‘All about the money’: How women travelling to Canada to give birth could strain the health-care system

CBC Fifth Estate story on birth tourism, being broadcast January 5. Not much new from provincial (British Columbia) health authorities, British Columbia government or IRCC. Better data should be available later this spring from the joint study between IRCC, Canadian Institutes of Health Information and Statistics Canada:

Women travelling to Canada to give birth to babies who will automatically become Canadian citizens are prompting concerns about the strain they may be putting on the health-care system, The Fifth Estate has found.

At one British Columbia hospital with a high concentration of such deliveries, complaints have arisen that the influx of these non-resident patients — also known as birth tourists — has led to compromised care for local mothers-to-be and struggles for nursing staff.

Some of these patients fail to pay hospital and doctors bills, leaving taxpayers and individual care providers on the hook.

“Most of them, they get the Canadian passport, and then they leave the country,” said Dr. Mudaffer Al-Mudaffer, a B.C. pediatrician and neonatologist who sees babies of non-residents when they need critical care. “It affects the integrity of the fairness of the health system.”

No statistics are available regarding how many people are travelling to Canada specifically to ensure their child is born here and will have a Canadian passport.

But figures from the Canadian Institute for Health Information and several Quebec hospitals indicate there were about 5,000 non-resident births across the country in 2018, an increase of nearly 15 per cent over the previous year.

In the fall of 2019, Cathy Shi arrived in Richmond, B.C., from Shandong, on China’s east coast, to give birth to her third child. She said through a translator that she wanted her unborn child to have more opportunities.

“My concern is about their education, such as going to university. If the kid wants to live in Canada, it would be convenient for them if they’re born here.”

Handful of hospitals

At this point, the practice of birth tourism appears to be concentrated in a handful of hospitals in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.

At the Richmond Hospital, south of Vancouver, non-residents make up nearly a quarter of all births, according to records obtained from Vancouver Coastal Health, the health authority which runs the hospital. In many ways, that hospital can be seen as a test case for how this issue could play out elsewhere as numbers continue to climb.

The health authority declined a request for an interview with The Fifth Estate and issued a warning directing its staff not to speak to the media.

Despite that, four current and two retired nurses shared their concerns, requesting that their identities be protected.

Since 2013/14, the number of non-resident births has tripled at the hospital. The patients — many from China — pay privately for their care, often in cash, may not speak English and are unfamiliar with the Canadian health-care system. The nurses who spoke to The Fifth Estate say the influx has led to increased workloads and has compromised care.

“There are times when … the people living here don’t get the service that they need,” one nurse said.

When the unit was very busy, one nurse said services like prenatal tests to check the baby’s health, labour inductions and other tests to check fetal and maternal risk factors would be delayed or cancelled.

“We would often have to decide whose need was greatest and abandon the rest for the next day where we would face the same situation again,” she said.

“Our normal scheduled or add-on C-sections lie here all day and then they take the IV out, we send them home and say come back tomorrow. A private pay never goes home — she gets her C-section that day,” said another nurse.

“She will be fit in somewhere because nobody wants to lose that $5,000. But our normal people are lying there all day, no food or drink, waiting and nobody’s interested in moving them.”

Some hospitals, like Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, have taken steps to limit the number of non-resident births in order to prioritize residents of their own communities. That hospital says it won’t treat non-residents patients without Ontario Health Insurance Plan coverage.

When asked in an email why the Richmond Hospital doesn’t have a similar policy, Carrie Stefanson, a public affairs representative with Vancouver Coastal Health, said: “VCH cannot speak for other hospitals or health authorities. VCH will never deny urgent and emergent care based on ability to pay or where a patient is from.”

The hospital requests deposits for privately paid births: $10,000 for a vaginal birth and $16,000 for a caesarean. More than $18 million has been invoiced for non-resident births since 2017, according to data released through freedom of information by Vancouver Coastal Health.

Nursing staff say they have not seen this money go into easing their workloads.

“The amount of money that’s coming into Richmond from the private pay, it doesn’t make our staffing better,” said one nurse.

Their union says that is a problem.

“I certainly think adding additional patients into a health-care system that isn’t staffed appropriately, isn’t funded appropriately, is causing strain,” said Christine Sorensen, president of the BC Nurses’ Union.

