Diversity on parliamentary committees: Does it matter? | My piece in The Hill Times

Diversity_on_parliamentary_committees__Does_it_matter____hilltimes_comMy piece in The Hill Times (excerpt):

If we look at the overall committee membership of 288 members in both the 25 House of Commons and three joint Senate-Commons committees (some MPs are members of more than one committee), only 21.2 per cent are women, significantly lower than the overall 26 per cent of women MPs.

For visible minorities, however, committee representation largely matches overall Commons representation at 14.6 per cent, just marginally under the number of visible minorities who are Canadian citizens. Indigenous peoples committee representation is less than their share of the population (3.1 compared to 4.3 per cent).

Looking at individual committees, only the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics and Industry, Science and Technology committees have no women members. Veterans Affairs, Agriculture and Agri-Food, Environment and Sustainable Development, Fisheries and Oceans, Official Languages, National Defence, Physician-Assisted Dying have no visible minority members.

Women are predictably over-represented in Status of Women (nine out of 10 members) and visible minorities are similarly overly represented in Citizenship and Immigration (seven out of 10 members).

Source: Diversity on parliamentary committees: Does it matter? | hilltimes.com

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Matt Gurney: If deportation is appropriate for war criminals, why not for terrorists?

Matt Gurney is unsatisfied with the principle, “a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” as an explanation why we revoke citizenship for fraud and misrepresentation but not for terrorism:

After the Second World War, thousands of citizens of defeated enemy nations — Germany, Italy, Japan — moved to Canada. These immigrants included many who had served in the armed forces of those nations, and perhaps had even fought against Canadians. Mere military service in a once-hostile nation was not, and should not have been, found to be sufficient cause to deny them citizenship once the war was over. In some rare cases, however, Canada later discovered (or was told) that people living here as naturalized Canadians had been involved, for instance, in the Holocaust. These individuals, once convicted of their war crimes, had their citizenship taken away and were returned to their original countries of origin to face justice.

If that’s appropriate for war criminals, why not for terrorists?

The legal answer would be, of course, that these individuals weren’t stripped of their passports because they were terrible people who had done awful things, but because they’d lied about having done those terrible things. But while perhaps legally valid, the argument is morally and pragmatically absurd. We don’t exile liars, nor should fraud be somehow treated as a crime worse than, say, genocide. The legal circumstances provided an excuse to what’s really, and rightly, an exercise in morality — denying the honour of Canadian citizenship to those who do not deserve it.

If the Liberals wish to reverse parts of C-24, they of course have that right. They are the government. But concerned Canadians are owed more than slogans. The government should be clear why war criminals can be deported, but terrorists with dual nationalities can keep their passport forever. They may have an answer for it. If so, let’s hear it.

If I were writing the talking points:

  • There is a difference between one’s behaviour before one becomes a citizen and after one becomes Canadian
  • Before, all applicants must meet requirements (residency, language, knowledge etc) in order to take the oath and become citizens
  • Integrity is central to this process
  • Any misrepresentation or fraud, like any government program, means one loses the benefits of the particular program
  • After, all citizens must be treated equally before the law, whether Canadian-born or foreign-born, whether Canadian citizen only or dual-national
  • Current and past cases involve all of these variations, and should be subject to the same punishment. One should not have different punishments for the same crime

Responsive (if asked what about those lying when they take the oath)

  • There is no reliable way to test the sincerity of those taking the oath unlike the other, more easily verifiable, requirements

Comments or suggestions welcome …

Source: Matt Gurney: If deportation is appropriate for war criminals, why not for terrorists? | National Post

Dozens of ‘British home children’ lie forgotten in Etobicoke cemetery

One of the less known parts of our history that I learned about when working on citizenship and multiculturalism issues:

Charles Bradbury was still a child when his throat was slit with a razor on Feb. 1, 1897. His charred remains were found the same day in a burned-down barn near the Don River.

The live-in farm hand had quarreled with his landlord and employer before falling into a “sulky fit” and earning a “slight kick” from the plowman, a local newspaper reported two days later. The man was never prosecuted for his death, dubiously deemed a suicide.

