No more immigration: PM says Britain is in period of adjustment

Will see whether this holds up, or ongoing shortages force a change (see Doug Saunders Bare shelves, empty pumps: Britain’s self-inflicted Brexit wound):

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday he would not return to “uncontrolled immigration” to solve fuel, gas and Christmas food crises, suggesting such strains were part of a period of post-Brexit adjustment.

At the start of his Conservative Party’s conference, Johnson was again forced to defend his government against complaints from those unable to get petrol for their cars, retailers warning of Christmas shortages, and gas companies struggling with a spike in wholesale prices.

The British leader had wanted to use the conference to turn the page on more than 18 months of COVID-19 and to refocus on his 2019 election pledges to tackle regional inequality, crime and social care.

Instead, the prime minister finds himself on the back foot nine months after Britain completed its exit from the European Union – a departure he said would give the country the freedom to better shape its economy.

“The way forward for our country is not to just pull the big lever marked uncontrolled immigration, and allow in huge numbers of people to do work … So what I won’t do is go back to the old failed model of low wages, low skills supported by uncontrolled immigration,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

“When people voted for change in 2016 and … again in 2019 as they did, they voted for the end of a broken model of the UK economy that relied on low wages and low skill and chronic low productivity, and we are moving away from that.”

It was the closest the prime minister has come to admitting that Britain’s exit from the EU had contributed to strains in supply chains and the labour force, stretching everything from fuel deliveries to potential shortages of turkeys for Christmas.

“There will be a period of adjustment, but that is I think what we need to see,” he said.

But while the government plans to issue thousands of temporary visas for foreign truck drivers and poultry workers, Johnson was clear he would not open the taps of immigration, again shifting the responsibility to businesses to lift wages and attract more workers.

Shortages of workers after Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic have sown disarray in some sectors of the economy, disrupting deliveries of fuel and medicines and leaving more than 100,000 pigs facing a cull due to a lack of abattoir workers.

Conservative Party chair, Oliver Dowden, said that the government was taking measures to hire more truck drivers in general and that the government had started training military tanker personnel to start fuel deliveries on Monday.

“We will make sure that people have their turkey for Christmas, and I know that for the Environment Secretary George Eustice this is absolutely top of his list,” he told Sky News.

But the overwhelming message from the government was that businesses must step up to solve supply chain issues and to entice more British workers with higher wages.

“I don’t believe in a command and control economy so I don’t believe the prime minister is responsible for what is in the shops. This is why we have a free enterprise economy,” foreign minister Liz Truss told an event at the conference.

“I’m sure that the goods will be delivered into our shops.”

But rather than the reset Johnson hoped to preside over in the northern English city of Manchester, the conference looks set to be overshadowed by the crises and criticism of the government’s withdrawal of a top-up to a state benefit for low-income households.

The main opposition Labour Party is set to focus on the removal of the uplift, hoping to undermine those Conservative lawmakers who won over its traditional supporters in northern and central England.

Johnson may also come under fire for breaking with the Conservatives’ traditional stance as the party of low taxes after increasing some of them to help the health and social care sectors.

“We don’t want to raise taxes, of course, but what we will not do is be irresponsible with the public finances,” he said. “If I can possibly avoid it, I do not want to raise taxes again, of course not.”

Source: No more immigration: PM says Britain is in period of adjustment

Saunders: How Canada learned what’s wrong with its immigration system – by slamming its borders shut

Usual thought provoking column by Doug Saunders, even if I am more sceptical regarding the government’s approach:

How do you find 401,000 immigrants to become new Canadians when nobody’s even allowed to enter the country? That was the puzzle Ottawa faced at the beginning of the year, after the federal government set admirably high annual immigration targets in 2020 that will bring in 1.2 million people over the next three years in a bold effort to build economic growth through population expansion.

Air and land borders have been shut tight because of the coronavirus pandemic, and neither immigrants nor refugees have been arriving – 2020′s immigration intake was the lowest since the 1990s. The new targets, representing more than 1 per cent of Canada’s population per year, would produce immigration rates Canada hasn’t seen since the 1960s – but begin during a border-closing pandemic. Opposition and business critics said our immigration bureaucrats could never meet that target.

Two weeks ago, those bureaucrats announced a solution that was surprising and potentially ingenious. But it also revealed some of the deep flaws in an outdated and overcomplicated immigration system that was designed for restriction rather than growth, and that leaves hundreds of thousands of families in Canada unable to participate fully in its economy.

In essence, Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino recognized that most of those 401,000 immigrants are already living and working in Canada, and often have been for years – they just don’t have the right kind of visa, or haven’t accumulated right number of points along our Byzantine immigration pathway, to qualify for permanent-residency status and eventual citizenship.

On Valentine’s Day weekend, as it does every few weeks, the Immigration Department sent out invitations for selected temporary immigrants, all of whom have worked in Canada for at least a year, to apply for permanent-resident status. Instead of the usual 3,000 to 5,000 invitations, though, it sent out more than 27,000, and hinted that this high rate would continue for some time. In order to find enough current residents to invite, the number of points needed was lowered dramatically. (Canada’s long-established points system, properly known as the Comprehensive Ranking System, awards points toward permanent status for such things as work experience, education and language skills.)

Immigrants who expected to have to wait months or years longer, and to jump through dozens more bureaucratic hoops, suddenly learned they were on a pathway to become Canadians. Immigration lawyers, who found themselves deluged with clients last week, said the supply of qualified high-quality people was always here; it just took a crisis for the government to see it.

“Yes, they can hit the 400,000 target because there are half a million temporary foreign workers and international students in Canada right now,” says Raj Sharma, a Calgary-based immigration lawyer. “I think they’re going to meet the target, and it’s going to have repercussions on the way they do things – they always should have prioritized people already living in Canada.”

Drawing on immigrants with lower point scores is not a case of “scraping the bottom of the barrel,” as Mr. Sharma notes, because the great majority of those in Canada on a temporary basis (with only a few possible exceptions, such as seasonal agricultural workers) are able to be here, for study or work, precisely because they have skills and are fluent in a Canadian language. What has denied most of these people and their families access to citizenship is not a lack of actual skills or experience, but a complex and often self-contradictory set of rules and classifications.

