Here’s how the federal election could change Canada’s immigration system

The Star’s take on the party platforms:

Jhoey Dulaca isn’t eligible to vote in the upcoming election, but the migrant worker from the Philippines is keeping an eye out for the political parties’ immigration plans.

The Toronto woman says she feels migrants’ voices have once again been muted and lost as the issue that matters most to them — ballooning backlogs and endless processing times as a result of the pandemic — have drawn little attention or debate from party leaders.

“No one is talking about the immigration backlog and long wait times,” says Dulaca, who came as a live-in caregiver in 2016 and just received her permanent residence in Canada on Aug. 18 after two long years of processing.

The 41-year-old single mother is unsure how long it will now take to reunite with her two daughters, Tess, 19, and Thea, 16, whom she has not seen for five years.

“All these parties are making policies that affect us and our families, but our voices are not heard because we cannot vote and we don’t matter.”

In recent election campaigns, immigration has rarely made headlines. The major parties’ platforms generally have more elements in common than those that distinguish them. The outlier was the 2015 election, when the Syrian refugee crisis dominated the campaign.

Experts say immigration has been a non-issue because parties — with the exception of the People’s Party of Canada under former Conservative cabinet minister Maxime Bernier — recognize the importance of minority votes and don’t want to appear racist or xenophobic.

“The parties try to focus on issues that are going to make them look good and will help them move up in the polls,” said Kareem El-Assal, policy director for CanadaVisa.com, an immigration information site run by a Quebec-based law firm.

“Most people that are being affected by the backlogs are not voters. There aren’t many votes to be won.”

But there are major issues that will determine the future of immigration in this country — not least among them Canada’s plans to deal with applications that have been piling up during the pandemic.

Digging out of a major backlog

To El-Assal, one of the biggest issues missing in the parties’ platforms is how they plan to manage growing backlogs as Canada’s immigration system slowly returns to normal in the wake of the pandemic.

“Immigration is going to be one of the most formative government policy areas over the next decade and beyond, especially amid the damage that’s been caused by the pandemic,” he said.

As a result of the pandemic, Ottawa closed the border with the U.S. with few exemptions. That has greatly reduced this country’s refugee backlog.

However, between February 2020 and this past July, the backlog of permanent residence applications skyrocketed by 70 per cent to 375,137, with the number of applications for temporary residence currently sitting at 702,660 cases. The backlog of citizenship applications has also ballooned to 369,677 people in the queue from 208,069 before the pandemic.

Experts and advocates have said Ottawa must prioritize and bring in the migrants who have already been vetted and approved for permanent residence but have been kept outside of Canada during the pandemic, while expediting the transition to online processing and eliminating red tape to quickly reduce backlog as new applications continue to flood the system.

In its 2021 budget, the Liberal government announced plans to invest $429 million over five years to modernize its IT infrastructure to manage and process immigration applications, but its campaign platform mentions none of that or its plan to streamline processing.

The Conservatives vows to address “administrative backlogs” by simplifying and streamlining processes, investing in IT infrastructure and tech to speed up application vetting, letting applicants correct “simple and honest” mistakes instead of sending back their applications.

The New Democrats say they would “take on the backlogs that are keeping families apart.”

Both parties’ plans lack details and specifics.

Beyond the numbers

None of the parties mention what they plan to do with Canada’s annual immigrant intake of 401,000 for 2021; 411,000 for 2022; and 421,000 in 2023 — except for the People’s Party of Canada, which proposes to reduce the annual intake to between 100,000 and 150,000.

However Andrew Griffith, fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and the Environics Institute, says Canada is in need of a “more fundamental re-examination” of what the immigration level should be: “What the mix should be, how the integration process works, how do we actually reduce hate and racism, and all of those things.”

Griffith proposes the establishment of an immigration commission to investigate those issues and the related policies.

“They can’t really be addressed by Parliament in an effective way because of the partisan nature.”

While debates about immigration are important, some say they can also open the door for all sorts of racist views around newcomers, further polarizing public opinion.

Robert Falconer, a research associate at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy who focuses on immigration and refugee policies, said parties and voters need to discuss what objectives immigration is going to serve and what the composition should look like.

“Sometimes,” says Falconer, “we have dumbed immigration down to just immigrants as economic agents — all they do is contribute or detract from our economy; when there is cultural, spiritual, religious, demographic considerations that are very, very important.”

Trying to maintain a labour market growth amid an aging population and low birth rate is part of the challenge, he said, but how to manage the demographic makeup and ensure newcomers from diverse background are welcomed is often overlooked.

