Snubbed by Trump, Silicon Valley talent is looking to Canada

The “diversity dividend” to use The Pluralism Project phrase and a major opportunity for Canada.

But it will take a number of years to know whether this is anecdotal or more widespread in impact:

Like many Canadian tech executives, Roy Pereira, CEO and founder of Zoom.ai Inc., struggles to hire and hold on to highly skilled engineers, code writers and seasoned managers. Canadian software engineering grads often head directly to tech hubs like Silicon Valley and San Francisco, or use an entry-level position at the Canadian arms of giants like Google or Facebook as launching pads for U.S. gigs. And who could blame them? The pay is better; the career horizons, wider.

So when Pereira’s small but fast-growing software firm began recruiting for engineers earlier this month, using the usual online channels, he noticed something odd: the number of inquiries from the U.S. and overseas was significantly outpacing those from Canadians. “These were American citizens and sometimes foreign nationals, including a lot of South Asians. They were wanting to come to Toronto.”

He interviewed one woman working for Twitter in Silicon Valley. A member of a visible minority, “she wants to move to Toronto because she doesn’t want to deal with the situation down there,” says the 49-year-old serial entrepreneur, alluding to simmering racial and political tensions, as well as the Bay Area’s soaring living costs. “I’ve never seen that before and I’ve been doing this for a while.”

What’s driving these off-shore inquiries, according to Pereira and other executives in southern Ontario’s tech corridor, are the anti-immigrant signals emanating from Trump administration—not just the notorious travel ban on six Middle Eastern countries, but also uncertainty over potential travel headaches for American residents with family in those regions, stepped-up border scrutiny and, in particular, the fate of specialized H-1B work visas.

Washington issues 85,000 H-1B visas annually through a heavily subscribed lottery, including 20,000 to foreign nationals who obtained graduate degrees from U.S. institutions, many of them engineers and software developers. Trump recently signed an executive order directing federal agencies to review the H-1B program and, presumably, recommend toughening the rules—a change that has significant potential to close off positions for highly skilled professionals from around the world who want to work in the roiling American tech sector. “It’s a top-of-mind issue [for U.S. firms],” says Jeff Loeb, an American who recently jumped to Kitchener, Ont.-based Vidyard as chief marketing officer after 25 years in Boston’s tech industry.

So, amid all the tales about the fraught state of the U.S.-Canada border—north-bound asylum-seekers, cancelled southbound trips by Girl Guides—as well as these potential rule changes, Canadian firms have found themselves in the happy position of transforming all that stateside nationalist/protectionist fervour into a brain gain.

According to a recent Bloomberg report, U.S. universities have seen a decline in applications from Indian students who, sources said, are concerned about visa restrictions and racially motivated attacks, and who increasingly look to countries like Canada, Ireland and New Zealand for higher education and career opportunities. In the past few months, in fact, this unexpected opening has become a point of eager discussion at recruiting and tech-industry conferences, with panelists urging audience members to seize the day. “There’s never been a better time to attract global talent and capital to Canada,” Janet Bannister, a general partner at Real Ventures, a Toronto finance firm, said at one such gathering, alluding specifically to the political situation in the U.S.

At a biotech industry conference last month, Bradly Wouters, a top Toronto University Health Network researcher, observed that “it’s no secret that success in the U.S. has depended on ability to attract talent from around world.” That appeal, he added, is “threatened by the winds of change” and described the moment as “extremely opportunistic” for Canadian companies looking for highly skilled people.

Some tech-industry groups and firms have gone so far as to launch advertising campaigns or open letters aimed at attracting skilled foreign workers. CityLab reported recently that a Vancouver entrepreneur and some counterparts in the San Francisco area have set up a company, True North, that will help foreign nationals find positions in the sprawling tech sector in B.C.’s Lower Mainland. Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has gotten in on the act in a guest post on Quora earlier this month, pitching to international students and high-skill workers on Canada’s universities, tech firms and ethnocultural diversity. He offered carrots such as a significantly reduced permit process. “We want to help high-growth companies bring in the talent they need quickly by slashing the processing time for a Canada visa application from six months to just 10 business days,” wrote Trudeau, who didn’t mention Trump by name but slipped in a not-so-veiled dig at the president’s climate change denialism by noting that “our government is committed to evidence-based policy and respecting academic freedom.”

