The growing diversity within federal ridings: Policy Options

My latest:

Increased political representation of visible minorities in Canada makes it virtually impossible for any major political party to take explicit anti-immigration positions.

via The growing diversity within federal ridings

For those interested, the full table of all 338 ridings can be found here: C16 – Visible Minority – Ridings

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CSIS settles multimillion-dollar lawsuit with employees who claimed workplace Islamophobia, racism and homophobia

Appears new CSIS director understood the implications and reacted quickly:

Canada’s spy service has settled a multimillion-dollar lawsuit with five intelligence officers and analysts who claimed they faced years of discrimination because they were gay, Muslim or Black.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service posted a comment from director David Vigneault on the agency’s website Thursday afternoon, stating that the agreement had been reached with the help of a mediator.

“The settlement is in the best interest of all those concerned,” Vigneault wrote. “The complexity of the ever-evolving threat environment requires that all CSIS employees are equipped to give their best. As such, I strongly believe in leading an organization where each employee promotes a workplace which is free from harassment and conducive to the equitable treatment of all individuals.”

CSIS did not release the terms of the settlement, saying they are confidential.

Toronto lawyer John Phillips, who represented the five employees, said he could not comment on the case.

The $35-million lawsuit, launched in July, was a rare public airing of internal complaints at one of Canada’s most secretive organizations and contained detailed allegations about managers who openly espoused Islamophobic, racist and homophobic views.

Some of the most damning claims concerned emails allegedly sent by managers to Toronto intelligence officer “Alex.” (The five employees and managers are identified by pseudonyms as identifying a spy can be considered an offence under Canada’s Security of Information Act.)

“Alex,” is gay and has a Muslim partner. According to the statement of claim, one email allegedly sent in October 2015 stated: “Careful your Muslim in-laws don’t behead you in your sleep for being homo.”

Vigneault, who had only been appointed director a few weeks before the lawsuit was launched, responded quickly to the allegations.

As the Star reported in October, he invited the five employees to a lengthy meeting to hear the allegations first-hand. He also released a statement acknowledging that his agency suffers from a workplace climate of “retribution, favouritism, bullying and other problems,” which he said is “categorically unacceptable in a high-functioning, professional organization.”

via CSIS settles multimillion-dollar lawsuit with employees who claimed workplace Islamophobia, racism and homophobia | Toronto Star

American Bar Association is ‘greatly concerned’ about low percentage of female and minority US attorney candidates

Consistent with the lack of diversity among Cabinet and other appointees:

ABA President Hilarie Bass has sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions that asks him to urge senators proposing U.S. attorney candidates to take diversity into account.

The letter (PDF) is dated Nov. 30, nearly two weeks after President Donald Trump announced a ninth wave of U.S. attorney nominations. Of the 57 U.S. attorney candidates announced so far by the Trump administration, one was black and three were women, Newsweek reported.

The letter acknowledges that senators representing states in which U.S. attorneys are to serve have long had the prerogative to make recommendations for appointments. But the attorney general who will oversee the U.S. attorneys “also has influence over the process,” the letter says.

“We are greatly concerned that a lower percentage of women and people of color have been appointed to these positions in the past year than in previous administrations—both Democrat and Republican,” the letter says. “That is why I am writing you to ask that you take an active role to help ensure that the cadre of U.S. attorneys appointed in this administration is more reflective of the legal profession and our society.”

The letter says equal numbers of men and women are graduating from law school, but the profession is 65 percent male and 85 percent white. Progress in achieving diversity “has been uneven, slow, and concentrated in low- and mid-level legal jobs,” Bass writes. “Racial and ethnic groups, sexual and gender minorities, and lawyers with disabilities continue to be underrepresented and face hurdles to advancement throughout the profession.”

