Trudeau tasks top bureaucrat to help reform patronage appointments

Will be interesting to see what system is developed and, after a number of years, whether the quality and diversity of appointments improves.

Just another aspect to implementing the “commitment to transparent, merit-based appointments, to help ensure gender parity and that Indigenous Canadians and minority groups are better reflected in positions of leadership:”

Michael Wernick, recently installed as the new Clerk of the Privy Council and the Prime Minister’s most senior adviser from the public service, has been given an important assignment by the man who appointed him: to advise on how to make a wide range of cabinet appointments – including that of his own future replacement – subject to more scrutiny.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail in his Langevin Block office, the career bureaucrat and head of the public service said the hundreds of political appointments at Crown corporations, tribunals and other agencies are “gifts” handed out by cabinet that should be subject to a more thorough hiring process.

That will mean opening up political appointments, including part-time positions, to more applicants, using more rigorous head-hunting, and setting clearer selection criteria. The goal is to increase accountability, ensure better representation and recruit higher quality talent for appointments to Canada’s public institutions, a reform of mainly patronage jobs that would be in line with the Liberal plan for merit-based appointments to the Senate.

“[Mr. Trudeau] wants to work his way around the appointment powers of the prime minister and put some process, some rigour, some inclusion and some transparency in front of those appointments before he makes them. I completely support that as a matter of good governance,” Mr. Wernick said. “You will see in the coming weeks a more rigorous process around Governor-in-Council appointments, like all of the 1,500 appointments or so that are the gift of cabinet to give.”

…Without any new process in place for appointments, Mr. Trudeau has already made some patronage appointments for senior positions, including new ambassadors and, in the Privy Council Office, Matthew Mendelsohn to head a new unit called “results and delivery.” Mr. Mendelsohn is an academic with the Mowat Centre in Toronto and former Ontario government deputy minister who last year worked on the Trudeau campaign.

Ironically, experts such as Donald Savoie, professor of public administration at Université de Moncton and Canada’s authority on the centralization of government, suggests the appointment of a Liberal campaign worker to a key position in PCO further centralizes power when Mr. Trudeau says he wants the opposite. But Dr. Savoie adds that bringing more transparency to appointments, starting with that of the clerk, would help diffuse PMO power. Transparency could come through a committee that recommends a public list of possible clerks to the Prime Minister who makes the final selection.

….Mr. Wernick has identified two priorities as Clerk. One is delivering the Liberal government’s agenda, and the second is increasing the capabilities of a public service whose employees are passionate and engaged but also frustrated. Without the latter priority, the first will be more difficult.

“We need to get better at being agile and responsive while still providing that sober advice on implementation. We have too many layers and too much middle management. We have too much process. We have people who take refuge in rules and process, and what we want is people to be guided by their values and competencies,” he said. “We have very strong foundations but we’re a bit of a fixer-upper… I’m quite optimistic we can get there.”

Source: Trudeau tasks top bureaucrat to help reform patronage appointments – The Globe and Mail

Liberal government has yet to fill 200 vacant federal posts — on top of 22 empty Senate spots

Another area which will test the Government’s commitment in diversity and inclusion:

In addition to the 22 vacancies in the Senate, the Liberal government has yet to fill more than 200 positions that are open on federal boards, commissions and tribunals.

Three months after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet were sworn in, there has been little progress making appointments to the bodies whose duties include adjudicating immigration cases, monitoring the regulation of nuclear energy or setting rules for the broadcasting industry.

Some of these positions are considered patronage posts, often doled out to party supporters, but many are important to keeping the government and its affiliates running smoothly.

The Immigration and Refugee Board, for example, rules on legal challenges of decisions made on applications for asylum or immigration. For people seeking to stay in Canada, a timely hearing is crucial. The board has 25 vacancies, including 14 in the Toronto regional office, with another member’s term expiring at the end of the month.

There are 11 vacancies at the Parole Board of Canada, which rules on the release of incarcerated offenders.

Appointees to these jobs must be named by order of the cabinet, usually on the advice of an appointments co-ordinator in the Prime Minister’s Office, with input from cabinet ministers. Mary Ng, who previously worked at Queen’s Park, is in charge of appointments in Trudeau’s PMO.

The task of filling patronage posts may have been delayed while the PMO worked to appoint chiefs of staff, directors of communication and other exempt staff members to work in ministerial offices.

Privy Council records show 132 positions listed as vacant on 57 federal bodies, and an analysis has found another 78 people on boards, commissions and tribunals whose terms of appointment have concluded, requiring re-appointment or replacement.

The list does not include the judicial appointments that government, through the Department of Justice, is required to make regularly. So far, cabinet has not named a single judge.

Filing these jobs can be a tricky business, especially for new governments that may have railed against the previous government’s perceived excesses of patronage. Indeed, the Conservative government drew fire for a series of patronage appointments made in June, not long before the beginning of the federal election campaign, and was further criticized for re-appointing people whose terms hadn’t ended.

Source: Liberal government has yet to fill 200 vacant federal posts — on top of 22 empty Senate spots

MPs lobby to ease language rules for immigrants [citizenship]

More coverage on the issue of language assessment for citizenship applicants. Will see if this gets attention when Parliament resumes next week:

One critic said if McCallum agrees with the MPs to make the changes it’s a “retrograde” step.

Martin Collacott said the real goal is likely to boost the pool of Liberal voters, since the only key rights citizens have that permanent residents lack is the right to vote, obtain a passport, and obtain jobs that require a high-level security clearance.

“They’re more concerned with getting votes and not so concerned that they (new Canadians) will integrate socially and economically,” said Collacott, a former senior Canadian diplomat who writes on immigration and refugee issues for the Fraser Institute.

Griffith said says the MPs are sincerely reflecting the views of some constituents.

“Of course there is probably a political element there, of making sure they retain the ethnic vote they gained during the election, but I think they’re probably hearing those comments,” said Griffith, author of the 2015 book called Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote.

Griffith said he hopes McCallum doesn’t give in to the pressure and go back to the old system, which fell short of requiring citizens to speak basic English or French.

“If you really want to help people succeed, and if you really want an inclusive society, it means they have to participate in one of the official languages,” he said.

An alternative view was expressed in 2014 by the Canadian Bar Association, which opposed the tougher requirements.

“Many immigrants over the last century came to Canada and worked in areas that did not require them to read or write in English or French but have paid taxes, attended religious institutions, volunteered in their communities, raised children and have little or no ties to their country of birth,” the statement said. “They may lack the ability to complete a knowledge test in English or French, but still possess the language skills needed to be a long-term, contributing member of Canadian society.”

Successful citizenship applicants now have to prove they have an “adequate knowledge” of one of the languages, which is defined as someone “can understand someone speaking English or French and they can understand you,” according to the Citizenship and Immigration website. It lists several tests that it accepts as proof.

The government spells out four criteria applicants must provide evidence that they’ve reached level 4 of the “Canadian Language Benchmarks” system, which has 12 levels of proficiency, with one being the least fluent and 12 being an “advanced level of proficiency.”

To reach level four they must, according to the department, be able to:

• take part in short, everyday conversations about common topics.

• understand simple instructions, questions and directions.

• use basic grammar, including simple structures and tenses.

• show that you know enough common words and phrases to answer questions and express yourself.”

Canada has had a legislated requirement since 1947 that new citizens have an “adequate knowledge” of English or French, and until the mid-1990s that ability was assessed in oral citizenship tests done by citizenship judges.

Then the Liberal government, which at the time was engaged in an austerity program to slash the deficit, came up with a standardized, and much cheaper to administer, citizenship test.

The test involved 20 multiple choice questions testing knowledge in areas such as citizens’ rights and duties, and Canadian history, geography and the economy. It was assumed that passing the test would mean the applicant also had a reasonable grasp of the language.

But a successful applicant required only a 60-per-cent score to pass, resulting in 95 per cent of participants making the grade, according to a 2012 analysis by Montreal academic Mireille Paquet.

One of the problems with the tests, according to Griffith, is that they were uniform. That meant consultants could provide “cheat sheets” to help people who couldn’t function in English or French memorize the questions and visually recognize the correct answers.

The Conservatives made their first move in 2010 to make the test more challenging, bumping the passing grade to 75 per cent and offering different versions of the test in order to discourage cheating.

Then, in 2014, the new legislation came in requiring that applicants get third-party certification that they reached the level 4 proficiency.

Source: MPs lobby to ease language rules for immigrants

Newcomers – Reconciliation Needs You Too – New Canadian Media

One of the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and one that will likely be implemented to some degree.

As Adrienne Clarkson notes in her book, Belonging: The Paradox of Citizenship, when immigrants become citizens they inherit both the good and bad parts of our history, and thus better knowledge of the history of Indigenous Peoples and their treatment is essential.

It is likely, should the Liberal government revise the citizenship study guide, Discover Canada, (almost a certainty), the overall diversity and inclusion theme will feature prominently, including with respect to Indigenous Peoples:

Canada’s Indigenous people are asking immigrants to join the nationwide process of reconciliation by learning about and celebrating Indigenous culture.

One of the many recommendations that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) published in their final report calls on the government to incorporate more information on the history of Canada’s diverse Indigenous communities in information kits for newcomers and in citizenship tests.

This includes information on residential schools and the Treaties through which settlers dispossessed the Indigenous peoples of their land.

The recommendation is just one 94 outlined in the report from the TRC, whose work on restoring the relationship between the Canadian government and Indigenous communities culminated with the report’s delivery on Dec. 15, 2015.

Learning the true history of Canada

“I really think it’s important to realize that this was not an empty land when people came here. There were thriving nations in this land,” says Jane Hubbard, acting director of operations of the Legacy of Hope Foundation.

Her organization works to raise awareness about the history of residential schools in Canada and to promote reconciliation among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada.

“I think it’s very important that the true history be told, so that people understand that Canada did not start in 1867. There was a long history before contact as well,” she says.

Hubbard says Aboriginal peoples’ present-day contributions to society should also be included and celebrated.

“Often in a lot of government materials, Aboriginal peoples are referred to in such a way as to make someone think that perhaps they are a historical entity,” she says.

It is vital that newcomers do independent research to learn about Indigenous culture, instead of absorbing the misinterpretations of the general narrative.

“We would like to see more of the current-day representation. Thriving cultures, restoration of language. That people are here and walking amongst us and that they are lively contributors to society.”

Andrew Tataj is a second-generation Canadian whose parents came to Canada in the 1970s from Ireland and former Yugoslavia. “Learning about our history is important, because it can help newcomers assimilate into our culture, especially knowing about the country’s past – good and bad things,” says the computer engineer.

However, he is skeptical about the positive effect of providing more information. “I don’t think much can be changed when it comes to awareness. … It won’t get their land back,” he says.

Participating in reconciliation

Heather Igloliorte, an Inuit professor and chair in Indigenous art history and community engagement at Concordia University, outlines some ways in which newcomers can participate actively in the process of reconciliation.

“I think that one of the things that new Canadians could do is attend festivals and celebrations and Aboriginal peoples’ day and other events, so that they have an opportunity to meet and converse with Indigenous people. So that their understanding does not come only from literature, but also from first-person experience,” she says.

One of the primary focuses of the TRC was to expose the truths of the residential-school system.

Igloliorte says that it is vital that newcomers do independent research to learn about Indigenous culture, instead of absorbing the misinterpretations of the general narrative about them.

“It’s incredibly important for newcomers to Canada to understand the history of how we got to where we are today, so that they do not simply absorb the stereotypes and the racist perspectives towards Indigenous people that we still have in Canada right now,” says Igloliorte.

“I think Aboriginal people did not receive enough respect from the very beginning,” says Khaled Elrodesly, a biomedical engineer from Egypt who recently took his citizenship test. “They are supposed to be the first settlers of the Americas and everyone else that comes after them should respect their thoughts and ideas and try to connect with them.”

Source: Newcomers – Reconciliation Needs You Too – New Canadian Media

Why a new citizenship law in France has outraged the French left – The Washington Post

Good summary:

On Wednesday, the Assemblé Nationale voted 317 to 199 in favor of a constitutional amendment that would permit one of the most controversial pieces of French legislation in recent years — the so-called déchéance de la nationalité. In the aftermath of the Nov. 13 attacks across Paris, the law that would strip citizenship from French-born dual citizens accused of terrorism. Fifty deputies abstained.

Since the November attacks, perpetrated by Islamist militants, President François Hollande declared a state of emergency that lasts officially until Feb. 26, a period in which a host of new measures have increased the powers of the Interior Ministry to raid homes and to place citizens suspected of terrorist activity under house arrest. The state of emergency is likely to be renewed. Although there has been considerable criticism of the more than 3,000 police raids that have taken place since Nov. 13 — which have resulted in only around 360 arrests — the proposed citizenship law has undoubtedly caused the greatest outrage.

According to Le Monde, there are approximately 3.3 million people in France with dual citizenship, and critics — mostly from within the ranks of Hollande’s own party, the Parti Socialiste — insist that this law would make an entirely unnecessary distinction among French citizens, who are supposed to be equal in the eyes of the state. They also dispute whether it would be an effective means of fighting terrorism. After all, would removing the French citizenship of French-born terrorists keep them from pulling any triggers?