Yet some Canadian tech players say the spike in applications they’re seeing isn’t coming from international engineers so much as the aforementioned Canadian tech graduates who followed their careers to high-paying careers south of the border. “I’ve seen a lot of engineers [from the Universities of Waterloo or Toronto] who went to the U.S. during the 2009-2010 tech boom…who are saying, ‘Hey, we’re thinking of moving back,’” says Derrick Fung, CEO of Drop, a Toronto start-up whose app allows users to earn rewards on top of what their existing card reward programs provide. “We’re attracting people who’ve worked at Facebook and Snapchat.”

Not everyone agrees. Derek Ting, the 29-year-old founder TextNow, a cloud-based, low-cost mobile phone service based in Waterloo, Ont., and with an office in San Francisco, says highly skilled younger people will continue to follow their careers and seek out firms that have a strong culture and a sense of mission, regardless of the ambient political mood.

But Mike Silagadze, founder of the Toronto education software start-up Top Hat, predicts the combination of the high-tension politics, travel headaches and ramped-up protectionism in the U.S. will prompt more of Canada’s young engineers and researchers to pursue careers here. Noting that 80 per cent of Waterloo’s engineering grads go south, he mentions Canadian-born tech superstars such as Stewart Butterfield, who founded Flickr and now runs Slack, or Tesla founder Elon Musk, a South African immigrant who moved to Canada and studied at Queen’s University. “Imagine Elon Musk staying in Canada and starting Tesla here,” muses Silagadze. “That’s transformational.”

Source: Snubbed by Trump, Silicon Valley talent is looking to Canada – Macleans.ca

Should France Have Its Own Version of Islam? – The Atlantic

Interesting in depth interview – worth reading:

With France’s first round of voting complete, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is among the final two contenders for the presidency, along with centrist Emmanuel Macron. Given how often Le Pen invoked the specter of Islamic fundamentalism throughout her campaign, one might expect French Muslims to be worried about the potential for her to win the May 7 runoff.

But Tareq Oubrou, the popular imam of Bordeaux’s Grand Mosque and a prominent theologian, told me he is not concerned. Nor does he blame those elements in French society that harbor fears of Islam. The morning after the results were announced, he spoke about “legitimate fears” among the French, and seemed to put the burden on Muslims to make Islam more compatible with France and its strong flavor of state secularism, known as laïcité.

Oubrou, who was born in Morocco, is a leading advocate of progressive Islam. Beloved among France’s political elite, he preaches in French as well as in Arabic, critiques the veil or headscarf, insists that Islam is compatible with French ideals at the deepest level, and shrugs off the death threats he gets from radicals.

“It’s religion’s job to institute reform and to respect the laws of the republic,” Oubrou told me, before going on to explain how he and other imams are working to create a new French Islam. This reformed religion, complete with what he calls a “preventive theology,” is meant to be, if not terrorist-proof, at least resistant to being coopted by fundamentalists. Our conversation, which I translated from the French, has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Samuel: In your opinion, what should France’s Muslim leaders be doing to fight radicalization?
Oubrou: We need to pay attention to the training of imams. The terrorist acts have been a shock for imams, and they are starting to take this very seriously. There’s already an intense crisis of conscience: We can’t let our children keep getting seduced online and elsewhere, we have to make an effort to prevent radicalization. Many imams are trying to better explain the Islamic texts that the terrorists use to recruit youth. They’re mobilizing to respond to these interpretations. There’s a theological response underway.
Samuel: Do you think most French people know that imams are fighting this way?
Oubrou: They have no idea. Because there’s no information. Mass media only covers things that aren’t working. And we all know how politicians exploit and aggravate problems so they can propose the solution.Samuel: How are you personally working to make Islam more compatible with the secular values of France?

Oubrou: I myself am working on [an intellectual framework that I call] “the sharia of the minority”—how to adapt Islam, theologically speaking. Muslim theology in France must do the work of acculturating Islam, adapting it to French culture. It’s possible to simplify Islam and preserve what’s important to the Muslim tradition and respect French law and culture. There are a number of Muslims working on a theology of adaptation, to adapt Islam to the West in general and to France in particular.

I am also working on a “preventive theology”—how to elaborate a religious discourse that won’t lend itself to terrorism or fundamentalism.

Samuel: Would it be fair to call your project a reformation?

Oubrou: Yes, it’s a reformation. But it’s always been like this: Every time Islam found itself in a new historical context, it adapted. All religions adapt. Why not Islam?

