Canada needs more immigrants — and not only for the economy

Good nuanced commentary and the need for a broader lens than just demographic and economic:

There’s a problem in persistently defining immigrants as economic drivers that will take Canada to a more prosperous place.

It’s not that the pitch is wrong.

It’s that it is myopic, and it’s pushing Canada to evaluate the movement of people as a pure dollars-and-cents exercise. And that’s short-sighted at a time when we need all the compassion we can get.

Canadians’ impressions of their country as an open and tolerant nation that thrives on diversity have been deeply challenged over the past two weeks — first with the discovery of the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., and then by what police say was an intentional attack on a Muslim family in London, Ont. that left four people dead.

“There’s a growing feeling that we aren’t holding together as best we should,” says Sen. Ratna Omidvar, a vocal proponent of ramping up immigration — and in a way that is not just about economics.

“We need to be more intentional about social cohesion,” she says.

Repeatedly making the case for increasing diversity almost solely on an economic basis doesn’t help — as the federal Liberals themselves used to sense.

In 2016, a group of influential economic advisers led by Dominic Barton, now Canada’s ambassador to China, came up with a list of strategies to ensure Canada’s prosperity over the long term — a list that carries weight to this day. Barton told the federal Liberals that among other things, they should dramatically ramp up immigration as a way to propel Canada’s economy forward

A few cabinet ministers thought it was a great concept at first, but even as the Liberals embraced most of Barton’s other growth recommendations, they eventually balked at the idea, unsure of their ability to sell the public on a complex argument.

Five years later, however, not only are they making the argument, it’s almost to the exclusion of anything else when it comes to immigration. And yes, it’s complex.

Canada’s economy isn’t growing fast enough to maintain our standard of living and fund all the social safety nets we have come to expect, it goes. Plus, labour shortages are all around us, and if they’re not here now, they soon will be.

Since Canadians are retiring faster than they can reproduce, we need to replenish the workforce and bolster the financial foundation of our social safety net by adding many, many more immigrants.

The pandemic set us back in our immigration plans because of closed borders, but the federal government is now actively making up for lost time and then some — a key plank in the recovery strategy. The economic messaging is central — everywhere in Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino’s comments in the House and speeches to the public, the policy documents issued through the immigration department and the pitches Liberal MPs make to their constituents. 

Immigrants create small businesses, fill job vacancies, make our health-care system work, spend money, and support their children to make more money than they did, the message goes.

While Omidvar makes those arguments herself, she says there’s a danger in thinking narrowly.

“You make it about one thing only,” she says. “We have turned immigration into too much of a transactional experience.”

She talks about her own experience moving to Canada from Iran in 1981 and finding her way by joining a local gardening club and planting daffodils with her neighbours.

While she appreciates all the politicians’ speeches about diversity and inclusion in the wake of the London attack, she warns that social cohesion — an essential for quality of life, economic and beyond — comes from a community-based, proactive approach and not the reactive approach she has seen on display over the past couple of weeks. And that means a focus on immigrants as whole people who are valuable members of our communities.

Economist Mikal Skuterud, a professor at the University of Waterloo, doesn’t buy many of the economic arguments around immigration that the federal government is making these days. “It’s hyperbolic, it’s completely exaggerated, and it’s not honest in a lot of cases,” he says.

He argues that immigration could bolster Canada’s prosperity if newcomers are more productive than existing workers, but that’s not always the case. He also points out that if immigrants have the same age distribution as the existing workforce, they won’t do much to change the way the labour force pays for a growing contingent of retirees.

But he does agree with Omidvar that it’s important to evaluate immigration on factors that go well beyond labour and economics, especially if we want to enrich our culture and not just our wallets.

Public opinion polling suggests that Canadians generally view immigration as beneficial to Canada, but the top reasons people give for being pro-immigration are around diversity and multiculturalism. Contributions to the economy come second, says Andrew Parkin, executive director of the Environics Institute for Survey Research. 

For the sake of social peace, perhaps our political rhetoric should take its cue from the public in this case.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/politics/political-opinion/2021/06/10/canada-needs-more-immigrants-and-not-only-for-the-economy.html

Working from home is here to stay — and for some Canadians, that’s a big problem

Good highlighting of the inequalities between those able to work from home and those not, mainly younger, visible minority or immigrant workers with lower income. Working from home appears to be a good overall proxy for privilege and class:

Working from home has a bright side for a lot of us, and we really hope it will outlast the pandemic.

No morning commute, no mad scramble out the door with packed lunches and wet laundry left in the machine to grow mildew all day, no race at the end of the day to tie up all the loose ends before rushing home to make dinner.

But that’s not the case for everyone, and new research shows working from home over the long term is often far less than ideal for young workers, immigrants, racialized workers and people living with disabilities.

In other words, the very same people who have been at the sharp end of the stick during the pandemic now risk being thrust into a precarious situation yet again in a post-pandemic world where working from home becomes a norm.

We can decide right now not to do that.

