Why Canada should keep its religious freedom office: US advocates

More advocacy regarding keeping the Office of Religious Freedom, this time from US counterparts, Robert P. George and Katrina Lantos Swett:

This flurry of engagement is happening for good reason: Religious freedom conditions are deteriorating dramatically. According to a number of studies, at least three-quarters of the world’s people live in countries that perpetrate or tolerate serious religious freedom abuses, ranging from the denial of permits to build houses of worship to the imprisonment, torture and murder of the persecuted.

Persecutors include secular tyrannies such as that of China, which persecutes religious adherents from Christians and Uighur Muslims to Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong; and North Korea, perhaps the most world’s most repressive country. They also include theocratic states, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, and violent groups, such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, Buddhist extremists in Myanmar, and the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq (among other places).

Thanks in part to the existence of USCIRF (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom), the U.S. House of Representatives recently gave unanimous approval to a resolution decrying the Islamic State’s horrifying violence against Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities as religiously motivated genocide. Others have also deemed it genocide, from Pope Francis to the European Parliament.

For humanitarian reasons alone, silence is no option in the face of those who violate religious freedoms. QBut there is a further reason for concern. Speaking in 2014 about the Middle East, Jean Benjamin Sleiman, the Archbishop of Baghdad, said: “I do not think Europe will be calm. This … does not stop at territorial boundaries.” His words were prophetic: Five months later, in January, 2015, the same religious extremism that was plaguing his own country struck the office of the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher supermarket in Paris.

The lesson is clear. Standing up for religious freedom is not just a moral imperative but also a practical necessity for any country seeking to protect its security and that of its citizens. At such a time as this, Canada should not retreat from its leadership role in advancing this fundamental human right.

Religious freedom merits a permanent seat at the table of a great country’s foreign policy. Canada has given freedom of conscience such a seat through its Office of Religious Freedoms. May it retain this critical seat so long as religious freedom is threatened anywhere in the world.

Source: Why Canada should keep its religious freedom office – The Globe and Mail

Why Foreign Fighters Come from Francophone Countries | Foreign Affairs

Interesting take by William McCants and Christopher Meserole (thanks to those who brought it to my attention), and another indicator of the failure of the French (and Belgian) models of integration (and in the case of France, laïcité):

As with the Francophone finding overall, we’re left with guesswork as to why exactly the relationships between French politics, urbanization, youth unemployment, and Sunni militancy exist. We suspect that when there are large numbers of unemployed youth, some of them are bound to get up to mischief. When they live in large cities, they have more opportunities to connect with people espousing radical causes. And when those cities are in Francophone countries that adopt the strident French approach to secularism, Sunni radicalism is more appealing.

For now, the relationship needs to be studied and tested by comparing several cases in countries and between countries. We also found other interesting relationships—such as between Sunni violence and prior civil conflict—but they are neither as strong nor as compelling.

Regardless, the latest attacks in Belgium are reason enough to share the initial findings. They may be way off, but at least they are based on the best available data. If the data is wrong or our interpretations skewed, we hope the effort will lead to more rigorous explanations of what is driving jihadist terrorism in Europe. Our initial findings should in no way imply that Francophone countries are responsible for the recent horrible attacks—no country deserves to have its civilians killed, regardless of the perpetrator’s motives. But the magnitude of the violence and the fear it engenders demand that we investigate those motives beyond just the standard boilerplate explanations.

Source: Why Foreign Fighters Come from Francophone Countries | Foreign Affairs

Denmark may strip radical imams of citizenship

Charging them with hate speech would be appropriate:
Denmark might soon be able to strip radicalized imams of citizenship. The proposal is expected to be supported by a majority in parliament.

The initiative comes from the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, and has received backing from the ruling Liberal Party, the opposition Social Democrats and the Conservative party.

“The Constitution says that one must practice his faith as long as it is not contrary to morals or disturbing to the public order,” Martin Henriksen, Danish People’s Party’s spokesman told the Berlingske newspaper on Monday.

“When imams endorse or recommend stoning or when an imam tells a woman subjected to violence by her husband, that that’s okay, then it [may be considered] subversive speech that disturbs the public order. Some of these imams are Danish citizens, and we think we should deprive them of their citizenship,” he said.

The proposal was made in particular to withdraw citizenship from Abu Bilal, a leading imam at the Grimhoj mosque in the city of Aarhus. A recent documentary, ‘Mosques behind the Veil,’ revealed that the imam advocated the stoning of adulterous women and the killing of apostates.

Danish Prime Minister Lokke Rasmussen urged MPs to come up with measures to counter the growth of radical Islam after the documentary exposed the activities of such radical mosques.