“Our failure to achieve a diverse justice system despite the ever-increasing multiculturalism of our nation invites a crisis in public confidence,” the letter says. “A justice system that is not representative of the diverse community it serves risks losing its legitimacy in the eyes of those who come before it.”

via ABA is ‘greatly concerned’ about low percentage of female and minority US attorney candidates

Funding religious schools: the majority of Canadians say at least some public dollars should be provided – Angus Reid

Suspect support would vary if questions were posed with respect to different religions as the 2007 Ontario election showed given concern in particular over Muslim schools:

Should religiously affiliated schools receive taxpayer dollars? And if so, what amount, and under what circumstances?

This ongoing debate in Canadian education – one complicated by the historical position of Catholic schools as a key provider of publicly funded education in many provinces – has been revived most recently in Saskatchewan, where legal challenges are underway to a court ruling that the provincial government cannot fund non-Catholic students’ attendance at the province’s Catholic schools.

Recent polling from the Angus Reid Institute – part of a year-long partnership with Faith in Canada 150 – finds Canadians more amenable than not to this particular intersection of church and state.

Asked a broad question about public funding of private, faith-based schools, six-in-ten Canadians (61%) say such institutions should either receive support equal to that enjoyed by public schools (31%), or at least some amount of government funding (30%).

More Key Findings:religious school funding canada

  • Those favouring partial funding were asked a follow-up question about roughly how much money religious schools should receive. More than half (51%) in this group say funds should be less than 50 per cent of what public schools get
  • Younger respondents – those ages 18-34 – are more likely than their elders to say public funds should be appropriated to religious schools (38% favour full funding, and 35% prefer partial)
  • Residents of the three provinces where separate, publicly funded Catholic school boards still operate – Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario – are more likely to support full funding than people in other parts of the country

How much funding should religious and faith-based schools receive?

As mentioned, six-in-ten Canadians (61%) say faith-based education should receive government funding, though they disagree about how much money religious schools should receive in comparison to the public system. Three-in-ten (31%) say faith-based education should receive government funding on par with public schools. Another three-in-ten (30%) say religious schools should get only partial funding, while the plurality (39%) say they should receive no public money at all.

Respondents who said religious schools should receive partial funding were asked how much money they would allocate to such institutions, relative to public school funding. Slightly more than half (51%) said they would provide less than 50 per cent of the amount public schools receive to religious schools, while one-in-five (20%) said they would provide more than 50 per cent of what public schools receive. The rest (29%) were unsure.

Taken together with those who would provide full funding or no funding at all, the group that would provide partial funding can be broken down as seen in the following graph.

religious school funding canada

Notable differences by region, age, and gender

Three provinces – Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario – currently provide separate streams of public funding for Catholic schools. These separate schools have their own publicly funded school boards, and have historically educated Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Given the prominent ongoing role of publicly funded religious schools in these three provinces, it’s perhaps not surprising that the three are the only regions above the national average in terms of the number of residents supporting full funding for religious education.

It’s worth noting, of course, that in no region of the country does a majority of the population reject all public funding for faith-based schools. Quebec – where the religious neutrality of the state is a recurring and salient political issue – comes closest, as seen in the following table:

Age and gender are also key drivers of opinion on this question, with men more likely to say religious schools should receive “no funding at all” and women more divided, as seen in the graph that follows.

Looking at responses by age, it becomes clear that those closest to their own school days view public spending on religious education most favourably. A plurality (38%) of those ages 18 – 34 say religious schools should receive full funding, while among older age groups “no funding at all” is the plurality choice:

religious school funding canada

One demographic characteristic that – perhaps surprisingly – doesn’t have much impact on responses to this question is whether a person has children living in their household or not.

Parents and guardians are only marginally more likely to favour full funding (33% do, compared to 30% of those without kids in their households – a difference that is not statistically significant). Likewise, people with children are no more or less likely to favour partial funding, nor are they more or less inclined to say this partial funding should be above 50 per cent. See summary tables at the end of this report for greater detail.

Via: http://angusreid.org/funding-religious-schools-majority-canadians-say-least-public-dollars-provided/

Private faith schools are resisting British values, says Ofsted chief | The Guardian

Significant report and issue:

Private faith schools run by religious conservatives are “deliberately resisting” British values and equalities law, according to the chief inspector of schools in England, who appealed for school inspectors to be given new powers to seize evidence during visits.

