Author Archives: Ankit Pahwa

June and July Round-up

Highlights from the months of June and July.

Awards:

  • Johannes Remy’s Brothers or Enemies was awarded the Ivan Franko International Prize of 2018.
  • French Écocritique by Stephanie Posthumus is on the shortlist for the Alanna Bondar Memorial Book Prize.

Conferences:

  • Daniel Quinlan represented UTP at the Law and Society Association’s annual conference in Toronto.
  • Anne Brackenbury and Jodi Lewchuk presented our sociology list at the World Congress of Sociology in Toronto.

Media Highlights:

 

New Releases:

Deeply Rooted in the Present: Heritage, Memory, and Identity in Brazilian Quilombos

Guest post by Mary Lorena Kenny

Mary Lorena Kenny is Professor of Anthropology at Eastern Connecticut State University. She is the author of Hidden Heads of Households: Child Labor in Urban Northeast Brazil (2007) and Deeply Rooted in the Present: Heritage, Memory, and Identity in Brazilian Quilombos 

Over the course of three hundred years, Brazil imported over five million slaves, more than any country in the Americas. One hundred years after abolition, the 1988 constitution included a clause guaranteeing quilombolas (federally recognized descendants of self-ascribed, traditional Black settlements) collective land titles as a type of reparation. Thanks to an international collective of scholars and activists, reparation policies and projects are gaining momentum.

There are an estimated four thousand quilombo communities in Brazil. The quilombola heritage policy (ideally) offers a legal instrument for enhancing social and economic inclusion, as the daily life for quilombolas is marked by a troubling history shaped long ago by slavery and colonialism. It is manifested today by some of the worst indicators in terms of access to healthcare, schooling, and basic infrastructure. Three quarters of the families living in quilombos are categorized as living in extreme poverty and receive public assistance. Deeply Rooted in the Present: Heritage, Memory, and Identity in Brazilian Quilombos maps some of the ways these communities address the still unresolved legacies of slavery through empowering narratives of resistance, land rights, material practices (heritage), and activism. I felt it was important to highlight how past practices are linked to contemporary conditions of exploitative, slave-like labor practices, violent conflict over access to land, and police violence targeting people of color. Woven throughout the book are discussions of how quilombola heritage policies are tied to these social, economic, political, and racial realities of the country.

The book is for general readers rather than specialists in anthropology or Brazilian studies.

The chapters focus on the history of slavery in Brazil, the quilombola movement, and a case study to examine some of the issues and challenges for these “maroons” (communities formed by persons fleeing slavery). Since their inception, the quilombo heritage policies have been stalled by bureaucratic obstacles, violent conflict over land rights, and shifts in the definition of quilombola. One of the first chapters discusses some of the trials and tribulations of field work, which in my experience garners many questions from students. At the end of the book, there is a section of further readings for those who would like to explore more deeply some of the issues raised.

Overall, the material can be useful for generating discussions on how people give meaning to where they have been, who they are now, and (ideally) where they can go in a shifting political, economic, and social context. Re-conceptualizing “who we are” has disrupted some core historical and cultural beliefs. How quilombolas see themselves does not always coincide with how others view them. Opponents claim that the land grant program is unconstitutional and illegal. They argue that slavery ended 130 years ago in Brazil, and that quilombolas are irrelevant in the twenty-first century. They assert that acknowledging a quilombola ethno-racial claim to land as a land reform strategy is corrupt because it provides free land to undeserving recipients, is exclusionary because it encourages groups to invent an identity that did not exist before, and excludes poor, non-quilombolas. This policy, they argue, encourages racial polarity, which is seen as un-Brazilian and imported from a US model that does not correspond to the Brazilian reality of race relations. They contend that it is misguided and does little to help the quality of life for residents in traditional Black settlements. Strong, vocal objection to the reparations program is made by powerful people: agro-industrial oligarchs, logging and mining companies, the military, real estate developers, and, most recently, those responsible for preparing roads and stadiums for the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics, during which time quilombolas were threatened with expulsion and activists have been murdered.

