Contemporary Directions in Canadian Citizenship and Multiculturalism – Toronto Event

Will be in Toronto today talking about the general political/public service issues as well as citizenship.

York U Event

How complexity imperils faith in our public institutions – Hugh Segal

Thoughtful comments. Money quote:

One must also be clear that certain aspects of the public sector have an interest in the salutary obfuscation of complexity. National security agencies, finance departments, central banks, some immigration and social service regimes find complexity and conflicting goals and applications helpful in maintaining their unchallenged jurisdiction and broad discretion. Their intent may be constructive but constructing through rules, regulations, contradictory and time-sensitive criteria and related machinations a cloud of uncertainty raises complexity and its construction to an act of sheer artistry.

The challenge for governments and those who care about democracy is not of doing away with complexity – which in a multifaceted, multi-racial and economically diverse society is unavoidable. The challenge is in finding ways to reduce it, simplify it and manage it so that the complexity itself does not destroy the efficacy of public institutions but even the public desire for those institutions to exist and be of service in the first place.

How complexity imperils faith in our public institutions – The Globe and Mail.

Stephen Hume: Canada’s bigots grant themselves permission to vent

Good piece by Stephen Hume on how government messaging has encouraged bigotry to come out of the closet:

Canada’s vitality derives from constant change; it has never been frozen in amber. Once upon a time, the Cree controlled an area from northern Quebec to the Rockies. Cree was the lingua franca of North America’s biggest business. Economies evolve; times change. Get over it.

Canada has absorbed waves of French, English, Chinese, Japanese, Americans, Scots, Irish, Ukrainians, Germans, Russians, Finns, Belgians, Greeks, Swedes, Italians, Hungarians, Lebanese, Tamils, Punjabis, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Doukhobors, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus. All changed and were changed by the country to which they came.

Chest-beating for the good old days when the British in British Columbia meant membership in an elitist white colonial old boys club is silly yearning for a time that existed only briefly — and good riddance to it.

Bigotry has a long and beef-witted pedigree here in “a white man’s country” where the “Yellow Peril” once commanded headlines and the Ku Klux Klan had a headquarters in Shaughnessy Heights. Ah, those good old days when bigots could strut their stuff.

The murderous clowns in pointy white hats attracted 500 enthusiasts to their founding meeting in Vancouver in 1925. Two years later, they claimed a provincial membership of 13,000, including five members of the legislative assembly.

Before them, we had the Asiatic Exclusion League, fomenters of race riots who in 1923 lobbied successfully for the unjust laws to bar Chinese immigrants and for which the federal government has formally apologized.

Echoes of those poisonous attitudes suffuse the nasty, outraged, inflammatory commentary — often delivered with no sense of irony from behind the veil of web anonymity — suggesting that a few Muslim women’s veils are part of some fascist fifth-column assault on Canada.

Well, they aren’t. And more of us should be saying so — and helping stuff this ugly genie of bigotry back into the bottle before it starts granting wishes we come to deeply regret.

Stephen Hume: Canada’s bigots grant themselves permission to vent.

Lorne Gunter focuses on the niqab at citizenship ceremonies:

But where is the security or fraud concern with the wearing of a niqab at a citizenship ceremony? The ceremony is formality, a celebration of already having won approval for Canadian citizenship. The ceremony itself does not itself confer citizenship on the participants without them first clearing all the legal hurdles and passing the new, more rigorous citizenship test.

A sneaky woman cannot pass herself off as someone else by wearing a niqab, take the oath, then suddenly tear off her veil and declare, “Ah-ha! I have tricked you. Now give me my citizenship.” The citizenship card would still only be issued to the proper woman.

I am all for niqabs being dropped at airport security for as long as it takes a security screener – male or female – to feel confident a passenger is who she claims to be. No special accommodations such as a separate screened-off area or female-only checkers.

But the only threat in wearing a niqab at a citizenship ceremony is potentially the threat to our cultural norms. And I am always reluctant to allow governments to force free citizens to behave in any particular way absent a real, immediate and significant danger to other citizens.

The niqab truth about face coverings | GUNTER

Lastly, Farzana Hassan, takes the opposite view:

However, the most refreshing new angles on this debate are being provided by Munir Pervaiz, president of the secular Muslim Canadian Congress.

Pervaiz repudiates special privileges for niqabi women.

For example, he asks why a niqabi woman should wait for women police officers to process traffic infractions, in case she is stopped on a street.

Why must law enforcement wait till a woman police officer is found?

Would the niqabi woman be willing to wait in a police cruiser or cell till such arrangements are made?

Should she resist if she is taken into temporary custody and charged for interfering with the process?

Pervaiz also states that, “Courts have strict rules of attire. And the government … can make regulations to govern conduct in a court.”

