Whatever happened to the ‘Australian values’ citizenship bill?

Spoiler – Identity politics and the election:

Nothing seemed as urgent as the protection of Australian values when journalists were called to the Prime Minister’s courtyard two years ago to hear of new laws that would make it harder for migrants to gain citizenship.

Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton stood side by side in Parliament House to announce a bill that would require newcomers to pass stricter English tests and sign a “values statement” before they could become Australians.

This sounded absolutely imperative. The law would be put to Parliament “as soon as possible” to not only apply the new tests but also require permanent residents to wait at least four years, rather than just one, before they could apply for citizenship.

There would even be a change to the preamble in the citizenship law so that new citizens would accept the obligation to “pledge their allegiance” to Australia and its people.

But an election victory changes everything. The new law is no longer as urgent as it seemed in April 2017. The Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017 has been dropped into a filing cabinet and may never be seen again.

The quiet demise of this proposal is a curious shift from years of government warnings about the need for citizens to speak better English and respect Australian laws.

“We want them to demonstrate that they’re adhering to Australian values and that is why it’s incredibly important on all of those levels to get this change through the Parliament,” Dutton told Ray Hadley on 2GB in the middle of 2017.

The proposal was the product of its time. Turnbull stood alongside Dutton at a point when Tony Abbott was mounting a conservative offensive from the backbench. One year into his tenure as Prime Minister, Turnbull was at risk of looking too “progressive” for his own side.

And the political objective of the bill was never in doubt.

“We’re standing up for Australian values and the Parliament should do so too,” said Turnbull in the courtyard.

“So if Labor doesn’t sign up they don’t respect Australian values?” asked a journalist. Turnbull did not have to answer the question directly for the implication to be obvious.

Bill Shorten and his shadow ministers, including citizenship spokesman Tony Burke, resisted the pressure to wave the bill through. Burke said the language test was “ridiculous” because it required university-level standards.

The uproar ran for months. The current citizenship test, put in place by the Howard government, is described as a de facto English test because it asks 20 questions about Australian history and culture. The new test would have required “competent” English to Level 6 of the general training stream of the International English Language Testing System.

Of course new citizens should be encouraged to speak English, but this was not the principle at stake in the government plan. At issue were the scale of the change and the difficulty of the test. The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia called the proposed standard “punitive” and unnecessary.

The result, a political stand-off, raised the usual question when politicians thunder about values. What did they want more: an outcome or a fight? It was easy to see the bill as an example of conservative virtue signalling.

Eager to hear the roar of the “values” debate, the government revved the engine so hard the parts glowed red and the radiator ran dry. Was it worth it? Turnbull certainly did not prosper from his appeal to the right. The bill was hardly front-and-centre in the election campaign. It is a footnote on the long list of reasons for Shorten’s defeat.

The Immigration Minister, David Coleman, now has carriage of the citizenship bill and some of the pressing issues around the settlement of new migrants, not least the way Australia looks after new refugees. One item on his agenda is a review of settlement services.

Coleman has no history of starting culture wars. He knows multicultural Australia better than many politicians, given his seat of Banks in southern Sydney is considered one of the country’s most diverse. His focus appears to be on the practical.

The final status of the plan is uncertain. The bill will not come back to Parliament but none of the proposals has been formally rejected – not the English standard, the four-year wait, the values statement, the “pledge of allegiance” or anything else.

Some sections of the bill gave the immigration minister more discretion to reject citizenship applications, a feature that troubled experts but did not gain as much attention as the language test. There may be a natural tendency in any government to bring these sorts of changes back to Parliament.

Yet the fact remains that the government chooses to let the bill fall by the wayside even when the new Parliament seems to give it a stronger chance of getting its way. The Coalition would only need the support of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, the Australian Conservatives’ Cory Bernardi and Tasmanian independent Jacqui Lambie to pass the bill.

A spokeswoman for Coleman says the government “continues to monitor” the citizenship requirements and the broader citizenship program.

Morrison has extraordinary authority from his election victory. How he uses his power remains to be seen. Perhaps his approach to the citizenship bill is a sign that he feels no obligation to pander to the right.

On population and migration, Morrison set out his goals in March in a 44-page statement that made no mention of citizenship tests and spoke about urban congestion far more than values.

In any case, the government would prefer to fight on the refugee medical transfer bill. All its firepower in this portfolio will be focused on the medevac debate when the new Parliament meets.

