The Other Census Disaster That’s Waiting to Happen

Have seen earlier discussion of the issue but this is the most comprehensive analysis:

Everyone hoping for an accurate 2020 Census breathed a sigh of relief two weeks ago when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to block the Trump administration’s cynical attempt to add a citizenship question to the forms—only to experience Twitter-tantrum whiplash when the president ordered his administration to make a last-ditch attempt to include it.

But with so much attention focused on the controversy over the citizenship question, another similarly disastrous Census Bureau decision has gone largely unnoticed: the administration’s choice not to substantively update the decennial survey’s questions on race. As a result, no matter how conscientiously Census Bureau staff administer the survey, a woefully inadequate portrait of the changing face of America will emerge.

The last census, in 2010, became a data disaster when “some other race,” showed up as the third-largest racial group in America. Over 20 million respondents, most with roots in Latin America or the Middle East, selected this none-of-the-above option, making it the most popular choice after white and black. Any time a public-opinion survey asks respondents to self-categorize and “none of the above” comes back as a popular answer, it’s a clear sign that the choices given don’t match up with people’s identities.

Facing this problem squarely, the Obama administration convened the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations, a panel of academic experts and minority community leaders, to advise the Bureau on improving its race questions for 2020. The committee made myriad recommendations, most crucially suggesting that a “Middle East or North Africa” category sit alongside the “Hispanic origins” box in the upcoming questionnaire. But the Trump administration overruled this advice and, aside from a few minor tweaks, is flying into the 2020 survey without substantive changes. Given continued Latin American and Middle Eastern immigration since 2010, and the more extreme forms of racial “othering” these groups have faced ever since candidate Donald J. Trump came down the escalator in 2015, experts fear that “some other race” will become the second-largest racial group in America according to the 2020 Census.

Every census since the founding of the country has asked about race and ethnicity. Until recent decades, race was not a matter of self-identification; historically, federal census-takers were charged with determining the race of each resident of their assigned census tracts according to their era’s standards. Tracing how race questions have changed over time offers a time-lapse history of American racial concepts in 10-year snapshots. (All of the race questions are conveniently archived on the website

The most drastic changes to the census race questions took place after the fall of Reconstruction, at the rise of Jim Crow, when America’s mixed-race realities were blotted out and a strict racial binary imposed. Openly mixed-race activists, in particular Charleston’s “Browns” and New Orleans’s “Creoles of color,” had been central to post-Civil War civil rights progress. Their court challenges to segregation, of which Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) was only the last and most famous, assailed the notion that Europeans and Africans remained distinct racial groups in America given centuries of overt and covert race-mixing. At the time, the “one-drop rule” that any African ancestry at all made an American a “Negro” was still new and not widely accepted. This more fluid racial mindset was reflected in the late 19th-century censuses, which all catalogued biracial “mulattos” as distinct from “whites” and “blacks.” The 1890 questionnaire recorded even finer-grained mixed-race categories: “quadroon” (an American with three European grandparents and one African grandparent) and “octoroon” (an American with seven European great-grandparents and one African great-grandparent). But with the firm establishment of the color line post-Plessy, the 1900 census switched to a unitary race. (Not until 2000 would the census again allow respondents to claim mixed-race identities, this time by checking more than one racial box.)

“Only in 1980 did the Census begin to grapple with Latino identity.”

As segregation took root, the stakes of being deemed “white” grew higher. Even as Jim Crow laws proliferated in the early 20th century, the states differed on their official definitions of what exactly a “white person” was and who precisely constituted a “colored person.” Myriad ethnic groups clamored to get into whiteness, often petitioning through the courts. “Semites,” for example, won their way into whiteness using clever, albeit pseudo-scientific, arguments. Their trump card, first argued in 1907 by H. A. Elkourie, a Syrian Christian physician in Birmingham, Alabama, was that if he wasn’t white then Jesus hadn’t been white either. Anglo-Americans’ revulsion at the thought they were worshipping a person of color each Sunday was strong enough that Elkourie and the fellow members of his “Semitic” “race” were deemed “white.”

The next major revamp of the census’s race questions came in the wake of the 1960s civil rights movement. For the first time, the Census Bureau empowered each respondent to choose her own race rather than have a census-taker determine it for her. And embracing the modern understanding that race has no biological reality, only societal meanings, the Census Bureau modified the racial categories to learn more about American society rather than engage in the fool’s errand of sorting humans into some fixed number of distinct races. To this end, the 1970 Census listed eight racial categories, one of which was “Hawaiian”—a useful category for understanding American society but a group so tiny no early-20th-century race scientists ever elevated it into their core “Races of Man.”

Only in 1980 did the census begin to grapple with Latino identity. Rather than add “Hispanic” to the list of races, it introduced a question to stand apart from the various racial choices: “Is this person of Spanish/Hispanic origin or descent?” By noting that Hispanics can be of any race, the Census Bureau hoped to track the growth of this community that comes in all colors. But this well-meaning attempt never fully worked since the Latin American and Anglo-American conceptions of race are fundamentally incompatible.

While the U.S., after Reconstruction, forced Americans to claim a retroactive racial purity, Latin America never denied its mestizo realities. On the most recent Brazilian census, for example, the majority of respondents identified as afrodecendente (Afro-descended). But in Brazil this identity does not in any way suggest that the same person is not also of European, Native American, and/or Asian descent; indeed, over 80 percent of self-identified afrodecendente Brazilians claimed roots on non-African continents as well.

In Mexico, the concept of race (la raza) is even more un-American. The Mexican supposition is that the people of the New World are, in a sense, a new race unto themselves, a mixture of all the world’s peoples. It is these mutually-incompatible conceptions of race between the U.S. and Latin America that has led millions of census respondents to check that they are of Latino origin but are members of “some other race.”

Arab-Americans are similarly migrants from an alternate racial system. Arab identity embraces people of all skin colors and is largely tied to language—people whose mother tongue is Arabic are Arabs even if they don’t live on Asia’s Arabian Peninsula. Though officially white in America since the early-20th-century rulings that “Semites” are white, contemporary American racism has again called Arab whiteness into question.

“The best-case scenario is that none-of-the-above comes out as the third-largest race in America rather than second-largest.”

The most recent federal definition of a “white person,” formulated in 1997 by the Office of Management and Budget and currently used by the Census Bureau—“A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa”—clearly includes Arabs. But if “whiteness” has no biological reality and is purely a socially-constructed category in American society for those who enjoy full citizenship, including the presumption of innocence, since 9/11, Middle Easterners have no longer been white. This mismatch between being officially white by the federal definition but not being treated as white in American society has sparked a wildcat campaign among some Middle Easterners not to check the “white” box on the Census (tag-line: “Check it right, you ain’t white”). Indeed, the National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations found many Middle Eastern- and North African-Americans are doing just that, checking “some other race” in defiance of the current federal definition of whiteness.

At this point the 2020 race questions are set, with just a few tweaks from 2010. The 2020 form will include “Lebanese” and “Egyptian” as examples of white ethnicities to remind Arabs to, essentially, “check it right, you are white.” The new wording also adds “Aztec” and “Mayan” as examples of American Indian ethnicities to instruct people with roots in the New World beyond the United States borders that they should still identify themselves as indigenous.

Even with these minor changes, the best-case scenario is that none-of-the-above comes out as the third-largest race in America rather than second-largest. Whiteness in America is in flux today in a way it hasn’t been in a century—even if the Census Bureau’s political appointees, in keeping with the Trump administration’s Know-Nothingism on race, won’t admit it. An administration that has backed border walls and Muslim bans has already shown Latinos and Middle Easterners that, if whiteness means first-class citizenship, they’re no longer white. The painful irony is that the rise of “some other race” at first glance suggests America is becoming post-racial, while its real roots are in rising racism.

Source: The Other Census Disaster That’s Waiting to Happen

Federal riding profiles: A visible minority view

How does Canada’s political map of 338 ridings look in terms of the percentage of visible minorities? How do visible minority rich ridings compare to ridings with fewer visible minorities in terms of demographic, economic and social characteristics, and electoral results? 

Their electoral importance is clear, with 41 ridings in which visible minorities form the majority and an additional 93 ridings in which visible minorities form between 20 to 50 percent of the population.

By looking at ridings grouped by their percentage of visible minorities, the changing nature of Canada’s political landscape can be seen. As party electoral strategies focus on defining a winning approach given the needs and make-up of each riding’s population, having a comprehensive look at the demographic, economic and social characteristics helps one understand the various factors at play in electoral strategies. Political parties, of course, have their own more detailed data at the polling station level; this analysis aims to level the playing field, so to speak, for the rest of us.

This analysis provides a visible minority lens to ridings and their relation to demographic, economic, social and political characteristics. Given the ongoing trend of increasing immigration levels, that close to 80 percent of immigrants are visible minority, and the increased number of Canadian-born visible minorities, this approach provides a future-centred perspective to the political map.

While political parties collect some of this and other data at a much more granular level (postal code and polling station), the riding level provides a good sense of the diversity between ridings, and helps explain some of the political strategies employed to reach voters.

The higher unemployment rates, lower median incomes and greater prevalence of low income, suggest that economic issues are as significant as immigration-related issues such as family reunification in visible minority majority ridings. With their younger age profile and larger number of families, family-friendly policies are also important but childcare may be seen more though a family reunification perspective (parents and grandparents) than through government programs.

Identity politics play out differently depending on the percentage of visible minorities as the experience of the last election shows. Efforts by the Conservatives with respect to the “barbaric cultural practices” tip line and the effective distinction between Canadian-only and dual citizens in their citizenship revocation provisions, while appealing to many, created unease among visible minorities and provided an opening for the Liberal “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” language.

However, a likely common thread among most Canadians, whatever their origins, is that immigration and citizenship need to be managed and that the fairness and integrity of the processes is maintained. Public concern regarding irregular arrivals (“queue jumping”) and increased numbers of birth tourists are but the obvious examples. While for some, expressing these concerns may be driven by xenophobia, for most it is more likely driven by concerns over fairness and people taking advantage of policies and processes. 

Tables and analysis

This article uses 2016 Census Profile federal electoral district along with Elections Canada voting results by electoral district to highlight similarities and differences. The three broad groups of ridings — 41 ridings in which visible minorities form the majority, 93 ridings in which visible minorities form between 20 to 50 percent of the population, and 169 ridings with less than 20 percent visible minority — are subdivided to provide greater granularity. The groupings with the smallest number of ridings have the lowest variation or range in any of the indicators.