For example, a temporary worker employed for a year as an accounts-receivable clerk does not earn enough points to qualify under normal rules; the same worker employed as a bookkeeper does. In some provinces, an immigrant employed caring for elderly and disabled people in their own homes is ineligible to apply for permanent residency, while an immigrant doing the same work in a long-term care facility is.

At root are two decades-old assumptions behind our immigration system, both of which have been challenged by the pandemic. The first is that highly skilled, educated and fluent immigrants are a comparative rarity and a lengthy weeding-out process is needed to find them. The second is that immigrants divide neatly into two groups of very different people: temporary and low-skilled, and permanent and high-skilled.

That hasn’t been true for decades. Not only are most “temporary” immigrants to Canada people who are educated and considered middle-class in their countries of origin, but temporary low-wage work is most often used as a stepping-stone to permanent work in professions or skilled trades, or to small-business ownership. A high proportion of temporary-immigrant women employed as live-in caregivers and nannies, for example, have postsecondary diplomas and degrees from their home countries.

These assumptions have exacted a high cost on Canada’s economic prospects, by leaving large numbers of newcomers in a limbo state, unable to invest in their communities, start legal businesses or set down family roots because they’re not eligible to become Canadians – even though they’re here because the economy needs them. In the early 2000s, under prime minister Stephen Harper’s earlier policies, a majority of immigrants in Canada were temporary foreign workers without access to permanent residency.

The later Harper years and early Trudeau years saw pathways to permanent residency created for most classes of temporary workers and students. In the prepandemic years, several thousand people per month were making this transition, though few of them were lower-wage immigrants from the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, who face difficult bureaucratic hurdles regardless of their skill or education level.

The pandemic shone a light on this problem. The jobs deemed “essential” – and thus the jobs that expose employees to the greatest coronavirus risk – are very often the ones held by immigrants who have the least possibility of becoming Canadians.

“I do think that COVID-19 provides an opportunity to rethink our immigration policy, given what we have seen in terms of essential workers, traditionally undervalued and underpaid,” says Andrew Griffith, a former director-general of Canada’s immigration department. He doesn’t believe it will be necessary for the government to permanently lower its points-score requirements for permanent residency, especially during a pandemic recession. Even though there are many labour shortages in low-skill fields, much of that demand is filled not by primary immigrants but by their relatives – the family members who accompany them, and who they later sponsor.

This crisis may have come along at just the right time. If Canada wants to reach a level of population density that provides the most ecological, economic and cultural benefits – especially in a world whose borders and markets are becoming less open – it doesn’t have much time. As recent academic analyses have pointed out, Canada’s projected peak population this century (double its current level) may be difficult to reach because many of our chief countries of immigration are watching their own population growth levels collapse and are trying to hold onto their own populations.

What the pandemic has shown us is that newcomers are not guaranteed to be available when we need them, and might not always be willing to jump through all our hoops – not when other wealthy countries, including warmer ones, may be willing to make better offers.

An immigration policy designed for a growing, educated population needs to do three things.

First, it needs to keep families intact – an immigration system built on unaccompanied individuals is bad for immigrants and bad for Canada, as it leaves out the long-term population benefits of immigration.

Second, it needs to avoid leaving people stuck in Canada for a long time without a clear pathway to citizenship. This is true for both refugee applicants and immigrants – it is a huge wasted opportunity to have hundreds of thousands of ambiguous-status individuals knocking around the country, unsure if they should invest in this country or some other one, or when they’ll know for sure.

We wrongly think of our “points system” as assessing the intrinsic worth of an individual, but in fact most immigrants build up points during the time they spend in Canada. Might it make more sense to allow them to accumulate those points not before but after they earn permanent-resident status? That way, the earnings and savings they build up during that time will be used to build a stake in Canada’s society and economy.

But the flip side of a generous and large-scale controlled-immigration system is that removal of non-qualified people should be quick and decisive – ideally through economic incentives rather than far more expensive deportation. Immigration and citizenship should be valued and treated as precious accomplishments, and that means making decisions quickly and fairly.

And finally, the system should allow rapid movement between categories and classes of immigration – ideally without changing anything. Someone in Canada as a temporary medical-industry worker should be able to become a university student, or a permanent-residency applicant, without having to pay lawyers and questionable immigration agents to navigate a labyrinth of applications, waiting lists, lotteries and restrictions. The number of immigration categories, and steps, could easily be cut in half without any detriment to the system.

Canada will never be an open-borders country, and it will never need to return to the era of mass immigration, as we experienced a bit more than a century ago. We can double or triple our population this century within current immigration rates, and without lowering our standards – but we need to start taking advantage of the immigration assets we already have. If nothing else, the pandemic’s border closings have taught us that we need to do things differently.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-how-canada-learned-whats-wrong-with-its-immigration-system-by-slamming/

Saunders: Climate migration isn’t a thing – but maybe we should make it one

Good commentary by Saunders on the reality:

The world is likely to suffer a lot of destruction, disruption, economic and political instability and death as a result of rising global temperatures and ocean levels, even if we’re able to keep atmospheric warming to 2 degrees.

One thing we’re not going to encounter, however, is mass immigration across international borders. “Climate migration,” scholars of the subject tend to agree, is not something that will happen internationally on any significant scale, even under the worst imaginable projections. “Climate refugees” are not a plausible future problem for any developed country.

You may have been led to believe otherwise. A startling range of international organizations and publications have issued reports and alarmist stories based on the assumption that the millions of people whose lands will be hurt by climate change are going to respond by fleeing to another country.

United Nations agencies have embarrassed themselves by predicting climate migrations that never materialize. One charity predicts that a billion people will be displaced by 2050; a news report last year amplified that assumption to 1.5 billion. In July, The New York Times Magazine ran a cover story that observed (correctly) that “billions of people” will have their livelihoods hurt by global warming, and then inferred that most of them will become migrants.