Courts require people wear attire that shows respect for formality and tradition.

For example, the wearing of hats is discouraged in a courtroom, and no one would rationally complain that this restricts individual freedoms.

Why must niqabi women insist on the niqab at all times, in the face of established norms of attire?

Niqab is about our values, not race | Hassan | Columnists | Opinion | Toronto Su.:


More people died in these three provinces than were born last year

Good article on the demographic challenges in the Maritimes:

… Statistics Canada reported this month that more people died than were born in New Brunswick last year for the first time since it began tracking such figures in 1972.

Two other provinces — Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador being the others — have also recorded more deaths than births in recent years.

For years, academics and politicians have warned about Canada’s aging population and what it will mean for the country’s social services and its rural communities. Nowhere is that impact more acutely felt than in Atlantic Canada.

“The overall trend is grim,” said Fazley Siddiq, dean of business at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John.

Siddiq said governments at all levels need to make bold moves to address the region’s declining population. …

He also suggests the introduction of a baby bonus, a measure that Newfoundland and Labrador implemented in 2008. Parents in that province are offered $1,000 for each child born or adopted and $100 per month for the first year of the child’s life.

The number of births in the province rose slightly after the baby bonus was brought in, but they have since fallen back below 2008 levels, according to Statistics Canada.

Other incentives that should be considered are tax breaks and improved services for immigrants, Siddiq said.

Andre Lebel, a demographer at Statistics Canada, said across North America only Florida has an older population than Atlantic Canada.

Part of what’s driving that is the number of young couples who continue to move westward for work and their families often grow once they do, Lebel said.

“These people are having babies outside of the Atlantic provinces, so it’s increasing the rapidness of aging,” he said.

More people died in these three provinces than were born last year | Toronto Star.

Metropolis Comments on my deck Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote

Good session at Metropolis 26 March presenting my deck Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote to a full room of 60 people. Helpful and thoughtful comments by the discussants and participants, helping me refine the narrative, and this summary of their comments may be of interest:

Joe Garcia of University of Saskatchewan highlighted how the vertical mosaic as described by Porter had become hybridized given the impact of increased diversity. This hybridization cut across different dimensions: ghettoization (or enclaves), social capital, social cohesion, social non-governmental organizations and identity. Society was more complex with more cross-cutting linkages and issues. He noted the significance of the citizenship data and its implications for inclusion.

Specific suggestions to complete the story from the descriptive and analytical approach of the deck included the need to provide an explicit framework, a narrative that both asked and answer questions, address the implications of the findings, discuss the limitations of available data and statistics (e.g., religion vs. religiosity), and identify data gaps and needs. (I noted the book would include these elements).

Annick Germain of the l’Institut national de recherche scientifique (INRS) noted the presentation was helpful in reminding us of the big picture, noting the contrast between the debate and the everyday reality which appears to be working reasonably well, citing the relatively small numbers of religious minorities that yet dominate public debate. More work needs to be done of public attitudes to diversity to help explain this gap. One of the ironies she flagged is that while visible minorities are more well-educated than non-visible minorities, they have higher unemployment rates and lower incomes.

With respect to concentration and dispersion, she flagged how in the past, the contrast was between the island of Montreal which had a large number of visible minorities and the rest of Quebec which had few. However, more immigrants have been settling in the suburbs of Laval and Longueuil, Quebec now has two faces: greater Montreal with its diversity and the “whiteness” of the rest of the province. The increased dispersion of visible minorities across greater Montreal may however reduce the relative political weight and influence of individual communities.

And in response to my remark that it is no longer MTV (Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver) but TVC (Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary), she noted that Montreal has a more diverse mix of communities than Calgary even if the overall number is smaller.

David Ley of the Department of Geography, UBC, expressed concern regarding falling naturalization rates and the possible implications for identity. He also found the difference in citizenship test results between visible minorities and non-visible minorities worrisome as it could weaken the connection to and identification with Canada for affected groups.

He found the data on religious minorities valuable, and commented that the present-day vitality of religions was largely due to immigration given the relative strength and vitality of religion in the “South” compared to countries of the “North.” We may be moving towards post-secularism given this shift and how immigration is increasingly defining religion.

He raised the valid point that we may attribute too much power to what multiculturalism can achieve. How far can multicultural policies affect economic outcomes?

Lastly, he noted that segregation into ethnic enclaves is not necessarily a bad thing. Ethnic neighbourhoods can facilitate integration by providing newcomers with existing community support networks in their first years of settlement. However, one needs to guard against ethnic neighbourhoods that reproduce poverty.

Alden Habecon, Intercultural Understanding Strategy Development, UBC, and Publisher of Schema magazine started off by asking what was the intent of multiculturalism, what was its purpose, and what was it trying to achieve. Was multiculturalism sustainable, or are we having less interaction among communities, with stronger community identities? He questioned how inclusive we were, how open to difference?

Employment equity focussed on the numbers of visible minorities but paid less attention to economic outcomes. He was particularly alarmed about the economic outcomes of second generation 25-34 year old university educated visible minorities as some groups remained behind. “We haven’t neutralized race” as any percentage difference was a warning sign.

The disproportionate decline in visible minority citizenship test pass rates was an example of systematic racism.

More attitudinal research was needed and he reminded participants that research had shown that proximity, contact and exposure do not necessarily increase tolerance.

Participant comments were varied and included the following:

  • How has the narrative changed and what effects has that had?
  • Had a changed narrative permeated the public and changed reality?
  • Depending on the narrative, what should be the indicators to measure success (or failure)?
  • More work was needed on employment equity beyond the numbers to include economic outcomes.
  • Is the change in language from multiculturalism to pluralism significant?

Muslim Women Are Fighting To Redefine Islam as a Religion of Equality | TIME

More on some of those pushing for reform within Islam and a more modern and egalitarian interpretation of the texts:

[Zainah] Anwar [director of the global Muslim women’s organization Musawah—Arabic for ‘equality’] was addressing a packed auditorium at the University of London’s School of Oriental and Asiatic Studies for the release of a powerful new weapon for Islamic gender warriors: a book examining how a single verse in the Quran became the basis for laws across the Islamic world asserting Muslim men’s authority—and even superiority—over women. In Men in Charge?, scholars tackle what Musawah has dubbed “the DNA of patriarchy” in Islamic law and custom: the thirty-fourth verse in the fourth chapter of the Quran, among the most hotly debated in the Islamic scripture. The English translations of the verse vary, but one popular one conveys the mainstream takeaway: “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend their property [for the support of women.]”

For centuries, male jurists have cited 4:34 as the reason men have control over their wives and the female members of their family. When a wife doesn’t want to have sex, but feels she should submit to her husband, this sense of duty derives from the concept of qiwamah—male authority—derived from Verse 4:34. When a Nigerian wife reluctantly has to agree to her husband taking a second or third wife, this is qiwamah in action, notes the book. The concept of qiwamah “is one of the most flagrant misconceptions to have shaped the Muslim mind over the centuries,” Moroccan Islamic scholar Asma Lamrabet writes. “It assumes that the Quran has definitively decreed the absolute authority of the husband over his wife, and for some, the authority of men over all women.”

While the overall message of the Quran is unchanging, say Muslim reformers, new generations must find their own readings of the sacred texts. As it stands, Islamic fiqh, or jurisprudence, was largely forged during the medieval period, when women’s roles and the concept of marriage and male authority were very different. Why, they ask, should the way that 10th-century Baghdadi men read the Quran dictate the rights of a 21st-century woman? To the reactionaries who charge that these reformers are deviating from Islam, Islamic feminists point out that there is a difference between Islamic jurisprudence—a man-made legal scaffolding developed for the specific conditions of medieval Muslim life—and the divine law itself, which is eternal, unchanging and calls for justice. It’s not the Quran they question, but how particular interpretations of it have hardened into truth. “The problem has never been with the text, but with the context,” legal anthropologist Ziba Mir-Hosseini told the Musawah seminar.

Muslim Women Are Fighting To Redefine Islam as a Religion of Equality | TIME.

Stewart Prest: An informal coalition of experts has become the most effective opposition to the Tory government

Interesting piece on the emergence of coalitions to oppose recent government legislation:

Between C-51 and C-23, we are gaining a good sense of what an effective contemporary opposition coalition looks like. In both cases, participation has extended far beyond what might be called “typical” activism to include a range of principled, non-partisan and evidence-based opinions. Many members are drawn from civil society, but I would argue the coalition as a whole is not synonymous with it.

Key actors in both examples include academics working together in large groups, encompassing different disciplines and approaches; senior civil servants, both current and former; members of the legal profession; both partisan and non-partisan voices within what for lack of a better term I’ll call the country’s broader political class (former statesmen, editorial boards, columnists, and so on); maximal indigenous leaders; and dissenting voices within the country’s conservative movement.

Beyond studiously resisting appearances of partisanship, many within such coalitions have taken pains to note wherever possible ways in which their concerns might be addressed without undermining the government’s stated objectives. They attempt to remain politically neutral even in their opposition to the proposed legislation, seeking to offer the government advice on how to implement its preferred agenda while taking into consideration things like respect for human rights, the potential violations of the Charter, and important elements of political convention within the Canadian context, particularly those associated with maintaining the integrity and legitimacy of the Canadian political system as a whole.

Stewart Prest: An informal coalition of experts has become the most effective opposition to the Tory government

Graeme Hamilton: A secular fundamentalism has taken root in Quebec

Graeme Hamilton on fears of religious fundamentalism and the Supreme Court’s ruling exempting private religious schools from the provincial values and ethics curriculum:

Listening to politicians, it can feel as if Quebec is under assault from religious fundamentalists. The opposition Parti Québécois wants an observer to report annually to the National Assembly on “manifestations of religious fundamentalism.” The Liberal government has a working group to combat radicalism. The Coalition Avenir Québec proposes banning preaching that runs counter to Quebec values.

But those same legislators have no quarrel with a secular fundamentalism that has taken root in the province at the expense of religious rights. On Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada sent a message to Quebec that its state-sanctioned secularism can go too far.

In a ruling affirming the right of Montreal’s Loyola High School, a private Catholic boys school, to teach its own version of a provincially mandated course on ethics and religion, the court offered a timely reminder to politicians.

“The pursuit of secular values means respecting the right to hold and manifest different religious beliefs,” Justice Rosalie Abella wrote for the majority. “A secular state respects religious differences, it does not seek to extinguish them.”

The pursuit of secular values means respecting the right to hold and manifest different religious beliefs

The ruling specifically applies to a small number of private religious schools in Quebec, but it resonates more widely at a time when governments contend with questions involving religious rights. Recently in Quebec, mosques have run up against obstacles over fears of religious extremism, and a Muslim woman was told she could not appear before a Quebec Court wearing her hijab. The federal government has taken a stand against the face-covering niqab, saying women cannot wear the garments during citizenship ceremonies.

Interference with a religious group’s beliefs or practices is justified only if they “conflict with or harm overriding public interests,” Justice Abella wrote.

… In a partially concurring opinion that argued for less restriction on Loyola, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justice Michael Moldaver wrote that it is enough for Loyola teachers to treat other religious viewpoints with respect; it does not have to treat them as equally legitimate.

“Indeed, presenting fundamentally incompatible religious doctrines as equally legitimate and equally credible could imply that both are equally false,” they wrote. “Surely this cannot be a perspective that a religious school can be compelled to adopt.”

John Zucchi, whose son was a student at Loyola when the ERC program was introduced and who was a plaintiff in the initial court case, said Thursday’s ruling provides crucial guidance. “This is helping the country to come to what I would call a sane form of secularism,” he said. “We don’t need to shut down one voice in the name of diversity and pluralism, but rather diversity and pluralism mean that all perspectives can be heard and be out in the public square.”

Graeme Hamilton: A secular fundamentalism has taken root in Quebec

After Students Went To Wage Jihad, Teacher Highlights Youth Radicalization

Interesting interview with Lamya Kaddor, a German-Syrian religious studies teacher and expert on Islam, who teaches Islamic studies in Germany and who wrote a book Zum Toeten Bereit (Ready To Kill), about her experience having some of her former students joining jihadi groups in Syria

On why her students left Germany for jihadist groups

There’s a very simple reason. They were radicalized, they were ideologized, they were manipulated. The question behind it that I find way more important is: Why can these young people be manipulated this way? There are very difficult conditions in Germany, one being that Germany does not understand itself as an immigrant nation, even though it is at this point. But being German is still defined somewhat by descendance — how many generations do you go back as a German with a German lifestyle.

Number two is Islamophobia. It’s gone so far that in Germany every second German will say he or she has an issue with Muslims. And those are scary figures. There is still a discrepancy between being German and Muslim. You can’t be both. You’re either German or you’re Muslim. There’s no concept of being German and Muslim — and not just for the majority of the Germans, but also for the Muslims themselves. They don’t think these are two concepts that can be reconciled.

On why four of the five quickly returned to Germany

They wanted to come back. It was very difficult to get them back. They were extremely embarrassed. They could barely look me in the eye. They told me that in the beginning, they weren’t even sure if they were in Turkey or already in Syria. They weren’t aware of the border crossing. Some said they were even blindfolded.

As soon as they got there, they realized that that’s something they can’t do, they don’t want to do. And that it was not at all what they had been told beforehand.

On Kaddor’s former student who stayed in Syria

He actually took his wife with him and his newborn daughter. One of the ones who returned is actually his brother and he is in contact with him. And so he seems to be staying there and living there. … I believe that he is fighting.

On how this experience has affected the way she teaches

I have become more aware, more sensitive. If someone comes up and starts talking about good and evil, about what should be done with the unfaithful, I’m listening. And I’m paying a lot more attention when these kinds of things come up.

After Students Went To Wage Jihad, Teacher Highlights Youth Radicalization : NPR.

Citizenship Take-Up Rates and the Citizenship Test – The Current – 27 March

My interview with David Common of The Current, CBC Radio One: