Omidvar and Khanna: Seven deadly sins to avoid on the path to anti-racism

Great commentary:

Canada has a long history of racism: colonization, slavery, the residential school system, the Chinese head tax, the SS Komagata Maru, the Japanese internment and the demolition of Africville. Although Canada became the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy in 1971, Black, Indigenous, and people of colour have continued to face racism from our past to our present.

As a nation, we have realized that we cannot live up to our promise of an equitable society if we continue to uphold overt and covert forms of racism. Race scholar Ibram X. Kendi says we are either racist or actively anti-racist, and there is no in-between. The work we are talking about is not just a necessary change, but one that is long overdue. However, even the best of intentions, strategies and plans can fail if they are not cognizant of the pitfalls ahead of them.

Here are the pitfalls to avoid. Let’s call them the seven deadly sins.

The first is the sin of empty words and a singular action. Some call this diversity theatre or performative ally-ship. We must collectively commit to changing behaviours and policies with timelines and resources. This is not passion, it is work. It is not trendy, it is ongoing. It is not aspirational, it is grounded in practice, unlearning and re-learning.

The second is the sin of ignoring or failing to gather evidence. Anti-racism work is not an opinion sport. It must be grounded in intersectional qualitative and quantitative data and analysis, so that the progress can be benchmarked against evidence.

The third is punting responsibility away from leadership. Anti-racism work needs an ongoing commitment from those in positions of influence, not just when it is convenient. Leaders have the power and resources to create cultural change, to centre Black and Indigenous experiences, and to address systemic racism. The worst thing we can do is underestimate the need for support from the top.

The fourth is the sin of ignoring whom you have influence over and do business with. Organizations often forget that this is, in fact, their most important lever. By using an anti-racist lens on procurement, for instance, it is possible to extend the reach of strategies to a wider circle.

The fifth is the sin of overlooking privilege. This cements access for some and denies it to others. Anti-racism work is about looking inward and looking outward, not from a mindset of “helping” others but helping ourselves understand our own privilege. We can no longer support the idea of meritocracy: that those who work hardest get the furthest without understanding the role that privilege plays.

The sixth is the sin of tokenism. It is never acceptable to invite someone into a role for the sole purpose of ticking off a box. This is insincerity and shallowness of the worst kind. A thoughtful, sincere response can never simply start with a knee-jerk appointment that may salve some consciences, but will do little to embed anti-racism, inclusion and belonging into the culture of an organization.

The seventh and final deadly sin is the sin of centring the dominant group. Anti-racism work is not reaching for comfort but actively seeking discomfort. It is about understanding the importance of continually measuring impact over intent, the idea that how our actions are received is more important than the action itself. We should continue to centre Black, Indigenous, and people of colour. It is up to those experiencing racism to let us know if racism has been eradicated.

As we embark on our anti-racism journey, it is important to remember that this commitment is hard but necessary. We are not free until we are all free. Let’s roll up our sleeves and truly get to work. Our country will be better tomorrow for what we do today.

Sen. Ratna Omidvar is an Independent senator from Ontario. Diya Khanna is a diversity, equity and inclusion manager with Amazon and was appointed to the Seattle Women’s Commission in 2018.

Source: Seven deadly sins to avoid on the path to anti-racism

Senator Omidvar: No longer business as usual [diversity and governance]

Good arguments by Senator Omidvar:

Over the last month Canadians have taken to the streets to protest against racism, calling for justice, truth and an appropriate reflection of diversity in all aspects of Canadian life, in particular in places of power and influence.

In this context, those who are appointed or elected to the nation’s public and private boards as directors deserve special attention.  They include the directors of publicly listed corporations, public agencies, boards and commissions at the federal, provincial and local levels, as well as those who govern Canada’s private foundations and charities.

For the most part, these corridors of power are a reflection of the old Canada and the privileges accrued to one demographic: mainly white and mainly male. There has been almost no real movement for visible minorities (including Black Canadians), Indigenous Peoples and the disabled as they stand on the bottom rungs of governance, even though their share of the population is 27.2 per cent for Indigenous and visible minorities and 22 per cent for the disabled.

If we are serious about going beyond mouthing platitudes on diversity, then we must become more intentional about it — first by grounding change based on evidence and next by charting a way forward.

Typically, change comes in one of two ways: either we are legislated by our governments to behave a certain way or we choose to do so willingly. Both can be propelled by events. The events and the mood of the day call for a combination of both, but with an underlining imperative of urgency.

Just as the corporate sector has been intentional about bringing more women on to their boards, they can and must turn their eyes now to both men and women who are Black and Indigenous. Business understands this. The Canadian technology sector has come together to launch a new effort to eliminate racism and bring diversity into its fold. Earlier, through the leadership of Wes Hall, and Bay Street influencers like Victor Dodig, Prem Watsa and Rola Dagher announced the launch of the Canadian Council of Business Leaders against Anti-Black Racism. If they are successful and demonstrate results, they will transform not just how they do business, but who they are.

In turn, the federal government should rethink its approach to corporate reporting on diversity. A few years ago, the government passed Bill C-25 which requires federally listed corporations to develop diversity plans, and to either “comply or explain” their progress on an annual basis. The first such reports are trickling in and if there is progress, it is in terms of gender.  The opposite is true of racial and ethnic minorities, the disabled and Indigenous peoples.

With the hindsight and wisdom of today, the government needs to make every effort to go beyond “diversity planning” to “governance equity.”  They should amend the law to include employment equity definitions (EE) since EE laws have changed the face of the workforce in this country. A similar approach is needed in governance.

