Parti québécois : l’aveuglement volontaire – Hébert

Chantal Hébert on the PQ remaining in denial mode:

Pendant que les ténors du PQ s’entêtaient — sur deux décennies — à vouloir prendre un non pour un peut-être, la majorité des Québécois sont passés à autre chose. Les résultats de l’élection en témoignent : l’écart entre le désir des uns et la réalité des autres est sans précédent.

Depuis le 7 avril, bien des militants souverainistes se consolent en se souvenant que la situation semblait aussi désespérée au moment de la signature de l’accord du lac Meech, en 1987. À l’époque, l’avenir de la souveraineté semblait compromis à tout jamais par la négociation d’un projet de réconciliation constitutionnelle entre le Québec et le Canada. De plus, le gouvernement fédéral de l’époque était dirigé par un Québécois, le progressiste-conservateur Brian Mulroney, disposé à favoriser le retour de sa province dans le giron fédéraliste en faisant une large place à ses compatriotes nationalistes dans la direction des affaires à Ottawa. Trois ans plus tard, l’échec spectaculaire de Meech avait plutôt donné un souffle inespéré à l’option souverainiste.

Les circonstances sont radicalement différentes aujourd’hui. Au bout du vote fédéraliste du 7 avril, il n’y avait aucune carotte constitutionnelle. Pendant la campagne électorale, personne à Ottawa — pas même les rares Québécois qui sont dans les coulisses conservatrices du pouvoir — n’a fait miroiter de grandes perspectives de changement. Le gouvernement libéral majoritaire de Philippe Couillard a été élu sans l’obligation d’obtenir des résultats sur le front des relations Québec-Canada.

Cette fois-ci, le reste du Canada ne viendra pas à la rescousse du Parti québécois.

Parti québécois : l’aveuglement volontaire – L’actualité.

Indo-Canadian Media: Reporter’s Firing Stirs Backlash in B.C.

Good in-depth article on some of the challenges facing the Indo-Canadian media, and the role that ethnic media can play – or not – in integration:

The current debate begs this question: If broadcasters wish to air programs that discuss South Asian issues from a South Asian perspective, does that breed ethno-cultural ghettos here?

According to Singh, the conventional media has perpetuated this notion. “If the ethnic media is supposed to play the role of integrating new Canadians into the mainstream, they too have the same responsibility. Diversity of voices is completely missing from mainstream media. All they do is highlight the negative stories emerging from the South Asian community and no effort is made to talk of the positives,” said Singh.

Diversity of voices is completely missing from mainstream media.

Many radio listeners agree. “Debates on topics of religion, Indian politics and other social issues are shallow with the prejudice of the hosts clearly reflected in program content. It is somewhat irritating when you listen in to an open line talk show. There are a handful of people, mostly men, who are on all radio stations giving their opinion without facts on every possible topic,” said a Surrey-based doctor who didn’t want to be named.

According to experts and some broadcast managers, this largely happens because there aren’t many professionally trained journalists in the South Asian media. “I can count on my fingertips how many trained and experienced journalists or radio hosts our community has, and since there aren’t too many available to hire, we have to depend on in-house training, but it’s not the same,” said Dutt.

Reporter’s Firing Stirs Backlash in B.C. – New Canadian Media – NCM.

Anti-immigration flyers single out Sikh community in Brampton | Toronto Star

Don’t they always state this:

Dan Murray, a spokesperson and co-founder of Immigration Watch, confirmed to the Star that the group produced the flyers but insisted that its message is reasonable and not racist.

“The purpose of the flyer is to say there is a cultural limit to the number of people any part of Canada could accept,” he said from British Columbia, where the group was founded in the late 1990s. He said the group has “tens of thousands” of followers who subscribe to its online newsletters.

Canada has been taking in 250,000 immigrants a year for two decades, but Ottawa has never provided justification for that policy, he said.

Murray said the group’s Brampton members had distributed the same flyers several months ago and placed hundreds this week. The photo showing Sikhs was used because they make up “the majority of the population in Brampton,” he noted.

Murray characterized people who criticize the flyer’s message as offensive and racist as “cowards.”

“For long-term Canadians to say that, they are cowards. They are trying to be politically correct,” Murray said. “They are afraid to express criticisms over our immigration because they are conditioned to respond to immigration only in a positive way.”

