Two years after signing BlackNorth Initiative, majority of companies have failed to make substantial progress on diversity, survey shows

Good to see the tracking. Good highlighting of some of the better practices that can be more broadly applied (both for Blacks and other minorities):

Some of the largest companies in Canada that announced high-profile commitments to address anti-Black systemic racism two years ago have made major strides in improving the number of Black employees hired and elevated into executive roles, a Globe and Mail analysis has found.

But those companies remain among a minority of signatories of the BlackNorth Initiative – a 2020 pledge aimed at tackling systemic racism – to make substantial progress toward the diversity goals they committed to meet over five years.

On three prominent metrics – the number of Black employees, Black executives and Black directors – only about 10 per cent of the 481 companies that signed on have reported an improvement in any of those categories over the past two years.

Among 145 companies that responded to The Globe’s survey in the spring of 2022, the median percentage of Black employees increased to 4.8 per cent, up from 3.7 per cent in 2020, before companies signed the BlackNorth pledge.

But 70 per cent of companies that signed the pledge either did not respond to The Globe’s survey this spring about the racial composition of their work force, or said they did not track that data. Thus, improvements in the number of Black and other racialized employees since 2020 were only apparent among the minority of companies that responded to The Globe with detailed data.

“I think it’s safe to say that a low response rate correlates to the slow amount of change that is happening,” said Kike Ojo-Thompson, founder and chief executive of the KOJO Institute, a Toronto-based diversity, equity and inclusion consultancy.

While projects such as the initiative encourage companies to assess themselves and provide external accountability, they also highlight areas in which corporate Canada has yet to improve.

To Dahabo Ahmed-Omer, executive director of the BlackNorth Initiative, it’s no surprise that many companies are slow to make progress. “It’s not just about putting a signature on the dotted line. That’s not what this initiative is about,” she said.

The initiative, a Toronto-based non-profit organization, was founded by Bay Street financier and philanthropist Wes Hall in July, 2020, amid a wave of global Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the murder of Minneapolis resident George Floyd by a white police officer. Broadly speaking, the initiative encouraged employers to commit to targets to raise the number of Black employees, and to ensure no barriers exist for Black employees trying to advance.

Companies were challenged to commit to a seven-pronged pledge over five years, including promises to have at least 3.5 per cent of board and executive roles occupied by Black people by 2025, and ensure Black student hires make up 5 per cent of the overall intern population of a workplace. Signatories also committed to investing at least 3 per cent of corporate donations in organizations that create economic opportunities in the Black community.

The initiative was swiftly embraced by corporate Canada. Within days of its launch, more than 200 prominent companies, including Rogers Communications Inc., most of the Big Five banks, and multinational heavyweights such as Coca-Cola and Adidas signed on. Many were quick to issue news releases, reiterating their commitments to diversity, and promising to address anti-Black systemic racism within their workplaces.

Over the following 12 months, close to 500 companies of all sizes – including The Globe – signed on. BlackNorth itself expanded – in headcount and the value of corporate donations it received – as it became the pre-eminent entity advising corporate Canada on diversity and equity.

This spring, The Globe surveyed all 481 companies that have signed the pledge to assess progress toward the five-year goals. The survey was similar to The Globe’s survey last yearof 209 companies that signed the pledge in July, 2020.

The Globe asked companies to respond to an 18-question survey based on the seven goals in the pledge, and gave companies roughly six weeks to respond.

The questions were designed to determine how the diversity of the companies’ work forces – particularly the composition of Black employees – has changed since the summer of 2020. The Globe also collected data on the number of Black directors and executives.

The Globe showed some improvement itself in the number of Black executives and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) employees in its work force. Currently, 10 per cent of executive roles are held by Black employees, up from zero in 2020.

The Globe doesn’t track the total number of Black employees, but says 30 per cent of employees are now BIPOC, up from 25 per cent before The Globe signed the pledge in late 2020. However, as a private company with a small board, The Globe does not have a Black board member.

Critically, just 30 per cent of BlackNorth signatories – or 145 companies – responded to The Globe’s survey, significantly lower than last year’s response rate. Twelve additional companies did not respond, but provided separate written submissions on how they worked toward meeting their diversity goals.

Among the companies that responded, many either chose not to disclose numerical data on the racial composition of their organizations, or said they did not track it.

However, almost all the companies that responded, even those that did not last year, said they have established diversity leadership councils and come up with a strategic “diversity and inclusion plan,” which were two requirements of the BlackNorth pledge.

Other key findings of The Globe survey from the 145 companies that responded:

  • The median number of Black employees across those companies increased over the past two years – from 3.7 per cent in 2020, to 4 per cent in 2021, to 4.8 per cent in 2022.
  • The median number of BIPOC employees also increased – from 25.6 per cent in 2020, to 31.9 per cent in 2021, to 33 per cent in 2022.
  • The median number of Black executives increased from 0 per cent in 2020, to 1 per cent in 2021, to 2 per cent in 2022.
  • A majority of companies tracked the number of Black directors on their boards. The median percentage increased from 0 per cent in 2020 and 2021, to 0.5 per cent currently.
  • There was a marked improvement in the number of companies that tracked diversity data since signing the BNI pledge. For example, before signing, just 40 per cent of the 145 companies said they tracked data on the number of Black employees. In 2022, the proportion increased to 60 per cent.
  • 30 companies with more than 5,000 employees – including Manulife Financial Corp., SickKids hospital and HSBC Canada – made significant gains in the number of Black directors. The median number of Black board members was 6.5 per cent in 2022, increasing from 2.35 per cent last year.

The results were, for the most part, better than last year, when a majority of companies made little to no improvement in hiring or elevating the number of Black people, mainly because they did not have the right systems in place to track diversity data.

Source: Two years after signing BlackNorth Initiative, majority of companies have failed to make substantial progress on diversity, survey shows

Why aren’t more hate crime charges being laid in Canada? A Globe and Mail analysis examines police performance across the country

Good in-depth useful analysis. Money quotes:

A Globe and Mail analysis examined the performance of the country’s 13 largest municipal and regional forces, six of which had multiple officers dedicated full-time to solving hate crimes. The average rates at which individual forces solved a hate crime by charging someone – or “cleared” it, in police-speak – varied widely, ranging from six per cent to 28 per cent. But, in general, those forces that devoted more resources, such as full-time investigators and community liaison officers – like Montreal, which had an overall rate of 27 per cent through The Globe’s data period – tended to lay charges more often.

Those that did not fared the worst. Winnipeg, which has long had only a part-time co-ordinator reviewing their colleague’s hate crimes cases, ranked lowest in the Globe analysis at six per cent.

 2018 European Union study of the “life cycle” of hate-crimes cases in Sweden, England and Wales, Ireland, Latvia and the Czech Republic may hold clues for Canada as to how a suspect’s bias is often “filtered out” during the criminal justice process. The study found that this happened at the beginning, when police initially recorded the incident, but failed to tag the hate motivation behind it.

Researchers in England and Wales noted from interviews with prosecutors that many officers were well-versed in the nuances of racial or religious discrimination, but they often missed a suspect’s bias against other protected groups, such as those with disabilities. Prosecutors too often relied on the words uttered by a suspect as they committed a hate crime, and may not be as adept at proving this bias when prosecuting incidents where nothing was said at all.

“They talk about hate disappearing as you move through – and that’s clearly what is happening here [in Canada],” said Dr. Perry.

Source: Why aren’t more hate crime charges being laid in Canada? A Globe and Mail analysis examines police performance across the country

@JohnIbbitson: Canadians need to form a consensus on long-term #immigration policy [but what should that consensus be?]

John Ibbitson follows on this previous article, Politics It’s time for Canada to focus on expanding our population, highlighting former PM Mulroney’s call for increased immigration and a Canadian population around 100m by the turn of the century and the need for a white paper to help build the arguments to get us there.

However, before we get too caught up in the advocacy by the Century Initiative, the Business Council of Canada and the Globe and Mail, we should step back and ask some fundamental questions a white paper should ask beyond the basic demographic arguments:

  • Does more immigration increase or decrease inequality?
  • In the immediate post-COVID period, should immigration increase given what we know from previous downturns regarding how the most recent immigrants suffer short and some longer-term scarring?
  • How should we factor in the lower-paid “essential workers” and will increased immigration improve their working conditions or not?
  • Longer-term, what are the more likely affects of automation and AI on the labour market and the need for skilled and semi-skilled workers?
  • How realistic is it to improve settlement of immigrants outside of our major cities and regions given past and current experience?
  • Will Canada realistically invest in the needed public and private infrastructure needed to accommodate such growth, again given past and current experience?
  • Will Canada be able to do so in a manner that respects our current and likely future climate change commitments?
  • Will Indigenous peoples accept increased immigration and the focus on newcomers compared to their concerns?
  • Will the greater imbalance between immigration to Quebec and the rest of Canada place further pressures on the federation?

A white paper that largely replicates the group think of the Century Initiative and related players would be a disservice to Canadians, rather than the needed more thoughtful and balanced discussions:

Though progressives and conservatives in the United States disagree on practically everything, they do agree that Canada has a better immigration system.

But as a new paper in the magazine American Affairs points out, they think this only because neither side fully understands how the Canadian system works.

Right-wing Americans praise Canada’s ability to police its borders while focusing on economic migrants who can make an immediate contribution. No less an authority than Donald Trump declared, when he was president: “I think we should have merit-based immigration like they have in Canada” so that “we have people coming in that have a good track record.”

But American conservatives would be less impressed if they realized that Canada protects its border through a dense skein of rules and regulations, a so-called bureaucratic border wall.

The left, on the other hand, celebrates Canada’s robust commitment to diversity through immigration. But they would be appalled to learn that those same bureaucratic rules – such as requiring that all employees provide a social insurance number – make it virtually impossible for undocumented workers to live in this country, and that our system limits diversity by favouring immigrants from more-developed regions, such as South and East Asia, over less developed regions, including parts of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Each side sees only what it wants to see, emphasizing those aspects of Canada’s system that align with their ideological predispositions, while excluding the others,” wrote Michael Cuenco, a Canadian writer based in Calgary.

“The most vocal elements of the Right and the Left are like the blind men grasping at different parts of an elephant. No one has bothered to offer to either side an honest description of the whole.”

Both the left and the right in the U.S. might be even more nonplussed were they to learn that former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney has joined a growing chorus calling for Canada to more than double its population to 100 million by 2100.

They might not understand that what truly distinguishes the Canadian immigration system from the American is that Canada’s reflects decades of increasing ideological convergence on immigration policy, even as America becomes ever-more polarized.

The question for Canadians is whether we are willing to converge on future immigration targets in the same way we have in the past.

Progressive Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker first declared that immigration should be colour-blind. Lester B. Pearson’s Liberal government converted that principle into the points system. Liberal Pierre Trudeau married immigration to multiculturalism, while Mr. Mulroney tripled the intake. Liberals Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin converted a system that favoured the family-class category into one that favoured economic-class applicants, while Conservative Stephen Harper and Liberal Justin Trudeau further refined and expanded the program.

If future Liberal and Conservative governments were to choose to, say, (a) convert the temporary target of more than 400,000 immigrants a year recently established to overcome the cutbacks imposed by the pandemic into a permanent target; b) gradually move toward 500,000 a year over the course of this decade and c) reassess Canada’s needs as the population approaches 50 million at mid-century, that would be nothing out of keeping with the past six decades of immigration policy, which saw Canada’s population more than double from 18 million in 1960 to 38 million today.

Whether we want that future is something else. Proponents of population growth must convince skeptics that Canada can more than double in numbers while still meeting commitments on global warming, that cities can grow in population without increasing sprawl, that creativity and productivity require a young, dynamic populace.

But we need to remember: We got where we are by agreeing we should grow robustly, and that it didn’t matter where people came from, as long as they shared the values that ground the nation. That’s what brought the Irish and the Germans and the Ukrainians here in the 19th century, what brought the Italians and Portuguese and Greeks here after the war, what brought the Vietnamese boat people here and people from Somalia and Lebanon, the Hong Kongers and then Mainlanders and new arrivals from French West Africa and Haiti, the Sikhs and Hindus from India and the Sri Lankans and Filipinos and …

A hundred million? Why stop?

Source: Canadians need to form a consensus on long-term immigration policy

A shot in the dark and 185 megabytes of data: How I investigated a system of bias in Canada’s prison system

Good account of Tom Cardoso’s data journalism and the processes involved in the Globe’s excellent analysis of racial disparities in incarceration (Bias behind bars: A Globe investigation finds a prison system stacked against Black and Indigenous inmates). Puts my small efforts in perspective:

A little over two years ago, I dropped a letter in the mail.

I had begun to wonder, after a series of high-profile criminal cases had ended in acquittals earlier that year – Gerald Stanley and Raymond Cormier’s trials, specifically – if I could collect any data on the racial composition of juries. I shot off a few e-mails to lawyers and activists, and quickly learned this data likely didn’t exist.

But, as part of my poking around, I realized I might be able to look at something else: sentencing. I figured sentences must be tracked in a structured way by correctional authorities; if not, they wouldn’t know when to release inmates. Given the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the correctional system, it’d be worthwhile to examine sentencing data by race – so I pivoted, from jury composition to sentencing.

Though freedom of information requests are often a shot in the dark, I typed up a letter asking for 20 years of records from the Correctional Service of Canada’s (CSC) database, which I’d learned about by e-mailing yet another set of people. On Aug. 30, 2018, I mailed them my request, and then almost immediately forgot about it.

Weeks later, I heard back from the CSC’s freedom of information officers, and began a months-long negotiation for release of the data I’d requested. In April, 2019, I finally received a CD in the mail, and went to open the spreadsheet it contained.

Microsoft Excel booted up, and then immediately crashed. The spreadsheet the CSC had disclosed was 185 megabytes. In my hands, I realized, was an enormous data set unlike any I’d ever worked with, recording the lives of nearly 50,000 people in the CSC’s custody between 2012 and 2018. I used a statistical programming language called R to open the file, and began digging around.

It often takes me a while to become “comfortable” with new data, and it was especially true now given this file’s size. I had no idea what kinds of patterns it contained, or how best to summarize it. In my mind, I often picture this phase in any analysis as the point at which I “crawl inside” a data set.

To start, I blindly summarized it, curious to see what it’d tell me. I figured I needed a second opinion, so I sat down with Patrick White, a colleague who’d extensively covered the federal prison system, and showed him some of the charts I’d cooked up. “There’s almost too much interesting stuff in here,” I told him, “and I’m not sure where to start.”

After spending some time with the materials I’d pulled together, he asked simply: “What about these risk assessments?”

From there, exploring the data became easier, and I quickly uncovered some disturbing patterns. Indigenous and Black people seemed to be receiving worse scores across a range of assessments much more frequently than other groups. Two scores in particular, the “offender security level” and “reintegration potential” score, sounded especially important. But I had no idea what these scores were supposed to represent, how they were calculated or what impact they had on an inmate’s time in prison.

By now, it was December, 2019, and I began reaching out to anyone I knew who could tell me whether – and how – these scores mattered. At the end of each call, I’d ask them if there was anyone else they’d recommend I speak with. Over a period of 10 months, my network grew from a small handful to nearly 70 people.

With each conversation, I tightened my methodology and honed my analysis. Eventually, after being inspired by a U.S. news outlet’s investigation on risk assessments, I realized I needed to disambiguate the impact of race from everything else using statistical modelling. So once again I went back to my Rolodex, e-mailing academics, statisticians and data scientists who could help me. Over the winter, spring and summer, guided by their advice, I built the kinds of statistical models I’d need for the analysis.

As I was doing that, I also began looking for inmates who could tell me about their experiences. Finding people who’d speak with me wasn’t easy, given I was looking at something as arcane and specific as risk assessments. I met Nick Nootchtai, for instance, after e-mailing a contact. They put me in touch with someone, who led me to someone else, who finally told me they knew of a person I might want to speak with. The first time I met Nick, at a Tim Horton’s in downtown Toronto, he handed me a plastic bag full of his correctional records, which shed light on the process and made it clear how critical these scores were.

My model’s findings were damning – so much so that I spent months trying to find an error in my code that could account for the discrepancies. When dealing with data-driven stories of this size, The Globe has a process for independently verifying findings. This meant handing over my entire analysis to a fellow data journalist, Chen Wang, and a Globe data scientist, Jeremy Gray. Our head of visuals, Matt Frehner, served as a sounding board for the investigation’s major findings.

I began to report the story in earnest in the spring, but the COVID-19 pandemic quickly became a priority. Months later, I was able to return to it, interviewing dozens of academics and experts in the field. Occasionally, I’d get a phone call from an unknown number – an inmate calling me from behind bars.