“What are the parties saying about issues not directly stemming from immigration, but (that) strongly relate to it, which is issues of anti-racism, hate and multiculturalism?” Falconer asked.

In tackling anti-racism and hate, the Liberals are committed to a national plan on combatting hate, new legislation to police online content and strengthening the Human Rights Act and Criminal Code against perpetrators.

The Conservatives say they will protect Canadians from online hate while “preserving free speech” and celebrating Canadian heritage, including a $75-million fund to municipalities for the repair and restoration of historical monuments, statues and heritage buildings.

The NDP would ensure all major cities have dedicated hate-crime units within local police forces, and convene a national working group to counter online hate.

The Bloc includes “Quebec bashing” in relation to its platform on racism.

New ideas from the Conservative party

While there is much in common when it comes to immigration policies of the major parties, Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives have some “innovative” ideas, Griffith said.

Among them:

  • The introduction of a fee for those who would like to have their immigration applications expedited, with the revenues directed toward hiring additional staff to streamline processing time;
  • Replacing the current lottery system for immigration sponsorship of parents and grandparents with a first-come, first-served model that prioritizes applicants on criteria such as providing child care or family support, and language proficiency;
  • Replacing government-assisted refugee spots with private and joint sponsorship places, so all refugees resettling in Canada will do so under private or joint sponsorship programs, with exceptions in cases of emergency or specific programs.

“There are some interesting ideas in the Conservative platform that merits some discussion and debate. I mean, some I don’t think will go anywhere, but others may,” said Griffith, who has studied and compared the immigration platforms of all six parties in this election.

The proposed expedited processing fee, for instance, could create a two-tiered system between rich and poor applicants. A sponsorship of parents and grandparents based on an applicant’s ability to babysit may not sit well with the spirit of family reunification.

What to do with the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement?

In the 2019 federal election, a major issue was the surge in asylum seekers via the U.S. land border as a result of U.S. President Donald Trump’s anti-migrant policies. The development prompted a fierce debate over the so-called Safe Third Country Agreement.

The bilateral pact, which has been in place between Ottawa and Washington since 2004, is not mentioned in either the Liberal or the New Democrat platform.

That accord allows Canada to turn back potential refugees who arrive at land ports of entry on the basis they should pursue their claims in the U.S.

Like the People’s Party, the Conservatives propose a complete ban on migrants from the U.S. seeking asylum in Canada and recommends joint Canada-U.S. border patrols similar to what’s happening at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Green Party and Bloc Québécois, meanwhile, want the pact revoked altogether.

Refugee claimants and advocates have taken Ottawa to court over the constitutionality of the bilateral pact and the case is now before the Supreme Court of Canada, after the Liberal government successfully challenged a lower-court decision that found claimants’ charter rights were being breached.

Critics say the agreement, implemented under both the Liberal and Conservative governments, has not helped deter would be refugee claimants from crossing through unguarded parts of the border.

“I don’t know why the Liberals don’t take a position on it, but everything I’ve seen the Liberals do tells me that they actually align with the Conservatives’ position,” Falconer said.

“There are much more humane ways to address concerns in surges of asylum seekers that would again address the backlog that the Liberals and Conservatives tear their hair out over.”

Queen’s University immigration law professor Sharry Aiken said both parties understand patrolling the world’s longest shared border requires massive government resources. It would also likely encourage people to seek help from traffickers to sneak through the border and move underground for lack of access for asylum once inside Canada.

“That’s the exact problem in the United States, where there’s millions of undocumented people because there hasn’t been a way for them to actually make a claim through legal channels because of all of the different barriers in place that preclude access,” Aiken noted.

Temporary resident to permanent resident pathway

During the pandemic, the recognition of migrant workers doing essential work on farms, in nursing homes and driving food-delivery trucks prompted Ottawa to introduce one-time immigration programs for migrant workers and international students to become permanent residents.

The Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats all are in favour of expanding those pathways.

The Liberals categorically said the party would expand the pathways to permanent residence for migrant workers and former international students while the Conservatives would do it by offering a path for “low-skilled workers,” whose demand is “justified by concrete labour market data.”

All the NDP has to say about this issue is: “If someone is good enough to come and work here, then there should be a path for them to stay permanently.”

Expanding these temporary-to-permanent pathways, say migrants’ advocates, is wrong-headed because they reinforce, legitimize and justify Canada’s increasingly two-tiered immigration system, which exploits vulnerable temporary residents by dangling before them the prospects of permanent residency in the country down the road.

Political parties can’t adopt a Band-Aid approach and create a new pathway each time a group is falling through the cracks — Canada currently has more than 100 different skilled worker immigration programs, said Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.

