McParland: Renaming Ryerson University to appease the delicate is probably harmless, if pointless

Valid critique of single-minded blinkers:

The only reason I knew anything about Egerton Ryerson, before he ran afoul of the forces of statue reclamation, was because, for a brief period, I attended the Toronto school that took his name.

That was a long time ago. Ryerson was a mere polytechincal institute at the time and no one cared much who it was named after. Given I was to spend time there, I checked out the man whose name was on the building. Turned out he was a key figure in the staid, grey, ultra-respectable clique that ran the Toronto in the early and middle decades of the 19th century. Most of them were rigid, unbending figures, steeped in their self-regard, but Ryerson was an education maven: arguing that education should be mandatory, schools should be free, teachers should be professionally trained, textbooks should include Canadian authors, schools should be run independently and freed of the monopolistic hands of the priests. For that he won wide plaudits and remained a respected and admired figure well into the current century, until history was suddenly revised and he became a reviled character accused of plotting to demean and degrade Canada’s Indigenous people.

His sin was that, approached for advice on a means of educating Aboriginal children, he advocated for teaching in English in boarding schools away from families. While he could hardly be blamed for the horror show the system later became, his presence at the birth of the concept has seen him seized on by revisionist extremists intent on denouncing the dead for failing to adopt 21st century processes in a 19th century world.

The old-timey Ryerson Polytechnical Institute I attended has since grown considerably, sprawling over a network of streets and byways all over central Toronto and proudly re-branding itself as a fully-fledged university. Now it is to have a new name, because any association with Egerton Ryerson is a wholly unsatisfactory state of affairs for the ultra-woke, easily offended young people who make up the student body or the timid functionaries who populate the administration.

The decision was announced Thursday after approval by the university’s board of governors, based on the recommendations of a report commissioned last November. In addition to designating Ryerson an unperson, the board agreed the university “will not reinstall, restore or replace” a statue that had been pulled down and disfigured, and will issue “an open call for proposals for the rehoming of the remaining pieces … to promote educational initiatives.” Anyone looking for an extra kneecap or a spare left hand as a conversation piece or garden ornament should presumably apply at the bursar’s office.

Ceremonies to promote “healing and closure” will be held at the spot the statue once occupied. Board members agreed something will also have to be done about “Eggy,” a school mascot that will obviously no longer do unless the faculty redirects its interests towards the reproductive habits of chickens.

If a new name makes the delicate daisies at Ryerson happy it seems kind of harmless. And maybe it’s just as well. Parts of the university border on Dundas Street, a main thoroughfare christened after another long-dead figure who got himself mixed up with the wrong side of history. Since the city had already decided to rename the offending stretches of pavement, the university was going to have to order up new letterhead anyway, so why not go for the full magillah? Next on the list could be Yonge St., which also skirts the campus and honours a figure far more objectionable than either Dundas or Ryerson, but who has somehow escaped the roving hordes of Puritans now dictating the acceptable limits of nomenclature to a crushed and cowering city. By this time next year whole swaths of the city core could find itself operating under new identities, confusing the tourists and playing havoc with street maps.

It’s possible trouble still lies ahead, however. Among findings in the task force report was a potentially troubling recommendation that some recognition of Ryerson’s existence be allowed to continue. Specifically, “the establishment of a physical and interactive display that provides comprehensive and accessible information about the legacy of Egerton Ryerson and the period in which he was commemorated by the university,” and  “the creation of a website that disseminates the Task Force’s historical research findings about Egerton Ryerson’s life and legacy.”

Given that the man was hardly the ogre imagined by his statue-bashing accusers, and bears much credit for the early development of an advanced education system in what was then a remote and underpopulated province, it’s possible an honest assessment of his life won’t be as dark and discreditable as today’s student body obviously hopes.

What happens then? Will they tear down the display and banish the web site? Probably. Truth can never be allowed to spoil the prejudices of historical ignorance. Especially at an institution of higher education.


The Black Mortality Gap, and a Document Written in 1910

Important history:

Black Americans die at higher rates than white Americans at nearly every age.

In 2019, the most recent year with available mortality data, there were about 62,000 such earlier deaths — or one out of every five African American deaths.

The age group most affected by the inequality was infants. Black babies were more than twice as likely as white babies to die before their first birthday.

The overall mortality disparity has existed for centuries. Racism drives some of the key social determinants of health, like lower levels of income and generational wealth; less access to healthy food, water and public spaces; environmental damage; overpolicing and disproportionate incarceration; and the stresses of prolonged discrimination.

But the health care system also plays a part in this disparity.

Research shows Black Americans receive less and lower-quality care for conditions like cancer, heart problems, pneumonia, pain management, prenatal and maternal health, and overall preventive health. During the pandemic, this racial longevity gap seemed to grow again after narrowing in recent years.

Some clues to why health care is failing African Americans can be found in a document written over 100 years ago: the Flexner Report.

In the early 1900s, the U.S. medical field was in disarray. Churning students through short academic terms with inadequate clinical facilities, medical schools were flooding the field with unqualified doctors — and pocketing the tuition fees. Dangerous quacks and con artists flourished.

Physicians led by the American Medical Association (A.M.A.) were pushing for reform. Abraham Flexner, an educator, was chosen to perform a nationwide survey of the state of medical schools.

He did not like what he saw.

Published in 1910, the Flexner Report blasted the unregulated state of medical education, urging professional standards to produce a force of “fewer and better doctors.”

Flexner recommended raising students’ pre-medical entry requirements and academic terms. Medical schools should partner with hospitals, invest more in faculty and facilities, and adopt Northern city training models. States should bolster regulation. Specialties should expand. Medicine should be based on science.

