A digitally modernized immigration ecosystem in Canada: Reflecting on the roundtable, Strengthening Canada’s Immigration Ecosystem

Summary of roundtable discussions based upon a Deloitte study on immigration modernization (I was one of the external experts consulted in their study, not yet posted on their website):

On June 18th, 2021, the Public Policy Forum brought together over 30 experts and practitioners in the immigration space in Canada. The roundtable, Strengthening Canada’s Immigration Ecosystem, focused on a digitally enabled modernized immigration system. The consensus was clear: A modernized immigration system is necessary, and any such modernizations must be inclusive, immigrant centred, and must not perpetuate biases within the system. Katie Davey, Policy Lead at Public Policy Forum and Fatemah Ebrahim, Policy Associate at Public Policy Forum reflect on the roundtable conversation: 

For a system to work, it must work for everyone using it. Technology is not a one size fits all approach to solutions; however, modernization efforts have the potential to leverage technology and digital solutions for the benefit of all. Implemented with the right considerations, a digitally modernized immigration system has the potential to significantly reduce pain points and become more responsive, and immigrant centred while also freeing up human resources to support the most challenging case work. While a digitally enabled system is part of the solution, it is not a panacea. Digital for the sake of digital risks leaving people out in the cold, and perpetuating issues and biases that exist.  

The Government of Canada recognized the importance of immigration in post-pandemic recovery and GDP growth in Budget 2021. The budget included reforms to the Express Entry Program, enhancements to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, and extensions to the Racialized Newcomer Women Pilot initiative. It committed to accelerating pathways for permanent residency as well as enabling Statistics Canada to address the lack of data needed to support evidence-based decision making on social and racial inequities. Budget 2021 also included $430 million to modernize information technology infrastructure to allow for improved application processing, better security, and higher levels of future foreign national arrivals. These commitments create the opportunity for much needed transformation.  

COVID-19 has accelerated the case for transformation and has propelled many governments to expedite their digital and technology capabilities to respond effectively during this crisis. As it stands, Canada’s immigration system operates on outdated technology and remains largely paper based; although the pandemic resulted in some short-term technology enabled solutions creating a good foundation to build on. At the same time, these COVID capabilities also demonstrated that flexibility within the system will be needed to avoid an unintentional rigidness that leaves people out. The competition for global talent is only increasing as mature economies grapple with stalling birth rates and labour force demands.  

Although Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) continues to set ambitious immigration targets, most metrics are highly unpredictable, including number of newcomers who become citizens each year. Focus has been placed on the supply side of immigration while labour force demands continue to be unmet. Conversations like foreign credential recognition have been on the agenda for years — especially in the healthcare sector; however little movement has been made. Digital modernization may provide new opportunities to address these persisting policy challenges by providing information and transparency. These brief examples are only two of many that provide a foundation for the case of modernization within the immigration sector. 

The focus of a modernized system should be a process that moves towards settlement supports and pathways to citizenship. At a fundamental level, digital modernization is a mindset shift and should offer an accessible, safe, and informative tool to enhance how a newcomer moves through the system.  

Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) sets out three classes of migrants: those entering for economic immigration, for family reunification, and as refugees. There is a prioritization of the economic class over the family or refugee class which is one example of the underlying and at times, explicit bias built into Canada’s immigration system. Bias also exists within the technology and tools often used to enhance modernization. Further, data protection remains a concern in most areas of technology, and some may have serious and founded concerns about the potential surveillance that could be empowered by a tool holding all their immigration data in one place. These realities are risks of digital modernization. 

Another risk present in the digital government literature is the 80-20 principle often inherent in technology and policy development. It would suggest that a technology build out may serve just one part of the immigration ecosystem and leave those with more complex paths outside of the modernization journey. Consideration should be given to inclusive and equitable modernization that builds for the margins. The most common use case should be replaced with the most complex use case – if the system builds for that, it will naturally also serve the most common case. At the same time, digital modernization presents the opportunity to reorient resources to supporting those with a higher level of need. 

Attracting, welcoming, and retaining immigrants are vital if Canada is to remain competitive on the world stage. Digital modernization is a key element of a broader policy modernization landscape. Canada’s immigration system focuses heavily on the economic class, and any steps toward digital modernization has a risk of building for that class alone. A modernized system must address biases present and reinforced through technology. More needs to be done to build an anti-racist immigration ecosystem; one that supports all categories of migrants and provides equitable access and support through the application and naturalization processes. There is a tremendous opportunity for Canada’s immigration system to continue being the envy of the world. Although the Canadian immigration conversation often centres economic growth and competitiveness, newcomers to Canada are people and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect – technology is a tool to help move us toward a system that prioritizes newcomers.  

