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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canadians in every riding support climate action, new research shows

Different take than national and provincial polling but interesting approach to riding-level analysis. Others better placed to comment on the methodology:

Canada is gearing up for a big election this fall and climate policy will likely be at the centre of debate. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are trumpeting their carbon pricing policy, while Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives want to get rid of it. Meanwhile, Elizabeth May and her newly relevant Greens think Canada must do more to manage the climate crisis.

But where do Canadian voters stand on this issue?

Our research team, based at the Université de Montréal and the University of California Santa Barbara, has new public opinion data to answer this question. Using recent statistical and political science advances, we can estimate Canadian opinion in every single riding across the country (except for the less densely populated territories, where data collection is sparse). And we’ve released on online tool so anyone can see how their local riding compares to others across the country.

Canadians are concerned about climate change

Our results reinforce what is increasingly clear: climate change is on the minds of Canadians, and not just in urban or coastal communities. A majority of Canadians in every single riding believe the climate is changing. The highest beliefs are in Halifax, where 93 per cent of the public believe climate change is happening.

Percentage of Canadians, by riding, who believe climate change is happening. Author provided

And a majority of Canadians in all but three ridings think their province has already experienced the impacts of climate change. These beliefs are particularly high in Québec, where 79 per cent feel the impacts of climate change have already arrived.

Canadians also want to see the government take the climate threat seriously.

A majority of voters supports emissions trading. Carbon taxation is more divisive, yet more people support carbon taxation than don’t in 88 per cent of Canadian ridings.

And the handful of ridings that don’t support the Trudeau government’s carbon pricing policy — Fort McMurray-Cold Lake, for example — are already in Conservative hands.


In other words, the path to a majority government — or even a minority government — goes through many ridings where Canadians are worried about climate change and want the government to take aggressive action.

Compared to the United States, the Canadian public believes climate change is happening in far higher shares. Even Canadian ridings where belief in climate change is the lowest have comparable beliefs to liberal states like Vermont and Washington. Overall Canadian support for a carbon tax is higher than support for a carbon tax in California, often thought of as the most environmentally progressive U.S. state.

Percentage of Canadians, by riding, who believe their province has already been impacted by climate change. Author provided

Importantly, support for specific climate policies remains high in provinces that have already implemented climate laws. For instance, support for a carbon tax in British Columbia, where this policy was introduced in 2008, is the second highest in the country at 61 per cent (Prince Edward Island has the highest support). Similarly, support for emissions trading is second highest in Québec, again just behind P.E.I., where a carbon market was implemented in 2013.

Even Conservative ridings want action

We don’t find evidence of a backlash to carbon taxes or emissions trading — Canadians living in provinces with substantive climate policies continue to support them. Instead, we find substantial support for climate action in the ridings of Canadian politicians who have done the most to undermine Canada’s climate policy.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s provincial riding matches up with the federal riding of Etobicoke North, where 62 per cent of the public supports emissions trading. In other words, Ford ignored the majority will of his own constituents when he acted to repeal Ontario’s policy last year.

Riding-level public opinion estimates for the Saskatchewan riding of Regina-Qu’Apelle, currently represented by Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. Author provided

The same is true federally. In Scheer’s own riding of Regina-Qu’Appelle, support for carbon taxation is at 52 per cent. Only 41 per cent of Scheer’s own constituents oppose a carbon tax. He too is offside with the people he represents.

The political risks of opposing climate reforms

Our results emphasize how the media can sometimes misinterpret electoral mandates. In Ontario, Doug Ford promised to repeal the province’s emissions trading scheme — and won. But the former Conservative leader, Patrick Brown, supported carbon pricing while enjoying a comfortable lead in the polls.

There are lots of reasons why Canadians choose to change their government, but opposition to carbon pricing hasn’t been one of them.

Climate science is clear on the need to rapidly decrease greenhouse gas emissions to avert the most disastrous consequences of climate change. As a northern country, climate impacts in Canada are already larger than in other places.


Our research, which the public can explore, shows that Canadians everywhere — from the most Conservative to the most Liberal ridings — are united in understanding that climate change poses a major threat to the people and places they cherish. The coming election will provide an opportunity for Canadians have a say in the future of climate policy in their country — and all Canadian politicians should take note.

