Ottawa holds consultations on racism behind closed doors

Understand the rationale behind closed-door consultations but at a minimum, the government should be disclosing the names of those consulted shortly after each session to ensure basic transparency and a check to ensure that a balance of perspectives is being heard.

Hard to understand the Minister’s reluctance to use the term “systemic racism” beyond the political. A more constructive approach would be to acknowledge that it exists (e.g., blind cv tests, incarceration rates) but find a way to explain it as patterns of discrimination and prejudice if the “S” word is viewed as too polarizing:

The federal government has quietly launched a series of closed-door consultations on the issue of racism, hoping to avoid heated public debates on issues such as Islamophobia and systemic racism.

“The meetings are not held in public for the simple reason that we want to be able to have in-depth discussions with experts across the country, in which the participants’ comments are not misconstrued or judged,” Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism, said in an interview on Monday.

While no news releases or media advisories were sent out, Mr. Rodriguez has already attended three invitation-only sessions in the Greater Toronto Area, with his department planning on holding a total of 22 meetings before the end of the year across Canada. Mr. Rodriguez said he wants to focus on concrete solutions to specific problems, deliberately avoiding a debate over the issue of “systemic” racism.

“That expression is not a part of my vocabulary,” he said. “Canada is not a racist society, wherever one lives.”

However, two of Mr. Rodriguez’s caucus colleagues, Liberal MPs Celina Caesar-Chavannes and Greg Fergus, have both said they believe in the existence of systemic racism in Canada. The expression is also used in the federal consultation documents, which define the term as “patterns of behaviour, policies or practices that are part of the social or administrative structures of an organization, and which create or perpetuate a position of relative disadvantage for racialized persons.”

Jasmin Zine, a professor of sociology and Muslim studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, said she is afraid the federal consultations are off to a false start in these circumstances.

“If you take out systemic racism, what is left is the idea that people don’t like each other and don’t get along on the basis of negative attitudes about people from different backgrounds. It becomes an individual problem, in other words,” she said in an interview. “So to move away from systemic racism … takes away all issues around power, which is crucial to understanding the system of racism, and it takes away all responsibility from the state and institutions.”

However, Mr. Rodriguez said he wants the consultations to focus on specific issues such as higher unemployment and incarceration rates among members of particular communities, or access to affordable housing. In addition to the working groups, Canadian Heritage has launched a website to gather public comments on the issue of racism.

“Identity issues will always fuel passionate debates. Our goal is to get to the bottom of things without getting into a political debate. We want this to be neutral in political terms and to be done professionally,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “We are looking for facts and, most importantly, solutions.”

Mr. Rodriguez, 51, replaced Mélanie Joly as Heritage Minister in a cabinet shuffle in July. His family arrived in Canada in the 1970s when his father – a lawyer and politician – fled political persecution in Argentina.

Mr. Rodriguez said the consultations on racism will cost up to $2-million, with the funding announced in the most recent budget as part of efforts to develop a new national anti-racism strategy. Over all, the federal government awarded $23-million toward new multiculturalism programs earlier this year.

“Unfortunately, Canada is not immune to racism and discrimination – challenges remain when it comes to fully embracing diversity, openness and co-operation,” the federal government says in its consultation documents. “Acknowledging that racism and discrimination are a part of our lived reality is a critical first step to action.”

The issue of racism has fuelled heated debates in the country in recent times. There were acrimonious discussions last year over a motion in the House of Commons (M-103) to condemn Islamophobia across Canada. While the motion did not affect existing legislation, it was roundly criticized in conservative circles and media as preventing any legitimate criticism of Islam.

Consultations on the issue of racism proved controversial in Quebec last year, when the government scrapped planned meeting on “systemic racism” over an outcry among media commentators and talk-show hosts. Instead, the Quebec government rebranded the mandate of the exercise to “valuing diversity and fighting against discrimination.”

Source: Ottawa holds consultations on racism behind closed doors

ICYMI: Federal government to launch Canada-wide consultations on systemic racism

Needed and appropriate follow-up to M-103 report broad emphasis on racism and discrimination across all groups and Budget 2018 funding for multiculturalism and measures targeted issues related to Black Canadians.