She said the union has regularly heard complaints from nurses at Richmond Hospital but they have not filed a formal complaint with the hospital.

The health authority declined to answer a question about how it has responded to complaints from nursing staff.

Financial incentives within the medical system

Two doctors at the Richmond Hospital have delivered 1,300 of the 2,206 babies born to non-residents there since 2014, according to documents released through freedom of information.

While the health authority will not disclose their names, insiders and birth tourism company representatives say Dr. Xin-Yong Wang and Dr. Brenda Tan, two Mandarin-speaking family doctors, see the majority of these patients for prenatal care and delivery.

Both appear on multiple websites of companies advertising services such as assistance with immigration, travel and housing to women looking to come to Canada to give birth.

Wang said the companies do not have permission to use his name.

Tan did not respond to interview requests and a list of questions sent to her.

Wang and Tan billed the province $272,198.50 and $428,456.17 respectively in the 2018/2019 fiscal year, according to data publicly available through the province. Those billings do not include earnings from non-resident patients because they pay privately.

There are no limits on what physicians can charge outside the public system in British Columbia, but information from birth tourism company websites suggests that these doctors earn at least $100 per prenatal visit and more than $2,500 for a delivery, several times more than could be billed through the public system for the same services.

In an interview, Wang declined to respond to questions about how much he was earning from birth tourism but said he was not motivated financially to take on these patients.

“It’s like a dessert — occasional patients like this is fine, and it’s pretty financially rewarding … they are a small percentage of our overall income.”

Nurses who spoke to The Fifth Estate said the financial incentives within the health-care system are a problem.

“It is all about the money. If there was no financial income for the hospital or physicians, the private pay would have been out of the door a long time ago,” said one nurse.

Unpaid bills

While these births are bringing in money, bills owed to both health authorities and individual doctors are not always paid.

According to documents released by Vancouver Coastal Health, more than $2 million is outstanding as a result of non-resident births since 2017 at the Richmond Hospital alone. This does not include any debt that has been written off.

Bairths at the Richmond Hospital represent 11 per cent of overall non-resident births outside Quebec, according to 2018 data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

No national financial data exists on how much revenue is outstanding as a result of non-resident hospital bills across the country.

But some say the health-care system and Canadian taxpayers are losing out.

Al-Mudaffer said having an uninsured baby in neonatal intensive care can cost $10,000 a day just for the hospital bed, not including doctors’ fees.

Dr. Mudaffer Al-Mudaffer says birth tourism is impacting the Canadian healthcare system. 0:27

He said he’s seen large bills for families with babies requiring multiple nights and even weeks in the NICU.

“You can easily acquire a bill of $100,000 to pay the health authority, and that’s why they can’t pay it, you know? And they leave the country without paying,” said Al-Mudaffer.

He said he has seen hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills go unpaid at the Royal Columbian Hospital where he works, but Fraser Health, which runs that hospital, said it could not confirm this amount.

The Fifth Estate requested provincial numbers on unpaid bills from the British Columbia government but was told these numbers were not tracked provincially.

“Obviously if any bill is unpaid, I’m concerned about that because that’s money that we could and should be spending on something else or saving the health-care system so of course we’re concerned about it,” said B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix.

Even with little formal research to examine the practical implications of a growing number of non-resident births on the Canadian health-care system, Dix said “we are handling that situation.

“It’s two per cent … of total births in British Columbia, so it’s an issue but there are other issues.”

But it’s not only hospital fees going unpaid. Al-Mudaffer said when he sees birth tourists, he only gets paid three out of 10 times.

He is not alone. Dr. Kathleen Ross, president of Doctors of B.C., has personally been affected by unpaid bills and has called for a national conversation on the issue.

“Our federal government needs to find a way to disincentive people coming to the country to have access to citizenship and to our health-care support,” she said.

Federal research planned

Marco Mendicino, the newly appointed minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, declined an interview with The Fifth Estate.

But the department wrote that while “statistics indicate that birth tourism is not widespread, the Government of Canada recognizes the need to better understand this practice.”

It said it has started work with the Canadian Institute for Health Information and Statistics Canada to integrate health and immigration data that would allow for a better understanding of the practice of birth tourism by looking at visitor visas and births.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada anticipates results from this research will be available in the spring.