This means the citizenship bill has served its purpose. The government was able to flex its muscle, pick a fight with Labor and appeal to a group of conservative voters it feared losing during the Turnbull years.

The argument was entirely shaped by the weaknesses of the government, riven as it was by the divisions between left and right, and the result was years of hot air. No law was changed. No wonder Australians are so cynical about the empty posturing in Canberra.

Like an old car with a burnt-out engine, the “Australian values” bill may now be left to rust in a field.

Source: Whatever happened to the ‘Australian values’ citizenship bill?

Austrian State Plans 10 Commandments for Immigrants, Demands Refugees ‘Show Gratitude’ and Adopt ‘Austrian Values’

While some of the rules are normal (e.g., adhere to laws, learn German), others are less so (e.g., adhere to Austrian values however defined, show gratitude to Austria):

A state government in Austria is planning to introduce a new set of rules for immigrants to follow upon arrival in the country, which have become known as the “Ten Commandments of Immigration.”

According to Deutsche Welle, the list of demands will be issued to new immigrants—including refugees—as soon as they arrive in Lower Austria, the country’s largest and second most populous state.

According to German newspaper Welt, the project is being headed by Gottfried Waldhäusl, a member of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) and the state minister responsible for asylum policy. The FPÖ, which governs as a junior coalition partner with the center-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), is well-known for its anti-migration stance.

The new rules will require migrants to learn German, adhere to all Austrian laws and adopt “Austrian values” in raising their children. It will also commit new arrivals to resolve conflicts nonviolently, respect religious freedom, prevent unnecessary suffering to animals—an implicit challenge to traditional halal or kosher slaughter—and show gratitude to Austria.

The commandments will be combined with integration classes, offered in 15 different languages, for foreigners applying for asylum. All those wishing to stay in Austria will be required to sign an agreement to follow the rules.

Waldhäusl told Welt the commandments would be issued to refugees alongside official asylum application documents. The minister did not specify when the new policy would come into force, but said it would do so “soon.”

Waldhäusl is known for his hard stance on immigration, which is in line with his party’s policies. He is the only FPÖ representative in the Lower Austria state government, which is controlled by the ÖVP and led by Johanna Mikl-Leitner.

Last year, Waldhäusl was criticized after establishing a fenced-off refugee center in the town of Drasenhofen close to the Czech border. The facility was designed to hold young “notorious troublemakers,” who were guarded by security staff and only allowed to leave their accommodation if accompanied by said guards.

Waldhäusl was also accused of prejudice last year when he proposed forcing Jews to apply for permits to purchase kosher meat. Though he argued that plan made sense “from an animal welfare point of view,” opponents said such a system would require a list of Jewish people to be drawn up, as under Adolf Hitler’s Nazi government in the 1930s and 1940s.

The FPÖ has regularly been accused of promoting and facilitating anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and xenophobic ideology, though its leaders have consistently attempted to distance the party from racism and predujice exhibited by some of its members.

The party was founded in the 1950s by former Nazi SS soldiers, and rose to prominence in the 2017 parliamentary election, becoming the third biggest party. It has since become a standard-bearer for resurgent right-wing politics in Europe, with hard-line anti-immigration views and demands for tighter border controls.

Why the ‘Life in the UK’ test alienates new citizens

The perils of citizenship tests based on “values” with some counterintuitive results.

I think overall the Canadian questions are reasonable with fewer marginal questions (and telling that the Liberal government, despite having worked on a revision to Discover Canada, and presumably associated questions, has yet to release it and, IMO, is unlikely to do so 6 months before the election):

The UK’s citizenship process subjects immigrants to requirements intended to enhance their identification with ‘British values’. Does the current process do that, or does it exacerbate immigrants’ marginalisation? David Bartram finds evidence in support of the latter: citizenship policy does more to alienate new citizens than it does to facilitate their political integration.

Have you taken the ‘Life in the UK’ test? If you’re already a UK citizen, then of course you don’t need to – but if you did it out of curiosity you’d likely find it very difficult to pass. Some of the questions involve obscure historical dates (in what year did Richard III die?). Even for more meaningful events it is not clear why one should know the year (e.g. re when women gained the vote – an important issue, but why is knowing the date a basis for citizenship?).

Immigrants wishing to gain citizenship (or even permanent residence) have to pass it. The only way to succeed is to study. Now, some of the questions pertain to more useful matters, so perhaps there’s some benefit from the learning one does. And, once you’ve passed, perhaps you’ll feel (on the basis of the knowledge gained) that you’ve earned an entitlement to participate more fully in British public life and core institutions. Academics tend to be critical of the test requirement, but the idea that some good could come of it – possibly even a set of outcomes that looks something like enhanced integration – is not completely implausible.

Propositions of this sort can be tested, with the right data. With colleagues at the University of Leicester(and funding from the ESRC), I have investigated whether becoming a UK citizen (thus, passing the test and participating in a citizenship ceremony) helps foster integration specifically in terms of political engagement. My answer: the core citizenship requirements do more to impair integration in the political sphere than to enhance it. Immigrants who become UK citizens end up less interested in politics, relative to those immigrants who remain non-citizens. That’s a very counterintuitive result; only slightly less shocking is that new citizens do not participate more in civic/public organizations than those who remain non-citizens.

That finding comes from analysis of data from ‘Understanding Society’ (the UK household panel survey). The longitudinal nature of the data helps minimize the prospect of reverse causation (the possibility that it’s a matter of naturalization by already less-engaged people). The analytical sample comprised almost 1000 people who in Wave 1 (2009/10) were not UK citizens. By the time of Wave 6 (2014/15), roughly half of these respondents had gained citizenship – and the core of the analysis involved comparing them to those who remained non-citizens while taking into account their initial conditions including their extent of political engagement.

Now, perhaps it’s somehow misguided to connect the empirical pattern to the specific requirements for UK naturalization. Maybe naturalization led to decreased political engagement even before the introduction of the test and ceremonies. Not a terribly plausible idea, surely. We can’t test it directly: the ‘Understanding Society’ project began several years after the policy was implemented in 2005 (and the predecessor dataset, the British Household Panel Survey, doesn’t enable tracking changes in citizenship status). We do however have earlier research on the question more generally in Europe including the UK – and in analysis of data from 2002-2003 they find that naturalization is generally associated with increased political engagement (in other words, the outcome one would expect). So, perhaps something did in fact change in the UK after the requirements were put in place.

We can then ask: why would the UK citizenship process lead to lower political engagement? The process involves jumping through some meaningless hoops, so it might be a simple matter of annoyance, possibly to the point of fostering alienation. We can however go a bit further, via further consideration of the types of questions the test poses about political matters.

Many of these questions strike me as having something significant in common. There is a clear tendency to ask about the ‘rules of the game’. For example: what is the role of the Whips in Parliament? Or, what is the current minimum voting age? Or, what time of year are local government elections held? Questions like this imply acquiescence to ‘the way things are’: we tell you what the rules are, and you can then play by those rules. There’s nothing about fundamental rights of citizenship – say, the right to demonstrate and to participate in other forms of collective action. The subtext here is a politics of obedience, perhaps even docility. If this is what we tell immigrants about the nature of our politics, who can blame them if they then say: who needs it?  Why bother? Democratic politics is supposed to engage big questions, about justice, fairness, freedom, equality – but through the ‘Life in the UK’ test Britain teaches new immigrants that it’s all just a matter of fitting in and doing what is expected of you.

There is another significant angle to consider. Anne-Marie Fortier argues (very persuasively) that the real motivation behind the requirements of the UK citizenship policy is not to achieve integration for immigrants but rather to alleviate the anxieties of ‘natives’. The policy sends a signal to people worried about immigration: we hear you, and we’re doing something about it. Whether it has any impact on the immigrants themselves is decidedly secondary. One might be sanguine about that idea as long as the impact is merely nil (rather than positive). But if instead the tests and ceremonies have a genuinely negative impact on immigrants in the UK it becomes less feasible to justify an attempt to mollify voters this way.

The original goal of the requirements (as articulated by the then-Home Secretary, David Blunkett) was to foster participation, in hopes of reinforcing ‘social cohesion’. The requirements are plainly not helping to achieve that goal and might be actively undermining it – even for those who succeed in demonstrating knowledge about ‘Life in the UK’ that most ‘natives’ don’t have.

Source: Why the ‘Life in the UK’ test alienates new citizens

Children as young as 10 denied UK citizenship for failing ‘good character’ test

These stories about UK Home Office excesses keep on coming:

Hundreds of vulnerable children as young as 10, who have spent most of their lives in the UK, are having their applications for British citizenship denied for failing to pass the government’s controversial “good character” test.

Figures published by the Home Office after a freedom of information request by the Guardian show that, on average, one child a week has had their application rejected over the last five years – with campaigners estimating that as many as 400 have been denied citizenship for failing to satisfy the good character requirement since it was introduced in 2006.

