Shree Paradkar: Census vastly undercounts Indigenous population in Toronto, study says

One of the harder groups for StatsCan to count despite their ongoing efforts, with this alternative study being instructive in terms of the possible gap:

For decades, Indigenous communities have said their numbers are far higher than reported by government agencies.

Not so, according to officialdom.

“Always our studies in the past have been critiqued or undermined as not having a scientifically sound approach,” says Sara Wolfe, founding partner of Seventh Generation Midwives Toronto, which caters to Indigenous mothers and babies.

“Or there’s been concerns about bias or questioning of the relevance… of the study that’s been done.”

The tables were turned recently.

The census released in October pegged Toronto’s Indigenous population at 23,065, up from the 19,270 census estimate in 2011.

Not so, says a new study that confirms what Indigenous people have been saying all along.

The study by researchers from York University and St. Michael’s Hospital, in collaboration with Indigenous agencies, was published in the British Medical Journal Open.

It says the census — that gold standard in population counting — vastly underestimated the Indigenous population in Toronto. The study’s most conservative assumption places it between 45,000 and 73,000 people, or two to four times the 2011 census estimate.

This finding has major implications, particularly in funding for health care and community services.

Statistics Canada is receptive to the study. The agency’s chief priority is accuracy and precision, said Marc Hamel, director-general of the census program.

When there are reports of discrepancies, “we review all the processes we have internally. We also try to work with these groups to better understand the way the study was conducted,” he said. “We always have to be careful when we compare results from different studies because different methodologies are being used, different concepts.”

Lead scientist Janet Smylie, from St. Michael’s Hospital, and lead author of the study Michael Rotondi, a York University professor, employed a statistical method called respondent-driven sampling, which leveraged the inherently strong social networking of Indigenous populations.


Specifically, 20 people called “seeds” completed the survey and were given five uniquely coded coupons. They gave these to other Aboriginal people who then filled the survey, and those people gave out coupons to others in their social networks, and so on.It allowed Indigenous community members to recruit each other for the study which then reached a large sample of more than 900 adults.

“This helps better track Indigenous community members who might be homeless and otherwise unstably housed,” says Rotondi.

They partnered with Wolfe’s midwifery clinic, which led a multi-agency collaboration to plan the questions, recruit trained Indigenous interviewers and disseminate the survey that took more than an hour to complete.

The census, on the other hand, uses the concept of usual residence and is based on private dwellings.

“It doesn’t measure, for example, where people would be temporarily residing for whatever purpose, whether it be work, school or receive certain types of services,” says Hamel.

“The census is never perfect, like any study. We know we have unaccounted populations. We have measures to identify and account and to make adjustments to the population estimation programs that are used by the government to make decisions.”

The survey included a question of whether or not the respondents had completed the 2011 census.

“Even under a conservative model we were able to say only about 19 per cent (of individuals) had even completed the census,” Rotondi says.

“One of the big reasons is people don’t trust governments, long forms and mandatory surveys,” says Wolfe, who is Ojibwe from Brunswick House First Nation and was the community lead for the study.

“We might be afraid to tell someone on the phone that says they’re from the government that we’re Indigenous,” says Smylie, who is Métis. “We might purposely not want to participate. We might be opting out because we feel socially excluded or frustrated with the government. Or, it’s not on our priority list ’cause we’re too busy trying to get enough groceries on our shelf and we’re running around and didn’t even know the census was happening. Or (we’re) renting a room somewhere or couch surfing.”

These were some of the barriers the respondent-driven sampling broke down.

The impact of this study will be tremendous and long-term, the researchers say.

“It doesn’t mean that just because there are more Indigenous people everyone’s going to have to pay more taxes. It could mean if we’re counting properly (and allocating correctly) we’re paying less taxes,” said Smylie.

“This is irrefutable evidence,” said Wolfe. “There’s no way you can say the population is not this big any more.”

This is relevant because, “Indigenous people are not getting asked for input and consulted on the decisions being made… because there’s a presumption that we are not a significant or substantial portion of the population,” says Wolfe.

Why does it matter if the people accessing care are Indigenous as long as they have access to it? Two reasons: to counter ongoing racism and to redress intergenerational trauma produced by historic wrongs.

In a report titled First Peoples, Second Class Treatment, Smylie says she wrote that if you’re a First Nation person living in the province of Alberta having a heart attack, “you’re less likely to get a picture of your heart, called a coronary angiogram, and more likely to die just because you’re First Nation. It doesn’t matter if you live in the city or a rural area or if you’re rich or poor.”