Source: The Black Mortality Gap, and a Document Written in 1910

Alleged hate crimes rarely investigated by police, report claims

Of note:

Nearly a quarter million Canadians say they were victims of hate-motivated incidents during a single year, but police across the country investigated fewer than one per cent of these events as hate crimes, according to new data from Statistics Canada.

The federal agency’s latest General Social Survey results on victimization show approximately 223,000 incidents were reported in 2019 in which victims felt hatred was a motivating factor for the suspect. Of those illegal or nearly-criminal events, 130,000 were deemed violent by the person reporting them.

About 21 per cent of the total victims – 48,000 – said they called local police, but official statistics from that same year show Canadian officers only reported 1,946 criminal incidents motivated by hate nationwide.

Statscan collects this information on victims of hate crimes every five years within a 12-month period. Experts say, even though it is immediately dated upon its release, the statistics offer the best snapshot of the state of hate in Canada.

Academics and non-profits that support victims say the scale of incidents captured by the pre-pandemic survey, released last week, are a wake-up call to the massive harms being done to the country’s marginalized communities.

“We are in denial, it’s not just complacency – for a lot, it is outright denial that there’s a problem,” said Barbara Perry, director of Ontario Tech University’s Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism who began studying hate crimes in the country almost two decades ago.

This summer, Statistics Canada released crime data from last year that showed police across the country reported a record 2,669 hate crimes cases last year – a 37 per cent spike from the year prior – even as overall crime trended downward while society slowed down during the pandemic.

The relatively small number of cases flagged by police in 2019 as being motivated by hate also indicates the criminal justice system is doing a poor job of combatting hate crimes or other incidents where people are targeted over their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender, Dr. Perry said.

“That’s really disturbing, what’s happening is that the hate motivation is being funnelled out very early, police are not reporting or recording it as a hate crime or people have reported and it hasn’t been followed up,” Dr. Perry said.

Last year, Dr. Perry’s own study of hate crimes investigators she interviewed in Ontario showed they were often frustrated by a lack of institutional support to investigate these cases properly and many were unclear on what constitutes a hate crime, with their confusion exacerbated by the difficulty of determining the hate motivation in criminal acts.

The Criminal Code only identifies four actual hate crimes: three hate propaganda offences and mischief relating to religious or cultural sites. The rest of so-called hate crimes are incidents where a suspect is charged for a core crime and then prosecutors may argue hate motivation at the end of a trial to secure a heavier sentence.

The federal Liberal government recently told The Globe and Mail that it has no plans to update the code, as recommended by National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and policing experts, to add new provisions that would single out hate-motivated assault, murder, threats, and mischief to include specific new penalties for each infraction.

Statistics Canada said it could not comment on the survey because the bureaucracy is in caretaker mode during the federal election campaign. A spokesperson for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which includes the leaders of most police forces in the country, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Mustafa Farooq, CEO of NCCM, said his group has its own reporting line that he says logs at least one call a day about a violent threat or incident, said a major challenge is everyday people also have trouble separating a hate-motivated incident from a criminal act that meets the threshold of police securing a charge. That is why Canada needs to create a new system to better support these victims, whether a criminal offence is involved or not, he said.

But, Mr. Farooq said, even when people do report to their local police, the indifference they are often met with stops them from pursuing justice.

“When people come and tell their stories it is an often uphill battle to have police take those claims taken seriously,” he said, noting his organization frequently liaises with victims and officers.

Evan Balgord, the executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, a non-partisan non-profit, said the last General Social Survey on victimization in 2014 showed that people were slightly more likely to report these incidents to police, with 31 per cent of all hate-motivated incidents compared to 21 per cent in the new survey.

The new data shows victims attributed more than half the incidents (119,000) in part to a suspect being motivated by a hatred of their race or ethnicity, followed next by the language they were using (72,000) and then their sex (54,000). Multiple factors could be attributed by to a single incident, the agency said. The number of incidents were estimates rounded to the nearest thousand and based on a survey of 22,000 Canadians across the country, with roughly two-thirds choosing the option of responding online, the agency said.

More than half the incidents were reported in Ontario (74,000) and Quebec (62,000), followed by Alberta (31,000) and then British Columbia (29,000).

Irfan Chaudhry, director of MacEwan University’s office of Human Rights, Diversity and Equity in Edmonton, said one reason people don’t report a hate-motivated incident to police is that certain communities feel shame, don’t want to feel re-victimized when talking to the authorities and would rather deal with the aftermath, such as cleaning up offensive graffiti, on their own. More commonly, victims simply don’t feel officers can do anything, said Prof. Chaudhry, who founded and oversees Alberta’s Stop Hate independent reporting line for such incidents.

Mr. Balgord, whose group monitors, exposes and counters hate-promoting movements, groups and people, said Statistics Canada needs to do a much better job of tracking these hate incidents by doing this survey every year.

“The General Social Survey takes forever, it’s like a dinosaur – we’re halfway through 2021 and we’re just getting the 2019 results,” he said. “The hate ecosystem moves and shifts so quickly and we don’t even have pandemic-related hate crime data yet.”


Taliban vows to purge education system of anything ‘against Islam’ as Afghan folk singer shot dead

No surprise:

The Taliban is planning to purge Afghanistan’s education system of all elements that are “against Islam”, according to an official, as activists and campaigners warn of a return to authoritarian rule in the country.

Speaking on Sunday, interim higher education minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani criticised the current education system that was founded by the international community, claiming that it had failed to adhere to religious principles.