Source: Canadians in every riding support climate action, new research shows

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

Stoking some of the underlying ethnic tensions in Malaysia:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

80 per cent increase in Australian citizenship applications approved

Catching up on their backlog:

The number of migrants becoming Australian citizens is continuing to rise.

In 2018-19, there was an 80 per cent increase in citizenship applications approved compared to the previous financial year.

More than 145,000 migrants had their citizenship by conferral applications approved, up from 81,000 in 2017-18.

Meanwhile the Government has also halved the waiting time between an applicant attending a citizenship interview and the finalisation of their application.

According to Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs David Coleman the increase has been attributed to encouraging online lodgements and increasing the efficiency of citizenship processing.

“We have invested $9 million into our systems and staff, established a task force to focus on complex cases, and increased the number of citizenship appointments available for
applicants to attend interviews and sit the citizenship test,” said Mr Coleman.

“This investment is having a significant impact and I am confident we will see further improvements over the next 12 months.”

Source: 80 per cent increase in Australian citizenship applications approved

Koch Data Mining Sent Anti-Immigrant Ads to Targeted Voters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jean-François Lisée: The inconvenient truth about Quebec’s secularism law Trudeau doesn’t want to face: it’s popular

Two main points regarding other inconvenient truths:

  • Popular opinion was against the death penalty, LGBTQ rights, same sex marriage and earlier on, gender equality. So would Lisée support rolling back some of these changes on the basis of “popularity?”
  • Europe as a model? Europe has one of the weakest record on integration of its immigrants compared to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and even the USA as the OECD reports on integration with their extensive analysis of economic and social outcomes.
  • Substantively, there is little difference between multiculturalism and interculturalism as both are policies that aim at civic integration. The major difference is that interculturalism makes a reference to Quebec francophone society versus multiculturalism speaks of integration in terms on linguistic integration into English or French.

It is valid to ask all federal leaders their plans re Bill 21 but none of them is likely to state their plans during an election campaign.

“Unthinkable.” That’s how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reacted when Quebec tabled a law that would ban religious symbols and clothing for its teachers, judges, police officers and other public sector workers.

He pledged to “defend the rights of Canadians” against the proposed ban. His minister of justice repeatedly called the bill “unacceptable” and alluded to “next steps” once it became law.

One should not doubt Trudeau’s inherent repulsion for the Quebec law and everything it embodies. This is the man who heralded a woman’s right to wear a niqab — the starkest symbol of oppression of women — to a citizenship ceremony at which she would pledge to adhere to a Constitution that specifically defends gender equality.

Trudeau the father only paid lip service to multiculturalism and the veneration of differences. Trudeau the son embodies it in his bones. It is certain that, if re-elected, he will act. How? More on this later.

But the bill became law in late June, and no action has been taken since. On the contrary, the Liberal government has evaded and procrastinated on the issue. Why?

There is an inconvenient bump on the road to squashing the Quebec law: public opinion. Quebec public opinion, certainly, but Canadian public opinion also. It can — and will — no doubt be disregarded the morning after the election, but not the mornings before.

Ban has support outside Quebec

In April, Léger Marketing carried out a country-wide online poll asking if voters would support the ban of religious symbols for teachers, police officers and judges in their province. The poll also asked respondents who they would vote for in the federal election.

Outside Quebec, fully 40 per cent of Canadians approved of such a ban in their own province. Except in Alberta, 50 per cent or more of Conservative voters were in favour.

Case closed.

Problem is, a sizable chunk of Liberal voters also embraced the ban. Here are the numbers: Atlantic Canada, 28 per cent; Alberta, 31 per cent; Ontario, 32 per cent; B.C., 34 per cent; Prairies (Manitoba and Saskatchewan), 62 per cent. (Would you believe that the numbers are even higher for NDP voters!)

Liberal pollsters have seen these or similar numbers. And they know that 50 per cent of their Quebec voters support the ban, according to the Léger poll. Were they to make this one of the pivotal issues of the campaign, they would have to turn their backs on a third of their base — and give up any chance of forming a majority.

Tough luck.

An election is precisely the moment when truths must be told.

If Trudeau really thinks the ban is “unthinkable,” and I’m sure he does, he must tell voters exactly what he plans to do about it if re-elected.