Source: https://ppforum.ca/policy-speaking/a-digitally-modernized-immigration-ecosystem-in-canada/

Citizenship Modernization Case Study

This deck looks at the Canadian citizenship program and the need for modernization in the context of Budget 2021’s allocation of funding to upgrade IRCC’s IT infrastructure. It contrast the current citizenship process with a streamlined process that makes it easier for applicants and more efficient for the government. This was presented at a modernization discussion organized by the Public Policy Forum.

Lente marche vers la mixité [corporate board diversity]

May have missed the english media coverage:

C’est droit devant, inexorablement. Les gains sont là, mais la marche vers la mixité des conseils d’administration et de la haute direction demeure lente. On l’imagine, la cible se veut encore plus éloignée lorsqu’on élargit le parcours de la représentativité à la diversité.

La plus récente étude sur la question de la diversité a été publiée lundi par l’Institut sur la gouvernance d’organisations privées et publiques (IGOPP). Sur la mixité, on y lit que « même si les gains réalisés au cours de la dernière décennie sont notables, il reste beaucoup à faire en matière de représentativité des femmes sur les conseils d’administration (CA) ainsi qu’au niveau de la haute direction des entreprises ».

L’IGOPP proposait, il y a 10 ans, une cible de 40 %. Une référence mondiale situe, d’ailleurs, la zone de parité hommes-femmes optimale au sein de l’équipe de gestion entre 40 et 60 %. Cette représentation féminine a, certes, presque doublé depuis 10 ans, mais, à un peu plus de 29 % au sein des conseils d’administration des grandes entreprises inscrites en Bourse et à 26 % au niveau de la haute direction, on se retrouve encore loin de la cible.

Que dire des minorités visibles, qui comptent pour 22 % de la population canadienne, mais qui occupent moins de 5 % des sièges aux conseils et moins de 9 % des postes de haute direction ?

Le regard de l’IGOPP a porté sur 76 entreprises d’incorporation fédérale pouvant représenter le tiers des sociétés composant l’indice boursier S & P / TSX. L’exercice vient mesurer un premier effet des modifications apportées par le gouvernement à la Loi canadienne sur les sociétés par actions ayant pour objectif « d’augmenter la diversité observée au sein des conseils d’administration et de la haute direction des sociétés inscrites en bourse », en vigueur depuis janvier 2020.

Outre la présence des femmes, ces modifications visaient plus large en s’étendant à la représentation des peuples autochtones, des personnes handicapées et des personnes qui font partie des minorités visibles, explique l’Institut.

Cet élargissement suit l’entrée en vigueur, au 31 décembre 2014, de la réglementation sur l’Information concernant la représentation des femmes au sein des conseils d’administration et des instances des émetteurs assujettis. Au Canada, les autorités de réglementation n’ont pas retenu la formule de quotas, préférant plutôt une approche de divulgation s’étendant à la haute direction selon la formule « se conformer ou
s’expliquer ».

L’on parle donc d’un engagement moral, mais non contraignant, qui s’insère cependant dans une mouvance plus généralisée d’adoption des critères environnementaux, sociaux et de gouvernance auprès des investisseurs reconnaissant la portée et la contribution de la diversité.

Beaucoup à faire

Certes, l’exercice de l’IGOPP comporte ses limites et l’on admet une probable surévaluation de la représentation mesurée pour les postes de haute direction, mais l’on peut se faire une idée sur le chemin restant à parcourir et sur le rythme de renouvellement des administrateurs et des hauts dirigeants, qui constitue un frein aux yeux de l’IGOPP.

Et l’on retient que seulement 47 % des entreprises observées s’étaient dotées de cible à atteindre en matière de représentativité des femmes au sein des CA. À peine 18 % se sont fixé des objectifs précis touchant la haute direction.

Ce constat vient rejoindre d’autres études sur le sujet. En décembre dernier, le cabinet KPMG indiquait que 96 % des 100 plus importantes entreprises inscrites en Bourse soumises à la loi fédérale comptaient au moins une femme dans leur conseil d’administration au 31 mai 2020, contre 67 % au 31 mai 2014.