Cathy Shi said she hasn’t thought much about criticism of birth tourism and isn’t receiving any government benefits here.

“We may come here often for travelling around, living or even investing. People are not just looking for status by having a baby here. They will have established a connection to Canada and later on some may apply to immigrate.”

Source: ‘All about the money’: How women travelling to Canada to give birth could strain the health-care system

Majority of Canadians against accepting more refugees, poll suggests

Other longer-term polling shows less dramatic shift (i.e., Focus Canada):

A pre-election survey conducted for CBC News suggests Canadians are divided on immigration, with clear limits on the kind of migration they find acceptable.

The government groups immigrants into three categories: economic, which are skilled workers and businesspeople, along with their partners and dependants; family reunification; and refugees or those admitted under humanitarian or compassionate grounds.

More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of respondents to a survey by Public Square Research and Maru/Blue agreed that Canada should do more to encourage skilled labourers to immigrate to the country, while 57 per cent said Canada should not be accepting more refugees.

The results come as no surprise to immigration experts and advocates, who point to a negative shift in tone on migration around the world, especially when it comes to refugees. They say that trend is stoked by media coverage in Canada of asylum seekers crossing the country’s border with the U.S.

….

Christina Clark-Kazak, a University of Ottawa professor who specializes in refugees and immigration, said the survey results reflect a long-standing tradition of Canadian immigration policy being centred around labour market needs. Under both Conservative and Liberal governments over the past decade, economic immigrants have made up between 53 and 63 per cent of immigrants each year, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) data.

“The problem with a lot of the immigration policy is we think about individuals in isolation and we think about them only as economic actors,” she said. Refugees, she added, are often seen as a “nice-to-have” by policy-makers but not a priority.

The survey polled 4,500 adults online from among those who registered with the Maru Voice panel. Other findings include:

  • 64 per cent of respondents said illegal immigration is becoming a serious problem.
  • 56 per cent said that accepting too many immigrants will change Canada.
  • 24 per cent of respondents said too many immigrants are visible minorities.

“I think it is reflective that there is this sort of thin veneer of tolerance, but underneath there is a lot of racism that still exists in Canada,” said Clark-Kazak.

She said the Canadian context is also influenced by language coming out of the U.S., from a president she sees as anti-refugee, anti-immigration and anti-Islam. That discourse, she said, is seeping into both the political sphere and everyday life.

Other experts say Canada is not immune to this trend.

“Canada is not unique,” said Mireille Paquet, a political science professor at Concordia University and research chair on the politics of immigration. “Canada might have been more protected from some of the trends we see in Europe or in the United States, for example, but recent events show that Canadians also react the same way to this kind of growing politicization of immigration.”

With a federal election looming later this year, Paquet says the issue could become further polarized.

“There is the chance that some parties will try to get some traction out of activating those fears and out of presenting themselves as being more able to respond to that, for example, by being tougher at the border,” said Paquet.

Experts say the results also reflect ongoing confusion around the legality of migrants crossing Canada’s border outside of ports of entry, a problem they say has been exacerbated by heightened media attention.

Entering the country outside of a port of entry is illegal under Canada’s Customs Act, but asylum seekers who do so to claim refugee status are protected from prosecution while their cases are reviewed, under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The UN Convention on Refugees also notes that legitimate asylum seekers in this situation should not be prosecuted.

Approximately 55,030 people claimed asylum in Canada last year, according to IRCC.

Immigration targets call for boost in numbers

The overall number of permanent residents that were admitted to Canada in 2018 was 321,045.

And the federal government is hoping to boost immigration numbers further. In targets laid out in last year’s annual report to Parliament on immigration, the government calls for 330,800 admissions this year, a number that is set to increase to 350,000 in 2021.

“Immigration has been, and continues to be, good for Canada,” said Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. “We are an aging society. We have a growing economy that needs a lot of new workers.”

During a pre-election speech on immigration policy in May, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said his party would look at immigration levels annually, with an emphasis on economic immigration. The NDP’s election platform also states that its immigration policies and levels would address labour force needs, and that it would fix the “backlog” in the refugee system. The Green Party says it would also address labour shortages but would make substantial changes to the immigration system, including adding a category for “environmental refugees” and slowing down the deportation process.