But will be difficult to manage and I don’t envy the public servants tasked with devising the consultations strategy and approach. I remember the Bouchard Taylor hearings about 10 years ago, and the recent town hall that MP Iqra Khalid held, that was far from being a respectful conversation:

Ottawa is set to launch pan-Canadian consultations on racism, a topic that has stirred controversy and divisions across the country in recent months.

The exact form and nature of the consultations is still being developed in the Department of Canadian Heritage and has yet to be unveiled to the public. Still, the government said it wants to create a new strategy to counter “systemic racism” and religious discrimination.

As the format for the new round of consultations is being debated, some federal officials are worried the forum could lead to acrimonious debates similar to last year’s controversy over a motion (M-103) to condemn Islamophobia across Canada. The motion, which did not affect existing legislation, was nonetheless roundly criticized in right-wing circles and conservative media as preventing any legitimate criticism of Islam.

Similar consultations have proven controversial in Quebec, where the government scrapped planned consultations on “systemic racism” last year over an outcry among media commentators and talk-show hosts. Instead, the Quebec government rebranded the mandate of the exercise to “valuing diversity and fighting against discrimination.”

According to last month’s federal budget, the coming “cross-country consultations on a new national anti-racism approach” will be funded out of a new $23-million envelope that is geared toward new multiculturalism programs.

“Diversity is one of our greatest strengths and has contributed significantly to our country. We recognize the need to counter all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and we are taking action to address the ongoing challenges and discrimination that still exist in our society,” said Simon Ross, a spokesman for Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly.

“We will also be consulting with Canadians to develop a national strategy to combat racism in Canada, and we look forward to speaking with experts, community organizations, citizens and interfaith leaders to find new ways to collaborate and combat discrimination as we develop this strategy,” he said.

The new round of consultations will enact a key recommendation made earlier this year by the Heritage committee of the House, which called on the government to engage in consultations as part of efforts to create Canada’s Action Plan Against Racism.

According to the Heritage committee’s report, an action plan against racism would ensure that the government would consider the impact of all policies on visible minorities, similar to existing gender-based analysis.

“Systemic racism occurs when government actions fail to address the needs of certain racialized groups within the population, resulting in unfair, discriminatory practices and outcomes. To expose and prevent systemic racism, a number of witnesses suggested the development of a race equity lens as a key element of a national action plan,” the report said.

Jasmin Zine, a professor of sociology and Muslim studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the government should learn lessons from the debate over M-103 that was “hijacked” by concerns over the definition of Islamophobia.

“They have to be handled better than the initial parliamentary hearings were,” she said in an interview. “In the best-case scenario, the consultations could be a way to recuperate what was lost in the committee process. In the worst-case scenario, it will only reproduce the divisions and the political divides that were derailing this process from the beginning.”

She added the government cannot ignore Islamophobia as part of its study of racism and must not be afraid of confronting the root causes of racism.

“We can’t just wrap things up in nice, liberal, Kumbaya sentiments. We have to look at the issues that are critical for marginalized communities, such as questions of social inequality, power, privilege and the way racism is embedded in all institutions and levels of society,” Ms. Zine said.

Tensions are running high among federal politicians over the issue of racism, with Conservative MP Maxime Bernier accusing the government of exploiting the debate to win support in various communities.

“I thought the ultimate goal of fighting discrimination was to create a colour-blind society where everyone is treated the same,” Mr. Bernier said on Twitter earlier this month.

Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes shot back that research has shown that pretending not to see someone’s skin colour “contributes to racism.”

“Please check your privilege and be quiet,” she responded to Mr. Bernier on Twitter, before apologizing for her language.

The Conservative Party said in a statement that the coming consultations on racism need to be established in a way that unites Canadians.

“We hope that consultations on a subject as sensitive as this one will be conducted in an orderly fashion. It is now up to the government to ensure that they are well structured and constructive,” Conservative spokeswoman Virginie Bonneau said.

via Federal government to launch Canada-wide consultations on systemic racism – The Globe and Mail

John Ibbitson on the political risks:

With its message of hope transmuting dangerously into hectoring, the Trudeau government needs to be wary about the upcoming national consultations on racism. The exercise could further damage an already-weakened Liberal brand.

Justin Trudeau won the 2015 election on a promise of transformative change after a decade of Conservative inaction. The new government pledged to tackle climate change, forge a more respectful relationship with Indigenous Canadians and rescue refugees in peril.