The renowned Dutch migration scholar Hein de Haas warned recently that these studies and forecasts lack any credibility because they “are not based on fact and scientific knowledge. They either have no scientific basis at all, or reflect extremely simplistic quasi-scientific reasoning.”

In fact, the scholarly community has come together to warn, with increasing urgency, that the notion of “climate migration” is false and dangerous.

Last November, 31 of the world’s most respected climate scholars published a paper in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change warning against “misleading claims about mass migration induced by climate change” which, they said, continue to circulate in both academia and policy circles without any scientific foundation. Although climate change will indeed threaten lives, they agreed, the notion that a warming climate and rising ocean levels will produce “climate refugees” is a “false narrative” driven by political motives.

Dr. de Haas outlined those motives: “For left-wing groups, it serves to raise attention to the issue of climate change… For right-wing groups, it serves to raise the spectre of future mass migration, and the need to step up border controls.”

Earlier this year, the world’s leading migration scholars published the sixth edition of the standard textbook on the subject, The Age of Migration. Though their work is otherwise deeply concerned about both refugees and climate change, they included a new chapter on “climate migration,” which warns that the concept contradicts everything that actually is known about human responses to climate shocks and disasters.

In the world of actual knowledge, the last 10 years have seen an unprecedented amount of serious, well-funded study into the question of what families and communities in climate-devastated places are going to do when their livelihoods turn into ocean or desert. While the answers are varied and often disturbing, one thing people almost never do under such circumstances is move far away.

The definitive work on climate migration remains the Foresight Report, commissioned in 2011 by Britain’s Government Office for Science, which commissioned more than 80 studies in multiple disciplines. It found that climate will sometimes have an impact on local migration. But that impact is quite likely to be negative – that is, climate change will often prevent people from migrating. Not only that, but it found that when regions suffer climate devastation, people are equally likely to migrate into those regions.

In 2018, the Migration Policy Institute conducted a comprehensive review of all the research evidence on climate and migration. It found that climate shocks are highly likely to reduce a community’s likelihood of moving (by hurting their ability to afford to migrate); when they do use migration as a survival strategy, it’s almost always within the local region.

None of that should have been a surprise. The one thing we’ve long known about immigrants and refugees is that they’re products not of ruin and absolute poverty but of comparative prosperity – and thus ability to move – within their communities.

There will be a lot of human migration during the coming decades – most of it regional or internal – and the small number moving to faraway cities because of climate devastation will be greatly outnumbered by those making exactly the same journey simply in order to have a better life.

The fact is that people who live in highly climate-vulnerable regions, where incomes tend to be low anyway, really ought to be migrating – and countries such as Canada could use them. Rather than spreading false alarm about desperate hordes headed for our borders, we ought to be thinking of ways to encourage and make possible climate migration. The world would be better off if it really was a thing.

Saunders: How was a neo-Nazi threat ignored for years? Because it looked so familiar

Worrisome:

For Berlin actor Idil Nuna Baydar, the past year has been a sequence of escalating shocks, at first private and horrific, which in recent weeks have been shared with millions of other Germans.

The first shock came last year, when she received a series of detailed death threats via private contact information known only to family members. The first was signed “SS Ostubaf,” a Nazi-era paramilitary rank. Other threats were signed “NSU 2.0,” a reference to the National Socialist Underground, a far-right terrorist cell that murdered at least 10 people across Germany between 2000 and 2011.

The threats became more specific, containing information (such as the name of Ms. Baydar’s mother) that was not known to the public. Dozens of other Germans, including lawyers and politicians, received threats from the same source, typically saying they would be killed because of their ethnicity or support for immigration. Ms. Baydar filed a police complaint; the investigation was dropped, without charges, at the end of 2019.

The second shock came when she learned this year that the threats had come from within the police. Her personal information had been obtained from an unauthorized query made on a computer database within a police station in Hesse, the western German state that includes Frankfurt. A newspaper later confirmed that the queries had been made by police officials.

Newspapers, and then public investigators, gradually found out that the “NSU 2.0” group is linked to a national chat network in which members exchanged messages of racial intolerance, extreme-right and neo-Nazi allegiance and sometimes threats of violence. Members of the group allegedly include active German police and military officials.

Some members of the group are allegedly also members of other known extremist groups, including one calling itself the Ku Klux Klan, the outlawed neo-Nazi group Combat 18, and a “prepper” group known as Northern Cross, which believes that there will soon be a complete societal breakdown, perhaps triggered by the group’s actions, and plans to implement something resembling the Third Reich in its aftermath.

Police and government officials until recently played down the incidents and organizational affiliations, claiming that no known far-right networks existed within the police and military.

Over the spring, this argument began to fall apart as investigations revealed just how extensive, and deeply infiltrated into German state institutions, these networks are. On June 14, the Hesse chief of police, Udo Munch, resigned over this.

The final shock for Ms. Baydar came during the past few weeks, when she, along with the rest of Germany, learned that these extremist networks were not just exchanging bigoted memes and making idle threats.

On July 1, German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced she would disband one of the companies of Germany’s most elite special-forces unit, the KSK, and forbid the entire unit from participating in any military operations, because it had become so infested with active neo-Nazis.

The military counterintelligence service revealed that at least 600 soldiers are being investigated for extreme-right activities, and that the chat network that united extremist groups had been set up within the KSK.

It emerged that 62 kilograms of explosives and 48,000 rounds of ammunition had disappeared from the KSK, allegedly taken by extreme-right groups. Other military officers were found to be storing huge caches of weapons and ammunition along with Hitler memorabilia.

The “prepper” group Northern Cross, previously seen as extreme but nutty, was said to have amassed tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition, built fortresses and training camps, and had drawn up lists of “enemies” to be executed on “Day X,” or the day of Germany’s societal breakdown; last week it emerged that they had purchased body bags and quicklime for this task.

Germans are now asking the question that has long alarmed Ms. Baydar and other targets: How, in a country where even the slightest hint of Nazi-era racial politics is highly illegal and unconstitutional, were they permitted to thrive for so long, when they did very little to conceal themselves?

