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Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen: Canada's current and possible future use of artificial intelligence to help screen and process immigrant visa applications could lead to discrimination as well as possible privacy and human rights breaches, according to the authors of a new research analysis.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

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Immigration smarts

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Re Using AI To Handle Immigration Is Risky, Report Says (Sept. 26): The Citizen Lab has called for a freeze on the experimental pilot project that uses AI in immigration processing. Yes, there is a risk in AI-enhanced public administration, as there is with any change, but the Citizen Lab’s approach lacks consideration for progress, and the risk that comes with continuing the status quo.

Left understated is that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada is underresourced.

Processing times for applications of all types are some of the longest in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and caseloads border on the impossible, sometimes entailing the review of hundreds of pages per hour. While AI might not (yet) have the attention to detail of a skilled case officer with theoretically infinite time per file, this has not been a realistic option for at least 30 years.

Unmentioned is that AI is being used selectively, in the lowest-risk circumstances, with ample supervision and review. In these cases, AI has shown far higher accuracy and reliability than human operators. While the call to halt AI in government may satisfy some, it is tantamount to killing public-sector innovation in its cradle.

Mark Robbins, senior researcher, Institute on Governance, Ottawa

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Now that the Trump administration doesn’t want to give green cards to those in America who need food stamps and or housing help, will these groups will be the next entrants into Canada at unsanctioned border crossings?

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Bill Bousada, Carleton Place, Ont.

Decisions in Quebec

Re Linguistic Dividing Lines In Quebec Politics Remain Nearly Perfectly Intact (Sept. 22): In conversation with anglophone and allophone friends, it has become clear that on many questions of social policy and public investment, we are generally quite closely aligned with aspects of both the Québec Solidaire and Parti Québécois platforms.

That said, the question of Quebec separation is never really off the table with either of them, any more than it is with the Coalition Avenir Québec, led as it is by an evasive former Péquiste.

I and acquaintances (of all linguistic origins) have been reluctant to vote for the Quebec Liberal Party after the passing of the xenophobic Bill 62. The fact a well-respected MNA admitted to me that Bill 62 was a vote-grab aimed at right-leaning voters, and that the party expected the bill would be defeated in the Supreme Court, hasn’t changed my mind. Sleazy catering to voters’ worst instincts often has unpredictable, frightening long-term consequences.

While the Liberals have indeed gotten a handle on the province’s finances, much like the federal Liberals in 1995, they moved too hard, too fast, and devastated the health-care sector in the process.

Given all this, I had decided to decline my ballot, but now, faced with the rise of the CAQ, I am once again looking at gritting my teeth and voting Liberal. So in this sense, Konrad Yakabuski is spot on: for left-leaning, non-separatist voters in Quebec at least, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

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Matt Bergbusch, Montreal

Oil, transport, whales

Re Scheer Pitches Pipeline ‘Rescue Plan’ (Sept. 25): The Conservative Leader wants the government to pass emergency legislation to avoid another hearing before the National Energy Board on the Trans Mountain extension.

The only emergency action the government should consider is dealing with the plight of Canada’s endangered whales off the B.C. coast. The government gave the NEB 22 weeks to look into the impact increased tanker traffic from the pipeline would have on these magnificent creatures, which are already struggling to survive with the precipitous decline in their food source, the chinook salmon. What good will pipeline capacity do us when the last orca is gone from these waters? How much study does it take to know that more tankers will tip these creatures into oblivion?

Ellen Summers, Victoria

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Canada has focused a lot of effort on preserving the environment and many of its endangered species, but the Trans Mountain project will create many setbacks to these efforts. Killer whales are one of the top ocean predators, helping to regulate the size of populations they feed on. If Canada goes through with this project, the negative effect on the orcas will cause a chain reaction that will adversely effect other species and the ecosystems in which they reside.

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While this pipeline project could be a great investment in the short term, the negative effect on the environment will cost Canadians much more in the long run.

No matter what economic benefits this project creates, Canada should not mess around with nature.

Prabhakaran Rana, Toronto

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In addition to all the other problems the whales face, a dozen or so Canadian whale watching boats and probably as many U.S.-based boats make the trip from Victoria, Vancouver and the San Juan Islands, disturbing the orcas on their daily treck.

I live on Saturna and see first hand how close the boats come to the orcas, and how they pursue them! I can not understand why the rules of engagement are so lax. There are too many boats chasing too few and endangered whales, relentlessly, day after day.

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Arnold Wicht, Saturna Island, B.C.

Democracy, tested

Re N.B. Liberals, Conservatives Both Claim Premier’s Seat (Sept. 26): The electoral system in New Brunswick no longer passes the smell test of democracy.

With the Liberal Party winning 6 per cent more of the popular vote than the PC Party (37.8 per cent versus 31.9 per cent), yet receiving one less seat than the Conservatives (21 versus 22 seats), which party has a true democratic mandate to form a government?

This is the same province where in 1987, Frank McKenna’s Liberal Party took 100 per cent of the seats with 60 per cent of the vote. With not a single opposition member, the New Brunswick legislature became a non-stop Liberal caucus meeting for the next four years.

The single-member constituency electoral system that Canada has used since Confederation is in dire need of reform to better reflect the popular vote, or we will continue to have results where we will question the legitimacy of governments.

Larry Bukta, Toronto

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While it’s true that New Brunswick’s Lieutenant-Governor has the right to insist that the Legislature be summoned before Christmas, so do you and I – with precisely the same force and effect (Xmas In New Brunswick – letters, Sept. 26).

Louis Desjardins, Belleville, Ont.

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Commenting on the novel state of N.B. politics – a minority government – the leader of the Green Party relishes the idea of change. There may now be, he says, a legislature “where MLAs have more freedom to vote as representatives of constituents rather than just always towing the party line.” I agree, though I must say towing the line sounds a lot easier, physically speaking, than toeing it.

Geoff Rytell, Toronto

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