“[The] world tried to take religion out of scientific education, which harmed the people,” Mr Haqqani said.

He added that “every item against Islam in the educational system will be removed”.

Mr Haqqani’s comments came as reports of the killing of an Afghan folk singer in a mountain province raised fresh concerns about the threat to human rights in the country as the Taliban works to form a new government.

The family of Fawad Andarabi said he was shot dead by a Taliban fighter in the Andarabi Valley (after which he was named), an area of Baghlan province some 100km (60 miles) north of Kabul.

“He was innocent, a singer who only was entertaining people,” his son said. “They shot him in the head on the farm.”

Mr Andarabi played a bowed lute, known as a ghichak, and sang traditional songs about his birthplace, his people and Afghanistan as a whole.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, told reporters that the insurgent group would investigate the incident, but he could not provide any details on it.

In response to the killing, Amnesty International secretary-general Agnes Callamard said: “There is mounting evidence that the Taliban of 2021 is the same as the intolerant, violent, repressive Taliban of 2001.

“20 years later, nothing has changed on that front.”

Although the Taliban has claimed that it will lead a more moderate government in Afghanistan, many fear that women and religious minorities will once again face severe restrictions and oppression under the group’s rule.

On Sunday, former officials and lecturers at Afghan universities called on the insurgent group to maintain and upgrade the country’s education system instead of dismantling it.

Former minister of higher education Abas Basir told a conference on higher education, held by the Taliban, that starting over would be repeating a mistake made by previous governments.

“Let’s not reject everything, starting a new system: we should work more on what we already have,” Mr Basir said.

Mr Mujahid has said that a full cabinet for the new Taliban government will be announced in the coming days, with governors and police chiefs already appointed in all but one of the country’s 34 provinces.

The insurgent group is appealing to the US and other western nations to maintain diplomatic relations after the withdrawal of foreign troops is complete.

However, the UK has warned that relations will only be maintained if the new government respects human rights and allows safe passage for those who want to leave Afghanistan.

Source: Taliban vows to purge education system of anything ‘against Islam’ as Afghan folk singer shot dead

Ashley Ford: Six Principles for the Policymaker

Not a bad list. Not sure I lived all of these but did try:

Having left a senior US Government position as a diplomat some months ago, I had the occasion the other day to discuss the advice that I would give to future policymakers, or to those who advise them. It was a fair question, but oddly not one that I could recall having been asked before (though I did say some relevant things in a recent paper I wrote on the future of principled conservatism in US foreign policy). Accordingly, as food for thought, here are six principles I try to keep in mind when engaging with the policy process.

1. Ensure input integrity

The first—and most important—principle is to ensure what I call “input integrity.” That’s a fancy way of saying, “Get your facts straight.” It’s certainly possible to stumble upon good policy choices by luck (the proverbial broken analog clock, for instance, is right twice a day). However, without more to rely upon than that, the relationship between policy choices and policy outcomes will most likely follow the adage of “garbage in, garbage out.”

Accordingly, it’s critical to ensure the quality of input by providing as much solid information and analysis as possible, and by considering diverse perspectives and voices in the decision-making process. This will help produce conclusions better matched to the circumstances you face and better able to withstand the scrutiny of colleagues. Decision-makers need to be as well informed as possible throughout the decision-making process, and remain as open as possible to differing views, framings, or analyses. This makes clarity and honesty imperative.

Forgive the classical allusion, but as Plutarch once put it, a true friend is not a flatterer, but someone who—precisely due to the sincerity of friendship—speaks hard truths when they need to be heard. Sound policymaking requires candid advice informed by as much solid information, data, and analysis as possible, even—or indeed especially—when that advice challenges expectations or preconceptions. This also applies when interrogating the assumptions that underlie proposed courses of action, including about the availability and likelihood of desired end-states, and the causal linkages that proposals often presuppose between policy inputs and outcomes.

In the interests of improving the integrity of the deliberative process, it can also be useful to harbor a degree of constructive skepticism in the face of policy enthusiasms. This can be a touchy subject, since passion and commitment to a particular agenda are invaluable drivers of the policy process—such passion often being the “engine” for engagement in trying to improve the world. Nevertheless, passion and enthusiasm can sometimes work at cross-purposes to the critical tasks of ensuring that decision-making is as well-informed as possible, of questioning and testing assumptions, and of ensuring that diverse perspectives and data inputs are taken into account in decision-making.

After all, those certain they already know the transcendently “Right Answer” will be disinclined to waste time debating policy and considering complicating details or contrary views. But that course is risky, and doesn’t serve the interests of good policymaking because people are fallible and because enthusiasm about one’s own rectitude can create blind spots, even for the best among us. As an old friend of mine likes to put it, “If you want it bad, you get it bad”—if you want something desperately enough, you’re more likely to make bad choices in its pursuit. Simply put, uncritical enthusiasm increases the likelihood of failure.

Even those convinced they already have the answer should still be willing to entertain contrary scenarios, consider heterodox views, interrogate their own assumptions, and remain open to inconvenient facts. There’s little downside to this, and a huge potential upside. (If you’re right, your position should easily survive such encounters, and indeed be strengthened by them. And if your initial approach is incorrect, openness and inquiry will let you improve it, and perhaps even forestall disaster.) Especially in an era of factually unmoored, enthusiasm-driven position-taking, a little constructive skepticism can be the policymaker’s best friend.

