New Canadian Media
Saturday, 04 February 2017 13:56

Privileging Diversity in Canadian Newsrooms

Commentary by George Abraham in Ottawa

IN the summer of 2015, a roomful of Ottawa folks got together at the National Arts Centre, eager to gain insights into the question, “What Stories Swing Votes?” The next federal election – the one that eventually ended Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decade in power – were just around the corner, and up on the stage at this Canadian Journalism Foundation event were some of Canada’s best political pundits – Susan Delacourt, Frank Graves, Adam Radwanski, David Herle and Tom Clark.

I don’t recall much of what was said, except one particular expression Radwanski used. It has stayed with me ever since. He spoke of a “subterranean campaign” that would be waged in immigrant communities across Canada – presumably in foreign languages and in a vernacular that would be very different from appeals to the rest of Canada. He was predicting a different playbook in select ridings – a playbook that Radwanski assumed would be beyond his understanding.

Looking back, I suspect he was right: there indeed was a playbook that enabled the Liberals to win immigrant-rich ridings. It is widely believed that part of the Liberals’ victory in October 2015 came from immigrant communities switching their votes away from the Conservatives. The Liberals won the so-called “ethnic vote.”

However, Radwanski’s choice of expression has intrigued me ever since. The respected columnist writes for the Globe and Mail – a paper that I have consistently read ever since I set foot in Canada in 2002.

I know the paper to be resourceful, financially well-endowed and world class. As a reader, I see that it invests in its journalists, giving them generous travel budgets to report at great length from hotspots on every continent, but also giving its columnists lots of latitude. It is a great Canadian institution.

And so I was fascinated by the concept that a campaign could be “subterranean” when it dealt with massive, well-established communities, served by hundreds of ethnic media publications. Why did the Globe not already have a cadre of journalistic talent that would have helped it cover these “subterranean” communities just as it did all the other ridings in Canada? Why not use translators, when necessary, to make inroads into these sorts of communities?

Radwanski’s telling observation begged a larger question: Why is our journalism not as multicultural as the rest of society?

In the period since the October 2015 election, I have reframed my question to ask, Why are our journalists not as representative as our federal cabinet?

I would love to have been a fly on the wall as Prime Minister-Elect Justin Trudeau shared with the head of his transition team, Peter Harder, his thoughts on how he wanted to go about selecting cabinet ministers. Together they produced a masterpiece of Canadian diversity. How did they get it so right, without really inviting a backlash from those who have got so used to a monochromatic hegemony in all the levers of power?

More than one year on, I still have trouble reconciling to the fact that a turbaned Sikh immigrant is Canada’s Defence Minister.

I am not the first journalist in Canada to shine a light on the lack of diversity in Canadian journalism. A few years after I set up New Canadian Media, I had the honour of meeting John Miller, a former chair of Ryerson’s journalism school, somebody who made it his life’s mission to make newsrooms more representative, more reflective of their readership and viewership. Miller has researched the issue and written extensively on the topic, to little avail.

There are still spaces in Canada that media don’t understand and have made barely an effort to try to understand. The less charitable side of me thinks they’d simply label these spaces as “ghettos” and be done with them. I suspect there are newsroom managers who argue that these newcomer enclaves don’t see themselves as Canadian.

It is incumbent on our media to do better: our journalism must enable all Canadians to feel equally included.

Given that one in five Canadians born in another country and an equal number are the children of first-generation Canadians, the “immigrant” ethos is writ large. We’ve been adding 1 million new Canadians every four years. And, generally speaking, their ethnic profile tends to be different from that of earlier settlers – for the last three decades, the majority of our newcomers have come from Asia, nations such as China, India, Pakistan and the Philippines. Canada is changing right before our eyes.

In 2012, I took a tentative step toward blending my experience as a journalist in Asia into the Canadian milieu. By then, I was convinced that most newcomers and their children share a sense of dislocation, having moved to North America from regions that are racially and socio-politically very different from the origins of earlier arrivals. They have different mores, a different worldview and a different “lived experience.” They consume news differently and view the world through a different lens.

Interestingly, Canada has had a robust ethnic media sector for a very long time. Visit any grocery store in the suburbs outside the major cities and you will encounter scores of publications stacked in neat piles. A local radio station will play music from “back home,” and the newspapers will say very little about happenings in Canada.

This anecdote may be apocryphal, but a respected ethnic journalist recently told me about a Vancouver radio station that launches its broadcast with the words, “Good morning, Vancouver! The weather in Chandigarh is …”

Each of these publications covers a particular immigrant community, in a specific geographic region, often in a foreign language. Most ethnic media continue to be narrowly focused on issues concerning their communities.

They are staffed mainly by the hundreds of journalists who arrived in Canada wanting to continue in their profession, but find it hard to gain a foothold. About 200 of them have worked with New Canadian Media or participated in our training sessions. They possess experience and language skills that could perhaps help the mainstream media demystify their communities, but nobody has quite figured out a way to marry their talents with the current needs of newsrooms.

I would be the first to admit that not all journalists are created equal. Having lived in five countries, I know first hand that every nation has its own ways of doing journalism. I also know that ethnic and “mainstream” could not be further apart in their professional standards. It would be the rare ethnic journalist who has had the luxury of paying for a journalism degree in Canada.

Working for multicultural media is very different from working for, say, the Globe. The reporters often double up as advertising salespeople. Ethnic publishers roll from one financial crisis to another; scores of them go under every year, while others sprout in their place. The line between editorial and advertising is blurred.

