Daphne Bramham: Canada’s broken system punishes high-skilled immigrants [credential recognition of dentists]

Dentist case study and related recognition data:
Early last Friday, Mariam Tariq, a couple of friends in Toronto and her mother in Pakistan were ready at their computers waiting for the moment that registration opened to get her seat to write the first of three National Dental Examining Board of Canada exams in August.
Tariq managed to get a place on the waiting list. So, she’ll have to keep studying hard … just in case.By August, the 32-year-old will have been in Vancouver for more than two years and has moved only a tiny step closer to becoming a licensed dentist.

It took 14 months before her academic credentials were accepted, although the NDEB says the average processing time once all the documents are received is 20 weeks.

Then, Tariq joined the throng of close to 1,700 who each year sign up for the “equivalency process,” which entails a total of three exams, including a clinical one. Currently, there are over 10,000 people at various stages of the process.

It’s anathema to how Canada’s immigration system should work.

Canada promises high-skilled professionals and tradespeople from around the world a fast-track to a bright future here. But on arrival, they’re ensnared in a web of national and regional accreditation and licensing bodies.

It can take up to five years or more to qualify and some simply give up and move on to something or somewhere else.Tariq had been a lecturer in pediatric dentistry at the government-run Ayub College in Abbottabad and presented papers at international dental conventions including in the U.S.

She came here on the fast-track-to-permanent-residency under Canada’s Express Entry program that favours people whose skills are badly needed.

In January 2020, she sent credentials from Pakistan to the NDEB for verification and signed up for online coaching for the first exam — the assessment of fundamental knowledge or AFK.

“I thought it would take a year or a year-and-a-half (to get licensed),” Tariq told me. “But I’ve found out that it usually takes more like three-to-five years.”

She arrived here in July 2020. It wasn’t until March 2021 that her credentials were accepted. But the AFK exam is given only twice a year in August and February. And Tariq had missed the window to register for the August sitting.In November 2021, she wasn’t fast enough to grab a precious seat for February 2022.

COVID-19 restrictions are partly to blame for the bottleneck. The NDEB expects to be able to increase testing capacity later this year.

Aside from the scarcity of seats, the full-day exams are gruelling as they must be to protect patient safety. Over the past five years, the pass rate for the multiple-choice AFK has ranged from 32 to 49 per cent. For the other two exams, the pass rate runs from the mid-30s to the mid-60s.

And if that’s not pressure enough, NDEB has a three-strikes’ rule. Fail three times and you’re banned from ever trying again.With such high stakes, many foreign-trained dentists pay fees of up to $5,000 to what Tariq described as “coaching academies” in addition to the NDEB fees that start at $1,000 for the AFK and go up from there.

There are thousands currently in this unenviable cycle of what Tariq described as “work, earn money to study, study and pay for the next exam.”

Having run through the money she had saved to come to Canada, she has at least found work at dental clinics, albeit as an accounts receivable clerk, a receptionist and now as a chair-side assistant — “I have a lot of friends who are working at Tim Hortons, Walmart.”

Tariq is pragmatically taking courses to qualify as a dental assistant. The pay will be better than what she’s earning now, which means Tariq will be less reliant on her dentist/mother for help paying for the NDEB examsShe’s also fortunate to be in the first cohort of a free coaching program offered by the immigrant settlement society, SUCCESS.

Its CEO, Queenie Choo, has first-hand experience with the credentialing hoops. Trained as a nurse in Britain and having worked on a transplant team and in acute care, she said it was humiliating to have to prove her ability to do injections by sticking a needle in an orange.

“We want to attract talent through immigration, but we have not created an environment where they are able to practise,” she said. “We definitely need a system that is seamless with less barriers including financial help for the required exams.”

Among the many criticisms of Canada’s accreditation system is that only credentials from institutions in the white, English-speaking world are deemed good enough.

“I don’t know if it’s a subtle form of racism,” Choo said. “But we need to look at systemic racism that it may be creating.”

What might that look like? A lot like what’s happening now

By neglect or design, the expensive and fragmented credentialing system is creating an underclass. Instead of working dentists, doctors and nurses, foreign-trained professionals end up as assistants, associates and aides.

In the past 20 years, Statistics Canada found that the number of immigrants who become Canadian citizens has dropped by more than 20 percentage points.

There are multiple reasons why. But this is surely one of them.

Source: Daphne Bramham: Canada’s broken system punishes high-skilled immigrants

Daphne Bramham: Canada needs a long-term immigration plan

Unfortunately, it is being overly influenced by the Century Initiative, Business Council of Canada and others rather than more independent and critical analysis (hence my recommendation for a royal commission or equivalent Increasing immigration to boost population? Not so fast.).

Refugee crises, and responses, on the other hand are harder to predict and manage:

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, Canada had already set the highest immigration targets in this country’s history, with the aim of increasing the population by one per cent a year, or by 1.3 million people within three years.

Those targets follow a record-setting 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021 — the highest rate since 1913 when there was an aggressive recruitment drive to “settle” the West.

