Changing the discourse around citizenship and immigration: A Comparison of the 6 Degrees dictionary and the International Organization for Migration glossary

Part I: Changing the discourse around citizenship and immigration. A Comparison of the 6 Degrees Dictionary and the International Organization for Migration Glossary

In preparation for the upcoming federal election in Canada, this summer the Canadian Council on Refugees (CCR) has issued an open letter to the leaders of Canada’s federal political parties, asking them to agree to a set of principles as they discuss and debate immigration and refugee issues and policy. Specifically, the CCR asks that people “engage in discussions about migration in ways that recognize:

  • Our shared humanity,
  • That Canada finds opportunity through diversity,
  • That refugees strengthen our communities,
  • That refugees help build our economy,
  • That Canada has legal obligations to respect and uphold the human rights of those fleeing persecution”.

In his 2017 Policy Matters article “How to debate immigration issues in Canada”, Andrew Griffith, former director general of Citizenship and Multiculturalism Canada and current prolific blogger at Multicultural Meanderings, called for “more respectful and informative debates”. He argued that “All participants need to be mindful of the impact of their arguments and words and need to formulate their arguments in a manner that fosters informed debate and contributes toward better pubic discourse and policy development”. The core principles shared by the CCR do set clear guidelines, but there must also be agreed upon definitions of the language used in these debates. Fortunately, two well known and respected organizations have recently released some definitions for consideration.

Co-founded and run by The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson and John Ralston Saul, 6 Degrees is a program of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC). The ICC is the national champion for inclusion and active citizenship in Canada.  Last year, at their annual event, 6 Degrees, they released “The 6 Degrees Dictionary, A User’s Guide to Inclusion”. The 6 Degrees Dictionary focusses on inclusion and supports the notion that as a community, as a society, we all need to learn and use new agreed-upon language when we talk about citizenship and immigration.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is a leading intergovernmental agency providing  governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners with services and advice in promoting humane and orderly migration for all. In 2019, the IOM Glossary was developed “to give definitions for commonly (and on occasion not so commonly) used terms when speaking migration”. The IOM Glossary is clearly intended and written for policy makers, analysts and legislators. But both organizations want to change the discourse around migration and citizenship.

6 Degrees wants to provoke and inspire us; The IOM wants a “correct and balanced approach”. The 6 Degrees Dictionary offers us twelve terms to consider. Six of these terms are also defined in the IOM Glossary, and six are not. This paper reviews the six that are common to both.

Let’s see how their definitions are different, and ask whether the definitions are provocative and inspiring (6 Degrees) or if they help to bring harmony in the way the terminology is used and puts an end to dehumanizing terms (The IOM).

Citizen

The IOM Glossary doesn’t have a definition for ‘citizen’. Instead it refers readers to ‘nationality’, which is defined as “The legal bond between an individual and a State”. A short, decisive definition. The 6 Degrees Dictionary presents, as it does with all its “definitions”, a series of statements, challenging notions about the terms rather than defining them (in this way, I suggest that it is less a dictionary and more of a glossary). This approach lends itself well to being provocative and, some might say, controversial.

The 6 Degrees definition:

  1. Athens! The French Revolution!
  2. The source and guarantor of legitimacy of any nation-state, democratic or not.
  3. Under constant attack and denial by those with power, whether public or private.
  4. Not to be confused with a taxpayer.
  5. The opposite of stakeholder, a Mussolinian term which reduces an individual to membership in an interest group.
  6. Volunteerism is a manifestation of the engaged citizen, not a sector.
  7. The citizen cannot be a client of government services. The citizen owns the state.

immigrantchilren.ca finds much happiness in the fourth definition; “Not to be confused with a taxpayer”. Children, migrant or otherwise, are citizens in the country they find themselves in, regardless of their ability to pay taxes. The notion of volunteerism as a condition of, or a pre-requisite to ‘citizenship’ is a stimulating one. The 6 Degrees final definition of the citizen owning the state is an aggressive challenge to the IOM definition.

Immigrant

The IOM Glossary defines “immigrant” as “From the perspective of the country of arrival, a person who moves into a country other than that of his or her nationality or usual residence, so that the country of destination effectively becomes his or her new country of usual residence”. It’s very matter of fact. The  6 Degrees Dictionary defines “immigrant” in 6 different ways. After a short, declarative definition, The 6 Degrees Dictionary assigns attributes, effectively editorializing and being intentionally provocative and inspiring in its last five definitions:

The 6 Degrees definition:

  1. An individual who leaves one country to become the citizen of another.
  2. A noble term describing someone with the courage, decisiveness, and consciousness to wish to change their lives by changing their country.
  3. An individual whose qualities enrich their new society through public structures, culture, politics, and economics.
  4. On average, more comfortable with risk than those born in the country.
  5. Tends to be more ferociously loyal to their new country and its ideas of justice than those born there.
  6. An immigrant is to engagement what a citizen is to marriage.

Attributing immigrants as courageous, contributing and (more) loyal and (more) risk-taking in their new country is, again, deliberately provocative and challenging to the status quo view of immigrants taking from the system and wanting accommodation. Not an unpopular view, regrettably but not one the IOM takes either.

Integration

The IOM defines “integration” as “The two?way process of mutual adaptation between migrants and the societies in which they live, whereby migrants are incorporated into the social, economic, cultural and political life of the receiving community. It entails a set of joint responsibilities for migrants and communities, and incorporates other related notions such as social inclusion and social cohesion”.

The 6 Degrees definition:

  1. Probably better than assimilation, but a poor second to inclusion.
  2. Unfortunately assumed to be a benign process by which someone is incorporated into a society.
  3. A step, once understood as the only one necessary for dominant groups to deal with others.
  4. Assumes a list of adjustments that newcomers must make to become acceptable.
  5. Views societies as static and brittle that will crumble upon contact with difference.
  6. Provokes fear under the guise of stability.
  7. Discourages innate human curiosity.
  8. Denies happy human complexity.
  9. Totally wrongheaded.

Migrant

The IOM Glossary defines migrant as “An umbrella term, not defined under international law, reflecting the common lay understanding of a person who moves away from his or her place of usual residence, whether within a country or across an international border, temporarily or permanently, and for a variety of reasons’.

The IOM takes the opportunity to expand the term and includes a number of well?defined legal categories of people, such as migrant workers; persons whose particular types of movements are legally defined, such as smuggled migrants; as well as those whose status or means of movement are not specifically defined under international law, such as international students.

The 6 Degrees Dictionary begins its series of definitions pedantically with “A bird, animal or butterfly with a regular and circular pattern of movement”, then adds flourishes and texture to the next five, presumably as they relate to humans.

The 6 Degrees definition:

  1. A bird, animal or butterfly with a regular and circular pattern of movement.
  2. In practice, an underpaid industrial or agricultural worker who is expected to return to their home in the off season.
  3. In common usage, a label intended to exclude, marginalize, patronize, and dehumanize. As in, “When you’re finished picking my strawberries, go home.”
  4. A term that is never self-applied, only imposed on others.
  5. Not to be confused with expats or snowbirds.
  6. Used to justify withholding citizen rights from immigrants for one or more generations.

Multiculturalism

The IOM defines “multiculturalism” as “A model of integration policies that welcomes the preservation, expression and sometimes even the celebration of cultural diversity. This approach encourages migrants to become full members of society while retaining their cultural identities. It combines the recognition of varied backgrounds, traditions and ways of seeing the world with certain universalist values, such as the rule of law or gender equality, that override cultural differences and guarantee the same rights for all. The integration relationship is then best captured in the image of a mosaic enabling minority ethnic groupings to live side by side with the majority constituency”.

The 6 Degrees definition:

  1. An Indigenous concept that balances difference with belonging.
  2. A policy devised to explain how people from culturally distinct and diverse backgrounds can live together.
  3. A Canadian invention supporting – in theory at least – notions of equal rights, recognition, and opportunity for all regardless of their roots.
  4. An example of how confused and blissfully optimistic policymaking can become a strength.
  5. Misunderstood, to put it politely, by Europeans and Americans. And some Canadians.
  6. On paper, the opposite of interculturalism. In practice, identical.
  7. An important step on the road to pluralism and inclusion.
  8. A rare unapologetic Canadian mic drop.

Refugee

The IOM uses the 1951 Convention definition of refugee: “A person who, owing to a well founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it”.

The 6 Degrees definition:

  1. Someone who flees their home to save their life.
  2. Not simply persecuted by others, as the legal definitions insist.
  3. Victim of everything from war and prejudice to drought and economic collapse.
  4. As in, a victim of calamity, human or nature made. It could be you.
  5. Or an identified enemy of the state, for example, someone who speaks up. It could be you.
  6. In both cases, an attempt by those with power to dehumanize those without. It could be you.
  7. Requires courage.
  8. More popular than asylum seekers. Refugees may appeal to everyone’s fear of suffering, but an asylum seeker is a refugee looking for a place to live next door to you.
  9. One who escapes despair, walks across the Sahara, is abused, raped, beaten, used as slave labour, and finally risks their life on a boat only to be categorized by Europeans as economic migrants. A form of persecution.
  10. You don’t want to be one.