Leaders and policymakers need to be bold and ensure equality and equity for migrants from the get-go, which can only be achieved by granting them permanent residence in Canada upon arrival, he noted.

“The term pathway to permanent residence misrepresents what it is,” said Hussan. “It’s really a pathway to precariousness.”

His group estimated there are half a million work permits issued in Canada today, up from 60,000 two decades ago, but only a fraction of the migrant workers will get a chance to become permanent residents.

“The entire immigration system has been turned into a system of temporariness. It has created a fundamentally divided society. The natural progression of a system of temporary migration, which we now have, is more people who are undocumented and more people who are being even more exploited,” Hussan said.

“We have turned this country’s immigration system into a revolving door temp agency run by employers that profits from it. Instead, we want to ensure equal rights for everyone in the country. And to do that, we must ensure that everyone has the same citizenship rights.”

‘More migrants are falling through the cracks’

Dulaca said she has had her share of owed wages and unpaid overtime from her Canadian employers, and she put up with it because she needed the jobs to support her daughters back home and, more importantly, to meet the employment requirement for her permanent residence.

“The politicians are creating more and more pathways, but these pathways are not the solutions and more migrants are falling through the cracks,” said Dulaca, who runs a support group on Facebook to help other migrant caregivers.

“We all come to Canada so we can give our children a better life, a better future. I can’t vote now and you bet I will exercise my voting rights when I become a Canadian citizen three years from now.”

Source: Here’s how the federal election could change Canada’s immigration system

‘Just a lot of talk’: Activists urge party leaders to increase focus on racism

There is a lot not being discussed during this campaign, not just racism. Liberal, NDP and Green platforms have extensive commitments, some more realistic or sensible than others. Conservative platform is surprisingly silent. Expect that there may be more discussion at the local campaign level in ridings with more visible minorities and Indigenous peoples:

Federal leaders have not focused on addressing systemic racism during the campaign, despite the urgency of the issue after findings of unmarked graves at former residential schools and rising hate against minority communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, advocates say.

While the Liberals and NDP have included programs in their election platforms to tackle barriers that people of colour face, the Conservatives don’t mention the word “racism” even once in their 150-page election plan, said Fareed Khan of Canadians United Against Hate.

Regardless of promises, Khan said the lack of discussion by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh of fighting racism during their campaign events makes him wonder how seriously they are taking the issue.

“On the one platform when it would make the biggest impact during an election, they haven’t talked about it,” Khan said.

“So what that says to me and a lot of people, activists, is that maybe what they’ve said over the last year is just a lot of talk, and they’re not as serious about fighting hate as they said they were.”

Khan said the campaign is an opportunity for politicians to explain how they will respond to those who have protested against anti-Black racism, called for justice for Indigenous Peoples and demanded action against Islamophobia.

“The people have spoken. They want action on this,” he said.

The issue of systemic racism reached the campaign trail this week after Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet complained about a debate question that he said painted Quebecers as racist. Trudeau and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole jumped to defend Quebec as not racist, while Singh said it’s unhelpful to single out any one province.

The question was about Quebec laws the moderator deemed “discriminatory,” including Bill 21, which bans some civil servants from wearing religious garb on the job. Mustafa Farooq, chief executive officer of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said it was “shameful” the main party leaders did not step in to argue the law was discriminatory.

But on Friday, Trudeau told dozens of people gathered in a restaurant in Scarborough, Ont., that the pandemic hit racialized people harder than others and saw an increase in hatred and intolerance. The rise in hate has been aggravated by COVID-19 but the issue is “bigger than that,” he added.

“We see more and more white supremacist groups and racist groups taking toeholds on the internet, and more and more in our communities,” he said.

After defending his government’s record on supporting racialized communities, Trudeau promised to introduce a new law combating online hate in 100 days of his new mandate if re-elected.

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa on Friday, Singh said systemic racism is a problem many people live with every day.

“We’ve seen it in police violence (where) racialized people who had mental health or health concerns ended up losing their lives. We know that this is a problem that exists and it needs to be fixed, and we are committed to fixing it.”

O’Toole said in a statement that every day, people experience discrimination or racism in some form and he is committed to working with communities to find concrete solutions to these problems.

“Conservatives believe that the institutional failings that have led to these outcomes can and must be urgently addressed. It is imperative that we meet this challenge with practical policy changes that solve institutional and systemic problems,” he said.

While the Tory platform doesn’t contain the word “racism,” it does propose strengthening the Criminal Code to protect Canadians from online hate and notes that racialized people have been disproportionately impacted by unemployment during the pandemic.

Chief R. Donald Maracle of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte First Nation in Ontario said there are programs in place, funded federally and provincially, to eliminate racism but it still is a problem.

