Chris Selley: Ontario’s no-health care-for-terrorists bill is nonsense at its best

Another good column by Selley on the Ontario Conservatives virtue signalling:

The Ontario government wants to make convicted terrorists ineligible for licences to drive, hunt and fish, for public health insurance, for housing and income assistance, for student loans, and to parent their own children. It wants to do this because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is soft on terrorism — specifically on the question of Canadians returning home after fighting for ISIL.

“I am disgusted that the federal government is not dealing with this,” Progressive Conservative MPP Dave Smith told reporters this week. “What we’re doing is we are taking away privileges from criminals.”

“If you leave Canada to go fight for ISIS, you should not be welcomed back with open arms,” Premier Doug Ford tweeted. “Since Justin Trudeau doesn’t seem to take this seriously, (Smith) is taking action to send a message that there are consequences for leaving Ontario to commit indefensible crimes.”

Sometimes governments come up with laws that they think will make their jurisdiction a better place, and they advance them in their legislature and in the media in good faith. And sometimes they come up with laws the primary purpose of which is to generate opposition to those laws, which they can then use to attack the opponents. The federal Conservatives’ Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, and the accompanying “snitch line” announced during the 2015 election campaign, was a good example of the latter. To question its necessity or wisdom or choice of wording was to be accused of sanctioning everything from child marriage to polygamy to female genital mutilation.

The Ontario Tories’ Bill 46, more soberly titled the Terrorist Activities Sanctions Act, certainly has great potential as the second kind of legislation: Have fun out there arguing on behalf of a terrorist’s right to health care or a hunting licence or to raise his kids unmolested. (Bill 46 would deem any such children in need of protection under the Child, Youth and Family Services Act.) But let’s give Smith and Ford the benefit of the doubt and assume they also think this is good public policy.

Attorney General Caroline Mulroney, or any other lawyer, could tell them that their public policy is almost certain to be torn to shreds in the courts, at great and pointless public expense. As it stands even the most vile criminals, if released, are entitled to public health insurance; denying it to one class of criminals as explicit punishment for violating a section of the Criminal Code would attract no end of legal opposition. It could be found to violate the Constitution, which unambiguously makes criminal law the federal government’s jurisdiction. It could be found to violate Section 7 of the Charter, which enshrines the “right to life, liberty and security of the person”; or Section 12, the protection against cruel and unusual punishment; or even Section 6, which guarantees the right “to pursue the gaining of a livelihood in any province,” and which isn’t vulnerable to the notwithstanding clause. Legal arguments aside, the federal government could simply withhold transfers until Ontario started providing health care to all its citizens again.

Howard Anglin, executive director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, doesn’t buy all the legal arguments being made against Bill 46. But he thinks Canadian courts might well buy many of them. “I would bet pretty heavily that the Canadian courts would find that the province is violating a right to health care for these individuals,” he says. “The health care component is probably dead in the water.” As, he argues, is the bit about taking away people’s kids. “That’s not going to fly,” he says, arguing that determination requires a “quintessentially individualized analysis.”

There are logical arguments the government might make for some of these measures. Cars and trucks being popular tools for terrorists nowadays, perhaps we’d rather ISIL veterans not be authorized to drive them. We certainly wouldn’t want to license them to own firearms, let alone hunt with them. But the government isn’t making those arguments. It’s making no bones about the fact it simply wants to punish these people for a criminal act, which is not its bailiwick — points for honesty, but it makes it all the more likely the courts will torpedo it.

It’s entirely understandable that people are appalled by the idea of Canadians returning home after committing atrocities in Syria and not face consequences. Anything Canada can do to bring these people to justice, while respecting constitutional rights and the rule of law, it should do. But that only highlights the central absurdity of Bill 46: It doesn’t even apply unless someone is already convicted of a terrorism offence under the Criminal Code, which is precisely what Ford’s government complains isn’t happening.

The convicted would (or certainly should) face many stringent post-release conditions that actually make sense. Neither denying them “free” treatment for a communicable disease nor prohibiting them from fishing makes any sense on any level except as arbitrary, bloody-minded and very likely counterproductive retribution that it’s not in the province’s power to mete out in the first place. This bill is a turkey, and someone with a hunting license ought to kill it.

Source: Chris Selley: Ontario’s no-health care-for-terrorists bill is nonsense at its best

Ontario to exempt Sikh motorcyclists from helmet law

Sigh. Religious accommodation to ride a motorcycle? Would a government grant an exemption for wearing seatbelts? In line with other provinces, however, even if the justification is flimsy.