2. Fail “safe”

The idea of “failing safe” is related to the thought processes I’ve stressed above. It is important to consider what will happen if the underlying assumptions of a particular course of action prove to be incorrect, or if you encounter unexpected “off-design” scenarios. After all, not all paths “fail” equally “safely.” It may sometimes be wiser to adopt an approach that is not quite as effective in predictedscenarios if, in return for this sub-optimization, it would work much better in the face of unexpected ones. There may be a balance to be struck here.

For instance, it is possible to open a can of beans with a screwdriver, as well as to do a good many other things, if perhaps not always elegantly. But an electric can opener cannot turn a screw. Opening cans is vastly easier with the opener, but unless I’m sure I’ll only ever encounter unopened cans—and that the electricity will never go out—there’s something to be said for picking a screwdriver, assuming I have to choose between the two.

This can sometimes be hard for policymakers to stomach (or to defend to others, especially in a political context) because it necessarily involves choosing not to adopt the course of action they really think would work best in the circumstances they’re most likely to face. But I do think it’s important to add “alternative scenarios” to the mix, for the world does seem to love throwing us curve balls.

Scenario planning concepts should encourage us to consider more flexible, “Swiss Army Knife”-type policy choices rather than always betting on highly specialized, single-use tools that may work extremely well under optimal circumstances but could fail catastrophically in unpredicted situations.

3. Clarity in trade-offs

Policymakers should be honest with themselves (and others) about strategic trade-offs between competing equities. Policymaking is, after all, frequently not just about finding the best answer to the problem at hand, but also about making decisions in an environment of finite resources: limits on available funding, manpower, bureaucratic attention, political capital, and time. In such contexts, full-bore pursuit of one important objective necessarily often means cutting back on efforts to achieve another, or accepting heightened risk in de-emphasized areas. Where resources are limited, each policy prioritization you make may need to be “paid for” somewhere else.

There is often no way around such challenges, but policymakers tend to hate making this kind of choice, or sometimes even admitting that they need to—or that they have done so. These are inherently difficult choices that can be politically challenging to make and defend, because they involve adjudicating and potentially compromising between objectives, all of which may be very important. Such choices, however, are often inescapable, and we do the integrity of the policy process a disservice if we pretend we aren’t making them.

4. Seek sustainability

Policymakers should ensure that the country can stay on course over time where it needs to do so. This sustainability question may not be so relevant when leaders have to respond to a “one-off” crisis. But in broader questions of setting national policy and running large, path-dependent bureaucracies, policies need to be sustainable in the long-term.

Especially in an era of polarized politics, democratic governments are vulnerable to significant policy oscillations as different political teams succeed each other. Sometimes that’s a strength, because it increases the frequency at which folks re-examine past policy choices for faulty assumptions or unintentional bad outcomes. But inconstancy can be problematic in areas where we need a sustained application of attention and focus—such as in grand strategy against near-peer competitors who think in terms of decades rather than just, say, about the end of the next fiscal year or the next election.

From those kinds of challenges, there’s something to be said for deliberately choosing a good but not maximally beneficial course of action if such compromise gets you “buy-in” from other stakeholders in ways that will ensure that the policy remains a consistent priority over time. Doing this can be hard, for in a time like ours, such compromise may be depicted as “betrayal.” But insisting upon the “perfect” answer to a long-term problem at the cost of having it be only a temporary one—a choice that is soon reversed by one’s successor—isn’t sound policymaking. It is preening at the expense of policy, and it ultimately undermines one’s cause.

Another aspect of sustainability relates to public discourse. Especially in a democracy, no policy will be genuinely sustainable over time unless it is clearly explained and defended to all relevant stakeholders in public. Open, honest, and clear articulation of policy choices and the reasoning behind them is essential to making them stick. This is so, not just because it helps ensure stakeholder “buy-in,” but also because it puts reasons and arguments permanently “on the record” as a benchmark against which later policymakers will have to defend their own choices, and as a foundation upon which others may be able to build. In office, I’ve always tried to put as much clear policy explication and reasoning on the record as possible, and I very much appreciate this in others; it can help make us all smarter.

5. Revisit choices

It’s important to re-examine policy choices and the assumptions that underlie them periodically, in light of the best available information and analysis. Humans are fallible, and their choices are always made, to one degree or another, in an environment of ambiguous or incomplete information, sometimes under considerable stresses and time pressures. And even if they do actually get everything right the first time, the world is still not a static place—it can and does change. It’s therefore essential to build some kind of “revisit” process into decision-making in order periodically to reassesses the “fit” between policy prescriptions and the environment.

Ideally, such revisits will reassure us that we’re still on the right track. If not, they still give us a chance to make any necessary adjustments. After all, one doesn’t have to be a Keynesian to agree with the (perhaps apocryphal) quip usually attributed to John Maynard Keynes that when the facts change, one should be willing to change one’s mind. That may be easier said than done, but it’s important nonetheless.

6. Attend to values

Finally, it is important to keep one’s eye on the overall course and direction of policy within a framework of clearly understood and articulated values. This isn’t so much about the policy process, I suppose, as it is about remembering fundamental points of overall policy direction. One’s “tactical” moves should always make sense within the overall “strategic” vision that broader societal and institutional values and choices help provide.

This takes the issue at hand to a level above the factual and analytic “input integrity” I discussed earlier. Facts and their analysis are critical to understanding the environment and devising ways to achieve desired outcomes. But they do not provide much of an answer to questions such as: What objectives does the community wish to pursue in the first place? How do we decide whether or not to prioritize one goal over another? How do we assess and execute trade-offs among stakeholder equities where outcomes cannot be fully optimized for everyone?

For these dilemmas, policymaking relies heavily upon dynamics of socio-political bargaining and other forms of (often contested) choice-making driven by values. Technocracy can help inform such decisions, and can almost always help make policy implementation more effective. But often, it can only do so within a higher-level framework of antecedent values and choices.

Policymakers should be mindful of the higher-level values framework within which they operate. A brigade commander might issue a general directive to “Take that hill!” but should empower his platoon leaders to improvise specific movements based upon their superior knowledge of the condition of their troops and the terrain immediately in front of each unit. Similarly, broader value-informed directional choices provide a sense of “commander’s intent” for the more detailed aspects of policy development and adoption. Such values provide our overall compass bearings, and we forget that sense of direction at our peril.

Source: Six Principles for the Policymaker

Latif: Tokenistic photo ops are no longer enough in this election campaign

Of note:

This campaign feels a bit strange for me.

I’m not as engaged as I have been in the past, when I was involved with all the federal Liberal campaigns since the 2004 election. I started off as a field organizer, and soon found my niche in community engagement, mobilizing diverse communities. Although I enjoyed my time in politics, I’ve since paused my involvement to pursue other passions, including my academic work. Taking this step back has allowed me to reflect on my efforts, and the progress made in engaging diverse communities in federal elections. 

Nearly two decades after that 2004 campaign, it’s disheartening to see political parties in this election still using the same old tactic of photo ops, unaccompanied by real policy change. But one thing is different this time around: communities are noticing. 

A recent OMNI Filipino report showed Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole coming out of Jollibee (a Filipino multinational fast food chain) in Edmonton. Community advocate Monica De Vera voiced a sentiment that could apply to any of Canada’s diverse communities: “It’s very easy for a politician to go to a Filipino establishment, instead of passing policies that help Filipino people.” 

When I was working in politics, community engagement was about celebrating cultural diversity. I spent my time doing work that would be seen as performative today, such as having politicians attend community celebrations, placing celebratory messages in newspapers on religious holidays, and bringing members of Parliament to mosques, gurdwaras and synagogues. At the time, “showing up” was important; today, it’s no longer enough.

I got so good at my political outreach work that I was actually referred to as the “Jason Kenney” of John Tory’s 2014 mayoral campaign. I didn’t enjoy the comparison, as I prided myself on the authenticity of my community work based on my lived experience, and believed Kenney was insincere. I couldn’t understand why members of so many communities applauded Kenney’s efforts, nor why the media would call him a “kingmaker.”

During his time as minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, Kenney was dubbed the “Minister for Curry in a Hurry,” as he would often show up to Eid celebrations and dragon boat races. But the Conservative party he campaigned under pitted communities against each other, putting regressive policies like the “barbaric cultural practices” hotline in place.

The hypocrisy continues. After the 2017 Québec City mosque attack, Kenney — then a candidate for leadership of Alberta’s United Conservative Party — was quick to speak about his support of religious freedoms on social media. But in his previous role as the immigration minister, he did the opposite and “dictated” a niqab ban at Canadian citizenship ceremonies. This is yet another example of political leaders using rhetoric to win votes in the name of diversity. 

In a recent interview with the Straight, Vancouver-Kingsway NDP incumbent Don Davies decried the candidacy of Liberal Virginia Bremner, a Filipina-Canadian, as containing an “element of opportunism” because of the riding’s diverse demographics. Is it “opportunism” to have candidates that reflect our communities? Davies has since apologized, but the damage is done. Bremner responded via Twitter: “To claim that I lack agency to make my own decisions is sexist, racist, and rife with white privilege. It is an insult to me and all women and women of colour in politics.”

Back in 2004, people from marginalized communities didn’t even think we had an entitlement beyond a simple visit from our leaders. Now, communities expect real tangible change; we speak out and we run as candidates.

Over the past year, we’ve seen the Black Lives Matter protests, a terrorist attack against a Muslim family in London, Ont., anti-Asian violence, and the unearthed bodies of thousands of murdered Indigenous children. And yet, dismantling systemic racism and discrimination is still not the focus of the campaign trail.

Ruby Latif is a Toronto-based community mobilizer, Liberal strategist and a contributing columnist for the Star.


Delacourt: It’s time to talk about this rage against Justin Trudeau

Good commentary. It may also be time to call out some of the enablers and fomenters, Rebel and “True” North, given their frequent invective (which at time of writing this Sunday afternoon, have not covered or commented on the rage). Both Erin O’Toole and Jagmeet Singh strongly condemned the mob’s actions but did not see anything from the Greens or Bloc. PPC tweet:

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-partner=”tweetdeck”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Trudeau doesn’t respect democracy. He uses billions in taxpayer money to overtly buy votes. He violates the Constitution. He demonizes opponents. He curtails our rights. He’s a wannabe fascist tyrant. But yeah, protesters yelling at him are the problem. <a href=””></a></p>&mdash; Maxime Bernier (@MaximeBernier) <a href=””>August 29, 2021</a></blockquote>

It’s time to talk about this rage against Justin Trudeau — not just the mob spectacles on the campaign trail, but all the toxic strains of that fury simmering through Canadian politics for some time now.

The incredible scene of Trudeau haters in Bolton, Ont., their faces contorted in gleeful rage, has elevated this phenomenon from an ugly undercurrent to a force that needs to be reckoned with in the current election campaign.

On one level, what was on display was deeply and intensely personal against the man who has been prime minister of Canada through six challenging years for the country. But as Trudeau himself suggested after the incident on Friday night, it is also a boiling cauldron of populist discontent, fuelled by a pandemic — and, I would add, stoked by the grievous state of the political culture.