“First Nations people have suffered racism by government over decades, with a lack of investments to deal with housing and water and post-secondary education and also lack of opportunity for employment and training,” he said.

“In recent years the governments have invested a lot of money to try to overcome those barriers.”

He said there are many competing issues to be addressed by political leaders during the campaign with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.

“The focus seems to be to keep the economy restarted and return to some kind of normal life for most Canadians, but again there’s a lot of racism that has caused a lot of systemic poverty,” he said.

“It’s an issue that remains outstanding to be addressed.”

Andrew Griffith, a former director at the federal immigration department, said it’s surprising that the Conservatives didn’t include any specific measures to end racism in their platform despite the rise of hate during the pandemic.

The pandemic also highlighted the link between being a member of a minority group or an immigrant community and the lack of access to health care and good housing, he said.

“Ongoing issues in terms of policing, various reports in terms of increased anti-Asian incidents, antisemitism remains perennial, attacks on Muslims, including the most recent ones in London, (Ont.), so there’s a whole series of issues there that I find it striking that there’s really nothing there in the (Conservative) platform,” he said.

Farooq, of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said it’s saddening that federal leaders are not prioritizing tackling systemic racism.

“We have a week or so left in this federal election campaign. I would hope that they take seriously what Canadians have been asking for,” he said.

All major federal leaders travelled to London, Ont., in June to show solidarity with the Muslim community after a vehicle attack against a Muslim family left four dead and a nine-year-old boy seriously injured.

“It’s easy to talk in the aftermath of a tragedy and to say that you’re committed to action and doing something,” Farooq said. “But the real test is at a time like this. What are you actually committed to standing on and standing for?”

Source: https://globalnews.ca/news/8182949/canada-election-racism-campaign-systemic/

Immigration-related party platform commitments: Updated with Green Platform

I have updated the immigration party platform table to include the Green Party. Please note that this analysis is based on the published platforms only, not other public commitments.

Some general observations that supplement my earlier summary:

  • All platforms have a mix of specific commitments (e.g., LPC reduce family class processing times to under 12 months) versus non-specific commitments (e.g., NDP address backlog for refugees);
  • All platforms resort to process commitments (e.g., Foreign Credential Recognition);
  • Focus on Quebec particularly apparent in Conservative and NDP platforms. All parties save the Bloc silent on Quebec’s Bill 21;
  • All platforms contain “virtue signalling” or party base language (e.g., LPC reference to previous CPC cuts to immigration levels — not true, CPC “prepared to work hard, contribute to growth and productivity of Canada, and strengthen our democracy” for transition to permanent residency);
  • All platforms save PPC are silent on immigration levels. Surprising that Liberals didn’t mention the levels plan given all the messaging around achieving 400,000 this year;
  • Limited immigration policy innovation, save for CPC family class “point system,” expedited processing fee and replacing GARS with PSRs and Blended refugees, along with operational innovation;
  • Clear divisions on the STCA: Liberals silent, CPC and PPC would apply across the border (closing Roxham Road “loophole”), Bloc and Greens would end the agreement, with NDP surprisingly silent;
  • Relatively little attention paid to operational and administrative issues save for general reference to processing times;
  • All parties are silent on issues where either their record is mixed (Liberals on processing) or party positions may be controversial (e.g., CPC on multiculturalism and anti-racism) or unclear (e.g., NDP on economic immigration);
  • Some catering to specific groups (e.g., Liberals with respect to Blacks, Conservatives with respect to visa-free travel for Ukrainians, Bloc of course with Québécois);
  • Liberal (82 pages), Conservative (160 pages), NDP (114 pages) and Green (103 pages) platforms are lengthy, allowing them to micro-target. The Bloc (30 pages) is more concise given its focus on Quebec. PPC has not provided one complete pdf to compare length but covers most areas. Unlikely that any party could deliver on the majority of commitments.

Updated by issues

  • Levels: No reference to specific levels by CPC, NDP, Bloc and Greens.
  • Liberals are silent (save for a false claim of previous Conservative cuts) but levels are known through the immigration plan.
  • PPC platform commitment to reduce levels to between 100 and 150,000.

Economic:

  • Liberal commitments to welcome talented workers through existing Global Skills Strategy and reduce processing times to under 12 months.
  • Conservatives emphasize the priority to be given to healthcare workers and expansion of the Provincial Nominee Program in regions which retain immigrants.
  • PPC commits to increase percentage of economic and require in-person interviews with questions regarding alignment with Canadian values along with additional resources for background checks.