Source: Majority of Canadians against accepting more refugees, poll suggests

It’s fraudulent’: Former immigration official says action needed on ‘passport babies’

This CBC story, for which I did an interview, provides a good overview. Interesting to see just how much attention this story has and continues to receive (The National did a short report in which I was interviewed among others: The National Version):
A resolution passed during the Conservatives’ weekend policy convention calls for a future Tory government to end the practice of granting citizenship to babies born in Canada to non-resident parents. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

One of Canada’s former top immigration officials says so-called passport babies are a genuine problem in some Canadian locales and closing a loophole being exploited by pregnant foreign tourists is required to curtail the fraudulent practice.

But Andrew Griffith, a former director general at Citizenship and Immigration, said that a policy resolution passed by Conservatives this weekend to end the practice of giving citizenship to anyone born in the country may be akin to “using a hammer to squash a fly.”

Delegates at the Conservatives’ policy convention in Halifax endorsed a resolution to end the policy of birthright citizenship, with backers contending too many foreigners are travelling to Canada solely to give birth to secure status for their children.

Party members voted to call for a key section of Canada’s nationality law to be rewritten, endorsing a policy that would remove citizenship rights for children born in Canada to non-Canadian (or non-permanent resident) parents. The resolution is, however, non-binding on a future government.

“It’s basically using fraud to get citizenship for a child. People are coming on a visa under false pretences and just coming for the opportunity to provide citizenship for their kid. I can understand the motivation, but it’s really not what the policy was designed for and it’s a form of fraud and misrepresentation,” said Griffith in an interview with CBC News.

Proponents of the change, introduced by delegates from Newfoundland and Labrador, said such a move is necessary to crack down on foreigners travelling here for the sole purpose of securing perks and privileges for their children that come with being Canadian.

The change would upend a section of Canadian law that has been largely intact since the advent of a distinct Canadian citizenship decades ago.

Conflicting statistics

Canada — along with some other nations in the Americas, including the U.S. — is among a few developed countries that grant citizenship to any child born on its soil, regardless of the immigration status of their parents.

There are a few exceptions, notably the children of foreign diplomats are excluded, but generally the principle of jus soli, Latin for “right of the soil,” is applied.

The Conservative party’s resolution on birthright citizenship, as adopted by a majority of delegates on Saturday. (Conservative Party of Canada)

Some have suggested this is a solution looking for a problem as, according to Statistics Canada, just 313 babies were born in this country in 2016 to non-Canadian mothers, out of the 383,315 children born here that year.

But other data suggests the phenomenon is more common. Richmond Hospital in Richmond, B.C., a city near Vancouver, recorded 383 births to non-resident mothers in 2016-17 — representing 17.2 per cent of all births at the hospital.

Last year, the number rose to 469, or 22.2 per cent of all births — according to statistics provided by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority to CBC News. The authority said the majority were to Chinese nationals.

“It’s arguably crowding out [hospital] space and facilities for residents of Canada. So, there’s a real issue there in Richmond, B.C. and other localities,” said Griffith.

But Griffith questioned whether the Conservative solution is workable, noting former Conservative citizenship minister Jason Kenney pursued a policy change while in governmentonly to find the numbers relatively small and the cost to provinces — which issue birth certificates — prohibitive.

“I don’t want to see [birth tourism] happen, but on the practical side as to what you do about it, abolishing birthright citizenship is using a hammer to squash a fly, because if the numbers are small … do you really want to inconvenience literally millions of Canadians to address a relatively small problem? Are there other ways one can address the issue?”

Griffith suggested hospitals could require higher deposits from non-residents to cover medical expenses, or there could be changes to how visas are granted to pregnant women to allow border officials to refuse entry if they suspect a person is travelling to Canada to give birth.

He also said the clear discrepancy between StatsCan data and information supplied by just one B.C. hospital suggests the government needs to “get its act together … to get a real handle on what exactly the numbers are.”

B.C. ‘birthing houses’

The South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s newspaper of record, has also documented a rise in the number of “birthing houses” in B.C. that host pregnant tourists looking to give birth to a Canadian baby.

That paper found dozens of such houses catering to pregnant foreign women who come to B.C. specifically to give birth to Canadian citizens.