The Environics Institute teamed up with the Future Skills Centre and Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute to figure out what the workforce of the future looks like and how COVID-19 has disrupted so much. They surveyed almost 5,400 people across the country on what their work-from-home experience has been like, and they also dug down into how age, race, immigrant history and income make a difference. 

And they do make a difference — both during the pandemic and, if the survey is a good indication, afterwards too.

Generally, those of us who are working from home are content with the way things are going, and hope to be able to continue spending at least a couple of days a week in our home offices when the pandemic winds down.

“There’s no going back,” says Andrew Parkin, executive director of the Environics Institute.

The stigma of working from home from time to time has dissipated now that so many people have shown it can be done without compromising quality, he added, and employers will need to figure out how to incorporate work-from-home arrangements over the long term.

Of course, not everyone has shared in that experience during the pandemic. As we know, it’s been mainly white-collar workers who have been able to set up shop at their kitchen tables. About half of us have been going into the workplace regularly throughout the pandemic, while 36 per cent of us have been able to work from home full time, according to a report published last week by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Abacus Data. 

Low-income workers, people of colour and young people have been more likely to have to keep going into their traditional workplaces. They’ve also been most likely to lose their jobs during the pandemic, according to employment data over the past few months. They’ve had a harder time getting back into the workforce. And they’ve also been more likely to be on the front lines of contagion, holding down essential jobs in taking care of the rest of us.

And now, because their jobs are more precarious, they face more uncertainty about how a work-from-home culture that outlasts the pandemic will benefit them. Doing without frequent face time with colleagues, bosses and networks does not sit well with those who have a fragile connection to their workplaces.

“While it’s reassuring to confirm that many workers in Canada have altered their work arrangement in order to minimize the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19, these survey results serve as an important reminder that the ability to do so is closely tied to one’s socio-economic situation,” states the Environics report obtained by the Star.

Young people, for example, say they like working from home and can maintain the quality of their work there. But they’re also more worried than others that working from home will hurt their career prospects — which are already hurting because the pandemic has knocked their employment levels severely.

The same fear is expressed by first- or second-generation immigrants as well as racialized workers, and they, too, have seen more of their jobs disappear during the pandemic.

On top of that, immigrants and racialized workers also say, more than others, that they aren’t properly equipped to work from home, and they’re worried the quality of their work has deteriorated.

Workers with disabilities are also far more likely to say they don’t have the right equipment to work from home.

The implications for post-pandemic work are far-reaching. Business groups have emphasized the need to make sure workplaces are safe to return to, with whatever personal protective equipment and health measures are needed to assure employees aren’t going to get sick.

But the new research shows it’s a lot more complex than that. Some people won’t want to come back, but at the same time, a full embrace of a work-from-home culture will penalize those who are already facing intimidating barriers to their careers and futures.

“The key word is flexibility,” says Parkin, pointing to a need to rethink office space and work flow to make sure a range of needs are accommodated.

We have a few months left of lockdown, constraint and forced work-from-home conditions before we have more options open to us in the world of work. Let’s use them to ensure the reopening is done carefully, giving a fair opportunity to those workers who have already paid such a steep price.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/politics/political-opinion/2021/04/12/working-from-home-is-here-to-stay-and-for-some-canadians-thats-a-big-problem.html

Changing social norms is the key to addressing racism

Good piece by Michael Adams and Keith Neuman:

When the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread in North America last March, it was hard to imagine anything else capturing a large share of public attention in the ensuing months. And then, in May, video footage of the horrific killing of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police ignited a blaze of protest that spread across the United States and also Canada, a country with its own history of colonialism and racism. The depth of the reflection and conversation – public and private – provoked by the protests was unprecedented. For the first time, many of this country’s leaders unequivocally acknowledged the existence of systemic racism in Canada, and reflected the predominant public sentiment. Our own research shows that a significant majority of Canadians now recognize the reality of racial discrimination in this country, especially as it affects people who are Indigenous and Black.

Such recognition of racism in our society is a significant milestone, long in coming. Doing something about it becomes the next step, and represents an even greater challenge given how deeply such prejudice is embedded in Canada’s dominant culture and institutions. Evidence of its pervasiveness confronts us both in personal anecdotes and in hard data on racial disparities across many areas of society – from policing and health to education and social welfare.

It is commonly believed that the biggest obstacle to meaningful change is our inability to recognize our own racial prejudices. The prevalence of unconscious racism or “implicit bias” has been well documented by American social psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt (in her seminal book, Biased) and others. Some have responded by taking steps to make the implicit explicit through education generally, and diversity and anti-racism training in particular. Governments and corporations have invested in programs to teach employees about bias and stereotypes, hoping that raising consciousness will change attitudes, assumptions and behaviour. But the evidence is emerging that this strategy is not effective in producing lasting change, as recently reported in a meta-analysis of close to 1,000 studies of anti-bias interventions.