Discussion

The 6 Degrees Dictionary calls itself a user’s “guide to inclusion”.  Kudos to them to want to ‘provoke and inspire”. Some of the definitions are stimulating, confrontational and a little cheeky. The IOM Glossary takes a more conventional approach. Both documents are useful, and both are considered “living documents”, offering opportunity to add and edit. I hope we can revisit and reopen the Six Degrees Dictionary at this week’s upcoming Six Degrees event. What do you think of the definitions?

 

Part II: Reviewing the discourse around citizenship and immigration in each of the 2019 federal party platforms.

~ coming soon ~

… home isn’t where you land; home is where you launch. You can’t pick your home anymore than you can choose your family. In poker, you get five cards. Three of them you can swap out, but two are yours to keep: family and native land.

Tayari Jones

United Nations Human Rights Committee asks Canada to stop the deportation of former child refugee Abdilahi Elmi

I’ve added some links into the Media Release:

August 23, 2019

Media Contact: Emmanuel Onah, 780-281-0627

UN Calls on Canada to Halt Abdilahi Elmi’s Deportation

Edmonton, Toronto – The United Nations Human Rights Committee today called on Canada to halt Mr Abdilahi Elmi’s deportation while his case is under review by the UN Committee under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Mr. Elmi’s deportation is currently scheduled for August 26th. Like the well-documented case of Mr. Abdoul Abdi, Mr Elmi was given refugee status as a child and then taken into state care which failed to apply for proper immigration documentation for him. Mr. Elmi left Somalia as a child, has no family there and does not speak Somali.

“Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale has the power to stop Mr Elmi’s deportation, and he must use it. It is clear that the primary reason that Mr Elmi faces deportation is because of collective systemic failures of the justice and child protection system, and these wrongs must be righted, starting with letting Elmi stay,” says Emmauel Onah of African Canadian Civic Engagement Council, one of the organizations part of the Justice for Elmi Campaign.

“Canada has an admirable track record of respecting interim measure requests from the United Nations Human Rights Committee to suspend removal while that Committee considers whether Canada’s intended action complies with its international human rights obligations. We would call on Canada to continue that tradition by respecting the request for interim measures issued today,” added Professor Audrey Macklin, University of Toronto Chair in Human Rights Law.

The full UN decision.

BACKGROUND:

Migrant talk: IOM Glossary on migration

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has released a Glossary on Migration. The first forward in the almost 300-page document offers a succinct rationale for the glossary:

“Effective cooperation among relevant actors is probably more important in the migration field than in any other policy areas. Not only do States sometimes speak different languages when dealing with migration, but also actors within the same State often use an inconsistent vocabulary. Variations in the use of terms are also common depending on the person’s field of work.

“International law contributes to create some common denominators, through the definitions provided by international instruments that are binding on the States that are parties to them. Among the most significant examples are the definition of a refugee in the 1951 Refugee Convention or the ones contained in the two Protocols on Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Persons to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crimes. Transnational cooperation would never be effective without a common understanding of the elements of the crimes prosecutors are responsible to fight, and burden?sharing could never become a reality without the commitment of many States to protect those who flee persecution.

“In other instances, States have pushed for a more humane approach to migration by calling on the international community to put an end to the use of dehumanizing terms associated with migration, such as “illegal migrants”, in favour of the more neutral attribute of “migrants in an irregular situation”. And these types of shift in the use of terminology are not only for the sake of political correctness but also to contribute to shaping the perception that we have of migration realities. The rise in the use of negative or alarmist terms in recent public discourse around the world have similarly impacted, although negatively in this case, the way migrants are perceived.

“At the time of releasing this Glossary, the adoption of the Global Compact for Migration has sparked renewed attention to migration realities. It is thus a critical moment to try to contribute to the consolidation of not only a uniform but also a correct and balanced approach to migration terminology”.

Regrettably, the glossary uses some outdated terminology that can be seen as stigmatizing. i.e., “acquisition of nationality”

“Any mode of becoming a national, i.e. by birth or at any time after birth, automatic or non?automatic, based on attribution, declaration, option or application.

Source: European Union Democracy Observatory on Citizenship, The EUDO Glossary on Citizenship and Nationality (2008–2016).

Note: The acquisition of nationality can occur at birth or after birth. The most common modes of acquisition of nationality at birth are the acquisition based on descent (jus sanguinis) or based on birth on the territory of the State concerned (jus soli). Nationality can also be acquired after birth for example by adoption, legitimation of a child born out of wedlock, marriage, naturalization or as the result of the ceding of territory from one State to another.

