Commentary by Andrew Griffith in Ottawa

The just-concluded National Metropolis Conference is an annual forum for researchers, policy makers and immigrant-service organizations. This year the conference was held in Montreal.

Here are some of the themes covered and my take on them:

Integration – The Search for a New Metaphor: This session, prompted by the Canadian Index for Measuring Integration (CIMI) discussions on the meaning and definition of integration (and my Integration and multiculturalism: Finding a new metaphor – Policy Options) drew a good crowd (60-70 persons).

I opened with my critique of the “two-way street” metaphor by emphasizing that it did not capture the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of immigration, presenting my preferred metaphor, harmony/jazz, where harmony represents the underlying framework of laws and institutions, and jazz the improvisation involved in resolving accommodation demands.

Mort Weinfeld of McGill University drew from the personal experience of his parents and talking to cab drivers, noting that integration of the second generation is key. His preferred metaphor is the roundabout, with multiple points of entry and exit, with traffic moving smoothly.

Richard Bourhis of UQAM provided a Quebec perspective, looking at how Quebec language policies were characteristic of an assimilationist approach.

Elke Winter of the University of Ottawa drew from her analysis of European policies and practices and noted a third dimensions, that of outside actors and transnational forces (e.g., other countries, home communities of immigrants), and that integration was more a three-way than two-way process.

The presentations prompted considerable discussion, although no one jumped to the defence of the ‘two-way street.’

Thinking about next year, this is a topic that merits further exploration, perhaps involving some literary descriptions or metaphors.

Citizenship – Factors Underlying a Declining Naturalization Rate: In the only session on citizenship, Prof. WInter opened the workshop with an overview of how Canadian citizenship has evolved over the last 150 years, setting out four phases: colonized citizenship (pre-1947), nationalizing citizenship (1947-76), de-ethnicising citizenship (1977-2008) and re-nationalizing citizenship (2009-15) with a possible fifth phase emerging under the Liberal government. She presented some preliminary findings from an interview-based study.

I followed with my usual presentation of citizenship statistics, showing the impact of previous policy and administrative changes along with an assessment of the 2014 Conservative changes and Liberal partial repeal of these changes (currently in the Senate).

Jessica Merolli of Sheridan presented the key MIPEX naturalization indicators and data from the European Social Survey comparing immigrant/non-immigrant attitudes on issues such as self-sufficiency, interests in politics, LGBT acceptance and others and how over time in the country of immigration differences declined. The most striking exception was with respect to interest in politics, where immigrants, no matter how short or long the time, were more interested than non-immigrants.

Questions of note included do we need a citizenship knowledge test given that it presents barriers for some groups, and the impact that the  physical presence requirement has on families when one parent has to work abroad given difficulties in obtaining well-paying work in Canada.

Minority Voice, Identity and Inclusion – Media and Literary Expressions: A mix of a case study (Punjabi media by Syeda Bukhari where she noted the ethnic media was getting more sophisticated in comparing what politicians said to English and ethnic media and thus holding them to account) and the overall contribution ethnic media provides to integration (Madeline Ziniak, current chair of the Canadian Ethnic Media Association (CEMA)).

Myer Siemiatycki of Ryerson University gave a fascinating presentation regarding the person and poetry of Julian Tuwin, a Polish Jew (or Jewish Pole) whose loyalty and identity were attacked by both sides.

Negotiating “fit” – Connections Between Employer Mindsets/Practices and Labour Market Success of Newcomers: Kelly Thomson of York University provided an overview of the issue of “fit” and presented a case study of foreign-trained accountants. Aamna Ashraf of the Peel Newcomer Strategy Group (near Toronto) presented the results of a study on soft barriers, with focused and practical recommendations. Madeline Ng of Autodata and Nancy Moulday of TD Bank presented how their respective organizations encourage and facilitate diversity in their workforces.

Fitting In: Identity and belonging among second generation Canadians: Elizabeth Burgess-Pinto of MacEwan University organized  this roundtable discussion focussing on the second generation. A number of second generation (and generation 1.5) participants shared their experiences, challenges and identities.

Andrew Griffith is the author of Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism and is a regular media commentator and blogger (Multiculturalism Meanderings). This commentary was adapted slightly from his blog post on the conference. He is the former Director General for Citizenship and Multiculturalism and has worked for a variety of government departments in Canada and abroad.

Published in Policy
Monday, 11 July 2016 14:38

Consultation Overlooks Citizenship

Commentary by Andrew Griffith in Ottawa

Some things never change. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) launches consultations on immigration and leaves out any questions on the related issues of citizenship policy.

Sigh … Immigration consultations are welcome and needed. They can and should help better inform future level plans and I would hope that there will be widespread participation with diversity of views.

It may well be that the Government believes that having passed Bill C-6 (to amend the Citizenship Act) it has no need to consult on citizenship. It is hard to believe that this is a mere oversight.

But consulting on immigration while being silent on where and how citizenship is part of the picture is, at best, a missed opportunity.

Values and tradition

Also interesting to note the question of “Canadian values and traditions” which should provoke some interesting discussion, and which is related to immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism.

Were there to be citizenship-related consultation questions, my initial suggestions would be -

  1. What percentage of newcomers should we expect to become Canadian citizens? In what time frame?
  2. Does citizenship play an important role in integrating and participating in the Canadian economy and society? In which way?
  3. Do we have the balance right between facilitating and encouraging citizenship and ensuring a meaningful connection to Canada?

Here is a preview of the questions available under Submit your views of immigration -

Opening Questions

  1. How many newcomers should we welcome to Canada in 2017 and beyond?
  2. How can we best support newcomers to ensure they become successful members of our communities?
  3. Do we have the balance right among the immigration programs or streams? If not, what priorities should form the foundation of Canada’s immigration planning?
  4. How should we balance encouraging mobile global talent to become citizens with physical presence residency requirements?