Efforts to reduce bias through education and training may simply not work because it is impossible to change people’s ingrained mindsets and emotions, at least in the short term. A more promising avenue to consider is the social context in which people operate when they interact with others. Implicit in diversity training is the idea that racism is fuelled mainly by what people know and think, but what matters more is what people say and how they behave in the presence of others. Outward expressions of racism are governed in large part by collective social norms about acceptable behaviour. The term “norms” sometimes gets mentioned in the context of problematic content on social media, but what has yet to receive any serious attention is the concept of “social norms” as a fundamental aspect of society that contributes to the systemic nature of racism and where we might focus to address the problem.

Social norms are widely held expectations about what is, and is not, acceptable to say and do in particular situations. What is distinctive about such norms is that they are not defined by what people think is important to them personally, but by what they see as the social expectations of others whose opinions matter to them. As such, norms exert a powerful influence on how people act in public and social situations, quite apart from what they may think or feel inside.

These norms are typically well entrenched, but do change over time. The Holocaust led many people to decide it was no longer acceptable to articulate anti-Jewish stereotypes. The growing awareness of LGBTQ individuals in society and the legislative endorsement of same-sex marriage both improved attitudes and also made it no longer socially acceptable to trade in homophobic slurs. Many people may still harbour negative views about Jews and LGBTQ people, but most now understand it is no longer okay to express them.

Sometimes social norms change as a result of intentional efforts. Arguably the most striking example is the successful campaign to change norms around tobacco use in public. Just over a generation ago, smoking in public was common, even cool. Today, the behaviour has become effectively “denormalized” as inconsiderate and self-defeating, even as a significant proportion of the population continues to smoke in private. Regulatory measures that restrict smoking in public settings are also important, but it is the norms more than the laws that govern behaviour. By contrast, consider jaywalking, which is also legally forbidden but widely socially accepted.

Social norms play a key role in the dynamics of racism and prejudice because they establish the boundaries around which people act toward those they see as “other.” While internal attitudes and stereotypes are stubbornly resistant to short-term change, action and speech are more amenable to influence and normative pressures. This means that focusing on social norms can be an effective strategy for addressing racism in a meaningful way – especially if the collective norms against intolerance and discrimination are strengthening, which now appears to be happening. Evidence for this can be found in the recent public condemnation of wearing “blackface” in costume, which in a different era was considered by many to be harmless party attire.

There is nothing new about the concept of social norms, which social scientists have studied in academic settings and applied to public health challenges in developing countries. What has been missing is the practical application of this science to important societal problems such as racism, as well as other pressing challenges such as promoting physical distancing during a pandemic. The essential starting point is to first properly define and measure specific social norms about race-related actions and speech in order to determine their breadth and strength across the population (a type of research our institute now plans to undertake). Such information can then point to where interventions might be directed – to reinforce “positive norms” that are currently prevalent in society (no wearing of blackface) and de-normalizing “negative norms” (e.g., telling jokes that demean the “other”). This might take the form of public awareness campaigns (as was done to de-normalize public smoking) or employee-directed programs. Government and corporate leaders might be effective communicators of appropriate normative behaviour, to the extent they are credible and can exert influence over relevant audiences (which research might confirm).

Today in Canada, our understanding of the current reality of racial injustice is at odds with our stated aspirations of justice and inclusion. This tension provides us with a valuable opportunity to create a more just society by developing new strategies that effectively apply normative pressures on each other to do a better job of treating each other as we ourselves expect to be treated.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-changing-social-norms-is-the-key-to-addressing-racism/

‘Dramatic’ decline in Canadians who say discrimination against Black and Chinese communities is not a problem here

Yet another interesting survey from Environics with this encouraging trend:

There has been a “dramatic” decline in the proportion of Canadians who say that discrimination against Black and Chinese communities is no longer a problem in Canada, a new study has found.

The study, conducted by the Environics Institute alongside Vancity, Century Initiative and the University of Ottawa, is based on research conducted over the course of two public opinion surveys, which were completed in August and September. The first survey was conducted online, and gauged the opinions of 3,008 Canadians. The second survey was based on telephone interviews with 2,000 Canadians, and is accurate within plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.

The surveys have found that there is little divide on the issue of racism in Canada: the views of those that identify as white and those who are racialized have both shifted in the same direction.

The proportion of Canadians who said that discrimination against Chinese-Canadians is no longer an issue has fallen by just over half. In 2019, 63 per cent of Canadians said it was no longer a problem. In 2020, only 31 per cent agreed that discrimination against Chinese-Canadians was no longer a problem.

Similar trends emerged for how Canadians perceive racism against Black communities: Fewer than half as many — 20 per cent — say it is no longer an issue in Canada than in 2019, when 47 per cent said racism against Black Canadians was no longer an issue.

While many Canadians disagreed discrimination against Indigenous communities was no longer a problem last year, the proportion of people that strongly disagreed grew from 29 per cent in 2019 to 43 per cent this year.

The proportion of Canadians that “agree that it is more difficult for non-white people to be successful in Canadian society” has also grown from 2019, the study found.

There has been a decline over the last decade in confidence in local police and the RCMP, the study survey showed, with 73 per cent of Canadians saying they have a lot or some confidence in police. Meanwhile, 64 say the same about the RCMP. In 2010, 88 per cent expressed confidence in local police, and 84 per cent expressed confidence in the RCMP.

