Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

Christmas TreeBest wishes for the holidays and 2014, whatever your holiday you celebrate and traditions. For my Persian friends, Happy Yalda (winter solstice today).

Thank you all for your readership and interest in the issues raised in this blog and my book.

I will be taking a break from blogging during the holidays and hope that all of you will find time to recharge with friends and family.


Canadian authors on why people should read their books – Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias Makes the Hill Times Top 100 List

A nice way to end the year, being one of the 11 authors quoted in the top 100 list:

Andrew Griffith, author of Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resettling Citizenship and Multiculturalism. “We’re human beings. We’re a combination of our background, our training, our professional experience, so we actually have a fair number of built-in biases and views that we don’t normally think about. So it’s almost for the public servant at the individual level and the public service at the collective level, to know thyself and to know the limits of what just saying you’re part of the impartial neutral public service doesn’t make you automatically impartial and neutral. You actually do have your biases and you have to find ways to be more open with yourself in terms of when you’re providing advice or when you’re thinking through an issue, okay, am I being objective here, or is my objective analysis being coloured by some of the biases that are part of me. It’s a hard process to do.”

via Canadian authors on why people should read their books |

Tory History and Its Critics | The Dorchester Review

A good overview on the Canadian “history wars” from C.P. Champion who was my counterpart in Minister Kenney’s office during my time working on citizenship and multiculturalism issues. Champion provides insight into the conservative historical narrative along with a strong  critique of how Liberal governments shaped their historical narrative to their political interests.

Margaret MacMillan’s The Uses and Abuses of History discusses how government’s routinely choose the historical narrative that suits their political and other interests, reinforcing Champion’s point. The themes that governments choose to emphasize in their historical narrative or de-emphasize reflect  political and policy choices. The Conservative government chose to emphasize certain themes of the traditional narrative (e.g., history, military, Crown) and downplay others related to more recent history (e.g., social safety net, human rights, culture), valid political and policy choices. Future governments may choose differently, although hopefully not reverting the insufferable lightness of A Look at Canada, the previous citizenship guide.

One last point. I play a cameo role in the article, given my role in Discover Canada. As readers of Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism will know, this work did challenge my preconceptions and Champion’s article would have been helpful to me and my colleagues had we had it before starting Discover Canada. Champion is correct in his sequence of events, the first draft was prepared by officials. I can see why he interpreted my account (p.24 of my book) differently but that was not the way it was intended.

Tory History & Its Critics | The Dorchester Review.

Liberals’ Quebec charter would combat religious extremism, Couillard says

The Liberal Party of Quebec response to the Charter are unspecified initiatives to combat religious extremism. Will be interesting to see the details:

“To those who come here and take advantage of our freedoms and democracy to then attack them and ultimately destroy them, we are saying loud and clear: ‘You are not welcome here, we will fight you, we will go after you,’ ” Mr. Couillard said …

« À ceux qui viennent chez nous pour profiter de nos libertés et de notre démocratie pour ensuite s’y attaquer et ultimement les détruire, nous disons haut et fort : vous n’êtes pas les bienvenus chez nous, nous vous combattrons, nous vous poursuivrons sans relâche. »

Liberals’ Quebec charter would combat religious extremism, Couillard says – The Globe and Mail.

Couillard veut débarrasser le Québec des intégristes religieux | Le Devoir

Muslims in Europe, bearers of pluralism

Further to a 2008 survey by the Berlin Research Agency for Social Research indicating high levels of distrust or discomfort among European Muslims with Jews and gays, and high levels of support for religious law,  Jan Jaap de Ruiter provides some context and analysis of the survey.

A valid and justified conclusion to be drawn from the survey carried out by WZB should have been that there is indeed a lot of work to be done when it comes to fundamentalist tendencies among Muslims in Europe. An equally valid and justified conclusion, however, is that Muslims are no exception in a Europe in which many  ”native” populations are contending with dislike of Jews, hatred against gay people and all kinds of undemocratic tendencies. Furthermore, it shows that, in spite of everything, Muslims in Europe seem to be doing better when it comes to embracing diversity and democratic values ​​than Muslims in Islamic countries. In the U.S., it is Muslims that show less support for the law of God than the general American public.What all of this shows, if anything, is that Muslims can apparently be different and that they are able to change. So let that be the new frame.