Further, the search for truth should take us into the hazy world of public agencies, boards, commissions and crown corporations. These include big nation-building institutions at the federal level, like the CBC but also hundreds of provincial and municipal agencies boards and commissions. Data at the federal level is scarce, and what exists isn’t fulsome, aggregated amongst groups, nor is it regularly disclosed. This is a missed opportunity because as we know, what gets measured, gets reported and gets actioned. Statistics Canada should be given the mandate to gather and report this data on an annual basis.

The search for truth also includes Canada’s 175,000 charities, foundations and not for profits. They hold our country together —whether in small towns, or large urban centres. They touch every aspect of our society, from sport to religion, from seniors to youth. Philosophically, they are more likely to embrace values and principles of inclusion and voluntarily begin to gather data on governance through their large and powerful industry associations.  They should begin to do at the earliest possible opportunity, thus leading the way for other sectors to follow.

This voluntary resolve must be further strengthened by government action.  The CRA should amend the T3010 and the T1044 forms that charities and not for profits file annually to include a simple question on diversity representation on boards of directors based on existing EE guidelines.   In this way the country’s vast network of charities and not for profits may well be the first sector to have a fulsome picture of governance, inclusion and diversity.

It is easy to be aspirational, but it is imperative to move from aspiration to concrete action.   Gathering the evidence on governance in a thoughtful and sustained way will lead us from symbolic discussions about diversity to the real expression of inclusion.

The only option not on the governance table is simply governance as usual.

Source: ipolitics.ca/2020/07/15/no-…

Open Letter to Directors, Executive Senator Omidvar: Directors, and CEOs of Canadian Charities and Non-Profits

A pointed reminder that charities and non-profits have work to do to improve their board diversity by Senator Omidvar, starting with better data and voluntary disclosure. Any initiative by the big players should report on the four employment equity groups and ideally be synchronized on a fiscal or calendar year basis to facilitate comparisons:

Dear colleagues,

First, let me thank you for the work that you, your staff, and volunteers have done to keep Canadians safe during the pandemic.  Your heroic efforts have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated. I also know that Canadians will rely on you to help them stride slowly, yet confidently, into the recovery stage of this crisis.

But our country also needs to wake up to another crisis. The scourge of racism holds back prospects for security, safety, and opportunity for all its victims. But it has a particularly malignant effect on Black Canadians and Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Canadians recognize this; they have taken to the streets with vociferous demands to address it. Governments, corporations, the media, and other institutions are all taking a hard look at themselves to ask the question: what have we done to recognize and address all kinds of racism?

But what about charities and non-profits?

In June 2019, the Senate Charities Committee tabled its final report. Buried in the 42 recommendations is one that deserves re-examination given the context of the day. In the report we took note of the size, scope, and influence of the sector. We noted that it touches all aspects of our lives, from religion to sports, from seniors to young people. It also wields sizeable heft in other aspects: it contributes 8% to the GDP and employs close to two million Canadians. But what about its diversity?

Sadly, the absence of data gets in the way of answering these questions with any real reliability.  An e-consultation conducted in connection to the Senate study, although not statistically significant, found that more than half of the organizations which responded to the survey did not collect data on diversity of employees or directors.

Further, studies by academic institutions like the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University paint a picture of a sector that may talk the talk but appears to be unwilling to walk the walk. The evidence that is available is not encouraging. Racialized minorities made up 54% of the Greater Toronto Area’s total population in 2017. However, their representation in leadership roles in the voluntary sector falls short. Only 38% of boards analyzed had at least 20% racialized minority leaders, and 19% had none. Equally notable, 38% of senior management teams had at least 20% racialized minority representation, while 52% had none.

The Senate recommended a reasonable start to get data on diversity in the charitable sector. It recommended that the CRA include questions on both the T1044 and the T3010 forms on diversity representation on boards of directors as per the existing employment equity definitions.

In this way, the data could be aggregated to present a picture of diversity in the sector on an annual basis. Based on clear evidence, the country and the sector could see if progress is being made, how and where.

Since the Senate tabled the report, events have overtaken it. Parliament has not met on a regular basis and the Senate Charities report has not yet been debated or approved. However, the need to ensure that leaders reflect the diversity of our country’s population has heightened. The sector does not have the time to wait for the report’s recommendations to be implemented. It must take action now. That action is now in the hands of its leaders.

Each charity or non-profit can undertake such a review voluntarily on an annual basis. More importantly, large sector membership-based organizations, like Imagine Canada, Community Foundations of Canada, the Ontario Nonprofit Network, and the Philanthropic Foundations of Canada can request that their members disclose this data on a voluntary basis. Given that the membership of these organizations is large, it would create a significant evidence base from which to draw conclusions. Collected annually, it would give impetus to provide a national picture of diversity in the sector. Because the sector would be in the driver’s seat, it could choose to disaggregate the data to further understand issues of race and intersectionality. Most importantly, evidence could lead to action: the opportunity to compare successes and challenges and share best practices. All without legislation.

The sector could go one step further. It could make disclosure of such information a criterion for all members, thus making it mandatory within their associations. This would send a powerful signal of leadership to the rest of Canada.

Charities and non-profits are often frustrated and hamstrung by the federal government in their efforts to achieve their missions. The sector has urged the government to take it more seriously, as it should. Yet, here is an opportunity to state exactly how serious the charitable sector is on a matter of national urgency. It is time for the sector to lead, to show the way for others, so that others may follow.

I am calling on the sector to take up this call and be a leader and a champion for diversity and inclusion. In the fight against racism, this is not the only step. But it is the first that will bring evidence-based reflections and changes.

I have often been asked if the sector is ready for this change. My observations to date are summed up as follows: the sector’s spirit is willing, but its flesh is weak.

I sincerely hope that you will prove me wrong.

Sincerely,

The Honourable Ratna Omidvar, C.M., O.Ont.

Independent Senator for Ontario

Senate of Canada

Source: https://thephilanthropist.ca/2020/06/open-letter-to-directors-executive-directors-and-ceos-of-canadian-charities-and-non-profits/

Omidvar: Will Canada be as open to immigrants after COVID-19?

Canada will need to have a healthy debate on how fast and how quickly to resume the current immigration levels plan as we ease out of the pandemic.

Given the economic impact, it is likely that some trimming of projected levels will be required over the next few years before resuming steady annual increases.

And as I have argued before, plans need to start factoring anticipated effects of AI and automation and, equally important, consider the lessons being learned about the importance of lower-skilled but essential workers.

Going back to “business as usual” would be unrealistic as well as a missed opportunity to rethink some of the current immigration assumptions.

And the issue is not “open or closed” options but rather the degree of openness:

As Canadians continue to battle COVID-19 by staying in their homes or working on the front lines in the hospitals and clinics, my thoughts turn to a hopeful end of the crisis and a return to normalcy. But the new normal may well be different from the old.

For most of its history, Canada has been an open country. We welcome immigrants at one of the highest rates in the world and despite many challenges, we do a good job of helping newcomers be part of Canadian society. We invest in integration at all three levels of government, and the high-touch system generally delivers the policy objectives of the government of the day. We know that newcomers’ success leads to collective success economically and socially.

But will “open Canada” still exist once the crisis is averted and the borders are reopened? That is a choice we as a nation will have to make.

Certainly this question will be a big one for Canadians and for governments to grapple with. The uproar over medical supplies we sent to China (which has since been repaid by the Chinese government) might be indicative of a “battening down the hatches” mentality. Many will want to keep our borders closed or extremely tightened as US President Trump did recently, temporarily banning immigration to the US. They will argue that the spread of pandemics has roots in the movement of people. Travel will become more restricted, health screenings will be enhanced and there will be a growing push to limit newcomers out of fear of spreading disease.

As someone who was an immigrant, and has worked on immigration issues my entire adult life, I am worried this perspective will prevail. I can understand if it does. But can we afford less immigration?

Before the pandemic, most of the economic models said that Canada needs large numbers of newcomers to help deal with an aging population. Let me make this real for you. In the 1970s, there were roughly 13 seniors per 100 working age people, according to the Century Initiative. But by 2036, there will be close to 40 seniors per 100 workers. Our birth rate is simply not high enough to meet that demand. Many have said we will need workers at all ends of the spectrum – from scientists and professors, to trade workers and caregivers. Immigration and immigrants will need to continue to be part of the solution for Canada to thrive, grow and prosper.

On top of that demographic problem, all Canadian governments, municipalities, provinces and the federal government, are spending billions of dollars to help people struggling with job loss, to help charities provide much needed services on the front lines and support businesses that have limited or no demand for their services. Depending on how long the COVID crisis lasts, we could add over $100 billion to the national debt. How are we going to pay for that down the line? One way would be to continue to welcome newcomers so we can expand our economy to pay our debt, fill essential jobs and generate a constantly growing tax base to pay for our severely stressed social programs.

The pandemic also shows that coordinated global action is needed more than ever. Yes, countries should focus on their own people during this time of crisis, but what is becoming painfully clear is that we need a united global response. What affects one country will affect another. We need global action to deal with such large and ever present threats to humanity. No system of closed borders will stop the spread of viruses like this one. We need international cooperation and international preparedness to truly deal with the next pandemic. It is not whether this will happen again but when. We need to be prepared.

But these arguments are tough to accept when fear is ever present. This pandemic will change the national psyche, and how we respond is an open ended question. We will have a choice to make. Open or closed? This will be the defining issue of our time.

Source: Will Canada be as open to immigrants after COVID-19?

Multiculturalism doesn’t divide, it encourages belonging: Adams and Omidvar

Another good contribution to ongoing debates about multiculturalism:

Maxime Bernier has argued that multiculturalism is a divisive policy that encourages Canadians to identify with their own “tribes” at the expense of their wider society. But there’s abundant evidence that, far from dividing Canadians into factions and hyphenated identities, multiculturalism (or “interculturalism” in Quebec) actually encourages belonging, participation and integration. Critically, it does this by treating all Canadians – not just immigrants – as part of the country’s multicultural fabric (with the exception of the 5 per cent of people in Canada who are Indigenous, few of whom would see themselves as part of the multicultural experiment).

Let’s clarify our terms. “Multiculturalism” refers to a specific policy framework with a history – it was adopted in 1971 – and a budget. The 2018 federal budget allocated $23-million for “multiculturalism” programs over the next two years, primarily the development of a national anti-racism strategy and support for community groups working to help newcomers integrate. That sum is a fraction of 1 per cent of the total federal budget expenditures of about $338-billion.

But multiculturalism is also something less concrete and more powerful: it’s a sensibility that millions of Canadians have adopted as they navigate diversity in daily life in their communities.

We believe that in most places the sensibility of multiculturalism boils down to two key elements. One is simple respect for diversity of race, ethnicity, culture and religion: the sense that diversity is normal, not a problem to be solved. The other is acceptance of the idea that integration works best when it works both ways: Newcomers should do their best to adapt, and those who came before have a role to play in creating environments that support that integration. You can’t integrate into a group that refuses to accept you or treat you fairly.

The idea of multiculturalism pervades Canadian institutions: public schools, neighbourhoods, workplaces, civic life and politics. And this is true far beyond Canada’s three largest cities. Resource jobs have drawn tens of thousands of newcomers to smaller centres in Alberta and Saskatchewan; Atlantic Canada has been courting settlement aggressively; and the Northwest Territories recently recorded its largest-ever immigrant inflow. As communities across Canada become more diverse, they begin to draw on the formal practices and informal habits that constitute day-to-day multiculturalism.