These publications, though, remain a vibrant part of Canada’s media ecosystem and play a critical role in informing and welcoming new immigrants. They fulfill a vital democratic function – albeit an insufficient one.

We in the media need to do a better job of speaking for Canadians and being a mirror to society. This is a cliché, but readers, viewers and listeners want to see and hear themselves reflected in our newsrooms. They want to hear foreign-sounding accents and even a mangled English or French sentence once in a while.

Journalism is about reflecting the lives and times of all Canadians – in all their diversity, colour and socio-political complexity. Newcomers invariably do not fit into the preconceived notions of today’s mainstream media editors.

That’s why it is very important for newsroom managers to specifically empower journalists in our newsrooms from diverse backgrounds to speak up, not to be cowed by those who perhaps unwittingly crowd out more timid voices and offbeat perspectives. In short, let’s privilege diversity, rather than conformity.

As we imagine a new media landscape for future generations, I suggest a “third way” that enables Canada to become the first nation in the world to marry ethnic and mainstream – a true reflection of our unique demographics. Let’s recognize that our highly corporatized media organizations have lost touch and are excluding large segments of our population by continuing to hire candidates who could not possibly do justice to the worldviews or lived experiences of many communities, including immigrants.

I realize it will take more than a generation to achieve in the media what Trudeau has done with his cabinet. It will take more than resolve and window dressing. In the meanwhile, let’s find ways for the two media silos to work together, discover common ground, and, in the process, improve the coverage of communities that feel left out.

This commentary was first published in Policy Options and part of a special feature The Future of Canadian Journalism.

Published in Arts & Culture
Thursday, 19 January 2017 12:38

Most Terrorists are Average Joes

Commentary by Phil Gurski

Just how sophisticated are most terrorists anyway?

Sometimes, I think most of us get terrorism very, very wrong.  I am not sure whether this is due to the Hollywood effect where terrorists seem to be popping up in more and more films each year.  Can anyone point to a movie from the 1960s where violent extremists played a major role?  Aside, of course, from the cartoonish Bond villains.

In many of these cinematographic offerings, the terrorists come across as cold, calculating, evil monsters who carefully plan their acts of terror and can only be defeated by the equally calculating good guys – Jack Reacher, Jack Bauer (why are all the counter terrorism heroes called Jack?), etc.  Sometimes our guys resort to unsavoury methods to stop the heinous plotters of death.  Oh well, that is how it goes in the name of keeping us safe.

It is beyond obvious that film is not always a mirror for reality. I maybe a voice in the wilderness if I were to call for more accurate portrayals of terrorism and intelligence, but it may be that our image of terrorism as it is shown to us on the silver screen does us a disservice.

Zero counter-surveillance 

I am referring here to the belief that all terrorists are high-level operatives who plan their death and destruction with the utmost secrecy, meaning that it is next to impossible for security and law enforcement agencies to detect and neutralize them before it is too late (unless they have a guy named Jack on staff!).

The reality is that this is not always accurate.  The way it really works came to light in Turkey when the terrorist accused of carrying out the attack on an Istanbul night club on New Year's Eve chose his venue randomly after he was scared off his first preference by heightened security.

You read that right. 

The terrorist who killed 39 people did not engage in careful pre-attack surveillance, reconnaissance and tracking of the place to bear the brunt of his ideological hatred.  And he is not alone.  Many terrorists, at least in my experience in Canada, are not the most sophisticated, and are frankly, incapable of carrying out meticulous planning. 

They have next to zero counter-surveillance skills, often choose their targets almost accidentally and rarely do dry runs to test security. Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the terrorist who attacked the War Memorial and Parliament in Ottawa in October 2014, may have been an uncommon exception as there are indications he toured Centre Block several weeks before his ill-fated assault.

The "B-team"

Given this, an immediate question arises: who is more dangerous – the terrorist who dots all his i's and crosses all his t's or the one who shows up one day and kills?  My money is on the latter. 

Those who take the time to ensure success expose themselves to scrutiny, monitoring, eavesdropping, human source penetration, intelligence sharing, and, perhaps most importantly, time – time for state agencies to figure out what they are bent on doing.  The one who does no pre-planning is hard to identify and stop since his plot is shorter in the preparatory stages and involves fewer steps that can screw up. 

Truth be told, both types can succeed and both can be foiled, but prior warning and longer planning cycles are the enemy of the terrorist and the friend of our spies.

I think we need to challenge our view of terrorism and terrorists. They are not all supermen (and women) with other worldly powers that are next to impossible to match. Most are just average joes with little foresight and low intellect who decide to act rashly on whatever grievance motivates them. 

That does not mean we should dismiss the "B-team" – they can still do a lot of damage – but it does imply we should not give the terrorists more credit than they deserve.

They get enough free publicity already that feeds their egos and inflates their importance.  Let us not add to that.

Phil Gurski worked for more than three decades in Canadian intelligence, including 15 at Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and is the author of the Threat from Within and Western Foreign Fighters (Rowan and Littlefield). He blogs at http://www.borealisthreatandrisk.com/blog/

Published in Commentary

by Susan Delacourt in Ottawa

The best person to explain the big new-year changes to the federal cabinet’s makeup might well be someone who doesn’t even live here: outgoing U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden.

During a visit to Canada a month ago, Biden told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that Canada needs to step up, internationally — comments that were widely interpreted as a gesture of passing the liberal torch from soon-to-be ex-president Barack Obama.

“The world is going to spend a lot of time looking to you, Mr. Prime Minister. Vive le Canada, because we need you very, very badly,” Biden said in remarks at a dinner during his visit to Ottawa.

