Immigration Canada discrimine les étudiants d’Afrique francophone. Voici ce que Québec devrait faire pour y mettre fin

More concerns expressed, somewhat scattered rather than focussed:

La campagne électorale québécoise s’est terminée sur un verdict sans appel. La Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) a été reportée au pouvoir face à une opposition divisée et en retrait.

L’heure est au bilan et à l’élaboration des nouvelles orientations du gouvernement. Notamment en matière d’immigration.

Une campagne pénible sur le thème de l’immigration

Il a beaucoup été question d’immigration durant cette campagne. Rarement en des termes qui élevaient le débat, malheureusement. Le premier ministre François Legault a amalgamé l’immigration à des mœurs violentes pouvant heurter les « valeurs » des Québécois. L’ancien ministre de l’Immigration, Jean Boulet a démontré sa méconnaissance des chiffres de son propre ministère lors d’une sortie gênante. En voulant rectifier le tir, le premier ministre en a rajouté en qualifiant une hausse des seuils d’immigration au-delà de 50 000 immigrants par année de « suicidaire ».

Il est tout à fait légitime pour un État de mesurer les impacts de différents seuils d’immigration. Mais si le nouveau gouvernement veut se faire rassembleur, il devrait éviter d’avoir recours à des sifflets à chiens pour les amateurs de théories du déclin.

En tant que professeur dans le domaine de la sociologie politique, je m’intéresse aux dynamiques et transformations sociopolitiques au Québec et au Canada.

Discrimination systémique à Immigration Canada

Lors de son deuxième mandat, le gouvernement caquiste doit aborder les enjeux liés à l’immigration d’une façon moins frileuse et plus ambitieuse.

Paradoxalement, dans un contexte où plusieurs partis à l’Assemblée nationale adhèrent à une forme ou à une autre de nationalisme, aucune formation ne semble s’inquiéter de la diminution du poids démographique du Québec et de la francophonie au sein de la fédération canadienne, confirmée par les dernières données publiées par Statistique Canada.

Or, le développement de la francophonie canadienne et des institutions francophones au Québec devra passer, entre autres choses, par une immigration en provenance des pays d’Afrique francophone et par une plus grande ouverture à l’égard de celle-ci.

En lien avec ce premier enjeu, un deuxième doit être abordé et dénoncé de façon beaucoup plus frontale par l’Assemblée nationale à Québec, soit celui des obstacles posés par le gouvernement fédéral, par Immigration Canada pour être précis, aux étudiants·e·s de la francophonie noire africaine qui cherchent à étudier dans une institution francophone au Québec.

Ces étudiants·e·s subissent un taux de refus nettement supérieur aux étudiants·e·s appliquant dans les institutions anglophones : ce taux se situe autour de 60 % au Québec, 45 % en Ontario et 37 % en Colombie-Britannique. Les étudiants·e·s d’Afrique francophone sont surreprésentés parmi ces refus. En 2021, le gouvernement canadien a rejeté 72 % des candidatures provenant de pays africains ayant une forte population francophone, contre 35 % pour l’ensemble des autres régions du monde.

Cette situation est documentée et connue à Immigration Canada. Mais combattre cette forme de discrimination ne semble pas la priorité du ministère.

Ça ne semble pas être une priorité du Parti libéral du Canada non plus, en dépit de sa profession de foi antiraciste dans bien d’autres dossiers. Cette situation cause un préjudice d’abord aux étudiants·e·s en question, puis aux établissements d’enseignement supérieur au Québec. C’est pour cette raison que l’Assemblée nationale doit s’en saisir vigoureusement.

Racisme et francophobie

Durant les premiers mois où cette situation a été révélée, deux arguments ont été mis de l’avant par le fédéral pour la justifier : un problème algorithmique (ceux-ci ont le dos large) ; puis, la crainte que ces étudiants·e·s ne retournent pas dans leur pays.

Cette deuxième affirmation avait le mérite d’être claire. Pire, lorsqu’il s’agit de la francophonie noire africaine, le traitement discriminatoire des demandes va au-delà des seuls étudiants. C’est l’ensemble des dossiers qui semble faire l’objet de délais déraisonnables. De nombreux chercheurs africains devant participer à des congrès, comme celui sur sur le sida, qui se tenait cet été à Montréal, ont vu leur demande de visas refusée ou ne l’ont pas reçu à temps, une situation dénoncée par les organisateurs.

Encore là, le gouvernement libéral a l’indignation à géométrie variable.

Dernièrement, Immigration Canada a confessé du bout des lèvres qu’il y avait du racisme, jumelé à de la francophobie, à son ministère. Cela survient près d’un an après que ces pratiques aient été dénoncées par les institutions d’enseignement supérieur francophones.

L’Assemblée nationale du Québec doit dénoncer à l’unanimité cette discrimination.

Québec doit également rectifier le tir

Dans ce dossier, le gouvernement québécois doit lui aussi faire un examen de conscience.

Les signaux envoyés par Québec ces dernières années n’ont pas été attrayants pour les étudiants internationaux. Dans le cadre d’une mesure incompréhensible, le gouvernement a alourdi et allongé le temps de résidence nécessaire au Québec pour les étudiants internationaux souhaitant y demander la résidence permanente ou la citoyenneté.

Or, à la fin de leurs études ces étudiants·e·s bénéficient d’un réseau favorable à leur insertion professionnelle, sociale et culturelle. Pour reprendre une formule du premier ministre Legault, créer des embûches à ces étudiants·e·s est « suicidaire » pour l’attrait des universités québécoises face à leurs rivales des autres provinces.

Jouer les régions contre Montréal nuit aux institutions francophones à Montréal

Un troisième enjeu gagnerait à être réévalué par la nouvelle ministre de l’Éducation supérieure, Pascale Déry.

À la fin de son premier mandat, la CAQ a pris la décision de favoriser la régionalisation des étudiants internationaux dans certains domaines d’études au moyen d’incitatifs financiers s’ils étudient en région.

