Ontario is starting to collect race-based COVID-19 data. Some worry it could do more harm than good

Sigh. Yes, groups should be consulted, yes, the data should be made public, but hard to see that minorities will be worse off with data than without.

Having better data facilitates discussion of current realities and possible policy options to address disparities:

With Ontario’s race-based COVID-19 data collection beginning “imminently,” health experts say crucial unresolved questions will determine whether those efforts help alleviate the pandemic’s brutal disparities, or cause more harm.

Regulatory changes came into effect last Friday that mandate the collection of information on race for all newly reported COVID-19 cases province-wide, along with data on income, household size and languages spoken. Data collection is beginning once training for public health units and changes to data entry systems are complete, according to a health ministry spokesperson.

Community organizations, researchers, doctors and public health experts have called for the collection of this data, pointing to the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 in areas with more racialized, low-income and newly immigrated residents.

But health researchers said the question of how this data is managed and used is even more important than whether it is collected.

“The collection of race-based data is not the outcome,” said Camille Orridge, a senior fellow at the Wellesley Institute and longtime advocate for health equity data collection. “The outcome is to have the information and use the information to reduce disparities. That’s the goal.

“We need to be clear with people who are collecting the data — government, etc. — that there are a number of things that must be answered before we come to the table to give up the data,” she said.

Orridge cited a list of questions, including whether the data will stay in Canada, whether it will be sold in any form to the private sector, how artificial intelligence will be used with the resulting databases. And most importantly, for her: whether the racialized communities most affected will have oversight and input on whether the data is being used to answer questions and create policies that counter the pandemic’s unequal toll.

She cited a phrase often used in the world of Indigenous policy: “Nothing about us, without us.”

Alexandra Hilkene, the health ministry spokesperson, said “We’re currently in the process of finalizing the terms of reference for the working group that will report to the ministry and help ensure we interpret the data accurately. The group will include policy experts from racialized communities.”

In Toronto, some of the neighbourhoods most affected by COVID-19 have case rates 14 times higher than the least affected neighbourhoods. Those hard-hit neighbourhoods are all clustered in the northwest of the city, an area that has been historically underserviced and has higher rates of poverty, inadequate housing, and other symptoms of systemic disadvantage.

The city’s most affected areas also have significantly higher percentages of Black residents than the least-affected areas, and higher percentages of Southeast Asian and other racialized groups. But health experts say these area-based analyses, which rely on matching the postal codes of known cases to census data, are less revealing than collecting the data directly from individuals.

Toronto, Peel Region and some other health units have already begun collecting this data, but officials argued that it should be mandated province-wide to provide a complete picture. After weeks of urging, the province made regulatory changes to the Health Protection and Promotion Act to mandate the collection of race and sociodemographic information for COVID-19.

But now that the government is about to begin collecting that data, it shouldn’t be exclusively available to them, said Arjumand Siddiqi.

“I would worry that if the data stays in the domain of the government, or if they handpick a small group of people to use it and no one else sees it, we have to rely on what those people tell us,” said Siddiqi, Canada Research Chair in population health equity and a professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

Making the data available more broadly ensures that independent researchers can check the work of others, rebut flawed analyses and conclusions, and ask different kinds of questions.

But Orridge said it’s also important to ensure that the researchers who do get access to race-based COVID-19 data have real relationships in and accountability to the communities that are most affected.

“We have researchers who have no connection to the communities having access to the data, and making their careers on the use of that data,” said Orridge.

“We’ve got to make sure that the data, when it’s being used and published, always has a context, so that we don’t further stigmatize communities.”

LLana James, a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine who researches race-ethnicity, health data, privacy, AI and the law, noted that Ontario and Canada collect health data in a legal framework that has failed to catch up to the massive technological changes that have occurred, especially in the last decade with the rise of machine learning.

“We have one of the lowest thresholds for legal use of data in the developed world,” said James, noting that technology companies see Ontario as an attractive market for lucrative health-care data, and contrasting Canada’s poor data privacy protections with Europe’s robust framework.