Then, as now, the impetus isn’t humanitarian, it’s economic. With an aging population, Canada is depending on young, educated immigrants to ensure that we maintain our standard of living.

Immigration already accounts for almost all of the labour force growth and nearly three-quarters of our population growth.

The new targets favour the economic class — 60 per cent of newcomers are planned for that category, while 60,000 are in the refugee class.

Details about where they will go or how the provinces, municipalities and settlement service agencies will accommodate such levels of immigration against a backdrop of COVID and a national housing shortage have yet to be worked out.

Not that it matters now.Those targets were set aside with Canada’s open-ended promise last week that an unlimited number of Ukrainians are welcome for as long as they want in response to what is Europe’s largest migration since the Second World War.

As of Monday, two million Ukrainians were on the move, with estimates that as many as another two million may follow.

But that pales in comparison to the nearly seven million who have fled the long-running war in Syria. Canada fell short of its promise to settle 81,000 of them by the end of 2021, after initially bringing in 25,000 in little more than 100 days during 2016.

COVID is part of the reason, but there were also additional demands put on Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in the fall after Ottawa promised safe haven to 40,000 Afghans.

Now, there are the Ukrainians.If the Canadian government has any idea whether 100 Ukrainians or 40,000 might be arriving, that information hasn’t been shared with provinces, territories, cities or settlement service agencies.

How, where and when Ukrainians might be arriving, nobody’s been told. Many might want to settle in the Prairies where there is already a large Ukrainian-Canadian population, but refugees often prefer Toronto and Vancouver.

And who’s coming? Daily images from reception centres in Poland suggest that most are likely to be women and children, along with the elderly and, in the coming days, we may see more of the infirm. There are also reports of unaccompanied minors arriving in Poland.

Of course, these are early days. But information is essential to ensuring immigrants and refugees get what they need when they arrive.Most critically, it is anybody’s guess right now whether there are enough (affordable) roofs to put over their heads.

The B.C. government is in the dark. It is “looking forward to hearing more details from our federal counterparts and how best B.C. can respond to support Ukrainian newcomers under these new measures,” said an emailed statement from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. The province doesn’t have an immigration ministry.

“B.C.’s priority is to ensure that everyone who arrives in the province receives the supports and resources they need to live a dignified, healthy and safe life.”

Among settlement service providers, there is an appreciation for what Canada is promising, but also “an anxiousness” about what Chris Friesen described as “a free-for-all”.Friesen is chief operating officer for the Immigrant Services Society of B.C., one of Canada’s largest settlement organizations.

Canada’s immigration system was under siege before the Ukrainian crisis. There were 1.8 million applications stacked up at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada as of October.

The backlog included 760,000 applications for spousal sponsorship, skilled worker and temporary-to-permanent-residency, and 550,000 for permanent residency.

It was exacerbated by “trade-offs” that needed to be made to Afghanistan resettlement objectives, according to an October memo obtained by immigration news website CIC News under access to information.

Canada promised last fall to resettle 40,000 Afghans who worked for the Canadian Armed Forces and international humanitarian organizations or as judges, journalists and senior officials in the former Western-backed government. So far, only 7,550 have arrived.To deal with Ukrainians, some Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada staff are now being relocated and operations are being adjusted in offices in Europe, Canada and around the world to process the applications.

The applicants will include Ukrainians looking to come temporarily for an unspecified period or permanently; Ukrainians currently visiting, studying or working on temporary permits who are now also eligible for unlimited work permits; and under a special family reunification program.

And, of course, it’s expected that with 1.4 million Ukrainian-Canadians, there will be widespread interest in applying under the existing private refugee sponsorship program.

But with the country’s economic future reliant on immigration, Canada needs more than short-term targets and crisis management.

It needs a long-term blueprint that meshes economic aspirations with compassionate and humanitarian aims, as well as the resources to make that happen.

Provinces, territories and municipalities need similar plans. By the time people arrive, it’s too late to start building homes, hospitals, schools, libraries and other infrastructure.

Professional organizations and accreditation bodies also need to be engaged. It’s unfair to everyone when labour shortages exist to continue bringing professionals and skilled tradespeople without providing timely and accessible pathways for their qualifications to be recognized.

Canada has done well so far, stumbling along. But now there is too much at stake for everyone — newcomers, Indigenous people and multigenerational citizens.

Canada needs a plan not only for the next three years, but for the next generation.

Source: Daphne Bramham: Canada needs a long-term immigration plan

Daphne Bramham: ‘Political Drano’ needed to unclog Canada’s refugee system

Of note:

Canada’s refugee system is in chaos, a victim of its own success and Canadians’ eagerness to help.

Even before Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, it struggled with a backlog of close to 65,000 refugees with permanent resident cards languishing in over-crowded United Nations camps and in countries eager to move them along.

Many are Syrians, who were promised a Canadian home during the 2015 federal election that resulted in an extraordinary effort to settle 25,000 within 100 days.

Also among those waiting are people on Canada’s priority list to help — torture victims, members of persecuted minority groups, people with disabilities, single mothers, and unaccompanied minors.