C’est, en soi, une excellente nouvelle. Les étudiants·e·s internationaux en région dynamisent le tissu social et culturel et ils revitalisent des institutions d’enseignement indispensables à la vitalité des régions. Cependant, on peut se demander s’il est pertinent de jouer les régions contre Montréal sur cet enjeu. Afin de freiner le déclin des institutions d’enseignement francophones à Montréal (toutes connaissent une baisse d’inscriptions cet automne), le gouvernement provincial peut aussi agir en les aidant à attirer des étudiants internationaux francophones à Montréal.

Jouer les régions contre Montréal est de bonne guerre en campagne électorale, mais si le gouvernement est sérieux à l’égard de la situation du français à Montréal, il doit se doter d’un plan pour contribuer au rayonnement de l’enseignement supérieur en français également dans la métropole.

Francophonie métropolitaine : le temps est à l’ambition

En 1967 et 1968, la création du réseau des Cégeps et de l’Université du Québec a favorisé la démocratisation de l’accès à l’éducation en français au Québec.

En 2022, l’objectif de la nouvelle ministre de l’Éducation supérieure pourrait être de faire de ce réseau d’éducation publique un pôle de référence pour la francophonie au Canada et dans le monde. Une première étape de ce programme devrait consister dans un appui systématique aux universités francophones dans leurs tentatives d’attirer des étudiants de la francophonie canadienne.

Dans un contexte où les campus francophones hors Québec subissent des compressions alarmantes et où règnent un climat de francophobie à l’Université d’Ottawa, qui a pourtant, sur papier, le mandat de célébrer la francophonie, le gouvernement québécois doit se montrer plus attrayant, plus agressif et plus ambitieux.

En somme, la CAQ doit se doter d’une stratégie cohérente, ambitieuse et moins frileuse en matière d’éducation publique supérieure et d’immigration durant ce deuxième mandat.

L’élaboration d’une telle stratégie pourrait faire l’objet d’une concertation impliquant la ministre Pascale Déry, la nouvelle ministre de l’Immigration, Christine Fréchette, ainsi que Pierre Fitzgibbon, ministre de l’Économie ainsi que de l’Innovation et du Développement économique de la région de Montréal. Il faut leur souhaiter de l’ambition dans l’appui au rayonnement des institutions d’éducation publique supérieures, que ce soit à Montréal ou en région.

Ces institutions devront être reconnues et appuyées comme des vecteurs au cœur de l’intégration sociale et culturelle au Québec. Cette stratégie devrait se montrer ambitieuse également en ce qui a trait au développement de collaborations avec les universités de la francophonie africaine, et elle devra envoyer un signal clair en condamnant de façon unanime les pratiques discriminatoires à Immigration Canada.

Source: Immigration Canada discrimine les étudiants d’Afrique francophone. Voici ce que Québec devrait faire pour y mettre fin

Embedded Bias: How medical records sow discrimination | New Orleans’ Multicultural News Source

Of interest and unfortunately not all that surprising.

One of the benefits of electronic data hospital records, at least the ones I have in Ottawa, is that I see my doctor notes.

Not sure how widespread these systems are but they do provide needed medical information on a close to real time basis as well as hopefully reducing discrimination given increased public accountability and transparency.

But during my various times at the hospital for my cancer treatments, I became very aware of just how privileged I was compared to other patients in terms of education, income and language:

David Confer, a bicyclist and an audio technician, told his doctor he “used to be Ph.D. level” during a 2019 appointment in Washington, D.C. Confer, then 50, was speaking figuratively: He was experiencing brain fog — a symptom of his liver problems. But did his doctor take him seriously? Now, after his death, Confer’s partner, Cate Cohen, doesn’t think so.

Confer, who was Black, had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma two years before. His prognosis was positive. But during chemotherapy, his symptoms — brain fog, vomiting, back pain — suggested trouble with his liver, and he was later diagnosed with cirrhosis. He died in 2020, unable to secure a transplant. Throughout, Cohen, now 45, felt her partner’s clinicians didn’t listen closely to him and had written him off.

That feeling crystallized once she read Confer’s records. The doctor described Confer’s fuzziness and then quoted his Ph.D. analogy. To Cohen, the language was dismissive, as if the doctor didn’t take Confer at his word. It reflected, she thought, a belief that he was likely to be noncompliant with his care — that he was a bad candidate for a liver transplant and would waste the donated organ.

For its part, MedStar Georgetown, where Confer received care, declined to comment on specific cases. But spokesperson Lisa Clough said the medical center considers a variety of factors for transplantation, including “compliance with medical therapy, health of both individuals, blood type, comorbidities, ability to care for themselves and be stable, and post-transplant social support system.” Not all potential recipients and donors meet those criteria, Clough said.

Doctors often send signals of their appraisals of patients’ personas. Researchers are increasingly finding that doctors can transmit prejudice under the guise of objective descriptions. Clinicians who later read those purportedly objective descriptions can be misled and deliver substandard care.

Discrimination in health care is “the secret, or silent, poison that taints interactions between providers and patients before, during, after the medical encounter,” said Dayna Bowen Matthew, dean of George Washington University’s law school and an expert in civil rights law and disparities in health care.

Bias can be seen in the way doctors speak during rounds. Some patients, Matthew said, are described simply by their conditions. Others are characterized by terms that communicate more about their social status or character than their health and what’s needed to address their symptoms. For example, a patient could be described as an “80-year-old nice Black gentleman.” Doctors mention that patients look well-dressed or that someone is a laborer or homeless.

The stereotypes that can find their way into patients’ records sometimes help determine the level of care patients receive. Are they spoken to as equals? Will they get the best, or merely the cheapest, treatment? Bias is “pervasive” and “causally related to inferior health outcomes, period,” Matthew said.

Narrow or prejudiced thinking is simple to write down and easy to copy and paste over and over. Descriptions such as “difficult” and “disruptive” can become hard to escape. Once so labeled, patients can experience “downstream effects,” said Dr. Hardeep Singh, an expert in misdiagnosis who works at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston. He estimates misdiagnosis affects 12 million patients a year.

Conveying bias can be as simple as a pair of quotation marks. One team of researchers found that Black patients, in particular, were quoted in their records more frequently than other patients when physicians were characterizing their symptoms or health issues. The quotation mark patterns detected by researchers could be a sign of disrespect, used to communicate irony or sarcasm to future clinical readers. Among the types of phrases the researchers spotlighted were colloquial language or statements made in Black or ethnic slang.

