Rick Mercer’s Rant on Refugee Worries

Short and to the point:

Canada’s acceptance rate for Syrian refugees around 90 per cent: Ottawa

Some useful background data on Syrian-refugee acceptance rates:

Canada has rejected just two UN-referred Syrian refugee cases because of security concerns over the past 22 months.

The two cases represent 13 people, according to Immigration Department figures. That means more than 99 per cent of the 1,128 cases referred to Canada between January, 2014, and Nov. 3, 2015, were not of sufficient concern to be blocked for security reasons. It’s not clear how many were turned down for other reasons. The cases do not include privately sponsored refugees.

Over all, Canada’s acceptance rate for Syrian refugees has been “around 90 per cent,” said Immigration spokeswoman Nancy Caron. The figure includes both United Nations-referred and privately sponsored refugee streams.

The low number of security-related rejections presents a contrast to estimates in the United States, where officials said they expect their admission rate for Syrian refugees will “edge up” above 50 per cent. But it is also an indication of why Canada’s border services agency and the RCMP have expressed confidence in their ability to assess 25,000 refugees over just a few months.

According to a source, plans for the coming wave of government-sponsored Syrian refugees destined for Canada assume an acceptance rate of about 90 per cent. A case can include more than one person, as families tend to apply together.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister John McCallum said in an interview he did not know the current acceptance rate for Syrian refugees, nor could he predict what it might be in the future. When asked about the divergence with U.S. estimates, Mr. McCallum did not have an explanation.

“All I can tell you is we are focused on the most vulnerable. We interview all those applicants with great care. The officials will readily put to one side anyone for whom they have a reasonable suspicion but I cannot tell you what percentage of the people they meet that would be,” Mr. McCallum said.

Source: Canada’s acceptance rate for Syrian refugees around 90 per cent: Ottawa – The Globe and Mail

Congratulations – and some questions – for Canada’s ministers on our refugee policy: Ron Atkey

Ron Atkey [former immigration minister at time of Vietnamese refugees] on the government’s plan and his questions:

Yes, there are continuing uncertainties and omissions. Will the exclusion of single men continue beyond the initial wave and become a permanent part of Canadian refugee policy?

What happens to the Syrian refugee movement after the end of 2016? What happens if the Canadian appetite for PSRs exceeds government expectations (as happened in 1979-1980)?

These issues will be dealt with in the fullness of time as the program rolls out.

But what is important is that the tone has changed. The government has listened to public concerns – some legitimate, some not – and has come up with workable and realistic changes to the initial Liberal promise on Syrian refugees made in the heat of the campaign. This is to be commended.

What is also encouraging is the response of the new Opposition critics to the recent announcement. Immigration critic Michelle Rempel and Public Safety critic Erin O’Toole both distinguished themselves by generally supporting these changes and offering assistance to make the program work.

This refugee movement will need the support of all Canadians through their MPs if it is to succeed in making a significant contribution to alleviating the suffering among the millions fleeing war-torn Syria.

The government has now set the table. There is much still to be done by Canadians throughout the country.

Source: Congratulations – and some questions – for Canada’s ministers on our refugee policy – The Globe and Mail

Why talk about cultural appropriation goes against multiculturalism | CanIndia NEWS

More commentary on cultural appropriation:

In a globalized world cultural appropriation is to be expected

In a global and multicultural world, we are urged to appreciate and sample cultures and cuisines from around the world. It is a matter of national pride in India that butter chicken, tandoori and Indian cuisine has become the go-to mainstream cuisine across Britain. There are more Indian restaurants in London, England than there are in Mumbai and Delhi. Thanks to the popularity of Indian cuisine, there is a shortage of Indian chefs and so more English chefs are learning the finer points of Indian cuisine. Is that cultural appropriation? Will an English chef be condemned for daring to cook butter chicken? Is he or she colonizing Indian cuisine? Is it okay for a chef from another ‘marginalized’ culture to cook ‘our’ butter chicken since his was a one-time oppressed culture?

The bindi was once a religious symbol

There was a time when the bindi was a highly religious symbol in India and if a non-Hindu chose to wear the bindi as a fashion statement, it would have deeply offended Hindus. Not anymore, it has more or less lost its religious significance and today it has become a fashion accessory for Indian and Western fashionistas. So would it be inappropriate for a Canadian of Caucasian descent to slap it on her forehead?

