How environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing controversies can impact fossil fuels

Written by Sibo Chen, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit: Shutterstock. Originally published in The Conversation.

The past few years have witnessed a surge in the popularity and momentum of environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing — a form of responsible investing that aligns financial returns with positive environmental and social ones.

Institutional investors and asset managers have been viewing ESG investing as a means to mitigate investment risks and increase long-term returns. The basic premise is that industries that effectively manage their environment, social and government-related risks will be less susceptible to changes in regulations or societal expectations. This will improve their performance over the long term.

In recent months, however, numerous news articles have highlighted the growing tensions and conflicts surrounding ESG investing. In February, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed legislation to further restrict state investments involving ESG. Meanwhile, many ESG opponents have targeted BlackRock, the world’s largest funds manager and most prominent provider of ESG products and services.

ESG has received criticism from both ends of the ideological spectrum. Right-wing forces regard ESG as politically charged governance that advances “woke capitalism” led by corporations. In contrast, the left has expressed skepticism regarding ESG’s claims, arguing that its business- and market-friendly approaches to equity and sustainability are antithetical to the interests of the working class.

How can we make sense of the public debates surrounding ESG investing? As a scholar researching how issues like decarbonization are contested in the public sphere, I find these debates indicative of the growing polarization in the fossil fuel sector.

The politics of ESG investing

A closer look at the rising anti-ESG sentiment in the United States shows that attacks on environmental, social and governance investing are based on cultural, rather than economic grounds.

As noted in a Wall Street Journal analysis, the main goal of conservative activists is to turn the anti-ESG movement into “a rallying cry against woke capitalism, much the way critical race theory became shorthand for broader criticisms about how race is taught in schools.”

Meanwhile, the conservatives’ attacks on ESG investing call for anti-ESG legislation. This contradicts their belief that governments should not determine how capital is allocated and investment decisions are made.

The costs of making ESG investing a political issue are glaring. According to an analysis conducted by scholars at the Wharton School, a Texas law, prohibiting municipalities from doing business with banks that have ESG policies against fossil fuels and firearms, came at a price. This was because its issuers incurred $300 to $500 million in additional interest on the $31.8 billion borrowed in the eight months following the law’s enactment.

As exemplified by the Texas case, one of the main causes of rising anti-ESG sentiment among conservatives is the increasingly apparent existential crisis of the fossil fuel industry.

In May 2021, a landmark shareholder vote at ExxonMobil resulted in the ouster of three board members by Engine No. 1 — a small activist hedge fund pushing the oil giant to adopt a more aggressive climate strategy and reduce its carbon footprint.

Around the same time, Shell was mandated to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent between 2019 and 2030 by a Dutch court in response to a lawsuit brought by environmental groups and activists. Such events raise serious questions about the future profitability and sustainability of carbon-intensive businesses.

Divergent views on ESG investing

The political disagreement over ESG investing can also be viewed as an ideological conflict over the role of capitalism in addressing societal problems like inequality and climate change.

This conflict encompasses three main ideas.

First, those advocating for ESG investing believe capitalism can be reformed and redirected to serve the common good by incorporating environmental and social criteria into financial decision-making and creating positive change incentives.

Second, conservative opponents of ESG are dismissive of ESG investing’s promotion of what they consider to be liberal causes.

Thirdly, progressive opponents of ESG accuse ESG investing of being a form of greenwashing — the deceptive practice of making a company or product appear to be more environmentally friendly than it actually is.

Independent assessments of ESG performance

ESG investing is still mired in controversy, and many believe it will play a significant role in the presidential election in the U.S. next year.

What are the implications of the controversy for Canada? Briefly speaking, while many Canadian corporations have expressed positive attitudes toward ESG, it is concerning that public narratives regarding the fate of bitumen have become increasingly polarized, which parallels the politicization of ESG investing in the U.S.

The public opinion on the profitability of the bitumen industry in comparison to the subsidies it receives from provincial and federal governments is becoming increasingly divergent. This has significant implications for the future of the bitumen industry and its relationship with the government. If the perception that the industry is not paying its fair share persists, political pressure to reduce or eliminate existing subsidies will rise.

We urgently require comprehensive and independent assessments of the compatibility of the Canadian fossil fuel industry with ESG criteria. This will allow us to make informed decisions about how Canada’s fossil fuel industry aligns with the global transition to a low-carbon economy in the future. By taking a proactive approach to ESG, we can create a more sustainable and equitable future for all.

Declining naturalizations signal larger problems in Canada’s citizenship and immigration system

Written by John Carlaw, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick. Originally published in The Conversation.

Reports about declining naturalizations belie the historical and political obstacles that prevent many migrants from becoming citizens.

A recent press release from the Institute for Canadian Citizenship that cites Statistics Canada data has highlighted concerns over a 40 per cent reduction in Canada’s “naturalization rate” — the rate at which permanent residents are becoming citizens.

The release, headlined Newcomers falling out of love with Canadian citizenship generated a number of other media headlines.

Concerns over how and whether those living and working in Canada are attaining citizenship and important rights — including to vote and run for office — are of course well placed. But love of country by immigrants is not the primary problem.

Individual choices and sentiments are a relevant factor, but there are observable structural explanations. Beyond Canada’s control, not all countries permit dual citizenship. That includes major source countries China and India where many immigrants to Canada are from. It is understandable that some permanent residents prefer not to renounce the citizenship of their country of origin.

But within Canada’s control, there are troubling shifts in our overall citizenship and immigration model. Inequalities connected to its colonial nature have left growing numbers of residents without citizenship or even a pathway to it.

Annual immigration levels, for example, only represent those accepted as permanent residents and obscure the number of those admitted to Canada under less secure conditions.

This has occurred thanks to under-discussed but at times controversial shifts from permanent to temporary or multi-step migration.

These shifts can be obscured by focusing primarily on the naturalization process and the sentiments some attach to it rather than the larger settler colonial landscape of migration and immigration and its relationship to citizenship and belonging at each stage.

A group of people raise their right hands and they take an oath.
People take the citizenship oath during a ceremony at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick.

Unkept promises and unlearned lessons

In recent years, Canada has apologized for past discriminatory immigration measures and its treatment of Indigenous Peoples. And there have been recent symbolic advances recognizing First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities and Canadians’ treaty responsibilities in the citizenship oath.

However, social exclusions in modern forms related to the project of Canadian nation-building, citizenship and belonging persist. They are even intensifying in important respects.

A recent report from the Yellowhead Institute found that, despite an expressed commitment to fully implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, the Federal government has only fulfilled 13, with those providing symbolic rather than structural remedies.

This example is indicative of why many Indigenous people — themselves denied the vote for much of Canada’s history — understandably view Canadian citizenship as, at best, a “kinder, gentler form of colonialism.”

These realities also remind us that the terms and hierarchies of citizenship and societal membership in Canada shift over time. They are subject to social struggle. And apologies and symbolic advancements do not relegate mistreatment to the past.

Hierarchies of belonging persist

“White Canada” immigration policies that favoured European immigrants and largely excluded those from elsewhere were in place until the 1960s.

These entrenched institutional and demographic dominance by white settlers. Europeans immigrating to Canada in earlier periods had ready access to permanent residence and eventual citizenship, unlike many of their contemporary racialized counterparts.

Institutional racism continues to be felt in the country’s immigration system and political life as tiers of citizenship and belonging continue to be practiced in old and new forms.

