When You Can’t Just ‘Trust the Douthat: Science’ The vaccine debate is the latest example of how our coronavirus choices are inescapably political.

Overall, a good nuanced discussion of where the science largely ends and values and ethnics inform (or not) political choices. The one major weakness in his arguments is that while a focus on seniors primarily means a focus on whites, personal care and healthcare workers tend to be significantly non-white, and so there is less of a contradiction than he assumes:

One of many regrettable features of the Trump era is the way that the president’s lies and conspiracy theories have seemed to vindicate some of his opponents’ most fatuous slogans. I have in mind, in particular, the claim that has echoed through the liberal side of coronavirus-era debates — that the key to sound leadership in a pandemic is just to follow the science, to trust science and scientists, to do what experts suggest instead of letting mere grubby politics determine your response.

Trump made this slogan powerful by conspicuously disdaining expertise and indulging marginal experts who told him what he desired to hear — that the virus isn’t so bad, that life should just go back to normal, usually with dubious statistical analysis to back up that conclusion. And to the extent that trust the science just means that Dr. Anthony Fauci is a better guide to epidemiological trends than someone the president liked on cable news, then it’s a sound and unobjectionable idea.

But for many crucial decisions of the last year, that unobjectionable version of trust the science didn’t get you very far. And when it had more sweeping implications, what the slogan implied was often much more dubious: a deference to the science bureaucracy during a crisis when bureaucratic norms needed to give way; an attempt by para-scientific enterprises to trade on (or trade away) science’s credibility for the sake of political agendas; and an abdication by elected officials of responsibility for decisions that are fundamentally political in nature.

The progress of coronavirus vaccines offers good examples of all these issues. That the vaccines exist at all is an example of science at its purest — a challenge posed, a problem solved, with all the accumulated knowledge of the modern era harnessed to figure out how to defeat a novel pathogen.

But the further you get from the laboratory work, the more complicated and less clearly scientific the key issues become. The timeline on which vaccines have become available, for instance, reflects an attempt to balance the rules of bureaucratic science, their priority on safety and certainty of knowledge, with the urgency of trying something to halt a disease that’s killing thousands of Americans every day. Many scientific factors weigh in that balance, but so do all kinds of extra-scientific variables: moral assumptions about what kinds of vaccine testing we should pursue (one reason we didn’t get the “challenge trials” that might have delivered a vaccine much earlier); legal assumptions about who should be allowed to experiment with unproven treatments; political assumptions about how much bureaucratic hoop-jumping it takes to persuade Americans that a vaccine is safe.

And the closer you get to the finish line, the more notable the bureaucratic and political element becomes. The United States approved its first vaccine after Britain but before the European Union, not because Science says something different in D.C. versus London or Berlin but because the timing was fundamentally political — reflecting different choices by different governing entities on how much to disturb their normal processes, a different calculus about lives lost to delay versus credibility lost if anything goes wrong.

Then there’s the now-pressing question of who actually gets the vaccine first, which has been taken up at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a way that throws the limits of science-trusting into even sharper relief. Last month their Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices produced a working document that’s a masterpiece of para-scientific effort, in which questions that are legitimately medical and scientific (who will the vaccine help the most), questions that are more logistical and sociological (which pattern of distribution will be easier to put in place) and moral questions about who deserves a vaccine are all jumbled up, assessed with a form of pseudo-rigor that resembles someone bluffing the way through a McKinsey job interview and then used to justify the conclusion that we should vaccinate essential workers before seniors … because seniors are more likely to be privileged and white.

As Matthew Yglesias noted, this (provisional, it should be stressed) recommendation is a remarkable example of how a certain kind of progressive moral thinking ignores the actual needs of racial minorities. Because if you vaccinate working-age people before you vaccinate older people, you will actually end up not vaccinating the most vulnerable minority population, African-American seniors — so more minorities might die for the sake of a racial balance in overall vaccination rates.

But even if the recommendation didn’t have that kind of perverse implication, even if all things being equal you were just choosing between more minority deaths and more white deaths in two different vaccination plans, it’s still not the kind of question that the C.D.C.’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has any particular competency to address. If policy X leads to racially disparate death rates but policy Y requires overt racial discrimination, then the choice between the two is moral and political, not medical or scientific — as are other important questions like, “Who is actually an essential worker?” or “Should we focus more on slowing the spread or reducing the death rate?” (Or even, “Should we vaccinate men before women given that men are more likely to die of the disease?”)

These are the kind of questions, in other words, that our elected leaders should be willing to answer without recourse to a self-protective “just following the science” default. But that default is deeply inscribed into our political culture, and especially the culture of liberalism, where even something as obviously moral-political as the decision to let Black Lives Matter protests go forward amid a pandemic was justified by redescribing their motor, antiracism, as a push for better public health.

When we look back over the pandemic era, one of the signal failures will be the inability to acknowledge that many key decisions — from our vaccine policy to our lockdown strategy to our approach to businesses and schools — are fundamentally questions of statesmanship, involving not just the right principles or the right technical understanding of the problem but the prudential balancing of many competing goods.

On the libertarian and populist right, that failure usually involved a recourse to “freedom” as a conversation-stopper, a way to deny that even a deadly disease required any compromises with normal life at all.

