways in which American Muslims experience anti-Muslim bias, threats, and discrimination appear to be having serious impacts on our mental health. A study published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2021 found that American Muslims are now twice as likely to have attempted suicide than Americans of other religious affiliations. It attributes this spike to religious discrimination and a reluctance among American Muslims to seek mental health treatment.

I first noticed the uptick in these trends after 9/11 and then again in 2015, when my kindergarten-aged daughter was told not to say she was Muslim at school. The teacher who told her this was Muslim herself, the only other Muslim at the school in any capacity. While it was likely the instruction was meant to be protective, it was nonetheless worrying. Unwilling to navigate a landscape in which it was dangerous for my six-year-old to be openly Muslim at school and seeing that this sentiment was increasingly normative in our nation’s culture, we began to plan our departure.

It’s not that Canada is utopian for Muslims. Even non-Canadians likely remember the Quebec City mosque shooting of 2017, in which 6 men were killed and 5 others injured by a 27-year-old named Alexandre Bissonnette. The number of anti-Muslim hate crimes in Quebec tripled that year.

There was another mosque shooting just last week in Toronto. In 2019, Quebec passed Bill 21, banning certain public workers from wearing visibly religious symbols, widely understood as an attempt to prevent Muslim women in such positions from wearing hijab, though also affecting those who wear turbans, for example, or kippas.

Nor is Canada utopian for other racialized groups. Recent surveys and reports all suggest that Black and Indigenous Canadians continue to experience widespread discrimination in jobs, education, and social services, health disparities, and disproportionate rates of incarceration and violence. Like America, Canada has a legacy of Black enslavement and Indigenous genocide, as well as a long history of residential schools and police brutality. Like America, Canada interned ethnically Japanese people during World War II. When I was a child visiting cousins in Toronto, the epithet “Paki,” for South Asians, was ubiquitous. These aspects of Canadian history have driven modern racist attitudes and continuing disparities in wealth, land ownership, and political power.

So why move our children here? Why not make our stand where we have a large, layered community of friends and family? There is a specific element of Canadian governance that made us hopeful that our American dreams might be better realized in Canada. If you go to Canada’s Department of Justice website today, you’ll find this remarkable statement: “The Government recognizes that Indigenous self-government and laws are critical to Canada’s future, and that Indigenous perspectives and rights must be incorporated in all aspects of this relationship. In doing so, we will continue the process of decolonization and hasten the end of its legacy wherever it remains in our laws and policies.”

The Canadian government’s acknowledgement of itself as a colonial project that must be actively undone is a dramatic contrast to political discourse in America today. Americans rarely acknowledge the essential thefts of land and labor from Native and Black people that have made America possible. Certainly, America’s government has never articulated an intention to decolonize. Americans are taught that their country has already had its revolution, freeing its people from colonial domination.

Years ago, in preschool, my children brought home a flyer about how to make an apology. The first step, the flyer said, is to acknowledge wrongdoing. With its history of slavery and colonial genocide, Americans yet find this step so controversial that, today, we cannot even agree to teach our own history in public schools. In the years since my family moved to Canada, we find that while imperfect, this nation’s fundamental intention towards justice does, in fact, make it a better place for our children to live. Their elementary school curriculum, for example, includes a discussion of what it means to be a settler on land that was promised to First Nations peoples in treaties. It challenges our children to reckon with what human rights for all of us, newcomers from many waves of immigration, descendants of those trafficked in slavery, and Indigenous peoples, might look like.

The children know whose traditional land they live and study on. They think about where the descendants of those people are, and what debt they might owe to them. In the process they are developing the capacity to navigate competing interests, diverse identities, and unfamiliar traditions. They are building the tools for a better future through honest study of their nation’s past. They recognize that this model secures space for them, too. Recently, their teachers applied the same principles to create a meditation space in the gym for fasting children to use over lunch during Ramadan.

I don’t fully understand why Canada has chosen to confront its colonial legacy while America continues to minimize and deny its own. I continue to hope that America will eventually unite around a plain telling of its own history in choosing a path forward. It is, after all, the only path that is wide enough for us all.

Source: Finding the American Dream in Canada

The U.S. Failed Miserably on COVID-19. Canada Shows It Didn’t Have to Be That Way

Not to be smug, as USA provides too easy a benchmark. Better comparison is with Europe, where we are slightly better in terms of infection and death rates. Hard to see how even an enquiry will address the deeply divided public opinion and Republican denialism of science, evidence and susceptibility to mis- and disinformation:

646,970 lives.