Questions: Unlocking Canada’s diverse needs

  1. How can immigration play a role in supporting economic growth and innovation in Canada?
  2. Should there be more programs for businesses to permanently hire foreign workers if they can’t find Canadians to fill the job?
  3. What is the right balance between attracting global talent for high-growth sectors, on the one hand, and ensuring affordable labour for businesses that have historically seen lower growth, on the other?
  4. How can immigration fill in the gaps in our demographics and economy?
  5. What Canadian values and traditions are important to share with newcomers to help them integrate into Canadian society?

Questions: Modernizing our immigration system

  1. Currently, immigration levels are planned yearly.  Do you agree with the thinking that planning should be multi-year?
  2. What modernization techniques should Canada invest in for processing of applications?
  3. What should Canada do to ensure its immigration system is modern and efficient?
  4. Is there any rationale for providing options to those willing to pay higher fees for an expedited process?

Questions: Leadership in global migration and immigration

  1. Is it important for Canada to continue to show leadership in global migration? If so, how can we best do that?
  2. How can Canada attract the best global talent and international students?
  3. In what ways can Canada be a model to the world on refugees, migration and immigration?

Andrew Griffith is the author of Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism and is a regular media commentator and blogger (Multiculturalism Meanderings). He is the former Director General for Citizenship and Multiculturalism and has worked for a variety of government departments in Canada and abroad.

Published in Policy

Commentary by Andrew Griffith in Ottawa

With the appointment of parliamentary secretaries and opposition critics, we now have a more comprehensive picture of gender and visible minority diversity in Parliament’s leadership positions. How well has the Liberal government implemented its overall diversity and inclusion commitments, and how have the other parties responded to the “because it’s 2015” challenge?

Although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed a Cabinet with gender parity (15 each of men and women) and almost 17 per cent visible minority ministers (four Sikh and one Afghan Canadian), gender parity was not attained for parliamentary secretaries (12 positions out of 35 or 34 per cent). Visible minority parliamentary secretaries are over-represented (nine positions or 24 per cent) in relation to their share of the voting population (15 per cent).

Moreover, the government addressed some of the criticism regarding Cabinet over-representation of Sikhs by appointing three African Canadians, one Chinese, one Arab, one Latin American and three South Asians (two Sikhs, one Ismaili Muslim). Three of the nine visible minority parliamentary secretaries are women, including Celina Caesar-Chavannes, a parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister.

In total, of the 68 leadership positions (ministers, parliamentary secretaries, whips and House leaders), 59 per cent are men, and 21 per cent are visible minority men or women. The detailed breakdown is shown in the chart below:

In terms of percentage of caucus, there are 27 women in leadership positions out of 50 elected, or 54 per cent. For visible minorities, there are 14 out of 39 elected, or 36 per cent. In contrast, 30 non-visible minority men are in leadership positions out of 134 elected, or 20 per cent.

Major shift in leadership appointments

No matter how one looks at the data, this marks a major shift in government parliamentary leadership appointments, towards more women and visible minorities.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]his marks a major shift in government parliamentary leadership appointments, towards more women and visible minorities.[/quote]

The Conservative official opposition compensated for their relatively low number of women MPs (17 per cent of caucus), making 35 per cent of critics women (the Harper government’s last Cabinet similarly appointed more women to Cabinet — 31 per cent — compared to the 17 per cent in caucus).

However, with a small number of visible minority MPs (six or six per cent of caucus), critic visible minority representation is only slightly compensated at nine per cent, although visible minority MPs form 13 per cent of the smaller number of deputy critics. But in relation to caucus membership, 50 per cent of visible minority Conservative MPs are critics, reflecting again the same drive to present a more inclusive face to Canadians.

The NDP opposition has the largest proportionate female caucus representation: 41 per cent. It is no surprise that women MPs form 45 per cent of critics. With only two visible minority MPs to choose from, only one (three per cent) is a critic (but again, this is 50 per cent of those elected).

What does all this mean for diversity and inclusion?

The Liberal government, given the large number of women (50) and visible minority (39) MPs elected had little difficulty in meeting its stated goals of Cabinet gender parity (but slipped in other leadership positions). It also was able to significantly exceed visible minority representation in relation to the number of visible minority voters.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]This ‘over-representation’ reflects a conscious decision to demonstrate diversity and inclusion.[/quote]

This ‘over-representation’ reflects a conscious decision to demonstrate diversity and inclusion, one that started with having the highest percentage of visible minority candidates (17 per cent) compared to the other major parties (13 per cent).

For both opposition parties, the weakness in visible minority representation reflects the small number of visible minority MPs elected.

With respect to women, the Conservatives responded to the ‘because its 2015’ challenge, compensating for their small number of women MPs, and applying the same approach to visible minorities. The NDP made the most effort in recruiting female candidates, many of whom were successful, and thus close to gender parity was not a challenge.

All in all, taken together, the Liberal leadership positions reflect a significant implementation of the diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism agenda, one that, given the horizontal ministerial comment for parity and diversity in all government appointments, holds significant promise in ensuring greater representation in government.

Moreover, to the extent that the opposition parties could, their choices recognize the need to respond to this agenda and ensure that their leadership reflects Canadian diversity.

Andrew Griffith is the author of Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote and Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism and is a regular media commentator and blogger (Multiculturalism Meanderings). He is the former Director General for Citizenship and Multiculturalism. 

This article first appeared on The Hill Times. Re-published with permission from author.

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Published in Commentary
Friday, 11 December 2015 13:51

Inclusion, Diversity Bode Well Under Trudeau

Commentary by Andrew Griffith in Ottawa

The Liberal government has emphasized its diversity and inclusion language in speeches, cabinet ministers, committees and mandate letters. This emphasis has been reinforced by the return of the multiculturalism program to Canadian Heritage. Taken together, these represent mainstreaming of diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism to an unparalleled extent.

It starts with the language of Prime Minister Trudeau who regularly emphasizes that:

Canadians understand that diversity is our strength. We know that Canada has succeeded — culturally, politically, economically — because of our diversity, not in spite of it.

It continues with the creation of the Cabinet Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, with a strong inclusion mandate for Indigenous and new Canadians:

Considers issues concerning the social fabric of Canada and the promotion of Canadian pluralism. Examines initiatives designed to strengthen the relationship with Indigenous Canadians, improve the economic performance of immigrants, and promote Canadian diversity, multiculturalism, and linguistic duality.

It is reflected in his choice of ministers: 50 per cent women, 17 per cent visible minority.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Holding all ministers to account ... should ensure greater progress on the two objectives of multiculturalism: recognition and equality.[/quote]

And is further reinforced in the shared mandate letter commitments for all ministers with two strong multiculturalism-related commitments:

Canadians expect us, in our work, to reflect the values we all embrace: inclusion, honesty, hard work, fiscal prudence, and generosity of spirit. We will be a government that governs for all Canadians, and I expect you, in your work, to bring Canadians together.

You are expected to do your part to fulfill our government’s commitment to transparent, merit-based appointments, to help ensure gender parity and that Indigenous Canadians and minority groups are better reflected in positions of leadership.

Holding all ministers to account, with the PMO tracking these and other shared commitments (in addition to minister-specific commitments), should ensure greater progress on the two objectives of multiculturalism: recognition and equality.

It will take some time to see how well these commitments are implemented, particularly with respect to appointments. An early test was with respect to parliamentary secretaries where 34 per cent were women (below parity), but 23 per cent were visible minorities (significantly above).

Equally important, the previous government’s weak record on the diversity of judicial appointments (less than two per cent visible minority) will start to be addressed.

Rebuilding multiculturalism policy

Overall, the new government made few changes to how government is formally organized (machinery changes). This was wise given the disruption and turmoil that such changes can entail (e.g., the Martin government’s splitting apart Human Resources and Skills Development and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in 2004, reversed by the Harper government in 2006).

This makes the return of the multiculturalism program to Canadian Heritage all the more striking, after some eight years at Citizenship and Immigration (now Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada or IRCC).

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][T]he return of multiculturalism to Canadian Heritage reinforces the overall government diversity and inclusion agenda.[/quote]

The original transfer to CIC was largely driven by political reasons given then Minister Jason Kenney’s political outreach role with ethnic groups.

However, there was also a policy rationale. Multiculturalism deals with longer-term multi-generational issues (along with ‘mainstream’ visible minority relations) in contrast to the newcomer focus of the immigration, integration and citizenship programs.

While multiculturalism could be seen as a logical extension of CIC’s mandate, and was portrayed as such in one of CIC’s strategic objectives, ‘building an integrated society,' in practice, however, the multiculturalism program withered away at CIC.

When the program moved to CIC in 2008, it had a $13 million budget: $12 million for grants and contributions and 73 full-time positions. The last departmental performance report (2013-14) showed 29 full-time positions (a decline of 60 per cent) with a $9.8 million budget. Money for grants and contributions fell to $7.9 million.

Negotiations over the resources to be returned to Canadian Heritage will be challenging, given the impact may be felt in other program areas in IRCC that benefited from the redistribution of Multiculturalism funds. Moreover, the weakened capacity will require a major rebuilding and re-staffing effort.

From a policy perspective, the return of multiculturalism to Canadian Heritage reinforces the overall government diversity and inclusion agenda, as well as the Canadian identity agenda, which fits nicely with Canadian Heritage’s overall mandate.

However, Minister Mélanie Joly’s public statements to date have not included any significant references to multiculturalism. Her general orientation, however, has been clear: to promote the “symbols of progressiveness. That was (sic) the soul of our platform.”

Overall, the commitment to a diversity and inclusion agenda, supported by a Cabinet Committee and shared Ministerial mandate letter commitments, and the rebuilding of multiculturalism back at Canadian Heritage, bode well for a more effective inclusion, diversity and multiculturalism strategy across government. 

Andrew Griffith is the author of Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote and Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism and is a regular media commentator and blogger (Multiculturalism Meanderings). He is the former Director General for Citizenship and Multiculturalism. 

This article first appeared on The Hill Times. Re-published with permission from author.

Published in Commentary
Wednesday, 02 December 2015 16:10

Integration Not Sole Responsibility of Newcomers

by Andrew Griffith in Ottawa

Robin Higham’s What Would You Say? ... as guest speaker at the next Canadian citizenship ceremony is an anecdote-based approach to understanding the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

His latest book builds upon his thoughts on integration, first expressed in his earlier work, Who Do We Think We Are, which focused on reasonable accommodation.

As before, Higham uses archetype-characters – both Canadian-born and immigrants – to express a range of perspectives, ranging from ‘old-stock’ (indigenous, francophone, anglophone) to ‘new-stock’ (East European, Latin American, Indo- and Muslim) Canadians through a conversation about the responsibilities of integration and citizenship.

While this is an effective technique to outline some of the issues involved and capture different perspectives, it has a number of weaknesses, starting with how the discussion is framed.

Complexities of integration and accommodation

Higham’s underlying bias and ideology are clear.

His choice of Gilles Paquet’s apocalyptic frame — political correctness, reluctance to confront, culture of entitlement and unreasonable accommodation — and how these are interpreted, reflect a distinctly conservative perspective, focused on social cohesion more than inclusion.

But this frame is more asserted than demonstrated through evidence, along with his underlying premise that integration is the responsibility of the newcomer. His characters all largely assert this, with the anecdotes selected to buttress his argument.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Integration is not one-way, but multi-dimensional.[/quote]

In reality, there is a more complex dynamic of integration and accommodation. Integration is not one-way, but multi-dimensional. Debates over what kinds of accommodation are reasonable and what are not illustrate this.

There is an abundance of evidence from Statistics Canada, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and other international organizations that indicate Canada is remarkably successful overall compared to other countries in building an integrated society that recognizes the diversity of different groups.

It is a society most Canadians are comfortable with.

A large part of this success reflects precisely our ability to be flexible and accommodate difference, allowing integration to take place over time, but within the overall Canadian constitutional and legal framework.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]A large part of this success reflects precisely our ability to be flexible and accommodate difference.[/quote]

Considering old and new Canadians alike

Anecdotal evidence suggests that ‘political correctness’ and a ‘reluctance to confront’ can be seen as civility and that the alternative, as seen in the recent Canadian election (e.g., the wedge politics of the niqab), the USA (e.g., the Republican primary) and Europe is not helpful to integration or belonging.

This is not to say that Canada is without challenges, whether it be with respect to finding the right balance between integration and accommodation, or the declining rate of citizenship.

But given this, where does Higham end up on citizenship rights and responsibilities for newcomers?

1. Be mindful of what wasn’t working when you left home – emigrated – and also remember why you chose to come to Canada.

2. Exercise civility even towards the ‘others’ in your community. You should also find that there are many fewer ‘others’ around you once you join the ‘otherness community.’

3. We need your engagement and investment in our democratic processes and institutions. They are our default complaint-management mechanism.

4. Strive for low maintenance citizen status, especially, but not only, with respect to government and community-funded social support programs.

5. Build trust amongst citizens, all citizens. Always talk to strangers.

6. Be sensitive to those obvious 'un-Canadian' transgressions. Know what kinds of things it is best to avoid.

7. At home, be alert to your responsibility to respect and protect each of your family members’ rights. Monitor and coach the youngsters in your entourage.

8. Accept that there are limits to the capacity of society to accommodate new expressions of values, beliefs and traditions. Expect to have to make adjustments in order to prosper.

To Higham’s credit, these are expressed with respect, modelling how one can overcome the ‘reluctance to confront’ in a manner that encourages dialogue, rather than shutting it down. But it does beg the question: how would one construct such a list that applies to both old and new Canadians?

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Be trustful of others and forgiving of misunderstandings.[/quote]

My take, drawing on Higham’s list, suggests that this is not difficult:

1. Be mindful of what wasn’t working when you or your ancestors left the country of origin and chose to come to Canada.

2. Exercise civility towards all, whether new or old Canadians, whether from one’s ethno-cultural, racial or religious group or not, whether male, female or transgender, whether gay or straight, etc.

3. Engage and participate actively in wider Canadian political life and debates, not just ones of immediate interest to you.

4. Used our social safety net when needed, do not abuse.

5. Be trustful of others and forgiving of misunderstandings.

6. Be understanding of others and their sensitivities, whether cultural, religious or other. Accommodate where feasible and treat accommodation requests with respect.

7. Be mindful of one’s biases and prejudices before acting or opining.

8. Apply these in the home, workplace and wider society.

I encourage those interested in citizenship and multiculturalism issues to read Higham’s book for his modelling of respectful dialogue. But I would also encourage all to consider how to frame such discussions in a manner that includes old and new Canadians alike, and offer my list above to continue the conversation.

Andrew Griffith is the author of Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote and Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism and is a regular media commentator and blogger (Multiculturalism Meanderings). He is the former Director General for Citizenship and Multiculturalism. 

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Published in Books

by Fatima Syed in Toronto

While citizenship, immigration and refugee policy have been major issues in the current election campaign, not much has been said about the three-fold increase in the cost of becoming a citizen imposed by the Conservative government.

Both the Liberal party and the New Democratic Party (NDP) have talked about bringing about changes in the immigration process if elected, but have been non-committal on reducing the current $630 fee for an adult to become a citizen.

When New Canadian Media asked Liberal leader Justin Trudeau during a campaign stop about his party’s plans to ease the pathway to Canadian citizenship, he said his government would tackle these issues, including reviewing the application fee, “in a responsible way.”

In its own analysis, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has said that “While [it is assumed] that there will not be a reduction in overall demand for citizenship as a result of the fee increase, it is acknowledged that some may be required to delay their application as they will need more time to save for the new fee.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"$630 per person is a large sum of money to be charged [to] people who just recently started their lives from scratch.”[/quote]

According to Statistics Canada, 14 per cent of university-educated immigrants who’ve come to Canada in the last five years are without a job, and those that have one earn, on average, 67 per cent of the amount their Canadian-born counterparts do. Many refugees, who often find themselves working low-paying jobs, will be unable to afford the high costs.

In February 2014, the government had increased the application fees from $200 to $400, the first ever price hike since 1995.  These prices include the $100 right-of-citizenship fee, which is refunded if an application is rejected.

Then, citizenship application fees were quietly increased for the second time in one year through a Dec. 23, 2014 news release about reducing the backlog in citizenship applications.

[youtube height="315" width="560"][/youtube]

‘Path to citizenship not a toll road’

Refugee advocates and others have denounced the steep fee increase arguing that it will place a great deal of pressure on the immigrant population.

In a May 12, 2014 committee hearing on the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act (Bill C-24), Bernie M. Farber, a founding member of the Jewish Refugee Action Network (JRAN), said “the government is tripling the application fee, which will be added to the new cost imposed on applicants a year ago when the government privatized language testing. The price of applying for citizenship will now cost four times more than it did in 2006.”