But for liberals, especially blue-state politicians and officials, the failure has more often involved invoking capital-S Science to evade their own responsibilities: pretending that a certain kind of scientific knowledge, ideally backed by impeccable credentials, can substitute for prudential and moral judgments that we are all qualified to argue over, and that our elected leaders, not our scientists, have the final responsibility to make.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/19/opinion/sunday/coronavirus-science.html

Douglas Todd: B.C. Muslims rattled by confrontational Victoria imam

Certainly hate speech, and interesting point about the impact of the Harper government’s repeal of provisions allowing citizens to launch civil actions against online hate speech:

A militant imam in Victoria who openly calls Jews, Christians, atheists and free-speech advocates “filthy” and “evil” is causing distress among Canadian Muslims, and there are calls for him to be prosecuted for hate speech.

“Younus Kathrada is not taken seriously in our community. Somebody making those claims is not part of Islam. But I guess there is a fringe element that follows him,” says Haroon Khan, a trustee at Vancouver’s Al-Jamia mosque, which belongs to the B.C. Muslim Association and often holds interfaith events.

Source: Douglas Todd: B.C. Muslims rattled by confrontational Victoria imam

Douglas Todd: Hidden foreign ownership helps explain Metro Vancouver’s ‘decoupling’ of house prices, incomes

Of note:

The lack of connection between soaring housing prices and tepid local wages in Metro Vancouver is caused in large part by hidden foreign ownership, says a peer-reviewed study from Simon Fraser University that is being welcomed by the B.C. minister responsible for housing.

Based on data Statistics Canada has been collecting only recently, SFU public policy specialist Joshua Gordon’s paper shows the “decoupling” of housing prices from incomes in Metro Vancouver has been caused by “significant sums of foreign capital that have been excluded from official statistics.”

Gordon’s research set out to solve a puzzle in Greater Vancouver and, to a lesser extent, Toronto. How can tens of thousands of owners who tell Revenue Canada they are low income (earning less than $44,000 a year) consistently afford homes valued in the $2- to $10-million range?

Source: Douglas Todd: Hidden foreign ownership helps explain Metro Vancouver’s ‘decoupling’ of house prices, incomes

Douglas Todd: Rise of mixed-race unions in Canada softening identity labels

An ongoing trend although fear mixed unions in Canada compared to the US along with some interesting variations among visible minority groups:

The elevation of Kamala Harris to vice-president-elect of the United States of America has many probing the significance of mixed-race partnerships.

Many celebrate how the daughter of an Indian mother and Black father went on to marry a white Jewish lawyer named Douglas Emhoff. Optimists see her journey as a creative blurring of ancestries, which might help soften the harder divisions of identity politics.

Interracial couples make up about 10 per cent of all relationships in the U.S. and about five per cent in Britain and Canada.

Source: Douglas Todd: Rise of mixed-race unions in Canada softening identity labels

Douglas Todd: Second passports can come with big trouble for Chinese citizens

China is not the only country that does not recognize dual citizenship. Many turn a blind eye except in the case of high profile politicians and others.

China’s enforcement, however, is more thorough and rigorous, which may affect the naturalization rate (about 56 percent of immigrants from China have acquired Canadian citizenship compared to 93 percent of immigrants from Hong Kong):

There is no shortage of rich Chinese citizens picking up second passports to make travel easier and establish a safe haven for their families, particularly in the U.S., Australia, Britain and Canada.

But there’s a hitch: The People’s Republic of China, unlike the other countries above, doesn’t, technically, allow its citizens to hold dual citizenship.

As a result many China-born residents have avoided revealing to their home country they have a second or third passport. They do not want to renounce their Chinese citizenship, in part because it would make it hard to do business in the giant economy.

The complexities of global passport regulations are not something a lot of Canadians think about. But migration specialists say they are often on the minds of many of Canada’s 1.7 million ethnic Chinese, the majority of whom have links to either China or Hong Kong, which in 1997 became part of China.

The ramifications of running afoul of China’s passport rules can be devastating. And they relate in difficult ways to recent headlines — including Ottawa’s claim last week it has a plan to airlift more than 300,000 Canadian passport holders out of Hong Kong, the ongoing house arrest in Vancouver of Huawei CEO Meng Wangzhou and this week’s Canadian spy agency revelation that China’s agents are actively intimidating Chinese-Canadians.

Nationalistic China takes the opposite approach to citizenship than laissez-faire Canada. While Canada does little to track whether its passport holders keep a meaningful connection to this country, China’s authoritarian leaders are stepping up pressure on the 60 million Chinese people spread around the planet to be more loyal.

China, which accepts almost no immigrants, claims it’s jacking up enforcement to reign in allegedly corrupt Communist party officials and business leaders. But critics say President Xi Jinping is also determined to silence critics and squeeze political rivals.

There are many ways it has turned problematic for a citizen of China to have more than one passport:

You’re a Chinese citizen if China says you are

The ramifications of running afoul of China’s passport rules can be devastating. And they relate in difficult ways to recent headlines — including Ottawa’s claim last week it has a plan to airlift more than 300,000 Canadian passport holders out of Hong Kong, the ongoing house arrest in Vancouver of Huawei CEO Meng Wangzhou and this week’s Canadian spy agency revelation that China’s agents are actively intimidating Chinese-Canadians.