Two-and-a-half years later, the national carbon tax, which is the chief strategy to combat global warming, is in peril from provincial conservatives in Ontario and Alberta who vow to scrap it if they come to power.

The inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women is behind schedule and beset with inner turmoil, even as Indigenous protesters and environmentalists vow to prevent the Trans Mountain pipeline from ever being built.

And instead of feeling good about rescuing refugees, we’re told we should feel guilty because so we’re so racist.

Ottawa committed $23-million in the last budget to new multiculturalism programs, including funding that will go to a national consultation on “systemic racism” and religious discrimination. The goal will be to develop a “national strategy to combat racism in Canada.”

This comes in the wake of Motion 103, the non-binding resolution that asserted “the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear,” and to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.”

Conservatives complained the resolution would prohibit any form of criticism of Islam. It would not. More problematic, though, is the notion of an “increasing public climate of hate and fear.” Who says? There is compelling evidence that Canada, with its wide-open immigration policy, is the most tolerant country on earth.

Nonetheless, a committee crisscrossing the country in search of intolerance is bound to find it, and to publicize that finding. This is of a piece with this government’s fondness for making people feel bad about themselves.

You may be proud of your home and your community, but you’re living on unceded Indigenous land, as Liberal cabinet ministers insist almost everywhere they go.

You may consider yourself environmentally responsible, but that SUV you drive is an abomination, which is the whole reason behind the carbon tax.

You may consider yourself free of prejudice, but apparently this country suffers from systemic racism and Islamophobia, which is why we need a task force.

As conservative commentators and politicians are certain to point out, the worst example of religious discrimination under way right now might come from the Liberal government itself. Employment and Social Development Canada has cancelled funding for a summer-jobs program to churches and other religious organizations because they refuse to affirm on the application form that they respect “reproductive rights and the right to be free of discrimination” on the basis of, among other things, “sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”

There are people of faith of all religions who oppose abortion and who do not condone same-sex acts. On that basis, faith-based organizations have been denied funding, even though the students they would hire would be serving as camp counselors and the like, and would not be asked to proselytize.

This writer can think of another government that believed it was morally superior to the people it served. Bob Rae’s Ontario NDP claimed affirmative action was needed to counter sexism; photo radar was needed because people drove too fast; an anti-racism secretariat was needed because of racial prejudice. Voters did not take this well.

If your government accuses you of being a bad person, you are unlikely to become a better person. You are more likely to change the government.

The Liberals’ sudden and dramatic decline in popularity is entirely reversible. Governing parties often slump mid-mandate, then rebound when earlier investments start to pay off. By this time next year, Mr. Trudeau could be back on top and looking forward to the fall election campaign.

But if the Grits really do want to get back in the voters’ good graces, they need to stop lecturing so much. We’re not as bad as they say we are, and they’re not as enlightened as they think they are.

This new consultation on systemic racism should keep a low profile. ​

Liberal investigation into systemic racism should keep a low profile

And appropriate caution regarding the government’s ability to manage these consultations given both its consultation record and the sensitive and uncomfortable nature of the subject. That being said, while yes it makes sense for the government to focus on issues and entities under its jurisdiction, there is place for a broader conversation regarding systemic racism and barriers across all levels of government and institutions in Canada:

Canada’s self-image is of an open, inclusive society – one of the planet’s most welcoming places.

And in relative terms, that’s mostly true. Ours is an unusually successful national story. But step back a few paces and the picture begins to look ever so slightly askew.

It’s time to face an uncomfortable fact: We have complex societal systems and, yes, they too often discriminate against people on the basis of skin colour, religion or national origin. It is not a collective moral failure to admit that systemic racism exists in Canada – that is, historically entrenched discrimination in the rules, policies and practices governing institutions. It is an acknowledgment of reality.

Anyone who claims otherwise or takes umbrage at the descriptor is invited to speak to an Indigenous Canadian. Or to any of the thousands of black Canadians who have been forced to submit to police carding. Or to an unemployed Muslim woman. The list could go on.

While we are a country of immigrants – Canada has the world’s highest per capita immigration rate; the 2016 census revealed 21.9 per cent of us were born elsewhere – our immigrants tend not to earn as good a living as the native-born.