But definitely a minority view as all political parties support immigration and cultivate relations with ethnic communities. One can have an informed debate about immigration levels but these kinds of pamphlets are similar to the failed PQ strategy on the Charter of Values and identity politics.

Anti-immigration flyers single out Sikh community in Brampton | Toronto Star.

Laïcité : les libéraux en mission réparation | Related Commentary

A reminder of some of the challenges Minister Weil and the Couillard government will face as they develop their Charte de laïcité, but also some indication they that intend to use the previous Bill 94 of 2010 under the Charest government as the basis:

Au lieu d’une interdiction du port de signes religieux, le rapport Ouimet [an earlier parliamentary committee study on fundamentalism] propose une approche basée sur les demandes d’accommodement, avec des balises permettant de déterminer ce qui est raisonnable ou non.

Conçu comme une réponse du gouvernement Charest au rapport Bouchard-Taylor, le projet de loi 94 n’a jamais été adopté — même si les libéraux étaient majoritaires. La Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse avait critiqué ses « effets pervers dommageables » pour les musulmanes, à cause des dispositions sur le visage découvert. D’autres avaient au contraire dénoncé le principe de la « laïcité ouverte », jugé trop peu contraignant.

Quatre ans plus tard, il n’est pas dit qu’un projet de loi établissant le principe du visage découvert passerait plus facilement… ni qu’il réussirait le test des chartes. En novembre dernier, Mme Weil avait elle-même reconnu avoir reçu en 2010 des avis juridiques indiquant que l’obligation du visage découvert n’était pas conforme aux chartes.

Jeudi, elle soutenait toutefois que le projet de loi 94 aurait passé la rampe des tribunaux. « C’était une limite raisonnable, pas au nom de la neutralité, mais au nom de la sécurité, de la communication, de l’identification », a-t-elle expliqué.

Laïcité : les libéraux en mission réparation | Le Devoir.

Chris Selley has one of the more sensible commentaries on Premier Couillard’s intent to have a Charte de laicité and related issues to help have a more informed discussion of the issues:

Mr. Couillard’s pre-election pledge to release the legal opinions the PQ solicited on the secularism charter is an excellent start: Polls showed that while Quebecers supported the values charter, they also wanted it to pass constitutional muster. For the PQ, which was counting on it not passing constitutional muster — the better to foment grievance with Ottawa — that discussion was out of bounds. But with a majority government and no political capital invested in the issue, the Liberals can invite a far more intelligent discussion of how far, if anywhere, they need to go to protect secularism.

In the end, that would probably be healthier than walking away, or quickly passing some watered-down, mostly symbolic reaffirmation of Quebec’s secular nature. And it’s a debate I suspect the Rest of Canada would watch intently. In its opinion on the charter, Quebec’s Human Rights Commission warned that privileging gender equality over religious freedom in the dispensation of accommodations “would run counter to the individualized and contextualized approach that should prevail.” But a lot of people don’t like that approach. As we’ve seen in recent educational clashes between religious belief and sexual orientation — in Ontario’s and Alberta’s publicly funded schools, and at British Columbia’s Trinity Western University — many Canadians inside and outside of Quebec think religion holds too much sway in modern society.

There is no reason not to have such discussions, as long as you’re having it for the right motives. And there are few better motives than trying to convince Quebecers that there is nothing in their open, tolerant, diverse and perfectly secular society that necessitates the curtailing of anyone’s rights.

Chris Selley: Quebec’s values debate isn’t over | National Post.

1812: The War No One Wants to Commemorate (US View)

Funny to see how the war of 1812 is viewed by the American media, given the high profile by the Canadian Government ($28 million in funding). A war between the USA and Britain (no mention of Canada) and, in the US narrative, the US won:

So why the relative lack of enthusiasm about 1812? Maybe because the U.S. is now best friends with the aggressor, Great Britain. But that didn’t seem to generate any awkwardness during the Revolutionary War bicentennial, when Queen Elizabeth was happy to visit to join in the celebrations. More likely, say some historians, it’s simply a lack of awareness.

“This is an area of history that is so not well known by the broader American public,” says Karen Daly, executive director of Dumbarton House, an historic Washington property that is now a museum. “I find when people visit Dumbarton House, an incredible number of Americans don’t even know this event even happened. They tend to jump from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War. This area of history is glossed over in our schooling. And yet, this is what gave us our national anthem and it is very much the event that cemented the union and the democracy. It’s an incredible piece of our history.”

So come on America, have some pride for the 1812 War! We actually won this one.

I assume someone in the Conservative government will write a letter to Time!

1812: The War No One Wants to Commemorate | TIME.com.

Alden E. Habacon: Why is green so white?

Alden Habacon on the whiteness of the environmental movement in Vancouver, surprising just how large and influential the Asian Canadian community is. A reminder that diversity is not a left or right, green or not green issue, and that all have to engage the broader community:

Over the next 10 years, we will witness the transformation of “green”.

It will move from being a universal Western ideal—based on the false idea that we all see green the same—to being a richer spectrum of green. It won’t just be something we talk about in English, but will be the intercultural and multilingual conversation that it needs to be.

It will not, however, get there organically. It will need to be intentional. Unlike nature, left to itself, the green movement in the West will not correct its course, but continue on a path towards lesser relevance to the growing cultural diversity of our Canadian cities.

Alden E. Habacon: Why is green so white? | Georgia Straight, Vancouver’s News & Entertainment Weekly.

The Sources of Egyptian Anti-Semitism

Long detailed piece on ongoing antisemitism in Egypt and how deeply entrenched it is:

When confronted with anti-Semitism in their country, Egyptians typically dismiss the charge out of hand. “We cannot be anti-Semites, for we are Semites ourselves,” is the favorite line. Western observers, incapable of echoing such nonsense, have tended to dismiss concern with the widespread appeal of anti-Semitism in Egypt and beyond. “It’s just a stupid knee-jerk reaction to the Arab-Israeli conflict”, is a sentiment held by many. Egyptians are not really anti-Semites, not like the Europeans anyway; they are just anti Israeli and cannot make the differentiation between Israel and the Jews. Given that, after the persecution by Nasser, there are very few Jews in the country anyway, this bigotry has no practical ramifications and should not concern us. Egypt will uphold its peace treaty with Israel, and the country’s decision-makers, while sometimes using anti-Semitism as a tool, are too sane to fall for such nonsense.

Such attitudes are not only wrong; they are dangerous. As I’ve shown, decision-makers in Egypt are not themselves immune to anti-Semitism but in fact are among its most committed believers. In the top ranks of the Egyptian army, in its intelligence community, and in the ranks of state servants, the nearly universal belief of the existence of a Jewish conspiracy against the homeland is dangerous and affects perception of reality and hence policy. To be unable to see the world as it is, to be incapable of understanding the causes of events, is a dangerous condition, and one that can lead to disastrous consequences.

Anti-Semitism in Egypt is not merely a form of bigotry. It forms the basis on which its adherents interpret and understand the world. As such, at the forefront of those concerned by its widespread adaptation by the country’s leaders and intellectuals should be Egyptians themselves—at least those who care enough about the country’s future and wish it well. As Walter Russell Mead has argued: “Rabid anti-Semitism coupled with an addiction to implausible conspiracy theories is a very strong predictor of national doom.”

Anti-Semitism is one of the pillars of socio-political life in Egypt. A country consumed with such madness cannot become a flourishing liberal democracy. Egypt should not be doomed to such a condition. Those who seek a better future for their country must begin by combating the vicious monster head on, before it consumes them.

The Sources of Egyptian Anti-Semitism – The American Interest.

David Cameron’s ‘Christian country’ remarks fuel mini media frenzy

David Cameron’s faith and politics statements and the predictable controversy. Had he talked about Christianity’s influence on Britain’s development and values, and linked to the openness to other faiths, likely would have been a non-issue.

Of more interest is the much higher percentage of British who state they have no religion (51 %), likely one of the higher percentages in the world (Canada is about 24 %):

In last year’s British Society Attitudes Survey, 51 per cent of those polled described themselves as having no religion. And the number of those who say they are members of the Church of England continues to fall year by year.

British Attitudes Towards Religion:

No religion: 48 per cent

Church of England: 20 per cent

Other Christian: 17 per cent

Source: British Social Attitudes Survey, 2012

Campbell refers to Cameron as a “bog standard middle England churchgoer.” During his reign as Tony Blair’s chief spin-doctor, Campbell managed to curb any talk of religion with an imperious command delivered from the plinth, telling reporters: “We don’t do God.”

Cameron’s critics accuse him of deciding to “do God” now in a bid to prevent an exodus of more traditional members from his governing Conservative Party to the UK Independence Party or UKIP, running on a staunchly anti-European, anti-immigrant platform.

Also amusing to see former PM Blair’s spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, comment on Cameron without disclosing just how much he suppressed any evidence or news about Blair’s deep religious faith (Blair only “came out,” so to speak, when he left office)

David Cameron’s ‘Christian country’ remarks fuel mini media frenzy – World – CBC News.

Temporary Foreign Workers Commentary

Terry Glavin’s well-placed rant in the Citizen on the temporary workers program. The government in its efforts to please its small business and franchisee base is surprised that the program has encouraged hiring foreign workers, as it would appear, at the expense of Canadians:

But harder still is the work of believing all those things we are told in order to dissuade us from the reasonable conclusion that the entire edifice of the Temporary Foreign Workers program has been subverted to the purpose of a racket, and the whole point of it is to defraud the Canadian public, suppress the wages of the people and distort the national labour markets to the unearned advantage of some employers.

You will be expected to believe that the stagnation of real median wages since the 2008-09 recession is by some voodoo mechanism wholly unrelated to the roaring trade in easily-exploitable foreign temps that has been underway, simultaneously, as documented by the Labour Market Assessment 2014 report the Parliamentary Budget Office released last month.

You will be asked to take it as normal that there are nearly a half million foreign workers in Canada, and that a quarter of all the new jobs filled across Canada last year were taken by these vulnerable migrants, and similarly there is somehow nothing especially worrisome about the rate of temporary foreign workers in Canada exceeding the number of permanent residents being admitted into this country as prospective citizens.

You will be further obliged to agree that the routine eruption of all those scandals is merely a matter of an otherwise proper system being gamed and foully abused, spoiled by a few grifters and bad apples, and that in actuality the program is unfair to employers owing to its burdensome encumbrances by way of inordinate fee-paying and form-filling and application-submitting, and Employment Minister Jason Kenney is just being mean.

You need not be more than a run-of-the-mill moron to believe such propositions, but you would have to be uniquely possessed of a special type of gall to actually traffic in them, and whatever name you want to give that rare quality it is in no short supply around the offices of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

How to fix the foreign-workers program.

Campbell Clark has a more reasoned approach in the Globe, but essentially comes to the same conclusion:

The number of people in Canada under those labour-market opinions grew from 82,210 people in 2005, before the Conservatives took power, to 202,510 in 2012, according to statistics from Mr. Kenney’s department, Employment and Social Development Canada.

The number one occupation group isn’t engineers, it’s” food counter attendants, kitchen helpers, and related occupations,” with 17,755 people. Waiters, cooks, and cashiers are all in the top 20.

Immigration policy does play a role in the labour markets, by determining the number who come and the qualifications they need to come. But the government should have a good public-policy reason before it intervenes to tinker with supply and demand at employers’ request.

There could be a gap in a highly-specialized or highly-skilled profession that Canadians just can’t fill for the time being. There’s always been a separate stream for agricultural workers, and that’s perhaps justified because it’s back-breaking seasonal work and the farm sector can’t risk a labour-shortage at harvest….

But there’s no compelling public-policy reason to help a fast-food franchise find workers at the wage they want to pay. Can a McDonald’s in Victoria really claim no Canadian will take a job there, no matter what the wage?

Yes, some employers like this program. Dan Kelly, of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said a lot of employers say it’s increasingly difficult to “find people who are available to work and will show up with a smile on their face, and not be on their phone for half the shift.” But the government can’t justify guest-worker programs because some employers think these kids today have the wrong attitude.

Politically, it’s not going to be easy to justify the expansion of temporary foreign workers. Most Canadians thought it was a program to fill temporary skills shortages, not to have the government micro-manage the labour pool in jobs Canadians can do. Each case of alleged abuse underlines not simply that the program is open to abuse, but that it’s gone off the rails.

Foreign worker abuses expose Harper’s hollow commitment to free markets

Terrence Corcoran in the Financial Post notes the CD Howe study showing that the program led to an increase in unemployment:

And now comes a heavy-duty economic analysis from the C.D. Howe Institute claiming that the TFWP caused increased unemployment in Alberta and British Columbia. The paper could put a serious crimp in the federal government’s program that has proven wildly successful. As of December, an estimated 338,000 temporary foreign workers held jobs in Canada.

The increase in unemployment in Alberta and B.C. is said to have occurred between 2007 and 2010 when the program was relaxed and a pilot project introduced to allow “cheaper access to foreign workers because of purportedly deep shortages of labour in some occupations.” The program worked, but maybe too well.

The author of the C.D. Howe report does not condemn the TFWP as a whole. Dominique Gross, a professor at the School of Public Policy at Simon Fraser University, says in her study, Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada: Are They Really Filling Labour Shortages, the idea is economically sound but only if the program is well designed. In an interview, Ms. Gross said the unemployment rates in B.C. and Alberta were on average 1% higher per year over the 2007-10 period than they would have been had the government not relaxed the rules of the TFWP.

To fix the problem, Ms. Gross calls for a number of reforms, including collecting much better data on whether shortages actually exist, increasing the corporate cost-per-worker of a TFW permit (now $275 each compared with $2,500 in the United States) and imposing tougher rules that would force companies to prove the labour shortages are real.

Pending reforms, Ms. Gross says Ottawa should impose a “temporary quota” on the total number of temporary workers allowed into Canada.

Ms. Gross’s reforms may be hard to implement without gutting much of the initiative. Temporary worker programs are a relative success in Europe, she says, in part because labour supply and demand is vigorously monitored through detailed employment vacancy surveys. Europe also makes use of expensive government-run “local labour offices” that serve as matchmakers between workers and employers. Canada has never been hospitable to greater state involvement in day-to-day management of the labour market, whether provincial or federal.

Bit odd however that Corcoran should be citing temporary worker programs in Europe as a relative success given some of the longer-term integration challenges resulting from these programs.

Terence Corcoran: How Canada’s temporary foreign workers program became a victim of its own success

Graeme Hamilton: The one gesture Philippe Couillard used to slam the door on Marois’ Parti Québécois

Not bad messaging:

But it was a subtler gesture by Mr. Couillard that truly slammed the door on Pauline Marois’ 19 months in power. Kathleen Weil, it was announced, would be “Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion.”

After the division wrought by the PQ’s charter of Quebec values, which sought to ban minorities who wear religious symbols from public-sector employment, the immigration department’s new name was clearly intended to send a message: The days of homogeneity and exclusion are over.

Addressing Ms. Weil in his speech after the 26-member cabinet was sworn in in the National Assembly’s Salon Rouge, Mr. Couillard said immigration is essential to Quebec’s future, and diversity is an asset.

“To welcome is to grow and to open oneself. In Quebec we are going to grow together,” he said.

“You will have the difficult but essential task of helping to heal the wounds of recent months by participating in the construction of an open, inclusive society proudly sharing an identity based on our language and our shared values.”

We will see how this is captured in the proposed Charte de laicité.

Graeme Hamilton: The one gesture Philippe Couillard used to slam the door on Marois’ Parti Québécois | National Post.

Martin Patriquin in Maclean’s makes the same point:

Kathleen Weil will be minister of “immigration, diversity and inclusion.” The name itself is an apparent middle finger to the former PQ government, which pushed a so-called Quebec values charter that sought to remove religious accoutrements from the heads and bodies of Quebec’s public-sector employees. Weil, an early Couillard supporter, and newly ensconced justice minister Stephanie Vallée will likely work together to bring about legislation on the “reasonable accommodations” file—and deflate a major PQ electoral cudgel in the process.

A government of low expectations for Philippe Couillard

La Presse‘s take:

Lors d’un point de presse, jeudi matin, en marge du premier caucus depuis la prestation de serment des libéraux, elle a dit juger que le gouvernement, dans une démarche d’inclusion, devra déployer des «gestes concrets» pour se rapprocher de ces communautés qui auraient été victimes «d’intimidation» en raison de la charte péquiste.

«Il y a des blessures», selon elle.

Le titre de Mme Weil, qui exerçait la même fonction dans le gouvernement Charest, a été modifié pour devenir «ministre de l’Immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion».

Elle dit souhaiter que la société québécoise «s’ouvre» davantage aux nouveaux arrivants. «L’inclusion, ça va au-delà» de l’intégration, qu’elle décrit comme une «dimension nouvelle».

«Il faut revisiter toutes ces questions», selon Mme Weil, qui juge le moment venu de «rebâtir des ponts», loin du message «d’exclusion» prôné par le gouvernement précédent.

Laïcité: Québec juge nécessaire de rebâtir les ponts