Senate survey offers better picture of diversity among Chamber staff

Good to see these data collection efforts and their sharing despite their limitations:

New numbers suggest the Senate’s hiring of women, Indigenous people, and visible minorities is on par with each group’s availability in the workforce, but behind on employing those with disabilities.

An estimated 2.6 per cent of Senate staff are people with disabilities, though they represent 4.4 per cent of the available workforce, according to new data collected from some Senate staff.

At the June 6 Senate Internal Economy, Budgets, and Administration meeting Diane McCullagh, the Senate’s chief human resources officer, reported on her office’s efforts to get better statistics through a voluntary survey of staff in both the administration and Senators’ offices. Because it’s an opt-in survey, the Senate doesn’t have diversity data on all its staff.

The latest push brought in 266 responses, Ms. McCullagh said, and pooled with past efforts, the Senate now has information for 596 people. That represents 81.5 per cent of the 731 employees at the time of the survey, conducted between March 29 and April 26.

Three per cent of Senate staff recorded identify as Indigenous, compared to an estimated 3.4 per cent workforce availability, Ms. McCullagh told Senators. Similarly, among visible minorities, the Senate is a few points off, hiring 12.45 per cent, compared to an estimated workforce availability of 13 per cent. Women represented 60 per cent of those surveyed, well above the 52.5 per cent workforce availability.

Where the Senate is falling behind, it isn’t far, said Ms. McCullagh, but the Senate has “work to do” to hire more people with disabilities.

Breakdown of diversity for staff in the House of Commons, Senate, and public service, according to 2018 data reported by each body. Graph created with Infogram

Ms. McCullagh acknowledged the limitations in the data, noting people are “still fearful” of singling themselves out. But the numbers can still help establish “benchmarks against which we can measure our progress going forward,” she said.

The search for better statistics emerged following a June 2018 report, Diversity in the Senate: From Aspiration to Action, from Internal Economy’s Subcommittee on Diversity.

The new data shows a shift from the 2016 numbers the committee studied, though that report only looked at the Senate’s employees, and didn’t include staff working in Senators’ offices. As of March 2016, among the 354 employees, women represented 59 per cent, visible minorities 15.3 per cent, people with disabilities 5.6 per cent, and Aboriginal people 3.4 per cent.

The new data puts the Senate behind the core public services in all areas, except hiring women, and ahead of the House of Commons only in its hiring of women and Indigenous people.

Of the 192,467 that made up the core public service as of March 31, 2018, women represented 54.8 per cent, according to the most recent report on employment equity. That’s slightly up from the estimated workforce availability of 52.5 per cent for the same year. Indigenous people represented 5.1 per cent of the public service (compared to 3.4 per cent workforce availability), people with disabilities accounted for 5.3 per cent (compared to 4.4 per cent), and visible minorities were 15.7 per cent (compared to 13 per cent workforce availability).

In the House of Commons, as of June 2018, 48 per cent of the House administration’s 2,479 employees were women, two per cent were Aboriginal persons, 13 per cent were visible minorities (up from 10 per cent the previous year), and three per cent were people with disabilities (down from two per cent in 2017).

Senators also asked Ms. McCullagh’s team to start tracking regional representation among staff, and while she didn’t have that data, she said the Senate has a wider reach than it has in the past.

Source: Senate survey offers better picture of diversity among Chamber staff

Hier les italophones, aujourd’hui les musulmans

On the politics of anti-immigration sentiment and a reminder that earlier waves also were affected:

Avec la marginalisation du Parti québécois et le remplacement du Parti libéral par la CAQ, nous assistons à un cycle politique caractérisé par l’alternance sans réelle alternative, en conformité avec l’ordre néolibéral. Ce gouvernement nationaliste de droite élu par 25 % de l’électorat, si l’on tient compte des abstentions, a recours à une recette éprouvée pour, à la fois, consolider et légitimer son pouvoir : détermination d’un problème réel ou imaginaire (la laïcité), élaboration d’une rhétorique alarmiste (retour du religieux) et désignation des responsables du problème (les musulmans). Les stratèges de François Legault n’ont rien inventé. Il y a une cinquantaine d’années, le mouvement nationaliste de l’époque s’est servi de la même recette mais avec d’autres ingrédients : la langue française, l’anglicisation et les italophones.

Il a fallu près d’une décennie pour que le psychodrame linguistique, se déroulant aux dépens des Québécois d’origine italienne, se dénoue enfin par l’adoption de la loi 101. Les relations entre ces derniers et les francophones se détériorèrent à tel point, et pendant si longtemps, que la méfiance et le ressentiment eurent raison de Giuseppe Sciortino, candidat péquiste dans Mercier, lors de l’élection précédant le dernier référendum. Il fut obligé, in extremis, de céder la place à un francophone d’ascendance canadienne-française à la suite de manoeuvres douteuses. Récemment, Michel David, chroniqueur au Devoir, écrivait que la présence de Sciortino, avocat éminemment ministrable au sein du futur gouvernement Parizeau, aurait probablement apporté au camp souverainiste les 45 000 voix qui lui manquaient pour remporter le référendum de 1995. Le nationalisme mesquin et revanchard est parfois suicidaire.

Aujourd’hui, ce sont les musulmans, en particulier les musulmanes, qui ont le mauvais rôle. Pourtant, il y a une vingtaine d’années, près des deux tiers des Québécois étaient contre l’interdiction du voile islamique. Selon un sondage récent, ils sont maintenant au moins autant à vouloir l’interdire. Pourquoi ce revirement ? Nul besoin d’être un exégète de Gramsci pour savoir que l’adhésion à un projet politique ou de société (ou perçu comme tel) est précédée par une longue période de propagation des idées et d’imprégnation des esprits auxquelles contribuent, consciemment ou non, de nombreux acteurs sociaux. En France (source d’inspiration pour certains Québécois) comme ici, politiques, chroniqueurs et essayistes se sont employés avec autant de ferveur que de constance à élaborer une rhétorique hostile à l’immigration et à la diversité culturelle — assimilée au multiculturalisme trudeauiste pour mieux la dénoncer — tout en souscrivant au mythe du choc des civilisations : une idéologie servant, entre autres, à dénigrer l’islam. Partout en Occident, l’islam est devenu l’ennemi à abattre. Le Québec ne fait pas exception. Il faut être d’une grande naïveté pour croire que le projet de loi 21 existerait sans la présence des musulmans.