The full analysis can be found: Federal riding profiles: A visible minority view

On racism, elections and the media: Paul Adams

Good commentary on the need for more informed media discussion of the substantive issues, and less discussion of the political aspects:

Other than climate change, which is an existential threat to all of humankind, arguably the biggest threat to Western democracies is racism. Politically, liberal democracy is built on the idea of fundamental human equality and the further it strays from that precept the less it is recognizably democratic. Sociologically, societies that are racially complex but racially divided by law or harsh custom are unhappy places where violence lurks and often explodes.

In the United States, the president is the most openly racist in at least a century. He came to political prominence as an Obama birther, launched his campaign smearing Mexicans as rapists, has separated brown mothers from their brown children as a matter of policy and is seemingly intent on winning another minority victory in 2020 by stoking the flames of racial fear among white Americans. In the United Kingdom, a Brexit referendum victory driven in part by fears of outsiders is now also threatening the historic bonds that fasten England to both Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Here in Canada, you do not even have to go to the issue of racist intent to see that Quebec’s Bill 21 — which would ban the wearing of religious symbols such as the turban, the hijab and the kippah for many public servants — would be racist in its effect, hitting mainly people of colour and Jews. And in the last few days, the pollster Frank Graves has released data suggesting that opposition to the immigration of visible minorities is rising in Canada.

At one level, this might not seem very different from the other controversial issues journalists cover as a matter of routine: economic inequality, tax levels, education spending and so on. However, I think it presents unusual challenges that the media may not be entirely prepared to cope with.

It is the conceit of modern mainstream journalism that it stands outside of ideology. It is neutral, balanced, objective. If someone wants higher taxes to fund social programs and someone else wants lower taxes to stimulate the economy, reporters quote both sides of a debate, excavate some relevant data, and leave it to the readers to decide the argument. This is a powerful idea and has some merit. Many of us consume the news to inform us as citizens and not to be told what to think or do.

On the other hand, it can lead to the laziest conjuring trick in the journalist’s kit: what is sometimes called false balance. For a couple of decades, this was most obviously a problem with the coverage of climate change. Even as the evidence of human-caused climate change grew and the scientific consensus became close to complete, many journalists ran back and forth, got quotes from credible scientists, balanced them with a quotes from increasingly isolated and eccentric, often industry-backed “climate skeptics,” threw in a little data and let the readers decide. And in this way they failed the journalist’s responsibility not just to be fair, but to be rooted in evidence (as indeed scientists should be). Only very recently has this trend been significantly corrected.

In the case of racism the challenge is further complicated by the way in which it is being metabolized politically. Frank Graves’ most interesting finding was not that opposition to non-white immigration has recently risen. In fact, as he points out, it has sometimes been this high in his data in the past. What’s most striking is the degree to which it has become a partisan issue. Just six years ago, roughly half of Conservative supporters said too many immigrants were visible minorities; today the figure is over two-thirds. Meanwhile, among Liberal supporters, the trend has been the opposite. Six years ago about a third of Liberals were concerned about visible-minority immigration. That figure has now fallen to less than one-in-seven.

The supporters of our two main parties are polarizing around the issue of race and we are in an election year.

I don’t think even his harshest critics would claim Andrew Scheer is a Trump-style racist. In the immediate aftermath of the New Zealand massacres a few weeks ago, his first reaction (or that of his staff) was to tweet out condolences, somehow neglecting to mention that the murders took place in a mosque and the victims were Muslims. After some hours of barracking for those omissions on social media, including from some prominent conservatives, he did a very un-Trump-like thing and issued a new statement that got it right.

Scheer does not appear to be personally racist, but he needs the votes of people who are. He is not a white nationalist, but he shared the “yellow vest” platform on Parliament Hill with Faith Goldy, who was let go by The Rebel for her sympathetic coverage of the anti-Semitic and anti-black Charlottesville demonstrations, has given an interview to the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer, and who was recently bounced from Facebook — not an easy thing to accomplish — for her views. Let’s just say she is not the sort of person in whose company Preston Manning would have wanted to be seen when he was a party leader.

Naturally, the Trudeau Liberals, mired in political troubles of their own making, and with a political base that may be getting more liberal on race according to Graves’ numbers, is using this as a cudgel. Trudeau has taunted Scheer to denounce white supremacists. Scheer’s reaction has been rather delicate, denouncing the sin of white supremacy but appearing reticent to name the specific sinners.

The danger in all this is that it invites journalists to rely on another bit of professional sorcery: that is, converting any matter of substance into a political issue. Instead of trying to understand the place that race and racism has in our society, our discourse, our policy and our laws, we are tempted to convert it into a political spectator sport. At best, that means running back and forth between Trudeau and Scheer chronicling jabs and counterpunches. At worst, it means that any serious discussion of race and racism with be replaced with public disgust at “smears,” “name-calling” and “negative campaigning.”