According to the CSC’s data, in 2018 an average of two inmates each day started serving a two-year sentence. That’s the threshold for sending them to federal prison, where risk assessments undoubtedly left their mark. The odds are good, then, that someone went to prison the same day I dropped my letter in the mail. Today, they are walking free.

Their experiences, along with those of so many others, are what you see today.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-risk-backstory/

Shame on the Globe and Mail for running Chinese government propaganda

DiManno nails it. For a paper that justifiably calls out conflicts of interest by politicians and others, some deep self-reflection in order:

This is when the Globe and Mail got it right. From the paper’s July 30 lead editorial, headlined: “The continued imprisonment of the two Michaels is an act of pointless cruelty.”

“We keep hearing that Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are suffering in conditions ‘akin’ to torture, but there is no such thing. Their false arrest and unjustified incarceration amount to torture, period.”

This is when the Globe and Mail got it wrong. The double-truck spread, smack in the middle of the glorified Report on Business section, on Sept. 19 — last Saturday.

Headlines include: “Tree fellers turn into tree lovers.” “University’s admissions offer out of this world.” “A chain of celestial lights to celebrate inclusiveness.”

Which, inclusivity, doesn’t include the ethnic minority Uighurs, a million interned since 2017 in at least 87 camps surrounded by watch towers and barbed wire fences within Xinjiang region — camps the Chinese government denied existed until satellite imagery put the lie to those claims.

I won’t go into details about the content of the cheerful stories published in the Globe’s prime real estate pages — I’m not the one being paid to shill — under the “CHINA WATCH” banner. Suffice to say that “CHINA WATCH” is the international propaganda arm of state-run English-language newspaper China Daily.

Only in tiny letters at the bottom of each page does it state: Content produced by China Daily and distributed in the Globe and Mail.

I’m not in the habit of calling out other newspapers, particularly since the Star has a policy of not calling out our own selves when we deserve to be boxed about the ears. But the Globe brands itself “Canada’s National Newspaper” and fancies itself the paper of record.

Now, everybody knows these are trying times for the newspaper industry. But of all the papers in Canada, the Globe and Mail is least threatened by economic hardship, owned by the Thomson family — its chairman, David Thomson, wealthiest Canadian, as per Forbes, with a net worth of $32.5 billion, as of last year. If the Globe splashes around in the red, the Thomson clan can just sell off one of its Group of Seven paintings. Not that it would ever come to that.

Further, the Globe was the first signatory in this country to The Trust Project, a global coalition of media organizations with the intent of promoting truthful, accurate, fair and transparent journalism — because journalism is under siege everywhere, lacerated as purveyors of fake news.

China Daily is fake news. China Watch is fake news. At the very least, the Globe should have made that clearer. I put the matter to the Globe brain-trust in emailed queries.

“As you point out in your questions, the China Daily pages are indeed paid advertisements,” acknowledged Phillip Crawley, Globe publisher and CEO, in his emailed response. “The content is visually distinct and had been labelled as produced by a third party (China Daily). However, we believe the pages should have been more clearly marked to reflect that it was a paid advertisement for our readers. We will explore how to make this more clear in the future.”

Crawley added: “We have run these ads occasionally for years and like all advertising, they have no impact on our editorial coverage. You can see this in our daily reporting of China, our editorials” — he cited an opinion piece regarding the arrest of Jimmy Lai — “and the excellent investigative work put out by our Asia correspondent, Nathan VanderKlippe, who is based in Beijing.”

(Lai is a long-time champion of the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement.)

Indisputably, excellent coverage of China — the Globe was the first Western newspaper to open a bureau in what was then called Peking, more than six decades ago.

But readers won’t learn the truth about Tiananmen Square in the China Daily (or China Watch), won’t be told about the horrors inflicted and ethnic cleaning inflicted on the mostly Muslim Uighurs, won’t be enlightening on the regime’s crackdown throttling of Hong Kong and certainly won’t be provided with an accurate representation of why the two Michaels were thrown in prison.

That was the China version of tit-for-tat — the regime’s ham-fisted response two years ago, scooping up the Canadian businessmen shortly after the arrest of Meng Wanzhou on a warrant from the United States. America accuses Meng, chief financial officer of Huawei, of fraud, alleging she misled the bank HSBC about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran. Meng is under house arrest in Vancouver, fighting extradition to the U.S.

