Quebec tables bill on academic freedom, says no words off-limits in lecture halls

Yes, context matters:

Quebec’s higher education minister says legislation tabled today would allow “any word” to be uttered in university classrooms as long as it’s used in an academic context.

Danielle McCann told reporters Bill 32 is great news for Quebec students, including racialized students, because it preserves a high-quality learning environment in the province’s universities.

The bill draws on a committee report last December requested by the government in response to a scandal at University of Ottawa in 2020, when a professor was suspended for using the N-word during a class lecture.

At the time, Quebec Premier François Legault and Liberal Opposition Leader Dominique Anglade — who is Black — both said the university should have defended the professor for using the word in an academic context.

Bill 32 enshrines the right to teach, conduct research and share results, critique society and freely take part in the activities of professional university organizations.

The legislation requires universities to adopt an academic freedom policy and appoint a person responsible for implementing the policy.

The bill’s preamble defines academic freedom as “the right of every person to engage freely and without doctrinal, ideological or moral constraint in an activity through which the person contributes, in their field of activity, to carrying out the mission of such an educational institution.”

Source: Quebec tables bill on academic freedom, says no words off-limits in lecture halls

Where two years without immigration puts New Zealand

Largely the opposite approach of Canada:

New Zealand’s population has had a growth spurt over the past decade, when compared with the rest of the OECD.

In 2016, unprecedented growth was seen at 2.2 percent a year – levels not seen since the early 1960s.

According to the Productivity Commission, a Crown entity tasked with lifting New Zealand’s productivity, the reasons for this relatively rapid growth were high resident numbers and largely uncapped temporary migration programmes.

Newspaper headlines about the ‘brain drain’ and skilled labour shortages being filled in by recent migrants were common occurrences through the 2010s – and along came a virus.

Overnight, the flow of migrants was cut down to a trickle, calling for fast-tracked changes across almost every economic sector.

Now as the border slowly returns to a more permeable state after two years of stasis, the Productivity Commission is evaluating what this means for New Zealand’s immigration policy and whether the country’s reliance on migrant labour could be labelled an objective over-reliance.

After months of research and public consultation, the commission is preparing a report on the impact of differing levels of migration to be presented to ministers in the Government on April 30.

The preliminary report highlighted the significant role immigration has played in supporting New Zealand’s population growth.

Along with this came a heavy reliance on temporary migrant workers, a potential source of volatility and economic uncertainty in the case of borders being closed.

Before March 2020, New Zealand had an annual population growth of just over 2 percent, around two-thirds of that from immigration.

Since then, it has dropped to a growth rate of 0.6 percent. That means this country went from having some of the highest annual growth rates in the OECD to being bang on average.

Massey University sociology professor Paul Spoonley specialises in how social change and demographics affect political decisions.

He said the issue of immigration is a difficult equation for New Zealand to balance, with benefits and consequences on either side.

“There are two sides to the issue because as we’ve seen, lots of the labour market in New Zealand rely on either temporary or permanent migrants,” he said. “So to actually build houses or infrastructure like roads, we’ve become very reliant on migrant labour.”

On the other hand, he noted that rapid growth also requires a matched pace in infrastructure development, especially in quickly growing cities like Auckland or Tauranga – two cities Spoonley said have “an historic deficit in terms of infrastructure”.

If infrastructure already isn’t fit for purpose, he said rapid population growth can enact enormous pressure.

So there’s a delicate balance to strike if New Zealand moves back to its prior reliance on migration. Other factors to consider include benefiting from other countries’ investment in human resources.

“What we get in terms of our skilled migrant category, where the majority of our permanent migrants were approved, is somebody whose life up to this point, including their skills, training and experience has been paid for by another country,” he said. “If we’re getting the surgeon from South Africa or the roading engineer from India, we didn’t make the investment but we are going to be the beneficiary of their skills.”

New Zealand’s immigration profile has changed in recent years, shifting from a focus on permanent migration to more migrant workers being here on work, student or visitor visas. Temporary work visas in particular have grown to represent a much larger chunk of all arrivals since around 2010.

The commission pointed to this increase in the temporary visa load as a result of policy choices made by governments in response to demands from employers for workers, an increase in international students and the points system for New Zealand residency privileging those who have already had work or study experience within the country.

But as the dust of these initial Covid years settle, many countries share the same gaps in the labour market that they are now likely to try to fill.

Spoonley says it will be a competitive market as migration resumes over the next two or three years.

“The labour crunch which Covid has accelerated is common to other countries, so what we are then doing is competing for migrants with Australia, the UK, the USA or Canada,” he said. “At the same time, they will also try to recruit out of New Zealand, in particular skilled New Zealanders.”

Could this mean a return to the ‘brain drain’ days of 2012, when a group the size of a packed-out Eden Park left for Australia?

Spoonley’s best guess is the number of Kiwis packing their bags for environs further afield will be somewhere between those seen in 2012 and now.

“I don’t know to be honest, but will we see our new graduates and some of our skilled workforce leaving to another country? Absolutely,” he said. The outflow will be seen particularly to countries that can put a premium on attracting people – whether with higher incomes or lower cost of living, pull factors that have long had Kiwis set their sites overseas.

“Australia can pay a third more,” Spoonley said. “So will we see a net outflow of New Zealanders? Almost certainly. I’m just not clear on the size of that. What I am clear about is that many of them will be highly skilled and we can’t afford to lose them.”

He said it’s a looming retention issue for the New Zealand economy, where the biggest reasons for people to stay put will be family or friends.

“Other countries will be outbidding us in terms of pay and conditions.”

Source: Where two years without immigration puts New Zealand

Extend special immigration measures to other crises: House of Commons committee

Of note:
Canada’s treatment of Ukrainians fleeing war has been distinctly different to those fleeing other humanitarian crises, the House of Commons immigration committee said Wednesday, and MPs want that to change.
The committee voted Tuesday to issue a public statement, urging the government to provide the same special immigration measures it extended to Ukrainians to refugees from other regions.The statement reads that “time is of the essence,” and said the committee calls on the immigration minister to ensure Canada’s response to humanitarian crises in other regions “are treated with the same vigor as Ukraine.

Canada has expedited immigration applications from Ukraine and created an extraordinary program to allow Ukrainian citizens and their families to come to Canada and work or study for three years while they decide their next steps.

The program does not apply to non-Ukrainians who fled the country.

Canada has received 112,000 applications from people fleeing Ukraine and has so far approved more than 26,500, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said at a press conference Wednesday.

The MPs on the committee say the measures should also be available to Afghans who are still in their Taliban-controlled home country, and refugees from other regions facing humanitarian crises such as Yemen, Myanmar and China.Fraser didn’t address the committee’s request in his press conference, but did say Canada remains “extremely committed” to helping people escape Afghanistan.

Canada has so far welcomed 10,025 Afghans since August 2021, when the Taliban took control of the country.

In a statement Wednesday, a spokesperson for Fraser said refugee resettlement efforts, including initiatives in Afghanistan and Syria, can take years to implement and must be accounted for in the government’s annual immigration-level targets tabled in Parliament.

Meanwhile, consultations with the Ukrainian community reveal many wish only to come to Canada temporarily and then return home when it is safe“We will continue to look at more ways that Canada can settle refugees, complementary to our resettlement efforts,” spokeswoman Aidan Strickland said in a statement. “Each situation is unique and should be considered as such to ensure that Canada is responding accordingly.”

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi applauded Canada’s actions to bring Ukrainians to a safe haven, but also reminded government officials of other refugee crises.

In February, before Russia’s violent invasion of Ukraine, the UN refugee agency counted about 84 million refugees and displaced people worldwide.

“Since then, that number has probably grown to well over 90 million. We must be in the region of 95 million now,” Grandi said at the press conference with Fraser.

Grandi was in Ottawa Wednesday to announce a new global task force, chaired by Canada, aimed at finding other ways to bring refugees to safe countries.

The initiative builds on a Canadian pilot program to allow skilled refugees to apply for permanent residency through economic channels. The idea is to bring additional refugees to the country, in addition to those welcomed through humanitarian processes.

The pilot removed some of the barriers that would traditionally have precluded refugees from applying for permanent residency in Canada through economic channels.

It was expanded late last year to accommodate 500 skilled refugees, and Fraser says he hopes to see even more welcomed under the program in the future.

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan says the idea behind the pilot program is great, but she has noted some issues with the execution. For example, the program is supposed to include a loan option to allow refugees to meet the economic requirements to support themselves when they come to Canada, but that loan is not yet available.

Source: Extend special immigration measures to other crises: House of Commons committee

And a good op-ed by Naomi Alboim and Karen Cohl:

It is hard to rationalize the strikingly different approaches the Canadian government has taken to two major refugee crises in Ukraine and Afghanistan.

There have been benefits offered to Ukrainians looking to escape the Russian invasion, but not to Afghans fleeing the Taliban’s takeover, including authorization for emergency travel to enter Canada on a temporary basis with open work permits for up to three years. In addition, the government has promised to develop a family-reunification sponsorship program for both immediate and extended-family members.

There have also been benefits offered to Afghans, but not to Ukrainians, such as special programs for arrival as refugees with permanent residence and entitlement to all associated supports and services.

Certainly, the specific context of a refugee crisis can necessitate unique policy responses. But a common framework should be in place to provide similar support for individuals in crisis, with differences in treatment only where demonstrably justified.

The Canadian government has said that the “temporary residence” approach is justified by the assumption that most Ukrainians will return home. The reality, however, is that many Ukrainian refugees who choose to come to Canada can be expected to stay. No one knows how long the war in Ukraine will last, what the outcome will be, how much destruction will occur and whether or when it will be possible for individuals to return. The large Ukrainian community in Canada provides an added incentive to stay.

Indeed, an example from the past may foreshadow future decisions of Ukrainians coming to Canada. In response to the crisis in Kosovo in 1999, Ottawa initiated emergency airlifts of Kosovars on the expectation that many would return home as soon as the situation abroad was resolved. They were provided with permanent residence to entitle them to supports and services while in Canada. Kosovars were also offered transportation to return home and funding to re-establish themselves there. Despite these incentives to return, and the absence of a significant Kosovar community in Canada, only 30 per cent did so.

It would therefore be well worth providing supports and services that meet the needs of new Ukrainian arrivals. Many people fleeing Ukraine are women with small children, so even with open work permits, they may not start work immediately, and many won’t be able to earn enough money to support the needs of the family. Support from the community will be invaluable in many cases, but it cannot be expected to carry the full load.

Although the federal government has announced that Ukrainians arriving as temporary residents will have access to national settlement services, they are not eligible for federal income support or interim health coverage normally provided to refugees, leaving it up to individual provinces to decide on access to health care, schools and income support.

Afghans, for their part, need emergency travel authorization and reunification of extended-family members. Such measures would help to compensate for the fact that the implementation of the two special programs for Afghan refugees has been slow and rife with problems, and that private-sponsorship applications remain blocked.

Many Afghans are at greatly increased risk from having helped Canada in Afghanistan, and many have fled to neighbouring countries that don’t want them and are unable or unwilling to provide support. Ukrainians are in a horrendous situation, but they are at least being welcomed by EU countries who want and are able to help them. Some Afghans were airlifted to Ukraine from Afghanistan. Yet, even these Afghan refugees are not entitled to Canada’s new policies, which are available only to Ukrainian nationals.

We see no justification for Canada to offer such different treatment to two groups coming to our country at around the same time. Some observers have already begun to wonder if the policy differences have been influenced by race, religion or political benefit, and the lack of limits to the number of Ukrainians being allowed to enter Canada only fuels that argument. The perception is heightened by the fact that crises under way in Africa and elsewhere have gotten no special response at all.

Canada needs a common refugee framework that includes expedited entry and permanent residence, eligibility for supports and services and reunification of extended family members. Fair and equitable responses – for any refugee group – will help people in need of protection to make the transition to a successful life in Canada, no matter how long they choose to stay.

Source: Canada needs a unified approach for people fleeing Ukraine and Afghanistan

Blogging break

Traveling. Blog will resume in May.

Nicolas: Cohérence recherchée [on affirmative action], Lisée: Les mauvais génies de l’égalité

Appears to be a strong rebuttal to Lisée’s column, reprinted below:

Qu’est-ce que c’est, au fond, la discrimination positive ? Il s’agit de favoriser, dans certains cadres, un ou des groupes de personnes qui subissent de la discrimination ou des désavantages systémiques afin de rétablir une égalité des chances.

Parfois, ça peut se faire sous forme d’encouragements, d’incitatifs à offrir des postes à certaines personnes issues de groupes qui risqueraient d’être autrement sous-représentés. Parfois, on va plus loin et on exige un seuil minimum de représentation.

La Loi sur la Cour suprême du Canada, par exemple, stipule que trois des neuf juges en poste doivent venir du Québec. Cette loi a été écrite par des gens qui ne croyaient pas que tous les gouvernements fédéraux, peu importe leur inclination idéologique et la provenance de leurs députés, s’assureraient d’une représentation des experts en droit civil québécois à la Cour suprême, simplement par bonne volonté et par reconnaissance de leurs compétences. Par crainte de biais systémiques qui nuiraient aux candidatures québécoises, notamment, on leur a réservé des postes.

La Loi sur la radiodiffusion, qui donne entre autres son mandat au CRTC et à CBC/Radio-Canada, a aussi abondamment recours à des mesures de discrimination positive. Partout au Canada, on craint — depuis l’invention des médias de masse, essentiellement — que le contenu américain noie les ondes et empêche notre industrie radiophonique et télévisuelle de se développer. Face à Goliath, on a armé David de quotas. Nos médias généralistes ont l’obligation de produire ou de diffuser de 40 % à 60 % de contenu canadien pour conserver leur permis du CRTC.

Pour protéger la culture francophone, on va encore plus loin. La loi exige que les stations de radio de langue française consacrent au moins 65 % de leur programmation hebdomadaire de musique populaire à de la musique en français. Ces quotas donnent nécessairement un bon coup de pouce à la visibilité des artistes francophones, et ont joué un rôle important dans le développement de l’industrie culturelle québécoise. Malgré ces mesures, on ne remet pas en question la « compétence » des musiciens dont les œuvres passent constamment à la radio. On comprend que, pour répondre aux avantages injustes (notamment financiers) qui propulsent la carrière des artistes anglo-américains, la discrimination positive a un rôle à jouer.

La loi 101, elle aussi, carbure largement à la discrimination positive. Dans un contexte de discrimination systémique importante contre les francophones dans un ensemble de secteurs d’emploi, le gouvernement du Québec a adopté des mesures musclées. Depuis, une grande partie des emplois offerts au Québec sont réservés aux candidats qui maîtrisent le français. Il est indéniable que la loi a joué un rôle majeur dans l’amélioration des perspectives économiques des Franco-Québécois ces dernières décennies.

Au fédéral, la Loi sur les langues officielles permet aussi d’exiger le bilinguisme dans plusieurs postes de la fonction publique. Et puisque les francophones sont plus nombreux que les anglophones à être bilingues, la mesure peut largement être assimilée à une forme de discrimination positive. Cette législation arrive-t-elle à complètement corriger le déséquilibre des forces entre le français et l’anglais à Ottawa ? Non, pas du tout. Le collègue Boris Proulx fait notamment un travail important pour mettre en lumière le désavantage systémique qui subsiste malgré la loi. Il a d’ailleurs montré que le problème semble particulièrement criant à Affaires mondiales, où les francophones demeurent pratiquement absents de la haute direction.

Cette situation illustre bien que la discrimination positive en emploi peut être contournée assez facilement par des élites déterminées à se reproduire entre elles, surtout si on fonctionne par encouragements et incitatifs à l’embauche plutôt que par exigence réglementaire. Elle montre aussi qu’elle ne mène certainement pas à un « régime de domination inversé » du groupe historiquement discriminé. Au mieux, la discrimination positive limite une partie des « dommages » à l’égalité des chances causés par les inégalités structurelles.

Les commentateurs qui montent aux barricades contre la discrimination positive depuis quelques jours ont certes bâti leur carrière en faisant face à beaucoup moins d’obstacles que bien des femmes et que bien des personnes racisées, autochtones ou handicapées qui ont pourtant autant de talent et de compétences qu’eux, sinon plus. Ils ont aussi tiré profit (directement ou indirectement) de cette infrastructure légale complexe de discrimination positive échafaudée au siècle dernier pour corriger une partie des inégalités systémiques entre francophones et anglophones. Sans les exigences du CRTC, sans la loi 101, sans bien d’autres réglementations encore, la vie culturelle, médiatique, politique et économique du Québec et du Canada serait méconnaissable.

