Palmater: The PPC got more than 800,000 votes, and that should worry all of us

Not to dismiss the increase, but may be premature to make a definitive assessment given the uniqueness of the various factors involved. But we always knew that a percentage of voters had more extreme views or felt disconnected, with the PPC providing a vehicle for that discontent:

The Liberals held a snap election in the middle of a pandemic, rolling the dice to gain a majority government, and they lost. Although the votes are still being counted, 320 of the 338 seats have been confirmed, and while the Liberals held on to their minority government status, they look to only gain one additional seat. At an approximate cost of $610 million dollars—which does not include the costs borne by Canadians to travel to their voting station or arrange child care while they stood in line for hours—this election, by any measure, cost far more than it was worth. However, the results did reveal a growing threat to public safety that has been largely unaddressed—the rise of far-right groups who have used the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic to gain support.

While most political analysts were focused on whether the Liberals would hold on to their minority government, something else was happening throughout election night: the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) popular vote count continued to rise. In fact, they more than doubled the votes for the Green Party. In 2019, the PPC had almost 300,000 votes. But this election, at last count, the current total is more than 800,000—more than double that of two years ago. While none of the candidates in the PPC—not even leader Maxime Bernier—has won a seat, the party has been able rally the angry anti-maskers and those opposed to pandemic health measures under their far-right umbrella. A closer look at some of those who’ve joined the party include those who were rejected by the Conservative party or gained some degree of notoriety from racist rhetoric, or are opposed to pandemic health protections. And almost a million Canadians support them.

Although the rise of far-right populist rhetoric and groups is not unique to Canada, the federal government has been largely silent about the public safety risk it poses to Canadians—especially Black, Indigenous, and racialized people and women. Hate crimes have increased by 37 per cent in the last year and the proliferation of online hate groups in Canada is of particular concern. According to recent international studies, Canadians are among the most active in online right-wing extremism, which includes spreading racist, white supremacist and misogynistic views, and plotting acts of violence. While the United States has received the bulk of media attention for the rise in far-right ideology and violence in their country, the disturbing fact is, that Canada produces more far-right online content per web user than any other country. The violent inclinations, and ability to wield social media to recruit and radicalize younger Canadians, must be understood more broadly than the current lens of trying to address individual hate crimes: this is a group mentality

The PPC platform contained just the right combination of commitments to speak to those with far-right ideologies, anti-Indigenous views, pandemic gripes and pro-gun attitudes, including their promises to maximize freedom of expression (allow more hate speech); cut funding to universities if they silence those espousing hateful views; cut funding for CBC; cut funding for foreign aide; and lower the number of immigrants and stop the flow of refugees into Canada.

Beneath the surface of these promises are deeply embedded racist views against non-white people which would be bolstered by their plan to repeal multiculturalism laws and cut funding for multiculturalism with a view to forcing integration into Canadian society and culture. This together with the party’s promise to end the ban on military style weapons, is a recipe for disaster that appears to be gaining traction in Canada. While some may see individual incidents of Proud Boys and other white supremacist groups as one-off incidents, we know they are part of a larger phenomenon that is loosely rallying around the PPC. This Liberal minority government must look beyond the politics of the vote count and the fact that neither Bernier nor any of his candidates won any seats and consider carefully at what 800,000 votes for the PPC means in terms of far-right organizing and to public safety in the future.

Pamela Palmater is a Mi’kmaw lawyer and the chair in Indigenous governance at Ryerson University. 

Source: The PPC got more than 800,000 votes, and that should worry all of us

Racism led to a rise in anti-Asian hate in the pandemic. What the community wants to see in Canada’s next leader

More anecdotal than systemic treatment of hate:

Canada has faced a rude awakening around the rise of anti-Asian racism. The COVID-19 pandemic brought along a surge of attacks on Asian-Canadian seniorsand vandalism of many Asian-Canadian businesses. As a result, the Chinese-Canadian community continues to silently live in fear, isolation and anger.

On the eve of the 44th Canadian federal election, they’re now speaking out about what they demand from the federal electoral candidates.

“Canada is a multicultural country with people from all over the world. Our politicians should strive to make it a vibrant nation where everyone is treated with respect and dignity,” Shiwei Mao, a Chinese-Canadian retiree, said in Mandarin, the only language she speaks besides her native Shanghainese. “But what did they do? It’s been almost two years of COVID-19 and our politicians have made a mess. Our society and economy has undergone profound disruptions, with chaos and racism everywhere!”