We need to take into consideration how long it takes to integrate, though. It doesn’t happen in an instant. Islam is a religion that has only relatively recently established itself in France. Simply adapting the theology won’t make people adapt—you need time, too.

Source: Should France Have Its Own Version of Islam? – The Atlantic

In New Orleans, Monument to White Terrorism Finally Falls – The Daily Beast

Interesting account of a part of American history:

Since 1891 a monument celebrating white terrorism has proudly stood in the heart of New Orleans, yet this week the city of New Orleans finally removed the Battle of Liberty Place monument. The monument celebrates an attempt by the white supremacist terrorist group the White League to overthrow the government during Reconstruction, and return the city to being ruled by white oppression. Some residents of the city decried its removal and parroted the ludicrous “History Not Hate” rhetoric, and this only serves as a continuation of the pro-Confederacy propaganda movement the South has waged since the end of Reconstruction. As a society, we can no longer tolerate succumbing to this toxicity.

On Sept. 14, 1874, the White League stormed the New Orleans police station in an attempted coup d’état to remove the governor of New Orleans, Republican William Kellogg, and replace him with John McEnery, who had been his unsuccessful Democratic challenger in the 1872 election. The White League defeated the city’s integrated police department, and took control of the city for a couple of days before President Ulysses S. Grant sent down federal troops to reclaim the city. The White League quickly surrendered the city upon the arrival of federal troops, and the Battle of Liberty Place monument exists to remember the 100 White League members who died in the battle. That is to say, it exists to celebrate those who died in a failed coup with the explicit purpose of returning Louisiana to a white dominated society.

The White League, formed in 1874, was one of the last white terrorist groups that sprang up during Reconstruction. The Ku Klux Klan started in 1865 upon the completion of the war. The White League was founded by Christopher Columbus Nash, a former Confederate soldier who was a prisoner of war during the Civil War. On April 13, 1873, Nash led a white militia in the Colfax Massacre that killed approximately 150 freed blacks. The massacre erupted following white fury at the election of Kellogg to the governorship in 1872. This battle is one of the single biggest massacres of Reconstruction. Soon thereafter Nash formed the White League.

“Having solely in view the maintenance of our hereditary civilization and Christianity menaced by a stupid Africanization, we appeal to men of our race, of whatever language or nationality, to unite with us against that supreme danger,” read the platform of the White League.

Despite their clear racist and terroristic foundations, they represented a more palatable form of terror than the KKK. The White League was more mainstream than the KKK. This brand of terror had become normalized over the previous decade. The White League openly collaborated with the KKK, Southern Democratic politicians, and white business owners who facilitated the Redeemers movement to terrorize freed blacks and Union sympathizers to swing elections in favor of the Democratic Party.

President Grant was so alarmed by the threat to democracy that the White League posed that he wrote about them in his 1874 State of the Union Address: “White Leagues and other societies were formed; large quantities of arms and ammunition were imported and distributed to these organizations; military drills, with menacing demonstrations, were held, and with all these murders enough were committed to spread terror among those whose political action was to be suppressed, if possible, by these intolerant and criminal proceedings.”

In New Orleans, a monument to Robert E. Lee was completed in 1884, and the Battle of Liberty Place monument arrived in 1891. In the early 1900s, Confederate President Jefferson Davis received a monument in 1911, and soon thereafter the “Little Napoleon” P.G.T. Beauregard’s monument was completed in 1915. For over a century New Orleans celebrated and normalized “intolerant and criminal” white supremacy and the erosion of our democratic fabric, yet now all four of these monuments are slated for removal.

In 1932, a plaque was added at the foot of the statue describing that the purpose of the battle was for the “overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers” and that “the national election of November 1876 [that ended Reconstruction] recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.”

Since the fall of Reconstruction as before, American society has largely chosen to turn a blind eye toward the reimagining of American history along a skewed, and seemingly polite, white oppressive narrative. We hear people utter absurd statements like, “Slaves and slave-owners got along peacefully before the Civil War.” A defender of the Battle of Liberty Place monument even claimed that his ancestor who died in the battle wasn’t a racist because he did not own slaves.

