Hyder: Canada’s immigration advantage – A survey of major employers

Of note:

Canada’s success in attracting newcomers from every corner of the globe is one of our country’s greatest competitive advantages. In addition to enriching the social and cultural fabric of our communities, immigrants bring valuable knowledge, skills and experience that contribute to economic growth.

This report sheds light on immigration’s importance to employers and the overall economy. It is based on a survey of 80 member companies of the Business Council of Canada in the first quarter of 2022. Collectively, these 80 companies employ nearly 1,650,000 Canadians in more than 20 industries, generating revenues of approximately $1.2 trillion in 2020. 

Close to two-thirds of the companies said they actively recruit workers through the immigration system. The rest hire immigrants who have already relocated to Canada. Among employers that use the immigration system, two-thirds expect to increase their usage over the next three years.

Employers look to the immigration system to help meet a variety of business needs, from enabling enterprise growth to increasing the diversity of their workforces. Above all, immigration helps them fill positions that would otherwise stay vacant. Of the employers that make direct use of the immigration system, four out of five say they do so to address labour shortages. 

Employers rely most on programs designed to attract highly skilled workers, such as the Global Talent Stream and the Federal Skilled Worker Program. Employers report that newcomers make important contributions to their businesses, adding that the immigrants they hire tend to possess strong technical as well as human skills.

Nevertheless, some immigrants face challenges adapting to their new environment. Employers recognize these challenges and say they are committed helping newcomers succeed. This includes investing in community settlement organizations, providing language and cultural training, and helping foreign-trained staff obtain recognition of their credentials.

Half of the employers that took part in the survey are in favour of raising Canada’s annual admission targets, in particular for economic-class immigrants. At the same time, employers note that higher levels of immigration should be accompanied by greater investments in the domestic workforce, as well as in childcare, housing, and public transportation.

Despite their overall support for the immigration system, survey respondents say there is room to make it more responsive to Canada’s economic needs. Frustrated by application processing delays, complex rules, and the cost of navigating the system, fewer than a quarter say the immigration system currently serves their business needs well.

These challenges are made more pressing by the accelerating race for international talent. Canadian employers overwhelmingly agree that global competition for skilled workers is likely to intensify as other countries step up their efforts to attract the best and brightest.

Source: https://thebusinesscouncil.ca/app/uploads/2022/06/Canadas-immigration-advantage-final.pdf

One in four border officers witnessed discrimination by colleagues: internal report

Of note:

One-quarter of front line employees surveyed at Canada’s border agency said they had directly witnessed a colleague discriminate against a traveller in the previous two years.

Of these respondents, 71 per cent suggested the discrimination was based, in full or in part, on the travellers’ race, and just over three-quarters cited their national or ethnic origin.

The figures are drawn from a survey conducted as part of an internal Canada Border Services Agency evaluation that looked at how the agency processed travellers, using a lens of gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, and mental or physical disability, and the interaction between these factors.

The agency recently posted the results of the evaluation, which focused primarily on people flying into Canada, on its website.

As part of the research, 922 border services officers and superintendents were surveyed from March 2 to 22, 2020.

Of those who said they saw a colleague engage in discrimination, just over two in five did not report what they observed. Some mentioned fear of reprisal or simply feeling uncomfortable.

Sixteen per cent of those who witnessed discrimination reported what they saw. However, some of these respondents indicated that they faced challenges in doing so or that their reports were not taken seriously or acted on, the evaluation report says.

The CBSA’s traveller processing activities do not intentionally set out to target people based on perceptions around their race or ethnicity, the report says. The agency uses a combination of information sources, such as global trends and reports, in the development of scenarios, which are systematically reviewed for human rights and other considerations.

“However, certain practices can have unintended consequences that result in the overrepresentation of racialized communities in the law enforcement context,” the report says.

For example, when targeting rates are higher for certain origin countries, there could be unintended consequences for travellers of specific racial or ethnic groups when those groups make up a larger proportion of incoming travellers from those countries, it adds.

The reviewers found the agency could conduct only “very limited analysis” based on travellers’ racial or ethnic identities when using operational data.

“If faced with public complaints or claims of racial discrimination, the agency can neither prove nor disprove with its data whether its policies or practices discriminate against travellers, due to the complexity of this issue. If the agency were to attempt this type of analysis in the future, it would have to consider and develop new approaches on data collection, storage and analysis.”

The CBSA People Processing Manual provides personnel with guidance concerning awareness of a traveller’s culture, a prohibition on racial profiling and services provided to those with disabilities.

A large majority of survey respondents said they agreed or somewhat agreed that in order to do their jobs effectively, they need to recognize their personal and implicit biases.

The evaluation makes several recommendations, including a call to develop and implement a plan to improve the awareness and reporting of mistreatment and discrimination of travellers witnessed by border agency personnel, without fear of reprisal.

In a response included with the evaluation report, the border agency agreed to devise such a plan and set out a timetable to put changes in place this year.

Source: One in four border officers witnessed discrimination by colleagues: internal report

Canada’s COVID-spurred immigration backlog is hurting its economic growth, survey suggests

Valid concern. But perhaps it would be more helpful to recommend reducing levels to focus on timely approval processes particularly for the economic class that IRCC can manage, and do not excessively strain housing, infrastructure, healthcare, the environment etc.

Programs highlighted by Business Council members: the global talent stream, federal skilled worker program and the Canadian experience class.

Immigration backlogs and processing delays have become a top barrier to Canadian employers seeking to attract talent and the situation is impeding economic growth and business investment, a new survey suggests.

The report by the Business Council of Canada found 80 per cent of surveyed employers were having trouble finding skilled workers, with labour shortages in every province and territory — with it being most pronounced in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.

Canada’s immigration system has been upended during the pandemic, with applications piling up while staff worked remotely in a restricted capacity. There’s not a single program without a backlog and processing times have gone off the roof, doubling or tripling what they were pre-COVID.

According to CIC News, an online immigration information website, Canada’s immigration backlog has grown to 2.4 million people, including 522,047 awaiting permanent residence; 1.47 million waiting for temporary residence on work and study permits; and almost 400,000 for citizenship.

Sixty-seven per cent of employers said they are being forced to cancel and/or delay projects; 60 per cent are suffering revenue loss; 30 per cent are relocating work outside of Canada; and 26 per cent are losing market share as a result, said the business council, whose member companies employ 1.7 million Canadians in 20 industries and generate $1.2 trillion revenues yearly.

Eighty of the council’s 170 members responded to the survey, including in sectors from agriculture to automotive, energy utilities, finance, high technology manufacturing, information technology, telecom/media and transportation.

