British Columbians Troubled by Birth Tourism, Call for Change

Although a less than reliable online survey, overall concerns among all British Columbia residents, whatever their origins, sounds about right:

Many residents of British Columbia are concerned about the practice of “birth tourism”, a new Research Co. poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative provincial sample, 82% of British Columbians believe “birth tourism” can be unfairly used to gain access to Canada’s education, health care and social programs.

“Birth tourism” is the practice of traveling to a specific country for the purpose of giving birth there and securing citizenship for the child in a country that has birthright citizenship.

Canada allows expectant mothers who are foreign nationals to gain automatic citizenship for their children born in Canada.

There have been reports of unregulated “for profit” businesses that have facilitated the practice of “birth tourism”  in Canada. Across British Columbia, 49% of residents say they have followed this issue “very closely” or “moderately closely” over the past year.

More than three-in-five British Columbians say “birth tourism” can degrade the value of Canadian citizenship (66%) and can displace Canadians from hospitals (63%).

An e-petitionendorsed by Joe Peschisolido, the Member of Parliament for the Steveston—Richmond East constituency, is calling on the federal government to commit public resources to determine the full extent of “birth tourism” across Canada. A considerable majority of British Columbians (85%) agree with this proposal.

Seven-in-ten British Columbians (73%) believe Canada should “definitely” or “probably” consider establishing new guidelines for birthright citizenship, while 18% would keep the existing standards.

“There is no substantial variation on these questions when the ethnicity of respondents is considered,” says Mario Canseco, President of Research Co. “We find that 71% of British Columbians of East Asian descent and 75% of those of European descent would like to see some modifications to the current rules for birthright citizenship.”

Source: view the release on our website

Forty-one per cent of Canadians fear racism is on the rise

While I am not sure regarding the soundness of Research Co’s methodology and how it formulates questions, the overall gender, regional, party affiliation and age differences broadly reflect other public opinion research.

Canseco recently did an op-ed (Metro Vancouver voters value issues more than ethnicity | Burnaby Now) where he largely discounted the importance of ethnic vote strategies, legitimately noting that ethnic groups do not vote as a bloc but discounting the electoral strategies (candidate selection, policies) of political parties and the overall tendencies within some groups (e.g., Chinese Canadians tend to the right, Canadian Sikhs to the left, Canadian Jews have shifted somewhat from being Liberal to Conservative supporters):

Over the past couple of years, concerns about racism have entered the realm of international politics. We have witnessed some electoral success by xenophobic parties in Europe, as well as the dreadful statements of a Republican presidential contender in the United States who is now the country’s head of state.

Just last weekend, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam got in trouble over a photograph allegedly taken when he was attending medical school, at a time when he was not young enough to rely on the “boys will be boys” defence. Several professional football players have protested police brutality and racial profiling in the United States.

In spite of what is happening down south and on the other side of the Atlantic, Canadians are not immune to racism. Individuals and organized groups have taken advantage of the anonymity of social media to push a remarkably divisive agenda.

Some politicians have attempted to ignore the controversy. Quebec Premier François Legault recently made an ill-timed remark – on the second anniversary of a shooting inside a mosque that left six men dead – claiming that Islamophobia does not exist in his province. In Ontario, just how and when to resort to the acrimonious practice of “carding” – the stopping and documenting of individuals by police even though no particular crime is being investigated  – is still a matter of debate.

In Western Canada, British Columbia’s provincial government is preparing to re-establish a human rights commission. On the Prairies, provincial administrations have been severely criticized for not doing enough to help First Nations. In Manitoba alone, 11 of the 19 people who have lost their lives in police incidents this century have been identified as Aboriginal.

When Research Co. asked Canadians about racism in the country last month, the results were not uplifting. Two in five respondents to the survey (41%) think racism has become a more significant problem in Canada over the past two years. Women (47%) and Canadians aged 18 to 34 (46%) are more likely to feel this way.

Quebecers appear to be in tune with their current head of government, with 55% of the province’s residents asserting that racism has not worsened. Conversely, there is one area of Canada where residents are convinced that racism is growing. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan, a whopping 55% of residents think racism has become a more significant problem recently. No other region of the country surpasses the 50% mark on this question.

That a sizable number of Canadians are concerned about racism should lead to a debate over the success of government policies. When Canadians were given a choice, just over two in five residents (42%) endorsed the multicultural concept of the “mosaic” and think cultural differences within Canadian society are valuable and should be preserved. A larger proportion of Canadians (49%) express a preference for the concept of the “melting pot” and want immigrants to assimilate and blend into Canadian society.

While women are equally divided in their assessment of the two concepts, most men (53%) favoured the “melting pot.” And while a majority of those aged 18 to 34 (60%) are fond of the “mosaic,” support for this idea falls to 39% among those aged 35 to 54 and 27% among those aged 55 and over.

On a regional basis, British Columbians are the most enthusiastic supporters of the “mosaic” (52%). A majority of Quebecers (53%) are in favour of the “melting pot.”

The survey shows two in five Canadians reporting an upsurge of racist behaviour and practically half desiring a “melting pot.” When asked directly about multiculturalism, 62% of residents think it has been “very good” or “good” for Canada, while 33% deem it “bad” or “very bad.”

While these numbers would imply success, support for the policy is half-hearted. Practically the same proportion of Canadians regard multiculturalism as “very good” (13%) and “very bad.” The difference in the total numbers amount to the 49% who claim the policy has been “good,” compared to the 19% who say it has been “bad.”

In an election year, it is important to analyze these findings by political allegiance. The voters who supported the Liberal Party or the New Democratic Party (NDP) in the last federal ballot hold similar views on two issues: multiculturalism has been good for the country and the “mosaic” is preferable to the “melting pot.” However, NDP voters are more likely to think racism has become a bigger problem recently (55%) than Liberal voters (40%).

In stark contrast, Canadians who voted for the Conservative Party in the 2015 federal election are unequivocally more likely to say that multiculturalism, as a policy, has been bad for Canada (42%), to express that racism has not become a significant problem in the country (56%) and to choose the “melting pot” (62%). Centre-right parties have never wholly embraced multiculturalism, which is often regarded as a legacy of the Pierre Trudeau era. They are not expected to do so now.

The survey suggests that while Canadians may not love everything about multiculturalism, they are signalling that they can be trusted to handle newcomers in a “melting pot” scenario better than the Americans. In any case, the fact that two in five residents feel that racism is intensifying should be disturbing for policy-makers.

Source: Forty-one per cent of Canadians fear racism is on the rise

Metro Vancouver voters value issues more than ethnicity

I would be cautious in drawing parallels between municipal and federal/provincial elections. The former tend to under-represent visible minorities and other minority groups whereas federal and political parties tend to recruit candidates from the larger visible minority or ethnic groups, as well as developing policies to attract minority voters (e.g., the Conservatives Chinese head tax historical recognition program when they first formed the government).

And nobody I know is suggesting that groups vote as a block. However, exit polls do suggest that groups have overall political leanings (e.g., Chinese Canadians lean conservative, Canadian Sikhs Liberal or NDP).

So the reality is more complex than presented here.

Byelection campaigns can be extremely complex events.

Voter turnout tends to be lower than in a regular electoral contest, when all the seats in a particular legislative body are at stake. Potential voters are often disengaged and disenchanted, and the lack of deep media coverage leads to citizens not even knowing that they have a chance to exercise their franchise.

In the case of the federal vote that will take place on February 25 in British Columbia’s Burnaby South constituency, the presence of the leader of the federal New Democratic Party (NDP) in the ballot has certainly added some interest. Jagmeet Singh seeks to be the first leader of the main three Canadian federal parties to represent a B.C. riding since Stockwell Day headed the Canadian Alliance.

The Burnaby South byelection was supposed to be an early test of strength for the NDP leader, as well as an indicator of whether the newly created People’s Party would eat into some traditional support for the federal Conservatives.

The race took a wild swing earlier this month, after a poorly worded statement from Liberal candidate Karen Wang was posted to social media platform WeChat and uncovered by the staff at Star Vancouver. In a span of 32 hours, Wang resigned, asked to be reinstated and flirted with a run as an independent. The Liberals have now named former provincial lawmaker Richard T. Lee as their standard bearer.

Wang’s demotion by the Liberal Party has precipitated a much-needed debate on the way political campaigns in Canada operate when it comes to courting so-called “multicultural” voters.  Political consultants charge fortunes pretending to create a magic potion to engage with particular ethnic communities, and messages are crafted to make candidates appear more in touch with voters who immigrated to Canada. This can backfire quickly, as demonstrated in British Columbia by the 2013 “quick wins” scandal.

In elections of all types – municipal, provincial and federal – there is a tendency to make assumptions based on the demographic characteristics of a particular population. These assumptions are usually incorrect.

Just last year, we were treated to illusory media commentary that suggested that being married to a Filipino woman would propel a Vancouver mayoral candidate to victory. The candidate finished in fifth place, as the supposed Filipino constituency that seemed discernible looking at census data never materialized.

In first-past-the-post elections, the futility of this misleading analysis becomes evident. There is more to a community than the origin of its residents. In Richmond, where 53 per cent of residents are of Chinese descent, three Chinese-Canadian candidates garnered 4,794 votes together. Incumbent Mayor Malcolm Brodie was re-elected with 30,452 votes.

The ability of an electoral contender to connect with voters of a particular ethnicity cannot measured by a last name, origin or ability to feature foreign languages in campaign paraphernalia.

A survey I conducted a few weeks before the 2015 federal election showed that voters in Metro Vancouver of East Asian, South Asian and Southeast Asian descent placed “the candidate’s ethnicity” as the least important motivator for their vote. These “multicultural” voters were moved primarily by two issues: the candidate’s position on issues and the political party they represented.

Contrary to what data-less pundits believe, voters of a particular ethnicity do not cast their ballots as a block. In addition, the efforts of politicians to appear inclusive and mindful do not always move the needle. Last year, 69 per cent of British Columbians said that politicians who show up at ethnic festivals and celebrations are merely pandering for votes and are not truly interested in engaging with people from different backgrounds and cultures.

The proportion of voters who are not amused by public servants suddenly showing interest in ethnic celebrations included 76 per cent of residents of South Asian descent, 70 per cent of Europeans and 62 per cent of East Asians – something to ponder the next time politicians don traditional garb for Vaisakhi.

Regardless of the result in Burnaby South, a conversation about treating “multicultural” voters as a commodity has started. It will be interesting to see if political parties learn from Wang’s demise and work harder on policy development and meaningful community outreach, instead of trying to score points with their last names or birthplaces.

The political climate of the country has evolved to a point where candidates do not need to advertise themselves as “the only [insert ethnicity here] in the race.” Let’s hope that situations like the one that led the Liberals to replace their Burnaby South byelection candidate are the exception – and not the norm – in the next federal campaign.

Source: Metro Vancouver voters value issues more than ethnicity