FIFA Women’s World Cup successes reflect gender gap differences between countries

Written by Deborah de Lange, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit AP Photo/Abbie Parr. Originally published in The Conversation.

By examining the FIFA Women’s World Cup performances, we can gain insights into the efforts countries are making to address gender inequality beyond sports.

The recent FIFA Women’s World Cup was nothing short of exhilarating, with the final match between Spain’s victorious La Roja team versus England’s Lionesses leaving fans on the edge of their seats.

record-breaking two million fans attended the games in Australia and New Zealand, serving as a testament to the heights women can reach with the right opportunities and support.

But this year’s Women’s World Cup also signified a broader shift beyond the boundaries of the playing field. The games were accompanied by cries for equal treatment of women in sports and far beyond.

By examining the performances of countries that participated in the Women’s World Cup, we can gain insights into the efforts countries are making to address gender inequality beyond sports.

Gender equality policies

Countries ranking highest in the Women’s World Cup, such as Sweden, England, Spain and Australia, have devised policies and made investments in women and girls that go beyond women’s sports.

Scandinavian countries are known for their improved conditions for women, such as more equal sharing of unpaid domestic work, although the problem is still not solved. Sweden has a National Gender Equality Policy that also includes a statement that men’s violence against women must stop.

Ensuring that access to education translates to workforce opportunities, political power-sharing and equal economic benefits is also critical. England requires employers with 250 employees or more to report on their gender pay gap — an important policy that supports economic parity.

Spain has been praised for its feminist policies facilitating access to sexual and reproductive rights. Spain’s Equality Law includes paternity leave, gender-balanced political representation, and equality plans to eliminate gender discrimination are required by all public and private organizations with more than 250 employees.

Australia also has a National Strategy to Achieve Gender Equality, including a Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce.

Research has recommended many of the same policies these countries have embarked upon for mainstreaming gender equality elsewhere around the world.

Sustainable development

The countries that excelled in the Women’s World Cup were also those that rank higher in sustainable development. This link between higher sports achievement and sustainable development makes sense, since recent research has connected higher UN Human Development Index rankings with achievement in Olympic sports and vice versa.

The Human Development Index measures things like life expectancy, education and gross national income per capita.

Women’s soccer scores appear to be even more strongly related to another type of development index — the Planetary pressures-adjusted Human Development Index. This index takes into account the human impact of activities, like the amount of carbon dioxide emissions per person, on the planet.

A graph entitled Planetary Pressures-Adjusted HDI vs Total Soccer Points
Several Women’s World Cup finalists are seen in the top-right region of this graph, illustrating that a lower environmental footprint is associated with higher team success. Photo credit: Deborah de Lange, CC BY-ND

My analysis found that a lower environmental footprint was associated with higher team success. This implies that our environmental activities affect women’s capabilities to succeed — at least when national soccer scores are used as outcomes.

Gender development

My analysis found that women’s soccer scores were also related to the Gender Development Index, which differs from the Human Development Index.

The Gender Development Index measures inequality between males and females across three measures: life expectancy, education and earned income. Since men and women live under different circumstances, women’s issues must be specifically paid attention to. The cries for pay equity in women’s soccer attest to this.

A graph entitled Gender Development Index vs Total Soccer Points
A higher Gender Development Index is associated with women’s soccer team success. Photo credit: Deborah de Lange, CC BY-ND

My analysis found that a higher Gender Development Index was associated with women’s soccer team success. Countries that had higher Gender Development Index scores were more likely to have higher scores in soccer.

Women are half the population

The world needs to be reminded that women comprise roughly 50 per cent of the world’s population. Countries with more women tend to do better on soccer scores.

Developing the largest possible talent pool for women’s sports would benefit from increasing numbers and the quality of those numbers. Give every girl a better chance from the beginning. Cutting down the available talent pool will not lead to positive outcomes.