On Tuesday, China again urged Canada to immediately release Meng and let her return home so as to “safely bring bilateral relations back to the right track,” according to Chinese media reports. At the daily news briefing, a government spokesperson asserted: “Under the pretext of ‘at the request of the United States,’ Canada arbitrarily took compulsory measures on a Chinese citizen, which severely violated her legitimate rights and interests.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been able to do nothing — that we know of — to secure the release of the two Michaels, after nearly two years of detention. In June, Kovrig and Spavor were charged with espionage-related offences, which is bollocks.

A whole bunch of boldface Canadians have since signed a letter urging this country to knock off the extradition proceedings against Meng, so that the Michaels can be sprung. This is hostage diplomacy — a prisoner swap, the stuff of despots and unethical governments.

And we won’t even get into the further strong-arm squabbling between China and the U.S. over China-owned TikTok and China’s pressuring of Canada to integrate Huawei technology into our 5G network.

China has invested colossally and with sophistication in propaganda supplements that have appeared in respected publications such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, as well as opening scores of state TV satellite bureaus around the world — all pegged to “reporting the news from a Chinese perspective.” Which means gerrymandered and self-serving. All while literally ripping out international coverage within China: foreign magazines censored, the BBC flickering to black when carrying stories on such sensitive topics as Taiwan and Tibet and foreign correspondents booted out of the country.

Because the Red Dragon can. The Globe and Mail has, under the rubric of provided content, become a party to that.

China is a bully and the Globe, alas, is a pimp.

Essential but expendable: How Canada failed migrant farm workers

Good investigative reporting on the policy and enforcement failures after the quarantine period:

When the novel coronavirus pandemic hit in March, the annual flow of farm labour into Canada hung in the balance.

Farmers feared that border closings and grounded planes would prevent agricultural workers, coming from countries such as Mexico, Guatemala and Jamaica, from reaching their fields and greenhouses in time for the seeding season. Knowing this, Ottawa allowed entry of temporary foreign workers critical to the food system.

Conditions – including a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival – were put in place to protect Canadians. But advocates and health officials say not enough was done to protect the workers themselves.

In interviews, farm workers detailed the myriad reasons that COVID-19 has infiltrated farms with such success: a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), an information vacuum and pressure to work, despite symptoms. In one instance, a feverish worker developed chest pains and a nosebleed that dripped on the vegetables he tended; he said his supervisors refused to take him home until the shift was over. Photos, videos and interviews portrayed overrun bunkhouses with broken toilets and stoves, cockroach and bed-bug infestations, and holes in the ceiling.

Rules were rolled out, but they weren’t adequately enforced and failed to consider what life on a farm is actually like for a migrant worker. Ottawa requires that farms, which generally provide housing under the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program, ensure that accommodations allow physical distancing during the initial quarantine period.

But what happened after those 14 days was a massive blind spot. After isolating, workers often move into the bunkhouses, where they share bathrooms and kitchens and climb atop one another to get into bed. As former migrant worker Gabriel Allahdua put it, conditions in farm accommodations are a “recipe for COVID-19 to spread like wildfire.”

In Ontario alone, more than 600 foreign farm workers have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a Globe and Mail count; health officials have stressed that, for the most part, the workers came to Canada healthy and contracted the virus locally. British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec have also recorded outbreaks among migrant agri-food workers.

The situation is most dire in Southwestern Ontario, home to the continent’s highest concentration of greenhouses. Ontario’s largest outbreak is at Scotlynn Group, where at least 167 of 216 migrant workers have tested positive. Mexico has become so concerned by the outbreaks that Ambassador Juan Jose Gomez Camacho told The Globe that his country has “put a pause” on sending more workers – 5,000 more are still due to make the trip – until Canadian officials ramp up monitoring of health and safety rules, and ensure workers are paid while in isolation.

Two of Mr. Gomez Camacho’s countrymen have already died. Bonifacio Eugenio Romero, 31, and Rogelio Munoz Santos, 24, left their loved ones in Mexico to earn a better living. Their families are now planning the young men’s funerals. Mr. Eugenio Romero and Mr. Munoz Santos died – on May 30 and June 5, respectively – after testing positive for COVID-19. Their final days were spent mostly in hotel rooms, mostly alone.