Needless controversy at a time when so much else is happening

This whole thing about cultural appropriation is utterly ridiculous and a waste of time, unfortunately it can have some serious consequences. Where does it end? If this continues, any minority could shut down or protest about any program or practice that has been adopted by a White westerner. Instead of being flattered that other races find parts or most of a culture originating in the third or fourth world country appealing enough to be adopted, we have people fretting over this and claiming to be offended.
Imagine if the Palestinians take offense because Israelis who have been deeply influenced by Arab culture, claim Hummus and Falafel as part of their food territory. I am quite convinced that some radicals in the West will see it as another form of cultural oppression of the Palestinians by the powerful Israelis.
There are countless Whites especially in America’s southern states that cook and enjoy African Soul food. Now soul food was introduced to the Americas around the time of the slave trade. It has its roots in west Africa and quickly became a dietary staple for slaves. Many soul food restaurants are black owned and operated but what if a White or Desi chef decided to open one, would he or she be guilty of cultural oppression sometime in the near future?
Or what about Whites who sport dreadlocks or start dressing in Indian cultural attire? Once we start taking offence to stuff like this, we are going down a very slippery slope. Westerners who are loathe to be perceived as racist or culturally insensitive will steer clear of anything ‘foreign’ and what we will all soon be living in socio-cultural silos. So many immigrant groups are doing just that much to their detriment. The message we will be giving Caucasians is this- appreciate our culture, visit our countries but just don’t adopt anything as your own. Doing so would be treated as an act of cultural thievery. On the other hand it is quite okay for Bollywood movies to adapt and be inspired by Hollywood. It is reasonable to lift scripts, re-make songs, beats, western fashion and lifestyle in India. Why? Because Indians were once colonized and ‘oppressed’. So its justifiable to flagrantly violate copyrights and patents and rip off western artistes, inventors et al because they were once racist colonizers and oppressors. Ꮠ

Source: Why talk about cultural appropriation goes against multiculturalism | CanIndia NEWS

Public servants ‘gaming the system’ — take twice as many sick days as private sector workers: report

While the data is correct, the interpretation that most people ‘game the system’ is more anecdotal than evidence-based (some clearly do of course).

While I support changes that reduce such abuse, I would want to preserve provisions for sick day banking in cases of catastrophic illness (e.g., cancer):

And the article is silent on Canada’s public servants take up to twice the number of sick days a year as private sector workers do, because of different motivations, work cultures and rules that encourage “gaming the system,” says a new report by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute.

Phillip Cross, Statistics Canada’s former chief economic analyst, concludes in the report that the existing sick-leave regime in the federal government should be overhauled because attitudes and cultural practices “rather than biology and medicine” are at the root of the problem.

Cross, who made his name as a straight-shooting analyst, said a “sickness in the system” accounts for why public servants claim 10.5 days a year for illness while private sector employees average 6.4 days. The overall public sector – including education and health care workers – is close to the federal average at 10.6 days a year.

He said differences between the sectors are so significant that working in the public sector itself is a determinant of sick-leave use, rather than exposure to illness or injury.

‘I don’t want to sound like private sector workers are saints and public sector are sinners’

“I don’t want to sound like private sector workers are saints and public sector are sinners. If they had the same opportunity to game the system, I think it is human nature to take advantage of it, and the opportunities for gaming are much easier in the federal government,” said Cross.

“The rules allow people who want to work as little as possible to succeed. Is it the system or the individual? It’s a bit of both.”

The study was based on data from Statistics Canada’s labour force survey, which includes all full-time employees other than the self-employed. The survey’s finding of federal employees taking 10.5 days a year is in line with the 10.3 days that a Parliamentary Budget Office report found several years ago.

Cross’s study found the gap between the private and public sectors has also been widening. Public servants took an average of 7.2 days off in 1987 – including federal employees – compared to 10.6 days today. Most of that increase came after 1995. At the same time, private sector employees take 6.4 days, the same as they did 27 years ago.

Source: Public servants ‘gaming the system’ — take twice as many sick days as private sector workers: report

Liberal changes [moving #multiculturalism back to Canadian Heritage] will strengthen multiculturalism: expert

Further to my earlier post on the machinery and related changes (Ministerial Mandate Letters: Mainstreaming diversity and inclusion, and point of interest from a citizenship and multiculturalism perspective):

The moves suggest the Liberals want to make Heritage “more of a Canadian unity and identity department,” said David Elder, a former senior official at the Privy Council Office, which manages the machinery of government.

Multiculturalism is at the heart of Trudeau’s goal to defuse security concerns about bringing in 25,000 Syrians in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. In London, he said Canada has a history of taking those fleeing conflict who go on to help build stronger communities and more opportunities.

“I know when those 25,000 new Canadians begin to integrate into families and homes over the course of the winter, and as people get to know the extraordinary individuals who are working hard to contribute to Canada and our future, then many of the fears that come from not having personal connections and contacts with people will simply evaporate,” Trudeau said.

Changes to the structures, processes and accountability of departments can be highly disruptive in the public service, taking huge amounts of time and energy. This can mean moving people, carving up budgets and bringing together different work cultures.

