Mulcair: Jagmeet Singh calls MP ‘racist’, but has he forgotten about Bill 21?

Valid question:

In 2016, when I first prepared a House of Commons motion condemning islamophobia, we couldn’t get it past a handful of Conservatives who’d denied unanimous consent. We worked hard for all-party agreement, drew a big chalk circle around the stain of Conservative opposition and were able to present the motion again. This time it was accepted and passed unanimously.

Those events in Parliament immediately came to mind when Jagmeet Singh chose to call Bloc House Leader Alain Thérrien a racist. Thérrien had communicated the Bloc’s refusal of unanimous consent for the introduction of Singh’s motion, which called for the recognition of systemic racism within the RCMP. Singh confirmed that he had indeed called Thérrien a racist, but refused to withdraw the word when asked to do so by the Speaker. The Speaker, Anthony Rota, proceeded to expel Singh for refusing to respect his decision.

In subsequent interviews, Singh affirmed that Thérrien had to be a racist because of the subject matter. He also said that he would not apologize for the personal insult, explaining that doing so would be like apologizing for being against systemic racism. As of Jun. 30, Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet was threatening a robust reaction when the House returns July 8, if Rota maintains the decision of expelling Singh for just one day. Blanchet went so far as to call Singh’s reaction “orchestrated.”

Rota has had to defend his credentials in his home riding of Nipissing—Timiskaming, after a local group called on the MP to demonstrate “stronger anti-racism leadership”. There is now little hope that the grave and urgent issue of systemic racism in the RCMP will ever be the object of the unanimous denunciation of the House of Commons.

In the case of that vote against Islamophobia, it had also been no small feat to get the Bloc Québécois onside. Beginning with my 2007 by-election for the NDP in Outremont, the Bloc rode anti-Muslim sentiment hard. I recall a thoughtful, soul-searching meeting with Alexa McDonough, Ed Broadbent, Jack Layton and our key organizers in the basement of our campaign headquarters where we struggled to find the right words to push back. In that particular by-election, the Bloc was decrying Muslim women’s right to vote with a face covering. We came out four square against the Bloc’s toxic position but personal name-calling wasn’t part of the game plan. We won handily and the Bloc lost two-thirds of it’s vote, finishing third.

In the 2015 general election, of course, the issue came to a head. My support for a woman’s right to wear a niqab at a citizenship ceremony cost us dearly. I remember my campaign director, who’d flown in from Ottawa, imploring me to change my position because it was causing a precipitous drop in Quebec that was playing into our national numbers. Many voters, she said, were just waiting to see whether the NDP or the Liberals, could defeat Harper to make their final choice. She was concerned it could cost us the election. A publication forthcoming in the prestigious Journal of Politics, has confirmed that the NDP got clobbered over the issue of niqabs in Quebec; it was pivotal in deciding the outcome of the election.

In France, even socialist governments have banned certain outward expressions of the Muslim faith. Other religions, such as Sikhism and Judaism have not been spared. Under the guise of separation of church and state, Muslim moms have even been denied the right to accompany their kids on school field trips, because of their headscarves. Outside every school in France is a poster explaining the rules against religious symbols.

Astonishingly, even the European Court of Human Rights has upheld the ban. Public French intellectuals like Michel Houellebecq and Élisabeth Badinter write openly about the threat religious symbols pose to French society.

For those of us who support Canada’s multicultural traditions, such views are an anathema. From our perspective, it’s easy to view them as racist, which I do. In Europe, they are widely shared and accepted as being part of public debate and have gained some currency here amongst those who find fault with multiculturalism.

When Quebec Premier François Legault is asked about systemic racism in Quebec, he too restates the question: “Ah, you’re saying all Quebecers are racist, and I’m saying some Quebecers are racist but that Quebecers are not systematically racist.” It’s a rhetorical trick where politicians repeat the issue in terms that suit their purpose while answering their own question.

Systemic racism doesn’t mean everyone is systematically racist. It means the dice are loaded against some members of our society because of their ethnic, religious or cultural origin. The result of that racism within the system can be proven by looking at results, measuring and comparing outcomes. Legault is too well-informed not to know that, but he also knows his base. Like the crafty populist politician he is, he’s talking to that base bysaying, “I won’t let them call you a racist!”

Legault seems to have in part, at least, won his point. In the aftermath of the dispute between Singh and the Bloc a “premiers’ statement” issued by Justin Trudeau and all of the provincial premiers, on Jun. 26, talks several times of racism and discrimination but never uses the word “systemic”.

I made my first appearance in a parliamentary commission in Quebec City on the subject in the mid-80s and it’s an issue I’ve felt passionately about since. Government reports showed a huge, systemic under-representation of minorities in the Quebec civil service back then. We worked hard to change that. It began by making people understand the problem. The situation has indeed improved considerably, but just this month, the Quebec Human Rights Commission released a study showing that there are fewer than half the number of visible minorities in the Quebec civil service than their proportion of the overall population. Historically, this situation is also a reflection of another old divide: there was much discrimination against French-Canadians in the business sector in the past and good civil service jobs were seen as a way of levelling the economic playing field.

These issues are complex and Jagmeet Singh knows that. He has proven it in the past, notably when confrontedby a voter who told him to remove his turban in order to “look more Canadian”. Singh was almost spiritual in his calm reaction. He knew he was dealing with someone who just didn’t get it and it became a teachable moment. Many people called that man a racist, but Singh never did.

Right now Québec has a law on the books, Bill 21, which openly discriminates against religious minorities, in particular against observant Muslims, Sikhs and Jews. Thus far, no opposition party in Parliament, including the NDP, has dared challenge that law for what it is. They all, including Mr. Singh, say Quebec has a right to adopt it. Trudeau is still refusing to refer the case to the Supreme Court and instead, the victims of Bill 21 who  are being denied the right to teach, become cops or government lawyers, will have to fight for years as the issue slowly wends its way through the courts.

