Cabinet committee on diversity and inclusion: Opportunities regarding immigrant children and families

The Trudeau government yesterday released details on cabinet committees. Among them, one on diversity and inclusion, whose purpose is to “Consider(s) issues concerning the social fabric of Canada and the promotion of Canadian pluralism. Examines initiatives designed to strengthen the relationship with Indigenous Canadians, improve the economic performance of immigrants, and promote Canadian diversity, multiculturalism, and linguistic duality“.

Lots of opportunities here to address, support, and promote needs of immigrant and refugee children, youth, and families. In terms of improving the economic performance of immigrants, the Trudeau government is encouraged to (continue to) work with the early learning and child care community and implement a pan-Canadian child care system that is regulated, publicly-funded, high-quality, accessible and affordable, and culturally-appropriate.

Regarding linguistic duality, while immigrantchildren.ca recognizes that French and English are the two official languages of Canada, we invite the cabinet committee on diversity and inclusion to learn about the importance of supporting and promoting a child’s home language (or, L1 as it is sometimes referred to). Research demonstrates that children learning to speak a new language, who are supported and encouraged to use their home language, accomplish this task better. Communities and policies need to explore ways to help children retain their home language while they also learn the language(s) of their new home.

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The Chair of the cabinet committee on diversity and inclusion is the Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship, John McCallum. The Co-Chair is Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage. Members of the committee include:

Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs | @Carolyn_Bennett | carolyn.bennett@parl.gc.ca

Jody Wilson-Raybould, Justice Minister and Attorney General | @Puglaas

Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development | Jean-Yves.Duclos@parl.gc.ca |@jyduclos

Marie Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie |  @mclaudebibeau

Maryam Monsef, Minister of Democratic Institutions | Maryam.Monsef@parl.gc.ca | @MaryamMonsef

Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities | @CQualtro

Patricia Hajdu, Minister of Status of Women |

Bradish Chaggar, Minister of Small Business and Tourism | @BardishKW

All Ministers and Members of Parliament can be written, postage-free, to: The House of Commons, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6.

Policy advice for the next/new #cdnimm minister

In a Q & A format, New Canadian Media have published a piece on policy advice for the next/new Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, post the Oct 19th federal election. It’s a thoughtful piece by esteemed policy wonks, Andrew Griffith, Robert Vineberg, and Richard Kurland.

I have a few additions to propose. I’ll use the questions that form the NCM piece.

1. What advice would you give an incoming minister of immigration and multiculturalism?

I’m delighted to see the premise of this question because the minister of immigration and citizenship ought to also hold the multiculturalism portfolio.

I support the expert’s advice to update the citizenship guide, Discover Canada, but I’d also propose both child (birth to age eight) and youth (eight to 18) versions. This could be a lot of fun!

2. Would you change the relative proportion of economic, family unification and humanitarian (refugee) migrants arriving in Canada every year?

I agree with Vineberg and would support an increase in family class. See the Canadian Council for Refugees item on family reunification. Policy responses related to transnational families, unaccompanied and undocumented children are also warranted.

3. What’s the ideal number of newcomers (including refugees) that Canada should take in every year (compared to the current average)?

Kurland’s response “No such thing as an ideal number” is valid, but Griffith’s suggestion provides a clearer direction: “Set in place an advisory body, broadly-based, that would review the social and economic integration data, nationally and regionally, to provide recommendations to government for longer-term targets and assess whether current levels and mix are appropriate”. I would hope that such an advisory body would, beyond recommending targets and assessing mix, also examine and recommend ways to support integration for immigrant children and youth.

4. Should multiculturalism be official policy? What needs to change?

As stated, multiculturalism is official policy and entrenched in the Charter. Changes may be warranted and I would propose that early childhood educators and primary school teachers – and parents – be consulted on how the policy can support and promote not only the theory of multiculturalism, but the importance of integration for newcomer children.

5. Should provinces and municipalities have a greater role in immigration? What role should that be?

Yes! Since provinces and municipalities have responsibility for education and health, and these areas impact young children and youth directly, these levels of government must step up their involvement and work to ensure that appropriate policies and programs are in place to support and promote integration, health and well-being of immigrant children and youth.

6. What can a new government do differently to enable “foreign credential recognition”?

The new government must put in place a pan-Canadian child care program that is publicly funded, regulated, accessible, affordable, not-for-profit, and community based. As newcomer parents navigate the foreign credential process (and later, as they enter the workforce), a high-quality child care program is critical. A truly universal child care program would also be culturally relevant and take into consideration the needs of newcomer children and families.

Immigrant children, youth and families: A Qualitative analysis of the challenges of integration

This spring, the Social Planning Council of Ottawa concluded work on “Immigrant children, youth and families: A Qualitative analysis of the challenges of integration”, as part of their Families in Community project.

The report addresses the disconnect when newcomer families feel their parenting and child-rearing methods are not acknowledged/respected and the tension service providers feel about some newcomers who they perceive demonstrate a lack of commitment to early child development.

Next stages in the SPCO Families in Community project will result in:

An analysis of best/good practices for culturally-based family supports by ethno-cultural organizations.

Supports to good/best practices within 8 pilot projects with small ethno-cultural organizations.

A resource kit for mainstream family services based on good practices serving new immigrant families.

The report will be launched at the annual Social Planning Council of Ottawa AGM, May 26, 2011 in Ottawa. For information, contact Helene by May 15 at 613-236-9300 ext. 300 office@spcottawa.on.ca.  Free admission, but donations are welcome.

Papers: Stories of undocumented youth

Papers: Stories of Undocumented Youth tells the story of the approximately 2 million children in the United States who are living “without legal status”, i.e., without “papers”.

These children arrive on American shores not by choice, but because their parents take them there for what they hope will be a better future. Many arrive as babies and small children and do not realize they are living precariously until they turn 18 and attempt to join the labour force, attend college or university or get a driver’s license – all of which require a social security card, an ID reserved for US citizens. These children, many who know no other country and often, language, are educated in US schools, hold US values and face a perilous future without “papers”.

My thanks to Graham Street Productions, for sending me a copy of the DVD  to review.

Papers follows five undocumented youth and tells their stories with the backdrop of the DREAM Act movement. The DREAM Act, a bipartisan initiative developed by Sen. Orin Hatch [R-UT] and Sen. Richard Durbin [D-IL], is a progressive policy response to the issue – with one caveat for the use of the word ‘alien’ in the acronym DREAM – ‘Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act’. The DREAM Act would provide “qualifying undocumented youth” eligibility to enter into a conditional path to full citizenship (for example, requiring youth to complete a college degree or give two years of military service prior to applying for citizenship).

Graham Street Productions, who worked with El Grupo Juvenil (the “Papers” youth crew) produced this inspiring documentary. It opens with a montage of demonstrations, both for and against immigration. There are some beautiful moments of peaceful marching and some harsh displays of hatred. Immigration – legal and otherwise – is a hotly debated issue in the US as it is here in Canada.

The documentary includes commentary from civil rights leaders, politicians, academics and researchers.  A unique parallel story links the LGBTQ movement with the immigration rights movement. One of the youth, Jorge, is both gay and undocumented. From the press release:

They realize that there is extraordinary power in their stories and in telling the truth. The boldness of it inspires us. By coming out as undocumented, they risk arrest, detention, and deportation. By coming out as queer, they risk being ostracized from their families, their churches, their cultures of origin and their communities. But in talking with these courageous young people, it is obvious that they are not going to stop being public about who they are. In some ways the most vulnerable, they are also the most brave. They, more than anyone, know the power of “coming out” and recognize that going public is the way to changes peoples’ hearts and minds.

It is a moving and compelling documentary that has been received with much acclaim. Watch the trailer here. Follow Papersthemovie on twitter at @papersthemovie. Order a copy of the DVD here.

Conference call: Migration and the global city, Toronto

It looks like Ryerson University is working to launch a research institute devoted to immigration and settlement issues. Good luck to them. As part of this initiative, they are calling for proposals for a conference entitled “Migration and the Global City”. The conference, a launch to the proposed research centre, tentatively called the Ryerson Institute on Immigration and Settlement (RISS), will be held on the Ryerson campus from October 29-31, 2010.

A call for papers has been released here. Of particular interest to immigrantchildren.ca, conference themes include; Children and Youth; Citizenship, Migration and Identity; Precarious and Temporary Status; and Settlement Services.

The conference will feature a range of activities, including day-trips to local immigrant/settlement locations, a film-documentary screening and art-show, and a possible “CIHR-funded pre-conference on immigrant and refugee children and youth” (Source: Ryerson website). Ryerson – do let us know at immigrantchildren.ca how we can support this important inclusion!

Deadline for abstract submission is June 15, 2010.

Consequences of losing a lawful immigrant parent to deportation

The International Human Rights Law Clinic, the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity (UC, Berkeley) and the Immigration Law Clinic (UC, Davis) have recently released a policy brief entitled “In The Child’s Best Interest? The Consequences of Losing a  Lawful Immigrant Parent to Deportation”.

The brief reviews the current state of immigration law in the United States and the impact of the deportation of “lawful permanent resident parents” of more than 100,000 children (of which, more than 80,000 are US citizens).  A harrowing look at the impact of such deportations on children’s lives, education and relationships.

Citizenship: A birthright lottery?

Should folks fortunate enough to be born in the ‘developed’ world be obliged to share their privilege with those less lucky? Author – and Canada Research Chair in Citizenship and Multiculturalism, Ayelet Shachar thinks so. In her new book “The Birthright Lottery”, Shachar investigates the accident of birth and proposes several ways to reconsider (and bestow) citizenship.

Arguing that citizenship status has been arbitrarily given in most nations by birthright and that a child born in Canada ought not have such an unfair advantage over a child born in a poor nation. Among Shachar’s suggestions is a levy on “the inheritance of citizenship” or that citizenship be awarded based on the individual’s “genuine connection” to a country. Shachar asks important and provocative questions on what responsibilities global citizens have to each other.

Britain apologizes to home children

Federal Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, The Honourable Jason Kenney, continues to get positive responses from media and, as translated by an Environics poll, average Canadians, for his revamped citizenship guide, released last week. The new guide, Discover Canada, outlines the rights and responsibilities of new immigrants to Canada, and provides a more in-depth look at Canadian history than the previous editions, including, much to Kenney’s (and his advisor’s) credit, some of the shameful ways immigrants have been treated in this country.

For example, the guide acknowledges that Chinese immigrants were welcome to build the national railway, but afterwards, “were subject to discrimination including the Head Tax, a race-based entry fee; the Government of Canada apologized in 2006 for this discriminatory policy” (p.20). The guide also acknowledges the “relocation of West Coast Japanese Canadians by the Canadian government, and the forcible sale of their property (during WWII)…The Government of Canada apologized for wartime wrongs inflicted on Japanese Canadians” (p. 23).

immigrantchildren.ca welcomed the release of the new revised guide last week and hoped that it would include acknowledgment of the treatment of the “home children” – the approximately 100,000 children who were sent to Canada in a child emigration scheme and who were, as history tells us, routinely neglected, abused and often worked to their deaths. The new citizenship guide did not include mention of these littlest immigrants.

immigrantchildren.ca was delighted to read that the British government has apologized to the home children it sent away (see, for example, this piece in the National Post). A spokesperson from the organization Home Children Canada welcomed the news and demands such an apology from the Canadian government. The apology is not forthcoming.

The “home children” represent another shameful period in Canada’s history and also merits acknowledgment – in the next edition of Discover Canada, in the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, in a permanent display at Pier 21, in history text books and in an apology.

In two days, Canada will celebrate National Child Day and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. To keep moving forward on child rights, Canada needs to admit to its historic wrongs.

New citizenship guide for new Canadians

The Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism today released an updated guide to Canadian Citizenship. Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship.

The launch of the “study guide” (last published in 1997) was held at the Terry Fox Centre, where Minister Kenney talked about inspiration, fortune and his vision for modern Canada. The announcement – and guide – provide a generous nod to Canada’s military history and major events (the 1997 edition skipped quite a bit of this, including Vimy Ridge, Juno Beach, Dieppe). The guide also does not shy away from some shameful periods in Canada’s past, such as the residential schools for Aboriginal children, the Internment of Japanese Canadians and the Chinese Exclusion Act, but I was disappointed to not see mention of the home children.

Canadian history must acknowledge the home children – some 100,000 children taken from their homeland and brought to our shores to serve labour needs that Canadians could not or would not take on (sound familiar?). A great many of these children were younger than 10 years old and lived lives of brutality. These children were not adopted in the sense of how we use the word today, but taken, often bought and treated as chattel.  I’ll be lobbying the Canadian Museum of Human Rights to include an exhibit on the home children. Who’s with me?

Stateless children

Refugees International presents Futures Denied: Statelessness among infants, children and youth. According to tthe childtrafficking.com listserv, some 11-12 million children, “though born and raised in their parents country of habitual residence” are stateless or without effective nationality.

Stateless was a concern raised when new citizenship policy, impacting first generation of international adoptees, was introduced by the federal government in the Spring of 2009. The new regulations offered an option to grant immediate Canadian citizenship to adopted children, but put limits or conditions on any children they might have outside of Canada. The rationale for the policy change was to provide an additional option for adoptive parents who were pursuing citizenship status for adopted children through the naturalization process. For more info, including to external links, see the posts at immigrantchildren.ca and chidinterrupted.ca.