The glossary also uses he/him/his (sigh). But kudos for this explanation of the term adoption which clearly and correctly states how the process removes a child’s rights:

“adoption

“The statutory process of terminating a child’s legal rights and duties toward the natural parents and substituting similar rights and duties toward adoptive parents”.

Source: B.A. Garner (ed), Black’s Law Dictionary (10th edition, Westlaw, 2014).

Note: The Declaration on Social and Legal Principles relating to the Protection and Welfare of Children, with Special Reference to Foster Placement and Adoption Nationally and Internationally (UNGA Res 41/85 (3 December 1986)) set forth a number of commonly agreed principles and guidelines to ensure the protection of children in relation to national and inter?country adoptions.

The IOMs approach to talking about irregular migration also merits a shout out :

“Although a universally accepted definition of irregular migration does not exist, the term is generally used to identify persons moving outside regular migration channels. The fact that they migrate irregularly does not relieve States from the obligation to protect their rights. Moreover, categories of migrants who may not have any other choice but to use irregular migration channels can also include refugees, victims of trafficking, or unaccompanied migrant children. The fact that they use irregular migration pathways does not imply that States are not, in some circumstances, obliged to provide them with some forms of protection under international law, including access to international protection for asylum seekers fleeing persecution, conflicts or generalized violence. In addition, refugees are protected under international law against being penalized for unauthorized entry or stay if they have travelled from a place where they were at risk”.

Other terms in the glossary with interesting definitions include:

  • assimilation
  • asylum seeker
  • border management
  • build back better
  • climate migration
  • cultural diversity
  • cultural pluralism
  • economic migrant
  • environmental migrant
  • family reunification
  • family unity (right to)
  • healthy migrant effect
  • humanity (principle of)
  • integration
  • migrant
  • multiculturalism
  • safe third country
  • social cohesion
  • social inclusion

Research study: Unaccompanied children claiming asylum on the basis of sexual orientation and gender Identity

From the Abstract:
“This study explores the asylum claims of unaccompanied children concerning sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) and examines how case officers at the Swedish Migration Agency (SMA) responded to the credibility of their claims. The SMA provided one calendar year of asylum decisions concerning unaccompanied children, and 16 SOGI cases were identified. A thematic analysis of the cases was conducted. The results showed that case officers directed their focus to the quality of the children’s sexual relationships. This indicates that the case officers expect children to engage in long-term relationships similar to adults, despite their age. Furthermore, case officers tended to only render narratives credible if the society as whole was narrated as perpetrators. This indicates that case officers expect origin societies to be monolithic. The main conclusion, therefore, is that case officers are guided both by homonormative as well as homonationalist views in their decision-making process”.

Refugee Journeys: Identity, Intersectionality, and Integration, a board game

An analysis of Refugee Journeys: Identity, Intersectionality, and Integration (Lam, 2017), a board game for Canadians interested in learning about the experience of newcomers to this country.

What is, and how does this board game work?

“It started with a home printer and an old copy of Snakes-and-Ladders. Experiences of integration gleaned from research, from conversations with newcomers, and from media were collected and turned into ‘Experience Cards’ including:

  • difficulties with language learning
  • celebrating a child’s first friend
  • needing transportation in a rural area
  • trying to find food from home.

“A refugee student drew artwork for the gameboard, and a game designer, Rob Gosselin of Birdlight Games, gave professional insights to transform it into a product that could be ordered online.

“The end result is a game that is complex and engaging. It puts players into the shoes of a newcomer, moving forward or backward along the pathway of integration. Every player’s path is unique. Players receive an identity card detailing background and other aspects of identity. The journey of integration will be different depending on the cards drawn”.

If you’ve played this board game, immigrantchildren.ca would be interested to hear about your experience.

 

British Home Children: 150 years ago, first home children “arrived” in Canada

Visitors to immigrantchildren.ca will be familiar with my view on the British Home Children “program”: I believe that it was state-sanctioned child trafficking. Still, it is worth noting that this September, Canada will mark 150 years since the first children “arrived”.

Canada’s Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 has materials about this child emigration scheme, including this personal story.

Also see:

British Home Children in Canada

British Home Children Registry

Library and Archives Canada

The Canadian Encyclopedia

 

How Montreal’s La Maison Bleue Centre supports resilience in migrant mothers

Interesting recent article in PLoS ONE, 14(7) on “Strengthening resilience among migrant mothers living in Montreal, Canadaby Thalia Aubé, Sarah Pisanu, Lisa Merry.