Nationalistic China takes the opposite approach to citizenship than laissez-faire Canada. While Canada does little to track whether its passport holders keep a meaningful connection to this country, China’s authoritarian leaders are stepping up pressure on the 60 million Chinese people spread around the planet to be more loyal.

China, which accepts almost no immigrants, claims it’s jacking up enforcement to reign in allegedly corrupt Communist party officials and business leaders. But critics say President Xi Jinping is also determined to silence critics and squeeze political rivals.

There are many ways it has turned problematic for a citizen of China to have more than one passport:

You’re a Chinese citizen if China says you are

With one poll showing 47 per cent of China’s rich want to move to another country, China’s authorities are discovering, including through the leak of the Panama Papers, many prominent citizens have been snagging passports from other countries. The consequences for some have been horrifying.

Xiao Jianhua, a Chinese billionaire, went through some hoops to obtain a Canadian passport. So he thought he was protected from Beijing’s security services.

But Xiao was abducted in 2017 from a Hong Kong hotel and taken to China.

Xiao’s family ran an ad on the front page of a Hong Kong newspaper quoting him saying, “I am under the protection of the Canadian consulate and Hong Kong law” and “I enjoy the right of diplomatic protection.”

But Xiao’s declaration was worthless. Canada could do nothing. He remains incarcerated in an unknown prison in China while the government dismantles his empire.

Then there’s Gui Minhai, who left China, his country of birth, to study in Sweden. He earned a Swedish passport. And, in a bid to do the right thing, he joined the relatively few who renounce their Chinese citizenship.

But then Gui set up a bookshop in Hong Kong, which published gossip about Chinese politicians. Gui was kidnapped in Thailand, at about the same time four other Hong Kong booksellers disappeared.

Gui showed up months later on an official Chinese television station mouthing an apparently forced confession. “Although I have Swedish citizenship, I truly feel I am still Chinese,” he said, urging the Swedish government not to get involved in his case. He’s been sentenced to 10 years in jail.

Some Hong Kong legislators have dared say the obvious: It doesn’t matter if Hongkongers get new passports, because China still regards you as a citizen. It’s deeply troubling, said one diplomat, that China “deliberately blurs ethnicity and nationality.”

Huawei CEO plays a risky game with her passports

The U.S. government, in its extradition request to Canada, maintained Meng Wanzhou had seven different passports from China and Hong Kong. But Meng’s lawyers argued she had just two, one from China and one from Hong Kong.

However, Meng, whose family owns two mansions in Vancouver, has also obtained permanent resident status in Canada. That gives her and her family the right to free education and healthcare. It is also the final step before citizenship.

Since Meng is treated as a hero in China while she fights the U.S. extradition request in B.C. Supreme Court, how do her country’s leaders deal with the embarrassing reality she and some of her family members have been on the verge of becoming Canadian citizens?

Immigration lawyers maintain China turns a blind eye when Communist party favourites take out multiple passports. And that certainly seems possible in this case, since it is unlikely Meng would ever say goodbye to her Chinese citizenship.

However, now that the spotlight is on Meng, she could do what many other would-be Canadians have recently done: Renounce her permanent resident status in this country. That would make it possible for her to instead join the nine million people who have opted for Canada’s popular 10-year multiple-entry visitor visas.

What is the value of a Canadian passport in Hong Kong?

Meng’s case points to the confusing and crucial differences between a Chinese passport and a Hong Kong passport.

Contrary to what many people think, historians such as Jason Wordie maintain China’s authorities consider a Hong Kong passport, one of which is called a Special Administrative Region passport, mostly a convenient travel document.

So when Canada’s top diplomat in Hong Kong said last week that Ottawa has drawn up plans for a mass evacuation of more than 300,000 Hongkongers who hold Canadian passports, he did not get into the knotty legalities.

Only a fraction of Hong Kong residents identity more with China than Hong Kong. But since China insists on treating Hongkongers as its citizens, it could mean anyone born there who has a Canadian passport would, especially under the recent crackdown, be on the spot to renounce their Chinese citizenship.

If they do so, and especially if they shift to another country, that could lead to them being treated as foreigners in Hong Kong and China, severely shrinking their prospects: Many residents of Hong Kong who have Canadian, British, U.S. or Australian passports often say they remain in China’s booming protectorate because it is far easier to make serious money there.

In the past such people could get around the system by slightly altering either their Chinese or foreign-language names when they applied for extra passports, which made it hard for officials to track how many they had. But China is now perfecting facial-recognition technology to catch those who break the rules.

Contrary to what many people think, historians such as Jason Wordie maintain China’s authorities consider a Hong Kong passport, one of which is called a Special Administrative Region passport, mostly a convenient travel document.

So when Canada’s top diplomat in Hong Kong said last week that Ottawa has drawn up plans for a mass evacuation of more than 300,000 Hongkongers who hold Canadian passports, he did not get into the knotty legalities.

Only a fraction of Hong Kong residents identity more with China than Hong Kong. But since China insists on treating Hongkongers as its citizens, it could mean anyone born there who has a Canadian passport would, especially under the recent crackdown, be on the spot to renounce their Chinese citizenship.