“The wearing of the turban is an essential part of the Sikh faith and identity,” stated the Brampton South MPP.

Wrong on two counts: not all Sikhs wear turbans and riding a motorcycle is not an essential part of Sikh faith and identity:

Sikhs with turbans will be exempt from wearing motorcycle helmets starting next Thursday, Premier Doug Ford says, revving up concerns over higher medical and insurance costs.

Highway Traffic Act regulations are being changed to fulfil Ford’s election promise of a helmet reprieve on religious grounds, which the previous Liberal government refused to do for safety reasons despite years of lobbying from the Canadian Sikh Association.

“Soon we will have a right to ride with our pride,” the Sikh Motorcycle Club of Ontario posted on its Facebook page Wednesday.

British Columbia, Manitoba and Alberta already have helmet exemptions for Sikh motorcyclists, as does the United Kingdom. Helmets often do not fit over turbans, which take time to put on and take off.

“The safety of our roads will always remain a priority,” Ford said in a statement Wednesday. “But our government also believes that individuals have personal accountability and responsibility with respect to their own well-being.”

So contentious is the issue that the premier held a news event in Brampton mainly for the local Punjabi media, excluding the Queen’s Park press corps.

Ford’s office defended the unusual move to bypass the mainstream media.

Safety experts said it’s more dangerous to ride a motorcycle without a helmet, with the non-profit Canada Safety Council noting they reduce fatalities by 37 per cent and head injuries by 67 per cent.

“You’re certainly taking on more risk,” said Raynald Marchand of the Ottawa-based group and a rider since 1974, who encouraged Sikh motorcyclists to use eye-protecting goggles at a minimum.

“It’s always better to wear a helmet,” added Brian Patterson of the Ontario Safety League.

The helmet exception for Sikhs exploded on social media, with commentators questioning whether riders should have to sign waivers so taxpayers won’t be on the hook for any head injury treatment costs.

But the safety experts downplayed the likelihood of much impact on the health-care system, given that Sikh riders are a small fraction of the motorcycling population.

“I don’t think the numbers are significant,” Marchand told the Star.

It’s unclear, however, what could happen to overall motorcycle insurance rates, given that companies can’t single out Sikh riders for higher premiums under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Given the size, it may not be significant enough. Insurance companies will look at premiums based on data,” said Pete Karageorgos of the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Ford’s announcement followed last week’s introduction of a private member’s bill on a helmet exemption by Brampton South MPP Prabmeet Sarkaria.

“The wearing of the turban is an essential part of the Sikh faith and identity,” Sarkaria said in a statement.

Source: Ontario to exempt Sikh motorcyclists from helmet law

Advocates fear for future of province’s anti-racism directorate

Expect it will go. Sad, given that one of the main activities was data collection, data needed to inform policy:

What will happen to the province’s anti-racism directorate?

For many who work in anti-racism, this has been the question since June, when Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives won the provincial election with a majority government.

Community members who worked closely with the anti-racism directorate say they’ve received no answers from the government, which controversially moved the directorate to a new ministry and recently disbanded its subcommittees.

Longtime anti-racism advocates who lived through the Mike Harris years are now having flashbacks to 1995, when his Conservative government was elected to Queen’s Park — and promptly moved to eliminate what was then called the anti-racism secretariat, established just a few years earlier.

Two decades would pass before the anti-racism body was revived by the Liberal government in 2016, amid controversy over carding and debate over the acceptance of Syrian refugees. But less than two years into its mandate, the body, this time labelled a “directorate,” has fallen back into the hands of a Conservative government and community activists worry the province’s anti-racism efforts are once again doomed to fail.

“It just feels like 1995 all over again, where we take two steps forward only to go three or four steps backwards,” said Nigel Barriffe, president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations. “What we see is a very hard, right-wing government that I don’t believe has any intention of honouring the commitment that the previous government has made towards the anti-racism directorate’s strategy.”

There are already early signs that changes are coming to the directorate, which had a number of subcommittees, including four community groups that consulted on issues of anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous discrimination, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

In early August, some members of the subcommittees told the Star they were contacted by staff and informed that their services would no longer be needed. “It was basically ‘Yep, your year is up, thank you very much,” said longtime Jewish rights advocate Bernie Farber, who co-chaired the anti-Semitism committee.