“The path to citizenship should not be a toll road,” added Farber. “Tapping some of the most vulnerable among us for user fees is nothing more than a cash grab that is both unseemly and counterproductive.”

Bruna Pizarro Aguiar, a 23-year-old immigrant working part time at a non-profit and a pizza franchise in Toronto, still doesn’t understand why the application fee has skyrocketed.

“When you move to a new country you have to put up with unforeseen challenges,” says Aguiar. “And four years is not enough time for people to get back up on their feet. $630 per person is a large sum of money to be charged [to] people who just recently started their lives from scratch.”

However, many immigrants are resigned to the fact that they have to pay up. “Most people who come to my office with citizenship applications say it’s annoying, it’s difficult, but we’ll pay it,” says Mary Keyork, a Toronto-based immigration, citizenship and refugee lawyer.

Fee increase part of more complex issues

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander justified the price increase by saying it will help speed up processing times.

A CIC press release said 260,000 people became new Canadians in 2014, double the number from 2013. It said the application backlog has been reduced by 17 per cent since June 2014.

Many media reports have suggested that the government has been trying to increase citizenship fees for some time so that would-be citizens would cover most of the cost of processing their applications.

Previously, immigrants only paid for 20 per cent of the cost, with the rest being borne by the federal government.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[U]nlike in Australia, CIC offers no ongoing quarterly reports to show compliance.”[/quote]

Based on citizenship projections from 2014, the additional fee increase could bring in an additional $60 million to the federal reserves in 2015. However, there has been little said about where the money will go and its impact on the CIC.  

Andrew Griffithformer Director General for Citizenship and Multiculturalism and author of Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalismargues that while the increased funding allowed the government to reduce processing times, “unlike in Australia, CIC offers no ongoing quarterly reports to show compliance.”

In an interview, Griffith suggested that one of the reasons the impact of the price hikes have not been investigated in full or held accountable is because they were part of other significant changes to the citizenship process that had larger implications in Bill C-24.

“These changes were more complex and controversial so the price hike just got buried in there,” says Griffith.

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Published in Policy
Saturday, 17 October 2015 14:37

Visible Minority Candidates Step Up

by Andrew Griffith in Ottawa

Is the increased number of "visible minorities" being reflected in party candidates? Which ridings are these candidates running in? And do these candidates reflect the largest groups in their ridings?

Now that we know the names of all candidates, we can answer these and related questions.

But first, as a basis for comparison, how has women’s representation increased in 2015 candidates? The analysis by Equal Voice shows that overall representation from the 2011 election has slightly increased from 31 to 33 per cent (still far below equality), with the relative ranking of parties below.

To assess visible minority representation I have used candidate names, photos and biographies to identify visible minority candidates. Although not as exact as identifying women candidates (e.g., subjectivity in analyzing photos), it nevertheless provides a reasonably accurate indication of how well Canadian political party candidates represent the population of visible minorities who are also Canadian citizens (15 percent).

Building on an earlier study by Jerome Black showing the diversity in earlier elections, I went through the candidate lists using the criteria above, concentrating on the more diverse ridings. Out of a total of 1,014 candidates for the three major parties, 142 or 13.9 percent were visible minorities. The party-wise comparison chart shows a growth in visible minority candidates for the three major parties plus the Bloc.

For the 2015 election, the Liberal party has the most visible minority candidates, slightly greater at 16 per cent than the number of visible minority voters (those who are citizens). The Conservative party and the NDP have slight under-representation (13 per cent), while the Green party only has about half as many visible minority candidates (eight percent) as voters. The Bloc Québécois only appears to have a two visible minority candidates (under three per cent of Quebec’s 78 seats).

The chart below provides the comparative numbers for each party in the 33 ridings that are more than 50 per cent visible minority, broken down by gender.

Additional characteristics of these 33 ridings, in terms of the candidates, include:

•     Out of the 99 candidates from the three major parties, 68 are visible minorities (over two-thirds). These account for just under half of the 142 visible minority candidates in all ridings.

•     19 candidates are women (19.2 percent)

•     In 15 of these ridings, all major party candidates are visible minorities;

•     Only one riding, Scarborough Guildwood, has no visible minority candidates;

•     The Conservative Party has the most visible minority candidates (25), followed by the Liberal Party (24) and the NDP (19); and,

•     In general, but by no means universally, many candidates come from the larger communities in these ridings, particularly South Asian ridings as the attached table shows.

Published in Politics
Wednesday, 19 August 2015 21:06

The “Ethnic Vote”: All Over the Map




by Michael Adams (@AdamsMichaelj) and Andrew Griffith (@Andrew_Griffith)

Former Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau notoriously blamed the separatists’ defeat in the 1995 Quebec referendum on money and the ethnic vote. 

When it comes to money, the Harper Conservatives have a distinct advantage over their two main rivals: Thomas Mulcair's New Democrats and Justin Trudeaus Liberals.

But when it comes to the so-called “ethnic vote” (by no means as monolithic as Mr. Parizeau might have imagined 20 years ago), all parties have a shot. No party has a monopoly on immigrants, new or long-settled, and none can take for granted the support of any ethnocultural or religious minority group.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Remarkably, the immigrants who were elected to Canadas parliament in 2011 had not only become citizens, gotten themselves nominated, and then won election—but they represented all five main political parties and included many visible minorities.[/quote] 

Diverse MPs

In the 2011 federal election, voters sent 42 foreign-born citizens to represent them as MPs in Ottawa. Thats about 13 per cent of the then-308-member House of Commons. 

That proportion falls short of parity with our foreign-born population (20% of us are foreign-born), but it comes quite close to matching the proportion of us who are foreign-born and Canadian citizens: 16 per cent.

Moreover, 40 per cent of foreign-born MPs are women, much higher than the 25 per cent of all MPs who are women.

Shifting from the foreign-born to visible minorities (i.e., non-white and non-Aboriginal Canadians) in Parliament, we see weaker representation. Thirty MPs were visible minorities (9.4 per cent), compared to the 15 per cent who are visible minority and Canadian citizens.

When we look at regions of origin, we find that Canada’s foreign-born MPs came from everywhere: 15 from Europe, 11 from Asia, 11 from the Americas, and five from Africa.   

Diverse parties

Remarkably, the immigrants who were elected to Canadas parliament in 2011 had not only become citizens, gotten themselves nominated, and then won election—but they represented all five main political parties and included many visible minorities: 18 Conservatives (15 visible minorities, of 166 elected), 18 New Democrats (12 visible minorities, of 103), four Liberals (2 visible minorities, of 34), and one each in the Bloc (1 visible minority, of 4) and the Green Party (no visible minority).

The Green Party is 100 per cent foreign-born: Elizabeth May is from Hartford, CT.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Another “only in Canada” fact is that our most right-wing party, the Conservative Party of Canada, attracts a substantial contingent of candidates born abroad.[/quote]

The Bloc is dedicated to dismantling the country, but managed to be inclusive of the foreign-born and visible minorities. Only in Canada! 

With respect to visible minorities (defined in the U.S. as non-white races and Hispanic), the U.S. has worse representation than Canada: 20 per cent in the House of Representatives compared to their population share of 37 per cent, only six per cent in the Senate), the vast majority of these are American-born visible minorities, mainly African Americans and Hispanic/Latinos, not immigrants.

Only 16 foreign-born members sit in either of the two houses. But many of these were born abroad to American parents, the most famous being John McCain and Canada’s Ted Cruz.

But even if we include all of these legislators as foreign born, they are still less than three per cent of Congress, where demographic parity would suggest that almost 70 foreign-born “should be” in both houses (to match the 13 per cent of “legal” Americans who are foreign-born).

Another “only in Canada” fact is that our most right-wing party, the Conservative Party of Canada, attracts a substantial contingent of candidates born abroad. In most countries, right-wing parties are anti-immigrant and would be unlikely to either attract or accept foreign-born candidates.

Stephen Harper may loathe much of the progressive agenda the Liberals and NDP have embraced over the past half-century, but he sure loves multiculturalism. 

Canada’s history of large immigrant inflows combined with a high naturalization rate (citizenship acquisition) has made it an electoral imperative to court – not dismiss – the “ethnic vote.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]When it comes to another aspect of our ethno-cultural diversity, religion, the picture becomes even more fragmented: in no riding in Canada does one non-Christian religious community comprise a majority of the population.[/quote] 

Diverse ridings

Looking ahead to our date with electoral destiny on October 19, which ridings are likely to have interesting ethnocultural dynamics?

As reported in Andrews new book on multiculturalism, out of Canadas 338 ridings (we have 30 new ones under the new boundaries), 15 have populations of more than 70 per cent visible minority. Ten of these are in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), five in greater Vancouver. 

These ridings are mostly defined by Chinese and South Asian populations (mainly people from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka); one, York West in Toronto, has 22 per cent who self-identify as Black. Interestingly, only four have a majority of one ethnic group. 

Brampton-East in the GTA and Surrey-Newton in greater Vancouver have 60% and 59% South Asian residents, respectively.

Markham-Unionville in the GTA and Richmond Centre in greater Vancouver have 57% and 51% Chinese residents, respectively. 

Another 18 ridings have visible-minority populations ranging from 50 to 70 per cent, but none of these has anywhere near a majority of only one group.

Diverse religions

When it comes to another aspect of our ethno-cultural diversity, religion, the picture becomes even more fragmented: in no riding in Canada does one non-Christian religious community comprise a majority of the population.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Surveys show that members of ethnocultural and religious minority groups do not fall into a single ideological camp.[/quote] 

The highest proportion in the country is Surrey-Newton in greater Vancouver with 44 per cent Sikh, followed by 34 per cent Sikh in the GTA’s Brampton-East.

The next most populous religious group in one riding are those of Jewish faith: 37 per cent of the population in Thornhill (GTA) is Jewish, as is 31 per cent of Montreals Mont-Royal. Canadian Muslims form between 15 and 20 per cent in six ridings.

Its important to note that, in Canada, areas with high concentrations of particular ethnic or religious minority groups are not ghettos, as this term is typically used.

This is not to dismiss Canadas serious economic inequality (reflected in all too many of our urban neighbourhoods) nor to ignore racialized poverty. It is to say that residential concentrations of ethnic groups tend to form because of affinity, not be enforced by constraints like housing discrimination or poverty.

Diverse ideologies

While some areas have high concentrations of single groups, candidates in urban and suburban ridings cannot count on being elected on the basis of an appeal solely to one ethnic group. Although many candidates from all parties come from the largest ethnic group in their riding, they must reach out to at least two groups—usually more—if they are to be successful. 

Surveys show that members of ethnocultural and religious minority groups do not fall into a single ideological camp.

They include religious conservatives who embrace father-knows-best patriarchy; socially liberal pluralists; those who expect strong, activist government; and the politically disengaged. They reflect the values that occur in society at large.

Of course, as with other Canadians, members of the same family may hold sharply different beliefs—and may or may not report at the dinner table what they did in the voting booth.

It’s not unlikely that on October 19, there will be 50 or more foreign-born legislators of all parties in our newly elected House of Commons.

And there’s every reason to expect that, one day soon, a person of non-European origin will be our prime minister—but its anybodys guess which party he or she will lead.

An earlier version of this article appeared in the Globe and Mail.

Michael Adams is president of the Environics Institute. Andrew Griffith is a former director-general of Citizenship and Multiculturalism and is the author of Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote.