If they do so, and especially if they shift to another country, that could lead to them being treated as foreigners in Hong Kong and China, severely shrinking their prospects: Many residents of Hong Kong who have Canadian, British, U.S. or Australian passports often say they remain in China’s booming protectorate because it is far easier to make serious money there.

In the past such people could get around the system by slightly altering either their Chinese or foreign-language names when they applied for extra passports, which made it hard for officials to track how many they had. But China is now perfecting facial-recognition technology to catch those who break the rules.

In more ways than one it’s becoming tougher to walk the multi-passport tightrope.

Source: Douglas Todd: Second passports can come with big trouble for Chinese citizens

Douglas Todd: Canada’s many language schools ravaged by COVID-19

Yet another element of the immigration industry:

Downtown Vancouver might never look or feel the same, as scores of its English-language schools now sit empty with metal security gates across their doors. Many will never reopen.

B.C.’s once ultra-popular, private English-language schools, which last year enrolled 70,000 to 100,000 students, are concentrated in the city’s core. Each year language students from around the globe enlivened downtown cafes and street life, as well as rental and homestay units through the West End and Yaletown.

Most Canadians don’t give much thought to the often-overlooked English- and French-language industry, but if they did they would recognize COVID-19 has ravaged this formerly booming sector as badly as it has crippled airlines and international tourism.

The health measures brought in in March to secure borders against travellers who could carry the coronavirus into Canada caused upwards of 100 language schools in B.C. alone to close their doors to in-person classes. Some struggle just to offer low-cost online instruction to students spread through mostly Asia and Latin America.

Officials with Languages Canada, an umbrella group for more than 200 registered schools, forecast this summer that three of four of its member schools could be forced to permanently shutter. In Metro Vancouver alone, Languages Canada says their students, almost all from outside the country, were pumping more than $500 million a year into the economy.

Global Village Vancouver gone

More than 23 registered language schools across the country have already permanently packed it in, including Vancouver’s decades-old Global Village Vancouver. And that number doesn’t include the closings at many smaller private schools that are not registered with Languages Canada.

“Metro Vancouver has the most private language schools of any Canadian city. And many of them are never going to open again,” says Lorie Lee, a former language-school owner who has served on federal government trade missions and advisory panels who now works with a company called Guard.me that provides health insurance to international students.

“Not only do these schools employ many teachers and staff, the students stay with host families and rent apartments and spend money in restaurants and on car leases and trips to Whistler. That’s not to mention the schools themselves rent large amounts of space downtown.”

Language-school students often come to Canada, Lee said, with varied dreams about learning English, since it’s the common language of global business, aviation and science.

One-third of them, almost always financed by their parents, want to gain permanent resident status in Canada, Lee says. Another cohort aim to get English under their belt so they can be eligible to apply to a Canadian or American university.

Those who belong to a third group want to improve their English because it will enhance their careers in their homelands, Lee says. Many others seek adventure, learning a bit of English along with skiing, partying and hiking in a beautiful province.

There are several reasons private language schools have been hit harder by the pandemic than Canada’s public universities and colleges. The biggest problem is their rents.

High rents

Unlike public language schools, which are subsidized by taxpayers, private language businesses, especially those in Vancouver, are stuck having to pay high rents on five-year leases they normally can’t get out of. A typical monthly rent for a school downtown, Lee says, runs about $50,000 a month.

“These schools have had no students since March, so that’s eight months of no income and many are going into debt. Those schools closing will have an economic impact on other businesses, not to mention on the host families that relied on the international students to pay their mortgages.”

The second big dilemma is that language-school students are often in a different immigration category from the 642,000 people who last year were in the country on study-work visas so they could attend public institutions like the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and Kwantlen Polytechnic.

Only a minority of private language-school students obtain such long-term study-work visas to be in Canada, Lee says. Most tend to be here on visitors’ visas, which last less then six months.

That means that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s unprecedented move to reopen the border to foreign students on Oct. 20 is of only limited help to most language schools, since the bulk of their students will not be eligible.

Gonzalo Peralta, head of Languages Canada, has said Ottawa’s policy decision extends a lifeline to some private language schools. But Lee stresses that “even with Ottawa opening the gates, there are still going to be problems.”

It’s all having a little-discussed impact on Metro Vancouver. In 1991, when Lee first shifted from teaching English at UBC to launching her own school in Vancouver, her market research showed there were only seven private language schools in the city. “But,” she says, “when I sold my school in 2011 there were approximately 200 private language schools in Vancouver.”

Even though critics have condemned the way some private language schools are shoddily run and some Canadian economists worry they contribute to bringing more low-skilled workers into an already modest-wage job market, Lee generally remains a booster.

She’s excited that language schools bring so many students from Brazil, China, India, Vietnam, Japan, Mexico and South Korea. Four of five head to Ontario or B.C. This province has more than 50 schools registered with Languages Canada, the vast majority being private, employing about 2,000 staff and teachers until COVID-19 hit.

And, as Lee clarifies, Language Canada’s registered schools are only the tip of the language-industry iceberg. There are scores more non-registered private language schools in Metro Vancouver that, until the pandemic, served tens of thousands of pupils.