Trudeau should reveal what he plans to do about the ban

Three options are available to him. The most extreme, let’s call it the nuclear option, is to use the old disallowance clause of the Constitution to simply squash the legislation. This option, promoted by pundits such as columnist Andrew Coyne, was last used in 1943 against an Alberta law that restricted the property rights of Hutterite colonies.

There is a deadline on that option: it can only be used within 12 months of the law being sanctioned by the governor general, thus, no later than late June 2020.

The mid-range option is to refer the question of whether or not the law is constitutional directly to the Supreme Court. Constitutional scholars meeting in Toronto last April concluded that recent jurisprudence would lead the court to declare the law invalid — on its merits and despite the use of the notwithstanding clause. They said the court could also severely curtail the use of the notwithstanding clause itself and declare that Quebec really had no right to use it pre-emptively.

The milder option would be for Ottawa to join the ongoing legal challenge of the ban by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and National Council of Canadian Muslims and help bring it before the Supreme Court.

Are any of these options off the table for Trudeau? The election campaign should not end without a clear answer to that question.

Look to Europe, not Ottawa

Those who think Canadian multiculturalism is the only possible answer to the challenges of diverse societies will keep pushing hard against the ban. As did CBC’s Robyn Urback, who wrote recently that the Quebec law was a “national disgrace,” nothing short of “state-sponsored, systemic oppression” and called on Trudeau to denounce it as he had other “policy wrongs of the past,” such as the hanging of First Nations chiefs in the 19th century.

Proponents of this point of view are also present in the NDP — and to a lesser extent in the Conservative Party — and will want to know why their leaders seem indifferent in the face of Quebec’s perceived assault on equality rights.

Quebecers, on the other hand, know that the cradle of rights and freedoms is not in Ottawa but Europe. And that European courts have ruled that states have legitimate grounds to demand a clear separation of Church and state — including when it comes to the attire of civil servants — and to promote the rights of women by prohibiting misogynist religious garb.

So the question is, really, about tolerance. Will the Liberals and other federal parties tolerate the existence within Canada of a nation that disagrees with their brand of multiculturalism?

Trudeau claims he accepts the existence of Quebec as a nation within Canada. Will he say that doesn’t mean a thing when that nation veers from the Canadian norm?

He knows that no Quebec government to date has signed the current Constitution, and each one has rejected multiculturalism as a policy. Will he nonetheless use this unsigned Constitution as a hammer against a very popular Quebec law?

The Quebec government of François Legault played by the rules when it passed the law in June by invoking the notwithstanding clause to forestall any potential charter challenge. Will Ottawa now ask the Supreme Court to change the rules once the game is already underway?

Quebecers want to know; Canadians, too.

Source: The inconvenient truth about Quebec’s secularism law Trudeau doesn’t want to face: it’s popular

Maldives overcomes Islamic opposition and appoints two women as Supreme Court judges

Of note:

Male, September 5 (Maldives Independent): In a historic vote on Tuesday, parliament confirmed the president’s nominationsof former judges Dr Azmiralda Zahir and Aisha Shujune Mohamed as the first female justices of the Supreme Court.

Both nominees were approved with 62 votes in favour. Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed Abdulla cast the sole dissenting vote while Jumhooree Party leader Gasim Ibrahim abstained.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party controls 65 seats in the 87-member People’s Majlis.

Shujune, whoresignedfrom the civil court in 2014, was among the first two female judges appointed to the bench in 2007. Dr Azmiralda was the most senior female judge in the country until herresignationfrom the High Court in May 2016.

President Solih’s nomination of the pair last month sparked a backlash from religious scholars who contended that Islamprohibitswomen from serving as judges.

Clerics condemned the move on Twitter and some shared an opinion issued by the fatwa council, in which the advisory body backed the view that women cannot pass judgment on criminal matters or property disputes. There was a consensus among scholars of all sects of Islam that judges must be male, they said. Some scholars from the Hanafi sect say women can adjudicate civil matters and family disputes but most scholars do not agree with any exceptions, the council noted.

The religious conservative Adhaalath Party, which is part of the MDP-led ruling coalition,backedthe council’s opinion but acknowledged the lack of consensus on the question. The party called for respect of differing opinions on disputed matters and appealed against branding people as disbelievers or apostates. A person who endorses an incorrect opinion should not be considered a sinner, it added.

