Liberals must demand probe into any China election meddling


But I would hope that we will also get some insight from academics and community members other factors that may also have played a role. A question I have is whether a weaker CPC position on masking and vaccines may have also contributed, given Chinese Canadians, judging by Richmond numbers, were less averse to COVID restrictions than some other groups:

It’s a common trope that foreign policy is never a ballot question. As riled up as Canadians got about Afghanistan in our recent election, research showed it had little impact on the choices they ultimately made. Bread and butter issues like childcare or concerns about climate change mattered more than how well the prime minister performed — or did not perform — on the world stage.

Or did it? There is growing evidence that for some voters, foreign matters played a key role, not due to personal preference, but foreign interference. And that interference had a direct impact on votes, seat count, and the shape of the 44th Parliament.

Source: Liberals must demand probe into any China election meddling

New Zealand: Citizenship approval delays expected to ease mid-2022

Another country with processing delays:

The introduction of an online system and Covid-19 restrictions are being blamed for waiting times of up to a year – despite applicant numbers falling last year.

Government figures show 94,000 people have applied for citizenship since 2019, but only 64,000 have been approved. That includes citizenship granted to immigrants after at least five years of residence, and citizenship by descent, for overseas-born children of New Zealanders.

Citizenship by grant now takes 10-11 months to be looked at by a case officer and another one to two months to be decided after that. Citizenship ceremonies add another two or three months to the process, although they are suspended during the current outbreak.

Internal Affairs said it was focused on speeding up the process and it expected to reduce the backlog by the middle of next year.

It has taken on new staff and retrained employees who would usually issue passports.

So far this year, 26,000 people have applied for citizenship, and 11,700 were approved.

Case officers were first picking up a citizenship application five months after it was submitted, compared to a fortnight two years ago.

Internal Affairs said in a statement it understood delays in citizenship decisions impacted people.

“We have prioritised this backlog and created a specific programme of work to improve it,” said its general manager of service and access, Julia Wootton. “This includes more training, investing in technology changes to speed things up, establishing a temporary workforce dedicated to working though people’s applications.

“We are confident that the steps we have taken mean we will have the skills and processes in place early next year to ensure we can slow the backlog and begin to reduce it by mid next year.”

Staff were working hard to get back to much shorter timeframes after disruption caused by a ‘realignment’ of the department’s life and identity services in 2019, she said.

“There has been an increase in processing times for citizenship applications over the past 12-24 months as we move to a new citizenship processing system that incrementally improves citizenship services and is being built and introduced in stages. Until that is fully in place we are working in both the old system and the new. This system moves us from a manual paper-based system to an online system.

“Covid-19 lockdowns have affected our ability to deliver these services. Our citizenship system, which holds highly secure and privacy protected data about individuals and their families, is only accessed from our security-controlled offices. Citizenship is not considered an essential service so while the country or various regions are at alert level 4 or 3, we have limited staff on site delivering essential services only.”

Thirty new staff since July last year included 11 full-time employees and staff who could process passport or citizenship applications depending on demand. More staff were being added this month, Wootton said.

“A team of temporary staff has been brought on to process the approximately 9,000 cases that remain in our old system, freeing up existing staff to increase proficiency and speed in using the new system,” she said. “The new system gives us better data on applications, and enables us to adopt new ways of processing, including automating some assessments. We will soon roll out a feature which enables applications to be routed to appropriately skilled officers, depending on their complexity. These and other changes based on analysis of application trends will help us process more quickly.”

How many people applied for citizenship

  • 2019 – 35,274
  • 2020 – 32,030
  • 1/01/2021 – 22/09/2021 – 26,673
  • Total 93977

How many people had their citizenship approved

  • 2019 – 31,710
  • 2020 – 20,488
  • 1/01/2021 – 22/09/2021 – 11,719
  • Total 63917

Source: Citizenship approval delays expected to ease mid-2022

New lawmakers make German parliament more diverse than ever

Of note:

Hakan Demir smiled broadly as he stood in front of Germany’s majestic parliament building Tuesday, his first official day of work as a national lawmaker.

“My grandfather would have been mighty proud of me, and my parents are proud as well,” Demir, 36, said, taking a moment to remember his family’s roots in Turkey, from where his grandfather came in the early 1970s as an untrained “guest worker” to help build roads and houses in Germany.

Demir, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party, is one of hundreds of people who ran for Germany’s 735-seat lower house of parliament with backgrounds as immigrants or parents or grandparents who immigrated to the country. The number who won has made the Bundestag more diverse and inclusive than ever before.

The chamber now includes at least three people of African descent — up from one in the previous parliament. After years of stagnation, the number of female lawmakers also has gone up again, including two transgender women.

Among the newly elected immigrants is Awet Tesfaiesus, 47, the first Black woman to serve in parliament. Tesfaiesus, who fled from Eritrea with her family as a 4 year old, is a member of the Greens who was elected to represent the Werra-Meissner constituency in central Germany.

Other new Social Democratic lawmakers are Armand Zorn, 33, who was born in Cameroon and came to Germany at age 12, and Reem Alabali-Radovan, 31, the daughter of Iraqi migrants.

New parliament member Serap Guler, 41, of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union, is the German-born daughter of Turkish immigrants. She has served in recent years as deputy minister for integration in North Rhine-Westphalia state.

West Germany started recruiting “guest workers” from Turkey, Italy, Greece and later Morocco more than 60 years ago, to help the country advance economically. The workers were employed in construction, coal mining, steel production and the auto industry.

Many who initially came as temporary workers decided to stay and bring their families, giving Berlin and other cities in western and southwestern Germany large immigrant communities.

“My grandfather came to Germany because his family was simply so poor. He always told me how as a child he couldn’t even afford to buy shoes,” said Demir, who 50 years later was elected to represent Berlin’s Neukoelln district, one of the country’s most diverse immigrant neighborhoods.

Nowadays, there are about 21.3 million people with immigrant backgrounds in Germany, or about 26% of the population of 83 million.

More than 500 candidates with immigrant roots ran for parliament this year. While it is not yet clear how many were elected, the number is expected to be higher than in all previous parliaments.

The outgoing parliament had 8.2%, or 58 of 709 lawmakers with immigrant roots, while the 2013-17 parliament had only 5.9%, or 37 out of 631 lawmakers, according to Mediendienst Integration, an organization tracking migrant issues in Germany. Election rules mean that the number of lawmakers serving in Bundestag can change; the new one has 735 seats.

The growing diversity in German politics reflects demands from society for a more accurate representation of everyone, University of Trier political scientist Uwe Jun said.

“There is more openness now, and the idea that diverse groups should be found in politics and be directly represented,” Jun told The Associated Press. “This will change politics.”