From the Abstract:

“La Maison Bleue is a community-based perinatal health and social centre in Montreal that provides services during pregnancy up to age five to families living in vulnerable contexts. The study aimed to describe: 1) the challenges and protective factors that affect the well-being of migrant families receiving care at La Maison Bleue; and 2) how La Maison Bleue strengthens resilience among these families.

Methods

“We conducted a focused ethnography. Immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants were invited to participate. We collected data from November to December 2017 via semi-structured interviews and participant observation during group activities at La Maison Bleue. Data were thematically analysed.

Results

“Twenty-four mothers participated (9 interviewed, 17 observed). Challenges to well-being included family separation, isolation, loss of support, the immigration process, an unfamiliar culture and environment, and language barriers. Key protective factors were women’s intrinsic drive to overcome difficulties, their positive outlook and ability to find meaning in their adversity, their faith, culture and traditions, and supportive relationships, both locally and transnationally. La Maison Bleue strengthened resilience by providing a safe space, offering holistic care that responded to both medical and psychosocial needs, and empowering women to achieve their full potential towards better health for themselves and their families.

Conclusion

“Migrant mothers have many strengths and centres like La Maison Bleue can offer a safe space and be an empowering community resource to assist mothers in overcoming the multiple challenges that they face while resettling and raising their young children in a new country.”

Canadian Council for Refugees on the discourse around immigrants and refugees in the upcoming federal election

The Canadian Council on Refugees has issued an open letter to the leaders of Canada’s federal political parties, asking them to agree to a set of principles as they discuss and debate immigration and refugee issues and policy. Here is the letter:

“We are writing because we are concerned about how refugees and migrants in Canada may be characterized during the upcoming federal election campaign.

“We welcome thoughtful discussion on complex issues related to migration, and recognize that there are many legitimate perspectives.

“We are also conscious that refugees and migrants are easily victimized in political debates. In many countries around the world, especially during election campaigns, refugees and migrants have been talked about in ways that insult their dignity and humanity, contribute to xenophobia and racism, and are frequently grounded in distortion and misinformation.

“We believe that every leader, every candidate, and every political party, has a role to play in preventing this from happening in Canada. We therefore ask you to engage in discussions about migration in ways that recognize:

  • Our shared humanity,
  • That Canada finds opportunity through diversity,
  • That refugees strengthen our communities,
  • That refugees help build our economy,
  • That Canada has legal obligations to respect and uphold the human rights of those fleeing persecution

“We believe that how we respond to refugees, and how we talk about vulnerable migrants, is an important part of our collective identity.

“We want to be a country that welcomes refugees, that respects the dignity and human rights of vulnerable migrants, and that treats them fairly.

“We know Canadians value compassion, equality and safety for all.

“In the upcoming federal election campaign, we call on you to demonstrate your leadership by respecting these principles and speaking out when they are undermined by others”.

The CCR is also asking organizations to join in signing the letter.

The federal election will be  held in October 2019. For more information about the election, including how to ensure you are on the voters lists, visit Elections Canada.

Rights for Children and Youth Partnership: Strengthening Collaboration in the Americas (RCYP) seeks participants with experience in child welfare in Canada

This SHRCC funded project,  Rights for Children and Youth Partnership: Strengthening Collaboration in the Americas (RCYP) is based out of Ryerson University.  The project aims to “increase knowledge and factors that either support or hinder the protection of children and youth rights in the Caribbean, Central American and disproportionately represented populations in Canada” including in Canada, The Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua and Trinidad and Tobago.

The project is seeking participation from Caribbean families and children with experience in the child welfare system in Canada. Your participation will support the RCYPs mission to “increase knowledge of factors which support or hinder the protection of children and youth rights in the Caribbean, Central America, as well as the diaspora populations in Canada, which are disproportionately represented in the Canadian child welfare system”.

 

 

News from RCYP ~ Rights for Children and Youth Partnership: Strengthening collaboration in the Americas

From their website, “The Rights for Children and Youth Partnership: Strengthening Collaboration in the Americas (RCYP) is a SSHRC funded project. The goal of this project is to increase knowledge and factors that either support or hinder the protection of children and youth rights in the Caribbean, Central American and disproportionately represented populations in Canada.

“This project features a collaboration of research from universities, government, and non-government, and international organizations. Researchers involved in the project come from eight different countries around the world including: Canada, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua and Trinidad & Tobago”.

RCYP will be relaunching their blog this fall and are seeking contributions from researchers, practitioners and children and youth to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences regarding children and youth rights.

In addition, RCYP is seeking youth to serve on their Youth Advisory Committee. For info, contact