According to Statistics Canada, new Canadians, who are also often visible minorities, are more than twice as likely to be jobless, and those who do find work earn 16 per cent less, on average, than so-called “old stock” Canadians.

The immigration income gap is real and the numbers indicate it is growing, even for second-generation Canadians. It’s not because Canada admits people with low education levels or insufficient skills – quite the opposite. We choose the best of the best, and then have them drive cabs.

Institutional barriers are part of the problem, the most obvious being a persistent unwillingness to recognize foreign qualifications.

But prejudice is also a factor. A 2011 study by University of Toronto economist Philip Oreopoulos found that fictitious resumes featuring foreign-sounding names or work experience were three times more likely to be tossed aside by would-be employers. The most-cited reason for doing so was concern over language skills, which other research has identified as a proxy for discrimination.

So what to do? For a start, our governments could stand to listen more closely to marginalized voices. As it happens, Ottawa is in the midst of planning a national public consultation on racism and religious discrimination. We hope the effort produces some benefit. But recent precedent gives us ample cause to fear it won’t.

The Trudeau Liberals took a worthy idea in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women inquiry, made a hash of it and likely set it up to fail. It didn’t put enough care into the planning, hoping instead that the symbolic value of the inquiry would alone be enough to see it through.

This government is also insufficiently wary of the dangers of identity politics, as evidenced by the culture war it started after it denied summer-job grants to religious groups that are overtly anti-abortion or don’t support gay marriage.

Plus, it can be a challenge to keep any examination of racism from going off the rails. The Quebec government proposed a similar public discussion after six Muslims were shot dead in a Quebec City mosque last year. That quickly devolved into a partisan bun-fight over nomenclature – you’re painting everyone as racist! – and was subsequently watered down into empty banter about “valuing diversity.”

Ottawa can only avoid those pitfalls by focusing on itself – on institutions like the Canadian Armed Forces, the civil service and the RCMP, and on federal policies and programs.

It must not involve itself in provincial and local issues (such as municipal policing practices), or engage in sweeping conclusions about Canadian society at large. The terms of reference must be perfectly clear and appropriately narrow.

It’s critical to not get this wrong. Ottawa should examine the negative consequences of its policies on racial and religious minorities. All governments should.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, whose city is attempting to reckon with its racist history, said recently, “Here is what I have learned about race: You can’t go over it. You can’t go under it. You can’t go around it. You have to go through it.”

If Ottawa does that intelligently and constructively, Canada might become a better country for it. But we have real doubts about the Trudeau government’s ability to lead such an effort without making a hash of it.

Source: Globe editorial: The problem with Ottawa’s plan to consult the public on racism? Ottawa itself

Quebec: Discrimination systémique et racisme: une consultation dès septembre 

Will be interesting to see how the hearings progress and the tenor of the interventions:

La ministre de l’Immigration, Kathleen Weil, pouvait difficilement mieux tomber, jeudi, en annonçant une vaste consultation sur la discrimination systémique et le racisme à compter de septembre prochain.

L’annonce de Mme Weil coïncidait avec l’apparition d’une affiche proclamant «Saguenay ville blanche» au cimetière de Saguenay, à Saint-Honoré, et d’autocollants anti-immigration à Sherbrooke.

«Tous ces gestes haineux sont inacceptables dans une société, a déclaré Mme Weil en marge de son annonce à Montréal. C’est blessant. Moi ça me touche profondément.»

…Pour le professeur André Gagné, spécialiste en radicalisation au département d’études théologiques de l’Université Concordia, ces gestes sont «l’expression d’un malaise» face à l’islam.

«C’est présent depuis plusieurs années, mais ça semble maintenant se manifester davantage», note-t-il, déplorant «la tendance pour les gens de faire cet amalgame entre ce que des djihadistes font et ce que les musulmans peuvent être».

Et cette tendance, basée sur une incompréhension de l’islam, sert particulièrement les extrémistes. «On a des individus, des groupes, qu’on peut qualifier d’extrême droite, qui jouent sur la peur de certaines personnes, qui est une peur de l’inconnu et aussi une peur au plan identitaire», dit-il.

Il rappelle qu’il y a pourtant davantage de points de convergence que de divergence entre la tradition judéo-chrétienne et l’islam, une des trois religions monothéistes qui se rattache autant au judaïsme qu’au christianisme, qui a les mêmes figures et que, malgré des différences, on y retrouve à peu près les mêmes principes et les mêmes commandements.

Surtout, il fait valoir que les petits groupes d’extrême droite reçoivent beaucoup d’attention bien que le le phénomène ne soit pas généralisé, comme le démontre «le très grand élan de solidarité qu’on a vu à travers toute la province après les événements tragiques du mois de janvier», faisant ainsi référence à l’attentat du 29 janvier au Centre culturel islamique de Québec qui a fait six morts et huit blessés.

Consultations: «un exercice ouvert, démocratique, utile et nécessaire»

Le professeur Gagné applaudit par ailleurs la démarche du gouvernement en matière de lutte contre le racisme et la discrimination systémique.

«Ce n’est pas une mauvaise idée pour le gouvernement d’investiguer ce qui se passe au niveau de l’éducation, de la santé et d’autres domaines pour voir s’il y a cette chose que l’on appelle le racisme systémique et, si c’est le cas, de faire des recommandations pour éradiquer le problème», dit-il.

«Il faut qu’il y ait un dialogue. La meilleure manière de se comprendre, de vivre ensemble et de mieux apprendre à apprécier l’autre, c’est de dialoguer.»

Les consultations annoncées par Mme Weil seront pilotées par la Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (CDPDJQ), avec l’objectif de «proposer des solutions concrètes et durables (…) pour combattre ces problématiques».

En mêlée de presse à la suite de son annonce, Kathleen Weil s’est bien défendue de vouloir faire le procès des Québécois, un reproche qui a été adressé au gouvernement Couillard, notamment par le chef du Parti québécois, Jean-François Lisée, en mai dernier.

«Je ne suis pas préoccupée du tout par ces commentaires, a-t-elle dit. Je crois que les gens vont voir l’exercice pour ce qu’il est: un exercice ouvert, démocratique, utile et nécessaire.

«Cette consultation, c’est la pièce manquante pour aller plus profondément dans le vécu. Il y a des gens qui souffrent encore», a-t-elle fait valoir.

La présidente de la CDPDJQ, Tamara Thermitus, avait préalablement fait état d’exemples de discrimination systémique, rappelant que les personnes «racisées» nées au Canada ou ailleurs affichent un taux de chômage deux à trois fois plus élevé que les autres Québécois, peu importe le parcours académique.

Elle a également rappelé qu’une enquête de la Commission avait démontré qu’à qualifications égales, un candidat ayant un nom à consonance franco-québécoise a 60 pour cent plus de chances d’être interviewé pour un emploi qu’un candidat ayant un nom à consonance africaine, arabe ou latino-américaine.

«Mieux vaut s’appeler Tremblay que Traoré», a-t-elle laissé tomber en conférence de presse.

La consultation s’amorcera en septembre.

Un site web sera alors mis en ligne avec un questionnaire pour les citoyens intéressés, qui pourront également y déposer un mémoire.

Des organismes communautaires des différentes régions mèneront des séances de consultation publique en septembre et en octobre. Ils seront sélectionnés par un appel d’offres qui a été lancé jeudi.

Parallèlement, quatre groupes de travail seront formés en septembre pour analyser les questions de discrimination systémique et de racisme dans les domaines de l’emploi et du travail; de l’éducation, la santé, les services sociaux et le logement; la justice et la sécurité publique; ainsi que la culture et les médias.

L’effort se conclura par un forum public en novembre.

La Commission aura ensuite la tâche de recueillir tous les éléments de la démarche et faire rapport au gouvernement.

Source: Discrimination systémique et racisme: une consultation dès septembre | Pierre Saint-Arnaud | Politique québécoise

Shaping the future of Canada’s immigration system

A number of opinions on the issues set out in the current immigration consultations (see earlier Collacott: Immigration ‘conversation” is public relations exerciseIRCC Discussion guide on immigration: What about citizenship?).

In addition to my comments below, views of Debbie Douglas (faster processing of family reunification), Harald Bauder (more funding for settlement, pathways from temporary to permanent residency), Jeff Reitz (greater efforts on employment) and the Conference Board (increased immigration levels, spread across the country):

Having inherited an immigration system plagued with backlogs and heavy-handed enforcement, the Liberal government says it’s keen to hear what you think needs to be done about Canada’s immigration future.