While the election gave the Bundestag more female lawmakers, women are still a long way from reaching parity in the national legislature. More than a third, or 34.7%, of the new lawmakers are women compared to 31.4% in the outgoing parliament, according to German news agency dpa. In the 2013-17 parliament, 37.3% of lawmakers were women.

The two transgender women elected are both from the Green party: Tessa Ganserer, 44, a forester from Nuremberg in Bavaria, and Nyke Slawik, 27, who grew up in and represents the western city of Leverkusen and whose father emigrated from Poland.

“It all feels so new. I think I’ll only realize later today that I am now truly part of this Bundestag. And I’m so looking forward to it,” Demir said.

Source: New lawmakers make German parliament more diverse than ever

Indigenous public servants pursue class-action lawsuit against feds for harassment, discrimination in workplace

On the heels of the class action lawsuit initiated by Black public servants (my sense of looking at employment equity and public service employment survey data is that disparities are greater with respect to Indigenous public servants).

Likely coincidental, but announcement happening in parallel to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation:

Systemic racism in federal Indigenous departments and agencies has led to human rights and Charter violations, allege two First Nations public servants—one current, one former—pursuing a multi-million-dollar class-action lawsuit against the federal government. 

statement of claim—the opening salvo for a possible class-action suit—outlining the experiences of lead plaintiffs Yvette Zentner and Letitia Wells was filed with the Federal Court in Calgary on Sept. 14. The pair are represented by lawyer Mathew Farrell of Guardian Law Group LLP. 

Ms. Zentner is a member of the Siksika Nation in Alberta and has been working for Indian Oil and Gas Canada (IOGC), a special operating agency within Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), since 1997. Ms. Wells is from Kainaiwa First Nation, a member of the Blackfoot Confederacy from the Treaty 7 Territory, and is a former contract employee of IOGC, where she worked from September 2015 until the end of March 2020. 

Both women say they experienced harassment and discrimination at work as a result of their Aboriginal identities, including through belittling gestures, microaggressions, racist remarks, and denial of fair advancement opportunities, but felt disempowered from reporting their experiences through internal processes and were denied “Indigenous practices and cultural methods of conflict resolution.”

The proposed class action, first reported by APTN News, is on behalf of all former employees of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and all current and former employees of Crown-Indigenous Relations Canada (CIRNAC), ISC, or IOGC who experienced harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, culture, ethnicity, or gender.

The claim outlines that Ms. Zentner has “frequently” been denied training for advancement offered to others and has been denied “promotions for which she was qualified,” with, in one case, the non-Aboriginal family friend of someone she has filed two formal harassment complaints against being hired instead. Both complaints against that individual were found not to meet the threshold for harassment—one having been handled by the individual’s superior, rather than an independent third party—after which, the statement of claim describes that the person laughed at Ms. Zentner at work. 

Numerous complaints of harassment and abusive conduct by the same individual prompted a 2014 Workplace Assessment, reads the statement of claim, but while meeting with the third party hired to conduct it—who was later awarded a multi-year contract at the IOGC—no notes were taken and Ms. Zentner was allegedly told it was because they’d “already heard it before.” That assessment “was vague and resulted in no meaningful change,” and the individual who was the subject of complaints was given authority over the “steps of action taken to remedy the harassment.”

In another instance in 2016, someone found guilty of harassing Ms. Zentner by an external company was later promoted within IOGC. 

Ms. Zentner, through the statement of claim, reports having been “threatened with legal action in slander for bringing harassment concerns to the human resources manager.”  

“The harassment and dismissal of her complaints have taken a serious toll on Yvette’s physical and mental health, and she has experienced significant depression as a result,” reads the statement of claim. 

Ms. Wells is a single mother of two and is currently studying a double major in law and society and international Indigenous studies at the University of Calgary. She is also a survivor of domestic and sexual abuse, she told The Hill Times

As outlined in the statement of claim, she said she believes she lost her contract as “retaliation for speaking up about her experiences of harassment at the IOGC.” She reports having “frequently” had her “intelligence questioned”; facing “microaggressions, belittling physical gestures” and overhearing “racist language at the IOGC”; and being “singled out as a victim of aggressive micromanagement.” 

In one instance outlined in the claim, Ms. Wells experienced a “trauma flashback when her supervisor aggressively grabbed her arm in an effort to physically remove her from her cubical to have a private meeting in a board room.” An unofficial complaint over this incident “and the surrounding harassment she experienced” resulted in “no meaningful change.” 

Days after a complaint was launched by a superior over the harassment Ms. Wells was experiencing, she was demoted from her position “as retaliation for filing a complaint,” alleges the claim, and when her contract was terminated roughly two months later—after she had gone on sick leave—“no reason” was indicated. The claim also alleges that Ms. Wells “was denied promotions because she resisted sexual advancements by” a superior.

“The assault, ongoing harassment, and dismissal of her complaints have taken a serious toll on Letitia’s health, and she has suffered serious mental health consequences, including suicidal ideation as a result,” reads the statement of claim.

In an interview with The Hill Times last week, Ms. Wells spoke about her experiences and her decision to pursue a class-action suit. 

She said when she left the IOGC, she had intended to “walk away in peace,” but continued to reflect on her experiences and pray for guidance.

Last April, she was contacted by the APTN’s Brett Forester, who was working on a story about Indigenous public servants’ experiences. The resulting piece, “Death by a thousand cuts,” included interviews with “several former and current employees, many of them First Nations women,” who described a “work environment frequently marred by systemic racism, sexism, bullying, insidious revenge and fear,” reads the piece. 

After it went public, Ms. Wells said Indigenous people across Canada contacted her to thank her for speaking out and share stories of their own. Among them was Ms. Zentner—the pair were acquainted from their time working for the IOGC—and it was then that they decided to find a lawyer and pursue a class-action case, driven by their experiences and “the failure of the grievance processes within” the federal government.

“Within that company, we have seen the violence that we’ve endured, the harm that we’ve endured, the microaggressions, the micromanagements, the piling of the exec team, the tactics of toxic authority,” said Ms. Wells. “It’s a poisonous environment for authentic Indigenous people, and all we’ve ever wanted to do was make a change—make a change and contribute to the federal government, and help them reach reconciliation. And they’re failing at it, they don’t understand it.” 

While she’s now gone from the company and “safe,” Ms. Wells said it’s about “the safety of those that are still in there and the hardships they’re continuing to go through.” 

In May, the plaintiffs began to compile the experiences of other current and former Indigenous public servants as evidence of the systemic harassment and discrimination faced within the federal government and now have “well over two dozen” such accounts. 

Specifically, the statement of claim argues their section 15(1) Charter equality right was unjustifiably infringed “through discriminatory harassment which directly and adversely affects Aboriginal and female workers.” 