The Danish People’s Party is set to make two new proposals in the upcoming set of negotiations with the Danish PM. The party is to present a draft resolution on stripping Abu Bilal of his Danish citizenship and then to review the Constitution’s clause on religious freedom.

Rasmussen said that he will be willing to “push the limits” of the interpretation of the Danish Constitution when reviewing the proposals, the Local reported.

“We are open to all solutions that can stop the radicalized imams,” said Trine Bramsen, the Social Democrats’ spokesman, according to the Berlingske newspaper.

Exploring the lack of diversity in Quebec police forces

This has been an issue for a considerable time.

Police_ForcesThe table above compares police force diversity in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver; what surprised me when collecting this information directly from the respective police forces was the degree to which the information is not public on their website and does not appear to be systematically collected (Surête de Québec does keep good stats):

Quebec’s police academy doesn’t have “a lot of influence” over whether visible minorities apply to become officers, says a spokesman for the academy.

Pierre Saint-Antoine, director of communications of École nationale de police du Québec in Nicolet, said racial minorities made up five per cent of its student population in 2015, despite attempts to “recruit people from all diversities and communities in Quebec.”

“We don’t have a lot of influence on the people that apply here,” Saint-Antoine said, adding that Nicolet has a program in place, in conjunction with the Quebec government, to encourage more diversity among applicants.

Saint-Antoine’s comments come after numbers compiled by CBC News show that Quebec police forces are lagging in their hiring of visible minorities.

For instance, the Sûreté du Québec serves more than 2.5 million people, however, fewer than one per cent of its officers are not Caucasian.

Community activists have said a lack of diversity among police leads to strained relationships with racial minorities.

But getting more people to apply is no easy task, says Paul Chablo, the head of John Abbott’s police technology program.

Before going to Nicolet, prospective police officers must first complete a three-year CEGEP program, and Chablo said many people from minority backgrounds don’t apply.

Out of roughly 250 students at John Abbott, 49 define themselves as having an “ethnic background” and only seven are visible minorities.

‘They have to adjust their techniques’

Chablo, who is also the former director of communications for the Montreal police, points to a multitude of factors — including lacklustre recruiting efforts and poor relationships with some ethnic communities — to explain the lack of diversity among applicants.

He said Quebec police need to a better job of reaching out to prospective employees to encourage them to apply to CEGEP programs in the first place.

“I think they have to adjust their techniques,” he said in an interview.

Source: Exploring the lack of diversity in Quebec police forces – Montreal – CBC News

Plenty of blame to go round in real estate crisis: Mason

The (valid) criticism of governments continues.

But at least, the planned StatsCan study will illustrate the extent to which (mainly Chinese) immigration has contributed to increased housing prices:

The B.C. government recently vowed to crack down on real estate agents involved in nefarious practices such as shadow flipping that help to drive up prices. But this is a small measure that will do absolutely nothing to improve affordability. Its primary purpose is to improve optics: Look, everyone, Premier Christy Clark is finally doing something about this mess. The Premier also asked B.C. Housing to look at the impact of foreign investment in the market.

In this week’s federal budget, meanwhile, $500,000 was set aside to help Statistics Canada determine the best way to collect data on international buyers.

It would be comical if it weren’t so sad.

Others, meanwhile, aren’t waiting. This week, two economists from the National Bank produced a study showing as many as one-third of house purchasers in Metro Vancouver last year were from China. But perhaps the most interesting numbers to be revealed lately concern the impact that the immigrant-investor program – both the one run for years by Ottawa (and terminated in 2014) and another that still exists in Quebec – has had on the real estate madness we are witnessing.

Under the program, immigrants can come to Canada in exchange for $800,000, up front, that serves as a five-year loan to the government. The report, brought to light by Ian Young of the South China Morning Post, reveals how completely porous and unaccountable the immigrant-investor system has been. Truly awful might be another way to describe it.

For example, after 10 years the average annual income tax paid by these millionaire migrant investors is $1,400. That compares with $7,500 for the average Canadian. The report notes that after five years, many of these investors have secured Canadian citizenship and returned to their home country.

Quebec accepts about 1,750 such applications annually. After handing over their $800,000, most move to Vancouver and buy real estate. The vast majority of all who have taken advantage of these programs over the years have ended up in British Columbia (by one estimate, nearly 200,000).

Those who have come to Canada acknowledged to federal researchers that their primary motivation for obtaining citizenship was as a hedge against political or economic upheaval occurring in their home country.

The federal government has known about the impact the investor pipeline was having on things such as real estate and didn’t care. It was more than pleased to sell Canadian citizenship to the wealthy. The B.C. government, meanwhile, is only too happy to take rich immigrants through the investor back door that continues to be provided by Quebec. It doesn’t care that it isn’t seeing any of the loan money that immigrant investors have to pay; it is making tens of millions from the insane escalation in real estate prices these immigrants have set off.