James provided critical comments on the province’s proposed regulatory changes to begin collected race-based COVID-19 data, and believes the current, government-driven data efforts will not help Black, Indigenous and other racialized communities.

Race-based data assumes that “we need to know the race of the person, not how racism is functioning. Those are two completely different scientific questions,” James said.

“We have 400 years of data about what happens to Black people during pandemics,” said James. “We have hundreds of years of race-based data, and it’s changed very little. It’s the will to act (that’s missing), not the will to collect more stuff.”

Like Orridge, however, she believes that any data collection that avoids harm must be centred in and directed by communities. James is the co-lead of REDE4BlackLives, a research and data collection protocol that provides a framework for the ethical engagement of Black communities in Canada.

“Black communities, like Indigenous communities, know exactly what they need,” says James. “They know who advocates for them. They know who shows up for them. And they know who to trust, because they see it with their own eyes.”

Trudeau, Ontario health minister say they’re looking at collecting race-based pandemic data

Long overdue. But this needs to be national in scope, with consistent definitions and practices across all provinces and publicly available through CIHI (Quebec will predictably not play along, unfortunately):

The federal and Ontario governments say they’re now working toward collecting race-based health data as part of their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Human rights commissions from across Canada have added their voices to those of municipalities, health advocates and elected officials calling for the collection of raced-based COVID-19 data to ensure that vulnerable groups are protected.

“Colour-blind approaches to health only serve to worsen health outcomes for black, Indigenous and racialized people because we can’t address what we can’t see,” said B.C.’s Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender.

Federal, provincial and territorial human rights commissions say that collecting pandemic data without breakdowns by race leaves public health officials with no window into COVID-19’s impact on vulnerable populations.Earlier today, both the federal and Ontario governments said that while they typically do not collect race-based health data, they are working on plans to start doing so now.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government has invested millions of dollars towards improving the collection of race-based data. 2:17

“We recognize that there have long been challenges in Canada about collecting disaggregated data … which is why a number of years ago, we invested millions of dollars towards Statistics Canada to start improving our ability to collect race-based data,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday in Ottawa.

“We’ve flowed greater funding to community organizations and grassroots organizations that are helping out people who we already know to be more vulnerable and marginalized … But yes, we need to do a much better job around disaggregated data and that’s something that we’re going to do.”

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said that local health agencies in the province can collect race-based data legally now, should they choose to do so, providing they respect privacy and confidentiality.

‘We haven’t traditionally collected race-based data in health but there are a number of organizations that have come to us to ask us to do that,” Elliott said.’We are working with the anti-racism directorate to set up a broader framework in order to collect that in a meaningful way. It is something that we are working on as an active project.”

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says that while her province has not traditionally collected race-based health data, it is working on a plan to start. 0:41

Canada does not collect race-based pandemic data. Both the United States and the United Kingdom have started doing so.

Earlier this week, Toronto City Council called on provincial health authorities to begin collecting province-wide data on COVID-19 cases, broken down by race, occupation and other “socioeconomic factors.”

“The old adage of ‘what gets measured gets done’ is especially relevant right now. In order to tackle COVID-19, we must fully understand it and who is most at risk,” Toronto City Coun. Joe Cressy said in a media statement.

“Toronto’s data has shown that while we’re all susceptible to the virus, parts of the city are more impacted than others. In order to protect our residents and beat COVID-19, we need the Ontario Government to collect and share disaggregated data.”

Basic data not collected: Trudeau

One of Canada’s leading experts on the social causes of disease told CBC Radio’s The House last week that Canada’s failure to collect race-based data on COVID-19 infections amounts to discrimination by “neglect.”

“Discrimination is not necessarily about what you do. It’s often about what you don’t do,” said Dr. Kwame McKenzie, a psychiatry professor at the University of Toronto and CEO of the Wellesley Institute, a think tank that studies urban health issues.

“It’s not about people being actively discriminatory or racist. It’s sometimes about just neglect,” he said. “And the fact that we haven’t collected this data seems neglectful, because everybody really knew we should be collecting these data but it was never at the top of anybody’s list of things to do.”

Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter, who represents the provincial riding of Scarborough-Guildwood, said the lack of information about who is getting the virus now, and who is most in danger of getting sick, puts people in her community at greater risk.