Andrew Parkin, executive director of the Environics Institute, told the Star that typically, opinions change gradually. This year, though, there are clear, sharp changes in the way Canadians view race and policing.

“In the report, we call (the shift) dramatic — and I don’t think we’re exaggerating,” Parkin said. “That’s a dramatic change in a short period of time.”

The major changes in public perception suggest “that something grabbed the public’s attention and led them to think about these issues in a different way from which they’ve been thinking about them before,” he said.

The report cites the wide public discussion around police brutality, anti-Black racism protests and the publicity of racist behaviour towards Chinese-Canadians in the wake of COVID-19 as the likely trigger for the shift.

The report “certainly shows a more openness to the idea of systemic racism,” Parkin said.

The shift in thinking shows “we’re moving forward,” said Marva Wisdom, a senior fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. “I think that is a good thing. So I am very, very hopeful.”

The survey matches up with what those on the ground doing anti-racism work are experiencing and hearing, she said. However, Wisdom said she’s feeling cautious about the results.

There is “vigilance that has to go along with this,” she said. “It’s critical, and it’s important and while I’m hopeful, I also recognize that we have to build in sustainability in the work that we’re doing.”

Public perception “has never been like this before, the response has never been this consistently positive,” Wisdom said.

“People are working to read books and finding out how they can learn about systemic racism. And, I cannot understate how important that is for our country, our communities, and for especially Black and Indigenous populations going forward.”

Source: ‘Dramatic’ decline in Canadians who say discrimination against Black and Chinese communities is not a problem here

For the survey:  Final Report,  Detailed Data Tables

Canadians becoming more accepting of immigrants and refugees, despite pandemic, survey suggests

The latest from the Environics Institute, which has been tracking immigration attitudes for some 30 years with consistent questions and is one of the more reliable surveys.

Stronger levels of support than I would have expected given COVID-19, highlighting the degree to which Canadian attitudes differ from most other countries:

Canadians are steadily becoming more open and accepting of immigrants and refugees despite uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a new survey indicates.

In the past year, Canadians’ views toward immigration became more positive than they have been in more than four decades, according to a new survey from Environics Institute, Century Initiative and the University of Ottawa.

The poll provided exclusively to The Globe and Mail shows that two-thirds of Canadians now reject the idea that immigration levels are too high.

When asked if respondents agree or disagree with the statement: “Overall, there is too much immigration to Canada,” 66 per cent said they disagree, an increase of three percentage points from last year, while 27 per cent said they agree with the statement, down seven percentage points, and fewer than 7 per cent have a clear opinion either way.

Strength in opinion has also shifted, the survey found, with 39 per cent of Canadians strongly disagreeing with the statement, and the trend is consistent across the country and among different demographics.

The survey report said that since the pandemic left millions of Canadians out of work and confined to their homes, people might be expected to turn away from immigration. But it said the results indicate the pandemic has not diminished Canadians’ openness.

Keith Neuman, senior associate of Environics, said the overall positive trend is significant because it’s not specific to certain parts of the population.

“We’re seeing this kind of positive trend in almost every region and demographic group we’ve identified, so it is not limited to simply east versus west or only young people, or only people with the most education, or income,” he said.

Mr. Neuman said even groups who have historically been less supportive of immigration became more supportive over the past year.

The survey report said the increase in support of current immigration levels is noticeable among Albertans, people with lower household incomes and first-generation Canadians.

Past surveys showed views on immigration polarized along political lines, but Mr. Neuman said this gap narrowed a bit over the past year.

The survey shows 81 per cent of NDP supporters favour the current immigration levels, as do 75 per cent of Liberal Party voters, both up a tad since last year. The positive trend is most noticeable among federal Conservative Party supporters, with 52 per cent disagreeing with the statement that there is too much immigration to Canada, up seven percentage points.

The survey also shows that 84 per cent of respondents agreed immigration has a positive impact on the Canadian economy, up four percentage points from last year. Fifty per cent of respondents strongly agree with the statement that over all, immigration has a positive impact on the economy, and 12 per cent disagree, with 4 per cent having no opinion.

“Belief in immigration as an economic driver is the majority view across the country, expressed by over 70 per cent in every province and identified demographic group,” the report said.

Seventy-eight per cent of Canadians disagreed with the statement “Immigrants take jobs away from other Canadians,” reflecting a significant increase of 11 percentage points from 2015. This view is also reflected in every region and demographic.

Mr. Neuman said this survey is conducted every six months, when possible, but at least annually, and repeats the same questions to determine how sentiment evolves.

He said every question shows people feel more positive about immigrants.

“What we’re seeing is the continuation of a trend that has been happening for the last few years. So these trend lines for the most part have not reversed, they’re extending the trend we started seeing particularly about two years ago.”