Several news stories, a name and a number — 983 — scribbled onto a graveyard plot card are all that survive to mark the boy’s existence.

Charles is one of 75 children whose remains lie buried, unmarked and virtually forgotten in a pair of mass graves at an Etobicoke cemetery. They were drops in the wave of British home children, sent in droves from the U.K. to build a fresh life on Canadian soil.

Now a research group has dug up their identities, giving new life to youths all but anonymous in death. The revelation unfolded as part of an effort to reclaim the pasts of more than 115,000 children shipped across the Atlantic as indentured servants between 1869 and 1948.

“This thing at Park Lawn Cemetery was held under wraps for many years,” says Lori Oschefski, who heads the British Home Child Advocacy and Research Association.

Source: Dozens of ‘British home children’ lie forgotten in Etobicoke cemetery | Toronto Star

Asian sex abusers to be stripped of UK citizenship and deported

Implementation of the slippery-slope argument with respect to revocation in the UK (yes, these are horrific crimes, but very long jail time is the appropriate response):

Asian-born sex abusers will be stripped of their UK citizenship and deported at the end of their sentences under a new Home Office drive, The Independent can reveal.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is planning to significantly increase her department’s use of legal powers that allow serious criminals with dual nationality to have their British citizenship withdrawn, Whitehall sources say.

Until now, the powers have predominately been used to remove the UK passports of terrorists and terrorist sympathisers.

But senior department sources told The Independent that – in response to the series of Asian sex abuse gangs uncovered in towns across the country in recent years  – there is likely to be an “acceleration of passport strike-outs and potential deportations”.

British-Pakistani members of the gang of six men and women from Rotherham who were convicted on Wednesday of offences including rape, forced prostitution, indecent assault and  false imprisonment are expected to face action to strip them of their UK citizenship after they are sentenced today. Legal proceedings seeking their potential deportation to Pakistan are likely to follow.

The abuse of predominantly white girls by networks of Asian men has led to prosecutions across the North of England and the Midlands. More trials are imminent.

David Greenwood, head of the child abuse department at Switalskis solicitors in Sheffield, who represents almost 60 victims subjected to sexual abuse by the Rotherham gang between 1996 and 2012, said: “This trial is just the first of many and is the tip of a very big iceberg. From the work I have done, it appears that gangs of Asian men have been operating to sexually abuse young white girls in Rotherham, Oxford, Keighley, Bradford and Rochdale.”

Although amendments to British nationality laws in 2014 making it easier to strip dual nationals of citizenship were primarily aimed at terrorists who could undermine the UK’s security, the Home Office is now using the same legal sanctions to target serious crime, including sex abuse.

Source: Asian sex abusers to be stripped of UK citizenship and deported | Crime | News | The Independent

John Ivison: Jason Kenney’s newfound energy signals that the Tory leadership race has started in earnest

Good profile by John Ivison on Jason Kenney and his post-election reflections (I have great respect for former Minister Kenney from my time as former DG – Citizenship and Multiculturalism – as chronicled in my book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism):

“The fatal flaw was our tone. It seemed too often the government went out of its way to make enemies, not friends, starting with the media,” he said.

“On identity questions, every public opinion poll demonstrated a super-majority of Canadians supporting the notion that the citizenship oath should be taken openly … So I think we were on the right side of those issues substantively and politically. But when dealing with sensitive issues you have to communicate with great nuance and subtlety. I accept that was not necessarily the case in our campaign.”

The received wisdom is that these mistakes led to a hemorrhaging of support from the loose coalition of new Canadians that Kenney, more than anyone else, had helped knit together. But he disputes there was a repudiation of the Conservative message among ethnic voters.

“We got 32 per cent of the new Canadian vote, down from the low 40s in 2011, which was proportionate to our popular vote. It’s encouraging that it is still a far higher percentage than the Conservative Party has attracted historically. The problem is our vote didn’t grow with the electorate, which was mostly an issue with the under-30s. The bottom line is we now have a competitive environment. It wasn’t catastrophic.”

What Kenney doesn’t say, is that while the Conservatives got 32 percent of the new Canadian vote, this was 20 points behind the Liberals in the 33 ridings where visible minorities are in the majority (905, BC’s lower mainland) – and where he personally invested considerable time in wooing those communities.