“One of the weaknesses in the Ontario Public Health Response is the lack of the collection of disaggregated data based on race and other demographic profiles that could help track the progress of this virus by individuals, where they work, where they live and income levels,” she told The House last week.

“All of those factors … could help to save lives.”NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also has called for the collection of race-based data to improve health outcomes for vulnerable groups.

“We need to make sure we have the data, that there is race-based data that allows us to make the evidence-based decision making to remedy these injustices,” Singh told the House of Commons earlier this week.

On Friday, Trudeau admitted that during the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, public health officials were not always collecting basic demographic information, such as age and gender.

“We know we need to do much better to properly understand where things are hitting hardest in this COVID-19 crisis,” he said.

Source: Trudeau, Ontario health minister say they’re looking at collecting race-based pandemic data

Race-based coronavirus data not needed in Canada yet, health officials say

Big miss here IMO, given the confluence of race and socioeconomic disparities.

While it may not be an immediate priority during the pandemic, better data of health disparities among visible and non-visible minorities would be helpful, not just during pandemics:

Despite a growing awareness in the United States that some minority groups might be at higher risk for the coronavirus, provincial health officials in two of Canada’s hardest hit provinces say race-based data isn’t needed here yet.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, said Friday that statistics based on race aren’t collected in Canada unless certain groups are found to have risk factors. The World Health Organization hasn’t yet said that’s the case for coronavirus, he added.

He said resources are much more effectively used tracking down the people each infected patient had been in contact with, rather than targeting entire groups.

“Right now we consider our main risk groups (to be) the elderly, those with other co-morbidities, regardless of what race they are,” he said. “Regardless of race, ethnic or other backgrounds, they’re all equally important to us.”

There is early evidence from the United States that shows African Americans may be disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Some large cities are seeing higher rates among their large Black populations who historically have had poorer access to health care and higher rates of poverty.

Among them is Chicago, whose mayor vowed Monday to launch aggressive public health campaigns aimed at her city’s Black and brown communities after numbers showed Black residents accounted for 72 per cent of deaths from complications from COVID-19, despite making up only about one-third of the population.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot told The Associated Press that the disparities in Chicago “take your breath away” and required an immediate response from the city, community activists and health care providers.

In Alberta, chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said they know some groups in Canada are systematically disadvantaged based on their appearance or socioeconomic status.

While the province also doesn’t currently collect the race of someone who is tested or treated for coronavirus, she suggested it’s something that may be looked at in future.

“The information that we collect is really focused more on risk activities and less about ethnicity,” she said Friday. “But it’s certainly something we need to look closely at to determine if we need to start collecting that going forward.”

Hinshaw said the province has good information-sharing agreements with many First Nations in particular, so that is one way they might be able to compare numbers, though it’s not something they could release publicly without the Nations’ consent.

Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatric infectious disease specialist who co-chaired the Indigenous Health Conference at the University of Toronto, says First Nations are almost certainly at higher risk.

“A lot of Indigenous people have a lot of co-morbidities. For almost any disease out there they have higher prevalence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive lung disease,” she said.

They were also significantly overrepresented in the last pandemic to hit the country. Despite representing 4.3 per cent of the population, they accounted for 27.8 per cent of hospital admissions reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada during the first wave of H1N1 in 2009, according to the National Collaborating Centres for Public Health.

Many First Nations are small or remote and face the added challenge of a historic lack of funding for things like medical services.

Banerji launched a petition last week to demand more action from the federal government, arguing Indigenous leaders have asked for more access to things like health care workers or rapid testing, but their communities have not received the same financial support as non-Indigenous towns and cities.

But while Banerji said it’s important to document how coronavirus is affecting Indigenous communities, she stresses that information is only useful if it leads to more supports.

“I think it’s good to collect that data,” she said. “But collecting data on how we failed Indigenous people is not a very useful thing, unless you act on it.”

Source: Race-based coronavirus data not needed in Canada yet, health officials say

Ontario urged to encourage immigrants to look beyond the GTA

Ongoing challenge that most provincial governments are grappling with – how to encourage immigrants to go beyond the largest centres.