Family:

  • Liberals commit to electronic applications and a program to issue visas to spouses and children abroad pending full application processing.
  • Conservatives, more innovatively, propose replacing the lottery system with a point system based upon childcare and family support along with language competency, along with additional resources.
  • NDP proposes to end the caps on Parents and Grandparents, the Greens propose an increase while the PPC proposes to abolish P&Gs and limit others.
  • Greens also propose to revise adoptions procedures, including adoption bans from Muslim countries.

Refugees:

  • Liberals propose to increase the number of Afghan refugees from 20,000 to 40,000 as well as 2,000 skilled refugees through the Economic Mobility Pathways program with a healthcare focus.
  • Conservatives propose replacing Government Assisted Refugees (GARS) with Privately Sponsored (PSR) and Blended programs with no change in numbers. Priorities will be the most vulnerable, SPOs with strong track record and the introduction of a “human rights defender stream” for situations like Hong Kong as well as making the LGBTQ Rainbow Refugee program permanent. Additional capacity for the IRB along with closing the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) loophole (between official points of entry) and joint border patrols with the US are part of the platform.
  • NDP commits to addressing the backlog and working with Canadians to resettle refugees in communities.
  • Bloc would end the STCA and welcome French speaking refugees.
  • Greens also propose to end the STCA, and revise all CBSA practices (e.g., detention centres, family separation), address long processing times, and lower family reunification barriers for convention refugees.
  • PPC commits to fewer refugees, declaring the entire border an official port of entry (thus covered by the STCA), reliance on private sponsorship and no longer relying on UN selection of GARS with priority given to religious minorities in Muslim countries and those who reject “political Islam.”

Foreign Credential Recognition: All three major parties with continue to work with provinces and territories, with the Conservatives committed to a task force for “new strategies.” The Greens promise greater funding and collaboration with accreditation issues.

Cultural Sensitivity: In addition to the Conservative proposal on “cultural sensitivity,” the Greens propose to “address xenophobia in all aspects of settlement, including temporary visa liberalization, issuing of temporary permits …and family reunification.”

Immigration fees: The Conservatives would introduce an expedited service fee for quicker application and the Greens would provide a fee exemption for low-income immigrants.

Temporary Residents: Both Liberals and Conservatives commit to a trusted employer system to reduce the administrative burden on employers.

  • Liberals mention the Global Talent Stream focus on highly skilled workers and commit to an employer hotline to resolve issues.
  • Conservatives would introduce standards and timelines for Labour Market Information Assessments (LMIA).
  • Bloc proposes the transfer of the Temporary Foreign Workers Program to Quebec.
  • Green platform has general reference to liberalization for temporary workers and strategies for workers to report abusive employers without losing status.
  • PPC would limit the number of temporary workers and ensure that they are only filling temporary positions and not competing with Canadians.

Temporary to Permanent Transition:

  • Liberals would reform economic immigration programs to expand pathways to Permanent Residence.
  • Conservatives commit to pathways for both the “best and brightest” as well as low-skilled workers, latter based on labour market data, and those that are “prepared to work hard, contribute to growth and productivity of Canada, and strengthen our democracy”. Employers would be allowed to sponsor those wishing to transition.
  • NDP would provide a pathway to all Temporary Residents, highlighting caregivers in particular.
  • Greens would lower barriers to transition, particularly for healthcare workers.

Consultants: Only the NDP mentions consultants and commits to government regulation.

International cooperation: PPC commits to withdraw from the Global Compact on Migration.

Settlement/Integration:

  • Conservatives state they will support settlement services but with no specifics.
  • NDP states that it will work with the provinces.
  • Greens would provide greater funding for language training and employment skills.

Administration (Processing):

  • Conservatives emphasize simplification and streamlining of application and administrative processing, with technology being used to speed up application vetting. The IT infrastructure (the one currently being developed) would record all transactions and applicants would be allowed to correct “simple and honest” mistakes rather than the application being rejected. The Conservatives also commit to harmonizing FPT systems.
  • The Bloc would accelerate Permanent Resident application processing.

Citizenship:

  • Liberals recycle their 2019 commitment to eliminate citizenship fees.
  • Bloc plans to table a bill requiring knowledge of French to obtain citizenship (currently, knowledge of either official language). Ironic, given the Bloc’s persistent in respecting jurisdictional competencies as citizenship is exclusively under federal jurisdiction.
  • Greens would update the citizenship guide (already been revised, awaiting political decision to release) and exemption from citizenship fees for low income applicants
  • PPC promises to make birth tourism illegal.