“Can’t we do some regulation around these birthing houses? Or ban them?

“It is an abuse of the system, it’s an abuse of the policy but I think the measures need to be more focused and targeted rather than just wholesale change,” Griffith said.

Conservative B.C. MP Alice Wong, who has introduced a petition in Parliament on the issue, railed against the current policy, saying “passport babies take away the resources from our system.”

“It is dangerous to the mother and the child themselves. The Liberals support it. They do not support a fair citizenship system — we should fight for our own babies,” she told the convention Saturday.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer walks off stage after speaking to delegates at the Conservative national convention in Halifax Saturday. Scheer defended the party’s resolution on birthright citizenship Monday.(Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

Another delegate said citizenship should only be inherited from a Canadian parent.

“Justin Trudeau would tell you that Canada has no nationality and I think everybody here would disagree with that. I think our nationality runs in our culture, our land, our blood from Juno Beach to Vimy Ridge. We have a culture, we have a nationality, there’s no reason to arbitrarily hand out citizenship to whoever happens to be on vacation here,” the delegate said.

Liberal officials were quick to pounce on the Conservative resolution, suggesting it could allow future governments to strip immigrants of their status.

Stripping citizenship?

Gerald Butts, the prime minister’s principal secretary, said it was “remarkable … they committed to give the government the power to strip people born in Canada of Canadian citizenship,” while linking to a series of tweets from a Somali refugee who was born stateless.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh went even further, “unequivocally” condemning the “division and hate being peddled by @AndrewScheer & the Conservative Party of Canada.”

Conservative Alberta MP Deepak Obhrai also spoke out against the change, suggesting a birthright ban could be open to abuse.

“Any person who is born in Canada by law is entitled to be a Canadian; we cannot choose who is going to be a Canadian and who is not going to be a Canadian,” he said at the convention. “This is a fundamental question of equality.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer defended the adoption of the resolution Monday.

“Conservatives recognize there are many Canadians who have been born in Canada by parents who have come here to stay and have contributed greatly to our country. I will not end the core policy that facilitates this. Unlike Justin Trudeau, I will safeguard it against abuse. A Conservative government will restore order, fairness, and compassion to Canada’s immigration system,” he said in a statement.

Howard Anglin, a top legal adviser and deputy chief of staff to former prime minister Stephen Harper, said the Liberals were whipping up fear among immigrants for political purposes.

“Here we see openly the beginning of a plan to mischaracterize another policy proposal, which would align us with virtually all our peer countries and allies (and which, of course, is not yet in an election platform) to stoke fear and alienation in ethnic communities,” he tweeted.

“No one will be stripped of citizenship, which is what [Butts’s] tweet said. It’s not retroactive. The proposal is that children of tourists, visitors, & others temporarily in the country or here illegally, will no longer automatically become citizens (just like in our peer countries).”

But Janet Dench, executive director of Canadian Council for Refugees, said Monday there is no meaningful data to suggest “birth tourism” is an actual problem and that if the measure came into force, “the vast majority of people affected would not at all be people who come for birth tourism reasons.”

Dench told The Canadian Press it would impact many women who give birth in Canada while they are waiting for permanent residency status, refugee claimants and others in limbo.

Where is Canada’s multicultural television space?

Interesting commentary on television programming diversity:

Russell Peters’s much awaited return to television was finally satiated with the CTV show The Indian Detective, which aired last December. The sitcom has been five years in the making, and it’s a first for Peters, a Canadian stand-up comedian who began his career in Toronto. It tells the story of Doug D’Mello (played by Peters), a Canadian investigative cop who travels to India to meet his father and gets caught up in a criminal investigation. But the show has already received mixed reviews from audiences across the board. Reviewers have called it out for perpetuating stereotypes about India and failing to engage with its audience, both in Canada and abroad. The show received an overall rating of 6.6 on IMDB, although Rotten Tomatoes gave it a generous 87 percent.

Spread over four episodes, the series sought to set a new trend in Canada by internationalizing the setting of its production, with large parts of it being shot in India. The Indian Detective’s transnational location gets one wondering if CTV was hoping to create an international sensation, or at least engage with Canada’s vast multicultural population.