Source: Ofsted

Amanda Spielman, the head of Ofsted, listed a string of disturbing policies and literature used by private faith schools, detailed in the school inspectorate’s annual report published on Wednesday.

“We have found texts that encourage domestic violence and the subjugation of women. We have found schools in which there is a flat refusal to acknowledge the existence of people who are different, so for example lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

“We also find well-meaning school leaders and governors who naively turn to religious institutions of a particularly conservative bent for advice about religious practice, not realising when this advice does not reflect mainstream thinking,” Spielman said at the report’s launch.

The chief inspector – who took over running the watchdog from Sir Michael Wilshaw at the start of the year – said the discoveries made for uncomfortable reading, denying it amounted to criticism of faith schools in general.

“When I see books in schools entitled Women Who Deserve to Go to Hell; children being educated in dank, squalid, conditions; children being taught solely religious texts at the expense of learning basic English and mathematics, I cannot let it be ignored,” said Spielman, who argued that inspectors should be able to remove such texts from school libraries.

The Ofsted report detailed its recent inspections of private faith schools, with 26% rated inadequate and 22% as requiring improvement – Ofsted’s two lowest categories.

Of the 140 small Muslim private schools inspected by Ofsted in the year, 28% were graded as inadequate, along with 38% of Jewish private schools and 18% of Christian schools.

Spielman had praise for the bulk of state schools, noting that 90% of primaries and nearly 80% of secondaries were rated as good or outstanding.

“If this speech generates any headlines, I doubt they will be ‘English education is good’,” Spielman said.

But the report also focused on a group of schools that Spielman said remained “intractable” to improvement, including a group of nearly 130 that had failed to achieve a good rating in inspections this year or at any time since 2005.

via Private faith schools are resisting British values, says Ofsted chief | Education | The Guardian

Why Ottawa needs to nudge Canada’s boards toward greater diversity: Senators Massicotte and Omidvar

Agree – sensible amendments that provide latitude for companies to set their objectives with accountability and transparency provided through regular company and overall reporting:

This week, the Senate will vote on Bill C-25. The bill proposes to reform the process for electing directors of distributing corporations and co-operatives and modernize communications between corporations and their shareholders. It also requires distributing corporations to provide shareholders, at annual general meetings, information about diversity among directors and senior management.

The goal of the legislation is to increase diversity among corporate boards and among their executive ranks. The intent of the legislation is right. We need more diversity. But the measures proposed are not enough.

Three years ago, the Canadian Securities Administrators adopted a “comply or explain” model that is specific to the representation of women on boards and applies to most publicly traded companies in Canada. Bill C-25 emulates this approach.

Results have been disappointing: Only 14 per cent of board seats are now occupied by women, a meagre three-percentage-point progress from 11 per cent in 2015. Regarding senior management, only 15 per cent of positions are filled by women, a proportion that has not progressed at all since 2015.

Women are better represented on boards and in senior executive positions at larger firms. But even in FP500 companies, other groups are unacceptably underrepresented. Only 1.1 per cent of board members are Indigenous, 3.2 per cent are persons with a disability and 4.3 per cent are members of a visible minority.

Why would an approach that has yielded so few advances in recent years work better in the future? The government is asking Canadians to be patient, but shouldn’t we request an improved approach? We strongly believe we should.

This week, we will table an amendment in order to ensure we do more than what is timidly proposed in Bill C-25. This amendment puts forward an approach that is both progressive and respectful of corporations’ choices and strategies.

The term “diversity” is not defined in Bill C-25. When diversity is left undefined, even on the most basic level, as we saw in the United States, it loses its emphasis. It becomes experiential rather than identity-based. Given the myriad interpretations possible, the term risks being diluted beyond recognition, with very little accountability in place.