It seems that it’s because their language and messages had become so commonplace and mainstream. The notion that people of other ethnic or religious groups are “invaders,” once an unmistakable signal of illegal extremism because it was the animating idea behind Hitler’s rise, is now uttered by members of a legal political party, the AfD, and is heard in mainstream right-wing media.

It has international sanction, too: The man chosen by Donald Trump to be the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Douglas Macgregor, has described religious-minority Europeans as “invaders” in language similar to that heard on the chat network.

It’s a situation Germany has seen before: a violent cancer went unnoticed within the state because its messages had become so numbingly familiar. What we need to be on guard for, in every country, is not just the threat of intolerance, but also the sense of numbness and indifference that allows it to thrive.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-how-was-a-neo-nazi-threat-ignored-for-years-because-it-looked-so/

@Doug Saunders George Floyd and the dangerously unequal effects of ‘stay at home’ orders

Good column by Saunders:

My pandemic emergency began on March 2, when my daughter’s school in Berlin was abruptly evacuated, the students sent to the safety of their homes. Two weeks later, I was told to work from home, because it would be healthier and less infectious. The next eight weeks were mildly inconvenient. We took long walks, did online homework and felt reassured as we watched the local police wander through the parks and politely ask crowds to sit a bit further apart.

George Floyd’s pandemic emergency began on March 13, when the governor of Minnesota ordered non-essential businesses to shut down and employed people to work from home. That meant losing his income from restaurant work and apparently resorting to a mishmash of temp jobs and hustles to get by. Staying home, for low-income people of colour in his inner-ring Minneapolis suburb, was neither healthier nor safer – it typically meant sharing a poorly ventilated apartment building and getting around on a city bus crowded with essential workers. Likely as a result, he contracted COVID-19. And police were not a source of reassurance, but of fear – as the world now knows, they targeted Mr. Floyd, who was picked up on a petty crime charge and then slowly suffocated to death beneath a police officer’s knee, a death provoked by his race and likely hastened by his coronavirus infection.

“Stay at home” seemed like sound public health advice – but it implies a notion of “home” confined to middle-class, mainly white neighbourhoods, an assumption that your house and street are a less infectious, more isolated and less dangerous place than school or work. For kids in these vulnerable suburbs, being at home, with many children to a bedroom and no computer and a shared ventilation system, is more dangerous than staying at school or crowding into a park. For Mr. Floyd, staying at home meant becoming exposed to the pandemic, being thrust into economic marginality and spending his days in far more danger.

George Floyd was not just typical of most victims of police violence in the United States. He was also very typical of most victims of COVID-19, not just in the United States but across the Western world. In most countries, including Canada, the disease is disproportionately targeting people from racial and ethnic minority communities and those with lower incomes. This is not a result of some biological proclivity – it’s because of the places where people live and work, by choice or by force of housing markets.

In Toronto and Montreal, and in most European cities, the disease has largely skipped majority-white neighbourhoods, and is highly concentrated in places, mainly suburban, where immigration settlement occurs or where housing-market discrimination forces people to live. In Toronto, COVID-19 is overwhelmingly present in parts of Scarborough, North York and northern Etobicoke that have the largest populations of Canadians of African and Caribbean descent. Black Canadians say they feel doubly victimized by the disease and by a police and justice system that discriminates based on colour – and on both counts, the data show they’re right.

According to a Yale School of Medicine study released in May, Black Americans are 3.5 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than white Americans – and again, this appears to be because their neighbourhoods and workplaces are much more vulnerable (lower-income minorities are far more likely to work in jobs deemed “essential services”). They are also, according to the Economic Policy Institute, likelier to live in crowded housing, and often in multigenerational households where younger members can easily infect older ones. This is also true of many racial-minority communities in Canada and Europe – the ones COVID-19 has hit hardest.

Toronto urbanist Jay Pitter notes that poor and racially marginalized people in Canadian cities tend to live in neighbourhoods that feature “ageing infrastructure, over-policing, predatory enterprises like cheque-cashing businesses and liquor stores, inadequate transportation options, and sick buildings.” As she writes, the inner-suburban identity of these neighbourhoods and their overall low population density contrast with crowding within buildings and on transit routes to create a toxic combination.

“The true underlying root is white supremacy, not geography,” says George Galster, a Detroit scholar who’s been analyzing the economic effects of neighbourhood segregation for six decades. “But it helps to have somebody live separately from you if you are going to psychologically brand them as different and other… The bottom of the segregated housing market is quite unsafe in terms of vermin infestation, lead-paint contamination, poor air conditioning and ventilation systems, basic sanitary facilities that don’t work – and that’s if you’re lucky enough to have a physical dwelling.”

“Stay home” must have seemed like sound, safe advice. But for too many of our fellow citizens, home is where the danger is.

Source:     George Floyd and the dangerously unequal effects of ‘stay at home’ orders Subscriber content Doug Saunders 20 hours ago Updated       

Saunders: When viruses threaten, the strongest disinfectant is democracy

Good reminder by Saunders (although current US administration is testing thesis):

If you want to see bold leadership in the fight against this pandemic, look no further than Turkmenistan, where dictator Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov put his foot down and banned any use, in conversation or print, of the word “coronavirus.”

That ought to take care of the problem.

Mr. Berdymukhamedov may occupy a place on the remote fringes of politics (and of sanity), but he is far from the only politician who would like us to believe that a disease outbreak is best fought by suspending democratic practices and ruling by decree.

There is an unhealthy belief, far too prevalent among otherwise liberal-minded people these days, that democracy is not an effective disinfectant for fighting infection.

It’s not hard to reach this conclusion – after all, citizens are being asked to do things, and sometimes compelled by law, that in normal times would be considered grotesque infringements on personal liberties. A lot of emergency decisions have to be made quickly. Isn’t democracy, with its checks and balances and deliberative processes, just a sluggish hindrance?

