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

Treat all Canadian citizens equally under the law – Globe Editorial

Thanks to Rocco Galati, renewed attention being paid to C-24 Citizenship Act revocation provisions. Globe editorial has it about right:

Rocco Galati, a Toronto lawyer, is right to be calling upon the federal government to present a reference question to Supreme Court, on the proposed revocation-of-citizenship amendments to the Citizenship Act. If the Harper government won’t refer the matter to the court, Mr. Galati says there should be a Charter challenge – and he’s right.

It is one thing to revoke a Canadian citizenship that was obtained by fraud or false pretenses; that is a long-standing part of our law, and should be. The Harper government, however, is proposing to strip citizenship from people found guilty of some serious crimes, in cases where the offender is a naturalized citizen – an immigrant to Canada – or even someone born in Canada, but who for whatever reason also holds the citizenship of another country.

The classes of crime in question are serious: treason, terrorism and specific military crimes such as spying for the enemy in time of war. But however serious the offence, when someone is born here, or has been accepted into this country legally and fairly, he or she is Canadian, for good or ill.

The Charter of Rights is very clear: “Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.” The principle is so fundamental that the Charter’s notwithstanding clause cannot be used to override this section.

It would be invidious to send into exile a foreign-born citizen who committed a crime as a Canadian, while imposing a prison sentence on a natural-born Canadian found guilty of the same crime. Canadian law should treat Canadians, including Canadians who break the law, as Canadians.

Stripping a citizen of citizenship is characteristic of a totalitarian regime such as the Soviet Union, which banished dissidents, including the writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn in 1974. It’s not a model for Canada to emulate.

Andrew Thompson, a political scientist at the University of Waterloo, has rightly pointed out how easily the proposed new citizenship-revocation law could have condemned Maher Arar, a dual Canadian-Syrian national, suspected of terrorism by Canada, to a life of imprisonment and torture in a Syrian prison. The amendments now before Parliament would have afforded him little opportunity to defend himself.

Treat all Canadian citizens equally under the law – The Globe and Mail.

Temporary foreign workers: Canada needs fewer guests – and more citizens

Globe editorial:

What should Mr. Kenney do?

Study the issue: Take the time needed to get this right. Commission a group of experts and give them at least six months. Bring the other parties in, and borrow their best ideas. Don’t just introduce legislation in the next few weeks, backed up by nothing more than a thin press release and no actual evidence, and try to hustle it through Parliament. Learn from the fiasco of the Fair Elections Act.

Be principled: A temporary worker program should be for jobs that are temporary. There’s a logic to bringing in seasonal agricultural workers. There may be a logic to some highly skilled workers being brought in under the program, in cases where no trained Canadians exist or where the job is temporary. But burger flippers?

Shrink the program: Make it smaller. Much smaller. Cap the number allowed in each year. Let Canada’s labour market work. If employers in low-wage fields find that they have to offer compensation in excess of minimum wage to attract short-order cooks, customer-service agents and retail sales people, that’s a good thing. It will lead to higher wages for people at the low end of the wage scale, and it will also spur innovation and productivity gains. We want the market to work and to self-correct as it is supposed to, with a tight labour supply in one area of the country forcing up wages, thereby drawing in the underemployed, be they part-time students from down the road or the unemployed from across the country.

Give temporary workers more rights: Shrink the program – but expand their rights. Why not give them the right to change jobs, and even complete labour mobility within Canada, just like Canadians? Give them the power to fight back against abuse and raise their own wages.

More citizens, fewer guests: Canada was built by immigrants who became citizens, not visitors who went home. That’s our future, too.

Citizenship Bill C-24 at Committee goes in other direction, by making citizenship harder to get and no longer providing credit for time spent in Canada as temporary foreign workers.

Temporary foreign workers: Canada needs fewer guests – and more citizens – The Globe and Mail.

Interestingly, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business includes in its recommendations on Temporary Foreign Workers a pathway to citizenship, while the government’s Bill C-24 makes this more difficult given removal of partial credit for pre-Permanent Residents time:

•  Ending the moratorium on restaurants

• Creating a pathway to permanent residence for all TFWs

• A Bill of Rights for TFWs

• Stricter enforcement of existing rules

• An accredited TFW stream for trusted employers

• Matching TFW/Canadian wages by employer

• Maximum 1:1 ratio of TFWs to Canadians

• Allowing permanent immigration for those in entry-level jobs

• Ensuring other government programs (eg. EI) address need for entry-level workers.

