House of Commons becoming more reflective of diverse population

My latest in Policy Options:

How well does Canada integrate immigrants and visible minorities into political life? While the barriers to entering political life are significant, as the Samara Centre for Democracy study on nomination processes has shown, the recent election is cause for hope.

This article is based on an analysis of the 2019 election I undertook, using a dataset developed together with the Hill Times, Samara, and McGill University political scientist Jerome Black. We drew on a mix of official party biographies, media articles, social media, and name and photo analysis (we did not include Indigenous candidates and MPs). We also compared the 2019 results with those for the 2015 election and with visible minority representation in other countries’ legislatures. Our results show that in 2019 in Canada the visible minority composition of MPs elected is reasonably representative of the immigrant and visible minority populations in the country as a whole.

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Source: House of Commons becoming more reflective of diverse population

Australia’s new parliament is no more multicultural than the last one

Dramatic contrast with Canadian numbers: 56 foreign-born (44 MPs, 12 Senators, 2017), and currently 48 MPs who are visible minority:

Politicians often say Australia is the most successful multicultural country in the world – but it would seem the country’s growing diversity is failing to make its mark in the corridors of power.

The newly elected 46th parliament will likely have little more cultural diversity than the previous one, according to figures compiled by the Parliamentary Library and SBS News.

The number of MPs born overseas in the new parliament is down from 23 in the previous parliament, to 22, across the House of Representatives and Senate. While the number of MPs with one or more parent from a non-European background rose slightly, from eight in the previous parliament to nine in the new one.

45th Parliament versus the 46th Parliament

SBS News (source Parliamentary Library and SBS News)

Some of the notable exiting MPs include the Liberal’s Tony Abbott, born in England and Lucy Gichuhi, born in Kenya. As well as Labor’s Lisa Singh whose parents were born in Fiji.

Some of the newly elected MPs from diverse backgrounds include Liberal’s Dave Sharma, born in Canada to an Indian father; the Green’s Mehreen Faruqi, born in Pakistan; and the Liberal’s Gladys Liu, born in Hong Kong, who as of Tuesday was on track to pick up the closely fought Victorian seat of Chisholm.

According to the 2016 census 28.5 per cent of Australians were born overseas. While the United Kingdom remains the largest country of origin within that, China and India are in second and third place respectively.

UTS sociology professor Andrew Jakubowicz said he wasn’t surprised parliamentary diversity hasn’t grown in the new parliament.

“Parliament is essentially a white club, it is essentially a white boys club … The dynamic of change which is sweeping through the Australian community more widely is very apparent at the state level, but the federal level it seems to have been squeezed out,” he told SBS News.

The figures on multiculturalism for the 45th Parliament come from the Parliamentary Library and were accurate as of April 2019.

Data for the new parliament is compared with the previous figures and available public biography information of all new incoming MPs on their official websites.

Parliament is essentially a white boys club.

– ANDREW JAKUBOWICZ, ACADEMIC

SBS News has reached out to both the Labor and Liberal parties to confirm the birthplace of several new members who haven’t mention their place of birth on their official websites.

The analysis is also based on the likely results, with some Senate and Lower House results still not finalised on Tuesday, following Saturday’s election win for the Coalition.

Where there has been change, is in the number of women who will take their place in parliament, with at least 81 women having confirmed to have won seats in the Senate or the House of Representatives.

This is compared to 73 female MPs in the previous parliament. There are 227 seats across both houses of parliament.

The number of Indigenous Australians in parliament will also likely increase from four to five with the return of Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie.

During her first stint in Parliament, Ms Lambie used her maiden speech in 2014 to reveal her family connection to Tasmania’s Indigenous population.

According to an Essential Research poll commissioned for SBS News prior to the election, 71 per cent of Australians believed the country would benefit from a greater representation of under-represented groups in parliament.

Of those who agreed with the sentiment, 46 per cent said they would like to see more women in parliament, 32 per cent said more Indigenous Australians and 17 per cent said more Australians born overseas should be in parliament.