That was the case made by Viktor Orban, the far-right president of Hungary, when he persuaded his parliament this week – in which his party already has a two-thirds super-majority – to pass an “emergency” law that suspends all elections and allows him to rule by decree, bypass democratic institutions and courts, and imprison anyone who complains. It has no end date.

It was immediately apparent that these new measures have nothing to do with fighting the virus, which has yet to hit Hungary hard. Mr. Orban included language that made it illegal for people to have a gender different from their biological sex – a hot-button topic on the angry right, but one utterly unrelated to virology.

Mr. Orban already holds extraordinary extralegal powers under another “emergency” law passed in 2015, ostensibly to deal with the European refugee crisis, which barely touched Hungary. It was never repealed.

Democratic leaders have done a better virus-fighting job not by seizing absolute power (like Mr. Orban) or by lying and denying the existence of a pandemic threat for months (like U.S. President Donald Trump or his counterparts in Brazil and the Philippines) but by building their country’s reserves of public trust and co-operation by using transparency, compromise and other democratic values to bring everyone together around this difficult common sacrifice, as we’ve seen in the better moments from Asian and European democracies.

As such, it was welcome to see Canada’s opposition parties fight back against attempts by the governing Liberals, who have an unhealthy preference for governing from the backrooms of the Prime Minister’s Office, to allow economic policy to be passed by emergency decree – and for the Liberals to climb down quickly and open their policies to full parliamentary debate.

Nevertheless, there is an alarming number of otherwise democratic people who have pointed approvingly to China – where opaque authoritarian secrecy allowed the new coronavirus to explode and spread internationally in December and early January, before a harsh crackdown slowed its spread.

There is absolutely nothing to suggest that an epidemic is better fought by non-democratic governments.

In fact, the record shows otherwise. In February, researchers from The Economist used the massive International Disaster Database to examine the death and infection data from all recorded epidemics since 1960 – hundreds of outbreaks in hundreds of countries over six decades. The results are striking: “For any given level of income, democracies appear to experience lower mortality rates for epidemic diseases than their non-democratic counterparts.”

In democracies with average incomes similar to China’s, epidemics have killed a third fewer people than they have in China and other autocratic states with similar incomes. This “democracy gap” has remained consistent in recent years and under all sorts of epidemics.

“Authoritarian regimes,” the authors conclude, “although able to co-ordinate massive construction projects, may be poorly suited to matters that require the free flow of information and open dialogue between citizens and rulers … . Non-democratic societies often restrict the flow of information and persecute perceived critics.”

The most impressive responses to the virus are not those ordered, belatedly, by Beijing – or by other countries that have followed China’s lead in imprisoning critics and silencing dissent, including Thailand, Cambodia, Venezuela, Bangladesh and Turkey.

Far more impressive Asian pandemic-fighting results can be observed in Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Singapore, where democracy was not suspended but rather used as a tool, and infection curves were flattened even better. I see similar results around me in Germany, where the Chancellor used persuasion and public trust to avoid sending police vans immediately onto the streets.

It is, in many ways, the healthier response – both for democracy and for death rates.

Source:     When viruses threaten, the strongest disinfectant is democracy Doug Saunders 20 hours ago Updated       

‘Naïve and dangerous’: Conservatives blast Liberal policy after U.K. strips ‘Jihadi Jack’s’ citizenship

Of the many articles on Jack Letts, I picked this one, given the Conservative’s implementation revocation provisions is C-24. During parliamentary hearings on C-24 (and the subsequent repeal under the Liberals in C-6), the risk of “beggar the neighbour” approaches between countries was raised by Audrey Macklin among others.

So no surprise that it has happened, and from an overall security perspective, offloading a suspected terrorist to another government, does not increase security. That Britain did so, when Letts only has a formal connection to Canada, having been raised and grown-up in the UK, only makes it worse.

Conservative leader Scheer did not include citizenship issues when he unveiled his immigration policy a few months ago:

The Conservatives on Sunday renewed their condemnation of the Liberal government’s position on citizenship rights for terrorists, following news that U.K. officials had stripped former ISIL member Jack Letts — known as “Jihadi Jack” — of his British citizenship.

Conservative public safety critic Pierre Paul-Hus did not commit to overturning a policy introduced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2015 that would prevent Canada from making a similar move, but said the Liberal government must fight to keep Letts out of the country. 

“The idea that anyone who signed up to fight with ISIS can be reformed is naïve and dangerous to the safety of Canadians,” Paul-Hus said in a statement on Sunday. Justin Trudeau must assure Canadians today that he isn’t trying to bring Jihadi Jack back to Canada.”

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale on Sunday confirmed reports that the United Kingdom had revoked Letts’ citizenship, saying in a written statement that Canada was “disappointed” by the move, and accusing Britain of trying to “off-load their responsibilities.”

The move means that if Letts is deported, he would become the sole responsibility of Canada.

The issue might have set off a behind-the-scenes diplomatic row between the two countries, according to media reports and private emails from Canadian consular officials unearthed by the National Post. It could also refuel debate over whether Ottawa should be allowed to revoke dual citizens of their status as Canadians if convicted of terrorism, treason or espionage.

Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by British media, is being held by Kurdish forces in northern Syria. The longtime U.K. resident, now 24 years old, converted to Islam at a young age and eventually left the country to join the extremist organization, eventually settling in the ISIL stronghold of Raqqa. He was arrested and imprisoned in 2017.

His entire family are dual British-Canadian citizens, including his father, John Letts, who was born in Ontario, and his U.K.-born mother, Sally Lane.

In June, Letts’ parents were found guilty of funding terrorism after they wired their son money in a bid to help him escape an ISIL-controlled region of Syria.

The court heard that a member of Letts’ mosque in the U.K. had warned the parents that their son might have been radicalized, and that they should take away his passport as a way to protect him. But Letts and Lane reportedly ignored the advice and bought him a plane ticket to Jordan in 2014 for a “grand Middle East adventure,” according to one recollection of events.

According to media reports, Letts became known to authorities after a spate of violent Facebook posts, in which he said he would “happily kill each and every one” of the members of a British military regiment of which a former schoolmate was a member.