A graph entitled Distribution of Percentage Female Population by Number of Countries
The gender ratio variation across countries competing in women’s soccer. Countries with a higher percentage of women do better on the Planetary pressures-adjusted Human Development Index, the Gender Development Index and in the Women’s World Cup. Photo credit: Deborah de Lange, CC BY-ND

Unfortunately, there is still evidence of sex-selective abortions and discrimination against girls in many countries. This not only hurts the soccer scores of these countries, according to my analysis, but also extends to other areas, like government and politics.

For example, autocracies like Russia — governments where absolute power is held by one person — often rely on the consolidation of male power to the detriment of women. Democracies, on the other hand, hinge on human rights, which include women’s rights. In fact, the top-ranking women’s soccer teams all come from democracies.

Continuing the fight

The story of women’s soccer is one of perseverance. Although the first international soccer match between Scotland and England was in 1881, a disheartening turn of events unfolded in 1921 when the English Football Association banned women from playing. This held back women in soccer for 50 years.

It has been an uphill battle for women since then. There has been a long history of women being banned from many types of activities and realms, all of which has damaged women’s development globally.

History tells us that we must be forever vigilant and continue to fight for women’s rights and equality. In fact, we still have a long way to go, especially considering the way the pandemic set women back.

Improving women’s circumstances requires a variety of interventions. These include enforcing equal pay and employment opportunities through legislation and changing tax laws and benefits to reinforce women as equal household partners.

Adding a “women in sports inequality” variable to the Gender Development Index may enhance our ability to measure the impacts of these changes for the progress we so desperately need to make.

Trump indicted in Georgia: Why do his supporters remain loyal?

Written by Ron Stagg, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig. Originally published in The Conversation

Those who support Donald Trump unconditionally have not wavered. Their support encompasses numerous groups and reasons, but first and foremost, they believe Trump gives them what they want.

People around the world — including many Americans — cannot understand why a sizeable portion of the United States population continues to support Donald Trump, despite an ever-increasing list of charges against him, including the latest indictments in Georgia.

Before the newest charges were announced, Trump was running neck and neck against President Joe Biden in a hypothetical rematch. It seems unlikely the Georgia indictments, pertaining to alleged attempts to interfere with the 2020 presidential election results, will erode the former president’s support.

This shocks people because strong backing of a man who lies, cheats and threatens the U.S. Constitution has no precedent in national politics. However, there is a precedent in state politics which almost reached the presidential level, and some comparable situations in other countries.

You can always get what you want?

Those who support Trump unconditionally have not varied much since the last election. This support encompasses numerous groups with numerous reasons, but, for most, there is one overriding concern. They believe that he will get them results on the issues that they feel are the most important in the country.

Evangelical Christians who support him do so because he appointed conservative justices, leading to — among other outcomes — the overturning of Roe v. Wade. His extra-marital affairs pale in comparison to this long-term goal of the Christian right.

Some disenchanted Democratic voters have joined the Trump bandwagon. They include blue-collar workers and small business people who see jobs being sent overseas, as well as some Latino voters who regard Trump as acting in concert with their Catholic morality by appointing justices who are more conservative. They also like his opposition to illegal immigration.

The tens of thousands of potential immigrants struggling to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border frighten those worried that they will lose the non-skilled jobs still remaining in the U.S., and those in rural areas who see the values of what they consider traditional white America under threat.

For all of these supporters, getting what they want is more important than worrying about Trump’s marital indiscretions, purloined government documents or whether he tried to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election or encouraged the storming of the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021.

A blond man in a blue suit walks onto a stage as people smile and waves signs supporting him in the audience.
Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally in July 2023 in Erie, Pa. Photo credit: AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki.

Lies become the truth

Of course, there is more to Trump’s appeal than simply promising to Make America Great Again. He is a true demagogue who repeats his simple message over and over again, often loudly and with great emphasis. He repeatedly and relentlessly demeans his detractors and lies about the 2020 election.

A black and white photo shows a thin dark-haired man in a Nazi uniform speaking into a microphone.
In this 1938 photo, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels speaks to party members in Berlin. Photo credit: AP Photo.

A quote attributed to Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, translates roughly as: “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth.”

Trump uses this technique very effectively with his supporters, including those on the far-right fringe, who respond well to his implied message to “make America white again.” A substantial portion of the Republican Party reinforces Trump’s lies by either agreeing with his claims of election fraud, or being careful not to comment on them or to criticize Trump.

The effect of social media in Trump’s allure shouldn’t be dismissed. There you will find “proof” of Trump’s claims — plots by the “Deep State” and by Democratic justice officials to persecute the winner of the 2020 election. These allegations are highly effective with citizens who have turned away from mainstream media because of its criticism of the man who is working for them.

A dark-haired man in a suit and tie gestures as he makes a speech in a black-and-white photo.
In this 1934 photo, Sen. Huey P. Long addresses students at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, a year before he was assassinated. Photo credit: AP Photo.

While there is no other presidential candidate who has used this demagoguery and appeal to prejudice so brazenly, there is a partial parallel in Huey Long, governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 and a U.S. senator from 1932 to 1935.

A supporter of the poor, a harsh critic of banks and a believer in authoritarian government, he was famous for his rousing speeches. A controversial figure, he was dogged by accusations of political corruption but nonetheless loved by many. He was planning to run for president but was assassinated in 1935.

Trump’s Brazilian doppelganger

For a modern parallel, one must look outside the United States.

The most obvious parallel is in Brazil, where strongman Jair Bolsonaro ruled from 2018 to 2023. He is a man Trump admires, claiming that Bolsonaro “fights hard for, and loves, the people of Brazil — just like I do for the people of the United States.”

A man holds up a yellow soccer jersey with a green No. 10 while another man smiles in an armchair beside him.
Jair Bolsonaro presents Donald Trump with a Brazilian national team soccer jersey in the Oval Office of the White House in March 2019. Photo credit: AP Photo/Evan Vucci.

Bolsonaro believed in cutting taxes, defending “family values” and was opposed to gun control and immigration from places like Haiti and the Middle East. Considered racist, sexist and homophobic by some, his fiery speeches often incited violence, particularly against political opponents, criminals and “reds.”

He dismissed COVID-19 as a fantasy, resulting in Brazil having one of the highest rates of infection in the world. Defeated in 2022, he did not acknowledge the defeat, but said that he would abide by the country’s constitution.

He left the country rather than acknowledge his defeat, but his supporters stormed the Supreme Court, the congress building and the presidential palace to try to overturn the election. Unlike Trump, he’s been barred from running for office until 2030 because of his refusal to accept his defeat, and prosecuted for election fraud.

The coming months will reveal whether the charges against Trump will erode his support or instead encourage his supporters to continue donating millions of dollars to support his election bid and his legal fees. So far, those supporters are showing no signs of turning against him.

Toronto Caribbean Carnival should bring attention to anti-Black racism affecting communities

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

A dancer with Tribal Carnival is helped into her costume ahead of the King and Queen Show, part of Toronto Caribbean Carnival, on Aug. 3, 2023.

Every summer Toronto plays host to revellers and spectators, visitors and locals, for one of the biggest events of the season: the Toronto Caribbean Carnival (TCC). Last year’s carnival brought almost two million people and just under half a billion dollars to the city, and similar if not greater numbers are expected this year.

Under the theme of “Diversity and Culture Live Here,” the Festival Management Committee that oversees carnival events is encouraging everyone to join in the fun. Many see TCC activities, especially the culminating Grand Parade, as an opportunity to go full throttle with the bacchanal. And carnival is about play and pleasure and partying.

But beyond the fun and sparkly costumes are some real problems around the exploitation of the culture of a community that usually doesn’t receive positive play in the media and elsewhere at other times of the year.

Heavy commercialization of the TCC also results in a significant amount of money coming into the city with not much of it bringing any benefit to Caribbean communities.