Published in Commentary

by Don Curry (@DonDoncurry) in North Bay, Ontario

A new book on multiculturalism provides an in-depth snapshot of where we are now as a country, while also looking in the rear-view mirror to trace the path we have travelled.

Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote by Andrew Griffith is up to date as of July this year, and, as the book’s title implies, it provides statistical evidence to back up the author’s observations.

Griffith’s chapter titles reflect some of his findings.

“British Columbia: Or Should it be Asian Columbia?”

“Alberta: The New Face of Diversity.”

“Saskatchewan: Steady Growth.”

“Manitoba: Quiet Success.”

“Ontario: Multiculturalism at Work.”

“Quebec: Impact of a Complex Identity.”

“Atlantic Canada: Immigrants Wanted, but Will They Come and Stay?”

“The North: Aboriginal Nations and New Canadians.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Is Canadian multiculturalism still the envy of the world? You bet, says Griffith—with caveats about some regressive legislation from the current federal government.[/quote]

The book has more than 200 charts and tables that illustrate the changing nature of Canadian diversity, right down to the provincial and municipal levels.

Some of Griffith’s conclusions verify what we have observed anecdotally, and others are facts that many may have not realized now reflect the Canadian reality.

Multiculturalism is dead? Not so fast

Multiculturalism is alive and well in Canada, and Griffith tells you why, in very clear and understandable language, backed up by considerable statistical evidence.

Multiculturalism remains iconic, regularly identified by Canadians as one of the top 10 on a list of accomplishments that makes one proud to be Canadian.

“Moreover,” Griffith writes, “Canadians overwhelmingly view themselves as welcoming of minority groups and believe that Canada’s diversity is a strength. But Canadians clearly view multiculturalism in an integrative sense, with an expectation that new arrivals will adopt Canadian values and attitudes.”

Is Canadian multiculturalism still the envy of the world? You bet, says Griffith—with caveats about some regressive legislation from the current federal government. He cites the 2014 Citizenship Act’s “harder to get and easier to lose” provisions that tighten citizenship requirements, with the result that Canada could become less competitive in attracting immigrants.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Forget “MTV.” The top three cities attracting immigrants are no longer Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, but “TVC” – Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. [/quote]

Griffithpoints out the uniqueness of Canadian multiculturalism, noting, “There are limits to what we can learn from the experience of countries – particularly European ones – with different histories, political dynamics and policies.” For example, he notes there is no Canadian political party opposed to immigration. Europe has a few.

Today’s multiculturalism: intriguing facts and figures

Here are some interesting observations Griffin makes that even those of us who are immersed in the topic on a daily basis may have missed.

Forget “MTV.” The top three cities attracting immigrants are no longer Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, but “TVC” – Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. Griffith shows that immigration rates in Quebec and the Maritimes are in relative decline, and growth will be in Ontario and the western provinces.

Canada has a workforce of close to 15 million, and close to three million are visible minorities, showing the recent trend of countries such as China, India and the Philippines in the top tier of source countries.

The road to citizenship is in decline, and legislation and under-funding by the current federal government is not helping.  Citing again the Citizenship Act of 2014, he argues “the net effect of these changes will be a further reduction in the naturalization rate, already in decline, given that they fall disproportionately on the less educated, and a number of visible minority groups, making it harder for members of these communities to become full Canadians with political rights. This results in a larger disenfranchised population.”

On education: “Educational outcomes at the post-secondary level for most visible minority groups are significantly stronger than they are for those who are not visible minorities. In most groups, the difference in education level between men and women is minor. Canada continues to do a good job of integrating new Canadians in primary and secondary education.”

He notes that, whether you look at ethnic origin, visible minorities, or religion, more recent communities tend to be well-educated, reflecting the current market demand for skilled workers. In all cases, these groups are better-educated than non-visible minorities and, in many cases, those of European ethnic origin.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]I encourage anyone involved in citizenship, multiculturalism, immigration and integration issues to read this book to keep current with the latest available information, and perhaps alter some perceptions.[/quote]

Perceived discrimination remains an issue, as do reported hate crimes. Griffith says visible and religious minorities, particularly those who are first-generation immigrants, have significantly poorer economic outcomes than other ethnic communities and the “mainstream.” Second-generation outcomes show smaller gaps, especially for women and university-educated men and women.

The verdict

Griffith has the credentials for writing a comprehensive book of this nature. The author of Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism, he is the former director general for citizenship and multiculturalism at Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

As someone leading an organization that is active in integration issues, I encourage anyone involved in citizenship, multiculturalism, immigration and integration issues to read this book to keep current with the latest available information, and perhaps alter some perceptions.

The only complaint I have about the depth of research is that it left out my corner of Canada – northern Ontario – and lumped it in with southern Ontario.

But I know why: it’s because, as Griffith notes, the National Household Survey of 2011 left a lot of gaps when it attempted to drill down to smaller census areas. He strengthens the argument for the return of the long-form census.

The evidence Griffith uses in the book is irrefutable, combining the best currently available data from Statistics Canada, employment equity, Citizenship and Immigration Canada operational statistics, and more to draw his conclusions.

As Griffith says, “My hope is that the evidence highlighted in this book will contribute to creating a more informed discourse as Canada – by most measures a remarkably successful, diverse and multicultural society – prepares for its 150th anniversary.”

Multiculturalism in Canada is an e-book modestly priced to reach a wide audience – and it deserves one.

Don Curry is the Executive Director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre, Co-Chair of the North Bay Newcomer Network Local Immigration Partnership Initiative, Timmins Local Immigration Partnership and northern region board member for OCASI. He is also a board member of Pathways to Prosperity, a national immigration research organization.