“Black patients may be subject to systematic bias in physicians’ perceptions of their credibility,” the authors of the paper wrote.

That’s just one study in an incoming tide focused on the variations in the language that clinicians use to describe patients of different races and genders. In many ways, the research is just catching up to what patients and doctors knew already, that discrimination can be conveyed and furthered by partial accounts.

Confer’s MedStar records, Cohen thought, were pockmarked with partial accounts — notes that included only a fraction of the full picture of his life and circumstances.

Cohen pointed to a write-up of a psychosocial evaluation, used to assess a patient’s readiness for a transplant. The evaluation stated that Confer drank a 12-pack of beer and perhaps as much as a pint of whiskey daily. But Confer had quit drinking after starting chemotherapy and had been only a social drinker before, Cohen said. It was “wildly inaccurate,” Cohen said.

“No matter what he did, that initial inaccurate description of the volume he consumed seemed to follow through his records,” she said.

Physicians frequently see a harsh tone in referrals from other programs, said Dr. John Fung, a transplant doctor at the University of Chicago who advised Cohen but didn’t review Confer’s records. “They kind of blame the patient for things that happen, not really giving credit for circumstances,” he said. But, he continued, those circumstances are important — looking beyond them, without bias, and at the patient himself or herself can result in successful transplants.

The History of One’s Medical History
That doctors pass private judgments on their patients has been a source of nervous humor for years. In an episode of the sitcom “Seinfeld,” Elaine Benes discovers that a doctor had condescendingly written that she was “difficult” in her file. When she asked about it, the doctor promised to erase it. But it was written in pen.

The jokes reflect long-standing conflicts between patients and doctors. In the 1970s, campaigners pushed doctors to open up records to patients and to use less stereotyping language about the people they treated.

Nevertheless, doctors’ notes historically have had a “stilted vocabulary,” said Dr. Leonor Fernandez, an internist and researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Patients are often described as “denying” facts about their health, she said, as if they’re not reliable narrators of their conditions.

One doubting doctor’s judgment can alter the course of care for years. When she visited her doctor for kidney stones early in her life, “he was very dismissive about it,” recalled Melina Oien, who now lives in Tacoma, Washington. Afterward, when she sought care in the military health care system, providers — whom Oien presumed had read her history — assumed that her complaints were psychosomatic and that she was seeking drugs.

“Every time I had an appointment in that system — there’s that tone, that feel. It creates that sense of dread,” she said. “You know the doctor has read the records and has formed an opinion of who you are, what you’re looking for.”

When Oien left military care in the 1990s, her paper records didn’t follow her. Nor did those assumptions.

New Technology — Same Biases?
While Oien could leave her problems behind, the health system’s shift to electronic medical records and the data-sharing it encourages can intensify misconceptions. It’s easier than ever to maintain stale records, rife with false impressions or misreads, and to share or duplicate them with the click of a button.

“This thing perpetuates,” Singh said. When his team reviewed records of misdiagnosed cases, he found them full of identical notes. “It gets copy-pasted without freshness of thinking,” he said.

Research has found that misdiagnosis disproportionately happens to patients whom doctors have labeled as “difficult” in their electronic health record. Singh cited a pair of studies that presented hypothetical scenarios to doctors.

In the first study, participants reviewed two sets of notes, one in which the patient was described simply by her symptoms and a second in which descriptions of disruptive or difficult behaviors had been added. Diagnostic accuracy dropped with the difficult patients.

The second study assessed treatment decisions and found that medical students and residents were less likely to prescribe pain medications to patients whose records included stigmatizing language.

Digital records can also display prejudice in handy formats. A 2016 paper in JAMA discussed a small example: an unnamed digital record system that affixed an airplane logo to some patients to indicate that they were, in medical parlance, “frequent flyers.” That’s a pejorative term for patients who need plenty of care or are looking for medications.

But even as tech might amplify these problems, it can also expose them. Digitized medical records are easily shared — and not merely with fellow doctors, but also with patients.

Since the ‘90s, patients have had the right to request their records, and doctors’ offices can charge only reasonable fees to cover the cost of clerical work. Penalties against practices or hospitals that failed to produce records were rarely assessed — at least until the Trump administration, when Roger Severino, previously known as a socially conservative champion of religious freedom, took the helm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights.

During Severino’s tenure, the office assessed a spate of monetary fines against some practices. The complaints mostly came from higher-income people, Severino said, citing his own difficulties getting medical records. “I can only imagine how much harder it often is for people with less means and education,” he said.

Patients can now read the notes — the doctors’ descriptions of their conditions and treatments — because of 2016 legislation. The bill nationalized policies that had started earlier in the decade, in Boston, because of an organization called OpenNotes.

For most patients, most of the time, opening record notes has been beneficial. “By and large, patients wanted to have access to the notes,” said Fernandez, who has helped study and roll out the program. “They felt more in control of their health care. They felt they understood things better.” Studies suggest that open notes lead to increased compliance, as patients say they’re more likely to take medicines.

Conflicts Ahead?
But there’s also a darker side to opening records: if patients find something they don’t like. Fernandez’s research, focusing on some early hospital adopters, has found that slightly more than 1 in 10 patients report being offended by what they find in their notes.

And the wave of computer-driven research focusing on patterns of language has similarly found low but significant numbers of discriminatory descriptions in notes. A study published in the journal Health Affairs found negative descriptors in nearly 1 in 10 records. Another team found stigmatizing language in 2.5 percent of records.

Patients can also compare what happened in a visit with what was recorded. They can see what was really on doctors’ minds.

Oien, who has become a patient advocate since moving on from the military health care system, recalled an incident in which a client fainted while getting a drug infusion — treatments for thin skin, low iron, esophageal tears, and gastrointestinal conditions — and needed to be taken to the emergency room. Afterward, the patient visited a cardiologist. The cardiologist, who hadn’t seen her previously, was “very verbally professional,” Oien said. But what he wrote in the note — a story based on her ER visit — was very different. “Ninety percent of the record was about her quote-unquote drug use,” Oien said, noting that it’s rare to see the connection between a false belief about a patient and the person’s future care.