Singh could choose to use all of his credibility and deep personal experience with this issue to persuade Trudeau to finally do the right thing and challenge the discriminatory Bill 21 immediately by referring it without delay to the Supreme Court. That would be helpful.

Source: Jagmeet Singh calls MP ‘racist’, but has he forgotten about Bill 21?

Demonstrators rally against Quebec’s updated immigration reforms

CAQ continues to struggle with immigration issues, most notably with international students and their transition to permanent residency, reinforcing Quebec being a less attractive destination for international students:

Protesters in Montreal and around the province gathered Saturday to denounce upcoming reforms to a Quebec program that fast-tracks immigration for foreign students and temporary workers.

The reforms, announced in late May, mark the Coalition Avenir Québec government’s second attempt to adjust the Quebec Experience Program after it backed down on a first set of changeslast fall.

Those changes were criticized as disorganized and poorly thought out by opposition parties and decried as unfair by students and other members of the public. Simon Jolin-Barrette, the immigration minister at the time, eventually said the reforms had been a mistake.

On Saturday, demonstrators — who marched from Mont-Royal Park to Quebec Premier François Legault’s office in downtown Montreal, as well as others in Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières and Rouyn-Noranda —  said the new reforms still compromise the future of international students and temporary workers.

“They are totally unjust and unfair to international students like me who just graduated,” said Carla Trigoso, who is from Peru and studied sociology at McGill University. “There are no acquired rights for us. We are terribly, terribly disappointed with the changes in general.”

Quebec Liberal Party MNA Kathleen Weil was one of several opposition members at the demonstration. She said the program, which she introduced as immigration minister in the Charest government, was the envy of many other jurisdictions.

“We created this rapid immigration route because we wanted to retain this talent,” she said of the program, known by its French acronym PEQ. “We compete with the world to attract them. We’re regressing with this reform. We’re not looking at human beings with their full potential.”

Quebec’s new minister of immigration, Nadine Girault, who was appointed to the position on June 22, declined an interview request from Radio-Canada. Her office said it will take some time to properly take over the reform file.

The reforms are nonetheless expected to come into effect soon.

Among other things, the reforms add or increase work experience requirements for applicants. Foreign students, who previously did not need work experience in addition to completing their studies, now do: two years of full-time work for those with a professional diploma and one year for those who complete a university degree or technical diploma.

“Now a diploma in Quebec is not enough to integrate someone,” said Thibault Camara, an organizer with Quebec Is Us Too, one of the groups behind the demonstration.

Trigoso said meeting the work experience conditions would be exceptionally difficult “now that we’re in the middle of an economic crisis and a world pandemic.”

Temporary workers will have to work more to qualify. Until now, one year of work experience was required, but the reforms raise the requirement to the equivalent of three years of full-time work over 48 months.

Camara said his group was also concerned about certain jobs being removed from eligibility altogether.

“All the préposés and all the truck drivers, for example, they aren’t part of the Quebec of tomorrow because of this reform,” he said.

The reforms also impose new requirements around French-language knowledge and increase the processing time for applications from less than a month to six months. Opponents to the reforms want Quebec to maintain the shorter time for applicants who were already in the province.

Source: Demonstrators rally against Quebec’s updated immigration reforms

Quebec stops publishing daily COVID-19 data despite leading country in number of cases UPDATED: Quebec reversal

Update: Quebec announced that it will continue publishing the data on a daily basis following an outcry (Québec recule: les données sur l’évolution de la pandémie seront publiées sur une base quotidienne). Still curious about the rational behind the original decision.

——-

Not sure this strategy will address the “communications” issue as weekly reporting will likely continue to highlight Quebec’s relatively poor performance both domestically and internationally.

Not a great example of transparency and accountability.

Will change my weekly update to accommodate their Thursday release schedule:

Quebec’s Health Ministry says it will only provide weekly reports about COVID-19, rather than providing a daily rundown of the situation.

The province’s public health institute, INSPQ, had also been publishing daily updates, including the number of cases and hospitalizations in Quebec, the number of tests conducted and how many people have died.

The data was also broken down by age and region and showed how many long-term care homes have outbreaks.

The move from daily to weekly updates appears to mean Quebec is providing data less frequently than any other Canadian province, despite leading the country in number of cases. Ontario, which has the second-highest number of cases, continues to provide daily numbers.

As of Thursday, Yukon’s Emergency Measures Organization is providing a public update once per week — but the territory has only 11 confirmed cases.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the change in his daily news conference on COVID-19 Thursday, saying it’s up to each province to decide how transparent it needs to be.

He also said that Quebec still has a “significant number of cases” and deaths every day.

“I certainly hope that Premier [François] Legault would continue to be transparent and open with Quebecers and indeed with all Canadians as he has been from the very beginning,” Trudeau said.

The Health Ministry and INSPQ will only publish the data on their respective websites every Thursday, the first of them beginning July 2. The ministry will also be sending out a news release with the figures on that day every week.

The decision was first announced in a news release on Fête nationale, the province’s annual holiday.Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province’s public health director, said Thursday that the decision was made in order to provide the public with “more stable numbers,” as fewer confirmed cases each day will make any day-to-day increase appear more significant than it is.

He said this would also allow the province to provide a more accurate portrait of how the virus is spreading, as reporting delays have often prompted a revision of the daily numbers.

“As soon as there is some important data to share with the population, we will do that.” Arruda said, suggesting that the daily updates could return in the event of a second wave of infections.

The government announcement appeared to take the INSPQ by surprise. A notice on its website Tuesday said it would begin limiting its updates to weekdays only, rather than seven days a week.