Moreover, it argues the federal government owed a duty of care, including to “maintain a workplace that is safe and free of harassment,” which was breached, and that multiple sections of the Canadian Human Rights Act have been breached, including for “differentiating against employees based on their Indigeneity and gender,” “limiting advancement opportunities” based on Indigeneity and gender, and for harassment based on “gender, race, colour, and ancestry.” 

It lays out that they are seeking unspecified damages and $25-million in punitive damages. 

But beyond that, Ms. Wells said she wants to see Indigenous-led, trauma-informed “safety outlets placed within the federal government for Indigenous people to turn to,” something she said wasn’t available to her.

“I felt dismissed right from the top. I felt that nobody understood what I was trying to say because they didn’t carry the inter-related trauma experience … to understand the microaggressions and how they triggered me, and the continuous attacks after that from a hierarchy of management,” said Ms. Wells. 

“Those grievance processes aren’t there to support you, they’re there to support the government,” she said earlier in the interview.

“The federal government has absolutely no safety outlets for Indigenous people who govern themselves by Indigenous laws to turn to.”

The federal government’s response

The Hill Times reached out to all three ministers’ offices last week, as well as the Treasury Board Secretariat, seeking a response to the allegations outlined in the Sept. 14 statement of claim and an update on the “thorough review” that had been pledged. Questions to the minister’s offices were directed to their departments’ shared media relations team.

Danielle Geary, a spokesperson for Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, said “senior officials” at CIRNAC and ISC “began the dialogue of developing a Deputy Minister Action Plan to address the alleged racism, harassment, and discrimination against Indigenous employees” in April, the “groundwork” for which is being led by the Indigenous Employee Secretariat, which serves both departments “in collaboration with the Indigenous Voices Council and sector heads.” No deadlines have been “imposed” on this effort, which is instead “working with an urgency, while at the same time recognizing that an opportunity to engage with Indigenous employees must be provided.” 

CIRNAC, ISC, and IOGC have developed their own workplace harassment and violence prevention policies in compliance with Canada Labour Code regulations which came into force in January 2021, she said, and between March and August of this year an “initial assessment was conducted with all sectors” of the departments to “identify the risk factors, internal and external to the workplace, that may contribute to harassment and violence in the workplace,” including identifying preventative mitigation measures. 

Ms. Geary highlighted the Centre for Integrity, Values and Conflict Resolution as a “resource available” to all departmental staff, including employees of the IOGC, which “can provide support and explore options” for those who have “experienced or witnessed workplace harassment or violence.” The government is also “actively advancing the creation of an Ombudsperson Office in order to help employees and managers navigate existing systems, services and resources, and provide impartial advice on options for resolution to further supplement existing services and resources,” she wrote. 

She also highlighted the ISC’s launch of a task force on diversity and inclusion, equity, and anti-racism last May, and noted that CIRNAC and ISC have developed Indigenous cultural competency learning policies informed by a First Nations expert advisory committee.

“Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC), and Indian Oil and Gas Canada (IOGC) are committed to the health, safety and well-being of all employees. As departmental leaders within the federal government when it comes to advancing reconciliation and issues impacting the lives of Indigenous peoples, we recognize that discrimination against Indigenous employees is unacceptable and must be addressed,” reads the statement. 

“Harassment and discrimination can take many forms and can have significant repercussions. We take all allegations of harassment and discrimination very seriously,” she wrote, noting later that “senior management is committed to continued discussions with employees to address any employee concerns raised and further build a supportive environment, adapted to employee needs and experiences.” 

Mr. Farrell told The Hill Times he expects further documents related to the certification process—determining whether the court will hear the case as a class-action suit—will be filed in the coming months. That includes a certification record from the plaintiffs, laying out detailed evidence from the many stories collected.

Hundreds of current and former Black federal public servants are already pursuing a proposed multi-million-dollar class-action suit against the federal government. Launched in December 2020, it alleges the government has failed to uphold the Charter rights of Black employees by failing to provide a harassment- and discrimination-free workplace and by actively excluding Black public servants.

Nicholas Marcus Thompson, a spokesperson for Black Class Action Lawsuit, said of the proposed Indigenous lawsuit: “We welcome this legal action and we are open to working with this group and providing any support for the Indigenous community, which has been left behind for way too long and it must be addressed now.”


#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 29 September Update

The latest charts, compiled 29 September as overall rates in Canada increase slightly due to the variant. Canadians fully vaccinated 71.5 percent, higher than USA 56.4 percent and the UK 67 percent).

Vaccinations: Alberta ahead Prairies, Japan ahead of California and USA. China fully vaccinated 73.1 percent (unchanged), India 16.9 percent.

Trendline Charts:

Infections: Continued trend of pronounced uptick in G7 less Canada (driven largely by USA). Continued sharp rise in Alberta particularly notable as has been extensively covered in the media.

Deaths: Canada less Quebec now ahead of Canada (reflecting rise in Alberta and Prairies), Philippines ahead of India.

Vaccinations: Impact of Alberta backtracking and imposing a vaccine mandate continues to show increase, now slightly better than Prairies but still significantly lower than other provinces.


Infections: UK ahead of Sweden, Prairies ahead of Quebec, Canada less Quebec ahead of Canada:

Deaths per million: Canada less Quebec ahead of Canada, and all provinces save Quebec, Philippines ahead of India:

GSS – Social Identity, 2020: A snapshot of pride in Canadian achievements among designated groups

Some of the more interesting and revealing findings for me:

  • Recent immigrants have more favourable views than longer term immigrants;
  • Children of visible minorities have less favourable views than than their parents;
  • Visible minorities have more pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society than non visible minorities, with differences between groups;
  • Visible minorities have more pride in how democracy works in Canada;
  • Indigenous peoples have the least pride in how Canada treats all groups and how democracy works; and,
  • Young people have less pride in how Canada treats all groups and how democracy works.

In one sense, this represents integration, as the initial reactions change with the lived experience and immigrants over time, along with their children, move closer to the non-immigrant, no-visible minority population:

“Today’s Daily article presents a snapshot of results from the General Social Survey – Social Identity (GSS SI). This first release focuses on the pride that Canadians feel for selected Canadian achievements and how it is similar or different across diverse population groups. The survey asked respondents about their pride in 13 different Canadian achievements. For this analysis, three Canadian achievements were chosen because of their relevance to the COVID-19 pandemic. These are pride in Canada’s health care system, pride in the way democracy works in Canada and pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society.

As part of the data pillar of Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy, Canadian Heritage sponsored an oversample of six population groups designated as visible minorities for the latest cycle of the GSS SI. This oversample will allow data users to further disaggregate data to better represent the unique experiences of different groups of Canadians.