Spotting those contradictions will become easier now. “People are going to say, ‘The doc said what?’” predicted Singh.

But many patients — even ones with wealth and social standing — may be reluctant to talk to their doctors about errors or bias. Fernandez, the OpenNotes pioneer, didn’t. After one visit, she saw a physical exam listed on her record when none had occurred.

“I did not raise that to that clinician. It’s really hard to raise things like that,” she said. “You’re afraid they won’t like you and won’t take good care of you anymore.”

Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. This story also appeared on The Daily Beast.

Source: Embedded Bias: How medical records sow discrimination | New Orleans’ Multicultural News Source

Trudel: Intelligence artificielle discriminatoire

Somewhat shallow analysis, as the only area that IRCC is using AI is with respect to visitor visas, not international students or other categories (unless that has changed). So Trudel’s argumentation may be based on a false understanding.

While concerns regarding AI are legitimate and need to be addressed, bias and noise are common to human decision making.

And differences in outcomes don’t necessarily reflect bias and discrimination but these differences do signal potential issues:

Les étudiants francophones internationaux subissent un traitement qui a toutes les allures de la discrimination systémique. Les Africains, surtout francophones, encaissent un nombre disproportionné de refus de permis de séjourner au Canada pour fins d’études. On met en cause des systèmes d’intelligence artificielle (IA) utilisés par les autorités fédérales en matière d’immigration pour expliquer ces biais systémiques.

Le député Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe rappelait ce mois-ci que « les universités francophones arrivent […] en tête du nombre de demandes d’études refusées. Ce ne sont pas les universités elles-mêmes qui les refusent, mais bien le gouvernement fédéral. Par exemple, les demandes d’étudiants internationaux ont été refusées à 79 % à l’Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières et à 58 % à l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi. Pour ce qui est de l’Université McGill, […] on parle de 9 % ».

En février, le vice-recteur de l’Université d’Ottawa, Sanni Yaya, relevait qu’« au cours des dernières années, de nombreuses demandes de permis, traitées par Immigration, Réfugiés et Citoyenneté Canada, ont été refusées pour des motifs souvent incompréhensibles et ont demandé des délais anormalement longs. » Il s’agit pourtant d’étudiants qui ont des bourses garanties par leur établissement et un bon dossier. Le vice-recteur se demande à juste titre s’il n’y a pas là un préjugé implicite de la part de l’agent responsable de leur évaluation, convaincu de leur intention de ne pas quitter le Canada une fois que sera expiré leur permis d’études.

En somme, il existe un faisceau d’indices donnant à conclure que les outils informatiques d’aide à la décision utilisés par les autorités fédérales amplifient la discrimination systémique à l’encontre des étudiants francophones originaires d’Afrique.

Outils faussés

Ce cafouillage doit nous interpeller à propos des préjugés amplifiés par les outils d’IA. Tout le monde est concerné, car ces technologies font partie intégrante de la vie quotidienne. Les téléphones dotés de dispositifs de reconnaissance faciale ou les assistants domestiques ou même les aspirateurs « intelligents », sans parler des dispositifs embarqués dans plusieurs véhicules, carburent à l’IA.

La professeure Karine Gentelet et l’étudiante Lily-Cannelle Mathieu expliquent, dans un article diffusé sur le site de l’Observatoire international sur les impacts sociétaux de l’IA et du numérique, que les technologies d’IA, bien que souvent présentées comme étant neutres, sont marquées par l’environnement social duquel elles sont issues. Elles tendent à reproduire et même à amplifier les préjugés et les apports de pouvoir inéquitables.

Les chercheuses rappellent que plusieurs études ont montré que, si elles ne sont pas adéquatement encadrées, ces technologies excluent des populations racisées, ou bien les surreprésentent au sein de catégories sociales considérées comme « problématiques » ou encore, fonctionnent inadéquatement lorsqu’elles sont appliquées à des individus racisés. Elles peuvent accentuer les tendances discriminatoires dans divers processus décisionnels, comme la surveillance policière, des diagnostics médicaux, des décisions de justice, des processus d’embauche ou d’admission scolaire, ou même le calcul des taux hypothécaires.

Une loi nécessaire

En juin dernier, le ministre fédéral de l’Innovation, des Sciences et de l’Industrie a présenté le projet de loi C-27 afin d’encadrer l’usage des technologies d’intelligence artificielle. Le projet de loi entend imposer des obligations de transparence et de reddition de comptes aux entreprises qui font un usage important des technologies d’IA.

Le projet propose d’interdire certaines conduites relativement aux systèmes d’IA qui peuvent causer un préjudice sérieux aux individus. Il comporte des dispositions afin de responsabiliser les entreprises qui tirent parti de ces technologies. La loi garantirait une gouvernance et un contrôle appropriés des systèmes d’IA afin de prévenir les dommages physiques ou psychologiques ou les pertes économiques infligés aux individus.

On veut aussi prévenir les résultats faussés qui établissent une distinction négative non justifiée sur un ou plusieurs des motifs de discrimination interdits par les législations sur les droits de la personne. Les utilisateurs des technologies d’IA seraient tenus à des obligations d’évaluation et d’atténuation des risques inhérents à leurs systèmes. Le projet de loi entend mettre en place des obligations de transparence pour les systèmes ayant un potentiel de conséquences importantes sur les personnes. Ceux qui rendent disponibles des systèmes d’IA seraient obligés de publier des explications claires sur leurs conditions de fonctionnement de même que sur les décisions, recommandations ou prédictions qu’ils font.

Le traitement discriminatoire que subissent plusieurs étudiants originaires de pays africains francophones illustre les biais systémiques qui doivent être repérés, analysés et supprimés. C’est un rappel que le déploiement de technologies d’IA s’accompagne d’importants risques de reconduire les tendances problématiques des processus de décision. Pour faire face à de tels risques, il faut des législations imposant aussi bien aux entreprises qu’aux autorités publiques de fortes exigences de transparence et de reddition de comptes. Il faut surtout se défaire du mythe de la prétendue « neutralité » de ces outils techniques.