Since the beginning of the summer, Immigration Minister John McCallum and his parliamentary secretary, Arif Virani, have held more than two dozen roundtable meetings across Canada with settlement services organizations, businesses and community groups to get their thoughts.

Although the meetings are by invitation only — more are coming in August — the public can submit ideas by email to the minister. Since early July, more than 2,500 online submissions have been received. Submissions end Aug. 5.

“Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will be reviewing the feedback from Canadians to help guide decisions on how many people we will welcome in the coming years and the future of immigration in Canada,” said a department spokesperson.

While the final report won’t be ready till at least the fall, the Star interviewed a group of immigration experts to weigh in on the national dialogue by identifying gaps in the system and offering solutions.

Meaningful and accessible citizenship:

Andrew Griffith, a former director general at the immigration department, said Canada largely has its immigration policies and programs right, but an independent review by a royal commission would be helpful.

He said the consultation questions are biased towards economic class immigrants and miss out on important areas such as citizenship.

“Most immigrants choose to become citizens as part of their integration into Canadian society. If we believe in immigration integration, we should support political integration, in addition to economic, social and cultural,” said Griffith.

“The main instrument for doing so is citizenship, given that allows for full participation in the political process.”

Canada’s naturalization rate has been declining, from the peak of 93.3 per cent for immigrants who came before 1971, to just 36.7 per cent among those who arrived between 2006 and 2007.

Griffith said Ottawa must set targets for naturalization as a benchmark, to assess whether its policies strike the right balance in making citizenship accessible and meaningful.

Officials must also regularly review citizenship requirements to ensure that different ethnic groups and immigration classes (economic, family and refugees) have comparable outcomes. Reducing the hefty application fee from the current $530 would make citizenship more financially accessible.

Source: Shaping the future of Canada’s immigration system | Toronto Star

The Hill Times has the political reaction to the (trial balloon?) of differential immigration fees:

The federal government is seeking public feedback on letting some immigration applicants pay more for faster processing.

That idea is one of many put forward in an online consultation document the government is asking members of the public to fill out as it gears up for an overhaul of the immigration processing system.

The NDP’s immigration critic and a pair of Liberal and NDP MPs say bringing in a two-tiered Canadian immigration system is out of the question.

“I wouldn’t support it,” said NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, B.C.). “By doing that, effectively you’re saying you can buy your way into the system and bypass everybody.”

“They’re absolutely creating a two-tiered system if that were to proceed,” she said.

However, Liberal MP Peter Fonseca (Mississauga East-Cooksville, Ont.) and a Toronto immigration lawyer say such a system could help to improve immigration processing.

The issue is one close to MPs’ hearts as much of their constituency work is tied up in helping constituents with immigration questions, including application processing.

Many MPs have two staffers in their riding offices and at least one attends to constituents’ immigration needs. The most common complaints of constituents about immigration issues are related to long delays in the processing times of applications for family reunification, refugees, spousal sponsorship, temporary foreign workers, visitor visas, and Canadian citizenship applications.

Immigration reform

Collacott: Immigration ‘conversation” is public relations exercise

While I disagree with much of what Collacott argues – the European examples come from too different histories and geographies, the costs of immigration cited are based on the flawed Grubel-Grady study – I do share some of his cynicism with respect to the announced consultations.

It would be better to appoint an independent panel or commission to review the full range of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism issues to have a serious and independent study to help guide longer-term policy (see my previous IRCC Discussion guide on immigration: What about citizenship?):

Canada has probably worked harder and had relatively more success than any other country in welcoming and integrating people of different backgrounds from around the world. The “national conversation’s” assertion that “Canada’s strength lies in its diversity” however does not correspond with reality.

While a well-managed and moderate increase in diversity can enrich a society in various ways, it is also clear that unlimited diversity has a negative effect on societal cohesion and national identity. This has been well-documented by scholars such as Harvard professor Robert Putnam, whose research found that, as urban communities become more and more diverse, the levels of social cohesion decline and there is less trust among residents.