This is the number of Americans who would be alive today if the United States had the same per capita death rate from COVID-19 as our northern neighbor, Canada.

Reflect for a moment on the sheer magnitude of the lives lost. 646,970 is more than the entire population of Detroit. And it is more than the total number of American lives lost in World War I, World War II, and Vietnam combined.

No country is more similar to the U.S. than Canada, whose economy and culture are closely intertwined with our own. Yet faced with a life-threatening pandemic of historic proportions, Canada showed far greater success in protecting the lives of its people than the U.S. How are we to understand Canada’s superior performance and the disastrous performance of our own country, which has the highest per capita death rate (3023 per one million, compared to Canada’s 1071) of any wealthy democratic country?
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In comparing the two countries, the starting point must be the different response at the highest levels of government. In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated in March 2020, “I’m going to make sure that we continue to follow all the recommendations of public health officers particularly around stay-at-home whenever possible and self-isolation and social distancing”. This message was reinforced by Dr. Teresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, who in March delivered a message urging solidarity, declaring “We need to act now, and act together.”

In the U.S., President Trump in striking contrast declared that he would not be wearing a mask, saying “I don’t think I will be doing it…I just don’t see it”. And instead of reinforcing the messages of Dr. Anthony Fauci and other leading public health officials, Trump actively undermined them, declaring in reference to stay-at-home orders in some states, “I think elements of what they’ve done are just too tough.” Not content with undercutting his top public health advisers, President Trump further undermined public confidence in science by suggesting “cures” for COVID-19, including at one point ingesting bleach and taking hydroxychloroquine, a drug that research confirmed had no efficacy as a COVD-19 treatment.

These divergent responses at the national level were to shape responses at the state and provincial level of the U.S. and Canada, respectively, as well as the response of the public. By the beginning of July 2020, the impact of these divergent responses was already visible, with Canada’s death rate just 60 percent of the American rate. As Canada’s more stringent public health measures—which included larger and stricter stay-at-home orders, closure of restaurants, gyms, and other businesses, curfews, and limits on public gatherings—took effect, the gap between the two countries widened even more. By October 2020, the per capita death rate in Canada had dropped to just 40 percent of the rate in the U.S.

It is tempting to blame America’s disastrous response to COVID-19 on Trump, and there is no question that he bungled the situation. But the pandemic revealed deep fault lines in America’s institutions and culture that would have made effective responses difficult no matter who was in the White House. Had Barack Obama, for example, been in office when COVID-19 arrived, he, too, would have faced the country without a national health care system, one with deep distrust of government, exceptionally high levels of poverty and inequality, sharp racial divisions, a polarized polity, and a culture with a powerful strand of libertarianism at odds with the individual sacrifices necessary for the collective good.

The differences between the U.S. and Canada became even more starkly visible on the issue of vaccines. The U.S., which had purchased a massive supply of vaccines in advance, was initially far ahead, with 21 percent of Americans and only 2 percent of Canadians vaccinated by April 1, 2021. The U.S. was still ahead in July, but by October 1, 74 percent of Canadians were fully vaccinated, compared to just 58 percent of Americans. Part of the difference no doubt resides in the superior access provided by Canada’s system of universal, publicly funded healthcare. But equally, if not more important, is the far greater trust Canadians have in their national government: 73 percent versus 50 percent in the U.S. Coupled with greater vaccine resistance in the U.S., the net result is a vast gap in the proportion of the population that is not fully vaccinated: 32 percent in the U.S., but 13 percent in Canada.

Also implicated in the far higher COVID-19 death rate in the U.S. is the simple fact that Americans are less healthy than Canadians. Lacking a system of universal healthcare and plagued by unusually high levels of class and racial inequality, Americans are more likely to have pre-existing medical conditions associated with death from COVID. Americans have an obesity rate of 42 percent versus 27 percent for Canadians and a diabetes rate of 9.4 percent versus 7.3 percent for Canadians. Overall, the health of Canadians is superior and they live longer lives, with an average life expectancy of 82.2 years compared to 78.3 years in the U.S.