Ontario actually does better than most other provinces in this regard, given the number of immigrants and visible minorities in cities such as Ottawa, Hamilton, Kitchener Waterloo, London and Windsor.

The real challenge lies more in rural and northern Ontario.

Ontario must start encouraging immigrants to settle in communities outside the GTA in order to reduce pressure on housing, transit and other infrastructure in the 905 and stimulate growth in the rest of the province, a new report says.

According to the Conference Board of Canada report, 45 per cent of Ontario’s 13.5 million people live in the GTA, but each year almost 80 per cent of new immigrants settling in the province make the region their home, meaning that most of Ontario doesn’t get enough newcomers to sustain their communities, and that even more pressure is being put on an already strained housing pool and other services in the 905.

Last year, 106,000 immigrants settled in the GTA, while just 31,000 made their homes in the rest of Ontario.

“The GTA has the difficult task of integrating large numbers of newcomers into its labour market each year. Nearly half of its newcomers arrive under the family and refugee classes, which means they require more labour market supports than economic class newcomers,” said the 47-page report, “Immigration Beyond the GTA,” being released Thursday.

“On the other hand, some communities across the province — particularly those in Northern Ontario — are in desperate need of immigrants to support their economic health, but less than one-quarter of the province’s newcomers choose to settle outside of the GTA.”

Spreading more immigrants across Ontario is more urgent than ever, the report warns, since demographic pressures, if not addressed, will significantly impact the province’s economic performance over the next two decades, with the average age of residents rising to 44.1 in 2040 from 40.5 in 2017. By 2040, almost a quarter of Ontario’s population will be 65 and over, compared with just 17 per cent in 2017.

While communities outside the GTA do not have the same number of job opportunities, settlement services, cultural amenities, and ethnic diversity, they still offer a range of immigration advantages compared with the GTA, said the report, written by researcher Kareem El-Assal.

With the exception of Barrie, it said, other census metropolitan areas currently all have lower unemployment rates than the GTA. Hamilton, Kingston, Guelph and Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo all have unemployment rates below 5 per cent, compared to 6.4 per cent in the 905 area.

Although all levels of government have recognized the need to “regionalize” the distribution of immigration, including the most recent federal pilot program to encourage newcomers to settle in rural and remote communities, the report calls for the creation of a regional strategy led by the province with active participation from municipalities.

Municipalities have had few options in immigrant recruitment because immigration is a shared federal-provincial jurisdiction. However, the report said all three levels of government can draw inspiration from Canada’s latest international post-secondary education strategy, which has successfully brought all players to the table to promote the “regionalization” of foreign students across the country.

The study said a regionalization strategy must set targets to ensure half of newcomers to the province settle outside of the 905. The province should juggle the point grids of the provincial immigrant nomination programs by rewarding applicants with community and family ties outside of the GTA because those are among the most important considerations for newcomer settlement.

A 2016 evaluation of Nova Scotia’s various provincial immigration streams found that 82 per cent of those who arrived under the community identified class with strong ties to an established cultural community had continued to stay in Nova Scotia instead of moving to other provinces.

Given immigrants always go where the job opportunities are, the report suggested business groups such as chambers of commerce take the lead in sharing information with local employers on hiring newcomers, creating a welcoming and inclusive environment and tapping existing newcomer communities to reach out to immigrant talent.

“Ontario municipalities must showcase their leadership. One way they can do this is by ensuring they have immigration strategies of their own in place,” said the Conference Board. “This is crucial to signalling their intention that they want to welcome more immigrants and will take all necessary steps to succeed.”

Source: Ontario urged to encourage immigrants to look beyond the GTA

Lessons from the Doug Ford School of Public Administration

I could not resist posting this pointed, and unfortunately all too accurate, rant by Les Whittington. Hopefully, year two will show a more measured and mature governing style (but not hopeful):

School is out at Queen’s Park, but here are the lessons for the next semester based on the first year of Premier Doug Ford’s government in Ontario:

Talk about helping “the people” while you slash programs that many need: Roll back promised funding increases for rape crisis centres, cut legal aid by 30 per cent, cancel a $1 increase in minimum wage, remove rent control for new units, get rid of the basic income pilot program, scrap legislation to help part-time workers, cancel free prescription medication for young Ontarians, kill off free university tuition for low-income students, and slice $84-million in funding for children and at-risk youth.