Our amendment would require publicly traded corporations to set self-determined numerical goals, such as percentages and timetables, to bolster the representation of at least four underrepresented groups within boards and senior management. It would specifically target the designated groups identified in the 1995 Employment Equity Act: women, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities and visible minorities.

To be clear: Companies would be allowed to establish numerical goals for these four groups, considering industry and company-specific factors and also include other forms of diversity if they so wish.

We know this approach works. According to the Canadian Securities Administrators, issuers that set themselves targets for the representation of women on boards do more than twice as well (reaching a 26-per-cent female composition of their boards) than companies that do not set such goals (12 per cent being their proportion).

So, by requiring corporations to report policies and goals to their shareholders, this amendment is designed to nudge them to accelerate change.

But if we are to know whether real progress is made, we need a periodical, complete, up-to-date picture of the situation in the upper echelons of the corporate world. That is why the amendment would require that corporations also send diversity and numerical goals information to the government. As well, each year, the minister would be required to prepare and publish a report presenting the aggregate data received.

The approach that we propose seeks better representation for women and other underrepresented groups, while leaving corporations free to take into account their particular circumstances. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach and it is a much better alternative than the wait-and-see approach proposed by the government.

This is an important piece of legislation. Diversity is our strength but inclusion is our choice. We need to make these changes to improve the bill and accelerate progress.

via Why Ottawa needs to nudge Canada’s boards toward greater diversity – The Globe and Mail

Cost of British citizenship for children is now 22 times more expensive than Germany | The Independent

I had not done the comparison of fees for children so the data in this article is revealing. The last time I checked, UK was also the most expensive for adults:

The Government is under pressure over the “astronomical” rise in the cost of British citizenship for children, which is now 22 times more expensive than in Germany.

Costs to register a child’s citizenship application have soared by 153 per cent in the last seven years, from £386 in 2010 to £973 today.

Scores of youngsters descended on Westminster on Wednesday morning with Citizens UK in protest against the fee, which sees many children unable to become British citizens despite having a legal right.

The fee is considerably higher than in other European countries, with the figure standing at 80 euros in Belgium, 55 euros in France and just 51 euros in Germany.

Each application costs the Home Office £386, meaning the department makes a £586 profit per child registered. With 40,537 applications made in the year to September 2017, the Home Office is expected to make almost £24m this year from children registering for citizenship.

The soaring costs mean a family with three children who have come from abroad and settled in the UK for 10 years, accessing citizenship for all members, including those born here, would have paid out more than £15,000 to be “naturalised” as British citizens, taking into account all migration fees.

Many of these families suffer in-work poverty due to their low wages, so are unable to afford the cost of citizenship, which can prevent children from fully participating in the life of their community, experts warn.

There are an estimated 120,000 “undocumented” children across the UK, more than half of whom are legally entitled to a UK passport. Many are unaware of their status until they apply to university, try to open a bank account or need a passport for foreign travel, according to Citizens UK.

Anne-Marie Canning, director of social mobility and student success at King’s College London, said this can lead to problems when youngsters wish to go into higher education, with many facing difficulties due to not having the correct documents to access student loans.

“There are a large number of students in Greater London who are unable to access university because they are locked out of the student loans system due to paperwork,” she said.

Revd Mother Ellen Eames and school children singing carols outside the Home Office. Hundreds delivered Christmas cards to Secretary of State Amber Rudd asking her to cut the cost of British Citizenship (James Asfa @ Citizens UK)
“We’ve heard stories of parents having to pick which of their children’s paperwork they process so they can access student finance, as they cannot afford to do it for all of their children. We and other universities in London and across the UK are concerned about this issue and have made scholarships available for these learners.

“If the Home Office reduced their fees it would enable more children and talented young people to secure their papers and access higher education like other students.”

Citizens UK leader Fiona Carrick Davis said: “Over the past few years Citizenship fees have risen astronomically and far exceed those of other European countries.