Inversement, 4 % de ces sociétés avaient un conseil d’administration composé uniquement d’hommes et 24 % avaient une équipe de direction entièrement masculine. Ces pourcentages s’établissaient respectivement à 33 % et à 29 % au 31 mai 2014.

L’on écrivait aussi que, s’il y a amélioration, il y a toutefois disparité entre les postes de conseil d’administration et ceux de la haute direction. KPMG a mesuré que deux fois plus d’hommes que de femmes ont accédé à des fonctions d’administrateurs entre le 31 mai 2014 et le 31 mai 2020, et trois fois plus à des postes de haute direction.

À l’évidence, il reste encore beaucoup à faire. Dans une étude mondiale publiée par le cabinet Deloitte datée du 30 octobre 2019, on lisait que, globalement, les femmes occupent 16,9 % des sièges aux conseils d’administration, soit une maigre hausse de 1,9 point de pourcentage par rapport à l’édition 2017 de l’étude.

À ce rythme, il faudra plus de 30 ans pour atteindre la parité, disait Deloitte. Et l’on ne parle pas des fonctions de haute direction.

Source: Lente marche vers la mixité

Can white male CEOs bring diversity to corporate Canada? Interview with Frank Vettese, CEO Deloitte Canada

Worth reading:

Q: How long have you been Deloitte’s “chief inclusion officer”? 

A: Almost two years. I’ve been CEO since 2012, prior to that going back to 2006 I co-founded our “women’s initiative.” I have been heavily involved in all things diversity-related at Deloitte. I was executing the CEO role and at same time looking to make deliberate shifts in the organization—from an emphasis on diversity to an emphasis on inclusion. Inclusion really is about creating the conditions for success within the organization within the widest scale. I needed to be the individual setting the tone and the execution plan and linking it to our strategy. Hence, it was an incremental role I took on.

Q: For decades we’ve been hearing white men in powerful positions discuss the value of diversity—and more recently “inclusion.” And yet business remains dominated by white men. The link to Deloitte Canada’s leadership team on your website is broken. But from what I can see, the top three positions are held by white men and only one of six regional managers is a woman. What has Deloitte done, or is it doing, to establish greater diversity/inclusion?

A: In terms of looking at those rolesCEO or chairyou’re correct, they’re men. We’ve got between 20 and 30 per cent of our leadership team as women and 30 and 40 per cent of board as women; I would concur with your point that what we’ve been dealing with, certainly in our organization, and it’s no different than corporate Canada, is a significant under-representation of women and visible minorities and other forms of diversity. We’ve recently appointed our CFO, which you could argue is the third most significant position in the organization, as a female. And when you look at broader leadership team, our vice-chairgroup, we have a number of women within that group.

We’ve had a long track record of hiring at the Canadian representation of our population at the entry levelwomen, visible minorities, all forms of diverse communities. The challenge has been at the most senior levels and one step back, entry into partnership. To me, this has been the real telling tale of whether the firm is getting this right. In the first few years we were struggling with getting representation  in partnership ranks at Canadian population levels. I’m proud of the last two admission years have approximated the Canadian populationlast year 45 percent of new partners were women. We’re still not where we need to be.

Q: Deloitte’s report talks in terms of the need for revolutionary change. Yet as Thomas Kuhn wrote in in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, paradigm shifts rarely happens from within. You are ensconced in corporate Canada. What makes you confident you can create radical change from within?

A: The thing that gives me great confidence is that there is a clear mandate for this. The whole notion about inclusion for our firm is entirely embedded in the strategy of the firm….Go back less than 10 years, and we’d talk about the most significant issue, the topic of inclusion was something that might have come up episodically. Today it is very rare when I go and exchange at the external marketplace that this isn’t at the forefront at least around awareness and recognition of the business case and the moral imperative. I subscribe that there’s a big difference between that and the “how” and “What do we do to get it done?” As we’ve transformed, we’ve engaged our people, our Millennials, Gen X, they have informed what it is we’re doing. We’ve removed hierarchy…They are the ones telling us this is needed for success. I’m confident this has moved from conversation into real action.

Q: On the point of removing hierarchy, you’ve talked about having no formal offices at Deloitte.  So you don’t have an office?

A: I have no office whatsoever; today I’ve probably operated on six or seven floors.