The public doesn’t pay attention so there’s no problem promising one thing and doing something else: Tell voters “not one single” public service job will be lost under a Ford government, then once elected change that to no “frontline” jobs. Then put thousands of teachers’ jobs at risk by raising school class sizes. Watch other jobs disappear at agencies that are being axed or downsized. Put thousands of beer store employees’ jobs in jeopardy.

Don’t worry about honouring your promise to continue with the planned increase in municipalities’ share of gas tax funding… they can do without that extra $300-million.

Treat the public like a bunch of dazzled rubes: Bread and circuses, supplemented with divisive anger, can be a winner, as U.S. President Trump has shown. Above all, in Ontario this means prioritizing beer and booze. Commenting on the Ford government’s budget, Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner noted the emphasis: “If you look through this budget, it mentions booze and gambling 63 times, it mentions climate change 15 times, and it mentions poverty zero times.”

Avoid annoying demands for consultation and advance information:Better to release details of your unexpected decisions in phone calls to the officials involved rather than publicly, as was done with the planned amalgamation of regional health organizations. Another example: Without warning, the Ford government trashed years of urban planning designed to keep Toronto liveable when it took over the city’s planning in a move to allow developers to build higher buildings—and more of them—in the city’s downtown and midtown. After all, developers need a freer hand.

Personal grudges are as good a basis for public policy as anything else:Given the province’s power over Toronto’s affairs, why not unexpectedly cut the size of Toronto’s city council in half? Didn’t the council give brother Rob Ford a hard time when he was mayor? Rob Ford always favoured a subway line to Scarborough. By taking over subway planning, a Progressive Conservative government can make it happen. As for the provincial Liberals, only old-fashioned notions of fairness could have stopped the PC majority from changing the rules to keep the Ontario Liberals from having a chance to achieve official party status.

Provincial taxpayers are so apathetic they won’t mind if their tax dollars are spent on federal political ads: If your government opposes carbon pricing imposed by the Trudeau government, why not spend millions from the Ontario treasury advertising against it? Also, there’s no need in today’s post-truth environment to mention the fact that Ottawa will be rebating the carbon tax revenues to individual Ontario taxpayers.

Don’t bother the public with difficult issues like climate change or the need to prepare for the green economy: Voters will buy things like park clean-ups as a substitute for action on global warming. So, you can cancel Ontario’s cap and trade program and cut 700 green energy programs, undermine the province’s independent environmental watchdog, and earmark $30-million to challenge the carbon tax in court.

Policies based on illusions of past greatness are always more popular than forward-looking plans designed to try to address the complex issues of modern life: Reduce financial support of post-secondary institutions and kill off new satellite university campuses while cutting funding for innovative research and work on improving Canada’s economic prowess. The future will look after itself.

Don’t bother with nuisances like avoiding favouritism in major government appointments or not interfering in politics outside your sphere: Just because Toronto Police Supt. Ron Taverner was a Ford family friend didn’t mean he wouldn’t have been a good choice for OPP commissioner.

On the federal-provincial scene, a premier should stake out the most provocative position possible, as in this Ford quote from October 2018:“We’ve taken Kathleen Wynne’s hand out of your pocket … and we’re going to take Justin Trudeau’s hand out of your pocket.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer needs all the election help he can get, so pitch in. How could that not work out well for him?

Source: Lessons from the Doug Ford School of Public Administration

Ontario announces new foreign tech worker stream and immigration pilot for smaller communities

Every province appears to be emulating the Atlantic Immigration Pilot in attracting and retaining immigrants to smaller communities along with a number of Ontario-specific initiatives to address labour market needs.:

Ontario will create a new immigration stream for tech workers and a new immigration pilot initiative with the goal of attracting highly skilled immigrants to smaller communities around the province, the province’s government announced April 11 in its 2019 budget. 