“Many of these children were born in the UK or have spent much of their lives in the UK and have a legal right to citizenship. This is their home, they are British in all respects except they don’t have Citizenship.

via Cost of British citizenship for children is now 22 times more expensive than Germany | The Independent

Census 2016: Where is the discussion about Indigenous education? John Richards

Valid points:

Recently, Statistics Canada released the final batch of results from the 2016 census. It included education statistics for Canadians – including Indigenous Canadians.

Perhaps Indigenous education outcomes are the most important findings in this final batch, and among Indigenous education outcomes, perhaps the most important are high school completion results among young adults. They provide a snapshot of how Canada’s K-12 school systems are performing. For the record, among non-Indigenous young adults (20-24) in 2016, 92 per cent have at least a high school certificate. (Canada is above the overall OECD average.) Among Métis, 84 per cent have completed high school. Among First Nations young adults living off reserve, 75 per cent. But among those living on reserve, only 48 per cent have done so – less than half.

Regardless of race, children who do not complete at least high school are unlikely to gain regular employment and are probably doomed to poverty as adults. Arguably the best way to promote reconciliation between Indigenous and “settler” populations is to close unacceptably large education gaps, starting with high school.

Admittedly, both on and off reserve, First Nations results are five to six percentage points better than in the 2011 census. However, if any other sizable group of young Canadians realized such large high school completion gaps relative to the Canadian average, there would be a hue and cry.

Earlier in the decade, there was. Shawn Atleo, at the time national chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), spoke eloquently about the importance of education. Despite some serious disagreements between them, Atleo and then-prime minister Stephen Harper succeeded in negotiating legislation for the organization of reserve schools, plus a large increase in federal funding. Rather than look at the Atleo-Harper agreement as a glass half-full – which could be topped up – most chiefs and Liberal MPs denounced their efforts. Atleo resigned, and Harper let the legislation die when the election writ was issued in 2015.

While I think the legislation was a decent compromise, perhaps I am wrong and the legislation deserved to die. In 2016, the new, Liberal government quietly increased funding for reserve schools in line with the Atleo-Harper agreement, but there is little evidence of urgency on this file from either Ottawa or most Indigenous leaders. Among the 94 “calls to action” of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), only seven concerned K-12 education and only one referred explicitly to the provinces, the order of government responsible for almost all Indigenous students in high school.

It is important to realize that only half the Indigenous population are “registered Indians” entitled to live on reserve, and fewer than half of those “registered” actually live on reserve. Since there are few on-reserve high schools, most children living on reserve attend provincial high schools.

The AFN, the TRC and everyone else involved in K-12 education should be raising a hue and cry with provincial governments and their education ministries. The census shows which provinces deserve the most aggressive prodding. Among the six with large Indigenous student cohorts (Quebec to British Columbia), B.C. stands out as by far the best, Manitoba as the worst. In 2016, 70 per cent of on-reserve First Nations young adults in B.C. had completed high school; in Manitoba, only 36 per cent. In B.C., among First Nations young adults living off reserve, 81 per cent had a high school certificate; in Manitoba, 61 per cent. Some interprovincial differences are due to variations in social conditions – but only some.

As a generalization, both on-reserve and provincial schools are doing things better in B.C. than in the other provinces. Not perfect, but better. While B.C. has no “silver bullet” to close the gaps, it can point to many incremental initiatives over the past quarter-century that, cumulatively, have succeeded.

If the on-reserve high school completion rate rises six points every five years, then in 35 years it will match the rate for non-Indigenous young adults. That’s a long time to wait.

via Census 2016: Where is the discussion about Indigenous education? – The Globe and Mail

Committee urges federal government to repeal law that bans disabled immigrants

It will be interesting to see what issues emerge in implementation consultations with the provinces given that they have to foot the bill. Good however to see some data on the numbers and anticipated funding requirements:

A parliamentary committee has recommended Ottawa repeal a provision in the law that bans people with disabilities and excessive health needs from immigrating to Canada.

In a groundbreaking report on the controversial practice, the standing committee on citizenship and immigration said the excessive medical demand clause goes against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and is out of touch with Canadian values.