The survey of 2,000 Canadians was conducted Sept. 8 to 23, 2020, through telephone interviews on landline and cellphone. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points in 19 times out of 20.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-canadians-becoming-more-accepting-of-immigrants-and-refugees-despite/

Link to report: https://www.environicsinstitute.org/docs/default-source/project-documents/fc-fall-2020—immigration/focus-canada-fall-2020—public-opinion-on-immigration-refugees—final-report.pdf?sfvrsn=bd51588f_2

Canada is not the regionally divided country it’s made out to be

The latest from Environics who conducted the 2020 Confederation of Tomorrow survey:

The one thing that the October 2019 federal election appeared to make clear was just how regionally divided the country had become. The Liberals were shut out of Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Conservatives fared almost as poorly in Toronto and Montreal, and the sovereigntist Bloc Québécois rebounded to form the third largest party in the House of Commons. With no party having an overall majority, none of the issues that drove the campaign, such as how to mitigate climate change, were settled.

An in-depth look at public opinion, however, casts doubt on the conclusion Canada is more regionally divided than ever. Certainly, Canadians are divided on how best to balance the environment and the economy. But the 2020 edition of the Confederation of Tomorrow survey shows that this division of opinion does not pit one region against another. It exists within every part of the country.

At the start of 2020, a slight majority of Canadians (52 per cent) agreed that protecting the environment is more important than protecting jobs. But what is most striking is that, across the country, agreement was either just below or just above 50 per cent, rather than heavily weighted to one side or the other. Alberta is no different: the province is split right down the middle, with almost as many agreeing as disagreeing with the proposition.

About one in two Canadians (48 per cent) also favour a gradual phase-out of the use of fossil fuels so that we can move to more renewable sources of energy without suddenly putting people who work in the oil and gas industry out of work. The remainder are split between an accelerated or delayed phase-out.

But again, Canadians are less regionally divided than might be expected. In every jurisdiction, a plurality favours a gradual phase-out of fossils fuels. Agreement with this compromise option ranges from 41 per cent in P.E.I. to 54 per cent in B.C. In Alberta, 44 per cent favour this option, which is only slightly lower than the national average.

Where differences emerge is on the second-place choice. Twenty-eight percent of Quebecers favour a more rapid phase-out, even at the cost of jobs in the oil-and-gas sector, compared to only 10 per cent in Alberta. Conversely, 37 per cent of Albertans, say we should delay any phase-out and focus on protecting the jobs of people who work in industries like oil and gas, compared with only 10 per cent in Quebec.

To put these figures in perspective, imagine putting 100 Albertans and 100 Quebecers in a room together and asking them to discuss how quickly we should phase out the use of fossil fuels in order to address climate change. Sixty-four people from each province could find someone from the other province who held the same opinion as them. Another nine on each side could find a partner who, like them, was undecided. That leaves 54 people out of 200 who would be left facing someone who disagrees with them, perhaps strongly, on whether we need to speed up or slow down the transition to renewable source of energy.

(Environics, Confederation of Tomorrow partnership)

These differences are important. But just as they should not be swept under the carpet, they should not obscure the fact that 146 of the 200 people in the room (73 per cent) would have no quarrel with their partner from the other province.

There are good reasons why our regional differences tend to be exaggerated. The electoral system is one—by painting whole regions of the country in one colour, it obscures the diversity of opinions that lies underneath. Entrepreneurial political leaders are also adept at mobilizing those differences that do exist to their electoral advantage. And first ministers like to present themselves as championing the positions of their entire constituency, when in fact a significant portion of the citizens they represent disagree with their approach.

These political manoeuvres are understandable, but the public and the media should look beyond them. The conclusion of the Confederation of Tomorrow survey is not that we are all on the same page. It is simply that divisions on key issues like how to fight climate change exist right across the country. This may sound like a strange way to think about national unity. But acknowledging the diversity of views in every region is a good first step to defusing the political tensions that sometime threaten to tear us apart.

Source: Canada is not the regionally divided country it’s made out to be

Yes Canada, we too have an anti-Black racism problem

Good reminder of the insights from the Black Experience Project:

The anguish and confrontations spreading across the United States in response to the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer have captured the attention of news audiences in that country and around the world. We are transfixed by images of shocking police brutality and the widespread community resistance they have inspired.

But Canadians should challenge themselves to look past the deeply disturbing American news clips and reflect on the situation here at home, including the recent death in Toronto of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29 year-old Black woman. If we do, we will learn there is no room for complacency in this country.

When we look in the mirror, we see a society in which Black people are regularly treated unfairly because of their race. The Black Experience Project, which focused on the Greater Toronto Area, found that two-thirds of the region’s Black residents report being treated unfairly on a continuing basis. The forms that this treatment takes are specific, varied and tragic.

Three in five young Black men say they are frequently or occasionally accused of something or treated suspiciously because of their race, and a similar proportion report being observed or followed while in public places. Three in four say that others frequently or occasionally are afraid of them or intimidated because of their race.

In the case of young Black women, more than 60 per cent say that others frequently or occasionally expect their work to be inferior because of their race, and that they are treated rudely or disrespectfully because of the colour of their skin.

