Le français décline comme langue seconde de préférence

While the overall support for bilingualism is strong, the growing lack of interest in learning a second language, whether French or another language, is worrisome in an era of greater mobility and globalization:

Si le bilinguisme officiel continue à bénéficier d’un très fort appui au pays, la préférence pour l’apprentissage du français comme langue seconde a décliné, surtout chez les jeunes. En fait, la simple idée qu’il importe de maîtriser une deuxième langue, peu importe laquelle, chute en popularité, au grand étonnement de certains experts.

Ce sont là quelques-unes des conclusions d’un sondage réalisé par six instituts de recherche, qui ont voulu tâter le pouls des Canadiens sur le concept de dualité linguistique, alors que l’on souligne en 2019 le 50e anniversaire de l’adoption de la première Loi sur les langues officielles.

La nouvelle encourageante, selon l’auteur du rapport, c’est que 82 % des répondants se disent en faveur de la politique du bilinguisme officiel au pays – un pourcentage qui se maintient depuis le début des années 2000, au fil des diverses enquêtes menées sur la question.

« L’opposition n’est pas en croissance. J’étais un peu trop jeune pour sonder en 1969, mais j’imagine que l’opposition aurait été supérieure. Et il y a plein de partis politiques qui aimeraient avoir l’appui de quatre personnes sur cinq », relève Andrew Parkin, du Mowat Center, en entrevue avec La Presse.

L’enthousiasme face à la dualité linguistique et à son enchâssement dans la législation fédérale, sous le gouvernement de Pierre Elliott Trudeau, est nettement moins présent en Alberta, où 3 personnes sur 10 ont affirmé désapprouver le fait que le Canada ait deux langues officielles.

Il n’y a là rien de « surprenant », souligne Stéphanie Chouinard, professeure adjointe au département de science politique du Collège militaire royal du Canada, à Kingston. « On sait qu’historiquement, l’Alberta, ç’a été un terreau fertile pour des partis qui avaient des positions assez fortes contre le bilinguisme, dont le Parti réformiste », explique-t-elle dans un entretien téléphonique.

UN AUTRE BILINGUISME

Pas de quoi tirer la sonnette d’alarme, donc. En revanche, un aspect du sondage fait allumer un voyant rouge au tableau de cette spécialiste en langues officielles : le déclin de la préférence pour le français comme langue seconde.

« On voit que les Canadiens croient encore au bilinguisme, mais que ce bilinguisme-là, ce n’est pas nécessairement le bilinguisme français-anglais. »

– Stéphanie Chouinard, professeure adjointe au département de science politique du Collège militaire royal du Canada

La tendance est plus particulièrement marquée chez les 18 à 34 ans, d’après l’enquête que les instituts de recherche rendront publique aujourd’hui. En 2001, parmi les anglophones hors Québec de cette tranche d’âge qui disaient juger important que leurs enfants apprennent une autre langue, 75 % déclaraient que ce devait être la langue de Molière. En 2019, cette proportion est passée à 61 %.

L’apprentissage de l’une ou l’autre des deux langues officielles – l’anglais pour les francophones (88 %) et le français pour les anglophones (67 %) – reste le choix de prédilection des répondants. Mais des langues autres que les officielles ont maintenant la cote. Chez les allophones, 18 % préconisent l’apprentissage de langues chinoises pour leurs enfants. Chez les anglophones, 6 % miseraient sur l’espagnol.

UNE LANGUE SUFFIT

Mais la trouvaille la plus étonnante du sondage est ailleurs, soit dans la réponse à la question : « Dans quelle mesure est-il important pour vous que vos enfants (si vous en avez) apprennent à parler une deuxième langue ? » Dans toutes les tranches d’âge, partout au pays, on a constaté un déclin – plus ou moins marqué selon la province – du nombre de personnes qui jugeaient l’aptitude très ou assez importante.

« On aurait pensé [dans un contexte de mondialisation] que les Canadiens jugeraient encore plus pertinent d’apprendre une autre langue. Il faut faire attention en interprétant les résultats : une majorité le pense toujours, mais la tendance est à l’inverse de ce que l’on prévoyait », fait remarquer Andrew Parkin.

Le politologue Rémi Léger ne peut malgré tout s’empêcher d’y voir quelque chose de préoccupant. « Sur la durée, sur 20, 30, 40 ans, est-ce que cette tendance va se maintenir ? », soulève en entrevue celui qui enseigne la science politique à l’Université Simon Fraser, en Colombie-Britannique.

D’autant plus que la tendance s’est inversée chez les répondants de 18 à 34 ans. « Alors que les Canadiens plus jeunes étaient auparavant plus susceptibles que les plus âgés à dire qu’il était important que leurs enfants apprennent une autre langue, ce n’est plus le cas », note-t-on dans le rapport. Ils étaient 86 % d’anglophones hors Québec à le penser en 2001, et voici qu’en 2019, ils ne sont plus que 69 %.

C’est un mystère qu’espère élucider Andrew Parkin dans une prochaine enquête.

Méthodologie et crédit

Le sondage a été réalisé en ligne dans les provinces et par téléphone dans les territoires auprès d’un échantillon représentatif de 5732 Canadiens âgés de 18 ans et plus entre le 14 décembre 2018 et le 16 janvier 2019. Le projet est une collaboration du Centre Mowat, de la Canada West Foundation, du Centre d’analyse politique – Constitution et fédéralisme, de l’Institut de recherche en politiques publiques, de l’Environics Institute for Survey Research et du Brian Mulroney Institute of Government.