Residential schools, the last of which closed 20 years ago, left Indigenous people with a painful legacy. Abuses that are only just being seriously documented have left a community history of complex trauma.

“That might be something you’d need specialized services and responses,” said Smylie. “We also know that some Indigenous people benefit greatly from access to traditional healing and traditional counseling and a revitalization of Indigenous culture.”

Says Wolfe: “Everyone needs to make a concerted effort to work together to close these (health) gaps so we can have as good a chance as everyone else in society to reach our full potential.”

Source: Shree Paradkar: Census vastly undercounts Indigenous population in Toronto, study says

York U research finds children show implicit racial bias from a young age | Science News

Interesting research and study:

Do children show implicit racial preferences from an early age? According to new research from York University’s Faculty of Health, they do. In three separate studies with over 350 five to twelve-year-old White children, York University researchers found that children show an implicit pro-White bias when exposed to images of both White and Black children. But the type of bias depended on what children were asked to do.

The research was conducted by Professor Jennifer Steele in the Faculty of Health and her former PhD student, Amanda Williams now at the School of Education, University of Bristol. Steele says the goal of the research was to gain a better understanding of children’s automatic racial attitudes.

In the research published in the journal Child Development, a total of 359 White 5- to 12-year-olds completed child-friendly category-based (Implicit Association Test) and exemplar (Affective Priming Task; Affect Misattribution Procedure) implicit measures of racial attitudes.

When children were asked to sort faces by race on the category-based Implicit Association Test, both younger (5- to 8-year-olds) and older (9- to 12-year-olds) showed greater automatic positivity toward White as opposed to Black children.

“When we ask children to categorize by race, both younger and older White children show a pro-White bias. They are faster to match pictures of children who are White with positive images and pictures of children who are Black with negative images, relative to the reverse pairing” said Steele.

However, when they were not categorizing these faces by race, a different pattern of implicit preferences was found. On these exemplar measures, children were asked across many trials to quickly decide whether neutral images were pleasant or unpleasant. Just before seeing each neutral image, children briefly saw a picture of a Black or White child. On these implicit measures, children showed no evidence of automatic negativity toward images of Black children, despite demonstrating consistent pro-White versus Black bias on the category-based measure.

“On these measures, only younger White children show racial preferences. This was specifically a positive attitude towards other White children, and not a negative attitude towards Black children.”

The researchers also found that older children, aged 9 to 12, weren’t automatically positive toward other White children, which Steele says is consistent with other findings suggesting that individual characteristics, such as shared interests, become more important as children get older. Together, the results suggest that positive and negative racial attitudes can follow distinct developmental trajectories.

The findings can have important implications for programs designed to prevent or decrease prejudice in childhood. Specifically, Steele believes that interventions designed to decrease negativity towards other races might not be the best approach for younger children. Instead, interventions should encourage children to see members of other groups positively as well, although she believes that more research examining interventions is needed.

“In early childhood what we know is that children tend to be egocentric and socio-centric. They think that they’re great and that other people who are like them are great too. That’s why we recommend using interventions that don’t challenge these beliefs, but instead promote the fact that people from different backgrounds or who look different than them often have a lot in common and they can be great too.

She adds that this can be very important in the classroom.

“It is important that classroom teachers promote the benefits of diversity and expose children to positive role models from all different backgrounds. We live in an increasingly multicultural society and exposure to this diversity – even through books or media – can make children more comfortable with this diversity. Children have some awareness of race from an early age, so research suggests that taking a colour-blind approach – or pretending that race doesn’t exist – is not the best approach.”

Steele adds that classroom teachers should both create and seize opportunities to celebrate diversity and promote multiculturalism for their students.

via York U research finds children show implicit racial bias from a young age | EurekAlert! Science News

The York mural controversy: when art and politics collide – Yakabuski

Yakabuski on the YorkU mural controversy:

It is entirely legitimate to criticize Israel’s defiant construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moonagain this week called “an affront to the Palestinian people and the international community.” But there is nothing uncomplicated about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, yet the terms “apartheid,” “racism” and “war crimes” steamroll over its discussion on campus.

The settlements are an obstacle to peace and the creation of a Palestinian state. They call into question Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s commitment to a two-state solution. But the settlements are not the cause of the conflict. And, as the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, reminded the Security Council this week, “settlement activity can never in itself be an excuse for violence.”

Only the mural’s artist, Ahmad Al Abid, knows what he intended to convey in his painting. Personally, I see Palestinian frustration and impotence more than the “purely anti-Semitic hate propaganda” Mr. Bronfman sees. But since he’s far from alone in his view, York should seize on this controversy to do what universities are supposed to do: open minds.