“For a 24-year-old to die of this is beyond tragic,” said David Musyj, president and chief executive of Windsor Regional Hospital, where Mr. Munoz Santos died. “It should not happen. Just because he was from Mexico, I don’t give a damn. He was my son’s age. He was in Canada. And we should be taking care of him.” Mr. Munoz Santos is one of the youngest people in Canada to die from COVID-19-related causes. Ontario’s Office of the Chief Coroner is investigating both deaths and will decide whether to launch the province’s first inquest into a migrant worker fatality.

The federal government has the power to conduct pro-active inspections of farm accommodations, but during a six-week period at the height of the pandemic, these audits stopped. They are now being done virtually. The provinces are responsible for occupational health and safety, but in Ontario at least, the Ministry of Labour does not inspect employer-provided accommodations. Local public-health units in the province typically inspect farm bunkhouses once or twice a year, but this is done before workers arrive; an empty space looks markedly different from one with dozens of occupants.

In Canada, advocates and community health care workers for months warned federal and provincial politicians, as well as local public-health officials, that migrant workers were at a heightened risk. In letters, e-mails and conference calls, they asked for a number of measures, including increased funding for public-health units to ensure adequate housing inspections and limits on the number of people using each bathroom in bunkhouses. While some action was taken, many people say help came too little, too late. And advocates worry that unless enforcement and public-health outreach kick into high gear, there are lives and livelihoods at stake, along with the potential for disruption to the food system.

To understand what went so wrong, The Globe interviewed seven migrant workers across four farm operations, at times through a translator, as well as employers, advocates, academics, hospital executives, former migrant workers, doctors, lawyers and industry associations. The Globe reviewed four immigration files detailing allegations of employers who did little or nothing to protect workers. Migrant workers’ identities are being concealed because of privacy concerns and fears of reprisals.

The investigation revealed that problems in an already broken system have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. The experiences of workers varied, with some describing decent housing and respectful bosses who have worked hard to keep them healthy. Others spoke of racism and recounted threats of termination or deportation if they didn’t meet stringent productivity quotas.

Syed Hussan, executive director of Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC), said there is a massive disconnect at play. “Migrant workers,” he said, “have been treated as expendable and exploitable – and essential, all at the same time.”

….

The agriculture sector employs approximately 60,000 temporary foreign workers each year, with upward of 10,000 of them in Windsor-Essex county, which includes Leamington. Under the TFW program, foreign nationals are allowed to work for a particular employer for a set amount of time. Some stay for several months, others are here year-round. There are also foreigners who work in the country unauthorized; according to some estimates, Canada is home to hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants.

Source: Investigation: Essential but expendable: How Canada failed migrant farm workers

Ottawa should allow the niqab at citizenship ceremonies – Globe Editorial

Globe editorial forgets that accommodation requires flexibility on both sides. And citizenship requires participation, even if at least symbolic.

Religious freedom is not absolute, like other freedoms needs to be balanced against other freedoms and responsibilities:

We think she should have accommodated. But we’re not her. A religious freedom is a religious freedom; it’s not something you practise only when it’s convenient to the broader society – except in the most particular cases. Canadian courts have recognized that it may be important to require Muslim women to remove their niqabs when testifying in criminal court cases, but only if doing otherwise would jeopardize a fair trial. Is the ceremony of the citizenship oath equally critical? Hardly.

Ottawa should allow the niqab at citizenship ceremonies – The Globe and Mail.

Ignorance is cheap – but parliamentary knowledge costs – Globe Editorial

Globe editorial on ignorance and the Government’s (or at least of some of its MPs) wish to be less open and transparent:

Mr. Wallace posed his own written question asking for the estimated cost to the government of answering Order Paper questions. The answer he got, based on a formula that is dubious at best, was $1.2-million for 253 questions. “Are we sure we’re getting value for the dollar?” Mr. Wallace asked.

Well, let’s think about that. What value do Canadians place on knowing: the percentage of Employment Canada benefits applications that are rejected and how many people have to wait longer than 28 days for a response; which government department is responsible for monitoring the transporation of fissile radioactive material inside our borders; how much money Ottawa has spent developing software since 2011 and what the software actually does; and the amount the government spent on travel expenses while negotiating the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union.

These are just some of the opposition questions currently on the Order Paper, and all of them deserve an answer. Mr. Wallace’s suggestion that MPs should ask fewer questions, because ignorance is cheap, is pretty much one of the dumbest things a parliamentarian has come up with in recent memory.