Muslims in Europe, bearers of pluralism.

Maria Mourani: «Je ne suis plus indépendantiste»

Nice to have some recognition of the value of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Quebec from the former Bloc québécois MP Maria Mourani, who quit the Bloc over their support for the proposed Quebec Charter of Values:

« J’en suis arrivée à la conclusion que mon appartenance au Canada, avec notamment la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés, protège mieux l’identité québécoise de toutes les citoyennes et de tous les citoyens du Québec, écrit-elle dans une lettre. Je ne suis plus indépendantiste. »

Maria Mourani: «Je ne suis plus indépendantiste» | MARTIN CROTEAU | Politique canadienne.

Ex-Bloc MP Maria Mourani says she is no longer a sovereigntist – Politics – CBC News

The Thought Leader

A somewhat weird column by David Brooks of the NY Times, a mix of a wonderful takedown of “thought leaders” (and pundits), while trying, not completely successfully, to work this into a life journey format. But for those of us who have been seduced, either with the thought of becoming a thought leader or following thought leaders (e.g., LinkedIn suggestions), a good read and worthy of reflection:

The Thought Leader is sort of a highflying, good-doing yacht-to-yacht concept peddler. Each year, he gets to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative, where successful people gather to express compassion for those not invited. Month after month, he gets to be a discussion facilitator at think tank dinners where guests talk about what it’s like to live in poverty while the wait staff glides through the room thinking bitter thoughts.

The Thought Leader –

French President Hollande tells Marois secularism eases social tensions

No surprise, as Quebec has always been influenced by French debates on accommodation and laicité, notwithstanding the very different histories and context of Quebec and France. France has had similar regulations to the proposed Charter since 2004 and there is ongoing debate over their effectiveness, not to mention the overall weakness of France’s integration of other communities, particularly Muslims.

French President Hollande tells Marois secularism eases social tensions – Need to know –

Hollande vante la laïcité proposée par Marois

UK: From Burke to burkhas – why it’s time for Tory multiculturalism

Another sign of how Conservative parties are embracing multiculturalism and ethnic communities, following the lead of Jason Kenney and Canadian Conservatives. Further reinforcement of Doug Saunders piece a while back (When the right turns left on diversity). Of course, with UKIP, the UK Conservatives have a challenge on the right that likely limits how far they can go:

A multiculturalist Conservative Party would also be serving the nation by harnessing the huge amount of political energy that exists in many BME communities. As Dominic Grieve’s remarks imply, within Asian communities there is plenty of evidence that local electoral and party politics are taken very seriously. The problem, of course, is that this energy does not always have respectable outcomes.

Nevertheless, there may be something faintly admirable in the fact that people outside the mainstream can be bothered with traditional electoral politics, even when this involves slightly dubious methods. Isn’t it preferable to the apathy, nihilism and witless narcissism seen in much of white, urban working class Britain? Northern Tories might thus regard BME voters in the way that Disraeli regarded the newly enfranchised working class: as “angels in marble” rather than devilish aliens. The task now, surely, is to chip away at the marble.

Richard Kelly: From Burke to burkhas – why it’s time for Tory multiculturalism | Conservative Home.

Campus segregation: ‘religious freedom’ cannot be allowed to trump equality – Telegraph

There has been a fair amount of controversy in the UK over segregated lectures by Islamic or other fundamentalists in universities. This opinion piece in the Telegraph argues, correctly, that such segregation is a step backwards and should not be encouraged or tolerated:

In any society, pluralist or otherwise, we are constantly forced to assign priorities to different values. Religious freedom – the right to worship, to free association, to a diet consistent with one’s faith, and so on – is rightly accorded respect. But that freedom cannot be allowed to distort and trump the ideals of the modern academy, at the heart of which is the notion of a scholarly community divided by civilised argument, not race, faith or gender.

Campus segregation: ‘religious freedom’ cannot be allowed to trump equality – Telegraph.