It was not only a question of tone in these ridings: a number of citizenship and immigration changes did not, in the end, go down well with many voters.

“Showing up” was not enough.

Source: John Ivison: Jason Kenney’s newfound energy signals that the Tory leadership race has started in earnest

At the Manning conference, identity politics continue to torment the Conservatives

Interesting. Conservatives really need to come to terms with this given just how much their outreach strategy to ethnic voters collapsed in ridings with strong visible minority populations, as well, it appears, being offside mainstream Canadian values:

Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hébert was blunt about the mini existential crisis the conference was exposing.

CTV Journalist Mercedes Stephenson, Sun Media Journalist Anthony Furey, Journalist Chantal Hebert and MacleanÕs Journalist Paul Wells take part in a panel during the Manning Centre Conference in Ottawa on Friday, February 26, 2016. iPolitics/Matthew Usherwood

“Why did Justin Trudeau win the niqab debate on an issue he should’ve lost (according) to the polls? Because his stance on the niqab debate, which is a policy stance, goes to who the Liberals are. You could set your clock on Justin Trudeau saying what he said about the niqab,” she said.

“I look at your party and the niqab, and I don’t know who think you are. If you can, explain it….There are issues that brand a party beyond tone. And before you set out, you need to decide who you are.”

Back in the other room, where Scott-Marshall was explaining the results of their survey, she spoke of a type of free association exercise where participants were asked what words came to mind when they heard Conservative.

There were some positives, but also negative descriptors in line with what Weston had heard at peoples’ doors: “Old, outdated, and mean.”

When the survey drilled down further into how Canadians felt about common terms in the political vernacular — liberal, progressive, democrat, centre, independent, left-of-centre, socialist, conservative, libertarian, radical — they got a strong negative reaction to “conservative”.

“The most common negative reaction is to the word radical, not surprising probably. Although the second most common negative reaction is actually to the term conservative.” Scott-Marshall said.

“Just over a third of Canadians, 36 per cent, say they have a negative response to the term conservative when they hear it. And only 20 per cent say they have a positive response. Something to bare in mind just in terms of maybe negative…baggage that’s being associated with the term Conservative now.”

At the Manning conference, identity politics continue to torment the Conservatives

Multiculturalism ‘good for Australia’ say 85% of Australians

While the overall patterns are quite similar to Canada’s, one of the major differences is the degree to which our political systems are representative of diversity. In Australia, where 28 per cent of the population is foreign-born, only 9 per cent of MPs are, with only a handful being visible minorities. In Canada, 14 percent of MPs are from visible minorities:

The Scanlon Foundation has been looking at these perceptions over the past decade, and most recent research shows 85 per cent of Australians agree that multiculturalism has been good for the country.

The Scanlon Foundation’s Multiculturalism Discussion Paper has been tracking people’s views across more than a decade of surveys.

Data shows Australians are generally very accepting of cultural diversity and immigration, but the level of support varies across generations, geographical locations and demographic groups.

Research Professor at Monash University Andrew Markus says this report looks in detail at research that’s been going on over the past 30 years.

“There’s very high levels of support. 85 per cent of people think that multiculturalism is good for this country and those sort of high figures, people have been obtaining for 20 or more years but what is particularly interesting in the findings that we’re releasing now is that we look more closely at that proportion who say that it’s been good for Australia – we disaggregate those figures – we try to make sense of those figures in more detail.”

Professor Markus says the research shows current support for immigration is at relatively high levels, compared to 30 or 40 years ago.

“There does seem to be a pattern of greater support for immigration. When it comes to some other issues, such as different ethnic groups, at the level of the data that we have it’s more length of time in Australia and people are more positive towards people who’ve been here for 20 or 30 years and similarly amongst the immigrants themselves, there’s more differentiation among the recent arrivals in terms of the support that they’re looking for from government.”

Centres such as Sydney and Melbourne have the highest level of support for multiculturalism, with younger people also more inclined to be in favour.

But the research not only casts light on external perceptions, it also shows how recent migrants feel about settling in the country.

