COVID-19 Immigration Effects: Some early data

I have been working with Dan Hiebert of UBC and Howard Ramos of UWO on a project to understand the short and medium term effects of COVID-19 on immigration (permanent and temporary residents), settlement services and citizenship.

Pending the specialized operational data sets from IRCC, we have been looking at the publicly available numbers on open data.

This deck highlights the dramatic impact as noted by others but with more detail.

We plan to update and refine this each month, with greater analysis and depth once we have the specialized datasets.

Howard Ramos: #Immigration to Canada May Not Return to Pre-Pandemic Levels

Good analysis and commentary by my friend, Howard Ramos, that asks some needed questions rather than assuming immigration will just bounce back, particularly the impact of Canada’s mixed handling of COVID-19 compared to immigration source countries:

After almost three months of lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada and other countries around the world are working to slowly re-open. As they do, immigration will be a key component to their economic recovery.

The question Canadian policymakers should be considering: will immigrants want to move and call Canada their new home? At the moment, it’s a theoretical question. However, a closer look at a number of trends suggests that a rebound in immigration to Canada is far from a guarantee.

A recent report by RBC underscores the extent to which the pandemic could derail Canada’s immigration-driven economy. With travel restricted and the pandemic still spreading in some parts of the world, quarantines and shutdowns are going to be a key part of the ‘new normal.’ The impact of closed borders and restricted movement on migration will not only interrupt movement but it will also create backlogs and other obstacles in immigration systems that most countries will have to wrestle with.

For Canada’s immigration levels to return to pre-COVID levels, Canadian governments will have to look beyond our borders to see how it has handled the pandemic relative to other countries.

Canada does not fare well compared to global counterparts

According to Worldometer, Canada ranks 17th worldwide in the most deaths per million, at 217, as of June 15, 2020. When this is broken down by region, as done by Andrew Griffith on the Multicultural Meanderings web site, death rates in Quebec are higher than the United States or Italy – and almost as high as the United Kingdom.

By this metric, Canada also does not fare well when it compares itself to the countries that are its most prominent sources of its immigrants. In 2019, the top 10 countries of citizenship of new permanent resident admissions to Canada were: India, China, Philippines, Pakistan, United States, Syria, Eritrea, South Korea, and Iran.

Among these, all but the United States had lower death rates, per million, from COVID-19 than Canada. And it wasn’t even close. China had a low of three deaths per million, while Iran had 107 deaths per million.

Policymakers would also be wise to consider that many of Canada’s hardest hit neighbourhoods by the pandemic were ones with a high concentration of recent immigrants. That reality undercuts many of the perceived advantages Canada presents to immigrants, such as its accessible and strong health care system or its quality of life.

When Canada is compared to other immigrant receiving countries such as Australia or New Zealand it does not fare well either. Australia ranks 129th in most deaths per million and New Zealand declared victory over the pandemic. Both managed the disease more efficiently and have a head start in reopening. As the world may experience a second or future waves of the pandemic, Canada does not look as attractive compared to competing immigrant receiving countries.

Multicultural ‘veneer’ tarnished by recent events

While Canada is recognized internationally for being open and multicultural, that veneer has been tarnished slightly by many reported incidents of anti-Asian discrimination. Polling shows that the majority of Canadians believe negative attitudes towards Asian-Canadians have increased since the pandemic and the Vancouver police report that anti-Asian hate crime has gone up in the city this year. Given that the top three source countries of newcomers last year were all Asian, this too makes the country less attractive.

The good news for Canada is that people have continued to apply for immigration and the country has continued processing applications during the pandemic. However, if the country aims to re-kindle its high level of immigration intake, it will need to reopen its borders. Canada cannot sit back and assume that people will want to come. Canadians will have to do the hard work of assuring newcomers that the country is indeed safe, healthy, and a welcoming place to build a future.

Being Counted in Canada’s Coronavirus Data, Ontario’s lack of diversity data for COVID-19 is an embarrassment

Two good commentaries on the lack of diversity data, starting with Howard Ramos of Dalhousie:

The lack of COVID-19 data on immigrants and racialized minorities collected and shared by Canada’s many layers of government could lead to health inequities.

Canada is not alone in having a data gap on immigrant and racialized groups. In the United States civil rights groups and doctors have called on its federal government to release demographic data on coronavirus infections.

Analysis that looks at the number of COVID-19 cases based on publicly available American data and census information shows that counties that are majority African-American have three times the rate of infection and almost six times the rate of deaths as counties where white residents are in the majority. It is a trend that has raised alarm across American cities.

Understanding Canada-U.S. differences

Past research suggests, however, that Canadians should be cautious in reaching conclusions and not automatically assume that what takes place in the U.S. naturally holds true north of the border.

The ‘healthy immigrant effect’ debate, for instance, which shows that many newcomers to the country self-report better health than native-born Canadians may mean that immigrants, who are also largely racialized, may not follow the same patterns as seen in the U.S.

What is needed to answer that question, and many others, is access to quality data. And just like personal protective equipment – it is currently in short supply.

Part of the problem in capturing immigrants and racialized groups in health data rests with how they are captured. Health data is largely the domain of provinces and territories, leading to uneven data collection and reporting across them.

When asked if Ontario could offer insights on the pandemic’s impact on racialized communities, Dr. David Williams, the province’s chief medical officer of health, noted that “statistics based on race aren’t collected in Canada unless certain groups are found to have risk factors.”

Ironically, if data are not collected, one cannot tell if a group has risk factors to begin with. This could lead to health inequities for African-Canadian, Indigenous, racialized, and other new Canadians.

That scenario is a big reason why the African, Caribbean and Black Network of Waterloo Region recently launched a petition demanding that data on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status be collected and reported on.

Data gap flows all the way to Ottawa

The data-gap is also seen at the federal level too. For instance, the new and innovative crowd sourced survey on the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 run by Statistics Canada measures age and gender but not other demographic features. The same absence is also seen in the Public Health Agency of Canada’s ‘detailed confirmed cases of coronavirus disease’ data, which is hosted by Statistics Canada.

The detailed data does not provide geo-coding or additional information on the location of the cases which means that researchers cannot link it to census tracts or other geographic units to do the kinds of analysis that was done for American communities.

As a result, the maps offered through the interactive Canada’s COVID-19 Situational Awareness Dashboard are fairly coarse. In many cases, more detailed information can be found through non-governmental sites such as ViriHealth. But, once again, sociodemographic characteristics are not provided and the location data is where people are treated over where they live.

Lastly, once Canada begins to move towards recovery, Statistics Canada’s data on job loses and employment can report on immigrants and racialized groups. Much of this data is collected through the Labour Force survey, which is good news. It’s only logical that measures of health and wellbeing be captured with the same level of detail.

If there’s one thing silver lining to Canada’s experience during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s reinforcing the point that collecting data matters. It’s essential to insure that everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, is treated equally as citizens.


Secondly, the Ontario situation by Adam Kassam a Toronto-based physician:

The United States recently earned the unfortunate distinction of having the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, at more than 575,000. The true number of infected individuals, of course, is likely much higher given the lack of widespread and available testing.

But in that U.S. data, an alarming trend emerged: The coronavirus appeared to be disproportionately killing African-Americans. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a preliminary report suggesting that there were higher rates of hospital admissions and death among black Americans compared with other communities.

These revelations have intensified a nationwide conversation on the social determinants of health and the necessity to collect better data. The CDC report is far from comprehensive, which has led to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden calling on the organization to be more transparent by releasing more information. Even U.S. President Donald Trump has expressed concern, and instructed his African-American Surgeon-General, Dr. Jerome Adams, to formulate a federal response to address the problem.

This discourse about diversity data and its impact on racialized communities in the U.S. stands in sharp relief against the Canadian experience. Last week, Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, summarily dismissed calls for the collection of racial data. He asserts that statistics on race aren’t collected unless certain groups are found to have risk factors, and that “regardless of race, ethnic or other backgrounds, they’re all equally important to us.”

We have a problem in this country when Donald Trump sounds more progressive about racial disparities than our own public health officials. Imagine if our Chief Medical Officer of Health claimed that it wasn’t important to collect gender-based data? This would be a fireable offence. It is, therefore, inconceivable that this same official, in the country’s most diverse province, would willfully choose to effectively ignore the unique needs of the nearly four million visible minorities who call Ontario home.

This is the manifestation of structural and systemic biases that have been omnipresent within our medical community for generations. Canada’s poverty of diversity data has been an indefensible blind spot, both in terms of health care and in our educational institutions. It is the symptom of an insidious disease, whose current hallmark is a leadership that looks increasingly less like the communities which it serves.

How else could you explain the dearth of visible minorities in some of the top leadership roles in health care across Ontario? Public Health Ontario’s executive does not appear to include a single visible minority. A visible minority has never served as Ontario’s health minister. And because diversity data of this nature is not collected or made public, we don’t know how many deputy ministers of health, deans of medicine or chiefs of medical departments have represented diverse backgrounds.

In many ways, you only measure what you really care about. Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer has unfortunately made that very clear. Never mind that collecting race-based data wouldn’t be an onerous task; crucially, it is part of good science. Only by intentionally studying diverse populations have we learned that women experience certain health challenges, such as heart attacks, differently from men. In the same vein, disease has been shown to manifest differently for patients from different ethnic backgrounds. It is my belief that all people deserve to know the details of their lives and to know that their lives are worthy of study.

While we don’t know whether racial differences influence COVID-19′s effect on individuals, Canada should be invested in determining this definitively, instead of taking its cues from the World Health Organization.

Early reports from the U.S. have pointed to disadvantaged and marginalized groups – the poor, immigrant, black and brown communities – being more significantly affected, and this has prompted crucial scrutiny of the deep and enduring fault lines between the haves and have-nots. Yet we cannot have those conversations here, as we cannot know whether the U.S. data reflect Canada’s, even though just a border separates us.

In Canada, where we are quick to declare that diversity is our strength, we must now dispense with the empty platitudes and put our money where our mouth is. Our governments should openly commit to funding the collection and publication of diverse health data during and after this pandemic. Their explicit goal should be to create policy that improves the health care of all its citizens. What’s clear is that this ethos will only become a priority when our medical leadership more closely reflects the Canada of today.

Source: Ontario’s lack of diversity data for COVID-19 is an embarrassment: Adam Kassam

Why the media loves the white racist story

Thoughtful discussion on how sometimes the focus on the individual provides a means to avoid some of the more uncomfortable discussions regarding systemic barriers:

Racism isn’t new and will not go away. What is new is the interest in pointing it out and calling out its perpetrators through both mainstream and social media. Especially white racists. What explains the need to do this? And why do incidents go viral so quickly?

Take for instance the case of Nick Sandmann, a white teenager from Kentucky whose picture and video many will have now seen. In a video, Sandmann is standing across from Native American demonstrator, Nathan Phillips, who is holding a rawhide drum. Sandmann is smiling or smirking at Phillips. From the videos, we don’t know which it is.

What we do know is that Sandmann has been widely condemned for disrespecting Phillips. Sandmann was wearing a Make America Great Again (MAGA) cap. And many people believe wearing the MAGA cap proves that Sandmann is a racist.

Maybe, as everyone seems loathe to do, instead of asking whether Sandmann is a racist or not, we might ask another question: Why is there so much interest in this story?

Why are so many people interested in pointing out and shaming individual white racists? There have been dozens of these events highlighted on social and mainstream media this year. Here are a few of the incidents that went viral and sparked outrage: a video of Fort McMurray teens mocking Indigenous dance, another of a North Carolina woman’s racist rant and the racist tirade against a Muslim family at the Toronto Ferry Terminal.

Why are people less interested in calling out the systems that prime them to act in racist ways and foster lifelong inequities.

Easy targets

We think the reason lies in the fact that by pointing out other individual racists, people can feel good about themselves without actually doing very much. In this way, individuals do not need to question how they must change their lives to create the more just society they say they want.

White people can feel good about themselves because, unlike what is claimed about Sandmann, they probably aren’t overtly racist.

These days most people are not overtly or publicly racist. And being labelled a racist can lead to social stigma. The individual (who may or may not be white) racist and their story, however, provides easy answers and easy targets.

Structural racism and colonization are not seen as the problem. It also allows people to ignore broader trends, such as the recent rise of hate crimes. Instead the focus is often on the spectacle of the incident and the problem is pinned on just one individual or a group of individuals.

In the Sandmann case, many see the problem as the individual racist, not the context that created the MAGA movement.

Ignored in the process of labelling people racists and shaming them is that the shaming fails to condemn actions. Instead, it focuses on a single person. Condemning people gives them little room to change, grow or learn from their mistakes. Humility is needed on all sides.

The move to innocence

Pointing out and condemning individuals for their racism is popular because it exemplifies what scholars Eve Tuck and Wayne Yang would call a “move to innocence.” Moves to innocence are the rhetorical moves that people use to distance themselves from genocide and colonization.

Those who have privilege and power can just tell themselves that they are one of the “good ones” because they aren’t racist like the people in the videos.

In pointing out others as racist, people don’t then have to ask themselves difficult questions about their own privilege or do the work of fostering social humility. Those of the dominant society don’t have to think about the ways that they benefit from slavery, colonialism and land theft.

They don’t have to think about pipelines and stolen land. They don’t have to think. They can just point.

If we want to move forward, we need to stop taking an aggressive punitive approach to individual racism. This only divides the right and the left. No side is “innocent” when it comes to discrimination or colonization.

Source: Why the media loves the white racist story