Canadians are most proud of Canada’s health care system

At a time when Canada’s front-line workers were treating COVID-19 patients in clinics, emergency rooms and hospitals, Canadians were most proud of their health care system. The highest share (74%) of respondents who said that they were very proud or proud of an achievement reported feeling proud of Canada’s health care system. People who belong to population groups designated as visible minorities were especially proud, with 82% reporting feeling proud of Canada’s health care system, compared with 71% of non–visible minorities. Among the different visible minority groups, Filipino (96%) and South Asian (87%) respondents were the most likely to report being very proud or proud of Canada’s health care system.

Almost half of Canadians report feeling proud of Canada’s treatment of all groups in society

COVID-19 shone a light on the systemic inequities that many people in Canadian society experience—the health, social and economic impacts of the pandemic were not experienced equally by all Canadians. In addition, movements such as Black Lives Matter brought greater attention to the systemic inequities and racism faced by Black Canadians and other population groups designated as visible minorities. Against this backdrop, 49% of the population expressed pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society. However, there were differences among Canadians who belong to population groups designated as visible minorities; 64% of respondents who belong to population groups designated as visible minorities felt pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society, compared with 44% of individuals not in a visible minority group. Canadian-born respondents who belong to population groups designated as visible minorities were less likely than respondents in groups designated as visible minorities who immigrated to Canada to report pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society (45% compared with 68%).

It is important to note that there are differences between population groups designated as visible minorities. A lower proportion of Black (52%) and Chinese (57%) respondents expressed pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society. This contrasts with West Asian (77%), Filipino (73%), Arab (72%) and South Asian (70%) respondents, who were more likely to report pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society. This could be partly attributable to experiences with discrimination, which were particularly high for some population groups designated as visible minorities during the pandemic. For example, crowdsourcing data collected in August 2020 by Statistics Canada indicated that Korean (64%), Chinese (60%) and Black (55%) participants were more likely to report experiencing discrimination or being treated unfairly during the pandemic (see the publication “Experiences of discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic“).

Chart 1  
Pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society among population groups designated as visible minorities, Canada, 2020

Chart 1: Pride in Canada's treatment of all groups in society among population groups designated as visible minorities, Canada, 2020

Men were more likely than women to report feeling pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society—52% of men compared with 46% of women. Pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society is the achievement with the biggest gender difference, with only minor differences between men and women for the other Canadian achievements included in the survey.

Canadians are generally proud of the way democracy works in Canada, and this is especially the case for many people who belong to population groups designated as visible minorities

Almost 7 in 10 Canadians (68%) said that they felt pride in the way democracy works in Canada. This increased to close to 8 in 10 (79%) for respondents who belong to population groups designated as visible minorities, compared with 64% of those who did not belong to a visible minority group. Some visible minority groups had a high proportion of respondents reporting pride in the way democracy works in Canada, with 80% or more of West Asian, Filipino, Latin American and South Asian respondents reporting pride in this Canadian achievement.

Canadian-born respondents who belong to population groups designated as visible minorities were less likely to report pride in the way democracy works in Canada, with 65% reporting pride in this achievement, compared with 82% of respondents in groups designated as visible minorities who immigrated to Canada. Similar to Canadian-born respondents belonging to groups designated as visible minorities, 62% of Canadian-born respondents not belonging to a visible minority group were proud of the way democracy works in Canada.

Immigrants who arrived to Canada within the past five years are more likely to feel pride in how Canada treats all groups in society

Immigrant respondents (63%) were more likely than Canadian-born respondents (43%) to be proud of Canada’s treatment of all groups in society. For immigrants, pride in how Canada treats all groups in society is connected to the time since their arrival in Canada; the longer they have been in Canada, the lower their pride in how Canada treats all groups in society. Nearly 8 in 10 immigrants who arrived in Canada 5 years ago or less (78%) expressed pride in this achievement, compared with 65% of immigrants who arrived 6 to 10 years ago and 60% of immigrants who arrived more than 10 years ago. However, regardless of the time since their arrival to Canada, the immigrant population was more likely than the non-immigrant population to report pride. 

The different levels of pride between immigrant respondents and Canadian-born respondents were observed not only for how Canada treats all groups in society but also for the health care system (79% versus 72%) and the way democracy works in Canada (81% versus 62%).

Indigenous respondents also report feeling the most pride in Canada’s health care system but are less likely to report pride in how Canada treats all groups in society and the way democracy works in Canada

As with non-Indigenous respondents, Indigenous people also reported feeling the most pride in Canada’s health care system. Among the Indigenous population living off reserve, 67% were proud of Canada’s health care system. This was the case for 63% of First Nations people living off reserve and 69% of Métis. This compares with 72% of non–visible minority, non-Indigenous respondents. Because of the small number of Inuit respondents, estimates for Inuit are not available. It is important to note that the GSS SI did not collect information for people living on reserve. Thus, the information for Indigenous people reflects only the answers of respondents who live off reserve, which may be different from those of people who live on reserve.

Close to one-third (31%) of Indigenous people living off reserve reported feeling pride in how Canada treats all groups in society, compared with 43% of non–visible minority, non-Indigenous Canadians. Indigenous people were also less likely to report feeling pride in how democracy works in Canada. Overall, just over half (52%) of Indigenous people living off reserve felt proud of the way democracy works (46% of First Nations people and 56% of Métis), compared with 63% of non–visible minority, non-Indigenous Canadians.

These results partly reflect the historical and ongoing impacts of colonization, as well as the long-standing historical inequities experienced by Indigenous people in Canada, including social, democratic and economic inequities. As well, other achievements not listed in the survey may be more relevant to Indigenous respondents.

A slightly lower percentage of persons with disabilities report pride in Canada’s health care system 

Persons with disabilities were most proud of Canada’s health care system (72%), lower than what was reported by persons without disabilities (76%). This could be attributable to barriers that persons with disabilities experience trying to access health care services. For example, slightly over three-quarters (77%) of crowdsourcing participants with long-term conditions or disabilities reported that they required a health care service but were unable to access it because of the COVID-19 pandemic (see the publication The changes in health and well-being of Canadians with long-term conditions or disabilities since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic). Results are based on participants in the 2020 crowdsourcing initiative Impacts of COVID-19 on Canadians – Living with Long-term Conditions and Disabilities (Impacts of COVID-19 on Canadians: Data Collection Series).

