12.13.2005

continued

In comments yesterday, I said:
That reminds me of something I forgot to mention. During the recent non-confidence vote, Allan and I had our first look at a full parliament. I was taken aback by how white and how male it is. I expected - or at least was hoping for - better.
This engendered a big discussion, which I am only reading now - and learning a lot from, as always. (Wmtc readers rock!). Culling this thread from the always-welcome Simpsons-related comments, we find:

Kyle:
Yes, it's still pretty much an old white-boys club. The PM always makes sure that he's surronded by women and minorities in close-up shots, but the rest of the parliament hasn't changed much.

Then again, it also has to do with the fact that outside of the Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton, Canada is mostly white. The Maritimes are especially so, not because they don't want non-whites, but because they can't attract them. Immigrants are drawn to places like Toronto and Vancouver because (a) people outside of Canada have heard of them (b) they have already have large immigrant populations which makes it easier to transition and (c) because places like Halifax don't have large immigrant populations, you have to be braver to move to a place where you'll be surrounded by white people.

In fact, in Atlantic Canada the fact that immigrants aren't moving there is considered a major problem.
Me again:
The PM always makes sure that he's surronded by women and minorities in close-up shots, but the rest of the parliament hasn't changed much.

We noticed that more from Harper than anyone else. Look at me, I've got young people and minorities standing behind me! But I see Martin do it, too.

Then again, it also has to do with the fact that outside of the Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton, Canada is mostly white.

But this doesn't explain the government being mostly white and male. You've just named every major population centre.

The government of any country should reflect the make-up of the country. If Canada's doesn't, there are likely barriers - or at least serious obstacles - preventing it.
Kyle:
But this doesn't explain the government being mostly white and male. You've just named every major population centre.

I meant in that it skews ridings (and thus the makeup of government). Multi-ethnic Toronto has 22 ridings and 5 million people, of whithwhereas Atlantic Canada has 32 seats for 3 million (99% white) people. Thus, every MP from Atlantic Canada will be white, and let's be generous and say a 50% of Toronto's MPs are non-white. That still means of the 54 seats, there will be 12 minorities and 42 white people representing about 2 million minorites and 5 million white people. As you throw in more of the country, the values get even more skewed. Thus, minorities are severly underrepresented, but then you get into the big debate about how do you weigh a dense population centre versus a less-populated but much larger geographic area.

Because of Canada's low population density, this is a much harder issue to solve then the U.S., where the population is a little more evenly distributed.

I mean, if the U.S. were balanced the same way as Canada, 80 million people would live in NYC, 40 million would live in LA, Chicago would have 20 million, there's be about 10 million each in Philidelphia, Pheonix, and Houston, and the remaining 130 million would be spread out among the remaining population centres.
Lone Primate:
Allan and I had our first look at a full parliament. I was taken aback by how white and how male it is.

Really? This astounds me. When I look at the House of Commons, I've been struck by just how diverse the look has become. Given that Canada only opened up immigration without regard to racial categories in the 1960s, around the time I was born, I think the country's made marked progress at integrating newcomers into the political process. When you stop to consider that there virtually WERE no non-white Canadians prior to the 1970s, the fact that there are dozens of MPs who are ethnic minorities today should be seen as a feather in our cap. Currently, there are 37 MPs who were born outside Canada (out of a total of 308 MPs, if I'm not mistaken). That's every 8th MP. I think countries with that level of foreign-born representation must be few and far between. Not all of them are visible minorities, but on the other hand, there are Canadian-born visible minorities in the Commons as well. That number is only going increase over time, of course, as the relative number of European-ethnic Canadians drops. And folks have a point -- most immigrants move to the larger cities, which are underrepresented in Parliament, while rural areas with more homogeneous ethnic characters are overrepresented; that fact would tend to hobble the process of representing non-traditional groups to some extent.

There are, by my count, currently 65 women MPs. At 21% of the total, that's well shy of half. I was actually musing on that to my friend Paul a couple of weeks ago. It's been a long, long time since women got the vote and could be elected to the Commons. Why aren't they half the number by now? It's clear they're electable in Canada; there's hardly anyone left today who would refuse to vote for someone simply because she wasn't a man. Paul suggested it has something to do with the different priorities of men and women. Like it or not, most of the biological and care-giving responsibilities of bringing up the next generation fall to women, and that may be a part of the explanation -- after all, people willing to disrupt their lives to run for office are already a scarce commodity to start with. Coupled with that is the traditional sense that we still grow up with that politics is a men's game... we've grown up used to the idea that prime ministers and presidents, with few exceptions, are men... still. Does that subconsciously dissuade female hopefuls? Does it influence the selection of candidates? There may be something to that. Still, if half the MPs aren't women, more than a fifth are. We might inquire into what was right about the process on those occasions and encourage those circumstances in the future.