But on Thursday, following the Health Ministry’s announcement, it said it too would only provide a weekly update. A spokesperson referred any questions to the Health Ministry.

The number of daily cases and deaths in Quebec has declined in recent weeks.As of Thursday, 55,079 people in Quebec have tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. That’s an increase of 142 new cases since Wednesday.

There are 487 people in hospital and 5,448 have died. A total of 520,227 tests have come back negative.

The Quebec government has allowed most businesses to reopen, including restaurants, bars, gyms and shopping malls, with physical-distancing restrictions in place.

Source: Quebec stops publishing daily COVID-19 data despite leading country in number of cases

@Picardonhealth How should we thank our guardian angels? Certainly not with deportation

Petty not to do so:

They call them the “guardian angels,” the thousands of personal-support workers (PSWs), orderlies, cooks and janitors who have been toiling for months in Quebec’s beleaguered and often overwhelmed long-term care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Almost all of them are women, many from racialized communities, including a disproportionately large number from Quebec’s Haitian community.

In recent days, one subset of this overworked, underpaid work force has received a lot of attention – asylum seekers.

Why?

Because, despite doing essential work that no one else would and literally putting their lives at risk, juggling multiple part-time gigs for as little as $13 an hour, many of these front-line workers could face deportation.

That’s disgraceful, and un-Canadian.

Lawyer and social entrepreneur Fabrice Vil has been leading the social-media campaign #JeMeSouviendrai (I will remember) to get the provincial and federal governments to “regularize” the immigration status of asylum seekers working as essential workers.

“This pandemic has shown us the human face and the real sacrifices of essential workers,” Mr. Vil said on the popular Radio-Canada talk show Tout le monde en parle. “When people make a contribution to society, we need to recognize that contribution.”

Quebec Premier François Legault has been cool to the idea, but in recent days, in response to growing public pressure, he has softened his position a bit.

A little recent history helps explain the political volatility of this issue.

In 2017 and 2018, more than 37,000 people made an “irregular” border crossing and requested asylum in Canada. Most of them simply trudged up Roxham Road in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que., exploiting a loophole in the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, which said they could only be turned back at official border crossings.

Before he was Premier, Mr. Legault took a hard line on the asylum seekers, saying Quebec could not welcome “all the world’s misery” and demanding the Roxham Road crossing be shut down. It has been. Since March, there have been only 14 “irregular” crossings and all have been sent back to the United States. Yet, “Roxham Road” remains a dog-whistle term for anti-immigration proponents.

Let’s not forget that most of the asylum seekers have been working while waiting for their cases to be processed. Many have been working in long-term care for two or three years, invisible until the pandemic hit.

When the idea of granting residency to asylum seekers was first floated, the now-Premier rejected it out of hand, saying: “We can’t open the door and say, ‘If you come here illegally, if you find a job, we’ll accept you as an immigrant.’ That’s not how it works.”

His critics responded by saying that, first of all, asylum seekers are not illegals. Further, they stressed that what is wanted is a special dispensation for those who work in health care facilities in these extraordinarily difficult times. The precise number is unclear, but believed to be at least 2,000.

Mr. Legault responded by promising to review their requests on a case-by-case basis, potentially accepting them as economic immigrants. (While immigration is a federal jurisdiction, this is a provincial program.) Federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has tried to stay out of the fray, saying “all asylum claimants will receive a fair and full hearing on the individual merits of their claim.”

Quebec’s Immigration Minister, Simon Jolin-Barrette, has also announced a plan to recruit 550 temporary workers as PSWs and fast-track their permanent residency applications.

Around the same time, Quebec also announced a bold plan to hire 10,000 PSWs by offering a paid three-month training course and full-time jobs at $26 an hour. (About a $50,000 annual salary.)

The catch is that the program is only for Canadian citizens, so asylum seekers, refugees and migrant workers are shut out again.

This sparked another wave of outrage.

Wilner Cayo of the advocacy group Debout pour la dignité says the exclusion adds insult to injury.

“These women were good when it came to working for a miserable salary,” he told CBC News. “But now that this work is going to be well paid, the thank-you they get is ‘You can’t be part of the program.’”

At a demonstration last week, the sentiment was well summarized on a protester’s sign, written in Haitian Créole: “Nou pap mouri pou gran mèsi!”

Translation: “We will not die for a ‘thank you’ and we will not die in vain.”

Indeed, a proper thank-you must begin with granting permanent residency. Then full-time jobs. And speeding up family reunifications.

It’s the least we can do for these guardian angels, for services rendered selflessly.

Source: How should we thank our guardian angels? Certainly not with deportation

Quebec should reconsider immigration changes

On the non-competitiveness of recent Quebec changes to PEQ:

Recently announced reforms to the Quebec Experience Program should be reconsidered.

Since 2010, the Quebec Experience Program (or “PEQ” in French) has offered a fast-track to permanent residence for temporary foreign workers and international students that lived in Quebec. Such individuals could often get their Quebec Selection Certificate in around 20 business days, and then go ahead and submit their permanent residence application to the federal government.

This was excellent policy by Quebec.

Government research shows that such individuals integrate quickly into Canada’s economy and society since they are young, well-educated, speak English and French and have Canadian work experience.

In addition, it made sense for Quebec to fast-track their applications since unlike immigration candidates outside of Canada, such individuals are already here. It would be very inconvenient to have them leave Quebec when they have already established themselves in the province and are contributing to the economy as workers and consumers.

Problems with Quebec’s new work experience requirements

The province is increasing the work experience requirements that future applicants will need to obtain to become eligible for the PEQ.

Currently, a temporary foreign worker (TFW) needs 12 months of eligible Quebec work experience within the preceding 24 months of submitting their application to meet the PEQ’s criteria. Students do not need Quebec work experience to be eligible.

Quebec will now require 36 months of work experience from TFWs and between 12-24 months of work experience from foreign students (depending on their program of study in Quebec).

A benefit of the stricter PEQ criteria is it will help more Quebec Skilled Worker Program (QSWP) candidates immigrate to the province through its Arrima Portal.

Currently, highly-qualified QSWP candidates are not able to obtain permanent residence under what is a more competitive process than what PEQ applicants need to go through.

However, Quebec is now introducing stricter work experience requirements for the PEQ than what is currently in place nationally. This means it will become more difficult for foreign workers and students to obtain permanent residence in Quebec.

One may argue that this is a good thing, since those that do become immigrants (whether through the QSWP or QEP) are more likely to succeed in the province.

But, many of the foreign workers and students who are poised to succeed will be unlikely to meet the high bar that Quebec has set.

It is quite normal across Canada for federal and provincial programs to have work experience requirements in place for existing TFWs and international students that want to transition to permanent residence. However, typically, the Canadian work experience requirement is set at 12 months. Whether Quebec likes it or not, it is in competition with other provinces to attract and retain global talent.

If I am a province that is offering the same product (in this case, Canadian permanent resident status), what is the incentive for a prospective immigrant to go through more hurdles when neighbouring provinces offer that product at a much lower cost? (i.e., only 12 months of work experience required versus 24-36 months for TFWs and some international students in Quebec).

Quebec’s higher standards will disincentivize TFWs and students from choosing Quebec.

Such individuals will either choose to go to other provinces at the start of their Canadian immigration journey, or will leave Quebec and move to another province when they are ready to apply for permanent residence.

Even if an individual is motivated to remain in Quebec, it may prove difficult for them to obtain the work experience they may need to be eligible for the PEQ.

For instance, some TFWs such as International Exchange Canada participants have work permits that are valid for no more than two years. Employers may not be willing spend the time and money required to petition the government to provide such individuals with one or more work permits (e.g., a work permit that requires a Labour Market Impact Assessment or “LMIA”).

One other point on this front: in the short run, it will become even more challenging for candidates to meet the new work experience requirements due to the economic damage that is being caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

New processing standard is also problematic

Quebec indicated that it will now seek to process PEQ applications within 6 months, rather than 20 business days, in order to harmonize its processing standard with the Quebec Skilled Worker Program.

Once again, Quebec is hurting its competitiveness since the quicker processing standard was one of the PEQ’s major selling points. Now, prospective immigration candidates may look to options outside of the province given that there will no longer be a significant advantage to applying to the PEQ.

Keep in mind that it was already taking nearly 23 months for PEQ candidates to obtain permanent residence (20 business days to get a Quebec Selection Certificate plus another 22 months for the federal government to process permanent residence applications).

Adding another fives months on top of that is unwise on its own, and even more so when you consider that successful Express Entry candidates are usually able to get permanent residence within six months.

A better solution would have been to identify how to reduce the length of time it takes Quebec to issue CSQs to QSWP candidates.

Changes come at a time when Quebec will need more immigration

No immigration program is perfect, and it is a good practice for Canada’s federal and provincial governments to seek reforms to their programs to help meet the country’s evolving economic and social needs.

However, not all reforms end up being beneficial.

In this case, time will likely prove that Quebec’s reforms are misplaced. By discouraging workers and students from remaining in the province due to uncompetitive work experience requirements and processing times, Quebec may end up with even lower immigration levels at a time when it will need higher immigration in the years to come due to its aging population and low birth rate.

This may be hard to fathom at the moment due to the COVID-19 crisis.

But, the crisis will eventually pass and Quebec will soon need more immigrants to complement its Quebec-born work force.

What better way of doing so, then by providing a fast-track to immigration for the workers and students that have already resided in Quebec and contributed for several years?

Source: Quebec should reconsider immigration changes

After slashing immigration, Quebec turns to immigrants to fill shortage in long-term care homes

Welcome and needed change:

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, who cut immigration levels during the CAQ’s first yearin power, has announced a plan to recruit immigrants to work as orderlies in the province’s long-term care homes.

“The needs are immediate,” Jolin-Barrette said at a news conference Thursday.

The pilot project to bring in 550 experienced health-care workers is part of a series of reforms to the Quebec Experience Program, or PEQ, which provides foreign students in the province and temporary workers with a fast track to permanent residency.

Since 2013, Quebec has only recruited 115 orderlies through the PEQ — a program which Jolin-Barrette tried to reduce last year as part of his immigration cuts but was forced to roll back after a flurry of criticism.The province’s long-term care institutions, known by their French initials as CHSLDs, have been short-staffed for years and face the prospect of an even more acute shortage in the fall, when experts believe a second wave of COVID-19 infections is likely to hit.The Canadian military has said it will pull soldiers from the homes before then.

Legault aims to recruit Quebecers, too

On Wednesday, Premier François Legault presented a plan to hire 10,000 more CHSLD employees by the fall.

The government is offering prospective employees $21 per hour to take a three-month training program over the summer.

If they complete the program, the trainees’ starting salary will be $26 per hour — which works out to $49,000 a year. The orderlies, known in French as préposés aux bénéficiaires (PABs), provide much of the daily care in CHSLDs.

“The problem of the préposés aux bénéficiaires is not from yesterday. It exists for years and years and years,” said Marguerite Blais, the minister responsible for seniors,Thursday.This isn’t the first time Blais has promised to address the worker shortage. In 2019, she announced a plan to hire 30,000 orderlies over the next five years.Blais now suggests people in fields like aerospace who find themselves out of work might be tempted to take on a new line of work in long-term care homes.

Blais echoed Legault, who on Wednesday asked “all Quebecers that can to consider it very seriously.”

Facing criticism over the crisis in long-term care homes, Seniors’ and Caregivers’ Minister Marguerite Blais vows to protect vulnerable people 0:43

The vast majority of orderlies in CHSLDs are women — 34,821 of 42,340 in both private and public facilities. Their average salary in 2019 was $40,551.

The Health Ministry did not immediately return a request for a breakdown of how many of those employees are recent immigrants.

Plan for asylum seekers in the works

Hundreds of orderlies are asylum seekers working on temporary visas while they await a final ruling on their refugee applications.

While the province says it has no record of the total number of asylum seekers working in CHSLDs, the Maison d’Haiti in Montreal’s Saint-Michel district estimates that about 1,200 of the 5,000 Haitian asylum seekers the organization has helped since 2017 have become orderlies.

Legault had previously rejected the idea of giving any kind of preference to asylum seekers and others without status working in essential jobs during the pandemic. But there have been growing calls for him to recognize their contribution, including a rally last weekend and a petition backed by the NDP.

Earlier this week, the premier said he will now consider giving asylum seekers who work in CHSLDs a chance to stay in the province by applying as economic immigrants — the class of immigration that Quebec controls.

Legault said he asked his immigration minister to look at the situation of those workers, on a case-by-case basis, as a way of saying “thank you.”

Jolin-Barrette said he is looking into the matter and is in discussions with the federal government, which oversees refugee applications.

As for the program to attract new immigrants to Quebec to work as orderlies, full details will be announced later, along with plans to advertise in foreign countries.

Source: After slashing immigration, Quebec turns to immigrants to fill shortage in long-term care homes

For a sobering account of just how bad the situation is, see this account:

Dear Premier François Legault,

I am inviting you to leave the safe confines of your office and join me on the front lines of what even you have described as a “national emergency.” Come spend a day with me inside a long-term care home, known in French as a CHSLD.

As a journalist who covered Quebec politics before heading to law school, I learned about the challenges facing this province’s elder care system long before the pandemic. And I know you, like all politicians, were aware, too.

I volunteered to work because you asked people to step up. For the past five weeks, myself and many others who answered your call have been working as assistant patient attendants, a paid position, at one of the Montreal CHLSDs hit hard by COVID-19.

I have been stunned, shocked and moved. I am asking you to come see first-hand what is happening. It will change the way you view this crisis and elder care forever. I know, because that is what happened to me.

You would, of course, wear the full ensemble of personal protective equipment: medical mask, plastic visor, gloves and gown, as we do every day to protect ourselves and our residents. On a regular day, these layers can suffocate. Imagine how we have felt during this week’s heat wave, without air conditioning. Yes, there may be air conditioners in common areas, but on the floor where I worked earlier this week, it wasn’t on.

If you joined us, you would see that our seniors are currently receiving the bare minimum level of care. Where I work, assistant patient attendants, like me, patient attendants, and soldiers are constantly feeding, changing diapers and washing. Nurses provide medication. Doctors are on hand during the day, often moving between floors.

But nothing else is happening beyond moving residents from their bed to their wheelchair — and sometimes, even that does not happen.

You could watch how a Canadian Forces soldier, who has traded in a uniform for scrubs, gently feeds a elderly woman who needs total help, carefully and patiently placing each spoonful of food in her mouth.

You could help wash a resident’s hair — hair that has not been washed in weeks.

You would hear how we try to console and reassure a distraught resident who has just received a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. You would see the thick, bright red tape I have to unroll to mark a huge X beside her door to indicate that her room is now a hot zone, while the resident sobs in the background.

You would learn how to prepare the body of a deceased resident with a sheet of white plastic for travel to the morgue. And then you would pack that resident’s personal belongings into garbage bags, label them with a Post-It note and pile them in a maintenance closet.

You would try to explain to residents with varying degrees of dementia when this will all be over, and why their loved ones can’t visit them. After 11 weeks of this crisis, repeating “it’s going to be all right” (ça va bien aller in French) starts to lose its punch.

You would see how a team of people tries to figure out where to place red, yellow and green tape on the floor of a hallway to indicate hot, caution and safe zones to prevent further infection.

We called that floor “the jungle,” a reference to the steps and care we have to take when travelling between positive and negative areas so as to not contaminate residents who are negative. Despite our best efforts, every resident on that floor was infected by the end of the week.

You would see how some of the problems that started this crisis are creeping back. For example, last week on one of my floors, there was only one patient attendant available for 33 residents. Luckily, four of assistant patient attendants were on hand to help.

Above all, you would see people from all walks of life, soldiers, and staff giving their all to make a difference in this humanitarian crisis.

I never thought I would see, in Canada, the kind of desperation, fear and anxiety that I have seen in the eyes of our elders. And it is only by spending time on the front lines that you will be able to feel the true weight of this ongoing tragedy.

Sincerely,
Ryan Hicks

Legault promises to give asylum seekers working in CHSLDs a chance to apply as immigrants

Reality intrudes:

Quebec Premier François Legault says he will consider giving asylum seekers who work in long-term care homes a chance to stay in the province by applying as immigrants.

Legault opened Monday’s briefing by saying he has asked Immigration Minister Simon-Jolin Barrette to look at the situation, on a case-by-case basis, as a way of saying “thank you.”

The co​​​​mments represent a departure for Legault. The Coalition Avenir Québec premier has previously rejected the idea of giving any kind of preference for asylum seekers and others without status working in essential jobs during the pandemic.

But there have been growing calls for him to recognize their contribution.

On Saturday, supporters held a rally in Montreal and on Sunday, Fabrice Vil, a Montrealer of Haitian background, was critical of the premier on the popular French-language talk show Tout le monde en parle.

Legault, whose government has cut immigration levels, said Monday he would try to strike a balance between giving thanks to those working in the residences, known by their French initials CHSLDs, while at the same time not setting a precedent.

“We have to be careful. I don’t want to send the message that in the future we will accept everybody if they find a job in Quebec,” he said.

“But we also have another situation where it’s really critical to get more people working in our CHSLD. So those people, they are already working in CHSLDs. So how can we bring them via the normal immigration process? That’s what I’m looking at.”

Legault added his government would also have discussions with the federal government, which is responsible for refugee applications.

While the province says it has no record of the total number of asylum seekers doing work in CHSLDs, advocates say hundreds of people, many of them originally from Haiti, have been working as patient attendants.

Some have already had their refugee claim rejected, and may not be able to stay in Canada when deportations resume.

Protest at PM’s office

Protestors rallied outside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Montreal office on Saturday, demanding he do more for asylum seekers who have been risking their lives by working in long-term care homes with COVID-19 outbreaks.

Frantz André, a member of the Action Committee for People without Status in Montreal, the group behind the demonstration, said Legault should be taking a stronger stand on the issue.

While the federal government makes the final decision when it comes to the immigration status of asylum seekers, provincial leaders are able to influence those decisions, he said.

“I think all the parties, including the CAQ, should have said in one voice, ‘Mr. Trudeau, you need to make a decision,'” André told CBC News on Monday.

“We as Quebecers, we are willing to give people an opportunity to be accepted, to be equally Canadian as anybody else.”

Source: Legault promises to give asylum seekers working in CHSLDs a chance to apply as immigrants

Calls grow for asylum seekers working on COVID-19 front lines to be allowed to stay in Canada

No surprise at the calls and reasonable for government to be non-committal at this stage:

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the crucial role asylum seekers and others with precarious status play in Quebec’s economy.

They work long hours in meat-packing plants and warehouses, or tending to elderly people in long-term care homes — low-paying jobs that are difficult to fill.

But they may not be able to stay in Canada when deportations, which have nearly ground to a halt during the COVID-19 crisis, resume.

There are growing calls, however, from community organizers, advocates and opposition politicians in both Quebec and Ottawa for that to change.”What we realize more and more is that those failed claimants are working in essential services most of the time,” said Guillaume Cliche-Rivard, the president of Quebec’s association of immigration lawyers.

About 30,000 asylum seekers who crossed into Canada between 2017 and December 2019 are still waiting for their refugee claims to be heard, according to the latest figures from the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.

Others whose claims have been rejected have applied for permanent residency on humanitarian grounds.

That process takes an average of 30 months, Cliche-Rivard said.

In the meantime, they are working.

While the province says it has no record of the total number of asylum seekers doing work in, for example, long-term care homes, Marjorie Villefranche, executive director of Maison d’Haiti, estimates that about 1,200 of the 5,000 Haitian asylum seekers the organization has helped since 2017 have become orderlies.Cliche-Rivard said the federal government should set up a program that speeds up the application process for permanent residency, and formally takes into account the contributions claimants have made to fast-track their application.

Doing so would offer “clear recognition of what those people have been doing for the province and for the country,” he said.

NDP wants a ‘special program’

The federal NDP is also calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to create a special program granting permanent residency to those working on the front lines.

“They are risking their lives to support others in the face of the pandemic,” said Jenny Kwan, the party’s immigration critic and the MP for Vancouver East.

Her party has tabled a petition on behalf of a Montreal community group that calls on Trudeau to, “show leadership by implementing a special program to regularize the status of asylum seekers working to fight COVID-19, and therefore supporting the health and safety of all Canadians, for humanitarian reasons.”

Federal Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino has given no indication the government plans to change the way it processes applications or make any exceptions.

But he said in a statement that, “all eligible asylum claimants receive a full and fair hearing on the individual merits of their claim.”

“Asylum claimants are allowed to work or study and receive basic health-care coverage.”

Legault’s party votes down proposal

Peter Kent, the federal Conservative immigration critic, suggested that Quebec, which has jurisdiction over immigration when it comes to economic applicants, “could move to accept these people as permanent residents” given the “extraordinary circumstances.”

It’s not clear if Quebec would have the power to do that — or if Premier François Legault’s government, which cut immigration levels in its first year in office, would be willing to if it could.

Last week, on the National Assembly’s first day back in session, independent MNA Catherine Fournier tabled a motion to recognize the contribution of “hundreds of asylum seekers, mostly of Haitian origin,” working in long-term care homes.

She said the province should ask Ottawa to, “quickly regularize their status, in order to recognize the work accomplished during the current health crisis.”Quebec’s three opposition parties — the Liberals, Québec Solidaire and the Parti Québécois — voted in favour of the motion, but Legault’s majority Coalition Avenir Québec voted it down.

When asked why, Legault avoided answering directly, saying instead he didn’t want the border to reopen to asylum seekers any time soon.

“That doesn’t mean that asylum seekers, including members of the Haitian community — that there aren’t good people who work in our long-term care homes,” Legault said Friday.

Frantz Benjamin, the Liberal MNA for Viau, which includes Montréal-Nord, said Legault’s response was shocking.

“It was not based on the question asked by the journalist,” Benjamin, who was born in Haiti, said Tuesday.

“Those people that we call ‘guardian angels,’ we need them. We have to recognize the work of those people, most of them women.”

‘Let’s walk together’

Over the weekend, a group of activists, artists and social entrepreneurs released a video paying tribute to asylum seekers in essential jobs.

The video came out Monday, on Haiti’s National Flag Day, which fell on the same day as Journée des Patriotes in Quebec this year.

“Both celebrations are about liberation movements,” said Fabrice Vil, a Montrealer of Haitian background and the founder of Pour3Points, an organization that trains sports coaches to help support kids struggling at school and at home.

He helped produce the video, called Je me souviendrai – Marchons Unis — a play on Quebec’s official motto, “I remember,” followed by, “Let’s walk together.”

The song in the video is set to the melody of La Dessalinienne, Haiti’s national anthem.

“The current pandemic is really showing that we all depend on each other — and that there are people that sometimes we don’t see as being relevant to our own lives who are currently sacrificing their own lives to support the collectivity,” Vil said.

Source: Calls grow for asylum seekers working on COVID-19 front lines to be allowed to stay in Canada

Quebec relies on hundreds of asylum seekers in long-term care battle against COVID-19

The irony given all the Quebec (and elsewhere) rhetoric regarding irregular asylum seekers:

Sarah watches her four-year-old daughter jump around a play structure she’s not allowed on because of the pandemic.

They’re just happy to be outside.

For eight days, Sarah — an asylum seeker from Haiti who crossed the U.S. border into Quebec at Roxham Road three years ago — was bedridden in their small Montréal-Nord apartment, her body feverish and aching.

It had started with some coughing and a slight fever she had tried to brush off at first. Her manager at the private long-term care residence in Ahuntsic where she works as an orderly wasn’t happy when she’d asked to stop working, for fear of bringing the infection home to her asthmatic daughter.

Then more symptoms appeared. She was nauseous, and the cough and fever got worse. A test a couple days later confirmed she had COVID-19.

Now on the mend, three weeks after testing positive, Sarah says: “I’m proud. I was on the battlefield.”

Sarah’s refugee claim was rejected after her first hearing, then again on appeal. Her only hope at staying in the country now is to be granted residency on humanitarian grounds, a process for which she began the application before the pandemic.

Given her precarious immigration status, CBC has agreed not to identify her by her real name.

Sarah is far from the only asylum seeker working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many ‘guardian angels’ are asylum seekers

Marjorie Villefranche, executive director of Maison d’Haiti in Montreal’s Saint-Michel district, estimates that about 1,200 of the 5,000 Haitian asylum seekers the organization has helped since 2017 have become orderlies.

Frantz André, who helped found the Action Committee for People without Status, an advocacy group that helps asylum seekers settle in Montreal, says there are many more who’ve flown under the radar.

Asylum seekers make up a large portion of the “guardian angels” Quebec Premier François Legault has praised in his daily briefings — the orderlies, or préposées aux bénéficiaires (PABs), working in long-term care homes — who have no guarantee they’ll be allowed to stay in Canada.

“As quickly as they can, they want to find a job — and they’re being directed to jobs that no one else wants to do: the caregivers, PABs, security agents,” André said.

Without status, on the front lines

He and other refugee advocates have been calling on the Canadian government to allow asylum seekers already in the country to stay.

Many of them are hired by temp agencies, which offer people eager to work easy access to the labour market. For seniors’ homes desperately short of staff, the agencies are a source of cheap labour, but they operate with little government oversight.

The workers are often shuffled from facility to facility — a practice Quebec’s public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, has acknowledged is contributing to the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care centres, known in the province as CHSLDs.

André says the long hours they put in make the workers more prone to catching the virus and spreading it to their families.

He says it explains why Montréal-Nord, a low-income neighbourhood filled with newcomers, has the highest number of cases in the city.

“When you’re tired, you don’t eat well. You will go back home, and there’s four, five, six and sometimes seven people living in a [one-bedroom]. The chances of the people catching it, the family catching COVID-19, is greater than anywhere else,” André said.

It is also difficult for orderlies working for agencies to adhere to the province’s request that they work in only one long-term care residence, because accepting shifts wherever they’re asked to go is the only way to cobble together full-time work.

Another woman CBC spoke with works part time for a private residence and part time for an agency providing home care. Bouncing between visits to patients’ homes and shifts at the long-term care residence increases the risk of spread, but the woman said she feels she has no choice.

Problematic use of agencies predates pandemic

Long-term care homes have long been reliant on temp agencies to fill staffing holes — and the people the agencies sign on are most often women and newcomers to Quebec.

“Even before the pandemic, they had a lot of trouble finding people to do the orderly work,” said Prof. Nicolas Fernandez, a specialist in the relationship between health-care workers and patients who teaches family and emergency medicine at Université de Montréal.

“The short-term solution is to go to agencies.”

The reliance on temp agencies puts additional stress on CHSLDs struggling to contain outbreaks, said Fernandez, who has also served as a translator for asylum seekers.

CBC reached out to both federal and provincial departments requesting statistics on PABs, including how many are asylum seekers. Quebec’s Labour and Immigration ministries said they did not collect that information.

The Health Ministry didn’t provide a breakdown either, but offered up figures showing the vast majority of PABs are women — 34,821 of 42,340 in both private and public facilities. The average salary in 2019 was $40,551.

Fernandez says the job of a PAB is gruelling and crucial: they are the backbone of CHSLDs.

From the moment they wake up, most residents require extensive care — at least three hours a day — to have qualified for a bed.

“In order for the person to feel cared for, and not just a number, you need someone who is going to be there every day,” he said.

‘There’s no stability’

Sarah worked for two agencies to gain work experience after she finished her PAB course last year. She hated it — travelling as far away from Montreal as Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, in the Montérégie, a 50-minute commute made longer by the stops the agency’s van made to pick up other workers.

“There’s no stability. Every time, you’re sent to a different place. It gets really stressful,” she said.

For the past couple of months, Sarah has worked in the same private long-term care facility in Ahuntsic.

She loves her work. She likes helping and caring for people. It’s a far cry from the job she had in Haiti, working with a sports organization, but she hopes to be able to stay in Canada and work her way up in the health-care field, possibly becoming a nurse.