Source: Le français décline comme langue seconde de préférence

To truly modernize social programs, it will take big data and analytics

I may be biased given some of the obstacles I faced when working on “citizen-centred service” in the early days of Service Canada, where even conceptual work regarding integrating disparate programs and services from a pathfinder perspective faced resistance.

The complexity and coordination required, the organizational and even program stovepipes, and the sheer difficulty in developing and implementing such a change agenda make me a sceptic. After all, the government wasn’t even able to integrate pay services for its own employees with Phoenix, and has had less visible problems and challenges with Shared Services Canada.

But of course, better use of big data, and better capacity to analyse the data, offer considerable potential to assess the effectiveness of current programs, identify gaps and improve outcomes:

Finding better ways of wiring for e-government is important and necessary. Nobody would disagree with the need for better computing, electronic communications and information management.

However, digital improvements will bring about only modest gains if they are applied to programs that, at core, are based on pre-computer technologies, as is the case with most of today’s social and health programs. Transformative changes in program objectives and designs based on big data and micro-analytic tools must be brought into the picture. We need to create a trove of “what works” data that will lead to individually tailored social programming.

Most of today’s social programs were designed decades ago and, reflecting the limits of the technology of the day, provide eligible individuals with standard services, products or income supports that are designed to address specific problems.

For example, an unemployed person might be assigned to a training course with a fixed duration and curriculum. A low-income senior will be provided with a top-up pension in an amount that is predetermined based on the individual’s annual income in the previous year. Someone diagnosed with a particular disease will receive a prescription for specific drugs. These benefits are provided by a variety of independent programs funded by different orders of government — and are often delivered by staff in the social work, education or health disciplines. It is difficult to coordinate or even communicate across these programs, which is why they are often referred to as program silos. Individuals who receive benefits are seen as recipients, clients, patients or students, not as citizens or partners.

It’s a reasonably efficient system that works reasonably well for most people most of the time. On balance, the results are positive, near the average of other OECD countries.

However, the system is seriously showing its age.

The underlying weakness shows up most starkly in the way the system deals with the most vulnerable. People who are most in need of health and social services or income support often face multiple obstacles in life. They might lack several types of skills, have inadequate housing and poor jobs, have differing degrees of family support and financial assets, and face a variety of health, disability and addiction issues. People with multiple needs can face an almost impenetrable array of separate programs, each with different terms and conditions and offering solutions that are partial at best. Even with the help of experts and case managers, it is often impossible to create sensible combined packages of benefits to meet individual needs.

For decades, service providers and groups representing the vulnerable have pointed out the problem of trying to shoehorn people into this complex system of fractured supports and benefits.

And for many years, policy documents relating to education, health and social policy have called for a more holistic approach, with benefits directly tailored to the diverse needs of individuals. These have been referred to as student-centred, citizen-centric and, more recently, individually driven approaches. In health, related aspirations are often referred to as precision medicine or personalized medicine, where medical treatments, practices or products are tailored to the individual patient.

However, the called-for changes have not occurred. Experiments, demonstrations and other initiatives that have attempted to cut across the boundaries of the program silos have proven difficult to sustain and have typically had little impact on the design of mainstream programming.

There are good reasons for the lack of success in moving outside traditional silos:

  • Traditional programming makes it relatively easy to provide ongoing funding, to ensure ministerial accountability and to provide the high professional standards that can ensure, for example, the quality of health and educational interventions.
  • No organization has a mandate to develop interventions that cross these traditional program boundaries.
  • The empirical data needed to assess the effectiveness of tailor-made, holistic interventions are underdeveloped and are certainly not yet strong enough to create the needed accountability arrangements. Strong accountability regimes — the monitoring and evaluation activities that ensure that money is spent effectively, transparently and in line with intended objectives — are essential if reform is to be sustained.

But the solution is on the near horizon: big data and predictive analytics. They offer the opportunity for all citizens to become real partners in the design and implementation of the social and health programs that affect their lives. They can provide transformative gains, particularly for people who are most vulnerable.

This technology is in use in other applications and can be applied to social policy. I discussed it in an IRPP essay I wrote in 2015, The Enabling Society. At its core, individuals would have access to information at the very time they need to make big social and health decisions, to make well-informed choices about which combination of training, social services, housing, income supports and health interventions is likely to work best for them. This information would be calculated from large data sets that record the experience of people who have been in similar circumstances and had similar aspirations in the past. This technology produces information that allows all dimensions of the system to work in harmony:

  • The “what works” information would also be available to case workers, teachers, health professionals and other front-line staff so they can become partners in helping individuals put together flexible packages of interventions that are most likely to meet an individual’s particular needs and aspirations, including benefits provided by programs originating in different disciplines and orders of government.
  • The same information would provide the designers and administrators of the many independent traditional programs with the tools to make improvements steadily and automatically over time based on feedback loops that routinely describe which features of the program are working best and for whom — and at what cost.
  • The same information would also support rigorous accountability regimes both for existing program silos and for the flexible arrangements that provide individually tailored packages of interventions.

Such a system would result in huge gains on multiple fronts: in individual and social well-being, in effectiveness, in reduced cost, in the openness and accountability of public programs and in the ability of different orders of government to work together more harmoniously and in a way that treats citizens as main partners in shaping and delivering social programs.