“What we find when we look at the most recent immigrants is high levels of engagement with Australia but also, and from other research, concerns at the present time about how difficult it is for people to get jobs in the areas they’ve been trained. So there’s certainly some important issues for government in terms of current immigration intake and capacity for people to find the sort of employment that they’re looking for.”

Scanlon Foundation CEO Anthea Hancocks says the paper sets out to explore the complexity of the issue, encourage debate and foster social cohesion.

Ms Hancocks says Australia’s diverse culture is one of the country’s most defining characteristics.

Source: Multiculturalism ‘good for Australia’ say 85% of Australians | SBS News

New Canadians continue fight to disavow citizenship oath to Queen

Small number – about 30.

While I am not a fan of the current oath (Australia did away with its oath to the Queen in 1994), I do not believe that individual disavowal, rather than advocating for a new oath, is the more appropriate approach. And it does suggest contempt for our history and institutions.

It is possible that at some time, the current government may decide to revisit the oath, as the Chretien government considered doing almost 20 years ago:

Emboldened by comments from Ontario’s highest court, a tiny but determined group of new, and not-so-new, Canadians have been publicly disavowing the oath to the Queen they were forced to take to become citizens.

Some are making the required pledge, then formally renouncing it as soon as their citizenship ceremonies are over. Others have waited decades to declare their anti-monarchist views.

“It is pretty hard for me to consciously swear to be faithful and to bear true allegiance to someone who has inherited her privileges and without having to prove any other merit than the fact to be the ‘child of’,” said Eric Dumonteil, a French national who became a citizen last week.

“How could I rationally swear the same thing to her heirs and successors? Signing a blank cheque to some people that don’t exist yet? Not for me.”

Dumonteil, 31, of Montreal, who came to Canada five years ago, handed a letter stating his position on the oath to the citizenship judge and clerk following his ceremony.

In 2014, an Israeli national, Dror Bar-Natan, along with a Jamaican woman and Irishman, lost a battle to have the courts strike down as discriminatory the requirement for would-be citizens to swear to be “faithful and bear true allegiance to Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, her heirs and successors.”

However, in refusing to nix the requirement, the Ontario Court of Appeal noted the trio had the opportunity to “publicly disavow what they consider to be the message conveyed by the oath” as well as the ability to “freely express their dissenting views as to the desirability of a republican government.” The matter died legally last year when the Supreme Court refused to weigh in.

Leaning on the Appeal Court comments, Bar-Natan, who called the oath tantamount to a “hazing” ritual, recanted his oath orally and in a letter to the judge moments after becoming a citizen in November. He also set up a website (www.disavowal.ca) to allow others to make their disavowal views known. To date, about 30 people have done so.

Source: New Canadians continue fight to disavow citizenship oath to Queen – Macleans.ca

ICYMI: Decoding the new language of racial hierarchy: Doug Saunders

Doug Saunders calls out those who deny the impact of environment on opportunity:

People don’t talk about “inferior races” any more. The new language of racial hierarchy appears, at first, to be discreet and indirect: It looks at black people in the United States and indigenous people in Canada as those who have made “bad life choices,” and who face “broken families” and “community breakdown.”

This sounds reasonable: After all, people with histories of deprivation and marginality tend to live in broken-down communities; their families are often fractured; they can be prone to educational failure, criminality and life paths that lead to despair. These are infamous symptoms.

But these commentators and politicians aren’t calling these symptoms of a larger wrong, but rather root causes: Bad choices have led to marginality, not vice versa.

You learn what this view really means when you ask the obvious next question: If you think personal and family failure are not symptoms but root causes, then why do they occur so much more often among native Canadians, black Americans and other downtrodden groups? What is causing these bad life choices?

This is when the theories of racial inferiority appear. The notion that significant aspects of behaviour, intelligence and aptitude are genetically determined – a notion that still lacks any credible scientific basis – has quietly become gospel in some conservative circles.