There is no clear evidence whether Letts personally carried out any violent acts during his time with ISIL.

Citing private emails from Global Affairs Canada, the National Post reported last October that Canadian consular officials had been in contact with Letts’ parents for months. The officials went as far as to discuss possible escape routes for Letts out of Syria, and assured his parents they were “working diligently on your son’s file,” according to the emails.

But their tone shifted abruptly in early 2018, the emails show, leading the family to believe that British officials had struck down those efforts behind closed doors.

The diplomatic spat could refuel a long-standing debate in Canada. Because international law prevents governments from making anyone “stateless,” only people with two passports can have their citizenship stripped.

In 2014, former prime minister Stephen Harper amended the Citizenship Act to allow Canada to strip the status of any dual citizen who is found guilty of terrorism, among other things. The Liberal government under Trudeau reversed that decision in a bill that passed through the Senate in 2017.

Some experts say efforts by Britain are counterproductive and run afoul of human rights laws.

“I think there’s a real question here as to whether Britain is violating international law by doing this, and whether Canada could seek to hold the U.K to account,” said Audrey Macklin, a human rights law professor at the University of Toronto.

Macklin said moves to render people stateless can in turn stymie efforts to snuff out terrorist organizations.

“If you are serious about global co-operation in combatting terrorism, you would realize that citizenship stripping is inimical to that,” she said. 

Trudeau is due to meet the new British prime minister, Boris Johnson, at a Group of Seven meeting in France that starts on Aug. 24.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab met Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland in Toronto earlier this month. The two ministers discussed Letts during the visit, yesterday’s statement from Goodale’s office said.

“While we are disappointed in their decision, we do not conduct tit-for-tat diplomacy. Canada and the U.K. continue to work closely together on a number of issues, including the situation in Hong Kong,” the statement added.

Source: ‘Naïve and dangerous’: Conservatives blast Liberal policy after U.K. strips ‘Jihadi Jack’s’ citizenship

Sensible commentary by Doug Saunders:

The Easter Sunday atrocities in Sri Lanka have not only brought horror to the island’s tiny, impoverished Christian community and threatened an end to the country’s decade of unsteady peace. They’ve also struck fear in the governments and security agencies of many countries, including Canada, which have been struggling to deal with a steady trickle of their citizens seeking to return home from Syria and Iraq.

We don’t know whether reports are true that two or more of the Sri Lankan terrorists had gone to Syria to fight with the terrorist army that calls itself Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh), and returned after that organization’s self-proclaimed caliphate was crushed and defeated last year. It is clear, however, that the attacks are linked to a desire among some of that organization’s former fighters to bring revenge to their own countries.

There are currently several hundred European, U.S. and Canadian alleged IS fighters being held in northern Syria by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (the number of Canadians may be as low as 10). Whether they should be returned to their home countries is the subject of an intense international debate.

Some have suggested stripping them of their citizenship – which was a legal option, rarely if ever applied, under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government – thus making them the responsibility of some other country. Others wonder why we should be responsible for investigating and trying Canadians who allegedly have committed grave crimes abroad; in other circumstances, they’d be tried and sentenced in the place where their crimes took place.

But they are, ultimately, our problem. They aren’t foreign – almost all the Canadians accused are Canadian citizens born here to Canadian families, and their radicalization took place here, in the dark corners of Canadian society. To attempt to dump them on another country, or on a poor and struggling Kurdish-led Syrian democracy movement that has already been betrayed by Canada and its allies, would be both immoral and dangerous.

There are good reasons why nobody is eager to see them returned. The probability of any returned foreign fighter committing violence is low – a 2015 study found that only 0.2 per cent of returned fighters, or one in 500, had been charged with terrorism offences. The return of IS fighters has not produced the wave of attacks that many had anticipated. But the few who do maintain their violent commitments are noted, in the words of a study published last year by the United Nations Security Council, for their “increased lethality, both as attackers and as attack planners,” making them responsible for “some of the most lethal terrorist attacks.”

But the flaw in the citizenship-stripping approach becomes apparent when you take a close look at those who have dual citizenship, and would therefore be eligible.

Typical of them is Syrian detainee Jack Letts, who holds both Canadian and British citizenship. Neither Canada nor Britain wants him back. Political leaders in both countries have suggested revoking his citizenship – and thus dumping his case, and the considerable security and justice costs associated with his case, on the other country.

As a result, he waits in Syria. If he is guilty of atrocities or war crimes – and simply being a member of IS could qualify as one – neither country is willing to expend the investigative and judicial resources to prove it and bring him to justice. If he is innocent, as he claims, neither country is willing to try to clear him.

The Kurds have made it clear that they do not want hundreds of people such as him on their hands. Ilham Ahmed, a leader of the Kurdish-led SDF, says it is straining their resources just to hold people such as him. “We have provided the support we can by arresting them and detaining them in prisons, but who is going to take them to court?” she told the Financial Times. “Who is going to [be] carrying out the prosecution?”

Another horrific news story this month illustrated the risk of not taking these people back. Germany is currently trying a 27-year-old woman from Lower Saxony known as Jennifer W. for allegations that she, as an IS “morality policewoman” in Syria, tortured a 5-year-old Yazidi slave girl to death. Prosecutors consider themselves lucky to have found a phone containing what they say are incriminating messages.

If kept in Syria or foisted on another country, she would never have been charged. Trials such as hers are expensive, difficult and risky, but the expense is necessary, and the risk would be greater if these people were left at large. Some of them may be the world’s worst people, but they are our people. If they are truly to be brought to justice, or at least kept under watch so they pose less danger, it is far more likely to happen here.

Source: Canadian extremists returning from Syria are a big problem – but they’re our problem

Doug Saunders: The politics of border-crossing bogeymen are unwise – and dangerous

Valid points:

There’s a trick, long known to certain politicians, to get an electoral boost when you’re down in the polls: You declare that dangerous people are about to come across the border, and you latch onto a conspiracy theory claiming that the other political party, or some dark forces associated with them, are responsible.