Farber said he and other members received no information about the future of the directorate, whose aim is to advance racial equity and address systemic racism in government policy legislation programs and services.

Nothing can be gleaned from Premier Ford’s mandate letters to ministers, either, which might clarify some of his intentions for the anti-racism directorate — the government is keeping these letters secret, even though they were publicly released under the previous administration.

The anti-racism directorate also ignored a list of questions sent by the Star on Aug. 20. These questions included: What is the directorate’s budget? What’s happening with the government-wide plans to collect race-based data? And what are the province’s priorities for the anti-racism directorate going forward?

“We don’t know anything,” said MPP Michael Coteau, who was previously the Liberal minister in charge of the directorate. “One of the most troubling pieces with the new government is that there’s been no transparency with regard to their mandate.”

“People are quite worried,” said MPP Laura Mae Lindo, the NDP critic for anti-racism. “You can’t approach anti-racism that way; you have to be transparent in what it is that you’re doing. You have to be willing to listen to the community organizations.”

To Barriffe, what the Ford government has been transparent on is its views toward issues that matter to racialized communities. He points to comments Ford made during his campaign where he expressed support for TAVIS, a now-defunct police unit that was heavily criticized for its negative impact on racialized communities. When the NDP recently introduced a motion to ban police carding — also known as “street checks,” which disproportionately affect people with black and brown skin — and destroy data collected through the practice, Conservative MPPs largely voted against it.

“I think that we have to believe what we see and what we see is them reversing all of the forward movement that we made in addressing anti-Black racism in society,” he said.

But Barriffe doesn’t necessarily think the Ford government will kill the anti-racism directorate outright. Rather, he suspects it will die from a thousand cuts — neglected and “defanged from its original purpose and intent.”

Already, the directorate has been relocated to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, which is headed by MPP Michael Tibollo — the minister who was heavily criticized by opposition parties for making “blatantly racist” comments in July, when he described wearing a bulletproof vest during a visit to the Jane and Finch neighbourhood.

The move diminishes the directorate’s influence within the government, said Avvy Go, director of the Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, who served on the directorate’s consultative body.

Previously, the directorate was based at the Cabinet Office. “The idea behind that was that anti-racism is important across the board, not just for any one ministry, and that all the ministries must pay attention to the issue of racism and finding ways of eliminating it,” she said. “Once you’ve slated it under one particular ministry, then we lose that cross-departmental knowledge-sharing and accountability measure.”

But the decision to move the directorate to this ministry — the same one in charge of police and prisons — also sends a troubling message, says longtime community activist Nene Kwasi Kafele, who also served on the consultation group with Go.

“The implication (is) that racism is simply an issue of policing and safety,” he said. “In my view, there’s some dog-whistle stuff around Black people and racialized communities being a danger, and therefore targeted approaches to them generally need to be subsumed under an area that addresses security and safety. It’s a terrible message.”

Lindo notes that the directorate, under the previous government, did have its flaws, however. For one, she believes it could have done a better job of folding in the work of community groups, many of which have already been on the front lines of anti-racism for decades.

Farber also has his criticisms of the directorate. He felt issues relating to anti-Semitism and Islamophobia were not prioritized as much as they should have been during the early stages of the directorate — though he started seeing signs of progress in the months leading up to the election.

“We started to make some headway; there were resources there that we were looking at to provide education on anti-Semitism,” Farber said. “And that’s what we were working towards, during the time leading up to the last provincial election. And then, quite frankly, things sort of grinded to a halt.”

Kafele points out, however, that while the directorate was just getting started, it did achieve some major accomplishments. The provincial government now has a legislative mandate towards combating racism in the province, he said, as well as a commitment to collecting disaggregated race data; commitments were also made towards underserved and marginalized populations, like Black youth in Ontario.

None of this existed back in the early ’90s, when both Kafele and Farber were involved with the anti-racism secretariat the first time around. And despite some of its early hiccups, Farber agrees the need for an anti-racism directorate is as urgent as ever, especially with the rise of right-wing extremist groups and an increasingly polarized political climate.

“The government gives (importance) to concepts like a buck-a-beer but not when it comes to racism, which has huge impacts on society,” Farber said. “The world is getting not just more complex but more dangerous, and we need to have policies and understandings in place as these issues go forward.”

