Rioux: Quel «dérapage»? [on Premier Legault’s comments on social cohesion]

Le Devoir’s European correspondent Christian Rioux comparing EU social cohesion concerns with those of Premier Legault.

While recognizing the differences between Canada’s (and Quebec’s) immigration selection systems and integration programs and those of EU countries, he nevertheless reverts to the same social cohesion concerns without examining the effects of Quebec political discourse and legislation that have contributed to social exclusion, not social cohesion:

« Couvrez ce sein que je ne saurais voir », disait le Tartuffe. Convenons que ses héritiers modernes ont des formules moins élégantes que celles de Molière. Ces temps-ci, ils préfèrent parler de « dérapage ». Mais l’effet est le même. Il consiste à écarter du débat tout propos un peu dérangeant dès lors qu’il aborde une question litigieuse. L’étiquette vaut à elle seule condamnation.

Ainsi en va-t-il des récents propos de François Legault sur l’immigration. Pourtant, qu’y a-t-il de plus banal que d’affirmer comme l’a fait le premier ministre la semaine dernière qu’une forte immigration peut nuire à la « cohésion nationale » ?

On comprend que dans un pays « post-national » comme le Canada, où l’immigration a été sacralisée, ces propos créent la polémique. Mais, vu d’Europe, où le débat est ancien et plus nourri, il est évident que l’immigration massive pose partout et toujours un défi à la cohésion nationale.

Cela se vérifie à des degrés divers dans la plupart des pays européens. En France, sous l’effet d’une immigration incontrôlée et très largement issue du monde arabo-musulman, on a assisté depuis de nombreuses années à un véritable morcellement du pays. Dans toutes les grandes villes sont apparues des banlieues islamisées autrement appelées ghettos. Pas besoin de s’appeler Marine Le Pen pour le constater. Interrogé par des collègues du Monde en 2014, le président François Hollande lui-même n’avait pas hésité à le reconnaître. « Je pense qu’il y a trop d’arrivées, d’immigration qui ne devrait pas être là », disait-il. Et celui-ci de conclure : « Comment peut-on éviter la partition ? Car c’est quand même ça qui est en train de se produire : la partition. » (Un président ne devrait pas dire ça…, Gérard Davet et Fabrice Lhomme, Stock).

Certains diront évidemment qu’en France, ce n’est pas pareil. Soit. Tournons donc nos yeux vers un pays plus à notre échelle.

Avec ses 10 millions d’habitants, son économie de pointe, son climat boréal, son amour du consensus et son parti pris en faveur de l’égalité hommes-femmes, la Suède partage plusieurs points communs avec le Québec.

Il n’y a pas longtemps, dans ce petit paradis nordique, celui qui s’inquiétait de l’immigration massive était accusé de « déraper », quand il n’était pas traité de raciste. Les Suédois regardaient de haut des pays comme la France et le Danemark, soupçonnés de xénophobie. Jusqu’à ce que la réalité les rattrape. La flambée des émeutes ethniques, comme en France, et l’irruption de la violence dans les banlieues ont vite fait de les ramener sur terre. Aujourd’hui, de la social-démocratie à la droite populiste, les trois grands partis estiment qu’il en va justement de la « cohésion nationale ». C’est pourquoi ce pays, qui a toujours été particulièrement généreux à l’égard des réfugiés, a radicalement resserré ses critères d’admission et a multiplié les mesures d’intégration. L’élection sur le fil d’une majorité de droite, finalement confirmée mercredi, ne fera que conforter cette orientation.

Les belles âmes ont beau détourner le regard, en Suède comme en France, il est devenu évident qu’un lien existe (même s’il n’explique pas tout) entre l’immigration incontrôlée et la croissance d’une certaine criminalité. Les événements récents du printemps au Stade de France, où des centaines de supporters britanniques se sont fait détrousser à la pointe du couteau par des dizaines de délinquants, ont forcé le ministre de l’Intérieur à reconnaître ce dont les habitants de la Seine-Saint-Denis se doutaient depuis belle lurette.

La Suède aussi a connu une explosion de la petite criminalité et des règlements de compte entre gangs. Elle a notamment enregistré une croissance des morts par balle parmi les plus fortes en Europe. Aujourd’hui, même la gauche sociale-démocrate l’admet. Et elle s’est résolue à augmenter les effectifs policiers. Contrairement à la France, cette prise de conscience fait aujourd’hui un certain consensus dans la classe politique.