Sixty-five per cent of the respondents said they recruit workers through the immigration system and the rest hire permanent residents already in Canada. More than 80 per cent of employers reported relying on immigration to address labour shortages and for global experience, knowledge and networks.

While two-thirds of those who use the system intend to increase their recruitment of immigrant talents, 67 per cent said processing delays have become the top barrier for employers to meet those needs, while 58 per cent of the companies expressed frustration with the complex administrative requirements.

“Given the growing immigration backlog has been identified as a major barrier to economic growth and business investment, it’s imperative Canada take an all-hands-on-deck approach to secure a competitive advantage and … modernize the immigration system,” said Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada.

Of all economic immigration programs, employers said they relied most on the global talent stream, federal skilled worker program and the Canadian experience class, but the two latter programs have been suspended during the pandemic.

The survey found skills shortages are most common in fields such as computer science, engineering and information technology. There is also a huge demand for construction workers, plumbers, electricians, and other skilled trades.

Half of the employers said Canada should increase its annual intake of permanent residents and the rest support the government’s current three-year immigration plan to welcome 431,645 permanent residents in 2022; 447,055 in 2023; and 451,000 in 2024.

“Canada is in a global competition for talent, and we risk losing out to countries with more effective and efficient immigration systems,” Hyder said. “Nobody can afford to wait a year or more to have an application processed, not the deserving candidates themselves nor the companies hiring them.”

Source: Canada’s COVID-spurred immigration backlog is hurting its economic growth, survey suggests

Des problèmes de diversité à Radio-Canada

Of note:

Les employés de Radio-Canada issus des minorités visibles se sentent mis de côté et craignent d’exprimer leurs idées. Une étude commandée à une firme externe révèle de graves lacunes en matière de diversité au sein du diffuseur public, alors que ses cadres ne voient pas de problèmes.

L’étude tentait de déterminer quel est « l’ADN des Radio-Canadiens », en se basant notamment sur un sondage mené par la firme RH Sept24, en novembre, auprès de 1383 employés francophones. Elle a plutôt démontré que le racisme systémique existe à Radio-Canada, de l’aveu même du grand patron des services français, Michel Bissonnette.

« Je pense qu’il y a un racisme systémique au pays, je pense qu’il y a un racisme systémique dans la majorité des grandes institutions. […] Est-ce qu’il y a des gens dans l’organisation qui ont plus de difficulté à avoir des promotions, donc plus de difficulté à être embauchés ? Y a-t-il des commentaires et des préjugés [qui sont] inconscients ? La réponse, c’est oui », a-t-il expliqué en entrevue au Devoir.

Selon un sommaire partagé aux employés le mois dernier et dont Le Devoir a obtenu copie, « il semble y avoir beaucoup d’éléments ne respectant pas l’équité dans l’organisation ». Certains employés se sentent stigmatisés ou perçus comme étant toujours biaisés s’ils partagent leur opinion, et craignent même des conséquences lorsqu’ils s’expriment. Ce constat est qualifié de « particulièrement inquiétant ». Contrairement à leurs subalternes, les gestionnaires, eux, « sentent une bonne ouverture aux nouvelles idées ».

De plus, les employés appartenant aux « groupes d’équité », ce qui inclut les minorités visibles, mais aussi les personnes handicapées, celles issues des communautés LGBTQ+ et les Autochtones, sont significativement moins portés à recommander Radio-Canada comme employeur. Ces employés auraient typiquement été victimes ou témoins de « micro-agressions » à propos de leur différence et se sont vu refuser des possibilités d’avancement sans justification. Très peu d’entre eux ont accédé à des postes supérieurs. Un employé sur cinq aurait été victime de comportements non équitables, toutefois principalement en raison de l’âgisme ou du sexisme.

Culture d’entreprise

Trois employés actuels et un ancien employé de R.-C. issus de la diversité qui ont accepté de se confier au Devoir, sans que leur identité soit révélée, ont dressé le portrait d’une culture d’entreprise plutôt rigide, mal adaptée aux différences, mais où tout n’est pas négatif.

Une employée a confirmé avoir été la cible de commentaires laissant entendre que sa couleur de peau rendait partial son jugement pour certains sujets, comme ceux sur la communauté noire de sa province d’emploi. « Dans une réunion, on m’a dit que j’avais un parti pris. Comme si j’étais biaisée ! » Elle aurait aussi été la cible de commentaires désagréables de collègues selon lesquels des promotions lui seraient garanties par la politique de discrimination positive de l’entreprise. Elle note cependant que le problème de diversité est présent dans tous les médias québécois, et pas seulement à Radio-Canada.

« Des fois, quand tu es une minorité culturelle, tu n’as pas le goût d’aller en région éloignée et être le seul Noir », indique un ancien employé, en référence à la pratique de faire débuter les jeunes journalistes loin des grands centres. « Durant mes années en poste, je n’ai jamais eu un patron noir », conclut-il, ajoutant avoir eu globalement une expérience très positive à l’emploi de Radio-Canada.

Un employé actuel de la société d’État qui est en situation de handicap pense pour sa part qu’« il faut souvent tomber sur le bon patron pour avoir une bonne expérience de travail ». Il affirme que ses demandes d’adaptation de son espace de travail durant la pandémie de COVID-19 se sont heurtées tantôt à des refus, tantôt à beaucoup de compréhension, en fonction du gestionnaire. « On m’a déjà dit : on ne va pas changer nos façons de travailler parce que tu es arrivé.

C’est justement cette culture d’entreprise que promet de changer le vice-président principal des services français, Michel Bissonnette, selon qui le rapport a créé un « choc » à la haute direction. Très surpris d’y apprendre ces conclusions, M. Bissonnette attribue une part du retard de Radio-Canada en matière de diversité dans la différence, en général, de représentation des minorités entre le Québec et le Canada anglais. « Toronto est une ville qui est beaucoup plus multiculturelle que Montréal peut l’être. CBC à Toronto a déjà des groupes d’équités qui sont déjà structurés. […] On avait l’impression que nous, tout allait bien. »

Au moment de l’entretien avec Le Devoir, M. Bissonnette estimait que les conclusions de l’étude ADN des Radio-Canadiens ne s’appliquaient qu’au Québec. Vérification faite, l’étude inclut les services français de toutes les stations du pays, y compris celle de Toronto. Depuis sa publication, Radio-Canada a procédé à la création d’un groupe de travail et d’un nouveau poste de cadre responsable de la diversité et de l’inclusion, en plus d’avoir retenu les services d’une firme spécialisée pour l’aider à s’améliorer.

Le mal-être

Or, la haute direction aurait été mise au courant de ces problèmes d’inclusion depuis plusieurs années, affirme le Syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs de Radio-Canada, qui regroupe les employés de la société d’État du Québec et de l’Acadie. « Historiquement, il n’y a jamais eu d’efforts de Radio-Canada et du service français pour être réceptif et ouvert. J’ai plus d’histoires d’horreur que d’histoires heureuses de la part de collègues issus de groupes minoritaires », indique son président, Pierre Tousignant. Il impute le mal-être vécu par les groupes de la diversité à un contexte plus large d’un problème de gestion « infantilisante » du diffuseur public, dans lequel « chacun vit son problème ».

Seule note positive pour la société d’État, le rapport « l’ADN des Radio-Canadiens » rapporte que ses employés sont malgré tout fiers et loyaux à l’entreprise, et considèrent que Radio-Canada a un rôle important à jouer dans la société.

Source: Des problèmes de diversité à Radio-Canada

Germany Expected To Put Right-Wing AfD Under Surveillance For Violating Constitution

Of note (perhaps the USA could consider a similar initiative for those that disputed the election results in Congress and the Senate):

Germany’s Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, is constantly on the lookout for potential threats to Germany’s democratic constitutional system, and it has wide-ranging powers when it finds them.

“This agency has the power — and not only to do surveillance on fringe groups, domestic terrorist threats, but also to keep an eye on any political institution, like a political party,” said Melanie Amann of the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel and the author of a book about the Alternative for Germany, or AfD.

“Like if their program becomes more radical or if they notice that a political party, maybe that’s even sitting in the parliament, goes into a direction that might be harmful to our political system.”

The agency has wrapped up a two-year investigation into the Alternative for Germany, the country’s largest right-wing opposition party, and is expected to announce soon that it will place the entire party under surveillance for posing a threat to Germany’s political system and violating the constitution. The unprecedented move would mean that all AfD lawmakers, including several dozen in Germany’s parliament, would be put under state surveillance.

The driving force behind the creation of the Verfassungsschutz agency and its surveillance powers was the American-led Allied forces, who, after World War II, helped write a new German Constitution with an eye toward preventing the return of Nazi ideology. That’s why the first article of the constitution guarantees the right to human dignity — an article that the agency determined a far-right branch of the AfD violated. It placed that group, known as der Flügel (“The Wing”), under surveillance nearly a year ago.

Amann said the agency has identified instances of AfD politicians denigrating Muslim migrants to Germany. “They were all treated as potential terrorists,” she said. “They were dehumanized in the speeches. They were compared to animals. The [agency] report made it quite clear that these people had crossed a line.”

Some AfD politicians have also trivialized Germany’s Nazi past. Speaking at an AfD event in 2017, the leader of the Flügel wing, Bjorn Höcke, called the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin a “monument of shame.” A year later, AfD parliamentary leader Alexander Gauland likened Germany’s Nazi era to “a speck of bird s*** in more than 1,000 years of successful German history.”

“If you look at how the AfD has been behaving for some time now, it’s clear it’s acting against our democracy and our constitution,” said Social Democrat parliamentarian Thomas Hitschler, a member of the parliamentary committee that reviews Germany’s intelligence agencies. He said the Verfassungsschutz agency has spent two years gathering evidence to inform the decision that is expected to put the entire AfD under watch.

But AfD politician Georg Pazderski claims the process is political. The agency is run by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, staffed with members of her own conservative Christian Democratic Union party. Pazderski said the CDU is worried about how fast the AfD has become a presence in Germany’s parliament; the party now has 88 members of 709 in the Bundestag, more than 12% representation.

“If you have an opposition party which is very successful within a very short time, we become a danger for the ruling parties,” Pazderski said, “especially for the conservative CDU. And this is a reason why they are trying to stigmatize us and to really put us in the Nazi corner and also to spread strong rumors.”

Hitschler insists the process is not political and the agency’s findings must withstand tough legal scrutiny.

“Its decision must be so watertight legally that it will stand up in the courts,” he said. “The AfD has legal recourse to contest the decision, and the agency isn’t about to lose face in court with a poor case.”

The AfD is already preparing for the decision. This week, the party published a position paper that represents a U-turn in how it sees immigrants, insisting that it is a party for all Germans, even naturalized citizens.

AfD politician Jens Maier, already under surveillance for being part of the Flügel, told NPR by email that last year’s decision to put his section of the party under surveillance has had real consequences.

“A lot of members fear for their civil reputation or even their jobs, especially if they are employed in public service,” he wrote. “This is clearly an unfair method to lower the election results of the AfD.” Germany’s federal elections are scheduled for September.

Der Spiegel’s Amann says tightened surveillance on the AfD will affect civil servants such as police officers and military personnel, who may cancel their membership out of fear of losing their jobs.

While the Verfassungsschutz agency is able to tap phones and use informants to gather information on whomever it monitors, Maier said he hasn’t noticed the surveillance. But he said it has changed the way he and his associates communicate.

“We don’t talk about confidential topics on the phone or online anymore and people from the outside contacting us do so with care now, knowing that somebody is possibly listening,” he wrote.

When Germany announces the AfD is under surveillance, Pazderski said it can expect an immediate lawsuit challenging the decision. And that, he said, may take years to resolve.

Source: Germany Expected To Put Right-Wing AfD Under Surveillance For Violating Constitution

Why are there still so few Black lawyers on Bay Street?

Good detailed analysis in the Globe (see article for graphics):

Just about every Black lawyer on Bay Street has a tale to tell about the racism – whether overt or covert – they’ve experienced throughout their career: drawing scathing rebukes for minor errors that white colleagues don’t seem to face; being mistaken for an assistant rather than a litigator; enduring comments about their hair and clothing, or blatant accusations of tokenism; being ignored in a circle of white colleagues, and left out of after-work drinks and client meetings.

For years, the country’s biggest law firms have been proudly posting messages of diversity and inclusion on their websites. Yet, with organizations on both sides of the border now at an inflection point when it comes to race, Bay Street is still overwhelmingly white.

According to the Law Society of Ontario (LSO) – the largest self-governing legal body in the country, with more than 55,000 lawyers and 9,000 paralegals as members – 19.3 per cent of the province’s lawyers in 2016 identified as racialized, a full 10 points lower than the population at large. A mere 3.2 per cent were Black, compared with 4.7 per cent of Ontario’s population.

As for the situation at the country’s largest law firms, comprehensive data either doesn’t exist or hasn’t been made public. To help fill in the gaps, The Globe and Mail sent questions about racial diversity to 20 of them (including Bay Street’s hallowed Seven Sisters: Blakes, Davies, Goodmans, McCarthy Tétrault, Osler, Stikeman Elliott and Torys).

While more than half provided information on racial diversity within their ranks, only five firms broke out data on Black lawyers in particular; two others confirmed the number of Black partners. (Many respondents cited the need to protect privacy and data collection policies that prohibit the disclosure of numbers so small the people behind them could be identifiable.)

Six firms – Osler, Bennett Jones, Davies, McMillan, Blaney McMurtry and Fogler Rubinoff – said they either didn’t collect the information or would not share it publicly; WeirFoulds declined to answer any questions for this story.

The Globe also conducted a visual analysis of photos and biographies posted on the websites of 16 of Toronto’s largest firms to estimate the number of Black partners represented. The result: roughly 35 out of around 4,000 partners. This is an imperfect estimate, of course, because it can’t account for how people self-identify. Still, many law students and junior lawyers perform a similar exercise, scanning through the photos on firm websites in search of others who look like themselves.

McCarthy Tétrault was one of the five firms that was most candid in its responses (along with Fasken, Goodmans, Dentons and Aird & Berlis), admitting that just 2 per cent of roughly 700 lawyers, including partners, and articling students at the firm are Black. (Dentons reported a similar figure.)

McCarthy’s CEO, Dave Leonard, says he’s not proud of its diversity numbers, but decided to share relatively detailed information anyway. “Transparency,” he says, “is part of how we’re going to solve this.”

“I stand up often and talk to our people about my white privilege and that too much of our partnership looks like me,” Mr. Leonard adds.And I do recognize that I’m here because of hard work and intelligence and all the rest of it. But I’m also here because of my role and my place in society, and where I grew up and how I grew up and the colour of my skin and my gender.”

Hadiya Roderique chronicled five years of microaggressions in her essay “Black on Bay Street,” published in The Globe in November, 2017. Ms. Roderique had been hired as an employment lawyer at Fasken straight out of law school, where interviewers were wowed by her top grades and litany of extracurriculars. But she ultimately struggled to fit into the “upper-class white world” that dominates the corporate realm. “Big law could not accommodate the person and the colour I was,” wrote Ms. Roderique, who went on to do her PhD in organizational behaviour at the Rotman School of Management.

Ms. Roderique’s essay went off like a bomb inside the country’s biggest law firms. Linc Rogers, a partner at Blakes who is Black, remembers feeling there was a new kind of willingness to talk about how Bay Street could accommodate people from different backgrounds.

“Her thesis was there is a narrow corporate culture on Bay Street, and to succeed, you have to mold yourself to it,” he says. “She said out loud what a lot of people were saying in quiet conversations, and she said it with thunder. Everybody read it. Everybody talks about it.”

For this story, The Globe spoke with dozens of Black lawyers and those from other diverse backgrounds about their experiences at Bay Street firms. Some commented on the record; others asked to remain anonymous, concerned that even mildly critical remarks could impede their careers in what is still a relatively small community dominated by a handful of powerful players.

“I think systemic discrimination is unfortunately baked into the system,” says Vivene Salmon, president of the Canadian Bar Association. “I think you have to fight pretty hard to defy the odds.”

DIVERSITY SURVEY

The Globe asked the 20 largest law firms in Toronto (most of which have offices around the country as well) questions about the diversity of their Canadian workforce. The following firms responded and most provided data from their most recent internal survey based on employee self-identification.

The world of Bay Street law is small. All together, according to trade publication Lexpert, the 20 largest corporate firms in Toronto collectively employ about 8,500 lawyers across the country, almost half of them in Toronto itself. For two decades, these organizations have been promoting the idea of diversity and inclusion, but their efforts have focused primarily on gender, often with the goal of reaching partnerships comprised of at least 30 per cent women.

While progress has come slowly on that front, Bay Street has generally not put the same emphasis on recruiting, retaining and promoting lawyers who are Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) – or, for that matter, those with disabilities or members of the LGBTQ+ community. Even without published information on Black leaders at Canadian law firms, it’s evident the numbers are miniscule.

“We don’t collect data on this stuff, but if you poke around the firm websites, it becomes pretty clear the representation of Black people on Bay Street isn’t anywhere near what Toronto actually looks like,” says Marlon Hylton, who was a partner at Cassels before recently starting his own data, information and innovation law firm and affiliated tech company, INNOV-8 Data Counsel.

In 2010, the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers held an event to honour 17 Black partners known to work at major Bay Street firms. A decade later, that figure appears to have roughly doubled – but still represents less than 1 per cent of partners at top firms.

Beyond Bay Street, there were just 63 Black lawyers in Ontario who were partners at law firms of all sizes in 2016, according to the LSO. That’s just 6 per cent of Black lawyers overall; meanwhile, 18 per cent of white lawyers (about 4,800) were partners.

Black lawyers also tend to work as sole practitioners at a far higher rate than their white counterparts. In 2016, the LSO lists 31 per cent of Black lawyers in the province as sole practitioners, compared with 19 per cent of white ones. That suggests at least some don’t find a career path for themselves in Big Law and opt instead to set up shop on their own.

Data on the number of Black law students is also uneven – only a handful of Canada’s 20-plus law schools share demographic information. What information is available shows members of the Black community account for about 1 per cent of law students at both the University of Toronto and Queen’s University; York University’s Osgoode Hall is more representative, at about 8 per cent. Part of the problem is cost: Law students graduate with an average debt load of $83,000 in Ontario – particularly damaging for low-income and BIPOC students without the benefit of generational wealth.

Marie Kiluu-Ngila was one of just five Black students in her law class at U of T, spurring her to co-found Black Future Lawyers, a program to support and encourage Black students going into law. When CBC interviewed Ms. Kiluu-Ngila about the initiative in January, the firm where she was articling, Cassels, featured the clip on its website. In late spring, however, she learned she was one of two students out of 15 who wouldn’t be hired back. Despite several requests, she says she never received a clear answer why.

“It was very confusing – to hear that you’re so great, you have stellar performance reviews, to be told you’re an excellent student,” says Ms. Kiluu-Ngila, who is now looking for work in consulting, or with a government or financial institution. “It didn’t really add up.”

The hiring process is just the first hurdle Black law grads face, where a foreign-sounding name might scuttle your chances of getting an interview in the first place and an ineffable quality called “fit” dictates who gets hired and who doesn’t.