Q: Yet hierarchy is measured in lots of ways in a corporation, mostly by compensation. What are you doing to flatten that out? 

A: A few things. We used to put more of an emphasis on roles, management jobs that had a value assigned to them. Today the measure is very simple: contribution and impact. It’s determined one person at a time; there’s goal-setting. I think that has dramatically changed the way we share the financial rewards and benefits of the firm. We’re working hard at reviewing our compensation policies and approaches to make sure that we’re removing bias, certainly around gender parity but it goes beyond that to ensuring that what people do, functions they perform, impact they drive is being measured in as an objective way as possible. We’re even looking at introducing things like artificial intelligence into our processes to remove bias.

Q: In  your Globe and Mail op-ed you admitted you were guilty in the past of hiring people who looked like you. The report refers to “deep underlying cultural sources of exclusion.” Is that one of them?

A: At time I was launching women’s initiative in 2006, I put in place measures to address the concern, “How do we assure having top talent female managers invited into our partnership?” We saw good progress I stood back after a couple of years and looked at the overall numbers and they moved, but didn’t move as much as I thought. When I went to assess the root cause, we were providing support and tailored development to the people we had. But looking to build the business and fill gaps, I was disproportionately hiring people who had similar attributes to me. It was an unconscious bias I did not identify at the time. And once we  identified it, we could put measures in place. So instead of going to the usual suspects and going to the regular places, how do we change practices to widen the aperture to ensure we look at all qualified candidates?

Q: The report refers to the “diversity industry” which began in the 1960s, noting that diversity training in corporations doesn’t improve diversity. Why not?

A: A lot of the training I made reference to was diversity training—it was awareness of differences, it was spotlighting and putting an emphasis on differences. To some extent, a lot of that training was around representation; the measure of success was the numbers, the fact we were looking at measures of diversity as the outcome. And although diversity is important, and I would say that inclusion without diversity is hollow, the flip is true: diversity in itself does not mean the organization is inclusive. If we’re having certain numbers you’re counting doesn’t mean you are creating a workplace where people can bring their whole selves to work; where there is that flexibility, tailoring to how people operate to thrive and succeed on their own basis. A lot of diversity training has failed because it’s still focused on the need to hit certain targets, as opposed to that underlying culture.

Q: The last of the report’s five “action” recommendations is “Own inclusion inside and outside the office”—meaning to call out inequalities and bias when you see them.  You sit on the Dean’s Advisory Council at the Schulich School of Business, which is 56 men and 15 women. And you sit on the advisory board of Catalyst Canada [a non-profit that promotes advancement of women in the workplace];  it’s composed of 11 men and seven women. Last September, CIBC chief executive Victor Dodig, a white man, replaced Bill Downe, a white man, as the board chair at Catalyst. Don’t you have a responsibility to speak out about inequities on corporate boards? Or do you agree that the board of an organization devoted to promotion of women in business should be headed by white guys?

A: First of all, the CEO of Catalyst is a woman. Victor is someone who at the core represents the ideals and what we’re trying to accomplish. I look at it as “Who is in the best position and most qualified at that time to advance what is core to the strategic objectives of the organization?” I do believe it’s important that we don’t get caught up in the notion that in any way starts to approach tokenismrather that we look at each unique person and how they align against the needs of the role. Having said that, I’m not trying to dispel the underlying point that you’re making which is, “Are there some things we have to deliberately do and deliberately make to ensure our boards represent the broader constituent group and actually execute against the ideals we espouse?” So our Deloitte Canadian board, for example, when we first set up, it was making sure we could sign up for 30 per cent representation by this year. We’re past that number.

Q: Why a 30 per cent target? Why not 50 per cent?

A: There’s no question that what we hope to achieve in our organization is that we get to the [statistical equivalent of female representation in the] Canadian population in the partner group and in our most senior roles. But in a board situation we don’t simply get, with the stroke of a pen, to construct a board. With our bylaws, we have to have partners who vote. We work through a deliberate process to determine we could achieve 30 per cent. We’re continuing to push boundaries. In our global [Deloitte] board, we had a real deficit in female representation and some of the larger countries had two board seats, one for their sitting chair and one for the CEO. So myself and four other stepped out of our seats years ago and put a top female leaders. Where we have the latitude we’re looking for creative ways to do that. The discourse and effectiveness of our global board has moved up a clear notch.

via Can white male CEOs bring diversity to corporate Canada? – Macleans.ca