Hate Lives In Canada Too | Sarah Beech

ocasi-hiring-posterAlways good to increase awareness and mindfulness of implicit biases, and the impact they have on hiring and other decisions. But simplistic in its characterization of Harper government:

This month, the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) in partnership with the City of Toronto launched the second phase of the their ‘Toronto For All’ campaign. Phase one of this campaign focused on xenophobia and Islamaphobia, whereas this phase focused on anti-Black racism.

One of the images featured in the campaign was of a black person beside a white person with the caption: ‘Quick, rent to one.’ The subtext read: ‘Anti-Black racism happens here. Let’s confront it. torontoforall.ca’. While diversity may be our strength, multiculturalism alone is not our saviour.

Canada is not devoid of racism because of our multiculturalism and the ‘Trump Effect’ must not eclipse the domestic racism that has long existed in this country.

 Lest we forget, it was not long ago that former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was making racist and xenophobic remarks during the federal election when he appealed to ‘old stock’ Canadians. Shortly thereafter, Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau renounced Canada’s colonial baggage, thus dismissing the long history of racism in this nation.

Racism did not appear in this country overnight and it will not be solved overnight. Although multiculturalism is worthy of celebration it does not mean there is no more work to be done.

Canadians need to stop being polite about their racism and start owning it. Resist the urge to get defensive of multiculturalism and realize not everyone experiences Canada in the same way. Multiculturalism alone cannot mitigate prejudice, not without action.

Campaigns like the one launched by OCASI and the City of Toronto are needed to prompt internal bias so people can take responsibility and ownership for the ways they contribute to the racism and prejudice that exists in this country.

Accountability starts with you. So, quick, who would you choose?

Source: Hate Lives In Canada Too | Sarah Beech

Ontario facing ‘epidemic of Islamophobia’ survey finds

Angus Reid Religon Poll 2015 - Feelings Towards.001Consistent with most other surveys I have seen although labelling it as an ‘epidemic’ compared to other biases and prejudices appears to be an exaggeration (see chart above from 2015 Angus Reid survey):

The survey by polling firm MARU/VCR&C measured public perceptions of ethnicity and immigration in Ontario in the wake of the recent influx of thousands of Syrian refugees — almost 12,000 to this province alone.

“There is an epidemic of Islamophobia in Ontario. Only a third of Ontarians have a positive impression of the religion and more than half feel its mainstream doctrines promote violence (an anomaly compared to other religions),” said the 51-page survey to be released this week by the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants and advocacy group Mass Minority. “These sentiments are echoed with Syrian refugees in Ontario where acceptance often coincides with acceptance of Islam.”

Ontario has seen a number of recent incidents targeting Muslims. A woman wearing a hijab was attacked at a supermarket in London in June and a Western University student from Iran was beaten by two men who taunted him and told him to go back to his country. Also, in June, an anti-immigrant group rooted in Germany held an anti-Muslim protest in Toronto.

While the survey’s respondents agreed that immigrants play a valuable role in society (72 per cent) and are an important part of our cultural identity (71 per cent), three-quarters of the survey participants said we need to focus on taking care of the people “here” instead of spending resources on refugees.

“Taken together, this suggests that Ontarians see non-immigrants as more entitled to social care. This entitlement is, in some ways, a contradiction given the inherent value that immigration offers,” said the poll of 1,009 Ontarians conducted between May 11 and 16.

The survey was funded by the province and the City of Toronto for its recently launched public awareness campaign on Islamophobia, which has sparked heated debate over its provocative posters, seen by some as reinforcing stereotypes and fuelling tensions.

The research was commissioned to take a snapshot of Ontario residents’ attitudes and perception towards immigrants and ethnic minorities as a benchmark to assess the effectiveness of the multimedia campaign. A followup survey is planned after 12 months.

While 46 per cent of Ontarians feel Canada admits too many immigrants, 45 per cent said they welcomed the right amount.

“Higher and lower levels of acceptance are associated with distinct demographic profiles,” the report said. “Less educated and rural Ontarians over-index on feelings that Canada accepts too many immigrants.”

Three-in-five residents in the province supported Ottawa’s decision to accept Syrian refugees while one-fifth of all respondents said they have participated in welcoming Syrians to Canada in various ways from donating money to furniture, volunteering and participating in a sponsorship group.

Comparing Canada’s six major mainstream religions, Islam is the most likely to be viewed by the respondents as a promoter of violence, followed by Sikhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and Buddhism.

Three-quarters of Ontarians said they feel Muslim immigrants have fundamentally different values, largely due to perceived gender inequality, the survey found.

“Opposition to Syrian refugees is higher among those with unfavourable impressions of Islam,” said the report. “Opposition is mainly because of concerns that Syrian immigration will mean less help at home. Those opposed see Canadians as needing support first and foremost.”

Source: Ontario facing ‘epidemic of Islamophobia’ survey finds | Toronto Star

Tasha Kheiriddin’s commentary seems to be unaware of the many activities by moderate Canadian Muslims to counter the narrative:

And all the public education campaigns in the world, such as those currently playing out across Toronto, won’t change the fact that fundamentalist practitioners of Islam maintain a worldview very different not only from those held by non-Muslims, but from those held by moderate Muslims as well.

As with any extremist religion-based movement, it’s the latter group that holds the key to transforming the faith and the way it is perceived. Moderate Muslims need to speak out against extremism, from the mosque to Main Street. Otherwise, radicals and their actions will continue to feed the fires of prejudice, help elect Donald Trump to the White House, and undermine the very principles of tolerance and equality which Western countries — including the millions of Muslims who call them home — hold dear.

Are we becoming more Islamophobic?

Anti-Islamophobia ad campaign draws heated debate online

Means it’s working:

An ad campaign drawing attention to Islamophobia has Torontonians talking — and that’s just the point, backers of the campaign say.

The poster, recently rolled out at about 150 TTC stations and bus shelters across the GTA, depicts a young white man squaring off against a young woman in a head scarf.

“Go back to where you came from,” he says.

“Where, North York?” she replies.

The ads, launched this week by the City of Toronto and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), have sparked a flurry of comments online and on the street — precisely the point, said Amira Elghawaby: “to have constant dialogue … and force people to rethink their assumptions.”

Elghawaby, spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said recent events have rekindled latent prejudices.

The idea for the campaign was brought forward last fall, to cushion the arrival of Syrian refugees, she said, but has become all the more urgent in the wake of the Conservatives’ proposed partial ban on the niqab in 2015, presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, the fallout from the Paris attacks and mass shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., and Orlando, Fla..

“Islamophobia has become a serious concern in many communities in Canada,” said Elghawaby, whose organization was consulted on the ad’s creation but isn’t an official part of the campaign.

It’s not uncommon for women wearing a hijab to field unsolicited questions about their origins or criticism of their appearance, Elghawaby said. “That almost goes with the territory of being a visibly Muslim woman in Canada.”

Hijabs and hockey don’t clash; head scarves and beavertails aren’t incompatible, she says: “In other words, I’m as Canadian as the next guy or gal. And newly arrived immigrants and refugees will eventually be as well.”

Some people saw the ad as entrenching stereotypes and inflaming tensions.

“I think it’s in poor taste. I think it feeds into a racial stereotype,” said Toronto resident Bryan Carras, referring to both figures depicted.

“It’s an oppressive form of expression. It makes me sick to think of the countries where there’s human rights problems and where (the hijab) is everywhere,” he said.

Reddit post of the ad sparked more than 200 comments in less than six hours last week.

Some were supportive: “I suppose it’s good for these messages to be out there, as a reminder — to victims as well as perpetrators — that this s**t isn’t acceptable.”

Others less so. “It creates a further divide between people by playing on a stereotypes (sic),” one commenter typed. “You think it’s just white people spewing Islamophobic rhetoric?” wrote another.

A fourth quipped in response: “It’s almost as though, in this instance, white men take things ‘too personal’ and need to stop ‘looking for reasons to be offended…’”

More than 80 per cent of Muslim respondents in an Environics survey last April said they were very proud to be Canadian, 10 per cent more than non-Muslims. Yet an assumption remains “that people who look different are not from here,” says Patricia Wood, a York University geography professor who focuses on diversity and urban citizenship.

Not only can that harm a person’s sense of belonging or safety, it’s simply not accurate, especially in Toronto, Wood says.

Source: Anti-Islamophobia ad campaign draws heated debate online | Toronto Star

Understanding where I’m coming from on Toronto’s race relations: Paradkar

Shree Paradkar on the City of Toronto/OCASI poster (see Toronto campaign against Islamophobia an insult: Fatah). Merit in her idea to have a series of posters that cycle through various groups. One of the more positive legacy of former Minister Jason Kenney was his broadening of integration and multiculturalism discussions to include inter-group relations, not just the white/visible minority dichotomy:

“Where are you from?” is a common enough question in multiracial Toronto.

“Where are you really from?” is the common enough subtext directed at minorities. As a relatively recent immigrant, this doesn’t offend me. I did come from somewhere else. This country is a beloved home as is my country of origin. For second-generation and older minority immigrants, however, I can see why that can be offensive.

“Go back to where you’ve come from” is the other insult directed at minorities that drives home the flawed idea that the default Canadian is Anglo-Saxon. It supposes that everybody else, including our First Nations, is the unwelcome “other” who doesn’t have modern Canada’s best interests at heart.

And so a recent Toronto city-sponsored anti-racism ad takes this statement head on. In a poster a young white man says that to a hijabi, to which she retorts, “Where. To North York?”

It’s an accurate depiction of a frequent occurrence but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

The Toronto ad was made in partnership with OCASI, an agency that helps immigrants. About 150 ads were placed on bus shelters last week and the campaign will run until July 10. Perhaps they will depict more races and more examples. If they don’t, they could simply be polarizing.

Anti-racists erroneously assume everyone understands why — at the moment at least — any talk on racism predominantly challenges the white mindset.

In reality, if you fed that poster to a program that cycled through various racial or ethno-religious backgrounds for both people, and came up with, say, an Asian on the left and a black person, or a Hindu on the left and a Muslim, or an immigrant of 20 years on the left and a new immigrant of the same country, the “Go back to where you’ve come from” sentiment would still be accurate.

 So why focus on whites? While racism, xenophobia, homophobia and sexism exist in all cultures, they are most harmful when they come from a dominant group or a “ruling class,” which in Canada is obviously white and male.

These are the people who construct systems and govern institutions that determine equality and social justice. They create organizational structures and offer jobs. These are the interpreters of the law. If they are themselves afflicted by the “otherness” syndrome, then their views translate into severe injustices in a diverse society.

Eventually, though, if we get the diverse leadership in political and corporate governance we talk so much about, then narrow-minded attitudes in any leader — not just a white male — would be just as harmful.

In the U.S., I see conversations on racism reduced to a binary — white vs. black. That creates divisions; non-black minorities feel marginalized, blacks feel their legitimate historical and contemporary grievances need to be dealt with first, and many whites feel anti-racism is just politically correct hocus-pocus.

Canada has to champion a more nuanced conversation on discrimination.

A poster like this would speak volumes to the people affected by xenophobia. I can’t imagine it would change people who say things such as, “Go back to where you came from.” It could also estrange younger white men who might feel they’re not even given a chance to be fair. These are people in their intellectually formative years who are also exposed to the aggressive rhetoric of the aggrieved far-right. who sees themselves as victimized.

Reservations against this alienation are not about catering to white desire for, and comfort with, the status quo. It’s about reaching out to people who don’t experience racism and therefore don’t think of it as real or harmful.

“The overarching long-term goal is to create a Toronto that says ‘No’ to all forms of discrimination and racism,” the OCASI says in its media release.

Saying no is the easy part.

Bullheaded bigots may be unreachable, but making meaningful strides will mean making the regular white Joe and Jane see from the non-white perspective how their circumstance, whatever it is, still benefited from a privilege not available to others. That won’t happen when divided camps are left talking within themselves.

Source: Understanding where I’m coming from on Toronto’s race relations | Toronto Star

Toronto campaign against Islamophobia an insult: Fatah

OCASI IslamophobiaTarek Fatah over-reacts to the above poster which to my eyes, as a white guy, makes the point regarding prejudice and bias.

Traditionally, virtually all ethnic groups have faced these kinds of attitudes from many ‘old stock’ Canadians, with Canadian Muslims, as the most recent group, along with terrorism events, being the latest ones.

The same poster could have been made many years ago with an ‘old stock’ Canadian and a Ukrainian Canadian, changing the location to somewhere in the Prairies.

None of this to say that Canada’s success in integrating new Canadians from so many parts of the world reflects the efforts of so many ‘old stock’ Canadians, working alongside new Canadians, to achieve this.

In a press release on Tuesday, OCASI revealed, “The City of Toronto and OCASI are launching a Toronto public education campaign to address xenophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-immigrant sentiments.”

It quoted Councillor Joe Cressy of Trinity-Spadina saying “OCASI has an extensive history of working with refugees and understand the barriers they face to integration. We appreciate their insights.”

One of the first outcomes of OCASI’s “insights” was a poster that shows a white man confronting a black Muslim woman in hijab, telling her: “Go back to where you come from,” to which the black hijabi woman replies, “Where, North York?”

In one sweep the City of Toronto depicted every white man as a racist bigot and perpetuated the victimhood of Muslims, a goal of all Islamists worldwide who hate the West.

The question to Cressy is this: If you had to show a white male, then why didn’t you put your own face on the poster? Why leave it to an actor?

Or perhaps OCASI could have asked Mayor John Tory to do the honours of being the white racist male?

I am no denier of white privilege in our society and have taken on four white friends in a debate on this subject, so before the allegation of me being Uncle Tom is thrown my way (which I am sure it will), let me state the following: This is the most offensive poster designed by the City of Toronto in years.

Its intention seems to be to cover up the crimes of Islamists and distract Canadians from seeing the real threat to our society — Islamofacism, not so-called Islamophobia.

My son-in-law is white, so are the husbands of three of my nieces. My first boss in Canada was white and my editors at the Sun are white men. This poster is a slap in the face of Tory and all the decent, white males who have stood up for equal rights over the last century.

Bring it down, John Tory, because you are a good man.

Source: Toronto campaign against Islamophobia an insult | Fatah | Columnists | Opinion |

OCASI Statement: Priorities For The New Government Of Canada | OCASI

No real surprises here.

Do not expect, however, that all will be met (e.g., increased settlement funds) but many are aligned to the Liberal platform and/or public statements (and OCASI appears to have taken this into account):

Refugees

  • Fully restore Interim Federal Health Program for refugees and refugee claimants;
  • Expand and expedite government and private sponsorship of refugees including Syrians;
  • Remove the arbitrary and unfair Designated Country of Origin scheme, which has created a two-tier refugee determination system

Family reunification 

  • Grant permanent resident status to sponsored spouses upon arrival, eliminating Conditional Permanent Residence which has increased the vulnerability of women immigrants.
  • Restore maximum age for sponsorship of immigrant dependents to age 22 from 19;
  • Increase parent and grandparent sponsorship applications, at a minimum doubling them to 10,000 a year (Liberal party commitment);
  • Make family reunification faster by increasing resources to process sponsorship applications, particularly at visa posts with the longest delays; and by introducing Express Entry for family reunification (processing within 6 months);

Citizenship

  • Repeal the revocation of citizenship of dual citizens, and remove barriers to citizenship introduced through Bill C-24 including longer residency period to qualify, expansion of language and knowledge test requirements and no right of appeal to courts;
  • Reduce delays to acquire citizenship and reduce costs (which have tripled as a result of Bill C-24);

Migrant workers

  • Give all migrant workers (at all skill levels) a pathway to permanent residency;
  • Remove the four-year-in four-year-out limitation on migrant workers;

Francophone immigration

  • Support more francophone immigration to Ontario and the rest of Canada, meeting the 4% target (outside Quebec) as a minimum;

Immigrant and refugee settlement

  • Support immigrants and refugees to get jobs that match their experience and education through foreign credential recognition, enforcement of employment equity legislation and through bridging, mentoring and job placement programs;
  • Reverse the deep funding cuts to settlement services in Ontario.

Source: OCASI Statement: Priorities For The New Government Of Canada | OCASI

OCASI Questions for political parties General Election 2015 | OCASI

Imagine we will see more of these as the election draws closer. Will be interesting to compare these with political party platforms when released and degree to which citizenship and immigration-related issues make it into the platforms:

1. Settlement Services

Settlement service is an important resource that helps refugees and immigrants to make a strong start in their new life in Canada. This year, the Government of Canada cut $14 million from immigrant settlement services in Ontario. Ontario has already faced cuts to settlement funding almost every year since 2010, affecting the capacity of community-based organizations that deliver these programs to maintain organizational stability and excellence in quality of service. The federal government no longer has immigration agreements with the provinces and territories, except in Quebec.

Question: How will you support the immigrant and refugee serving-sector to deliver appropriate settlement services to immigrants and refugees, and support them to reach their full social, political and economic potential?

2. Employment

There is extensive research documenting the chronic underemployment of skilled immigrants in Canada, as well as research to show the strong correlation between racialization and the growing wage gap in the labour market i. Recent (past ten years) immigrants at all skill levels (internationally and locally trained professionals, tradespeople, lower-skilled dependents) are facing higher levels of un/under-employment compared to earlier cohorts, and compared to those born in Canada. For many, re-training, re-qualifying and licensing in Canada have not resulted in a significant change in job or wage prospects, and discrimination continues to be a significant barrier – particularly for racialized immigrants and refugees. This represents a significant missed opportunity for our economy and tremendous personal cost to the affected individuals and their communities.

Question: What will you do to improve the employment prospects, and pay parity for immigrants at all skill levels?

3. Citizenship

Only 26 per cent of permanent residents who settled in Canada in 2008 acquired Canadian citizenship, compared with 44 per cent for immigrant who arrived in 2007 and 79 percent for those who arrived in 2000.[Note: The updated numbers – full 2014 data – are somewhat better but reflect the same trend. 49 percent of those who settled in 2008, 57 percent who landed in 2007.]  These are the findings of research on citizenship acquisition released earlier this year ii. Access to citizenship has become more restricted, and naturalized citizens and those with dual citizenship are treated differently under the law.

Question: How will you ensure access to citizenship and exercise of citizenship is equitable?

4. Refugee sponsorship

59.5 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced as a result of war and persecution by the end of 2014 according to the UNHCR iii – the highest level ever recorded. A year earlier the number was 51.2 million. Canada’s Government Assisted Refugees program numbers have fallen by almost 22% in the ten years since 2004, and by 24% for all refugee programs iv.

Question: What will you do to increase the number of Government Assisted Refugees (GARs) over and above the current numbers, and to welcome more refugees to Canada through all the programs?

5. Migrant Workers

Canada has relied for decades on migrant workers to support and sustain our economy. In previous years, migrant workers in all occupations and sectors were allowed to stay and build a new life in Canada for themselves and their families. In recent years while migrant workers are recruited to work in almost all sectors and occupations only some are allowed to stay. The most recent change has further restricted the pathway to permanent residency for Caregivers and Domestic workers who arrived through what was known as the Live-in Caregiver Program until December 2014.

Question: What will you do to provide a pathway to permanent residency to all migrant workers, including those recruited through the Temporary Foreign Worker, International Mobility and Seasonal Agricultural Worker programs?

6. Family reunification

Family reunification is a pillar of Canada’s immigration program. Changes to legislation and policy in recent years combined with existing barriers are contributing to an increase in prolonged and sometimes indefinite delays in reunification. They include a narrow definition of family (example: non-biological children are not included), a category of “excluded family members, lower maximum age of a “dependent child” who can be sponsored, limitations on reunifying with parents and grandparents and more. Refugees and immigrants, particularly those from the Global South are subject to greater scrutiny and are among those most affected. Between 2010 and 2013, family reunification reduced by 15% v.

Question: What will you do to remove barriers to family reunification and allow all categories of family members to reunite in Canada?

7. Residents without Immigration Status

Canada has a large and growing number of residents without full immigration status. The growth in this population has resulted in part from gaps in immigration and refugee policies and practice and a massive growth in migrant workers, who also happen to be vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Residents without immigrant status are a part of our economy and our communities. Most do not qualify for any form of government assistance, and support themselves and their families through their own efforts. They pay taxes without receiving the full benefit of legal resident status.

Question: What is your position on the regularization of residents without full immigration status?

OCASI Questions for political parties General Election 2015 | OCASI.

C-24 Citizenship Act: Senate Hearings Start

While overshadowed by the Galati case and related media coverage, Senate hearings on Bill C-24 treaded much of the familiar ground and focussing on mainly the same issues. Given Parlvu was somewhat choppy yesterday, may not have captured all the main points.

Starting with the witnesses supporting the Bill. Richard Kurland, Lawyer and Policy Analyst, and regular media commentator, applauded the government for providing greater clarity and transparency on the requirements and pathway to citizenship from temporary and permanent residency. The greatest benefit will be in more applications processed in a more timely manner at lower cost. He expressed concern, however, over the insecurity created by the intent to reside provision. He emphasized the need for oral hearings, not allowing citizenship officers to rule on revocation for fraud without the person being able to present themselves. As to citizens of convenience, he argued in favour of the US approach of requiring US citizens living abroad to file tax returns.

 Julie Taub, Immigration and Refugee Lawyer, former member of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, was even stronger in her support for the Bill. She had “fought the system for decades” and welcomed the tougher penalties for fraud, the simplification of revocation and the crackdown on citizens of convenience, drawing examples from her legal practice and recalling the evacuation of Lebanese Canadians and their eventual return in 2006. She would have preferred residency of five years as Canada was too short compared to other countries. To further avoid residence fraud, she recommended that Permanent Residents be provided with a “swipe card” required for entry to or exit from Canada, given many Permanent Residents have more two passports.
Opposing the Bill were Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, Lorne Waldman, President, and Peter Edelmann, lawyer. They focused on the revocation provisions, noting the differential treatment between various classes of citizens: single national born Canadian; dual national born Canadian and aware of their dual nationality; dual national born Canadian and not aware of their dual nationality; and naturalized Canadians.

Revocation could apply, save in cases of statelessness, to any of the three last categories. The Bill did not say who was a dual national and how dual nationality would be interpreted. Given how citizenship laws vary by countries, some communities would be affected more than others. The reverse onus of proof was not justified. The threshold of 5 years for terrorist offences was too low compared to sentences for murder and sexual assault. Revocation for fraud allowed for no hearing and was a completely paper process without any independent review. The intent to reside provision was not clear on how it would be interpreted and applied, and was another example of differential treatment.

Loly Rico, President and Janet Dench, Executive Director, Canadian Council for Refugees, opposed the increase in residency requirements and removal of credit for pre-PR time, given that refugoees typically spent three to four years of temporary residency before becoming permanent residents. Total time for citizenship could approach eight to ten years with these changes. Extending language and knowledge test requirements made no sense for youth given they would be in Canadian schools; for 55-64 year olds who were refugees, their life circumstances, time in refugee camps etc, may make formal test requirements an unreasonable requirement. CCR opposed revocation as it was discriminatory between Canadian and dual nationals and that punishment was better handled through the criminal system.

Debbie Douglas, Executive Director, of Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, noted the anniversaries of the Komagata Maru and the M.S. St. Louis as a caution against promoting “any sort of racist policies.” OCASI opposed increased residency requirements, removal of credit for pre-Permanent Residents time, particularly for live-in caregivers where family separation has social and family costs. The intent to reside did not recognize that circumstances can change for work, study, or care of family members. Good faith of Minister that this would not apply post citizenship did not change ambiguity of law. Douglas echoed CCR on extending language and knowledge testing to 55-64 year olds, questioning the purpose of adding this additional barrier.
Debate as in the Commons Committee revolved around the familiar issues of intent to reside, revocation, language and knowledge testing, and decision-making process and lack of hearing or appeal. Government senators largely focussed on their defence of the Bill, and Opposition senators largely drew out their positions from witnesses opposed to C-24.
Some of the more interesting points:
  • Government Senators were sceptical that many new citizens would be affected by the intent to reside provision, examples cited by witnesses were “exceptions,”  with Sen. Enverga stating that if you “apply to come to Canada, your should live in Canada.”
  • On revocation for terror or treason, Edelmann trotted out the cliché, “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” and how definitions change over time. But more originally, rather than the usual Mandela example, he cited the contemporary example of Greenpeace being charged in Russia (Dench referred to Maher Arar). He also noted other heinous crimes, mentioning Paul Bernardo and Robert Picton, questioning why terrorism or treason should be treated differently;
  • There was a fairly spirited exchange on whether restoring knowledge and language testing to 55-64 year olds was an unreasonable barrier. Taub and Senator Eaton noted that basic language capability was not unreasonable to require. Refugee advocates emphasized for some it was, given what they had gone through. Senator Eaton, as a 70-year old, found their concerns to be “patronizing” to seniors but acknowledged that it may be a “huge struggle” for some. After probing by the Chair whether this was regarding language capability itself or formal testing, Douglas confirmed that it was more the lack of the alternative of an interview with a citizenship judge
  • Israel’s “law of return” was cited by Kurland as an example of dual citizenship. Some citizens, particularly refugees,  will always have a “fear of the state.” We will see how the judiciary “handles it,” acknowledging that this created two classes of citizenship.
  • Senator Eaton and Taub noted recent media reports of young men fighting in foreign conflicts and the risks of returning fighters to Canada. Taub noted there “really is not a choice” between Charter provisions and keeping Canada safe, and 75 percent of Canadians support revocation in these cases.
  • Whether more or less time in Canada increases integration was subject of debate. Douglas was powerful in noting that inclusion and removal of barriers  “goes a longer way than time,” citing the example of Black Canadians who had been here for generations.
  • Indicating the philosophical divide was a short exchange on citizenship as a privilege (Senator Enverga) and as a right (particularly Rico), who emphasized that as a former refugee from El Salvador, the right to be a full citizen, with all the rights and responsibilities that entailed as anyone born in Canada. That was part of the “beauty of Canada,” its inclusiveness and multiculturalism.
Hearings continue today with Martin Collacott, CBA, Asia-Pacific Foundation, Canadian War Brides (shut out from Commons Committee hearings), and PAFSO (foreign service union). Will be interesting to see if Galati case comes up during questions of the CBA witnesses.

Commentary on Bill C-24: Citizenship Act Revisions

Not surprisingly, the Toronto Star has a field day criticizing the new citizenship bill, with an editorial and commentary by Haroon Siddiqui and Thomas Walkom:

In typical fashion for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s law-and-order obsessed government, the laws promise to “protect the value of Canadian citizenship” by cracking down on problems that largely don’t exist. The vast majority of new Canadians are loyal, honest, law-abiding citizens. They have contributed enormously to the building-up of this nation. But you wouldn’t know it to judge from the unwelcome mat rolled out this week by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander. It’s all about cracking down on the marginal few who turn out to be treasonous, terrorists, criminals or fraudsters, and raising the bar for everyone else.

Canada’s new Citizenship Act reeks of mistrust: Editorial | Toronto Star.

He [Minister Alexander], too, is promising “reforms” and more get-tough measures. He will reduce the backlog in citizenship applications (now at 320,000) and waiting times (now between 25 and 35 months). If Kenney cleaned up the backlog in the skilled workers program by throwing out 98,000 applicants who had waited years in the queue, Alexander is going to “improve” the clogged citizenship processing by making immigrants wait four years instead of three to get citizenship, and make them pass a stringent English and French language test, as well as another test on their knowledge of Canada. Never mind that many native Canadians may not pass those tests, either.

As he heralded the “strengthening” of the Citizenship Act, he slipped in such measures as tripling the fee and giving himself the power to grant and strip citizenship — no need for the rule of law and due process, as he appointed himself the Citizenship Czar in some cases.

How to read Ottawa’s latest immigration changes: Siddiqui

Whether they know it or not, there are plenty of dual nationals here. Even the United States extends citizenship to Canadians with at least one American parent.

It can be argued that citizenship is a privilege rather than a right. It can be said that anyone who commits high crimes and misdemeanors — regardless of birthplace — should lose this privilege.

In an ideal world, that might make sense. But in the real world, public opinion can be fickle and government arbitrary.

After World War II, for instance, Ottawa seriously contemplated deporting all Japanese-Canadians, including those born in this country, to Japan. It probably would have been a popular move.

In the real world, as the career of iconic anti-apartheid fighter Nelson Mandela demonstrates, yesterday’s terrorist can be tomorrow’s hero.

Canada’s new citizenship bill a Trojan horse: Walkom

The National Post has limited commentary, but Kelly McFarland strongly supports the Bill:

Canada has always embraced immigration; the country was built on it and depends on it for our continued growth and vibrancy. But past policies have too often been designed to reflect a spirit of generosity so eager that it exposed the process to abuse, and cheapened the value of what is, in a practical sense, the greatest honour a country can bestow. Citizenship means more than simply buying a passport, or obtaining a bolt hole to be used when life in another country becomes too dangerous or inconvenient. Canada has been preyed on openly by people who put in the minimum time required to gain access to its benefits, only to spend the bulk of their lives outside its borders and careless of its culture. Mr. Alexander’s changes should go some distance to remedying those failings.

Some elements of his plan may prove contentious, and perhaps open to challenge in court. The new rules would enable Ottawa to revoke citizenship from dual citizens who commit treason, take up arms against Canada or engage in terrorist acts here or abroad, freeing Ottawa from the need to assist “citizens” who involve themselves in terrorist escapades overseas. Other countries have similar provisions, but while they would apply only in “exceptional” cases, they may be open to challenge on the basis that they create two standards of citizenship, with some Canadians more equal than others….

But overall the reforms are an excellent start, which emphasize the value of citizenship and demand applicants demonstrate a real desire to make Canada their permanent home, absorb its culture and contribute to its progress and well-being.

Citizenship changes recognize high value of being Canadian

Interestingly, there does not appear to be any commentary in Quebec French language media. Whether this reflects the internal focus on Quebec (e.g., the Values Charter and pre-election positioning) or bigger federal stories (e.g., electoral reform) is unclear.

Some immigration and refugee organization issued critical statements. The Canadian Council for Refugees:

“Citizenship is a fundamental status – not something that is ‘deserved’. It is wrong to use citizenship rules to punish people for wrong-doing – that’s the role of the criminal system,” said Loly Rico, President. “Treating dual citizens differently is discriminatory and violates the fundamental principle that all citizens are equal.”

The CCR also opposes the proposal to make permanent residents wait longer before they can apply for citizenship. Extending the wait period undermines efforts to integrate newcomers.

Offering citizenship is a key way Canada embraces newcomers and encourages them to quickly become full participating members of our society. Traditionally this has been an area where Canada excelled.

The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers:

Unlike the Conservative government, CARL has full confidence in the Canadian criminal justice system’s ability to effectively punish individuals who violate the law.  As such, CARL condemns the proposed provisions that will allow for citizenship stripping. We do not need to revive the medieval practice of banishment to achieve the goals of punishment, namely deterrence, retribution, denunciation, and rehabilitation.  We now have the benefit of a modern judicial process that includes prosecution, trial before an independent judge and, in the event of conviction, a punishment that expresses society’s condemnation with the full weight of the law.

The current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration’s predecessor falsely claimed that citizenship stripping is commonplace in other countries, including the United States.  In fact, the only western state to make use of this practice in the last few years is the United Kingdom, and it is an outlier whose use of it should serve as a cautionary tale.  Citizenship stripping has been unconstitutional in the United States for over 50 years.

PRESS RELEASE: Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers reacts to proposed government citizenship bill

Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)

Issue: Increasing the amount of time a permanent resident must wait before becoming a full participant in Canadian society will not strengthen democracy in Canada. Some permanent residents, such as those who were Convention Refugees, will face difficulties in travelling to see family or take advantage of overseas employment opportunities.

Issue: The government has said that the Bill will reduce the processing time. But this may not make a real difference to immigrants since they will have to wait longer to apply…

Issue: The change will impact on seniors who are currently exempt from these provisions, including those who have been working since they arrived and did not have time to take a language test, those who know enough English or French to live and work in Canada but not enough to pass the required language test, and those who do not have the capacity to learn a new language such as older refugees.

Issue: Increasing the amount of time a permanent resident must wait before becoming a full participant in Canadian society will not strengthen democracy in Canada. Some permanent residents, such as those who were Convention Refugees, will face difficulties in travelling to see family or take advantage of overseas employment opportunities.

Issue: The government has said that the Bill will reduce the processing time. But this may not make a real difference to immigrants since they will have to wait longer to apply.

OCASI Comments On Proposed Citizenship Changes