Canadians should be furious that their governments allowed this to happen. Now all that these same governments can do is introduce lame measures that will have no meaningful impact on housing prices, but rather are designed to show that government is on the problem!

Except they’re not. And never have been. And hopefully history will judge them harshly for that.

Source: Plenty of blame to go round in real estate crisis – The Globe and Mail

Malcolm Turnbull: multiculturalism and tolerance will combat terrorism| The Guardian

Welcome change in language from his predecessor and strong message regarding the contribution that multiculturalism and inclusion can make to reducing the risks and extent of radicalization:

Malcolm Turnbull has nominated Australia’s cultural tolerance and multicultural society as reasons the country is well-placed to deal with terrorist threats.

In sharp contrast to the rhetorical tone of his predecessor, Tony Abbott, who repeatedly warned Australians that the “Daesh death cult” was “coming after us”, Turnbull said while no government could “guarantee the absolute absence of terrorism” Australia was “better placed than many of our European counterparts” in dealing with the threat “because of the strength of our intelligence and security agencies, our secure borders and our successful multicultural society; one that manages to be both secure and free”.

“Terrorism is designed to make us turn on each other,” Turnbull said in a lecture to the Lowy Institute on Wednesday evening. “That is why my government works hard to promote inclusion and mutual respect, ensuring that all communities and all faiths feel part of ours, the most successful multicultural society in the world.”

“Strong borders, vigilant security agencies governed by the rule of law, and a steadfast commitment to the shared values of freedom and mutual respect – these are the ingredients of multicultural success,” he said.

He said “early signs” indicated the Brussels attacks had been inspired or planned by Islamic State in Syria and this underscored the importance of Australia’s military contribution in Syria and Iraq.

Source: Malcolm Turnbull: multiculturalism and tolerance will combat terrorism | Australia news | The Guardian

Anti-immigrant politicos in U.S. and Europe begin exploiting Brussels attacks


The terrorist attacks perpetrated by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Brussels that left 34 people dead are being exploited for political gain by many European politicians and parties, but especially so by right-wing, anti-immigration populists.

Belgium’s own right-wing party from Flanders, Vlaams Belang, has seen its popularity on social media soar since the attacks after its leader called for a “waterproof border policy,” according to Vocativ.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the France’s National Front, called on French authorities to carry out sweeping raids on minority neighborhoods and “empty the basements [of terrorists], the laxness has gone on for too long.”

Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydlo from the Law and Justice party said her country could no longer take the 7,000 refugees it agreed to accept in negotiations with the European Union because of the deadly attacks, Reutersreported.

In the United Kingdom, the Independence Party, which is backing the British exit from the European Union known as Brexit, used the attacks to push their agenda.

American right-wingers chimed in, too.

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump used the attacks to reiterate his stance on torture as an appropriate response as well as his plan to close U.S. borders while labeling Brussels “disaster city.”

Source: Anti-immigrant politicos in U.S. and Europe begin exploiting Brussels attacks

Trudeau picked some smart people for the Senate. That could be a problem. – Christopher Waddell

Valid questions regarding the impact of the new Senate appointees (I believe, however, better to have accomplished and capable individuals than not):

It would be foolish to question the calibre of the people Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed to the Senate. They’re all highly accomplished in their fields.

But their backgrounds and accomplishments shouldn’t obscure two fundamental questions:

Now that they’re there, what are they supposed to do? And who do they represent in doing that?

There is, of course, the old chestnut about the Senate being the chamber of “sober second thought”, reviewing legislation that comes from the elected members of Parliament. Is that the sort of work these new senators — and the others who have recently declared themselves to be ‘independent’ — will content themselves with for the rest of their days in the upper house?

Sober second thought has its value — but this is a particularly accomplished group. No washed-up politicians or party bagmen getting a taskless thanks here; Trudeau’s appointments include a prominent judge, a champion paralympian, a former university president and the former editor-in-chief of La Presse. How long will they be satisfied with a job that requires them to think without acting? Is the Senate to become a glorified think tank?

The logical outcome of sober second thought is action — amending or rejecting legislation. Is that what Trudeau wants these senators to do? And who does the government believe the senators should represent in the event they do decide to overrule the elected members of Parliament?

Do Canadians want a more activist Senate composed of people who, while accomplished, have no democratic mandate to act? Do we want to see anyone who was not elected to office regularly rejecting or amending legislation passed by elected representatives? If so, on what basis should they do that? Their personal opinions? The views of others? If so, whose views?

Source: Trudeau picked some smart people for the Senate. That could be a problem. – iPolitics

Study likely to fuel debate on foreign home buyers

One of the small, low-cost, but important initiatives in the budget, along with some estimates from economists regarding the extent of the issue. Better data means better decisions:

New funding from Ottawa to help remedy what economists call an “astonishing lack of data” about international investment in Canadian real estate amounts to less than the down payment on an average detached house in Vancouver, despite signs the country’s most expensive housing markets are witnessing a significant influx of foreign buyers.

Responding to Tuesday’s federal budget, National Bank of Canada economists Peter Routledge, Parham Fini and Paul Poon estimate that the Liberal government’s promise of $500,000 for Statistics Canada to study the issue of foreign investment in the housing market amounts to just 27.5 per cent of the average $1.8-million price of a detached home in the Greater Vancouver Area. (It equates to just 18 per cent of the $2.87-million average price of a detached house in the City of Vancouver, or less than the required minimum 20-per-cent down payment.)

Still, they say the funding, enough for Statscan to spend one year examining ways to collect data on international buyers, is a welcome change to help address what has become a “politically delicate” issue in a country that prides itself on having an open economy and immigration system.

In an analysis that is likely to add fuel to that political debate, the economists conducted their own research showing that as many as one-third of all home purchases in the Vancouver region last year and 14 per cent in Toronto came from buyers in China.

Without any Canadian-specific data on foreign investors to go on, the economists came up with their estimates by extrapolating from two international surveys of realtors and buyers.

One is an annual report on the level of foreign home-buyer investment by the National Association of Realtors, based on surveys of real estate agents in the United States. It estimates that Chinese investors bought $28.6-billion (U.S.) of real estate in the U.S. housing market between March, 2014, and March, 2015, a seven-fold increase from the $4.1-billion they spent in 2009.

The second is a multiple-choice survey by the Financial Times of 77 wealthy Chinese investors who had bought real estate outside of China. Of those, 33.5 per cent said they bought homes in United States, while 11.7 per cent invested in Vancouver and 8.3 per cent in Toronto.

Combining the two surveys, the economists estimate that Chinese investors spent roughly $9-billion (Canadian) on home sales in the Greater Toronto Area last year, or 14 per cent of all total sales volume in the region.

In the Greater Vancouver Area, they estimate Chinese investors spent $12.7-billion – or 33 per cent of total sales. That figure, they say, lines up with research from B.C. urban planner Andy Yan, who found that 66 per cent of all sales of 172 detached homes in three west-side Vancouver neighbourhoods within a six-month period were to buyers with non-Anglicized Chinese names.

The economists admit their survey is somewhat unscientific, but say such attempts highlight the importance of collecting better data on the influence of foreign investment, and even immigration, on housing market affordability.

Source: Study likely to fuel debate on foreign home buyers – The Globe and Mail

Study reveals awfulness of Canadian investor immigration; income tax averages C$1,400 per millionaire | South China Morning Post

More on Vancouver real estate and investor immigration:

Yet other resultant economic activity is scant – in fact, investor migrants’ favourite “business” is real estate ownership.

Average annual income tax paid by millionaire migrants was C$1,400. No, that isn’t missing a zero

That’s just one finding of a Federal government evaluation of the Chinese-dominated investor schemes, quietly published in October 2014. I can find no reference to the 103-page report in any media; two leading academics who have studied the schemes for years were unaware of it before I forwarded it to them this week.

A skinny internal report on immigrant employment earnings, dating from 2012, gave a hint of what many suspected about the investor schemes, whose only real requirement of applicants was a willingness to hand over a pile of cash (latterly, C$800,000) as a five-year loan to Canada. But the latest data is depressingly comprehensive.

Among other things it reveals that 10 years after admission, the average annual income tax paid by millionaire migrants’ primary breadwinners was C$1,400. No, that isn’t missing a zero. The true average is even lower – since one-third did not file tax returns.

Compare that to the C$10,900 paid by skilled worker immigrants, or the C$7,500 paid by Canadians on average.

 Millionaire migrants’ average taxable income from all sources peaks at C$19,500 three years after arrival, but then defies the trend of other immigrant classes by falling sharply, to C$15,800 after 10 years. The report notes “increasing rates of out-migration after five years (especially among investors) may indicate a relationship with obtaining citizenship … a share of these immigrants wait to obtain Canadian citizenship to move out of the country.”

The Quebec backdoor: still open, still ripping off BC

Why does this matter? Wasn’t the federal IIP shut down? Yes, but the QIIP continues to operate and has always been the biggest component of investor migration to Canada. In fact, with 1,750 applications accepted annually, and a hefty backlog, Quebec’s immigration department is on track to funnel about 1,400 new millionaire households to Vancouver per year; that’s down from the 2011 peak, but is about the same average level the city received under both the federal and Quebec schemes in the past decade.

Source: Study reveals awfulness of Canadian investor immigration; income tax averages C$1,400 per millionaire | South China Morning Post