Canada adopted official multiculturalism in 1971, yet two years later it entrenched migrant worker programs, primarily for racialized workers from the Global South. As with past exclusions, these workers still have to navigate programs and realities that prevent or make it difficult for them to access permanent residence and citizenship.

This is particularly the case for those working in what are deemed to be “low skill” positions. Many such workers become “permanently temporary” despite ongoing demands for their labour.

Today, Canada’s political institutions are still disproportionately composed of men of primarily European descent. And they continue to set and enforce problematic terms of citizenship and societal membership.

Today’s more difficult pathways to citizenship

Today’s immigrants — who mostly come from the Global South — face a system of complex chutes and ladders when it comes to their status in Canada. That system leads many migrants to remain stuck in an immigration purgatory, far away from pathways to permanent residence, let alone citizenship.

Even those often characterized as the perfect immigrants — international students who pay vast sums that subsidize our post-secondary education system — face limited and precarious pathways to permanent residence and citizenship.

As economist Armine Yalnizyan recently noted, today for each person granted the security of permanent residence, there are two migrant workers or international students who have uncertain or no access to permanent status.

This could prove an obstacle to attracting and retaining workers. When it comes to citizenship and societal membership, it hinders inclusion by creating an exploitable class of workers who lack full political and social rights.

In the face of these realities, many migrants, students and workers are mobilizing to address these exclusions. This includes protests in several cities demanding “status for all” to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

A group of people at a protest carrying signs that read: status for all. A woman in a red shirt speaks into a mic.
A rally for migrant rights in Christie Pits park in Toronto on Sept. 18, 2022, calling on the federal government to extend permanent status to undocumented people. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Holly McKenzie-Sutter.

To return to the later stages of the process of becoming Canadian by adopting citizenship, under the former Conservative government, citizenship became harder to get and easier to lose by design.

Unfortunately, amidst the last decade’s battles between more exclusionary Conservative and rhetorically warmer Liberal visions of citizenship, tougher and more expensive procedures than previously existed remain under both.

The costs of applying for citizenship increased significantly under the Conservatives, and have remained prohibitive for many. The Trudeau government has made some positive reforms, such as reversing changes that made it take longer to become a citizen. But it has failed to follow through on its election promises to eliminate citizenship fees.

One recent study argues that it is likely that fee hikes and tougher, often expensive language requirements negatively impact a significant number of applicants.

Even those who have managed to obtain permanent residency and fulfilled their residency requirements face further “boundaries related to management flaws, classed naturalization, and cultural biases.” That means many, particularly refugee claimants and family class immigrants, struggle with the citizenship process.

For those who can reach the end of the process, some find it distasteful to continue to have to declare an enforced oath to a colonial figure, a reminder of the structures and hierarchies discussed in this article.

Given this context, the significant decline in Canada’s naturalization rate should be less surprising, though no less alarming as Canada continues to foster and even intensify inequalities of societal membership in its citizenship and immigration regime.

Addressing campus sexual violence: New risk assessment tool can help administrators make difficult decisions

Written by Sandy Jung, MacEwan University & Jesmen Mendoza, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg. Originally published in The Conversation.

Students organize a walkout to protest sexual violence on campuses and to support survivors of sexual assault, in Kingston, Ont., at Queen’s University, in September 2021.

How do universities and colleges build safer campuses, and better respond to incidents of sexual and gender-based violence? There isn’t a simple answer to this question.

Whatever the response, any solution involves making difficult decisions based on valid tools.

We are part of a national collaborative initiative to address and prevent sexual and gender-based violence at post-secondary institutions in a survivor-centred, and trauma- and violence-informed way.

We have been co-leading a project to create an evidence-based community risk assessment tool for campus administrators and sexual violence support staff to use when formulating campus policy about sexual assault and gender-based violence, and when responding to incidents.

Informed policy needed

Culture change movements, documentaries and media reporting on sexual assault on campuses have brought to light the need to go beyond supporting victims and merely responding to incidents of sexual violence — and focus on the overall campus safety.

Such increased attention has obligated institutions to devote specialized campus resources to develop policies, increase survivor support and establish programming to address the multiple forms of systemic oppression that intersect with gender-based violence.

Students seen holding signs.
Student advocacy and culture change movements have called for more responsive and robust campus policies addressing sexual assault. Photo credit: Kendall Warner/The News & Advance via AP.

Surveillance, security responses

Campuses often respond to sexual or gender-based violence by choosing approaches involving surveillance, greater security measures and punishment — what might be called a carceral approach, reminiscent of prisons.

Some campus administrators believe that police presence and other security measures make campus a safer environment.

These mainstream approaches work only to safeguard the institution from scrutiny. They put the onus on the victim in most cases, rather than a preventive approach that keeps survivors safe.

These efforts may ultimately fail to instil trust in survivors, as reports show that victims of sexual assault, especially women of colour, are less likely to report sexual violence to police or submit a formal complaint to the university.

Decisions about victims, the accused

Neglected in these resources, however, are processes that guide decisions about those who have been accused of sexual and gender-based violence.

Most policies prematurely outline potential consequences for the accused and rush to ask how the individual should be disciplined. Instead, these policies should first ask how a decision should be made about the person who has caused harm: For example, is the person at a high risk of perpetrating further harm? What should be done about the person’s access to the campus environment and other students?

In odd contrast, the criminal justice field gives less consideration to the victim and more time and resources to the perpetrator, asking how they are evaluated, what sentence they should get — and what intervention should be applied.

There is a need to balance resources that are focused on both victims and the perpetrators.

New national framework

A Canadian social change consultancy dedicated to gender justice and equity, Possibility Seeds, collaborated with over 300 experts and advocates from across the country to outline a national framework to address and prevent sexual and gender-based violence at post-secondary institutions.

A report emerging from this work, called Courage to Act, identified the importance of a co-ordinated response to incidents of campus gender-based violence including policy responses. Our work to create an evidence-based risk assessment tool emerged from needs highlighted in this report.

Need for formal, relevant tools

It has been generally accepted by the criminal justice field that assessing risk on the basis of personal impressions — what’s known as unstructured judgements — does not yield risk assessments that are as accurate as when people use structured and validated tools.

A structured risk tool ensures that we avoid making decisions based on personal subjectivity and inaccurate beliefs.

In the end, a structured and valid tool would help ensure that fair and consistent decisions are made. This ultimately protects the rights of those involved and helps keep the whole campus community safe.

Tailored to post-secondary communities

Some may wonder: Why reinvent the wheel when the justice system already uses risk tools to make decisions about criminal offenders?

However, these tools were developed for use with justice-involved adults, tend to focus on antisocial behaviours and attitudes, and assess specific risks for partner abuse, sexual violence or general violence.

Research suggests that young adults studying in post-secondary communities are less likely to have antisocial traits (such as having serious criminal records, illicit drug dependency or poor employment records). This said, it is true that sexual or gender-based violence on campus may be perpetrated by anyone, not necessarily by students, and also that university affiliation does not guarantee pro-social or non-violent behaviour.

Students seen at a rally in support of survivors of sexual assault.
Campus sexual and gender-based violence includes a broad spectrum of harmful behaviours. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nicole Osborne.

Also, campus sexual and gender-based violence includes a broad spectrum of harmful behaviours that can’t be easily pigeon-holed into sexual violence or partner assault.

These behaviours can include coercively controlling, sexually harassing or trolling or abusing people online in ways that do not necessarily involve physical contact but can cause tremendous distress to victims.

Four factors

This risk assessment tool will be freely available in fall 2023 and is intended to be used by all support providers on campus. It is not intended for use to purely predict future behaviour, but rather, to help campus administrators make determinations regarding risk management.

The tool helps administrators and sexual violence support staff consider four factors related to:

  • the survivor/victim;
  • the post-secondary community;
  • the incident of sexual violence;
  • the respondent, or the person who has caused harm.

Safely planning with victims

In addition to the tool’s use to assess the respondent’s risk to commit further sexual or gender-based violence, the tool may help administrators and post-secondary support staff to create a safety plan with the victim.

Also, identifying a respondent’s specific risk factors can help campus administrators target the respondent’s problematic areas that likely led to their harmful behaviours. Administrators and support staff can conduct an institutional risk audit that would help evaluate where increased allocation of resources would make the most sense in order to have a positive impact on campus safety.

To build safer campuses, we can start by using a community risk assessment to make difficult decisions about a person who has caused harm, and where to allocate resources to prevent future incidents of sexual and gender-based violence.

Ruchika Gothoskar, Research Assistant with Possibility Seeds, co-authored this story.

Working more and making less: Canada needs to protect immigrant women care workers as they age

Written by Naomi Lightman, Toronto Metropolitan University & Hamid Akbary, University of Calgary. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn. Originally published in The Conversation.

Immigrant women working in the care sector do the essential work many Canadians rely on, but low wages mean many need to work past retirement age.

The pandemic has heightened Canadians’ awareness of the 3D jobs — dirty, difficult and dangerous — done by many migrant workers in our communities.

When the pandemic first struck, many of these workers were on the front line working in essential services. Engaged in low-wage work in health and child care, immigrant care workers had high rates of COVID-19 infections, while also experiencing widespread job losses and continuing financial struggles to make ends meet.

Our recent paper in the Journal of Aging and Social Policy reveals troubling realities for immigrant women care workers as they age. We found that immigrant women aged 65 and over who entered Canada through the (Live-in) Caregiver program work more but make less than other comparable immigrant women. The required live-in component was removed in 2014 and the program has since been split into two pilot programs.

These findings are crucially important given Canada’s rapidly aging population and increasing concern about senior poverty in racialized communities.

A woman wearing a blue nurses uniform plays Connect Four with an elderly man.
Jobs like personal support workers, home health aides and child-care workers tend to have low wages. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes.

Working past retirement age

In Canada, we have long known that it is disproportionately racialized immigrant women (specifically Black and Filipina women) who do challenging and devalued work as carers. We also know that jobs like personal support workers, home health aides and child-care workers are still usually associated with “women’s work” and tend to have low wages.

However, what we have not known is whether these women continue to experience these disadvantages later in life. Specifically, we have very little information about the financial challenges immigrant women care workers in Canada face as they age.

On the one hand, it is plausible that care workers are more likely than other workers to continue working past the typical retirement age because of their relatively low wages and limited savings.

On the other hand, due to the physically and emotionally demanding nature of care work, which can be detrimental to their health, care workers may be less likely to continue working past age 65 and have higher rates of eligibility for government low-income supports.

Our recent research tried to clarify the situation of immigrant care workers as they age. We examined 11 years of Statistics Canada data from 2007-2017 to compare the income sources and trajectories of immigrant women who entered Canada through three migrant entry programs.

We used Statistics Canada’s Longitudinal Immigration Database to unpack how the gendered and racialized devaluation of caring occupations disadvantages immigrant women as they age. The database is a comprehensive source of administrative data that includes information on the socio-economic status of tax-filing immigrants since their arrival in Canada.

The data show that care workers are more likely to be employed after the age of 65 than other immigrant women, but have a lower and declining total income as they age.

Furthermore, while care workers receive higher rates of government pension benefits, they tend to have lower levels of private pension savings. And the cumulative income they report shows a relative decline over time.

A woman in a nurse uniform assists an elderly woman using a walker.
Care workers are more likely to be employed after the age of 65 but have a declining total income as they age. Photo credit: Shutterstock.

Prioritizing care workers as they age

So what does this all mean? Our study underscores serious concerns about government investment in alleviating senior poverty. The conditions of low-wage care workers, before and after retirement, must be prioritized.

The package of pension supports available in Canada, which includes Old Age Security, the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Canada Pension Plan, does not offset the decline in earnings immigrant care worker women face as they age.

That means there is a need to enhance policies that address senior poverty, recognizing that immigrant care worker women are among Canada’s most vulnerable populations. These women experience intersectional disadvantages as immigrants, women and racialized minorities.

Our findings also reinforce the need for more full-time, permanent and well-paying jobs in the Canadian care sector. As of 2017, the unemployment rate of female immigrants in Canada was nearly double that of their Canadian-born counterparts. Recent research finds that the pandemic increased rates of unemployment and led to shifts to precarious work for many immigrant women in Canada.

The federal government must enhance access to and the amount of money provided through the Guaranteed Income Supplement to address senior poverty within underserved communities. Any government invested in reducing social inequalities and protecting vulnerable senior populations must consider the financial challenges immigrant care worker women face as they age and equalize their income over time with other comparable groups. And we, as the electorate, must do our part to keep governments accountable to this goal.

Ultimately, immigrant women are doing the essential jobs that most Canadians rely on. They are caring for our elderly, sick or young family members when we are in need.

It is the very least we can do to ensure that immigrant women care workers are able to age with financial security, dignity and adequate social protections.

Emergencies Act inquiry report should tackle the racist origins of national security

Written by Reem Bahdi, University of Windsor; Fahad Ahmad, Toronto Metropolitan University; Jeffrey Monaghan, Carleton University; Yasmeen Abu-Laban, University of Alberta. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld. Originally published in The Conversation.

Justice Paul Rouleau, who headed the Public Order Emergency Commission last year, tables his report on Monday about the inquiry’s findings into national security issues and the so-called Freedom Convoy.

The Public Order Emergency Commission investigated the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act in response to blockades by the so-called Freedom Convoy in Ottawa, Windsor and western Canada in February 2022.

Justice Paul Rouleau will soon release a report on the inquiry’s findings. He will no doubt focus on whether the blockades were sufficiently serious to justify emergency measures.

However, any discussions of national security demand consideration of a much broader set of questions. What is national security? Whose national security matters? What counts as a national security threat? And should national security policing powers be expanded?

These questions need to be considered in all conversations on national security policy alternatives. Yet, such sustained conversations have yet to happen.

What is national security?

In September 2022, we organized a conference in Windsor, Ont., that was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Entitled “Critical Reflections on Security, 9/11 and the Canadian Settler Colony,” the conference brought together scholars, lawyers, community activists and students.

Participants reminded us of a fundamental tenet of critical security studies: defining security is not objective. State security officials testifying before the Emergencies Act inquiry themselves acknowledged that definitions and understandings of security can vary.

Canada has a long history of invoking national security or public order to disenfranchise Indigenous peoples, take their lands and subject them to surveillance and criminalization.

Canada’s history also illustrates that “outsiders” are often viewed as threats. Those who aren’t white, settler, able-bodied, heterosexual and male risk being regarded as outsiders.

The outsider label fuelled racism against Japanese-Canadians and Chinese-Canadian communities. They were denied citizenship rights and labelled threats to the nation.

Throughout Canadian history, racialized ideas of nation and belonging have framed key components of Canadian identity. They’ve also tainted national security practices. We have not escaped this reality in the 21st century.

A demonstrator holds a sign with a caricature of an RCMP officer.
A demonstrator holds a sign with a caricature of an RCMP officer during a protest blocking access to the Port of Vancouver in November 2020 by land defenders who support sovereignty of Indigenous lands. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck.

Whose national security?