Mao has encountered racism herself. Early on in the pandemic, before mask mandates, she wore a face mask on public transit. “As soon as I sat down on the bus, the person next to me got up and changed seats. It made me feel very uncomfortable,” she said. “We Chinese understood the importance of wearing masks as the pandemic started in our country. But everyone else was looking at us strangely for wearing masks.”

In her late seventies and living with her husband in Scarborough, Mao is angry that the pandemic has become a political issue and has changed her idea of saftey. She believes that pandemic measures should have been led by experts and scientists instead of politicians who have “little knowledge and training in public health and epidemiology.”

As a direct result of COVID-19, Mao has not been able to go out much. “My husband, who is 86, is of reduced mobility and uses a wheelchair. Every time we want to go out, it’s a huge hassle, as we don’t have a car and use public transit,” she explained. “It’s extremely inconvenient for us that there is not enough public transit and that its schedule is inconsistent. I want more accessible public transit with a more regular and consistent schedule.”

Another issue is accessibility to health care. Though Mao and her husband were able to find a Chinese-Canadian doctor who gave them information on how to protect themselves, she is aware that not everyone in the community is so lucky. “It’s hard for a lot of Chinese people to find a doctor that speaks their particular dialect. I believe the percentage of doctors in Canada who are of certain cultural backgrounds should match the percentage of Canadians who are of that same background,” she said.

Amy Go, the president of the Chinese-Canadian National Council (CCNC), thinks that this pandemic has highlighted wealth disparities in our society. “The pandemic really highlights the differential access to services of racialized seniors and seniors who don’t speak English” she said. “On top of an already scarce amount of culturally adapted services, COVID-19 has disrupted the few services there were. Chinese-Canadian seniors who rely on home-care to get their daily basic needs met and who need regular health care have been hit extremely hard.”

Go has heard from many seniors who have struggled through the pandemic. “They were so afraid because of all the assaults. Many of them made heartbreaking comments such as ‘We moved to Canada in order to build a better life for our children. But now we are questioning that decision and hope our children won’t have to move again,” she said. “Seniors go out and see people treating them differently. They know it is wrong, but they don’t know what to say, as they don’t have the English skills to say anything.”

CCNC has submitted questions to the federal parties regarding these matters, but received no response. The Conservative party, the Liberal party, and the New Democratic Party did not return requests for interviews either.

Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy said that since its establishment in 2019, “the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat has since been leading a whole of government approach to tackling racism and discrimination in all of its forms in Canada, including anti-Asian racism.” In March they set up a task force to work with “government organizations and diverse communities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic… including Canadians of Asian descent, to ensure that our response to COVID-19 is informed by lived experiences.”

But for some, the lack of politicial representation leads to a lack of understanding on how to best care for diverse populations which require a more targeted response.

“We need Chinese-Canadian politicians to represent us at the House of Commons so that our demands can be put forward” Ru Xie, another Scarborough resident who lives with her husband and her daughter said. “I believe that in a multicultural country like Canada, it is the federal government’s responsibility to intervene when there is racism.”

Though COVID-19 has largely kept Xie in her home due to safety concerns, she ventured out to participate in an anti-Asian racism protest after seeing reports of attacks circulating on WeChat, a Chinese social network.

Dr. Henry Yu, a professor of Asian-Canadian and Asian Migration studies, believes that this past year and a half has forced Canada to face its history of anti-Asian racism. “Our communities are looking for some commitment from all party leaders that’s not empty. Saying, ‘We’re not racist in Canada’ won’t cut it, because you say that doesn’t mean it’s true. Because this is happening in Canada,” he said. Dr. Yu strongly believes that Canada needs to take a hard look at itself and ask why is it that this nation scapegoats the Asian-Canadian population to solve structural issues rather than simply enact superficial measures.

“What needs to be implemented across the board is to collect more disaggregated data, especially in the context of COVID-19, about who’s being served in the mental health system, and what access is like for people who are linguistically diverse or marginalized and other ways,” said Cindy Quan, a researcher at the University of Victoria. She believes that part of the solution lies in getting disaggregated data on anti-Asian racism, because Canada historically has not been vigilant collecting data to address its issues with racism.

“We need greater accountability at various levels of government, tougher hate crimes and discrimination laws, better crafted legislation along those lines, and clear consequences for engaging in racist behaviour,” she said.