Persons with disabilities were also less likely than persons without disabilities to report pride in the way democracy works in Canada (64% compared with 71%). Regarding pride in the treatment of all groups in society, persons with disabilities were less likely than persons without disabilities to express pride in this achievement (43% compared with 53%). Many persons with disabilities have experienced barriers in society, including in the workplace, or have experienced discrimination. For example, almost half (48%) of participants with disabilities in the 2020 crowdsourcing initiative Impacts of COVID-19 on Canadians – Living with Long-term Conditions and Disabilities reported that they were discriminated against during the COVID-19 pandemic, compared with 25% of those without disabilities (see the publication The changes in health and well-being of Canadians with long-term conditions or disabilities since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic).

Younger Canadians are less likely to be proud of Canada’s treatment of all groups in society and the way democracy works

While similar proportions of Canadians of all ages were proud of the health care system, Canadians aged 15 to 34 were less likely than those aged 35 and older to report pride in the way democracy works in Canada and pride in Canada’s treatment of all groups in society. While 62% of Canadians aged 15 to 34 reported pride in the way democracy works, 70% of those aged 35 and older reported feeling proud. Canadians aged 15 to 34 were also less likely than older Canadians to be proud of the way all groups in society are treated, with 43% of 15- to 34-year-olds saying they were proud of this, compared with 53% of people aged 35 to 54 and 50% of people aged 55 and older. “


How the world’s biggest Islamic organization drives religious reform in Indonesia – and seeks to influence the Muslim world

Of interest:

After its return to power in Afghanistan, the Taliban are again imposing their religious ideology, with restrictions on women’s rights and other repressive measures. They are presenting to the world an image of Islam that is intolerant and at odds with social changes.

Islam, however, has multiple interpretations. A humanitarian interpretation, focusing on “rahmah,” loosely translated as love and compassion, has been emphasized by a group I have studied – Nahdlatul Ulama, which literally means “Reawakening of the Islamic Scholars.”

Nahdlatul Ulama, or NU, was founded in 1926 in reaction to the Saudi conquest of Mecca and Medina with their rigid understanding of Islam. It follows mainstream Sunni Islam, while embracing Islamic spirituality and accepting Indonesia’s cultural traditions.

Functioning in Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population, Nahdlatul Ulama is the world’s biggest Islamic organization with about 90 million members and followers. In terms of membership, the organization hugely outstrips that of the Taliban – yet this face of Islam has not been sufficiently recognized on the international stage.

In 2014, NU responded to the rise of the Islamic State group and its radical ideology by initiating an Islamic reform. Since then, it has elaborated on this reform that it calls “Humanitarian Islam.”

Humanitarian Islam

During the past seven years, NU’s general secretary, Yahya Cholil Staquf, has organized several meetings of the organization’s Islamic scholars with a reformist agenda. They made public declarations for reforming Islamic thought on controversial issues, including political leadership, equal citizenship and relations with non-Muslims.

The Nahdlatul Ulama declarations include crucial decisions that differentiate “Humanitarian Islam” from other interpretations. First of all, they reject the notion of a global caliphate, or a political leadership that would unite all Muslims. The concept of a caliphate has been accepted by both mainstream Islamic scholars, such as those in Al-Azhar – Egypt’s world-renowned Islamic institution – and radical groups, such as the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda.

Moreover, the NU declarations emphasize the legitimacy of modern states’ constitutional and legal systems, and thus reject the idea that it is a religious obligation to establish a state based on Islamic law.

Additionally, these declarations stress the importance of equal citizenship by refusing to make a distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims as legal categories.

They call for a deeper cooperation among Muslims, Christians and followers of other religions to promote world peace.

Nahdlatul Ulama has taken practical steps for realizing these aims. For example, it has established a working relationship with the World Evangelical Alliance, which claims to represent 600 million Protestants, to promote intercultural solidarity and respect.

These NU declarations may sound insufficient from a Western liberal point of view, since they do not touch upon some issues such as LGBTQ rights. To better understand the importance of NU’s perspective and its limits requires an examination of the Indonesian context.

Indonesia’s tolerant Islam

My research on 50 Muslim-majority countries finds that Indonesia is notable because it is one of the few democracies among them.

Indonesia’s foundational credo, Pancasila, means “five principles” and basically refers to the belief in God, humanitarianism, Indonesia’s national unity, democracy and social justice.

About 88% of Indonesia’s population of 270 million are Muslim. Both Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, the country’s second-biggest Islamic organization, have been respectful of these principles. Like NU, Muhammadiyah also has tens of millions of followers, and these two organizations often cooperate against radical Islamist groups.

Robert Hefner, a leading expert on Indonesia, documents in his 2000 book “Civil Islam” how NU and Muhammadiyah made important contributions to the country’s democratization in the late 1990s. During this process, the leader of NU, Abdurrahman Wahid, became Indonesia’s first democratically elected president in 1999.

Wahid, who died in 2009, left a religious legacy, too. During my conversations, senior NU members repeatedly referred to Wahid’s reformist ideas as the main source of inspiration for Humanitarian Islam.

Indonesia’s intolerant Islam

Not all Islamic theories and practices in Indonesia are tolerant toward diversity. The country’s Aceh province has enforced certain rules of Islamic criminal law, including the punishment of caning for those who sell or drink alcohol.

Another example of religious and political intolerance is the country’s blasphemy law, which resulted in the 20-month imprisonment of the capital city Jakarta’s Chinese Christian governor, Basuki Purnama in 2017-2018, for a statement about a verse in the Quran.

In January 2021, the story of a Christian female student being pressured by the school principal to wear a Muslim headscarf went viral on Facebook. In two weeks, the Indonesian government responded with a decree that banned public schools from making any religious attire compulsory.

In short, there is a tug-of-war between tolerant and intolerant interpretations of Islam in Indonesia. Even within NU, there exist disagreements between conservatives and reformists.

Nonetheless, Nahdlatul Ulama reformists are becoming more influential. One example is the current minister of religious affairs, Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, a leading NU member and the younger brother of NU’s reformist general secretary. He was one of the three ministers who signed the joint decree banning the imposition of headscarves on students in February.

NU’s Humanitarian Islam movement might be crucial to promote tolerance among Indonesia’s Islamic majority. But can it have an effect beyond Indonesia?

This reform movement’s reception in the Middle East, the historical center of Islam, is important if it is to have a global impact. Humanitarian Islam has been mostly ignored by scholars and governments of Middle Eastern countries, who generally see it as a competitor of their own attempts to influence the Muslim world. As a nongovernmental initiative, Humanitarian Islam is different from Middle Eastern efforts to shape the Muslim world, which are mostly government-led schemes.

With its reformist emphasis, Humanitarian Islam may appeal to some young Middle Eastern Muslims who are discontent with their countries’ political and conservative interpretations of Islam.

In order to reach a Middle Eastern audience, the Humanitarian Islam movement is launching an Arabic-language version of its English website. Whether this Indonesian initiative can have an impact in the Middle East and become a truly global movement for Islamic reform remains to be seen.