Source: Advocates fear for future of province’s anti-racism directorate

How we stopped worrying and learned to love robots

Still looking for someone to translate the expected AI impact in terms of what it means in terms of immigration levels and skills:

As Bob Magee, chairman of the Woodbridge Group, walked us through his foam-manufacturing facility just north of Toronto, a familiar story emerged. Automation for this company isn’t a simple calculation of substituting one machine for one worker. Rather, it is one of many incremental steps in a process of continuous improvement that requires engaged employees at each and every step.

At the Woodbridge Group, automation is beneficial for the firm and workers alike. It contributes to improved competitiveness — a necessary precondition for jobs — while making existing jobs easier, more efficient and, from our observations, more enjoyable. Where workers were once required to lift and place heavy sheets of foam, these tasks are now done by machines. Workers are free to do what they do best: oversee processes, ensure quality and work as a team to make the plant more efficient.

Despite many stories like these, concerns over automation decimating the workforce and leaving millions unemployed persist. Is automation driving us toward a jobless future or a more productive and prosperous economy for firms and workers alike? To better understand what’s happening and what’s coming in Ontario, Ontario’s Ministry of Economic Development and Growth and Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development commissioned the Brookfield Institute to take a closer look. Our in-depth analysis included systematic reviews of existing literature and data, interviews with over 50 people representing labour, business and developers of technology, and a two-phase citizen engagement process in communities across the province involving roughly 300 individuals. Our work and findings were overseen and reviewed by an expert advisory panel of 14 people with technology, academic and industry expertise.

The extent to which communities and workers are impacted by automation depends on the behaviour of firms — that is, whether they invest in automation technologies. This decision is influenced by a myriad of internal and external factors, including domestic and international competition, changing consumer preferences and the need to maintain output as workers age and retire. The ultimate goal of automation is always to improve productivity, product quality and overall competitiveness.

Given Ontario firm’s track record on technology adoption, large-scale disruption is likely not around the corner. Just as many factors influence tech adoption, others impede it. These include cost barriers and risk aversion, the difficulties associated with integrating new technology in existing legacy systems and — surprisingly — shortages of workers with the skills to properly implement and maintain technology.

For many firms in Ontario these barriers significantly inhibit technological adoption. The gap in information and communications technology (ICT) investment between Ontario and the US is substantial and has grown in recent years. In 2015, Ontario firms’ annual ICT investment was 2.39 percent as a share of GDP, versus 3.15 percent in the US and 2.16 for Canada as a whole. This disparity puts a damper on predictions of an imminent automation-driven jobless future.

If Ontario firms continue to lag when it comes to tech adoption, the associated decline in competitiveness could spell disaster for them and their workers.

In the Canadian manufacturing sector (to which Ontario manufacturers contributed roughly 47 percent of output in 2016), firms’ ICT investment per worker was 57 percent of that of their US counterparts, as of 2013. Despite this lower rate of investment in technology, Ontario experienced sharper declines in employment (5.5 percent from 2001 to 2011) than both the US (4.2 percent) and Germany (4 percent) — jurisdictions with higher rates of technology adoption. This suggests that while automation has enabled many manufacturers to produce more goods with fewer people, low rates of technology adoption may also be a concern for workers.

Without skilled workers, automation simply would not be possible. They are needed at each and every step, to identify inefficiencies and to integrate and oversee technology.

When new technologies are adopted, the impact on workers is a function of how those specific technologies affect business activities, what new skills are needed as a result and whether these new skills are present in the firm’s existing workforce and in the broader labour market.

Automation can help firms retain existing jobs, albeit with different skill requirements. In some instances, employees can be redeployed, often to more interesting, productive and safe work. Automation can also help existing firms expand and new businesses form. Historically, automation has created more jobs than it eliminates, in the long run.

In Ontario’s finance and insurance sector, for example, automation has contributed to improved efficiency, yet employment continues to rise. Between 2002 and 2016, the number of workers required to generate $1 million in output declined from 5.9 to 5.2, but employment expanded by 35 percent, or 85,350 workers. But automation has also contributed to significant shifts in skill requirements, increasing demand for both soft and technical skills, including those related to client experience, sales, and project and risk management, as well as software development and data analysis. This shift is perhaps best exemplified by the impact of the ATM on bank tellers, whose numbers actually increased after ATMs were introduced.

Automation can eliminate certain kinds of job tasks and sometimes whole occupations. When new jobs are created, they often require different skill sets and frequently emerge in industries and regions different than those where jobs might have been lost. If workers are unable to move, to acquire new skills to adapt or to change jobs, they may experience a prolonged adjustment period of underemployment or unemployment. This in turn can depress local labour markets and exacerbate the inequitable distribution of wealth among individuals and across regions.

For workers and firms to be successful, Ontario must overcome barriers and embrace automation with an intensity comparable to that of our international peers. This process will require a skilled workforce able to support technological adoption. For many workers, the benefits are clear: jobs will be retained and may even get better. But an increased pace of automation could leave others behind. We need to ensure that workers have the skills and opportunities to adapt to and even drive automation. This will require more than incremental changes, and our public and private sectors will need to rethink and better coordinate existing programs geared toward promoting technological adoption and delivering skills training.

Source: How we stopped worrying and learned to love robots

Has Ontario’s anti-Semitism subcommittee accomplished anything?

These processes take time. A more interesting article would compare the progress of the four subcommittees:

A year ago, Ontario’s Liberal government unveiled its three-year anti-racism strategy. A Better Way Forward included initiatives “to combat systemic racism and create equitable outcomes for indigenous and racialized communities.”

Anti-racism, the 60-page plan stated, “actively confronts the unequal power dynamic between groups and the structures that sustain it.”

Four subcommittees were set up last March under the province’s Anti-Racism Directorate, which was established in February 2016 by Premier Kathleen Wynne and Michael Coteau, the minister responsible for anti-racism. The subcommittees are tasked with studying racism directed at blacks, indigenous people, Muslims and Jews respectively.

The directorate’s goal is “to eliminate systemic racism in government policies, decisions and programs,” and to boost public education and awareness of racism.

On June 1, Ontario passed its sweeping Anti-Racism Act. Among other things, the law mandates a review of anti-racism strategies at least every five years.

The subcommittee examining anti-Semitism has been toiling in relative obscurity ever since. Its unpaid members, which were chosen on the basis of their expertise in the area, were confirmed last spring. The first meeting was held in October, with two more in December and February. A fourth meeting has not yet been scheduled.

The committee is co-chaired by Bernie Farber, formerly of Canadian Jewish Congress and the Mosaic Institute, and Andrea Freedman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa and the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation.

Its members are: Karen Mock, chair of the progressive Zionist group JSpace Canada; Len Rudner, formerly of the Canadian Jewish Congress and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA); Zach Potashner of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre; Pamela Divinsky, director of the Mosaic Institute; Madi Murariu from CIJA; Tom Henheffer, a journalist and media consultant; Hersh Perlis, director of the Legal Innovation Zone at Ryerson University and a former adviser at Queen’s Park; Nikki Holland, director of public affairs for the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario; Brianna Ames, a volunteer with the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee; and Amanda Hohmann, who at first represented B’nai Brith Canada, but now represents La’ad Canada, a new group focused on the next generation of Jewish Canadians. (B’nai Brith says it’s in the process of naming a new envoy to the committee).

In an email to The CJN, the anti-racism directorate explained that all four subcommittees are tasked with providing “population-specific and community perspectives on supporting and implementing … anti-racism initiatives” and providing input on “ongoing public awareness and education initiatives related to systemic racism.”

Asked what it has achieved, Farber said that even establishing an anti-racism directorate is an accomplishment, because it recognizes that within issues around racism, anti-Semitism “is seen individually and separately as a very impactful issue of discrimination that has to be dealt with on its own basis. That recognition has never been there before, officially.”

And “there’s a lot more to be done. We are just scratching the surface,” he added.

One hope is for the committee to reach out to FAST (Fighting Anti-Semitism Together), an activist group that opposes anti-Semitism, and Facing History and Ourselves, an educational organization that aims to engage students in issues of racism and genocide, Farber said.

Freedman told The CJN that the committee has narrowed its focus to education initiatives.

“One of our main areas is education and raising public awareness on anti-Semitism to ensure there’s a multi-faceted approach to the issue that involves all levels of government,” she said.

As for a definition of anti-Semitism, Freedman said that she and Farber will recommend that the committee adopt the one used by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which has also been adopted by the government of Canada. It says that anti-Semitism “is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

The only times the anti-Semitism subcommittee has been in the news was when two groups, Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) and the United Jewish People’s Order (UJPO), complained that they were deliberately excluded because they are openly critical of Israel and support Palestinian rights.

The organizations launched a petition on change.org, saying the directorate would “increase its credibility and effectiveness” by including “a greater range of Jewish voices, including those who are critical of Israel.” To date, it has nearly 900 signatures.

On Feb. 20, Teresa Armstrong, an NDP MPP from London, tabled the petition in the legislature.

Criticism of Israel’s government or policies “is not inherently anti-Semitic,” she said, quoting the petition, and confusing criticism of Israel’s government or policies with anti-Semitism “can have the adverse effect of silencing critical voices.”

Farber said that the two groups were not deliberately excluded, but that they focused on including “those Jewish organizations which deal specifically with anti-Semitism.” The focus of UJPO and IJV is not anti-Semitism, he said.

via Has Ontario’s anti-Semitism subcommittee accomplished anything? – The Canadian Jewish News

ICYMI: Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate’s anti-Semitism committee stuck on Israel – NOW Magazine

Good question:

The province’s Anti-Racism Directorate (ARD) has produced a clear and concise strategy to combat anti-Black racism. So why have they fumbled things so badly with their sub-committee on anti-Semitism?

Anti-racism is about giving voice to those who are outside the mainstream and ensuring broad representation in all public matters.

The ARD’s Strategic Plan, A Better Way Forward, states that its approach “actively confronts the unequal power dynamic between groups and the structures that sustain it [and] involves consistently assessing structures, policies and programs.”

Yet, the directorate has set up a sub-committee on anti-Semitism that consists solely of representatives from the Jewish establishment, including from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), B’nai Brith Canada, and Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC).

Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) and the United Jewish People’s Order (UJPO) have requested to be included on the committee.

“Underlying our desire to participate is deep concern, shared by a growing number of Jews, that accusations of anti-Semitism are being used to suppress criticism of Israel,” says Rachel Epstein, executive director of UJPO’s Winchevsky Centre.

In a submission to the directorate last year, IJV campaigns coordinator Tyler Levitan expressed concern that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel, also known as BDS, might also form part of the sub-committee’s mandate.

Sadly, limiting the committee membership to mainstream voices reinforces the systemic biases that the directorate has been set up to combat.

A broader, more balanced committee is essential, including representatives from non-establishment Jewish groups.

CIJA, B’Nai Brith and FSWC don’t measure up.

While they have decried Islamophobia, the groups have opposed M-103, a parliamentary motion passed last year condemning Islamophobia and all other forms of religious discrimination.

Bernie Farber, a former executive director of the Canadian Jewish Congress (who is a member of the sub-committee) criticized the groups in a column last February in the Canadian Jewish News.

“How can it be,” he wrote, “that fellow Jews … deny the very same protections they would rightly demand for themselves?”

One would expect the sub-committee would include those with a dedication to anti-racism generally.

But while the organizations represented on the sub-committee claim many criticisms of Israel as anti-Semitic, they have historically failed to take issue with blatant racism expressed by senior Israeli politicians and government officials.

Recently, that has included the Communications Minister calling African refugees a “sanitary nuisance” and the Justice Minister calling Palestinian children “little snakes.”

The Anti-Racism Directorate’s credibility will be seriously damaged unless it deals with the narrow membership on the sub-committee.

Premier Kathleen Wynne and Michael Coteau, the provincial Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism, need to act to preserve the directorate’s reputation as it carries out its important task of combatting racism in all its forms.

via Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate’s anti-Semitism committee stuck on Israel – NOW Magazine

New ’pay transparency’ bill from Ontario government aims to close gender wage gap

Always good to have more and better data. However, hard to understand the need in the Ontario public service given salary scales already in place and wonder whether existing mechanisms like the Census are being used and analyzed as effectively as possible to identify more precisely the gaps before adding yet another reporting requirement:

Ontario plans to introduce legislation Tuesday that aims to close the wage gap between women and men in the province.

If passed, the “pay transparency” bill would require all publicly advertised job postings to include a salary rate or range, bar employers from asking about past compensation and prohibit reprisal against employees who do discuss or disclose compensation.

It would also create a framework that would require large employers to track and report compensation gaps based on gender and other diversity characteristics, and disclose the information to the province.

The pay transparency measures will begin with the Ontario public service before applying to employers with more than 500 employees. It will later extend to those with more than 250 workers.

The government says it will spend up to $50 million over the next three years on the initiative.

Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne is expected to announce the legislation — called Then Now Next: Ontario’s Strategy for Women’s Economic Empowerment — during a Women’s Empowerment Summit at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.

“We know that too many women still face systemic barriers to economic advancement,” Wynne said in a statement. “It’s time for change.”

According to the province, the gender wage gap has remained stagnant over the past 10 years, with women earning approximately 30 per cent less than men.

The government said it looked to other jurisdictions to create the basis of its legislation, including existing laws in Germany, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Wynne has made the themes of fairness and opportunity key planks of her bid for re-election this spring, pitching policies like the province’s increase to minimum wage and expansion of drug coverage for people aged 25 and under as part of those efforts.

Ontario puts moratorium on suspending racialized public servants

Strong step:

The province has put a moratorium on suspending racialized public servants while it reviews how it processes complaints on racial discrimination.

The announcement came a day after more than 20 Black employees, mostly women, brought their concerns directly to Michael Coteau, Ontario’s minister of children and youth services, who is also in charge of the province’s anti-racism initiatives.

At a meeting Jan. 18, past and present public servants said they suffered racial harassment and faced reprisal when making complaints.

Coteau heard stories from Black employees who said their roles were steadily diminished despite years of positive reviews. Others had trained new staff, only to see those new employees be given higher, more lucrative positions. Some said their complaints about racial discrimination were mishandled. A majority of the participants said they had been suspended, demoted or fired while the staffers they had complained about faced no repercussions.

“When I started at the ministry, I was confused for the hired help,” Hentrose Nelson, who has worked in the public service since 2004, told Coteau. Nelson was one of the organizers of the meeting and she spoke about her experience with the complaints and suspension process.

Nelson is also a plaintiff in a lawsuit against provincial Citizenship and Immigration Minister Laura Albanese, alleging systemic racism in the department.

None of the accusations has been tested in court.

Boafoa Kwamena, a spokesperson for the Ontario Public Service — which encompasses over 60,000 employees in the province’s ministries, agencies and Crown corporations — would not comment on specific complaints. She also declined to answer Metro’s questions about what prompted the moratorium or how long it will last, saying in an email this week only that it is in place pending the review of existing policies and procedures.

Where there is a clear case of wrongdoing such as theft or violence against another staff member, the moratorium does not apply as those cases are reviewed by the province’s Public Service Commission.

“Creating a safe, inclusive and respectful environment for everyone in the OPS is a top priority,” Kwamena wrote in an email.

She added that officials are working with the Black OPS Network, an internal employee network, on a three-point plan. It includes an independent third-party review of complex cases; an independent review of the Workplace Discrimination and Harassment Prevention policy with an anti-racism methodology; and developing an anti-racism policy. Attendees of the January meeting also called for these actions.

The review of the complaints process is intended to start by this March. A private sector lawyer will manage the review of complex cases. The OPS has declined to name the lawyer until a contract has been finalized.

“This is really something that we wanted to do for other Black women,” explained Jean-Marie Dixon, who has worked as a lawyer in the civil service.

Dixon says the action employees are taking now is for future generations. She wants to see people who have engaged in racism and discrimination fired as well as more funding and support for Black women going through a grievance, complaint or lawsuit.

Nelson welcomes the news of the moratorium and echoes the hope for more change to come.

“It’s not about our struggle only,” she said in an interview following the announcement. “It’s a systemic beast which we are trying to fight. It’s a huge win.”

via Ontario puts moratorium on suspending racialized public servants | Toronto Star

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Being on social assistance draws more spite than race, colour, gender . . . but not more than being Muslim: survey | Toronto Star

Some interesting insights, particularly with respect to contacts or not between groups:

While racial profiling and sexual harassment may have grabbed the public spotlight, being poor and living on assistance is more likely to elicit hostility and prejudice than race, skin colour or gender — although being Muslim is marginally worse for this.

According to an Ontario Human Rights Commission survey released Friday, one in five Ontarians have negative feelings against those on social assistance, surpassing their unfavourable views against all other groups, except Muslims, who were disliked by 21 per cent of the respondents.

The statistically validated survey of 1,501 Ontarians was the first attempt by the province’s human rights watchdog to measure public awareness, perception and attitudes towards different groups, and learn about personal experiences of discrimination in order to guide its strategic plan in the next five years.

“It is important for institutions, such as the commission, to try and reach people we may not encounter in our day-to-day work, just to get a sense more broadly what some of the sentiments are,” said its chief commissioner, Renu Mandhane.

“It will provide useful info for the commission, for the government and community, about how we can more effectively advance the public discourse about human rights.”