Exacerbating these differences in health are the deep cultural differences between the two countries. More than three decades ago, the sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset noted in Continental Divide that the ideologies of anti-statism and individualism were far more resonant in the U.S. than in Canada. For the many Americans influenced by the powerful libertarian strand in American culture and by its elaborate right-wing media apparatus, masks were a violation of freedom and vaccines a form of tyranny. Canada, which produced a trucker convoy that shut down the nation’s capital, is not immune to such sentiments. But they were far more pervasive in the U.S. and led to a degree of non-compliance with the government and public health officials that had no parallel in Canada; to take but one example, the percent of Canadians wearing masks in January 2022 when the Omicron variant was at its height was 80 percent compared to just 50 percent in the U.S.

Following a national disaster of this magnitude, there must be a serious inquiry into what happened and how it might be prevented or mitigated in the future. This is what the nation did after the attack on September 11, forming a Commission that issued a major report within two years of its formation. Surely a pandemic that has taken the lives of more than one million Americans warrants a report of at least equal seriousness. But in the current atmosphere of intense political partisanship, it might be better if such an investigation were conducted by a nongovernmental entity composed of distinguished citizens and experts, or by a non-political body such as the National Academy of Sciences. But whatever form such a commission might take, it must address a pressing question: why so many countries, including Canada, proved so much more effective in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We could—and should—learn from their experiences, so that the U.S. does better when the next pandemic arrives.

Source: The U.S. Failed Miserably on COVID-19. Canada Shows It Didn’t Have to Be That Way

US funds for Canada protests may sway American politics too

Should it be a surprise that Canadians are being used as props for the US right?

The Canadians who have disrupted travel and trade with the U.S. and occupied downtown Ottawa for nearly three weeks have been cheered and funded by American right-wing activists and conservative politicians who also oppose vaccine mandates and the country’s liberal leader.

Yet whatever impact the protests have on Canadian society, and the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, experts say the outside support is really aimed at energizing conservative politics in the U.S. Midterm elections are looming, and some Republicans think standing with the protesters up north will galvanize fund-raising and voter turnout at home, these experts say.

“The kind of narratives that the truckers and the trucker convoy are focusing on are going to be really important issues for the (U.S.) elections coming ahead,” said Samantha Bradshaw, a postdoctoral fellow at the Digital Civil Society Lab at Stanford University. “And so using this protest as an opportunity to galvanize their own supporters and other groups, I think it’s very much an opportunity for them.”

By Wednesday afternoon, all previously blocked border crossings had been re-opened, and police began focusing on pressuring the truckers and other protesters in Ottawa to clear out of the capital city or face arrest, fines and confiscation of their vehicles. 

About 44 percent of the nearly $10 million in contributions to support the protesters originated from U.S. donors, according to an Associated Press analysis of leaked donor files. U.S. Republican elected officials, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, have praised the protesters calling them “heroes” and “patriots.”

“What this country is facing is a largely foreign-funded, targeted and coordinated attack on critical infrastructure and our democratic institutions,” Bill Blair, Canada’s minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, said earlier this week. 

Demonstrators in Ottawa have had been regularly supplied with fuel and food, and the area around Parliament Hill has at times resembled a spectacular carnival with bouncy castles, gyms, a playground and a concert stage with DJs. 

GiveSendGo, a website used to collect donations for the Canadian protests, has collected at least $9.58 million dollars, including $4.2 million, or 44%, that originated in the United States, according to a database of donor information posted online by DDoSecrets, a non-profit group.

The Canadian government has been working to block protesters’ access to these funds, however, and it is not clear how much of the money has ultimately gotten through.

Millions of dollars raised through another crowdfunding site, GoFundMe, were blocked after Canadian officials raised objections with the company, which determined that the effort violated its terms of service around unlawful activity.

The GiveSendGo database analyzed by AP showed a tally of more than 109,000 donations through Friday night to campaigns in support of the protests, with a little under 62,000 coming from the U.S. 

The GiveSendGo data listed several Americans as giving thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to the protest, with the largest single donation of $90,000 coming from a person who identified himself as Thomas M. Siebel.

Siebel, the billionaire founder of software company Siebel Systems, did not respond to messages sent to an email associated with a foundation he runs and to his LinkedIn account.

A representative from the Siebel Scholars Foundation, who signed her name only as Jennifer, did not respond to questions about whether he had donated the money. But she said Siebel has a record of supporting several causes, including efforts to “protect individual liberty.”