Source: How the world’s biggest Islamic organization drives religious reform in Indonesia – and seeks to influence the Muslim world

Conservatives could have done better job talking to Chinese Canadian voters: ex-MP

Of note:

A former Conservative MP who lost his seat in the recent election thinks the party could have done a better job speaking directly to Chinese Canadians.

Kenny Chiu was defeated in Steveston-Richmond East, a British Columbia riding with many residents of Chinese descent.

The party also saw the losses of longtime Conservative MP Alice Wong in Richmond Centre and Bob Saroya in Markham-Unionville, both home to many voters with Chinese roots. Neither responded to requests for comment from The Canadian Press.

The defeats have the Conservatives wondering what happened, and what connection the losses might have to the party’s stance and messaging on China.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has been an outspoken critic of China’s human rights abuses, calling on the Liberal government to adopt a tougher approach with the authoritarian regime.

Chiu says there’s no single reason for his loss, but points to online WeChat posts he says contained false information about the Conservatives and allegations a private member’s bill he tabled would discriminate against Chinese Canadians.

“Hindsight is always 20/20. I think there could be more proactive communication directly addressing Canadians of Chinese descent that we could have done,” Chiu said in an interview.

The party could have bought more targeted advertisements, he said, adding it’s clear the communication efforts weren’t enough to counter what he considers misinformation.

Improving how Conservatives speak to constituents is one of the issues Chiu said he had hoped to raise heading into the next session of Parliament. Another was how to reassure people that their criticism of the potential influence of the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t mean they are attacking China, a country with a rich and storied history, or its people.

O’Toole hasn’t addressed the issue specifically, but expressed general disappointment in last week’s election results, promising that what went wrong will be examined in a postelection review. Details have yet to be provided on its parameters or who will lead it.

Besides failing to grow the party in key areas like the Greater Toronto Area and Metro Vancouver, home to many immigrants and new Canadians, the Conservatives have five fewer elected people of colour because of defeats in and around these two cities, as well as in Calgary.

That comes as a hit to O’Toole’s pledge to grow the party, and make it a place where more Canadians and people of all backgrounds call home.

During the campaign he tried courting voters by telling them Conservatives were no longer their dad’s or grandfather’s party, despite having a predominantly white caucus.

For Tenzin Khangsar, who worked for Jason Kenney when the Alberta premier served as immigration minister under former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, success in making inroads with newcomer communities came down to having an authentic presence there before any election was called.

Under Harper, Kenney prioritized aggressive outreach with diaspora communities, noting that Canada’s demographics had changed.

Kenney was a key supporter of O’Toole’s when he ran to win the party’s leadership in 2020, with O’Toole crediting his former colleague for having helped grow the party when he served in Harper’s cabinet.

More recently, Conservative MPs including Alberta’s Tim Uppal have apologized for not speaking out when he was in Harper’s government against its efforts to ban face coverings during citizenship ceremonies and its 2015 election promise to set up a so-called “barbaric cultural practices” hotline.

Source: Conservatives could have done better job talking to Chinese Canadian voters: ex-MP

France cuts back visas for Maghreb nationals over immigration policy

Playing hardball and politics:

France will slash the number of visas available to nationals from Maghreb countries because of their governments’ refusal to take back illegal migrants sent home by the French authorities, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Tuesday.

Immigration is becoming a key campaign issue for the French presidential election set for April next year, with right-wing and far-right parties challenging centrist President Emmanuel Macron’s policies. Macron has not yet said whether he will stand for re-election.

Attal said the French government would halve the number of visas available to nationals from Algeria and Morocco and reduce those for Tunisians by almost a third.

“It is a decision that is made necessary as these countries do not accept back nationals whom we do not want and cannot keep in France,” he told French Europe 1 radio.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen said on Monday she would call a referendum proposing drastic limits on immigration if she is elected president next year.

Le Pen said on France 2 television the referendum would propose strict criteria for entering French territory and for acquiring French nationality, as well as giving French citizens priority access to social housing, jobs and social security benefits. read more

In 2017, she made it to the second round of the presidential election, but was defeated by Macron, who won more than 66% of the vote.

Source: France cuts back visas for Maghreb nationals over immigration policy

Balancing Game: Hillel’s Standards of Partnership & BDS

Interesting study of mandates and dialogue:

In 2015, Caroline Dorn resigned in protest from her role as student president of Muhlenberg Hillel, the Jewish organization at Muhlenberg College. After her Hillel’s rabbi prevented the Muhlenberg Hillel from hosting civil rights activists who support the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement against Israel, Dorn explained her resignation in an op-ed for the college’s newspaper: “I can’t be a representative of Hillel International, an organization that I feel is limiting free speech on our campus and prohibiting academic integrity.”

These past few months have seen an increase in conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, sparked by the threat of evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, and with the increased conflict comes increased international attention. As students and experts alike rush to share infographics and articles expressing countless viewpoints, the question of dialogue versus ostracism is more important than ever.

History of Hillel and BDS

One arena ripe with conflicting viewpoints is the Hillel community, the international organization for Jews on campus. Hillel International was founded in 1923 to, in the broadest terms, oversee, support, and coordinate communities for Jewish students on university campuses called “Hillels” (as an example, you may have heard of Harvard Hillel, which fits under the umbrella of Hillel International). While Hillel was not founded as a political organization — indeed, at the time of its founding, the State of Israel did not even exist — it has become increasingly right-wing regarding Israel in the past 30 years, especially following the Second Intifada from 2000 to 2005.

At the end of the Second Intifada, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement was founded as Palestinian civil society organizations called for boycotts as a form of nonviolent resistance against what they saw as Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. The movement quickly spread across American and international university campuses, but not without controversy.

The BDS movement claims its actions are necessary since “Israel maintains its system of settler colonialism, apartheid and occupation over the Palestinian people because of the support that it receives from world governments and corporations.” They encourage international pressure against Israel in order to end Israeli occupation, recognize Palestinian rights to full equality, and grant Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes.

Those opposed to BDS claim that it is founded in anti-Semitism, as it both singles out Israel among a host of countries committing human rights violations and is rooted in the anti-Semitic belief that Jews do not have a right to self-determination. As Rabbi Jonah Steinberg, Executive Director of Harvard Hillel, puts it, “BDS is about singular alienation and ostracism of Israel among all countries in the global family of nations, and it is about severing all connections with Israel, not just financial relationships, but scholarly and academic interactions, all cultural intercourse, and really all possibility of getting to know Israel at all.”