Source: Racism led to a rise in anti-Asian hate in the pandemic. What the community wants to see in Canada’s next leader

McWhorter:What Should We Do About Systemic Racism?

Interesting and nuanced discussion and the need for a more sophisticated discussion of different outcomes:

Here’s why some people aren’t onboard with the way Americans are taught to think about systemic racism: Even fully understanding that systemic racism exists and why it is important — persistent disparities between Black people and others in access to resources — one may have some questions. Real ones.

For me, the biggest question is not whether systemic racism exists but what to do about it.

A thorny patch, for starters, is figuring out whether racism is even the cause of a particular kind of disparity. One approach, well-aired these days, is that all racial disparities must be due to racism — a view encapsulated in a proclamation like “When I see racial disparities, I see racism.”

But that approach, despite its appeal in being so elementary — plus a bit menacing (a bit of drama, a little guilt?) — is often mistaken in its analysis, not to mention harmful to Black people if acted upon.

Here’s an example. Black kids tend not to do as well in school as white kids, statistically. But just what is the “racism” that causes this particular disparity?

It isn’t something as plain and simple as the idea that all Black kids go to underfunded schools — it’s a little 1980s to think that’s all we’re faced with. School funding is hugely oversold as a reason for schools’ underperformance, and the achievement disparity persists even among middle-class Black kids.

And middle-class Black kids are not just a mere sliver: Only about a third of Black students are poor. Yet the number of Black students admitted to top-level universities, for example, is small — so small that policies changing admissions standards are necessary for such schools to have a representative number of them on campus. This is fact, shown at countless institutions over the past 30 years such as the University of Michigan and recently Harvard. The key question is what justifies the policies.

One answer might be: “When I see racial disparities, I see racism.”

But in evaluating that idea, we must consider this: Black teenagers too often associate school with being “white.” Doesn’t such a mind-set have a way of keeping a good number of Black kids from hitting the very highest note in school? If many Black kids have to choose between being a nerd and having more Black friends — and one study suggests that they do — then the question is not whether this would depress overall Black scholastic achievement, but why it wouldn’t. The vast weight of journalistic attestations about growing up Black and how Black kids deal with school show the conflicting pressures they can face about achieving good grades and making friendships.

Now, my point here is not to simply accuse students of having a “pathology.” To be sure, the reason Black kids often think of school as “white” is racism. Just not racism today. Thus to eliminate systemic racism, our target cannot be some form of racism in operation now, because the racism operated several decades ago.

It took a while for Brown v. Board of Education to actually be enforced. When it was, starting in the mid-1960s, white teachers and students nationwide were not happy. Old-school open racism was still in flower, and Black kids in newly desegregated schools experienced it full blast — and not just in the South.

It was then that Black kids started thinking of school as the white kids’ game, something to disidentify from. While it hurts to be called a nerd when you’re white, the sting is worse when you are called disloyal to your race.

The source to consult on all of this is the book “Acting White: The Ironic Legacy of Desegregation,” as key to understanding Black history as Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow.”

One might ask why the disaffection with school persists even though the racism that caused it has retreated so much — for certainly this kind of open racism diminished enormously in the 1970s and 1980s. But cultural traits can persist in human beings beyond what sparked those traits. The idea that school is not what “we” do settled into a broader function: ordinary teenage tribalism. White kids might choose to be, say, Goths or various things. So might Black kids — but another identity available to many of them is a sense of school as racially inauthentic. The “acting white” idea has persisted even in well-funded middle-class schools, where if anyone is discriminating against the Black students, it’s being done in ways too scattered and usually subtle to explain, indefensible though they are, to realistically explain the performance gap.

This sense of school as “other” can be covert as well as overt. A 1997 study by Clifton Casteel, a Black educator, showed that white eighth and ninth graders tend to think of themselves as doing homework to please their parents, while Black ones think of themselves as doing it for their teachers. That’s subtle but indicative — the idea that school stuff for Black students is outside of home and hearth. And in the 1980s, a mathematics educator, Phillip Uri Treisman, showed that Black college students do better in calculus if they are taught to work together in studying it (with high expectations and close professor mentoring also recommended). That Black students need to be instructed to share schoolwork rather than go it alone illuminates a private sense of school as not what “we” do — i.e., when we are together being ourselves.