The initiatives are among four immigration-focused priorities outlined in the province’s new $163.4 billion budget, which was unveiled Thursday afternoon in Toronto.

“The Province is responding to the needs of Ontario’s employers by attracting the skilled workers they need through enhancements to the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP),” the budget says.

“Through modernization of the OINP, and in tandem with its other initiatives, the government will continue to ensure that Ontario’s workforce remains among the most highly skilled for the modern economy.”

Dedicated stream for tech workers

To this end, the budget says the government will create a “dedicated stream to help Ontario’s technology sector attract highly skilled employees,” though no details were provided beyond this.

CIC News has asked the OINP for more information on this and the other immigration plans outlined in the budget and will provide updates when they become available.

The new dedicated tech immigration stream would feed Ontario’s booming tech sector in cities such as Toronto, Ottawa and Waterloo, which have all seen significant high-tech job growth in recent years.

The OINP has targeted foreign tech workers in the past through its Human Capital Priorities Stream. The stream is linked to the federal Express Entry system, which manages the pool of candidates for three of Canada’s main economic immigration categories — the Federal Skilled Worker ClassFederal Skilled Trades Class and Canadian Experience Class.

Find out if you are eligible to enter the Express Entry pool

Immigration pilot for smaller communities

The budget says the government will also begin a pilot initiative “to explore innovative approaches to bring highly skilled immigrants” to smaller communities around the province.

The government said the pilot’s purpose will be to “spread the benefits of immigration to smaller communities.”

The proposed pilot follows calls from community leaders in Northern Ontario for a program similar to the Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP), a joint federal-provincial initiative that allows designated employers in Canada’s four Atlantic provinces to recruit skilled foreign workers for jobs they haven’t been able to fill locally.

Canada recently unveiled a Northern and Rural Immigration Pilot similar to the AIP that will help small or isolated communities in provinces and territories outside Atlantic Canada to recruit foreign workers.

Expanding eligible in-demand occupations

Ontario’s new budget also says the government will seek to include truck drivers and personal support workers under the occupations that are eligible for the OINP’s Employer Job Offer: In-Demand Skills Stream.

Among other criteria, the stream allows the OINP to nominate foreign workers with a permanent and full-time job offer from an Ontario employer in one of its eligible occupations to apply to live and work permanently in Ontario.

Eligible occupations under the stream are classified by Canada’s National Occupation Classification (NOC) as Skill Level C or D.

Entrepreneur immigration

The fourth immigration-related innovation in Ontario’s 2019 budget is the government’s promise to “recalibrate” investment and net worth thresholds for the OINP’s Entrepreneur Stream.

The government said doing so will “make Ontario more competitive with other provinces” and expand the province’s base of prospective candidates.

The current minimum net worth under the stream’s eligibility requirements varies depending on where the business will be located:

  • $1,500,000 minimum net worth for entrepreneurs hoping to locate within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
  • $800,000 minimum net worth for entrepreneurs hoping to locate their business outside the GTA.
  • $800,000 minimum net worth for entrepreneurs in the ICT/Digital Communications sector regardless of where they want their business to be located.

The current minimum personal investment thresholds are:

  • $1,000,000 minimum personal investment if the proposed business will be located within the GTA.
  • $500,000 minimum personal investment if the proposed business will be located outside the GTA.
  • $500,000 minimum personal investment if the proposed business will be in the ICT/Digital Communications sector regardless of location.

“Fair” OINP allocation

The budget calls on Canada’s federal government to work with Ontario to ensure the OINP’s annual allocation through Canada’s Provincial Nominee Program is “fair.”

The OINP receives an allocation each year from Canada’s federal government that allows it to nominate a set number of economic immigration candidates for permanent residence in the province.

The OINP’s 2019 allocation is 6,900, which fell short of Ontario’s request for an allocation of 7,600 nominations.

The allocation represents a small part of annual immigration to Ontario, which totalled 137,410 newcomers in 2018.