The events of Sept. 11, 2001 deepened the view held by some that Islam is incompatible with western values. Arabs and Muslims in Canada were viewed as national security threats.

Racist assumptions that Arabs and Muslims are violent, untrustworthy and barbaric have played a major role in post-9/11 security policing.

Such stereotypes have had wide-ranging consequences for racialized people. They also reinforce pre-existing social stigmas.

Our conference heard that Somali Muslims are subjected to both anti-Black racism and Islamophobia. Muslim women wearing the hijab, in particular, have become highly visible targets.

The social stigmas, in turn, contribute to tolerance for abuses in the name of national security.

The government of Canada’s actions have contributed to the dehumanization of Muslim life. Canadian officials were complicit in the abuse of hundreds of Muslim men detained without charge in Guantanamo Bay.

More recently, Canadian citizens — mostly women and children — accused of having links to ISIS were abandoned under deplorable conditions in Syria before finally being considered for repatriation. They were not even thought worthy to stand trial in Canada.

This list of examples highlight how national security labels applied to Muslims corrode rights and dignity, subjecting them to feelings of not belonging anywhere.

A surge in white supremacist violence has also sparked attacks on Muslim, trans, Black, Indigenous, Asian and other vulnerable groups.

What’s a threat?

National security agencies have been paying closer attention to far-right movements over the last few years. Some right-wing groups have even been listed as terrorist organizations.

The call to curb right-wing violence is urgent and compelling. But how should we approach it?

The possibility of further expanding national security measures was raised in testimony to the Emergencies Act commission. The commission has provided a new platform for these calls, according to what security officials see as emerging threats. Among these threats is right-wing extremism.

This partial shift of resources towards policing the far right has helped security agencies quell criticism about their own Islamophobia and racism. But can we trust police to truly address right-wing violence and white supremacy? Our answer to this question is unambiguous: No, we cannot.

Resisting security expansion

The discussions at the “Critical Reflections on Security” conference suggest that a national security policing approach has harmed racialized and minority groups, and it would be short-sighted to ignore this in any security expansion.

Maintaining order as the baseline response to violent right-wing groups does not help us meet the challenges presented by them.

Simply put, maintaining order does not address the authoritarian and racially charged sentiments that drive right-wing movements. Social and community-oriented approaches are required to address systemic racism and transform deep-seated settler colonial institutions and values.

Protesters in orange T-shirts wave a Canadian flag with red handprints of children. The Peace Tower is in the background.
Protesters wave a flag on Parliament Hill in Ottawa at a ‘Cancel Canada Day’ protest in 2021 in response to the discovery of unmarked Indigenous graves at residential schools. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle.

It’s also unrealistic to expect security agencies to transform so quickly. Their roots have been firmly grounded in Indigenous disenfranchisement and other forms of racism. Security agencies will not be redirected easily simply due to new mandates.

It’s also worth recalling that racialized and Indigenous peoples have rarely benefited from calls for greater public order or safety. At best, public safety and security have been selectively made available to these communities.

The conference provided a record of Canadian history.

It also encouraged a much-needed public conversation about Canadian settler colonialism and racism as we continue to grapple with vexing questions about public order and security.

One thing is clear. Approaches to contemporary security issues need to be informed by the dire histories of what happens under the banner of national security.

Passengers need more than apologies from airlines after holiday chaos

Written by Frédéric Dimanche, Toronto Metropolitan University & Kelley A. McClinchey, Wilfrid Laurier University. Photo credit: AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes. Originally published in The Conversation.

Flight cancellations over the holidays left travellers stranded at airports across North America amid an intense winter storm.

A snowball effect initiated in Vancouver created an avalanche of travel chaos over the holidays at a time when many had overcome their fear of travelling following the COVID-19 pandemic and thought it was worth travelling again.

A heavy winter storm first affected Canada’s second busiest airport, the Vancouver International Airport. Other storms quickly spread across the country with a disastrous impact on holiday travel. Many people were stuck in planes, trains and automobiles or were stranded in airports.

This is a stale plot line, reminiscent of the summer of 2022 when thousands of flights were disrupted, leaving customers angry and earning Canada a bad reputation. Toronto Pearson Airport became the worst airport in the world for delays and cancellations.

It’s easy to blame the weather for the airline chaos, but deeper problems caused this turmoil.

Weather can’t be the main culprit

Canadians know the risks associated with winter travelling. As smart consumers, they are aware that weather can always have an impact on travel. But shouldn’t the transportation sector across Canada be able to effectively manage weather-related crises?

The chaos felt by Canadian consumers cannot be blamed on weather alone. After all, similar signs were seen this past summer.

Most of the travel-related trouble in the summer was linked to a labour deficit that had been well identified by the sector and signalled earlier. This shortage had been ongoing long before 2020, but the pandemic exacerbated it.

Once travel resumed, the labour crisis became more visible. Government, airports and airlines should have planned with more urgency, especially since they had known about the gravity of the situation since 2018.

Following the summer chaos, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra felt confident that the trouble was behind us. The recent winter catastrophe proved otherwise.

Crew shortages

The airline chaos over the holidays can be attributed to three main problems: labour, disruption management and communication.

Labour remains a major concern for airports and airlines. In January, the CEO and president of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority acknowledged this, saying: “Labour is still very weak across the board of our partners.”

A blue and white plane with the 'Sunwing' logo written across the side in orange.
Canadian travellers were left stranded in Mexico after the airline cancelled flights over the holidays. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson.

Canadian airlines have been delaying and cancelling flights for months due to crew shortages. These staffing issues were magnified over the holiday season with Canadian airlines’ performance being ranked as among the worst in the world.

Sunwing left travellers stranded in Mexico and cancelled flights because of a lack of pilots — a problem identified months earlier that could have been dealt with. Hiring foreign pilots would have offset the pilot shortage, but Sunwing’s pilot union opposes the hiring of foreign workers.

Disruption management

The second issue is that the disruption management systems used by airlines don’t appear to be the most efficient. Disruption management systems are used to “reassign resources (like flights, aircraft and crews) and redistribute passengers to restore the schedule while minimizing costs.”

This inefficiency is expensive, both in dollars and customer satisfaction.

The chaos was caused, in part, by the airlines’ inability to adequately match the availability and flow of aircraft, crew and passengers. This is a complex management problem that can only be resolved with modern technological tools.

Not having the right tools can cripple airlines, as seen recently with Southwest Airlines. Some travel tech companies, like Amadeus, propose disruption management solutions to help airlines recover aircraft, crew and passengers during and after a crisis.

A woman stands in the middle of a wide hallway filled to the brim with suitcases.
Southwest Airlines staff sorts suitcases near the baggage carousel at Los Angeles International Airport on Dec. 27, 2022, after Southwest Airlines flights were cancelled and delayed during a winter storm. Photo credit: AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes.

Communication and passenger rights

The final and potentially most frustrating problem for consumers was the lack of communication from airlines. A key aspect of crisis management is communicating effectively and ethically with consumers.

Travellers were left stranded and powerless with little information on possible solutions from airlines. There are passenger rights in Canada, but do Canadians know their rights? And are these rights being respected by governments and airlines?

According to the 2019 Air Passenger Protection Regulations, passengers must be informed of their rights in a timely, clear and accessible way. Airlines must provide passengers with information for flight delays or cancellations, denial of boarding, and lost or damaged baggage.

As of September 2022, airlines “flying to, from and within Canada must now issue a full refund for flight cancellations and delays if passengers can’t be accommodated on a new flight within 48 hours.”

However, airlines use loopholes, invoking “safety reasons” to avoid paying fines and compensation to travellers.

Clearly, current regulations are not enough to protect travellers, and airlines are not fined by the Canadian Transportation Agency for failing to provide compensation under the legislation.

The Canadian government seems to agree with this assessment. On Jan. 24, Alghabra said the government is planning to overhaul the air passenger bill of rights this coming spring. Changes will include regulatory reform and potentially new legislation.

Industry should be better prepared

Canadians are used to hearing “I’m sorry.” But after the transportation crisis this past holiday season, apologies from some major airlines, airports and government officials are not enough. They’ve heard it before. It’s time to protect passengers from travel companies.

The federal government, airports and airlines have a joint responsibility to improve operations, manage the labour gap and address better customer protection before another blizzard can be used as an excuse.

Indeed, airlines are now asking to share responsibilities with other stakeholders such as airports, air controllers, security and screening personnel, or the Canada Border Services Agency.

The storm exposed a lack of operational preparedness and a failure to put in place effective disruption management systems. Today, passengers know that apologies from government, airports and airlines are not acceptable answers for major travel disruptions. We all deserve better.

Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss’s death should spark real conversations about the cost of Black celebrity

Written by Cheryl Thompson, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit: Donald Traill/JetBlue’s Soar with Reading Program via AP Images. Originally published in The Conversation.

There has been a public outpouring of love for the dancer and producer Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss who died this week at the age of 40.

Last week, dancer and DJ Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss died from suicide at age 40. Like many, I was incredibly shocked and saddened by the news.

As a scholar of Black entertainment history, I also reflected on the longer history of Black male entertainers dancing or telling jokes to their deaths despite cultivating a public image as “pure love and light,” which is how tWitch’s former co-producer, Ellen DeGeneres described him on her Instagram upon hearing of his death.

There have been so many tragic and unexpected deaths of young Black men in the entertainment industry that websites, such as BestOfDate, and Ranker have formed to document them.

While these sites are primarily documenting the deaths of rappers, they are also creating a narrative around Black men that values their personas more than the lives they actually lived.

A man smiles for the camera.
Actor Chadwick Boseman, star of the film ‘Black Panther,’ in Los Angeles, 2018. Photo credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello.

If there is a common thread running through the seemingly unexpected deaths of Black male celebrities, it’s that few around them were made aware of their struggles. When singer-songwriter Prince died in 2016 at 57 from an accidental overdose of fentanyl, even his closest friends did little to address his drug addiction. Similarly when Chadwick Boseman, actor and star of Black Panther died of Stage 4 colon cancer in 2020 at age 43, no one in the industry knew that he had been battling the disease. While these deaths were given a medical cause, I believe the larger issue of Black male celebrities not talking about their struggles plays an undeniable role.

When a celebrity’s image matters more to the public than their real-life challenges, it is often referred to as the parasocial relationship.

How parasocial relationships have changed

First coined in 1956 by sociologists Donald Horton and R. Richard Wohl, the “para-social interaction,” was a kind of psychological relationship experienced by how television audiences related to performers. Today, parasocial interactions apply to social media platforms. As audiences are repeatedly exposed to media personas, we develop illusions of intimacy, friendship and identification.

They’re at our fingertips and in front of our eyes every second of every day. Clinical psychologist Bethany Cook told Stylecaster that “social media allows the untouchable to become touchable.”

And the lines between reality and fiction are increasingly more blurred than when Horton and Wohl conducted their study.

In reality, the networks of intimacy that we develop with celebrities are based on impersonal forms of communication.

For example, two days before tWitch died, he posted a dance video to his Instagram with his wife, Allison. While dancing Instagram posts come off as pure fun, they are mostly a marketing strategy to increase brand awareness, not an innocent glimpse into a dancer’s “off-time.”


Today’s celebrity and performer are involved in the curation of webs of intimacy and presumed friendships which makes it difficult to see reality. For example, when a celebrity we follow is struggling with a mental health issue.

Significantly, there is a long history of Black male performers burying mental health issues until they tragically and unexpectedly die.

Black men have been dying on-and-off stages for centuries

William Henry Lane (1825–1852), also known as Master Juba, was the first Black dancer to reach international acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. Born in Providence, R.I., he is remembered not only as the originator of African American tap dance but has been hailed as “the Jackie Robinson of the American stage.”

An engraving of a man dancing with onlookers.
William Henry Lane (‘Master Juba’) dances in New York’s Five Points District as Charles Dickens and a companion watch in the background. Photo credit: Engraving from American Notes by Charles Dickens, 1842: The Penumbral Frontier: Landscape, Modernity, and the Subterranean Imagination in New York City Literature and Culture, CC BY.

By the 1840s, Lane was billed as one of the greatest dancers of his time, no small feat if you consider that throughout the 19th century (and most of the 20th), Black performers did not get regular work unless they fit themselves into the mold cast for them by white casting directors.

However, because it was the 19th century, Lane was often forced to wear the burnt-cork mask of blackface minstrelsy, as he danced. As the sole Black performer on white stages, Lane worked day and night for 11 years in Britain until he died at only 27 years old.

As cultural sociologist Michael Pickering observes in Blackface Minstrelsy in Britain, by most accounts, Lane “had quite literally danced himself to death.”

tWitch was one of the first Black dancers on So You Think You Can Dance to catapult into the mainstream. His unique combination of personality and hip hop moves made him one of the most memorable and beloved members of the show.

While the reasons tWitch took his life are still unknown, the legacy of Lane’s death, which was the result of physical and mental exhaustion lingers eerily in his passing.

It’s time to listen to the whisper

At the end of my book, Uncle: Race, Nostalgia, and the Politics of Loyalty, I write that “Uncle Tom is our collective whisper.” Meaning that when Black men are always smiling, happy, loyal and constantly performing, that state of “on-ness” comes at a cost.

A portrait of Redd Foxx.
Redd Foxx in 1966. Photo credit: John E. Reed/Coast Artist Management.

In centuries passed, working oneself to death meant that performers died suddenly like Lane or the legendary comedian Redd Foxx, who suffered a heart attack on set in 1991 after working in the industry for 56 years. The trailblazing dancer, actor and choreographer Gregory Hines, who revitalized tap dance in the 1980s, also died young at age 57 after a short battle with cancer.

Today, it is more likely that Black celebrities — especially those who make a career of entertaining primarily white audiences — suffer in silence until they die suddenly, take their own lives and/or have violent public outbursts.

The “slap heard around the world,” for instance, at the 2022 Oscars was not just about two Black male entertainers having an inappropriate altercation; it was a glimpse into Black mental health where the cost of playing the “nice guy,” as Tayo Bero argued in a piece for the Guardian, takes an often-invisible toll.

TWitch dances with Hillary Clinton in a blue suit.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, practices her dance moves with DJ Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss during a break in the taping of ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ in 2015. Photo credit: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer.

A 2015 report by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics found that only 26.4 per cent of Black and Hispanic men ages 18 to 44 who experienced daily feelings of anxiety or depression were likely to have used mental health services, compared with 45.4 per cent of non-Hispanic white men with the same feelings.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada reports similar disparities noting that between 2001 and 2014, 38.3 per cent of Black Canadians with “poor or fair self-reported” mental health used mental health services compared with 50.8 per cent of white Canadians.

Black male celebrities who are chasing white approval are self-destructing in front of our very eyes. The whispers have become non-stop noise. It’s time for celebrities with power to do more than post condolences on social media. They need to be part of the process to create sustainable structures and supports for Black men in the industry. When that happens, the parasocial relationship might be key to changing lived realities.

My hope is that Stephen ‘tWitch’ Boss’s death does not overshadow the life he lived. And that the entertainment industry finally breaks down the wall of shame that keeps too many in the closet about their mental health struggles.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health matters, you can get help here: Talk Suicide Canada: 1-833-456-4566 (phone) | 45645 (text between 4 p.m. and midnight ET)

Immigrants could be the solution to Canada’s labour shortage, but they need to be supported

Written by Rupa Banerjee, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giordano Ciampini. Originally published in The Conversation.

New Canadians take part in a virtual citizenship ceremony in December 2020. Canadians are more supportive of immigration than ever before.

Immigration is largely accepted as one of the best strategic responses to Canada’s declining birth rates, aging population and labour market shortages. In many ways, immigrants are now positioned to be the saviours of Canada’s post-pandemic recovery.

Even with steadily rising numbers and the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians are more favourable towards immigration than ever before.

Canada’s new immigration targets are unprecedented — more than 1.4 million new permanent residents will be admitted by 2025. Setting targets, however, is the easy part. More difficult is ensuring Canada is up to the task of selecting and welcoming the influx of newcomers that will be arriving over the next few years.

But if immigrants are going to be a panacea for our demographic and economic challenges, they must be able to find skills-appropriate employment and settle into communities. Selecting the right mix of newcomers is the first crucial element to consider.

Barriers for immigrant workers

Employers across Canada have reported labour shortages in a range of skill levels and sectors, including accommodation, food services, skilled trades and health care.

The current economic immigrant selection system, Express Entry, prioritizes “high-skilled” immigrants — those with post-secondary education — in fields like information technology and finance. However, many of these individuals face significant underemployment, with foreign credentials discounted and the requirement to have Canadian experience preventing many from finding skills-appropriate work.

The new immigration plan will expand the eligible skill levels and ease access to permanent resident status for essential workers who were previously excluded from the selection system, like transport truck drivers, nurse assistants and heavy equipment operators.

A man speaks from behind a 'Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada' branded podium. A Canadian flag stands in the background.
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Sean Fraser makes an announcement in Ottawa in Oct. 2022. The federal government is planning a massive increase in the number of immigrants entering Canada per year, with a target of 500,000 by 2025. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle.

Although this is a positive development, it is an open question whether so-called “lower-skilled” newcomers — those without post-secondary education — will find work and stay in their intended occupations. Canada’s focus on high-skilled immigration thus far has been based on research that shows that higher-skilled newcomers have better labour market outcomes in the long term than those with lower skills.

In general, less educated workers tend to be more susceptible to unemployment and poverty.

However, given the rampant devaluation of foreign credentials and the oversupply of high-skilled workers, it is possible that lower-skilled immigrants in essential sectors will actually face less relative labour market disparity than their high-skilled counterparts.

Changes to Express Entry

Another significant change is the introduction of targeted invitations within Express Entry. Currently, Express Entry applicants are evaluated by a comprehensive ranking system. Candidates that meet a certain cutoff score are invited to apply in biweekly draws.

Applicants know their chance of being invited based on their ranking system score. However, with targeted invitations, it will be up to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to determine which characteristics are valued in each draw. This adds significant uncertainty for applicants who may be overlooked even with a high ranking system score.

Government officials have stated that targeted draws will allow for the prioritization of high demand occupations. While occupation-specific admission has the advantage of potentially addressing talent shortages in certain fields, it may also result in an oversupply of workers in some areas.

If labour demand shifts due to economic downturn, these workers may be left out in the cold, as was the case for tech workers after the dot-com bubble burst in the early 2000s.

Investing in supports

For the immigration plan to be successful, the selection system is just one side of the equation. The government must also invest in the infrastructure needed to accommodate the population growth, including affordable housingaccess to health care and schooling supports.

A 'For Sale' sign in front of a house.
Access to affordable housing is one of the biggest barriers newcomers are facing in Canada. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Evan Buhler.

Labour market integration policies and practices are equally important to ensure that immigrants’ skills are recognized and properly utilized. For example, immigrants trained in regulated occupations, like nursing, struggle to enter their professions, even though many of these fields have severe labour shortages.

Although several provinces now have fairness commissioners whose mandate is to enhance transparency in occupational licensing processes, significant barriers remain.

The experience is not much better for immigrants seeking employment in unregulated fields. Currently, the burden of integration is placed disproportionately on individual immigrants themselves. However, all stakeholders — including policymakers, occupational regulatory bodies, educational institutions and employers — should play a role in this process.

Everyone has a role to play

Settlement services and occupationally relevant language training must be made more accessible for newcomers with lower levels of education, since official language fluency is among the most important determinants of success and lower-skilled immigrants tend to be less fluent.

It is also more crucial than ever before to implement active labour market policies (ALMPs) that prioritize upskilling, reskilling and on-the-job training for essential workers.

Lastly, employer engagement is vital. Although Canadian employers demand more immigration, they tend not to hire permanent immigrants into high quality positions. Instead, they often prefer to recruit temporary foreign workers into low wage, precarious roles.

This is short sighted, particularly in a labour shortage, since decent working conditions and fair treatment improve productivity and competitiveness. Employers should work with immigrant-serving organizations, like the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, to better understand foreign qualifications and experience so they can leverage the skills of immigrant workers more effectively.

Finally, it is important for managers and other decision-makers to recognize unconscious bias and improve their own intercultural competence. Without the active participation of employers, even the most enlightened selection policies will fall flat. Canadians currently have a positive view of immigration, and we are seen as a global leader, but there is no guarantee that this will remain if immigrant integration isn’t adequately supported.

Delgamuukw 25 years on: How Canada has undermined the landmark decision on Indigenous land rights

Written by Shiri Pasternak, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck. Originally published in The Conversation.

A woman takes part in a demonstration in Vancouver against the construction of a natural gas pipeline through traditional Wet’suwet’en territories, in February 2020.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada’s Delgamuukw case on Aboriginal title. In 1997, the Wet’suwet’en and Gitxsan Nations brought the watershed case before the Supreme Court, yet a countrywide battle remains over implementation of the Delgamuukw decision involving all First nations.

The Nations sought a declaration of ownership and jurisdiction over their lands. The Supreme Court agreed that Indigenous Peoples held a unique property right to their land that was held as a collective interest by a nation.

The court’s ruling addressed a number of issues including the extinguishment of Aboriginal title and the use of oral history in establishing land rights.

The case presented First Nations with new possibilities to seek legal action against the government for control over Indigenous territories.

Aboriginal title and the Crown

First Nation leaders aimed to reform the comprehensive land claims policy. The policy provides the only negotiating framework for Indigenous Peoples to resolve their outstanding territorial land claims with the Crown.

As a result of the Delgamuukw decision, Indigenous leaders argued the policy no longer aligned with Canadian law because it required Indigenous people to cede their title to the Crown.

If Delgamuukw recognized the unique proprietary rights of Indigenous Peoples to their land, why should they be forced to surrender those rights through a federal policy?

Two people wearing Indigenous clothing hug.
Members of the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en First Nations hug to celebrate the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to recognize Indigenous land rights in 1997. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody.

Before Delgamuukw, the concept of Aboriginal title as a property right was subject to a kind of plausible deniability.

The 1973 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Calder v. British Columbia was the first to wobble that deniability. The court found that the creation of British Columbia did not automatically extinguish “Indian title.” The decision led then-prime minister, Pierre Trudeau to reportedly observe: “Maybe you have more rights than we thought you did.”

The case led to the creation of the comprehensive claims policy. What soon became clear, though, was that the new claims policy rested on the old colonial model of sovereignty established by the British: it required Indigenous Peoples to surrender and release their title rights to the Crown. It was, in essence, a policy that extinguished Indigenous land rights.

While some nations optimistically entered negotiations, others turned to the courts, especially after the patriation of Aboriginal rights into the constitution in 1982.

Government indifference

By the time Delgamuukw reached the courts, the struggle was long underway to reform the comprehensive claims policy. When the Liberals came to power under Jean Chrétien in 1993, the party’s Red Book committed to an independent claims commission to address the government’s conflict of interest in the resolution of claims.

A man siting in front of a Canadian flag hold up a red book.
Jean Chrétien holds a copy of the Liberal Red Book during the 1993 election campaign. Photo credit: CP PICTURE ARCHIVE/Tom Hanson.

But in 1996, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) national chief, Ovide Mercredi, publicly burned the Red Book outside a Liberal convention, disgusted with the government’s failure to fulfil its promises.

Government indifference persisted. But Delgamuukw increased pressure across the country.

One AFN resolution in 1998, for example, found in archived records created by policy researcher Peter Di Gangi, called for the “complete rejection of the concept of extinguishment, and any equivalent concept, such as ‘surrender and grant back’ as the premise for settling new treaties.”

In 1998, Canada set up discussions with the AFN to undertake a Delgamuukw national review process.

But within a couple of years, documents I received as part of a Freedom of Information request from B.C.’s Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation show that some First Nations viewed the process as a “smokescreen for the continued refusal to recognize Aboriginal title.”

The AFN created the Delgamuukw Implementation Strategic Committee (DISC) in 1998 to prepare legal briefs and recommendations for the Department of Indian Affairs to establish new mandates to review and revise the land claims policy in light of the legal decision.

The DISC made several key recommendations to Ottawa in May 2000. They included establishing a panel of experts to compare the comprehensive land claims policy to the principles contained in Delgamuukw.

However, Canadian officials instead said that “there was no Cabinet mandate to consider changes to the policy.” Others were informed that treaty negotiations are not “rights” based.

Land claims to #LandBack

The struggle over the land claims policy following Delgamuukw is a crucial chapter in the #LandBack movement. And it forecast the possibilities for land reclamation and decolonization moving forward.

Grassroots movements brought the issue back to national attention as part of the Idle No More movement. In its wake, two senior oversight committees (SOC) were established in 2013 with First Nation representation. One on treaties and one on comprehensive claims.

People wearing winter clothing carry signs that read: Idle No More.
An ‘Idle No More’ gathering on Parliament Hill in January 2013. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick.

Sidelining these efforts, the then-Harper government commissioned a special report in 2015 to independently review the land claims policy. The report led to a new “results-based” approach to negotiations. But that approach maintained the same frameworks that extinguished Aboriginal title.

While First Nation leaders were pushing for fundamental reform, the government instead created off-ramps into sectoral, incremental and revenue-sharing agreements. The new generation of policies over land and resources, such as forestry and fishing specific tables, would avoid discussion of title altogether.

The Trudeau government would continue this tradition. In 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to develop a Recognition and Implementation of Indigenous Rights Framework. The new framework promised to “replace policies like the Comprehensive Land Claims Policy and the Inherent Right to Self-Government Policy.” Trudeau promised, instead, a co-development approach to negotiations and mandates.

But the proposed framework was never tabled. Instead, the federal government focused its energy on establishing Recognition of Indigenous Rights and Self-Determination discussion tables.

The mandates of these over 70 tables have never been made public. Whether and how Aboriginal title is recognized remains a mystery.

While extinguishment clauses no longer appear in the comprehensive land claim policy’s wording, it still requires the exchange of title lands for private property. The new policy off-ramps set aside any acknowledgment of title as the basis for negotiations.

Indigenous groups have made the best out of an impossible situation. But the #LandBack movement has shown both the possibilities and the dangers of working outside federal land claims frameworks.

Many nations have asserted Indigenous law on the ground by issuing declarations and exercising their jurisdiction to govern their territories and resources. They put the onus of “land claims” back on Canada to prove.

But this strategy for title recognition has also proved dangerous. For the Wet’suwet’en hereditary leadership, who brought the Delgamuukw case to court, asserting their rights in a coveted energy corridor has provoked one of the most violent colonial conflicts in Canadian history.

That violence reflects many things, but foremost among them: Canada’s refusal to align land claims policies with its own law.

The pandemic created challenges and opportunities for Canadian immigration

Written by Ashika Niraula, Toronto Metropolitan University, and Rica Agnes Castaneda, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit Shutterstock. Originally published in The Conversation.

The pandemic posed serious challenges to Canada’s immigration system, but it also provides an opportunity to start creating a system that is fairer for all.

Canada has long relied on strong immigration to fulfil the country’s demographic needs, expand its economy and support regional development.

In 2021, the country surpassed its ambitious immigration target, admitting more than 405,000 permanent residents amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That was mainly achieved through two temporary measures: the TR (Temporary Resident) to PR (Permanent Resident) pathway and amendments to the Express Entry program.

These measures were part of a two-step immigration selection approach that facilitated transitions from temporary to permanent status for thousands of temporary migrants already in Canada. Two-step immigration refers to the process by which temporary migrant workers can apply to become permanent residents.

Now, the question is: how did these temporary programs impact the lives of temporary work permit-holders and international graduates? And what lessons can be learned from these programs as Canada aims to welcome 500,000 immigrants a year by 2025?

Flexibility and compassion

A strong economic rationale for increased immigration and greater flexibility for international students has resulted in Canada becoming an attractive study destination.

Our ongoing study on skilled migrants and international students’ migration-related decision-making has found that they appreciated the nimbler and more adaptable two-step immigration approach taken by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) since the onset of the pandemic.

Immigrant-friendly policy changes during the pandemic — compared to countries like Australia and the United States — have given Canada an edge in the race to attract skilled migrants.

A woman wearing a face mask carries a large yellow sign with black lettering that reads: Full and permanent immigration status for all.
Relatively open immigration policies have made Canada an attractive destination, but the government must do more to ensure fairness and efficiency in the immigration system. Photo credit Tijana Martin/THE CANADIAN PRESS.

Perpetuating a dubious promise

But despite its positive attributes, our findings show that two-step immigration often creates unrealistic expectations among many international students and skilled temporary foreign workers. It perpetuates the idea that everyone with temporary residence in Canada could receive permanent residence.

Many international students, drawn by Canada’s immigrant-friendly reputation and the perceived ease of obtaining permanent residence, spend huge amounts of money to come here. That includes paying thousands of dollars per year on tuition, housing and other expenses.

The TR to PR pathway created a sense of relief for many immigrants and international students. Many became eligible to apply for permanent residence thanks to its relatively lenient language and work requirements.

However, it also caused frustration. Potential applicants lacked clear information about the application process. Many potential applicants struggled to obtain the required documents like language test results on time. A rush to book appointments caused testing centre websites to crash.

Furthermore, the requirement of one year of full-time work experience for health care and other essential workers, along with the high application fees, might have resulted in a low number of applications.

Issues continue after settling in

Immigrants continue to face challenges even after they attain permanent residence. Finding affordable housing in many cities is a growing challenge for Canadians, newly landed immigrants and international students alike.

A housing crisis has placed newcomers at even more of a disadvantage. Sub-par living conditions and soaring rental costs have left many struggling to find decent accommodation.