We believe both the policy and practice of multiculturalism help to explain why 85 per cent of immigrants eventually become citizens, which is a higher naturalization rate than in other major immigrant-receiving countries. Citizenship, in turn, enables voting and other forms of political participation; 46 sitting MPs were born outside Canada – the highest share of foreign-born legislators in any country. (And, no, these MPs are not just elected by members of their own groups; only four ridings in Canada are dominated by a single minority ethno-cultural group.)

Multiculturalism is so much a part of our society that in a recent Environics Focus Canada survey, in response to an open-ended question (no response categories provided) about what makes Canada unique, the overwhelming first choice was “multiculturalism/diversity.” It’s true that Canadians sometimes like the general idea of multiculturalism more than they like specific real-life implications – but this doesn’t make multiculturalism meaningless. For one thing, even the aspiration toward genuine inclusion and equity for all groups is not one that all societies share. Multicultural principles have also given rise to many concrete accommodations that have reshaped both daily life and familiar symbols such as police and military uniforms.

When asked what values immigrants should adopt, those born in Canada and those born elsewhere give the same top answers: respect for Canada’s history and culture comes first, followed by knowledge of English or French, tolerance of other people and religions and respect for the law.

Large majorities across both groups believe immigrants can be just as good citizens as anyone born here. Immigrants tend to express slightly more pride in Canada than the Canadian-born do, although large majorities of both groups are proud of their country. The vast majority of immigrants identify more with Canada (78 per cent) than with their country of birth (12 per cent).

The architects of the original policy framework of multiculturalism might not have anticipated that it would become so central to the national identity, or so deeply embraced by people whose ancestors fit easily into old, colonial ideas of monocultural or bicultural Canada.

But while they might not have foreseen the exact contours of contemporary Canada, they did understand the importance of a strong social fabric. Canadian multiculturalism has always aimed at integration, not fragmentation. Three of the four original pillars of the policy focused on participation and inclusion, while only one committed to supporting groups’ efforts to sustain their heritage cultures.

Almost a half-century later, multiculturalism is larger and deeper than a government policy. It’s notable that our surveys find Canadians’ identification with multiculturalism varies so little according to migration status and identity group. If Mr. Bernier intends to attack Canadian multiculturalism, his opponents will include Canadians from every corner of the globe, and plenty of Canadians whose families have been here for generations. In other words, they’ll look a lot like Canada.

Source: Multiculturalism doesn’t divide, it encourages belonging

Improve, then use, name-blind recruitment to boost Senate staff diversity: committee – The Hill Times

Ironically, the Senate staffer numbers are not too bad — out of 354 employees, there were 54 people who identify as visible minorities (15.3 per cent, about the same percentage who are also Canadian citizens), 20 people with disabilities (5.6 per cent), 12 Aboriginal people (3.4 per cent), and 209 women (59 per cent) as of March 31, 2016. However, the point on under-representation of Indigenous staff at more senior levels is of note:

A name-blind recruitment project could help improve Senate staff diversity, but only if done properly, according to the head of a Senate group studying employment equity in the Upper Chamber’s administration.

In a report tabled June 21 with the Senate’s Internal Economy, Budgets, and Administration Committee—a powerful group of Senators that handles the Chamber’s legal and financial matters—its Subcommittee on Diversity said the administration should “consider implementing a name-blind recruitment pilot project and evaluate whether name-blind recruitment could be expanded for hiring by the Senate administration and potentially by individual Senators’ offices.”

The recommendation was one of 10 made by the subcommittee chaired by Liberal Senator Mobina Jaffer (British Columbia) following a study of a 2016 report on diversity among the 354 members of the Senate administrative staff—authored by high-ranking officials in the Senate bureaucracy—and diversity in the Senate workforce more generally, including in Senators’ offices.

The subcommittee—which also includes Conservative Senator Elizabeth Marshall (Newfoundland and Labrador) and Independent Senator Raymonde Saint-Germain (De la Vallière, Que.)—was struck in late 2016and began its study the following spring, holding five meetings between March 1, 2017 and May 8, 2018.

But there should be major improvements to the name-blind recruitment project tried out in the federal public service before it gets used in the Senate, said Sen. Jaffer, who told The Hill Times she first wants Senate staff to study where the public service pilot project went wrong.

Run between April and October 2017, the goal of the name-blind recruitment pilot run by the Public Service Commission and Treasury Board Secretariat was to “determine whether concealing personal information…which could lead to the identification of a candidate’s origin from job applications, had an impact on the screening decisions made by reviewers when compared to the traditional assessment method where all personal information was presented.” The idea was to see if a hiring manager is biased by the name they see on the resume, or other such personal information about the potential new recruit.

The analysis, limited to those who self-declared as visible minorities, ultimately concluded that there was “no net benefit or disadvantage with the NBR assessment method for visible minorities,” though there were some problems identified with the method itself.

During a March 20 appearance by Treasury Board President Scott Brison (Kings-Hants, N.S.) at the Senate’s Question Period, Independent Senator Ratna Omidvar (Ontario) raised the methodology issues with him.

“First, the hiring managers who were recruited for this project volunteered. I would suggest that creates a certain lack of purity, if I can use that word. The second is that the hiring managers made their decisions knowing that their decisions and the comparative results would be subject to review,” she said.

Mr. Brison acknowledged there were problems with the pilot project’s method, and said he has told Treasury Board, a central agency that acts as the employer of the public service, that he wants “to actually continue to apply the name-blind hiring pilot and to potentially apply it in departments or agencies wherein there is less diversity, to apply it in certain departments and agencies and in regions, to actually continue to work to this.”

Of the results themselves, Mr. Brison said: “The good news is that the pilot came back and said that they did not find, necessarily, a bias or discriminatory hiring practices within the government of Canada.”