A radically different approach along these lines, one that so dramatically changes the relationship between government and citizen, obviously cannot be attained overnight.

We should start small, in areas where mechanisms already exist to allow cooperation across jurisdictional and program borders and where the needed “what works” information is already well developed. There are a number of possible starting points.

For example, Employment and Social Development Canada could work with one or more provinces in introducing “what works” information into the daily operation of training and other employment programs on an experimental or demonstration basis under the authority of existing labour market agreements, which provide federal funding to support provincial and territorial employability initiatives. These agreements already allow considerable flexibility in the funding and development of innovative employment programs. As well, the needed “what works” data have already been developed and are already routinely used in the evaluation of these projects.

Once their practicality and effectiveness have been clearly demonstrated, these small initiatives could extend naturally and gradually to other areas and would, eventually, become the normal way we do business.

At the same time, the government of Canada should undertake a large-scale exercise to develop big data from administrative sources, such as anonymized information from tax files, employment insurance records and provincial training and social assistance files. It should also develop the associated analytic tools that will allow us to use these rich data to better understand individual behaviour and the kinds of social interventions that are likely to work best at the level of particular individuals.

Such fundamental but gradual changes in the purpose and design of programs need to go hand in hand with the deep reforms in digital processes that have been discussed in this Policy Options series, including a stronger capacity throughout all parts of government in the use of computers, electronic communications and information management. Process reforms could, in some cases, increase efficiency and improve service delivery and customer satisfaction. They could also provide somewhat better information about what programs and benefits are available and allow greater access to administrative data that have been collected. However, if such reforms are made in isolation, divorced from deep “what works” changes in program goals and designs, they risk creating expectations for change that cannot be met.

Those in the e-government community are not directly responsible for changing basic social policy directions or reforming the structure of social programs, but they can nevertheless play a pivotal role in the development and use of big data and predictive analytics. This might at minimum involve active support for reforms along the lines laid out in a paper by the Experts Panel on Income Security of the Council on Aging of Ottawa that describes the kind of micro-level data and microanalytic tools that are needed. Such support, along with process reform, could go a long way in finally enabling the real transition to the digital world.

Source: To truly modernize social programs, it will take big data and analytics

A lot is riding on how we manage asylum seekers

Good overview of the challenges regarding to the increased number of asylum seekers with an almost wistful plea for increased federal-Ontario-Quebec cooperation.

No real discussion of what “workable solutions” to address the flow would entail or what form a greater formal provincial role in asylum seekers would entail apart from a “considerable injection of cash” (beyond what already provided in the Budget):

The next federal election is just eight months away. Immigration, and particularly asylum seekers and irregular border crossers coming from the US, is sure to be a thorny issue for the current federal government. These crossings, following on the heels of large numbers of Syrians seeking asylum in Europe, have stoked fears among many Canadians that the country is facing its own refugee “crisis.” Opponents have been quick to criticize the federal government, saying it is not doing enough to stem the flow of irregular border crossings. The Prime Minister’s rivals have repeatedly pointed to his January 2017 tweet saying that Canada will welcome those seeking refuge as the instigator of this increase in asylum claims. The Prime Minister faces stiff opposition from both his federal rivals and his provincial counterparts.

If Canada is to weather the inevitable ratcheting up of political rhetoric and the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment in the Western world, the federal and provincial governments will need to work together to manage asylum seekers. It is a tall order to ask politicians to take the high road and to find common ground on such a tricky file. It is even harder when immigration politics mixes with intergovernmental relations and fiscal federalism. But the survival of Canada’s immigration system may very well depend on it, and this election presents an opportunity for political leadership.

In 2018, 19,419 persons crossed the border between Canada and the United States outside of regular ports of entry. A majority did so with the hope of claiming refugee status in Canada. These movements are a reflection of the increasingly inhospitable global climate toward refugee resettlement and of the anti-immigration policies of U.S. President Donald Trump.

These border crossings are considered “irregular” because of Canada’s Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, signed as part of a bigger package of reforms to coordinate border management policies after 9/11. Under the agreement, both countries are designated “safe third countries” because they allow and process refugee protection claims according to international standards and obligations. The core principle of the agreement is that persons should seek protection and asylum in the first safe country they arrive in. So, migrants who land first in the United States cannot claim asylum at a regular port of entry in Canada, and vice-versa. Significantly, the agreement does not apply outside of designated ports of entry. People crossing at locations that are not regular ports of entry, such as the now famous Roxham Road in Quebec, may therefore make asylum claims.

The well-publicized increase in total asylum claims over the past two years is not unprecedented in Canada: similar spikes occurred in the recent past. For example, there were 44,640 claims in 2001. But the numbers in the last two years are extraordinary: 50,390 claims in 2017 and 55,020 in 2018, a sharp rise from the recent low of 10,365 in 2013. The surge in crossings at non-designated ports has driven the increase: there were over 20,593 such crossings in 2017 and 19,419 in 2018. Arrivals are not distributed evenly across provinces; Quebec received more than 90 percent of “irregular” arrivals in 2017 and 2018, and Ontario is the destination of a large share of these individuals and families while they await status determination. In August 2017 alone, over 5,500 people crossed the border into Quebec. By 2018, though, the number of border crossers seemed to have levelled off to a more consistent flow of around 1,500 people a month.