Source: Intelligence artificielle discriminatoire

One in four border officers witnessed discrimination by colleagues: internal report

Of note:

One-quarter of front line employees surveyed at Canada’s border agency said they had directly witnessed a colleague discriminate against a traveller in the previous two years.

Of these respondents, 71 per cent suggested the discrimination was based, in full or in part, on the travellers’ race, and just over three-quarters cited their national or ethnic origin.

The figures are drawn from a survey conducted as part of an internal Canada Border Services Agency evaluation that looked at how the agency processed travellers, using a lens of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, and mental or physical disability, and the interaction between these factors.

The agency recently posted the results of the evaluation, which focused primarily on people flying into Canada, on its website.

As part of the research, 922 border services officers and superintendents were surveyed from March 2 to 22, 2020.

Of those who said they saw a colleague engage in discrimination, just over two in five did not report what they observed. Some mentioned fear of reprisal or simply feeling uncomfortable.

Sixteen per cent of those who witnessed discrimination reported what they saw. However, some of these respondents indicated that they faced challenges in doing so or that their reports were not taken seriously or acted on, the evaluation report says.

The CBSA’s traveller processing activities do not intentionally set out to target people based on perceptions around their race or ethnicity, the report says. The agency uses a combination of information sources, such as global trends and reports, in the development of scenarios, which are systematically reviewed for human rights and other considerations.

“However, certain practices can have unintended consequences that result in the overrepresentation of racialized communities in the law enforcement context,” the report says.

For example, when targeting rates are higher for certain origin countries, there could be unintended consequences for travellers of specific racial or ethnic groups when those groups make up a larger proportion of incoming travellers from those countries, it adds.

The reviewers found the agency could conduct only “very limited analysis” based on travellers’ racial or ethnic identities when using operational data.

“If faced with public complaints or claims of racial discrimination, the agency can neither prove nor disprove with its data whether its policies or practices discriminate against travellers, due to the complexity of this issue. If the agency were to attempt this type of analysis in the future, it would have to consider and develop new approaches on data collection, storage and analysis.”

The CBSA People Processing Manual provides personnel with guidance concerning awareness of a traveller’s culture, a prohibition on racial profiling and services provided to those with disabilities.

A large majority of survey respondents said they agreed or somewhat agreed that in order to do their jobs effectively, they need to recognize their personal and implicit biases.

The evaluation makes several recommendations, including a call to develop and implement a plan to improve the awareness and reporting of mistreatment and discrimination of travellers witnessed by border agency personnel, without fear of reprisal.

In a response included with the evaluation report, the border agency agreed to devise such a plan and set out a timetable to put changes in place this year.

Source: One in four border officers witnessed discrimination by colleagues: internal report

Immigrant population rises in France, but so does discrimination

Interesting studies:

Two studies have released data highlighting the persistent discrimination immigrants face in France. The data reveals that although a large swath of France’s population has immigrant ancestry, discrimination in French society is still high.

Two landmark new studies in France are bursting myths about immigration at a time when xenophobic far-right discourse has gained ground. They show that the children of immigrants are increasingly melting into French society but some with African and Asian backgrounds face persistent discrimination.

Karima Simmou, French-Moroccan student at the prestigious Paris university Sciences Po, embodies the phenomenon.

She comes from a working-class family of eight children, with a mother who raised the family and a father who worked as a miner in western France. She was pushed by her family to go to the elite school.

The children and grandchildren of immigrants from Africa and Asia are well integrated in the French educational system compared with their elders, according to another report. Data show they have increasingly higher education levels than their parents, though many struggle to attain comparable educational levels to French people without immigrant heritage.

And getting jobs is harder, too: 60% of those with non-European roots hold intermediate or high-level jobs, compared with 70% of French people without direct immigrant kinship.

Ined researcher Mathieu Ichou noted two possible explanations for the hiring discrepancy.

“Several surveys, data and audit studies backed up that hiring is not favorable to minorities, and they experience discrimination. France is pretty bad regarding this issue, compared to other European countries,” he said.

Also, Mr. Ichou said, “minorities tend to be underrepresented in the French elite schools.”

Source: Immigrant population rises in France, but so does discrimination

Canada’s immigration minister says he wants to look into ‘issue’ of discrimination and bias within department 

Immigration is essentially discriminatory in terms of who we select. The challenge is to ensure that the criteria are as objective and neutral as possible with respect to country of origin:

Canada’s immigration minister says he wants to look into the “issue” of discrimination and unconscious bias within the department tasked with triaging and approving immigration requests to Canada.

“Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve become aware of this issue, and it’s something that I personally want to look into,” Immigration Minister Sean Fraser told reporters Wednesday as he entered a Liberal caucus meeting.

“There’s no secret that over the course of Canada’s history, unconscious bias and systemic racism have been a shameful part of Canada’s history over different aspects of the government’s operations. One of the things that we want to do is make sure that … this kind of unconscious bias doesn’t discriminate against people who come from a particular part of the world.”

Fraser was responding to questions on a recent report in Montreal newspaper Le Devoir that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) is increasingly refusing foreign student applications from francophone African countries to Quebec, whereas English-speaking applicants are increasingly approved.

Immigration lawyers quoted in the report stated that IRCC recently refused applications from nearly 100 per cent of students from Maghreb and Western African countries applying to study in Quebec.

Fraser says he’s certain that the department was not consciously discriminating against those countries, but he still wants to look into it to make sure no other factors than those set out in immigration legislation are being considered when assessing requests.

“I certainly don’t think that there’s been a decision actively to pick one country over another. I think there’s certain factors that IRCC officials assess when they’re trying to admit more newcomers to Canada,” Fraser said.

“But it would be silly if I were to stand here and say that in a department of 11,000 people, if you look at the different operations of IRCC, to say that there is no discrimination,” he added.

He also promised to look at ways to bring more, not less, French-speaking students into Canada.

“International students are one of the groups that successfully integrate more and more so than just about any other group of newcomers,” Fraser said. “That’s a good thing, not just for the newcomer to Canada, but for our economy as well.”

Reporters then asked the newly-minted minister if it was ironic that there would be issues of discrimination and conscious or unconscious bias in the department tasked with handling foreign immigration.