Source: Ontario announces new foreign tech worker stream and immigration pilot for smaller communities

Ontario asks federal government for $45-million to fund legal aid for refugees, immigrants

Pre-federal budget political positioning as much as substance:

Ontario Attorney-General Caroline Mulroney is calling on Ottawa to fully fund a $45-million provincial legal-aid program for immigrants and refugees in Tuesday’s federal budget.

In a letter sent to the federal ministers of justice, immigration and finance, Ms. Mulroney says costs associated with providing immigration and refugee services has “increased significantly” in Ontario as a result of federal government policies.

“Ontario must ensure we have a stable and sustainable system. Let me be clear, this was a federally created challenge, and one our government has called on you previously to fix,” Ms. Mulroney wrote in the letter sent Friday to Justice Minister David Lametti, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen and Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

“As you table your budget, I am confident that you will see the need to properly fund Ontario’s legal-aid program, and recognize that the failure to do so will place hardships on those who rely on this system.”

The latest salvo in the battle between Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government and the federal Liberals over the costs associated with immigration and refugee claimants comes as Ottawa is set to table its pre-election budget on Tuesday.

While the number of asylum seekers has been steadily decreasing over the past few months, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) – the arm’s-length body that adjudicates refugee claims – has struggled to keep pace with the number of new cases being added to its backlog of files.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government has already demanded that Ottawa foot a $200-million bill to cover the costs of resettling thousands of asylum seekers crossing into Canada from the United States. And Toronto recently said its proposed 2019 municipal budget will only be balanced if the federal government offers up $45-million to cover the costs of housing the influx of refugee claimants in the city’s shelter system.

Pierre-Olivier Herbert, a spokesman for Mr. Morneau, said the federal government recognizes the importance of proper funding for legal aid. Since 2016, he said, the federal government has increased its contribution for immigration and refugee legal-aid services in six provinces by more than $22-million.

“Our government understands that immigration plays an important role in driving our economy and has contributed to our success as a country. While the Conservatives continue to try to divide Canadians, by promoting fear and misinformation, we will continue to defend our immigration system,” he said.

Legal Aid Ontario, which is responsible for providing legal services to low-income Ontarians, estimates it will spend $45-million this year to deliver its immigration and refugee program, which includes IRB hearings and appeals to federal court. But Ms. Mulroney says the federal government is only contributing $16.9-million to the program, “leaving a shortfall of nearly $28-million that the province is expected to subsidize to support matters of federal jurisdiction.”

Last September, the federal government allocated an additional $10-million to Ontario, on top of a previously committed $7-million.

A report released last December from Ontario’s auditor-general, Bonnie Lysyk, shows Ontario’s portion has risen from $19.3-million in 2014 to $28.4-million in 2018.

The report said Legal Aid Ontario has “faced challenges managing the increase in refugee and immigration cases without a known increase of funding from the federal government,” noting that Ontario receives a lower federal funding portion than other provinces.

It also found Legal Aid Ontario’s “rushed decision-making” in expanding eligibility for certificates contributed to $40-million in deficits over the past two years. A certificate allows a client to retain a private-sector lawyer on one of Legal Aid Ontario’s rosters.

Ms. Mulroney recently named a former Progressive Conservative attorney-general, Charles Harnick, as the new chair of Legal Aid Ontario.

Source: Ontario asks federal government for $45-million to fund legal aid for refugees, immigrants

TVO’s The Agenda: Directed Immigration Across Ontario

Good discussion this past Wednesday of some of the issues with respect to encouraging immigration to rural and remote areas with Charles Cirtwill of @NorthernPolicy, Maggie Matear of @TimminsEDC, Effat Ghassemi of @NCPTweets.

Similar issues and discussion elsewhere in Canada where the Provincial Nominee Program, The Atlantic Immigration Pilot, the recently announced federal Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot.

The record of the longest running program, Official Language Minority Communities (francophone) has never met its target of 4 percent of the total number of immigrants.

Every year, the Greater Golden Horseshoe adds thousands of newcomers, while other parts of the province struggle just to keep the residents they currently have. Already, such outflows for those communities mean labour shortages and stagnating local economies. The Agenda discusses what it would take to even out which parts of Ontario attract immigrants.