Cette réalité indéniable, on la passe sous silence : c’est bien plus commode. Des chroniqueurs réclament donc que les unilingues anglophones soient exclus d’emblée de certains postes (comme celui de p.-d.g. d’Air Canada), d’une part, puis disent toute leur horreur du principe même d’exclure les plus privilégiés de certains concours (en parlant d’une chaire de recherche à l’Université Laval), d’autre part. Leur crédibilité repose sur l’espoir qu’on ne se rende pas compte de ce manque flagrant de cohérence.

La seule issue possible d’un débat aussi mal posé, c’est l’hypocrisie et le deux poids, deux mesures. On peut tout à fait discuter de la pertinence des mesures de discrimination positive les plus contraignantes selon le contexte. Mais il est difficile de le faire avec des gens qui, après avoir utilisé une échelle pour que leur propre groupe social accède aux sommets, cherchent à en interdire la construction de nouvelles pour ceux qui sont encore en bas. 

Source: Cohérence recherchée

And the original article that likely provoked Nicolas:

Les nouvelles sont un peu moches pour les jeunes universitaires en histoire de la région de Québec. S’ils souhaitaient parfaire leur parcours, à la maîtrise ou au doctorat, avec l’appui d’un enseignant de pointe et des budgets qu’offre une chaire du Canada, l’occasion leur a filé entre les doigts à 16 heures le lundi 8 novembre dernier. À ce moment, aucun candidat acceptable n’avait postulé pour diriger à l’Université Laval les chaires d’histoire de l’Amérique latine, d’histoire romaine, d’histoire du Canada-Québec et d’histoire de l’art du Québec et du Canada.

Comme chacun le sait désormais, les hommes blancs non handicapés ne pouvaient pas aspirer à occuper la direction de ces chaires, comme celle de biologie dont on parle depuis la semaine dernière. Toutes les facultés montent des projets et tentent de trouver des porteurs non blancs pour atteindre la cible et figurer, en juin, parmi les finalistes. Beaucoup tombent au combat dès la première étape.

Pour comprendre pourquoi l’Université Laval se trouve dans ce pétrin, procédons à une vérification statistique simple. Pour avoir droit à la manne fédérale, les universités doivent atteindre des seuils stricts en matière de diversité. Pour les femmes et les handicapés, leur proportion est répartie équitablement dans le pays. Mais la cible que l’université doit atteindre pour ce qui est des « minorités racisées » est de 22,3 %. C’est la moyenne canadienne. Quelle proportion occupent ces minorités à Québec ? Statistique Canada est précis : 6,5 %. (Et c’est exactement la proportion présente au sein du corps professoral de l’Université Laval.) Et quelle est-elle à Toronto ? 51,5 %.

Bref, les universités torontoises peuvent combler leurs chaires du Canada en n’affichant que la moitié de la diversité présente sur leur territoire et n’ont qu’à se pencher pour trouver, localement, des professeurs répondant au portrait-robot. Québec (ou Rimouski, Sherbrooke ou Chicoutimi) doit recruter loin, très loin, et s’adonner à de grandes séductions.

Pour bien savourer la situation, supposons qu’un apôtre de l’accession à l’égalité ait déterminé qu’historiquement, les Canadiens français ont souffert de discrimination dans les études supérieures. J’invente, je sais, mais on jase, là. Pour redresser ce tort, il sommerait toutes les universités du pays d’embaucher leur juste part de profs canadiens-français, soit 23 %, la moyenne canadienne, sous peine de perdre leur financement. On gage que l’Université Laval n’aurait aucune peine à recruter, mais que la chose serait pénible à Toronto et à Edmonton ?

Voilà des subtilités qui ont échappé à ceux qui ont pris la décision de mettre nos universités dans cet entonnoir. Répondant à des plaintes d’universitaires mécontents de la sous-représentation des minorités dans le Programme des chaires de recherche du Canada, la Commission canadienne des droits de la personne a accepté d’emblée qu’il fût juste et bon que les titulaires de ces chaires soient dans un délai assez court représentatifs de l’arc-en-ciel des différences qu’on retrouve, en moyenne, dans la société canadienne, concluant que les retardataires seraient privés de financement, point à la ligne. La Cour fédérale a estampillé ces accords et leur a donné force de loi.

On voit un peu partout une mobilisation forte pour l’augmentation de la présence de membres des minorités en emploi, dans des postes de décision et de grande visibilité. J’applaudis. Il est indéfendable qu’on trouve encore trop peu de minorités visibles dans les corps policiers, chez Hydro et à la SAQ dans la région montréalaise, où la peau de 34 % de nos concitoyens n’a pas la pigmentation qui dominait jadis en Normandie. Mais à Rimouski, où ils sont moins de 2 % ?

La question est : jusqu’où doit-on aller, comment et à quelle vitesse ? Les pédagogues nous enseignent par exemple que la sous-représentation masculine au primaire et au préscolaire est un déterminant de la sous-performance des garçons, en manque de modèles. Utilisons la méthode des chaires et retirons en 10 ans le financement des garderies et des écoles primaires qui ne comptent pas 50 % d’éducateurs et de professeurs mâles ! C’est raide, mais c’est pour la bonne cause. N’êtes-vous pas scandalisés par les taux d’échec et de décrochage des garçons (seuls 68 % obtiennent un diplôme d’études secondaires à temps) ?

Penchons-nous avec la même méthode déterminée sur l’industrie de la construction. La paie est excellente, l’emploi abondant, mais on n’y trouve pas 3 % de femmes, et cela ne progresse qu’à pas de tortue. Annonçons que, d’ici 2029, les seuls entrepreneurs pouvant postuler pour des travaux publics devront démontrer que la moitié de leurs travailleurs sont des travailleuses !

Si ces propositions vous semblent excessives, ou du moins précipitées, le cas des chaires est, à mon avis, pire encore. Car lorsqu’on réfléchit à la pyramide des compétences, n’est-il pas curieux que le lieu où on exige désormais une représentation stricte soit sur la pointe, là où il s’agit de faire franchir, par les meilleurs cerveaux, les frontières actuelles de la connaissance humaine ? Les chercheurs ont trouvé une façon pour éliminer les préjugés dans la distribution de subventions de recherche. Ils déposent leurs dossiers « à l’aveugle », c’est-à-dire sans inscrire leur nom ou celui de leur établissement. Les candidats pour ces chaires ne devraient-ils pas être aussi choisis ainsi ? Et tant mieux si l’excellence est incarnée par une Autochtone handicapée ?

Comme il y a, dans les filières universitaires, une sous-représentation des étudiants venant de certains milieux, n’est-ce pas là qu’il faut multiplier les passerelles pour les attirer ? Sachant que le Québec fait déjà mieux que le reste de l’Amérique pour tous les revenus modestes, avec les droits de scolarité les plus bas et les prêts et bourses les plus généreux.

Nous sommes donc aux prises avec des apprentis sorciers de l’égalité. Ils nuisent à la fois à la science, à l’éducation et à la cause qu’ils estiment servir.

Source: Les mauvais génies de l’égalité

Feds under fire for deferring decision to declare China’s actions against Uyghurs as genocide

As MPs across the partisan spectrum question why the Canadian government has yet to declare that the Chinese government’s repression of Uyghurs constitutes genocide, Global Affairs says an international court or tribunal must be the one to make the declaration, but international law experts say that’s not the case.

As a state party to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, more commonly known as the Genocide Convention, Canada has an obligation to declare a genocide is occurring when one is taking place, say international law experts, and deferring such judgement to an international court is nothing more than an excuse to not act.

MPs on the House Foreign Affairs Committee questioned Global Affairs officials on March 28 as to why the government hasn’t made a declaration of genocide more than a year after the House of Commons voted unanimously to declare that a genocide is being committed by China against its Uyghur population and other Turkic Muslims. The non-binding vote, which passed with 266 votes in favour and none against on Feb. 22, 2021, had the support of all parties, including 87 Liberal MPs. Cabinet members, however, abstained from the vote.

A March 2021 report from the Subcommittee on International Human Rights concluded that China is committing genocide as defined under the Genocide Convention. The report was adopted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. In it, the subcommittee called on the government to declare the Chinese government’s persecution of Uyghurs an act of genocide.

Beijing has long denied that a genocide of Uyghurs is taking place in Xinjiang.

Bloc Québécois MP Stéphane Bergeron (Montarville, Que.), his party’s foreign affairs critic, said in French that Global Affairs has “strangely enough” refused to acknowledge that genocide is taking place.

“It’s as if everything that is obvious for many people, including for Parliamentarians in Canada, was not for Global Affairs,” he said at the committee on March 28, asking what is stopping Canada from recognizing that a genocide is taking place.

Global Affairs official Jennie Chen, executive director for Greater China Policy and Coordination, said a declaration of genocide is one for the government to make, and officials will provide advice to ministers “when that time comes.”

But later in the committee hearing, Global Affairs director general and deputy legal adviser Carolyn Knobel said a “determination of whether a situation constitutes a genocide must be done by a competent international court or a tribunal, bearing in mind the complex legal thresholds that are involved.”

Knobel suggested that finding “specific intent” to commit genocide is “key” to making such a determination. She said without a finding of “specific intent,” breaches of international law would instead amount to crimes against humanity, or war crimes.

The Hill Times asked Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly’s (Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Que.) office whether the government believes that only an international court or tribunal can determine whether a genocide has taken place. A spokesperson for Global Affairs responded on behalf of the minister’s office.

“We have the responsibility to work with others in the international community in ensuring that any allegations of genocide are investigated by an independent international body of legal experts,” spokesperson Christelle Chartrand said in an email, noting that Canada is “deeply disturbed” by reports of human rights violations in Xinjiang.

Chartrand said Canada has “repeatedly” called on Beijing to allow the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Special Procedures to have “immediate, unfettered, and meaningful access to Xinjiang.” 

In 2018, the Canadian government recognized Myanmar’s persecution against the Rohingya as an act of genocide through a motion in the House, which was supported by cabinet ministers. No international court or tribunal had made that determination at the time. A case under the Genocide Convention is currently before the International Court of Justice.

Speaking at the House Foreign Affairs Committee on March 24, Joly said Canada takes allegations of genocide “very seriously, particularly in the Xinjiang Uyghur region,” noting that was a reason Canada did not send elected officials to the Beijing Olympics in February.

The U.S. government under then-president Donald Trump declared in 2021 that a genocide was taking place in Xinjiang. That determination has been upheld by the Biden administration.

Conservative MP Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Hill Times that the government’s delay in recognizing the situation as a genocide is “totally unacceptable.”

He said when the Subcommittee on International Human Rights conducted its study, it heard from many international law experts, including former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler, who made the case that nation states that are parties to the Genocide Convention have an obligation to recognize genocide when it is happening and to discharge their obligations under the convention.

“Canada has been failing to live up to its obligations under the Genocide Convention. It is an obfuscation and a denial of our responsibilities for the government to suggest that we shouldn’t act unless or until there is some determination by some to-be-identified international body,” he said. “Fundamentally, Canada’s responsibilities as a state party under the Genocide Convention are clear: it is to recognize and respond to genocide when it has happened, not to wait for somebody else to tell us first.”

Genuis said the government’s lack of determination to date is a decision in itself.

“The effect of continually saying that they are thinking about it is to not act,” he said.

Liberal MP Sameer Zuberi (Pierrefonds-Dollard, Que.), who subbed in at the March 28 committee meeting, told The Hill Times that while he understands why the government wants to wait on an international court to determine whether genocide is taking place, he stands by the subcommittee’s designation and his support for the House motion to recognize genocide.

“I believe that where we should be going as a country is to recognize that genocide is occurring,” he said, noting it would be “good” if the Canadian government follows the U.S. government’s lead.

Zuberi said in their testimony, Global Affairs officials recognized that hundreds of thousands of children are being separated from families, which he said is “one of the key elements of genocide.”

“So, I’m hopeful that we will land there as a country,” he said, adding that each country should make its own legal determination of whether a genocide is taking place. “Our determination doesn’t necessarily rest on those international [bodies] to determine genocide is in fact occurring.”

In the meantime, he said more can be done to prevent goods made with forced labour from entering the Canadian market.

Experts dispute the government’s position that it’s up to international courts and tribunals to determine whether a situation is genocide.

“[The government doesn’t] want to act. Their position is ‘we don’t know—we can’t really say, we’re not really sure, and therefore business as unusual. We can trade [and] and we can do all sorts of things.’ They’re avoiding their obligation,” said John Packer, the University of Ottawa’s Human Rights Research and Education Centre director.

“The Genocide Convention actually prescribes that states are supposed to act to prevent,” he said, noting that includes cases where there is an active genocide, or a risk of genocide. “If the argument of the government is that we can’t do anything until there’s a determination by the court of law, that’s post facto. That means you never have prevention. … ‘Never again’ becomes ‘forever always,’ because you’ve missed the whole raison d’etre of the thing.”

Packer said there is no provision or law that dictates that an international court must be the body to declare whether a genocide is taking place, and said a state must make that determination itself before bringing an action before an international court.

“In order to bring a case, you must allege a case, and to allege a case in international law means that you must determine that there is a breach,” he said.

International human rights lawyer Sarah Teich, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, echoed Packer, saying the Canadian government has an obligation to act.

“If you look at the Genocide Convention, nowhere does it say that that an international court must declare genocide before it can do anything,” she said, noting that Canada, as a state party of the convention, has treaty obligations to punish genocide.

If Canada waits on international courts to declare a situation to be genocide, it would probably be in breach of its obligations, Teich said, adding that it’s “long overdue” for Canada to declare the Chinese government’s persecution of Uyghurs as genocide.

“If Canada is so concerned about wanting it to come from an international court, then Canada should refer the situation to an international court and start taking those steps. But we don’t actually see that happening,” she said. “This is another indicator that really this is kind of just an excuse.”

Mehmet Tohti, executive director of the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project, said that by citing the need for an international court determination, the Canadian government is not upholding its “international legal responsibility to prevent genocide, and prosecute those responsible for genocide and protect the vulnerable victims of genocide.”

Tohti said it’s “troubling” that the government is still focused on pushing for an independent investigation, as Beijing hasn’t allowed unfettered access to Xinjiang. He said he has little optimism for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s visit to China in May.

“The Chinese government has made clear to the high commissioner that there is no unfettered access, meaning she cannot go wherever she wants to go. She cannot visit the places she wants to visit. And she cannot talk with the people she wants to talk,” he said.

Liberal MP Ali Ehsassi (Willowdale, Ont.), chair of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, asked Global Affairs officials at the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week why a declaration of genocide has taken so long after the House voted in favour of recognizing the situation as genocide.

In her testimony, Chen said the government is looking forward to Bachelet’s visit to China. “What’s been important for us is it has been an independent investigation by international experts. This has long been our position for many years now,” she said.

Bergeron called Canada’s stance “bipolar,” while Genuis said there is a “clear divergence between the legislative branch and the executive” in declaring whether a genocide is taking place.

“It is frustrating for me, it’s frustrating for Liberal MPs, and it’s frustrating for Canadians because Canadians elect Members of Parliament. They don’t elect the executive, but the legislative branch is supposed to hold the executive accountable for the steps they’re taking and the executive has been able to get away with inaction,” he said.


Source: Feds under fire for deferring decision to declare China’s actions against Uyghurs as genocide

Douglas Todd: The painful demographics of homelessness

Some interesting data:

They are injured construction workers who need to kill the pain, ex-soldiers with trauma, spouses escaping conflict and First Nations members who can’t get housing on their reserves.

Such histories are common among the men who make up 68 per cent of all homeless in British Columbia, according to Judy Graves, who spent three decades as a champion for people forced onto the street and into shelters, including as the city of Vancouver’s full-time homeless advocate.

“Many men become disposable at certain times in their lives,” said Graves. They wind up surviving in shelters, in tents or couch surfing because their jobs or families have fallen apart and they have been struck down by despair or succumbed to addiction.

Graves put forth many reasons why men are so overrepresented in B.C.’s latest homeless count, which was released this month and focused more than in the past on demographics. The count discovered 8,665 people in the province without shelter, a rise of 11 per cent from 2018.

Many of the men, according to 25 counts across the province, come from the unusually high proportion of Indigenous people, former military personnel and Black Canadians who are homeless.

Almost two of five homeless residents are Indigenous, even though Indigenous people make up only one in 20 of the population. Six per cent served with the military or the RCMP, which makes them “vastly overrepresented” among those without a home.

For the first time, the provincewide count included data on race. While it found 63 per cent of the homeless are white people, which is roughly equivalent to the overall ratio, it discovered three per cent were Black people, even though only one per cent of B.C.’s population is Black.

South Asian people comprised only two per cent of the homeless, which is much lower than the overall cohort of 11 per cent. And East Asians, including ethnic Chinese, accounted for just two per cent, even though they make up 12 per cent of all residents. Graves owed such findings in part to “strong cultural support for families.”

As someone who has taken part in many homeless counts and continues to meet with street people across Metro Vancouver, Graves has talked with men from a range of ethnic backgrounds and nationalities who have ended up desperate for provisional shelter.

Many had become addicted to opioids after becoming repeatedly injured in construction, the military, policing or other physically dangerous jobs, which are mostly held by men, she said. “They get caught between their pain and being out of the workforce.”

A lot of men she’s come to know have also left their homes because of conflict with a spouse or partner, which is the reason 14 per cent of B.C. residents reported they’re homeless. “That’s a really big one.”

While there is already a large amount of government housing provided exclusively for women, including transition shelters for those facing domestic violence, Graves said there is none specifically for men, including for fathers and their children. She believes there should be.

“I think marriage break up is actually harder on men than women,” she said, explaining that many women quickly gain support from their social network, while men often turn to drinking alone. “Men really need support and counselling right after a domestic conflict.”

The Ministry of Housing did not respond directly to many Postmedia questions about homelessness, including why there are no shelters distinctly for males given the government’s emphasis on putting every policy through a “gender lens.”

Instead, spokesperson Sarah Budd maintained the NDP government believes homeless women are undercounted; so it wants to provide them with more housing.

Graves calls Victoria’s approach “reverse gender politics.”

One of the reasons, Graves added, that such a large proportion of Indigenous men and women end up on the streets, living in tents or in shelters is a lack of housing on reserves across Canada.

“A lot of the housing on reserves was built 40 years ago and is falling apart,” she said, noting First Nations people on reserves aren’t permitted to own their own dwellings.

“It was also built only for families and is often unbelievably crowded.” There are, she said, almost no small housing units on reserves for single people, who are the most likely to need a place to live.

The number of foreign-born people who are homeless in B.C. almost doubled compared to the last count in 2018, rising to eight per cent of the total.

But that is far below their provincial average, which has immigrants, refugees and those seeking permanent resident status making up one out of three residents. Graves suggested that foreign-born homeless people might be undercounted since those who have “uncertain immigration status” would tend to hide from counters.

“People have to be trained on where to look.”

The Housing Ministry said in this year’s budget spending on “housing and homelessness supports reached more than $1.2 billion a year for the next three years — three times the level of funding in 2017.”

Source: Douglas Todd: The painful demographics of homelessness

Richard: La loi sur la laïcité de l’état marque un progrès pour la société

An example of Quebec rhetoric in favour of Bill 21:

Bientôt, la Loi sur la laïcité de l’État sera à nouveau débattue en cour. Au crépuscule de ma vie et à l’occasion de mes 88 ans, permettez-moi d’appuyer publiquement cette loi amplement justifiée et visant un meilleur vivre-ensemble. On accuse la loi 21 d’être contre les religions. Elle est pourtant un instrument de paix, car la laïcité unit alors que les religions divisent. L’Histoire le prouve. Ceux qui sont contre la loi 21 font passer les religions avant la laïcité par ignorance.

Il n’y a pas que les Québécois de souche qui veulent la loi 21. De nombreux musulmans et musulmanes le veulent aussi. Ferid Racim Chikhi, un Algéro-Canadien immigré au Québec, connaît bien l’islamisme. En tant que musulman, il veut voir et vivre la laïcité au Québec. Dans son tout récent livre Fenêtre sur l’Islam, ses musulmans, ses islamistes, M. Chikhi sonne l’alarme et donne l’heure juste quant à l’aveuglement de nos gouvernements en ce qui a trait à une infiltration des islamistes qui est voulue et sournoise, avec en tête un plan défini pour imposer un jour à la société d’accueil rien de moins que la charia ! En 2005, Fatima Houda-Pepin, d’origine musulmane et alors députée libérale de La Pinière, était intervenue à la Chambre des députés pour que la demande pour la charia soit refusée.

La nécessité de la laïcité et de la loi 21 est une évidence. Refuser la loi 21, c’est s’opposer au progrès de la société, c’est revenir aux siècles passés, où le pouvoir des décisions était entre les mains des chefs religieux comme les imams, les rabbins et les évêques plutôt que sous la responsabilité des gouvernements élus par le peuple. Si c’est cela que le Canada veut, pas le Québec, qui, au prix d’une longue lutte, a réussi à séparer l’Église et l’État. Il n’est pas question de retourner en arrière !

Un des problèmes est aussi le préambule de la Constitution canadienne, qui évoque la suprématie de Dieu. C’est une honte ! Un texte d’une telle importance pour la nation doit être inclusif et respecter le fait qu’au Canada et dans toutes les provinces, il n’y a pas que des croyants, mais aussi des agnostiques et des athées.

Ce que l’on ignore aussi, c’est que, bien qu’il y ait des femmes qui revendiquent le droit de porter le voile pendant les heures de travail, il y a aussi des femmes musulmanes qui espèrent pouvoir enfin l’enlever grâce à l’application de la loi 21. C’est ce que plusieurs d’entre elles auraient confié secrètement à une autorité scolaire. Et cela, elles ne peuvent le dire ouvertement sous peine de représailles.

Le maire de Brampton, Patrick Brown, qui se présente comme candidat dans la course à la direction du Parti conservateur du Canada, a organisé une levée de fonds pour financer la contestation de la loi québécoise sur la laïcité. Il soutient qu’un jour, au Canada, un premier ministre sera forcé de présenter des excuses officielles pour l’adoption et l’application au Québec de la loi 21. Or, si un jour, l’ignorance fait place au savoir, il se pourrait fort bien que ce soit lui qui doive s’excuser auprès du peuple québécois pour avoir tenté de l’empêcher de l’appliquer !

Les opposants à la laïcité disent ne pas vouloir briser le rêve d’une femme voilée, mais ils sont prêts à briser l’espoir de millions de citoyennes et de citoyens du Québec, dont le mien.

Pourquoi favoriser une société théocratique, laquelle est contraire à la vérité de la science, plutôt que de consentir au gain sociétal apporté par la loi 21 ? La laïcité comporte une neutralité commune consentie par les Québécoises et les Québécois, qui construit lentement mais sûrement la paix du Canada, dont tous pourront bénéficier.

Source: La loi sur la laïcité de l’état marque un progrès pour la société

Expert says genocide is part of humanity, often result of propaganda

Unfortunately true, as recent history illustrates, whether Rwanda, China in Xinjiang, or as Russia is trying to do in Ukraine:

As the images of mass graves and murdered civilians in Ukraine flash across our screen, we think of those who commit genocide as pure evil.

But a man who has dedicated his life to fighting the bigotry that causes genocide and has discovered more than 3,100 execution sites and interviewed more than 7,400 victims around the world knows better.

“A human being has the capacity to heal people, to save people, but also the capacity to do the worst crimes,” Father Patrick Desbois said. “The first thing to accept is that genocide is inside humanity.”

Desbois, an author and founder of Yahad-In Unum (Together In One), a non-profit organization dedicated to discovering genocidal practices, spoke Monday night inside the Arizona Ballroom of the Memorial Union as part of Genocide Awareness Week, put on by Arizona State University’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

Desbois, who has received several awards for his work documenting the Holocaust, including the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor, said the perpetrators of genocide often are ordinary people who become embroiled in extraordinary situations.

He cited the case of Sabrina Harmon, a former U.S. Army reservist who was convicted of war crimes for her involvement in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Baghdad during the Iraq war.

“I always say to my students (at Georgetown University) that I’m sure she was a normal girl,” Desbois said. “I’m sure she was not a monster. Genocide is not in a hell place away from everything. It’s not true.”

Genocide often is the result, Desbois said, of propaganda feeding brainwashed minds. It was that way in Nazi Germany, in Angola in the 1970s, in Sudan and in Ukraine, where Russian president Vladimir Putin justified his country’s invasion with the propaganda that Ukraine is “openly pro-Nazi.”

“Hitler never missed people to do the job,” Desbois said. “There is no country where Hitler said, ‘Oh, nobody wants to do the job for killings. He found people to do everything, to dig the mass graves, to fill the mass graves, and even if Jews are not dead, they are buried alive, to take the belongings and sell them by auction, etc. etc.

“Because when you brainwash people, when you make propaganda to designate a target, you wake up the criminals. And you find clients for everything … Why are young soldiers coming from Russa doing awful things in public, under cameras from CNN? Why can Putin deny it every day?

“Propaganda is still strong. Propaganda has a capacity to whitewash the brain. And when people are brainwashed, any violence is possible … Everybody can be a victim. Everybody can be a killer. It depends where you are.”

Desbois said propaganda – and the resulting Neo-Nazi movement — is in part responsible for the rise in anti-Semitism around the world, including the United States. According to FBI statistics in 2020, Jews living in America are the target of 58% of all religiously motivated hate crimes.

Desbois said that when he posts something about the Holocaust on his Facebook page, “there’s always somebody who denies it, for any reason.”

“I will never forget the first time I went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “I took a cab from the airport and had an Arab driver. I gave the address, and he brought me to the museum. After I went to pay, he told me, ‘You go to a place which shows the genocide that never existed.’”

That attitude, Desbois said, is why it’s important to teach high school and college students about the Holocaust. Already, he said, the Holocaust is not taught in schools in Mexico, Asia, China, India, Russia, most African countries and most Arab countries.

“I see year after year students (at Georgetown) know nothing about the Holocaust,” Desbois said. And the young generation, they will have very few chances to meet a (Holocaust) survivor. They will meet people who say, ‘Ha, it never existed. It’s a Jewish trick to make money to build Israel.’

“So, it’s a strong responsibility to teach, to train a generation of leaders and to do it so that they have the capacity to resist the huge movement of hate.”

Holocaust by Bullets,” a program and exhibit by Yahad-In Unum, can be seen in the Hayden Library through April 17. Members of the ASU community can access the free exhibit any time during library hours. Non-ASU community members can access the exhibit during docent-led tours from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays.

Source: Expert says genocide is part of humanity, often result of propaganda

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 6 April Update

With some provinces and countries no longer reporting on the number of infections, comparisons between provinces and countries on the omicron variant are imprecise.

Vaccinations: Some minor shifts but convergence among provinces and countries but minimal increases to overall vaccination rates. Canadians fully vaccinated 83 percent, compared to Japan 79.8 percent, UK 74 percent and USA 66.4 percent.

Immigration source countries: China fully vaccinated 88.9 percent, India 61 percent, Nigeria 4.8 percent, Pakistan 53.5 percent (significant jump), Philippines 61.4 percent.

Trendline Charts:

Infections: As noted, variations in reporting make comparisons difficult. Steep increase in Atlantic Canada may reflect more consistent reporting.

Deaths: No relative changes.

Vaccinations: Minor changes. All provinces have stalled in vaccinations, as have most countries.


Infections: Germany ahead of New York, British Columbia ahead of Atlantic Canada.

Deaths: No relative change.