“I think there’s a big distinction between what should be and what is,” the minister responded. “I think we need to constantly be looking to make sure that the public has faith in the system.”

In a follow-up statement, Fraser’s press secretary noted that the minister intended to continue the work already launched by IRCC to “eradicate racism” within the department, including creating a task force dedicated to the task “full-time,” mandatory unconscious bias training for employees and executives and appointing an “anti-racism representative” within each sector of the department.

Earlier this year, IRCC published a report based on focus groups of its employees that revealed that there were multiple and repeated reports of racist incidents within the workplace.

“Experiences of racism at IRCC include microaggressions, biases in hiring and promotion as well as biases in the delivery of IRCCs programs, policies and client service,” reads a summary of the findings, which were first reported by CBC last month.

“In addition, employees paint a picture of an organization fraught with challenges at the level of workplace culture” and a “history of racism going unchecked.”

For example, the report notes that an IRCC team leader was said to have “loudly” declared that colonialism was “good” and that “if ‘the natives’ wanted the land they should have just stood up.

In another case, non-racialized employees and supervisors were notoriously known to refer to parts of the department employing a higher number of racialized employees as “the ghetto.”

Participants also noted “widespread” internal references to certain African nations as “the dirty 30.”

Source: https://nationalpost.com/news/politics/canadas-immigration-minister-says-he-wants-to-look-into-issue-of-potential-discrimination-and-bias-within-department

Federal immigration department employees reporting racist workplace behaviour, says survey

Looked at the IRCC 2020 Public Service Employee Survey results to help understand the context.

  • Q55 Harassment: With respect to having been a victim of harassment, IRCC is marginally better than PS average: 9 vs 11 percent, down from 11 vs 15 percent in 2018. With respect to types of harassment, IRCC generally tracks either close to the government-wide numbers or lower levels. In terms of resolution of harassment issues, IRCC also tracks government-wide numbers.
  • Q62 Discrimination: With respect to having been a victim of discrimination, IRCC numbers are the same as government-wide numbers: 7 percent, no change from 2018 IRCC numbers while the government-wide number was 8 percent. However, IRCC had a significantly higher percentage of race-based discrimination, 40 to 28 percent, a significant increase from 2018 27 percent, which may have prompted the focus group study. IRCC also had higher numbers with respect to discrimination based on national/ethnic origin, colour, but not with respect to religion. In terms of resolution of discrimination issues, IRCC also tracks government-wide numbers.
  • Q69 Victim satisfaction with resolution of discrimination complaints: No major difference but overall satisfaction (very strong, strong) is low at 8 percent.

IRCC, of course, will have this data disaggregated by visible minority group, likely highlighting some of the issues mentioned in the focus groups, which is informing its policies and practices. Expect to have my analysis of the overall government harassment and discrimination responses in a few weeks once survey demographic data up on open data:

A report examining workplace racism at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) describes repeated instances of employees and supervisors using offensive terms with their racialized colleagues.

The 20-page document, compiled by the public opinion research company Pollara Strategic Insights, was presented to IRCC in June and recently posted online.

The report is based on ten two-hour focus groups with 54 IRCC employees Pollara conducted for the department in March.

Multiple employees told Pollara they’d heard racist language used in the workplace. The report describes what it calls multiple reports of racist “microagressions” in the IRCC workplace, including:

  • Staff members describing a department section known for having a lot of racialized employees as “the ghetto.”
  • Staff members asking to touch a racialized employee’s hair, or mocking the hairstyles of racialized employees.
  • A manager calling Indigenous people lazy, or calling colonialism “good.”
  • “Widespread” references in the workplace to certain African nations as “the dirty 30.”

“You just feel like, now that I’m speaking out, am I also going to be looked like as one of those angry Black women for speaking up?” the report quotes one employee as saying.

Racialized employees also told Pollara they’ve been passed over for international assignments and “professional development opportunities.” The report says one manager claimed that their evaluation of a racialized employee was overridden “by someone above them to promote a non-racialized employee instead.”

Racialized IRCC staffers told Pollara that they’re marginalized in the workplace — kept in “precarious temporary contract positions disproportionately and for a long time” which prevent them from “advocating for their own rights” to promotion or from speaking out against racist incidents.

Pollara also said participants in the focus groups warned that racism in the workplace “can and probably must impact case processing.” They cited “discriminatory rules for processing immigration applications for some countries or regions,” including additional financial document requirements for applicants from Nigeria.

Source: Federal immigration department employees reporting racist workplace behaviour, says survey

PSES 2020 IRCC Link

Why Pandemics Give Birth To Hate: From Bubonic Plague To COVID-19

Useful historical reminder:

The pandemic has been responsible for an outbreak of violence and hate directed against Asians around the world, blaming them for the spread of COVID-19. During this surge in attacks, the perpetrators have made their motives clear, taunting their victims with declarations like, “You have the Chinese Virus, go back to China!” and assaulting them and spitting on them.

The numbers over the past year in the U.S. alone are alarming. As NPR has reported, nearly 3,800 instances of discrimination against Asians have been reported just in the past year to Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition that tracks incidents of violence and harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S.

Then came mass shooting in Atlanta last week, which took the lives of eight people, including six women of Asian descent. The shooter’s motive has not been determined, but the incident has spawned a deeper discourse on racism and violence targeting Asians in the wake of the coronavirus.

This narrative – that “others,” often from far-flung places, are to blame for epidemics – is a dramatic example of a long tradition of hatred. In 14th-century Europe, Jewish communities were wrongfully accused of poisoning wells to spread the Black Death. In 1900, Chinese people were unfairly vilified for an outbreak of the plague in San Francisco’s Chinatown. And in the ’80s, Haitians were blamed for bringing HIV/AIDS to the U.S., a theory that’s considered unsubstantiated by many global health experts.

Some public health practitioners say the global health system is partially responsible for perpetuating these ideas.

According to Abraar Karan, a doctor at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, the notion persists in global health that “the West is the best.” This led to an assumption early on in the pandemic that COVID-19 spread to the rest of the world because China wasn’t able to control it.

“The other side of that assumption is, ‘Had this started anywhere else, like in the U.S. or the U.K. or Europe, somehow it would’ve been better controlled, and a pandemic wouldn’t have happened,'” says Karan, who was born in India and raised in the U.S. He has been working closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to respond to COVID-19.

China’s response was not without fault. The government’s decision to silence doctors and not warn the public about a likely pandemic for six days in mid-January caused more than 3,000 people to become infected within a week, according to a report by the Associated Press, and created ripe conditions for global spread. Some of the aggressive measures China took to control the epidemic – confining people to their homes, for example — have been described as “draconian” and a violation of civil rights, even if they ultimately proved effective.

But it soon became clear that assumptions about the superiority of Western health systems were false when China and other Asian countries, along with many African countries, controlled outbreaks far more effectively and faster than Western countries did, says Karan.

The Twitter Blame Game And Its Repercussions

Some politicians, including former President Donald Trump publicly blamed China for the pandemic, calling this novel coronavirus the “Chinese Virus” or the “Wuhan Virus.” They consistently pushed that narrative even after the World Health Organization (WHO) warned as early as March 2020, when the pandemic was declared, that such language would encourage racial profiling and stigmatization against Asians. Trump has continued to use stigmatizing language in the wake of the Atlanta shooting, using the phrase “China virus” during a March 16 call to Fox News.

A report by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), released this month, directly linked Trump’s first tweet about a “Chinese virus” to a significant increase in anti-Asian hashtags. According to a separate report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, anti-Asian hate crimes in 16 U.S. cities increased 149 percent in 2020, from 49 to 122.

“Diseases have often been racialized in the past as a form of scapegoating,” says Yulin Hswen, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF and lead author of the study on Trump’s tweet. Sometimes, it’s to distract from other events that are occurring within a society, such as the early failures of the U.S. response to the pandemic, says Hswen.

Suspicion tends to manifest more during times of vulnerability, like in wartime or during a pandemic, says ElsaMarie D’Silva, an Aspen Institute New Voices fellow from India who studies violence and harassment issues. It just so happened that COVID-19 was originally identified in China, but, as NPR’s Jason Beaubien has reported, some of the early clusters of cases elsewhere came from jet setters who traveled to Europe and ski destinations.

“What you’re seeing in the U.S. is this pre-existing, deep-seated bias [against Asians and Asian Americans] – or rather, racism – that is now surfacing,” says D’Silva. “COVID-19 is just an excuse.”

A Racist History In Global Health

For Karan, though, the problem lies deeper — with the colonialist history of global health systems.

“It’s not that the biases are necessarily birthed from global health researchers,” he says. “It’s more that global health researchers are birthed from institutions and cultures that are inherently xenophobic and racist.”

For example, the West is usually regarded as the hub of expertise and knowledge, says Sriram Shamasunder, an associate professor of medicine at UCSF, and there’s a sense among Western health workers that epidemics occur in impoverished contexts because the people there engage in primitive behaviors and just don’t care as much about health.

“[Western health workers] come in with a bias that in San Francisco or Boston, we would never let [these crises] happen,” says Shamasunder, who is co-founder and faculty director of the HEAL Initiative, a global health fellowship that works in Navajo Nation in the U.S. and in eight other countries.

In the early days of COVID-19, skepticism by Western public health officials about the efficacy of Asian mask protocols hindered the U.S.’s ability to control the pandemic. Additionally, stereotypes about who was and wasn’t at risk had significant consequences, says Nancy Kass, deputy director for public health at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.

According to Kass, doctors initially only considered a possible COVID-19 diagnosis among people who had recently flown back from China. That narrow focus caused the U.S. to misdiagnose patients who presented with what we now call classic COVID symptoms simply because they hadn’t traveled from China.

“Inadvertently, we [did] a disservice both to patients who need[ed] care and to public health,” says Kass.

It’s reminiscent of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, Kass says. Because itwas so widely billed as a “gay disease,” there are many documented cases of heterosexual women who presented with symptoms but weren’t diagnosed until they were on their deathbeds.

That’s not to say that we should ignore facts and patterns about new diseases. For example, Kass says it’s appropriate to warn pregnant women about the risks of traveling to countries where the Zika virus, which is linked to birth and developmental defects, is present.

But there’s a difference, she says, between making sure people have enough information to understand a disease and attaching a label, like “Chinese virus,” that is inaccurate and that leads to stereotyping.

Karan says we also need to shift our approach to epidemics. In the case of COVID-19 and other outbreaks, Western countries often think of them as a national security issue, closing borders and blaming the countries where the disease was first reported. This approach encourages stigmatization, he says.

Instead, Karan suggests reframing the discussion to focus on global solidarity, which promotes the idea that we are all in this together. One way for wealthy countries to demonstrate solidarity now, Karan says, is by supporting the equitable and speedy distribution of vaccines among countries globally as well as among communities within their own borders.

Without such commitments in place, “it prompts the question, whose lives matter most?” says Shamasunder.

Ultimately, the global health community – and Western society as a whole – has to discard its deep-rooted mindset of coloniality and tendency to scapegoat others, says Hswen. The public health community can start by talking more about the historic racism and atrocities that have been tied to diseases.

Additionally, Karan says, leaders should reframe the pandemic for people: Instead of blaming Asians for the virus, blame the systems that weren’t adequately prepared to respond to a pandemic.

Although WHO has had specific guidance since 2015 about not naming diseases after places, Hswen says the public health community at large should have spoken out earlier and stronger last year against racialized language and the ensuing violence. She says they should have anticipated the backlash against Asians and preempted it with public messaging and education about why neutral terms like “COVID-19” should be used instead of “Chinese virus.”

“Public health people know there is a history of racializing diseases and targeting particular groups,” says Hswen. “They could have done more to defend the Asian community.”

Source: Why Pandemics Give Birth To Hate: From Bubonic Plague To COVID-19

Appeals Court Rules Harvard Doesn’t Discriminate Against Asian American Applicants

Of note (will be appealed to SCOTUS where, given Trump appointments, may be overturned):

A federal appeals court in Boston has ruled Harvard doesn’t intentionally discriminate against Asian American applicants in its admissions process.

