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.
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two pages later, claims that Obama ‘‘clearly felt that the days of nationalism and charismatic racial leadership were outdated and played out.”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.
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.
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.
by Robin Brown in Toronto
The post-mortem of the federal election is ongoing and until it is complete we will not know the full dynamics behind the results. But one view that is emerging is that the Liberals outperformed the Conservatives in winning the hotly contested “ethnic vote”. Or at least winning back enough of it.
Looking at results from ridings with high proportions of immigrant and visible minority populations, especially in suburban Toronto and Vancouver, this seems to be the case. So what did they do to achieve this?
The ethnic media bandwagon
The first thing is that they woke up to one of the tactics that the Conservatives have successfully employed in recent years – engaging the ethnic media.
Stephen Harper, who has been accused of not being accessible to the mainstream media, has always been generous with the ethnic media.
This relationship was symbiotic. It helped the Conservatives focus on a key segment of the population. In turn, the ethnic media were grateful for easier access.
While the Conservatives maintained this strategy during this past election, they were not alone. The Liberals had been taking notes, and Justin Trudeau was made equally available, if not more so. This was crucial in connecting the Liberals with ethnic communities.
The messages that backfired
Individual campaigns may have employed specific multicultural communication strategies at the riding level, but the parties did not do so to any major extent at a national level.
The only example that was widely covered in the mainstream media was the Conservatives attempts to leverage social hot buttons and associate Trudeau with marijuana and prostitution.
Along with statements from Jason Kenney, the Conservatives delivered those messages via Punjabi and Chinese language flyers and newspaper advertisements.
This attempt was widely seen as backfiring and indicative of a misreading of Chinese and South Asian voters and their concerns. Many of those voters were well aware of the fact their communities had been singled out for these messages.
As one of my Chinese friends said, “It’s like they think we’re stupid.”
Myths about the ‘ethnic vote’
Ironically the misreading could be a result of past successes. Conservative success with the “ethnic vote” in 2011 is well documented and may have created comforting myths.
For example, The Big Shift by Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson painted a picture of a Conservative dynasty supported by immigrants who were focused on economic, security and law and order issues and not concerned with issues such as “community supports, the environment and international engagement.”
These myths lulled the party into believing that the “ethnic vote” was immune to the messages of the Liberals and NDP.
However, the results of this election showed that this was clearly not the case. The messages that the Liberals successfully pushed out to the Canadian public were reaching and resonating with “ethnic voters”.
Overall it seems the “ethnic vote” was influenced by the same factors as the general Canadian vote.
One finding that may emerge from the post-mortem is that when the Canadian vote swings right so does the “ethnic vote”. When the vote swings left so does the “ethnic vote”. Maybe we will learn that the “ethnic vote” is now not quite as distinct from the “mainstream vote” as was assumed in the past.
Robin Brown is the co-author of Migration Nation: A Practical Guide to Doing Business in Globalized Canada.
New Canadian Media welcomes other perspectives on the topic of advertising targeted at immigrant communities during the 2015 federal election. Write to email@example.com if interested.
by Samantha Lui in Toronto
“New Canadians”, a television show about newcomers in Canada, has now launched in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
Produced by New Horizons Media in association with the New Canadian Media Professionals Network (NCMP), the show will focus on supporting newcomers and would-be immigrants by providing resources and information to help them integrate into Canadian society easily.
The show is split into five segments: settlement, employment/small business, education, successful immigrants, news and events.
Gerard Keledjian, the creator of “New Canadians”, immigrated to Canada in 2010. Having worked in the media industry in Dubai, he wanted to gain some local media experience and started volunteering at Rogers TV Toronto.
He came up with the idea for the show after looking into resources he could use to help him integrate into Canadian society.
“As I was researching my settlement and immigration journey, I realized that there were so many resources and programs that were targeted to newcomers that were either not being promoted at all or not promoted effectively,” he recalls.
“Using my media background to promote and talk about these programs and the successes immigrants are achieving, I tried to inform people about these programs and motivate them to use them as resources to minimize their struggles.”
Keledjian hopes to expand the show to other regions, including Hamilton and parts of Atlantic Canada such as Newfoundland and Labrador.
“New Canadians” airs on Rogers TV in Toronto every Friday at 7 p.m. on Cable 10 and 63, and every Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. in Peel region on Cable 10. The program’s web component is available at http://newcanadians.tv/.
Longest-Serving Visible Minority MP to Temporarily Lead Conservatives
As Stephen Harper steps down from Conservative leadership, longtime Calgary MP Deepak Obhrai will take over the party’s leadership duties for a short period of time.
Obhrai, elected in 1997, has been given the task to run its first post-election meeting next Wednesday because he is the party’s longest running member.
This is all part of a change made to the Parliament of Canada Act put forward by MP Michael Chong that was passed into law in June.
The new rules call for caucus to vote on key matters, managed by the caucus member “with the longest period of unbroken service.”
As it happens, Obhrai, who represents Calgary’s Forest Lawn riding, was elected the same year as Jason Kenney and Gerry Ritz. But because his victory in the federal election was recorded first, he was designated to lead the Conservative party.
While Obhrai initially had reservations about Chong’s requested provision, he now says it is an honour to serve the Conservative party in this role as it is the first time it’s had to happen since the law was passed.
“I’m so delighted and pleased to be part of this historical event that takes place on Wednesday where the caucus will decide what it wants to do,” he says, adding the meeting will focus on what the Conservatives’ next steps will be in deciding who will run for leadership.
But one question remains: is he hoping to make his temporary role a permanent one?
“No,” he replies, with a laugh.
“I think the fact that I’m the longest-serving member of the Conservative caucus, it’s an honour and privilege to represent my riding,” he adds. “But, I think I would elect new people to come in.”
He says that he’s just happy to serve his constituents.
“They put their confidence in me and I’m very humbled by that.”
More Time Needed to Settle 25,000 Refugees
Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau promised during the election campaign that Canada would accept 25,000 refugees from Iraq and Syria by the end of the year.
However, that is a substantial goal to reach in two months, according to The Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance (CISSA).
“Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis by resettling 25,000 additional government assisted refugees to Canada is to be applauded, but more time is needed to adequately settle and support these additional refugees,” says Chris Friesen, chair of CISSA-ACSEI, in a press release.
Noting that 25,000 refugees will need government support and help from other community initiatives, the organization made several recommendations to the Liberal government to consider.
Primarily the organization calls for the timeline to resettle 25,000 refugees be extended to the end of December 2016 as well as all outstanding family reunification cases for government assisted refugees to be expedited and processed before the end of this year.
CISSA-ACSEI also suggests more resources be allocated to help Syrian newcomers, such as settlement-related and trauma counseling and funding to help refugees travel to Canada.
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to email@example.com
by Anita Singh in Toronto
There has been much excitement about the record number of female members of Parliament (MPs) elected on Oct. 19. However, the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
In the last parliament, 76 of 308 MPs – or 25 per cent – were women. The recent election saw a record number of 88 female MPs elected to office, but in a parliament with 30 additional seats, this increase represents just 26 per cent of the total.
To see how Canada truly stacked up in terms of representation in the House of Commons, many factors must be considered.
To its credit, the incoming ruling party has vowed to be a more inclusive, representative party than governments past. Along these lines, 33 per cent of Liberal candidates were women – a considerable number, although obviously lower than the proportion of women in the general population.
Research in this field has noted though that counting female candidates is not the best estimate for how well women are represented.
For example, women may not be given “winnable” ridings to run in. Those may be saved for their male counterparts, which inevitably means women are less likely to win.
Other examples show how women are used to balance each other out.
In a number of cases this election, female candidates were often running against each other. With only one victor per riding, often more than one female candidate was eliminated from the race.
Ethnic women voices missing
In contrast to its gender representation, this parliament is highly representative of ethnic communities – with a record 52 ‘ethnic’ MPs.
Notably, communities beyond the usually well-represented South and East Asian immigrant groups have gained representation in this parliament.
Two notables are Somalia-born Ahmed Hussen who won York South–Weston and Afghanistan-born Maryam Monsef in Peterborough-Kawartha. Both Liberals are the first-ever MPs from their respective communities to sit in the House of Commons.
With these 52 seats, 15.4 per cent of parliament will be made of members of a visible minority or ethnic group. Disappointingly, this has not translated into similar representation for minority women in parliament, as only 16 out of 338 MPs are minority women (4.7 per cent).
Representation of visible minority women is even worse outside the Liberal party.
While the Conservative party, with the single-handed mission of Jason Kenney, had made major in-roads with a number of ethnic and immigrant communities since 2006, the party lost ‘ethnic women candidates’ such as Nina Grewal in British Columbia and Leona Aglukkaq in Nunavut.
The Conservative downfall has also affected visible minority males including Devinder Shory and Tim Uppal in its Alberta heartland, as well as handpicked candidates like Parm Gill and Bal Gosal in Ontario.
For the Conservatives, five ethnic candidates were elected and of those, only one woman: Alice Wong from Vancouver.
On the New Democratic Party (NDP) side, the loss of female candidates can be attributed to defeat by the red wave in many key ridings. Former and incumbent MPs such as Megan Leslie, Rathika Sitsabaiesan and Olivia Chow all lost to Liberal candidates in their ridings.
Number of candidates elected
Number of ethnic candidates elected (men & women)
Number of female ethnic candidates elected
Liberal Party of Canada
Conservative Party of Canada
New Democratic Party of Canada
Note: Data collected from official party candidate websites
Some areas show promise
While these numbers are a dismal representation of ethnic women in the new government, there are a few surprises.
In Brampton, Ontario, three of five seats in the city have gone to minority women – all newly elected. Ruby Sahota, for instance, defeated Parm Gill in one of the Conservative’s “highly ethnic” ridings identified in the party’s election strategy.
Similarly, three of Vancouver’s six ridings have gone to visible minority female candidates: Jenny Kwan in Vancouver East for the NDP, and Hedy Fry in Vancouver Centre and Jody Wilson-Raybould in Vancouver Granville for the Liberal party.
While incumbency didn’t seem to matter as much, party affiliation surely played a role.
Of the 16 ethnic women elected last Monday, only three were incumbents in their own ridings. More significantly, seven of the 16 candidates beat the incumbent Conservative MP in their ridings, suggesting that party politics reigned supreme in these decisions.
Finally, five of these visible minority female candidates were elected in the newly formed ridings that came out of the 2012 redistribution.
Later this week, prime minister-designate Trudeau will be releasing his new cabinet. He has made a commitment to form it with gender balance in mind.
In addition, he should also consider adequate ethnic representation in cabinet, including front-bench cabinet positions, to reflect the diversity of the electorate.
Despite the important commitment from the incoming prime minister, we continue to have a long way to go in ensuring that all Canadians find their voices in their elected representatives.
Anita Singh is a founding partner of Tahlan, Jorden & Singh Consulting Group and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at Dalhousie University. Her research examines the role of diaspora groups and their influence on foreign policy, particularly the Indo-Canadian community and Canada-India relations.
This is part 2 of a two-part commentary looking at the representation of ethnic women in Canadian federal politics.
This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
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 Trudeau’s 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.
In the 2011 federal election, voters sent 42 foreign-born citizens to represent them as MPs in Ottawa. That’s 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.
Remarkably, the immigrants who were elected to Canada’s 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.
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.”
Looking ahead to our date with electoral destiny on October 19, which ridings are likely to have interesting ethnocultural dynamics?
As reported in Andrew’s new book on multiculturalism, out of Canada’s 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.
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.
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 Montreal’s Mont-Royal. Canadian Muslims form between 15 and 20 per cent in six ridings.
It’s 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 Canada’s 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.
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 it’s anybody’s 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.
by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Scarborough, Ontario
With October’s federal elections inching closer, there will be a steady stream of coverage in mainstream newspapers across the country of the candidates vying for a seat in Parliament. As journalists and newspaper editors put together these stories, Canadian researcher Erin Tolley is calling for them to give careful thought to how they depict candidates of visible-minority backgrounds.
Tolley, an assistant professor in political science at the University of Toronto, is the author of Framed: Media and the Coverage of Race in Canadian Politics, a book-length study set for release in November, which examines how race factors into news stories about politicians and political candidates.
The book includes empirical data she collected during the 2008 federal elections after studying and comparing a sample of over 1,000 news stories from 18 mainstream Canadian daily newspapers on both visible minority and white candidates, as well as candid interviews with political candidates, others working in politics, and journalists.
While Tolley maintains the book’s message is not that the media are racist – she finds absolutely no examples of blatant racism in her analysis – what Framed does is use media coverage of Canadian politics to underline the fact that race still matters in Canada.
Likely candidate or a long shot?
One particular area of focus Tolley spends a lot of time analyzing is how a candidate’s viability in the election run was framed. Were they considered likely to succeed or more of a long shot?
If the candidate was an incumbent (currently holding the seat in Parliament), no matter whether he or she was a visible minority or not, Tolley finds the coverage to be relatively the same. If the person was a non-incumbent, however, the differences in coverage become apparent.
“What I found is if you’re a visible-minority non-incumbent you’re portrayed as a long shot, an unlikely winner – basically you don’t have a hope,” explains Tolley. This wasn’t the case for white non-incumbents.
This finding speaks to a certain level of skepticism that exists around visible-minority candidates, she adds. They tend to have to “prove themselves” in ways their white counterparts do not.
“When I talked to political strategists from the party, people who worked on the campaigns, they said, ‘Yes, they need to meet a higher bar,’” explains Tolley. “They’re going to be met with skepticism – they’re going to have to be better and to be stronger in order to get nominated and in order to win.”
Pigeonholed on the issues
Where Tolley also finds stark differences in coverage is in the types of issues visible minorities seem to be most connected to. While they are often quoted in stories on immigration policy, multiculturalism or poverty – all “so-called minority issues,” as Tolley refers to them – their voices are often absent from stories about more “pressing” issues like the economy and the environment.
“Some people said to me, ‘Well, that makes sense because probably visible minorities don’t care as much about those issues,’” recalls Tolley. “[But] when I talked to visible-minority candidates about their issue priorities, many of them talked about the economy – things like taxes, finding good jobs, having credentials recognized, that sort of thing – and that doesn’t come out in their media coverage.”
Tolley finds the notions of visible-minority candidates only being able to serve people from their own ethnic group and unable to understand the issues of other Canadians concerning. White candidates, she says, don’t face this challenge, as they are often positioned as having broad reach and the ability to “woo” or “court” the ethnic vote.
“No one ever talks about the fact that white candidates also appeal to white voters. I mean, no one would write that,” Tolley says. “No one even describes white candidates as ‘white candidates’ or really talks about where they were born. Whiteness is basically put forward as the default and therefore not worthy of being mentioned, whereas minority or immigrant background is something that is covered because it is seen to be outside the norm or atypical, and therefore newsworthy.”
With the upcoming elections, there is still time for media outlets to consider Tolley’s research in their approach to the stories that they run. Everything from picture and headline choice to inclusion of socio-demographic background and whether a “diversity” angle is relevant to a story or not should be considered, she advises.
But most importantly, Tolley says, people – not just the media, but all Canadians – need to be open to the idea of talking about race, a subject she found during her research many are still uncomfortable with.
“Some of my interviewees talked about the fact that they are colour-blind – they don’t see colour,” she explains. “I said instead of talking about ‘colour-blindness,’ we should think more about the fact that we’ve been mute in conversations about race. We haven’t had mature discussions about it.”
Outgoing Chief Bill Blair dropped a bombshell last week in ordering his officers to stop carding members of the Black and visible minority communities.
The announcement sent a huge wave of relief to community members who were not expecting the news. If only the Chief would now put an end to racial profiling as well.
Agencies and community activists have been making deputations and recommendations to police and the Toronto Police Services Board for a long time to put an end to this practice that has dehumanized many of us for years.
by Priya Ramanujam (@SincerelyPriya) in Toronto
It may not be time for report cards in school just yet, but when it comes to research, several annual report cards are in. In this edition of Research Watch we take a look at three recently released reports that speak to how immigrants and visible minorities are faring in various aspects of Canadian life from child poverty to employment in the public sector to corporate boards. The overall grade in each instance: F.
Immigrant children getting left behind
Not having lunch at school. Not being able to participate in extracurricular activities. Being made fun of for being on welfare. When asked what poverty feels like, these were some of the responses that some of Ontario’s children provided, in a recently released report administered by Campaign 2000 and Family Services Toronto. And for 50 per cent of the province’s children born to immigrants this feeling is part of daily life, states the report. This is in comparison to the 20 per cent of children overall that live in poverty across Ontario.
The report, which used Statistics Canada data from 2012 income tax returns, brings attention to not only this startling information, but to the fact that in 1989 the federal government put forth a strategic plan to eradicate child poverty by the year 2000. Twenty-five years later, the problem has only increased, particularly for children of new immigrants, with racialized and First Nations children next in line.
“There’s plenty the government could do to end poverty, but I don’t understand why they aren’t doing that,” an anonymous Ontario grade school student says in the report. And the words hold much weight. Essentially, everything the government could, and should, be doing is outlined in the report. Perhaps the most insightful though: “Eradicating child poverty in Ontario requires addressing and dismantling long-standing systemic inequities.” Without this key element, no matter how many tax benefits or increases to social assistance are made (all of which was cited as part of 1989’s plan, then again in 2008 and again in 2014), real change will not be brought about. The various levels of government must address the root causes of this poverty, versus placing bandage solutions on the complex issue.
Along these lines, the report calls on the government to, for example, legislate Employment Equity to remedy discrimination in Canadian workplaces, repeal the three month waiting period for immigrants to receive Ontario Health Insurance coverage, create equity and anti-racism boards to address inequities and take a proactive approach to enforcing employment standards to provide equal protection for people employed under the temporary foreign worker program. These specific recommendations speak to some of the unique challenges facing individuals of immigrant and racialized backgrounds and are in addition to more blanket proposed solutions of raising minimum wage to $15 an hour and ending the deduction of child support and the Ontario Child Benefit from social assistance funds.
Many mitigating factors point out that this issue is only going to get worse if those in power don’t sit up, take notice, and most importantly, take action. The Ontario job market is bleak. Manufacturing jobs, once a major employer for women, racialized and recent immigrant populations, make up only 11 per cent of the market now, in comparison to a previous 18 per cent. Recent legislation, Bill C-583, if passed, may limit access to social assistance for refugee claimants. The generation born since 1989, when the vow of eliminating child poverty was made, is up against more unemployment than ever before, coupled with rising tuition, cost of living and limited affordable housing. Add to that mix being a young person who is of colour, new to the country, suffers from mental health challenges or is homeless and the odds only stack higher. All the while, the gap between the highest and lowest income families continues to widen.
What does all this mean? It means that the time is now for change. However, the most telling aspect of the report may also be the most discouraging. In 2008, a commitment was made to develop tailored solutions to the unique needs of women, racialized communities, newcomers, people with disabilities, and Aboriginal peoples, among others at higher risk of poverty. As of November 2014, while some investments for Aboriginal children and those with disabilities have been made, and some employment programs for newcomers have been implemented, no specific solutions have been outlined or reported, for racialized communities, nor has any commitment to tracking impact in this community been made.
Having set a new goal in 2008, to reduce child poverty by 25 per cent in five years, and still fallen short – as of 2013 the rate had declined just over nine per cent – it is clear the work is far from over, and attention must be paid to Ontario’s most marginalized.