While we don’t know how much the world was watching events at Rideau Hall on Tuesday, it is abundantly clear that Trudeau has set his sights on the world. As he told reporters after the shuffle, he needs to take into account a “shift in global context.”

In fact, it’s difficult to remember a Canadian cabinet shuffle so internationally focused — one that set so many parts in motion outside Canada’s borders, especially during a time of tumultuous, global change. Among the changes we learned about Tuesday:

  • A new minister to handle the looming challenges to Canada posed by Donald Trump’s incoming administration — Chrystia Freeland, now Global Affairs minister.
  • A new ambassador to China — former immigration minister John McCallum. This isn’t about a minister being put out to pasture: McCallum is being asked to represent Canada in a nation of immense interest to the current government. Faced with trade threats from a U.S. president vowing to make America great again (possibly at other countries’ expense,) Canada has been seeking to expand trade with China.
  • A new minister of international trade, François-Philippe Champagne.
  • A new minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship: Ahmed Hussen.

The departing Global Affairs minister, Stéphane Dion, was rumoured to be considering a diplomatic post, possibly in Europe, but at the time of Tuesday’s press conference the former Liberal leader was saying only that he was leaving active politics and considering his next move. My best bet is that this is a difficult conversation still in progress (which probably accounted for the unusual uncertainty about the timing of the shuffle ceremony itself at Rideau Hall).

The speculation about Europe as a landing spot for Dion, however, underlines just how much Trudeau and his team are thinking about what’s going on in the world these days. The Brexit vote to leave the European Union, the refugee crisis, ongoing terrorism threats and the rise of right-wing parties are all large matters of concern to progressive-minded governments.

As Biden said in his Ottawa speech: “I’ve never seen Europe as engaged in as much self-doubt as they are now.”

All prime ministers, sooner or later, become preoccupied with global affairs and their place on the big stage. It’s usually an interest that deepens with tenure, and their increasing confidence in rubbing shoulders with other world leaders.

With a comfortable majority, Trudeau doesn’t need to be worried about his government falling on a vote in the Commons while he’s abroad, as Stephen Harper was during his first two minority governments.

Trudeau, however, seemed to arrive in office with an intense interest in international affairs; he gave some of his first interviews to foreign media and has spent a lot of time commuting to the United States and other summits around the world. His critics have portrayed this as a lack of interest in his own country, accusing Trudeau of being too busy to even attend question period and thinking himself too important to spend his vacations in Canada.

Granted, it is a luxury Trudeau can afford. With a comfortable majority, Trudeau doesn’t need to be worried about his government falling on a vote in the Commons while he’s abroad, as Stephen Harper was during his first two minority governments.

Not all of this shuffle was outward-looking. Shuffles can be very useful in maintaining government discipline — dangling a few promotions as examples to other ambitious, cabinet wannabes in the backbench, and doling out demotions as a warning to others performing under-par. To borrow from that old Liberal campaign slogan from 2015, shuffles are all about hope and hard work — dispensing it (hope) or enforcing it (hard work).

On that score, this shuffle did deliver. While Trudeau’s office was putting out nice words about Dion and his contribution to the government in a press release, nobody watching the PM’s press conference had any doubts that the PMO had decided the former professor and Liberal leader wasn’t the right man to handle what’s coming with Trump and other big events on the world stage.

Other casualties: Maryam Monsef, now the Status of Women minister, was punted from the Democratic Reform post to which she was proving herself unsuited (to say the least). MaryAnn Mihychuk was ejected altogether from her job as minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.

Trudeau wasn’t doing this shuffle with home-grown concerns at front of mind, or even his prospects for the next election. The election that seems to be front of mind for Trudeau right now is the recent one in the United States.

Big promotions were handed out to Patty Hadju, moving from Status of Women to Mihychuk’s old job, and to new ministers Champagne and Hussen. Other MPs will be wondering what they did right — which is exactly what the PMO wants them to be thinking about.

Note, though, that the domestic posts in this week’s shuffle were almost afterthoughts. Trudeau wasn’t doing this shuffle with home-grown concerns at front of mind, or even his prospects for the next election (those changes will come closer to 2019, we can assume).

The election that seems to be front of mind for Trudeau right now is the recent one in the United States — the one that gave Canada, and now Freeland, a President Trump to deal with. And if we’re looking for deeper read of the shuffle’s international focus, Biden’s remarks to the PM may be as good any.

“The progress is going to be made,” Biden said, “but it’s going to take men like you, Mr. Prime Minister, who understand it has to fit within the context of a liberal economic order, a liberal international order, where there’s basic rules of the road.”

Don’t be surprised if words along these lines are in the mandate letters for many of the new ministers.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of iPolitics.


Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca 

Published in Politics
Sunday, 11 December 2016 08:06

Don’t Mess with a Vote System that Works

Commentary by Fred Maroun in Ottawa

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau promised to replace the first-past-the-post electoral system of Canada during the last federal election campaign a year ago. Now that he is prime minister with a parliamentary majority, there is an expectation from opponents of that electoral system that he will deliver on a promise that he should never have made.

Opponents of the first-past-the-post system advance romantic ideas of better representation of the range of opinions of Canadians to make their case, but romanticism does not make for good policy. Fact is there is already more than adequate representation in Parliament of the diversity of Canadian opinions, and at the same time, groups on the extremes cannot easily dictate to the majority. (Under the current system, the candidate with the most votes is declared elected in every riding.)

In the current debate on electoral reform, the positions taken by the four national parties do not represent any romantic ideas of democracy. They represent nothing but their own best interests.

