Chris Selley: Canada’s secret ‘values’ debate | National Post

Chris Selley of the National Post on treatment of evangelicals versus other religions. While some of his points are valid, he may be going to far in stressing expression of religious freedom compared to other rights. My general test is to substitute other religions, race, or orientation and see how it lands, remembering that the effect on others is where the balance of rights question arises.

But I agree with him that open discussion is better than hiding things. Far better that Professor Grayson of York U went public over the accommodation issue to help society discuss the “reasonable” in reasonable accommodation:

Yet in the Rest of Canada, politicians aren’t advocating legal changes. They seem to have started simply proclaiming certain opinions unpresentable, or even un-Canadian — ”This is Canada, pure and simple,” a scandalized Liberal MP Judy Sgro said of York’s position — while ignoring the obvious ramifications of their positions were they consistently applied. Worse, they’re not consistently applying them and they show no signs of starting. As ever, many on the Canadian centre-left seem to be indulging a paranoid obsession with evangelicals, and it’s just as discreditable as Quebec politicians’ paranoid obsession with Muslims. Ugly as it is, at least Quebec’s “values” debate is playing out in the light of day.

Chris Selley: Canada’s secret ‘values’ debate | National Post.

Charte de la laïcité – Quelques suites d’un mémoire sur la laïcité | Le Devoir

Guy Rocher replies to the criticism of Georges Leroux et Jocelyn Maclure on his submission to the Charter hearings, maintaining his strict approach to secularism (but not wishing to fire existing employees). Again, confusing the neutrality of government with the religious expression of individual employees:

Puisque le point de départ de notre réflexion collective sur la neutralité fut le constat du pluralisme, nous pouvons sans doute affirmer que celui-ci continuera, et qu’il est bien probable que nous assisterons à une diversification religieuse encore plus marquée. Le principe de « l’égalité des droits » entre les « clientèles » devra donc s’appliquer plus que jamais.

Et je ne me crois pas en contradiction avec ma position, en tant que sociologue, en proposant que l’on accepte que ceux et celles qui portent déjà des signes ostentatoires de leurs convictions religieuses continuent à le faire tant qu’ils et elles sont à l’emploi des institutions publiques. Il s’agit là d’une question de justice pour ces institutions qui les ont employé(e)s et surtout pour ces personnes elles-mêmes.

La charte de la laïcité est pour demain, et non pour hier.

Charte de la laïcité – Quelques suites d’un mémoire sur la laïcité | Le Devoir.

And the usual political back and forth:

Lisée accuse Couillard de ne pas comprendre le Québec

Même avec la charte, le tchador sera autorisé à l’université, admet Drainville

UK Immigration Bill: UK terror suspects could be stripped of their citizenship

Interesting that the UK revokes citizenship even when this would leave someone stateless, contrary to the UN Conventions on statelessness. Will be interesting to see if Canada (and Australia) follow suit with respect to statelessness, as well as giving the Minister discretion with limited due process.

Immigration bill: UK terror suspects could be stripped of their citizenship – UK Politics – UK – The Independent.

Opposing the campaign to exclude Israelis from the global academic community | Engage

An interesting piece by David Hirsh (see Engage | The anti-racist campaign against antisemitism, with a left-wing perspective, on how to oppose the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign against Israel, and linking this to other forms of hate and racism. A reminder that there us a plurality of approaches against antisemitism:

  • “The conflict on our campuses seems to be between wavers of the Israeli flag and wavers of the Palestinian flag.  We refuse to pick up one or the other flag and to hope for its victory; better to embrace a politics of reconciliation
  • We need to have a conversation about what solidarity is….
  • Academic freedom and democratic norms
  • Consistency
  • Antisemitism.
  • Understanding, analyzing, making arguments, educating….”

The Israeli and Jewish right tends increasingly to embody a politics and a way of thinking which has little in common with our own.  What they say about the roots of the Israel/Palestine conflict, about how to get peace, about how to relate to the boycott, about how to relate to the Palestinian national movement, about how to relate to the Islamists is highly problematic.  Their paradigm and their way of thinking is not likely to be influential amongst academics.

But the Israeli and Jewish right are sometimes quite good at sniffing out antisemitism.  When they are angry and militant against antisemitism – that is when they’re right, it isn’t an indicator that they must have got it wrong.

Just as liberty, freedom, the rule of law, democracy, lesbian and gay rights, womens rights and human rights are values which should not be abandoned by the left, as though they were right wing issues, so the issue of antisemitism should not be abandoned to the right either.

The left cannot be influential amongst Jews if it teaches people to recognise concern for antisemitism and opposition to boycotts of Israel as right wing issues.

The problem with the approach of the right isn’t that their militancy against antisemitism is misplaced – the problem is that they’re not consistent, they’re not antiracist, they’re not for a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine – indeed the problem with the right is similar, in these respects to the problem with the boycotters and the people who think that anti-imperialism is the only important left wing value.

We need a movement and a network to give people good arguments, to build a cosmopolitan anti-nationalist sensibility, to propose genuine solidarity in place of the hollow boycott-version.

Opposing the campaign to exclude Israelis from the global academic community | Engage.

Theatre: Kim’s Convenience is a funny and generous play

For those of you in the Ottawa area and who haven’t seen this play yet, highly recommended. Works as both a well-crafted play as well as capturing an immigrant perspective. Runs until February 8 at the NAC.

Theatre review: Kim’s Convenience is a funny and generous play.

Cogeco CEO Louis Audet says Quebec’s proposed values charter harmful to economy

From an economic and business perspective:

Audet is one of the few business leaders in Quebec who have spoken out against such a charter. A recent poll has found that 60 per cent of Quebecers supported the secular charter, which would forbid public employees from wearing visible religious symbols including hijabs, turbans, kippas and larger-than-average crucifixes.

“I can’t help but think that the charter of Quebec values’ bill is a bill that’s harmful to our economy, and ultimately, our ability to pay for social programs that our elected members will want to favour, regardless of which party is in power,” he told the Montreal Chamber of Commerce.

But Premier Pauline Marois has said the charter doesn’t worry foreign investors who might be interested in setting up shop in Quebec and recently announced in London that two companies would be heading to Montreal to do business…..

Local chamber of commerce president and CEO Michel Leblanc said his organization is also against the values charter.

“It’s creating the impression that Quebec is a closed society to immigrants,” he said. “We want to attract immigrants whether it’s for work or investment. If we can’t attract immigrants because of the charter, it’s going to harm Quebec’s economy.”

Cogeco CEO Louis Audet says Quebec’s proposed values charter harmful to economy – Need to know –

La charte menacerait l’économie

New Saudi writers offer form of Islamic liberation theology – Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East

An interesting piece about Saudi Arabia and how some of the new generation of thinkers are questioning Saudi Salafism, a mini-reformation so to speak:

These writers and many others long for a new liberation theology that frees people from political oppression that is deeply rooted in religion. They represent a new generation of Saudi intellectuals who are prepared to challenge Salafist dogma, especially those aspects that have allowed absolute government to pacify society, criminalize civil and political activism and isolate people from the decision-making process. They challenge the meaning of concepts used by official Saudi religious scholars to “domesticate” the population and ensure its acquiescence in showing obedience to rulers and avoiding dissent and chaos.

These Saudis have not abandoned Islam but are searching in its history and interpretations for ways to challenge Saudi Arabia’s political stagnation and religious dogma. They all cherish the freedom to discuss and debate openly and reach out to audiences beyond the limited circles of the educated and intellectuals. Yet, they are denied this opportunity as a result of traditional Salafist resistance and the government’s fear of the new discourse they are attempting to propagate. The Saudi government is frightened by these revisionist approaches to religion and their potential consequences, especially if they empower a young generation tired of rehearsing old religious ideas.

If real political change needs an intellectual framework, then this new generation of writers is definitely contributing to the debate that may in the future lead Saudis to endorse a revisionist liberation theology. All they need at this juncture is a group of dedicated activists who can put their ideas into action.

New Saudi writers offer form of Islamic liberation theology – Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East.

Why Himmler letters deserve closer study: Mallick | Toronto Star

Heather Mallick, who usually writes to the left on issues, has a good column on the Himmler letters and the nature of evil:

The truth is that evil exists, that it has to be confronted, and people will do anything not to. We don’t like hard truths. When I hear about murder, I’m curious about what built the killer. Tell me about child abuse, blows to the head, adolescent shocks and adult lies. Don’t tell me we can treat conditions that we can’t even yet identify because psychology is still a young science. What makes a person evil?

If there’s a thread that runs through all these histories, it’s a bizarre attachment to family. We see it all the time, mothers speaking kindly of their serial-killer sons, siblings defending the indefensible, the idea that everyone has something lovable in them and only families can see it. But is it true, even if Heinrich had pet names for Marga and Hedwig, even if evil has its apologists?

Here is the verdict of Katrin and her co-author in a new book about Heinrich: “These letters show the deformation of normality, violence masquerading as harmlessness, cold-bloodedness that goes along with ostensible care, and the unswerving moral certitude even while committing mass murder.”

Why Himmler letters deserve closer study: Mallick | Toronto Star.

Andrew Cohen: Citizenship should mean more

Provocative commentary by Andrew Cohen on making citizenship more meaningful. Opposite perspective to the article by Elke Winter Becoming Canadian » Institute for Research on Public Policy.

Part of the challenge of citizenship policy is balancing the need for meaningfulness (and integrity) with the realities of today’s globalized world and individuals. If our immigration policy tries to attract more skilled and entrepreneurial immigrants, these are also likely to be more mobile and may have a more instrumental approach to citizenship.

While there are further opportunities to strengthen citizenship, many of Cohen’s suggestions are either not real world solutions or reasonable. For example:

  • Five year continuous residency:  are we really going to deny someone citizenship if they visit their parents once a year?;
  • Taxation of dual nationals, and the determination of who should be taxed, is not easy. Some of the problems the Americans have in implementing the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act – FATCA (see The American Diaspora Meets a Polarized America) illustrate this;
  • Making the test tougher and language requirements harder will continue to disadvantage many non-English and non-French native speakers, as well as those with lower levels of education (e.g., family members). Under Minister Kenney, much of the looseness in the process was appropriately tightened and the rationale for further tightening has not be demonstrated.

I am sympathetic to his view on raising the citizenship test exemption back to 65 and over (the Liberal government changed the exemption to 55 and over), although politically this is likely untenable.

If we are serious about giving substance to our citizenship, let the government reinstate the residency requirement of five years, making it mandatory to remain in Canada the entire time. Let it find a way to tax dual citizens who have never lived in Canada.

Let it establish a tougher test on knowledge and language, and apply it everyone under 65, not 55 (as is the case now). And let it address the injustice of the “lost Canadians” who have been denied citizenship through loopholes in the law.

At the same time, we should re-examine our commitment to country, too. For many Canadians citizenship is no more than paying taxes and obeying the law. It isn’t even about voting.

To give new meaning to citizenship, we should consider universal national service (community or military) for young Canadians; national standards in education for the teaching of Canadian history; a new commitment to encourage lifelong volunteerism and civic activity; and mandatory voting in federal elections.

As Canada goes to the Olympics, expect the usual orgy of chest-thumping and fist-pumping with every gold medal. But don’t mistake cheering athletes, wearing red mittens and sipping double-doubles for patriotism. It isn’t.

Real patriotism, and real citizenship, is knowing who you are, how you got here, what you have, and what you would do to keep it all.

If we ask that understanding of others, shouldn’t we ask it of ourselves, too?

Column: Citizenship should mean more.

Experts raise concerns about citizenship rules |

While it is correct that the previous definition of residency was not formally clear (ranging from being physically present to mere legal residency), the common sense definition was physical presence, not merely having a mailing address. The policy objective of ensuring a meaningful connection to Canada by being here is part of the integrity of the citizenship program. But as noted by Winter, Robbins and Kurland, this runs against the immigration policy objective of attracting more highly skilled and entrepreneurial immigrants.

We will see what is in the revisions to the Act.

Experts raise concerns about citizenship rules |

Another variant of residency is  medicare coverage, in this BC case where coverage was denied given absence from Canada. Hard to argue with the decision, as this seems a classic case of citizens of convenience, as exemplified by the following entitlement attitude:

They [the couple in question] also suggested “the citizenship ceremony granted them the right to live anywhere,” and that it was “illegal to force them to reside in Canada when they cannot afford to do so,” said the appeal court ruling, written by Justice David Frankel.

Immigrant couple loses appeal to regain medicare revoked for spending too much time outside Canada