Indigenous peoples: In Canada, justice is not blind

The high numbers regarding indigenous incarceration rates are shocking. Comparable to Black incarceration rates in the USA:

While admissions of white adults to Canadian prisons declined through the last decade, Indigenous incarceration rates were surging: Up 112 per cent for women. Already, 36 per cent of the women and 25 per cent of men sentenced to provincial and territorial custody in Canada are Indigenous—a group that makes up just four per cent of the national population.

This helps explain why prison guard jobs are among the fastest-growing public occupation on the Prairies. And why criminologists have begun quietly referring to Canada’s prisons and jails as the country’s “new residential schools.”

In the past decade, the federal government passed more than 30 new crime laws, hiking punishment for a wide range of crimes, limiting parole opportunities and also broadening the grounds used to send young offenders to jail. At the same time, it has been ignoring calls to reform biased correctional admissions tests, bail and other laws disproportionately impacting Indigenous offenders. Instead, it appears to be incarcerating as many Indigenous people as possible, for as long as legally possible, with far-reaching consequences for Indigenous families.

But the problem isn’t just new laws. Although police “carding” in Toronto has put street checks, which disproportionately target minority populations, under the microscope, neither is racial profiling alone to blame. At every step, discriminatory practices and a biased system work against an Indigenous accused, from the moment a person is first identified by police, to their appearance before a judge, to their hearing before a parole board. The evidence is unambiguous: If you happen to be Indigenous, justice in Canada is not blind.

“What we are doing is using our criminal justice system to defend ourselves from the consequence of our own racism,” says Toronto criminal lawyer John Struthers, who cut his legal teeth as a Crown attorney in remote, northern communities. Rather than treat trauma, addictions, he says, “we keep the doors closed.”

Source: Cover preview: In Canada, justice is not blind –

Why don’t we have more female judges? –

Irwin Cotler’s efforts to get more information on judicial appointments (see earlier Tories chastised for lack of racial diversity in judicial appointmentsRacial Diversity Gap in the CourtroomForget MacKay, a woman’s place is on the bench):

The justice minister’s office explains that in the case of Cotler’s most recent question, there simply wasn’t enough time to do what would have had to have been done to answer Cotler’s questions.

In the order-paper question that Mr. Cotler tabled last December, Q-836, he was asking the department to go back through 21 years of information, a great deal of which would require a manual search of the paper records. The department only has 45 days to answer order-paper questions and there was just not enough time.

It does seem like a rather large project.

Cotler and Liberal MP Sean Casey today released a statement calling for greater diversity on the bench and the questions raised by last year’s controversy—whatever Peter MacKay said or didn’t say—still seem worthwhile. While Ontario publishes information on applicants for judicial publications, we have no such data for federal appointments. At what rate are women applying to be federal judges? How has that rate changed over time? And how has the rate of appointment of women changed over time? Those don’t seem like questions for which it would be unreasonable to expect answers to be somehow procured.

I don’t think this is true.

When I compiled a list of women and visible minorities in provincial legislatures, it only took me a week or so to go through names and photos of provincial legislature members. Going through judicial appointments should not be that time consuming (only an average 69 per year between 2006-12).

Why don’t we have more female judges? –

Direct link to the table for 2006-12 appointments:

breakdown (pdf)

Winnipeg rises to a challenge – Macleans – Wells

Aboriginal - Black comparisonPaul Wells on the impressive open response to the Macleans story on racism in Winnipeg. All too rare in Canadian politics:

“Ignorance, hatred, intolerance, racism exists everywhere,” Bowman said. “Winnipeg has a responsibility right now to turn this ship around and change the way we all relate: Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, Canadians alike, from coast to coast to coast.”

Already this was surprising. Bowman was not demanding Maclean’s apologize, or indeed anyone. “We are here together to face this head-on as one community,” he said.  He was careful to note what nobody would deny: that racism exists everywhere, not only in Winnipeg, and that the city is full of people who work hard to combat racism and its effects. But neither he nor the other speakers sought any bogus refuge in the fact that Maclean’s isn’t published locally or that it used nasty words in its article.

Mercredi also emphasized that racism is a big problem that ignores municipal borders, but added: “I want to thank Maclean’s magazine for the story that they did. And to challenge them to follow up with other stories of where individuals and groups have combatted racism in their particular communities and cities and have made a difference in race relations in their communities.”

I suspect we’ll be taking up Mercredi’s challenge over the next few weeks. It was, on the whole, an inspiring and morally serious response from officials who know very well that slogans won’t begin to heal the wounds Nancy Macdonald and Scott Gilmore document this week.

It’s so common to find public officials shifting blame instead of lifting burdens. That’s not the path Brian Bowman and his colleagues chose today. It was heartening.

Winnipeg rises to a challenge –

And the report of the press conference:

Winnipeg leaders vow to face racism head-on In response to this week’s Maclean’s cover, Brian Bowman, backed by indigenous leaders, promised to change Winnipeg’s reputation

Richer, smarter, taller: A measure of Canada from the OECD

OECD-11-745x1024 - ConflictsInteresting long-term study by the OECD on the last 200 years. Not quite as captivating as the Rosling videos (200-years-that-changed-the-world-bbc), but some of the graphics are clever and well-done:

In 1820, the OECD says, Canada’s GDP per capita stood at $904—behind Western European nations, but not bad for a colonial backwater that was governed from an ocean away. That mark doubled to $1,816 by 1880, doubled again by 1920, and surpassed the colonial powers by mid-century. Meanwhile, Canadians always stood taller than even the richest nations. We averaged heights of more than 170 cm in 1820, a mark the OECD attributes to the “abundant food supply” afforded to settlers in our corner of the New World. That’s 11 cm taller than the average Mexican. The Swedes and Dutch have since surpassed Canada, but we’re still taller, on average, than Americans and every non-European country. We’ve also steadily grown older. Fifty-eight years might seem like a short life now, but in the 1920s that average Canadian life expectancy was among the world’s longest. These days, our 80-year average is only slightly behind the Japanese at 82.

It’s not all good news for Canadians. We’re among the highest per-capita emissions belchers in the world, trailing only the United States and Australia. No one else comes close. Most European countries are reducing their emissions per capita, and Russia’s world-leading numbers plummeted after the Soviet Union’s collapse.

The OECD report also tells magnificent and tragic stories about the rest of the world. It charts a massive global spike in education levels. It explains how much longer human beings live now than just a few decades ago, even if war- and disease-ravaged African nations are the glaring exception. It maps the spread of women’s suffrage, a basic political right almost unheard of in 1913 but now the global rule—except in Saudi Arabia. As the world fights for a better lot in life, the OECD makes one thing clear: the average Canadian has always had more money in their pocket, a better view in a crowd, and more schooling than most of humanity.

Richer, smarter, taller: A measure of Canada from the OECD.

Why its time for Canada to grow up – Increasing immigration

Pretty shallow argumentation, with no evidence apart from asserting it will be so.

No mention of inequality issues and that some communities are struggling more than others that the NHS and various studies make clear.

While overall Canada’s success at integration is almost unique in the world, simply assuming we could scale up immigration, integration, citizenship and multiculturalism by 50 percent a year is naive at best.

It would not be hard. Now at 34 million people, we would only need an annual growth rate of 1.3 per cent to reach that target. Assuming our fertility rates remain low, this means an additional 186,000 migrants annually, bringing our total immigration numbers to 444,000 per year. This may sound like a lot, but we could absorb them easily. By comparison to most cities around the world, Canadian urban areas are sprawling and empty. Even if we doubled our immigration numbers, the lineup at Tim Hortons would stay the same. It would only increase our workforce by one per cent per year, a number that our economy could easily engage, especially if we continue to recruit and favour skilled and educated migrants.

More immigrants mean more minds, more hands and more tax dollars. There is a misconception that new arrivals are a net drain on our economy. In fact, they are more entrepreneurial and work longer hours than average Canadians. The added muscle would make us smarter, stronger and louder.

While my bias is towards more pro-immigration rhetoric than the anti-immigration crowd, this has to be grounded in reality, and recognition that our absorptive capacity cannot be increasing by wishing it was so.

Why its time for Canada to grow up –

In New York, the Prime Minister talks about winning immigrant votes

The “fourth sister” of Canadian politics to use Tom Flanagan’s phrase.

Most of the analysis I have seen (2011 Canada Election Study and related articles) have a similar nuanced understanding of the Conservative Party’s success, but all acknowledge the “showing up” aspect of the outreach by Jason Kenney as having an impact on some communities.

Healthy for Canadian democracy that all parties actively engage new Canadians:

Harper emphasizes his ability to position his party as closer to new Canadians in terms of policy ideas on the economy and crime, and in terms of underlying social attitudes. But how to disentangle those factors from his undeniable success in the past two elections in simply presenting himself as a more resolute, confidence-inspiring leader?

And then there’s this further point the Prime Minister also made today, after he proposed the inherent attraction of Conservative thinking to immigrants: “But we began our appeal first and foremost by showing up, by making sure we’re present at their events, by making sure they have a home in our political party.”

There can be little doubt he’s right that making personal connections, on some level emotional ones, matters greatly. Again, Kenney is widely credited with getting out among various immigrant groups. But isn’t Justin Trudeau proving a huge draw among similar communities? In Trudeau’s case, though, it’s less often a matter of making sure to be present at somebody else’s event, than drawing throngs to his own.

Listening to Harper today, there could be no doubt he’s betting heavily on the immigrant vote when it comes to his re-election chances next fall. No wonder. It’s a major part of what brought him to office. The question is whether his assertion of a deep bond between Conservatives and immigrants, based on enduring ideas and attitudes, is accurate—or if, like so much of our electoral politics, it turns out that this strategic swath of votes responds more to a given leader’s persona than anything else.

In New York, the Prime Minister talks about winning immigrant votes.

Statistics Canada rewrote our story on Statistics Canada –

This is quite funny, but not for the lack of judgement it showed in trying to “correct” the spin of a story. Worth reading as most points are editorial rather than substantive in nature.

A short letter to the editor focussing on substance would have been more effective:

Problems like these are pretty common in big organizations, where it’s not unheard of for IT departments to start updating computer systems without telling anyone for updates to systems to be made without a full understanding of their impact and for senior managers to have no idea how their computer systems work, causing mass panic and confusion.

Statistics Canada rewrote our story on Statistics Canada –

Editorial: Canada is leading the pack in mixed unions

Citizenship Fraud.021Further to my earlier post on the StatsCan study (Metro Vancouver has highest ratio of mixed couples in Canada), the Macleans editorial on what it may mean (I developed the chart above based on the study):

A couple of trends suggest the overall growth rate will move up in future, regardless of ethnicities involved. First, mixed unions tend to track the percentage of visible minorities in the greater Canadian populace. With visible minorities predicted to account for up to a third of the population by 2031, further growth will no doubt occur as the dating pool changes. Mixed unions are more common within younger age groups, as well, suggesting a gradual progression through society. Higher education is also correlated with mixed unions, as is urban living. Vancouver boasts the highest percentage of mixed unions, at nearly 10 per cent, followed by Toronto, Victoria, Ottawa and Calgary. As the number of mixed unions grows, so, too, will the offspring from these relationships. Whatever taboos may have existed for these children in the past, they’re being erased by sheer numbers.

Putting Canada’s record in global context is complicated by different definitions and the availability of data, but we appear to stand out for several reasons. European figures define mixed unions as between two people with different citizenship, a far lower standard of tolerance. Even so, the figures show no strong trend, with most countries no higher than Canada, despite a much broader definition of what “mixed” means. American research tends to focus solely on marriages, ignoring the prevalence of common-law relationships. When all couples are considered, Canadian figures are substantially above those in the U.S.

As for public attitudes, last year, a Gallup Poll announced that American approval of black-white marriage hit an all-time high of 87 per cent, up from four per cent in 1958. Yet Canadian sociologist Reginald Bibby points out that Canadian acceptance rates have long outstripped those in the U.S. A 2007 poll, for example, showed 92 per cent of Canadians approved of mixed marriages at a time when U.S. figures were 77 per cent. “There is probably no better index of racial and cultural integration than intermarriage,” Bibby writes. And Canada leads the pack in both performance and perspective.

Editorial: Canada is leading the pack in mixed unions.

Court loss on refugee health cuts may still be Conservative win

I am not sure that it is as much of a win as Patriquin suggests, given that most commentary on both the left and right, has been against the Government (online comments and Sun Media excepted).

It’s like anything, the bumper sticker slogan works (in either direction) until human examples come out, making the issue more complex than the slogan or stereotype, sometimes changing public opinion:

It’s a stretch to say the Conservatives built laws specifically to fail in court, but their failure doesn’t hurt the brand nearly as much as some might think. Rather, the Conservative operative would say that the party has instead garnered crucial talking points for the coming election. By thwarting Conservative laws, the various courts—whose judges are as unelected as your local senator, remember—have essentially shown themselves to be the liberal and Liberal friend to every pot-smoking, drug-injecting, prostitute-loving, refugee-coddling softie out there. Each judicial decision against the Conservatives reaffirms a collective belief, and reinforces a handy stereotype.

In the most recent Federal Court case regarding refugees, the government isn’t quite clear on what constitutes a “bogus” claim. I asked, and the ministry sent a list of rejected, abandoned and withdrawn claims so far in 2014. The inference, I guess, is that every denied or dropped claim is inherently bogus. The number of refugee claimants doesn’t suggest a surge in abuse: as this chart shows, there were roughly 34,000 accepted refugee claimants in 2011, down from 2003’s 25-year high of 42,400.

In the end, though, it doesn’t much matter, because Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives scored a double whammy. Having spent years making the case that Canada’s refugee system is replete with “bogus” claims, they can now claim the courts are in favour of immigrant hoards leeching off the Canadian dream. Even in loss they win.

Court loss on refugee health cuts may still be Conservative win.

How to immigrate to Canada if you’re a polygamist

While there is a policy rationale for the allowing people to “regularize” their marriage, and I can imagine the complex policy and legal discussions that led to this policy, I tend to be with Gillis on this.

… sharp eyes will notice a contradiction between these guidelines and longstanding immigration policy in Canada. Polygamy is considered a crime in Canada. Criminality is supposed to exclude you from eligibility for residency. As Kurland put it in an email to me this morning: “Who lets the CIC choose the sections of Canada’s Criminal Code to ignore?”

Evidently, the policy recognizes the legality of polygamy in some countries, such as Jordan, Iraq and Syria, allowing for people to adjust their living arrangements so they comply with Canadian law. Our flexibility is this regard is remarkable: children from marriages other than the applicant’s first, for instance, can come along as dependents to Canada, provided the other parent confirms they were not abducted.

Depending on your outlook, I guess this all makes us either sophisticated, cosmopolitan and nuanced—or credulous to a fault.

How to immigrate to Canada if you’re a polygamist – Canada, Charlie Gillis, News & Politics –