Party positions

The Green Party and the NDP, who always elect a smaller percentage of Members of Parliament (MPs) than their shares of the vote, want proportional representation (a system under which the number of MPs would mirror a party’s popular vote).

The Conservatives, who have benefited from the first-past-the-post system and who know that no other system would work better for them, reject any electoral reform.

The Liberals, who know that they would benefit from preferential balloting since it favours middle-of-the-road parties (it is a system under which a voter ranks all candidates by order of preference), are said to support this system, although they have been careful not to admit it publicly.

If partisan interest is ignored, it is abundantly clear that the current system is not only good enough, but that it is the best possible system.

Just ask any immigrant if they prefer the Canadian system or the system used in their country of origin. Our voting system is why many immigrants come here.

Reflecting popular will

When it is convenient to them, politicians tell us that Canada is the best place in the world. We certainly are one of the best places, and that is because we have a political system that is able to govern Canada efficiently through changing times, while remaining representative of the general will of Canadians.

Proportional representation exists in other countries, and it certainly delivers on the promise to elect politicians that represent diverse opinions. However, it does so at a high price.

Smaller parties with narrow interests often become essential in forming government coalitions and are able to dictate their narrow agendas. This phenomenon is very visible in Israel, a country that uses proportional representation, as Haaretz explains in “Ultra-Orthodox Parties Are Back in Power and Israelis Aren’t Thrilled About It”.

The first-past-the-post system does not prevent politicians with minority opinions from being elected, but to be elected, they usually have to work within a party that has broad appeal. For example, the Conservative party includes MPs who wish to ban abortion, even though that is not the policy of the party. Under this system, MPs who hold minority opinions must convince others to support them, which is a good democratic practice. They cannot ram through unpopular changes by being power brokers. 

The first-past-the-post system also does not prevent the emergence and the viability of third parties, although it does require them to have broader support than they would need under proportional representation. Five parties are currently represented in the Parliament of Canada, a consistent pattern over the last few decades, including the NDP, the Greens, the Liberals, the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois.

Majority government

While it includes minority representation, the fact that the first-past-the-post system usually results in majority governments means that it offers the advantages of political stability and the ability to make tough choices. The Canada-U.S. free trade agreement (later followed by the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA) is now seen by all political parties as beneficial to Canada, but that agreement would not have occurred under proportional representation since the Conservative party was at that time the only party supporting it.

Preferential balloting could be seen as a reasonable compromise, since it would likely maintain the benefits of majority governments while giving voters the feeling that their votes are more influential than under first-past-the-past. However, there would be a diminished diversity of opinions represented in Parliament. Under preferential balloting, centrist views would gain an advantage since this is typically the second choice of people on either side of an issue. Therefore, less mainstream opinions would have a harder time being heard. 

Delivering on election promises is typically good politics, but it is not good politics when the promise itself was foolish. Prime Minister Trudeau should do what is best for Canada, not what is best for his party – keep the electoral system as it is because it is the best in the world.

Fred Maroun is a Canadian of Arab origin who lives in Ottawa. He lived in Lebanon until 1984, including during 10 years of civil war. He writes at Gatestone Institute, The Times of Israel, Jerusalem Online, and Jerusalem Post.

Published in Politics

Commentary by Phil Gurski

I have just returned from Oslo where I was thrilled to catch up with one of my favourite terrorist experts, Thomas Hegghammer. Hegghammer and his colleagues at the FFI – Norway's Defence Research Establishment – have published some amazing work over the last decade or so and I have personally learned much from them.

In the course of a discussion about resource allocation to confront terrorism and terrorists, he made an interesting comment. He noted the fact that all over the world law enforcement and security services have redeployed resources away from some files (organized crime, drugs, etc.) to terrorism. 

More importantly, within the terrorism sphere, money and people have been concentrated in one direction – Islamist extremism – thus leaving other kinds of terrorism – right wing extremism, for example – relatively unwatched.  In this light, Hegghammer noted that we should be surprised that there has not been more right-wing terrorism, especially attacks that kill many.

Undetected plots

Think about this.  The fact that we have overloaded men, women and energy on Islamist extremist files has allowed us to stop so many plots.

The more people you have watching something, the more intelligence and evidence you can gather. The more you know, greater the chances of disruption.

The other side of that coin is that fewer resources devoted to right-wing extremism could imply that more plots go undetected and hence are more successful.  And, yet, that is precisely what is NOT happening. A good question at this point would be: why?

Mass casualties

First, we have to, of course, acknowledge that there have been right-wing attacks in the recent past and some mass casualty ones: Anders Breivik in Norway in 2011 and Timothy McVeigh in the U.S. in 1995 are two good examples.  Aside from these, we might want to throw in the attack on a church in South Carolina in the summer of 2015, but truth is there are not very many.

When you compare right-wing and Islamist extremism, you immediately see that the latter has carried out mass casualty attacks (9/11, 7/7, Madrid, Paris, Istanbul, Nice, Brussels, the list goes on and on) at rates which are very much higher.

There are a few suggestive ways of looking at why.  Maybe, the right-wing world does not embrace mass casualty attacks as much as jihadis do. 

There are all too many e-zines and social media propaganda that cajole and encourage these operations within Islamist extremism, but perhaps not as many in right-wing circles. Maybe, there is an inherent difficulty among right-wing extremists in justifying such attacks. 

Perhaps, the leadership is just not there. To be honest, I simply do not know, in large part because I don't follow these kinds of terrorists so closely. 