CFIB urges feds to end moratorium, enforce rules, protect TFWs’ rights – National Scene – Daily Business Buzz.

If Iran opens for business, Canada will need a new approach – and fast – The Globe and Mail

Not part of my usual posts in this blog, but an opinion piece for The Globe and Mail on Canada’s relations with Iran. As this is behind a pay wall, text below:

Twenty five years ago, I arrived in Iran as part of the team that reopened our Embassy in Tehran, which had closed for some eight years following the escape of the Americans that had sought refuge with Canada. Following the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, we had essentially been invited by the Iranian government, in part because of their interest in having access to North American oil and gas technology.

Given all the current commentary, for and against the Iran nuclear interim agreement, it is useful to think ahead about some of the possible implications for Canada about its current rhetoric on Iran in general, and the agreement in particular. We do not know whether the agreement will be implemented – both the U.S. and Iran have difficult domestic constituencies to deal with, and Ronald Reagan’s expression, “trust but verify” clearly applies and is shared by all parties to the agreement.

But should the agreement be implemented, and lead to either a series of further agreements or a final agreement, Canada should be prepared for that possibility. In that light, while the government and Foreign Minister John Baird have, in their terms, dialled down the rhetoric somewhat – and Iran is sophisticated enough to pick up on this – the government should develop an exit strategy for its current approach to Iran.

This is not unprecedented. The Conservative government started off with strong rhetoric on China, focussing on human rights, not trade, and was forced, given Canadian interests, to refocus on trade. Similarly, the government’s harsh rhetoric in 2012 over the Palestinian Authority’s statehood bid at the UN was similarly toned down following the renewed U.S. peace plan initiative, given that it was counterproductive for our relations with Israel, the United States and the PA.

The unveiling last month of the Global Markets Action Plan, focussing diplomatic efforts on economic diplomacy, suggests that “principles-based” foreign policy is either becoming an empty slogan, or at least only applicable to markets of marginal importance to Canada.

Should the interim agreement hold, and be followed by subsequent agreements further relaxing sanctions, Canada will need to review its sanctions policy to ensure that Canadian firms are not disadvantaged in comparison to our competitors. In contrast to 1988, when one of the main incentives for Iran was that Canada offered North American oil and gas technology without going through the United States, any removal of Canadian sanctions would likely be in lock-step with U.S. policies, with Canadian firms having no special advantages.

But easing of sanctions, without a coherent foreign policy aligned to our economic interests, is unlikely to be enough. We can expect pressure from the Canadian business community, particularly from Alberta oil and gas equipment suppliers, to ensure a level playing field, not only on the easing of sanctions, but on the broader foreign policy front.

The elements are not complex in theory, but are in practice:

Further dialling down of rhetoric on Iran.

Yes, prudence is required, but “huff and puff” language is unhelpful. Language used by the U.K. and U.S. strikes the right tone between giving space for the interim agreement while expressing appropriate caution;

Some public recognition that there are signs of change in Iran’s approach.

Yes, these are tentative, and yes, given the complexity of the Iranian regime’s internal politics, the messages are mixed, but most Iranians, both inside Iran and in the diaspora, understand the significance of Hassan Rouhani’s election. We should too.

Use our strong relationship with Israel to encourage Israel to tone down its rhetoric and reflect some of the more nuanced discussion within Israel itself.

While Israeli fears and caution are legitimate, the language and approach appears to have been largely counterproductive in shaping the US and world approach to Iran.

Start informal discussions with the Iranian government on normalization of relations.

We may have closed our Embassy but as the U.S. and others have shown, that does not preclude discussion. These informal discussions should allow us to follow the U.K. lead in reopening its Embassy in Tehran. The standard diplomatic caution of starting with representation at the chargé d’affaires level, as we did in 1988, reinforces the “trust but verify” of the interim agreement.

At present, we do not know if the interim agreement will be implemented, given all the internal and external constraints. However, to be prudent, the government should be prepared for the possibility that the interim agreement will succeed, and lead to further agreements. Given our economic interests, particularly in Alberta, and the sizeable Iranian Canadian community, sooner or later, we will likely be forced to move in that direction. Better to start preparing now and send appropriate signals now.

If Iran opens for business, Canada will need a new approach – and fast – The Globe and Mail.