Since most students’ résumés look roughly the same, who gets an interview is based largely on grades. But even top marks might not be enough to overcome bias in favour of white-sounding names. One Black lawyer who now works in Ottawa told The Globe he applied widely to large Toronto firms with employment and labour practices. He had straight A’s in all the relevant courses, but never even got an interview – leading him to suspect it was related to his African last name. In fact, a 2016 study by Sonia Kang at the University of Toronto showed Black students who “whiten” their résumés get callbacks at a rate 2.5 times higher than ones who don’t.

Once past the résumé-screening process, further barriers include looking the part during speed-dating-style interviews and navigating awkward cocktail parties with talk about international travel, cottages and ski clubs.

Shaneka Shaw Taylor, now a partner at Boghosian + Allen, recalls the high anxiety she felt during in-firm interviews. “At various interviews, I felt excluded or not understood, in the sense that I just couldn’t resonate with some of the conversations, some of the questions, some of the experiences. And it wasn’t coming from a place of the interviewer meaning to do anything wrong – sometimes you can only speak to what you’ve experienced.”

Several lawyers who spoke with The Globe expressed concern that nepotism is also still common, with children, nieces and nephews of partners (or friends of partners at other firms) often flagged for interviews.

“One of the things that helps people get Bay Street jobs is connections and legacy,” says Hermie Abraham, who articled at Cassels before starting her own employment law practice. “If you do see Black students landing jobs at those firms, you know they’re outstanding.”

Even once you’re in, it can be a struggle to stick around and to attain the same level of pay as your peers (for in-house counsel, for instance, white lawyers make an average of $12,000 more than their BIPOC counterparts). “I’m not going to tell any Black lawyer at a major firm that being Black doesn’t matter,” says Raphael Tachie, a senior in-house lawyer at TD Bank. “I think it does.”

Mr. Tachie joined Blakes as a summer student in 2008 in part because there were five Black lawyers at the firm – “the most I’d ever seen.” But although Blakes made a concerted effort to recruit Black students, he later found many of them didn’t stay. (He left after articling because he was only offered a non-permanent position.) He now passes on the same advice to Black law students that a mentor once gave him: “Go into job interviews as if being Black doesn’t matter, but leave the room knowing it does.” That means turning on the charm to get the job, he says, then working harder than anyone else to keep it.

But even getting the chance to do that can be difficult. To climb the ranks, lawyers need to build a book of business, which means getting good work on important files, along with crucial client face-time. All that is doled out by partners, who for decades have tended to mentor and assign work to people they like – people who remind them of themselves.

“It might not be anything particularly malevolent on someone’s part, but it’s just that you’ve made a connection with the person in the next office,” says Blakes’ Mr. Rogers. “Maybe they went to the same school, vacation at the same spot, like the same sport. You have a connection, and you give them work. Those attributes are often tied to race and gender.”

When the CBA’s Ms. Salmon was a junior lawyer on Bay Street, she recalls working weekends and long hours on legal research, and then having to beg the partners to let her attend client meetings. “If you were a white guy, you wouldn’t have to beg,” she says. “The senior partner on the file would say, ‘Oh it would be good for your learning – why don’t you come along?’ ”

The culture is changing, some lawyers say, but invitation-only meals and tickets to major-league events remain a big part of business development and career advancement, and Black lawyers are often left out. Black women face a double bind because of their race and gender, says Jenelle Ambrose, in-house counsel with Grant Thornton and secretary of the Black Female Lawyers Network.

“There’s a discomfort in interrogating not just the things that you are doing, but the things that you aren’t,” Ms. Ambrose says. “Like not including people – why is it that someone isn’t really a fit? Why is it that someone is invited to golf or after-work drinks, and someone else isn’t?”

Then there are the consistent microaggressions that leave many BIPOC lawyers confused and thinking, “I’m pretty sure that’s racism,” says Mr. Hylton, who worked at McCarthy Tétrault before he was a partner at Cassels. Many of the lawyers who talked to The Globe had stories of being praised for being articulate – as though it were completely unexpected – or being told by a colleague, “I don’t see race.” Both women and men spoke of receiving comments on their hair, and one man wondered if letting his curls grow in might affect his job prospects.

“You walk around with this sense of a question about whether or not they think you belong,” Mr. Hylton says. “You know you’re just as smart, you do good work, but you still have that feeling of needing to do that much more than everyone else.”

On one occasion, Ms. Salmon attended a meeting with a group of white men when a lawyer on the opposite side of the file told her to serve coffee. “I essentially wasn’t invited to sit at the table, but I was told to get coffee for everybody else. That just shows you the effect of race and gender. It shows you you’re not considered equal.”

Lori Anne Thomas, president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, has been in plenty of similar situations throughout her 12 years of legal practice. “These things come about in your day-to-day experiences, and you’re faced with a decision tree of how do you act, how do you respond? Am I the educator today, or am I the stern corrector? Or do I ignore it? And then, how do I do my job?” Ms. Thomas says. She owns her own criminal defence firm, which she says gives her the freedom to wear her hair dyed blonde and cropped short. But she often hears from CABL members about the pressures they face to look a certain way at corporate law firms: “What do I wear today? How do I minimize my Blackness to assimilate and accommodate? Do I wear the colourful tie that brings out my African heritage, or will that be perceived as ‘too Black?’ ”

In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, many Bay Street firms began to reevaluate their efforts on diversity and inclusion. At Stikeman Elliott, chairman Marc Barbeau sent a firm-wide email, acknowledging, “We’re by no means perfect.” Although it didn’t share overall numbers, the firm says it has made progress on hiring junior lawyers from diverse backgrounds, but admits it hasn’t done as well on retention and promotion. Stikeman’s leaders have been going through an “uncomfortable process,” says Mr. Barbeau, as they question why they came up short, “despite all our good intentions, our desire to be fair, to be equitable and to advance these things.”

Over at Gowlings, chief executive Peter Lukasiewicz says that when it comes to ensuring lawyers from diverse backgrounds make it to partner, “honestly, until recently, firms simply weren’t addressing that. … We know what some of the issues are and are addressing them.”

Last week, Norton Rose, Stikeman Elliott, Bennett Jones and corporate finance firm Wildeboer Dellelce signed on to a pledge associated with the BlackNorth Initiative, a new program to improve Black representation in boardrooms. The firms have committed to attaining seven goals, including hiring at least 5 per cent of their student work force from the Black community and employing Black or visible-minority leaders in 3.5 per cent of senior roles by 2025.

Yet, recent events have shown many in powerful positions have yet to confront the widespread and insidious barriers facing lawyers from diverse backgrounds. Stockwell Day resigned his position as a strategic adviser to McMillan in June after questioning the existence of systemic racism during a TV appearance. Both the firm and the business community overall were quick to censure Mr. Day for his remarks, which he made at the height of protests over Mr. Floyd’s death.