The show is the most recent addition to a short list of multicultural-themed TV programs produced by major Canadian public and private broadcasters, such as CBC and CTV. Canadian television, though, remains a limited-option entertainment platform that is often overshadowed by the U.S. With just over 58 percent of Canadian households consuming cable TV in 2016, the story of Canadian television programming remains rather humble. Its 2016 revenue was just over $7.2 billion.

Why aren’t Canadians watching traditional cable? Though there are technological and other reason for decline in cable subscriptions, one question must be considered: Who are the TV shows in Canada made for? If we were to look at the last 10 years of shows produced by two of Canada’s major broadcasters, CBC and CTV, they are primarily targeted to Canadians and Europeans. But Canada, the champion of multiculturalism, should prioritize TV programs with themes and characters that appeal to its vast multiethnic community, sponsored and produced by its public and private broadcasters. That doesn’t seem to be the case. Between 2007 and 2018, there were just three TV shows that focused on multicultural themes: Little Mosque on the Prairie, Kim’s Convenience, and now, The Indian Detective.

In the last three years, The Indian Detective and Kim’s Convenience have targeted a non-traditional audience within the Canadian media space, which could indicate a trend followed by other such productions. Kim’s Convenience, a CBC show that first aired in 2016, tells the story of a Canadian-Korean family and their convenience store in Toronto. The show portrays the city’s transforming multicultural community, and the family’s attempt to “fit in.” Kim’s Convenience explores the mores of the family-run convenience store, where you can find everything—jokes, too. The show plays out the conflict between the first-generation Korean parents and their kids who grew up in Canada without accentuating it with overplay of accents and cultural difference—something The Indian Detective banks on.

Canada has tried in the past to promote multicultural and multiethnic broadcasting by giving special provisions to the ethnic broadcasting category. The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) Ethnic Broadcasting Policy of 1999 decided to allocate airtime to television and radio shows in third languages—that is, any language that isn’t English, French, or an Indigenous language—over the mainstream. But the CRTC’s broadcasting policy only applied to ethnic broadcasters, and encouraged them to create content in third languages. The only policy for non-ethnic public broadcasters—the public and major private broadcasters—is to dedicate up to 15 percent of their airtime toward ethnic programming, and which could be increased up to 40 percent by the conditions of the licence. The provision to incorporate ethnic programming remains a minor part of the overall policy, which is strictly focused on promoting a siloed concept of multicultural broadcasting. The CRTC policy has been relatively successful at adding a small set of private stations that includes broadcasters such as Omni TV, a Rogers Media production. Omni TV is a consortium of multicultural television programming which offers speciality channels broadcasted in languages such as Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, and Punjabi. 

Specialized television satellite services such as Omni TV have been working hard to bring more multicultural TV options for Canada’s vast multiethnic population, but it is a small dent in the spectrum of broadcasting made possible by Canada’s public broadcasters such as the CBC. As a person of South Asian heritage, I consume media in Punjabi and Hindi, a large set of which is made possible by the CRTC’s funding for ethnic programming. Apart from a very small set of productions, most of it succumbs to advertisements by mortgage brokers, realtors, and real estate brokers—and some just roll all three into one program. The distinction between a news or current affairs program and an advertisement for a product or a service seems to blur into one long segment. Programming that was meant to promote a cultural dialogue between Canada’s vast ethnically diverse communities is being used for investment advice, for instance, in various languages. On the contrary, a successful example of multicultural programming is Hockey Night in Canada, which is a broadcast of hockey games with commentary in Punjabi.

In the United Kingdom, the BBC has long ago realized the need to incorporate multicultural programming, and has been promoting TV shows and media that appeal to its multicultural population on the British Isles. The BBC has a dedicated radio station for Asian audiences—the Asian Network—broadcasting throughout the day; the radio channels primarily cater to the U.K.’s large population of Asian heritage. A successful example of the BBC’s investment in multicultural programming can be traced through the career of Sanjeev Bhaskar, a prominent BBC presenter. Sanjeev is best known for Goodness Gracious Me, The Kumars at No. 42, India with Sanjeev Bhaskar, along with other regular appearances on BBC TV shows. He is among a long list of people of colour that have appeared on the network’s shows; other such figures include Mera Sayal, Idris Elba, Thandie Newton, and Gurinder Chaddha. The BBC’s production of multicultural situational comedy is well-established history that Canada could learn from. Some of the popular examples of multicultural comedy and drama from Britain include Real McCoy, Desmond’s, The Lenny Henry Show, Citizen Khan, and many others over the years.