Mental health is another issue that needs to be addressed. Many international students who took part in our study spoke about feeling left out in their institutions, especially during the pandemic.

While many Canadian students were able to go home to their families during the switch to virtual classes, international students were often left even more isolated. In addition, border closures and travel restrictions meant many migrants had not been home or seen their families in more than two years.

Ethical immigration policies

As Canada increases immigration over the next few years, there is a need to embrace policies and programs that fulfil immigration targets in an ethical way. Future transition programs could be better designed, eliminating a limited application time frame and quota system.

Men wearing face masks and Sikh turbans hold signs that read: we are all essential, permanent residence for all.
People take part in a demonstration calling for permanent residence status for all migrant workers and asylum seekers. Photo credit Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS.

IRCC is currently struggling with staggering backlogs of more than two million applicants. The department needs to improve processing times based on the urgency of the applications it receives.

IRCC must also be transparent. It needs to disclose information about what types of applications they would prioritize and publish a timetable for Express Entry draws indicating which immigration programs they would focus on in upcoming rounds of invitations. That would provide potential applicants ample time to prepare, as well as reduce wait-induced anxieties.

The transition measures introduced during the pandemic provided greater certainty for international students, essential workers and skilled foreign workers. However, applicants in other schemes, low-skilled immigrants, those applying from abroad and those with undocumented status still face significant challenges and uncertainty.

Post-grad work

Studying in a Canadian educational institution allows many international students to be eligible for a post-graduation work permit. However, there is no guarantee they will find employment that allows them to be eligible for permanent residence.

Canada must view international students as future highly skilled members of the workforce and not just as “cash cows.”

More labour market integration programs should be set up to connect international graduates with employers in their field or study. There is a need for a guaranteed pathway to permanent residence to better secure international graduates’ futures.

Institutional changes are necessary to reach the ambitious immigration targets. Sometimes it boils down to communication and getting timely information across to those who need it most. We have seen the government step up its efforts in processing applications, but greater transparency is still needed.

Educational institutions must assume a bigger role in supporting international students by offering advice and services around settling in Canada.

Achieving Canada’s ambitious immigration targets is one thing, but how it is done and at what expense is another. These ambitions should speak to the future Canada we seek: ambitious, diverse, fair and compassionate.

Remembrance Day: Trudeau’s apology to Black servicemen needs to be followed with action

Written by Hyacinth Simpson, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Riley Smith. Originally published in The Conversation. 

Soldiers salute during the national apology to the No. 2 Construction Battalion in Truro, N.S. on July 9, 2022.

While it’s true that actions do speak louder than words, words do matter — especially when they’re spoken with honesty and sincerity and are the precursor to meaningful action.

This was the prevailing sentiment within Black communities in Canada following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apology in July 2022 to the descendants of the Black men who served with the No. 2 Construction Battalion during the First World War.

The No. 2 Battalion sailed for Europe from Halifax in March 1917. The No. 2 totalled 614 men, far fewer than the roughly 1,000 that usually make up a battalion.

It was the only battalion-sized segregated unit in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) and it existed because commanding officers routinely and callously rejected Black men who wanted to fight for the country.

As letters, memos and other military records archived from the war years indicate, commanding officers and white recruits felt that the conflict was a white man’s war. Anti-Black racism also led many to believe that Black men were not fighting material.

In one instance, a major-general who served as Canada’s Chief of the General Staff confidently declared that in the trenches “the civilized negro” was “not likely to make a good fighter.”

Those attitudes prevailed even after surviving members of the battalion returned to Canada. Historical records reveal that the men did not even receive the public expressions of thanks extended to other returnees.

An elderly man in military uniform holds a black and white photo of a younger man also in uniform
Peter Richards holds a picture of battalion member Percy James Richards during the national apology to the No. 2 Construction Battalion in Truro, N.S. on July 9, 2022. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Riley Smith.

A first step

Although there are those who have criticized Trudeau for “weaken[ing]the currency of national apologies by issuing so many,” many Black Canadians were glad that he gave it.

His apology did not shy away from naming racism and anti-Black hate as the reason for the horrific treatment of the No. 2 men. It acknowledged that racism and anti-Black hate are still a problem in the Canadian military and elsewhere.

The apology directly linked the anti-Black racism experienced by the men of the No. 2 Construction Battalion to the widespread systemic racism in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) today. Trudeau committed his government and the military to effecting “meaningful change, where the dignity of all service members in the Canadian Armed Forces is upheld. Where everyone is welcome; where everyone can rise through the ranks; where everyone has opportunities to distinguish themselves.”

Exactly how these outcomes will be achieved remains to be seen. In 2016, a class-action claim filed on behalf of Black and other racialized personnel detailed the trauma and career consequences many have experienced due to unchecked racism in the CAF, including being silenced when they step forward with complaints and having their careers cut short.

At the apology ceremony, Defence Minister Anita Anand said she’s “committed to eliminating systemic racism so that the discrimination faced by the Number 2 Construction Battalion and those who followed never happens again.” She added that the Department of Defense must “begin working on [the National Apology Advisory Committee’s] recommendations now.”

“Now” is the operative word, and meaningful change will depend on the government and Armed Forces following through with that promise.

A white man in a dark suit shakes hands with an elderly black man wearing a shirt and tie and military cap.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with a descendant during the national apology to the No. 2 Construction Battalion in Truro, N.S. on July 9, 2022. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Riley Smith.

A path forward

Of course, the fact that the apology was made in 2022 is an indication that federal apologies like this one are not all about altruism and moral conscience but are in large part the result of pressure (sometimes decades-long) from communities.

So the point is not lost on some observers that the intent to apologize, announced on March 28, 2021, came in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed.

Despite sneers against critical race theory from certain political factions and the constant drumbeat against political correctness and being “woke,” there has been a noticeable shift toward a better understanding of anti-Black racism and the various insidious and overt forms that it takes.

This is our zeitgeist. There’s a sense within Black communities that Black people’s moment, though it’s not here quite yet, is closer on the horizon and the prime minister’s apology has aligned with the times.

But things cannot start and end with the apology. If the prime minister and his government are truly committed to meaningful change, then Black communities need to see words followed up by action.

The government and military need to respond seriously to the key recommendations put forward by the National Apology Advisory Committee that require post-apology action. They must also work with Black communities and the CAF to implement initiatives that bring about the changes that Black people themselves would like to see.

A series of small green flags with an emblem, names and No.2 Construction Battalion written on them.
Flags on display at the national apology to the No. 2 Construction Battalion. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Riley Smith.

At the July apology ceremony, it was announced that the venue in Truro, N.S., where the event took place — and where the No. 2 performed training exercises — would be renamed in honour of the battalion.

But post-apology actions need to go beyond simply honoring and commemorating. They need to be truly reparative.

Justice Minister David Lametti recently announced that the government will provide funding for a Black Legal Action Centre project that “addresses the over-representation of individuals from Black communities in the criminal justice system in Toronto.”

A day earlier, the Toronto International Film Festival announced its decision to rename its largest cinema after civil rights activist Viola Desmond and also pledged to “raise $2 million over the next five years to provide support to Black women creators [and] develop programming for Black audiences.”

Both provide good reparative models. They aim to simultaneously educate and redress. Whether post-apology actions are targeted exclusively at the descendants of the No. 2 Battalion and Black men who served in the First World War or all personnel who have experienced racism, their effectiveness should be measured by how well they correct misleading narratives about Black military service in Canada.

They should also examine how well the related funding and initiatives ameliorate the anti-Black racism experienced by target groups.