Mr. Day’s opinions were hardly unique in the world of Big Law, however. Months earlier, a co-ordinated group of benchers was elected to the board of the Law Society of Ontario after campaigning on a promise to overturn a statement of principles (SOP) that would have had lawyers and paralegals pledge to promote equality, diversity and inclusion. The SOP was scrapped in September, leaving many BIPOC lawyers feeling betrayed.

“It’s disheartening,” says Atrisha Lewis, a litigation lawyer at McCarthy Tétrault who was also elected as a bencher last year. “On the one hand, you see now a greater kind of attention and rhetoric focused on race. But at the same time, with all of this happening, you have this slate who very much campaigned on denying that systemic racism exists.”

In interviews with leaders from six firms – Stikeman Elliott , McCarthy, Cassels, McMillan, Gowlings and Blaney McMurtry – as well as lengthy written responses from others, Canada’s biggest law firms generally express a commitment to do better on representation and regret over their failures to date.

“We are aware that all of the large Canadian firms are dedicated to anti-racism and diversity in the legal profession, and are taking steps to address inclusion and retention of Black lawyers and partners,” Angie Andich, director of communications at Dentons, said in an e-mail last week. “We have been in touch with each other, nearly weekly, to address this issue.”

The research is clear on how to improve outcomes for lawyers from diverse backgrounds, says Ms. Roderique, who is now an equity, diversity and inclusion researcher and consultant. For starters, she’d like to see firms eliminate the “mystery” of the interview process and end subjective elements like cocktail parties and dinners, since they can penalize BIPOC candidates, some of whom may have never attended such an event. Firms should also take steps to make recruiting and retention more objective, she says, by removing names from résumés, using standardized interview questions and controlling the distribution of work. “It’s not rocket science,” she says. “They just have to actually follow through and do these things.”

To address the pipeline issue, many firms are involved with diverse student groups (14 of the firms surveyed sponsor the Black Law Students’ Association of Canada, for example), and several donate money to scholarships aimed at BIPOC students. McCarthy Tétrault said it plans to run a pilot project offering summer jobs to first-year law students, with an emphasis on recruiting from equity-seeking groups.

Most firms have also conducted at least some training around unconscious bias – usually for firm leaders and those involved in hiring – and some have rolled it out firm-wide or plan to (including Cassels, McCarthy, Gowlings and Davies). On the hiring front, McMillan, Gowlings and Fasken have begun using standardized interview questions. Lenczner Slaght, a litigation-focused boutique, was the first Canadian firm to implement anonymized résumé review, in 2018. Shara Roy, a partner and co-head of the firm’s student program, says the evidence so far is anecdotal, but in the first year, they hired 11 students, nine of whom were women and six of whom self-identified as racialized. Last year, the firm hired eight female students, three of whom were racialized. So far, none of the largest Bay Street firms said they have taken steps to make résumé review anonymous.

When it comes to advancement, almost all firms have some sort of formalized mentorship program, but many lawyers also spoke about the importance of getting good work. Most firms have controls in place to distribute work to junior lawyers, but some – including Blakes, McCarthy Tétrault, Osler and Fasken – have gone further, formalizing work-allocation processes in large practice groups or across the firm, taking subjective assigning decisions out of partners’ hands. Other firms say they’re considering similar initiatives.

Banks, pension funds and other big corporate clients are also ramping up demands on external legal providers to field diverse teams. American companies have been more aggressive on this front, says Kristin Taylor, deputy managing partner at Cassels, adding that large Canadian companies have started to require more detailed data from law firms on the issue. “Relying on clients to force us to do it is obviously a wrong-headed approach,” she says, “but with the support of clients for what we’re doing, it’s an easier sell within law firms to get out of their comfort zone and really focus on this.”

Committing to diversity and inclusion can help woo the next generation, as well as boost the bottom line, says Nikki Gershbain, chief inclusion officer at McCarthy Tétrault (a unique role among Canadian firms – she reports directly to the CEO and is a member of the management team). “All the research shows that organizations that are inclusive are more productive, innovative and profitable, and the people who work for such organizations have higher morale, they’re more productive, and they’re more likely to stay with the organization.”

Sandra Aigbinode Lange worked as a Crown lawyer before joining McCarthy’s Calgary office in 2017, a move she credits in part to its inclusion programs. She says the firm’s formal work allocation program has led to some some high-profile assignments, including the chance to argue a case at the Supreme Court of Canada. Although Ms. Lange notes she sees no Black judges in Calgary and only a tiny handful of Black partners at large firms, she still sees the possibility of partnership in her future.

“I carry this weight of my Blackness, and specifically my Nigerian heritage, on my shoulders, because so many people have invested in me, and so many believe in me,” Ms. Lange says. And although she sees no examples to follow, “I just feel I’ve got to do it. To show this province, this country, this world that a Black woman like me is smart, capable and just as right for the job.”

Coronavirus has increased interest in immigrating to Canada

The optimistic view based upon an April World Education Services survey. Survey intentions, of course are intentions, we shall see over the next few quarters the extent to which they materialize:

The economic impacts of coronavirus have largely not changed people’s plans to immigrate to Canada. In most cases, prospective immigrants still expect that Canada will endure less economic hardship than their own country.

Of the 4,615 people who responded to a recent survey from World Education Services (WES), 38% say they are more interested in immigrating to Canada, 57% say that the pandemic does not impact their interest, and 5% say they are less interested. Researcher Joan Atlin said she was surprised to see such a small percentage of people who were less interested in immigrating to Canada.

“The research was done in April, so quite early in the pandemic, and I would have expected that number to potentially be a little bit higher,” Atlin told CIC News, “It was very encouraging to see.”

The survey was conducted by WES from April 15 to 21 in an effort to understand how COVID-19affected the intentions of prospective Canadian immigrants. The non-profit credential evaluation provider collected survey results from their clients, most of whom are in the pre-arrival phase and are on track to immigrate to Canada.

All respondents were outside of Canada at the time the survey was conducted. More than half of the people surveyed from the Philippines (64%), China (64%), and Nigeria (58%) said they are more interested in immigrating to Canada as a result of COVID-19. There was largely no impact on the desire to immigrate to Canada for respondents from Pakistan (58%), the U.K. (59%), the U.S. (57%), India (64%), and France (73%).

Just over half of respondents, 52%, do not expect COVID-19 to impact their ability to pay for the costs of immigrating to Canada; however, about 35%, do expect it to negatively impact their ability to pay the costs.

More than a third, 39%, say that personal and family economic hardships would make them more interested in immigrating.

Most are still interested despite worsening job prospects. The loss of job opportunities in a respondent’s occupation in Canada had the biggest impact on attitudes toward the move, with 31% saying it would make them less interested to come to Canada. Even so, the majority, 46%, said job loss would not impact them.

Most report that they would not be impacted by immigration obstacles such as increases in IRCC processing times, a reduction in immigration targets, or travel restrictions. The risk of contracting COVID-19 was the biggest hurdle with 36% reporting they would be less interested in immigrating to Canada, however 42% still reported that it would not impact their interest.

Just over a third, 35%, of respondents are considering delaying immigration to Canada to a future date, and 42% said they were unlikely to delay. The biggest reason for the delay was the risk of contracting coronavirus.

WES is conducting at least two more surveys on this topic. One is expected for this month and another is scheduled for August.

Source: https://www.cicnews.com/2020/06/coronavirus-has-increased-interest-in-immigrating-to-canada-0614757.html#gs.8cw8es

Japanese firms resist hiring foreign workers under new immigration law – poll

Significant culture change:

Only one in four Japanese companies plan to actively employ foreign workers under a new government immigration scheme, a Reuters poll found, complicating Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to ease the country’s tightest job market in decades.

And the bulk of the firms that may hire these immigrants do not plan to support them in securing housing, learning Japanese language skills or getting information on living in Japan, the Reuters Corporate Survey showed.

The survey results underscore the challenge for Japan to cope with its dwindling and ageing population that has put pressure on the government to relax tight foreign labour controls. Immigration has long been taboo here as many Japanese prize ethnic homogeneity.

The lack of language ability, cultural gap, costs of training, mismatches in skills and the fact that many foreign workers cannot stay permanently in Japan under the new system were among factors behind corporate wariness about hiring foreign workers, the Reuters poll showed.

The law, which took effect in April, creates two new categories of visas for blue-collar workers in 14 sectors such as construction and nursing care, which face a labour crunch. It is meant to attract up to 345,000 blue-collar workers to Japan over five years.

But the survey suggests the government may struggle to get the workers it needs to ease the country’s labour shortage where there are now 1.63 jobs available for every job seeker, the most since the beginning of 1974.

“Taking education costs, quality risks and yields into account, costs will go up” by hiring foreign workers, wrote a manager at a rubber-making company, who said the firm has no plans to hire foreign workers.

“We have failed in the past by employing foreign workers who could not blend in with a different culture,” a manager of a metal-products maker wrote.

Some 41% of firms are not considering hiring foreigners at all, 34% are not planning to hire many and 26% intend to hire such foreign workers, the survey conducted from May 8-17 showed.

Of those considering hiring foreign workers, a majority said they have no plans to support them in areas such as housing, Japanese language study and information on living in the country, it showed.

The survey, conducted monthly for Reuters by Nikkei Research, polled 477 large- and mid-size firms, with managers responding on condition of anonymity. Around 220 answered the questions on foreign workers.

Under the new law, a category of “specified skilled workers” can stay for up to five years but cannot bring family members. The other category is for more skilled foreigners who can bring relatives and be eligible to stay longer.

While foreign workers are generally viewed as cheap labour in Japan, 77% of firms see no change in wage levels at Japan Inc as a whole, when hiring specified skilled workers. Some 16% expect wages to decline and just 6 percent see wages rising.

Foreign workers “will help ease the labour crunch, bringing down overall wages,” a steelmaker manager wrote in the survey.

Abe, whose conservative base fears a rise in crime and a threat to the country’s social fabric, has insisted that the new law does not constitute an “immigration policy.”

Japan has about 1.28 million foreign workers – more than double the figure a decade ago but still just 2% of the workforce. Some 260,000 of them are trainees from countries such as Vietnam and China who can stay three to five years.

Source: Japanese firms resist hiring foreign workers under new immigration law – poll

1 in 5 Canadian youths not sure what happened in the Holocaust, survey suggests

Whenever one asks a question about historical events, no matter how important, the level of ignorance is depressing:

One in five young people in Canada either hasn’t heard of the Holocaust or isn’t sure what it is.

That’s the conclusion from a new survey released ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Sunday.

Historians believe the new data should be a wake-up call on how the systematic murder of six million Jews in Europe is taught in Canadian schools — and remembered more broadly.

“One of the surprising things was the awareness gap between millennials and older respondents …it’s shocking,” said historian Naomi Azrieli, CEO of the Azrieli Foundation, the charity behind the survey.

“I think older Canadians are more likely to have known a survivor or been around in World War Two,” she told CBC News. “With each generation, it becomes less living history and more remote.”

In Britain, a new survey by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust found that one in 20 adults in Britain do not believe the Holocaust took place.

The survey of more than 2,000 people released Sunday also found that nearly two-thirds of respondents either did not know how many Jews had been murdered or greatly underestimated the number killed during the Holocaust.

Chief executive Olivia Marks-Woldman described the results as “widespread ignorance and even denial.”

While there are debates among historians about exactly when the Holocaust began, the mass killing of Jews in the Second World War started in 1941 with the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, according to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, and continued until the Nazis were defeated in 1945.

Held on Jan. 27 annually following a United Nations resolution, International Holocaust Remembrance Day coincides with the day Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest complex of Nazi death camps, was liberated by Soviet forces in 1945.

Among other points, the Canadian survey found:

• Nearly six in 10 Canadians (57 per cent) said fewer people seem to care about the Holocaust than they used to.

• 15 per cent of Canadian adults and more than one fifth of Canadians under age 34 (22 per cent) haven’t heard about or are not sure if they have heard about the Holocaust.

• Nearly half of Canadian respondents (49 per cent) couldn’t name a single concentration camp. That’s roughly equal to the U.S., where 45 per cent couldn’t name one in a similar survey last year. There were over 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos in Europe during the Holocaust.

A crew member walks toward the National Holocaust Monument before the official opening in Ottawa on Sept. 27, 2017. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

• Nearly one quarter of all Canadians (23 per cent) believe substantially fewer than six million Jews were killed (two million or fewer) during the Holocaust, while another 24 per cent were unsure of how many were killed.

• Few Canadians believe there are many neo-Nazis in Canada today, while nearly half think there are many in the U.S. In fact, on a per capita basis, the two countries have roughly the same number of neo-Nazis, Azrieli said.

Reasons for optimism

With offices in Toronto, Montreal and Israel, the Azrieli Foundation commissioned Schoen Consulting to carry out the survey based on 1,100 interviews with Canadians over age 18 in September 2018. The margin of error was plus or minus three per cent.