However, those who pose risks to public health and public safety should still be barred from being admitted to Canada, said the committee report, released Wednesday.

“Our immigration laws unjustifiably violate human rights of certain would-be newcomers to Canada and this is inconsistent with the modern values Canadians associate with contemporary human rights protections,” said the committee in a 76-page report.

“Canadians value diversity and inclusiveness and it should be mindful of all the abilities and contributions of its citizens, newcomers and potential immigrants as it moves forward with reviewing the medical inadmissibility.”

The recommendation was applauded by rights groups who have criticized what they call discriminatory treatment against people with disabilities.

“I have seen how the application of this provision has caused a great deal of hardship over the years. This provision has been a barrier to family reunification for many Canadian families,” said Toronto immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman. “It has also prevented many qualified immigrants from settling in Canada.”

Under the medical inadmissibility provision of the immigration law, which does not apply to refugees, medical demand is found to be excessive if it exceeds the average annual health care costs for a Canadian, which is currently estimated at $6,655 a year.

In 2016, there were 21 exemptions issued to overcome medical inadmissibility out of 995 applications deemed inadmissible, according to the Immigration Department. The main conditions included chronic kidney problems, intellectual disability, developmental delays, autism and being HIV-positive.

Advocates for foreign caregivers said some 150 foreign caregivers were denied permanent residence in 2014 alone because a dependant child was deemed medically inadmissible. Temporary foreign worker Mercedes Benitez, for example, was slapped with a medical inadmissibility opinion this year because her 18-year-old son is developmentally delayed.

“Denying permanent residency to entire families was never fair or just, thousands of people have suffered under this law already and hundreds of families are waiting to be reunited. There is no time for delay. It is time to repeal this law,” said Anna Malla of Toronto’s Caregivers Action Centre.

Immigration officials said the total number of medical inadmissibility cases amount to about 0.2 per cent of all applications (or between 900 to 1,000 individuals), representing savings of at least $135 million over five years — or 0.1 per cent of all provincial and territorial health spending in 2015.

Although the law allows exemptions at the discretion of immigration officials, they are determined on a case-by-case basis and applicants must prove the disabled individual would not cause excessive burden on Canadian taxpayers and they have a solid “mitigation plan” to care for the person.

“It is easy for MPs on the committee to say this is a good idea because it is the provinces that pay for the health care,” said Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees, which supports the repeal. “The recommendation is significant because it’s moving the dial further than what the expectations are.”

Admitting immigrants with excessive medical demands is a polarizing issue and even provinces fail to come to consensus on this issue.

During the public hearings by the standing committee, the Saskatchewan government insisted that the current policy “is the best option for ensuring that Canadians continue to have timely and quality access to health, education and social services.”

Others like Newfoundland and Labrador and Nunavut said the excessive demand provision is “unfair and unjust” considering immigrant applicants’ long-term contributions to Canada.

“Canada’s immigration system needs to ensure that Canada continues to attract the brightest and best newcomers to this country,” said MP Rob Oliphant, chair of the committee. “If (renowned physicist) Stephen Hawking wanted to immigrate to Canada, he would not be allowed under the current provision of the law. This is not what Canadians want.”

The report also recommended Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen continue consultations with provinces regarding the implementations of the repeal. “This is not for permission, but for consultation,” said Oliphant.

Although Hussen has yet to officially respond to the parliamentary report, he has said the law has to be changed because it’s against the government’s policies to move toward “an accessibility agenda.”

via Committee urges federal government to repeal law that bans disabled immigrants | Toronto Star

Americans revoking travel visas from visitors who plan to claim asylum in Canada

Another push factor for asylum seekers:

American authorities say an ongoing operation along their northern border has led them to revoke U.S.-issued travel visas for thousands of people, most of whom were headed to Canada to claim asylum.

Some, according to a U.S. State Department report, are associated with terrorist groups.

The revocations happened as part of what’s called Operation Northern Watch, which focuses on criminal activity such as visa fraud, human smuggling and terrorist threats at the Canada-U.S. border.

Since the operation began in January 2015, authorities have revoked approximately 2,400 visas that were issued from 85 different American diplomatic posts abroad.

“Although some suspects have committed crimes in the United States, the vast majority of the individuals referred through Operation Northern Watch are individuals intending to claim asylum in Canada or have already claimed asylum,” reads the annual report of the State Department’s diplomatic security service (DSS).

“Included in this group were individuals with ties to designated terrorist organizations.”

In an email, a U.S. State Department official told CBC News the DSS is unable to release information about the terrorist groups and any alleged ties people may have had with them.

The DSS also would not specify how many of the revoked visas belonged to people headed to Canada.

“When speaking to law enforcement, some of the identified subjects admitted that they either attempted to claim asylum in Canada or stated that it was their intention to claim asylum in Canada. For others, the diplomatic security service had reason to believe that they planned to claim asylum in Canada,” wrote the official.

The DSS says every prospective traveller to the United States undergoes extensive security screening but that in some cases “derogatory information” surfaces after someone enters the country.

In late October, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale told CBC News how Canadian officials had identified trends where documents identified from certain U.S. embassies and consulates are being misused.

“We have asked them to go back upstream and examine the pattern of these travel documents being issued and how come the people to whom they were issued appear to have had no intention of staying in the United States, but were simply using the documents as vehicles to get into the United States and then make a beeline for the Canadian border,” he said at the time.

Undermines narrative

National security expert Christian Leuprecht said Operation Northern Watch demonstrates how the U.S. understands and is acting on loopholes in its travel visa system.

“At the moment, the Americans realize there’s a Canadian dimension to this,” said Leuprecht, who teaches at Queen’s University and the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont.

Leuprecht said the annual report also undermines the long-standing narrative that people with ties to terrorist organizations easily enter Canada and head to the United States.

“There’s not really much of a problem in terms of people coming from Canada to the U.S., certainly not since 9/11, because of all the measures we’ve put in place. But we continue to have a challenge with people who are inadmissible and who have ties to illegal organizations, who find their way to the United States and then make their way to Canada,” he explained.

Karine Côté-Boucher, an assistant professor at the University of Montreal criminology school, cautions that terrorist ties aren’t always as scary as they sound.

“What are those ties? To know someone or [be] related to [someone], is sometimes enough to put you on a terrorist watch list. We have kids in Canada who are on no-fly lists right now,” she said.

Côté-Boucher added that just because someone used criminal means to enter Canada, does not mean they intend to do harm.

“Do they have criminal intent? That’s different, right? That’s a different question. There’s nothing in there that suggests to me that people have criminal intent in Canada,” she explained.

Travel visa harmonization

But Leuprecht believes, given the ongoing pattern of human migration, that it’s time for North American leaders to take a co-ordinated approach to travel visas to prevent people from abusing the travel visa system.

After all, he said, Canada and the U.S. already share data on land, sea and air ports of entry.

“We probably need to start sharing data on people who request visas into North America, show that we can jointly assess whether the claims that people are making and the intelligence people are providing are effective, because we can see that people are trying to exploit the travel regime,” he said.

For her part though, Côté-Boucher said she can’t see a good reason to give up sovereignty over who gets to come to Canada. She explained how she feels Canada’s tight border control mechanisms are partly responsible for the rise in irregular border crossings by migrants who are looking for a safe place to live.

“We have introduced so many border control mechanisms in North America right now that we have forced people to go through human smuggling networks, to go through visa fraud,” said Côté-Boucher.

As for Operation Northern Watch, the DSS initiative has already expanded beyond its offices in New York State to Minnesota and Detroit as well as its regional security offices in Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto, where it works with Canadian authorities.

No one from the Canadian departments of Public Safety or Immigration responded to requests for more information about the operation.

via Americans revoking travel visas from visitors who plan to claim asylum in Canada – Politics – CBC News