Douglas Todd: Slow vaccine rollout threatens Trudeau’s lofty immigration target

Of note:

Canada’s vaccine rollout, which is slower than 41 other countries, threatens Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chances of reaching his record target for immigration this year. But that could benefit young Canadians and recent migrants struggling to find work during the pandemic.

University of B.C. geographer Daniel Hiebert has found COVID-19 has elevated the number of “underutilized” workers in Canada to almost four million — many of whom will compete with the 401,000 immigrants Ottawa is welcoming in 2021, in addition to temporary workers.

Saying Canada is only about “halfway” through resolving the pandemic through vaccinations, Hiebert told the influential Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of B.C. (AMSSA) it will be a “really significant challenge” to “economically integrate 400,000 newcomers into a labour market with nearly four million looking for work — or more work. It’s completely unprecedented.”

Source: Douglas Todd: Slow vaccine rollout threatens Trudeau’s lofty immigration target

Douglas Todd: ‘If I say I don’t see skin colour, am I racist?’ asks B.C. government agency

Personally, I find the debates over nomenclature less interesting than the substantive issues of discrimination and inequality. That being said, a reasonable billboard campaign, just as the Toronto one “where are you from” was:

Would you ask Doris Day that question?”

That’s how famed jazz singer Billie Holiday responds during a 1957 interview to a journalist who asks, “What it’s like to be a coloured woman?” The scene is in the new movie, The United States vs. Billie Holiday.

The acclaimed singer’s answer reflected the anti-racism approach of that era, which had civil rights leaders urging Americans to see beyond the skin colour of Blacks and other minorities — to treat them equally, like everyone else.

Source: Douglas Todd: ‘If I say I don’t see skin colour, am I racist?’ asks B.C. government agency

Douglas Todd: The ‘diversity’ beat is full of surprises, often conservative

Todd’s personal reflections on his beat:

“Migration, diversity and spirituality writer.” That’s how my signatureblock describes my beat specialties.

The “diversity” tag draws some funny reactions. I once went on a radio talk show where the host joked about it. To him “diversity writer” sounded like liberal-virtue signalling — conjuring up the dream of people of diverse creeds and colours sitting around campfires singing Kumbaya in mutual harmony.

While I quite like the song Kumbaya, as well as the ideal of intercultural harmony, covering the diversity beat for decades has led to the discovery of scores of surprising ethno-religious realities. The diversity beat offers a great journalistic ride for anyone who is curious, since, after all, the word diversity means “a range of different things.”

Source: Douglas Todd: The ‘diversity’ beat is full of surprises, often conservative

Douglas Todd: Economists question decision to boost immigration during pandemic

Good and needed questioning:

Canadian economists are questioning why Ottawa is setting record immigration targets in the middle of unprecedented unemployment caused by the pandemic.

More than 1.7 million Canadians are looking for work, and the economists are warning that the Liberals’ aggressive new target of more than 400,000 new immigrants in 2021 will likely hurt the country’s low-skilled workers, particularly those who have recently become permanent residents.

Source: Douglas Todd: Economists question decision to boost immigration during pandemic

Douglas Todd: Canada’s foreign-student policy needs public review, say experts

Noteworthy from who the call is coming from, the generally pro-immigration experts. Royal commissions appear to have fallen out of  favour given the time involved but nevertheless Canada benefits from those more in-depth reviews:

The public is in the dark about how Canadian immigration policy has been changed to give preference to international students, say experts.

Ottawa should set up a royal commission to look into issues such as whether Canadians agree that foreign students, who tend to come from the “cream of the crop” in their homelands, should go to the front of the line for permanent residence status, says Chris Friesen, who chairs the umbrella body overseeing settlement services in Canada.

Most Canadians have no idea that roughly one in three people approved each year as immigrants — especially during COVID-19-battered 2020 — were already living in the country as either foreign students or temporary workers, says Friesen, who also directs the Immigrant Services Society of B.C., which has provided support to tens of thousands of newcomers.

Source: Douglas Todd: Canada’s foreign-student policy needs public review, say experts

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