Sen. Jaffer said Mr. Brison’s response was disappointing.

“So to say there is no bias, he was happy to see there is no bias, that’s stretching it. There is,” she said, pointing to her years as chair of the Senate’s Human Rights Committee where she used to hear about people not wanting to voluntarily self-identify as belonging to a minority or marginalized group because they didn’t want to be seen as different.

“I am concerned that the public service has not done a good job [with the project], and I’m hoping that the Senate will show the way.”

Setting the tone and setting the example is a key tenet for Sen. Jaffer in her work to improve diversity in the Senate, after experiences in the halls of Parliament that she describes as “soul destroying.”

Sen. Jaffer is the first South Asian woman to be appointed to the Senate and, among other incidents, said she has been stopped from using entrances to Parliamentary Precinct buildings, even while wearing her Senate pin showing that she is a Senator.

And if these things can happen to her, as a Senator, she said it worries her what those lower in the pecking order experience.

“If it happens to me, what is happening to people who work here? I represent them too. If I don’t speak up, then I let them down, too, [and] they have much more to lose.”

Despite it not being in her nature to rock the boat, she said it’s important that she speak out and do things to make changes, drawing on experiences dating back to being the first South Asian woman to practise law in Canada.

“It’s not because I think that’s my role in life. I don’t go looking for it, because I don’t have time for it. It destroys you, it kills a part of me every time,” she said. “Anyone working in the Senate or in the House who feels that they have not been treated fairly, they should know they’re no longer alone. There are services, there are structures that can help and they shouldn’t suffer in silence.”

Senate needs to reflect Canada, says Sen. Jaffer

Sen. Jaffer said the Senate administration has been putting in a genuine effort to improve the diversity of its staff over the years.

Back in 2005, then-Conservative Senator Donald Oliver called the Senate out for “glaring” and  “problematic” systemic racism after a report foundthat there had been no visible minorities appointed to senior and middle management positions between 2000 and 2004 and that visible minorities made up only 6.8 per cent of the Senate’s 425 employees.

Throughout years of upheaval and change in the Senate, it’s remained an administrative priority to act on recommendations Senators have made in response to subsequent diversity reports, Sen. Jaffer said.

In 2014, the Senate’s Internal Economy Committee adopted a two-year Diversity and Accessibility Action Plan for the administration to act on, which included measures to ensure that representation of designated group members was monitored, along with the Senate’s “employment systems to identify systemic barriers and eliminate adverse impacts on the designated groups.”

According to the fifth report of the Senate’s Advisory Committee on Diversity and Accessibility, as of March 31, 2016, among the Senate’s 354 employees (which doesn’t include staff in Senators’ individual offices) there were 54 people who identify as visible minorities (15.3 per cent), 20 people with disabilities (5.6 per cent), 12 Aboriginal people (3.4 per cent), and 209 women (59 per cent).

“We had the auditors here, we had huge changeover, we had independent Senators—those all cause issues for the staff, the administration. Even then they were loyal in implementing, so I have lots of gratitude for that,” she said.

In the House of Commons, as of June 2017, 48 per cent of the House administration’s 2,234 employees were women, two per cent were Aboriginal persons, 10 per cent were visible minorities, and four per cent were people with disabilities.

The most recent report on employment equity in the core public service, covering the 2016-17 fiscal year, said that of the 181,674 employees tallied in March 2016, 54.4 per cent were women (compared to an estimated workforce availability of 52.5 per cent), 5.2 per cent were Aboriginal persons (against an estimated workforce availability of 3.4 per cent), 5.6 per cent were people with disabilities (compared to 4.4 per cent workforce availability), and 14.5 per cent were visible minorities (compared to 13 per cent).

But more work needs to be done, especially in encouraging and emphasizing the hiring of Aboriginal Canadians and veterans, the Senate subcommittee said.

It recommended that the Senate create an Aboriginal Young Interns program, expand its efforts to recruit staff from outside of the National Capital Region, and explore ways to target veterans in its recruitment efforts.

As of March 31, 2016, there were no Aboriginal people in the Senate’s manager occupational category and their representation in the professionals occupational category was below their national workforce availability.

The Senate, and all of the country’s institutions, need to reflect Canada, Sen. Jaffer said, or risk becoming irrelevant, and hitting the benchmark of workforce availability—the estimated availability in designated groups as a percentage of the entire workforce population—is not good enough.

“We’ve got to have people from different groups in management,” she said. “And until people get into management, we will not arrive at a proper goal because it’s the management that makes the decisions for hiring; it’s the management that sets the tone.”

The Senate administration has until June 13, 2019 to report back to the Senate Internal Economy Committee on steps it has taken to put in place the subcommittee’s recommendations.

via Improve, then use, name-blind recruitment to boost Senate staff diversity: committee – The Hill Times

Tougher impaired driving penalty ‘a double whammy’ for immigrants

The complexity of balancing a legitimate policy objective and one of the possibly unforeseen impact on Permanent Residents:

A proposed law to raise the maximum penalty for impaired driving offences in Canada could have a “disproportionate” impact on first-time immigrant offenders who would see their permanent residence status revoked and be deported, critics say.

But advocating equal rights for impaired drivers is a delicate issue, one that some senators and immigrant lawyers are trying to tackle as the Red Chamber sits this week to seek amendments to Bill C-46, the Impaired Driving Act, before sending it back to the House of Commons for a vote.

Currently, someone convicted of impaired driving could receive a maximum penalty of not more than five years in jail, but the offence would still be considered “ordinary criminality” under immigration law. An immigrant’s permanent residence status is not affected unless a sentence of six months or more is imposed.

However, under the proposed legislation, the increased maximum penalty to 10 years would automatically classify impaired driving as “serious criminality.” As a result, even if a first offender, who is not a Canadian citizen, is convicted and is only ordered to pay a fine, they would still lose their immigration status and be banned from Canada. This would affect foreign students, workers, visitors and permanent residents.