Students will recognize the generational differences in how groups articulate their reality, with some younger members questioning the usefulness (politically, economically, and socially) of “taking on” this identity. The material is framed by key questions in anthropology about identity, heritage, and culture. It includes an appendix that lists ways students can explore their own heritage and identity, including virtual, online communities, and contemporary issues such as gun control, gender, and BlackLivesMatter. In-class or field projects can explore how heritage is expressed in material objects or physical and oral forms. Since so much of the history of enslaved and marginalized groups has been muted, invisible, outlawed, or excluded, students can explore places, monuments, or rituals that have significant religious, political, or social value for different groups, noting which ones have a louder voice or bigger “footprint.” They can tie their own family histories to changes in their community (e.g., the closing of car or textile factories, urban renewal, extreme weather conditions, forced relocation, or resettlement) and note how this larger context has shaped the lives of the members of the community. Students can identify cultural practices in their own community that have continued, disappeared, or reemerged in a new way (e.g., death and burial practices, dance, music, language, food). Which ones have led to a revalorization of social identity, or new source of income? Can they identify development projects that have led to impoverishment, social dislocation, and the erosion of heritage (e.g., oil pipelines and dams built on Indigenous sacred territory)? They can also investigate how development projects have led to clashes over cultural heritage, e.g., construction of a building that unearthed a graveyard, or a heritage building scheduled to be demolished for modern development.

Overall, the book shows how social action can lead to change, how groups give meaning to who they are, and in the process, disrupt historical narratives, re-articulate social relations, and foment political agency.

The Devolution of Canada’s Public Employment Service 1995-2015: Part 2

by Donna E. Wood

My June 18 blog post provided a brief overview of my recently released book Federalism in Action: the Devolution of Canada’s Public Employment Service 1995-2015. It also commented on the first two questions addressed in the book:

1. What governance choices did each province make in taking on the federal programming?

2. How do the devolved public employment services (PES) compare to federal delivery?

This blog posting deals with the last two questions:

3. How is the Government of Canada managing its role post-devolution?

4. How does Canada’s PES work together as a whole? What challenges remain?

To assess the third question, I needed to reflect on the federal role in a post-devolution world. In my view, there are four important dimensions. Ottawa still controls the money (most of it coming from the Employment Insurance or EI account) and sets the legislative, policy and accountability framework under which the provincial and territorial PES programming operates. There are ‘pan-Canadian’ programs to be managed. Determining how PES programming is coordinated across the country, securing stakeholder input, and ensuring that comparative research is available to improve the programs on offer requires federal leadership. Finally, not all employment services were devolved: Ottawa deliberately kept direct responsibility for key target groups: Aboriginal persons, youth and persons with disabilities.

The Government of Canada’s performance in all of these areas between 1995 and 2015 was weak. The federal-provincial and federal-Aboriginal accountability arrangements were inadequate, confusing, controlling, and non-transparent. Given that 87 per cent of PES programming is now devolved, there is no good reason for the federal government to still be involved in the direct management of programs for youth and persons with disabilities. Pan-Canadian programming declined significantly during the Harper Conservative years after 2006 when spending was reduced and all the research institutions and coordinating bodies put in place by the Liberals were defunded.

The Forum of Labour Market Ministers ─ the intergovernmental body responsible for pan-Canadian coordination ─ rarely met at the Ministers’ level until it was revitalized by the provinces and territories in 2013 following the Harper Conservatives unilateral decision to replace the Labour Market Agreements with the Canada Job Fund.  With the demise of the Canadian Labour Force Development Board in 1998, the only formal way stakeholder’s views were heard was when Ottawa decided to hold a consultation or seek input.

On the fourth question, Canada’s public employment service in 2015 did not work well together as a whole, as it was highly fragmented and complex. With 52 bilateral federal-provincial-territorial labour market transfer agreements, 85 federal-Aboriginal agreements, as well as direct federal youth, disability and pan-Canadian programming, it was very hard for Canadians to figure out who did what and who was responsible for what.

These problems can be rectified without diminishing the positive value of devolution. In my paper Strengthening Canada’s Public Employment Service Post-Devolution, released by the Caledon Institute for Social Policy in September 2016, I outlined the challenges facing Canada’s public employment service and suggested the following changes:

  • Develop a pan-Canadian multilateral labour market framework agreement
  • Consolidate the four agreements into one agreement
  • Devolve responsibility for federal youth and disability programming
  • Re-affirm the federal stewardship and coordination roles
  • Restore the National Aboriginal Labour Market Management Board
  • Develop a National Labour Market Partner’s Council
  • Include comparative research in the mandate of the Labour Market Information Council

Since the completion of the book manuscript in 2017, federal-provincial-territorial governments have made progress on many of these suggestions. They have agreed that the four labour market transfer agreements will be consolidated into two: a Labour Market Development Agreement or LMDA (focusing primarily on those with an Employment Insurance attachment) and a Workforce Development Agreement or WDA (covering everyone else). This should significantly reduce complexity, especially with respect to accountability. These new bilateral agreements started to roll out in May 2018, with Ontario and British Columbia first off the mark.

After a very long gestation period the Labour Market Information Council under the Forum of Labour Market Ministers was finally launched in May 2018. Its scope was clarified as focusing strictly on labour market information, not research. Pan-Canadian research will be undertaken by a new federal entity yet to be established, the Future Skills Centre. Stakeholder input will be secured through a Future Skills Council. This all seems to be good news but only time will tell.

However, the Government of Canada has demonstrated no intent to devolve youth or disability employment programming. Given its confirmation of the ‘distinctions’ based approach to Aboriginal employment services, there will be no pan-Aboriginal labour market management board. As a result, some complexity and fragmentation in Canada’s PES will remain.

In 2018 we celebrate 100 years of Canada’s public employment service.  Devolution to the provinces, territories, and Aboriginal organizations started more than 20 years ago. Phase one under the Chrétien/Martin Liberals involved the initial offer in 1995 and the acceptance of federal staff, assets, contracts and programming responsibilities by eight provinces and territories. It also involved the establishment of Aboriginal labour market entities and pan-Canadian institutions.

Phase two under the Harper Conservatives moved the other five jurisdictions to similar devolved arrangements and increased funding for non EI clients. However, the Conservatives reduced federal involvement in pan-Canadian initiatives and unilaterally changed the federal-provincial transfer agreement rules.

We are now into devolution Phase three under the Trudeau Liberals. Hopefully my book Federalism in Action: the Devolution of Canada’s Public Employment Service 1995-2015 will shed light on what has transpired in the past in order to facilitate future policy learning. There is no shortage of work that needs to be done in this often neglected but essential area of public policy.

The Devolution of Canada’s Public Employment Service 1995-2015: Part 1

An excerpt from ‘Queering Urban Justice’

The Toronto chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM-TO) organizes public interventions to resist anti-black racism in the GTA. One of the most prominent of these actions is the sit-in they staged to block the 2016 Toronto Pride Parade from moving until festival officials signed a pledge to be more inclusive of black and brown trans and LGTBQ people.  Within hours, news outlets across Canada were debating the merits of BLM-TO’s tactics (here).

Two of BLM-TO’s founding members, Janaya Khan and Leroi Newbold, facilitated a public teach-in at the bookstore A Different Booklist.  A transcript of this event is published as “Black Lives Matter Teach-In” in QUEERING URBAN JUSTICE, a new anthology edited by Jin Haritaworn, Ghaida Moussa, and Syrus Marcus Ware, with Río Rodríguez. The following exchange is an excerpt (pages 141-143):    

COMMUNITY MEMBER: Can you speak to what is unique about do­ing anti-Black racism organizing in Canada as opposed to other places?

JANAYA: We know deeply, as I’m sure some of you who do different social justice work here know, of the uphill battle trying to talk about social justice in Canada. They’ll invalidate racism here and say we’re not as bad as the US. When did our standards become so low that we can justify real violence by saying we’re not as bad as the US? Because we don’t have Black people dying every twenty-eight hours like they do? When did that become the standards of justice for Black people? We are legitimately in a state of emergen­cy in Canada. We already were.

One major issue we’ve faced here in Ontario is our Special In­vestigations Unit [SIU], that’s who we’re supposed to look to in the event that police use force against persons in this province. They were supposed to be a group of civilians, but they’re a group of ex-cops. According to their own report, from 2012 to 2013, there was a 22 per cent increase of incident reports of police officers using force against a person. There’s been a 51 per cent caseload increase for this small group of people. That tells us that our police are actually getting more and more militarized and aggressive, and that our SIU is not changing in order to be accountable to its populace. It is changing to better support police officers in their masquerading. In their pretence of justice and pretence of law enforcement, which has just really manifested itself around anti-Black racism and the killing of Black people.

Here in Canada we recognize, particularly in Toronto, that it’s not about critical masses as much as it is about critical connec­tions. Everyone here in this space needs to be making critical con­nections. We need to be having conversations about anti-Black racism in Canada because for the first time, in a long time, people are talking about anti-Black racism here. In this era, Black Lives Matter Toronto is pushing that narrative. But revolution happens in cycles, and we’re going to honour our elders, and look towards our Indigenous people and our Black people, as we read more and more about what’s come before us. Histories of this work aren’t accessible, they are not archived, but guess what – we al­ready know they’re there because we have been living and sur­viving in those conditions. This is why a space like A Different Booklist is so incredibly important. Because it is literally a part of Black Toronto; it’s a part of Black Canada’s history. That is why we need to support it.

Also, what we are dealing with here is fundamentally not about just the Harper government – get rid of it, get rid of it. What we’re dealing with is not just one party, politician, or institution. If we were to get rid of the current government, anti-Black racism would continue to exist. What we are dealing with is a belief system. It is a belief system that Black people are [inherently] inferior, and that we actually don’t feel pain, that we don’t hurt, that we don’t love. That is what anti-Black racism is. It manifests itself in lock­ing us up. There’s an article in the Toronto Star that said that Black youth spend the longest time in the Children’s Aid Society’s care. That’s an extension of the prison industrial complex. I was one of those youth; I grew up in that. I can tell you it did not help. It made things increasingly difficult. It made me known to the police. Why? Because they treated me as an adult, and I was twelve years old. And then fourteen years old. These are the contexts our orga­nizing is born out of.

For more about Queering Urban Justice, click here.

The Devolution of Canada’s Public Employment Service 1995-2015: Part 1

by Donna E. Wood

In 2018 we celebrate 100 years of public employment services in Canada. These are the supports and services provided by our governments to connect unemployed and underemployed job seekers with employers through information, guidance, placement, training, and labour market adjustment services. Not only does the public employment service or PES help individuals develop job skills, by facilitating job matching it helps employers fill vacancies more efficiently.

Jurisdictional responsibility for the public employment service in Canada has changed hands four times over the century ─ from a national network of provincially managed but federally funded services between 1918 and 1940; to an arm’s length organization between 1940 and 1977 under federal control; to direct management under a federal government department between 1977 and 1996; and back to mostly provincial design and delivery using federal funding starting in 1996. However, what has not changed is the essential contribution of Canada’s public employment service to keeping unemployment rates low and labour market participation rates high.

My new book Federalism in Action: the Devolution of Canada’s Public Employment Service 1995-2015 focuses on the past 20 years when ─ triggered primarily by a need for the Chrétien Liberal government to demonstrate ‘flexible federalism’ following the 1995 Québec referendum ─ federal PES responsibilities were transferred to the provinces and territories one jurisdiction at a time over a period of 14 years through largely similar Labour Market Development Agreements. Provincial management was solidified in 2007 with additional federal funding through what were known at the time as Labour Market Agreements.