Skilled immigrants missing in civil servant jobs
It’s somewhat ironic. Multiculturalism and diversity are often promoted as two of Canada’s most redeeming qualities. But within its own three levels of government there is a gap in employment diversity that needs to be addressed says a recent study released by ALLIES (a Maytree affiliated organization). That gap is one of skilled immigrants – noticeably underrepresented in public sector jobs. Titled Government as Employer of Skilled Immigrants, the study aims to encourage government to become leaders in the area of hiring immigrants, while providing context to the challenges and conditions at play within the current work force. This isn’t just of utmost importance because the public sector represents a huge job market – the government currently employs 3.6 million people at its varying levels – but authors Sarah Wayland and Dan Sheffield write that it is also worth paying attention to because the government holds great influence over the rest of the market. Whether public or private, if other employers see the government taking greater strides to purposely hire skilled immigrants, they just may follow suit.
“By bringing in fresh perspectives whether from youth or immigrants or others, there is labour force advantage to be gained,” said Susan Brown, an employee of City of Toronto, in the report. “Moreover with an aging workforce, governments need new employees, even if overall numbers continue to decline. Prioritizing immigrants into the future gives us a great opportunity to diversify our workforce and address imbalances.”
This only makes sense for a country that has made a commitment to increasing focus on immigrants as skilled workers – in fact, it is expected that over the next 10 years, close to 100,000 recent immigrants will be added to the labour market annually. Not only will these individuals add to the diversity of the government bodies, bringing with them international perspectives and connections, but they also bring an element of lived experience which is beneficial in serving the immigrant population, which generally represents 20 per cent (in some areas much higher) of Canadian society.
The report cites several barriers that stand in the way of recent immigrants gaining employment with the government (the rates increase the longer individuals are in Canada), including lack of supports in smaller communities, bilingual and citizenship qualification criteria, seniority and a lack of data focused on the immigrant experience in the application, interview, hiring and retention stages of employment.
Some organizations are more intentional with efforts to hire immigrants, than others, according to the report. Leading the pack is the City of Ottawa, recognized as one of the Best Diversity Employers in Canada in 2013, which has an active plan in the works to include immigrants in its organization as an effort to better reflect the community it serves. Using a strategy coined the Equity and Inclusion Lens since 2009, the City of Ottawa is proactively taking steps such as providing training to city councillors and staff, to remove systemic barriers and promote inclusion internally.
As it stands overall, while a shift in hiring culture is being cultivated in some areas across the country, immigrants are half as likely as their Canadian-born counterparts to land a job in public administration, but far more likely than Canadian-born residents to be working in manufacturing, accommodation and food service. In order for this to change, the report indicates it is crucial for a government organization to embed diversity into its day-to-day culture instead of having it as an “add-on”.
Minorities barely visible on corporate boards
The country’s corporate boards are in need of some more diversity – visible diversity that is. It seems that while there have been positive increases in the area of women sitting on corporate boards, visible minority representation is at an all-time low. This is according to The Canadian Board Diversity Council (CBDC) annual report card, released this month.
In 2010, when the council was established, the percentage of visible minorities sitting on the boards of the companies studied, which range in industry from Finance and Insurance, Utilities and Retail/Trade to Manufacturing and Mining/Oil/Gas, was just over five. This year, visible minorities clocked in at less than half of that – two per cent.
While the report indicates that the majority of directors surveyed believed diversity was important on boards, it also stated that many groups feel they are already diverse, and only a quarter of the boards in most industries have diversity policies in place. This, of course, is indicative of a broad definition of diversity. It seems the boards studied have substantial diversity in areas of expertise and education, moderate levels of diversity in areas of age, gender and geographic location, but are significantly lacking in areas of diversity relating to visible minority and Aboriginal populations and those with disabilities.
Part of the underlying problem – when board members retire or step down, the remaining members tend to look to personal circles to fill the positions, and well, if visible minorities, Aboriginal people or people with disabilities aren’t in their circles, they lose out. The CBDC has put together a database, Diversity 50, to help counter this. The database, which now has 150 individuals listed, includes the names and faces of eligible board members. Come this time next year, we will see if the database effectively helps more visible minorities into those board seats, or not.
by David Murrell
Economist Andrew Jackson of the Broadbent Institute in Ottawa has argued that visible-minority Canadians earn less money, and have higher unemployment rates, than is the case for white Canadians (“Canadian-born Visible Minority Youth Facing an Unfair Job Future”). He wants the federal and Ontario governments to enact strong affirmative action programs for the private sector, given these unequal labour market outcomes. As he states, such programs already exist for governments and universities.
Prof. Jackson reports the Statistics Canada numbers with some skill. But in doing so, he presents aggregate numbers showing the labour market gap between whites and non-whites. But for the past 40 years or so, there has been a long and uncertain debate about whether or not this labour market gap is the result of racial discrimination, or because of other explanatory causes. The essence of the debate is that economists – in measuring the extent of possible discrimination – do not have access to a full set of explanatory data describing labour market conditions for non-white and white workers (or the labour-market conditions for men and women).
For example, we all know there is a “wage gap” between men and women. Since the 1970's, economists have tried to measure how much of this gap can be explained by gender discrimination. Yet, we lack concrete information: the actual maternity experience of women leaving the labour force to bear and nurture children, and of re-entering the workforce afterwards. In their book, The Second Paycheck, Alice and Masao Nakamura stated that – after accounting for all the fundamental causes of wage differences between men and women – the single fundamental cause of the wage difference had to do with women leaving the work force to bear and nurture children. Single, unmarried women have identical wages (and lower unemployment rates) than do single men.
A similar difficulty holds, when studying unequal labour market outcomes between whites and non-whites. Prof. Jackson shows data showing that some non-whites have lower wages and higher unemployment rates than do white Canadians. In the past, some economists have undertaken similar statistical studies (as with the case of men versus women) alleging racial discrimination against non-whites. But again, in doing these complicated tests, there exists a problem of missing explanatory data. The data do not define occupations (which yield different wages and unemployment rates) all that carefully. The data describing language fluency (for English, French or both languages) is faulty or incomplete.
Recent research has uncovered that ethnic “clustering” – where some immigrants to Canada cluster together and speak their native language – leads to poorer labour-market experiences than is the case where recently-arrived immigrants spread out and live and work amongst native-born Canadians (of all colours). We all know that, upon arriving in Canada, immigrants often face a tough time integrating into the labour market. I, as an immigrant to Canada, can speak from experience, facing two harsh years doing low-paid work, and three more hard years going back to university, to upgrade my credentials. The experience of adjusting to Canadian life and culture is tricky to measure statistically, but the adjustment period typically is difficult for any immigrant.
Elephant in the room
What Prof. Jackson misses, in his essay, is the big elephant in the labour-market room. It is this: that new entrants into Canada’s labour force – be it young native-born Canadians or newly arrived immigrants – all face huge problems in obtaining good quality, professional work. New research and discussions in the media indicate that even people with professional degrees are not finding reasonably-high paying jobs. And this situation is especially true for graduating students in the “soft” areas (e.g. sociology, political science, history). Anecdotes abound about graduating students (with a high debt load) working at low-paying jobs in the retail or service sectors, not finding success in their chosen fields. This is the major issue for today: how to find good-paying work for all new entrants to our work force.
Employment equity? A young native-born white person migrating from, say, Sudbury, Ontario to Ottawa to find work faces the same daunting task as a newly-arrived non-white immigrant to that same city. Both must re-tool their work credentials to meet employer demands. Both may have to go back to school. But should there be laws to discriminate in favour of one, against another? I think not.
David Murrell is a Professor of Economics at the University of New Brunswick at Fredericton. He has a PhD degree from Queen’s University and Masters of Arts degree from the University of Ottawa.
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit