Quebec’s religious symbols ban a major issue in federal election campaign

Good range of people interviewed. Odd conclusion given overall demographic changes and that most immigrants integrate:

The new Quebec law that bans many public servants from wearing visible religious symbols has become a major issue in the federal election campaign.

This isn’t a Quebec-versus-the-rest-of-Canada conflict. This is the shires against the cities, old stock versus those who welcome newcomers, the Canada that was against what Canada is becoming.

This is a conflict on the rise, not the wane.

Mario Levesque, a political scientist at Mount Allison University, agrees that Bill 21, as the Quebec legislation was known before it came law, divides Quebec from the rest of Canada. But even more, he says, it divides rural Canada from urban Canada.

When it comes to accepting high levels of immigration and the racial and cultural diversity that follows, “I would almost limit that to some of the bigger cities,” he said in an interview. “In other parts of Canada, I think there is some support for Bill 21.”

Erin Tolley, a political scientist at University of Toronto, points to research she and co-author Randy Besco conducted that shows about a third of Canadians oppose multiculturalism, a third support it, and a third are “conditional multiculturalists” who, as they wrote, “approve of immigration and ethnic diversity, but only under certain conditions” – the most important being that immigrants integrate fully into Canadian society.

“There is some difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada” on the question of embracing multiculturalism, Prof. Tolley said in an interview, “but it’s not as big a difference as you might think.”

Daniel Weinstock, a professor of political philosophy at McGill University, said that an important difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada “is that, in Quebec, politicians and pundits have been able to couch the law, fallaciously in my view, as being in continuity with Bill 101 [Quebec’s language law], as a defence of Quebec identity.”​​

But even without the veil of protecting French language and culture as an excuse, many Canadians object to minority religious and cultural practices. Prof. Tolley says that when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives vowed to ban the niqab – the full face and body covering worn by some Muslim women – at citizenship ceremonies, “many Canadians sided with the Conservatives.”

Prof. Levesque believes that more time may be needed for people in rural areas of Ontario, where he used to live, or the Maritimes, where he teaches now, “to learn about and welcome new arrivals, since they typically get so few of them.”

Although Maxime Bernier’s efforts to leverage voter discontent over multiculturalism with his new People’s Party have thus far gone nowhere, most political leaders are treating the Quebec law as though it were a new third rail.

Andrew Scheer says a Conservative government would not join the court challenge against the law. At this stage, neither would a Liberal government, Justin Trudeau said on Friday, although “we’re not going to close the door on intervening at a later date. “Intervention if necessary, but not necessarily intervention.

At Thursday night’s debate, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May hoped “that we can find a solution where we leave Quebec alone but we find jobs for anyone that Quebec has taken off their payroll.”

Only NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh stands firm against the law, which would prohibit him from being a teacher or judge in Quebec because he wears a turban. “It’s legislated discrimination, and it’s sad and it’s hurtful,” he said at the debate.

Prof. Weinstock profoundly objects to Quebec’s new law because it “asks vulnerable minorities to do something that they can only do at the cost of enormous symbolic harm to themselves,” by publicly abandoning religious symbols “that they see as central to their identities.”

Yet, despite the openly discriminatory nature of the legislation, Quebec Premier François Legault has warned federal politicians not to support the court challenge.

“I want them to stay out of it – forever,” he told reporters earlier this week. “Not for the moment, but forever.”

No political fight is more useless than a culture war. Not a job is created, not a single child lifted out of poverty, not a jot of environmental progress made. It’s just Us and Them, with both sides the loser.

But there may be no escaping this fight, if enough voters in the future reject what Canada is becoming and demand the old one back.

Source: Quebec’s religious symbols ban a major issue in federal election campaign

‘We’re all in this together’: Alberta lawyer Avnish Nanda on why Canada shouldn’t have to choose between multiculturalism and integration

Nice thoughtful interview:

Avnish Nanda is an Edmonton-based lawyer and part of Everyone’s Canada, an advocacy group for multiculturalism, pluralism and immigration in Canada.

He spoke with Star Edmonton about why he believes Canada is for everyone, and why it’s important to push back on narratives of exclusion and xenophobia.

How would you compare the Alberta you grew up in to Alberta today?

I think it’s the same, but I just think there’s a greater awareness on my part that (people) of this province may not have that same lived experience (as me). And for me … what I experience is just as Albertan and just as legitimate as what someone else may have experienced, someone who didn’t grow up in a very multicultural and diverse place. And I know a lot of people who didn’t that appreciate and value that experience and believe that’s what Alberta and this country should be like. But for some people, they don’t like to see people of different backgrounds, immigrants and that. And I think it’s important to have that direct confrontation as to why.

In your column, you mentioned a survey that revealed that a majority of Albertans believe Canada is allowing too many visible minorities. As a child of immigrants, how did that make you feel?

I think it challenges my place here. It really questions my ability to call this place home, to claim that I’m as Albertan as anyone else here. And I think that’s problematic. I deny any sort of assertion to that effect, because it’s not true.

Do you think xenophobia, racism or intolerance is more prominent in Alberta than in other parts of the country?

I don’t think so. But I think that Alberta has a long history of politicians and political parties who either condone it or turn a blind eye to it because they think addressing this head on in a way that really pushes back (against) people with those views isn’t helpful for their electoral chances. And I think that’s extremely problematic. Let’s not forget in this last provincial election, it flared up so many times and people with those views weren’t kicked out of mainstream political parties. Let’s not forget that last election in 2015, one of the big champions of the niqab ban during citizenship ceremonies was an MP in Alberta. And that’s objectionable. I don’t think it reflects our values and I think we need to take a stronger stand … it’s incumbent on us to do something about it.

What do politicians need to do differently to address intolerance?

First of all, not use these issues around diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism as a wedge issue to try and squeeze votes … I want them to talk about values, and a vision for Canada, a vision where we all belong.

A recent column that attracted attention said Canada should say goodbye to diversity, tolerance and inclusion. How do you rebut that?

If you’re against inclusion, diversity and tolerance, you’re against Canada. Because that’s my conception of Canada. I think that’s the conception of Canada that most people hold. And I know it’s aspirational, I know that often we don’t reflect that or achieve it, but it’s something we’re striving to build toward. And it’s for the benefit for this country, from any social, cultural or economic measure. The more welcoming we are of newcomers, the more tolerant we are of diversity, the better outcomes.

Do we need to strike a balance between multiculturalism and integration?

I think that’s a false dichotomy and I reject that wholeheartedly. One of my caregivers when I was growing up in Edmonton … was a grandmother who was from India. She didn’t speak any English, or spoke English poorly. She was a private caregiver and she was kind of instrumental in my life in the sense of not only being there for me as a child after school while my parents worked, but also instilling in me certain values, educating me on the ability to write and speak in Punjabi. So from certain metrics, her ability to not speak English well would write her off as a contributing member of society. But I would disagree with that — just because you don’t speak English or French doesn’t mean you’re not able to contribute to society. This particular woman did and has left an indelible mark on me. And when people say … this person isn’t integrated in Canadian society because they don’t speak English, I think of her. And I think of others like her who I know have done great things, have built great businesses, have had great impacts on our communities, who don’t speak the language.

What do you think is at the heart at the rise of far-right populism in Canada?

I think in any society there are people who don’t like change, who don’t like people of other backgrounds … There’s clear xenophobia. There may be people who have grievances, and political leaders and other figures have managed to tell them that the source of their grievances may be immigrants, may be ethnic minorities. But we know, particularly here in Alberta, we don’t have enough of a labour force to get the work that we want done. From things as immediate as live-in caregivers for the elderly or children, to fast food workers to specialist engineers in the oil and gas sector. We need to track the best talent in this province … and if you shut down your borders, if you demonize immigrants, if you demonize people from other backgrounds, you’re not going to be able to do that.

What role do Canadians, of all ancestries, have to play in countering racism, xenophobia and hate?

Fundamentally, we’re all in this together. We have created this, not perfect, but beautiful society that values difference, that accepts other people. And I think that’s rare in this world. And if we believe in that notion, if we believe that being Canadian doesn’t matter what you look like, what you believe in, where you come from, then we have to fight for it. And I think this election, more than any other election in my lifetime at least, it’s on the ballot. And you might think it’s marginal, that Maxime Bernier and these views aren’t gaining traction, but I think you’re wrong. These groups can influence mainstream political actors and they already have. And we have to step up, collectively, and push back. And reaffirm the notion that Canada is for everyone.

Source: ‘We’re all in this together’: Alberta lawyer Avnish Nanda on why Canada shouldn’t have to choose between multiculturalism and integration

Des camionneurs sikhs devront porter le casque, tranche la Cour d’appel

Good balanced decision on reasonable accommodation, unlike the pandering in British Columbia and Ontario regarding motorcycle helmets not being required for Sikhs. :

Des camionneurs sikhs portant le turban qui voulaient être exemptés de mettre le casque protecteur imposé par leurs employeurs ont échoué devant la Cour d’appel du Québec.

Le plus haut tribunal de la province a rendu un jugement jeudi confirmant que dans ce cas-ci, la sécurité au travail doit primer sur les effets préjudiciables causés à leur liberté de religion.

Dans cette affaire, trois camionneurs de confession sikhe ont contesté — pour des motifs religieux — l’obligation imposée par leurs employeurs de porter un casque protecteur lorsqu’ils doivent se déplacer à l’extérieur de leurs camions sur le site des terminaux du Port de Montréal.

La politique ne les obligeait toutefois pas à retirer leur turban, écrit la Cour dans son jugement.

Les employeurs disent avoir adopté cette politique afin de protéger la santé et la sécurité de leurs travailleurs. D’ailleurs, la loi les y oblige et ils peuvent même être reconnus coupables criminellement de ne pas les avoir protégés.

L’un des employeurs avait tenté un accommodement raisonnable : le camionneur sans casque devait rester à l’intérieur du camion, alors que les tâches sur le site étaient effectuées par d’autres employés dûment protégés. Mais de cette façon, un chargement de 10 à 20 minutes durait de 30 minutes à deux heures. L’employeur l’a donc abandonné, puisqu’il n’était pas économiquement viable et était un casse-tête organisationnel, est-il relaté dans la décision.

En 2006, les trois travailleurs en question ont déposé une requête devant les tribunaux afin d’obtenir un jugement déclaratoire qui les aurait exemptés du port du casque.

Mais en 2016, le juge André Prévost de la Cour supérieure a refusé leur demande. C’est pourquoi les travailleurs ont interjeté appel.

La Cour d’appel du Québec confirme que la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés ne s’applique pas dans ce cas : cette Charte ne peut être invoquée que contre les décisions de l’État. Ici, la politique sur le port du casque a été dictée par des entreprises privées. La Charte québécoise des droits et libertés de la personne, elle, s’applique.

La Cour énonce par la suite que personne ne conteste que cette politique brime la liberté de religion des trois travailleurs.

Mais le juge Prévost avait retenu de la preuve certaines choses cruciales : d’abord, ces travailleurs sont dans un environnement industriel. Les dangers y sont nombreux : recevoir un objet sur la tête, se faire frapper la tête par des objets en mouvement ou se heurter la tête contre un objet dur. « Les statistiques démontrent que ce risque n’est pas purement théorique », écrit la Cour d’appel.

Elle estime aussi que la politique a cherché à porter atteinte le moins possible à la liberté religieuse des travailleurs de confession sikhe. Le casque est seulement exigé lorsqu’ils sortent de leur camion, et la durée de ces déplacements est brève, selon la preuve : de 5 à 10 minutes. Et puis, la politique ne leur impose pas d’enlever leur turban, mais juste de porter le casque. D’autres travailleurs le portent d’ailleurs sous le casque, notent les trois magistrats de la Cour d’appel en se basant sur la preuve.

Bref, selon la Cour, l’effet global de la politique est proportionnel et l’atteinte à la liberté de religion est justifiée. Elle rejette donc l’appel des travailleurs.

Source: Des camionneurs sikhs devront porter le casque, tranche la Cour d’appel

Brexit: Public believes immigration can be controlled without leaving EU in remarkable turnaround, survey finds

Interesting. Challenge as always is to ensure that public debates are informed by evidence and knowledge when so many unscrupulous actors rely on, and reinforce, ignorance:

The public no longer believes it is necessary to leave the EU to control immigration in an extraordinary turnaround since the Brexitreferendum, a survey has found,

Voters – including Leave supporters – said they now judge that existing EU rules provide “enough control” on incomers from the continent, without the need for the UK to pull out.

Far from demanding an immigration crackdown, no less than 71 per cent support allowing EU migrants to come to the UK either to work or study – including 62 per cent of Leave voters from 2016.

The results represent a striking shift from three years ago, when a widespread anti-immigration sentiment fuelled the Brexit vote, rather than a general revolt against the system as many politicians claimed.

Crucially, the researchers at University College London put it down to “missing information” – because so many people were unaware about the existing controls back in 2016.

Just 20 per cent knew about the “three-month rule”, the EU regulation – never enforced by the UK – requiring any EU citizen seeking to stay beyond three months to work, study or have enough money to support themselves.

And only 13 per cent were aware the UK could require EU citizens to register where they live, as some other EU countries do, to track those not meeting the strict conditions.

Instead, no less than 47 per cent of respondents wrongly believed there were no possible restrictions on EU immigration – including 58 per cent of Leave voters and 62 per cent of pensioners.

The poll will therefore fuel arguments for a Final Say referendum on the Brexit outcome, because – just as in the vital area of cross-border trade – voters now have fresh knowledge.

Diane Abbott, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said: “Too many politicians are whipping up fear of immigration for purely political advantage.

“But once voters know about the controls available under existing EU rules they are largely content.”

And Christine Jardine, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson, hailed the survey as evidence that “British people recognise the huge benefits of EU free movement”.

“It gives us all the opportunity to study, work and retire anywhere in the EU. And EU citizens make enormous contributions to our society, economy and culture,” she said.

Back in 2016, voters were blitzed by hardline anti-immigration messages such as Vote Leave’s notorious stoking of fears about Turkish immigrationby claiming the Muslim country could join the EU by 2020.

In the days before the referendum, Nigel Farage unveiled his inflammatory “Breaking Point” poster of desperate refugees, which was condemned as akin to 1930s fascist propaganda.

Once informed about the immigration controls the UK could be introducing already, public opposition to EU rules falls away dramatically, the poll found.

Almost two-thirds of those surveyed (64 per cent) said the “three-month rule” would provide “enough control” over EU immigration, including most Conservatives (61 per cent) and most Leave supporters (58 per cent).

Dr Alan Renwick, the deputy director of UCL’s Constitution Unit, said: “These results suggest that a majority of British adults would be content with a system that enforced all the controls available to it on EU immigration.

“When it comes to accessing the single market and controlling immigration, it may be that the choice is not such an either/or one as is often supposed.”

And Dr Lee de-Wit, director of the political psychology lab at Cambridge University, pointed to the huge attention given to “misinformation in political campaigns”, adding: “This poll highlights the simpler phenomenon of ‘missing information’.”

The survey, of more than 1,000 British adults, carried out by YouGovbetween 20 and 30 August, builds on previous polls finding remarkable changing attitudes towards immigration.

In April, an Ipsos Mori survey for the BBC, found it was a concern for only 11 per cent of people – the lowest level since 2001.

A month earlier, the same company found that British adults expressing positive views about immigration’s impact outnumbered those with negative views.

Source: Brexit: Public believes immigration can be controlled without leaving EU in remarkable turnaround, survey finds

Adams and Parkin: Are Canadians losing confidence in their democracy?

Good counterpoint to some of the narratives circulating:

While views on the economy are mixed, the general trends in Canada, especially on attitudes towards democracy and diversity, remain positive.

There are few certainties heading into an election campaign; the outcome is up for grabs. The one thing many do feel certain of is that it is Canada’s turn to be buffeted by the winds of populism. As we prepare to cast our votes, we are feeling increasingly left behind economically, are becoming less welcoming of immigrants, and are losing confidence in our democracy.

The problem with this narrative is that it is, on the whole, not true. Consider how Canadians view their democracy. Three in four are currently satisfied with the way democracy works in Canada, a figure slightly higher than earlier in the decade. Seven in 10 say they have confidence in the honesty of our elections, a level of confidence that places Canada in the top tier of OECD countries. While confidence in elections has declined by 22 points since 2009 in the U.S., falling to 37 per cent, it has been holding steady in Canada.

When it comes to immigration, the trend is even more clear. While 35 per cent of Canadians say there are too many immigrants coming to Canada, far more – almost three in five – disagree. Most importantly, the proportion agreeing that there is too much immigration is close to the lowest figure ever. Twice as many felt that way 25 years ago.

Seven in 10 Canadians say they have confidence in the honesty of our elections, a level of confidence that places Canada in the top tier of OECD countries.

It is no doubt true that many Canadians prefer highly skilled immigrants over refugees walking over the border, and that some worry about whether new immigrants are integrating quickly enough into the Canadian mainstream. But the proportion holding these views has been trending downwards over time. At no time in the past 25 years have fewer Canadians felt that too many refugees are not legitimate, or that too many immigrants are not adopting Canadian values.

Earlier this year, a Gallup survey showed that immigration was the number one issue on the minds of our neighbours to the south.  At the same time, our Focus Canada survey showed that only three per cent of Canadians cited immigration as the biggest problem facing the country.

On the economy, the picture is more nuanced. Overall, Canadians are becoming more positive, with steady increases in the proportions saying that both the country’s economic situation and their own personal one is in good shape. The proportion saying that now is a good time to find a job is higher today than at any point since the recession hit in 2008.