This has been amply demonstrated in Europe, where the social as well as economic integration of many immigrants with very different cultural values and traditions from those of the host nations has been impeded as their numbers grew and they became heavily concentrated in urban areas.

The suggestion that Canada’s strength lies in its diversity, nevertheless, implies that our society  will endlessly benefit from becoming more and more diverse.

The question then has to be asked why the Government is promoting its “national conversation” based on a slogan that doesn’t make sense.

The answer becomes clear from other sections of the conversation’s press release when it states that the government is committed to an immigration system that supports diversity and helps to grow the economy.

The fact is that, while immigration makes the economy larger, it doesn’t improve the standard of living of the average Canadian: it simply creates a larger pie that is divided into more, and usually somewhat smaller, pieces. Indeed the latest research indicates that recent immigration is very costly to Canadian taxpayers — to the tune of around $30 billion a year — in addition to raising house prices beyond the reach of most young Canadians in large cities such as Vancouver and Toronto, increasing congestion and commute times and putting heavy pressure on health care services. 

While there been periods in our history when we have benefitted from large-scale immigration, this is not one of them. Canada does not face major labour shortages and has sufficient human capital and educational and training facilities to meet almost all of our needs  from our existing resources.

The “national conversation” is clearly a public relations exercise designed to convince members of the public that they are providing serious input into how immigration can benefit Canada.  The terms of reference, however, leave no doubt that its real purpose is to promote large-scale immigration and diversity in order to increase political support for the Liberal Party of Canada rather than to serve the interests of Canadians in general.

We very much need a comprehensive, well-informed and balanced review of immigration policy — but not the phony “national conversation” the government is attempting to foist on the public.

Source: Opinion: Immigration ‘conversation” is public relations exercise | Vancouver Sun

IRCC Discussion guide on immigration: What about citizenship?

Some things never change. IRCC launches consultations on immigration and leaves out any questions on the related issues of citizenship policy. Sigh…Immigration consultations are welcome and needed. They can and should help better inform future level plans and I would hope that there will be  widespread participation with diversity of views.

It may well be that the Government believes with C-6 it has no need to consult on citizenship as hard to believe that this is a mere oversight.

But consulting on immigration while being silent on where and how citizenship is part of the picture is, at best, a missed opportunity.

Also interesting to note the question of “Canadian values and traditions” which should provoke some interesting discussion, and which is horizontal to immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism.

Were there to be citizenship-related consultation questions is below, my initial list is below. Feedback and other suggestions of course welcome:

  1. What percentage of newcomers should we expect to become Canadian citizens? In what time frame?
  2. Does citizenship play an important role in integrating and participating in the Canadian economy and society? In which way?
  3. Do we have the balance right between facilitating and encouraging citizenship and ensuring a meaningful connection to Canada?

The questions:

Opening Questions

  1. How many newcomers should we welcome to Canada in 2017 and beyond?
  2. How can we best support newcomers to ensure they become successful members of our communities?
  3. Do we have the balance right among the immigration programs or streams? If not, what priorities should form the foundation of Canada’s immigration planning?
  4. How should we balance encouraging mobile global talent to become citizens with physical presence residency requirements?

Questions: Unlocking Canada’s diverse needs

  1. How can immigration play a role in supporting economic growth and innovation in Canada?
  2. Should there be more programs for businesses to permanently hire foreign workers if they can’t find Canadians to fill the job?
  3. What is the right balance between attracting global talent for high-growth sectors, on the one hand, and ensuring affordable labour for businesses that have historically seen lower growth, on the other?
  4. How can immigration fill in the gaps in our demographics and economy?
  5. What Canadian values and traditions are important to share with newcomers to help them integrate into Canadian society?

Questions: Modernizing our immigration system

  1. Currently, immigration levels are planned yearly.  Do you agree with the thinking that planning should be multi-year?
  2. What modernization techniques should Canada invest in for processing of applications?
  3. What should Canada do to ensure its immigration system is modern and efficient?
  4. Is there any rationale for providing options to those willing to pay higher fees for an expedited process?

Questions: Leadership in global migration and immigration

  1. Is it important for Canada to continue to show leadership in global migration? If so, how can we best do that?
  2. How can Canada attract the best global talent and international students?
  3. In what ways can Canada be a model to the world on refugees, migration and immigration?

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Source: Discussion guide on immigration