In some cases, children who were born in the UK have been turned down on the basis of convictions for crimes as trivial as petty theft, with even offences that are punished with a caution or a fine considered serious enough to warrant their rejection.

Critics say the figures are evidence of the Home Office failing to meet its statutory responsibilities to promote a child’s welfare and making the “best interests” of the child a primary consideration in these applications. They criticised guidelines for failing to differentiate between young people who have grown up in the UK and want to register as British citizens and adult migrants looking to naturalise.

“These are not adult migrants,” says Solange Valdez-Symonds, the director of the campaign group the Project for Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC), adding that young people should not be put in “a position where the secretary of state thinks or believes they can be removed to some obscure country where one of the parents or both parents were born. It’s not acceptable, it’s outrageous and an insult to them and the society of which they are members.”

Valdez-Symonds, who has supported more than a dozen such cases, describes her clients as particularly vulnerable children. “All the clients have been destitute or very poor. At least half are looked after children or have had some sort of social service intervention. All of them are black,” she said. “The whole thing has a big impact on BME [black and minority ethnic] children.”

Liz Barratt, the joint head of immigration at the London law firm Bindmans, said her clients affected by the good character requirement were young people who had had “quite disruptive childhoods”, many of whom had been in the care of local authorities. She added that the “good character requirement knocks them out frequently from the possibility of citizenship”.

Recent figures obtained through a freedom of information request show 35 applications were rejected in 2017, while 59 and 38 child applications were rejected in 2016 and 2017 respectively. There was a peak in the number of rejections in 2013, when 78 child applicants had their request to register as British citizens denied.

Valdez-Symonds added: “The figures of those registering and those being refused simply leaves out the number of children who are not seeking to apply to register because they are being advised or being made aware that a simple caution or fine will mean they’ll be treated as not of good character.”

The good character requirement was introduced in 2006 and applies to applicants over the age of 10 who want to naturalise or register as a British citizen. Under current guidelines, an applicant may be rejected if they have received a fine within the last three years. If the fine is over three years old, applicants could still be rejected if they have received multiple fines that show “a pattern of offending”.

In 2012, the guidance was updated and young applicants were subject to the same guidance as adults. A 2017 review of the good character requirementby David Bolt, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, called on the Home Office to review the guidance and ensure it “makes explicit the scope for caseworkers to exercise discretion”. The government accepted the recommendations and noted: “Updated guidance will be published by the end of December [2017].” The Home Office is yet to publish this guidance.

In the meantime, children such as DB, a 16-year-old boy with special needs who was born and grew up in London, continue to struggle to gain citizenship. His guardian, SD, says he had been discouraged from applying once he was sent to the youth offending team (YOT) for 10 months in 2016. “I’ve been told it’s going to be difficult, it’s not going to be straightforward because of his criminal activity,” SD said, adding that social workers have told DB “he’ll struggle to get citizenship”.

Ronan Toal, an immigration and asylum barrister at Garden Court Chambers, said the application of the good character requirement was not consistent with juvenile justice. “It seems wrong, I think, if you have a principle that applies to juvenile justice, which is that you facilitate the child’s reintegration into the community after the child is committed an offence, whereas in nationality law, you exclude the child if the child has committed an offence,” he said.

Barratt echoes Toal’s point, adding there was “a dissonance” between the youth offending system, which focuses on rehabilitation, and the guidance around the good character requirement. “It’s in a child’s best interest to have a sense of belonging to the country where they’ve lived since they were very little and for which its their home,” she added.

A Home Office spokesperson said:“All citizenship applications are assessed on their individual merits.” The spokesperson noted that the good character requirement applied to all persons aged 10 and over, as that is the age of criminal responsibility, and added that revised guidance for the good character requirement would be published soon.

Source: Children as young as 10 denied UK citizenship for failing ‘good character’ test

What Justin Trudeau had to say at the NATO summit (immigration and diversity)

Not new, but again belies those who believe that he does not believe Canada has an identity:

At a moderated discussion held on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fielded questions on a wide range of issues related to Canada’s membership in the defence alliance—from the level of Canadian military spending, to how the European Union complements NATO, to his expectation of future migrations of people fleeing hardship.

On immigration and diversity as a foundation of Canadian foreign policy.

Trudeau: “We have learned from people who come to Canada [from] everywhere around the world, whether it’s Afghan refugees, whether it’s Syrian refugees recently, or whether it’s some of the previous generations of people fleeing from Uganda in the Idi Amin years, the boat people from Vietnam, or the wave of migrations we got in the post-World War II years from Europe, we understand tangibly how things could be worse and where things have been bad around the world.

And being able to remember that, or reflect on how we can do better, how we can create a society that is based around values and not identity, based around principles and rights, and opportunity, real and fair chances for everyone to succeed— those kinds of principles, I think, are going to be extraordinarily important in the 21st century as we get flows of migrations of people looking for better lives, people fleeing resource depletion, environmental calamities and conflicts.”

Source: What Justin Trudeau had to say at the NATO summit

La CAQ adoucit sa position sur l’immigration

The contrast in titles between the Globe (CAQ seeks to expel immigrants who fail ‘Quebec values’ test – The Globe and Mail) and La Presse is telling (La Presse is the more up-to-date version).

Will be interesting to see if the CPC in its effort to gain support in Quebec by further devolving immigration responsibility to that province (Tories on the rise in Quebec as Scheer woos former Bloc voters, poll …) will have second thoughts should the CAQ be elected and implement such post immigration testing:

À quatre mois des prochaines élections, la Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) a édulcoré sa position sur l’immigration. Plus question pour le Québec d’expulser des immigrants qui, au bout de trois ans, n’ont pas appris le français ou ne cherchent pas un emploi ; il appartiendra à Ottawa de procéder éventuellement à des évictions.

Dans un « document d’orientation » sur l’immigration publié ce mois-ci, la CAQ se défend de vouloir expulser ou extrader des immigrants : « le recours à ce vocabulaire témoigne d’une mauvaise foi ou d’une méconnaissance de nos institutions », indique-t-on. Un immigrant « récalcitrant » qui ne respecterait pas l’engagement pris à son arrivée ne serait plus admissible au Certificat de sélection du Québec ; « le gouvernement du Québec fera alors parvenir au gouvernement fédéral un avis officiel pour l’informer de la présence en territoire canadien d’une personne sans statut. Le gouvernement fédéral décidera alors des mesures qu’il entend prendre ».

« [Le pouvoir d’expulsion], je ne pense pas avoir jamais dit que ce serait le gouvernement qui le ferait. Le seul pouvoir que le Québec a est d’accorder ou non un certificat de sélection. » – François Legault, chef de la CAQ, dans un entretien avec La Presse

Sans ce certificat, « techniquement, la personne se retrouve sans statut, donc elle ne peut rester au Canada ».

En conférence de presse, le 16 mars 2015, en présentant la politique avec le député Simon Jolin-Barrette, M. Legault s’était fait demander si les contrevenants seraient expulsés. « L’immigrant [qui] ne reçoit pas son certificat permanent, bien oui, il devra retourner, puis le gouvernement fédéral devra s’assurer que cette personne retourne chez elle », avait-il dit. Plus tard, à une autre question sur l’éviction des immigrants récalcitrants, il avait ajouté qu’ils pourraient être candidats dans d’autres provinces, mais pas au Québec. « Ils ne peuvent pas rester de façon permanente même s’ils se sont fait une blonde, un chum au Québec puis qu’ils ont eu un enfant. À un moment donné, il y a des lois, puis nous, on pense que c’est important pour le vivre-ensemble québécois que les personnes parlent français, connaissent et respectent les valeurs québécoises et répondent aux objectifs d’employabilité », avait soutenu M. Legault il y a trois ans.

La proposition de la CAQ maintient la réduction du nombre d’immigrants acceptés chaque année – des 50 000 actuels, on voudrait passer à 40 000. « C’est une réduction temporaire », a expliqué hier M. Legault, qui rappelle qu’après 10 ans, 26 % des immigrants reçus ont quitté le Québec. « Pendant un certain nombre d’années, il faut réduire le nombre. Actuellement, à 50 000, on excède nos capacités à l’emploi et à la formation en français », observe-t-il. La barre sera remise à 50 000 une fois ces objectifs atteints. « Au cours d’un mandat ? Je ne veux pas fixer de délais, mais cela pourrait être ça », a précisé M. Legault.

Selon le premier ministre Philippe Couillard, la position de la CAQ illustre que pour ce parti, l’immigration « est un problème à régler ». « [Une autre idée] de M. Legault qui est brouillonne et inapplicable à plusieurs égards. Ce que sous-tend ce discours-là, c’est le fait que l’immigrant est un problème ; c’est un problème à régler, alors que c’est une occasion extraordinaire pour le Québec », a lancé M. Couillard en marge du point de presse où il a confirmé qu’Alexandre Taillefer deviendrait président de la campagne électorale du Parti libéral du Québec (PLQ).

Au Parti québécois (PQ), on qualifie la position de la CAQ en matière d’immigration d’« irréaliste ».

« Ce n’est pas sérieux, a martelé hier le chef du Parti québécois, Jean-François Lisée. Ce que la CAQ dit, c’est : “On va faire entrer jusqu’à 100 % d’immigrants qui ne connaissent pas le français puis, après trois ou quatre ans, s’ils ne l’ont pas appris, ils vont rester parce qu’on va demander au fédéral de les expulser, [mais] le fédéral ne va pas les expulser.” »

« On est au coeur de l’imagination fautive de la CAQ, proposer des affaires qui ne se peuvent pas, qui n’existera pas, qui ne sera pas appliquée », a souligné M. Lisée.

via La CAQ adoucit sa position sur l’immigration | Denis Lessard | Politique québécoise

Does Canadian federalism amplify policy clashes?

Interesting analysis by Érick Lachapelle, Éric Montpetit, and Simon Kiss of how values may play a more important part than regions on a number of policy issues:

Another example comes from the recent debate over the restriction of religious symbols, which is often interpreted in Canada as an issue that pits ardently secular Quebec against English Canada. But examining new data from over 5,000 Canadians interviewed from across the federation, we find that Quebec is not that distinct when it comes to this issue.

As indicated by the relatively flat slopes in the left panel of Figure 2, egalitarian values do not appear to shape public opinion on religious dress as much as one might expect. This finding probably reflects the tension that exists between egalitarian predispositions toward framing this issue as one of gender equality on the one hand, or of protecting minority rights, on the other. Meanwhile, we find that a greater predisposition toward legal rigorist values is associated with greater support for restricting religious symbols across all regions. In fact, the strongest support for restricting religious symbols is not found in Quebec, but rather among legal rigorists living on the Prairies, and to a lesser extent, in Ontario and British Columbia.

On a range of other issues, from abortion to foreign policy, we find remarkably similar patterns across regions — the same values explain the same contentious policy disagreements across Canada, which suggests that a weak form of regionalism best characterizes policy disagreements in the federation. Moreover, compared to other explanatory factors, we find that values explain a considerable amount more of observed differences in the preferences of Canadians. This holds in models that control for age, gender, religion and partisan affiliation, which account for much less of the overall variation in policy preferences.

The upshot is that there may be a tendency to exaggerate the role of regions as the primary source of policy disagreement in Canada. Our paper thus highlights three main implications for thinking about policy disagreements, and how they might be surpassed.

Regional differences might be overcome through carefully reframing issues in ways that mobilize the value predispositions present in all regions.

Those who seek support for policies may wish to develop regionally sensitive communications strategies, notably to appeal to a region’s dominant value orientation or to appeal to values that have been overlooked in specific regions by policy-makers in the past.
Provincial policy-makers may find it beneficial to exchange with their counterparts in other provinces when developing policies and strategies. This may enhance their capacity to frame proposals in ways that appeal to specific sets of values and to build cross-regional support.

To be sure, policy disagreements are a legitimate part of any well-functioning democracy. However, when they become too entrenched, or are exaggerated by the media, they may be distinctly unhelpful when it comes to developing policy solutions to complex problems. Although regional differences cannot be ignored, our research suggests that paying greater attention to values has much to offer in terms of better interpreting policy disagreements, and that appealing to shared values may actually attenuate regional clashes over policy. This may, in turn, enhance the quality of public debate in Canada, as well as the legitimacy of public policies and programs.

via Does Canadian federalism amplify policy clashes?

Canada supports a ‘values’ test. But not the values of the far right. – Terry Glavin

Glavin’s take on the Macleans’ poll and what it says about Canadian values:

It is a delicious paradox and it’s wholly counterintuitive. What’s one of the strongest feelings expressed by the otherwise liberal, laid-back and largely contented people revealed by our poll? It’s in the survey respondents’ support for a proposition most closely associated, fairly or not, with Canada’s disgruntled, anti-immigrant, Islamophobic fringe.

A whopping 84 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement, “New immigrants to Canada should be screened to ensure they share Canadian values.” Almost 50 per cent “strongly” agreed. That’s a higher register of strong feeling than the survey elicited in any other policy-related question.