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Published in Books
Thursday, 17 July 2014 14:19

“Fraud” Overkill

by Andrew Griffith in Ottawa

The reforms of Ministers Jason Kenney and Chris Alexander have focused on reducing fraud and abuse in the immigration system. Previous governments downplayed such concerns, in favour of a more facilitative approach. However, we may be going too far in ensuring fool-proof integrity, while extending processing times well beyond the reasonable.

Yet, improved citizenship integrity is important to ongoing public support for relatively open citizenship regime.

Thus, for Kenney: “We will not stand by and allow people to lie and cheat their way into becoming citizens.

And, Alexander, "On citizenship, the 1977 Act opened the door to significant abuse. Thousands of persons obtained citizenship by pretending to live in Canada, without actually having any intention to live here. Until 2009, little was done to curtail this."

Most fraud relates to applicants not having met their citizenship residency requirements (previously three out of four years, now four out of six). Other areas include concealing criminal inadmissibility and identity fraud.

The pie chart pictured above indicates the country of birth of those suspected of citizenship fraud (not the place/visa office where the fraud occurred).

We do not have information regarding the country of immigration but anecdotally, we know that is a particular problem in Persian Gulf countries, given the richer employee benefits for Canadian citizens compared to Asian citizens.

But how large a problem is it? Does the government have hard information?

Fraud Statistics




Number of fraud investigations



Number of withdrawn applications



Number of revocation notices or letters



Total number of revocations (all reasons)



Total number of revocations (fraud investigations)



Additional number of suspected fraud



Permanent Residency fraud investigations



Extent of deception

The government has not released figures regarding which years the investigations refer to, or which years  citizenship applications were withdrawn. The ‘known’ fraud percentage likely overstates the extent of fraud, balanced by the ‘unknown unknowns’ cases of fraud.

85 per cent of investigations target those living outside Canada (residency fraud). 90 per cent of cases typically end up in court.

While we have hard information in terms of number of investigations and withdrawn applications, we do not know yet how many of those investigations will lead to revocation or convictions. In addition to increased investigations, a number of other changes have taken place: citizenship tests are now changed and rotated on a regular basis, to reduce the risk of memorization; a more rigorous and consistent approach to language testing, culminating in pre-qualification of language competency has been implemented; and need to prove place of residence.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]While we have hard information in terms of number of investigations and withdrawn applications, we do not know yet how many of those investigations will lead to revocation or convictions.[/quote]

The cumulative effect of all these changes is enhanced integrity, but at the cost of an increased burden on applicants. Processing time for citizenship applications has increased to an average of more than two years.

Improving integrity

How will the recent changes to the Citizenship Act further improve integrity?

Supporters and critics of the changes agree that defining residency as being physically present provides welcome clarity. This change, along with the requirement to submit tax returns, should largely eliminate residency misrepresentation. The intent-to-reside provision is largely redundant given these changes.

Similarly, removal of pre-permanent residency time and expansion of language and knowledge testing to younger (14-17) and older (55-64) applicants will likely have no impact.

However, a number of other changes are significant and reinforce the overall message of reducing fraud.

Regulation of citizenship consultants, along with stiff fines (up to $100,000) and prison terms (up to two years) for misrepresentation, should act as a deterrent.

A ban on reapplying for citizenship for five years in case of material representation or withholding of relevant information also sends a strong signal, as does a ban or reapplying for 10 years in cases of revocation for fraud or misrepresentation.

Permanent residents who have not met their conditions of permanent residency are barred from applying for citizenship.

Government overreach

But government overreach can be seen in the new revocation provisions for fraud and misrepresentation.

Frustrated by the 90 per cent of cases that were referred to the Federal Court, the Act replaces the courts with Ministerial administrative discretion to “prevent spurious litigation”  in Minister Alexanders words.

Citizens no longer have automatic recourse to the courts and have to seek leave for the court, essentially on narrow legal grounds with no possibility to introduce new material facts.

Moreover, as in other areas of administrative law such as disability programs (Tribunal can deny in-person appeals in disability benefits cases), there is no right to an oral hearing. Even supporters of the government were critical on this lack of due process.

The expected expansion of “exit controls” beyond Canada-U.S. in coming years would reduce the burden on applicants to demonstrate their time in Canada.

In the meantime, this impacts on the work and personal plans of some who have already submitted their applications.

Prof. Trudo Lemmons of University of Toronto, caught in the system, noted “It’s really irritating and makes me think, if my file appears difficult to evaluate, how tough must it be for people from ‘suspect’ countries, or people who dont necessarily have the same stable employment.

Integrity and accessibility need to be balanced. Both Ministers Kenney and Alexander have stressed integrity, correcting a previous imbalance favouring accessibility.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Integrity and accessibility need to be balanced.[/quote]

However, the government may have overstated the extent of citizenship fraud.

Zero tolerance

Even assuming all investigations will confirm fraud (not a given), adding the number of withdrawn applications, and assuming that all fraud investigations pertain to the same year (improbable), one arrives at a potential maximum fraud rate of around three per cent. The low number of revocations resulting from the investigations, suggests that it is significantly less.

It is regrettable that Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) declined to provide updated numbers to substantiate the its case.

Some may argue that any fraud is unacceptable.

But the quest for perfection has to be balanced with the realities of efficient management and good service delivery.

There are more fraud issues with citizens originating in certain countries, both in terms of country of birth and likely country of application. From a risk management perspective, that is where the focus should be (and likely is).

As the government addresses the backlog and implements the new Citizenship Act, we will see starting in 2016 whether it has achieved a reasonable balance between reduced fraud, efficiency, and accessibility of citizenship, meeting the Minister’s commitment of a one-year processing time.

Andrew Griffith is the author of Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism and is a regular media commentator and blogger (Multiculturalism Meanderings). He is the former Director General for Citizenship and Multiculturalism and has worked for a variety of government departments in Canada and abroad. 

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