The questionnaire, conducted earlier this year, found 63 per cent of respondents believed race or colour to be one of the most common reasons for discrimination in Ontario, followed by sexual orientation (34 per cent), disability (25 per cent) and creed or religion (24 per cent).

While almost half of the survey participants said they experienced some form of discrimination in the past five years, seven in 10 of Indigenous respondents said they received prejudicial treatment over the time period.

Only four per cent of respondents say they were victims of discrimination as a result of being on social assistance, but those who are unemployed, from the LGBTQ community, who have disabilities, are on a low income and have less education were way more likely to say so.

“People on social assistance tend to map out against the (human rights) code grounds . . . racialized, Indigenous, people with disabilities, single parent. What this data shows us is that even stripping that away, there is a unique form of discrimination that poor people face,” Mandhane said.

“There is a private member’s bill in Ontario right now to include social conditions in the code. This is a solid foundation for the need to have our code modernized to account for the fact that poor people face unique discrimination.”

Mandhane said the lack of exposure to people from different backgrounds can breed ignorance and prejudice.

When asked about how often they came into contact with specific groups, some people were more insulated from diversity than others:

  • 1 out of 10 respondents said they rarely or never interacted with someone with a different ethnic origin or creed and religion
  • 14 per cent had few contacts with people of colour
  • One quarter had no dealinsg with immigrants
  • Two out of five seldom or never interacted with Indigenous or aboriginal people
  • 61 per cent hardly knew of a refugee
  • 66 per cent had little to do with transgender people.

The commission will “start to look at how we reach young people and teach them about human rights. Every time there is some discussion about curriculum, it is a very polarized environment,” said Mandhane.

“But 89 of respondents would support more human rights education in schools, which suggests that this cuts across demographics, across the regions, across income levels and should be a solid basis to move forward on that commitment.”

In response to people in religious and cultural attire, most respondents said they were comfortable seeing someone wearing a Christian cross, Jewish kippah or traditional Mennonite clothing. One out of five felt discomfort with men wearing turbans or women in hijab (head scarf). However, 46 per cent of people disapproved of a niqab or veil covering a woman’s face.

While seven per cent of respondents said they experienced sexual harassment in the past five years, one in 10 women say this happened to them, compared to just three per cent of men.

Four in 10 people believed it was sometimes justified for police to profile certain groups, namely Muslims, Arabs, homeless people, South Asians, young people, Blacks and people with mental health disabilities and addictions.

via Being on social assistance draws more spite than race, colour, gender . . . but not more than being Muslim: survey | Toronto Star

ICYMI: Ontario to begin collecting data on students’ race, ethnicity, hoping to boost achievement

The Toronto District School Board has been doing this for some time – expanding this across the province makes sense given its overall high diversity:

The provincial government will begin collecting and analyzing data on the ethnicity of students in an attempt to improve school achievement, CBC News has learned.

The move will be announced today by Education Minister Mitzie Hunter as just one part of the province’s new equity action plan, according to a government source.

The decision to gather demographic data such as race and ethnicity and to analyze its relation to school achievement will help the government make better education policies, said the source.

Word of the decision comes just as students across the province return to the classroom — and after complaints of discrimination and racism made headlines during the past school year.

In April, Hunter issued a sweeping list of directives to the York Region District School Board after two high-profile incidents of racism and Islamophobia within the YRDSB: one in which a school trustee used a racial slur when referring to a black parent, and another in which a principal posted offensive material on Islam and refugees to her Facebook page.

Those two incidents were set against a backdrop of mounting complaints of systemic racism in the board.

That was followed by the YRDSB thanking the ministry for the report, albeit pointing out it contained “significant errors of fact,” and making assurances it would take action immediately.

Also in April, news emerged that almost half of Toronto District School Board students expelled over the last five years are black. That finding was one that TDSB executive superintendent Jim Spyropoulos said left him “alarmed.”

A report out of York University found that a similar phenomenon reverberated across the Greater Toronto Area, with black students routinely being streamed into applied programs rather than academic ones, and suspended at much higher rates than their counterparts.

Led by professor Carl James, the study made several recommendations which the TDSB said it would review.

And in June, an investigation into allegations that a high school teacher in Whitby, Ont., referred to a group of black students with a derogatory term using the N-word with no punishment for the teacher, according to a parent who attended a meeting with the Durham District School Board.

Source: Ontario to begin collecting data on students’ race, ethnicity, hoping to boost achievement – Toronto – CBC News