A handful of books and articles by notorious racial thinkers, ignored or dismissed elsewhere, have taken on an outsized life: Consider the 1994 book The Bell Curve by right-wing activist Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein (its claims of racial intelligence differences were based on the discredited 1980s racial theories of Canadian psychologist Philippe Rushton); the racial rantings of pioneering geneticist James Watson (which led to him being drummed out of the scientific community); and most recently journalist Nicholas Wade’s book, A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History. This latter book claims that the successes and failures of the world’s “racial” groups were genetically determined. Its key racial claims have been denounced as false not only by major scientific journals but also by a group of 139 top human-population geneticists, including the ones whose research Mr. Wade drew upon to reach his conclusions.

The notion that success is a product of good genes, rather than surroundings and circumstances, has an obvious ideological appeal to people who would rather not spend public money mending wrongs. So they seize upon crumbs: Yes, some aspects of intelligence have been shown to be passed on to children – but only when parents and children are all more or less middle-class.

Poverty and deprivation have a much larger effect in lowering IQ and other key measures; only when they’re eliminated does any heritability of intelligence appear.

With no support from scientists or their research for theories of racial success and failure, what we are left with are slogans and clichés that justify inaction – exactly how they were used the last time around.

Source: Decoding the new language of racial hierarchy – The Globe and Mail

ICYMI: Racial incidents ignored by York board, families say

Appears that the Board may not be addressing the issues, particularly given that they have cancelled the student survey needed to provide better demographic and related data (Toronto school board carriers out a similar survey to assist targeting of groups that need additional help):

A teacher who warned the class to check their bags after a black student went into a change room alone, saying he didn’t trust the teen not to steal.

Elementary school kids repeatedly called the N-word by classmates — a slur one heartbroken mother was forced to explain to her 10-year-old daughter.

A teen, beaten and racially taunted by classmates in an incident captured on video and widely reported in the news, whose family says as soon as the cameras went away so did any effort by the board to deal with it.

These are examples of discrimination parents say their children have faced in York Region public schools — incidents they say the board has failed to properly address. Faced with inaction, some have looked outside the board, including to the province’s human rights tribunal, for resolution.

A spokesperson said the board couldn’t comment on specific cases, but “we can assure you that any matters of this nature brought to our attention are taken seriously, investigated thoroughly and acted on appropriately.”

Mom Charline Grant has filed a complaint with Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal, saying there have been too many instances where her teenage son, the only black male at his Woodbridge high school, has been the target of staff because of his race and religion.

In an interview, Grant said she grew increasingly frustrated as her complaints went nowhere, and the troubles continued. Her son has been called “intimidating” for just looking at teachers, or “angry” when he speaks out, she said.

In the complaint, she said her son was singled out by a school coach for leaving practice early to attend a religious feast — the family is part of the small religious group referred to as Israelites — and then benched the next day because he must be “full” from eating. Now “he feels like he has no rights and his concerns are not taken seriously … We are greatly concerned for (our son). This stereotype and profiling that because he is black he is automatically a thief and he is guilty is greatly concerning to us,” she wrote, referring to the change room incident.

The school board has not yet filed a response to the complaint.

The board is also facing concerns over the recent, surprise shutdown of a committee aimed to support the “board’s commitment to equitable and inclusive schools and workplaces,” leaving many to wonder just how serious it is about serving its diverse population.

“Everything is swept under the rug,” said Shernett Martin, executive director of the Vaughan African Canadian Association, herself a certified teacher who has written curriculum for university students on inclusion.

“The board purports to be about inclusive education and equity,” but nothing is done. “What has been happening in the board has been going on for far too long, and it’s wrong.”

…However, one contentious decision came last December when the board cancelled the “Every Student Counts” student survey, similar to one routinely conducted by the Toronto public board to create targeted supports for groups of struggling kids.

York board chair Anna DeBartolo announced the news in a letter to members of the Equity and Inclusivity Committee. Members said the letter came after work and meetings with community members and religious leaders to get them onside. Previously, she had publicly stated it was merely “on hold.”

In the letter, obtained by the Star, DeBartolo told the committee, which pushed for the survey, that the board would only “collect additional student demographic data when the Ministry of Education mandates such a survey.” It’s unclear if the ministry will take such a step, though it is studying how it could be done.

The board has also cited the survey’s high cost, around $311,000, as a reason to kill it.

Source: Racial incidents ignored by York board, families say | Toronto Star