“We take impaired driving very seriously and we don’t want impaired drivers behind the wheel,” said Senator Ratna Omidvar in an interview. She noted that if a Canadian citizen is convicted of impaired driving for the first time, they could be sentenced to as little as a fine and walk free afterwards.

“A permanent resident in the same situation would pay the fine and face deportation,” Omidvar added. “It is a double whammy not on all people but just on a class of people. That’s an unintended consequence. The impact on permanent residents would be huge and disproportionate to what a Canadian would get.

In its submission to the Senate, the Canadian Bar Association also urged “careful consideration” of the bill, warning that the changes could put “a significant strain” on the immigration system and border officials in handling increases in inadmissibility and deportations.

The bar association wants the Senate to make the maximum jail penalty for impaired driving offences “10 years less a day” so they would still be classified as “ordinary criminality” and not trigger the automatic loss of a person’s permanent residency. At the very least, it says, there should be an exception to the 10-year penalty threshold for such offences that do not involve serious bodily injury or death.

“We remain concerned that Bill C-46 will introduce uncertainty into the law and result in significantly increased litigation and delays,” said bar association. “Our recommendations are intended to continue to protect Canadians from impaired driving, without triggering the serious criminality consequences.”

It’s not known how many immigrants would be affected by the proposed legislation, but immigration lawyer Robin Seligman said impaired driving is among the most common criminal offences and immigrants are not any more or less likely to commit the crime.

Statistics Canada said police reported a total of 72,039 impaired driving incidents in 2015 and given almost 300,000 newcomers and hundreds of thousands of visitors are coming to the country every year, the impact of the increased maximum penalty could be huge, said Seligman.

“Under the immigration law, serious criminality refers to terrorism, (threats to) national security and membership to organized crime. Lumping first-time impaired driving offenders with them is disproportionate and unfair. It’s an overkill and oversight,” Seligman said.

While repeat offenders of impaired driving deserve to be deported, immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman said first-timers should be allowed an opportunity for rehabilitation, especially where there’s no one hurt in the incident.

“There are definitely a lot of concerns over this bill, but it is always difficult for MPs to advocate for those convicted of any criminal offence,” said Waldman, who fears Ottawa would rush to pass the bill without amendments to fulfil its promise to legalize marijuana this summer.

Canada in ‘exploratory’ talks with U.S. over border agreement on asylum seekers

Appropriate and needed given that any workable solution requires working with the US:

Canada is in high-level exploratory talks with the United States over a border agreement to manage asylum seekers, but will not say whether Ottawa wants the power to automatically turn away thousands of refugee claimants who walk across the border.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security confirmed it is reviewing a Canadian proposal to amend the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA), which requires Canada and the United States to refuse entry to asylum seekers who arrive at official ports of entry along the shared border, as both countries are considered safe for refugees. However, senior Canadian cabinet ministers insisted they have not entered into formal negotiations with the United States.

“It’s a discussion that we’re having with the Americans about the various techniques that could be pursued on both sides of the border to ensure security and integrity,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Tuesday. “If and when that conversation matures into a specific negotiation, we’ll have further things to say about it. But this is very exploratory at the moment – scoping issues and potential solutions.”

Concerns over the agreement, which was signed in 2004, surfaced last year when thousands of asylum seekers fled the United States for Canada on foot, fearing deportation under President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown. Since the agreement applies only to those who arrive at official ports of entry, asylum seekers can avoid being immediately turned away by crossing between border posts, forcing Canada to process most of their claims.

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen did not confirm a Reuters report on Tuesday that the government wants the agreement to apply to the entire Canada-U.S. border. Mr. Hussen said Ottawa is in regular contact with the United States about the agreement, but declined to get into details.

“As you can appreciate, we constantly talk about all aspects of the border, including the Safe Third Country Agreement,” Mr. Hussen said. “Those are discussions that are ongoing, so I can’t take a snapshot in time and give you what was discussed on a particular day.”

The RCMP intercepted more than 20,000 asylum claimants in 2017, 91 per cent of whom crossed in Quebec. Many entered at Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle after taking taxis along upstate New York’s Roxham Road.

The Mounties intercepted more than 5,000 asylum claimants in the first three months of 2018 – again, mostly in Quebec.

The Conservatives have urged the government to close the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement that allows asylum seekers to enter Canada at unofficial border crossings. Last week, the Tories tabled a motion in the House of Commons calling on the Liberals to table a plan by May 11.

“Last week, Justin Trudeau voted against taking immediate action and tabling a plan to manage our borders and immigration system,” Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said in a statement on Tuesday. “Conservatives will continue to hold the Prime Minister accountable, and call for the entire Canada-U.S. border to be designated as an official port of entry.”

Mr. Goodale said the Conservative proposal is “impractical,” as it would “change the entire concept about what the border means” and “increase insecurity at the border.”

As the Liberals iron out their approach to STCA talks with the United States, they are touting their efforts to prevent more asylum seekers from crossing into Canada. For instance, Mr. Hussen said many of those crossing into Quebec earlier this year were Nigerians carrying valid U.S. visitor visas. Canadian officials raised the issue with their U.S. counterparts, and the number of U.S. visas issued to Nigerians dropped.

via Canada in ‘exploratory’ talks with U.S. over border agreement on asylum seekers – The Globe and Mail

The contrary view, to this being a crisis, can be seen in Senator Omidvar’s op-ed in The Star:

Let’s be honest. The common thread of today’s populism is anti-immigration. This populism legitimizes xenophobia and encourage the separation of people into “us” and “them”. It creates a politics that sees the other not simply as different, but as different and therefor dangerous. Adversaries become enemies.