Glimmers of hope

Some publicly funded language schools and the larger private ones will likely be able to hold out until the end of the health crisis, Lee says. But even they are struggling just to keep afloat by offering online courses, only charging $99 a week. “Meanwhile, think of how expensive their rents are.”

There are glimmers of hope for some schools, Lee suggests, but their survival will likely rely on further easing up of immigration policy, border restrictions and COVID-19 safety rules, which restrict how many students will be allowed in language classrooms at one time.

Even though it’s frustrating to Lee, she recognizes why most Canadians rarely think about the plight of private language schools and their impact on the country.

With understatement she says, “I think most people in Canada don’t understand how the immigration system works.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Canada’s many language schools ravaged by COVID-19

@DouglasTodd Nine million people have scooped up Canada’s 10-year visas. Some abuse them

More anecdotal than evidence-based regarding the extent of the abuse. It would be relatively straightforward to request a dataset from IRCC that would provide the basis for answering the issues raised in the article:

  • people relinquishing permanent residency by country and immigration category;
  • those being sponsored for permanent residency; and,
  • those requesting asylum status.

Canada has given out more than nine million 10-year visitor visas since the program began, with by far the largest bulk of recipients coming from China and India, followed by people from Brazil and Mexico.

The super-popular multiple-entry visas are generally a benefit to Canada’s economy, say immigration lawyers. But they caution the 10-year, multiple-entry visas can be abused by “shadow investors” to avoid paying property and income taxes in Canada — and as a dubious means by which to claim asylum.

Source: Douglas Todd: Nine million people have scooped up Canada’s 10-year visas. Some abuse them

Douglas Todd: More rigorous study needed on ‘systemic racism’ in Canada’s justice system

Looking forward to the more detailed report correlating crime rates by ethnic status is scheduled to be released on Sept. 30 by StatsCan that will help avoid some of the broad generalizations in the article:

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti has been emphasizing to journalists that it’s time to weed out “systemic racism” in the Canadian police and court system.

“It’s part of a larger foundation of colonialism that sadly has played an important part in our history,” Lametti told Postmedia News in the midst of sweeping anger and debate about police violence against Blacks in the United States.

The report found over a 10-year period that Canadian whites accounted for 61 per cent of the serious crimes that warranted federal custody and a mandatory minimum penalty, even as whites in 2011 made up 76 per cent of the population.
The study revealed that Indigenous offenders were incarcerated for 23 per cent of the serious crimes, despite accounting for only 4.3 per cent of the population.

Blacks were jailed for nine per cent of the serious offences, despite comprising 2.9 per cent of the population.

In contrast, other visible minorities were responsible for just nine per cent of the offences involving firearms, sex with minors and drug trafficking, even though they make up 16 per cent of all Canadian residents.

The 2017 StatsCan report on mandatory minimum penalties provided no analysis or commentary related to whether the incarceration imbalances based on Indigenous or ethnic status had anything to do with racism.

Justice Department media officials, in addition to highlighting the single report on mandatory sentencing, also suggested asking Statistics Canada about relevant data that would back up Lametti’s claims about “shocking” systemic racism.

Statistics Canada media officials, in response, provided links to data on homicide rates, which showed the overall murder rate was going down but in 2018 Indigenous people were disproportionately its victims — in 21 per cent of all 651 homicide cases.

While the homicide data compiled by Statistics Canada shows that nen are the most common victims of murder, it didn’t track homicide rates based on whether someone is white or a visible minority (also referred to as a person of colour.)

However, the Statistics Canada media official highlighted how, for the first time in Canadian history, that data correlating crime rates by ethnic status is scheduled to be released on Sept. 30.

That should be an important improvement, because Canada is far behind Britain, Australia and the United States in providing comprehensive analysis of how crime data relate to ethnicity.

Associate Prof. Rick Parent, who has taught criminology at SFU, The University of the Fraser Valley and elsewhere, says the big problem in Canada is that there is no central entity probing the “deeper meaning” of crime data.

“Statistics Canada just sort of throws things on the wall,” he said. It normally publishes police and crime-related data without putting it in broader, relevant perspective.

“The situation does a disservice to marginalized groups,” Parent said, pointing to how Britain, the U.S. and Australia have research teams devoted to understanding how ethnicity relates to arrest rates and other aspects of the justice system.

The problem in Canada, Parent said, is that elected officials and others tend to fling out their positions on crime rates mainly in response to “the loudest voices” on social media and elsewhere.

The justice minister, for instance, used charged concepts, including “colonization” and “racialized,” when he maintained discrimination based on ethnicity is rampant in Canada’s legal system. (“Racialized” is a new term in sociology that refers to ascribing ethnic or racial identities to a group that did not identify itself as such.)

The term “systemic racism” is also disputed. For many it means that racism is a fixed, often subconscious practice within an organization. As some say, a system can be racist even when the individuals in it are not. The term has become so hotly contested that The Oxford Dictionary this summer acknowledged it’s working on clarifying what exactly it means.

For his part, Parent, a former Delta police veteran, says: “Nobody can really say” what contributes to higher incarceration rates for Canada’s Indigenous and Black people.

“Wealth distribution” and lack of adequate housing, he said, may have a more significant correlation to high crime statistics than membership in an ethnic group.

Studies by researchers such as UBC’s Haimin Zhang have consistently shown, for instance, that most immigrants to Canada, three out of four of whom are people of colour, have low arrest rates, Parent said.

