International Metropolis 2019 Ottawa and 2020 Beijing

As my last International Metropolis was some 10 years ago, was curious to see how the conference has evolved since then. The overall format remains the same, plenaries in the morning, workshops in the afternoon.

My impression was that of a more interesting and thought provoking conference than those that I remember, a tribute to the IRCC team and advisory committee that developed the program.

The sessions that I found particularly of interest were:

The Indigenous acknowledgement and presence that opened Metropolis was substantive, with a strong statement by Gilbert Whiteduck, with Metropolis also having an Indigenous closing ceremony.

The plenaries that I found most interesting were: Quest for global governance: Compacts and sustainable development goals (Global Compact), Non-state actors and the migration industry, The effects of technology on migration and integration, Cities and migration, and Public confidence in migration.

These daily briefs by Munk school students are good summaries of the presentations and discussions:

June_27_Munk_School_Daily_Brief.original.1561728696 June_26_Munk_School_Daily_Brief.original.1561640630 June_25_Munk_School_Daily_Brief.original.1561555064

For the last half day, not covered by Munk, the more interesting presentations at the Cities and Migration plenary were the effects of South American migrants (e.g., Venezuela) in Ecuador, services for families remaining in the Philippines when breadwinners worked abroad, A puff presentation on the Mayors Migration Council, and to liven things up, OCASI’s Debbie Douglas on some of the uncomfortable truths on racism.

The plenaries ended strongly with the Public Confidence in Immigration session, withPew Research international comparisons, Compas on UK attitudes and that media need to recognize that they are not neutral players but play a role in public and policy debates, Canada’s Environics on Canadian distinctiveness, South African attitudes towards immigrants and the limitations of surveys based on self-reporting with respect to attitudes.

The major tech innovation since my last Metropolis is of course smart phones and apps. While the conference app had login issues for many participants (i.e., for creating individual programs etc), it had a great feature that allowed questions to be submitted, displayed on screens and “voted” upon to allow moderators to choose those questions of greatest interest. An additional advantage was that it virtually eliminated the tendency of some to abuse microphone time and ensure greater focus.

In terms of other conference management notes, some of which may reflect my circumstances, were that some data based presentations (i.e., economic impact) were done without decks making them hard to follow.

2020 International Metropolis in Beijing

The next conference will be held in Beijing under the theme: New Narratives on Global Migration: Open, Fair and Sustainable Development.

Given the ongoing suppression of Uyghur Muslims and other human rights abuses, a curious choice given that the local organizers will certainly make every effort to ensure a controversy-free event.

In terms of historical parallels, and mindful of Godwin’s law, this is comparable to the holding of an international conference on immigration and integration in Germany following the passage of the Nuremberg Race Laws  (the Reich Citizenship Law and the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honor).

The dilemma for governments, academics and service provide organizations is whether they wish to participate against this backdrop. Historically, of course, countries and atheletes participated in the Berlin Olympics of 1936 despite the passage of these laws (and only saved by the medals won by Jesse Owens).

For Canadians, an additional issue remains the arbitrary detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who hopefully will be released well before then.I suspect that will be a challenge.

Source: International Metropolis Conference, Presentations

Metropolis 2019 Halifax Conference notes

For the, see our blog entry:


Overall, the 2019 Metropolis conference had a stronger line-up of plenary speakers than previous years, with substantive discussion of immigration and integration issues in Atlantic Canada. 

The different context of Atlantic Canada, where demographic pressures are sharpest and consequently the need for increased immigration greatest, has parallels elsewhere in rural and northern Canada, as seen in the recently announced Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot and the Alberta UCP’s party platform aiming at increasing immigration to rural Alberta.

The Nova Scotia Minister of Immigration and the mayors of Halifax and Moncton reinforced this need and outlined their respective initiatives to attract and retain immigrants. 