The pattern, however, differs across the country, with dramatic improvements in Quebec’s economic outlook masking growing concerns in Alberta. And a generally more positive take on the economy is also combined with a weakening in satisfaction with our standard of living, particularly among younger Canadians (although satisfaction still remains high). The proportion of younger Canadians dissatisfied with the availability of good, affordable housing has doubled since the beginning of the decade.

While the messages on the economy are more mixed, the general trends in Canada, especially on attitudes towards democracy and diversity, remain positive. This is hardly an excuse to paper over other problems, for problems are it not hard to find. A growing number of Canadians are worried about climate change, and large majorities support action on reconciliation, including finally ensuring Indigenous communities have access to clean drinking water, adequate housing and quality education.

The purpose of questioning the narrative that Canada is getting sucked into the populist sinkhole is not to deflect attention from such issues, but precisely the opposite. It will be easier to devote the necessary energy to tackling the problems that we face if we remind ourselves of our strengths as a society and the civic resources we have at our disposal.

An election is the time for citizens, parties and leaders to set their sights on challenges, old and new.  We should be approaching this election more with confidence in ourselves as a civic society than with trepidation that we are losing faith in our democracy.

Source: Adams and Parkin: Are Canadians losing confidence in their democracy?

Law Society scraps key diversity initiative, leaving supporters concerned about future programs

Step back:

Lawyers and paralegals in Ontario are no longer obliged to adopt a “statement of principles” acknowledging their “obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion.”

The key diversity initiative of Ontario’s legal regulator was scrapped Wednesday, leaving its supporters concerned for the future of other programs that promote equality and inclusion.

The requirement that every lawyer and paralegal adopt such a statement of principles (SOP), which they could write themselves, was repealed in a 28-20 vote of the Law Society of Ontario’s board of directors. There were two abstentions.

Instead, the board voted 27-18 with five abstentions to mandate lawyers and paralegals to acknowledge annually that, under their existing rules of professional conduct, they already have a “special responsibility” to respect the requirements of Ontario human rights law and the obligation not to discriminate.

The repeal of the statement of principles was a victory for a slate of 22 lawyers, known as StopSOP, who had campaigned against the statement of principles and won their seats in the election in April for the board of directors. These lawyers argued the statement requirement was “compelled speech” and unconstitutional.

Expressing concern about the kind of message the vote sends to the legal community, especially racialized lawyers, and the public in general, some board members described the decision to scrap the statement of principles as a “sad day” for Ontario’s legal profession.

“This was a devastating blow to all racialized licensees and the public at large,” member Atrisha Lewis told the board after the vote. Lewis said it felt as though it was a “metaphorical punch in the face to racialized licensees.”

The statement of principles was perhaps one of the most divisive topics in the legal profession in recent years. It dominated the law society’s last board meeting in June, where after many hours of debate, board chair Malcolm Mercer was compelled to adjourn after members were unable to come to a final decision on the statement’s fate.

Aside from the 40 lawyer seats on the board, 22 of which are occupied by StopSOP members, there are also five paralegal board members and eight non-lawyer public members appointed by the provincial government.

“We are concerned that (the repeal) sends the message to the public that equality, diversity and inclusion are values that the legal profession does not share,” said Gerald Chan, president of the Ontario chapter of the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers, in a statement.

“No less than the Supreme Court of Canada has said that a diverse bar is more responsive to the needs of the public it serves and promotes public confidence in the administration of justice.”

The statement of principles was one of 13 recommendations made in 2016 by the law society’s Challenges faced by racialized licensees working group, which had spent four years studying those challenges, finding they were both “longstanding and significant.”

A vote earlier Wednesday to salvage the statement by making it voluntary, not a mandatory requirement, was voted down.

Its repeal has left some board members and legal organizations concerned that other diversity initiatives at the Law Society could be next on the chopping block.

“We’re always concerned about the equity initiatives. We didn’t like the idea of this being a slippery slope, that, if you can get rid of one of the recommendations, it could lead to others,” said Lori Anne Thomas, president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, who said her association will work to ensure the other initiatives “stay in place and grow.”

Another of the StopSOP members, Lakehead University law professor Ryan Alford, told the Star after Wednesday’s vote that he would be “shocked” if other diversity initiatives were rolled back. “Of all the recommendations of the racialized licensees working group, we opposed one. None of us expressed any concerns with any of the other regulations that were approved,” he said.

Other recommendations implemented in 2016, which remain in place, include requiring legal workplaces of at least 10 lawyers and/or paralegals to develop and implement a human rights/diversity policy.

Another major recommendation was an “inclusion index,” the first of which is to be published later this year. Information in the index will be based on several sources, including demographic data pulled from lawyers’ annual reports to the Law Society and lawyers’ voluntary responses to questions about inclusion in their workplace. The index will apply to legal workplaces with 25 or more licensees (lawyers and/or paralegals), and is to be updated every four years.

“It is absurd to say this is about compelled speech when the StopSOPers voted down a voluntary statement. What this is about is resistance to anti-racism initiatives, and I predict this is only the beginning,” board member Julian Falconer, who was vice-chair of the racialized licensees working group, told the Star.

Board member Sidney Troister proposed Wednesday that, instead of the statement of principles, lawyers and paralegals be required to acknowledge every year in their annual report to the Law Society that, under the Society’s rules of professional conduct, they already have a special responsibility to abide by Ontario human rights laws.

Troister’s motion was met with resistance from some StopSOP members, who spoke about being “sandbagged” by a motion without prior notice, and argued it should first be studied by a committee.

But supporters of the motion argued it simply reiterated some of the requirements of being a lawyer or paralegal. “You’ve been ambushed by the rules of professional conduct. You’ve been ambushed by human rights law,” said board member Orlando Da Silva to members who were taken aback by the motion.

Troister’s proposal passed in a 27 to 18 vote.

Source: Law Society scraps key diversity initiative, leaving supporters concerned about future programs

Canadian media lacks nuance, depth on racial issues

Part of the Policy Options elections series. I have flagged to Anita Li, some of the weaknesses in her arguments:

  • Voter turnout: StatsCan analysis comparing Canadian-born versus long-term and recent immigrants in the 2015 and 2011 elections shows that the gap has shrunk (2007 data not relevant).
  • 2011:  77.4 percent Canadian-born, 70.7 percent established immigrants, 55.7 percent recent immigrants
  • 2015: 76 percent Canadian-born, 75.9 percent established immigrants, 70.1 percent recent immigrants
  • There is considerable variation based upon country of origin.

My sense is that the issue lies more with the financial and business model of media, and consequent reduced local and other news, which applies to all Canadians, whether visible minority or not.

My work with which allows me to analyze ethnic media election coverage indicates that ethnic media is less ghettoized than Li suggests, largely mirroring mainstream coverage (spoiler alert for future article).

As to the diversity of journalists, given the number of visible minorities in j-schools and the buy-outs of senior journalists, expect that diversity will improve but not as quickly given the financial struggles of the industry:

Newsrooms in Canada are disproportionately white. This inequity means Canadian news coverage is less inclusive and therefore not truly representative of our country’s racial diversity. We’ve known all this for years, and still — despite the approach of the next federal election — establishment journalism organizations have not taken steps to address this worrying gap in a meaningful and systemic way. One consequence is lower voter turnout among people of colour.

The media is a pillar of democracy. Numerous studies reveal how an erosion in local news weakens civic engagement. Research suggests people who consume local news regularly are more likely to vote and participate in civic activities. But the spate of local publication closures in nearly 200 Canadian communities over the past decade has left a vacuum for misinformation to fill, compromised journalists’ ability to hold government accountable and resulted in more polarized communities where neighbours don’t trust each other.

These studies focus on geographic communities. But there’s scant research into how news poverty impacts racialized communities or geographic communities that are majority-minority, such as Scarborough, a suburb of more than 600,000 in the Greater Toronto Area where people of colour make up 73 percent of the total population. That’s concerning.

Why? According to a 2018 report from the UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media, news deserts tend to be around areas whose residents are poorer, less well-educated and older than people in other communities. News poverty impacts inner-city neighbourhoods and suburbs as well as sparsely populated rural and interior regions, the report says.

It’s not a stretch to extrapolate findings from geographically focused research on news deserts and apply them to underserved racialized communities. If you don’t see yourself reflected in the news, and you don’t see the connection between your community and policy issues, how motivated would you be to vote? How convinced would you be that you could effect change in your country — especially if the media rarely bothers to portray your perspective?

Of course, as many detractors of diversity and inclusion efforts have commonly but pointlessly argued, ethnic groups are not monolithic and have a diversity of thought, and race is just one pillar of a person’s identity. But few markers of identity are visible beyond race, and systemic racism is pervasive in Canada. Members of particular ethnic groups, especially visible-minority groups, will have shared experiences by virtue of their skin colour.

Ethnic media doesn’t even reflect citizens like me, a second-generation Canadian-born Chinese whose native language is English. To me, ethnic media is for my immigrant parents’ generation, not my friends and peers who grew up here.

There are ethnic media outlets in Canada, but they’re ghettoized in a two-tier system, where establishment media is seen as more legitimate and also seemingly absolved of covering issues that matter to immigrant Canadians in an in-depth way. Beyond that, ethnic media doesn’t even reflect citizens like me, a second-generation Canadian-born Chinese whose native language is English. To me, ethnic media is for my immigrant parents’ generation, not my friends and peers who grew up here. Unfortunately, these two audiences have been traditionally conflated, so there’s a gaping hole where news coverage should be for young, diverse Canadians.

Keeping this lack of relevant media presence and Canada’s long history of excluding people of colour from voting in mind, it’s no wonder eligible voters from some non-European communities have voted at lower rates than members of European communities, according to a 2007 Elections Canada study. Citing data from the Ethnic Diversity Survey of Statistics Canada, Elections Canada also reports that rates of voter participation are higher among foreign-born than Canadian-born people of colour.

Low voter turnout among people of colour will become a bigger problem for Canada if we don’t address it soon. StatsCan reports that among the country’s working-age population (ages 15 to 64), 20 percent identified themselves as “visible minority” in 2011 — a number that could double to nearly 40 percent by 2036.

When it comes to authentic pluralism, there’s a significant disconnect between how Canada perceives and portrays itself and what’s actually happening in this country.

Canada was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy, in 1971, and it’s globally recognized as an arbiter of pluralism, so we tend to rest on our laurels regarding issues of race. It’s why, for so long, neither government nor the media seriously grappled with the country’s evolving cultural identity. Because there’s a sense that we’ve “achieved” multiculturalism in theory, Canadian political and media institutions are complacent and don’t frequently entertain conversations about our evolving cultural identity — much less move them forward. When it comes to authentic pluralism, there’s a significant disconnect between how Canada perceives and portrays itself and what’s actually happening in this country.

The 1971 Canadian Multiculturalism Policy and subsequent 1988 Canadian Multiculturalism Act, which came about after Canada became the first country in the world to pass a national multiculturalism law, were significant milestones. But they’ve had the sanitizing effect of falsely casting us as a perfect multicultural haven and as a foil to our unstable neighbour, America, with its unmanageable race problems.

In fact, contrary to popular belief, we’re far behind the United States in our discussions of race in the public sphere. Despite the extreme polarization in America, there’s an institutional and public willingness to talk about these issues that opens up dialogue and breaks down barriers. In Canada, we ignore the problem, so silos persist. In addition, this false sense that Canada is post-racial often has the effect of gaslighting people from racialized communities who continue to face discrimination today.

Given our British colonial past, Canada has a long history of defining its identity in terms of how un-American we are, so we resist embracing our neighbour’s practices for fear of surrendering to American cultural hegemony. But what is Canadian culture? Before the Second World War, it was synonymous with British and French culture, but that perception failed to take into account the tens of thousands of years of Indigenous cultures that predated Canada’s colonization. In fact, we didn’t have a clear, unified national identity of our own until after the war — and even now, it’s not one that all Canadians have embraced.

When it comes to filling in gaps in coverage for racialized communities in Canada, outlets here would be wise to follow in American media’s footsteps. Resistance to including these other narratives will only push Canadians into the arms of US publications — which have much more robust coverage of people of colour — and, ironically, put Canada on a path toward greater American cultural influence. We must evolve.

With Canada facing a rising populist tide and the incendiary language that tends to come with it, October’s election is an opportunity for all Canadian media to call things as they are. For example, journalists shouldn’t use “racially charged” or similar euphemisms when “racist” is more appropriate. The values underpinning multiculturalism are enshrined in our Constitution under section 27, so rather than seeking “balance,” the media must hold our leaders to account by challenging views and policies that are unconstitutional. The world, including Canada, is experiencing a historic moment that necessitates adversarial watchdog journalism.

The media should also move beyond reactive coverage of race that stokes outrage for outrage’s sake. Instead of a “he said, she said” style of reporting, journalists should provide context that breaks down Canada’s history of systemic racism and analyze how party policies will affect specific racialized communities (for example, they should examine why Indigenous communities are particularly vulnerable to climate change).

Outside of the election, the media should strive to capture the lived experiences of Canadians of colour (which, it’s important to note, are quite different from the experiences of Americans of colour). They should also keep up their recent increase in coverage of reconciliation and Canada’s Black Lives Matter movement. But I don’t want to see only stories of outrage — they paint a limited, black-and-white picture of racialized communities. I also want to see the nuanced spaces in between, where most people of colour live their lives: an intersectional take on climate change in Canada through a racial justice lens; a look at the historical contributions of Canadians of colour and how they impact us today; a deep dive into how second-generation Canadians are preserving their ancestors’ dying languages.

The media here must stop talking about Canada as if it’s an Anglo monoculture and start reflecting the multiculturalism that we proudly lay claim to but seldom live up to.

Source: Canadian media lacks nuance, depth on racial issues

Can the Right Escape Racism? White identity politics has been partially suppressed before. Here’s how it could happen again.

More from Ross Douthat on the problem of white nationalism/supremacism in US conservatism:

Last week I wrote a column that simultaneously argued that conservatism has a problem with white-nationalist infiltration and that liberalism, influenced by the revival of racial chauvinism in the Trump era, is increasingly tempted to smear mainstream conservatives as racist.

The response was varied, but a common critique from the left was that any defense of individual conservatives from the charge of racism is basically irrelevant to the underlying structural reality that the Trump era has exposed — which is that the American right’s coalition is founded on racism, endures because of racism and has no future as a morally decent force unless it is essentially refounded, its racist roots torn out.

One of the more temperate versions of this argument was offered by New York magazine’s Eric Levitz, taking on my own essay and a column by Tim Carney of The Washington Examiner calling for conservative institutions to make themselves inhospitable to white identity politics. Such calls are well and good, wrote Levitz, but they wildly understate the challenge:

“… racism has been fundamental to American conservatism, and the G.O.P. in particular, since the mid-20th century realignment of the parties — even as its purportedly defining tenets have proven to be negotiable, from small government to antagonism toward autocrats to reduced deficit spending. None of this precludes the existence of nonracist conservatives, to be sure. It just makes them some of the least influential people in their movement, and renders their claims to broader relevance akin to shouting into a void.”

Levitz goes on to catalog various conservative policies, from border detention camps to voter-ID laws, that reflect the deeper-than-Donald-Trump influence of racism on the right. He argues that the various conservative factions have consistently made their peace with racism and racist policies since Richard Nixon, not just since 2016. And he suggests that since “the Republican Party would collapse without support from racists,” there is probably no path to a nonracist G.O.P. that doesn’t involve the total defeat and total reconstruction of the party.

Levitz is right that there is considerably more racism on the right than Republican Party elites wanted to believe pre-Trump and that the elite has conspicuously failed to confront its more overt and toxic forms — which is part of how we ended up with a birther as the president of the United States. In the longer view, he’s also right that white identity politics has been important to the conservative coalition since the 1960s, when the strategic and policy choices that the Nixon-era Republican Party made — in effect, rallying voters who opposed the Great Society’s vision of racial redress — ensured that a lot of racially conservative and racist white voters would migrate into the G.O.P.

In Malaysia, fake news about citizenship for Chinese stokes racial tensions

Stoking some of the underlying ethnic tensions in Malaysia:

Malaysia’s National Registration Department (NRD) on Monday lodged a police report against several social media users for falsely accusing the department of indiscriminately granting citizenship to Chinese nationals.

Fake news that mainland Chinese were being granted Malaysian identification cards has been circulating on social media for the past month, the latest in a series of attempts to stoke racial tensions at a time when the relations between ethnic Chinese Malaysians and indigenous Malays “are at their lowest ebb”, according to an expert.

“The information spread through social media is false, and the report is to enable the police to conduct a thorough investigation,” NRD director general Ruslin Jusoh told reporters at a press conference to announce the police report.

He dismissed claims that the NRD discriminates by granting Malaysian citizenship to certain foreign nationals.

“This is not true and for the record, we do not choose applicants based on their ancestry or nationality in granting them Malaysian citizenship,” Ruslin said.

The social media posts, spread mainly via Facebook and Twitter, featured pictures of alleged Chinese nationals on a blue Malaysian identification card. The blue card, known as MyKad, is only issued to Malaysian citizens.

A mainland Chinese woman, who has been married to a Malaysian for almost 20 years and was granted citizenship in the Southeast Asian nation, was the subject of one of the posts.

“The person is a spouse to a Malaysian national and has fulfilled all the requirements to be a citizen based on … the Federal Constitution and that qualified her application for the citizenship,” Ruslin said, adding that it is not easy to obtain Malaysian citizenship.

He said Indonesians made up the largest group of foreign wives who were granted Malaysian citizenship.

Political analyst Azmi Hassan warned that the viral posts were intended to create the perception that it was the current government’s plan to grant citizenship to foreigners, a move that would create distrust toward the ruling Pakatan Harapan government among Malays.

“When news regarding foreigners getting citizenship are circulated as if it is true, the strategy is to create a perception that it is the policy of the current government … and no doubt to create uneasiness since the relationship between Malaysian Chinese and the indigenous Malays are at their lowest ebb right now,” Azmi said.

“The end result is that the Malays will not trust the government … and the Malays’ [feeling] that they are losing the country to foreigners is becoming real.”

Ethnic Chinese comprise an estimated 22 per cent of the country’s 32 million people, while Malay-Muslims make up more than 60 per cent of the population.

Political analyst Azmi said the mainland Chinese citizenship hoax had been cleverly done to look real.

“This strategy of foreigners getting MyKad or citizenship has been used numerous times … but no doubt it is very effective when foreigners and sovereignty are lumped together,” he said.

MP Lim Lip Eng from the Democratic Action Party (DAP), which is part of the Pakatan Harapan coalition, has found himself a victim of the fake social media posts.

A WhatsApp message that appeared months earlier, accusing him of registering mainland Chinese for citizenship in his constituency in Kepong district in the country’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, recently went viral again.

“That WhatsApp [message] is a fake. It resurfaced a month ago,” Lim told the South China Morning Post. “The current atmosphere of fear and tension of racial and religious divides in Malaysia is at the tipping point. Any incident can be twisted into a racial or religious issue, no matter how fake it is.”

The DAP has of late faced a barrage of fake news depicting the party as unpatriotic, anti-Malay and anti-Muslim.

“DAP, a predominantly Chinese-based party, is and will always be targeted by the opposition, the racists and religious extremists when they plot to stoke racial and religious issues,” Lim said.

DAP’s secretary general Lim Guan Eng was in 2018 appointed the country’s first ethnic Chinese Finance Minister in 44 years after Pakatan Harapan staged an upset to win the general elections.

The appointment of ethnic Chinese to strategic positions in the government has caused unease with certain segments of the Malay-Muslim populace, according to political analyst Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani of BowerGroupAsia.

“There is still distrust among the Malay community with Chinese leaders in Pakatan Harapan. The fake [identification] issue will only validate their racial narratives,” Asrul said. “This is an attempt to stoke racial sentiment and legitimise the narrative that the Chinese are pendatangs [foreigners or immigrants] in this country.”

While the country’s Penal Code has provisions to deal with insults delivered with intent to provoke a breach of the peace, it does not have specific legislation against racism – something Lim from the DAP wants to see changed.

“I have told the Pakatan Harapan government to rein in fake news by the freewheeling social and printed media with tougher penalties before Malaysia is out of order and the economy plummets,” he said. “The cabinet must come out with plans to criminalise racism and religious hatred.”

Azmi, the political analyst, said Malaysia’s 62-year existence as a multiracial nation has been held together by mutual trust and co-operation between the different races.

“It does concern me … with all the fake news circulating, I’m afraid that the bond that binds us together will be broken and if this happens, it is going to take a long time to mend it and Malaysia will be at the losing end,” he said.

Source: In Malaysia, fake news about citizenship for Chinese stokes racial tensions

Koch Data Mining Sent Anti-Immigrant Ads to Targeted Voters

Voter segmentation in action, combined with fear mongering and falsehoods. While this example is from the right, the general technique of segmentation is universal as we see in political positioning in Canada:

IN RECENT YEARS, Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialist megadonor to Republicans and libertarian causes, has carefully recalibrated his public image, releasing a variety of statements to assert that he supports immigration and opposes President Donald Trump’s blatant scapegoating of undocumented immigrants and foreigners.

At the same time, however, Koch’s sprawling political network’s in-house technology company has mined consumer data to motivate Republican voters with dehumanizing messages that depict immigrants as an invading army of criminals and potential terrorists.

Last year, when many GOP candidates across the country turned to vicious anti-immigrant advertisements to turn out voters in the midterm elections, some turned to i360, Koch’s state-of-the-art data analytics company. The company is one of the several appendages of the Koch political machine — one that includes a suite of voter outreach organization, lobbying, and campaign messaging tools.

Dozens of GOP candidates for state and federal office contracted with the Koch data company to identify voter segments and push out targeted ads on television and social media in 2018. And the company looks to be expanding its role in GOP campaigns going into 2020; more than a dozen federal candidates list the firm as a contractor.

The path to one Republican’s successful 2018 Senate run is detailed on i360’s website. Then-Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn aired at least four different television advertisements and a wave of social media advertisements focused on immigration, often with false or inflammatory language. She ended up beating out Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, who had been leading in the polls for months.

“A CARAVAN OF 14,000 illegal immigrants is marching on America … gang members, known criminals, people from the Middle East, possibly even terrorists,” intoned an ad for Blackburn, flashing images of Hispanic men and warning of a flood of immigrants welcomed by her Democratic opponent, Bredesen.

“Phil Bredesen gave driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Phil Bredesen opposes the Trump immigration ban,” declared another Blackburn ad. At one point, the ad displays an image of the Middle East and Africa.

The messages about the caravan were far-fetched given the fact that there is no evidence that the migrant caravan from Honduras contained any terrorists or members from the Middle East, as fact-checkers noted during the campaign. The driver’s license claim was also misleading: Tennessee briefly offered driver’s licenses to those without a Social Security number through a 2001 law signed by former Republican Gov. Don Sundquist. The law was later amended and repealed under Bredesen’s tenure as governor.

“It was Phil Bredesen who lured illegal immigrants to Tennessee,” other Blackburn advertisements on television and social media claimed.

“The invading force approaching our southern border is seeking to enter the country is wrong,” read a grammatically challenged paid advertisement on Facebook posted by the Blackburn campaign. Another promoted post from the Blackburn campaign decried the “illegal alien mob marching on our border.”

The Blackburn campaign turned to Koch’s i360 company to develop “a series of custom predictive models” to peel Republican voters away from Bredesen.

The ads, crude as they might have appeared, were distributed using an empirical approach to motivating Republican voters. The Blackburn campaign had turned to Koch’s i360 company to develop “a series of custom predictive models” to peel Republican voters away from Bredesen, according to a testimonial for potential clients.

Blackburn, a firebrand of the religious right who positioned herself as a steadfast ally to Trump and opponent of allowingMuslim refugees into the country, was clearly aligned with Koch priorities. Blackburn also supports judicial appointments favored by the business-friendly Federalist Society, corporate tax cuts, and scaling back most forms of environmental regulations, the criteria on which the Koch network has made its political endorsements historically.

Americans for Prosperity, the primary political advocacy arm of the Koch network, founded by Charles’s brother David, who passed away in August, and financed by Charles’s close-knit group of likeminded business owners, spent $5.6 million to support Blackburn’s Senate run through its nonprofit and Super PAC arm. That much is well reported and public. But the role of i360 in guiding the campaign’s anti-immigrant messages did not become clear until after the election.

THE COMPANY SEGMENTED Republican supporters for Bredesen, a Democrat, using its vast database of voter profiles. The data suggested immigration could be used as a wedge. “From there,” the testimonial notes, “i360 further segmented the universe using the Sanctuary Cities model which identified voters likely to oppose Sanctuary City policies like allowing illegal immigrants to get drivers’ licenses — a policy Bredesen favored while Governor.”

The i360 database was integrated into the Blackburn campaign’s media strategy. The company’s television advertising service, i360 Rabbit Ears, allows campaigns to target television programs and schedules favored by various behavioral profiles. I360 sorts television programs by over 40 voter profiles, including anti-immigrant sentiment. The company refers to this voting bloc as: “Individuals who have a high likelihood of believing that undocumented immigrants should be required to leave the United States.”

Field staff used the i360 voter profiles to determine which messages to use when knocking on doors of potential voters and could show them “videos right from their iPads.”

Blackburn’s media consultants, through a company called Smart Media Group, not only relied on i360 data to inform its advertisement buying strategy, but its data findings were merged into Blackburn’s canvassing effort as well. Field staff used the i360 voter profiles to determine which messages to use when knocking on doors of potential voters and could “educate voters about Marsha’s positions by showing them videos right from their iPads.”

The i360 team also developed “140 unique segments,” an advertising term that refers to unique demographic profiles, “against which the campaign delivered millions of impressions across several different platforms including Google and Facebook.” The individual segments allowed the Blackburn campaign to send customized messages to each voter profile over a variety of platforms, a dynamic that allowed the campaign to “tailor their messaging to ensure they were talking about the issues that mattered to each voter.”

In the end, i360 boasts that the Blackburn campaign used its technology to shape 3 million voter contact calls, 1.5 million doors knocked, $8.4 million spent on television ads, and 314,000 campaign text messages — advocacy that led to Blackburn’s commanding victory over Bredesen, who had been favored in the polls for the months leading up to the election.

Federal Election Commission records show that Blackburn’s campaign paid $188,366 to i360 for a variety of services — a small price for the significant campaign services the company provided.

FOUNDED IN THE aftermath of the 2012 election, in which Republican candidates favored by Koch fared poorly, i360 was envisioned as a way to revolutionize right-wing pressure campaigns and election efforts by incorporating the latest in data science. The company, based in the same Arlington, Virginia, office complex that houses other Koch groups, harvests troves of data to build profiles of every voter and potential voter in the country. Over the course of four years, the Koch network poured $50 million into i360 to develop its capabilities.

Journalist Sue Halperin noted that i360 acts as somewhat of a data broker, combining“commercial sources, such as shopping habits, credit status, homeownership, and religious affiliation, with voting histories, social media content, and any connections a voter might have had with advocacy groups or other campaigns” to build its voter database.

The i360 profiles offer a dizzying array of ways to segment voter preferences. The company allows GOP campaigns to target voters based on equity held in their home, likelihood that an individual has been personally affected by the heroin crisis, views on gay marriage, interest in dogs, levels of religious devotion, and even psychological profiles that measure an individual’s ego, based on previous purchases of monogrammed clothing.

Notably, according to CNET, i360 partners with D2 Media Sales, a joint venture with DirectTV and Dish, “‘to push TV ads to specific households that meet a candidate’s criteria ‘no matter which stations or programs they’re watching.’”

And the firm appears to still be a central cog in the Koch advocacy machine. Demeter Analytics Services, the holding company that owns i360, is listed as a subsidiary of the Seminar Network Chamber of Commerce, the nonprofit that serves as the central clearing house for the Koch political spending, in its most recent tax filing.

Media attention has swirled over the role of technology firms that have harnessed sophisticated targeting methods to influence campaigns. Billionaire hedge fund investor Robert Mercer, once a participant in the Koch network, split off and formed his own array of groups, including an effort to fund Cambridge Analytica’s 2016 targeting methods. Less scrutiny has been paid to i360’s role in shaping the political climate. Both firms vacuum up incredible amounts of data to develop personalized voter outreach methods, allowing campaigns to peer deeply into the hearts of voters and trigger emotional responses — a revolution in campaign strategy that gives well-heeled donors with access to the technology a tremendous advantage.

Over the last year, Charles Koch has stated his support for lofty, high-minded goals such as ending over-incarceration, scaling back America’s military empire, defending free speech, and providing legal status for undocumented youth. These laudable positions, however, have not translated to changing the behavior of his political advocacy apparatus.

The Intercept has previously reported on Koch’s financing of tough-on-crime advocacy and support for Congress’ most militaristic, surveillance-friendly lawmakers. That the Koch political operation also deliberately fine-tunes anti-immigrant messages further undermines Koch’s purported beliefs. Neither Blackburn nor Mark Holden, the Koch Industries executive who simultaneously helps manage the company’s political and philanthropic investments, responded to a request for comment.

Source: Koch Data Mining Sent Anti-Immigrant Ads to Targeted Voters