“The response of college officials can make a difference,” Prof. Saxe [Brandeis University Jewish Studies professor whose survey of 3,000 Jewish students revealed hostility towards Jews] explained “Each incident should be seen as an opportunity to educate students, not merely referee a dispute.”

Source: The York mural controversy: when art and politics collide – The Globe and Mail

Contemporary Directions in Canadian Citizenship and Multiculturalism – Toronto Event

Will be in Toronto today talking about the general political/public service issues as well as citizenship.

York U Event

Lost in the York U furor: Accommodation isn’t a trump card

Good commentary by Amira Elghawaby:

The trouble for diverse communities is that cases like York alarm society at large that hard-won gains will be clawed back to appease a tiny minority with unreasonable demands. The impression is that our legal frameworks are not prepared for the onslaught.

These fears play right into the xenophobic justifications for limiting the freedom of religion of others, as displayed in the whole values charter debate in Quebec. “A lot of people have been afraid to speak out against unreasonable accommodations made to religious groups by public institutions … and who are now saying, ‘Enough is enough,’ ” commented Parti Québécois minister for democratic institutions Bernard Drainville following the York incident.

What we’ve had enough of is the sensationalizing of the give-and-take that is expected in any multicultural, diverse society. On the ground, we are all expected to read the rules, understand their spirit and come to logical solutions grounded firmly in universal principles.

York University’s administration has done us all a disservice by skipping its required reading.

Lost in the York U furor: Accommodation isn’t a trump card – The Globe and Mail.

The misplaced moral panic at York University | Toronto Star

Amazing. Much of what is said is valid. Of course the male student had the right to request accommodation, of course we have to take accept his beliefs as sincere, but we do not have to accept this request. The authors of this piece skirt that key issue: do they favour the granting or not of the request?

The implication is they do but lack the courage to state so clearly, and just muddle things up with general comments about lack of gender equality and participation in Canada.

Importantly, the Canadian version of secularism does not require people to abandon their deeply held beliefs. Religious people are welcome to bring their ideas to the public table. As Muslim women, we may disagree with the accommodation-seeking student that Islam requires absolute social segregation between men and women (assuming the student is Muslim; his religious affiliation has not been confirmed) – but we defend the right of individuals, including this much-maligned student, to hold their personal religious opinions and to ask the state to accommodate them.

Moreover, as Canadian women, we appreciate how far academic institutions, and Canadian society in general, still are from the ideal of gender equality. Women in Canada – like women in other recovering patriarchies – experience high rates of gendered violence; are persistently underrepresented in the senior ranks of politics, law, business, and academia; and face a significant gender wage gap (Canada’s is among the highest of the OECD countries). Islam is not the threat to gender equality in Canada: patriarchy, in all its various manifestations, is.

The misplaced moral panic at York University | Toronto Star.

York professor at centre of religious rights furor: Rights Code is the issue – The Globe and Mail

Professor Grayson’s op-ed in The Globe. Well argued but goes a bit too far in wanting a “pure” secular model, with no accommodation whatsoever for religious reasons. My own thoughts on accommodation in general are here but I have no objection, for example, to sex segregated swimming hours, as a means to encourage participation of girls and women, but do object  to sex-segregated academic instruction. As to his call for a provincial inquiry, the most recent example was the Bouchard-Taylor Commission of 2007, which played a useful role in debunking some of the more sensational media coverage and providing a sound intellectual framework for looking at reasonable accommodation issues.

Unlikely that Ontario will want to go down that route (don’t see advantages for any of the three political parties) but a useful starting point would be to see if York and other universities, as well as school boards, track accommodation requests, to assess the scope of the problem. Again, I am more in the world that is the lack of judgement rather than the lack of rules as per Coyne’s piece (York accommodation and Quebec values charter aren’t opposites, in fact they are the same):

It is also clear from reading these e-mail accounts that the moral confusion that characterized the York administration’s position is not confined to universities. Many pointed to the fact that in Ontario’s publicly funded primary and secondary schools, examples can be found of situations in which code-sanctioned prayer meetings segregate boys from girls. In other instances, parents can request that their children not be required to sit beside or work with members of the opposite sex. In some publicly funded swimming pools, boys are separated from girls for religious reasons.