Peculiar to the far-right edges of the Conservative party, the specific proposal to subject prospective immigrants to a “Canadian values” assessment in face-to-face interviews was a major plank in party leadership candidate Kellie Leitch’s campaign. Opposed by several other candidates and derided by Liberals and New Democrats as a dog whistle to bigots, Canadians, it would seem, are for it, with gusto. Only five per cent of survey respondents “strongly” disagreed with the proposition. That’s a slam dunk.

But here’s the paradox: It turns out that the “Canadian values” revealed in our poll are dramatically at odds with the values espoused by the loudest proponents of an immigrant “values” test. In other words, Canada’s rednecks should be careful what they wish for.

Almost all of the 17 primary values questions put to poll respondents elicited enthusiasm in varying degrees for “progressive” values and ambivalence about almost everything else. If it’s “Canadian values” you want embraced by the roughly 300,000 people who emigrate to Canada every year, you’ll have to screen out almost everybody except for liberals.

Source: Canada supports a ‘values’ test. But not the values of the far right. – Macleans.ca

Douglas Todd: Some immigrants’s values contrast with ‘Canadian’ values

The fallacy in Todd’s article and related analysis is his assumption that values are static, not dynamic. Values can and do change  over time and over generations.

The Canadian benchmark in the World Values Survey includes the 20 percent of the population which is foreign-born as well as the 17 percent who are second generation immigrants. In other words, the Canadian baseline is not “old-stock” white Canadians but a mix of “old” and “new” stock.

So what he presents as a duality is actually a more complex mix that emerges through the Hegelian integration dynamic between immigrants (first and second generation) and the increasingly diverse “host” society.

Todd’s analysis also assumes that first generation immigrants have completely identical values than the population of their country of origin, which may or may not be true given that Canada tends to select more highly educated immigrants.

That is not to say that there are no value differences among groups on any range of issues, but just caution against overly simplistic depictions and assumptions:

In his unscientific yet credible book, McGoogan considers how the nine million Canadians who claim Scottish or Irish heritage have strengthened certain values in Canada — such as “independence” (exemplified by rebel Michael Collins), pluralism (exemplified by gay writer Oscar Wilde and mixed-race B.C. governor Sir James Douglas) and “democracy” (exemplified by egalitarian poet Robbie Burns and prime minister Sir John A. McDonald).

“Did the ancestors of more than one-quarter of our population arrive (in Canada) without cultural baggage? No history, no values, no visions?” McGoogan asks. “Surely the idea is ridiculous.”

Indeed, it’s absurd many Canadians assume people arrive from Ireland, Egypt or China without both individual and ethno-cultural traits.

So it’s especially worthwhile to learn about values widely held in Canada’s biggest immigrant-source countries.

The top sources of immigrants to Canada include China, India, South Korea, Iran and the Arabic-speaking countries of the Middle East, all of which have had their values measured by the WVS.

How do the values emphasized in these countries play out in Canada’s major cities, where the potential for inter-cultural exchange is high in schools, businesses and neighbourhoods?

We’ll start with Montreal, where one of five residents is foreign born, many from Arabic-speaking countries.

A particularly valuable question the WVS asks parents is: “What qualities would you most like to see in your children?”

As The Vancouver Sun and Province’s online interactive chart shows, it turns out more than 65 per cent of parents from Arabic-speaking countries, such as Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, strongly stress “obedience.”

However, only 30 per cent of Canadian parents name “obedience” as an important quality, suggesting the contrast could make for intriguing interactions in Montreal schools.

What do we discover when we turn to Metro Vancouver and Toronto, where foreign-born people make up almost half the population and two of the largest immigrant-source countries are China and India?

It turns out only 16 per cent of parents in China strongly emphasize obedience. But the stress on obedience rises to 56 per cent among mothers and fathers in India.

What about “hard work?” It can determine success in the competitive fields of education and business, not to mention in whether a potential friend goes skiing?

The WVS found 90 per cent of parents in China say hard work is a crucial value. That emphasis declines slightly among the parents of India. Meanwhile, the proportion of all Canadian parents who want their children to work hard is only 54 per cent.

However, Canadian parents are not too different from the parents of China and India in regards to “unselfishness.” While 47 per cent of Canadian parents emphasize unselfishness, so do 35 per cent of Chinese and Indian parents. That’s unlike South Korean parents, only 12 per cent of whom stress the virtue of self-sacrifice.

The lesson of the WVS is that values are all over the map, literally.

And it’s especially true when it comes to religion.

More than nine of 10 parents in the Muslim-majority countries of Egypt and Iraq, for instance, strongly emphasize “religious faith.”

But fewer than one in 10 parents in Germany and China — and just three in 10 in Canada ­— care if their children believe in God.

The World Values Survey, like all polls, is imperfect, missing subtleties and regional variations. But it’s a reminder the sooner we take ethnocultural differences seriously, the sooner we become knowledgeable about why people are the way they are.

The implications can be significant. We may start to recognize, for instance, why people with roots in China tend to vote for certain Canadian political parties, while those linked to India are inclined to vote for others.

And — unless we’re utter moral relativists — the sooner we understand ethnocultural differences, the sooner we might take seriously the values we ourselves are ready to stand for, reject or tolerate.

Source: Douglas Todd: Some immigrants’s values contrast with ‘Canadian’ values | Vancouver Sun

Schools are teaching values. But whose values?

Interesting trend in education and assessment, and how to measure “character:”

To formally assess children’s characters, schools between Ontario and British Columbia have begun distributing a questionnaire created by psychologist Wayne Hammond. “We’ve proven that the tool is statistically predictable,” says Hammond, owner of a Calgary-based human resources consulting firm called Meritcore. “I can tell you where your character’s at.”

The questionnaire, called the Resiliency Assessment Survey, contains 62 to 82 questions, depending on a school’s preference. Students rank how strongly they agree or disagree with statements similar to “I try to avoid unsafe things” or “I feel hopeful about my future.” The tool creates profiles of each student’s top strengths and weaknesses, such as acceptance, restraint or safety. The results belong to each school board and are used to identify at-risk students and trends within schools. “It starts to give them a round-up,” says Hammond. “Who needs resources? Who needs stretching?”

Alternative measures include the Character Growth Card, invented by American Angela Duckworth, a pioneer of the character movement. Duckworth argues that character, specifically “grit,” is the key determinant of student success. Her hard-copy questionnaire gauges attributes such as gratitude, self-control and zest (defined as approaching life with enthusiasm) by asking students and teachers to rank how often they’ve done things like “kept their temper in check” and “stuck with a project for more than a few weeks.”

A third tool comes from psychologist Mark Liston at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. His online multiple-choice survey measures 11 character strengths in as many minutes, giving students and teachers percentage scores on attributes such as wisdom, empathy and “love/closeness” (one school in Denver had to remove the questions on spirituality because it feared a lawsuit from parents). The results compare each person to “national averages” derived from 1,000 Americans. Schools pay up to $500 per student to take the survey.

A “character portfolio” is another concept of Liston’s. It presents a student’s character scores through Grades 4 to 12, paired with extracurricular and community service hours, journal entries and mentor reports, decorated with personal statements and pull quotes. Liston plans to sell a portfolio program to schools and parents, for students to use in university applications. “When kids start seeing this will help them get into a better college, they’ll start to use it,” he says. “In the past, it’s pretty much been a reference letter. We can do more than that. We must do more than that.” Even if students lie about their empathy, kindness and optimism to buff up their portfolios, Liston says, “How long can you fake it before it actually becomes who you are?”

Alarmingly, some schools are taking character scores more seriously than the researchers intended. This year, nine school districts in California will begin to incorporate character assessments into school accountability, affecting their funding. “We’re nowhere near ready,” warns Duckworth in a column in the New York Times, “and perhaps never will be, to use feedback on character as a metric for judging the effectiveness of teachers and schools.” Duckworth notes that the new measurement tools may not be accurate due to cultural biases—for example, at one school, students from Korea ranked themselves lower on all attributes—and because students hold different standards for character indicators such as “comes to class prepared.” Regardless of the limitations, the measurements threaten to become “high-stakes metrics for accountability,” Duckworth writes. When a California teacher told her that she worried the school’s low scores would mean less funding per student, Duckworth writes, “I felt queasy.”

At W.J. Mouat, character grades range from 50 to 100 per cent, and final grades appear on student transcripts. Fraser hopes to learn more about the concept of character portfolios and their use for university applications. “I think it’s fascinating,” she says. Her students are currently spending their class time publicizing orange shirt day in remembrance of residential schools in Saskatchewan and planning an Aboriginal feast. Fraser expects character education to flood into Eastern Canada as schools show quantitative evidence of its success. “This wave is here,” says Fraser. “This wave isn’t going away.”