Though multicultural programming options are thriving in Canada more than ever, it has resulted in a limited dialogue—broadcasting programs that many other Canadians can’t access, and vice-versa. But the recent productions of Kim’s Convenience and The Indian Detective are a positive trend that both major broadcasters should develop further. The CBC and CTV should rethink their strategy for Canadian television to remain relevant and keep up with the changing demographic of Canada. As the media landscape, both print and visual, faces its biggest financial challenge in years, there is a need to consider who consumes the TV shows and programs in Canada—and are Murdoch Mysteries or Heartland relevant to its multiethnic population?

via THIS → Where is Canada’s multicultural television space?

Front commun contre les propos francophobes

More on the nature of on-line comments. My preference, rather than suppression, is requiring actual names and related authentication, as is done in letters to the editor:

Brodie Fenlon, le directeur des médias numériques pour le réseau CBC, a assuré au groupe par écrit vendredi que les commentaires identifiés seront supprimés. « Nous regrettons que ces commentaires se soient retrouvés sur notre site. Il s’agit d’une situation malencontreuse, mais inévitable lorsque l’on doit traiter un tel volume de commentaires. […] Dorénavant, nous nous assurerons que nos lignes directrices sont appliquées avec encore plus de rigueur et de jugement. » La politique de commentaires de CBC mentionne que les discours haineux, les attaques personnelles, les insultes ou encore les déclarations diffamatoires sont interdits.

En entrevue avec Le Devoir, l’instigateur de la lettre, Michel Doucet, n’est pas rassuré par cette réponse, tant s’en faut. Il exige que la CBC fasse preuve de vigilance en amont plutôt que de simplement retirer les commentaires litigieux après coup.

« Ils retirent les commentaires juste quand on les signale. Mais on ne va pas passer notre journée à surveiller le site de CBC ! C’est à CBC elle-même de veiller à la qualité du contenu », tonne-t-il. Selon l’avocat, il est inacceptable qu’une société d’État« permet[te] qu’on utilise son site de commentaires pour fomenter la division, l’incompréhension et l’intolérance vis-à-vis d’une communauté minoritaire ».

M. Doucet soutient que le phénomène existe « depuis que CBC a ouvert son site aux commentaires » et procède d’une tendance lourde. Chaque fois qu’il est question de sujets liés aux francophones au Nouveau-Brunswick, ces commentaires fusent. « L’autre jour, la ville de Dieppe a annoncé qu’elle aurait un anneau de glace et il y a eu des commentaires ! Un des commentaires qui revient souvent, c’est que les francophones ont tous les bénéfices alors que ce sont les anglophones qui payent tous les impôts. […] On mettrait une photo d’un beau petit chat portant un nom francophone que ces commentaires ressurgiraient », raille-t-il. Lui-même, un militant très en vue des droits linguistiques des francophones, est présenté dans certains commentaires comme un « individu radicalisé ».

Le sujet fait l’objet de conversations dans la communauté francophone néo-brunswickoise depuis très longtemps, raconte-t-il. Aussi, quand il a décidé de prendre la plume dimanche dernier, il a récolté ses 120 signatures prestigieuses en moins de 72 heures. C’est d’ailleurs un sénateur conservateur, Percy Mockler, outré et enflammé, qui a mis Le Devoir au parfum de la situation.

Les signataires demandent à ce que CBC ne permette plus les commentaires provenant de personnes anonymes, comme le font déjà plusieurs sites de médias. M. Fenlon rétorque dans sa lettre que cet anonymat est utile, quoiqu’il fasse l’objet d’un « examen ». « En autorisant l’utilisation de pseudonymes, on permet cependant à toutes les voix de participer au débat, y compris les victimes de crimes et les dénonciateurs d’abus, deux groupes qui, selon nous, ont de bonnes raisons de se cacher derrière l’anonymat. »

Citizenship Take-Up Rates and the Citizenship Test – The Current – 27 March

My interview with David Common of The Current, CBC Radio One: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-march-27-2015-1.3011795/canadian-citizenship-test-too-difficult-failing-visible-minorities-1.3011806

More state power, not free speech, the likeliest we-are-Charlie result – Neil MacDonald

Extensive commentary by Neil MacDonald of the CBC who unfortunately nails it in his somewhat lengthy piece on the aftermath of the Paris killings:

Western governments are, however, quite interested in enforcement and security, and that, not more speech, is the order of the day once again.