In 2015 provinces[1] provided public employment services through entities called WorkBC, Alberta Works, Saskatchewan-Canada Career & Employment Service Centres, Manitoba Jobs & Employment Centres, Employment Ontario, Emploi-Québec, New Brunswick Career Information Centres, Career Nova Scotia Centres, PEI Career Development Centres, and Newfoundland & Labrador Employment Skills Centres. Services for Aboriginal people were provided through 85 Aboriginal Skills and Training Strategy (ASETS) holders operating in communities across Canada and by the federal government directly through contracts arranged with community-based organizations for youth and persons with disabilities. Ottawa also retained a funding, oversight, and pan-Canadian coordination role.

Collectively these organizations and the services they provide make up Canada’s public employment service, with most funding coming from mandatory employer and worker contributions to the Employment Insurance (EI) account and oversight provided by the Canada Employment Insurance Commission and federal/provincial/territorial Ministers through the Forum of Labour Market Ministers. In 2013/14 almost 1.2 million Canadians used provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal employment services at a cost of over $3.1 billion to the Government of Canada. Many of those receiving services were in receipt of federal Employment Insurance or provincial social assistance benefits.

My book assesses how Canada’s public employment service performed between 1995 and 2015 under predominately provincial, territorial and Aboriginal ─ as opposed to federal ─ management. The data source was 132 interviews with 170 people in every province; federal parliamentary committee hearings and reports; federal performance and evaluation reports (including the annual Employment Insurance Monitoring and Assessment Report); provincial accountability reports; as well as academic and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) assessments. The analysis was framed around four questions:

1. What governance choices did each province make in taking on the federal programming? Why? What outcomes have been achieved and how do these compare across provinces?

2. Considered collectively, how do the devolved PES services compare to when they were delivered by the Government of Canada?

3. How is the Government of Canada managing its role post-devolution?

4. How does Canada’s PES work together as a whole? What challenges remain as our public employment service moves into the 21st century?

On the first question, provinces were compared on four elements drawn from the international literature (single gateways, decentralization, outsourcing, and partnerships) in four groupings: the Far West (British Columbia and Alberta); the Midwest (Saskatchewan and Manitoba); the Middle (Ontario and Québec) and the East (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador). Provinces made very different choices on these elements, based on their individual history, devolution timing, and their political culture/dynamics. To compare provinces, I used efficiency, effectiveness and democracy as criteria. Considering all of these elements and criteria, Québec’s PES choices provide a best practices model that the rest of Canada should examine more closely and potentially emulate.

On the second question, in 2015 almost triple the number of Canadians were served compared to 1995 when the Government of Canada was directly responsible. However, this change needs to be read in conjunction with a change in the programming provided: from more expensive long term interventions (including training) to less expensive ‘light touch’ employment assistance services. The change in programming was an outcome of the indicators chosen by Ottawa following the 1995/96 EI reform as well as the fact that ─ other than for two years during the 2008/09 economic downturn ─ there was no increase in federal funding. Even with this change in programming emphasis, federal evaluation studies carried out over the years have consistently demonstrated the positive impact of provincial and Aboriginal oversight of the PES.

On the third and fourth questions examined in the book, stay tuned to my next blog posting. A preview of challenges and suggestions for change were detailed in a submission I made to federal/provincial/territorial governments in 2016 as part of their consultations on the labour market transfer agreements. Take a look at the Caledon Institute of Social Policy version of my thoughts published in 2016 as Strengthening Canada’s Public Employment Service Post Devolution. I’ll bring these issues forward to 2018 in my next blog posting.

Federalism in Action: The Devolution of Canada’s Public Employment Service 1995-2015 is now available for purchase.

[1] PES arrangements in the Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Nunavut were not examined in the book.

The Devolution of Canada’s Public Employment Service 1995-2015: Part 2