We need much more journalistic work to understand the roots of more overt racial hostility in Canada, and their connection to economic conditions, patterns of immigration and embedded cultural impulses that may have been dormant or suppressed. We need to understand the role of the internet and social media culture. We need to distinguish between overt racists, unconscious racists, and those who are not actively racist themselves but who are willing to tolerate those who are. More than anything, we need to understand the experiences and perspectives of those who are the targets of racism.

We need to understand better how our political system has allowed people like Goldy to walk onto a political (and media) stage where not long ago they would have been unwelcome. We need to be careful about unthinkingly labelling Scheer a racist, but also to understand the political dynamics that are shaping his party, its policies and its rhetoric.

We also need to pry apart the Trudeau government’s rhetoric and its policies (most notably on refugees). We need to understand better why the Liberal party’s supporters have grown so quickly so much more liberal on race, and to what extent this is real and to what extent just an artifact of partisan polarization.

And finally, those of us in journalism need to examine our own role. Journalism should not be indifferent to the health of our democracy; when journalism is done well it is a pillar of democracy as well as dependent on its liberties to thrive. We are still far from the point where we have an open racist sitting and chiming in on the “At Issue” panel with Rosie, Andrew and Chantal. But Ann Coulter, the American commentator who sees non-white immigration as a form of genocide, has often been interviewed on Canadian television. Gavin McInnes, founder of the sometimes-violent “Proud Boys,” has appeared on the CBC News Network to defend a bounty on the scalps of Mi’kmaq people in the 18th century as reasonable public policy for the time.

Racism raises complex journalistic issues that are not as simply solved as banning people from the airwaves. It may be that in the world of the internet and social media, journalists no longer have the ability they once did to police who inhabits the public square. They need to report on racism without fuelling it or giving it a platform. But with racism, as with climate change, journalists should not be confused about which side they are on.

Source: On racism, elections and the media

For tthe full Ekos report: click here

Douglas Todd: How religion cuts into politics in B.C.

Tend to agree that more studies needed with respect to visible minorities and religion (some obvious links, Canadian Sikhs, evangelical or more fundamentalist Christians among Chinese Canadians), and the political impacts:

Did Christy Clark increase her popularity by 10 percentage points when she stopped attending Vancouver’s giant Pride parade?

That’s one of the more spicy possibilities raised in a new book that delves into how religion makes a big difference in politics in Canada, even in unusually secular B.C.

The authors of Religion and Canadian Party Politics, from UBC Press, devote a chapter to the ways conservative Christians have been a crucial factor in B.C.’s political dogfights, with a glance also at Sikh influences.

The University of Toronto’s David Rayside and Carleton’s Jerald Sabin and Paul Thomas explain how Clark, who had been happily attending Pride parades, abruptly stopped doing so in 2012.

With Clark painting herself as more socially conservative, her polling numbers went up and those of the then-robust B.C. Conservative party plummeted by 10 percentage points.

The ex-premier did more than snub Vancouver’s Pride parade to cement the “religious vote” in the pivotal 2013 B.C. election, however.

Clark’s advisers obtained an endorsement from Stockwell Day, a preacher and former Conservative cabinet minister. Clark also appeared on the evangelical TV show of David Mainse, host of 100 Huntley St. In addition, the book cites my report on her speech to the Christian organization, City in Focus, in which she said it’s “tragic” more people don’t worship God.

Perhaps most importantly, Clark aggressively propped up private religious schools, and not only because her son attended Vancouver’s St. George’s, an upper-class, nominally Anglican institution.

Religion and Canadian Party Politics cites how B.C.’s private schools, which are mostly conservative Christian, with some Sikh and Muslim, are growing to the point they now educate 13 per cent of all the province’s young students.

The tactics of Clark, an Anglican, were not only aimed at white Christians, but also B.C. Filipinos (95 per cent of whom are Christian), Koreans (64 per cent Christian) and ethnic Chinese (22 per cent Christian, 59 per cent not religious).

As for the B.C. NDP, Religion and Canadian Party Politics points to polls suggesting they appear to disproportionally rely on non-religious voters.

That is significant since the portion of British Columbians who are atheists, or unaffiliated, is arguably the highest of anywhere in North America, at 44 per cent.

It should be noted, though, that despite the tendency of B.C. Liberals to attract religious voters and the NDP to do the opposite, polls suggest all the province’s parties are capable at different times of drawing support from across the ethnic and faith spectrum.

It’s too bad, in an era when almost all politicians are going out of their way to court minority religious and ethnic groups, the book touches only briefly on Clark’s early success with Sikhs.

It quotes a source saying 30 per cent of the B.C. Liberal party’s membership was made up of Sikhs, even though they comprise just five per cent of the B.C. population. Metro Vancouver’s Sikhs number almost 200,000 and their large gurdwaras often host political gatherings.

Unfortunately, since Religion and Canadian Party Politics was published in 2017, it was not able to report on the way many Sikhs seemed to feel betrayed by Clark during this year’s B.C. election.

The NDP this May won all eight Metro Vancouver ridings with significant Sikh/South Asian populations.

An even more recent overlap of Sikhism and politics in B.C. occurred with the October election of Jagmeet Singh, an orthodox Sikh, as leader of the federal NDP. Singh won in part because he signed up 10,000 new members in B.C., many of them Sikhs.

It’s paradoxical that Singh is now leading a progressive, morally liberal party, even while he’s a baptized Sikh loyal to a faith devoted to conservative sexual ethics.