Populism prevents an energetic engagement with diversity. It erects barriers — whether literally or figuratively — that stand at odds with the reality of an increasingly interconnected — and interdependent — world.

Populism can undermine the basic underpinnings of a democracy. If we have learned anything from south of the border it is how norms that were once considered absolute can quickly become obsolete. How things that were once unimaginable can soon become unexceptional.

So how do we respond? First, words matter. We need to watch how we talk about legitimate issues around asylum seekers and our borders. We can’t whip up fear and division.

Second, we can’t use this as political football. No party should use immigration as a wedge issue. We deserve better than that.

Finally, we need to recognize the fact that when it comes to immigration, we’ve done a lot right. We’ve devised smart policies with high levels of skilled immigrants and we help people that are fleeing some of the most wretched situations around the globe. We do a very good job of integrating them. And while we’re far from perfect, we bring a lot to the table.

However, an area that needs attention is the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). Although the recent budget increased funding for the IRB more is needed. Money is needed to process asylum claims efficiently as well as deal with a growing backlog. Continuing to build this “good governance” structure will go a long way to maintaining public trust in the system.

Canada still has work to do, but we have a strong foundation on which to build.

via Asylum seekers are not causing a crisis for Canada | The Star

Senate proposal would force companies to set diversity targets for board of directors

Clear from current data that a nudge needed, with annual reporting to provide accountability:

In an effort to bolster the number of women, Indigenous people and racial minorities sitting on corporate boards, a group of senators is poised to amend government legislation that would force companies to set internal diversity targets.

Independent Ontario Sen. Ratna Omidvar, one of six members of the Red Chamber backing the amendment, said the Liberal government’s current approach in Bill C-25, which would simply encourage companies to boost gender diversity without applying any sort of target, is too timid.

The amendment would compel all publicly traded Canadian companies — roughly 600 on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) — to set targets for increasing underrepresented groups, but would leave it up to each company to decide on what the target should be.

“The bill, as it currently stands, is just a tap on the shoulder, whereas our amendment turns the tap into more of an intentional nudge in the right direction,” Omidvar, an expert in diversity, said in an interview with CBC News. The amendment is expected to be introduced by Independent Sen. Paul Massicotte on Thursday, some 18 months after the bill was first tabled in the House of Commons.

Voluntary approach not good enough: senator

Under the government’s bill, a diversity policy is not mandatory. If a company does not develop one, they would simply have to tell their shareholders why, the so-called “comply or explain” approach adopted by other regulators in Canada.

“For us, that’s too soft a nudge,” Omidvar said. “What we may well get, as a result of this bill, is corporations developing diversity policies and putting them on the shelf and no action.”

Omidvar points to research from the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA), an umbrella group of provincial securities regulators, which suggests a voluntary approach to diversity has led to little improvement.

Only 14 per cent of board seats are occupied by women, a three-percentage-point progress from 11 per cent in 2015. Forty-five per cent of all publicly listed companies do not have a single woman sitting on their board of directors. As for senior management, only 15 per cent of positions are filled by women, a proportion that has not progressed at all since 2015.

The research found that 1.1 per cent of board members are Indigenous, 3.2 per cent are persons with a disability and 4.3 per cent are members of a visible minority.

CSA also found that only 9 per cent of companies have internal targets for women on their boards, with a mere 2 per cent having targets for women in executive positions.

Omidvar said targets are not “quotas” per se as each company would be able to decide how many diverse candidates should be added to a board, but, at the very at least, they will have to commit to doing more.

Those targets, and a company’s success in meeting them, would then have to be reported to the federal government on an annual basis.

In turn, the minister responsible, the innovation minister, would prepare a public report documenting how well companies in Canada, writ large, have done in adding women and minorities to the seats of power at these companies. The company would also have to disclose progress to shareholders at their annual meetings.

Importantly, the amendment would actually define what exactly “diversity” is as the government’s bill, as currently written, is vague on that question.

If passed, the amended bill would compel companies to replicate definitions used by the federal government, namely that “diverse” candidates would include women, visible minorities, Indigenous people and those with disabilities. Notably, LGBTQ people would be excluded under such a definition.

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains is unconvinced amendments are necessary and will not support this move to alter his bill.

“The minister has been clear that the act and the forthcoming regulations are an appropriate and balanced approach that will facilitate a conversation on diversity between shareholders and the management and boards,” a spokesperson said in a statement to CBC News.

The spokesperson pointed to the success of the “comply or explain” model in the United Kingdom and Australia, where the number of women on boards stands at more than 20 per cent in both jurisdictions.

“Given this, we believe Bill C-25 is a good bill for corporations, stakeholders, shareholders, and all Canadians, and hope for its quick passage through the Senate,” he said.

Opposition to quotas

There is a reluctance from some in the business community to set hard quotas — as has been done in Norway, for example, where 40 per cent of all seats must be occupied by a woman.

Paul Schneider, a senior executive at the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, one of the largest institutional investors in the country, told the Senate committee studying Bill C-25 last month that he’d like to see a culture shift rather than the imposition of quotas.

“To be truly impactful, boards must take ownership of diversity. With a quota, they can abdicate ownership to the government,” he said.

“In the short run, quotas can indeed lead to greater diversity, but we fear that while establishing a quota incents boards to hit a specific number, it may hinder any progress over and above that target … Diversity should be achieved because it is good, sound business, not because it is a rule,” he said.

Omidvar said many companies are naturally sceptical of more regulation. “Generally, this is not particular to this bill, business leaders feel the less encumbered they are, the more capacity they will have to succeed in their business goals … but, as I’ve pointed out, [the amendment] just takes the bill from a tap to a nudge.”