The Atlantic Immigration Pilot, where 800 designated employers have access to Nova Scotia’s share of the Provincial Nominee Program spots, allowed Nova Scotia to introduce new streams: a physician stream and labour market priority (early childhood education, financial professionals, francophone). About 40 percent of employers were located outside Halifax.

Both mayors talked about their focus on retaining international students and events such as receptions to welcome students to the community. Halifax provides free transit and recreation policies to refugees for their first year. Moncton provides a “concierge” service to help newcomers navigate the “system” and holds job fairs to assist them find a job. Both mayors wanted to have a more formal consultative role in immigration along with the provincial and federal government. Additional resources for francophone immigrants were flagged by Moncton and permanent resident municipal voting rights by Halifax.

Michael Hahn of Western noted the vastly improved quantity and quality of data compared to when he did his thesis, particularly the linking of administrative and census data. Immigration was moving outside the major cities, reflecting in part the Provincial Nominee Program and Express Entry (expression of interest by employers). He echoed the call for a greater role for municipalities and suggested that more could be done to assist students to transition from temporary to permanent residency status. He noted, however, that municipalities with a university would benefit compared to those without.

The presentation by the international affairs advisor of Montreal focussed on their international activities in relation to the Global Compact on Migration. Dubious value compared to the practical on the ground initiatives outlined by the mayors. She also mentioned the need for more data regarding indicators of how welcoming a community was at the municipal level.

The plenary on refugees and asylum seekers in North America was a welcome change from last year’s infomercial on the North American Migration Policy forum with substantive presentations and discussion. 

Agustin Escobar Latapi, Director General, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, Mexico gave a detailed presentation on how Mexico had changed from an emigration to an immigration country over the past 10-15 years given Mexican returnees and immigrants from Central America and Venezuela (mainly refugees, 30,000 in 2018). Given US immigration and refugee restrictions, most of them will become de facto residents of Mexico.

Julia Gelatt, Senior Policy Analyst, Migration Policy Institute, outlined the impact of staffing and funding constraints at USCIS on processing asylum applications. The decline of refugees from the Middle East and consequent relative increase in the share of refugees from Africa and East Asia reflect Trump administration changes. At the southern border, there was a shift from Mexican asylum seekers to those from Central American and Venezuela, with more being families rather than individuals.

Anne Richard, former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration in the Obama Administration (2012-2017) noted the 180 degree change in policy under the Trump administration. From the goal in the last year of the Obama administration of 110,000 to 45,000 in the Trump administration, with only 21,000 admitted in 2018. Prejudice against Muslims meant fewer Somalia and Syrian refugees. While stressing the importance of security screening, she animated that the more cumbersome processes were not necessarily more effective. The reduced numbers have had a corresponding impact on organizations that support refugees. On a more positive note, resistance to some of the changes by Congress, the courts, mayors and mainstream press, including the separation of children from their parents, was having an impact.

François Crépeau, Director, Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, McGill University, focussed on the Global Compact on Migration and systematically reviewed the myths regarding the Compact.

One of the strongest plenaries was Shaping the Story of Refugees and Immigrants in the News, covering the changing media landscape and suggestions on how best to get stories out.