Even though Singh, 38, is unmarried, the Sikh religion emphasizes orthodox males are expected to be married, emphasizing they should not have sex until then.

Homosexuality is also not accepted in Sikh teaching, and abortion is seen as generally wrong.  Nevertheless, Singh appears to express the kind of tolerance promoted by Sikh teachings about not hating anyone based on their race or sexuality.

How do Canadian Muslims vote?

That question may not be quite as significant in Metro Vancouver, where the Muslim population is three per cent, as it is in places such as Montreal and Toronto, where Muslims make up eight per cent of the population.

Even though Religion and Canadian Party Politics doesn’t delve into it, polls suggest many Canadian Muslims support patriarchy, reject homosexuality and discourage mixed unions.

So it initially appears contradictory that 65 per cent of Canadian Muslims supported Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, (a Catholic) who frequently shows solidarity with feminists and LGBQT people.

The paradox is partly explained by Stephen Harper’s campaign, however. The federal Conservative party took a stand against the face-covering niqab worn by some Muslim women and, as Rayside said in an interview, showed “very one-sided support for Israel.”

Such is the complicated world of religion and politics in Canada.

While Religion and Canadian Party Politics is strong in critically assessing the influence of conservative white Christians on politics, sometimes by stealth, it’s not as useful on the impact of minority ethnic and religious groups.

Rayside acknowledged many scholars are reluctant to appear to criticize ethnic-based faiths.

But whites are now a minority in Metro Toronto and Vancouver. And about 17 per cent of Metro Vancouver residents, and 22 per cent of Torontonians, follow a non-Christian religion.

As scholar Reginald Bibby points out in his new book, Resilient Gods (UBC Press), in the decade leading up to 2011 more than 478,000 immigrants arrived who were Catholic (mostly Filipino and Chinese), 442,000 had no religion (mostly Chinese and Europeans), 388,000 were Muslims (mostly Iranians and Pakistanis), 154,000 were Hindus (from India) and 107,000 were Sikhs (India).

Scholars may have to overcome their cautiousness and more seriously study the impact of such fast-growing ethnic and religious groups.

It’s not just conservative Christians who have been quietly changing the face of Canadian partisan politics. So have Sikhs and Muslims: Many would expect they would be the hot new thing in political research.

via Douglas Todd: How religion cuts into politics in B.C. | Vancouver Sun

Swing ridings with high visible minority populations will tilt 2019 federal election, says politicos

Based on my riding analysis. Interesting comments by MPs. For the complete riding list see C16 – Visible Minority – Ridings:

Some 41 “swing” ridings with visible minority populations of 50 per cent or more, including five constituencies in the Greater Toronto Area that have 80 per cent or more visible minorities, will be key battlegrounds for all major parties in the 2019 election, say politicos.

“These ridings will elect the next government,” said rookie Conservative MP Bob Saroya (Markham-Unionville, Ont.) in an interview with The Hill Times. “These are the swing ridings.”

Based on the 2016 census data, recently released by Statistics Canada, and a list compiled by author and multiculturalism expert Andrew Griffith, 27 of the 41 ridings are located in Ontario, nine in British Columbia, two each in Alberta and Quebec, and one in Manitoba.

Among the 41, there are five GTA-area ridings with visible minority populations greater than 80 per cent: Scarborough North (92.2 per cent), Brampton East (90.6 per cent), Markham-Thornhill (84.8 per cent), Markham-Unionville (84.6 per cent), and Scarborough-Agincourt (80.6 per cent). And there are 12 ridings in Ontario and British Columbia combined where visible minorities comprise between 70 per cent and 80 per cent of the population.

via Swing ridings with high visible minority populations will tilt 2019 federal election, says politicos – The Hill Times – The Hill Times

New Crop of Immigrants in Parliament Is Seen as Reflection of Canada – The New York Times

New York Times coverage of Canada’s many immigrant and visible minority MPs (and always nice to be quoted!):

Many factors contributed to the sweeping victory last month by the Liberals, whose leader, Justin Trudeau, will take office as prime minister on Wednesday. But several analysts said that one of the most important factors was the immigration and refugee policies of the losing Conservative government.

In a country that generally prizes immigrants as a source of economic growth and officially encourages newcomers to maintain their ethnic identities, the Conservatives and Prime Minister Stephen Harper were widely seen as anti-Muslim, especially after they made an issue of the face coverings worn by some Muslim women.

“The Conservative government tried to use wedge politics, but in the end, it backfired,” said Andrew Griffith, a former director general of the government office that oversees citizenship matters and the author of a book about multiculturalism in Canada. “It should give any political party in Canada food for thought, food for reflection.”

The move was uncharacteristic even for the Conservatives, who assiduously courted immigrant communities even before they first won power in 2006, particularly in two areas that often decide the balance of power in Parliament: the suburbs of Toronto and Vancouver, British Columbia. The Liberals and the New Democratic Party also seek support there, but the Conservatives often found that their more traditional approach to many social issues found an eager audience.

Canadian law makes it relatively easy to move from landed immigrant to citizen, and Mr. Griffith said that many newcomers became politically active once they could vote. Because Canada’s immigration rules favor well-educated and affluent migrants, ethic communities are also an important source of donations to political parties, not least because the country’s campaign finance laws ban contributions from corporations or unions and set a relatively low ceiling for individuals.

“It’s empowering in that there are groups that can no longer be ignored,” said Arif Virani, 43, a newly elected Liberal lawmaker from Toronto who came to Canada with his parents as an Ismaili Muslim refugee from Uganda in 1972. He noted that in some constituencies, all three major parties ran minority candidates.

At times over the past decade, Jason Kenney, a Conservative cabinet minister, seemed to be appearing at just about every ethnic celebration in the country — a butter-chicken circuit that appeared to take a toll on his waistline. But Mr. Kenney’s courtship of ethnic minorities, Mr. Griffith said, was undone when the Conservative government decided to make it harder for recent immigrants to bring in relatives, when it was slow to accept Syrian refugees and when it tried to ban the niqab, or face covering, during citizenship ceremonies. Mr. Harper’s use of the phrase “old-stock Canadians” on the campaign trail made matters worse.

Mr. Griffith reckons that there are 33 electoral districts where a majority of voters belong to what are known in Canada as visible minority groups — people who are not of white European extraction. All 33 districts are in the suburbs of Toronto or Vancouver, and many were held by Conservatives until last month, when Liberals won in all but three of them.

Canada first introduced a policy of official multiculturalism, recognizing the differences in Canadians’ heritage, in 1971 under Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a Liberal prime minister and the father of Justin Trudeau. Initially, the policy provided funds for programs like language classes, but it has since evolved into a broad legal protection of religious and ethnic differences.

Though it was contentious at first, the policy is now frequently cited by Canadians as a defining characteristic of their country — though both Mr. Griffith and Mr. Virani say it has limits.

Canadians tend to think that, where the United States assimilates immigrants’ cultures in a melting pot, Canada allows all cultures to flourish. But Mr. Virani said that the contrast was “a little bit more gray than that.”

Voters appeared to reject Mr. Harper’s plan to ban face coverings during citizenship ceremonies, but Mr. Griffith said there was still widespread unease about the practice of wearing them, which many Canadians believe limits the participation of Muslim women in society.

Still, despite the tenor of the Conservatives’ last campaign, all the major Canadian political parties favor encouraging immigration. New arrivals account for two-thirds of Canada’s population growth, an important factor in a country where there are now more citizens over 65 than under 15. Geography helps form that pro-immigration consensus by making it difficult to slip into the country as an illegal immigrant or a refugee.

“You can’t walk to Canada, apart from the U.S., so we don’t have a neighbor that generates a lot of refugees or immigrants coming across,” Mr. Griffith said. “That helps the discussion.”

Source: New Crop of Immigrants in Parliament Is Seen as Reflection of Canada – The New York Times

My article: Visible minorities elected to Parliament close to parity, a remarkable achievement

My article in today’s Hill Times (note updated 25 Oct with the addition of one Conservative MP):

In contrast to the 2011 election, where 9.4 percent of all MPs were visible minorities, 2015 representation is aligned to the number of visible minority citizens (14 percent compared to 15 percent). Moreover, the success of the Liberal Party in decisively winning the visible minority vote  suggests that the Conservative Party’s extensive outreach to immigrant and visible minority communities had limited impact in stemming losses, and that concerns over the impact of changes to citizenship and immigration may have played a part.

Moreover, the percentage of visible minorities elected was identical to the percentage of visible minority candidates, which also had increased to 14 percent from 10 percent in the elections of 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2011 (see Visible Minority Candidates – 2015 Election – Background Note for details). The Liberal party had the most visible minority candidates (16 percent) with the Conservative party and the NDP had slight under-representation (13 percent)

For comparison, the number of women and Aboriginal MPs only slightly increased in 2015. Analysis by Equal Voice shows the number of elected rose from 25 percent in 2011 to 26 percent today (88 women). Representation of Aboriginal peoples also increased to 10 seats (3 percent) from 7.

To assess visible minority representation I have used candidate names, photos and biographies to identify visible minority candidates. Although not as exact as identifying women candidates (e.g., subjectivity in analyzing photos), it nevertheless provides a reasonably accurate indication of how well Canadian political party candidates represent the population of visible minorities who are also Canadian citizens (15 percent). I was not able to break this down by those who are first generation immigrants and those who were born in Canada (second generation).


Federal Election 2015 and 2011 ComparisonThe chart above contrasts the 2015 visible minority representation with the 2011 election results. Not surprisingly, the Liberals, given their overall strong election result, will have the caucus with the largest number of visible minority MPs: 39 or 21.2 percent, significantly above the percentage of visible minority citizens (and Liberal candidates). Conversely, given their poor results, both the Conservatives and the NDP elected less than half of their visible minority candidates.

Federal Election 2015 VisMin Mps GenderLooking at 2015 results only, the chart above provides the comparative numbers for each party in the 47 ridings that elected visible minority MPs, minority, broken down by gender. As others have noted, given that the overall number of visible minority MPs is comparable to the number of visible minority candidates (14 percent), visible minority candidates ran in ridings where they can be elected,.