Afghanistan’s rapid descent has bumped their arrival here even further back, making what was an untenable situation worse. The only solution to unclogging it is “political Drano,” says Chris Friesen.

Friesen is the chief operating officer of Immigrant Services Society of B.C. who helped coordinate Operation Syria in 2015. He says that, as difficult as that was, “this is much worse.”

What he means by political Drano is not just an immediate infusion of money for the processing and settlement of Afghans. It’s more money to fulfill promises of safe haven already made.

It means enhancing the highly successful Group of Five program where citizens can privately sponsor and support the full cost for refugee families’ resettlement for the first year, including rent, shelter, transportation, spending money, food, clothing and household essentials.

There are so many applications already in that queue that — like the refugee queue itself — Friesen said it would take “upwards of two years” for an application filed today to sponsor an Afghan family to make it to the top of the pile.

Like health-care during a pandemic, refugees are triaged. And, right now, few people are at more risk than Afghan human rights activists, judges, journalists and translators who worked with the Canadian military. They are being hunted by the Taliban doing door-to-door searches.

So far, the Canadian response has been muddied because of the federal election.

The immigration minister is still able to sign special permits for Afghans to use as exit visas, but it was impossible for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to get extra money to match the Liberals’ campaign promise to evacuate and settle 20,000 Afghans. The resources have had to come from other programs.

Emergency evacuations have unique problems and costs. Normally, refugees are screened by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees before joining the queue for Canada. Even before now, the Canadian process was taking up to two years, with some of that due to COVID restrictions.

There has been no time for that process now. Instead, Afghans are fleeing using special permits issued on the recommendations of various trusted sources and being processed for permanent residency in hotels in Toronto and Calgary, while they quarantine for two weeks under pandemic protocols.

But even that has had unforeseen problems. A measles outbreak was discovered when the first group of Calgary-bound Afghans landed in the United States. They are now quarantined for 28 days and will have to quarantine another 14 days when they get to Canada.

“It’s all very intense,” said Friesen.

On any given day, there is no way to know when, let alone how many, Afghans might arrive. Some come on government-sponsored flights, while others arrive with the help of non-profit groups. 

No targets have been set for how many will go to each province. The working assumption is that it will follow the traditional patterns. For B.C., that’s 10 per cent of the total. But, as of this week, only 78 families and 300 individuals will have arrived.

The intense public glare is adding another layer of stress for those on the front lines. Public interest was high with the Syrians, but Friesen said interest in the Afghans is “astronomical”.

After 20 years of civil society engagement with Afghanistan, Canadians have made personal connections with the country and its people. They have engaged through non-profit groups supporting women, building schools and libraries, as well as through international professional organizations.

As well, deep loyalties were forged with Afghans who helped journalists and soldiers during Canada’s nearly 15 years of military presence. Plus, there are close to 125,000 Afghan-Canadians.

Many of these Canadians have been fielding desperate pleas for help from their friends and colleagues. In turn, they are asking what the government is doing to help.

Among the loudest voices are some of Canada’s 40,000 veterans — 540 live here, including the founders of Veterans Transition Network. It is raising money to shelter and support Afghan interpreters and their families as they await evacuation.

That is in addition to its ongoing work supporting veterans — some of whom already have post-traumatic stress that may have been triggered by the Taliban’s resurgence.

Every day, already over-stretched staff of settlement services across the country and at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada are diverted from their primary roles to field calls from corporations and individuals offering help.

It is more than most can deal with since among the things that IRCC hasn’t been able to do is hire more staff or provide money for the provincial welcome centres.

For now, Friesen said what ISSofBC urgently needs is help finding affordable housing so that refugee families already here can move out of its Welcome House to make room for new arrivals.

It all sounds like a dreadful mess until you realize that what is driving it is something quite rare and precious — Canadians’ desire to be good global citizens and provide safe haven to desperate strangers.

It is goodwill that could easily be frustrated and squandered unless the government acts quickly to unclog the pipeline. And that can only happen with both strong leadership and cooperation within the new minority parliament.

Source: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjoyvvN757zAhVDtTEKHU22CK4QFnoECAIQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fvancouversun.com%2Fnews%2Fdaphne-bramham-political-drano-needed-to-unclog-canadas-refugee-system&usg=AOvVaw03EOafEVuCfVr5H-M_VvkB

Daphne Bramham: More oversight needed for Mandarin-language materials used in B.C. schools

Of note:

It has been described by people both in China and outside as the best propaganda film that country has ever produced and it may be the first Chinese-produced film to earn more than US$1 billion.

So it’s not surprising that parents and others are questioning the appropriateness of the trailers for My People, My Country being used as teaching material in Grade 10, 11 and 12 Mandarin language classes at a high school in Richmond.

The film is a 254-minute, patriotic review of seven historic high points since Mao Zedong and the Communist Party came to power 70 years ago.

Co-produced by a state-owned company, there is no mention of the Cultural Revolution or the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. The return of Hong Kong to Chinese control is portrayed as a triumph.

The South China Morning Post’s review described the film as a “jingoistic anthology,” while the Chinese news agency Xinhua said the film’s aim was to “awaken shared memories of Chinese people around the world.”

“After 70 years, our culture and propaganda departments finally figured out how to combine propaganda with art,” Yan Feng, a Chinese literature professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University wrote in a Weibo post quoted by the New York Times.

Even without English translation, the YouTube trailer is nothing like what you might imagine propaganda looks like — aside perhaps from the Hollywood patriot movies like Top Gun.

That’s what makes it so powerful.

There are seven trailers in all for the film and four were shown to Grades 10, 11 and 12, Mandarin-language classes at Steveston-London Secondary School.

After viewing them, students had a brief informal chat about what they saw before being handed written questions as a prompt for another discussion the following day, according to an Oct. 24 letter that principal Carol-Lyn Sakata sent to parents.

A copy of the principal’s letter with the teacher’s name redacted that was posted to the Canada Hong Konger Facebook page.

That discussion was cancelled because of parents’ concerns about using Communist Party propaganda in the school.

“We believe the teacher intended to engage students in an informal and open discussion to ‘analyze personal, shared, and others’ experiences, perspectives, and world views through a cultural lens,’ as contemplated in the provincial curriculum,” Richmond School District spokesman Dave Sadler wrote in an emailed response.”

But is propaganda culture? Or is it simply politics?

There’s a plausible argument to be made that My People, My Country is a cultural and even historic phenomenon. Certainly, it’s being widely shown and widely seen.

Released on Oct. 1 to coincide with 70th anniversary celebrations, it had 135,000 daily screenings on the first weekend, earning US$102 million, according to Variety. Online reviewers in China scored it as high as 9.7 out of 10, but as Variety diplomatically pointed out “in the past there has been doubt about the reliability of such scores.” Still, Variety suggests, it may be the first Chinese film to earn US$1 billion.

But if the teacher’s intent was to talk about it as cultural phenomenon, that’s not evident from the principal’s letter or from the assignment itself.

Under the Chinese caption “I love my motherland,” students were given “reflection questions.” Among them were: How did this movie make you feel? What words or phrases made you feel good? What was your favourite part? What four adjectives would you use to describe the movie? Does it remind you of your life?

Further down, there were questions about what they thought the movie’s message is and why it was produced.

Sakata noted the “controversial and political nature of the film” in her letter to parents. “With the current political unrest in Hong Kong, I understand the concern that you may have.”

There’s no doubt that that may be what has made parents and students more acutely aware of what is being taught in Mandarin classes.

But to suggest that is the only reason for concern is a disservice to both students and parents who are raising important questions far beyond a single teacher, some trailers and three classrooms.

What is being taught under the guise of Mandarin language learning in British Columbia’s public and private schools? How are teaching materials chosen? Who chooses them? Are they being supplied at no cost by the Chinese government?

While the provincial government sets curriculum, it doesn’t choose the resources used in local schools. That’s up to the school districts using the province’s rather vague criteria.

According to an education ministry spokeswoman, teaching materials must: support learning standards and outcomes of the curriculum; make connections with real-life examples; be age appropriate; meet copyright and privacy requirements; and, content must be socially acceptable.

There’s enough leeway that the Coquitlam School District, for example, has partnered directly with the Chinese government to set up a Confucius Institute with teachers and teaching resources provided by China at no cost.

It’s not clear how the choices are made in Richmond. Sadler wasn’t able to provide the answers Friday as it was a professional development day and the people who deal with curriculum issues were away.

But it begs the question of the province’s responsibility.

Canadian students and foreign students studying in Canada deserve an education untainted by political influence or interference especially from another country’s government. And that should be something the province is doing.

Source: Daphne Bramham: More oversight needed for Mandarin-language materials used in B.C. schools

Daphne Bramham: Misleading Conservative ads fan fears in Chinese community

Chinese Canadians were among the most opposed to cannabis legalization which continues to be covered in Chinese language media. This fake news exploits this opposition:

The close-up image of lines of white powder, a razor blade and thick, white fingers is startling enough for most Facebook users. But it’s the words in the Conservative Party of Canada’s Facebook ad — in Chinese characters — that are more attention grabbing.

“(Liberal Leader Justin) Trudeau has already legalized marijuana, he now plans to legalize hard drugs! If you want to get the latest in Chinese, please press Like in our Facebook page.”

Alarming? Yes, it is. It’s also not true.

The message is repeated in a bilingual (Chinese/English) post dated Oct. 5 on the Conservative Party’s Chinese-language Facebook page. “Do you want Justin Trudeau to legalize hard drugs in your community?” reads the headline. “Justin Trudeau has a plan to legalize hard drugs!”

No similar posting was made on the party’s main English-language Facebook page.

The Conservatives base the fake claim on an exchange between Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and Trudeau during a recent leaders’ debate. In French, Scheer accuses the Liberals of having a “secret agenda to legalize or decriminalize hard drugs.”

But Liberal spokesman Guy Gallant said Wednesday, “That (legalization) is not in our plans.”

What the Liberals’ platform says is that the “default option for first-time, non-violent offenders” would require going to drug court where they would get “quick access to treatment,” which in turn would “prevent more serious crimes.”

To make it work, the Liberals promise more community-based services, more residential treatment beds as well as a scaling up of the most effective harm-reduction services such as supervised consumption sites.

Although it lacks many details, it sounds similar to what Portugal did in 2001 in response to its opioid addiction crisis.

There, all street drugs (including marijuana) are illegal. But anyone found with drugs within the set limits for personal use is sent to the Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction, where counsellors and therapists come up with a plan to direct the user to whatever services are needed to help them quit taking drugs.

Anyone found with larger amounts is charged with trafficking, goes through the criminal justice system, and can be sent to jail for up to 12 years.

Drug use in Portugal, once the highest in Europe, is now amongst the lowest, especially among youth, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction’s 2019 report.

While Portugal had only 30 overdose deaths in 2016, the year quoted in the report, 4,588 Canadians died from overdoses in 2018, and another 1,082 died in the first three months this year.

“If Justin Trudeau tells us precisely when he is going to legalize dangerous drugs, we will amend our ads to reflect the new information,” Conservative spokesman Simon Jefferies said Wednesday in an email.

All but one of the links provided by Conservatives to “prove” that Liberals would legalize illicit drugs — the French-language debate clip, a Trudeau interview with Global TV, news stories about individual Liberal candidates, and a YouTube videofrom the 2018 Liberal convention — all refer not to legalization, but to decriminalization. Some even include specific references to the Portuguese model.

The exception was a 2014 tweet from Michael Den Tandt, the Liberal candidate in the Ontario riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound. At the time, he was a National Post reporter and his tweet urged legalization and control of recreational drugs and prostitution, along with an end to supply management and lower taxes. None of those are Liberal party policies.

Conservatives deny a deliberate attempt to confuse voters by using “decriminalization” and “legalization” interchangeably.

The Conservatives have yet to release their full platform, but last week Scheer promised to “tackle drug addiction” in an announcement that focused on guns, gangs and sentencing.

A background paper released at the same time said Conservatives would invest in treatment and recovery centres, including recovery high schools, have a national campaign warning children and youth about the dangers of drug use, and partner with municipalities and schools to clean up used needles.

Illicit drugs are anathema for many new Canadians from Asia and for those who recall China’s opium wars. In Hong Kong, for example, penalties for possession of illicit drugs can be up to seven years in jail and a fine of C$170,000. In China, drug trafficking can bring the death penalty, as two Canadians found out earlier this year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand also have a death penalty for trafficking.

As was apparent when Trudeau’s government legalized marijuana, changing drug laws is much less acceptable to many Asian voters than to other Canadians. And it just so happens that Chinese-speaking voters account for a significant percentage in some of the most heavily contested ridings — including Richmond Centre, Steveston-Richmond East, and Vancouver Kingsway.

Deliberately creating confusion and misunderstanding has, unfortunately, proven to be a far too effective strategy south of the border, and it seems to have made its way north.

Bad at any time, it’s worse when it targets voters whose first language isn’t English, and especially confuses an issue that affects thousands of Canadians with addictions whose lives are at stake every day.

Yet, that’s what Conservatives are willing to risk in this ugly, too-close-to-call election.

Source: Daphne Bramham: Misleading Conservative ads fan fears in Chinese community

Daphne Bramham: Conservatives go hunting for overseas votes

Predictable result of the change allowing voting to expatriates without restriction compared to the previous five-year limit.

To date, the number of registered expatriate voters according to the article is 20,000 compared to about 15,000 when the restriction was in place for the 2015 election.

Elections Canada does not provide a riding-level breakdown of expatriate registration and voter turnout, but has provided a list of registered voters by country (see after the article) so hard to assess which ridings will be most affected.

The Conservatives have been cultivating Canadian expatriates in Hong Kong for some time (not sure if the other parties have):

A few days before the federal election campaign got rolling in Canada, it was already underway for Conservatives in Hong Kong.

Former foreign affairs minister John Baird rallied the overseas troops at two events, while volunteers from Canadian Conservatives in Hong Kong helped people register to receive their mail-in ballots.

Notice of last Thursday’s event at a sports bar in Central and one on Sunday in Tsim Sha Tsui was posted on the group’s Facebook page with instructions to bring passports if they wanted to get registered.

The Conservative Party of Canada’s official website also has a page for the group where its invitation to the first event remains prominently displayed.

But a party spokesman said none of it — the event, the fancy logo with the Conservative Party of Canada’s C circling a red junk that’s long been Hong Kong’s tourism symbol or even helping voters get ballots — is affiliated with the party.

But if it’s not party-sanctioned, then why is it on the Conservative Party of Canada’s official website?

“An unaffiliated group of Canadian volunteers living abroad asked if we could host a webpage for their event to help other Canadians living abroad register to vote through Elections Canada’s process and exercise their right as Canadian citizens to participate in our democratic process,” said Simon Jefferies. “We obliged.”

Well, lucky for the Conservatives.

No other party has such eager overseas volunteers in Hong Kong, where there are an estimated 300,000 Canadians — or anywhere else for that matter.

Potentially, the Hong Kong votes could be decisive in Metro Vancouver, Toronto and even Calgary ridings because overseas Canadians vote in the riding where they last lived. But, so far, only 865 have registered as of this week, according to Elections Canada. Globally, fewer than 20,000 have registered with nearly half of those living in the United States and most of the others living in Britain, Australia and Germany.

This is the first time in 25 years that all Canadians living abroad are eligible to vote in the federal election. The Canada Elections Act was amended last year in advance of a January ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada that voting is “a fundamental political right, and the right to vote is a core tenet of our democracy.” Two Canadians living in the United States launched the Charter of Rights challenge in 2011 after Stephen Harper’s Conservative government began more strictly enforcing a 1993 change to the Canada Elections Act. That change denied the vote to Canadians who had lived abroad for five years or more.

It’s also, lucky for the Conservatives that Baird in his new role as a senior business advisor for a big Canadian law firm makes frequent visits to Hong Kong and China, and has lost none of his partisan zeal.

“Obviously we want Canadians living abroad to support the Conservative Party and make Andrew Scheer the next prime minister of Canada,” Baird said prior to his speech. “So, I’m here to encourage people to register and support him. “

That interview plus coverage of the event is posted on YouTube.

“What I hope is that an Andrew Scheer-led government can bring in more competent foreign policies and be able to re-engage with China and so we can be a strong, respected partner with China.”

The unaffiliated Conservatives’ organizers include Barrett Bingley from The Economist Group, who holds executive positions with both the American and Canadian chambers of commerce in Hong Kong, and Brett Stephenson, director of the Asia Business Trade Association.

The group’s Facebook page was only set up on August 28. And while it was set up as “a political organization,” it has yet to register as a third-party under the Elections Act.

Elections Canada spokesperson Natasha Gauthier didn’t know anything about Canadian Conservatives in Hong Kong. But she did outline the rules and noted that enforcement is done on a complaints-based system.

Regardless of where they live, any Canadian individuals or organizations spending $500 or more on partisan activities during the campaign and even in the pre-election period (which began June 30) must register. They need a bank account, a financial agent and an auditor if they spend more than $10,000.

They need to file revenue and expense statements. They need to list their donors because these are challenging times for democracies under threat from foreign interference and influence.

Gauthier emphasized that any person or organization that isn’t Canadian is forbidden from participating as third parties and as donors.

There’s also no official role for political parties to play in registering voters. That’s Election Canada’s job. Even the role of Canadian embassies and consulates is limited to printing out forms or pointing citizens to the Elections Canada website where people can register online and request their mail-in ballots. But they must get them back by Oct. 21. The deadline to register is Oct. 15, but Canadian Conservatives warn that getting it from Hong Kong to Ottawa by voting day means mailing it by Oct. 5.

These are troubled times in Hong Kong and at home in Canada. Linked by history and blood, both are now struggling in China’s dark shadow to preserve the rights and values that have enabled both to thrive.

But with protesters battling in Hong Kong’s streets, there are few places in the world where the right to vote in fair elections holds more meaning.

Source: Daphne Bramham: Conservatives go hunting for overseas votes

Liste préliminaire des Canadiens à l’étranger inscrits

  • Pays – Nombre –   % du total
  • États-Unis 8522 43,08 %
  • Royaume-Uni 2097 10,60 %
  • Australie 866 4,38 %
  • Hong Kong 865 4,37 %
  • Allemagne 862 4,36 %
  • France 720 3,64 %
  • Canada* 670 3,39 %
  • Suisse 483 2,44 %
  • Pays-Bas 350 1,77 %
  • Japon 297 1,50 %
  • Total des 10 pays : 15 731 79,53 %
  • Autres pays : 4053 21,47 %
  • Grand total : 19 784 100 %
  • *Personnel diplomatique

Source: Élections Canada lève le voile sur la liste des pays étrangers où résident des Canadiens

Daphne Bramham: China’s long reach laid bare by Hong Kong protests

Expect we will continue to see many articles like this:

Beijing’s long reach into the Chinese diaspora and beyond has rarely been as evident as it is now.

On Monday, Twitter suspended 936 accounts, which it described as “the most active” of 200,000 accounts representing “a larger, spammy network.” The accounts originating in China were “deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground.”

Based on “intensive investigations, Twitter said it has “reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation. Specifically, we identified large clusters of accounts behaving in a coordinated manner to amplify messages related to the Hong Kong protests.”

Based on Twitter’s findings, Facebook also shut down seven pages, three groups and seven accounts.

Fortunately, this weekend’s march by an estimated 1.7 million Hong Kongers was peaceful after several weeks of violence and alleged police brutality.

But there were rising tensions in several Canadian cities as well as Paris, London, New York City and Sydney where pro-Beijing counter-protests were hastily arranged at sites of rallies held in support of Hong Kong’s protest movement.

The counter-protests were strikingly similar with denunciations of the Hong Kong “rioters” and “traitors” and false accusations of Hong Kongers demanding independence from China. They sang the Chinese national anthem under seemingly fresh-from-the-package Chinese flags and scores of identical placards.

With their own citizens protesting in the streets — many of them of Chinese ancestry — Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Crystia Freeland and the European Union’s foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini were told to mind their own business by China. They had issued a joint statement urging restraint and condemning the “rising number of unacceptable violent incidents” in Hong Kong that might lead to “risks of further violence and instability.”

In Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto, police were busy keeping protesters and counter-protesters separated and safe.

On Saturday, social media chatter among Vancouver-based China’s supporters included boasts about bringing bricks, rocks and knives to hastily organized counter-protests that resulted in a more obvious police presence than at previous events. Whether the threats were legitimate, it’s up to the police to investigate.

Later, scores of counter-protesters gathered outside Nordstrom’s, video posted on Facebook shows one young man marching past the red flags with his arm raised in a pseudo-Nazi salute with Chinese singing in the background. The show of forced convinced the organizers of a nearby pro-Hong Kong event to cancel.

On Sunday, a convoy of flag-draped cars and some landscaping trucks that had blocked the street outside the Chinese consul general’s house on Granville Street during a rally drove to a nearby church.

There, about 80 worshippers met to pray for peace, freedom, human rights and democracy in the former British colony. Police kept the 100 or so flag-waving and red-clad demonstrators away from the church and helped escort the worshippers though the crowd when the prayers ended.

Chris Chiu, one of the prayer meeting’s organizers, called it an assault on religious freedom, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression — something protected in Canada, but absent in China.

“We definitely felt intimidated,” he said. “As far as I know this doesn’t even happen in Hong Kong. Some churches there have opened their space during protests so that people can have a rest, get first aid or some water. They’re like shelters.

“It was definitely outrageous and shocking. It makes me feel very angry and unsafe even in Canada.”

Chiu said members of Vancouver Christians for Love, Peace and Justice will be meeting later this week to talk about their future.

“Are we going to hold any prayer meeting for Hong Kong or any other causes that China doesn’t like? Do we have to think about safety? About contacting police or hiring security guards? We don’t know the answers.”

Bizarrely, there were also by noisy drive-bys of flag-draped luxury cars at protests sites in Vancouver and Toronto.

Ferraris, McLarens, Aston Martins and Porsches revved their engines and honking is intimidation on a whole different scale in cities that have been roiled by a different kind of social unrest from residents who have been priced out of the housing market and who have been rocked by a multi-billion-dollar, money-laundering scandal that’s been linked to China.

The revving of cars that cost more than many people’s homes was another ostentatious reminder of China’s economic power.

Canada and Canadians are already suffering the economic consequences of China’s retribution for cleaving to our own values and upholding the rule of law with regard to Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.

She’s under house arrest in her multi-million Vancouver home, awaiting an extradition trial, while two Canadians — Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig — have been jailed without trial in China and two others jailed in China have been condemned to death.

People in Hong Kong are in a life-and-death struggle to retain the vestiges of freedom that have made the city-state so vibrant. They are struggling to retain their own culture and customs and even the Cantonese language, which is increasingly being replaced by Mandarin.

As the Chinese government exerts ever increasing influence over other countries in Asia, Africa and in Canada, Hong Kongers are not alone in thinking that they may just be the canary in the coal mine.

Source: Daphne Bramham: China’s long reach laid bare by Hong Kong protests

Glass ceiling still in place for British Columbia public sector employees

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on the perspective), there is no equivalent federal ‘sunshine list’ on all public sector salaries.

british-columbia-public-service-2011

However, we do have data on federal Deputy and Assistant Deputy Ministers (for women, 2016 baseline 37.6 percent women and 4.7 percent visible minorities for deputies, 40.8 and 7.2 percent for ADMs). DM appointments by the current government are close to gender parity at 46.9 percent women.

My analysis of GiC appointments showed less representation of women and visible minorities, and a similar gap to British Columbia between senior and junior appointments for crown corporations and administrative tribunals:

GiC Baseline 2016.014

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have introduced a gender-balanced cabinet “because it’s 2015,” but that equality does not extend to public servants in B.C., where the vast majority of the highest-paid employees are men.

An analysis of The Sun’s exclusive public sector salary database reveals that of the 200 highest-paid public employees in B.C., during 2014 or the 2014-15 fiscal year, 70 per cent were men and 30 per cent were women. That increases to 77 per cent male when the field is narrowed to the top 100 (By contrast, 94 of the 100 highest-paid corporate executives in 2015 were men, according to Business in Vancouver.)

“There’s an old saying: the higher, the fewer, with respect to women,” said Barbara Arneil, head of the University of B.C.’s political science department. “We have what I think are structural, systemic reasons why women are not reaching the top of their profession, whether that is in the university, whether that’s in government, whether that’s in the private sector. And we’re wasting very good resources.”

Search The Sun’s exclusive public sector salary database.

The Sun analyzed the top 200 public-sector earners in this year’s database, which contains salary information for nearly 77,000 employees, and the top 50 earners in six of the seven sectors: B.C. government, Crown corporations, health authorities, local government, school districts, and colleges and universities. The Sun did not include municipal police in this analysis because forces generally withhold many names to protect undercover officers. The Sun relied on first names for this gender analysis, checking Internet profiles in cases where only a first initial was provided or the name was ambiguous.

The gender divide is most pronounced at colleges and universities, where men represented 41 of the top 50 earners, or 82 per cent, in the 2014-15 fiscal year. But because the University of B.C. accounts for 45 of the top 50 highest-paid employees in the sector in the province, these findings really only reflect that institution. At the University of Victoria, for example, five of the 10 highest-paid employees are women.

Pay equity is an issue UBC takes seriously, university spokeswoman Susan Danard said in an emailed statement.

“Compensation is affected by several factors, including the depth of experience and accomplishment that a faculty or staff member brings with them when they are first hired, and the length of employment with UBC, with people paid more as they progress in their careers,” she said. Faculty and area of specialization are also factors that affect pay equity, she said, noting specialists and top doctors in the faculty of medicine are often the highest paid given the demands and complexity of their jobs.

Source: Glass ceiling still in place for public sector employees | Vancouver Sun

Daphne Bramham picks up on issue:

Canada’s failure is in providing women the opportunities to fully participate in the economy. Not only does Canada lag the Nordic countries, it trails countries like the United States, Namibia, Mongolia, Belarus, Thailand and Burundi.

It’s because women don’t have equal opportunities, Canada’s overall gender ranking dropped to 30th in 2015, down 11 places from 2014.

Among the more troubling findings in the Sun’s gender analysis of B.C. public-sector wages is that the 25 universities and colleges have the fewest women in top-paid positions — only nine among the top 50. Of those, five work at the University of British Columbia.

The excuses/reasons are the usual ones. Prime career-building years coincide with the prime reproductive years and Canadian mothers continue to bear the largest share of the caregiving for both children and aging parents.

Even though 58 per cent of these institutions’ graduates are women, missing are the supports for those young women to succeed in academe. It’s all the more disappointing because post-secondary institutions are supposed to be places of innovation and change, not laggards.

What’s not surprising is that the health services authorities account for the most women on the top-earners’ list with 59; 35 of whom are at the Provincial Health Services Authority.

For more than a decade, the majority of medical school graduates have been women. Among the professionals in the B.C. government, women account for nearly 90 per cent of the nurses and nutritionists and three-quarters of the social workers and counsellors.

But that may be change for the worse because catching up wage-wise isn’t as simple as more women working in traditionally male jobs. When women do that, the pay scale drops. That’s what sociologist Paula England at New York University concluded after analyzing U.S. census data from 1950 to 2000.

When biologists went from being predominately men to women, England found that wages fell 18 percentage points (even accounting for changed value of the dollar over time). When workers in parks and camps went from mostly men to mostly women, the median hourly wages dropped 57 percentage points.

It’s because when women do the work, England told the New York Times, “It just doesn’t look like it’s as important to the bottom line or requires as much skill.”

Daphne Bramham: Few women in B.C. public sector’s top ranks, …

Daphne Bramham: Canada’s flawed bill will make it easier for ‘citizens of convenience’

Will see whether other former citizenship judges speak publicly on C-6 either against or in favour (the article mistakenly states that the Liberal government is eliminating the physical presence requirement – it is not):

Some of what Robert Watt saw and heard during six years as a citizenship judge shocked him. It’s why he’s so deeply concerned about some of the Liberals’ proposed amendments in Bill C-6.

“Memorably, on one occasion, several newly sworn in citizens brought suitcases to the ceremony room for a rapid departure to Vancouver International Airport,” he wrote in a submission to the committee that studied the bill.

He calls them citizens of convenience.

“Very early on, it became clear that a noticeable percentage of all applicants were not really interested in citizenship,” he said.

Many had left Canada immediately after making an application to return to work or to school in their country of birth or residence. They stayed there until they were required to come back to have their documents checked and take the knowledge test. Then, they’d leave again, “coming one more time to take the (Citizenship) Oath, and then leaving again.”

In many cases, he wrote that they “distorted and misrepresented” how long they had been in Canada. Using their permanent residents’ cards, they left no record of the times they came and went from Canada via the United States.

Along with other citizenship judges, Watt held hearings to try to extract the truth about how much time they had been here. In some cases, they found that applicants in line for citizenship had been outside Canada for so long that even their permanent resident cards had expired.

“These applicants were at first startling,” Watt wrote. “Then, as they kept turning up, they provided the most dramatic evidence why it was essential to have the requirements for citizenship made as clear as possible; and, to have assessment processes which would ensure that those who deserved citizenship and truly qualified for it, received it and those who fell short … did not.”

Three of the Liberals’ amendments cause the former citizenship judge the most concern. They are: reducing the amount of time spent in Canada before applying for citizenship; limiting the requirement to speak one of the two official languages; and, eliminating the “intent to reside” provision.

Source: Daphne Bramham: Canada’s flawed bill will make it easier for ‘citizens of convenience’ | Vancouver Sun