While Azrieli was disappointed by the lack of knowledge about the Holocaust, especially among younger Canadians, she said the survey also offered plenty reasons for optimism.

More than 80 per cent of respondents believe all students should learn about the Holocaust in school and 85 per cent said it’s crucial to keep teaching about the Holocaust so it doesn’t happen again.

Azrieli wants to see a more comprehensive approach to how the Holocaust is taught in schools, potentially involving special professional development days for teachers to become more acquainted with its history.

With only around 5,000 Holocaust survivors alive in Canada today to tell their own stories about the mass killings, she said it’s more crucial than ever that schools and other institutions develop strong programs to teach the subject.

False beliefs

The need for better Holocaust education is especially intense due to rising anti-Semitic sentiment in much of the world, said Azrieli, whose father survived the Holocaust.

Since last year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, an 85-year-old French Holocaust survivor, Mireille Knoll, was fatally stabbed in Paris and 11 Jews were gunned down in a Pittsburgh synagogue during Shabbat services, the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.

Human Rights First, a U.S. organization, recalled those killings and warned that “today’s threats do not come solely from the fringe.”

“In places such as Hungary and Poland, once proudly democratic nations, government leaders are travelling the road to authoritarianism,” said Ira Forman, the group’s senior adviser for combating anti-Semitism. “As they do so, they are distorting history to spin a fable about their nations and the Holocaust.”

In Canada, hate crimes rose to an all-time high in 2017, according to a Statistics Canada report released in November. For hate crimes based on religion, Jews were the most targeted group in Canada, with more than 300 incidents reported to police.

Nearly one-third of survey respondents believed Canada had an open immigration policy for Jewish refugees fleeing Europe.

In fact, Canada had “one of the worst immigration records in the world” related to Jewish people, “worse than the U.S. or U.K.,” Azrieli said.

Canada allowed only 5,000 Jewish refugees into the country while allowing nearly 2,000 Nazi war criminals to immigrate to Canada after the Second World War, the Azrieli Foundation reported.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Canadian border guards had a saying about Jewish refugees, she said: “None is too many.”

Survey respondents thought Canada had been more welcoming toward Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis, as they considered Canada to be generally more open toward immigrants than other nations, given the country’s current policies.

“That was a very interesting finding of this survey,” said Azrieli, “And an important indication that our own history is not well known to most Canadians.”

Reevely: Carleton loses fight to keep survey of Jewish students secret

Amazing. No matter what the findings, the bigger story becomes Carleton’s efforts to hide them:

Carleton University has to stop hiding a survey of Jewish students meant to find out how they feel about life on campus, a panel of senior judges says. Well, how they felt about life on campus at the beginning of this decade. Carleton’s been fighting for five years to keep the survey from public view.

When the case finally made it to court this week, three judges of Ontario Divisional Court took one day to laugh the university’s arguments off. They heard the case last Tuesday and told Carleton to stop screwing around on Wednesday, in a ruling that observes that Carleton’s lawyer could point to no precedents for its secrecy and had no evidence supporting its more outlandish claims about what might happen if it lost. (Full disclosure: I have a degree from Carleton. Fuller disclosure: About once a year, Carleton as an institution does something so at odds with the values it teaches that I cringe.) This survey was done for an internal commission set up by then-president Roseann Runte in 2010 to look at how various minority groups were treated at Carleton. The point of striking a commission — this one included several dozen people, from students to senior administrators to outside volunteers — is usually to get to the bottom of a serious problem in the most open way possible. Air all the dirty laundry. Get everything out there so we can start fixing problems.

The commission’s work was a bit of a mishmash, since the “inter-cultural, inter-religious and inter-racial relations on campus” it was supposed to look at are incredibly diverse and complicated. But its report in 2012 highlighted some standout problems on campus: legitimate debates about Israel too often spilled over into anti-Semitism, or into discussions where they didn’t belong both in classrooms and faculty meetings; and Indigenous students felt stereotyped and sometimes didn’t have help they needed adapting to university life.

The commission’s most important data-gathering came in surveys — one campus-wide one and narrower followups to dig into the first big survey’s findings. The final report includes a detailed summary of the big survey, including what questions it asked, what the response rates were (barely 10 per cent among students, and 30 per cent among Carleton staff), how members of particular groups found their Carleton experiences more satisfactory or less.

The report didn’t do the same for a follow-up survey of Jewish students and staff. “Respondents to the survey (of Jews at Carleton) participated on the condition of anonymity and therefore the results have not been distributed,” the commission report said. That’s it. This is a non-standard definition of “anonymity.” You can release results of a survey without revealing who said what. A university, of all places, should have this capability.

In 2013, someone (the person’s name isn’t in the court decision) filed an access-to-information request for the commission’s materials, including the raw results of the surveys and details of how they were conducted, and minutes from the commission’s two years’ worth of meetings.

“The university submits that the requester seeks the information to challenge the findings of the commission,” this week’s court ruling says. Which is neither here nor there — if documents are public, they’re public. A government institution doesn’t get to keep public information back just because it doesn’t like what a member of the public might do with it.

The survey is research, Carleton argued. The minutes of the commission’s meetings are related to research. We don’t have to give out research. Among other things, it wouldn’t release “the survey (of Jewish students) and its results, and an explanation of the survey methodology, who designed the survey, who approved the survey, how it was conducted, who analyzed the survey results.”

Ontario post-secondary institutions are covered by provincial public-information law but they can hold back material “respecting or associated with research conducted or proposed by an employee of an educational institution or by a person associated with an educational institution.” The idea is that if every lab note from every PhD student were open to public release, competitors would spend half their time nosing around each other’s work and answering requests instead of researching.

The law covers academic research, not stuff a university does that’s like any other corporation, the judges decided: “(T)he survey results and associated information are akin to market research which is not particular to universities and is not subject to the specific concerns of academic freedom articulated by the legislators.”

The university’s lawyer “was unable to provide a single decision where information gathered internally by a university for its own purposes and unrelated to academic research was covered by (the) research exemption,” the judges pointed out.

The university argued that releasing this information will make all university research harder and harm Carleton’s competitiveness. “No evidence was adduced to substantiate this claim,” the judges observed, using legalese for “Lawyer, please.”

Carleton’s conduct here is embarrassing for a public institution that set out to address problems on campus by talking about them openly. The fact it took five years for Carleton to get slapped down is embarrassing for Ontario’s access-to-information system. Both need to work better than they have.

Source: Reevely: Carleton loses fight to keep survey of Jewish students secret