“There are lots of well-off and extremely well-off immigrants in North Vancouver and West Vancouver and they’re not committing many crimes. Broad generalities about race and the justice system just don’t fly,” Parent said,  adding people of different economic classes tend to engage in different times of crimes.

Parent also doesn’t believe choices made by specific police officers, prosecutors and judges can explain the disparities in Canada’s incarceration rates. “It’s naive to say individuals have that much power in the justice system.”

Rather than blaming systemic racism, Parent said Canada should follow the lead of other countries that have developed more rigorous ways to examine why Indigenous, Black people or others are more likely to be jailed.

“We have to be more proactive and figure out why these things are happening.”

Source: Douglas Todd: More rigorous study needed on ‘systemic racism’ in Canada’s justice system

Douglas Todd: Renowned sculptor touts ‘shock’ rebuttal to, not destruction of, historical statues

Yet another piece on sculptures and monuments of historical figures, with a similar sensible take to Tom McMahon’s Enough with John A. Macdonald. Where Are the Indigenous Monuments?:

Since he sees himself as a creator rather than a destroyer, one of Canada’s most renowned sculptors says his heart is broken almost every time another supposedly permanent public statue is vandalized, beheaded or toppled.

Timothy Schmalz, whose large figurative pieces are on display from Rome to Vancouver, has an alternative idea, which he says might shock.

Schmalz is putting the final touches now on Monument of Oppression in his massive studio in St. Jacob’s, Ont., where he’s also created life-sized statues dedicated to women workers, asylum seekers, veterans, homeless people, miners, Samuel de Champlain and Indigenous and African visionaries, not to mention his musical icon, Gordon Lightfoot.
Detail from Timothy Schwarz’s bronze monument to migrants and asylum seekers, installed last year in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. (Handout)

The Monument of Oppression is made up of two hands stretching up from what looks like a prison cell in the ground. “It’s almost like the figures from the past are coming back and reaching out — and the oppressed are having visibility, and it’s a haunting visibility.”

Instead of demonstrators beheading a statue of Macdonald in Montreal in August, or Victoria City council surreptitiously removing another statue of him in 2018, Schmalz asks us to imagine erecting the Monument of Oppression adjacent to a likeness of Canada’s first prime minister, “with the hands going through the bars and reaching toward the statue.”

That, Schmalz suggests, is a more productive way of dealing with the multi-edged legacy of Macdonald, a dynamic Scotsman who both created the vision for the nation of Canada but also supported establishing residential schools dedicated in part to “Christianizing” Indigenous people.

Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer associated with the “founding” of North and South America, also has a disputed history, which has led activists to recently haul down his statues.

Similar removals and debates have arisen over 19th–century B.C. Chief Justice Matthew Begbie, who had to sentence to death five Indigenous men that a jury had found guilty of murder, but who also learned Indigenous dialects, defended Chinese labourers and had strong friendships with many chiefs.

“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying some Europeans weren’t brutal, say, 100 years ago and further back,” Schmalz said.

“Some early British settlers came to Canada and had this idea they had the real culture and the superior morality. It was actually called the White Man’s Burden. They looked around at the natives and thought, ‘Oh, we’ll make them good British subjects.’ You can acknowledge the settlers’ error and insensitivity.”

But the sculptor says our diverse society should not deal with the inevitable messiness of history by defacing or smashing, in 15 minutes, works of craftsmanship that skilled artists took years to complete.

“You can’t destroy the whole idea of history. Instead of removing it, you have to face it and learn from it. It’s very dangerous to condemn people from 100 and 200 years ago with the morality of today, which is evolving. By doing so you’re saying that our cultural past is absolutely evil. But that’s historically inaccurate and simply untrue.”

Schmalz emphasizes the value of having figurative public statues over more abstract ones, whose meanings are usually vague. He’s created a powerful series called The Homeless Jesus, depicting a shrouded figure sleeping on a bench, one of which is in Vancouver. And he’s currently sculpting a stunning piece, as big as a truck, dedicated to the victims of human trafficking.

Schmalz hopes the piece will serve as a commentary on how slavery, via human trafficking, continues today. Yet somehow, he laments, the modern-day travesty of forced labour, including for sex, is often ignored, unlike slavery of the past.

“I can’t think of one single nation of the world that did not practise slavery, including among Indigenous people. It was a universal thing.” If every historic statue that had some link to past slavery was destroyed, he said, we’d have to eliminate most of the monuments of Rome.

“Should we destroy the Colosseum because it was built by slave labour? We don’t want to just go around the world and destroy. Simply because someone might be sensitive or offended, you can’t edit out our whole history. You have to learn from it.”

Schmalz has worked for three decades as a sculptor, typically 14 hours a day. In addition to standing up for the craftsmanship of artists who creating public monuments, he worries that people who just want to tear them down are revealing their arrogance.

“You are assuming, if you were in that place in that specific time, that you would do something different.”

But, at age 50, he knows most people are simply creatures of their era, conforming to whatever happens to be the unexamined moral beliefs, good, bad and indifferent, of the dominant culture.

That’s why Schmalz reacts when people become devoted to censoring figures of the past. He thinks it’s healthier to focus on the future, and what he calls “finding the truth within specific cultures and philosophies.”