Whatever the reason, you cannot escape the fact that we have not seen mass casualty attacks and having our attention tied to the jihadis has not opened the door for the far right.

Of course, things can change and we may see such strategies develop.

There certainly is justifiable concern over the rise of the violent right in parts of Europe (and in President-elect DonaldTrump's America?) and we will have to turn our gaze in that direction (or hire more people to do so). 

Nevertheless, it is important not to use past events as predictors of future ones. We may never see waves of 9/11s carried out by the far right.

Let's hope so.

Phil Gurski worked for more than  three decades in Canadian intelligence, including 15 at Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and is the author of the Threat from Within and the forthcoming Western Foreign Fighters (Rowan and Littlefield). He blogs at http://www.borealisthreatandrisk.com/blog/

Published in Commentary

Commentary by Daniel McNeil in Ottawa

When he wrote about a galaxy far, far away (the United States, in the early days of Ronald Reagan’s Presidency), Barack Obama remembered the nights he spent in college dorms with “the more politically active black students.

“The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets” who discussed “Franz [sic] Fanon”.

He may not quite recall how to spell the name of the anti-colonial activist and intellectual, but he knows how to evoke the motley crew of immigrants and minorities that God-fearing American politicians are so often willing to associate with the dark side.

As we gear up for Star Wars Rogue One, many people seem surprised that Obama might be able to find common ground with the “gregarious” Donald Trump, a reality TV star who believes in monetizing pain and suffering. Trump’s approach, however, is not something plucked from the realm of science-fiction.

It is all too familiar to the 44th President of the United States who has graciously hosted celebrities who have achieved renown by monetizing pain and suffering, happily accepted their donations to the Democratic Party and made sure to reward them with medals of freedom and nights to remember at the White House.

We need to talk more, not less, about this pragmatism if we are to make sense of the connections between Trump and Obama and, more broadly, the links between the type of authoritarianism that repels liberals in Canada and the U.S. and the kind of exclusionary behaviour that liberals are wont to ignore.

Aloof President

One of the key tensions for pragmatic liberal nationalists is, unwittingly, displayed in The Bridge, David Remnick’s recent biography of Obama. In it, Remnick insisted that Obama worked hard to obtain the ‘‘emotional connection that marked his performances [on the campaign trail] later on.’’

Then, two pages later, claims that Obama ‘‘clearly felt that the days of nationalism and charismatic racial leadership were outdated and played out.” Such belief that charismatic leadership and emotional appeals should be celebrated when securing a liberal future for the nation (and denounced as part of an intolerant past when used in service to local and transnational identities) may, perhaps, have influenced Obama’s reaction to Edward Said, a worldly intellectual, Palestinian exile and secular humanist.

As we learn from Remnick’s biography, Obama took a course with Said at Columbia University and was unimpressed by one of the leading post-colonial intellectuals to take up Fanon’s clarion call to speak truth to power. Obama-the-student wanted to read Shakespeare rather than get bogged down in post-colonial analysis.

He wanted to figure out how to sway audiences and opinion leaders rather than deconstruct what philosophers and political scientists like to consider western civilization. The President, dismissed as an aloof Professor by his critics, never wanted to turn out like one of those tenured radicals flogging newspapers on the fringes of college towns.

He might move Winston Churchill’s bust out of the Oval Office to make some room for Martin Luther King Jr., but he’d never forget to remind us that he thinks the British imperialist was a great guy.

Those of us who trace the source of our affirmations of emancipation and enlightenment to the struggles of diverse postcolonial peoples for democracy and liberation around the world may find it more productive – morally as well as politically – to pay more attention to the Obama dismissed as a flake.

When we do, we are reminded that Said was inspired by the wise counsel of Hugo of St. Victor, and a secular humanism that believes that “the man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign land.”

Trump and Obama find their homeland sweet. They have the power to treat lands across the world as their playgrounds, casinos, and golf courses. It is not clear that they are willing to propose anything that the American people may associate with foreign tastes or values – or at least anything that seems too foreign.

“Second-generation immigrants”

One consequence of all the existential debates about Canadian identity is that Canadian politicians and pundits are often willing and able to view their own land through the eyes of foreigners from the United States and Western Europe.

Yet they remain susceptible to the stentorian tones of the political scientists who uncritically talk about underdevelopment, and the passive aggression of the social scientists who only think to use the second generation immigrant to talk about so-called “visible minorities.”

It is rare to find discussions of overdevelopment in Canada that may help us to work through our attachments to a public sphere convulsed by fear, sickness and nostalgia. It is even rarer to find mainstream journalists using the term “second-generation immigrant” to describe someone racialized as white, particularly if his or her parents were born in the U.S. or the U.K.

For all the column inches devoted to covering an “immigrant from Tanzania” who is running to lead the Conservative Party of Canada, it is difficult to find any articles that hailed David Miller, the former mayor of Toronto who was born in the U.S., or Tony Clement, a Canadian MP born in the U.K., as immigrant candidates.

If we are serious about creating a world with a more human face, we may want to spend more time challenging the unbalanced use of phrases like under-development and second-generation immigrant – whether they pass for common sense in political debates, our media or our universities.

We may wish to heed the insights of courageous intellectuals, some of whom happen to be immigrants and exiles unwilling to give up their critical perspective, intellectual reserve, and moral courage to win awards and popularity.

Daniel McNeil is Associate Professor of History and Migration and Diaspora Studies at Carleton University. His most recent book is Sex and Race in the Black Atlantic. More of his articles on identity, culture and belonging can be found here and here.

Published in Commentary

A study led by Western University researchers Stelian Medianu and Victoria Esses has found that visible minorities are significantly under-represented in senior leadership positions at City Halls in London and Ottawa, with Hamilton faring better.

In London, only 7.9 per cent of senior leaders in the non-profit and municipal public sectors were identified as visible minorities compared to 13.1 per cent of the general London population.

In Ottawa, only 11.9% of senior leaders in the studied sectors were visible minorities compared to 19.4 per cent of the general Ottawa population.

In contrast, it was found that 13.8 per cent of senior leaders in Hamilton were visible minorities, closely aligned with the 14.3 per cent of the general Hamilton population who are visible minorities, according to a Western University news release

New Canadian Media interviewed Prof. Victoria Esses by email. She is Director of the Western Centre for Research on Migration and Ethnic Relations. Access the study here: Visible Minorities and Women in Senior Leadership Positions: London, Hamilton and Ottawa

Q: What would you say were the top five findings from this study?

The top five findings from the study are as follows:

In London and Ottawa, our data showed that visible minorities and visible minority women were severely under-represented in leadership positions in the municipal public and non-profit sectors. Hamilton fared better overall.

The municipal public sector had the poorest representation of visible minorities and visible minority women across all three cities. Visible minorities and visible minority women were also severely under-represented in Ontario’s agencies, boards, and commissions.

There was also evidence of under-representation of women at the senior leadership level in all three cities and Ontario’s agencies, boards, and commissions, but these effects were less severe than those evident for visible minorities and visible minority women.

Q: What do you think was your most startling finding in the representation of minority groups ?

The most startling finding was with respect to the lack of representation of visible minorities in the municipal public sector.

Q: You have been a researcher in the area of immigration and equity for a long time. What are the legitimate conclusions Canadians can draw from this study nation-wide? Is there a need for studies in other immigrant-rich cities and towns across Canada?

There is a need for studies in other cities and towns across Canada. Similar research is currently being conducted in Vancouver and we look forward to seeing their results.

I believe that one conclusion that can be drawn from these results is that there is still work to do to ensure that senior leaders who are our decision-makers represent those for whom these decisions are being made. This work may occur at the level of recruitment, as well as selection of senior leaders.

Q: Did you interview corporations and hiring managers? How did they explain the gap between the demographics of London and the representation within their own companies/institutions? Are they doing anything to fix this gap?

As mentioned, we did not look at businesses. Instead we examined the public sector and non-profits. It is also important to note that our methodology involved examining the representation of visible minorities in leadership positions and we found evidence of under-representation, but we did not address the issue of why these effects are evident. 

 

Published in Top Stories
Saturday, 05 November 2016 11:54

High on Immigration, Low on Citizenship

News Analysis by NCM Newsroom

Days after being sworn in as prime minister on November 4 last year, Justin Trudeau listed priority tasks for his ministers.  

Like that of his colleagues, the list for John McCallum, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, drew much from the Liberal party’s election promises.

While resettling Syrian refugees was the number one priority, McCallum was told that his overarching goal was “to reopen Canada’s doors to welcome those who want to contribute to its success.”

The wording was clever. While it tried to highlight the previous Conservative government’s reluctance to open Canada’s door to refugees, it retained the essence of what the country’s need for immigrants has always been: It’s the economy, stupid.  

And, McCallum has stuck to the time-tested script. Tabling this year’s report on immigration targets in parliament, he said the government is boosting the base number of immigrants to be admitted next year to 300,000. The previous annual targets from 2011 to 2015 was 260,000, but it swelled to 300,000 this year on account of the Syrian arrivals. The last time this base figure was reached was way back in 1913.

Attempting to give this annual setting of targets a more long-term view, the minister told reporters that it “lays the foundation for future growth." What was unsaid is that last year’s election rhetoric for letting in more refugees was a one-off political gesture meant to to induce a feel-good across the country and reinforce the "Canada is back" mantra.   

Although the 2017 intake targets includes 40,000 refugees and protected persons, it is down from nearly 56,000 this year. Also slightly down is the number of people who would be let in on humanitarian or compassionate grounds: 3,500 against this year’s 3,600.

And when it comes to government-assisted refugees, the numbers are far lower. The number for 2017 is 7,500, down from nearly 20,000 admitted so far this year, and still fewer than the nearly 10,000 admitted in 2015.

Like the previous government, the targets focus on boosting entries for those in the "economic" class. It has been increased to 172,500 from 160,600. In the family class, the number of sponsored spouses, partners, children, parents and grandparents will climb to 84,000 from 80,000.

Signalling left, turning right

While people in the settlement sector would bemoan the cuts to refugee intake given the continuing crises around the world, others would call it pragmatism. Those less charitable to the Liberals would say they are back at their game of signalling left, turning right.

The Liberals know that Canadians will not continue to be supportive of refugee resettlement. Reports about the government being caught off guard by the large number of children each Syrian family had in tow would cast doubts about the whole manner of bringing them in, starting from the vetting process.

Keeping both public perceptions and capacity constraints in mind, the government has astutely kept in abeyance its own economic growth council’s recommendation to raise annual immigration levels to 450,000 over the next five years.

However, it is doubling down on bringing in economic immigrants. Early on, Ottawa indicated that it would be more positively inclined towards international students becoming permanent residents, with McCallum terming them as “the perfect immigrants.”

The Express Entry immigration selection system, the key change to the economic immigration stream made by the previous government, is now being seen as a tool to also promote family reunification. The idea is to give candidates with family members already in Canada additional points.

Discounting citizenship

The unsettling thing about the emphasis on immigration levels is the indifferent attitude towards the very feature that makes our system unique: one of the shortest paths to citizenship, that over 80 per cent of immigrants eagerly choose to take. At least until recently.

The number of citizenship applicants has plummeted for the second year in a row after the more than a doubling in the application fee from $300 to $630. For a while it was $200, after being at $100 for a long time.

Evidently, citizenship applications are down. Only 36,000 citizenship applications were received from January to June this year, a little more than one-third of the number for the same period last year, according to data obtained for policy analysis by Andrew Griffith, a retired immigration department director-general. In 2015, a total of 130,000 applications were submitted compared to an average of 200,000 in the previous years.

While $630 itself is a hefty sum, the actual cost incurred could be much more if one includes the fee (around $200) for a language proficiency test that many applicants would need to take, and further for the Canadian passport (minimum $120). And, in the case of persons from source countries like India that do not allow for dual citizenship, the expenses add up. The fee to process the giving up of Indian citizenship and obtaining a new visa would take the costs to well over $1,500.  

Self-defeating

Imagine a family of four needing to spend $6,000 when struggling economically to put roots in a new country. No one is suggesting that citizenship should come cheap, but forcing those on the cusp of becoming citizens to bear the whole cost of the process is rather unfair. Especially when the government is ready to waive or subsidize fees for refugees. How much more do new Canadians need to do to become citizens of a country they cheerily chose?

More importantly, isn't ultimate citizenship the whole point of welcoming new immigrants in the first place?        

Whereas the Liberals were critical of all the changes to immigration rules made by the Harper government, they were coy about reviewing the citizenship fee during the election campaign. Now that they hold the reins and are reviewing Bill C6 to amend the Citizenship Act, there is still no mention of any adjustment to the fee.

While tax-paying permanent residents are already an underclass unable to vote even in local elections, this disenfranchisement is now set to grow and become a permanent feature of our polity. It calls into question our own understanding of democracy and surely not something we should be proud of.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by all NCM columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of New Canadian Media.

Published in Policy
Friday, 28 October 2016 12:42

A Canada of 100 million? Are they Insane?

Commentary by Howard Anglin

There are some ideas so daft that it takes a very smart person to think of them. Or, in the case of a new proposal to triple Canada’s population to 100 million by the end of the century, it takes an entire committee of smart people.

The authors of this particular idea are the fourteen members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth, who issued their first report last week. To most Canadians, the idea is so preposterous as not to bear analyzing. Crumple it up and start again. But, as these are supposed to be serious thinkers — selected, according to a government press release, “because they are recognized, forward-thinking individuals in their respective fields” — it’s worth taking their proposal at face value.

Dominic Barton, the global managing partner of management consulting giant McKinsey & Co and the committee’s chief advocate of “a Canada of 100 million,” worries that without significant population growth, Canada’s international “relevance” will suffer. This is an odd thing to say, and an even odder thing to care about. How many Canadians, waking in the dark this morning, bundling their children into winter jackets and out the door to school, give two pucks for Canada’s “relevance”?

The disconnect between Mr. Barton, who lives in London, and the concerns of most Canadians was described in a recent column by Peggy Noonan as “something we are seeing all over, the top detaching itself from the bottom, feeling little loyalty to it or affiliation with it.”

“In Manhattan,” she says, “I see the children of the global business elite marry each other and settle in London or New York or Mumbai.” Having lived in London, New York, Washington DC and Ottawa (though not Mumbai), I’ve seen this phenomenon up close. Mr. Barton and his transnationalist peers think of Canada in terms of personal convenience and corporate expediency; to most Canadians, it means their home and community.

According to the Canadian Press, Mr. Barton believes “the world would benefit from a larger version of Canada’s stable, diversified democracy and economy” — but in the same breath he admits that 100 million “is a big number” that “would obviously change the country considerably.”

He fails to explain why we should believe Canada would remain the peaceful, pluralist society we currently enjoy after we added 65 million new people. Or why we would risk our remarkable and (looking around the world) extremely rare security and prosperity for … for what? “Relevance?”

There is no reason to think a Canada of 100 million would be a better place to live and good reasons to think it wouldn’t. Of the twenty countries with the highest per capita GDP, only the United States has more than 100 million people. Most have fewer than 10 million.

The bias against size carries across other national virtues. Happiness? Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland. Income equality? Sweden, Hungary, Norway. Reputation? Sweden, Canada, Switzerland. See a pattern?

The Trudeau government’s own immigration policy belies the Advisory Council’s assumption that more immigration will result in net economic benefits. Under the previous government, economic immigration as a percentage of overall immigration approached 67 per cent; under the new government, it has fallen to 53 per cent. In other words, there is a lot that can be done by better selecting immigrants within existing levels before we consider increasing intake.

It’s true we are a large country, with plenty of open space, but recent immigration has not filled that emptiness and future immigration is likely to follow the established paths to our cities and suburbs. Even at current, historically high immigration levels, Canada’s population is projected to grow by more than 20 million in the next 35 years. Are you ready for a Toronto of 20 million and a Vancouver of 10 million?

None of this will affect the members of Trudeau’s Advisory Council. For them, immigration is something that happens elsewhere. The acres of tract housing sprawling into farmland and greenbelts around our major cities are glimpsed by these people only in the minutes before takeoff and landing. Hopping between leafy downtown enclaves and luxury hotels, they won’t feel the strain on our roads, hospitals and schools, or the deterioration of our built and natural environments.