Professor Jakubowicz said he believed the Section 44 controversies and dual-citizenship concerns may be a barrier for multicultural Australians who are thinking about getting into politics.

“I think people from ethnically diverse communities who might want to make a run might be fairly intimidated by the sorts of hoops needed to jump through,” he said.

He also added that until the major parties change their internal processes and begin pre-selecting diverse candidates in winnable seats, little would change.

“The idea is that the parliament represents the range of the Australian people … that isn’t happening,” he said.

Source: Australia’s new parliament is no more multicultural than the last one

House of Commons gearing up for Indigenous languages in chamber

Interesting:

Ottawa is boosting its roster of Indigenous language interpreters in the House of Commons, even as MPs grapple with whether to move beyond the chamber’s two official languages, English and French.

An extra interpretation booth has already been added to the new Commons chamber in the West Block, slated to open next fall as the existing chamber gets a 10-year makeover. From there, specialists will be able to interpret Indigenous languages like Cree and Ojibway, as well as other languages, in real time.

“Given that there are approximately 60 different Indigenous dialects in Canada, grouped in 10 families, the capacity of qualified freelance interpreters in Indigenous languages is extremely limited,” warns an internal briefing note from Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), obtained by CBC News under the Access to Information Act.

An artist’s rendering of the temporary House of Commons chamber, in the West Block, to open next fall. The new chamber has been fitted with a extra booth that can be used for simultaneous interpretation of Indigenous languages used by MPs. (Government of Canada)

“The [Translation] Bureau is working to develop this capacity and has assigned a senior interpreter to work on assessing and building capacity. Other factors to be considered are related to security clearance, travel (distances and costs are significant), and the ability to assess language skills in Indigenous languages, which is limited, as well.”

The July 2017 document indicates the government is gearing up for a potential linguistic watershed: the first simultaneous interpretation of an Indigenous language ever provided in the Commons chamber.

The issue has been forced by Robert-Falcon Ouellette, Liberal MP for Winnipeg Centre, who gave a speech in Nehiyo, or Cree, in the chamber on May 4. One of every five people in his riding is Indigenous.

Ouellette provided 48 hours’ notice of his speech, but there was no simultaneous interpretation into English and French — prompting him to ask the Speaker of the House to rule on a question of privilege.

Ruled against

Geoff Regan ruled against Ouellette, while acknowledging some MPs might find the situation “woefully inadequate.”

Regan then wrote to the Commons committee on procedure and house affairs, on Sept. 25, suggesting MPs study the issue. The committee has agreed, and is expected to hold hearings early in the new year.

“I want the grandmother who’s sitting in a reserve in her community to be able to turn on a channel and to listen to the Cree language, and listen to the great debates going on in our Parliament,” Ouellette said in an interview.

The Commons chamber has echoed with many languages over the years, including Japanese, Cantonese, Punjabi and Italian, and even a 1983 exchange between two members in Latin and Greek.

Indigenous languages heard in debate have included Dene-North Slavey, Inuktitut, Ojibway, Salishan and Cree, including comments from New Democrat MP Romeo Saganash after the 2011 federal election.

But simultaneous interpretation in languages other than English-French has been restricted to those rare occasions when a foreign dignitary has visited, requiring an extra booth be set up in the crowded chamber.

The Translation Bureau did provide simultaneous interpretations for two Indigenous senators in the Upper Chamber for a 2009 pilot project. And two Commons committees received simultaneous interpretation of Indigenous languages for a total of 14 days in 2016, including during visits to Kuujjuaq and Iqaluit, says the briefing note.

via House of Commons gearing up for Indigenous languages in chamber – Politics – CBC News

Canada has more women in cabinet, but fewer sit on Commons committees

The Globe picks up on the same issues I raised earlier in Diversity on parliamentary committees: Does it matter? | My piece in The Hill Times with interesting commentary from a variety of parliamentarians, but only focuses on gender:

Diversity on committees is important; women believe they bring a different view to issues.

“It’s not that it’s a right or a wrong perspective. It’s just different,” said Pam Damoff, the newly elected Liberal MP for Oakville North-Burlington and the only woman on the public safety and national security committee. “It’s early going so far, but I do think it [female membership] gives a slightly different lens to look at things.”

There are 10 members on each committee – six Liberals, three Conservatives and one New Democrat. The numbers for each party are based on their representation in the House.

Mr. Trudeau’s promise to make committees more independent has also added to the dearth of female representation. There was criticism among opposition during the past government about having parliamentary secretaries, who are considered junior cabinet ministers, on their respective committees. The view was that the Harper government was using parliamentary secretaries to do the bidding of their minister, hijacking the committee’s independence.

Mr. Leslie said his government was “determined not to repeat that.”

And so, parliamentary secretaries are not on committees, giving Mr. Leslie even fewer female MPs to work with (the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, opposition leaders, and the Speaker are also not appointed to committees).

“Do we need more women in caucus? Absolutely,” Mr. Leslie said.

And not just in the Liberal caucus, but in the entire Commons, where there are a total of 88 female MPs and 250 male MPs; women account for 26 per cent of the 338 seats.

The Conservatives elected 99 MPs – 17 are women. They are allowed to appoint three MPs to each committee. The third-party NDP has 44 MPs, 18 of whom are women. They are allowed one MP on each committee.

“We made a decision to put women on key committees,” Ms. Mathyssen said. Her party purposely put women on the foreign affairs committee and also on international trade, given that the massive trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is one of the most important issues facing the Commons for the NDP.

Ms. Mathyssen suggested that women are more pragmatic and work harder than their male counterparts. “We go in prepared … We’ve always had to be very efficient in terms of time management because of all the things women do.”

For Ms. Damoff, being the only woman on the public safety committee was a surprise. She had asked to be on the infrastructure committee. “When I first got appointed, I thought, ‘Wow, I’m the only woman on here.’” she said. But she quickly realized she could play an important role.

“I do bring a different perspective,” she said. Recently, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson appeared before her committee on issues around sexual harassment in the police force. She asked him what he was doing to promote women into leadership roles.

“The only way you change the culture in any organization, whether it is business or politics … is to have women in leadership roles,” she said about why she asked that question. “Not that men may not have thought of it. But it was just a different perspective I was bringing to the issue.”

Government House Leader Dominic LeBlanc recognizes that there are too few women on committees, but says the Prime Minister made the commitment to put women in leadership roles in government. “One objective is to encourage more women to run for nominations and get elected to Parliament,” he said. “This would be a direct way to increase the number of women serving on committees of the House.”

Nancy Peckford of Equal Voice, the non-partisan organization advocating for more elected women, says it’s important to have gender parity in cabinet, but the trick now is not to be complacent and think that women have somehow won.

“What this points to is that you have a House that is only 26-per-cent women … so, really, it comes down to electing more women,” she said.

The print edition also has a neat graphical representation.

Source: Canada has more women in cabinet, but fewer sit on Commons committees – The Globe and Mail

Diversity on parliamentary committees: Does it matter? | My piece in The Hill Times

Diversity_on_parliamentary_committees__Does_it_matter____hilltimes_comMy piece in The Hill Times (excerpt):

If we look at the overall committee membership of 288 members in both the 25 House of Commons and three joint Senate-Commons committees (some MPs are members of more than one committee), only 21.2 per cent are women, significantly lower than the overall 26 per cent of women MPs.

For visible minorities, however, committee representation largely matches overall Commons representation at 14.6 per cent, just marginally under the number of visible minorities who are Canadian citizens. Indigenous peoples committee representation is less than their share of the population (3.1 compared to 4.3 per cent).

Looking at individual committees, only the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics and Industry, Science and Technology committees have no women members. Veterans Affairs, Agriculture and Agri-Food, Environment and Sustainable Development, Fisheries and Oceans, Official Languages, National Defence, Physician-Assisted Dying have no visible minority members.