Cela n’a rien à voir avec la peur de l’Autre. Comme nombre de Français, les Suédois ont dû se rendre à l’évidence et cesser d’envisager l’immigration comme une simple question morale. Les peuples ont le droit de réglementer l’immigration sans se faire traiter à chaque fois de raciste par une gauche morale et une droite libérale qui en ont fait leur Saint-Graal.

Bien sûr, l’immigration n’est pas la même en France, en Suède et au Québec. À cause de son histoire et de sa position en Europe, la France connaît une forte immigration illégale et de regroupement familial. Naïvement et par générosité, la Suède a ouvert toutes grandes ses portes aux réfugiés et elle n’a jamais contrôlé son immigration économique. Le Québec, où l’équilibre linguistique est plus que précaire, subit des quotas d’immigration parmi les plus élevés au monde et une immigration temporaire hors de contrôle.

Il n’empêche que, malgré ces différences réelles, les mêmes causes produisent partout les mêmes effets. Ce n’est souvent qu’une question de temps.

Lentement, depuis une décennie, tous les tabous de la mondialisation se sont effrités. Ceux qui ont vécu les années 1980 se souviennent de l’enthousiasme et de la naïveté qui accompagnaient cette nouvelle phase d’expansion du capital. Nous n’en sommes plus là. L’immigration de masse demeure le dernier mythe encore vivace de cette époque.

Source: Quel «dérapage»?

Swedish election puts anti-immigration Sweden Democrats centre stage

To watch:

Sweden’s right bloc appeared in pole position on Monday to form a government for the first time in nearly a decade, helped by a wave of voter anger over gang violence which could give an anti-immigration populist party a share in power for the first time.

Sunday’s national election remained too close to call on Monday with about 5% of electoral districts yet to be counted, but early results gave right-wing parties 175 of the 349 seats in the Riksdag, one more than the left bloc.

Overseas postal ballots were still to be counted and while they have historically tended to favour the right, this means a full preliminary result is not due until Wednesday. All votes are then counted again to provide a final tally.

If the results are confirmed, Sweden, which has long prided itself on being a bastion of tolerance, will become less open to immigrants even as the Russian invasion of Ukraine forces people to flee and climate change is pushing many to leave Africa.

Political observers say Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson is likely to become prime minister in a minority government supported by the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats who are poised to become the largest party on the right and will have a big say on the new administration’s programme.

“The Sweden Democrats have had a fantastic election,” the party’s leader Jimmie Akesson said on Twitter.

“(We) hope the gap between the blocs remains through the Wednesday count. If so, we are ready to constructively participate in a change of power and a new start for Sweden,” he said.

What’s unlikely to change is Sweden’s path towards NATO membership, which has broad support in the wake of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, as well as the country’s plans to boost defence spending.

Social Democrat Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, who has yet to concede the election, pledged in March to increase the military budget to 2% of gross domestic product following what Moscow calls its “special operation” in Ukraine.

Preliminary results have shown the Sweden Democrats with 20.6% of the vote, up from 17.5% at the last election.

The party, which has white supremacists among their founders, is expected to stay formally in opposition, with many voters and politicians across the political spectrum uncomfortable with seeing it in government. However, their impact will still be felt.

“It is the Sweden Democrats who have driven the right-wing bloc along, both in terms of shaping the political content and in attracting voters to the constellation,” the independent liberal newspaper Goteborgsposten wrote.

“For Sweden, a new political era awaits.”

GAINING STATURE

When Kristersson took over as leader of the Moderates in 2017, the Sweden Democrats were shunned by the right and left. But he has gradually deepened cross-party ties since a 2018 election loss and the Sweden Democrats are increasingly seen as part of the mainstream right having moderated some policies such as dropping plans to leave the European Union. read more

Kristersson will now likely struggle to formulate his economic agenda as inflation runs at a three-decade high and energy costs soar, with the Sweden Democrats opposed to his flagship policy of benefit cuts.

“Intense negotiations are expected and it might take time to form a new government. Fiscal policy will likely remain expansionary regardless of which side wins,” Nordea Markets said in a note to clients.

Campaigning had seen parties battle to be the toughest on gang crime, after a steady rise in shootings that has unnerved voters, while surging inflation and the energy crisis have increasingly taken centre-stage.

While law and order issues are home turf for the right, gathering economic clouds as households and companies face sky-high power prices had been seen boosting Andersson, viewed as a safe pair of hands and more popular than her party. read more

She was finance minister for many years before becoming Sweden’s first female prime minister a year ago. Kristersson had cast himself as the only candidate who could unite the right and unseat her.

“In a fragmented, multiparty system, finding a stable, governing coalition is becoming increasingly difficult,” said Johannes Berg, research director for politics, democracy and civil society at the Institute for Social Research in Oslo.

“If the result we have now – a one-seat majority for the right – ends up being the final result, that is going to be a huge challenge for the Moderates to hold together.”

Source: Swedish election puts anti-immigration Sweden Democrats centre stage

Sweden: Academics protest against ‘fatal’ changes to Aliens Act

Seems counterproductive to make it harder for highly-skilled PhDs to transition to permanent residency:

Changes to the Aliens Act in Sweden, which impose onerous self-sufficiency requirements on international doctoral students and researchers and require them to leave the country to apply for Swedish residence permits for family members – even those born in Sweden – have been denounced by academic stakeholders.

The legislation was enacted after a heated discussion in parliament in June 2021.

Online magazine Universitetsläraren has identified several researchers that have had to travel as far afield as Asia to apply for visas to travel with their families to neighbouring countries such as Denmark or Germany. “With the COVID situation the travel can be very lengthy,” said researchers who did not want to disclose their identity.

Disruption

Erik Kvist, who is international coordinator at Lund University, said he and colleagues have been involved in similar cases where families have been uprooted from their work in Sweden to travel abroad, a process that can create problems at their workplaces and disrupts their lives.

Kvist said that in these cases the parents of the children are in Sweden on a valid residence permit. 

“The expulsion [out of the country] of a lone baby [without a permit] would be morally unacceptable, lead to great personal suffering and I am questioning how his can be related to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the right to private and family life according to the European Convention on Human Rights,” Kvist said.

“The contention that one should make an application before the newborn baby came to Sweden is an unjust demand when the child is born in Sweden,” he said.

According to the press officer for the Swedish Migration Agency, Annica Dahlqvist, no exemptions to the rules will be offered.

Pil Maria Saugmann, Swedish National Union of Students (SFS) representative and chairperson of the Doctoral Students’ Committee at SFS, told University World News that roughly 20% of doctoral students in Sweden are affected by the new legislation. “But it is maybe also important to mention that the issue digs deeper and affects post-docs and other early career researchers as well,” she said.

The legislation’s impact goes beyond having to travel outside the country to apply for permit applications.

Financial self-sufficiency

Since 2014, international doctoral students have been able to secure permanent residency after four years of doctoral studies. However, last year’s changes – introduced without a transition period – also make it necessary for international students and researchers to show they are financially self-sufficient, in other words, have a job, for a period of time, a period interpreted by the Swedish Migration Agency to be at least 18 months.

petition by the Swedish Association of University Teachers and Researchers (SULF), the Swedish National Union of Students’ Doctoral Students’ Committee (SFS-DK) and trade union Fackförbundet ST calling for a reversal of the legislation, notes that doctoral students and other early career researchers are very rarely offered such long-term contracts, whether employed by universities, private companies or the state. 

At the same time, those who hold a PhD degree are rarely unemployed and, if they are unemployed, it is usually only for a short time. 

“While the demand for their skills and expertise is high, their chances of being given a long-term contract are low during the first few years after graduation. The new permanent residency rules will create additional hurdles in their pursuit of long-term career development in Sweden. Hence, the new rules will also create a lose-lose situation for Sweden as a knowledge-based nation,” the petition, signed by almost 5,000 people, states.

‘Fatal consequences’

Adding her voice to criticisms of the legislation, Astrid Söderbergh Widding, president of Stockholm University, wrote in her blog on 23 September 2021 that the consequences of changes in the Aliens Act “risk becoming fatal for international doctoral students and junior researchers” and “threaten Sweden’s position as a prominent knowledge nation”.

She said the Swedish Migration Agency’s insistence on fixed-term employment for at least 18 months meant that doctoral students “can no longer count on completing their doctoral education in Sweden under reasonable conditions, while those with a newly earned doctor’s degree no longer have the opportunity to secure a multi-year post-doc or equivalent with the help of ‘bridge funding’ after the completion of their PhD”.

She called on parliament to introduce an exemption for doctoral students and junior researchers from the requirement to be financially self-sufficient in the narrow sense defined by the agency, saying: “All of Sweden’s higher education institutions agree.”

Speaking to University World News on behalf of the European Migration Network, migration expert Bernd Parusel said that for some time the main focus of migration policy in Sweden has been to limit the immigration of people seeking asylum and their family members. 

“It seems that this restrictive approach in Swedish migration policy has spilled over and affected other groups as well, even those that Sweden wants to attract and retain,” he said.

The call for changes to the new legislation continues, with the establishment of a Facebook page, “Intl PhD students in Sweden call for changes in permanent residency law”, which has so far attracted 2,300 members. 

SULF is also keeping the issue alive by arranging webinars on the topic and has set up a webpage hosting question-and-answer sessions and other information.

Source: Academics protest against ‘fatal’ changes to Aliens Act

Swedish tweets about immigration reveal new insights into polarization dynamics

Would love to see some comparative analysis with Canada, USA and other countries:

A computational analysis of more than 1 million Tweets from Swedish speakers has found little evidence for significant polarization within this network on the topic of immigration—even after Sweden’s 2015 refugee crisis. Elizaveta Kopacheva and Victoria Yantseva of Linnaeus University, Sweden, present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on February 9, 2022.

Social media platforms can enable grassroots activism and expose people to new ideas, but they can also create echo chambers and cause group . However, most research into polarization caused by social media has focused on political party support or membership, while neglecting a wider selection of social issues, such as immigration.

To broaden understanding, Kopacheva and Yantseva studied a network of Swedish speakers who discussed immigration on Twitter from 2012 to 2019. The research team applied analytical tools known as and natural-language processing to almost 1,200,000 tweets in order to explore the dynamics of interactions between active users in the network, and to quantify polarization in their sentiments regarding immigration.

This analysis revealed the development of different discussion communities within the network over time. However, despite immigration being thought of as a controversial topic, the researchers did not find significant evidence for polarization between users in the network and communities.

Moreover, polarization dynamics did not change significantly in the wake of the 2015 refugee crises, when an unprecedented number of asylum seekers came to Sweden, and the government struggled to adequately accommodate them. However, the researchers did note a shift in sentiment after the 2015 crisis, with users’ tweets becoming more negative in tone and a declining proportion of tweets having a neutral tone.

The authors discuss potential mechanisms that could underlie their findings and outline possible next steps. For instance, future research could incorporate more information on Twitter users’ behavior and consider less-active users, or it could examine the potential impact of Twitter’s 2017 expansion of the maximum-allowed length of each .

Overall, the researchers say, their findings could help clarify the potential role could play in reducing radicalization and right-wing populism.

The authors add: “We detected no permanent changes in the levels of polarization that could be directly attributed to the crisis, which applies both to the and community levels. Still, we saw a moderate but long-lasting shift towards a more negative tonality of users’ messages after the crisis and a declining share of neutral tweets.”

Source: Swedish tweets about immigration reveal new insights into polarization dynamics

Long suppressed and forcibly assimilated, Sámi people in Sweden get an apology 30 years in the making

Of interest and the influence of and parallel with Canadian experience:

In Uppsala Cathedral, the heart of Swedish Christianity, Archbishop Antje Jackelén sat this week before a circle of Sámi leaders in traditional dress and the television cameras of Sweden’s state broadcaster, listing the past crimes of her church.

“You have told us about forced Christianization and Swedish colonialism. Sámi culture was denied,” Jackelén said, in Swedish. “Today, we acknowledge this and, on behalf of the Church of Sweden, I apologize.”

Wednesday’s apology service in Uppsala, the culmination of more than 30 years of discussions and advocacy, marked a major step forward for reconciliation in Sweden, where the Indigenous Sámi people continue to fight for self-determination and recognition of past wrongs committed by church and state.

Having studied the Canadian experience of reconciliation, church and Sámi figures alike emphasized that the apology must be followed by concrete actions, and came with no expectation of forgiveness.

“As we apologize to you today, we cannot determine how you will receive this apology. It is not our place to demand to know when a response will be given,” Jackelén said in her speech.

“While we wait, we pray to God … that we do not repeat past mistakes.”

As one of its commitments, the church pledged to acknowledge the importance of Sámi spirituality, and even incorporate it into Christian worship after centuries of exclusion and demonization.

Ingrid Inga, the chair of the church’s internal Sámi Council, called it “the starting point of a new relationship between the Church of Sweden and the Sámi people.”

Crimes of assimilation

The Sámi are indigenous to the vast forests and tundra of Arctic Europe, traditionally herding reindeer, hunting and fishing across Norway, Sweden, Finland and parts of northern Russia. For centuries, they have been divided by the borders of those countries, which all embarked on differing programs of forced assimilation.

Though the earliest Christian missionaries are believed to have visited Sápmi, the traditional territory of the Sámi, in the 11th century, Sámi say the church’s process of forced Christianization truly began some 500 years later, when the Reformation unified church and state.

In an 1,100-page anthology produced for the Church of Sweden in 2019 — seen as an essential precondition to the apology — historians documented the way the church supported the state in the process of erasing and suppressing Sámi identity.

Christian preachers condemned Sámi religion as devil worship, banning the joik, a form of spiritual singing used by noaidi, or Sámi shamans, to communicate with the spirit world.

The 17th century saw a wave of puritanical witch trials, in which Swedish church and state authorities waged an intense campaign against Sámi worship, which they branded as sorcery. One noaidi, Lars Nilsson, was burned at the stake, and many others were tried for witchcraft.

In pursuit of converts, the Swedish church produced the first writing in the Sámi languages, in translated bibles. But by the 20th century, it was actively suppressing the Sámi languages in church-run schools.

Reindeer herders were segregated to subpar “nomad schools,” which sought to “protect” them from civilization as an “inferior race.”

As in Canada, these church-run schools became theatres for humiliating scientific experiments and clerical abuse. Racial biologists also conspired with bishops to dig up the remains of Sámi children and elders — many of which still sit in museum collections across Europe.

Other Sámi, deemed not sufficiently nomadic by Swedish authorities, were forced to assimilate, driving divisions in the community that exist to this day.

Christianity an ‘Indigenous religion’

Yet today, many Sámi are still devoutly Christian. A 19th-century revival movement produced an Indigenous form of Lutheranism that transformed communities damaged by the suppression of traditional activities.

“Many Sámi think that Christianity is their Indigenous religion, because the Sámi have for centuries been dealing with Christianity,” said Helga West, a Sámi theologian who studies the reconciliation processes underway in the three Nordic countries. (Her Sámi name is Biennaš-Jon Jovnna Piera Helga.)

“Yet… there are many Sámi who don’t want to be involved with these churches at all.”

Thomas Colbengtson, originally from Tärnaby, was raised in the Lutheran Church and attended a nomad school. He says the experience left him with a “mixed feeling” about his own identity.

“In a way, you’ve got double guilt — guilt [for] being Sámi, guilt [for] being Swedish, guilt [for] perhaps not practising Christian religion, guilt [for] being Christian…. That’s the sensitive thing to talk about.”

In a former glass factory in the suburbs of Stockholm, Colbengtson wrestles with that tension as a Sámi artist. His most recent work, based on a noaidi drum, will be displayed near the altar of the Swedish church.

“Part of it is provocation,” he said, “and … part is to visualize Sámi presence in the area, and Sámi culture that [they have] tried to erase.”

Spiritual destruction — and renewal

Guided by the Canadian truth and reconciliation process, the church has largely focused on documenting historical wrongs. But West says it has not yet come to terms with how it has forever transformed Sámi spirituality.

“Christianity in general brought this hierarchical and linear view of the world that was very different from the Sámi cosmic vision, that was pluralistic,” she said. “They were forced to think differently of the world, of their ancestors, of their practices, that were labelled as pagan and backward.”

Some Christian Sámi have managed to reconcile these identities within themselves. Nilla and Nik Märak, two sisters from Jokkmokk, learned from their father, Johan, a renowned Sámi priest, who broke barriers by bringing joiking into the church for the first time.

“He used to say, ‘God was with the Sámi before the church,'” Nik said with a laugh.

“He knew that by … being a minister in the church, and bringing the two worlds together, he could, just by his presence, actually go quite a long way [toward] reconciliation,” Nilla said.

For Nilla, who handed out communion wafers at Wednesday’s service in Uppsala, the church’s recognition of past wrongs is an important step in and of itself.

“A huge part of reconciliation, and the healing that will come, we hope … is to realize that there has been damage done,” she said. “The Sámi religion has been damaged, and the Sámi soul has been damaged.”

Wednesday’s service included eight concrete commitments to reverse the historic erasure of Sámi culture, meant to counter early perceptions among Sámi that public apologies, like those in Canada, would be merely performative.

Among them are pledges to preach in the Sámi language, educate congregations about past crimes and make Sámi traditions a more visible part of Christian worship.

“I hope that the Sámi people really trust the Church of Sweden, that it’s for real, that we want Sámi spirituality as part of the church,” said Bishop Åsa Nyström, whose Luleå diocese covers the northernmost third of Sweden and includes many Sámi communities. “It is so important the Sámi people can have priests and deacons … from their own people.”

State absent

Some say there is still more the church could do. Northern dioceses like Nyström’s derive income from vast forests they manage. But Åsa Larsson Blind, vice-president of the transnational Saami Council, says they do not pursue international certifications that would require co-management with the Sámi.

To critics, the greatest shortcoming of Wednesday’s church apology may be that the Swedish government was nowhere to be seen.

“It’s only the church doing the work,” said Nilla Märak. “The Swedish government is doing nothing. They’re barely even recognizing that there is a need for a reconciliation process.”

Many of the crimes documented by the church were committed in service of a colonizing Swedish state, which sought to push Sámi people off profitable land and divide them with borders.

Yet the state’s own reconciliation process has barely begun. First discussed more than 15 years ago, the Swedish government only this month announced a truth commission, which will be focused primarily on fact-finding over its four-year mandate.

“It’s very, very important, but it isn’t a reconciliation process,” said Nyström.

Meanwhile, the Swedish government continues to fight Sámi reindeer herders in court for the right to build mines and power plants on their lands. It has refused to ratify international conventions recognizing the rights of Indigenous people.

A landmark Supreme Court decision in the Sámi village of Girjas appears to have established a duty to consult with Sámi people. But the government continues to interpret it narrowly.

“They are dodging the whole issue,” said Larsson Blind. “And by not addressing the issues, they are letting business as usual … just go on.”

As part of its evidence in court, the government’s representative read an 1884 statement that said Sámi herders live “on a less cultured level” and must “give way to the more civilized people.”

Two ministries within the Swedish government responsible for Sámi issues declined CBC requests for comment.

Making an ally of the church

Many of those present at Wednesday’s service hope the apology will be a turning point for the church, making it a crucial ally in the push for restitution from the government.

“I think that the church having the platform and the voice in Sweden that they have, they can actually play a huge part in this,” said Larsson Blind.

Within the church, meanwhile, the long and difficult work begins to regain trust with Sámi Christians and their communities.

“In some time … the [Sámi people may] take this apology and forgive the church,” said Inga, the Sámi church council’s chair. “But this is not the right time for that.”

Source: Long suppressed and forcibly assimilated, Sámi people in Sweden get an apology 30 years in the making

How to design language tests for citizenship

Immigration-based countries tend to have more pragmatic approach to language training than some of the European examples cited:

“Perfect swedish is overrated. But comprehensible Swedish is deeply underrated,” says Ulf Kristersson, the leader of Sweden’s centre-right Moderate party, which supports a language requirement to become a Swedish citizen. The left has come round, too: the Social Democrat-led government plans to introduce a language test. Sweden would thereby leave the small club of European countries that do not make passing such a test a condition of naturalisation.

To learn the language of the country you live in is the key to a full life there. But many experts in language policy oppose testing for citizenship—because they suspect a less compassionate motive in some who propose them. “Becoming a Danish citizen is something one has to become worthy of,” said Inger Stojberg in 2015, when she was the immigration and integration minister in Denmark’s centre-right government—implying that the unworthy had been slipping through. Her thinly camouflaged goal was not to improve immigrants’ Danish, but to naturalise fewer of them.

Sweden proposes language requirement for would-be citizens

Pretty standard requirements elsewhere:

Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson presented details of an inquiry into the proposals on Wednesday morning.

“Language is the key to work, but also the key to society,” said Johansson as he outlined why the government thought it needed to find “a better balance between rights and responsibilities” for would-be citizens.

Foreign nationals applying to become Swedish would need proof of Swedish skills at A2 level for speaking and writing, the second lowest out of six levels on the Common European Framework of Reference, and B1 for reading and listening.

To take the test, it would cost 500 kronor ($60) for the section relating to civil society and 2,000 kronor for the language component.

Citizenship applicants could alternatively provide proof of passing Grade 9 in a Swedish high school, or a course at upper secondary school, or the highest level of the Swedish For Immigrants (SFI) course.

The language requirements would apply to people aged between 16 and 66 who apply for Swedish citizenship, but certain exceptions are proposed, including for people with certain disabilities or those who are from a vulnerable background – for example being stateless or illiterate – who can prove they have tried to reach the required knowledge level but been unsuccessful.

Citizens of other Nordic countries who live in Sweden would also be exempted, as they are subject to a different process and are only required to notify authorities, rather than apply, in order to receive citizenship.

The proposals were put together based on reviewing the processes in place in other European countries, of which only three including Sweden do not currently require a language test.

But the details aren’t finalised yet. The next stage is to send the proposals out for consultation from relevant authorities, and they may be adapted depending on the responses received. Then a proposal would need to be passed by parliament and work to begin on putting together the tests.

“This is a reasonable proposal and we hope that it can be put into place as soon as possible, but of course this is a large organisational challenge,” said Johansson.

The government committed to investigating language tests for citizenship applicants in the cross-bloc deal struck with the Centre and Liberal parties, whose support the Social Democrat-Green coalition needed to form a government.

Separately, the government is looking into whether language skills should be required for permanent residence in Sweden.

Source: https://www.thelocal.se/20210113/sweden-proposes-language-requirement-for-would-be-citizens

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 6 January Update

The standard charts can be found below.

There has understandably been a “feeding frenzy” regarding federal and provincial parliamentarians who have disregarded public health and their own government’s advice to forego travel, domestic or international, during the holidays.

In some cases, this has been to visit elderly family members (e.g., Sameer Zuberi and Kamal Khera of the Liberals, Niki Ashton of the NDP), in others for holidays (the various Alberta MLAs and Premier Kenney’s Chief of Staff, Quebec MNA Pierre Arcand) along with others.

Responsibility and accountability has been mixed. The federal NDP handled Ashton’s case the best, removing her quickly from her critic responsibilities, setting the tone for the federal liberals to follow sui. Ontario Premier Ford initially botched it being aware of his former finance minister Rod Phillips vacationing in St Barts but recovering quickly by accepting (insisting?) on his resignation. In rare tone deafness, Alberta Premier Kenney initial response not to sanction minister Allard, his Chief of Staff Huckabay and a number of MLAs, for travel during the holidays, that prompted outrage on all sides of the political spectrum and led to belated resignations and discipline.

Highly ironic given Kenney and the UCP reliance of “personal responsibility” and “good judgement” to reduce COVID risks when so many in the government have demonstrated neither.

Some good examples of Alberta commentary:

Rick Bell: Premier Kenney, it’s time to face the music

Don Braid: Kenney fires and demotes to spike scandal, but Albertans will decide if they forgive

And the contrary arguments from C2C’s editor George Koch:

In Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney first avoided meting out Ford-style punishment upon Allard and her fellow travellers. When the news broke, Kenney himself shouldered much of the blame and said he would provide new and crystal-clear “guidelines” covering ministers, MLAs and senior bureaucrats. The opposition, however, gleefully called for Allard’s headwhile the media republished tweets demanding Kenney’s own resignation. It has become fashionable to criticize nearly anything Kenney says or does; his handling of the pandemic is, according to one poll, approved of by just 30 percent of Albertans.

Personally, I found the Alberta premier’s initial response not only courageous but admirable and honourable. Unlike Ford and innumerable politicians, corporate leaders and heads of other organizations in countless analogous situations, Kenney declined to throw Allard under the bus. This is not the first time Kenney has gone to the mat for a subordinate, at considerable short-term political cost to himself. Who would you rather work for? Further, someone who clearly cares about the people who work for him might, just might, also be sincere in his concern for small businesspeople and voters at large.

Sadly, however, Kenney ultimately could not resist the stinking red tide of public opinion; on Monday, he accepted Allard’s resignation from cabinet, as well as that of his chief of staff, who had travelled to the UK, and demoted the other MLAs.

Source: https://c2cjournal.us19.list-manage.com/track/click?u=e8efce716429c34122979e2de&id=cb2f1e50a3&e=4174a59277

Minor week to week changes:

Infections per million: Sweden moves ahead of UK which in turn moves ahead of France, Canada total ahead of Prairies

Deaths per million: Germany moves ahead of Canada

And the standard weekly charts and table.

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 30 December Update, including cumulative data

Will now provide the trend line and weekly data to provide a more complete picture. As the charts are self-explanatory (advise me if not), will continue to keep narrative to a minimum.

Alberta’s infection rate maintains its overall convergence with Quebec whereas the death rate of the Prairie provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan) have converged with Ontario’s.

The other related news, despite all the warnings and advice from political leaders, the Ontario finance minister was caught “off message” with a trip to the exclusive Caribbean of St Barts. Not the only one, Quebec MNA Pierre Arcand went to Barbados. Not to forget federal health minister Patty Hajdu’s repeated trips home to her riding during the first wave.

One expects better.

Lastly, may I wish you a happier new year.

Weekly updates below. Minor changes only:

Infections per million: UK moves ahead of Italy

Deaths per million: Prairies (Manitoba, Saskatchewan) moves ahead of Ontario

And the standard weekly charts and table.

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 23 December Update including cumulative data

For a change and end 2020, I prepared these charts comparing infection and death rates per million for Canadian provinces with the G7 (less Canada) and top five immigration source countries (India, China, Philippines, Pakistan and Nigeria).

For the G7 average, only Japan is significantly lower. For immigration source countries, the large populations, lower infection and death rates except for India, and perhaps less comprehensive reporting, mean that rates are lower than all provinces save for Atlantic.

The charts compare the overall second-wave increase and particularly the relatively steeper increase in Western provinces for both infections and deaths.

While Canadian provincial infection rates are less than G7 (less Canada), Quebec’s death rate is higher than the G7.

And the standard weekly charts and table.

And in a rare public comment, Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf “condemned political leaders for their experiment, branding the light-touch strategy a miserable and deadly failure.”

Remember in the early days of the pandemic, when people like Tucker Carlson and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) advocated that the U.S. follow the Swedish model of avoiding strict lockdowns and letting life carry on largely as normal amid the highly contagious virus?

Well, as the year ends, Sweden is coming to terms with a death toll that is approximately 10 times higher than neighboring Norway and Finland, and now its king has condemned political leaders for their experiment, branding the light-touch strategy a miserable and deadly failure.

“The people of Sweden have suffered tremendously in difficult conditions,” King Carl XVI Gustaf, who is traditionally tight-lipped on political matters, told the Swedish state broadcaster SVT. He added, “I think we have failed. We have a large number who have died, and that is terrible.”

Although it’s remarkable for a king to comment on policy, his actual comments were a statement of the obvious. Anders Tegnell, the country’s top epidemiologist who designed its anti-lockdown strategy, has himself admitted that too many people have died and the country should have done more to prevent the spread of the disease from the outset.

Throughout the pandemic, Swedes have been allowed to go to restaurants and bars with no social-distancing measures in place and, until recently, were allowed to hit the gym and send their kids to school. The country has also broken with the near-universal guidance of recommending that protective face masks be worn in public, except in hospitals.

The sight of Swedes packing restaurants and bars in the first wave of the pandemic led some commentators in the U.S. to urge their own leaders to follow Sweden’s example. That way, they said, the economy would be protected and the virus could make its way through the population and offer a good level of herd immunity to slow down its spread.

Since then, deaths in Sweden have soared well beyond similar-size neighboring countries, and Tegnell previously said there’s no sign that herd immunity is doing anything to slow down the rate of infection. And the Swedish economy still entered a harsh recession—although it was milder than those seen in most other European nations.

The rapid increase in new infections has even caused Sweden to partially abandon its anti-lockdown strategy, with the government imposing tougher rules to reduce the limit on public gatherings to eight people from 50, asking high schools to do their teaching remotely, and banning late alcohol sales. Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson warned last month that the measures will harm the economy but are necessary.

Speaking to Swedish network TV4 this week, Tegnell said he was shocked by the second wave of the pandemic, saying, “I think many, with me, are surprised that it has been able to come back so strongly.”

A poll published Thursday showed that support for Tegnell and his approach has collapsed over the past two months.

Source: Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf Brands His Country’s Anti-Lockdown Strategy as a Deadly Failure