“These are personal initiatives and have nothing to do with the companies with which he is associated,” she wrote.

Siebel has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and organizations over the last 20 years, according to Federal Election Commission records, including a $400,000 contribution in 2019 to a GOP fundraising committee called “Take Back the House 2020.”

The GiveSendGo Freedom Convoy campaign was created on Jan. 27 by Tamara Lich. She previously belonged to the far-right Maverick Party, which calls for western Canada to become independent.

The Canadian government moved earlier this week to cut off funding for the protesters by broadening the scope of the country’s anti-money laundering and terrorist financing rules to cover crowdfunding platforms like GiveSendGo. 

“We are making these changes because we know that these platforms are being used to support illegal blockades and illegal activity, which is damaging the Canadian economy,” said Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Perhaps more important than the financial support is the cheerleading the Canadian protesters have received from prominent American conservative politicians and pundits, who see kindred spirits in their northern neighbors opposing vaccine mandates.

On the same day Lich created the GiveSendGo campaign, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn shared a video of the convoy in a post on the messaging app Telegram.

“These truckers are fighting back against the nonsense and tyranny, especially coming from the Canadian government,” wrote Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency who served briefly as former President Donald Trump’s national security adviser.

A few days later, Flynn urged people to donate to the Canadian protesters. Earlier this week, he twice posted the message “#TrudeauTheCoward” on Telegram, referring to the prime minister who leads Canada’s Liberal Party.

Fox News hosts regularly laud the protests, and Trump weighed in with a broadside at Trudeau, calling him a “far left lunatic” who has “destroyed Canada with insane COVID mandates.” Cruz called the truckers “heroes” and “patriots,” and Greene said she cannot wait to see a convoy protest in Washington.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he hopes truckers come to America and “clog up cities” in an interview last week with the Daily Signal, a news website of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Far-right and anti-vaccine activists, inspired by the Canadian actions, are now planning American versions of the protests against COVID-19 mandates and restrictions modeled on the Canadian demonstrations.

Source: US funds for Canada protests may sway American politics too

Canada, Australia embrace more Indians but US passport remains the most coveted

Australia highest on per capita basis:

India regained its position as the top country of origin of the newly naturalised citizens of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries in 2019, following a sharp increase in the number of Indians granted citizenship of Canada and Australia. India had lost that position to Mexico in 2017.

More than 1.56 lakh individuals surrendered Indian citizenship for more powerful passports of the OECD countries in the pre-pandemic year, a recent report from the 38-country economic bloc said.

The number of Indians who secured Canadian and Australian citizenship rose 61 percent, faster than the 28 percent rise in the Indians getting citizenship in any OECD country.

Yet, more Indians secured the US passport than the combined total of those who acquired the Canadian or the Australian passport that year. A total of 63,578 Indians became naturalised US citizens in 2019, the highest since 2008 when nearly 66,000 individuals did.

At 31,329, the number of Indians securing Canadian citizenship was the highest since 2006. A large number of highly skilled Indians, particularly techies, rushed to apply for residency in the vast but thinly populated country after the Justin Trudeau government that came to power first in 2015 eased migration rules.

Australia conferred citizenship to 28,470 Indians, perhaps a record number for any year, the latest edition of the International Migration Outlook, published annually by the OECD reported.

The UK was the fourth most sought after passport among Indians but at 14,680, the number of new citizens of Indian origin in Britain was the lowest since 2008.

The OECD data also shows that 40 percent of the 1.56 lakh who surrendered their Indian passports in 2019 had become US citizens, while 20 percent chose Canada, 18 percent Australia and 10 percent the UK.

Despite the large intake of Indians as citizens of the US, they were just 8 percent of all the foreigners who became American citizens that year.

In contrast, Indians were 22 percent of those who gained Australian citizenship and 13 percent of the newly naturalised Canadians.

New Zealand, Italy and Germany were also among the top countries where Indians took up citizenship. Nearly 4,800 Indians became citizens of New Zealand in 2019, the third consecutive year that more than 4,750 Indians acquired the nationality of the island nation in the Pacific Ocean.

About 4,700 became Italians that year but the numbers getting Italian citizenship had halved since 2016. Other OECD countries that granted citizenship to 500-1,000 Indians in 2019 were Sweden, the Netherlands, Portugal and Ireland.

The COVID stop 

The report also showed a sharp rise in the flow of Indian migrants, including students to the UK. About 92,000 Indians moved to the UK in 2019, nearly 50 percent more than in the previous year.

The flow of Indians into the UK has been on the rise since 2017, the year the Theresa May government formally began the country’s exit from the European Union.

In all, 3.94 lakh Indians migrated to OECD nations in 2019. Not surprisingly, the flow of Indians to Canada also gained that year, with 85,600 individuals migrating to the North American country. The US, Germany and Australia also received a large flow of Indian migrants during the year.

China continued to be the top country of origin for international migrants in the OECD, with their numbers rising from 4.30 lakh to 4.66 lakh. Romania was in the third position.

The OECD said that it expected a 30 percent drop in the flow of migrants due to the pandemic in 2020 to about 37 lakh, the lowest since 2003. The data on the flow of migrants to all OECD nations was not available when the report was published.

The impact on permanent migration was estimated to be much higher. It said that there was a sharp drop in all categories of migration—family migration, inter-company transfers, temporary labour and students.

Study permits issued by the US and Canada were estimated to have dropped 70 percent and those by the OECD EU countries by 40 percent.

Source: Canada, Australia embrace more Indians but US passport remains the most coveted

Rise in expat voting expected to continue, creating new political footholds, say experts

Of note. One of the reasons that one of the former Chief Electoral Officer did not oppose expatriate voting was his expectation that most will not bother to vote which the 2019 election confirmed although that will likely increase slowly. And yes, riding breakdowns would be useful, but it is interesting to note the Conservative focus on Canadian expatriates in Hong Kong rather than the much larger living in the USA:

Expat voting tripled between the last two Canadian federal elections, and sources who recently spoke with The Hill Times say they expect numbers of those who cast ballots from abroad to continue to trend upwards, opening new opportunities for political parties.

But while a conservative group launched in January is working to boost registration of international electors, there’s no sign of a liberal equivalent.

“I think we’re the only Canadian kind of political-oriented expat group that’s trying to help Canadians get registered [to vote] abroad,” said Brett Stephenson, vice-chair and policy chair of Canadian Conservatives Abroad(CCA), which officially launched in January of this year with an aim, in part, to encourage registration of international voters, in a recent phone interview with The Hill Times from Hong Kong.

Involved in the group are a number of notable names: former Conservative foreign affairs minister John Baird, who now works for a number of international firms in Toronto; Nigel Wright, a former chief of staff to then-prime minister Stephen Harper who’s working for Onex in London, U.K.; Herman Cheung, a former manager of new media and marketing in the Harper PMO who now works for Philip Morris International in Hong Kong; Barrett Bingley, a former adviser to then-foreign affairs minister David Emerson who’s now working for The Economist Group in Hong Kong; Patrick Muttart, a former deputy chief of staff to PM Harper who’s now working for Philip Morris International in London, U.K.; Jamie Tronnes, a former Conservative staffer on the Hill who’s now working as a consultant in Oakland, Calif.; Georganne Burke, an experienced Conservative campaigner and organizer who’s based in Ottawa; and Ian Vaculik, who briefly worked as an adviser in the Harper PMO and now works for KBR Inc. in London, U.K. Mr. Stephenson is also a former Conservative staffer, including to Lisa Raitt during her time as natural resources minister. 

“I don’t think the … small ‘L’ liberals have come together to form an organization. I thought they would after we had formed in January, but there still hasn’t been any effort as far as I can see,” said Mr. Stephenson. 

Similar efforts have been underway by political parties in the U.S., the U.K., and Australia for decades, said Mr. Stephenson—for example, Democrats Abroad or Republicans Overseas—but similar outreach to Canadian expats has long been a “missing component.”

“We’re about 40 years behind our fellow English-speaking countries when it comes to having some sort of international space to engage with expats abroad,” he said. 

Citizens who had resided outside of Canada were barred from voting if they’d lived outside the country for more than five years in 1993, though it was seen as loosely enforced until 2011. In that year’s election, two Canadians who’d been outside the country for more than five years—Gillian Frank and Jamie Duong—had their ballots rejected, a decision they took to court, leading to a January 2019 Supreme Court decision that ruled expats have the right to vote in federal elections no matter how long they’ve lived outside the country. That decision came on the heels of a Trudeau Liberal bill, the Elections Modernization Act, which received royal assent in December 2018 and, among other things, amended the Canada Elections Act to scrap the requirement that only Canadians living outside the country for less than five consecutive years, and who intended to return in the future, could vote.

Subsequently, expat voting surged. In 2015, 15,603 expats were registered with Elections Canada as of that year’s election, with 10,707 valid ballots cast. In 2019, 55,512 Canadians were on the international register of electors come the October election, of which 32,720 cast valid ballots, an increase of nearly 206 per cent from the election prior. 

Even with the increase, that’s still a small fraction of the total number of Canadians living abroad. The Canadian Expat Association estimates some 2.8 million Canadians live outside the country (the number of eligible voters among that count though is unknown); registration with Global Affairs Canada is entirely voluntary, and only 352,245 Canadians are currently registered.

Graph courtesy of Infogram.

There are early signs that the number of expats registering to vote continues to rise.

On Sept. 13, 2019, two days after the writs were issued and roughly one month out from voting day (Oct. 21) in the last election, the Huffington Post reported that, at that point, 19,784 people were on the international register of electors. That number rose 180.6 per cent to 55,512 by election day. 

As of July 25, there were 29,632 Canadians on Elections Canada’s international register of electors—roughly 10,000 more than were on the list one month out from the last election. (Elections Canada does a verification process after each federal election, asking those registered to confirm their continued registration and mailing address, and removes the names of those who don’t respond or have returned to Canada.)

Though it’s still not official that a federal election will happen soon, expectation seems widespread that an election call is imminent, with the vote seen as likely to be held this fall, possibly in September.

“The opportunity is there for expats to have an impact,” said Mr. Stephenson, adding he expects the number of ballots cast by expat voters in the next election to be on par with 2019 levels or to potentially go up. “I don’t think it will dip down.”

John Delacourt, a former Liberal staffer and now a vice-president with Hill and Knowlton Strategies, said the numbers “certainly suggest” expat voting is on the rise.

“If that is indeed the case … it would be viewed as an opportunity, and as an opportunity for outreach, and virtually every party, I think, is interested in growth to connect with members, whether they be beyond our borders” or in Canada, he said. 

Semra Sevi, a PhD candidate with the University of Montreal’s department of political science who has explored the subject of expat voting (her master’s thesis looked at the impact of such voters in Canada), said the fact that expat voting appears to be on the rise is “not very surprising,” given increased attention on the matter, and she expects it “will continue to climb,” as political groups increasingly turn their sights to such voters and awareness builds. 

Mr. Delacourt said he doesn’t know of a Liberal-equivalent group to the CCA, adding the Conservative effort is “a little ironic” given the party’s past position supporting previous expat voting limits.

The Hill Times asked the federal Liberal Party directly about the existence of any such groups, and none were noted in response, though senior director of communications Braeden Caley did highlight that the party “works both with volunteers and organizers on a series of initiatives to help encourage Canadians abroad to participate in our democracy and elections,” noting “particularly strong support from Canadian students who have been living abroad in recent years.” 

Mr. Stephenson and Mr. Bingley previously formed a Canadian Conservatives in Hong Kong group in 2019, on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision, similarly aimed at encouraging expats to register to vote. Through one registration drive event held a few days before writs dropped in 2019, attended by Mr. Baird, he said the group helped get between 150 to 200 expats registered. (The total number registered overall as a result of the group’s efforts is unknown, as expats have to register themselves.)

“That’s the kind of thing we’re hoping to replicate more on a global level” now, he said, with a particular focus currently on the Asia-Pacific region (Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia in particular), the European Union (France and Germany in particular), Israel, the U.K., and the U.S., with the latter two being “likely where most Canadian expats live.” 

A lot of the group’s work, said Mr. Stephenson, is about “information sharing” and helping expats understand the process of registering, a process that involves “a lot of clicking” and is “not very simplified.” For example, a question that often comes up among expats, he said, is how voting in Canada could impact their taxes (zero impact, he said, citing Canadian tax experts).

Along with expat registration, Mr. Stephenson said the CCA is working to build a conservative network across the globe and has plans to start advertising on social media “soon.” The group also has a third function: providing informal policy advice and feedback to the Conservative Party and caucus back home (as well as provincial conservative parties, “as it comes”—for example, they recently had an open forum discussion with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, he said). 

“Tapping into that network of experience and breadth of knowledge across sectors and countries can help to really inform policy issues back into Canada,” he said. “Canada sometimes gets a little bit isolated in international conversations … and sometimes we don’t read the newspapers in other countries about what’s going on, so we wanted to be able to have that policy feedback loop to improve the discussion back in Parliament a bit more.” 

To be on the international register of electors, you need to be a Canadian citizen, at least 18 years old on polling day, and have lived in the country at some point in your life. Elections Canada requires a copy of one piece of ID, either from a Canadian passport, birth certificate, or citizenship card/certificate. Expats also need to provide the last address they lived at in Canada (it can’t be a PO box). That address is used to determine the federal riding in which their vote will be counted. Registration can happen at any time, according to Elections Canada, but must happen before 6 p.m. on the Tuesday before election day (which is always a Monday) to have their vote counted in that election.

Elections Canada begins the process of mailing out special ballot kits to those on the register “immediately after the drop of writs” and it typically takes two to three days to mail all of them out, said spokesperson Matthew McKenna. 

“This time around, we have done what we can to prepare kits in advance so we are ready to go as soon as possible,” he said. 

How long it takes to reach international voters varies by country, he said, noting the agency uses DHL, a private courier service, for “many destinations.” Completed kits have to be received at Elections Canada’s Ottawa distribution centre by no later than 6 p.m. on election day.

Since 2015, Elections Canada has run a “paid advertising component” to reach out to international electors online; prior to then, it did “some smaller-scale targeted advertising” along with “non-paid outreach and organic communication,” explained Mr. McKenna. The agency also works with Global Affairs Canada to share information with Canadians living abroad about how to register and vote, and has a dedicated section on its website.

Impact of expat voters hard to gauge, says Sevi

In the 2019 federal election, 18.4 million Canadians cast valid ballots. International voters accounted for a small fraction of that, rounded to just 0.2 per cent. 

But Mr. Stephenson said he thinks there’s still potential for expats to make an impact. In his understanding, “many of the Hong Kong Canadians,” for example, are from B.C.’s Lower Mainland, the Greater Toronto Area, and Calgary and Edmonton. If “even just 10 or 20 per cent” of Canadians in Hong Kong vote, he suggested “it could tip the scales in a lot of close election races in the GTA and Lower Mainland.” Both areas are seat-rich and seen as target regions by Canada’s major political parties. 

Gauging the impact expat voters have had in federal elections is hard to do, said Ms. Sevi. The riding-by-riding vote breakdown currently provided by Elections Canada lumps together all votes by special ballot as one category; that includes international electors, but also captures votes cast by prisoners, members of the military, and people voting domestically by mail-in ballot. (Elections Canada is anticipating mail-in ballot use to rise considerably in the next federal election as a result of COVID-19.) 

“It’s hard to disentangle the patterns to say that you know expat votes would make a difference in a specific constituency historically,” said Ms. Sevi. The Conservative Party has in recent elections gotten more votes by special ballot than any other party, she said, but that’s special ballots as a combined group. A Maclean’s piece penned by Ms. Sevi and Peter H. Russell in 2015, notes that in 2008 and 2011, Ontario saw the highest share of expat voters, followed by Quebec, then B.C., then Alberta, with expat votes spread “increasingly in urban ridings.”

However, separate research she’s done into voting by Turkish expats (in Turkey’s elections)—information on which is “disentangled” as a separate category—indicates that while turnout is lower than among domestic voters in Turkey, expats “tend to vote along similar lines as domestic voters.”

Ms. Sevi said she hopes Elections Canada provides a riding-by-riding breakdown of the types of special ballot votes in the future. 

Source: Rise in expat voting expected to continue, creating new political footholds, say experts

Canada’s tragic residential-school reckoning could be grim harbinger for U.S.

Of note. Will reinforce efforts here I suspect:

It took just two weeks for the first Indigenous cabinet member in American history to publicly express her deep personal dismay at the grim residential school revelations emanating from north of the border.

It was only another 11 days before Deb Haaland, one of the first Native Americans ever elected to Congress and President Joe Biden’s newly appointed secretary of the interior, took matters into her own hands.

“The department shall undertake an investigation of the loss of human life and the lasting consequences of residential Indian boarding schools,” Haaland wrote in a memo last week.

“Only by acknowledging the past can we work toward a future we are all proud to embrace.”

In geopolitical terms, the time between Haaland’s June 22 memo and May 27 — the day a B.C. First Nation announced the grim discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former residential school — was the blink of an eye.

Rarely do developments on Canadian soil prompt such rapid, dramatic policy decisions in the U.S., a telling measure of magnitude for what Haaland’s investigation may uncover in a country where Indigenous issues are seldom considered front-page news.

“There is a reckoning happening,” said Chase Iron Eyes, a prominent U.S. Indigenous activist and lead counsel for the North Dakota-based Lakota People’s Law Project.

“They don’t teach this in schools — not in Canadian schools, not in American schools — that there are mass graves of children at church-run, government-sponsored residential schools and boarding schools.

“And now we’re no longer able to hide from those truths.”

Haaland’s own heritage doubtless helped move things along.

“My great-grandfather was taken to Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania,” Haaland wrote in a moving column in the Washington Post this month that opened with the news out of Canada.

“Its founder coined the phrase, ‘Kill the Indian, and save the man,’ which genuinely reflects the influences that framed these policies at the time.”

It’s a chilling echo of words frequently attributed to Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald — “take the Indian out of the child” — in his 19th century defence of Canada’s residential school system.

The similarities between the systems that existed in Canada and the U.S. likely don’t stop there.

“I think the scale, in terms of sheer numbers, is fairly comparable,” said Circe Sturm, an anthropology professor and Indigenous issues specialist at the University of Texas at Austin.

By the turn of the century, after the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs had taken over Indigenous schooling from the Christian missionaries who started the effort, the department was operating 147 day schools and 81 boarding schools on U.S. reservations, and another 25 boarding schools off-reserve, Sturm said.

In Canada, an estimated 150,000 Indigenous children are believed to have attended one of about 150 residential schools that operated between the 1880s and when the last one closed in 1996.

Haaland’s “Indian Boarding School Initiative” will seek to identify all of the schools that were part of the program, with a particular emphasis on “any records relating to cemeteries or potential burial sites … which may later be used to assist in locating unidentified human remains.”

The department will also liaise with Indigenous communities across the U.S., including in Alaska and Hawaii, on how best to handle any such remains, with plans for a final report by April of next year.

“Many who survived the ordeal returned home changed in unimaginable ways, and their experiences still resonate across the generations,” Haaland wrote.

“The work outlined will shed light on the scope of that impact.”

The potential scale of the situation in Canada took a dramatic turn Thursday when the Cowessess First Nation announced the discovery of what are believed to be 751 unmarked graves at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School on southern Saskatchewan.

That news generated uncommon media interest Friday in the U.S., where the Post played it on the front page and the New York Times devoted a full inside page to coverage of the discovery, as well as Haaland’s announcement.

Sturm demurred when asked whether she expects broad change in U.S. attitudes toward Indigenous Peoples on a scale comparable to last year’s social upheaval in the wake of the death of George Floyd.

“I suspect that many Americans will struggle with the hard truth about the founding of this country — some by choosing to ignore it, others with guilt and anger,” she said.

“But because we are talking about the senseless death of children, there is a good chance that a significant number of Americans would be moved enough to insist on action.”

If such discoveries are what it takes to finally end public complacency about the plight of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, so be it, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested Friday.

The federal government intends to help with “the healing and the fixing of the generations of trauma that Canadians have all too often turned an eye from, all too often shrugged away from,” Trudeau said.

“And if it took discovering these graves for Canadians to wake up to how much we need to continue to do, then that perhaps gives us a starting point to continue to do even more.”‘

Indigenous leaders in Canada have been pressing Trudeau to secure an apology, on Canadian soil, from Pope Francis himself for the role the Catholic Church played in operating residential schools.

Those demands — which Trudeau repeated again Friday — have so far gone unheeded. But they may carry more weight if, in the fullness of time, Biden is in a position to join the call.

“I think Trudeau and Biden together is a stronger force than either of them alone. I do believe that,” Iron Eyes said.

“We need those calls to come from within the Christian community, because those ‘ideals’ upon which these countries were founded were very much informed by Christian and Western theology and world views.”

Source: Canada’s tragic residential-school reckoning could be grim harbinger for U.S.