I will not pretend that there has not been, for 20 years, people vociferously denying that Black kids often have an ambivalent attitude toward excelling in school. However, that Black kids don’t say in interviews that they disidentify from school reveals no more than that whites say they aren’t racist in interviews — why hit rewind and pretend psychology has no layers solely when Black students are involved? Then there is the idea that certain studies have disproved that this sense of disconnection exists when they actually found possible evidence of it, such as one documenting Black students saying that they like school and yet reporting spending less time on homework compared with white and Asian kids.

In sum, the sheer volume of attestations and documentation of Black students accused of “acting white” makes it clear to any unbiased observer that the issue is real, including the shakiness of the attempts to debunk the claim. The denialists are worried that someone like me is criticizing the Black students, upon which I repeat: The sense of school as white was caused by racism. It’s just that it was long, long ago now.

So, we return to “when I see racial disparities, I see racism.” This is a mantra from Ibram X. Kendi, and one of his solutions to the Black-white achievement gap in school is to eliminate standardized tests. They are “racist,” you see, because Black kids tend not to do as well on them as others.

And in line with this version of racial reckoning, we are seeing one institution after another eliminating or altering testing requirements, from the University of California to Boston’s public school system.

The idea that this is the antiracist thing to do is rooted in an idea that there is something about Black culture that renders standardized tests inappropriate. After all, Kendi certainly doesn’t think the issue is Black genes. Nor, we assume, does any responsible person think it’s genes, and it can’t be that all Black kids grow up poor because to say that is racist, denying the achievements of so many Black people and contradicting simple statistics.

So it’s apparently something about being a Black person. Kendi does not specify what this cultural configuration is, but there is reason to suppose, from what he as well as many like-minded people are given to writing and saying, that the idea is that Black people for some reason don’t think “that way,” that Black thought favors pragmatic engagement with the exigencies of real life over the disembodied abstraction of test questions.

But there is a short step from here to two gruesome places.

One is the idea getting around in math pedagogy circles that being precise, embracing abstract reasoning and focusing on finding the actual answer are “white,” which takes us right back to the idea that school is “white.”

The other is the idea that Black people just aren’t as quick on the uptake as other people.

Yeah, I know — multiple intelligences, “energy” and so on. Taking a test of abstract reasoning is just one way of indicating intelligence, right — but folks, really? I submit that few beyond a certain circle will ever truly believe that we need to trash these tests, which were expressly designed to cut through bias.

One of Kendi’s suggestions, for example, is that we assess Black kids instead on how articulate they are about their neighborhood circumstances and on their “desire to know.” But this is a drive-by notion of pedagogical practice, with shades again of the idea that being a grind is “white.” I insist that it is more progressively Black to ask why we can’t seek for Black kids to get better on the tests, and almost phrenological to propound that it’s racist to submit a Black person to a test of abstract cognitive skill.

To get more Black students into top schools, we should focus on getting the word out in Black communities about free test preparation programs, such as have long existed in New York City. We should resist the elimination of gifted tracks as “racist,” given that they shunted quite a few Black kids into top high schools in, for example, New York back in the day. Teaching Black kids to work together should be even more of a meme than it has become since Treisman’s study. And the idea that school is “for white people” should be traced, faced and erased, reified and rendered as uncool as drunken driving and smoking have been.

Boy, that was some right-wing conservative boilerplate, no? Of course not. Many would see these prescriptions as unsatisfying because they aren’t about wagging a finger in white America’s face. But doing that is quite often antithetical to improving Black lives.


‘Just a lot of talk’: Activists urge party leaders to increase focus on racism

There is a lot not being discussed during this campaign, not just racism. Liberal, NDP and Green platforms have extensive commitments, some more realistic or sensible than others. Conservative platform is surprisingly silent. Expect that there may be more discussion at the local campaign level in ridings with more visible minorities and Indigenous peoples:

Federal leaders have not focused on addressing systemic racism during the campaign, despite the urgency of the issue after findings of unmarked graves at former residential schools and rising hate against minority communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, advocates say.

While the Liberals and NDP have included programs in their election platforms to tackle barriers that people of colour face, the Conservatives don’t mention the word “racism” even once in their 150-page election plan, said Fareed Khan of Canadians United Against Hate.

Regardless of promises, Khan said the lack of discussion by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh of fighting racism during their campaign events makes him wonder how seriously they are taking the issue.

“On the one platform when it would make the biggest impact during an election, they haven’t talked about it,” Khan said.

“So what that says to me and a lot of people, activists, is that maybe what they’ve said over the last year is just a lot of talk, and they’re not as serious about fighting hate as they said they were.”

Khan said the campaign is an opportunity for politicians to explain how they will respond to those who have protested against anti-Black racism, called for justice for Indigenous Peoples and demanded action against Islamophobia.

“The people have spoken. They want action on this,” he said.

The issue of systemic racism reached the campaign trail this week after Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet complained about a debate question that he said painted Quebecers as racist. Trudeau and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole jumped to defend Quebec as not racist, while Singh said it’s unhelpful to single out any one province.

The question was about Quebec laws the moderator deemed “discriminatory,” including Bill 21, which bans some civil servants from wearing religious garb on the job. Mustafa Farooq, chief executive officer of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said it was “shameful” the main party leaders did not step in to argue the law was discriminatory.

But on Friday, Trudeau told dozens of people gathered in a restaurant in Scarborough, Ont., that the pandemic hit racialized people harder than others and saw an increase in hatred and intolerance. The rise in hate has been aggravated by COVID-19 but the issue is “bigger than that,” he added.

“We see more and more white supremacist groups and racist groups taking toeholds on the internet, and more and more in our communities,” he said.

After defending his government’s record on supporting racialized communities, Trudeau promised to introduce a new law combating online hate in 100 days of his new mandate if re-elected.

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa on Friday, Singh said systemic racism is a problem many people live with every day.

“We’ve seen it in police violence (where) racialized people who had mental health or health concerns ended up losing their lives. We know that this is a problem that exists and it needs to be fixed, and we are committed to fixing it.”

O’Toole said in a statement that every day, people experience discrimination or racism in some form and he is committed to working with communities to find concrete solutions to these problems.

“Conservatives believe that the institutional failings that have led to these outcomes can and must be urgently addressed. It is imperative that we meet this challenge with practical policy changes that solve institutional and systemic problems,” he said.

While the Tory platform doesn’t contain the word “racism,” it does propose strengthening the Criminal Code to protect Canadians from online hate and notes that racialized people have been disproportionately impacted by unemployment during the pandemic.

Chief R. Donald Maracle of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte First Nation in Ontario said there are programs in place, funded federally and provincially, to eliminate racism but it still is a problem.

“First Nations people have suffered racism by government over decades, with a lack of investments to deal with housing and water and post-secondary education and also lack of opportunity for employment and training,” he said.

“In recent years the governments have invested a lot of money to try to overcome those barriers.”

He said there are many competing issues to be addressed by political leaders during the campaign with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.

“The focus seems to be to keep the economy restarted and return to some kind of normal life for most Canadians, but again there’s a lot of racism that has caused a lot of systemic poverty,” he said.

“It’s an issue that remains outstanding to be addressed.”

Andrew Griffith, a former director at the federal immigration department, said it’s surprising that the Conservatives didn’t include any specific measures to end racism in their platform despite the rise of hate during the pandemic.

The pandemic also highlighted the link between being a member of a minority group or an immigrant community and the lack of access to health care and good housing, he said.

“Ongoing issues in terms of policing, various reports in terms of increased anti-Asian incidents, antisemitism remains perennial, attacks on Muslims, including the most recent ones in London, (Ont.), so there’s a whole series of issues there that I find it striking that there’s really nothing there in the (Conservative) platform,” he said.

Farooq, of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said it’s saddening that federal leaders are not prioritizing tackling systemic racism.

“We have a week or so left in this federal election campaign. I would hope that they take seriously what Canadians have been asking for,” he said.

All major federal leaders travelled to London, Ont., in June to show solidarity with the Muslim community after a vehicle attack against a Muslim family left four dead and a nine-year-old boy seriously injured.

“It’s easy to talk in the aftermath of a tragedy and to say that you’re committed to action and doing something,” Farooq said. “But the real test is at a time like this. What are you actually committed to standing on and standing for?”


O’Toole says he’s condemned racism in past, when asked why platform makes no mention of it

Hard to believe that omission was not deliberate but still surprising:

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole spent his 16th day on the election campaign talking about his plan to ban puppy mills and to crack down on unethical breeders , and defended the fact his party’s platform mentions neither racism nor systemic racism.

The Conservative Party of Canada’s election platform, entitled “Canada’s Recovery Plan,” stretches 160 pages and comprises some 49,000 words, some of which are more used much more frequently than others.

For instance, the phrase “a detailed plan” is used 22 times in the table of contents alone, while the word “secure” is used in five sub-headers highlighting the party’s plan to “secure” the economy, jobs, and other key election issues. The word “puppy” as it relates to today’s announcement appears twice.

But, as CTV News’ Omar Sachedina noted, there are some words that are missing from the document entirely, including “racism” and “Islamophobia.”

Asked by CTV News during a media availability on Monday about the discrepancy, O’Toole didn’t address the absence of the words directly, but said he has spoken out against racism and pointed to diversity among the Conservative slate of candidates.

“I’ve spoken out on the horrific rise of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism against people of colour, indigenous Canadians,” he said during a campaign stop at a dog rescue and sanctuary in King City, Ont.

“I will fight for Canadians who have not had fair treatment, who face inequalities in their daily life. We need to make sure that they have an economic recovery as well, and so you’ll see in our plan we want to see solidarity in communities,” he added.

O’Toole made headlines during a Conservative leadership debate in June 2020 when he wouldn’t say whether he thought systemic racism exists, although he said at the time he had zero-tolerance for racism.

The Liberals have yet to release their full platform, while the online NDP platform includes the word “racism” more than a dozen times, and mentions “Islamophobia” at least twice.

Source: O’Toole says he’s condemned racism in past, when asked why platform makes no mention of it

The Black Mortality Gap, and a Document Written in 1910

Important history:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He did not like what he saw.

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

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

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

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

Of note:

This campaign feels a bit strange for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Worldwide Effort to Bar Chinese Immigration

Review of The Gold Rushes and Global Politics:

In his classic treatise on American pauperdom, “How the Other Half Lives” (1890), Jacob A. Riis, a Danish carpenter turned journalist and photographer, opines, “The Chinese are in no sense a desirable element of the population,” and “they serve no useful purpose here.” Ascribing his own failure in penetrating the inner soul of New York’s Chinatown to proverbial Oriental inscrutability, Riis asserts that each Chinese in America, unlike European immigrants, is “a homeless stranger among us.”

In hindsight, these racist statements from a progressive social reformer may sound shocking, but as Mae Ngai shows in her meticulously researched book, “The Chinese Question: The Gold Rushes and Global Politics,” views like Riis’s actually represented the prevailing sentiment toward Chinese, not just in the United States but throughout the Anglophone world in the 19th century. Tracking the migration of Chinese to California, Australia and South Africa, Ngai, a professor of history at Columbia University, locates the beginnings of Chinese communities in those far-flung gold-producing regions, where they faced marginalization, violence and exclusion from self-described “white men’s countries.”

The so-called Chinese Question (at the time thorny social issues were called questions: the Negro Question, the Jewish Question, the Woman Question and so on) boiled down to this: Are the Chinese a racial threat to white, Anglo-American countries, and should Chinese be barred from them?

Excavating rich deposits of the past, Ngai has certainly made striking discoveries. She ties the Chinese Question to a pivotal period in the 19th century that saw the ascendence of British and American financial power spurred by gold production, colonial dispossession and capitalist exploitation. Born out of an alchemy of race and money, the history of the Chinese communities in the West, Ngai cogently argues, were not extraneous to the emergent global capitalist economy but an integral part of it.

However, making the Chinese Question central to global politics and economics is not the most noteworthy accomplishment of Ngai’s important book. From John Bigler riding the issue of Chinese exclusion successfully to the first California governor’s office in 1852 to the role that the Chinese Question played in the landmark 1906 victory by the Liberal Party in Britain, not to mention modern politicians who routinely bash China as a vote-getting ploy, Ngai’s narrative recounts events that sound all too familiar today. The Chinese became mere pawns in a cynical political game.

Ngai not only shows that anticoolieism was foundational to Western identities of nation and empire, she also demonstrates the many ways that the Chinese communities were themselves agents of change, not slavish coolies or passive victims of abuse and discrimination. Facing violence, harassment and institutionalized inequality, they looked within their own communities — forming huiguans (associations) and tongs (secret societies) when denied justice in a courtroom, building networks to the homeland when marginalized by mainstream society, seeking alternative means of influencing local politics when denied citizenship and the right to vote. Woven into these poignant and stirring stories of communal building are Ngai’s colorful profiles of little-known individuals like Yuan Sheng, Lowe Kong Meng and Xie Zixiu — “representative men” who rose to wealth and power from their humble origins in the mining camps. She describes as well accused murderers and petty criminals who tried to defend themselves in pidgin English but did not stand “a Chinaman’s chance.”

To be sure, the narrative pace is somewhat uneven and Ngai is not always successful in keeping a balance between her dry data and her storytelling. Still, her book is a deep historical study, and a timely re-examination of the persistent Chinese Question in America and elsewhere.


The word ‘racism’ doesn’t appear anywhere in the Conservative party’s campaign platform

Notable and significant:

Discrimination against visible and religious minorities in Canada has been hotly debated during the year leading up to this summer’s federal election, but the issue gets scant mention in the campaign platform released by the Conservative party this week.

The words “racism” and “antisemitism” do not appear anywhere in the party’s 160-page policy platform, which largely focuses on the fallout and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Nor are there any references to Black Canadians.

And in the aftermath of the deadly June attack targeting a Muslim family in London, Ont. — which saw Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole calling for “urgent action” to support Canadian Muslims — the term “Islamophobia” is missing, too.

The omissions are somewhat at odds with the opening notes of the platform, in which O’Toole writes that it is “time for Conservatives to take inequality seriously, because that’s becoming more of a problem in our country,” and says that Canada is a society where “everyone can fulfil his or her potential.”

It also doesn’t address last year’s nationwide call for racial justice, sparked by a reckoning over police brutality targeting Black and Indigenous people.

Instead, the document tackles discrimination and bridge-building through the lens of international human rights and foreign policy, rather than grappling with its existence in Canada.

Among a handful of proposals, the Conservatives would establish an Office of Religious Freedom and Conscience that advises cabinet ministers “on threats to international security, engages in diplomacy to religious communities, and informs Canadian international development programs to promote freedom, pluralism, religious coexistence and tolerance.”

The Conservatives are also promising to appoint the country’s “first Muslim ambassador and first ambassador to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation” to help engage with the world’s Muslim-majority nations.

The party also wants to see the creation of an international human rights advisory committee, made up of a “broad range of cultural and religious communities in Canada” to advise the government on issues abroad.

Mustafa Farooq, CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said that while the platform is “light” on addressing domestic Islamophobia, it does offer some encouraging promises.

The Tories acknowledged, for example, their support for the Muslim minority Uyghur population in China, and said they would boost funding and expand the accessibility of the Ottawa’s security infrastructure program, which helps protect places of worship and other institutions from hate-motivated attacks.

“Certainly, I would have liked to see clear articulations about … what they’re going to be doing to challenge Islamophobia through clear policy promises and commitments,” Farooq said.

On the other hand, the New Democrats — the only other major federal party to release its policy promises — are running on a platform that has dedicated an entire plank to confronting racism and other forms of discrimination, though the details are vague.

The NDP document emphasizes the rise in hateful incidents facing Muslim, Jewish and Black Canadians, along with Indigenous people. The party is promising to enact a national action plan to “dismantle far-right extremist organizations” and address “white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.” The NDP is also pledging to better identify and catalogue hate-related incidents and how they are handled within Canada’s justice system.

The collection of race-based data, reviewing employment discrimination and addressing the overrepresentation of Black and Indigenous people in the federal prison population also factor into the NDP plan.

Both the NDP and the Conservatives, however, have pledged to counter online hate, with the New Democrats seeking to convene a national working group on the issue and the Tories promising to criminalize statements that encourage violence against other groups while protecting non-violent forms of speech and criticism.

The two parties have also put forth specific reconciliation plans focused on addressing the injustices wrought by the residential school system, self determination, economic development and improving access to clean drinking water.

Source: The word ‘racism’ doesn’t appear anywhere in the Conservative party’s campaign platform

Racism and the need for a national integration commission

My latest, complements my earlier Increasing immigration to boost population? Not so fast.

Protests by communities affected by prejudice, discrimination and racism appear to be on the rise, as evidenced by the Black Lives Matter, and the Indigenous-led Cancel Canada Day and Land Back advocacy movements. These are in response to deaths by Black people and Indigenous youth in police custody, and anti-Muslim, anti-Asian and anti-Semitic hate incidents and crimes in both Canada and the United States.

At the same time, there has been greater understanding amongst most Canadians regarding systemic issues and broader support of individuals and groups most affected. But government and societal responses have been largely reactive, involving symbolic measures such as summits, funding and communications initiatives.

The 2021 summits on Islamophobia in response to the London killings and on antisemitism, following increased tensions between Israel and Palestine, are examples that did little to reduce hate incidents. The most current evaluations of the multiculturalism program by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and Canadian Heritage (2017) highlight the limited evidence as to the effectiveness of government programming.

Why aren’t current approaches working? These types of targeted initiatives generally preach to the converted, and thus have limited reach and impact. They often understate the diverse experience within communities, and how racism intersects with gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic ancestry, mixed identities and class. The problems are complex and multi-faceted, and there are no easy or quick solutions. Summits, conferences and even parliamentary hearings are designed for the short-term, and do not commit the time and resources for in-depth examination and discussion of fundamental issues.

While these approaches respond to the community and political needs, a deeper examination of the common issues across all groups and a more integrated approach is needed.

Racism is a concern in Canada, present and future, given the rapidly increasing Indigenous and immigrant-origin population. An in-depth and independent examination of the issues, challenges and possible solutions is needed, and there must be broad consultations and engagement with all affected groups.

What would be some of the requirements for such an enquiry?

The overall approach should be akin to the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, held between 1963 and 1969. At that time immigrants formed about 16 per cent of the population, compared with 21.9 per cent in 2016.

Canada has changed dramatically since 1963, and an enquiry would have to address the impact of today’s increased and more varied diversity. Immigrant source countries have shifted away from Europe, which was the source of 61.6 per cent of recent immigrants in 1971, compared with 11.6 per cent in 2016. Christian affiliation declined from 78 per cent of immigrants who arrived prior to 1971 to 47.5 per cent of those who arrived between 2006 and 2011. One-third of those arriving between 2001 and 2011 identified as Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist. LGBTTQ issues were not discussed in the 1960s, and the major gap in employment equity legislation and reports is an indication of this silence, even though these groups have become more visible and accepted. And more Canadians have complex, mixed identities, reflecting this increased diversity within and between different groups.

Essential aspects of an enquiry

While it should be established by the government, the enquiry’s deliberations and recommendations should also be independent and nonpartisan.

It needs to have a broad mandate that includes research, independent studies and public consultations on barriers to inclusion. We have more than enough research and data by sociologists, political scientists and economists regarding the socio-economic, education and health disparities of different groups.

However, more interdisciplinary research and analysis by social psychologists, neuroscientists and policy-makers is needed on how bias and prejudice form, which groups are most vulnerable and why, and the most effective ways to counter prejudice, discrimination and hate.

It would need to have an adequate budget and resources to fulfill its mandate, comparable to other major commissions.

It would have to adopt a broad intersectional lens, not looking at individual groups in isolation but at the inter-relationships among gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic ancestry, mixed identities and class. It would have to look at minorities and majorities within each group and the degrees of inclusion and exclusion within and between them.

The consultations would have to be designed to go beyond the normal advocacy groups, and include more diverse and marginal voices to help break down the silos and identify commonalities. It is important to recognize that Canadians are affected by immigration and diversity in different ways, depending in part on their socio-economic status, workplace and education. And while this is not without risk, the consultations need to include individuals and groups that have some discomfort with increased diversity or have been negatively affected by immigration.

The enquiry must look not just at bias, discrimination and racism between the “mainstream” majority and minority groups, but also at that between visible, religious and gender minority groups. In other words, it must break away from the simplistic dichotomy that has mostly characterized the current diversity and inclusion discourse, which does not adequately reflect Canada’s present and projected diversity.

Practical solutions and approaches should be the focus; ones that can be implemented by governments and organizations over time; and where progress can be tracked, measured and reported. The tracking of the progress of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action could provide a model.

Canadians, long-established and newcomers alike, are increasingly coming to terms with our legacies of injustice against Indigenous peoples, as well as against racialized, religious, LGBTTQ, and other minorities. Despite considerable progress in removing legislative and other barriers to inclusion, the effects of these legacies linger in ongoing inequalities and inequities.

While many Canadians are reaching out and supporting communities that experience hate, the increase in hate crimes and incidents against individuals and groups indicates we cannot be complacent.

Reducing the influence of the more extreme groups that undermine social inclusion and cohesion would be a key aim. Developing practical recommendations to do this would be an important first step.

As we saw with Quebec’s Bouchard-Taylor Commission, there is a risk that a broad enquiry will provide space for those with more xenophobic views. However, not allowing any space for those with immigration and diversity concerns would mean missing those who need to be reached.

Canada depends on immigration to address an aging population, and it also needs to provide better opportunities for younger Indigenous populations, so a comprehensive national enquiry is needed to ensure that we have the evidence-based knowledge to reduce bias, prejudice and discrimination so all Canadians, whatever their origin, ancestry or religion, can fully participate and contribute.