It can be an effective tactic. Immigration is often a popular election issue, especially when it’s mixed with atavistic fears of mysterious predators entering your territory. It is also a profoundly dangerous tactic.

On Wednesday night, we heard the U.S. President attempt this trick, for the umpteenth time. Americans, Donald Trump declared in an address, are being “raped, murdered and beaten to death with a hammer” by nefarious figures streaming across the southern border, and “thousands more lives will be lost if we don’t act right now” to build his wall.

Never mind that the threat is an utter fiction – illegal border crossings from Mexico to the United States are at their lowest rate in almost half a century, and those who make the crossings are measurably less murder-prone than Americans.

It’s also based on a wild conspiracy theory. Mr. Trump has repeatedly told voters that migrants approaching the U.S. border include “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners,” as well as terrorists, even though his own immigration officials deny this. He’s said that their march on the border is being funded by mysterious Democratic-linked forces; in October, he publicly endorsed an anti-Jewish conspiracy theory blaming Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros for the “caravan.”

But Canadians can’t watch this with any sense of superiority. For the first time in decades, this tactic has crept into mainstream Canadian politics.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer shocked many members of his own party last month by taking up a cause that had emerged from the fringes, denouncing a United Nations document known as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

That document, if you bother to read it, is an anodyne, purely symbolic statement of principles intended to reduce overall immigration numbers, and especially to discourage irregular – that is, illegal – immigration. Like other such UN compacts, its main purpose is to provide principled-sounding statements for preambles of other documents.

Instead, Mr. Scheer claimed that the Compact “gives influence over Canada’s immigration system to foreign entities.” He then denounced the “crisis at our borders” and “chaos at our borders” caused by “illegal border crossers” – suggesting that cross-border chaos, danger and criminality would be products of this document.

Where did this weird theory come from? As Laurens Cerulus and Eline Schaart found out in an investigation this week for Politico, it was the product of a calculated social-media campaign by “a coalition of anti-Islam, far-right and neo-Nazi sympathizers” based in Europe. It was taken up in September by far-right parties in Europe, and by figures in Mr. Trump’s circle.

Mr. Scheer’s decision to join Mr. Trump in picking up this ugly thread might have seemed like an expedient way to turn immigration fears into anti-Liberal sentiment. Yet, the larger danger of such conspiracy theories is not just that they are absurdly false – but that some people really believe them.

In October, 11 people were shot to death in a Pittsburgh synagogue by a man shouting anti-Semitic slogans. To judge by his social-media posts and statements, the alleged shooter, Robert Bowers, had come to believe that criminal migrants headed to the Mexico-U.S. border were being funded and supported by Mr. Soros and other Jewish figures and organizations – the same conspiracy theory Mr. Trump endorsed. A few days earlier, a Trump supporter in Florida had sent pipe bombs to Mr. Soros and other Democratic-linked figures in apparent support of this theory.

These incidents, and others like them, followed a 2011 massacre in Norway orchestrated by Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people – many of them children – because he had come to believe a theory, promoted by European right-wing politicians, that “globalists” and “cultural Marxists” (including his victims) were conspiring to bring in threatening Muslim immigrants.

That conspiracy theory has now reached Canada. In January, 2017, Alexandre Bissonnette walked into a Quebec City mosque and shot 19 people, killing six. In his police interview, he said he had been spurred to action after watching reports about Mr. Trump’s proposed Muslim ban, and after hearing conspiracy theories about Canada’s Syrian refugees. “I saw that and I like lost my mind,” he said. “I don’t want them to kill my parents, my family.”

Nobody but these killers themselves are responsible for their actions. But they all had been led to believe fictions about border-crossing bogeymen and the figures who supposedly back them. Given the dangerous implications of such inventions, to amplify them in the name of momentary political gain wouldn’t just be profoundly unwise. It would be absolutely reckless.

Source: The politics of border-crossing bogeymen are unwise – and dangerous

The culture war has been won, so now we fight about words: Doug Saunders

Words matter. And words have different meanings for different groups. So avoiding “trigger” words and finding less polarizing language and labels should be part of any conversations:

Are you a social justice warrior? Not if you can help it, I bet. You are unlikely to find anyone who will self-identify as an “SJW,” an annoyingly popular internet putdown aimed by angry trolls at the earnest slogans of left-leaning people.

In response to such scorn, people have dropped the words “social justice.” Liberal-minded politicians now studiously avoid the phrase. This despite the fact that a large and growing majority of people believe in, well, social justice.

The idea has divorced itself from the words. Social justice, the concept – broad equality and opposition to unfair discrimination – is more popular than ever. But “social justice,” the phrase, has become hotly contested and, to many, off-putting and doctrinaire. It joins such polarizing formulations as “systemic racism” and “Islamophobia” – terms that inspire distaste among big segments of a public who otherwise support the concepts behind those phrases.

And that’s led to a misconception. The long-running fight over language – in which the words and phrases of the ideologically earnest are rejected as “politically correct” – is being mistaken for some larger and more irreconcilable battle over underlying ideas and beliefs.

Those who are truly intolerant and opposed to pluralism – those who think social justice is not just an awkward phrase but a bad idea – are a small and declining group. But that group is manipulating language conflicts to their political advantage.

That has become vividly evident as a new study of political tribalism has inspired a bewildering range of reactions from scholars and journalists. The study, titled Hidden Tribes, examines 8,000 U.S. citizens from a wide range of backgrounds in lengthy surveys and focus-group discussions. The aim of the study (and of the organization behind it, More in Common) is to show how countries have become divided into multiple tribal factions.

But the study doesn’t really end up showing that. For the most part, it shows that there are exactly two factions: a large, increasingly united majority ranging from the left to the centre-right who believe in social justice and its sister concepts, and a small group, making up 25 per cent of Americans on the devout ideological right (certainly smaller in other English-speaking countries) who oppose those ideas completely.

There is, however, another divide visible – one around language. Last month, the political scientist Yascha Mounk analyzed one of the study’s secondary findings in an essay carrying the headline “Americans strongly dislike PC culture.” Indeed, 80 per cent of Americans agree that “political correctness is a problem in our country,” and that includes almost all ages and backgrounds. Only 6 per cent support “PC culture” and that group is mostly wealthy and white.