When it comes to dealings with police – the focal point for the current wave of protests – things only get worse. One in two Black Torontonians and a staggering 80 per cent of Black men between the ages of 25 and 44 report that they have been stopped in a public place by the police. Two in five Black Torontonians and two in three Black men between 25 and 44 say they have been harassed or treated rudely by police.

In short, this unique survey research shows that Black youth in Canada’s largest city are growing up being observed, questioned, dismissed and belittled by their fellow citizens because of their race, and are routinely harassed by the very public institution that we should turn to for protection.

Yes Canada – we, too, have an anti-Black racism problem.

Racism doesn’t stop there. The recent Race Relations in Canada Survey found that Indigenous peoples in Canada are just as likely as Black people to experience unfair treatment because of their race. South Asian and Chinese Canadians also experience racism; fewer than one in five say this never happens to them.

If there is any good news to hold onto in these bleak times, it is that, on the whole, Canadians are not in denial about this reality. Three-quarters of white Canadians recognize that Black people in this country are either frequently or occasionally the subject of discrimination in Canadian society. Just a handful (3 per cent) said this never happens.

Yet this general recognition of the problem carries us only so far. Three in 10 non-Indigenous Canadians disagree with the statement that it is easy to understand the anger of Indigenous peoples, as do 39 per cent of non-Black people in the case of the anger of Black Canadians. Somehow, a significant number of Canadians seem to expect that people who experience racism should not get too upset about it.

That ship has sailed.

Will things change for the better? The survey research provides some grounds for optimism. Canadians from all racial groups are more likely to say that race relations in this country are getting better as opposed to getting worse. And, crucially, personal connections among racial groups in Canada are growing.

The majority of Canadians not only have regular contact with people from other races, but contact that is overwhelming described as friendly. These friendships can only deepen our understanding of each other’s experiences.

Most strikingly, six in 10 Canadians are optimistic there will be racial equality in Canada in their lifetime; just one in four are pessimistic. Pessimism, at 30 per cent, is higher for Black Canadians, but is not the majority view. When we ask non-white Canadians whether the next generation will experience more racism than today or less, they are much more likely to anticipate that racism will diminish.

These results were collected before George Floyd was killed. The optimism that shone a few months ago may well have diminished in recent days. It will not be rekindled by congratulating ourselves for doing better than our American cousins. The determination to do better needs to be reborn and sustained by our own actions to confront and eliminate racism in Canada, not just by institutions and authorities such as the police, but by each and every one of us.

Source: Yes Canada, we too have an anti-Black racism problem: Michael Adams and Marva Wisdom

Adams and Parkin: The coronavirus pandemic will not dent the trust Canadians have in each other

Of note. To be tested but does seem like the trust factor remains, both for individuals and organizations:

In just a few days, we went from wondering how COVID-19 would affect us to finding ourselves in the midst of a national emergency. Many expect major disruptions to expose the weak patches in our civic fabric, and there have been, and will continue to be, actions and episodes that have disappointed and shocked. Some people have hoarded and even resold supplies for a quick profit; some have refused to follow public-health directives; some have tried to collect payments from those thrown out of work.

Many Canadians have no doubt also seen a cascade of headlines in recent years announcing the decline of trust in Western societies. We have been told that “2019 had the ‘highest level of democratic discontent’ since detailed global recording began in 1995,” that the quality of democracy is declining, while “growing political polarization has made the day-to-day work of governance … more difficult,” and that a “majority worldwide say their society is broken,” to cite just a few examples.

Compounded together as this pandemic accelerates, these concerns have left Canadians wondering whether we have the cultural and institutional resilience to respond effectively. Do we trust each other, our institutions and our leadership to work together to defeat this virus?

Leaving aside the question of whether these reports accurately capture trends unfolding elsewhere, it would be a mistake to assume that they are reliable guides to trends in Canada. Our surveys have found that we remain one of the most trusting societies in the world when it comes to our institutions and values – and so, most Canadians will surely react to this crisis exactly as good neighbours, co-workers and citizens should.

Support for Canada’s democracy is high and has been slowly rising over the past decade, from 70 per cent in 2010 to 76 per cent in 2019. Satisfaction with public services such as health care also currently sits at 75 per cent, which is higher than the average among members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The country has become less, not more, polarized; opinions among those on the left and right of the political spectrum (79 per cent and 78 per cent, respectively) have been converging in their satisfaction with our democracy.

Xenophobia and anti-immigration sentiment has weakened, as suggested by our October, 2019, survey that found 50 per cent of Canadians felt “too many immigrants do not adopt Canadian values,” the lowest proportion expressing this view since Environics began asking the question in 1993 (when 72 per cent voiced such concerns).

And even in the midst of heated disputes on energy and climate policies and other issues, two-thirds of Canadians told us they have a great deal or some confidence in our ability to resolve our internal differences, reflecting a majority view in all 13 provinces and territories.

If attitudes to our political system seem a bit abstract, consider these more concrete findings from a study of social capital we conducted in Toronto in 2018. At that time, most residents of Canada’s biggest city agreed that people in their neighbourhood can be trusted and that people in their community are willing to help their neighbours. Nine in 10 said people working together as a group could make a difference in solving problems in their community. And most expressed high levels of trust, not only in members of their own family, but also in the people they work or go to school with.

Perhaps most remarkably, a comparison to earlier research shows no erosion in these measures of social capital over the past decade, even after the arrival of more than one million newcomers from around the world. They have quickly become our trusted neighbours, too.

Having a trusting society does not mean having an uncritical one, either. Where once we nearly automatically deferred to political, business and religious elites, Canadians now greet election promises and corporate advertising with a healthy dose of skepticism. This is not a sign that society is broken – rather, it shows that it has matured.

To suggest that trust is declining in Canada not only ignores the available research, but risks counterproductively sowing doubt in our own minds about our institutions, our capacity for responsible leadership, our will for collective action and our instinct for mutual support.

Of course, trust alone cannot protect us from COVID-19. Nevertheless, it is worth acknowledging that we have a reservoir of trust to draw on as we navigate these unprecedented circumstances together. The wait for a vaccine may be long, but an extra dose of hope, courtesy of our fellow Canadians, will not hurt.

Source: The coronavirus pandemic will not dent the trust Canadians have in each other Michael Adams and Andrew Parkin

Last election marked shift in the type of growth Canadians are seeking

More interesting analysis on the recent election by Andrew Parkin of Environics Institute:

There is never any shortage of public opinion polls on the eve of an election. A steady stream of data sets up the electoral contest by gauging who is starting in a leading position and who is lagging at the back of the pack.

The main limitation of this type of “horserace” data is that it doesn’t help us anticipate what might happen next. To get a good sense of how the campaign might unfold, we need to know more about the public’s mood – what citizens are feeling good about, and what is keeping them from getting a good night’s sleep. Not that broader survey data on issues and outlook can foretell the eventual outcome with any degree certainty. Human actions and reactions will always disrupt the expected course of events, especially during election campaigns. But a good understanding of the wider context of public opinion on the eve of an election should minimize the extent of our surprise at what ultimately transpires.

This applies, for example, to the issue of inclusive growth – the notion that economic growth and the equitable distribution of its benefits should be seen as mutually reinforcing rather than mutually exclusive policy objectives. Talk of inclusive growth has animated international forums such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Economic Forum for much of the last decade. In Canada it was a central preoccupation of the federal Liberal government that was elected in 2015.

While the term inclusive growth has only recently moved into the vernacular, we can still ask whether, as the government sought a second mandate in 2019, the public was feeling more or less included in the country’s prosperity, and whether historic fissures in Canadian society seem to be widening or closing.

At first glance, the data suggest that the public should have been fairly receptive in October 2019 to the incumbent Liberal government’s claim to have made growth more inclusive. At that time the proportion of Canadians citing the economy as the country’s most important problem had declined to 14 percent, the lowest level since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008. More Canadians were feeling positive about both the country’s and their own economic situation. The proportion of Canadians saying that it was a good time to find a job in the area where they live had jumped from 36 percent in 2015 to 61 percent in 2018. And the proportion describing their own incomes as inadequate had dropped 10 points (from 39 percent to 28 percent) over the course of the Liberals’ first mandate. As they headed back to the polls, they could hardly have wished for more (figure 1).

All these numbers, however, reflect national trends, and they obscure contrasting regional ones. The modest 5-point increase since 2014 in the proportion of Canadians with a favourable view of the country’s economic situation subsumed the much larger 22-point increase in Quebec, and a counter-acting 22-point drop in Alberta. In fact, over the course of five years (between 2014 and 2019 – a relatively short space of time), Quebec and Alberta had essentially switched places: in 2014 Quebec was the least economically optimistic and Alberta the most optimistic province; the reverse was true in 2019.

In Canada, the issue of inclusive growth is not just about equity across social groups, it is also about equity across regions.  Framed in this way, it was less of a “winning issue” for the incumbent government than they might otherwise have expected (figure 2).

No one who had these Alberta numbers in full view, then, would have been surprised that the Liberals were shut out of the province in terms of seats come election night. But the flip side of the story is also important. Going into the 2019 election campaign, it would have been useful if the opposition parties had thought harder about what they were offering voters in Quebec. This might have prompted them to go beyond a pitch based on the premise of how much harder it was getting to make ends meet. (At the city level, affordable housing and the rising cost of living were top issues for those living in Toronto and Vancouver, but not Montreal.)

A sober review of public opinion data as they pertain to notions of inclusion also helps explain something that didn’t happen during the 2019 election campaign. In the wake of increases in the number of refugees “irregularly” crossing the Canada-US border in Quebec and Manitoba, and the launching of the Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada, which had an overtly anti-immigration platform, the risk that immigration would emerge as a defining (and divisive) election issue appeared high. But it did not become a defining issue, largely because, in spite of some heated rhetoric on talk radio and social media, Canadians themselves have never felt more positively about immigration than they did on the eve of the 2019 campaign.

The proportion of Canadians who say there is too much immigration in Canada was trending downward, as was the proportion questioning the legitimacy of refugee claimants (figure 3). While in 2018 and the spring of 2019 one in two Canadians agreed that too many immigrants do not adopt Canadian values, this was the lowest figure ever recorded (in 1993, three in four Canadian held this view). Perhaps most importantly, heading into the election, in April 2019, only 3 percent of Canadians felt that immigration was the most important issue facing the country (a proportion that was nine times lower as that in the United States).

Further analysis also reveals that attitudes on immigration in Canada correlate less strongly with economic concerns than they do with general political outlook (that is to say, ideology). So despite the overall brighter mood in 2019, plenty of Canadians were anxious about the economy and their own financial situation as election day approached. But this anxiety propelled them to blame Ottawa insiders, not newly arrived outsiders. In retrospect, then, the table was not set for a heated debate about immigration, and it should have come as no surprise that the more a party pushed this issue to the fore, the worse they did on election night.

Looking back, however, there was one signal in the pre-election polls that might have warranted more attention. While fewer Canadians were expressing concerns about the economy, more were expressing concerns about the environment – and specially about climate change. In fact, by the spring of 2019, climate change had overtaken the economy as the top issue for Canadians for the first time since the onset of the economic crisis in 2008. That said, in spring 2019, the proportion of Canadians singling out climate change as their top issue was only 14 percent – up from 5 percent two years earlier, and tied in order of importance with the similar proportion expressing concern about the quality of government leadership.

At that time, there was no way of knowing whether the share of Canadians preoccupied with climate change was already peaking or just beginning to grow. It took a subsequent survey, conducted during the election campaign, to reveal the answer. We now know that the priorities of Canadians were evolving quickly over the course of 2019; by October, the proportion citing climate change as the country’s top problem had jumped a further 10 points, to reach 24 percent, while the proportion concerned with the either the economy or government leadership continued to fade. This trend was especially pronounced in Quebec, where the proportion preoccupied by climate change doubled from 18 percent to 37 percent between the spring and fall of 2019

So, heading into the 2019 election, Quebecers were less concerned about the economy or the cost of living than other Canadians – a pattern that the pre-election survey data made clear. What could perhaps have been better anticipated was the extent to which this was creating space for climate change to emerge as one of the defining issues of the campaign, in Quebec and beyond.

In retrospect, the election campaign was decided more by the issue of sustainable growth – the question of how to balance economic and environmental imperatives – than by that of inclusive growth, which is perhaps why the opposition parties’ strategy of approaching the carbon tax mostly as a pocket-book issue had limited appeal.

Source: Last election marked shift in the type of growth Canadians are seeking

Canada shares expertise with Germany on successfully integrating immigrants

Over the years, there has been a steady stream of German politicians and officials coming to Canada to learn about Canadian immigration policies and programs.

Environics and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung did an interesting comparison of public attitudes between the two countries: Public sentiment toward immigrants and refugees: Current perspectives in Canada and Germany

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino was in Germany this week to share what Canada has learned from an immigration program that helps newcomers find jobs and learn about life in Canada before they arrive.

At the invitation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mendicino took part in a summit looking at best practices for integrating migrants. Canada was the only foreign country the Germans invited to take part in the summit.

“Our friends in Germany see Canada as a role model, as a country that has achieved success,” Mendicino told CBC News.

Canada’s pre-arrival settlement services provide newcomers with information and supports, including employment assistance, while they’re still overseas. The goal of the program is to better prepare immigrants to ease into Canadian society by educating them about life in Canada and navigating roadblocks they could encounter.

An internal government audit in 2018 found that while the program was valuable in helping newcomers, it had a low uptake due to a lack of widespread awareness about the services available. It concluded there was a “missed opportunity.”In response to that finding, the government set aside $113 million to raise the profile of the program. Mendicino said a recent survey showed that 85 per cent of people who used the services said the program helped them find them a job, and about 88 per cent said the program helped them get foreign credentials recognized in Canada.

Boost for productivity, growth

“If we are able to facilitate integration by speeding up the processes and helping immigrants to land a job, then that will contribute to productivity and growth. It will mean that one more job vacancy is filled and that will contribute to a stronger economy as a whole,” Mendicino said.

The minister said Canada’s pre-arrival settlement services program has been around for about 20 years, undergoing various refinements and adjustments over that period.

Describing Canada and Germany as “like-minded countries,” Mendicino said the two nations have shared values and an understanding that solid integration of immigrants leads to better outcomes for both the newcomers and the country’s economy.

Canada has been praised in past on the world stage for programs that attract and retain workers to communities outside large urban centres, and that link immigration to labour gaps.”What we’re discovering is that some of our strongest G7 partners like Germany are starting to look at Canada as a role model, so that tells me that we certainly have been recognized for having a specific expertise in this area,” he said.

Last year, the OECD praised Canada’s economic migration system as one of the most successful in the world. It said Canada is widely seen as a “benchmark” for other countries.

Programs that assist in successful immigration and attract skilled workers are key to meeting the economic challenges of the future, Mendicino said.

“We will really benefit from continuing to grow our country and our economy through immigration, and that’s part of the narrative that I shared with our friends in Germany,” he said.