In the midst of this crisis, Sarah hopes the federal government recognizes how much asylum seekers have contributed to Canadian society and finds a way for them to stay.

“I hope the government will hear our calls, hear our voices.”

Group wants special immigration program

Those calls grew louder on Thursday, with a community group devoted to the rights of Haitians who crossed into Canada in 2017 asking the provincial and federal governments to implement a special immigration program for those working in CHSLDs.

“We find it hard to believe that these guardian angels may be expelled from the country once the battle is won,” the Concertation haïtienne pour les migrant.es said in an open letter.

“We are counting on your leadership to make a humanitarian gesture to these citizens who are fighting alongside us every day.”

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada responded to a CBC inquiry about whether the federal government was considering giving asylum seekers already in Quebec special status.

A spokesperson said in an emailed statement that the government would stick with the current process.

“Our immigration system continues to be based on compassion, efficiency and economic opportunity for all, while protecting the health, safety and security of Canadians,” spokesperson Shannon Ker wrote.

Source: Quebec relies on hundreds of asylum seekers in long-term care battle against COVID-19

Douglas Todd: Time to end ‘honour system’ in Quebec’s immigrant-investor scheme

Good reminder of the scam that is the Quebec immigrant investor program and good for Richard Kurland for obtaining and analyzing the data that highlights just how much it is a scam.

Just as Quebec unduly benefits from the 1991 immigration accord that provides Quebec with greater funding per immigrant than other provinces, one that remains a fixed percentage of total settlement funding, irrespective of Quebec immigration levels, meaning that as Quebec decreases its immigration intake under the Legault government, the imbalance increases.

And good for the Conservatives under Jason Kenney for cancelling the federal program. When I analyzed citizenship data by immigration category, the lowest incomes (LICO prevalence) were reported by business immigrants as shown in the chart below (grouped under “Entrepreneur etc):

It’s time for Ottawa to end the honour system that allows nine of 10 wealthy immigrants to renege on their promise to live in Quebec.

Federal immigration officials have released information showing 91 per cent of the tens of thousands of applicants approved by Quebec’s Immigrant Investor Program in recent years have been exploiting a loophole in the plan, which critics consider a “cash-for-passport” scheme.

The Quebec program’s glaring flaw also illustrates a wider problem for the country and its provinces, says Vancouver immigration lawyer Richard Kurland.That is, Ottawa does not seem interested in trying to make all would-be immigrants to Canada follow through on residing in their declared “intended province of destination.” There are taxation measures that could be introduced, Kurland said, that could ensure more immigrants follow through on their stated commitments.

Even though Quebec’s immigrant-investor program is set to re-open this summer, after being temporarily suspended to deal with a backlog of more than 5,000 applications, critics don’t want to see it start up again under the same rules.

“There are two reasons Quebec’s program has been a failure, leading to abuse of the system,” says Burnaby immigration lawyer George Lee, whose clientele is predominantly from China.“It’s freezing cold in Quebec in the winter, so (many) people from Asia find the weather intolerable,” said Lee.

“Secondly, language-wise, there’s a problem. Most people in China learn English rather than French. As a result, many of Quebec’s investor immigrants don’t ever even fly into Montreal or Quebec City. They just use the Quebec program as a bridge to get to English-speaking cities in Canada.”

Kurland, who obtained six years of recent data on the more than 25,000 investor immigrants and family members who have never fulfilled their stated promise to reside in Quebec, said a simple new tax measure would likely stop the exploitation.

All Ottawa has to do is delay granting permanent resident status to newcomers to Quebec (or any other province) until they file an income tax return as a resident of their declared province of destination, said Kurland, who has frequently travelled to Ottawa to advise Parliament on immigration policy.For his part, Lee realizes that residents of Canada have mobility rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. But, like Kurland, he believes Ottawa could find ways to go further to ensure compliance to regional residency commitments than a misused honour system.

Lee worries Quebec doesn’t want to reform its immigrant-investor program.

“Quebec’s happy with the scheme,” he says, because the province gets substantial amounts of money injected into its coffers without having to provide new arrivals and their families with taxpayer-funded medical care, social services and education.The data obtained by Kurland under an access to information request shows that in 2017 only 342 of the 5,015 people approved under Quebec’s investor category actually had a primary residence in the province.

In 2018, just 518 of the 6,064 people approved were found to be living in Quebec. And up until October of last year, only 528 of the 4,136 approved were residing in the that province.


This chart shows over six years how nine of 10 applicants and their dependents approved as permanent residents under Quebec’s immigrant-investor program did not reside in Quebec. (Source: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, via Richard Kurland)

The investor scheme has not been the only immigration program that provides unusually large financial benefits to Quebec. Because of a 1991 funding accord, Ottawa also provides Quebec with roughly four times as many taxpayer dollars to settle each of its immigrants as B.C., Ontario and several other provinces receive.

Meanwhile, an internal federal immigration document, also obtained by Kurland, acknowledges growing criticism of “golden-passport” schemes such as the one that remains in Quebec, the only Canadian province ever granted separate immigration powers.

The Immigrant, Refugees and Citizenship Canada report from 2019 reveals that four of five of the foreign investors who give or loan various amounts of money to a Pacific Rim country (or its regional jurisdictions) in return for a visa or passport are from China.

Most such investors simply want “peace of mind, a way out when the home country is experiencing turmoil,” says the IRCC report, which grew out of an international conference in Miami on “citizenship-by-investment programs.”

The immigration report refers to how the federal Conservatives cancelled Canada’s long-running national investor-immigrant program in 2014. The government of the day found few of the wealthy applicants ever invested in businesses in Canada or paid a significant amount of federal income tax.

Source: Douglas Todd: Time to end ‘honour system’ in Quebec’s immigrant-investor scheme