Tuesday’s confirmation vote came after parliament’s judiciary committee evaluated the nominees, both of whom were sent for approval after endorsement from the Judicial Service Commission.

During the final debate, MDP MPs reiterated the ruling party’s stance that the appointments would be an important step towards empowering women and achieving gender equality. Opposition lawmakers also backed the appointment of women to the bench and Independent MP Ahmed Usham commended the nominees as qualified and capable individuals.

The former judges were nominated after parliamentamendedthe Judicature Act to increase the size of the Supreme Court bench from five to seven justices.

Source: Maldives overcomes Islamic opposition and appoints two women as Supreme Court judges

Female imams lead prayers, a first in France

Of note:

Several French Muslim women are trying to lead prayer sessions in France. They face major opposition, but on Saturday two French women who converted to Islam led the country’s first non-segregated prayers where wearing of the veil was not compulsory.

Eva Janadin and Anne-Sophie Monsinay led prayers before a congregation of 60. Men and women kneeled, side by side, in a room in Paris hired for the occasion.

For security reasons the location remained secret: an indication that fundamentalist Muslims are still struggling with the move towards a more “inclusive” expression of Islam in France.

Un temps de prière mixte et progressiste, où le port du voile n’est pas obligatoire. «Nous apportons notre pierre à la construction d’un islam de France adapté aux acquis de la modernité», explique l’imame Eva Janadin

In a report by Le Parisien, Ann-Sophie Monsinay said they had faced opposition but that thankfully “there had been more encouragement than threats”.

Source: Female imams lead prayers, a first in France

Sauvée d’un mariage forcé à Victoriaville: «Ma famille veut me frapper»

Ends well but likely not all cases do. More action needed to identify the imam in question (who appears not to be from outside Victoriaville) and, if charges cannot be laid, educate and advise him of Canadian laws and procedures:

La police et la direction de la protection de la jeunesse (DPJ) ont sauvé une adolescente d’un mariage forcé organisé par un imam à Victoriaville cet été. Lorsque la jeune fille s’est enfuie de chez elle, c’est chez une famille de réfugiés du coin qu’elle a trouvé asile, ce qui a provoqué un affrontement dans la communauté. Ses protecteurs se sont confiés à La Presse. Récit d’un sauvetage.

L’adolescente est entrée en coup de vent dans l’appartement de la famille Al-Atrash*, sans cogner. Des gens étaient à ses trousses. Elle semblait terrorisée, à bout de souffle. Elle avait besoin d’un endroit où se cacher. Tout de suite.

« Ma famille veut me frapper, ma famille veut me frapper », répétait-elle. Les résidants des lieux ont voulu la calmer, lui offrir un verre d’eau. Ils n’arrivaient pas à comprendre pourquoi elle faisait irruption ainsi chez eux. Mais ils voyaient bien qu’elle était partie dans l’urgence, sans même prendre le temps de mettre ses souliers.

Puis la porte d’entrée s’est ouverte à nouveau. Six personnes ont fait irruption dans le modeste logement à la suite de la jeune fille. Sa mère, ses frères, son fiancé dans la vingtaine, ainsi que deux amis de ce dernier. Ils semblaient furieux, enragés, agressifs.

L’adolescente en fuite s’est précipitée dans une chambre et a verrouillé la porte. Sa mère criait : « Je veux ma fille ! » Son fiancé a pris son élan et commencé à donner de grands coups dans la porte de la pièce, qu’il a réussi à défoncer.

La jeune fille traquée tenait bon, appuyant son dos contre la porte brisée et poussant de toutes ses forces avec ses jambes sur le lit devant elle, pour bloquer l’entrée. « Je ne veux pas sortir ! », criait-elle.

Bousculade et corps à corps

Les six membres de la famille Al-Atrash se sont interposés devant les intrus. Le père Al-Atrash criait au fiancé : « Mais qu’est-ce que tu fais ? »

Une bousculade a éclaté. Cris, corps à corps, cheveux tirés, chutes : le fiancé a été blessé à une main. Enceinte, la mère Al-Atrash a été poussée violemment, ce qui lui a causé des douleurs au ventre qui l’ont menée à l’hôpital.

J’avais vraiment peur, ce n’était pas facile. Tout le monde pleurait.