A carnival dancer in a large green costume.
Tribal Carnival’s front Princess, Caneisha Edwards, takes part in the King and Queen Show, part of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, on Aug. 3, 2023. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young.

Carnivals and protest

In the post George Floyd era, it is even more important that these issues are acknowledged and tackled head on. One would hope, for example, that event organizers would consider explicitly framing at least some of the main events through the lens of what the world learned about anti-Black racism from the Black Lives Matter protests.

On the official TCC website, organizers ask for donations so that the “community and festival” can “continue to celebrate, raise awareness and to resist discrimination and oppression through our original music, masquerade performances, culinary experiences, and other expressions of our Caribbean culture.”

This suggests they understand the TCC can amplify and build on conversations and actions initiated during the protests. Perhaps, too, that phrasing on the website could mean an openness to embracing social critique and protest, which are hallmarks of Caribbean carnivals in other locations, such as in Trinidad and Tobago.

Carnival celebrations born out of resistance to, and which mark emancipation from, chattel slavery have long been part of the cultural experience of Caribbean peoples. Carnival traditions in the Caribbean have also long found a balance between creating a spectacle and being socially responsive, between being celebratory while also unafraid of challenging the status quo.

 A woman in a large multicolored costume on a stage.
A participant parades a costume during the King and Queen Show, part of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, on Aug. 3, 2023. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young.

If the carnival’s organizers used its visibility to bring attention to structural and institutional anti-Black racism affecting communities, it would more fully embrace that Caribbean tradition.

So far, though, there’s not much evidence of such explicit framing. It would be a seriously missed opportunity if the 2023 festivities came to an end without engaging with the ways the community is affected by anti-Black racism.

Raising awareness

This 56th year of the TCC is kicking off on the 10th anniversary of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. This is only the second year, too, that the TCC’s main events overlap with Emancipation Day.

Emancipation Day, observed on August 1, was made official in Canada in March 2021 in the wake of the BLM protests. The day offers Canadians an occasion to learn about Canada’s history of enslaving Black and Indigenous Peoples and better understand how racism continues to impact communities today.

TCC dates also coincide with Simcoe Day, which is observed in remembrance of the 1793 anti-slavery act.

So, if there was ever a time for the TCC to lean into its social commentary and protest roots, that time is now.

A woman at a demonstration carrying a Black Lives Matter flag.
People attend the #BLM Turns 10 People’s Justice Festival on July 15, 2023 in Los Angeles. The Black Lives Matter movement was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of the man who fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida. Photo credit: AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes.

As someone who belongs to the Caribbean diaspora in Toronto, something I would like to see happen with the TCC is more overt critical engagement on the part of organizers, mas bands, masqueraders and performers with anti-Black racism and other types of social injustice and inequity in Canada.

For masqueraders, that could mean choosing to play mas in ways that are more reminiscent of what people in the Caribbean call ‘ole mas.’ Bands could facilitate this socially- and politically-engaged mas by creating appropriate costumes and play scenarios for their band members.

Organizers could program events that promote greater awareness about the history of Caribbean carnivals. These could be public lectures, workshops and exhibits that take advantage of the reach and accessibility of virtual forums. Organizers could encourage greater engagement by artists and content producers with social events and topics, especially ones that concern Black and Caribbean Canadian communities.

They could also be more proactive about how corporate sponsorships and the growing commercialization of TCC events can be harnessed to benefit Caribbean and Black communities in Toronto.

The spotlight this summer on a post-pandemic, post-BLM iteration of the TCC could also help reignite productive public discussion about the policing of Black communities in Toronto.

The TCC’s history with the police has not always been comfortable. Toronto’s police force has repeatedly demonstrated over the years that it makes a problematic association between large gatherings of Black and other people of colour and public acts of violence.

Efforts have been made in recent years to address this, especially at the Grand Parade. News coverage of the 2023 carnival observed that “In a departure from previous years, the Toronto Police chief was notably absent from the launch event, with only Black auxiliary officers seen near the stage.” But there is still a lot of work to do around changing how police interact with Black communities.

A large group of people in costumes at a carnival
Masqueraders attend the Caribbean Carnival parade in Toronto on July 30, 2022. The 55th annual parade returned after the COVID-19 pandemic postponed it for two years. Photo credit: AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili.

Helping Black businesses

The TCC is arguably Toronto’s biggest and most visible Black-owned business. But while various businesses in the city — hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues, cultural attractions and landmarks — benefit financially, that has not been the case for many Black businesses, especially small ones.

The increasing commercialization of the TCC, such as big brand sponsorship of the bands and the trucks that accompany them along the Grand Parade route, is a significant part of this problem.

Current funding structures, and “business as usual” approaches exemplify how Blackness can be co-opted to serve corporate interests while Black communities are shut out of the benefits and profits. It’s Blackness on display — and only when such display is profitable — with little to none of this profit going to Black communities.

The City of Toronto and the TCC could demonstrate commitment to addressing anti-Black racism by rethinking the carnival’s financial participation and profit distribution models to benefit Black-owned businesses and communities.

There are already organizational structures in place for facilitating this. For example, the Festival Management Committee’s Building Black Entrepreneurs Program which has received funding from the federal government’s Black Entrepreneurship Program. There’s also the City of Toronto’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism unit.

The Festival Management Committee, the City, TCC community stakeholders, partners and sponsors as well as the larger public need to have these conversations. Until then, simply focusing on jumping, waving, wining, feting and playing does a disservice to the true spirit of Caribbean carnivals.

The true cost of food: High grocery prices are not the root issue

Written by Donna Appavoo, Toronto Metropolitan University and Monika Korzun and Ashley Jean MacDonald, Dalhousie University. Photo credit: Ashley Jean MacDonald, CC BY-NC. Originally published in The Conversation.

By only focusing on how to keep food costs low, we risk ignoring the underlying causes of why people cannot afford food in the first place.

Inflation and skyrocketing grocery bills are highlighting how the cost of food is impacting our wallets. Higher prices cost everyone more, but they make it most difficult for those with low incomes to meet their basic needs.

On July 5, the federal government issued a one-time grocery rebate to help low-income Canadians with rising costs. Eligible families can receive up to $628 to help pay for their groceries.

In 2022, Canada saw the highest rate of food inflation in decades. Although the rate of increase is slowing, Canadian families are estimated to pay up to $1,065 more for food in 2023.

However, by only focusing on how to keep food costs low, we risk ignoring the underlying causes of why people cannot afford food in the first place.

Hidden costs

The price of food at the checkout counter includes the production, processing, distribution and retailing of food. It does not include the cost to health care from diet-related diseasescurrent and future environmental impacts or social injustices, like underpaying farm workers or using forced child labour.

These are referred to as negative externalities. These are the spillover effects of a food production system that does not consider broader impacts on society.

In 2011, the external cost of agricultural production to the environment in Central and Western Canada alone was estimated to be about $8.9 billion. When externalities are taken into account, the true cost of food in the United States is three times the amount Americans pay.

This means that much of the food we buy is underpriced because of various social, economic and environmental externalities. We may not be paying for these hidden costs at the checkout, but we do so with our health-care costs, poor food quality and social inequalities. People in the Global South and those living with low incomes are disproportionately impacted by these hidden costs.

The prices we see at the supermarket often do not reflect the health, environmental and social costs of food production. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Putting food costs in perspective

With the current focus on increasing food prices, it may be surprising that Canadians spend relatively little on food. According to a 2016 study — the last year for which data is available — Canada was among five countries in the world that spend the least on food.

In 2022, Canadians spent, on average, 11 per cent of their income on food. Those with the highest incomes spent 5.2 per cent on food, while those living with the lowest incomes spent up to 23 per cent of their income on food. That means those with the lowest income most significantly felt the burden of increased food costs.

The percentage of income spent on food has been decreasing since the 1960s. In 1969, Canadians spent 19.6 per cent of their income on food. While food prices have increased due to the pandemic and inflation, food spending among Canadians has been relatively stable since 2010 at between 10 to 11 per cent of their incomes.

Although the cost of food increases, the most vulnerable people in the food system, farmers and farm workers, receive a small portion of the proceeds. In Canada, agricultural sector wages are below the average, with weekly earnings about 21 per cent less than other sectors. In 2021, U.S. farmers and farm workers received only 7.4 cents of every dollar spent on food. In 2013, they received 10.2 cents.

High food prices are not the root issue

High food prices are not the main reason people can’t afford food. Poverty is. Poverty is a systemic issue, often resulting from poor government policies, income inequality and systemic forms of discrimination.

The average Canadian household experienced a 16 per cent increase in income from 1999 to 2022. However, the amount of money spent on housing increased by 12 per cent, and spending on health by 35.6 per cent.

In addition, people with low incomes are increasingly identifying systemic issues, like racism and colonialism, as main barriers to achieving food security. Even with low food costs, racialized people face numerous barriers in achieving food security. Systemic discrimination leads to a concentration of social and economic disadvantages that increase food insecurity rates.

Income inequality in Canada increased substantially during the 1980s and 1990s. That pattern hasn’t changed. Today, the groups most likely to experience low incomes continue to be Indigenous Peoples and racialized Canadians.

According to the last census, 18.8 per cent of Indigenous people lived in a low-income household, compared to 7.9 per cent of the non-Indigenous population. Indigenous communities in Canada face food insecurity at a rate two to five times higher than other Canadians.

The First Nation Food, Nutrition and Environment Study found households that had access to food obtained using traditional practices were more food secure, and less likely to have complex health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. For members of these households, access to growing and harvesting food for themselves and their community was more important than lower food prices.

Cheap food comes at a cost

Conventional bananas are one of the cheapest food items in Canadian grocery stores. They have contributed to chronic underpayment of farmers and farm workers, child labour practices, loss of biodiversity and water pollution.

As a result, conventional bananas have a much higher hidden cost than fair trade bananas. Most of this is attributed to inadequate wages and a lack of social security for farmers and farm workers. By buying fair trade bananas, consumers can significantly contribute to sustainability and greater equity.

A farmer from the Fairtrade International certified banana co-operative in Ecuador. Photo credit: Fairtrade Canada., Author provided.

Fair trade produce might be more expensive, however as a result, farmers and farm workers receive fairer wages, and there is greater transparency throughout the entire supply chain.

The Fair Food Program encourages corporations to buy produce from farms that treat their workers humanely and compensate them fairly. The latest report from The Fair Food Program demonstrates a decrease in injuries, violence and reported sexual harassment among workers of farms that partake in the program.

In the early 2000s, buyers agreed to pay a penny more for every pound of tomatoes, passing it on to farm workers. This went directly to the farm workers, which equated to a 20-35 per cent increase in weekly pay.

The hidden costs of cheap food are disproportionally harming racialized communities and those with low incomes. They also deprive us all of a just, equitable and sustainable food system. Paying farmers and food workers more is an investment in the local economy and a more resilient, equitable and just global food system.

Immigration detention continues in Canada despite the end of provincial agreements

Written by Linda Mussell, University of Canterbury, and Jessica Evans, Toronto Metropolitan University. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck. Originally published in The Conversation.

The peace arch monument on the Canadian side of the Canada-U.S. border crossing, in Surrey, B.C. Several provinces will no longer allow the CBSA to detain immigrants in provincial jails.

Despite its reputation as a refugee-welcoming and multicultural country, Canada imprisons thousands of people on immigration-related grounds every year. Many of these people are held in provincial jails under agreements between the provinces and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Several Canadian provinces are terminating their immigration detention agreements with the CBSA.

In 2022, British Columbia became the first province to review the immigration detention system and end its agreement with the CBSA. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia have since followed suit. Québec and New Brunswick have also recently announced they’re ending their agreements.

Provincial jails are notorious for their poor conditions. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have found the detention of persons without criminal charges in these jails is unjust.

According to the CBSA’s data, the majority of immigration detainees posed no risk to public safety in 2021-22 .

A map of canada highlighting the location of facilities where immigrants are detained.
Facilities where immigration detainees are held across Canada. Photo credit: Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

While these provincial terminations signal a move in the right direction, they do not mean an end to immigration detention in Canada.

We’ve been studying the recent regional shifts in immigration detention in North America. Advocates have worked hard to place pressure on provincial governments to end their agreements with the CBSA. To maintain this momentum, action is needed at the federal level.

Immigration detention

The CBSA makes contracts with provinces to deliver immigration detention under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. This means the agency can detain permanent residents, foreign nationals and refugee claimants and has sole discretion over where detainees are held.

That might be a provincial prison, immigration detention centre, RCMP detachment, a port of entry, inland enforcement cell, immigration holding centre or federal prison.

The CBSA has sweeping powers including arrest, detention and search-and-seizure without a warrant. It is the only major law enforcement agency without independent civilian oversight to review policies and investigate misconduct.

Figures from the CBSA show that the number of immigration detainees in Canada has increased every fiscal year between 2016 and 2020. More than 32,000 people were detained during that time period. Between 2019 and 2020, 8,825 people were detained, including 136 children, 73 of whom were under the age of six.

In many cases, the CBSA has separated children from their detained parents. This is a violation of international law and goes against the best interests of the child. The CBSA does not track how many children are separated from parents.

protest signs on a fence. People stand nearby holding a sign reading: no fences, no borders.
A protest at the Surrey Immigration Holding Centre in April 2020 calling for detainees to be released during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo credit: Prisoners’ Justice Day Committee Vancouver

Research has found that even brief amounts of time imprisoned is associated with increased stress, depression and anxiety. Migrants with mental health conditions are more likely to be detained in provincial jails and in isolation, where their conditions tend to worsen. Mental health issues become a barrier for release and are then used to justify continued detention.

Immigration detainees endure harsh conditions including solitary confinement and no set release date. Since 2013, more than 1,623 detainees have been held for longer than a year.

People from racialized communities, particularly people who are Black, are subject to profiling by the CBSA and imprisoned for longer periods.

With provinces ending agreements, the CBSA has indicated it will transfer more detainees to immigration holding centres operated by the CBSA. In our research, we have found that the CBSA is considering building more holding centres to expand its capacity to imprison people across Canada.

A graph showing where immigration detainees in Canada come from and how long they have been detained.
A graph showing where immigration detainees in Canada come from and how long they have been detained. Photo credit: Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Federal government must also act

New rules under the Safe Third Country Agreement came into effect in March 2023. These rules bar migrants seeking entry to Canada via the U.S. from claiming asylum after crossing the land border. They make it more dangerous for people to cross and increase the risk of being detained.

The end of provincial agreements is not the end of immigration detention. Rights violations will continue regardless of where people are held. The ability to detain people for administrative purposes, the lack of a legal limit for detention and absence of oversight are all problems that remain in place.

Importantly, this change may provide impetus for the privatization of immigration detention, something that has been raised as a concern south of the border.

Federal changes are needed to end immigration detention, including practices like solitary confinement, imprisoning families and indefinite sentences.

The CBSA released imprisoned people at unprecedented rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is already an Alternatives to Detention program. While the current alternative is not without problems and continues the surveillance of migrants, it’s a step in the direction of humane treatment.

There must be greater community-based case management and funding for community supports as an alternative to detention. Through community engagement, we can prioritize housing, health care and education, and help migrants and asylum-seekers navigate the bureaucratic and legal systems. The focus should be on providing support, rather than policing and imprisonment.

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.