The combination of drivers behind these arrivals means that there are no easy solutions to dealing with this new normal. Proposals range from making the entire border a port of entryto cancelling the Safe Third Country Agreement. Canada needs to find workable solutions that humanely manage the flow of asylum seekers crossing the Canada-US border without actively encouraging it.

While the focus is often on Ottawa’s response to asylum seekers, all three orders of government play critical roles. In addition to border security, the federal government is responsible for the initial intake and screening of asylum seekers, along with funding and managing their claims for refugee status. The provinces are responsible for providing housing and social services while people wait to hear if the Immigration and Refugee Board will approve their claims. Cities, particularly Toronto, face the significant challenge of having to find shelter space and provide on-the-ground services. For the system to work, the federal government has to take leadership and quickly process the claims to help resolve people’s status in Canada, while the provinces and municipalities provide the necessary support that allows them to settle into their new life and thrive in their communities. The sharp increase in asylum seekers in the past two years has exposed the weak points in the system and led to considerable federal-provincial conflict.

Conflict between the three main players — Ottawa, Quebec and Ontario — has largely defined the federal-provincial relationship in responding to the asylum issue. Quebec has been vocal in calling for support from Ottawa to help it deal with the costs associated with being the main point where the crossings are happening. Ontario — where a large portion of the asylum seekers are landing, particularly in the Greater Toronto Area — has repeatedly asked the federal government to help cover the cost of housing and social services for these individuals. Ottawa has dedicated approximately $150 million to help provinces and municipalities with the costs of resettlement, in addition to the estimated $1 billion it plans to spend over the next three years on processing asylum claims. It is also taking steps like reopening a previously closed Immigration and Refugee Board office to speed up processing. But these first moves have not gone far enough to resolve the tensions. The spat got so heated that Ontario pulled out of discussions on how to deal with the entire issue, a move that also signals the provincial government’s lack of desire to fully engage to find a mutually agreeable solution. The lack of engagement has led mayors from Toronto and other big cities to make their case directly with Ottawa.

This period of conflict is unusual. As our past research shows, immigration is an area where the federal and provincial governments have increasingly cooperated to develop policy. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, the provinces expanded their role in selecting and settling migrants. And, in recent years, federal-provincial-territorial collaboration has been a defining feature of immigration policy. So, what is the difference when it comes to dealing with asylum seekers?

In the past, the provinces and the federal government largely agreed on the basic objectives of the immigration program. Expanding the provincial role in selecting migrants helped achieve a shared goal of streaming migrants away from settling mainly in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. It also helped ensure that the skills of migrants matched labour market needs. In short, there was a measure of consensus that the provinces needed to play a role in the program to ensure that the benefits of immigration were shared equally across the country and for migrants to succeed in their new lives. This consensus generated cooperation.

No such consensus on how to manage asylum seekers seems to have emerged yet. The lack of consensus reflects the traditional lack of provincial engagement in asylum policy, where the federal government has long taken the lead. Quebec, Ontario and Ottawa also have competing interests at the moment. Quebec is on the front line, and is understandably concerned with stopping irregular border crossings into its territory. Ontario — Toronto in particular — is facing a major challenge housing the influx of people. Ottawa is focused on dealing with the mounting backlog of refugee claims while ensuring the process remains rigorous and fair.

Politics, of course, is also playing into the conflict. Doug Ford wants to score points battling the federal Liberals. François Legault’s newly elected government is requesting that Ottawa support its plan to lower immigration levels and is asking for more powers under the 1991 Canada-Quebec immigration agreement. Justin Trudeau has built his brand on the value of pluralism and support for immigration, something that the Liberal Party has traditionally proposed must be achieved through centralization. These are difficult positions to reconcile. But political differences can be overcome to find workable solutions: the height of federal-provincial cooperation on immigration came when there was a Conservative federal government and Liberal governments in Ontario and Quebec.

The federal and provincial governments must work together once again. Their shared goal should be a balance between protecting the integrity of our immigration system and treating asylum seekers with compassion. Strong federal leadership is necessary to achieve this goal, along with a clear recognition of the interdependence of all three orders of government in successfully managing the file. The federal government needs to inject considerable cash into the entire system, chiefly focusing on speeding up the processing of asylum claims. Ottawa controls the principal levers, direct and indirect, to manage the influx of migrants — and so it needs to work with the provinces to find common ground on how it should wield these tools.

A federal-provincial agreement on the broader policy approach, as well as on funding the resettlement of claimants, would help establish this common ground. But this agreement needs to be more than a blank cheque from the federal government. The provinces must accept that they have a role and responsibility in supporting asylum seekers. If the benefits of economic migration are to be shared by all — as the provinces have fought hard for over the years — then the responsibility to assist humanitarian migration also needs to be shared by all.

Canada’s enviable immigration system relies on the public’s support. This backing is not the result of some unique Canadian openness to multiculturalism and pluralism — though these are important parts of our national identity. The public largely supports immigration because it is seen to be in the interests of the entire community. It is mainly a controlled process, bringing in skilled workers and family members.

Canada’s geopolitical position, with vast oceans on three sides and a relatively stable democracy to the south, means that the country has not been subjected to massive flows of asylum seekers. But this is a fragile situation. If the current and next governments don’t handle the new normal of consistent flows of asylum seekers properly, public support could erode, and the legitimacy of the entire Canadian immigration system could be put in jeopardy.