Little to no proof police carding has effect on crime or arrests: Ontario report

Significant study:

Police street checks widely known as carding have little to no value as a law enforcement tool and should be significantly limited across Ontario, a judge tasked with reviewing the practice said Monday.

The report from Justice Michael Tulloch outlines certain circumstances in which police may have legitimate grounds to conduct street checks, or stop people at random and request identifying information.

But Tulloch, who was hired by Ontario’s previous Liberal government to assess the effectiveness of new regulations meant to limit the impact of street checks on racialized groups, said those circumstances are very specific and the practice as a whole should be sharply curtailed.

“There is little to no evidence that a random, unfocused collection of identifying information has benefits that outweigh the social cost of the practice,” Tulloch wrote in his 310-page report.

“Given the social cost involved with a practice that has not definitively been shown to widely reduce or solve crime, it is recommended that the practice of randomly stopping individuals to gather their identifying information for the creation of a database for intelligence purposes be discontinued.”

Tulloch, who previously led a review into Ontario’s complex police oversight system, was asked to turn his attention to carding months after the previous government made moves to eliminate what it described as systemic racism in law enforcement.

Police oversight

Street checks started coming under intense scrutiny several years ago amid data showing officers were disproportionately stopping black and other racialized people.

In 2016, Ontario introduced rules dictating that police must inform people that they don’t have to provide identifying information during street checks, and that refusing to co-operate or walking away cannot then be used as reasons to compel information.

The aim was to end arbitrary stops, especially those based on race, though anti-carding advocates have called for the practice to be abolished entirely.

Race is prohibited as forming any part of a police officer’s reason for attempting to collect someone’s identifying information.

Police had long argued that street checks have value as an investigative tool, a notion Tulloch challenged in his report.

“A widespread program of random street checks involves considerable time and effort for a police service, with little to no verifiable results on the level of crime or even arrests,” he wrote. “Some police services reported that there are other ways to gather data or use data that they already have more effectively.”

Tulloch’s report also debunked the notion that carding had played a role in solving the high-profile killing of Cecilia Zhang, a nine-year-old girl who was abducted from her Toronto home in the middle of the night in 2003.

Tulloch said many of the more than 2,000 people consulted for the report cited the arrest of Min Chen, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Zhang’s death, as an example of a carding success story. Tulloch said, however, that Chen’s name first came to be in police files as a result of a non-random stop that did not fit the definition of carding.

Chen was stopped in response to a complaint of illegal fishing filed weeks before the girl was killed, Tulloch said, adding the information gathered during that interaction later gained relevance when Chen’s name surfaced in the Zhang investigation.

“The Cecilia Zhang case does not support the proposition that the police should be authorized to randomly request and record identifying information,” Tulloch wrote. “It simply reinforces that when identifying information is properly obtained during a police investigation, as it was in that case, that information might be useful to help solve a crime.”

Additional recommendations

Tulloch said street checks have value in cases where there are clear suspicious circumstances, or when police need to identify the identity of a missing person or crime victim. Among his many recommendations to the new Progressive Conservative government were some stating the 2016 rules should not apply in such cases.

But other recommendations advise the government to take a harder line on street checks, tightening definitions of terms such as “identifying information” and “suspicious circumstances” and broadening protections during vehicle stops.

Tulloch also recommended an overhaul of the training that was put in place when the new rules took effect. He said it lacked the critical component of explaining why the changes were being made, which left some officers hesitant to get on board.

“Implementing new rules for police officers to follow has little value — and will not achieve the intended goal — if officers are not effectively and adequately trained on the reasons why the changes were necessary,” Tulloch wrote.

He also recommended officers at all levels “should learn how the widespread use of carding by some services and some officers has been abused in the past.”

Correctional Services Minister Sylvia Jones said the government is taking time to go through Tulloch’s findings, but said his work would “inform” efforts to reform police legislation in the province.

“We are committed to developing legislation that works for our police and for the people of Ontario,” Jones said in a statement. “Our new police legislation will reflect a simple principle: racism and discrimination have no place in policing.”

Source: Little to no proof police carding has effect on crime or arrests: Ontario report

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