Visitor visas

  • Strangely, the Conservatives commit to a five-year super-visa when they had introduced a 10-year super-visa when in government that was maintained by the Liberal government. They also commit to explore more “generous and fairer visas” by more enforceable commitments on length of stay.
  • Greens would remove visa requirements for most parents visiting children, including TRs

Multiculturalism:

  • CPC: No mention or commitments
  • Liberals commitments include: improve gender & racial equity among faculty (Canada Research Chairs $250m), reference to existing initiatives (Black Entrepreneurship, Black-led non-profits, youth), implement the Black-led Philanthropic Endowment Fund, strengthen equity targets for fed-funded scientific research, specific target for Black Canadians and Funding for promising Black graduate students $6m), support production led by equity seeking groups, creation of a Changing Narratives Fund for diverse communities, BIPOC journalists and creatives $20m), and Increase funding to multiculturalism community programs.
  • NDP commitment include preventing violent extremism through support for community-led initiatives, confronting systemic racism (few details), a national action plan to dismantle far-right extremist organizations, a national task force and roadmap to address over-representation of Blacks and Indigenous peoples in Canadian prisons and, working with the provinces, the collection of race-based data health, employment, policing.
  • Familiar Bloc commitments include placing the federally-regulated sectors (banking, communications, transport) under Quebec’s language charter, opposing Court Challenges Program funding for challenges to Quebec laws (e.g, Bill 21), a commission on prevention of “honour crimes,” and excluding Quebec from the Multiculturalism Act.
  • Greens would implement recommendations from the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, limit RCMP role and funding in municapt and reserve policy, develop a national oversight approach working with provinces, end RCMP carding and shift police resource to social and community services. 
  • PPC would repeal the Multiculturalism Act.

Anti-Racism/Hate:

  • CPC: No mention or commitments
  • Liberal commitments include: a National Action Plan on Combatting Hate, possible amendments the Criminal Code hate provisions, boosting funding to the Anti-Racism Strategy and Anti-racism Secretariat, introducing legislation to combat serious forms of hurtful online content including making social media platforms responsible for such content, strengthening the Human Rights Act and Criminal Code to more effectively combat online hate, and the creation of a National Support Fund for Survivors of Hate-Motivated Crimes.
  • NDP commitments include: ensuring all major cities too have dedicated hate crime units, establishment of national standards for recording hate crimes (beyond police-reported which already exist?) and work with non-profits to increase reporting, ban carding by the RCMP and establishing a national working group to counter online hate and protect public safety, and making sure that social media platforms are legally responsible for distributing online hate.
  • Bloc condemns hate speech but no proposed changes to the Criminal Code and denounces “Quebec bashing” assertions regarding racism in Quebec.
  • Greens commit to developing better guidelines to address weaponization of free expression, funding data collection online hate and real-world violence, improve AI solutions to detect online hate & violence and require social media to detect and prevent online hate.

Employment Equity:

  • Liberal commitments include: the creation of Diversity Fellowship for mentoring and sponsoring of under-represented groups, French language training for 3rd and 4th year university students to bridge language barriers to entry, expand recruitment to international students and Permanent Residents, and the creation of a mental health fund for Black public servants & support career advancement for Black workers.
  • NDP commitments include: a review to help close the visible minority and Indigenous peoples wage gap and ensuring diverse and equitable hiring in the public service and FRS (recent public service data indicates considerable progress).
  • Bloc proposes the use of blind cvs in public service hiring (pilot carried out in 2017 suggested little difference between existing and blind cv processes).
  • Greens welcome the review of the Employment Equity Act and call for greater working input, an extended timeline and increased resources, and broadening it application to outsourced workers.

Social Media Platforms Claim Moderation Will Reduce Harassment, Disinformation and Conspiracies. It Won’t

Harsh but accurate:

If the United States wants to protect democracy and public health, it must acknowledge that internet platforms are causing great harm and accept that executives like Mark Zuckerberg are not sincere in their promises to do better. The “solutions” Facebook and others have proposed will not work. They are meant to distract us.

The news in the last weeks highlighted both the good and bad of platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The good: Graphic videos of police brutality from multiple cities transformed public sentiment about race, creating a potential movement for addressing an issue that has plagued the country since its founding. Peaceful protesters leveraged social platforms to get their message across, outcompeting the minority that advocated for violent tactics. The bad: waves of disinformation from politicians, police departments, Fox News, and others denied the reality of police brutality, overstated the role of looters in protests, and warned of busloads of antifa radicals. Only a month ago, critics exposed the role of internet platforms in undermining the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic by amplifying health disinformation. That disinformation convinced millions that face masks and social distancing were culture war issues, rather than public health guidance that would enable the economy to reopen safely.