And all this isn’t as ancient as you might think. The Southern Mount Rushmore in Stone Mountain, Georgia, that depicts Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson was completed not in 1912 or 1922, but in 1972—at the location of the founding of the second iteration of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915. The Daughters of the Confederacy had been dreaming about this monument since roughly 1912, and construction on the stone carving had been started in 1923, but largely remained unfinished for decades. Then, the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s facilitated a renewed interest in repainting Georgia’s skyline in the image of Confederate heroes. And now all of America can visit this Southern Mount Rushmore, conveniently located at 1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd.

Throughout the late 1800s and 1900s buildings, roads, schools, parks, and more have been named after treasonous Confederates to palatably normalize their terror. Children have been named after Confederate leaders, and even today I’ve had people ask me if Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III might have been named after Jefferson Davis. Considering that Jeff Sessions Sr. was born in 1860 at the cusp of the Civil War, and the reverence the South still holds for the Confederacy, this question may not be farfetched. And we may need to ask if he was also named after the “Little Napoleon” Beauregard too.

The pervasiveness of Southern oppression can creep into any aspect of American life, and historically, any form of tolerance for white racial oppression has facilitated the further spreading of white terror and a distorted, whitewashed retelling of American history. New Orleans’ decision to remove these monuments and celebrate the rich diversity that has always existed in the city is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, more municipalities will follow suit and free our society from the shackles of America’s pro-Confederate propaganda.

Source: In New Orleans, Monument to White Terrorism Finally Falls – The Daily Beast

Black students hindered by academic streaming, suspensions: Report

The data is convincing. But the interpretation may miss broader socio-economic factors that also contribute to the gap:

Black children in the GTA may start kindergarten feeling confident and excited to learn, but too many are “gradually worn down” by schools that stream them into applied courses and suspend them at much higher rates than other students, says a new report from York University.

The report found that while academic streaming was supposed to have ended in 1999, black students are twice as likely to be enrolled in applied instead of academic courses compared to their counterparts from other racial backgrounds. And they are more than twice as likely to have been suspended from school at least once during high school.

“Black students face an achievement and opportunity gap in GTA schools,” says the study led by York University professor Carl James.

“All evidence point(s) to the need for action if the decades-old problem is to be addressed.”

The findings were based on data from the Toronto District School Board — the only board to regularly collect race-based statistics, though a similar move is underway at the Peel District School Board. Consultations with 324 black parents, community members, educators, school trustees and students indicated “the same patterns exist in other GTA school boards,” said James.

Because much of the information in the 80-page report was produced by the TDSB’s research department, it comes as no surprise to director of education John Malloy.

“We aren’t running away from what the data is telling us, we’re willing to face it,” he said in an interview.

He said the board’s new equity framework plan launched last fall involves a sweeping review of everything from board policies to personal attitudes among staff and the barriers students of different backgrounds face when it comes to accessing programs and courses.

Streaming, which places students in academic or university-bound courses instead of the more hands-on applied courses based on perceived ability, is a key piece, he said.

The practice has been found to hit low-income kids and certain racial groups such as black students hardest.

Several high schools in Toronto have already launched pilot projects to end streaming in some Grade 9 and 10 courses, so that students aren’t making decisions so early that will affect their futures. And two years ago, a TDSB report called for streaming to be phased out and undertook to expand the pilots. But there are currently only about five in place.

“I think we are beginning to get a groundswell of support,” says Monday Gala, principal of C.W. Jefferys Collegiate, which was the first to begin a destreaming initiative and no longer offers applied options in Grade 9 geography, English, science or French or Grade 10 history, English and science.

But across the system, it’s one change “I wish would move faster,” added Gala. The school provides extra tutoring and lunchtime and after-school support and has seen pass rates increase across the board.

A similar result took place at Runnymede Collegiate, which this year offered only academic English to Grade 9 students and is hoping to add geography next year, said principal Paul Edwards.

Eliminating streaming is one of the many recommendations in the new York University report, which also calls for mandatory collection of race-based data by all school boards to illuminate barriers; use of alternative discipline measures, steps to diversify the teaching workforce, and ministry and board policies to address anti-black racism.

Among its other findings:

  • Between 2006 and 2011 — the latest period for which TDSB data is available — only 53 per cent of black students were in an academic stream program versus 81 per cent of white students and 80 per cent of other racial groups.
  • Forty-two per cent of black students had been suspended at least once during high school compared with 18 per cent of white students and 15 per cent of other racial groups. It also cited more recent stats showing almost half the 213 students expelled in the five-year period ending in 2015-16 were black.
  • Sixty-nine per cent of black students graduated between 2006 and 2011 versus 87 per cent of other non-white students and 84 per cent of white students. Twenty per cent — twice as many as the other groups — dropped out.
  • Fifty-eight per cent of black kids did not apply to post-secondary school versus 41 per cent in the other two groups.