“We all had a difficult year and those folks out protesting, they had a difficult year too, and I know and I hear the anger, the frustration, perhaps the fear, and I hear that,” Trudeau said after his campaign had to flee the mob.

There is a chance here, not just for Trudeau, but for all politicians and voters in Canada, to look this toxicity in the eye and take the full measure of it right now, in a way the United States has failed to do, even after the storming of the Capitol earlier this year. The disgrace in Bolton on Friday night wasn’t of the same magnitude, but it comes from a similar place — the point where political disruption crosses into all-out eruption.

All politicians rile up some segments of the population and the RCMP isn’t accompanying them just to err on the side of caution. No one should need reminding that in July 2020, a military reservist named Corey Hurren crashed his truck full of weapons through the gates of Rideau Hall, looking to do damage to Trudeau. This was a day after a rally on Parliament Hill calling for Trudeau’s arrest for treason.

The threats are real, and they have been for as long as I’ve been covering federal politics. One of my first out-of-town assignments after being posted to the capital, in fact, was a rally in New Brunswick where Mila Mulroney, wife of prime minister Brian Mulroney, was jabbed in the ribs by a protester’s sign.

But the poisonous rage that is directed toward Trudeau on a daily basis, churning through social media 24/7, landing as flaming parcels every day in reporters’ email inboxes, and now manifesting itself as a high-level security threat in small-town Ontario, is another order altogether. It is woven with threads of racism, xenophobia, sexism, conspiracy theorists and COVID/vaccine deniers. It has been emboldened by a small cottage industry of commentary that portrays a “woke” Trudeau as the destroyer of all that holds the old Canada together.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole couldn’t have been more clear on Saturday after the incident in Bolton, where some of his party’s supporters were participants in the cursing and howling throng. Those people, O’Toole said, ”will no longer be involved with our campaign, full stop. I expect professionalism, I expect respect. I respect my opponents.”

Yet on the very eve of the current election campaign, O’Toole’s own party put out a video depicting Trudeau as a spoiled, flouncing girl having a temper tantrum. This wasn’t some rogue partisan, cobbling together a video in his parents’ basement. It appeared (now revoked for copyright reasons) on the official Twitter account of the Conservative party.

And this business of feminizing Trudeau to demonize him has deep, enduring roots. (Note to email correspondents: calling him “Justine” is neither original nor witty.) For years, Trudeau haters have been spewing the same kind of bile they usually hurl at women politicians; mocking his hair, his family and casting any success as the product of smarter men around them.

There’s a direct line between that mockery and the taunting hordes on the campaign trail; the sneering contempt.

The immediate questions revolve around whether Bolton will help or hurt Trudeau — is this a turning point, when the Liberal leader gets to cast himself as the underdog/victim? Is it like the moment in 1993, when Jean Chrétien stood up to Conservatives’ mockery of his face?

There’s an old Jerry Seinfeld joke about those detergent ads you see on TV. “If you’ve got a T-shirt with a bloodstain all over it, maybe laundry isn’t your biggest problem.” All the speculation about how the Bolton incident will affect the election campaign feels a bit to me like seeing the problem as laundry. It’s not just about politicians cleaning up their strategic act for this election, but what is causing the stain on the political fabric of this country.

The faces of those protesters, accompanied by children chanting foul-mouthed curses at a prime minister, is not a sight that can be bleached from the memory of this campaign.

To paraphrase that Seinfeld joke, if you have mobs of citizens openly threatening harm to Trudeau, the biggest problem isn’t Trudeau.

Source: It’s time to talk about this rage against Justin Trudeau

Losing steam, Polish government plays immigration card

Sad but not unexpected:

As it loses steam in the polls, Poland’s right-wing populist government is playing the anti-immigration card that helped it win in 2015, hoping to take back the political initiative, analysts said.

Thousands of migrants — most of them from the Middle East — have crossed from Belarus into eastern EU states, including Poland, in recent months.

The EU suspects the influx is engineered by the Belarusian regime in retaliation against increasingly stringent EU sanctions, with Poland the Baltic states calling it a “hybrid attack”.

Political attention in Poland in recent weeks has focused on a group of around 30 migrants camped out on the border between Poland and Belarus.

Poland is refusing to let in the migrants, said to be Afghans by a charity trying to help them, or give them aid without the consent of Belarus.

“It cannot be ruled out that there will be early elections next year… and it is by no means certain that the Law and Justice (PiS) party will win a majority or manage to piece together a coalition,” said Agata Szczesniak, a political analyst for the news portal

The government lost its formal parliamentary majority earlier this month after the departure of a junior coalition partner.

A recent poll by Kantar also found that PiS had fallen by three points in the polls and is now neck-and-neck with the main opposition grouping, Civic Platform, at 26 percent.

“To go back up in the polls, PiS is trying to replay what happened in 2015 but even more so. It is focusing public emotion around the image and rhetoric of a war” against migrants, Szczesniak said.

During Europe’s migration crisis of 2015, PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski scored electoral points in parliamentary elections that year with his anti-immigration rhetoric, including warnings about the diseases and “all sorts of parasites” that the migrants might bring with them.

– ‘Holy Polish territory’ –

The government has remained intransigent over the migrants on the border even after multiple appeals from the UN refugee agency, the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said he is protecting “holy Polish territory”.

Dressed in military-style wear, he has visited the border to announce the building of a fence.

Culture Minister Piotr Glinski has promised to “defend Poland against migrants” and Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak has sent 2,000 soldiers to the border.

“What is happening at the border is political gold” for the government, said former EU chief Donald Tusk, now head of Civic Platform.

Adam Szostkiewicz, a political commentator for the weekly Polityka, said the government was “building its election campaign around this”.

But analysts pointed out that public feeling around the issue has changed in recent years.

Many Poles sympathise with Afghans and are growing used to higher levels of immigration in the country, particularly of Ukrainians and Belarusians.

“At the time, around 70 percent of Poles said they were opposed to letting in refugees. Today, it is 55 percent,” said Szczesniak.

– Confusion –

The government may also be sending a mixed message.

In recent days, it has also evacuated almost 1,000 Afghans who worked for Poland’s military contingent.

“On the one hand, the PiS is helping Afghans and on the other it is rejecting them. This creates confusion,” said Szczesniak.

Szostkiewicz said the fact that the crisis could be orchestrated by Minsk “does not justify the lack of basic empathy… and Poles can see that”.

The situation of the group blocked at the border has also prompted pleas from Poland’s Catholic Church, which is traditionally close to the current government.

Poland’s leading Catholic clergyman, Archbishop Wojciech Polak, has appealed for political leaders “to be guided above all by the spirit of hospitality, respect for new arrivals and goodwill”.

Source: Losing steam, Polish government plays immigration card

Sen Omidvar: Canada needs to improve its immigration channels for essential migrant workers

Of note. But perhaps more fundamentally, we need a more thorough and comprehensive review of our medium and longer-term labour market needs, rather than just responding to current issues:

Canada is in dire need of more essential workers. Besides the ongoing pandemic, our population is aging rapidly. Each day, we have more elderly who need care and fewer workers to meet our employers’ needs. To address these issues, we need a proper migration channel allowing new essential workers at a variety of skill levels to come to Canada and help fill critical jobs. Such a streamlined pathway could be the first step toward making our system easier for both workers and employers. We need to move beyond the current scheme made up of a patchwork of pilots and hard-to-navigate programs. Our growing labour shortages and care needs create an imperative to begin building a comprehensive migration system supported by a collaborative effort by rights-respecting labour mobility actors.

In May, the government opened a one-time pathway to permanent residency for thousands of foreign-born individuals who already work in Canada in “essential” occupations. This program is one of many small steps that legislators have recently taken to address the effects of the ongoing pandemic. However, to truly address the labour shortage crisis, we need to not only offer permanent residency to those already in the country, but also to offer migration channels that will allow more newessential workers to enter.

The pandemic has especially highlighted the extent to which we depend on foreign-born caregivers, child-care workers and workers in the food supply chain. The waitlist for a personal support aide in Ottawa had nearly 3,000 names at the end of last year, and the number of job openings in health care and social assistance hit a record high after jumping nearly 57 per cent.

At the same time, Canadian farmers have reported that the lack of workers in agriculture has already led to production delays. Even pre-pandemic numbers point to a crucial workforce scarcity, with estimates that the country will be short about 200,000 new health-care aides and 123,000 farm workers by the end of this decade. Distressingly, this growing labour force scarcity is not tied just to certain sectors. The overall labour market trends suggest that in the next decade our businesses will be short by two million workers across many industries.

To address the deepening labour shortage, lawmakers decided that more than 400,000 foreign-born individuals – primarily those who are already in Canada – will become eligible for permanent residency in 2021. This will be only the sixth timesince 1867 that we have accepted more than 300,000 permanent residents. The federal government has already taken other meaningful steps toward this goal. Before announcing the one-time pathway to permanent residency for certain foreign-born essential workers, it lowered the threshold for immigrants applying for residency through the point-based system to a historic low.

Although these policies represent important efforts to boost permanent migration, they alone will not solve the labour scarcity issue. Neither one of them establishes sustainable pathways that allow new essential workers currently abroad to come work in Canada and settle here permanently, should they wish to do so.

Current regular mobility pathways exclude most essential workers, such as home caregivers, cashiers and food-processing workers because of education-based criteria that typically require formal certification or a degree. Despite the proven enduring need for essential workers with a variety of skills – not only doctors and registered nurses – the country has yet to introduce ways to accommodate these workers, who may have lower education levels but who are just as important.

Besides offering permanent residency to those who are already here, we need migration channels to bring more essential workers to Canada. Specifically, the government should create a large-scale stable labour mobility program to bring new international talent and essential workers. Such a step must go hand-in- hand with heightened efforts to strengthen protections against abuse in worker recruitment, as well as operational support for migrants who meet the admission criteria but lack the networks and information necessary to get good jobs.

Even if eligible for the program, foreign-born workers still face many operational barriers, from identifying suitable jobs with reliable employers to the processing of official documents both outside and inside Canada. These barriers can slow down or even prevent their arrival. A collaborative effort could create a new “ecosystem” within the labour mobility space to assist workers in navigating existing programs and overcoming these barriers, with an eye toward labour rights. Such efforts would vastly improve employer and worker experiences with labour mobility, leading to a better and more effective migration system.

Our current system is fragmented and hard to understand. The federal government’s attempts to open new ways to address specific migration issues and labour scarcity have led to a patchwork of more than 100 programs and pilots at the federal as well as provincial level. This is extremely difficult for foreign workers and Canadian employers to understand and navigate.

The caregiver sector is a great example of this dissonance. In 2019, the government introduced two new pilots for foreign-born caregivers – a sector with a long and complicated history of migration programs. These new pilots followed two previous five-year caregiver pilots as well as the original program under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), all of which are currently closed.

However, even though the government no longer accepts new applications for these old programs, it still continues to process certain claims submitted for the two previous pilots and to renew existing work permits for TFWP caregivers. As a result, foreign-born caregivers can work in Canada through six separate programs, depending on their current situation. That is just at the federal level. Earlier this year, Quebec launched an additional pilot at the provincial level to accept up to 550 individuals to work as orderlies.