The panel of judges upheld a federal district court’s decision from last year, teeing up a possible case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Circuit Judge Sandra Lynch, who wrote Thursday’s decision, agreed with the lower court that “the statistical evidence did not show that Harvard intentionally discriminated against Asian Americans.”

Students for Fair Admissions, an advocacy group, first filed its lawsuit in 2014, saying that Harvard’s race-based considerations for applicants discriminated against Asian American students in process.

“Today’s decision once again finds that Harvard’s admissions policies are consistent with Supreme Court precedent, and lawfully and appropriately pursue Harvard’s efforts to create a diverse campus that promotes learning and encourages mutual respect and understanding in our community,” a spokeswoman for Harvard told NPR.”As we have said time and time again, now is not the time to turn back the clock on diversity and opportunity.”

Proponents of ending race-based considerations at U.S. universities were unfazed by Thursday’s decision and plan to bring the case to the Supreme Court, according to Edward Blum, the conservative strategist behind SFFA.

Blum said in a statement to NPR member station GBH that he plans to ask the Supreme Court to end the consideration of race in admissions at Harvard and all other universities.

The question of how much race should be a factor in college applicants is a hotly contested one. President Trump’s administration has challenged colleges on using race in admissions policies, claiming such practices violate federal law. Last month, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Yale University, saying its policies violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Yale has said the lawsuit is “baseless.”

Wen Fa, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed an amicus brief in the Harvard case, said Asian Americans are harmed by the school’s admissions rules.

“The Supreme Court’s intervention is needed so that universities comport with” federal law, Fa said.

Stella Flores, an associate professor of higher education at New York University, said she hopes the court will rely on decades of research and data that show the benefits of such policies. Race is but one factor within the broad and “holistic admissions policy” at Harvard and other schools, she said.

Flores and Fa say the new conservative majority of the Supreme Court makes predicting whether the justices will take up the case difficult.

The court has previously decided on similar questions. It upheld race-based admissions policies in the 2003 case Grutter v. Bollinger, as well as the 2013 and 2016 Fisher v. Univ. of Texas at Austin decisions.

In Grutter, the justices were asked to determine whether the University of Michigan Law School’s use of racial preferences in student admissions violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment or Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In the 5-4 Grutter opinion, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said race-based admissions policies should be for a limited time only, Fa said.

That phrasing may be enough for the current court to take up the case, he said.

Source: Appeals Court Rules Harvard Doesn’t Discriminate Against Asian American Applicants

Black Canadians fought racism, discrimination to serve in Second World War

Good reminder of one of the unfortunate parts of our history:

When one starts asking questions about the experience of Black Canadians during the Second World War, it doesn’t take long to land on the name Allan Bundy.

That’s because at a time when the Canadian Armed Forces is promising to crack down on systemic racism, as well as individual acts of discrimination in the ranks, Bundy’s story speaks to both.

He was one of many Black Canadians who had to overcome discrimination and racism to fight during the Second World War, says Canadian War Museum historian Andrew Burtch.

His story also highlights the long presence of racism in the Canadian Armed Forces, even as it strives today for more diversity, including by promising to end hateful conduct in the ranks.

“One of the top bullets in the most recent Canadian defence policy is looking at leveraging the diversity of the country as a strength and creating better circumstances to allow for that to happen, which would include making sure that people are supported,” Burtch said.

“Obviously there wasn’t that support before.”

Air force, navy quietly barred Black and Asian Canadians

Bundy was 19 years old when he and a white friend named Soupy Campbell went to the Halifax recruiting centre to join the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as pilots. It was late 1939, Germany had just invaded Poland, and Canada and its allies were mobilizing their militaries after declaring war on the Nazis.

When Bundy and Campbell walked out, however, only Soupy had been accepted to join the RCAF. Bundy, according to the stories, felt like he had been rejected because of the recruiting officer’s own racist attitudes. Such incidents had been common during the First World War, in which Bundy’s own father had served in Canada’s only all-Black unit, the No. 2 Construction Battalion.

What Bundy didn’t know at the time was that the entire RCAF, as well as the Royal Canadian Navy, were quietly barring Black and Asian Canadians from all but the most general positions. The policy wasn’t publicized, but most jobs could only go to British subjects who were white or of “pure European descent.”

When conscription was introduced a few years later, the Canadian Army came calling for Bundy. But he wanted to fly, and he wasn’t afraid to say it when an RCMP officer visited a short time later to ask why he hadn’t responded to the Army’s summons.

“I told him that I had gone to join the Air Force in 1939 and if the bullet that kills me is not good enough for the Air Force, then it is not good enough for the Army either — so take me away,” Bundy later recalled telling the Mountie.

Soon afterward, Bundy visited the recruiting station again. By now, because of a shortage of trained pilots and aircrew, the RCAF had started to open its doors to Black Canadians and others.

Even after being accepted and trained, Bundy faced a new form of discrimination. None of the white navigators wanted to serve on his Bristol Beaufighter.

It was only after a sergeant by the name of Elwood Cecil Wright volunteered that Bundy became the first Black Canadian to fly a combat mission during the war.

During their first mission, the two sank a pair of enemy ships off the coast of Norway. They would fly 42 more missions together before the war ended and Bundy returned home to Halifax.

Service changed attitudes in Canadian society

The Canadian War Museum credits Bundy and dozens of other Black Canadians who served with the RCAF during the Second World War as having helped “change attitudes toward visible minorities in the military, and in Canadian society.”

Kathy Grant is the founder of the Legacy Voices Project, which seeks to share the stories of Black Canadians who served during the two world wars. One of those was Grant’s own father, Owen Rowe, who travelled to Canada from Barbados to volunteer for the Second World War and asked her to start the memorial project.

Grant believes the war helped pave the way for more rights and freedoms for Black Canadians.

Some such as Lincoln Alexander, who went on to become lieutenant-governor of Ontario, were able to take advantage of the benefits offered by Ottawa to veterans. Many also felt empowered to fight for those rights, and found allies in former comrades-in-arms who were white.

“They wanted things to change,” Grant said. “They were thinking: ‘Well, why are we fighting? Here it is, some of us are dying and they’re out of line by just denying us these rights.’ But it was a large shift for Canada as a whole.”

Source: Black Canadians fought racism, discrimination to serve in Second World War