But the “PC culture” they’re opposing is not really a culture at all; it’s just the language. And it’s a narrow gripe: An even larger majority – 82 per cent – think hate speech is an equally big problem.

Indeed, what jumps out from the study is that the people who are against PC language are also overwhelmingly in favour of the broad ideas behind that language.

A majority of all Americans, and a really big majority who aren’t devoted conservatives, believe that “white people today don’t recognize the real advantages they have” – but most people say they dislike the popular millennial name for this thought, “white privilege.” A similarly substantial majority feel that “many people nowadays don’t take discrimination against Muslims seriously enough” – but most oppose the word “Islamophobia.” Most Americans believe “the police are often more violent toward African Americans than others,” but when you characterize this view as Black Lives Matter, suddenly six in 10 are opposed.

Six in 10 Americans believe that same-sex marriage should be legal, including majorities in most conservative camps. A similar proportion believe that “accepting transgender people is the moral thing to do.” And 69 per cent of Americans believe sexism today is “very serious or somewhat serious.”

That majority might not like the phrases used by gay- and transgender-rights activists and feminists, or even words such as “feminist,” but the underlying ideas have wide support.

However, people tend to vote based not on big ideas but on words – and the 25 per cent who ardently oppose the ideas of equality and pluralism are winning wider election victories, in the United States and elsewhere, by going after the words. The rise of Trumpism was propelled by manufactured outrage about political correctness run amok. This week saw U.S. majorities back ballot measures supporting transgender rights and black enfranchisement; they also voted for plenty of “anti-PC” candidates.

There is no “PC culture,” just words that become targets. If we want to win social justice, we might need to lose “social justice.”

Source: The culture war has been won, so now we fight about words: Doug Saunders

Europe’s multicultural fears hide an integration success story: Doug Saunders

While I haven’t read the Bertelsmann report yet, I am familiar with the OECD integration report as it is the best source of international comparisons. The above chart highlights some of the more significant indicators, showing overall a less positive picture for European countries than portrayed by Saunders:

It has become commonplace, in some circles, to seal an argument with a reference to “what is happening in Europe.” Many things are happening in Europe, but you know it isn’t a reference to the Eurovision Song Contest or the Swedish gender-equality laws or full employment in Germany.

No, “what is happening in Europe” implies that whatever collection of bad-news headlines you’ve seen involving bombs and riots and crime gangs and far-out political parties shouting about the collapse of Western civilization, are caused by the presence of darker-skinned Europeans with minority religious beliefs.

That was the non-subtle suggestion when the U.S. President deployed the phrase in one of his tweets last year: “Our country needs strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW. Look what is happening all over Europe.” It’s the subject of popular books such as The Strange Death of Europe by the right-wing British author Douglas Murray, which uses random anecdotes and factoids to persuade the reader that everything was grand and harmonious in Europe – during some non-conflict-dominated era that is hard to find in history books – until those Muslims arrived, at which point “the culture” fell apart. Many of his arguments resemble German author Thilo Sarrazin’s Germany Abolishes Itself, which additionally used long-discredited racial-science concepts to claim that Turks had lowered his country’s IQ.

A version has seeped into more moderate conversations. Many people now believe what British author David Goodhart coined the “Progressive’s Dilemma” – the notion that growing ethnic diversity inevitably erodes civic trust and support for social programs, because we don’t want our tax money going to people not like us. Of course, you have to believe that darker-skinned Europeans are “not like us.”

This all ignores what is actually happening in Western Europe – which is one of the most successful and rapid stories of cultural and economic integration the world has seen.

There certainly are many white Europeans who think their brown-hued neighbours are poorly integrated aliens. The migrant influx of 2015 and 2016 didn’t help – those hundreds of thousands of lost souls stole attention from Europe’s tens of millions of immigrants and minorities, whose stories are entirely different.

We now have very comprehensive data showing just how well-integrated Europe’s minority groups are becoming. Most recent, published late last year, is a big study of Muslim populations by Germany-based Bertelsmann Foundation. It was preceded by an even larger-scale study of integration by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The German study found that “religious affiliation does not impede integration” in European countries. Not only that, but, as the OECD observed, “integration challenges do not increase with the share of immigrants in the population” – in fact, the countries with the largest immigrant populations tend to have the most total cultural and economic integration.

Immigrants and their offspring in Europe almost exclusively feel loyal to – and connected to – the country where they live; only 3 per cent of German and French Muslims and 8 per cent of British Muslims identify with their countries of ancestry (this is a lower rate than, say, European immigrants in Canada).

And they’re not forming “parallel societies”: Three-quarters of European Muslims spend their free time daily with European Christians, Jews and atheists – and that rate of contact increases with each generation.

Education is where Europe has often lagged: Its school systems often contain built-in incentives for minority children to fall behind or drop out. The Bertelsmann study found that the best educational integration is in France, where only 11 per cent of Muslims leave school before turning 18 (not much more than the ethnic-French population).

Germany and Switzerland, with their rigid and old-fashioned systems, have higher dropout rates – but they make up for this in employment, as immigrant-descended citizens in those booming economies have employment rates identical to the established population. Across Europe, the OECD says, immigrant employment is only three points lower than among the native-born.

Both studies found gaps and shortcomings in some places, especially educational success – but those are caused by European failures in policies and tolerance, not in lack of immigrant ambition.

Notably, both studies found populations who urgently want to be European, not “multicultural.” That’s a big difference: As historian Rita Chin observes in her book The Crisis of Multiculturalism in Europe, multiculturalism has largely been opposed by Europe’s minorities because of its “surprisingly undemocratic effects” – they’ve seen it as a barrier to integration; as a result, she writes, we now see “former colonials, guest workers, refugees and their descendants … woven into virtually every aspect of European public life.”

That – more than anything else – is what is happening in Europe.

via Europe’s multicultural fears hide an integration success story – The Globe and Mail

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