Nationalistes conservateurs

Ce discours n’aurait pas eu autant de succès sans la contribution, depuis le tournant du millénaire, de nationalistes conservateurs, défenseurs d’une nation ethnoculturelle qui, craignant sans raison valable « la tyrannie des minorités » et « le reniement de soi », poursuivent, tout en le niant, la chimère d’un Québec assimilationniste et homogène. Il y a de cela aussi dans l’interdiction du port du foulard musulman. Ces hérauts d’un temps révolu, aux accents groulciens, doivent nous expliquer pourquoi l’assimilation que les francophones d’Amérique ont combattue avec autant de détermination serait souhaitable pour les immigrants.

Mais pourquoi la laïcité est-elle devenue la priorité de ce gouvernement, auquel on a dû rappeler l’importance de l’environnement, alors que deux millions et demi de Québécois ont un revenu inférieur à 25 000 $, que le système scolaire est le plus inégalitaire au Canada en raison de sa double ségrégation sociale et ethnique, et que les Québécois francophones sont sous-scolarisés par rapport aux immigrants (21 % contre 39 % de diplômés universitaires) et aux anglophones ? L’hégémonie néolibérale est telle, en Occident, que les partis de gouvernement, et non pas les formations politiques marginales, ne se distinguent presque plus sur les questions fondamentales et cherchent à tout prix à se différencier sur des questions secondaires ou fallacieuses, comme la laïcité ici ou l’islamisation et d’autres mythes ailleurs. C’est l’alternance sans véritable alternative. Ceux qui doutent de l’emprise, sur ce gouvernement, de cette rationalité mortifère, fondée principalement sur la concurrence généralisée, n’ont qu’à penser à la mise en concurrence de l’industrie du taxi avec Uber, aux immigrants réguliers avec les travailleurs temporaires et aux maternelles quatre ans avec les CPE.

Mais, au-delà de ce qui précède, il y a une réponse très simple à cette question : la laïcité est devenue une priorité parce que s’en prendre aux immigrants est politiquement rentable, comme partout en Occident. Le psychodrame d’il y a cinquante ans nous a peut-être coûté la souveraineté. Quel prix paierons-nous pour celui qui se déroule maintenant aux dépens des musulmans ?

US envoy decries lack of foreign response to China’s attack on Islam

Valid critique (and understatement of their human rights record):

The US envoy on religious liberty has said he is “disappointed” at the response of governments in the Islamic world to China’s mass incarceration of Uighur Muslims, suggesting they had been threatened by Beijing.

Sam Brownback, ambassador at large for international religious freedom, said some majority-Muslim states did not want to draw attention to their own human rights record. He was hopeful that the more Muslim populations around the world heard about the imprisonment of an estimated more than 1 million Uighurs, the more they will put pressure on their governments to speak out.

The Trump administration has severely criticised Beijing for its campaign against Islam in Xinjiang province, western China, where more than two dozen mosques and Islamic shrines have been razed since 2016. But Washington, in the midst of a tense trade dispute with China, has yet to impose sanctions, and Brownback said he could not say whether any punitive measures were pending.

Meanwhile, Washington’s closest allies in the Islamic world – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt – have been silent in the face of the mass incarceration of Muslims in Xinjiang.

At the beginning of March, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation passed a resolution which praised China for “providing care to its Muslim citizens”.

The Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has also defended China’s “right to carry out anti-terrorism and counter extremism work for its national security”.

In an interview with the Guardian, Brownback said that the US has been “in discussion” with Riyadh about its response to China, but did not single out the Saudis for criticism, arguing it was an issue for the whole Islamic world.

He applauded Turkey for taking a outspoken approach, and “a number of western countries that have spoken out aggressively on this”.

But Brownback, a former Kansas governor, added: “I have been disappointed that more Islamic countries have not spoken out. I know the Chinese have been threatening them and but you don’t back down to somebody that does that. That just encourages more actions.

“If China is not stopped from doing this they’re going to replicate and push this system out in their own country and to other authoritarian regimes,” he said.

Brownback did not specify what kind of threats China is alleged to have made, but after the Turkish foreign ministry called the incarceration of Uighurs a “great shame for humanity”, China scaled down diplomatic ties and warned of damaged economic relations.

Brownback suggested another reason for reticence of some governments in the Islamic world was they felt vulnerable on their own record on religious rights.

“I think a number of who are concerned about their own human rights record and then they’re saying look: we don’t want people criticizing us [so] we’re not going to criticize somebody else,” he said.

But Brownback said he was hopeful that governments would increasingly come under pressure from their own people to take a stand on the abuses in China.

“I think as more information gets out and particularly as it gets out to the population in some of these places that you’ll see more of their governments act and react,” he said.

Source: US envoy decries lack of foreign response to China’s attack on Islam

HASSAN: What Michael Cooper got right and why

Andrew Coyne captured the issues better (see below):

We tend to place individuals and ideologies in neat, homogeneous compartments, when shades of grey better convey the reality.

This seems to have happened in the controversy surrounding the tiff between Faisal Khan Suri, president of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, and Conservative MP Michael Cooper – an exchange which led to the latter’s eviction from a Commons committee.

Cooper stated that lumping conservatism with extremist white nationalist factions was objectionable and defamatory. Suri then accused Cooper of insensitivity when Cooper read out passages from Christchurch terrorist Brenton Tarrant’s manifesto, which has been banned in New Zealand. Cooper simply wanted to demonstrate that Tarrant claimed to have been influenced by China and that he didn’t identify with conservatism.

In effect, Cooper was asserting that white nationalism and conservatism are two separate ideologies. He is right and there is plenty of evidence for this here in Canada.

Andrew Scheer has denounced racist factions by stating that “people know the Conservative Party is open and welcoming … we denounce any elements of society that would promote hate speech.”

Also, just as mainstream conservatism cannot be pigeonholed with extremist white nationalism, neither can most Muslims be automatically associated with the ideologies of extreme jihadist factions. Conservatives understand this, which is shown by the fact that Maxine Bernier’s far-right People’s Party has garnered little support.

Admittedly, white nationalists have in the past leaned towards the political right, and this has created the false impression that white supremacists are an outgrowth of legitimate and peaceful conservatism. A stigma attaches to conservative parties because the alt-right and violent white nationalists have supported them, such as the notion that Ku Klux Klan supporters overwhelmingly leaned Republican in the 2016 U.S. election.

The desire to promote and value the best in what is Western is imperative and therefore commendable, and moderate conservatives see this has no connection with race. What is Western now is far more racially fluid and diverse than what white nationalist extremists perceive. For example, many of us from non-white communities have come to appreciate Canadian values because we have been fully accepted here.

The perception that everything associated with the West is necessarily exclusive to white culture – a notion at the heart of white nationalism – is often anathema to mainstream conservatives.

Millions of us have migrated to open and enlightened Western nations from foreign lands with different traditions. We have come to adopt and appreciate the tolerance our adopted nations have created and honed. Contrary to what some may feel, even a significant segment of Canadian Muslims endorse Western values.

The inclusive democracies that the Western world has built are based on principles of pluralism, human dignity and universal human rights. Enlightened campaigners have engineered this type of society, but liberal principles can be appreciated only by those liberal enough to value them. While some migrants from traditional and patriarchal communities have shown little respect for our open societies, the majority of immigrants are well integrated and law-abiding.

Our values are worth preserving but they need to be seen through a non-racial lens that includes many of us from non-white cultures.

The long-term success of moderate conservatism depends on how far our community can abandon the notion that values are narrow and relative, rooted within the culture of a particular racial group.

Michael Cooper was not insensitive to allude to the Christchurch shooter’s so-called manifesto. He is right to insist that it is a slur to draw any link between those hateful beliefs and established conservative ideas.

Source: HASSAN: What Michael Cooper got right and why

Coyne’s masterful writing what Cooper could and should have said:

The Commons justice committee’s hearings into the problem of online hate were thrown into chaos last week after a Conservative MP, Michael Cooper, rounded on a witness for suggesting terrorists like the one who murdered 51 Muslims at prayer in Christchurch, New Zealand, earlier this year had been influenced, not just by anti-immigrant and alt-right sites, but by “conservative commentators.”

After admonishing the witness, Faisal Khan Suri, president of the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, that he should be “ashamed” of his “defamatory” comments, Cooper read into the record portions of the gunman’s manifesto in which he denounced conservatism and expressed admiration for the Communist dictatorship in China. Needless to say this did not help his cause.

Much of the subsequent reaction was overblown, not a little of it for partisan gain — Cooper is not a racist and does not deserve to be expelled from caucus, as Liberal MP Randy Boissonault demanded. Still, I wonder if Cooper might have been able to make his point in a better way…

“Mr. Suri, there is a well-known rule of argument known as the principle of charity, which obliges us to put the best construction on our opponents’ words and not the worst.

Accordingly, I’m going to assume that when you included ‘conservative commentators’ in your list of terrorist influencers you did not mean to attribute responsibility for terrorist atrocities to mainstream conservatives, or to conservatism, which is an honourable creed professed by millions of Canadians.

It’s particularly important to make this distinction in the current debate. As a conservative I wish to conserve the best traditions of our history, one of which is freedom of speech, but because I do not wish to ban hate speech should not be taken to mean that I have any sympathy with those who propagate it.

Sadly, too many of our opponents have been too quick to make such a slanderous connection, not only suggesting that terrorists were inspired by conservative writings — as if a madman could not find inspiration in anything — but that conservatives are themselves by nature anti-immigrant, racist, white supremacist, and worse. It is dishonest, it is despicable, and it should stop.

But if we are honest with ourselves, conservatives must take some responsibility for this state of affairs. Like any political movement conservatism has its extreme or fringe elements, and of late across much of the democratic world the latter have been on the rise, feeding on public unease over immigration, exploiting fears of Islamist terrorism, and appealing to resentment of “globalist” elites.

These fears and resentments have proven fertile soil for opportunistic politicians, so-called “populists” promising to defend “the people” from whatever it is that is not “the people” if only they are given power — only power that, due to the gravity of the alleged threat, must not be impaired by the usual restrictions of a democratic opposition, a free press, or an independent judiciary.

This dark, authoritarian impulse, most fully embodied in the person of Donald Trump, has nothing whatever to do with the sunny optimism of Ronald Reagan or the limited government of Margaret Thatcher. Conservativism is about freedom; populism is about fear. Indeed, populism is not just different from conservatism. It is its opposite. Where conservatives see people as individuals, it divides society into Us and Them.

Where conservatives believe in empowering the people, whether through the deliberative institutions of democratic government or the consumer sovereignty of the market, populism teaches the people to place their faith in strongmen. And where conservatism seeks to uphold the Western liberal inheritance, these new populists’ hatred of liberalism and of liberal elites has led them into a kind of nihilism, in which whatever gets a rise out of liberals — or decent-minded conservatives —is to be desired for its own sake.

At the worst edge of this movement are avowed racists and neo-Nazis, liberated from the margins of public discourse by social media and emboldened by the discovery therein of others of like mind. But scarcely better are those who, seizing on the actions or beliefs of a few extremists to harass and demonize ordinary Muslims, or who interpret freedom of speech, which is a restraint on government, as a licence to say whatever hurtful or idiotic thing comes into their head, without censure or even responsibility.

I was tempted to say that you should be ashamed of yourself for linking conservatives, even inadvertently, to racism and extremism. But as I reflect on it, it is we conservatives who ought to feel shame — shame that such vile opportunists should be able to parade about as ‘conservatives,’ but even more, shame that mainstream conservative parties have been so unwilling to denounce or distance themselves from them.

A cancer has taken root in conservative parties across the West — witness the Brexit madness in Britain, or the Republican surrender to Trumpism — and conservative leaders have too often been too slow to cut it out. Even in this country, conservative leaders have not only failed to confront the populist threat, but have in some cases actively pandered to it — stoking fears about Muslims, as in the infamous “barbaric practices” snitch line during the last election, or pretending a difficult but manageable problem — the influx of asylum seekers at irregular points across our southern border — was a five-alarm ‘crisis.’

And so I want to thank you, Mr. Suri, for this opportunity to set the record straight — to say that this sort of thing has nothing to do with conservatism, and to urge my party to return to its roots as the party of free markets, limited government and equal opportunity. And with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield the floor.”

Source: https://nationalpost.com/opinion/andrew-coyne-what-michael-cooper-should-have-said

5 Takeaways About The Trump Administration’s Response To Far-Right Extremism

Of note:

Lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee questioned senior FBI and Homeland Security officials this week about their response to white supremacist violence.

This was the latest in a series of hearings, led by Democrats, to gauge the Trump administration’s commitment to fighting a threat that federal agencies deem the most lethal and active form of domestic extremism.

There were no bombshell revelations, but lawmakers did get a few details on some key questions.

Here are five takeaways:

There is no national policy to combat the far-right threat

Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Maryland Democrat who led the hearing, started by asking what he called the fundamental question: “Do we have an overall strategic plan to counter and prevent the threat of white supremacist violence? I fear the answer is no.”

Raskin was right. After more than two hours of questioning, it was clear that, unlike the government’s quick and sweeping response to Islamist militant groups, there’s no comparable national strategy to fight white supremacist and other far-right movements.

Elizabeth Neumann, a senior threat prevention official at Homeland Security, told lawmakers that federal authorities were still adapting to the evolution of both far-right and Islamist extremists: They now self-radicalize online, with little or no direction from organized groups like al-Qaida, which had a clear hierarchy and staged attacks that took months or years to plan.

“Our post-9/11 prevention capabilities, as robust as they are, were not designed to deal with this type of threat,” Neumann said.

She said Homeland Security was developing “a prevention framework” to be implemented in coming years, but she offered no details. Raskin, the lawmaker, said it was “very late in the game” to still be in the development stage of a national strategy, given the deadly far-right attacks in Charleston, S.C., Pittsburgh, Charlottesville, Va. and elsewhere.

Neumann said the delay is partly because “things haven’t been institutionalized” through legislation, an executive order or a national security presidential memorandum focused on domestic terrorism. She noted that the Obama administration also lacked those tools.

“We know we’re not doing enough,” Neumann said.

Federal agents do take this seriously – even if the White House doesn’t

President Donald Trump consistently downplays the threat of white nationalist extremism, which he’s dismissed as “a small group of people.”

Michael McGarrity, assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division, bristled when lawmakers suggested that, given the apparent disinterest from the top, federal authorities might not be taking the far-right threat seriously enough. McGarrity bluntly stated, more than once, that racially motivated violent extremists are the deadliest and most active of domestic terrorists.

“We’re not playing with the numbers here,” McGarrity said. “We arrest more domestic terrorism subjects [before they stage an] attack in the United States than we do international terrorism.”

He said the FBI is using many of the same tactics historically used to thwart international groups like the Islamic State: working sources, staging undercover operations and asking courts to authorize wiretaps. McGarrity added that the FBI considers racially motivated extremists a transnational threat, and that the agency shares intelligence with counterterrorism partners overseas.

Homeland Security won’t say much about its prevention effort

In 2015, Homeland Security opened a small office devoted to an approach known as “CVE,” countering violent extremism. The idea is to use community partnerships and other tools to interrupt the radicalization process before it turns to violence. Critics call it ineffective, and say it leads to the stigmatization and surveillance of ordinary Muslims.

Under the Trump administration, the CVE-focused office lost about 90 percent of its old budget and about half its staff, and it’s been renamed twice to signal a shift away from community partnership work. (Some Muslim activists joke that scrapping CVE was the only Trump administration move they supported.)

But it might be premature to declare the government’s CVE program dead. Neumann said CVE-style prevention work will be part of a broad counterterrorism strategy that Homeland Security plans to have ready by this fall. But she gave few details about the program or what’s going on with the restructured office that’s supposed to handle it.

“There’s still more questions than answers at this point,” Raskin complained. “What are the office’s precise functions? Who’s in charge? How many personnel will be assigned to prevent white supremacy violence?”

Debate is heating up over a domestic terrorism law

If a U.S.-based suspect is accused of involvement with an international terrorist organization such as ISIS or al-Qaida, prosecutors have an array of charges to consider that aren’t available for most cases involving white supremacist suspects.

Without a domestic terrorism statute, said McGarrity of the FBI, authorities are restricted as to how much they can police speech and conduct that’s offensive, but protected under the First Amendment.

“The FBI does not investigate rallies or protests unless there’s a credible belief that violent criminal activity may be occurring,” he said.

In some quarters of Congress, support is building for a domestic terrorism statute, ostensibly to correct the double standard in extremist prosecutions. But several rights groups already have rejected the idea, arguing that enforcing existing laws is better than giving even more power to federal authorities.

This debate is one to watch in coming months.

It’s official: Black Identity Extremism is no longer a thing

In the early months of the Trump administration, a leaked FBI report warned about a new kind of homegrown threat: black identity extremists.

The warning reportedly came after six unrelated attacks on police around the country; the FBI portrayed the threat as “an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement” by people with “perceptions of police brutality against African Americans.”

The claim was widely endorsed by conservative news media outlets but viewed with equally widespread skepticism as a move reminiscent of the FBI’s demonization of black activists in the civil rights era.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a Democrat from Massachusetts, asked McGarrity if there’s a single killing the FBI could link to Black Lives Matter or similar activist groups. McGarrity’s reply: “To my knowledge, right now, no.”

Pressley continued her attack on “this absurd designation” until McGarrity divulged that the category had been retired at the FBI.

“The designation no longer exists?” Pressley asked, sounding skeptical.

“It hasn’t existed since I’ve been here for 17 months,” McGarrity answered.

To recap: The FBI created a new category of threat and two years later quietly abandoned it without explanation.

Source: 5 Takeaways About The Trump Administration’s Response To Far-Right Extremism

Pedophiles, anti-vaxxers, homophobes: YouTube’s algorithm caters to them all

Denise Balkissoon on the business models driving some of the hate:

Social-media platforms appear to be having an amorality contest, and this week it was YouTube’s turn to shrug at the harm that it’s caused.

On Monday, the New York Times reported that the platform failed to protect children from people who sexualize them, even though it has known about the problem for months. When prompted with a search for erotic videos, YouTube’s recommendation algorithm is still serving up images of increasingly young children doing what should be innocuous, such as playing in swimsuits or doing gymnastics.

The next day, Vox journalist Carlos Maza received a reply to his complaints about being targeted by a YouTube vlogger who he said had spent years aiming homophobic, racist and hateful insults at him. The vlogger has almost 4 million subscribers, some of whom allegedly targeted Mr. Maza across multiple platforms and in his personal inbox with death threats and threats to release his personal information online.

Even so, replied YouTube, “while we found language that was clearly hurtful, the videos as posted don’t violate our policies.” Which is confusing, since those policies advise users not to post content that “makes hurtful and negative personal comments/videos about another person” or that “incites others to harass or threaten individuals on or off YouTube.”

Every major social-media platform – Twitter, Facebook, Reddit – has played a part in creating this age of disinformation and extremism. But unlike the other platforms, YouTube shares the ad money it makes with content creators: Tech journalist Julia Carrie Wong argues that it’s effectively their employer, whether it accepts that title or not. That means the platform is directly delivering rewards to its creators, including those who propagate prejudice, creepiness and lies. In fact, it even helps them spread their message.

Some inside the company have tried to solve the issue. In April, Bloombergpublished a story for which it interviewed “scores of employees” who said they had long known that the site’s recommendation algorithm was leading people toward “false, incendiary and toxic content.”

But senior executives, including chief executive officer Susan Wojcicki, seem to be so focused on the advertising money that YouTube’s audience brings in that they ignore the well-being of those same users. They dismissed these warnings, along with suggestions of how to counter the problem. The site’s growth depends on “engagement,” after all – the raw amount of time people stare at the screen. And what keeps them there is a recommendation engine that pushes out increasingly extreme or explicit content.

At the 2018 South by Southwest conference, Bloomberg reported, Ms. Wojcicki defended the problematic content YouTube hosts by comparing the platform to a library. “There have always been controversies, if you look back at libraries,” she said.

But YouTube isn’t a bookshelf. It’s a billion-dollar bookseller, promoting some of the hundreds of millions of stories in its possession over others. Its algorithm doesn’t ignore, or even bury, the factless ramblings of vaccine-science deniers (including at least one in Montreal, a city now seeing an uptick in measles cases). No, it lifts them out of its infinite catalogue and thrusts them out into the world, with the book cover facing out and an “Audience Favourite” sticker slapped on the front.

Revelations of this kind of social-media irresponsibility now lead, reliably, to a certain kind of reaction: the patchwork, flip-flopping, half-measure responses that platforms think will fool us into believing they care. After learning that pedophiles were using comment sections to try to goad children into exploiting themselves, YouTube took comments off of some, but not all, videos featuring children. When Mr. Maza’s situation led to a huge outcry, YouTube “demonetized” the vlogger in question, cutting off his access to ad revenue without a clear explanation about why it was changing its decision, or when and how the revenue might be reinstituted. The criticism continues, as does the company’s inadequate solutions; now YouTube is demonetizing or removing creators it deems extremist entirely, interfering with documentary makers and researchers in the process, and putting itself at risk of being criticized for interfering with free speech.

Free speech is a political issue. Free amplification, though, is a business decision that YouTube is actively making. Which is why the one response that insiders, observers and experts have long advocated continues to be ignored: designing a new, more ethical recommendation algorithm that doesn’t reward repugnant behaviour.

Doing so would reduce traffic, and therefore revenue, for creators, a spokesperson told the Times this week. Somehow, though, she didn’t get around to pointing out that the bulk of that money ends up with YouTube.

Source: Pedophiles, anti-vaxxers, homophobes: YouTube’s algorithm caters to them all: Denise Balkissoon

Are Sweden, Norway and New Zealand really the most Islamic countries?

Hadn’t heard of this before. Like all indices, depends on the indicators and their weighting, an OIC index or a Salafist one would have a different ranking:

Each year the Islamicity Foundation, a U.S.-based non-profit organisation, publishes an index of which countries comply most with Islamic teaching.

Each year countries such as Sweden, Norway and New Zealand top the Islamicity Index, but many Muslim countries do not do so well. The overall ranking is made up of scores in four areas according to the principles of the Quran; economic, legal and governance, human and political rights and international relations.

But is it correct to define these standards as being Islamic? The same standards are also endorsed by other belief systems such as socialism, Christianity and Buddhism. Values such as integrity, justice, honesty and peace are not the monopoly of a specific religion or ideology. Given that, it is also possible to declare countries like Norway or New Zealand as the most socialist or Buddhist countries in the world.

The countries that top the Islamicity Index also do well in the United Nations’ Human Development Index.

The Islamicity index also reads the Quran selectively. For example, it is not clear how the index weighs aspects of Islamic law in matters such as gender equality, the freedom to change religion and Islamic punishment. Thus it is not clear how countries like Norway and New Zealand are seen as the most Islamic when they recognise gay marriage for example.

New Zealand, rated by the Islamicity Index as the Islamic country, has a prime minister who gave birth out of wedlock while in office. I do not think there is any recognised interpretation of Islam that would concede that a woman has the right to have baby out of wedlock, let alone remain in the highest office while doing so.

While the Islamicity Index defines Islamic values in terms such as justice and rights, in the Muslim world it is more often defined by adherence to ritual. Being Islamic in the Muslim world is firstly about praying five times a day and performing other forms of worships. Today no mainstream interpretation of Islam endorses a religiosity based on morality without an emphasis on ritual. There is almost no Islamic approach that is ready to label a person as religious or pious only by judging their morality independent of whether they perform prayers five times a day. Islamic orthodoxy is clear today: If you are not performing five times prayer, you are not religious. Contemporary Islam has almost been transformed into a religion of ritual and worship rather than morality.

That is the value of the Islamicity Index – to remind Muslims that Islam is firstly about moral values rather than ritual.

Source: Are Sweden, Norway and New Zealand really the most Islamic countries?

The first Chinese-Australian female MP hopes to unite divided community after historic win

One wonders what took them so long (the first Chinese Canadian MP was Douglas Jung, a Conservative MP elected in the Diefenbaker landslide of 1957):

Liberal candidate Gladys Liu has been officially announced as the winner in the Victorian seat of Chisholm — making her the first ever Chinese-Australian female member of Federal Parliament’s Lower House.

Key points:

  • Roughly 20 per cent of the population in the seat of Chisholm are of Chinese ancestry
  • Ms Liu beat out Labor’s candidate with a margin of 1,100 votes
  • If a Labor challenge is successful, it could trigger a by-election in Chisholm

Speaking for the first time after being declared the winner, Ms Liu said she was thrilled to have won what was one of the election’s tightest contests.

Ms Liu beat Labor’s candidate and fellow Chinese-Australian Jennifer Yang by just 1,100 votes to gain the crucial multicultural seat.

She praised her team for their deep commitment to her campaign and said she received a great welcome when she arrived in Canberra to take up her historic new role.

“It is a great addition to a great team, because not only am I female but I can speak … two other languages, and also I am coming from a different ethnic background and that will enrich not only the country but also the parliamentary setting,” she said.

The challenges of a divided community

Ms Liu was born in Hong Kong, but the former speech pathologist has put down roots in Chisholm since moving to Australia three decades ago.

Roughly 20 per cent of the population in the seat of Chisholm are of Chinese ancestry, but the community is heavily divided along politcal lines.

Ms Liu won the seat with just 50.58 per cent of the vote over Ms Yang who gained 49.42 per cent for Labor.

Ms Liu seemed unfazed by the narrow margin, saying “no one party can have 100 per cent support”, and the split vote among the Chinese community was “consistent with the voting trend in the country”.

“In terms of the political awareness … a lot of Chinese have shown interest in different political parties, their values, their policies,” she said. “I think this a great achievement and improvement from the whole community.”

Ms Liu said her goal was to represent everyone in the community “whether they voted for me or not”.

“This is one of my jobs — to make sure they are well represented and their voices are heard in Canberra,” she said.

Accusations of dirty tactics

But Ms Liu’s win has been called into question by Labor party officials.

Last month, she had to fend off accusations of using dirty tactics during the campaign after the ABC revealed she had posted a how-to-vote card on Chinese social media platform WeChat.

Ms Liu at first denied authorising the material, but the ABC recorded information showing she posted the how-to-vote card under her own WeChat account at the end of April.

“I feel there were a lot of nitty gritty, some minor things or even non issues and some lies as well.”

The message told voters to “copy exactly as it is to avoid an informal vote”, suggesting any other preferencing would result in an invalid ballot.

The Labor Party is set to challenge Ms Liu’s win,alleging such material was designed to confuse voters into voting for the Liberals.

If a Labor challenge was successful, it could trigger a by-election in Chisholm.

But Ms Liu said she only posted material that was “authorised by the Liberal Party headquarters” and she had “no control” over what her supporters posted.

When challenged over the how-to-vote card, Ms Liu responded, “What’s wrong with that? All parties do that”.

As for her political future, Ms Liu said her “priority is to serve Chisholm and represent them”.

When asked if she will be running for minister she replied, “Let me go to Federal Parliament for the first sitting and see how it goes.”

first Chinese-Australian female MP hopes to unite divided community after historic win ABC News Liberal candidate Gladys Liu has today been officially announced as the winner in the Victorian seat of Chisolm — making her the first ever Chinese-Australian female member of Federal Parliament’s Lower House.

Source: The first Chinese-Australian female MP hopes to unite divided community after historic win

Vancouver Has Been Transformed By Chinese Immigrants

Getting more international attention:

When you cross over the Granville Street Bridge that winds into downtown Vancouver, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in Hong Kong. The skyline has the same ribbon of gleaming apartment towers hugging the waterfront, and similar mountains in the distance.

There is also an unabashed display of wealth, readily apparent in the city’s Kitsilano neighborhood. Within a few short blocks, you can find dealerships for some of the world’s most expensive cars: Lamborghini, Ferrari, Rolls-Royce and Aston Martin, among others.

At the front of the McLaren showroom are four sleek, high-performance sports cars, known as supercars. Wilson Ng, an account manager with McLaren Automotive, gently runs his hand over one of the 570GT models. “They’re starting around $200,000 to up to $250,000 to $300,000,” he says, up to about $222,000 in U.S. dollars.

That’s for one of the cheaper models in this showroom. The most expensive runs about CA$1 million ($740,587) — the Vancouver showroom sold six last year. Ng says there’s a big market in Vancouver. Most customers are foreign.

“There is a large amount of Asian [supercar buyers], including mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, East India, Singapore … so a lot of foreign money,” he says.

Ng says the supercar market in Vancouver started to really take off around 2010, when China’s economy was red-hot. Wealthy Asian immigrants and investors also started buying up businesses and property in the city. The result has been a real estate market now out of reach for many residents, something that is straining the city’s reputation for welcoming newcomers.

A magnet for immigrants

Marianne Wu first came from China to Vancouver as a student seven years ago and now works in marketing and translating. The 27-year-old says she loves the city, just received her permanent residency card and bought a two-bedroom condo downtown.

“You know, people really want to own something because that’s where their security comes from,” she says. Owning property is deeply rooted in Chinese culture, she says, but the government in Beijing doesn’t allow people to own the land their homes are built on.

Wu says her family back in China helped her buy a home in Vancouver. “They push me to buy a property here,” she says. “They want me to have a stable life, which everybody wants.”

Vancouver has long been a magnet for immigrants from all over the world. It is one of Canada’s most diverse cities and prides itself on its multiculturalism. Immigrants began arriving from China in the late 1800s, when laborers came to help build the trans-Canada railway. Shortly after its completion, Canada began cracking down on Chinese immigrants, and banned most of them in the early 1920s.

Half a century later, those policies changed and Canada began encouraging Chinese professionals and entrepreneurs to come. About 20% of Vancouver’s population now identifies as ethnic Chinese.

Don’t see the graphic above? Click here.

The Chinese community has made a positive contribution to Vancouver, says Henry Yu, a historian at the University of British Columbia.

“You’ll see hospital wings, you’ll see at UBC, the Chan Centre for [the] Performing Arts. There are Chinese names on all of the institutions of arts and culture,” he says.

Yu says there was a surge of Chinese immigrants and investment in the Vancouver region in the 1990s, when there was concern over what would happen in 1997, the year Britain handed sovereignty of Hong Kong back to China.

Source: Vancouver Has Been Transformed By Chinese Immigrants

The Legault government is dividing Quebec: Excluding Montreal and Millenials

A bit of a rant but some merit to the distinction between Montreal and the rest of Quebec as well as millennials and older generations:

For the first time in the history of Quebec, the provincial government has no senior ministers and only two elected representatives from the island of Montreal, and it shows.

Nothing makes this more evident than Bill 21, the secularism law proposed by the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government that is especially contentious for banning certain public workers from wearing religious symbols. Notable among them are teachers and school principals, police officers, judges, Crown prosecutors and prison guards.

In an attempt to pre-empt litigation, the government has invoked the notwithstanding clause that allows the Government of Quebec to override portions of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Putting a lid on debate on the bill, the CAQ limited public hearings to six days, ending May 16, 2019. The CAQ indicated it would use closure to limit debate in the legislature, in hopes of speedy adoption by June 15th at the latest.

On April 15, 2019, Montreal City Council in rare unanimity adopted a resolution condemning Bill 21. The resolution was introduced by Lionel Perez, who wears a kippa and is the leader of the opposition Ensemble Montreal. Perez said he is as Québécois as any other resident of Quebec and was warmly applauded by council members. Shortly before the meeting, Mayor Valérie Plante and Perez held a joint press conference to present their common position.

Proposed law generating tensions

Testifying at legislative hearings on May 14, 2019, Plante made a passionate plea on grounds the law stigmatizes the most vulnerable women in society. She noted that unemployment among female immigrants in Quebec is twice that of other women. She said the bill generates tensions in the province. Plante also said the law would be difficult to apply because it is unclear what is meant by religious symbols. She argued against using the notwithstanding clause, saying the law should be solid enough to withstand challenges in the courts.

Montreal’s largest and most multicultural francophone school board in Quebec, Commission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM), produced a report implying Bill 21 cannot be implemented without creating an unmanageable administrative burden that could not be justified. The board declared that the bill doesn’t correspond with reality in that it has many employees who are not teachers and would not be subject to the legislation. Among them are specialists in learning disabilities and day care service providers. That was echoed at the legislative hearings by Alain Fortier of the Fédération des commissions scolaires du Québec, (Quebec school board federation).

Jean-Claude Hébert, a criminal lawyer and a familiar face in Quebec francophone media, indicated that jurisprudence is such that the proposed law would be the object of many court battles despite the notwithstanding clause.

Pierre Bosset, a jurist from the Université du Québec à Montréal, noted that while changes to the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms have been based on substantive research and unanimous or near unanimous support in the National Assembly, such is not the case with Bill 21.

At the hearings on May 8, Gérald Bouchard, who co-presided over the 2007 hearings on Bouchard-Taylor Commission on reasonable accommodations, concurred with the City of Montreal that CAQ had not justified the use of the notwithstanding clause. Bouchard argued that the government had offered absolutely no evidence to support assertions by Premier François Legault and Simon Jolin-Barrette, minister of inclusion, diversity and immigration, that the wearing of religious symbols by teachers constitutes religious indoctrination on impressionable children.

Settling accounts with a bygone era

In a response to Bouchard’s testimony at the Parliamentary hearings, Guy Rocher, a 95-year-old sociologist who is well-known in Quebec, insisted that permitting religious symbols in schools would lead to a return to the era of the defunct confessional school systems. In that era school boards were based on either the Catholic or Protestant religions, rather than language, as they are today.

Rocher claimed that Quebec, having experienced an era when highly visible Catholic religious symbols were worn by teachers, must not risk having a dictatorship of minority religions imposed on the majority. But Rocher did not offer any evidence to support his conclusions, saying the methodology and data on this matter do not exist.

Yet many in Quebec’s francophone community share this fear, having had the Church-ridden era embedded in their psyche the way residential schools are ingrained in the memories of Canada’s Aboriginal communities. For many older francophones, Bill 21 is a matter of settling accounts with a bygone Catholic monopoly on the francophone school system. A perverse impact of Bill 21 could be more children going to private confessional schools where the legislation does not apply, despite public subsidies.

Bouchard said the notwithstanding clause should only be used for exceptional situations to better protect rights, such as the language legislation to assure the survival of French as the language of the majority in Quebec, in the North American context. Bill 21 suppresses rights, thus portraying Quebec as disrespectful of a decent democratic society, he said. Evidence of a tarnished international portrait of Quebec is in reports by the New York Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian. Bouchard projected that the bill would cultivate tensions between francophone and non-francophone communities.

Bouchard’s analyses of tensions are reflected in an Angus-Reid survey showing that while 64 per cent of Quebecers support the proposed bill, 57 per cent don’t think the ban should be applied to someone wearing a crucifix. By contrast, only seven per cent think that a hijab should be exempt from a ban. This Islamophobia indicator was confirmed by Charles Taylor, of the above noted Bouchard-Taylor Commission and professor emeritus at McGill University. He said Bill 21 has fueled toxic comments about Muslims in social media and warned that studies show hate incidents were encouraged by election campaigns based on ethnic restrictions in France, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Geographical and generational divides

Also, differences in levels of xenophobia are inter-generational, in addition to reflecting a divide between Montreal and other regions of the province.

The Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), one of the largest unions in Québec, expressed opposition at the legislative hearings to applying Bill 21 to teachers. When questioned as to why the CSN supported the 2013 Parti Québécois proposed secular legislation, the Charter of Values, CSN president Jacques Létourneau said it is a generational thing, the new wave of CSN people having replaced older activists. A CROP survey supports this analysis, with support for Bill 21 restrictions on teachers at 55-56 per cent of those older than 55, much higher than the 28 per cent among respondents aged 18-34.

On a May 6 segment of Le Téléjournal, the Radio-Canada equivalent to the CBC national news, the views of multicultural adolescents in a Montreal francophone school were compared with those of a francophone school in the small municipalitiy of Matane in Eastern Quebec. The Montreal students totally opposed Bill 21 application to teachers while the Matane students were divided. Those against Bill 21 in the Matane group conveyed it is an inter-generational difference of opinion, the older generation fearing a return of confessional schools while the current generation of students have no such fears.

A poll showed differences among the non-francophone minority and the francophone majority. Inclusion of teachers in the religious symbol ban is supported by 69 per cent of francophones but only 22-23 per cent of non-francophones. Only 22 per cent of francophones has a positive opinion on wearing the hijab, whereas 46 per cent of anglophones and 52 of allophones (groups other than francophones and anglophones) share a positive opinion.

A contributing factor to the linguistic contrast is that most of Quebec’s regions are nearly entirely francophone with very few immigrants, while Montreal is multicultural. It is important to make a linguistic clarification here in that francophones in multicultural Montreal are not necessarily aligned with francophones in regions, as is evident in the City of Montreal’s unanimous resolution, by francophone and non-francophone representatives alike, opposing Bill 21.

At the hearings on May 14, the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) pledged to contest the legislation based on a 1990 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Mahé v. Alberta. The court ruled that minority education rights are such that, French-language schools in Alberta had full authority to recruit and assign teachers and other personnel, as they see fit. The QESBA argued that the Bill 21 notwithstanding clause would not hold up to article 23 on minority rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This could be a Pandora’s Box that would bring down the law.

Ironically, the law would encourage new arrivals to associate with the anglophone community where they would be more readily accepted as equals. That is, the consequences of implementing Bill 21 could undermine the goals of Quebec parties of all stripes to make Quebec as much a multicultural francophone society where French is the common language of use in a mixed mother-tongue context, as English is the common language of use in multicultural English Canada.

Immigration quotas compound divisions

Compounding the divisiveness, the CAQ wants to reduce the quota of new immigrants received per year by 20 per cent, which Mayor Plante strongly opposes. She highlighted Quebec’s shortage of employees to fill vacant positions as an impediment to economic development. The vast majority of new immigrants to Quebec, 90 per cent, take up residence in the Montreal area. But Labour Minister Jean Boulet prefers to address the matter with incentives for those aged 60 and older, to stay at their job, or return to work from retirement.

Plante is at odds with the CAQ government on transportation too. The first CAQ budget allocated 70 per cent of transport financing to road construction and 30 per cent to public transit. Plante’s position is this ratio should be inverted, similar to that in Ontario. CAQ’s priority is to widen and prolong major highways and add a third link across the St. Lawrence River between Quebec and its southern suburb Lévis.

Regarding the expansion of a planned 67 kilometre light train network, Réseau Express Montréal (REM), the CAQ administration said it will have the last word. The government prefers expansion to the suburbs where CAQ candidates won seats, instead of adhering to a long-term plan of the Montreal regional transport organization made up of elected representatives, l’Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM).

The government position is that the ARTM should have an advisory role only. Plante wants the ARTM to be in charge, having indicated that the CAQ plans would increase overcrowding on the subway network. In her election campaign, Plante proposed a Métro Pink Line, from a station in northwest Montreal to Lachine in the southwest, to relieve saturation on a line from suburban Laval to downtown. Premier Legault dismissed this option, although CAQ may be softening its stance by committing $5 million to study solutions to congestion during peak hours on the eastern Orange Line.

Combining CAQ transport and immigration dividing lines, under Bill 17, CAQ plans to allow anyone to provide a taxi service in Quebec. This initiative would bring an abrupt end to the system of taxi permits which controls the supply of taxis to assure Quebec’s taxi drivers, particularly in Montreal, can make a decent living. As it happens, many Montreal taxi drivers are immigrants.

The Bureau de Taxi de Montréal and the City of Montreal are on the same wavelength against Bill 17, but Quebec Transport Minister François Bonnardel wants the free market to prevail. And similar to the scenario with Bill 21 on secularism, CAQ offered no evidence to substantiate its position while the government’s own preliminary report concluded Bill 17 would spell the demise of the industry.

When one puts pieces of the puzzle together, it is clear that the CAQ wants to impose its own inward-looking nationalism, dividing Quebec as never before, with multicultural Montreal and millennials to suffer the consequences.

Source: The Legault government is dividing Quebec: Excluding Montreal and Millenials