Source: A lot is riding on how we manage asylum seekers

Immigration policy requires a rethink

Good thoughtful discussion of some of the bigger picture immigration issues by Mohammad Qadeer:

Immigration has evolved into a defining issue of national politics in most western countries, dividing liberals from populists and globalists from nationalists. Policy in this area is increasingly intertwined with border security, foreign relations, economics, trade and social integration. Governments can no longer simply tweak the criteria for the number, type and national origins of the persons they intend to admit as immigrants.

Today immigration must be seen in an international context, and nations must aim to balance the interests of both sending and receiving countries. Policies governing the two streams of immigration — refugees and voluntary immigrants — need re-examination.

Recent refugee crises have already shifted the parameters of immigration policy, notably in response to the global trends and international events of the past decades. The long wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, the turmoil and climatic catastrophes of Central and Western Africa, the crime and oppression of Honduras, Guatemala and recently Venezuela have displaced millions. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that the number of forcibly displaced persons in 2017 was 68.5 million. This number is increasing year by year.

Though most refugees seek shelter in neighbouring countries, the dramatic arrival of boatloads of asylum seekers on European shores and the “caravans” of Central Americans heading to the US southern border have triggered populist reactions in these countries, arousing anti-immigration sentiments and roiling national politics. Canada has not been immune from these sentiments, despite its reputation as an immigrant-welcoming country. The Conservative Party is demanding that asylum seekers who cross the border outside the official points of entry be barred.

Countries have moral, legal and international obligations to fairly adjudicate asylum claims in order to protect persecuted and endangered people whose life or security is in jeopardy. There is also a humanitarian imperative to take in persons in extraordinary distress. Yet these obligations have political underpinnings. Usually liberal and socialist groups favour accommodating refugees, and some even advocate for open borders, whereas nationalists and right-wing conservatives demand secure borders and limits on asylum seekers.

These political divisions have sharpened in recent years, and the political parties opposing refugees have made major gains in most countries. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has paid for her acceptance of a million refugees by her party’s losses in state elections. Italy has elected a government that has barred rescue ships from entering ports. President Trump is adamant about building a wall on the southern border.

Neither barring nor opening up entry into Western countries can solve the overall problem of asylum seekers. It has to be addressed at the source. Many countries are riven by rebellions, terrorism, ethnic and religious violence, poor governance, climatic disasters and poverty. On top of these internal disorders, foreign interventions and invasions (as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia) are turning millions into refugees. These events that cause people to leave their homes have to be dealt with by the concerted but non-military efforts of major powers in the interest of global order.

A consensus is emerging that refugees should be protected in and near their homelands. The recently negotiated Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, while holding refugees and migrants to be entitled to universal human rights, commits its signatories to create conducive conditions “for people to lead, peaceful, productive and sustainable lives in their own country” (objective 2, paragraph 18).

A UN body should be ready to temporarily administer a part or the whole of a country where the government fails to protect its people. For this purpose, the Trusteeship Council, initially formed to administer territories in transition from colonialism to independence, could be revived in a new role. It may set up international rule temporarily to establish order and safety and help people stay in their homeland or nearby.

But a stable social order in a Southern country should not be disturbed even if its government is less than democratic, except if it is carrying out ethnic or religious genocide. The lesson of the Western military interventions in the Middle East and Africa is that they tend to turn into unending wars, producing refugees.

The second stream of immigrants is of those selected by Western countries for their skills, professional talents and entrepreneurship. The US admits about 1.1 to 1.3 million permanent residents per year. Canada, with a population less than one-tenth as large, takes in more than 300,000 immigrants and another 300,000 or so temporary workers per year. The UN’s Population Division estimates that in 2017, 258 million persons were international migrants, apart from millions of expatriate workers. In 2017, Gallup estimated that worldwide 700 million would like to migrate. Obviously not everybody is packed to move, but potentially there are millions aspiring to migrate.

Legal immigration has its own policy challenges. It creates a brain and talent drain in sending countries; in the short run, remittances bring a financial infusion and benefit individual migrants, but in the long run, out-migration takes away people who could have contributed to the prosperity and stability of those societies. The vicious cycle of the brain drain is that as the more qualified and enterprising people leave, more aspire to follow them, draining away prospective nation builders. A stable world order in which all countries may prosper requires that the development needs of the sending countries should be balanced against the demand for immigration in the receiving countries.

Within Western countries, the aging and potentially shrinking population is driving the demand for migrant workers. The economic and demographic interests of these countries are the pull factor for immigration, but the resulting dilution of their social, cultural and ethnic composition of nations arouses resistance. Canada, for example, may be a more prosperous country with a majority of its population foreign-born, but it will be a different country. A new entrant in Canadian politics, the People’s Party of Canada, led by Maxime Bernier, demands that immigration should not “forcibly change the cultural character and social fabric of Canada.” Balancing the conflicting demands is a political challenge that will not go away.

Advancing technologies are introducing a new consideration. Automation and artificial intelligence are expected to make 40 percent of jobs free of human labour. Is it desirable for countries to bring large numbers of immigrants into a volatile job market, where job security may be scarce and human labour not in high demand?

In a world of global trade, the movement of people cannot be restricted. What may become necessary are new forms of citizenship and different sets of residents’ rights. In the policies of the near future, immigration may no longer be viewed as the transfer of a population stock from one country to another; the new model may be one of migrants circulating among countries, with associated rights of settlement and movement. Such an approach to immigration may change the idea of nationhood itself.

Source: Immigration policy requires a rethink

Immigration policy requires a rethink

Thoughtful discussion of some of the big picture immigration issues by Mohammad Qadeer:

Immigration has evolved into a defining issue of national politics in most western countries, dividing liberals from populists and globalists from nationalists. Policy in this area is increasingly intertwined with border security, foreign relations, economics, trade and social integration. Governments can no longer simply tweak the criteria for the number, type and national origins of the persons they intend to admit as immigrants.

Today immigration must be seen in an international context, and nations must aim to balance the interests of both sending and receiving countries. Policies governing the two streams of immigration — refugees and voluntary immigrants — need re-examination.

Recent refugee crises have already shifted the parameters of immigration policy, notably in response to the global trends and international events of the past decades. The long wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, the turmoil and climatic catastrophes of Central and Western Africa, the crime and oppression of Honduras, Guatemala and recently Venezuela have displaced millions. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that the number of forcibly displaced persons in 2017 was 68.5 million. This number is increasing year by year.

Though most refugees seek shelter in neighbouring countries, the dramatic arrival of boatloads of asylum seekers on European shores and the “caravans” of Central Americans heading to the US southern border have triggered populist reactions in these countries, arousing anti-immigration sentiments and roiling national politics. Canada has not been immune from these sentiments, despite its reputation as an immigrant-welcoming country. The Conservative Party is demanding that asylum seekers who cross the border outside the official points of entry be barred.

Countries have moral, legal and international obligations to fairly adjudicate asylum claims in order to protect persecuted and endangered people whose life or security is in jeopardy. There is also a humanitarian imperative to take in persons in extraordinary distress. Yet these obligations have political underpinnings. Usually liberal and socialist groups favour accommodating refugees, and some even advocate for open borders, whereas nationalists and right-wing conservatives demand secure borders and limits on asylum seekers.

These political divisions have sharpened in recent years, and the political parties opposing refugees have made major gains in most countries. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has paid for her acceptance of a million refugees by her party’s losses in state elections. Italy has elected a government that has barred rescue ships from entering ports. President Trump is adamant about building a wall on the southern border.

Neither barring nor opening up entry into Western countries can solve the overall problem of asylum seekers. It has to be addressed at the source. Many countries are riven by rebellions, terrorism, ethnic and religious violence, poor governance, climatic disasters and poverty. On top of these internal disorders, foreign interventions and invasions (as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia) are turning millions into refugees. These events that cause people to leave their homes have to be dealt with by the concerted but non-military efforts of major powers in the interest of global order.

A consensus is emerging that refugees should be protected in and near their homelands. The recently negotiated Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, while holding refugees and migrants to be entitled to universal human rights, commits its signatories to create conducive conditions “for people to lead, peaceful, productive and sustainable lives in their own country” (objective 2, paragraph 18).

A UN body should be ready to temporarily administer a part or the whole of a country where the government fails to protect its people. For this purpose, the Trusteeship Council, initially formed to administer territories in transition from colonialism to independence, could be revived in a new role. It may set up international rule temporarily to establish order and safety and help people stay in their homeland or nearby.

But a stable social order in a Southern country should not be disturbed even if its government is less than democratic, except if it is carrying out ethnic or religious genocide. The lesson of the Western military interventions in the Middle East and Africa is that they tend to turn into unending wars, producing refugees.

The second stream of immigrants is of those selected by Western countries for their skills, professional talents and entrepreneurship. The US admits about 1.1 to 1.3 million permanent residents per year. Canada, with a population less than one-tenth as large, takes in more than 300,000 immigrants and another 300,000 or so temporary workers per year. The UN’s Population Division estimates that in 2017, 258 million persons were international migrants, apart from millions of expatriate workers. In 2017, Gallup estimated that worldwide 700 million would like to migrate. Obviously not everybody is packed to move, but potentially there are millions aspiring to migrate.

Legal immigration has its own policy challenges. It creates a brain and talent drain in sending countries; in the short run, remittances bring a financial infusion and benefit individual migrants, but in the long run, out-migration takes away people who could have contributed to the prosperity and stability of those societies. The vicious cycle of the brain drain is that as the more qualified and enterprising people leave, more aspire to follow them, draining away prospective nation builders. A stable world order in which all countries may prosper requires that the development needs of the sending countries should be balanced against the demand for immigration in the receiving countries.

Within Western countries, the aging and potentially shrinking population is driving the demand for migrant workers. The economic and demographic interests of these countries are the pull factor for immigration, but the resulting dilution of their social, cultural and ethnic composition of nations arouses resistance. Canada, for example, may be a more prosperous country with a majority of its population foreign-born, but it will be a different country. A new entrant in Canadian politics, the People’s Party of Canada, led by Maxime Bernier, demands that immigration should not “forcibly change the cultural character and social fabric of Canada.” Balancing the conflicting demands is a political challenge that will not go away.

Advancing technologies are introducing a new consideration. Automation and artificial intelligence are expected to make 40 percent of jobs free of human labour. Is it desirable for countries to bring large numbers of immigrants into a volatile job market, where job security may be scarce and human labour not in high demand?

In a world of global trade, the movement of people cannot be restricted. What may become necessary are new forms of citizenship and different sets of residents’ rights. In the policies of the near future, immigration may no longer be viewed as the transfer of a population stock from one country to another; the new model may be one of migrants circulating among countries, with associated rights of settlement and movement. Such an approach to immigration may change the idea of nationhood itself.

Source: Immigration policy requires a rethink

Responsibly deploying AI in the immigration process

Some good practical suggestions. While AI has the potential for greater consistency in decision-making, great care needs to be taken in development, testing and implementation to avoid bias and to identify cases where decisions need to be reviewed:

In April, the federal government sent a request for information to industry to determine where artificial intelligence (AI) could be used in the immigration system for legal research, prediction and trend analysis. The type of AI to be employed here is machine learning: developing algorithms through analysis of wide swaths of data to make predictions within a particular context. The current backlog of immigration applications leaves much room for solutions that could improve the efficiency of case processing, but Canadians should be concerned about the vulnerability of the groups targeted in this pilot project and how the use of these technologies might lead to human rights violations.

An algorithmic mistake that holds up a bank loan is frustrating enough, but in immigration screening a miscalculation could have devastating consequences. The potential for error is especially concerning because of the nature of the two application categories the government has selected for the pilot project: requests for consideration on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, and applications for Pre-Removal Risk Assessment. In the former category of cases, officials consider an applicant’s connections with Canada and the best interests of any children involved. In the latter category, a decision must be made about the danger that would confront the applicant if they were returned to their home country. In some of these cases, assessing whether someone holds political opinions for which they would be persecuted could be a crucial component. Given how challenging it is for current algorithmic methods to extract meaning and intent from human statements, it is unlikely that AI could be trusted to make such a judgment reliably. An error here could lead to someone being sent back to imprisonment or torture.

Moreover, if an inadequately designed algorithm results in decisions that infringe upon rights or amplify discrimination, people in these categories could have less capacity than other applicants to respond with a legal challenge. They may face financial constraints if they’re fleeing a dangerous regime, as well as cultural and language barriers.

An algorithmic mistake that holds up a bank loan is frustrating enough, but in immigration screening a miscalculation could have devastating consequences.

Because of the complexity of these decisions and the stakes involved, the government must think carefully about which parts of the screening process can be automated. Decision-makers need to take extreme care to ensure that machine learning techniques are employed ethically and with respect for human rights. We have several recommendations for how this can be done.

First, we suggest that the federal government take some best practices from the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR has expanded individual rights with regard to the collection and processing of personal data. Article 22 guarantees the right to challenge the automated decisions of algorithms, including the right to have a human review the decision. The Canadian government should consider a similar expansion of rights for individuals whose immigration applications are decided by, or informed by, the use of automated methods. In addition, it must ensure that the vulnerable groups being targeted are able to exercise those rights.

Second, the government must think carefully about what kinds of transparency are needed, for whom, and how greater transparency might create new risks. The immigration process is already complex and opaque, and with added automation, it may become more difficult to verify that these important decisions are being made in fair and thorough ways. The government’s request for information asks for input from industry on ensuring sufficient transparency so that AI decisions can be audited. In the context of immigration screening, we argue that a spectrum of transparency is needed because there are multiple parties with different interests and rights to information.

If the government were to reveal to everyone exactly how these algorithms work, there could be adverse consequences. A fully transparent AI decision process would open doors for people who want to exploit the system, including human traffickers. They could game the algorithm, for example, by observing the keywords and phrases that the AI system flags as markers of acceptability and inserting those words into immigration applications. Job seekers already do something similar, by using keywords strategically to get a resumé in front of human eyes. One possible mechanism for oversight in the case of immigration would be a neutral regulatory body that would be given the full details of how the algorithm operates but would reveal only case-specific details to the applicants and partial details to other relevant stakeholders.

Finally, the government needs to get broader input when designing this proposed use of AI. Requesting solutions from industry alone will deliver only part of the story. The government should also draw on expertise from the country’s three leading AI research institutes in Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto, as well as two new ones focused specifically on AI ethics: the University of Toronto’s Ethics of AI Lab and the Montreal AI Ethics Institute. Another group whose input should be included is the immigration applicants themselves. Developers and policy-makers have a responsibility to understand the context for which they are developing solutions. By bringing these perspectives into their design process, they can help bridge empathy gaps. An example of how users’ first-hand knowledge of a process can yield helpful tools is the recently launched chatbot Destin, which was designed by immigrants to help guide applicants through the Canadian immigration process.

The application of AI to immigration screening is promising: applications could be processed faster, with less human bias and at lower cost. But care must be taken with implementation. Canada has been taking a considered and strategic approach to the use of AI, as evidenced by the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, a major investment by the federal government that includes a focus on developing global thought leadership on the ethical and societal implications of advances in AI. We encourage the government to continue to pursue this thoughtful approach and an emphasis on human rights to guide the use of AI in immigration.

Source: Responsibly deploying AI in the immigration process

What the previous government learned about birth tourism: My article in Policy Options

Excerpt are my concluding observations:

All this being said, the number of births by foreign mothers should be monitored. Statistics Canada numbers may not present an accurate picture. The number of births to foreign women in Richmond was reported as 394 in 2016-17, greater than the 313 that Statistics Canada reported for the whole country for 2016 (see table above). The Richmond numbers showed a steady increase from 2010, compared with the flatter trend in national numbers. Statistics Canada and IRCC need to work with provincial health ministries to ensure more reliable and consistent data.

More focused measures need to be considered to reduce or contain birth tourism. Options include making it more expensive by increasing the deposit that mothers pay hospitals; making suspected birth tourism grounds for visa refusal; and banning or regulating “birth tourism hotels,” places catering to pregnant foreign women and the consultants who help make the related arrangements.

These concrete actions would be a more proportionate response to the concerns raised by politicians and their constituents, and one that should be pursued by any government to improve the integrity of the citizenship program and address public concerns about fraud and abuse.

It is also important that the motivation behind discussion and debates on birthright citizenship not be labelled as racist, xenophobic or anti-immigrant. The fundamental issue remains fraud and misrepresentation, not discrimination.

What the previous government learned about birth tourism

Citizenship: What the Census Tells Us

Please find below the link to the Policy Options article I did with respect to citizenship and the related deck that I will present later this week at the Metropolis Conference in Calgary (hence will not be blogging for the rest of the week).

What the census tells us about citizenship

This analysis uses Census data to examine naturalization rates with respect to gender, age, education, immigration period and category, labour force status and median income.

“White settler revisionism” threatens Métis-Crown reconciliation

The complexities of identity, “peoplehood” and rights:

The 2016 census revealed explosive growth in the self-identified Métis population in Canada. The 51.2 percent growth of self-identified Métis from 2006 to 2016 easily surpassed the growth of First Nations and Inuit populations.

The growth is spread unevenly across Canada. Notably, the Métis population skyrocketed in areas where no historic Métis communities were located. Recently published research by scholars Adam Gaudry and Darryl Leroux reveals that the self-identified Métis populations in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick surged by 900 and 450 percent, respectively.

Clearly, demography alone cannot explain the trend. According to Gaudry and Leroux, people in eastern Canada are claiming Métis identity based on Indigenous ancestry revealed through genealogy. They call the practice of reimagining racial identity based on the existence of long-ago Indigenous ancestors as “white settler revisionism.” Many of those claiming to be Métis base their revisionist identity on the mistaken assumption that a mix of European and Indigenous ancestors is a sufficient basis to claim a Métis identity.

Far from being a harmless phenomenon, white settler revisionism systematically devalues Métis peoplehood by disregarding the process that led to the ethnogenesis of the Métis Nation.

The Métis Nation arose in the specific period after European contact and prior to European control of the specific geographical area referred to as the Métis homeland. The Métis homeland is a vast area now covered by the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, and stretches into portions of Ontario, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, as well as the northernmost plains of the United States.

The mass usurpation of Métis identity also has the potential to derail efforts at reconciliation between Indigenous people and the federal government.

Indeed, widespread assertion of Métis identity has the potential to stymie future policy frameworks. The Daniels decision, which held that Métis people are to be considered “Indians” for the purposes of section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867, raises the possibility that the federal government will be required to provide more programs and services to Métis people.

Policy-makers must have a clear idea of the scope and distribution of a population requiring government support and engagement. The proliferation of dubious claims of Métis identity in disparate geographic areas poses serious obstacles to policy objectives.

The unscrupulous practices of organizations claiming to represent Métis people cannot be ignored. The Métis Federation of Canada, for example, does not require their members to prove Métis ancestry. Neither does the Bras d’Or Lake Métis Nation. To join these organizations, prospective members must simply demonstrate that they have an Indigenous ancestor. This ancestor can be Métis, Inuit or First Nations.

But the Métis Nation is not a simple conglomeration of ancestors with mixed ancestry. These organizations are creating chaos by convincing millions of Canadians that they are Métis, regardless of a lack of ancestral connection to the Métis Nation.

The Métis National Council and its provincial organizations, on the other hand, have meticulously crafted citizenship criteria that require concrete proof of Métis ancestry. In short, applicants must self-identify as Métis and demonstrate that they have an ancestral connection to the Métis Nation that arose in the historic Métis homeland.

Canada must intervene to ensure that the Métis National Council is not lost among an avalanche of illegitimate organizations. The federal government has begun this process by providing funding in its 2017 budget to the Métis National Council and its affiliated organizations. The money is going toward governance capacity and to support the council’s membership registry.

But more action is needed. Ottawa must affirm the Métis National Council’s resolution declaring that “there is only one Métis Nation, and that the geographic homeland of the Métis Nation is the historic Northwest which entered into Confederation in 1870 through the negotiations of the Métis Provisional Government led by President Louis Riel.” Only a clear and unequivocal statement will have the intended effect of silencing specious claims to Métis identity.

Additionally, policy-makers in Ottawa must understand that enabling the federal incorporation of dubious organizations like the Métis Federation of Canada could be harmful to reconciliation efforts with the Métis people.

Finally, Canada should provide funding to the Métis National Council so it can judicially intervene in response to illegitimate legal claims to Métis rights. A number of these claims have arisen in recent decades. Most recently, unsuccessful Métis rights claimants in New Brunswick sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada a decision by the New Brunswick Court of Appeal that upheld the lower-court ruling that no historic Métis community existed in the province.

The Métis Nation and the federal government are on the cusp of achieving lasting agreements that will facilitate reconciliation and a just resolution to generations of conflict. But the proliferation of white settler revisionism and the mass usurpation of Métis identity threaten those prospects. The federal government must take seriously the threat posed to the Métis Nation by white settler revisionism, and continue to enact policy reforms to support the Métis National Council.

via “White settler revisionism” threatens Métis-Crown reconciliation

ICYMI: Is Canada’s population too small? My review of Doug Saunders’ Maximum Canada 

For those interested, my take in Policy Options on Doug Saunders’ Maximum Canada.

Source: Is Canada’s population too small?