On a deeper level, these predominately leftist critics have argued, the déchéance de la nationalité would strike at the heart of French Republican values, devoted to the holy trinity of liberty, equality and fraternity. As Patrick Weil, a leading French historian of immigration, told the New York Times in January: “The principle of equality is one of the pillars of French identity. That [Hollande] wants to distinguish between French citizens is creating a tsunami.”

Christiane Taubira, Hollande’s justice minister, resigned over this proposed law on Jan. 27, and many other prominent socialists and leftists — including Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and the far-left politician Jean-Luc Mélénchon — have condemned it outright. The so-called tsunami ultimately split the Parti Socialiste in Wednesday’s vote: 168 voted in favor, while 119 either voted against or abstained. The same was essentially true of the center-right, despite a plea from Nicolas Sarkozy. In response to the vote, as well as to the government shake-up this morning that saw the former prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault replace Laurent Fabius as France’s Foreign Minister, Hollande is expected to appear on French television this evening to assuage public opinion.

The “déchéance” is not yet official, as it will still need to pass in the Senate, where it will be discussed in several weeks. It also must be approved by a three-fifths majority vote from lawmakers of both houses. But with this week’s vote, it has come one step closer to becoming the law of the land.

Source: Why a new citizenship law in France has outraged the French left – The Washington Post

Are we watching the death throes of American (and in other countries) liberal democracy? – Ian Buruma

Buruma on the disturbing trends in the US and elsewhere:

What is steadily falling away is not democracy, but the restraints that de Tocqueville thought were essential to make liberal politics work. More and more, populist leaders regard their election by the majority of voters as a licence to crush all political and cultural dissent.

De Tocqueville’s nightmare is not yet the reality in the United States, but it is close to what we see in Russia, Turkey, Hungary, and perhaps Poland. Even Israel, which, despite its many obvious problems, has always had a robust democracy, is moving in this direction, with government ministers demanding proof of “state loyalty” from writers, artists and journalists.

It is hard to see how traditional elites are going to regain any authority. And yet I think de Tocqueville was right. Without editors, there can be no serious journalism. Without parties led by experienced politicians, the borders between show business and politics will disappear. Without limits placed on the appetites and prejudices of the majority, intolerance will rule.

This is not a question of nostalgia or snobbery. Nor is it a plea to trust anyone with a plausible air of authority. Anger at the elites is not always unjust. Globalization, immigration and cosmopolitanism have served the interests of a highly educated minority, but sometimes at the expense of less privileged people.

And yet, the problem identified by de Tocqueville in the 1830s is more relevant now than ever. Liberal democracy cannot be reduced to a popularity contest. Constraints on majority rule are necessary to protect the rights of minorities, be they ethnic, religious or intellectual. When that protection disappears, we will all end up losing the freedoms that democracy was supposed to defend.

Source: Are we watching the death throes of American liberal democracy? – The Globe and Mail

Richmond moves to require English on bus shelter ads

Reasonable approach:

Many Richmond bus shelters ads for everything from real estate agents to Crest toothpaste, mouthwash, Visa cards and, more recently, Budweiser beer have been exclusively printed in Chinese.

But now, the City of Richmond has tweaked rules so that these ads must now be predominantly in English.

The change comes as the city’s contract with Pattison Outdoor Advertising expired at the end of 2015 and it is currently negotiating terms for a new one.

“In the (request for proposals), we inserted a requirement,” said city spokesman Ted Townsend. It is “an extension of what we tell (private) businesses about signage. It’s our preference that at least 50 per cent (of the text) is in English, but (with private businesses) this is not required by law.”

He said Chinese-only signs have led to complaints from the community, and the rule change is in response to these.

Richmond will not similarly regulate business signs that are on private property, but Townsend said the city is able to make a case for requiring English on bus shelter ads.

“This is in keeping with our desire to be an inclusive community with signage that all people can understand and support,” said Townsend.

Source: Richmond moves to require English on bus shelter ads

ICYMI: So how are those ‘sunny ways’ working out so far? Flumian

Maryantonett Flumian, president of the Institute on Governance and one of my former deputies, on the new government’s steps to dates and some of the deeper challenges.

Hard to argue with her formulation of one of her broader questions:

As it contemplates new engagement strategies, the government confronts a broader question — how governance needs to evolve in the digital age, when ubiquitous information and the instantaneous ability to collect it have challenged the position of many traditional intermediaries, governments included. Governments have already ventured into the twitterverse, with mixed results.

But for the most part it has yet to confront a host of issues. For example, what are the benefits and risks of massive “virtual” engagement in policy making? What are the best techniques? What happens to so-called ‘message control’? What frameworks might guide interaction between the public service, citizens and the media?

The governance challenges of the digital age don’t stop there. In an age of near-frictionless connectivity, why do citizens have to deal with multiple government silos to address various aspects of the same issue — whether it’s a disability, a business start-up, or becoming a senior? And given the ever-expanding applications for data, why do governments continue to sit on vast stores of information they can’t begin to fully use in the name of “confidentiality”?

Here again, the government is off to an encouraging start. In his (no longer secret!) mandate letters to ministers, the prime minister charged several of his colleagues with working toward single-window service. The government also has committed to a policy of open data by default. Some traditionalists have cautioned that it may come to regret such a commitment, but among other considerations, it’s far from clear that a generation accustomed to the digital sharing of information is invested in the information-hoarding ethic of an earlier age.

So how are those ‘sunny ways’ working out so far?

ICYMI – 2016: A Record-Setting Year for Refugee Resettlement in Canada?

Good background brief on refugee acceptance patterns and history by the Conference Board’s Kareem El-Assal, in preparation for their April Immigration Summit:

Should Canada meet its Syrian refugee pledge, we can expect to see several interesting developments in 2016. Canada’s combined intake of refugees across all categories and source countries will likely exceed 30,000 for the first time since 2006, and could surpass 40,000 for the first time since 1992, which would mark only the fifth such occasion since 1979. Canada’s intake of resettled refugees in 2016 is set to exceed 20,000 for the first time since 1992.

Another noteworthy statistic: should Canada meet its pledged amount of 23,000 Syrian GARs in 2016, it will result in the largest number of refugees arriving to Canada through government assistance in a calendar year since 1957, when Canada helped land over 32,000 Hungarian refugees.

While the number of Syrians arriving will likely fall short of the number of boat people resettled between 1975 and 1980, the total of Syrian refugees admitted into Canada by December 2016 could well surpass the Hungarian arrivals in 1956–57 as Canada’s second-largest post-Second World War resettlement effort ever, underscoring the historical magnitude of Canada’s Syrian refugee commitment.

On April 4–5, 2016, in Ottawa, we will be discussing refugee settlement and integration, and other pressing immigration issues, at The Conference Board of Canada’s 2016 Immigration Summit.

The Summit will engage participants in thought-provoking dialogue, and share national and international best-practice solutions to the challenges we face in improving our immigration system. Click here to become involved.

Source: 2016: A Record-Setting Year for Refugee Resettlement in Canada?

ICYMI: Woman wearing burka denied service in Edmonton shop because of ‘no-mask policy’

Will be interesting to see whether a complaint is filed and if so, how will it be handled:

The owner of a north Edmonton shoe repair store says the reason he refused to serve a woman wearing a burka was motivated by safety, not religious or cultural reasons.

“We have a no-mask policy in the store and I certainly cannot discuss any race, religion, politics on the (sales) floor,” said Ryan Vale, owner of Edmonton Shoe Repair in Northgate Centre mall.

The response comes in the wake of accusations from 19-year-old Sarii Ghalab who claimed Vale told her he could not serve her because it goes against his ethical beliefs.

“He blatantly told her not to touch anything in his store and that he will not offer her any service,” Ghalab’s sister wrote in a Reddit post while searching for online advice.

A burka is a traditional dress worn by some Muslim women that covers everything except the eyes.

Ghalab later told CBC News that she tried to deliver flowers to Vale along with a letter explaining the reasons she wears the burka. But she said he simply ushered her out of the store.

Vale said that isn’t the case.

“I certainly did not bring up the issue of race,” said Vale, pointing out a hand-written sign on his counter saying “Please, for security reasons no facial coverings Thank you” as well as another printout saying “For security reasons NO MASKED CUSTOMERS ALLOWED” with a silhouette of a head wearing a balaclava.

“That’s the way it’s always been. I know lots of businesses adhere to that business — strictly a no-mask, veiled mask, policy in the store; for white people, black people, dogs, anything. Please show who you are for safety,” Vale said.

Ghalab said she isn’t looking for retribution (though her sister posted she would file a human rights complaint) and the incident details remain he-said-she-said.

Source: Woman wearing burka denied service in Edmonton shop because of ‘no-mask policy’

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