Such accommodations are likely to engender feelings of inferiority in girls. Conversely, boys might mistakenly assume they are superior to girls. Such accommodations also likely provide a bad example for other students. Seeing or hearing of gendered segregation in his school, an impressionable 12-year-old boy may come to believe that separation between the sexes is acceptable. If some of his friends regard the girls in the prayer room as unworthy, he may come to view them the same way. Given these conditions, it would not be surprising to discover that once they got to university, some of these students would think it legitimate to request accommodations to avoid working with their female peers. Their previous education had taught them that if you asked for a religious accommodation, you got it.

There is evidence from my e-mails that in Ontario the rights of female students are suffering from religious compromise at all levels of education. Unfortunately, we do not know the full dimensions of this compromise, or its long-term effects on female students, on their male peers and, ultimately, on the value structure of our society.

For these reasons, we need an impartial provincial inquiry into these matters. On the basis of its findings, it might be possible to get the Human Rights Code back on track and more relevant to Ontarians of all faiths concerned with their daughters’ educations and futures.

York professor at centre of religious rights furor: Rights Code is the issue – The Globe and Mail.

York U: Professor Grayson’s Chronology and Paper on

A long and detailed chronology on the York U accommodation request by Professor Grayson. He was conscientious in considering the request for accommodation, and made the right call in declining the request. He applied common sense and judgement. Worth reading for those interested, and well worth reflecting upon how we maintain the reasonable in reasonable accommodation, without having to go down the unproductive route of trying to codify everything (i.e., not follow the Quebec model):

York University: Prof Grayson Paper on Erosion of Female Rights

York dean has ‘regret,’ but defends religious-accommodation choice – The Globe and Mail

As noted in an earlier post, Andrew Coyne has it right (York accommodation and Quebec values charter aren’t opposites, in fact they are the same); the problem is not the policies, laws and regulations, it is the absence of good judgement in its application:

In an interview, York provost Rhonda Lenton said if the student had made the same request for an in-class course, rather than one offered online, “I think that would be highly unlikely that the university would agree to grant such accommodation.”

After consulting York’s legal counsel and human-rights officials concerning the Ontario Human Rights Code, however, Dr. Singer also concluded that granting the accommodation “would have no substantial impact on the experience of other students.” And he suggests “the student would presumably not have enrolled” had the course not been advertised as exclusively online, even though Dr. Grayson says he knows the student has taken in-person courses at York.

“I wish I had had another choice, but neither I, nor those who advised me, believe that I did,” Dr. Singer’s letter concludes.

York dean has ‘regret,’ but defends religious-accommodation choice – The Globe and Mail.

York U Accommodation: Quebec and Other Commentary

More on the York University accommodation case.

No surprise, but Minister Drainville tries to portray Quebec as ahead of the curve, and that similar debates over approaches will occur in English Canada. He misses the point: debate over what is reasonable will always occur, the question is whether, and how far, one can codify this or handle issues on a case-by-case basis, subject to laws, regulations, and values. Ontario rejected sharia (and other faith-based) religious tribunals and funding for faith-based schools. While the risk of ad hoc case-by-case approaches is that sometimes administrators will get it wrong (as did York), government charters will likely get it more wrong, impacting more people, as the QC charter indicates.

Religious rights controversy will spread across Canada, PQ minister warns – The Globe and Mail.

Drainville also has an interview stating that the Charter is an indispensable tool to against fundamentalism. But why such a broad approach if it is really the small percentage of fundamentalists in all religions?

Charte de la laïcité: «Indispensable» contre l’intégrisme

Andrew Coyne reminds us that judgement, not trying to codify everything, is a better approach. Professor Grayson exercised good judgement, York U administration did not, particularly given that part of their mission statement includes:

A community of faculty, students, staff, alumni and volunteers committed to academic freedom, social justice, accessible education, and collegial self-governance, York University makes innovation its tradition.

York accommodation and Quebec values charter aren’t opposites, in fact they are the same

The Globe editorial, while raising some valid points (the sky is not falling over this request) and ends up on the correct note, nevertheless views this as a complex case, in addition to slamming Justice Minister MacKay for his jingoistic – but correct – response:

What has been overlooked to some degree is the fact that, when the student was initially turned down, he accepted the decision and agreed to attend the online course’s group session. York officials were right to reconsider the student’s request after the professor’s refusal. Their decision to accommodate him, on the grounds that the course is online, is not something we support, but it’s not inherently objectionable – especially because the school implied it would not have made the same decision if the request had come from a student taking a regular, in-class course. This is a hard case, on which reasonable people can and do disagree. What cannot be in dispute is this: York’s decision is not a slippery slope leading to segregated classrooms.

Reasonable accommodation at York is not a slippery slope