Many say Trudeau wisely made few machinery changes that affected the structure of departments. Most of the changes amounted to tinkering, moving around responsibilities and changing some names to signal his priorities and the realigned portfolios of his cabinet.

“My take is that they did it brilliantly,” said Andrew Griffith, a former director-general of multiculturalism at Citizenship and Immigration. “They signalled change, put in strong ministers and strategically it means bureaucrats don’t have an excuse to fight over resources, and have to deliver on the government agenda.”

Kenney was the Conservatives’ multiculturalism minister for eight of the nine years the party was in power. He took it on as a junior minister – secretary of state for multiculturalism and Canadian identity in 2007 – and brought the file with him when he became minister of Citizenship and Immigration in 2008. He retained the responsibility later at Employment and Social Development Canada and at National Defence.

His political job was to court ethnic minorities across the country to back the Tories in the 2015 election. He promoted a brand of integration that promoted “social cohesion” rather than the “social inclusion” encouraged by the Liberals, said Griffith.

But Griffith said moving multiculturalism back to Heritage, rather than attaching it to a minister who bounces from post to post, should revitalize the issue. Most programs dealing with inclusion and diversity will now be in one department, meaning a broader national approach.

The Liberals also created the first cabinet committee for diversity and inclusion, Griffith noted. And mandate letters to ministers drove home that Canada’s values include “diversity” and “bringing Canadians together.” Ministers were told all appointments must reflect gender parity and “that Indigenous Canadians and minority groups are better reflected in positions of leadership.”

“They have mainstreamed the diversity and inclusion agenda so now all ministers have responsibility for it,” said Griffith.

“They have to include it in their policies, consider diversity in appointments, and having a cabinet committee to provide focus says these aren’t little boutique issues but should be government-wide issues.”

Griffith, who moved multiculturalism to CIC in 2008, long argued it had withered and gotten lost at Citizenship, a highly operational department that focused on the process side of immigration, refugees and citizenship.

Griffith said it will be difficult to tease out the jobs and funding at CIC that should be returned to Canadian Heritage because they were dispersed throughout Citizenship and Immigration. The two departments will have to duke it out over which resources will move.

Multiculturalism also faced a significant cut under the Conservatives. When Griffith moved it to CIC, the program had a $13-million budget: $12 million for grants and contributions and 73 full-time positions. The last departmental performance report showed 29 full-time positions with a $9.8-million budget. Money for grants and contributions fell to $7.9 million.

Source: Liberal changes will strengthen multiculturalism: expert | Ottawa Citizen

Prime Minister Trudeau uses world stage to promote the value of diversity

Significant contrast with previous international and domestic messaging:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is using the international stage and a London audience to pitch his Syrian refugee plan as an example of Canada’s unique diversity to the world.

“We have a responsibility — to ourselves and to the world — to show that inclusive diversity is a strength and a force that can vanquish intolerance, radicalism and hate,” Trudeau told a well-heeled crowd at Canada House in central London.

A day after his government revealed its hotly debated plans for bringing 25,000 refugees to Canada from the devastating, years-long civil war in Syria, Trudeau made an impassioned and highly political appeal that plumbed many of the themes of the October election that vaulted his Liberals to power.

The message provided a sobering counterpoint to his morning audience with the Queen, where Trudeau presented his two youngest children Ella-Grace and Hadrien just as his own prime minister father, Pierre, had once introduced a young Trudeau to the monarch.

….Trudeau’s sweeping speech to a crowd that included Mark Carney, the Canadian governor of the Bank of England, a number of captains of industry and members of the House of Lords, attempted to wrap all his government’s themes under a single banner: Diversity.

He argued that a thriving middle class is the key to making Canada’s diversity work.

“Economic disaster manifests itself in many ways,” said Trudeau. “Fear and mistrust of others who are different is one of the most common, dangerous expressions.”

He said Canada faces a constant debate between those “who would have us retrench, close ranks, build walls” and those who recognize that the country’s strength lies in its multicultural, polyglot nature.

Source: Prime Minister uses world stage to promote the value of diversity – Macleans.ca

Ontario premier says it’s time the province started analyzing policies through a ‘race lens’

Whether one labels this as a ‘race’, visible minority, or ethnic group lens, there is a need for government policies and programs to consider the needs of an increasingly diverse population:

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says it’s past time the province has a mechanism through which to consider its policies through a “race lens.”

The premier made the comments Wednesday at a breakfast hosted by Equal Voice — an organization that seeks to get more women of all backgrounds involved in politics — and she pointed to recent events to highlight the fact equity issues in government and policy-making go beyond gender.

The recent focus on policing and black youth — especially men — in Toronto and across the province first got Wynne thinking about this issue. Then the recent attacks on Muslim women wearing the hijab — one of which occurred outside a school in her riding when a mother was picking her kids up from school — put a renewed focus on it.