The internet platforms have worked hard to minimize the perception of harm from their business. When faced with a challenge that they cannot deny or deflect, their response is always an apology and a promise to do better. In the case of Facebook, University of North Carolina Scholar Zeynep Tufekci coined the term “Zuckerberg’s 14-year apology tour.” If challenged to offer a roadmap, tech CEOs leverage the opaque nature of their platforms to create the illusion of progress, while minimizing the impact of the proposed solution on business practices. Despite many disclosures of harm, beginning with their role in undermining the integrity of the 2016 election, these platforms continue to be successful at framing the issues in a favorable light.

When pressured to reduce targeted harassment, disinformation, and conspiracy theories, the platforms frame the solution in terms of content moderation, implying there are no other options. Despite several waves of loudly promoted investments in artificial intelligence and human moderators, no platform has been successful at limiting the harm from third party content. When faced with public pressure to remove harmful content, internet platforms refuse to address root causes, which means old problems never go away, even as new ones develop. For example, banning Alex Jones removed conspiracy theories from the major sites, but did nothing to stop the flood of similar content from other people.

The platforms respond to each new public relations challenge with an apology, another promise, and sometimes an increased investment in moderation. They have done it so many times I have lost track. And yet, policy makers and journalists continue to largely let them get away with it.

We need to recognize that internet platforms are experts in human attention. They know how to distract us. They know we will eventually get bored and move on.

Despite copious evidence to the contrary, too many policy makers and journalists behave as if internet platforms will eventually reduce the harm from targeted harassment, disinformation, and conspiracies through content moderation. There are three reasons why it will not do so: scale, latency, and intent. These platforms are huge. In the most recent quarter, Facebook reported that 1.7 billion people use its main platform every day and roughly 2.3 billion across its four large platforms. They do not disclose the numbers of messages posted each day, but it is likely to be in the hundreds of millions, if not a billion or more, just on Facebook. Substantial investments in artificial intelligence and human moderators cannot prevent millions of harmful messages from getting through.

The second hurdle is latency, which describes the time it takes for moderation to identify and remove a harmful message. AI works rapidly, but humans can take minutes or days. This means a large number of messages will circulate for some time before eventually being removed. Harm will occur in that interval. It is tempting to imagine that AI can solve everything, but that is a long way off. AI systems are built on data sets from older systems, and they are not yet capable of interpreting nuanced content like hate speech.

The final – and most important – obstacle for content moderation is intent. The sad truth is that the content we have asked internet platforms to remove is exceptionally valuable and they do not want to remove it. As a result, the rules for AI and human moderators are designed to approve as much content as possible. Alone among the three issues with moderation, intent can only be addressed with regulation.

A permissive approach to content has two huge benefits for platforms: profits and power. The business model of internet platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter is based on advertising, the value of which depends on consumer attention. Where traditional media properties create content for mass audiences, internet platforms optimize content for each user individually, using surveillance to enable exceptionally precise targeting. Advertisers are addicted to the precision and convenience offered by internet platforms. Every year, they shift an ever larger percentage of their spending to them, from which platforms derive massive profits and wealth. Limiting the amplification of targeted harassment, disinformation, and conspiracy theories would lower engagement and revenues.

Power, in the form of political influence, is an essential component of success for the largest internet platforms. They are ubiquitous, which makes them vulnerable to politics. Tight alignment with the powerful ensures success in every country, which leads platforms to support authoritarians, including ones who violate human rights. For example, Facebook has enabled regime-aligned genocide in Myanmar and state-sponsored repression in Cambodia and the Philippines. In the United States, Facebook and other platforms have ignored or altered their terms of service to enable Trump and his allies to use the platform in ways that would normally be prohibited. For example, when journalists exposed Trump campaign ads that violated Facebook’s terms of service with falsehoods, Facebook changed its terms of service, rather than pulling the ads. In addition, Facebook chose not to follow Twitter’s lead in placing a public safety warning on a Trump post that promised violence in the event of looting.

Thanks to their exceptional targeting, platforms play an essential role in campaign fundraising and communications for candidates of both parties. While the dollars are not meaningful to the platforms, they derive power and influence from playing an essential role in electoral politics. This is particularly true for Facebook.

At present, platforms have no liability for the harms caused by their business model. Their algorithms will continue to amplify harmful content until there is an economic incentive to do otherwise. The solution is for Congress to change incentives by implementing an exception to the safe harbor of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act for algorithm amplification of harmful content and guaranteeing a right to litigate against platforms for this harm. This solution does not impinge on first amendment rights, as platforms are free to continue their existing business practices, except with liability for harms.