Women are predictably over-represented in Status of Women (nine out of 10 members) and visible minorities are similarly overly represented in Citizenship and Immigration (seven out of 10 members).

Source: Diversity on parliamentary committees: Does it matter? | hilltimes.com

Liberals insist not interfering in House committee chair selections, despite lack of secret ballots | hilltimes.com

While we do not yet have the full list of Committee chairs (will know by end week), we do know that women are under-represented (21.2 percent) and visible minorities are represented close to the proportion who are Canadian citizens (14.6 percent compared to 15 percent):

As for the gender breakdown on committees—due to there only being 26 per cent women in the House, and the Liberals appointing 26 of their 50 female MPs to either Cabinet or as a parliamentary secretary—only one of the House committees has more than four of 10 members that are female, and that’s Status of Women, which has nine women on the committee. There are also two committees—Access to Information, Privacy, and Ethics, and Industry, Science, and Technology—that have no women at all.

When questioned about this on Feb. 3, Liberal Whip Andrew Leslie (Orleans, Ont.) said, “we’ve literally run out.”

This predicament could be further complicated as a result of a successful NDP motion in the House to create a special committee to study pay equity and propose a plan to adopt a “proactive federal pay equity regime.” Party whips have been given until Feb. 17 to name members of this committee. It is possible this committee will determine that more female MPs will have to double up on committee duty, which is already happening in some instances.

Source: Liberals insist not interfering in House committee chair selections, despite lack of secret ballots | hilltimes.com

Take pride that Parliament reflects the face of Canada – The Globe and Mail

Election 2015 - VisMin and Foreign-Born MPs.002Michael Adams and my take on the composition of the new Parliament:

So what is new about the 42nd Parliament, aside from altered partisan composition and a gender-balanced cabinet? In fact, not too much, considering that the previous Parliament was quite diverse. But the Liberal government is doing more to make diversity – and an aspirational vision of an inclusive Canada – central to its agenda, and there is no doubt that some of the energy that came out against the Conservative government during the election campaign was a renunciation of tactics that pitted Canadians against each other along ethnic and religious lines.

So when it comes to the composition of the legislature itself, the 42nd Parliament is not so much a watershed as it is one more significant, if incremental, step in a long move toward a national legislature that represents the identities, experiences and perspectives of all Canadians.

Source: Take pride that Parliament reflects the face of Canada – The Globe and Mail

Radicalization, the Loss of Canadian Innocence and the Need for Perspective

With the two killings this week of Canadian soldiers, one by Martin Couture-Rouleau’s running over soldiers in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, the other by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau and his the attack on the War Memorial and Parliament Hill.

Surreal morning for me as I was downtown for meetings, about 8 blocks away from the Hill, learning about the shootings from TV monitors, along with others glued to TV monitors following developments. Felt very much, albeit on a much smaller scale, when I was in LA during the 911 attacks.

Some common points in recent commentary.

A note of caution on over-reacting and the need to maintain balance between freedom, access, and security. John Ivison: In response to Quebec terror attack we must remember a healthy balance between security and freedom, a point echoed by Andrew Coyne in Andrew Coyne: We can’t stop every little terror attack, so let’s brace ourselves and adapt where he recommends, not “a panicky search for false assurances, nor even defiance, but a collective insouciance.” Martin Regg Cohn praises the Ontario political leaders for keeping to the normal Parliamentary schedule in The democratic show must go on: Cohn.

While there was universal praise, and deservedly so, for Parliament’s Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers, both for his quick and efficient handling of the attack as well as his philosophy of keeping Parliament a public space, Michael Den Tandt savages the overall handling of the attack in Michael Den Tandt: Ottawa shooting shows Canadian capital’s utter lack of readiness, and how information was not communicated. Haroon Siddiqui makes similar, but less well argued points, in Killings of two soldiers raise troubling questions: Siddiqui.

Margaret Wente takes the opposite tack, in an almost boosterish tone, contrary to much of the reporting, argues that Canadians will not change and that the attack was handled calmly and without hysteria in  Terrorists don’t have a chance in this country. Joe Warmington of The Toronto Sun takes the opposite tack in Canada will never be the same, as does Ian MacLeod in The Ottawa Citizen, in Analysis: Effects on Ottawa will be lasting and far-reaching (with video).

Also in the Post, which generally has some of the strongest reporting in this area, Tom Blackwell, their health reporter, reports on the “lone wolf” phenomenon and some of the factors that may result in some being open to radicalization in ‘Rhetoric and bluster’: Was attack on soldiers really terrorism, or just the violent act of a disturbed man? The Globe has a good profile on Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the War Memorial and Parliament Hill in Suspected killer in Ottawa shootings had a disturbing side, that reinforces some of these points.

From La Presse, a report on the local mosque in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and what appears to be a very conservative Imam in terms of social teachings but no indication that he preached violence, or whether Couture-Rouleau went to the mosque regularly (seems he was most active on social media) in Un imam controversé à Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.

Listening to the RCMP outline what they did and what they could do, particularly in the case of Couture-Rouleau (as of writing not as fulsome an account for Zehaf-Bibeau) hard to see that any of the Government’s recent or planned initiatives would have made a difference. The RCMP monitored him, spoke to friends and families who shared their well-founded worries, confiscated his passport but as the RCMP officer at the press conference said, “We couldn’t arrest someone for having radical thoughts, it’s not a crime in Canada.”

Couture-Rouleau, like Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, were both born in Canada. Couture-Rouleau was not a dual-national and would not be subject, had he lived, for citizenship revocation. It is unclear whether Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, given his father was Libyan in origin, would be entitled to Libyan citizenship and thus theoretically subject to revocation.

And while tragedies for the families and friends of the soldiers killed, and (another) reminder that we have extremists among us, both reassuring and worrying that both of these appear to be “lone wolf” attacks rather than groups and more “sophisticated” plans and conspiracies that could result in significantly more casualities.

I tend to be between Wente and Warmington: no, not everything has changed but neither has everything remained the same. Our political leaders, of all stripes, as well as the media and others, will play a role in ensuring, or not, that we retain perspective and balance.

 

Hijabi on Parliament Hill My Experience as a Page in the House of Commons

A nice story by Yasmeen Ibrahim about her experience as a page in the House of Commons:

The most important thing that I wish to leave with Muslim youth, especially those who are more visible than others, is that do not assume that just because you are Muslim or that you wear hijab that you will not get the job or get accepted into some program that you applied for. We have all grown up hearing about somebody not getting a job because they wore a veil or being asked to take it off upon accepting a position. For the longest time ever, I succumbed to this and let it be the factor in determining if I should even bother with applying to something or not.

At the same time, we keep saying that we need to increase the Muslim presence on all fronts in order to educate others about Islam and fight Islamophobia. In order to fight stereotypes, we not only need visible Muslims in the fields of engineering and medicine, but also in non-traditional fields like journalism, politics, education, and law enforcement. It was after thinking about this that I realized the only way I can fulfill my part in promoting Islamic awareness is by successfully passing the interview stage and by performing at my highest level in any job I decide to pursue in the future, all while wearing my hijab proudly.

As for youth in general, we all get to a certain point in our lives where we want to make the world a better place. We take part in protests and demonstrations that are dear to our hearts, we sign petitions on issues we feel strongly about, we give motivational speeches about our dreams for the future, and, overall, we become more active citizens. However, politics is the real engine for change in todays world. Laws are what regulate individuals activities and it is through the legislative process that they come to be.

I am not undermining the people that take their concerns to the streets because these individuals do have some sway on political action, but it is mainly up to the government to have the final say. For this reason, it is important that we see those passionate youth, who yearn for change and a better society, possessing a clear understanding of the political process and inside the folds of Canadian government.

Hijabi on Parliament Hill My Experience as a Page in the House of Commons.