Multi-ethnic Toronto has 22 ridings and 5 million people, of whithwhereas Atlantic Canada has 32 seats for 3 million (99% white) people.

No, the City of Toronto, with a population of 2.48 million, has 22 ridings; not the whole GTA, which is what has about 5.5 million people. The riding boundaries don't exactly dovetail to Ontario's municipal boundaries, but the GTA has something like 40-45 ridings, depending on how you slice it. The cities are underrepresented, true -- but not that badly!

But this doesn't explain the government being mostly white and male.

Well, Canada's still mostly white. There are lot of visible minorities in the largest cities, but that's not the norm for the country, at least not yet. According to Statscan, in 2001, the population of Canada included 13.2% visible minorities. Median projections for 2017 suggest the figure will be 20.6% by then.

As for women... that one's more of a poser. But the same question plagues the US Congress and especially the Senate. I imagine it's the case elsewhere, too. Be interesting to look around and find out. Is any legislature running 50-50?
L-girl interjection (today): It's the law in Sweden, the only country that I know of that makes gender balance in government mandatory. Canada is obviously doing way better than the U.S. in this regard. And Canada's House of Commons is more diverse than I thought. That's good news. Back to the discussion.

Wrye:
Women are everywhere, of course, but ethnicity is another question entirely:

You've just named every major population centre.

My dear countrywoman, not so, in a few different ways. But let's look at the stats:

table here

As you can see, Visible Minorities are currently 13.4% of Canadians. If these were evenly distributed among the provinces, you'd expect to have 41 or 42 non-white MPs of the 308. But they're not, and seats don't exactly correspond to population either, so let's break it down:

Less Than 1% visible minority:

Newfoundland and Labrador - 7 seats
Prince Edward Island - 4 seats
Nunavut - 1 seat

Less than 5% Visible Minority:

Nova Scotia - 11 seats
New Brunswick - 10 seats
Yukon - 1 seat
Northwest Territories - 1 seat
Saskatchewan - 14 seats

So, that's 49 seats, of which statistically we might expect 1 visible minority MP, 2 at the most.

between 7 and 8% visible minority:
Manitoba - 14 seats
Quebec - 75 seats

So another 89 seats, of which we might see 6 non-caucasians.

11% VM:
Alberta - 28 seats

Now here, we might expect to see three visible minority members. I think we can agree that they'd have to be Conservatives running in Calgary or Edmonton to have any shot at all. Still, that scenario seems unlikely to me. Am I wrong, Rob?

So far, that's 166 seats of 308, of which me might see at most 11 non-caucasians.

19.1% Non-Caucasian:
Ontario - 106 seats

Now you can see why Ontario is key to any Canadian Election. So, let's say 20 non-caucasians, all from Toronto and Ottawa.

21.6% Non-Caucasian:
British Columbia - 36 seats

So, 7 or 8 MPs, all from Richmond, Surrey, and Vancouver

And that's all. So, of 308 MPs, we would expect to see, at absolute most, 39 Non-Caucasians, including seven relatively unlikely ones from Alberta and Quebec and a sweep of Metro Toronto.

I suspect the actual numbers aren't that far off at all, but I can't find that particular stat :)

(This page also might be of interest, from an organization that follows such things).

In Canada, of course, our major division is linguistic. But that doesn't show up in a photo. [L-girl: Yes, of course! Good point.]

When you stop to consider that there virtually WERE no non-white Canadians prior to the 1970s

Except Natives, of course, but as a country we pretty much had our head up our ass about that prior to that time, I would say.
Lone Primate:
Except Natives, of course, but as a country we pretty much had our head up our ass about that prior to that time, I would say.

Given that they couldn't even VOTE till 1960, I'd say so. :)
Rob:
Now here, we might expect to see three visible minority members. I think we can agree that they'd have to be Conservatives running in Calgary or Edmonton to have any shot at all. Still, that scenario seems unlikely to me. Am I wrong, Rob?

There are currently two, non-white Conservative MPs from Alberta, Rahim Jaffer (Edmonton-Strathcona) and Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East), both of East Indian descent, so your analysis was fairly accurate.

There are also, currently, three female Alberta MPs, one Liberal and two Conservative. They also represent urban ridings.
Carry on!

10 comments:

Lone Primate said...

Wow, Laura, you sure know a lot of windbags. :)

L-girl said...

ROFL :)

James said...

Something to remember is that when Bowser & Blue sing 'Twas the Scots That Built This Country, they mean it pretty literally: until recently, almost everyone here was Scot, with French in Quebec and Irish out east. Some scatterings of Mennonites and Ukranians here 'n' there. But significant ethnic diversity only started coming to Canada relatively recently.

And, of course, the rural/urban thing is important. About half of Canada lives in major urban centres, but the other half is 99% white -- which accounts for the mix you see in Parliament.

Lone Primate said...

When I lived in northwestern Mississauga, we were at the bleeding edge of multiculturalism. A fifteen minute drive away was Georgetown, a place so white that the Klan (from Quebec, believe it or not) actually showed up there on a recruiting drive in the 1980s (they were asked to leave by the local constabulary, as I recall). A friend of mine used to lampoon Georgetown as having "welcome to" signs saying 'we're white and proud and white'. These days, Asians have begun to settle in Georgetown, without any incident I'm aware of; Georgetown's become a part of the GTA in practice as well as in fact. It takes time, it takes exposure, it takes familiarity to learn the new ways. But if there's wariness, there's no real resistence, and it gives me hope for the future of the country -- and a future full of immigration is one we can't avoid, and shouldn't.

Kyahgirl said...

That's a great post, windbags and all :-)

I learned a lot just by reading. thanks.

James said...

A fifteen minute drive away was Georgetown, a place so white that the Klan actually showed up there on a recruiting drive in the 1980s

I grew up in London, Ontario, which was conservative-white enough that Ollie North showed up to attend a revival meeting. I've seen "Ye Must Be Born Again" grafitti there. Former Toronto police chief Julian Fantino made international news with his anti-kiddie-porn campaign (that didn't catch any child pornographers, but did involve the detention of a great many gay men, later released without charges) while police chief in London.

There's still plenty of social conservatism around -- but I think that, by in large, it's of a more "live and let live" sort than in many parts of the US.

Not entirely, mind. The university in London lost a chance to recruit two professors who were beaten up for being two men walking together during a visit to London.

L-girl said...

I recently spoke to a woman who lives around here in Mississauga. She's Canadian, of Indian and South African descent, her family came to Canada when she was 9. She grew up in St Catherines, and she was the only person of colour in her school. She told me they were the only non-white family in her section of town.

She went on about how that experience forged her, made her strong, etc. - but she raised her kids in Mississauga and was damn glad they didn't have to be forged in the same fire. She told me St Catherines is still largely white, although not as starkly as when she was a child.

Living in NYC often skewed my perception of the US, and now living in the GTA will do that for Canada. :)

Feynman and Coulter's Love Child said...

The breakdown of visible minorities was part of the reason you aren't going to see a lot of non-white, but I think a bigger thing is going to be the electability of the immigrants themselves. The vast majority of immigrants to the majorn western cities, for example, are made up of asian and east-indians, a significant majority of whom speak little or no English (or French) which makes them unlikely candidates.

Also there are cultural gaps in much the same way that there are gender gaps that mean so few women: MPs are mostly made up of lifelong political geeks, the kind who watch CPAC and memorize the names of Senators. Girls just don't en masse do that, in the same way they don't memorize car models or NFL stats. As with so many things, the number of women or minorities or attractive people becoming MPs is the result of untold numbers of complex personal preferences both of the candidates and their supports, and quotas will never fix it nor will they ever do a better job of selecting. Believe it or not, we are getting the best politicians we can already.

L-girl said...

I don't advocate quotas. True equal opportunity at every level will fix most inequities.

Please keep your gender stereotyping off this blog. Your name alone is revolting (at least half of it).

L-girl said...

The vast majority of immigrants to the majorn western cities, for example, are made up of asian and east-indians, a significant majority of whom speak little or no English (or French) which makes them unlikely candidates.

And by the way, immigrants to Canada must speak either English or French fluently. Immigrants can't be M.P.s because they're not citizens. Once they are citizens, they certainly speak either English or French.