While 23 of these 47 MPs come from ridings where 50 percent are visible minority, 15 come from ridings between 20 to 50 percent visible minority. Surprisingly, nine come from ridings with less than 20 percent visible minority, and five of those with less than five percent. In other words, visible minorities were even elected in ridings where over 80 percent are non-visible minorities.

Visible minority MPs are 68 percent men, 32 percent women, higher than the percentage of all women MPs (26 percent).

Liberal visible minority candidates won 39 seats (83 percent), the Conservatives five (13 percent), the NDP 2 (4 percent).

Table 1 2015 Election – List of Visible Minority MPs lists the ridings, their percentage of visible minorities, and the MPs elected.

Turning to the 33 ridings where visible minorities comprise more than 50 percent of the population  (which we will call visible majority ridings), the following characteristics emerge:

  • Both two-thirds of candidates (68) and two-thirds of elected MPs (23) are visible minority;
  • 48 percent are visible minority men, 21 percent visible minority women;
  • The Liberals took all but three of these ridings (two went Conservative, one NDP);
  • The popular vote for these 33 ridings shows stronger support for Liberals among visible majority ridings (52.3 percent) compared to overall results (39.5 percent). Riding-by-riding, the winning Liberal candidate won over 50 percent of the vote, a majority not just a plurality;
  • In contrast, the popular vote for the Conservatives in these ridings is virtually identical (31.6 percent) to their overall results (31.9 percent). It would appear their base vote is the same among visible minorities as the general population.
  • The NDP did less well in these ridings (15.9 percent) compared to their overall results (19.7 percent);
  • Out of the 9 ridings where Chinese Canadians formed the dominant group, 3 Chinese Canadians were elected. In contrast, out of the 14 ridings where South Asians formed the dominant group, 8 were elected, mainly Sikh Canadians; and,
  • 10 non-visible minority MPs were elected in these ridings.

Table 2 2015 Election – 33 Ridings more than 50 percent visible minorities provides the demographics of these ridings, along with the names of elected MPs and their share of the popular vote.


In many ways, this is a remarkable achievement, achieving close to parity in parliamentary representation of visible minorities. No other comparable country is as representative of its population.

Visible minority MPs, as all MPs, will be expected to play not only on the issues of interest to their constituents but also on broader policy issues and debates. And hopefully, the incoming government will provide greater latitude for all MPs for debates and discussion, rather than the excessive reliance on centralized talking points under the Conservative government.

They can be expected also to play on foreign policy and diaspora issues of interest to their community, much as other ethnic communities such as Ukrainian Canadians and Canadian Jews continue to do.

Secondly, with 39 visible minority MPs in the incoming Liberal government, we will need to see how many are appointed to cabinet and to which positions, and how this is balanced against other cabinet representation issues like regional representation (PM Trudeau has already committed to gender parity). The Conservative government relegated visible minorities to junior positions (multiculturalism, sport, seniors) and it remains to be seen whether Liberal Prime Minister Trudeau will appoint a visible minority member to a more senior position.

Thirdly, the Conservative party needs to reflect on the effectiveness of the extensive outreach of Minister Kenney and others to new Canadian communities. Being 20 percent behind the Liberals in many of these ridings means that ‘being there’ is not enough. While some of this shift reflects the general trend in urban Canada, it also likely reflects changes to citizenship and immigration policy which impact on these communities (e.g., more difficult family reunification and citizenship). And overplaying the niqab and related issues in such an obvious wedge politics manner can hardly have helped.

One thing is clear. Visible minorities are an intrinsic part of electoral and political strategies. No party can afford to ignore them, given their size and political weight. And one of the election’s lessons is that the divisiveness of wedge politics is not a winning strategy among visible minority and other voters. Hopefully, that will be an enduring lesson, sparing Canadians of whatever origin, of such approaches in the future, and strengthening overall integration.

Source: Visible minorities elected to Parliament close to parity, a remarkable achievement |

Canada federal election candidates include more visible minorities in 2015 than in the past four votes | National Post

More on visible minority candidates, with good commentary by Erin Tolley, Chris Cochrane and Priya Ramanujan:

Notably, this is the first time that the proportion of visible minority candidates in Parliament reflects the per cent of visible minority candidates who ran for election. Usually, a far greater proportion runs than is actually elected, said Erin Tolley, an expert on visible minorities in Canadian politics at the University of Toronto.

“It’s great to benchmark how many arrive in Parliament, but also to think about the mechanism through which they got there,” added Tolley, explaining that the success of visible minority MPs may have had more to do with the Liberal wave than with conscious effort. In 2011, the NDP were hailed for bringing several young MPs into Parliament, but they had “won by accident, by surprise” because of an unexpected surge of support in ridings they hadn’t expected to win.

Thirty nine visible minority MPs, the bulk of those elected yesterday, belong to the Liberal party, which has long had the support of more visible minorities than the other major federal parties.

“A Liberal victory like we saw last night unsurprisingly is going to return a particularly high number of visible minority candidates to Parliament,” said Cochrane.

“As visible minorities become more entrenched, they’re here for many generations. They’ve been living in their neighbourhoods for decades. That’s all a recipe for increased engagement in federal politics,” he added.

Priya Ramanujam, production editor of New Canadian Media, a news website focused on immigrants, said she’s seen such change unfold in her own neighbourhood, which is part of the GTA’s Scarborough North riding.