When BDS and Hillel Clash

There are an increasing number of Jewish people in support of the BDS movement, especially college students, which makes the intersection of Hillel and BDS extremely contentious. Such was the context of Caroline Dorn’s resignation, who, in her op-ed, references a policy called the “Standards of Partnership,” implemented by Hillel International in 2010, which marked a shift in their Israel mission: from encouraging “Israel engagement and education” to “Israel engagement, education, and advocacy” (emphasis added).

The Standards of Partnership prohibit any Hillel from partnering with, housing, or hosting organizations, groups, or speakers that deny Israel’s right to exist, delegitimize or apply a double standard to Israel, support BDS, or disrupt campus events with an “attitude of incivility.”

While Hillel’s are encouraged to “review these standards and create their own Israel guidelines that are consistent with this document and reflect the local environment,” this policy has created a substantial divide in the American Jewish campus community as students and Hillel professionals alike grapple with how to engage with Israel in productive ways while abiding by Hillel International’s mission.

Different universities have taken different approaches to this challenge. Swarthmore Kehilah, formerly known as Swarthmore Hillel, chose to break with Hillel International over the Standards of Partnership. After attempting to host a panel discussion of civil rights activists about the connections between civil rights work in the 1960s American South and the Israel-Palestine conflict, Hillel International sent them a letter threatening legal action if they held the event.

Swarthmore Hillel thus declared itself an “Open Hillel,” writing in an op-ed, “All are welcome to walk through our doors and speak with our name and under our roof, be they Zionist, anti-Zionist, post-Zionist, or non-Zionist.” Hillel International, bound by the Standards of Partnership, refused to allow this, and the year-long controversy ended with Swarthmore Hillel disaffiliating with Hillel International, changing their name, and changing their mission, which now includes no reference to Israel.

Harvard Hillel has taken a different approach. “Harvard Hillel, as an institution, is committed to the deepest and most circumspect possible exploration of Israel,” says Rabbi Steinberg. “But, our role is vigorously to provide alternatives to the BDS-aim of simplistically demonizing, ostracizing, and alienating Israel.”

Bound by the Standards of Partnership but invested in productive dialogue, Harvard Hillel has sought to find creative ways to strike this balance. In 2014, former Israeli Speaker of the Knesset Avraham Burg was invited to Harvard by the university’s Palestine Solidarity Committee, which in turn asked to host the event at Harvard Hillel. Harvard Hillel had to refuse but hosted Burg for dinner that night, and PSC members attended as “individuals” (Burg strongly denounced BDS as “a tool of violence” at that dinner). Then, the PSC hosted Burg in Quincy House, and Harvard Hillel students attended, again as “individuals.” This compromise allowed interested students from a diversity of backgrounds to attend the event without complicating Harvard Hillel’s commitment to the Standards of Partnership.

Open Hillel, Open Community — A Move Away from the Standards of Partnership

A year before the invitation of Avraham Burg, a similar controversy surrounding the Standards of Partnership led to the founding of the Open Hillel movement, now called Judaism on Our Own Terms. In 2013, the Progressive Jewish Alliance, an independent Harvard student group affiliated with Harvard Hillel, met with Rabbi Jonah to discuss hosting an event similar to Swarthmore’s with pro-BDS activists, but found they could not host it at Hillel due to the Standards of Partnership.

“I’d been heavily involved with Harvard Hillel for 4 years and didn’t know the Standards of Partnership existed until we walked straight into it,” said Emily Unger ’13, the former president of the PJA and co-founder of Open Hillel. “I and other PJA members were horrified that this actually meant that Hillel couldn’t cosponsor event with essentially any Palestinian organization on any campus.”

Unger and her peers realized their horror was not unique — Jewish students across the country were grappling with how to handle increasing Jewish support for BDS, and what that meant for their Hillel communities. They decided to launch a petition calling on Hillel International to end the Standards of Partnership, which was signed by over 900 students. When Hillel International did not give in, Unger and friends began networking with Hillel’s across the county, helping them to disaffiliate with Hillel International in protest. Soon, they discovered a demographic in need of a community.

“As a queer, Jewish person, the Palestinian experience of oppression and dispossession of land  resonates with me,” Unger said. “We found that the Standards of Partnership disproportionally affects queer Jews and Jews of color with ties to organizations that see BDS as a core issue.” Wanting to create a Jewish space where students do not need to “check a part of their identity at the door,” Unger and others morphed Open Hillel into Judaism on Our Own Terms, an open Jewish community organization engaged in collaboration across oppressed groups. As independent organizations with branches across the country, JOOOT affiliates can create whatever community best fits their needs, collaborating — unbeholden to donors or international policies — in whatever way they see fit.

When asked if she saw any advantages to the Standards of Partnership, Unger came up empty, saying that there is “nothing to be gained by making those conversations [between Hillel and pro-BDS organizations] impossible.” She sees the policy as “created from a place of fear and a desire to maintain power,” power of both long-term donors, who are typically more conservative, and the power of Israel over Palestinians. “BDS is a non-violent form of protest that is mainstream in Palestinian organizations,” Unger continued. “By banning partnering with pro-BDS organizations, it makes it impossible to have any communication of any kind with Palestinian organizations. And, cosponsoring events is the bread and butter of campus collaboration — it’s how organizations build relationships — so it is quite striking to have a ban on co-sponsorship.”

There may well be places of agreement between Hillel and the PSC — for example, they likely see eye to eye that humanitarian aid is needed in Gaza — but the Standards of Partnership would prevent Hillel from co-hosting an event with the PSC around those shared interests due to the PSC’s support of BDS.

In addition, the Standards of Partnership has the potential to taint Hillel’s name, as campus groups in support of BDS may legitimately say that they wanted to host an event about a progressive cause, but “Hillel refused to partner with us because we stand for human rights!” That is, Hillel would decline to partner not out of a lack of empathy for human rights — Hillel is of course in favor of those — but due to the organization’s support for BDS. This nuance can be easily lost, especially in today’s political environment.

Unclear Territories — The Nuance Behind the Issue

The relationship between Rebecca Araten, past president of the Harvard Hillel Steering Committee, and the Standards of Partnership, is a bit more complex. “I understand Hillel not wanting to sponsor an event under their name that will be a pro-BDS event — that is a message they wouldn’t want to endorse,” she said. “But, there is a difference between active encouragement and conversation.” She added that it is important that collaborations between Hillel and pro-Palestinian organizations happen, “because this is how peace works.”

Araten acknowledges that there is “strength” in having connections with Hillel International, both in terms of organizational networking and financial support. However, she urged students “not to get bogged down” in institutional bureaucracy and “interact on a human level instead.” As an example, Araten suggested that Hillel-affiliated students bothered by the Standards of Partnership make individual efforts to connect with pro-BDS organizations or individuals.

