@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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ICYMI: Is Canada’s population too small? My review of Doug Saunders’ Maximum Canada 

For those interested, my take in Policy Options on Doug Saunders’ Maximum Canada.

Source: Is Canada’s population too small?

ICYMI – New immigration quotas: Too low and no long-range plan: Saunders

Saunders critiques the modest increase in levels against the perspective of his Maximum Canada:

Two shocking facts about the Liberals’ new immigration targets: First, they’re not high. Not by any measure. And second, they’re not well-planned.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s announcement of a gradual increase in immigration numbers drew the usual mix of alarmist and exultant headlines: More than a million newcomers by 2020! Saved from the devastation of an aging population! But Mr. Hussen was proceeding with the sort of tiptoe-step caution that has come to characterize his government. His plan is to raise skilled and family immigration by far less than 1950s, 1980s or 2000s increases, while letting refugee numbers fall back to their usual tiny slice of the immigration pie (after a 2016 peak caused by the Syrian emergency). It’s not out of line with the immigration and population-growth thinking of every Tory and Liberal government of the past half century.

Indeed, the initial response from the Conservatives, via immigration critic Michelle Rempel, was not to criticize the numbers as too high but to predict that the Liberals will be incapable of meeting their economic-immigrant targets and filling the labour shortages that both parties complain about. The NDP response, also reasonable, was that more of those immigrants need to be less-skilled, because that’s also where our economy needs people.

Both Mr. Hussen’s proposal and the opposition responses are based on the most short-term vision of immigration: filling jobs now and meeting demographic challenges a decade from now. What is missing is the longer view of a larger, more sustainably populated Canada – one that concentrates rather than sprawls, one that uses population growth for ecological efficiency rather than waste. (This also happens to be the subject of my new book, Maximum Canada). We can hope that some such plan is in the works.

In the meantime, it’s best to think of Mr. Hussen’s targets as a temporary holding pattern. Since the late 1980s, Canadian immigration rates have remained fairly consistent, hovering around 0.8 per cent of the population each year (that is, around eight immigrants per 1,000 people). Rates declined somewhat in the 1990s – not out of policy desire (Prime Minister Jean Chrétien wanted that rate to increase to 1 per cent annually), but because the economy was poor, and when that happens, immigrants don’t come. Then they rose again at the turn of the century, and have held at around 0.8.

Canada’s new level of 300,000 makes for an immigration rate of 8.3 per thousand. Mr. Hussen’s gradual increase, to 340,000 per year by 2020, would be a far smaller increase than we saw in one year alone under Brian Mulroney (who raised it by 50,000 in 1986-7) and identical to the one-year rise we experienced in 2000. It would give Canada a rate of 9 immigrants per 1,000 citizens.

That’s not high by Canadian standards, and it sure isn’t by world standards: It’s less than the 2015 immigration rates in Britain (9.7), the Netherlands (9.9), Sweden (13.7) or Switzerland (18.5). This is not mass immigration by any stretch. We tried that a century ago: If we were to have the immigration rate of 1913, we’d have to take in 1.75 million immigrants a year. Nobody is returning to those times.

But we’re stuck with a way of thinking about immigrants that’s often rooted in the previous century.

Canadians, and often their government, still think of immigrants as units of labour to be plugged into factories and labs. But the typical immigrant to Canada today is not an employee; she’s someone setting out to employ people, or at least manage them.

Six out of 10 male immigrants and five out of 10 female immigrants today arrive with university degrees – twice the rate of Canadian-born people. More than half of them own a house within four years of arriving – despite the very high costs of housing in the big cities and their suburbs where immigrants settle.

In other words, we should no longer think of immigrants as sources of (or competition for) jobs, but as primary sources of new economic activity.

On the other hand, we remain mired in another legacy of 20th-century thought: that immigrants will find their way into the middle class on their own.

Children of immigrants do succeed, to an enormous degree. But the first generation tends to get lost, its members often unable to realize their potential as creators of employment. A generation ago, immigrants saw their incomes converge with Canadian averages within 15 years. Today, immigrants are 1.5 times more likely than average Canadians to live in poverty, and twice as likely to earn less than $30,000 a year, after 15 years. Only 24 per cent of immigrants with professional degrees ever get work in that field. We waste talented people.

We need to invest ahead of population growth, so it delivers benefits rather than trapping people in isolation and low incomes. We should not talk about population growth without a significant new cross-government, cross-jurisdiction program to plan and invest for it.

via New immigration quotas: Too low and no long-range plan – The Globe and Mail

Canada needs a fuller house to thrive – but population growth isn’t enough: Saunders

While I am a great fan of Doug Saunders, I think he makes many of the same fallacies as other boosters of large increases in immigration and population in his latest book, Maximum Canada: Why 35 Million Canadians Are Not Enough.  (See my earlier How to debate immigration issues in Canada where I discuss the respective fallacies of immigration boosters and critics).

However, unlike many others, he recognizes the large public and private investments needed to integrate successfully large number of immigrants along with the associated infrastructure and other needs of a much larger population.

Yet surprisingly, he is silent on the likely impact of technology on labour market needs.

However, will read his book to get a fuller appreciation of his arguments (have just excerpted his conclusion but recommend reading the full long read):

The challenges of family policy, like most of the obstacles examined here, are already being experienced by Canadians, and will be growing problems, regardless of what happens to the population. The changes in the structure of the work force, in the cost and accessibility of housing, in the geographic isolation of major cities; the obstacles to getting credentials recognized, and of lost educational opportunities – all these barriers to equality and social mobility need to be confronted by Canadians and their governments, whether we triple our population or not.

It is therefore worth asking: If the time has come for Canada to train its sights on institutional reform, infrastructure expansion and policy reassessment, why shouldn’t we also make plans to build a population commensurate with those ambitions and resources? The changes we need to undertake in order to maintain and empower a Canada of 35 million will be far easier to bring about, and yield far greater benefits, if they are applied to a population that is gradually growing to a larger and more self-sufficient scale by the end of the century.

With that population – and by instituting the reforms needed to create it – Canada promises to become a place with the tools and resources to do many things better, more fairly, more cleanly and more co-operatively: a more comfortable, and more intensely Canadian version of the Canada we know.

Source: Canada needs a fuller house to thrive – but population growth isn’t enough – The Globe and Mail

ICYMI: Canada has a border problem. Here’s how to fix it: Doug Saunders

Published in February but remains relevant given ongoing border crossings. Not convinced, however, re full suspension of safe-third country agreement with USA given signals it would send to future border crossers:

Stop illegal entries by creating a legal path. People aren’t making these crossings because they’re an easy way into Canada. In fact, illegal foot crossings are an exceptionally difficult and expensive way into Canada: Some migrants have paid drivers enough to buy business-class airfare.

People make them because they’re the only way into Canada. Under the 2004 Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, Canada does not allow foreign refugee claimants who landed in the United States through its official border crossings: You’re required to apply for asylum in the first country in which you arrive. But if they can get themselves physically onto Canadian soil, they will be arrested, detained, released and given an assessment, a hearing and a right to appeal.

This is not, as some have said, a flaw in the act; rather, it is a feature of the Canadian Constitution: Once in Canada, you are entitled to the full suite of rights – including due process and a fair hearing.

We can deal with this in two ways. One, as suggested by some MPs, would be to secure the border more, by adding hundreds or thousands more police and border agents. They would probably spend their days and nights processing a rising tide of border-crossers, at great expense.

The other would be to stop the illegal flow completely by creating a legal entry method, with processing centres at border crossings. The numbers would increase somewhat, but it would be far less expensive and much less dangerous – and it would look secure, fair and rational to Canadians.

Consider suspending the Safe Third Country Agreement. The treaty made sense when it was signed, because the United States and Canada both treated refugee claims similarly, and offered similar treatment to people pursuing those claims. (The worry then was that claimants would try to sneak from Canada into the United States.) That has changed under the Trump administration. Refugee claimants fear, first, that their claims will get a less generous hearing under the refugee crackdown, and second, that they might be held in awful detention centres while awaiting a decision.

Since the agreement no longer serves its intended purpose, it mainly creates perverse incentives. Illegal foot crossings are one. Another is an exemption provided in the treaty to “unaccompanied minors” – which might tempt someone to send a child alone across the border. Suspending the treaty wouldn’t overwhelm us with migrants: There’s a very limited supply of asylum seekers who’ve made it into the United States. And under current conditions, it is easier for them to fly directly to Canada.

Get people processed fast. Many of those border-crossers – perhaps most – won’t qualify as refugees. They’ll wait months for a hearing, then years for an appeal, before they go home or are deported (by which time they’ll have roots in Canada, creating a second set of crises). Those who are legitimate refugees will also wait, in ambiguous status, in border towns for long periods and possibly in large numbers.

To avoid this becoming an enduring, high-visibility crisis with grave political implications, Ottawa should bring on board extra Immigration and Refugee Board staff and judges to work the border stations, so hearings can be made in weeks rather than months and appeals in months rather than years. This would cost, but not as much as supporting thousands of ambiguous people for years, or rebuilding the reputation of our immigration system. By making it legal, rational and quick, we can make the border act like a border again.

Source: Canada has a border problem. Here’s how to fix it – The Globe and Mail