Until 2011, the area, where more than 70 per cent of voters belong to visible minorities, was represented by a non-visible minority MP. This year all three major parties ran visible minority candidates. And it’s not just the parties who are trying to get more in tune with locals.

“I have definitely noticed an increase in people getting involved in politics, both young people and adults right up to seniors, and that’s across ethnicities,” said Ramanujam, who says that youth are far more engaged than when she was in high school in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

But Tolley said what happens next will dictate how much influence visible minorities have in practice. “To me, a commitment to diversity and equality goes beyond just putting people in the House of Commons. It means giving them a voice of power,” she said.

Visible minorities held token positions under the previous government, she said. “There were visible minorities sitting in cabinet, but those visible minorities had cabinet portfolios that were extremely limited.”

“The visible minorities that tend to get access to power are not the full range of people of colour that we see in Canada,” added Tolley, warning that advancements for minorities in general can distract from the plight of marginalized groups, such as Black Canadians, very of few of which have been elected to parliament.

The Oct. 19 election saw the three major parties field more visible minority candidates than in the past four federal elections, according to a study by Andrew Griffith, former director general for citizenship and multiculturalism at Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The National Post used data from the study to tally the number of visible minority MPs.

In total, 143 of the 1014 candidates that ran for the Conservative, Liberal and NDP parties belong to a visible minorities with 68 of them running in 33 ridings where more than half of residents belonged to visible minorities.

Source: Canada federal election candidates include more visible minorities in 2015 than in the past four votes | National Post

Record number of visible minority MPs elected to Commons

A dramatic increase from the 2011 election. In addition to the overview, some good personal vignettes of newly elected visible minority MPs.


I am working on a more detailed analysis that should be ready in a day or so but the chart above provides the overall numbers by party:

Their family histories and beginnings tie them to countries plagued by conflict and upheaval, but in Canada they are making history: the first-ever MPs of Afghan, Somali and Iranian heritage.

Those firsts come on the back of a jump in visible-minority representation in the incoming 42nd Parliament – a measure of growing integration and participation among minority communities. At least 46 visible-minority MPs were elected on Monday, the vast majority of them being Liberal. That figure is 13.6 per cent of the total of 338 seats.

That is a record for visible-minority representation, according to data going back to 1993. Research by now-retired McGill University political scientist Jerome Black showed that the 2011 election was what he called the high watermark – when 28 visible-minority MPs were elected, representing 9.1 per cent of the total number. But 2015 has surpassed that total.

“Having visible minorities in Parliament, whether first- or second-generation, helps ensure their perspective is part of [the] discussion and debate,” said Andrew Griffith, a former federal Canadian civil servant who worked on issues of multiculturalism and citizenship.

“It also facilitates greater identification with Canadian political institutions among visible minorities as they can see themselves reflected in these same institutions,” he added.

Some experts argue that the visible minority representation in the incoming parliament still falls short of the 19 per cent that make up Canada’s total visible minority population.

Source: Record number of visible minority MPs elected to Commons – The Globe and Mail

Study says Canada’s three major parties are fielding more visible minority candidates | National Post

My short study quoted in the National Post, along with Chris Cochrane’s analysis (I will do a piece tomorrow analyzing the results and how many visible minority candidates were elected):

Fourteen per cent of the 1014 candidates – or 143 possible Members of Parliament – running for the Conservative, Liberal and NDP parties are members of visible minorities, according to an analysis by Andrew Griffith, former director general for citizenship and multiculturalism at Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

The proportion of visible minority candidates is roughly on par with the electorate, 15 per cent of which consists of visible minority voters.

“All parties are trying to compete for this (visible minority) vote,” says Griffith, who has written a book on multiculturalism in Canada.

Griffith’s study found the Liberals were leading with sixteen per cent of Liberal candidates – or 55 candidates – from visible minorities. The Conservatives and the NDP were lagging behind with 44 visible minority candidates each, amounting to 13 per cent of their total candidates. The Bloc Quebecois fare the worst, with only two visible minority candidates.

The Liberal lead is unsurprising given that “multiculturalism is part of their DNA,” says Griffith.

Visible minority representation is even higher in the 33 ridings in which more than half of the residents are from visible minorities. In these areas, 68 of the 99 major party candidates, including 19 women, are from visible minorities. All of the major parties are represented by a minority candidate in 15 of these ridings.

“These are all battleground ridings where all three parties, at least at the beginning of the campaign, were reasonably competitive,” says Griffith.

Twenty-three of these 33 ridings are in the Greater Toronto Area, a key battleground for the major parties. In these ridings, the Conservatives are fielding the most visible minority candidates, with 25 in the race, but are closely followed by the Liberals, who are running 24 candidates. The NDP lag behind with 19 candidates.

“You really have to hand it to (Conservative) Jason Kenny and the people who have made that outreach in those communities,” says Griffith.

But Chris Cochrane, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, says it’s important to distinguish between immigrants and visible minorities, some of whom may have lived in Canada for generations and make up a Liberal stronghold.

“Conservatives increased their vote share spectacularly among immigrants going into the last election but they didn’t do nearly so well among visible minorities,” he says.

Source: Study says Canada’s three major parties are fielding more visible minority candidates | National Post