And yet the proposed reporting regulations have the potential to be onerous as the more than 600 companies would have to take stock of how each of their board members (some have more than 20) identify, and then report that information to the government where the data would then be analyzed and catalogued, taking up time, money, and other resources.

Others, including Conservative Sen. Betty Unger, have said appointments should simply be based on who is best for the business.

“People invest in corporations to get a return on their investment, and this is best accomplished by appointing merit-based people to boards … As a woman — and, as you can see, I am not young — I could never feel good about myself if I knew that I got a position simply because I am a woman,” she said at a Nov. 30 committee meeting on the bill.

via Senate proposal would force companies to set diversity targets for board of directors – Politics – CBC News

 

ICYMI: How the federal government is slowly becoming as diverse as Canada

Good overview article by Aaron Wherry of CBC on diversity in government, both public service and political appointments. Some of my analysis quoted and used:

Campaigning in 2015, Justin Trudeau’s Liberals promised to “build a government as diverse as Canada.”

That job might’ve seemed nearly done on Day One. Of the 31 ministers sworn in on Nov. 4, 2015, 15 were, famously, women. Five ministers were visible minorities and two others were Indigenous.

A cabinet ratio of 48.3 per cent women, 16.1 per cent visible minorities and 6.5 per cent Indigenous comes close to matching a Canadian population that was 50.9 per cent women, 22.3 per cent visible minorities and 4.9 per cent Indigenous.

But a prime minister and his government are responsible for far more than a few dozen cabinet positions. The cabinet oversees more than 1,500 appointments, including chairs and members of boards, tribunals and Crown corporations, deputy ministers, heads of foreign missions, judges and senators.

On that much larger scale, progress has been made, but the ideal of a government that looks like Canada is still a ways off.

A new appointment process

When the government was sworn in, just 34 per cent of federal appointees were women, 4.5 per cent were visible minorities and 3.9 per cent were Indigenous.

Two years later, according to data from the Privy Council Office, 42.8 per cent of appointees are women, 5.6 per cent are visible minorities and 5.8 per cent are Indigenous.

In February 2016, the Liberal government announced a new appointment process for boards, agencies, tribunals, officers of Parliament and Crown corporations. It specified diversity as a goal and opened applications to the public.

According to the Privy Council Office, 429 appointments were made via that process through Dec. 5, 2017. Of those, 56.6 per cent were women, 11.2 per cent were visible minorities and 9.6 per cent were Indigenous.

A total of 579 appointments — including deputy ministers, heads of mission and appointments for which requirements are specified in law — were made through existing processes. Of those, 43.7 per cent were women, 3.8 per cent were visible minorities and 5.2 per cent were Indigenous.

“Mr. Trudeau has been more intentional on these issues than his predecessors and has made great progress in opening up the process. He has also clearly made great strides on gender,” says Wendy Cukier, director of Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute.

But, says Cukier, the government’s efforts toward transparency and equal opportunity need to be accompanied by “proactive outreach and recruitment as well as retention strategies” in order to “address some of the barriers historically disadvantaged groups have faced.”

Eleanore Catenaro, press secretary for the prime minister, says, “Our aim is to identify high-quality candidates who will help to achieve gender parity and truly reflect Canada’s diversity.”

She says, “We know there is more work to do to achieve these goals, and we continue to do outreach to potential qualified and diverse candidates to encourage them to apply.”

Rigorous reporting of demographic data across federal appointments could presumably drive change — or at least give the  government something to answer for — but most of these numbers have not been made public.

“It is crucial that the government tracks, measures and reports on diversity in all areas,” says Sen. Ratna Omidvar, the founding director of Ryerson’s Global Diversity Exchange. “By doing so, we are able to see where we are making progress and where we need to improve.”

Beneath those top-line numbers, there are a few other points of reference.

According to Global Affairs Canada, the government made 87 heads-of-mission appointments — ambassadors, consul generals and official representatives — in 2016 and 2017. Forty-eight per cent were women and 13.8 per cent were visible minorities. There were no Indigenous appointees.

Senate and court appointments

Andrew Griffith, a former official at the department of citizenship and immigration who has been tracking diversity in federal appointments, has counted 18 women, six visible minorities and three Indigenous Canadians among Trudeau’s 31 Senate appointments.

As a result of an initiative to track judicial appointees, the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs has published a tally of court appointments from Oct. 21, 2016 through Oct. 27, 2017. Between those dates, 74 judicial appointments were made, of whom 50 per cent were women, 12.1 per cent were visible minorities and four per cent were Indigenous.

But that data also suggested the pool of candidates was limited: of the 997 applications received, just 97 applicants identified as a visible minority and 36 were Indigenous.​

At some point, it might be charged that diversity is being inappropriately prioritized ahead of merit or competency — as Kevin O’Leary once alleged of Trudeau’s cabinet. But such suggestions assume that achieving diversity must come at the expense of merit.

Ideally, diversity would also amount to more than a numerical value.

3 benefits of diversity

Griffith, for instance, suggests three potential benefits of diversity in appointments: that it allows Canadians to see themselves represented in government institutions, that it brings a range of experience and perspectives to government policies and operations and that it reduces the risk of inappropriate policies (for example, an RCMP interview guide that asked asylum-seekers about their religious practices).

“It has been proven over and over that more diversity in the workplace leads to better outcomes,” says Omidvar, who is also pushing to tighten the standards included in a proposed government bill that would require corporate boards to report on diversity.

But the most profound impact could conceivably relate to Griffith’s first potential benefit. A nation that values diversity and pluralism might want its institutions to reflect those principles — and institutions that reflect those principles might advance the building of a multicultural society.

“It normalizes diversity,” Omidvar said of public appointments. “At this point, diversity is still sort of not the norm, which is why we focus on it.”

via How the federal government is slowly becoming as diverse as Canada – Politics – CBC News