With unintended irony, and a very short memory, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared over the weekend that France is now locked in a “war on terror.”

That’s exactly the term George W. Bush used after 9/11. It presaged an unprecedented expansion of the surveillance state and the powers of America’s security apparatus.

Civil liberties were tossed aside. Other countries’ laws, even those of U.S. allies, became irrelevant.

And the frightened American population cheered.

The French, among others, mocked the slogan relentlessly, especially once it became apparent that the U.S. invasion of Iraq, carried out as part of this war on terror, was based on a false pretext.

Eventually, Bush’s own Pentagon quietly dropped the slogan. And when the Democrats took the White House, they repudiated it.

But it’s clearly back on. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder agreed with the French prime minister. America, he said, is at war, too.

Next month, Washington is convening an international summit to discuss new measures.

Canada is preparing new legislation to expand the powers of its security agencies.

The French, and the Americans, and no doubt the Canadians, are considering how better to monitor and obliterate incitement on the internet.

Or, more precisely, what security officials consider incitement. It’s a term that can be interpreted rather broadly, and no doubt will be.

Clearly, the ultimate answer to the Charlie Hebdo massacre will not be freer speech. It will be a mostly secret intensification of police power, with attendant shrinkage of individual freedoms.

And we will all be told not to worry: If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.

At least one French demonstrator seemed to recognize some of this over the weekend. The sign he hoisted read: “Je marche, mais je suis conscient de la confusion et de l’hypocrisie de la situation.”

I march, but I am aware of the confusion and hypocrisy of the situation.

More state power, not free speech, the likeliest we-are-Charlie result – World – CBC News.

Canadian attitudes toward immigrants conflicted, CBC poll says

Despite the headline, overall confirmation of general welcoming attitude towards Immigration and multiculturalism. Some highlights:

  • 79 percent comfortable with employing or working for someone of different ethnicity;
  • 30 percent believe immigrants take jobs away from Canadians (meaning 70 percent don’t);
  • between 60 and 75 percent comfortable with being in a relationship with someone of another ethnicity;
  • between 70 and 85 percent are comfortable with neighbours of different ethnicity.

Canadian attitudes toward immigrants conflicted, poll says – Canada – CBC News.

The Powerpoint of the complete results is here:

CBC Discrimination Poll November 7 2014

‘Shopping for Votes:’ Baird gets tetchy with CBC reporter over Middle East Twitter gambit

A rather amusing exchange between Minister Baird and Valerie Boyer of the CBC:

Boyer: “Why has the Conservative Party decided to use this conflict in advertising to gain supporters?

Baird takes a drink of water: “I haven’t seen that.”

Boyer: “There’s been a few tweets out there saying, ‘You know we’re on ….’”

Baird interrupts: “So, is it the position of the CBC that a tweet is advertising?”

Boyer: “Well, I mean it’s a form of getting out to supporters though.”

Baird: “I just don’t … If the CBC calls tweets advertising, it doesn’t …”

Inaudible – Baird and Boyer try to talk over each other

Boyer: “It’s a form of getting out to people.”

Baird: “In fairness, you’re a member of our national broadcaster. We deserve better questions than that.”

While the Government’s full-throated support of Israel is deeper than diaspora political calculations, this exchange allowed Baird to reiterate support to Canadian Jews (not all share the Government’s position) while attacking the CBC, and playing to the Conservative base.

Neat trick, but the obvious retort to “We deserve better questions than that.” is “We deserve better answers.”

Baird gets tetchy with CBC reporter over Middle East Twitter gambit (pay wall)

My Ottawa Morning Interview

My interview on Ottawa Morning on CBC, the main morning show. I was lucky to get the prime time morning commuter slot (8:15) and able to reach many public servants and others. Just under 9 minutes.

http://www.cbc.ca/player/AudioMobile/Ottawa%2BMorning/ID/2406800268/