Thanks to COVID-19 and the protest marches, consumers and policy makers are far more aware of the role that internet platforms play in amplifying disinformation. For the first time in a generation, there is support in both parties in Congress for revisions to Section 230. There is increasing public support for regulation.

We do not need to accept disinformation as the cost of access to internet platforms. Harmful amplification is the result of business choices that can be changed. It is up to us and to our elected representatives to make that happen. The pandemic and the social justice protests underscore the urgency of doing so.

Source: Social Media Platforms Claim Moderation Will Reduce Harassment, Disinformation and Conspiracies. It Won’t

How the real issues facing people of colour are struggling to gain election traction

Quite striking that none of the people cited make any reference to the party platforms (Election 2019: Party Platform Immigration Comparison), where there are differences with respect to multiculturalism and anti-racism issues:

Although racism has been a prominent and recurring theme in this federal campaign, there’s little evidence that the real issues facing racial minorities in Canada are on the election agenda.

It’s a paradox, given key elements of this campaign. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was exposed for wearing blackface or brownface three times in his adult life. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is the first person of colour in Canadian history to run for prime minister.

A new Quebec law bans people from wearing a hijab, turban or any other religious symbol while working in the province’s public sector. People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier is campaigning on an end to what he calls “mass immigration.” And some of the most hotly-contested ridings in this election are among the most ethnically diverse in the country.

Yet to people who work on improving the lives of Canadians in racialized communities, the debate remains superficial. They’re calling for a much deeper look at what needs to be done to tackle the effects of racism on poverty, employment and the justice system.”When I’m looking at the campaign and across the parties’ platforms, I have to say I’m very disappointed the issues around racial justice [and] racial equity have not been addressed by any party in any substantive way,” said Avvy Go, director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic in Toronto.Even after Trudeau’s repeated use of blackface exploded into the spotlight early in the campaign, little changed, said Go.

“The focus with respect to that incident was whether Trudeau apologized for his racist act, as opposed to looking at the day-to-day systemic challenges and systemic racism faced by communities of colour and Indigenous people,” Go said in an interview.

She wants political parties to move on from the blackface incidents — “however repugnant and appalling” — to focus on policy discussions and concrete actions to deal with discrimination and its impacts.

So why didn’t that happen?

“Conversation about race is often difficult in Canada,” said Go. “A lot of Canadians still are not able to come to grips with the idea that there’s a lot of racism in our country.”Debbie Douglas, director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, agrees that the campaign has failed to address issues of racism. Her theory is it’s rooted in what she describes as a “polite Canadian” tendency to pretend that racism doesn’t exist, and a misguided belief that talking about it would conjure racism into being.Anti-racism groups have been trying to get the issues on the campaign agenda.

The Toronto-based Colour of Poverty Campaign issued a “racial justice report card” last week. The report card examined the Liberal, Conservative, New Democratic and Green parties’ platforms and rated their positions on such issues as criminal justice, employment, immigration and poverty reduction.

It declared that the leading federal political parties are not addressing the concern that “racial inequities are growing and deepening in Canada.”

In a pre-election nationwide survey of Muslims, a group called The Canadian Muslim Vote found that 79 per cent named Islamophobia as an important issue.

“This election was an opportunity for our party leaders and all parties to address this and I don’t think that it’s been done in a way that’s been satisfactory,” said Ali Manek, the group’s executive director. “Overall, I’ve been disappointed.”

He’s also critical that no leader has taken a strong stance against Quebec’s religious symbols law, Bill 21.

“I think all parties have let down the Muslim community and ethnic communities tremendously by not addressing it more head on,” said Manek.

He said he believes minority communities must get out and vote next Monday at a better-than-average turnout rate to put pressure on the parties for change.

“I think that’s a real message that we would be sending to the future prime minister of this country that we want a seat at the table and we want our issues to be addressed,” he said.

So how have race and racism been addressed in the campaign? “Laughably bad, just an all-around disaster from my point of view,” said Andray Domise, a contributing editor for Macleans’ magazine and a black community activist in the Toronto area.

Domise says the parties and most media coverage have been too focused what he calls “spectacle” over substance.

“The purpose of the campaign has been defeated because we’re not talking about people’s lives, we’re talking about how much we like or dislike certain candidates,” said Domise. “I’m a lot more interested in structural matters, what is it that policy can affect, that can improve people’s material lives.”

There’s a palpable sense of frustration and missed opportunity coming from everyone interviewed here. There’s also a clear call for the parties to propose ideas to tackle the disproportionate rates of unemployment, poverty and incarceration on people of colour. But with just a week left in the campaign, there’s little optimism that’s going to happen.

Source: How the real issues facing people of colour are struggling to gain election traction