Industry Minister Navdeep Bains has already cautioned that he is hearing pushback from Canadians. This isn’t surprising. The government’s own polling shows only 8 per cent of Canadians think immigration should increase, while three times as many believe it is already too high. And that was before the Trudeau government increased annual levels to 300,000 already this year.

A government ignores clear public opinion at its peril — and at the nation’s. Significantly increasing immigration levels in defiance of the clear preference of Canadians, including recent immigrants, invites a sharp public backlash of the kind we’ve seen in the United States, the U.K. and Europe. Those who decry Trumpism should be the most vocal opponents of this proposal.

Unlike management consultants, citizens ask questions that are beyond the Advisory Council’s remit. Questions like: What will it mean to be Canadian after we’ve added 65 million new people? What holds our society together when immigration is so rapid that integration becomes impossible?

However smart the Advisory Council members may be, it’s average Canadians who are displaying common sense. They know that size is not a meaningful measure of national success. And they have seen from experience that when immigration is accelerated too quickly, multiculturalism becomes a centrifugal force — no longer holding successive waves of immigrants in a stable tension but driving us apart.

Howard Anglin was the chief of staff to Canada’s minister of Citizenship and Immigration from 2011 to 2013.

By arrangement with ipolitics.ca

Published in Policy
Thursday, 27 October 2016 16:11

Do Returning IS fighters Deserve an Amnesty?

Commentary by Phil Gurski in Ottawa

Historically, amnesties have been offered to former combatants in an attempt to stop the violence and allow a country the chance to rebuild itself. 

A really good example where an amnesty seemed to work would be in South Africa where it was part of that nation's Truth and Reconciliation Commission post-Apartheid.  On the other hand, amnesty for fighters was rejected in the recent Colombian referendum on ending the half century war with the FARC.

Amnesties can be hard to sell.  Conflicts where hundreds or thousands of people have been killed by insurgencies or guerrilla movements or terrorists can result in acrimony and long memories where populations are unwilling to let those responsible for the violence get off lightly.  This is what appears to have happened in the narrow defeat of the Colombian referendum.

A question that is being asked by some is whether we should consider offering an amnesty to returning foreign fighters with Islamic State.  One such proposal was published recently by David Wells (full disclosure: Wells is an acquaintance and, like me, a former intelligence analyst).  He wrote that by offering a "plea bargain" to those who are coming home disillusioned, security intelligence and law enforcement agencies could focus their limited resources on those who pose a real threat to their homelands upon return.

Brutality and inhumanity

Wells does offer a few cautionary statements about the difficulties of carrying out such an amnesty and I want to build on those (NB: more in my forthcoming book Western Foreign Fighters: the threat to homeland and international security).

To my mind, the single greatest obstacle to social acceptance of any form of amnesty for those who joined IS is the sheer brutality and inhumanity of the group's actions.  Whether we are talking about beheadings, immolations, throwing people off roofs, raping girls or selling women into slavery, the depravity so rampant among IS members puts them in a special level of hell. 

No one will want to see these animals get any break on the punishment they so richly deserve.

Compounding this problem is determining who did what in theatre. Aside from the really stupid ones who posted videos online boasting of their lust for violence and those even more stupid to return home – assuming they have not been Hellfired into oblivion (the best case scenario really) – we will probably not be able to determine who the worst actors are.

Gathering evidence

States will want to prosecute those guilty of war crimes, but unless we have posted videos as evidence, this will be very difficult.  Gathering such evidence in a conflict zone like Syria is unquestionably a challenge and it is not as if we can rely on Syrian authorities for help (besides, given recent cases of Syrian-Canadian "collaboration" in several alleged torture incidents, Syrian assistance would be politically impossible even if it were offered).

Furthermore, what do we do with the confessions/denials of some returnees? While it is probable that there are legitimate instances of those who are disgusted with what they saw and may not have actually contributed to the horror, how do we make that determination?  Whom do we believe?

In the end, the fact that these individuals have left Canada (or many other countries) to join IS (or other groups) is a criminal offence and it is in the interest of the state to pursue legal action where the evidence is available.  Each case will have to be judged on its merits and there may be ones where an amnesty – or the decision not to take to trial – can be considered.

"Forgiving" populations

We do have one instance of this already in Canada when the Crown chose not to charge three young women from the Toronto area after they unsuccessfully tried to travel to Syria to join IS (they were interdicted in Egypt thanks to excellent police work on this end).

We also have to bear in mind that some of these ex-combatants will still pose a threat to our societies. We have already seen attacks carried out by returnees and we will see more.  It is not unreasonable to predict that over the next five years or so our security intelligence and law enforcement agencies will be very busy trying to stop future attacks by returning terrorists.

I suppose that amnesties are feasible where there are at least some people on both sides of the conflict who can see the perspective and justification of violence from the other's point of view.  And, yet, it is impossible to imagine a scenario where anyone views the actions of IS this way. 

There are also significant differences in the nature of conflict where amnesties appear to have had a positive effect – say South Africa – versus ones where the "forgiving" population has not been beset by direct warfare in their own backyards.  If you are not from Syria or Iraq, you have not witnessed the daily carnage caused by IS and are thus less willing to take a chance to end it by offering amnesty.

I fear that anyone who proposes forgiving returning terrorists will have a very tough job ahead of them.  And, I am not sure that this is a good idea in the first place.

Phil Gurski worked for more than  three decades in Canadian intelligence, including 15 at Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and is the author of the Threat from Within and the forthcoming Western Foreign Fighters (Rowan and Littlefield). He blogs at http://www.borealisthreatandrisk.com/blog/

Published in Commentary
Page 1 of 15

Poll Question

Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

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Featured Quote

The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit

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