Source: Black students hindered by academic streaming, suspensions: Report | Toronto Star

Liberals repeal Conservative immigrant residency requirement targeting marriage fraud

Balance of risks but tend to share Dench’s view that marriage fraud was blown out of proportion, reflecting a few high profile cases:

The Liberal government is repealing a measure brought in by the Conservatives that required newcomers to live with their sponsoring spouse for two years or face deportation.

The conditional permanent residency status policy, which kicked in October 2012, was designed to clamp down on marriage fraud. But immigrant advocates said it had the effect of trapping some people in violent, abusive relationships.

Scrapping the two-year probation for permanent residency checks off another 2015 Liberal campaign promise, which the government signalled it would pursue last fall.

According to the Privy Council Office website, the cabinet decision was formally taken April 13 and will be published on May 3 in the Canada Gazette, the government’s official newsletter.

A formal government announcement on the change is expected Friday.

Under the Conservative policy, sponsored spouses and partners were given a status of “conditional” permanent residence, and were required to cohabit and remain in a conjugal relationship with their sponsor for two years. If they didn’t, their status could be revoked, leading to deportation.

At the time, former immigration minister Jason Kenney said the change targeted con artists who dupe Canadians into marriage then dump them once they get to Canada. The measure was also designed to deal with “marriages of convenience,” where two persons pretend to be in love for one to gain entry to Canada, often in exchange for money.

Exemptions for abuse

The probation policy allowed for exemptions when there was abuse or neglect by the sponsor, but Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees said many people didn’t understand the process. They remained trapped in violent relationships, while others who applied for an exception found the ordeal excruciating.

“They often end up getting the exception, but it’s a very difficult process, retraumatizing people who are already broken down by the panic of correspondence and interviews and having to go through everything that they suffered,” she told CBC News.

Dench said reports of fraudulent marriage have been blown out of proportion, and noted there are already provisions in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to crack down on people who misrepresent themselves or make false claims.

But Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said the 2012 policy was brought in to address a real problem of marriage fraud, and called the Liberal move to repeal it a “giant step backward.”

“I think it’s the wrong approach,” she said. “I think it erodes public confidence in the integrity of the immigration system and it puts vulnerable persons at greater risk.”

Source: Liberals repeal Conservative immigrant residency requirement targeting marriage fraud – Politics – CBC News

New Rule: White Women Should Not Study Black Communities | commentary

Sigh…

Alice Goffman, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin, is a controversial scholar. Her book, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City is based on Goffman’s six year immersion in a black neighborhood in West Philadelphia.

The book was published in 2014 to wide acclaim. But it soon attracted critics, including the estimable Steven Lubet, who thinks that Goffman embellished her experiences, repeated as fact things she had heard from her subjects though they were unlikely to have been true, and, most sensationally, became so caught up in the lives of the people she was writing about that she could have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder under Pennsylvania law. Goffman replies here, and Lubet takes up part of Goffman’s reply here. Suffice it to say that there is enough to the controversy to make it unsurprising that when Goffman’s hire as McConnell Visiting Professor of Sociology at Pomona College was announced, some people were disappointed.

But the “collective of Sociology students, alumni, and allies at Pomona College” who have stepped forward to complain in an open letter were not disappointed about the kinds of issues Lubet raised. They seem troubled mainly by the fact that Professor Goffman is a white researcher who had the effrontery to study a black community. The hire “boasts the framework that white women can theorize about and profit from Black lives while giving no room for Black academics to claim scholarship regarding their own lived experiences.” We are given to understand that one should not boast such a framework.

Let’s be clear: Goffman is not a right winger. Cornel West, who blurbed the book, called it “the best treatment I know of the wretched underside of neo-liberal capitalist America. Despite the social misery and fragmented relations, [Goffman] gives us a subtle analysis and poignant portrait of our fellow citizens who struggle to preserve their sanity and dignity.” The book won praise, in part, because it is a vivid illustration of the argument, as one reviewer put it, that the criminal justice system has become “a kind of invading force, aimed mostly at young black men.”

That is one reason it drew criticism from conservatives like Heather Mac Donald, who arguedthat Goffman had portrayed her subjects as “helpless pawns of a criminal-justice system run amok” when they in fact created “their own predicaments through deliberate involvement in crime.” Our Pomona activists, by the way, express sympathy with “student organizers” at Claremont McKenna, whose most recent act of social justice was to shout Mac Donald down. So I suppose they can be forgiven for not knowing what Mac Donald has to say.

But Goffman’s support for the basic storyline of the Black Lives Matter movement cannot absolve her of the charge of researching a black community although she is white. The “collective”—is there any hope we can retire this poseur term?—demands that Goffman’s job offer be rescinded. They also demand a response, like, pronto. If they don’t hear back by Tuesday at 5, the “direct action” begins.

The open letter, which must be read to be believed, is an embarrassment through and through. , At one point, they quote a New York Times Magazine article concerning the existence of a sixty page anonymous document, widely circulated among sociologists, that attacks Goffman. They do not note that the author of this same article deemed Goffman’s responses to this document largely persuasive, found that “many claims against her are… easy to rebut independently,” and reported that “most sociologists have found the mainstream criticisms of the book to be baseless.” To note such things would be to undermine their suggestion that the hire of Goffman amounts to an act of flagrant disregard for black people.

If the 128 “Sociology students, alumni, and allies” who signed this thing reflect what very many people in Pomona’s sociology department think, Goffman’s controversial work is the least of that department’s problems.

Source: New Rule: White Women Should Not Study Black Communities | commentary

Consider impact of systemic racism before sentencing black offenders, Canadian judges urged

Interesting and I think good article on the respective arguments for and against, and the impact that these assessments may or may not have:

Canadian judges are being urged to take systemic racism into account before sentencing black criminals, similar to the special consideration often given to aboriginals who break the law.

Defence lawyers behind the push say asking judges to consider how historic discrimination and marginalization may have influenced their clients’ behaviour is not meant to be a “get-out-of-jail-free” card; it simply gives judges a fuller picture of their clients before their fates are decided.

Representatives for Legal Aid Ontario say they plan to start nudging Ontario judges to use so-called “cultural assessments” in the near future and will set aside some money for test cases.

“In Ontario, for decades, courts have recognized that black people … face systemic racism, but there hasn’t been a well-developed mechanism to deal with that,” said Wayne van der Meide, regional manager of case management and litigation.

“A cultural assessment report is the best mechanism to support judges to really understand the circumstances of the offender and how systemic racism has contributed to that person coming before the court.”

Van der Meide said he is taking cues from Nova Scotia, which has been home to an indigenous black community for 400 years and whose courts have used cultural assessments in a handful of cases.

In one 2014 provincial court case, the Crown sought an adult sentence for a 16-year-old black youth who was found guilty of attempted murder. After reviewing a cultural assessment prepared by the defence, the judge declined the request, noting that the assessment provided a “multi-dimensional framework for understanding (the offender), his background and his behaviours.”

Advocates say cultural assessments could help address the over-representation of black people in federal prisons. Currently, they make up three per cent of the general population but nine per cent of federal inmates.

But Canada’s federal prison ombudsman, Ivan Zinger, says he’s not convinced cultural assessments will change that. Similar assessments, known as Gladue reports, have been used in aboriginal cases for years, he said. Yet indigenous people still account for 26 per cent of the prison population, even though they make up less than five per cent of the general population.

“Adopting the same Gladue approach for Canadians of African descent may also not yield the desired outcome,” he said. “Investments in improving socioeconomic, cultural and political rights of vulnerable segments of the Canadian population may be a better approach.”

The family of one Nova Scotia murder victim has expressed concerns that cultural assessments diminish individual responsibility.

Last year, a Halifax jury found Kale Leonard Gabriel, 28, guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Ryan White during a drug-turf dispute. The conviction brought an automatic life sentence, but a judge still had to decide Gabriel’s parole eligibility.

The defence asked the judge to hold off until a cultural assessment could be prepared and he agreed. At the time, White’s mother told local media an offender’s racial background shouldn’t matter.

“I think that a crime is a crime, and colour shouldn’t matter whatsoever,” Theresa White said. “It’s very difficult to try to forward your life when you’re being called back to that same sadness over and over.”

The assessment, written by clinical social worker Lana MacLean, noted gun violence had become normalized within a subsection of the African Nova Scotian community and death was “regarded as an expected outcome in settling disputes.”

Within this subgroup, one problem compounded upon another: chronic exposure to gun violence; systemic racism; limited job and social opportunities; difficult childhoods; and a lack of culturally relevant mental-health services.

The lives of some black youth are defined by a “constant alertness and guardedness” and the way they cope with despair is to turn to drugs or gangs. In this context, Gabriel might “hold the position of both victim and perpetrator,” MacLean suggested.

In his sentencing decision last month, Supreme Court Justice Jamie Campbell said he appreciated MacLean’s assessment, noting that an individual judge’s “common sense and understanding of human nature may offer little insight into the actions of a young African Nova Scotian male.”

It is “historical fact and present reality” that African Nova Scotians were and continue to be discriminated against, the judge said.

But while racial background may help understand the broader circumstances that acted upon an offender, it does not necessarily establish a lower standard of moral culpability.

The judge also pointed out that MacLean had spoken to Gabriel for four hours, so her observations of the experience of young African Nova Scotia men “may not apply to him individually.”

The judge declared Gabriel ineligible for parole for 13 years, going against the defence team’s wish for the minimum 10 years.

Nova Scotia Legal Aid lawyer Brandon Rolle said even though it wasn’t the outcome they wanted, the judge gave meaningful consideration to Gabriel’s African Nova Scotian background.

“I take the view that every African-Canadian offender should have the ability to present evidence pertaining to their cultural background to assist the trier of fact at sentencing,” Rolle said.

“Applying a cultural lens adds tremendous value because it allows the judge or jury to have a better appreciation for the lived experience of an African-Canadian individual that they might otherwise not consider.”

Source: Consider impact of systemic racism before sentencing black offenders, Canadian judges urged | National Post

ICYMI: Anxiety intensifies in Toronto’s suburbs as anti-Muslim rhetoric escalates – The Globe and Mail

Disturbing:

Hamza Aziz makes sure to stay close to a friend at all times, and his parents have told him not to be outside after dark – precautions the student never imagined would be needed in his quiet corner of suburban Toronto.

But recent tensions between his school board and some members of the community, including anti-Muslim groups, over providing space for Mr. Aziz and other students to pray as a group every Friday have heightened concerns about safety in the Peel region, just west of Toronto.

“[My parents] are afraid of hate crimes towards the Muslim community, especially since that’s been on the rise lately,” said Mr. Aziz, a high-school student in Mississauga.

That anxiety forced the Peel District School Board to step up security measures at its most recent board meeting on Wednesday evening. Police and security guards were present, guests had to sign in and show identification at the door and the meeting was videotaped. Outside, a group who covered their faces with bandanas to prevent nearby protesters from identifying them said they were there to escort people into the board office safely.

Recent incidents in Peel have caused concern among Muslims, who are among the area’s largest religious minority groups. At an earlier school-board meeting, audience members shouted anti-Muslim rhetoric, tore pages from a Koran and stepped on the religious text. More recently, an inflammatory video circulating online offered a cash reward for a recording of Muslim students using hate speech in Friday prayers.

And on Wednesday evening, Peel police were called to a Mississauga neighbourhood after graffiti with the words “White Power” was smeared on a Canada Post mailbox. The words were scrubbed off, and police say they are investigating.

Critics argue a secular school system should not accommodate religion. But Ontario boards, both public and Catholic, are legally required to provide religious accommodation when it is requested.

Devout Muslim students have observed congregational prayers, known as Jummah, in Peel schools for more than two decades. But the issue came to the forefront in the fall, when the board began reviewing whether to allow students to write their own sermons, approved by a school administrator, or be required to choose from six prewritten ones.

After some push-back from community members and students, such as Mr. Aziz, who said the decision to limit their sermons violated their right to religious freedom, the board earlier this year revised its procedure and allowed students to deliver their own sermons or choose from several prewritten ones approved by local imams.

But vocal opponents used the issue to step up their anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Mr. Aziz said he overheard those in the audience at a previous board meeting call him a terrorist. He said another person told him he was not a real Canadian. A friend has been threatened on social media, he said.

A teacher in Peel, who asked that her name be withheld because she fears for her family’s safety, said she asked her teenage son if he wanted to keep participating in Friday prayers at his Brampton school. He told her that the congregational prayer was a form of meditation for him, and he was not going to let fear stop him. The prayer is about 15 minutes.

“I think parents are feeling, ‘Are our children safe during Jummah prayers?’” she said, adding that her fear grew after the video offering a cash reward. “As a parent, I get afraid that what if one day that hate and negative rhetoric becomes escalated and it’s a Muslim child who ends up being in front of that heat.”

The teacher has lived in Brampton for 21 years. She said neighbours have asked her why the situation has grown so heated. Some Muslims in the community said they had been targeted on social media after they spoke out against Islamophobia.

“There is a lot of fear,” she said. “It’s hard for Muslim kids to know that there’s so much hatred against them.”

Source: Anxiety intensifies in Toronto’s suburbs as anti-Muslim rhetoric escalates – The Globe and Mail

New [ADL] Study Shows Anti-Semitism Soared Last Year | The Huffington Post

Rise refers to what Canadian hate crime stats would classify as mischief, with violent forms declining. Still disturbing:

Harassment, vandalism and other hostile acts against Jewish people and sites in the U.S. increased by 34 percent last year and are up 86 percent through the first three months of 2017, according to data released on Monday.

A spate of bomb threats against Jewish community centers and schools, and vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in the U.S. this year have contributed to the surge, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s report.

There have been more than 100 bomb threats against 75 Jewish community centers and eight Jewish day schools around the country this year through early March. Vandals have toppled headstones and inflicted other damage at Jewish graveyards in St. Louis, Philadelphia and other cities this year. A swastika made from feces besmirched an art school bathroom in Rhode Island.

“What the data tells us is incontrovertible and why the Jewish community describes such heightened anxiety,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told The Huffington Post. “There’s no doubt that there’s a high degree of anxiety.”

Greenblatt added that his organization’s report, which was released on Holocaust Remembrance Day, shows that public officials must do more to denounce anti-Semitism and find ways to make Jewish-Americans feel secure.

DOMINICK REUTER VIA GETTY IMAGES
Vandalized tombstones are seen at the Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetery, Feb. 26, 2017, in Philadelphia, PA. Police say more than 100 tombstones were vandalized a week after a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis was desecrated.

In all, the ADL documented 1,266 incidents in 2016 and 541 since the beginning of this year until March. That’s a sharp increase since 2013, when the ADL recorded 751 incidents, the fewest number since record keeping began in 1979, a spokesman said. For comparison, anti-Semitic incidents peaked in 1994 when there were more than 2,000 incidents reported for the first and only time.

The ADL’s analysis excluded most bigoted acts on social media. However, it included the harassment of Jewish residents in Whitefish, Montana, because the coordinated abuse rose above typical taunting and hate speech online, an ADL spokesman said. Supporters of alt-right figurehead Richard Spencer targeted town activists and Jewish residents after Spencer’s mother, a Whitefish business owner, said she was harassed because of her son’s politics.

While forms of harassment and vandalism have jumped since 2015, the ADL said that physical assaults fell 36 percent in 2016 and are down 40 percent this year.

Source: New Study Shows Anti-Semitism Soared Last Year | The Huffington Post

New Zealand PM Bill English hits out at ‘disappointing’ Australian citizenship changes

Collateral damage?

New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English has criticised the Turnbull government’s newly unveiled citizenship changes, expressing concern that tens of thousands of New Zealanders would now have to wait years longer to become Australian citizens.

The “special relationship” between the two countries needed to be maintained, Mr English said, adding that government officials were seeking to understand the impact of the changes on a streamlined pathway to citizenship unveiled last year for New Zealanders living in Australia.

There is concern among Kiwis that the changed citizenship conditions – specifically the longer, four-year waiting period before being eligible – undermine the pathway finalised last year by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and former prime minister John Key.

“I wouldn’t agree it completely undermines it just because the deal was put in place and there is a path to citizenship and that wasn’t there before Prime Minister Turnbull agreed to put it in place, but it is disappointing for them – for the Kiwis [in Australia] and for ourselves – that it looks like it will take longer,” Mr English said in a press conference on Monday.

“We understand that Australia has a strong focus on its border control and citizenship. New Zealanders are caught up in that and we want to make sure we can maintain the ongoing special relationship and improved conditions and better deals for Kiwis who are in Australia.”

The pathway arrangement announced in February 2016 and coming into effect in July 2017 allows New Zealanders holding special category visas to secure permanent residency after five years in Australia earning $53,000 annually. They would have been able to attain citizenship a year later.

Source: New Zealand PM Bill English hits out at ‘disappointing’ Australian citizenship changes