Araten also points to the diversity of viewpoints found among Hillel students, and emphasizes that Hillel programming tries to incorporate many views on the topic of Israel. “It seems like a natural extension to engage with views that are more critical [of Israel] with the aim to come to more understanding and collaboration on shared ideals,” she said.

However, both Araten and Unger agree that crossing the line from legitimate criticism of Israel into anti-Semitism cannot be tolerated. “Being able to criticize the state of Israel and its actions is important, but sometimes that criticism leads to demonization, like singling out Israel for things not unique to Israel. To me, that echoes historic anti-Semitic tropes of Jews being world’s biggest issue,” said Araten. Unger concurred, pointing out that “PSC views the conflation of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism to be an inappropriate and counter-productive framing of the situation.” Unger also noted that BDS is not inherently anti-Semitic, but admitted that it can be a “fodder” for anti-Semitism. However, she sees the increased dialogue as the solution to this conflation, not distance.

Still, the Standards of Partnership does encourage Hillel’s to create their own guidelines around Israel engagement, and in attempting to promote dialogue, Rabbi Steinberg tries to thread the needle between the Standards of Partnership and dialogue as much as possible. “The truth is that Harvard Hillel has never much invoked the Hillel International Standards of Partnership, not because we take issue with them but because we have long since arrived at our own articulation and approach, with the same outcome in practice where BDS is concerned,” he notes.

But he remains in favor of the Standards of Partnership because of what BDS is to him: “BDS is about singular alienation and ostracism of Israel among all countries in the global family of nations, and it is about severing all connections with Israel, not just financial relationships, but scholarly and academic interactions, all cultural intercourse, and really all possibility of getting to know Israel at all,” he says. Rabbi Steinberg also emphasizes “the ‘horrible anti-Semitism’ decried by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as having been manifest at the 2001 UN Conference Against Racism where the BDS movement took shape.” For these reasons, Rabbi Steinberg sees the benefit of the Standards of Partnership, while also committing himself to fostering dialogue about Israel within Hillel.

Rabbi Steinberg sees another benefit to the Standards of Partnership: the facilitation of students’ exploration of their relationship to Israel, whether positive or negative. He explains that Hillel’s commitment to Israel “is far past being political,” explaining that “Israel is a hugely generative crucible of Jewish thought and culture, home to nearly seven million Jews — almost half of all Jewish people alive in the world today — so connection with Israel is a fact of kinship and of global Jewish community.” He therefore emphasizes that “to come of age Jewishly without acknowledging and exploring the phenomenon of Israel as having something to do with one’s own self is, forgive me, not mature.”

BDS as a Mainstream Progressive Issue

It is the case that Hillel does not represent the subsection of the Jewish population that supports BDS, and therefore can be an alienating place, especially for progressive activist Jews. With the Standards of Partnership forbidding events as seemingly innocuous as a joint Hillel-PSC event to raise money for humanitarian aid in Gaza, there is concern about the potential for collateral damage from the Standards of Partnership as BDS becomes more mainstream.

“There is a clear trend globally, domestically, and especially on college campuses calling for the recognition of Palestinian rights and liberties as the situation continues to devolve into apartheid,” said the Harvard PSC Board in an anonymously written statement to the Harvard Political Review. “Hillel’s decision to disengage from any group who supports divestment as a way forward prevents the college community from engaging in an honest and open conversation about the human rights violations occurring [in Israel/Palestine],” they added.

Not only does the Standards of Partnership prevent Hillel from formally engaging with the PSC, it may prevent Hillel from co-hosting events with other progressive groups on campus. “Palestine is a rising issue on the American progressive agenda as evidenced by growing support from individuals like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and many more,” said the PSC Board. There is a growing concern among progressive Jews that the Standards of Partnership will eventually isolate Hillel from most, if not all, progressive groups on campus, if they adopt BDS as one of their missions.

Expressing her concern about Hillel’s ability to be inclusive and hold the Standards of Partnership, Unger said, “Being queer is such a defamiliarizing experience that it makes it easier to see through norms in organizations.” “The Standards of Partnership don’t only harm communication between Jewish and Palestinian groups, but also between Hillel and other organizations surrounding any oppressed identity,” she added.

However, to the point that the Standards of Partnership inhibit productive speech on campus, Rabbi Steinberg disagrees, pointing to the importance of a plethora of diverse, mission-driven organizations: “A robust environment of ideas is populated not just by individuals but also by associations and institutions committed to various missions and visions. The fact that there is a Harvard Hillel committed by mission, as a part of a global Jewish community, to an active relationship with Israel and with our kin there is at least as valid as there being a Palestinian advocacy group at Harvard,” he says.

Beyond the question of validity, without missions, no one would have anything to stand behind, and campus dialogue would arguably grind to a halt. What fuels robust discussion is disagreement, and Rabbi Jonah argues that, if all organizations dropped their missions in favor of complete openness, that would lead to a rapid decrease in dialogue. Araten agrees with the importance of missions and of dialogue, saying “Hillel should strive to get as close to the line [drawn by the Standards of Partnership] as possible in terms of conversations with people who support BDS, but the challenge is not knowing when partnership will veer in a direction that is antithetical to Hillel’s mission.”

The point about missions and speech on campus brings into focus a broader question of mission-oriented clubs on campus. On the one hand, it stands to reason that clubs should be permitted to have and stand by specific missions, even at the exclusion of others. On the other hand, one can imagine a world in which the missions of each club are so exclusive that there leaves no room for collaboration or even communication. A third possibility is that clubs are so inclusive that they no longer stand for anything, or cannot allocate any resources for fear of going against a facet of the club.

To be honest, I am not sure what the solution is here. As a Jewish student, while I understand the perspective around missions given by Rabbi Jonah, and by extension, Hillel International, I feel uncomfortable about the Standards of Partnership. I would prefer Hillel to be open to hosting events with anyone in the name of mutual understanding, even if Hillel vehemently disagrees with the other organization’s position.

However, I do believe that every organization is entitled to a mission and to stand by it. Perhaps the answer is that missions should not prevent official dialogue —or that engagement policies can forbid monetary support but must not interfere with conversations —but I am wary of the idea of regulating which missions are acceptable and which are not. That solution feels like a slippery slope.

The bottom line is that missions should not get in the way of dialogue between people. Perhaps that dialogue is not endorsed by a club, but that should not stop us from seeking out opportunities as individuals to truly understand others, even if they hold perspectives antithetical to ours. If there are clubs whose missions we disagree with, we should be inspired to speak up, or start our own organizations. At the end of the day, the decision behind who gets to talk and how is just one big balancing game — and the scale should never fully tip to one side.

Source: Balancing Game: Hillel’s Standards of Partnership & BDS