And as most of us know from personal and professional experience, ignorance is expensive given the implications of bad and faulty decisions.

Ignorance is cheap – but parliamentary knowledge costs – The Globe and Mail.

Blood, soil, birth tourism and anchor babies – Globe Editorial

The Globe’s editorial take on birth tourism – evidence-based policy, which Minister Alexander appears committed to, given his and his spokesperson’s recent comments stating that decisions “will be informed by facts” (in contrast to earlier anecdotes dramatizing the issue):

At present, however, birth certificates are the most common proof of Canadian citizenship. They do not include any information about a newborn baby’s parents’ citizenship.

Hospitals are a provincial jurisdiction. That is one of the reasons why the provinces and territories have been in charge of birth certificates for a long time. The subnational governments of Canada would doubtless not be eager to spend a huge amount of money to overhaul their birth-certificate system – let alone unanimously.

Ottawa could choose to foot the bill. But if the government is to go any further, it should commission a rigorous study to discover whether so-called birth tourism is a significant phenomenon. So far, the evidence is anecdotal. The available numbers in a given year are in the low hundreds. The real numbers may be higher, but it would be premature to remake the basics of our citizenship on a hunch.

Blood, soil, birth tourism and anchor babies – The Globe and Mail.

Related to this, the BC Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (Carmen Cheung and Audrey Macklin) wrote a comprehensive response to the earlier Jan Wong article on birth tourism (see my post Canada’s birthright citizenship policy makes us a nation of suckers):

But how serious an issue is birth tourism? While the government does not publish statistics on actual cases of birth tourism, Statistics Canada reports that of the 377,913 live births recorded in Canada for 2011, only 277 of those were by mothers who lived outside of Canada. The numbers were slightly higher in 2010 – 305 babies born to non-resident mothers out of 377,518 live births. That is less than one tenth of one percent of all births in Canada.

A recent article in Toronto Life magazine proposed another metric for measuring birth tourism, by collecting the number of uninsured mothers giving birth in Toronto-area hospitals over a five-year period. Based on those numbers, we’re still looking at less than one percent of all live births in the city of Toronto.

Using the number of uninsured mothers as a proxy also likely overstates the problem. Provincial health cards are only issued after a minimum period of residency in the province – this is the case whether an individual has arrived from another country as a landed immigrant, or has just moved from British Columbia to Ontario. There are also foreign nationals who are excluded from provincial health care schemes, such as students, temporary foreign workers and diplomats. Particularly vulnerable Canadian citizens – such as the homeless or transient – may also not be able to prove their eligibility for provincial health insurance because of lost documentation.

By any measure, the number of babies born to non-resident non-Canadian mothers is negligible.

Born Equal: Citizenship by Birth is Canada’s Valuable Legacy

Bill C-24 is wrong: There is only one kind of Canadian citizen – Globe Editorial

Globe’s Canada Day editorial:

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has defended his bill by arguing citizenship is a privilege, not a right. He is wrong. It may come with responsibilities, but it is a right. And once legitimately acquired, by birth or naturalization, it cannot be taken away. Bill C-24 gives the government the kind of sweeping power that is common in dictatorships, not in a democracy built upon the rule of law, where all citizens are equal. The changes to the Citizenship Act erode those basic principles, creating a two-tier citizenship that dilutes what it means to be Canadian.

Bill C-24 is wrong: There is only one kind of Canadian citizen – The Globe and Mail.

Rick Salutin in the Star:

Why did they do it? Here’s my guess: It’s not enough for them to merely run Canada. They want to define it, and they don’t want any backchat. Some people need to be right, not just powerful. So they’ve turned citizenship into a privilege, not a right, and since someone has to grant a privilege, it’ll be them.

But here’s my biggest problem. I don’t think loyalty — in any particular version — should have a thing to do with citizenship. The democratic core of citizenship is you get to challenge the values of the moment and can’t be shut up. It’s a license to disagree and debate which direction your nation takes, no matter what the majority thinks. Is that unpatriotic? It depends on how you see things. For many patriots, not going along has been the essence of patriotism. I’d say put people in jail for life if you insist — but don’t touch their citizenship.

Hello, you must be going: government waters down Canadian citizenship: Salutin