 “I understand we haven’t used that lens, we haven’t used that race lens, we haven’t talked about explicitly, and I think we need to start,” Wynne said at Queen’s Park. “I believe that what we need to do is figure out what is a structure… that is going to allow us to filter the policies we put in place, to create new policies, to put protections in place.”

There is an established equity framework for education, but not across government, and that should change, she said.

Wynne has yet to discuss the idea formally with cabinet, but her office said an equity-based initiatives could take a number of forms: it could be a standalone mini-ministry like the women’s secretariat or a cabinet committee, similar to the one on “diversity and inclusion” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just created. And there is precedent in Ontario — the NDP government set up an equity taskforce — though it was focused specifically on employment.

“I think the moment may be right once again to introduce a more formal structure to say that, you know, this hasn’t gone away and we need to signal, not just internally in government, but externally that there is more work to be done on equity,” Wynne said.

Source: Ontario premier says it’s time the province started analyzing policies through a ‘race lens’

Pope Francis says interfaith dialogue needed to battle extremism

Part of the puzzle but requires an openness for dialogue. And many of those susceptible to radicalization may not be open to such dialogue:

Pope Francis said on Thursday dialogue between religions in Africa was essential to teach young people that violence and hate in God’s name was unjustified, speaking in Kenya which has been the victim of a spate of Islamist militant massacres.

Bridging divisions between Muslims and Christians is a main theme of his first tour of the continent that also takes him to Uganda, which like Kenya has been victim of Islamist attacks, and the Central African Republic, riven by sectarian conflict.

“All too often, young people are being radicalized in the name of religion to sow discord and fear, and to tear at the very fabric of our societies,” the pope told Muslim and other religious leaders gathered in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

“Ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue is not a luxury. It is not something extra or optional, but essential,” he said at a morning meeting with about 25 religious leaders in the Vatican embassy here.

He stressed that God’s name “must never be used to justify hatred and violence.”

He referred to Somalia’s al Shabaab Islamists’ 2013 attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall and this year’s assault on Garissa university. Hundreds of people have been killed in the past two years or so, with Christians sometimes singled out by the gunmen behind the raids.

The chairman of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (Supreme), Abdulghafur El-Busaidy, also called for cooperation and tolerance.

“As people of one God and of this world we must stand up and in unison, clasp hands together in all the things that are essential for our collective progress,” he said at the meeting, adding doctrinal differences should be put aside.

Source: Pope Francis says interfaith dialogue needed to battle extremism – World – CBC News

Les réfugiés scolarisés en anglais? | Le Devoir

One of the little details regarding refugee integration in Quebec and the sensitivities re language:

La ministre de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion, Kathleen Weil, a semé la confusion, mercredi, en affirmant que les commissions scolaires anglophones pourront assurer la formation professionnelle de réfugiés syriens adultes pour ensuite soutenir que tous les efforts de son ministère viseront à les diriger vers des cours en français.

En vertu de la loi 101, tous les enfants d’immigrants doivent fréquenter l’école française. Or, la Commission scolaire anglophone Lester-B.-Pearson (CSLBP) a demandé au gouvernement Couillard de permettre à des enfants de réfugiés syriens de fréquenter ses écoles en invoquant l’article 85.1 de la Charte de la langue française, qui permet des exceptions pour des raisons humanitaires.

Kathleen Weil, tout comme la ministre responsable de la Charte de la langue française, Hélène David, ont refusé, mercredi, d’accéder à cette demande. Toutefois, les immigrants, comme tous les Québécois, ont le choix de leur langue d’enseignement en ce qui a trait à la formation professionnelle, ainsi qu’au cégep et à l’université. Pour la Commission scolaire Lester-B.-Pearson, « il existe toutes sortes de possibilités en matière de formation professionnelle », a indiqué en anglais la ministre de l’Immigration lors d’une conférence de presse en matinée. « J’ai appelé la commission scolaire parce que je comprends ce désir d’aider. »

Priorité au français

Au terme de la réunion du Conseil des ministres en après-midi, Kathleen Weil tenait un discours différent. « La priorité, c’est la francisation, a-t-elle déclaré. Toutes nos actions avec les réfugiés, avec les immigrants, c’est de les orienter vers des cours de français. » Que ce soit à Montréal, à Laval ou à Longueuil, « ils sont là dans un bain linguistique français ».

On ne peut pas travailler en anglais seulement à Montréal. « Non, honnêtement, non, non. Essayez donc, si vous êtes unilingues anglophones, de trouver un emploi à Montréal », a dit la ministre. Du moins, un emploi qui exige un certain « niveau de scolarisation », a-t-elle dû préciser.

Source: Les réfugiés scolarisés en anglais? | Le Devoir


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