His life-sized piece portraying victims of human trafficking gets us responding to problems in the here and now. And Monument of Oppression forces us to think about how things that many celebrated have caused damage to others.

Destroying symbols from history is easy. But truth-finding, he knows, requires facing up to the moral complexity of the real world.

Source: Douglas Todd: Renowned sculptor touts ‘shock’ rebuttal to, not destruction of, historical statues

‘Birth tourism’ articles in Vancouver press

Two articles on my recent release of the 2019-20 CIHI non-resident self-pay birth statistics (Birth Tourism: Non-resident births 2019-20 numbers show steady increase).

Starting with Douglas Todd of the Vancouver Sun:

The number of women coming to Canada to give birth, which automatically bestows citizenship on the baby, is expanding much faster in British Columbia than the rest of the country.

Richmond Hospital is the centre of the trend, often called “birth tourism.” New data released this week shows one out of four births in the past year at the hospital in the Vancouver suburb, which features many illicit “birth hotels” advertising their services in Asia, were to foreign nationals.

St. Paul’s Hospital and Mount St. Joseph’s Hospital, both in Vancouver, are also fast turning into hubs for birth citizenship, with the two hospitals experiencing a 38 per cent rise in births by non-resident women, one in seven of the total.Virtually no country outside North and South America provides citizenship to babies solely because they’re born on their soil.The newly released figures show there were 4,400 births in Canada in the past year to non-resident mothers, an overall hike of seven per cent. Ontario doctors still preside over the most non-resident births, 3,109, with one hospital in Toronto, Humber River, having a sudden jump of more than 119 per cent.But Ontario’s volume of privately funded procedures has not risen nearly as fast as in B.C., which had a total of 868 non-resident births. That’s a six-fold increase from 2010.

Source: Canadian Institute for Health Information/Andrew Griffith

The new data, compiled by Andrew Griffith, a former senior director of the federal Immigration Department, comes from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which captures billing information directly from hospitals up until the end of March. It doesn’t include births in Quebec.

Birth tourism has recently been strongly condemned by Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, Liberal MLA Jas Johal (Richmond-Queensborough), former Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido (Richmond East), the head of Doctors of B.C. and others.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, which controls immigration policy, has been silent on the matter. Former Conservative party Leader Andrew Scheer said in 2018 he would end birth tourism. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has accused those who raise the issue of being guilty of “division and hate.”

In February, Richmond council sent letters to Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, to leading B.C. politicians and to Vancouver Coastal Health. Council called for “permanent changes to immigration laws which would end automatic Canadian citizenship being bestowed on babies born in Canada to non-resident parents who are not citizens of Canada.”Last week, Mendicino’s department finally responded, saying the minister is aware “of the increase in births by non-residents in Canada” and promised to “monitor” it.“All levels of government are trying to pass the buck” on birth tourism, said Au. He acknowledged Richmond was itself failing to combat the dozens of shadowy birth hotels and agents in the city, which help women give birth in Canada for fees in the tens of thousands of dollars.Ads aimed at women in China who want to have babies in Canada tout luxurious accommodation, birthright citizenship in the “world’s most livable country,” 12 years of free public education, university fees just 10 per cent of those paid by foreign students, free health care and eventual family reunification for the parents of the baby who obtains the passport.Au said Richmond officials could be cracking down on underground birth-tourism operations because they don’t have proper business licences. But council and staff, he said, haven’t yet come up with an effective way to do so.

Au is also suspicious that hospital administrators and the few doctors who perform full-fee deliveries for foreign mothers are not countering the problem for financial reasons. “We don’t want our hospitals dependent on this income.”

Source: Canadian Institute for Health Information/Andrew Griffith

In a piece on his website, Multicultural Meanderings, Griffith says figures provided by the Canadian Institute for Health Information show all “non-resident births” in Canada, which includes women who give birth while here as foreign students or temporary workers. Griffith estimates about 50 per cent of the total are full-blown “birth tourists.”

After Griffith wrote a 2018 piece on the subject for Policy Options, three female academics responded by saying those who want to end birthright citizenship are “demonizing pregnant migrant women,“ “encouraging violence against stateless people” and “fuelling discrimination.”

Nevertheless, the academics supported Griffith’s call for better data. He lamented this week, however, that the federal departments that previously promised to link health care and immigration data to monitor non-resident births have “stalled.”

David Chen, the former Pro Vancouver mayoral candidate, has publicly expressed concern about birth tourism. He said Thursday that granting citizenship to anyone born on Canadian soil “poses problems on several fronts.”

As a child of immigrants, Chen, who is now a vice-chair of Vancouver’s NPA party, said it “shortchanges those who went through proper channels only to see people with much more disposable cash jump the line and have an easier route to Canadian citizenship.”

Australia, Britain, New Zealand, France, Germany and South Africa have all, in relatively recent times, altered their citizenship laws to discourage birth tourism. More than 150 nations do not permit it.

While recognizing the issue is complicated, Au, a nine-year member of council, said he believes he understands the views of most Richmond residents, where the fast-changing population is now 53 per cent ethnic Chinese, 24 per cent white, seven per cent South Asian and seven per cent Filipino.“Ethnic Chinese feel the same as everyone else in Richmond,” he said. “They’re concerned.”

Source: Douglas Todd: ‘Birth tourism’ jumps 22 per cent in B.C.

Graeme Wood in Business intelligence for BC:

It was another record year for birth tourism in B.C., according to new data released by health officials.

The province saw a 21.9% spike in non-resident births between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020, as 868 non-residents of Canada – the vast majority of whom are understood to be Chinese nationals on tourist visas – paid to give birth in local hospitals in order to garner automatic citizenship for their newborns. The prior year, 712 non-residents gave birth in B.C.

“Vancouver area hospitals continue to have the largest percentages of non-resident births, with an active cottage industry supporting women coming to give birth from China,” said researcher Andrew Griffiths, who first reported the new annual data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

The epicentre of the budding industry is Richmond, where an annual record of 502 births to non-residents took place, up from 458 in the year to March 2019 and 474 in the year to March 2018.

Those 502 newborns represent 24% of the 2,094 total newborns at Richmond General Hospital. That is the highest total and share of non-resident births at a hospital across Canada. Meanwhile, Vancouver’s St.Paul’s Hospital is second in the nation, with 14.1% of all births being to non-residents. There, 203 babies were born to non-residents.

Non-resident births also peaked across Canada, with CIHI reporting 4,400 newborns to non-residents in 2019/2020, up 7.3% from the previous year’s total of 4,099, excluding Quebec.

B.C. figures do not include international students, who are enrolled in the public healthcare system. As such, Griffiths said B.C.’s figures are a more accurate indication of birth tourism (those non-residents who fly to Canada for the explicit purpose of obtaining citizenship for their newborns).

Griffiths, a former director general of the Citizenship and Multiculturalism Branch, Department of Citizenship and Immigration, said he estimates about half of the non-resident births outside of B.C. to be tied to parents on tourist visas. However there is no reportable data along those lines, as a federal review of the issue, first announced in November 2018, appears stalled.

“Hopefully, the work to link healthcare and immigration data will resume shortly, not only to provide more accurate numbers with respect to birth tourism but to improve our understanding of healthcare and immigrants more generally,” said Griffiths.

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Non-resident births by hospital, 2018-2019 and 2019-2020. Figure by Andrew Griffiths

Glacier Media requested information on non-resident births tied to patients on tourist visas but Vancouver Coastal Health Authority said such data does not exist and the task to obtain it from paperwork would be too onerous – although such data is what the federal government stated it would acquire in its review.

Canada is one of two Western countries, along with the United States, to offer birthright citizenship – a concept also known as jus soli – meaning babies born to two foreign nationals on tourist visas are granted automatic citizenship.

It remains unclear exactly what the federal government is doing to enact policies to curb the practice. To date, no enforcement measures have been announced, unlike in the U.S., which has convicted “baby house” operators of money laundering and fraud in 2019.

The U.S. State Department further cracked down on birth tourism in January, with a new rule that “travel to the United States with the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for a child by giving birth in the United States is an impermissible basis” for a tourist visa.

The lack of action to address birth tourism, which is widely perceived by the public as an abuse of Canada’s immigration system, has frustrated Richmond community activist Kerry Starchuk, who has documented dozens of “baby houses” in the Vancouver suburb offering accommodation and doula services for Chinese nationals, who typically arrive three to four months prior to giving birth on a six-month or extended tourist visa.

“It’s a joke. It’s so blatant you can see it. They’re advertising this in China,” said Starchuk.

In a written response to Starchuk, dated July 8, 2020, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said it was “aware of the increase in births by non-residents in Canada.”

IRCC said, “While statistics indicate that birth tourism is not widespread, IRCC is researching the extent of this practice, including how many of the non-residents are short term visitors.”

Birth tourism is technically legal in Canada, in so much that nothing bars a pregnant woman from entering Canada to give birth, so long as they are honest with border agents.

“Providing false information or documents when dealing with IRCC is considered misrepresentation and has immigration consequences.  However, non-residents giving birth in Canada is not considered fraud under the Citizenship Act,” stated IRCC.

“Additionally, under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, a persons are not inadmissible nor can they be denied a visa solely on the grounds that they are pregnant or that they may give birth in Canada,” wrote IRCC.

Starchuk said the federal Liberal government has dragged its feet on the matter.

“I’m not interested in writing any more letters. I want action,” she said.

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Non-resident births in Canada by year. Figure by Andrew Griffiths

Richmond Conservative Members of Parliament Kenny Chiu and Alice Wong have proposed a hybrid jus soli policy that would bar those on tourist visas from obtaining citizenship for their newborns. Newborns of non-resident international students, for instance, would continue to obtain citizenship under their proposal.

Griffiths said birth tourism businesses in Richmond are at a stand still with COVID-19 flight restrictions and visitor visas from China down 72.2% between January and March, and down 99.79% by June.

A poll from Research Co. in February, 2019 showed almost three in four (73%) believe it is time to end automatic citizenship for people born in Canada (adopting rules used by most Western countries). An Angus Reid poll in March, 2019 showed 60% of Canadians want the law changed.

Immigration Minister Marco E.L. Mendicino declined to be interviewed on this matter.

Source: Record-setting year for birth tourism in B.C. prior to pandemic