On top of that, the federal caregiver pilots – the only ones accepting new applications – are capped at 5,500 workers, far fewer than the nearly 12,000 new permits that TWFP caregivers received in 2014 before the program began to wind down. Similar to caregivers, workers and employers in other essential industries such as food processing, transportation, construction and manufacturing experience equally confusing and small-scale mobility pathways, if they exist at all.

The federal government’s efforts to provide permanent residency to workers with a variety of skills are certainly laudable. Yet these new policies alone are unlikely to secure enough new workers to address the country’s current and future labour demand. Simply put, there are two issues that must be addressed: our current system is complicated and hard to navigate for both employers and workers; and it doesn’t let enough new foreign-born essential workers at a variety of skill levels enter the country.

Creation of a streamlined program is just the first step. We also need to make labour migration simpler and fairer for workers and employers. This is why alongside a new essential workers pathway, we need to begin building a new ecosystem of labour mobility actors, which would lay the groundwork for a quality “labour mobility industry.” A quality labour mobility industry would bring together actors within the migration space, who respect and promote the rights of workers by ensuring nondiscriminatory and humane treatment and by engaging in other ethical practices such as not requiring recruitment fees and providing lawful wages and working hours. The array of ethical actors would include recruiters, financial intermediaries, remittance providers, transportation providers, travel agents, migration lawyers, consultants and others.

Together, these actors would provide a variety of quality services to facilitate worker mobility under supervision and in accordance with our labour standards and rights, as well as existing bilateral and multilateral agreements. In other words, an industry of co-ordinated ethical actors would streamline the migration process, making it easier, faster and safer to navigate. Importantly, organized co-operation among good actors could also help eliminate at least some of the bad outcomes often seen in existing systems that frequently result in migrant indebtedness, fraud regarding job terms and quality, worker abuse, and irregularity. This would build both worker and employer trust in the system, and hopefully encourage more “good” migration to help fill our essential worker shortages.

The global pandemic and its aftermath have revealed the invaluable role of essential workers. Now we have an excellent opportunity to develop a coherent mobility pathway for additional essential workers. The latest policy efforts suggest that the political will may be there. This new pathway could lay the foundation for a more-equitable immigration system, underpinned by a quality mobility industry that supports safe and legal migration pathways, while ensuring positive outcomes for workers of all skillsets. It’s time for Canada to once again take the lead on labour mobility by setting an example of good practice, so other countries seeking to modernize their immigration schemes can follow.


Canada is in the midst of a ‘hate crime crisis.’ Why aren’t federal leaders talking about it?

To be fair, the NDP platform does while the Conservative platform does not (still waiting for the official Liberal and Green platforms, will go through the PPC platform in the next few days):

New data shows that in 2019 Canadians self-reported an estimated 223,000 incidents they felt were motivated by hate — an extreme contrast to the number of incidents reported to police that same year.

According to data pulled from Statistics Canada’s 2019 General Social Survey, around 130,000 of the self-reported incidents were deemed violent by the person reporting the event, while reports of non-violent acts, including vandalism and theft of household and personal property, accounted for around 94,000 incidents.

The self-reported numbers dwarf the 1,951 incidents that police investigated as hate crimes in 2019, with the discrepancy between the numbers raising questions about how much is being reported to officials and the magnitude of hate in Canada.

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network, the organization that first requested the data from Statistics Canada and shared it with the Star, attributes the gap partly to communities which may be fearful of police, as well as a failure to properly label incidents as ones motivated by hate.

The organization has called on all federal parties to put in place an action plan to address what it calls the “hate crime crisis.”

And on the campaign trail itself, political leaders criss-crossing the country and candidates canvassing the streets aren’t immune.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who encountered racist remarks during the 2019 campaign and faced them again in recent days, said Wednesday that the “climate of hate” in Canada makes people feel like they don’t belong.

“I don’t focus on myself when it comes to those moments. But I do think about the rise of hate that a lot of people have to face. I think about kids growing up with a rise in anti-Asian hate,” said Singh, sharing the story of a Chinese constituent who warned her mother to stop going on evening walks.

“I’m worried about people from the Muslim community, who are worried because of the attacks on Muslims,” he said. “I’m worried about anti-Semitism. We’ve seen attacks on synagogues, attacking and targeting Jewish people.”

On Thursday, Liberal candidate François-Philippe Champagne tweeted several images of his campaign vehicle and election signs after they were vandalized that morning. Two swastikas were spray-painted on one sign, which features images of Champagne and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

Fellow Liberal candidate Anthony Housefather also shared a photo of his defaced election signs earlier this week.

“Each day of the last week, Nazi symbols have been drawn on my posters. This antisemitism will not stop me but it can easily deter good people from entering politics,” Housefather tweeted, denouncing similar acts of vandalism that have appeared on other candidates’ campaign materials.

Mustafa Farooq, CEO of the National Council of Muslim Canadians (NCCM), called the incidents “atrocious” and “disturbing”.

But he also questioned why political leaders have yet to materially address Canada’s “influx of hate” during their election events.

“It’s incredibly odd to me that this has not become a major question on the campaign trail,” he said.

In the wake of the London, Ont. attack that left four members of a Muslim family dead, the national council released more than 60 policy recommendations aimed at tackling hate, including the creation of a hate crime accountability unit in each province that would improve the way incidents are processed, investigated and monitored.

Source: Canada is in the midst of a ‘hate crime crisis.’ Why aren’t federal leaders talking about it?