Kelly Toughill, University of King’s College and former journalist noted that there were only three full-time immigration reporters in Canada: Doug Saunders (Globe), Nicholas Keung (Star) and Doug Todd (Vancouver Sun). There were many more free lancers on blogs and other media than reporters. Moreover, Communications staff, whether government or private, vastly outnumbered reporters. Reliance on communications officers to respond to reporters, rather than experts, further diminished the ability of reporters to report and analyze policy and program changes. Social media had a further impact: Michelle Rempel, Conservative immigration critic has 84,000 followers, twice as much as Minister Hussen, both dwarfing Saunders and Keung at about 5,000 followers each. Toughil noted that, unlike reporters, other sources all had an explicit agenda: #ImmigrationMatters is perceived as pre-election government propaganda, ISANS (Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia) can be perceived as advocating for more resources, CIC News is designed to attract high value clients to an immigration lawyer. Toughill ended with a plea for academics and service providers to develop relations and share their knowledge with reporters.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press, Halifax, noted that immigration-specific news can be easily lost in a “torrent” of other important news on the economy, healthcare etc. It is important to relate immigration to other aspects and stories rather than just stand-alone stories. Reporters have an important role to play in helping to “unpack the black box,” making the contrast between the Harper government not providing access to stowaways, and the arrival of Syrian refugees, where reporters were able to talk to sponsors, service organizations and many of the refugees themselves. Tutton noted that the discussion around the importance of immigration in economic terms — as in input — meant less understanding of immigrants as people. He cited the example of the Prince Edward Island investor immigrant program where most did not remain in the province as an example where people lost faith in immigration. However, that being said, reporters should cover the imperfections and problems of immigration. But the goal should be to tell all stories with knowledge, understanding and empathy.

Madeline Ziniak, Senior Broadcast Executive, Chair, Canadian Ethnic Media Association, noted the importance of ethnic media for marginalized voices. Ethnic media had a long history in Canada dating form a German newspaper in 1777. Ethnic media provides a platform for community building and sense of belonging in the context of the larger Canadian society and the lens of Canadian standards and values. These expressions and reflections of Canada’s diversity are part of the settlement and integration process. For seniors, who generally tend to revert to their mother tongue as they age, ethic media helps them to remain connected. Voices silenced in immigrant countries of origin can find a voice in Canadian ethnic media and thus perhaps influencing events in those countries. Ziniak noted the need for greater public support to ethnic media, citing CBC and TVO as examples, given that their business models were struggling as well, with less private sector interest.

Louisa Taylor, Director, Refugee 613, Ottawa, Ontario, after outlining the activities of her organization, noted the current context where the anti-immigration far right were organized and becoming more active. The challenge of getting the facts out in a “post-fact” world made it harder. She suggested that messaging should mobilize hope, know and focus on goals not means. In terms of engaging with those with immigration-related concerns, she recommended listening without judgment and find a space where values overlap in order to engage in discussion.

Some of the questions focussed around the “bubbles” between those with different views. Panelists noted the dangers of separate “facts,” the contrast between mainstream media’s use of the CP style guide compared to other media, and how to find ways to reach people. The example of Colin Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the US national anthems and Nike’s subsequent ad were cited as successful examples, recognizing that these approaches will inevitably annoy some people. Digging deeper into “happy” stories to include some of the problems would be more authentic and credible as well as finding ways to connect a story to the wider community.

The last plenary,  Immigration on the Margins, provided some good examples of how settlement organizations and governments were helping smaller communities welcome immigrants.

Ken Walsh, Association for New Canadians, Newfoundland talked about the range of services provided and how immigration was essential given that Newfoundland and Labrador had the most rapidly aging population in the country. Their approach has a number of satellite offices across the province with considerable focus on direct outreach with employers. Challenges to immigrant retention include lack of ethnocultural groups and social isolation of spouses which the organization which a variety of orientation programs and activities try to address. 

Cathy Woodbeck, Executive Director, Thunder Bay Multicultural Association, noted the work they do with Peel and Windsor to find placement for newcomers from those areas looking for opportunities, given that Thunder Bay has a labour shortage and low unemployment. They are learning from the best practices of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot and work with the community to improve service availability. Pre and post arrival services are available. Note:

Lara Dyer, IRCC and Shelley Bent, Nova Scotia Office of Immigration talked about the Atlantic Immigration Pilot’s experience in Nova Scotia. The AIP is employer driven, with an employer role in settlement services orientation, including a settlement plan for the entire family. Nova Scotia’s experience indicates the need for individual conversations with employers, with dedicated staff to help employers navigate through the system. The major lessons learned to date include: the need for increased support to employers tailored to the needs of the employee and his/her family, and the ongoing partnership with IRCC which has a dedicated team to support provincial staff in answering their questions. While people have fears about immigrants taking jobs, once immigrants are hired, more positive stories start.


As has become  my regular practice, I organized a workshop on “how to debate immigration: Atlantic edition” with Kelly Toughill (moderator), Howard Ramos, Dalhousie University, Tony Fang, Memorial University and Alex LeBlanc, New Brunswick Multicultural Council. Although I was unable to locate a reasonable immigration critic for the panel, we did engage in a good discussion on how to engage those with concerns regarding immigration, with the key points a willingness to listen openly, find concrete examples where immigration was beneficial (ranging from the general labour needs to who will buy your house!).

My annual citizenship workshop focussed on birth tourism with my presenting this deck and Audrey Macklin of UofT providing a frank and engaging critiqueI of the substance and magnitude of the issues. Governments also “gamed the system” the deportation of long-term permanent residents who had unwittingly not become citizens (e.g., Abdi, Revell, Moretto, Budlakoti) or imposing a first generation limit on transmitting citizenship. “Meaningfulness” was an elusive concept and there were citizens who had as little connections as the children of birth tourists. Fundamentally, she argued that citizenship laws are a highly imperfect proxy for meaningfulness and connection.  

The most interesting workshop for me focussed on improved data through integration of administrative data (e.g., IRCC’s Longitudinal Immigration Database – IMDB, health data from CIHI) and census data. Improvements to the IMDB include citizenship, children, preliminary 2017 wages and settlement services. External linkages being developed include health, education, and non-immigrant data. For example, with respect to birth tourism, the linkage with CIHI’s DAD will allow separating out temporary residents such as international students from the “non-resident self pay” coding to have a more accurate number of birth tourists along with countries of origin.


Metropolis Conference 2018 Reflections #Metropolisyyc

Overall, Metropolis remains a great venue to connect and reconnect with people active in immigration and integration. I thought I would share my overall impressions and reflections (these have also been shared with the organizers).

The plenaries were a mixed bag. One of them was excellent: a session with Calgary Mayor Nenshi, Brooks Mayor Morishita and Calgary Catholic Immigration Society’s Fariborz Birjandian on the role of the province and municipal governments, that provided lots of insights of integration at the local level. The contrast between a large city like Calgary and a small city like Brooks (population of 15,000) and how they approach similar issues was of particular interest.

The other plenary of note was on immigration futures, although it largely did not live up to its billing as most of the speakers were more in the here and now than in the future.

Irving Studin (Institute for 21st Century Questions) reiterated his 18th century geopolitical perspective on the need for a larger Canadian population,  Martha Hall Finlay (CEO Canada West Foundation) talked about the need for better immigrant preparation prior to landing, Senator Yuen Pau Woo provided a good overview of the politics of immigration, noted that anti-immigrant positions were sometimes cloaked in discussions on national security and housing prices and that immigration policy had to grapple with the fact that increasingly people have transnational lives, and Rubin Nelson (Foresight Canada) delivered a rambling almost end-of-days perspective on the need for a paradigm shift. Nelson was however the only dissident voice on the need for increased immigration levels, arguing for a return to 250,000 given that reflected current absorptive capacity.

I raised a question that has preoccupied me for some time: how do we factor into immigration policy the ongoing and increasing impact of automation and AI on labour force needs? Why do virtually none of those advocating increased immigration even acknowledge this aspect? Why do they assume that previous patterns of  “creative destruction” will repeat themselves? Both the audience and most panelists acknowledged the validity of these questions and I followed-up with some of the panelists.

The weakest plenary was the opener: a real yawn fest with most researchers talking about their projects and plans with no real results or lessons to share (Lori Wilkinson of U of Manitoba a rare exception as her remarks were more practical and Umit Kizilton, DG Research and Evaluation at IRCC brought home the relevance of this research far better than the researchers and SSHRC). This was more suited to a workshop for academics than the service provider organizations that form most of the attendees.

The other weak plenary was on the similarities and differences among NAFTA countries with respect to immigration. The session largely avoided the elephant in the room: the impact of Trump administration policies. The moderator ensured no questions from the floor by posing innocuous safe questions, possibly given risks that awkward questions or comments from the floor would occur. I also had the impression that the plenary was more of an infomercial for the second NAFTA country immigration conference.

One other comment: the diversity of plenary speakers (21 including moderators): 15 men, 6 women (in a conference where the majority of participants are women). Visible minorities representation was strong however: 6 out of 21.

The three workshops I organized — citizenship (data, narratives, and Focus Canada 2018 results), multiculturalism economic, social and political data, and how to debate immigration — had strong attendance and interest, particularly the immigration debate one with between 80-90 attendees (standing room only).

Citizenship: Nice contrast between my data rich presentation on Census citizenship data and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation’s Lilian Ma’s similarly data rich presentation of the Environics Institute Focus Canada 2018 public opinion tracking, and that of Yasmeen Abu-Laban, who discussed how citizenship narratives are changing as part of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Needless to say, IRCC officials present challenged my interpretation of census naturalization data showing a decline which allowed me to explain the logic and data behind the analysis.

Lilian Ma was challenged on whether Canadians are honest in their replies to such surveys in which she replied, effectively, that not sharing xenophobic attitudes reveals something positive in terms of social norms; in the past, people were very willing to express openly racist views.

Presentations below:

Census 2016 and IRCC Data: What it Says About Naturalization

Environics Institute Focus Canada 2018 – CRRF Metropolis 2018 Presentation March 22-2018

Multiculturalism: Considerable interest in the data I presented even though it was a lot to digest. Dan Hiebert nicely complemented my analysis by sharing some of his detailed neighbourhood mapping, again reinforcing his earlier hyper-diversity analysis of how mixed many neighbourhoods are. Annick Germain reviewed how Montréal-Nord has evolved over time as a lower-income area that has attracted many immigrants, including the recent wave of Haitians coming from the US, the impact of a younger immigrant population compared to an older non-immigrant population and the ongoing story of two Quebec’s, one diverse centred around Montreal and the more monolithic population elsewhere. Questions she raised included whether the relatively high unemployment rates for visible minority 25-34 year olds I highlighted reflected that many were still students, and what would be the impact of increased immigration and full employment on public opinion (and in which direction).

Multiculturalism in Canada: What Census 2016 and Other Data Tell Us (in process of being revised given some good feedback received prior to and during Metropolis.

Immigration debate: I was really pleased how this worked out as I had some worries in terms of how more conservative views on immigration of Mark Milke and to a lessor extent, Raj Sharma, might land on the pro-immigration crowd at Metropolis, with Annick Germain being the moderate voice. However, both Mark and Raj effectively used humour in making their points, without sugar coating, and exposed participants to their perspectives.

The audience challenged some of their assertions and positions but did so in a focused and respectful manner. Again, this was incredibly well attended, with lots of positive feedback from those I talked to.

A lesson that it is possible to get outside bubbles/echo chambers.  I believe we need to do more of these kind of conversations to improve our understanding of different perspectives.

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.

Multiculturalism in Canada What Census 2016 and Other Data Tell Us

My presentation at next week’s Metropolis Conference, looking at what the data tells us with respect to visible minority economic, social and political outcomes.

Douglas Todd: The narrow view from the migration sector bubble

Todd on his experience at Metropolis (I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with him, as I always find his columns of interest).

His critique about the Metropolis bubble could of course be repeated with respect to most conferences. As could his critique of attendees being dependent of government cheques. Being dependent on private sector funding doesn’t make one more objective.

However, all that being said, it is a valid critique that Metropolis does not include a wide range of perspectives in both the plenaries and workshops, something that the conference organizers, as well as individuals like me who organize workshops, should keep in mind.

As well as the general point that one should be mindful of one’s bubble, and make efforts to get outside it, whether as Todd did by coming to Metropolis or ensuring that one’s media includes a range of perspectives (the main lesson that I learnt working under former Minister Jason Kenney as recounted in Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism):

I just spent a few days with Canadians who work with immigrants, refugees, international students and other migrants.

The almost 1,000 people at the 2017 Metropolis Conference in Montreal are on the front lines of an effort central to a country with arguably the world’s highest per capita in-migration.

Each year, Canada spends roughly $1.2 billion on the so-called “settlement sector.” Its mission is to assist more than 300,000 new immigrants and refugees a year while supporting 325,000 foreign students and more than 300,000 temporary foreign workers.

Migration is a mass phenomenon in Canada, unlike in most nations. Many settlement workers live in the cities that draw most migrants: Foreign-born people make up 23 per cent of Montreal’s population, 45 per cent of Metro Vancouver’s and half of Greater Toronto.

Workers in the settlement-sector form an influential Canadian subculture. One person at Metropolis affectionately referred to them as “activists with pensions.” Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen spoke twice and told them they greatly influence public policy.

I began wondering, however, how much these upstanding people represent the Canadian population. Do their values correspond at all to opinion poll results or with the issues Canadians follow through the media?

The vast majority at the taxpayer-funded Metropolis conferences live on government paycheques or grants. They are in the Immigration Department, the Heritage Department, public research universities and taxpayer-financed non-profit organizations.

Their theme is humanitarianism. Metropolis participants repeatedly said Canada should bring in more immigrants, refugees and foreign students, migrants are a “vulnerable population” and taxpayers should spend more on them.

Borrowing from Canadian scholars Keith Banting and Will Kymlicka, it’s fair to say almost all at the 19th national Metropolis event would be among the one-third of Canadians who unconditionally support multicultural, refugee and immigration policy. I did not hear disapproval.

They would definitely not be among the slightly smaller proportion of people that Banting and Kymlicka found at the opposite end; those opposed to Canadian-style immigration and multiculturalism.

It’s also not likely many attendees would be in the middle group of Canadians — the roughly 40 per cent (domestic and foreign-born) who generally support official multiculturalism, but with conditions.

Given what I witnessed, and the titles of hundreds of Metropolis presentations, critical discussion was muted. Orthodoxy seemed to reign.

It’s understandable. A lot of livelihoods, research grants and vested interests are at stake.

And, anyways, most attendees seemed keen on what they do. A few, indeed, seemed boastful.

There were basically only two things attendees would criticize.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen told Metropolis delegates they greatly influence public policy. But to what extent do they reflect a cross-section of Canadians?

One was the alleged shortage of funding for settlement organizations, refugee agencies and foreign students. As a keynote speaker said, “We always have to do more.”

The second thing subject to criticism was the “media” and, by extension, Canadians themselves. Each was occasionally referred to as “tolerant” but more often chastised for being xenophobic.

Source: Douglas Todd: The narrow view from the migration sector bubble | Vancouver Sun

Ethnic Media – a missed topic of the Metropolis Conference 2016 – MIREMS

Metropolis 2016.001Not the only topic under-represented (see my summary chart above) but raises valid points:

Integration and inclusion, also part of the ethnic media’s role, were some of the most discussed issues that day, with Yolande James, former Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities of the Government of Quebec, summarizing it with a statement that “governments must create an engaging environment where immigrants can reach their full potential”. The common agreement among the presenters though was that governments have not yet done enough to establish the level of support that would allow immigrants feel fully accepted and integrate easily into Canadian society.

In addition, Canadian Refugee and Immigration Lawyer El-Farouk Khaki noted that the second and third generations of racialized immigrants generally tend to be closer to their ethnic groups than the first generation. “The more discrimination people face, the closer they feel to their ethnic groups.”

However, despite a common understanding of increasing immigration trends and the impact of ethnic communities on newcomers’ integration experience, surprisingly no presentations or workshops mentioned the role of the ethnic, multilingual media in new immigrants’ lives.

As part of a team of ethnic media consultants, I see stories on immigration, integration, education and legal issues, labour, health and safety, immigrant challenges and struggles every day, and yet ethnic media seems not to be on the radar of policy makers and service providers as one of the most valuable resources on immigration they can find.

Following the ethnic media would seem to be a significant part of the outreach equation of what Ryerson University Professor April Lindgren calls “A Settlement Service in Disguise” in her pioneer case study on the City of Brampton’s municipal communication strategies and ethnic media (2015, Global Media Journal — Canadian Edition Volume 8, Issue 2, pp. 49-71.)

When asked about it, government officials acknowledge the importance of ethnic media, but admit that it’s not being used to its full potential. There is still separation between mainstream media and ethnic media press conferences, message and language specifics.

But does there have to be? Shouldn’t ethnic media be an integral part of the communication mix, a two way channel for an open dialogue between governments, service providers and immigrant communities?
After all, with growing immigration and yet-to-be-improved integration processes, ethnic media will continue to grow and be a viable component of immigrant life in Canada. So why not make it a powerful tool in creating an engaging society where everyone can reach their full potential?

Metropolis 2016, while having presented lots of valuable information and opinions, left these questions unanswered for me right now.

Source: Ethnic Media – a missed topic of the Metropolis Conference 2016 – MIREMS

Engaging Newcomers: ‘We Haven’t Done Enough’

One of the strongest speakers at the recent Metropolis conference and certainly the strongest one on the ‘identities’ workshop (which most of the other panelists didn’t address):

Governments and bureaucrats need to focus less on numbers and more on starting real conversations that tackle critical problems, like race, in ways that engage immigrants rather than shaming them.

“A lot of time when it’s about race, we are afraid to talk about it,” said Yolande James, one of four speakers from the government and legal system who presented at the “Identities, Rights and Migration: A Session on the Intersection of Gender, Race, Class and Sexuality” session at the 18th National Metropolis Conferenceheld in Toronto last week.

“There is a way to have a conversation involving everybody, to be respectful and constructive. Everybody has something to give and we should have an equal life.”

James, a former provincial politician, was the first Black female cabinet minister in Quebec history, serving as Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities & Minister of Family between 2007 and 2014.

As a former provincial government minister, and child of immigrant parents herself, James knows about how inefficient all levels of government are in engaging newcomers into their host country.

“Do we engage immigrant populations? Do we have engaged dialogue?” she asked. “We haven’t done enough.”

She said the lack of society-wide conversations that engage with immigrants sends the message that they do not matter.

“I feel the whole nation, in terms of why the issues touching immigration and diversity [are] important, is not engaged,” she said. “It’s all about being able to engage people to connect with other people’s experience.”

“There is so much emphasis on the numbers, but it’s not important. It’s about their journey.”

As an example, James pointed to the current challenge of accepting Syrian refugees to Canada. She said that the government needs to pay attention to more than just the number of refugees being accepted.

“Should it be 55,000 or 50,000?” she asked. “There is so much emphasis on the numbers, but it’s not important. It’s about their journey,” she said.

Source: Engaging Newcomers: ‘We Haven’t Done Enough’ – New Canadian Media

Big Shift or Big Return? Visible Minority Representation in the 2015 Election

My presentation at the Metropolis 2016, analyzing the election results and the record level of visible minority representation, 14 percent of all MPs, close to the percentage of visible minority Canadian citizens. This presentation also reviews how this representation is reflected in Cabinet, Parliamentary Secretaries, Opposition critics, and parliamentary committees.

Big Shift or Big Return? Visible Minority Representation in the 2015 Election

Metropolis Comments on my deck Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote

Good session at Metropolis 26 March presenting my deck Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote to a full room of 60 people. Helpful and thoughtful comments by the discussants and participants, helping me refine the narrative, and this summary of their comments may be of interest:

Joe Garcia of University of Saskatchewan highlighted how the vertical mosaic as described by Porter had become hybridized given the impact of increased diversity. This hybridization cut across different dimensions: ghettoization (or enclaves), social capital, social cohesion, social non-governmental organizations and identity. Society was more complex with more cross-cutting linkages and issues. He noted the significance of the citizenship data and its implications for inclusion.

Specific suggestions to complete the story from the descriptive and analytical approach of the deck included the need to provide an explicit framework, a narrative that both asked and answer questions, address the implications of the findings, discuss the limitations of available data and statistics (e.g., religion vs. religiosity), and identify data gaps and needs. (I noted the book would include these elements).

Annick Germain of the l’Institut national de recherche scientifique (INRS) noted the presentation was helpful in reminding us of the big picture, noting the contrast between the debate and the everyday reality which appears to be working reasonably well, citing the relatively small numbers of religious minorities that yet dominate public debate. More work needs to be done of public attitudes to diversity to help explain this gap. One of the ironies she flagged is that while visible minorities are more well-educated than non-visible minorities, they have higher unemployment rates and lower incomes.

With respect to concentration and dispersion, she flagged how in the past, the contrast was between the island of Montreal which had a large number of visible minorities and the rest of Quebec which had few. However, more immigrants have been settling in the suburbs of Laval and Longueuil, Quebec now has two faces: greater Montreal with its diversity and the “whiteness” of the rest of the province. The increased dispersion of visible minorities across greater Montreal may however reduce the relative political weight and influence of individual communities.

And in response to my remark that it is no longer MTV (Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver) but TVC (Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary), she noted that Montreal has a more diverse mix of communities than Calgary even if the overall number is smaller.

David Ley of the Department of Geography, UBC, expressed concern regarding falling naturalization rates and the possible implications for identity. He also found the difference in citizenship test results between visible minorities and non-visible minorities worrisome as it could weaken the connection to and identification with Canada for affected groups.

He found the data on religious minorities valuable, and commented that the present-day vitality of religions was largely due to immigration given the relative strength and vitality of religion in the “South” compared to countries of the “North.” We may be moving towards post-secularism given this shift and how immigration is increasingly defining religion.

He raised the valid point that we may attribute too much power to what multiculturalism can achieve. How far can multicultural policies affect economic outcomes?

Lastly, he noted that segregation into ethnic enclaves is not necessarily a bad thing. Ethnic neighbourhoods can facilitate integration by providing newcomers with existing community support networks in their first years of settlement. However, one needs to guard against ethnic neighbourhoods that reproduce poverty.

Alden Habecon, Intercultural Understanding Strategy Development, UBC, and Publisher of Schema magazine started off by asking what was the intent of multiculturalism, what was its purpose, and what was it trying to achieve. Was multiculturalism sustainable, or are we having less interaction among communities, with stronger community identities? He questioned how inclusive we were, how open to difference?

Employment equity focussed on the numbers of visible minorities but paid less attention to economic outcomes. He was particularly alarmed about the economic outcomes of second generation 25-34 year old university educated visible minorities as some groups remained behind. “We haven’t neutralized race” as any percentage difference was a warning sign.

The disproportionate decline in visible minority citizenship test pass rates was an example of systematic racism.

More attitudinal research was needed and he reminded participants that research had shown that proximity, contact and exposure do not necessarily increase tolerance.

Participant comments were varied and included the following:

  • How has the narrative changed and what effects has that had?
  • Had a changed narrative permeated the public and changed reality?
  • Depending on the narrative, what should be the indicators to measure success (or failure)?
  • More work was needed on employment equity beyond the numbers to include economic outcomes.
  • Is the change in language from multiculturalism to pluralism significant?