Amira, la fille aînée de la famille Al-Atrash

(La Presse a modifié le nom des membres de la famille, car la Loi sur la protection de la jeunesse interdit de publier toute information qui permettrait d’identifier la victime dans cette affaire ou ses parents.)

Amira connaissait l’adolescente en fuite. Elles étudiaient dans des écoles secondaires différentes, mais comme leurs familles avaient fui le même pays du Moyen-Orient pour s’établir en tant que réfugiés dans le même quartier à Victoriaville, elles s’étaient liées d’amitié. Amira ne connaissait pas tous les détails de la vie intime de son amie. Mais elle savait qu’on voulait la forcer à épouser un homme dans la vingtaine. Et que la jeune fille ne voulait rien savoir de lui.

L’histoire du mariage forcé auquel était destinée l’adolescente a été révélée vendredi matin par l’animateur Paul Arcand sur les ondes du 98,5 FM. Le lendemain, les six membres de la famille Al-Atrash ont accepté d’accorder une entrevue à La Presse dans leur petit salon. Ils ont raconté pour la première fois cette journée tendue d’avril dernier et les déchirements qu’elle a provoqués dans la communauté musulmane du Centre-du-Québec.

Cinq mois plus tard, alors qu’ils se remémorent le tout, le cadre de la porte de leur chambre à coucher affiche encore des marques de violence.

Escorte policière

Dans le chaos ambiant, en cet après-midi d’avril, le père Al-Atrash avait réussi à joindre le père de l’adolescente au téléphone. « Je lui ai dit qu’il parle à son monde, que je ne voulais pas de problèmes », se remémore-t-il. Finalement, un des frères de l’adolescente en fuite a convenu qu’il n’était pas acceptable d’envahir ainsi la maison des gens. Il a fait sortir sa bande. La dispute s’est déplacée dehors. L’adolescente refusait toujours de sortir, et les Al-Atrash faisaient écran pour la protéger.

Les patrouilleurs du poste de la Sûreté du Québec (SQ) de Victoriaville, accourus sur place, avaient bien du mal à comprendre ce qui se passait.

« Les policiers ont été appelés pour une altercation impliquant une vingtaine de personnes », raconte la sergente Ingrid Asselin, porte-parole de la SQ.

D’autres membres de la communauté s’étaient mêlés de la dispute. La situation était confuse. « Les policiers parlaient français, mais tout le monde ici parlait arabe », se souvient le père Al-Atrash, qui suit des cours de francisation depuis son arrivée au Québec en 2016, mais qui peine encore parfois à se faire comprendre.

Après avoir démêlé un peu l’histoire, les policiers ont fait un signalement à la direction de la protection de la jeunesse.

La sergente Ingrid Asselin, porte-parole de la SQ

Le jour même, l’adolescente a été sortie de son foyer pour être placée dans une famille d’accueil, parce que les intervenants jugeaient que son développement et sa sécurité étaient menacés. La police a escorté les intervenants de la DPJ jusqu’à destination, pour s’assurer qu’ils n’étaient pas suivis.

L’adolescente a demandé elle-même à être placée en famille d’accueil jusqu’à sa majorité, tant elle craignait sa famille. L’affaire s’est déplacée devant le tribunal de la jeunesse, où les parents et le futur époux ont plaidé pour qu’elle reste avec eux.

Contrôle total

La preuve entendue en cour a révélé que la DPJ suivait la famille depuis un an, pour mauvais traitements psychologiques et physiques. En 2018, alors qu’elle n’était âgée que de 15 ans, l’adolescente avait été promise à un garçon dans la vingtaine, même si elle ne l’aimait pas. Ses parents avaient collecté une dot de plusieurs milliers de dollars en échange de sa main.

Un imam avait signé le contrat de mariage. Il ne restait que la réception à organiser. La fête devait se tenir en mai 2019. L’adolescente fréquentait toujours l’école et habitait chez ses parents, mais elle était déjà sous le joug de son conjoint imposé.

« Elle décrit son fiancé comme étant très contrôlant. Il décide de ce qu’elle porte, du choix de ses amies, il refuse qu’elle se maquille, il exige qu’elle soit toujours avec lui lorsqu’elle n’est pas à l’école, il décide de ses sorties, il l’empêche de parler à des gens et l’oblige aussi à porter le hijab », relate le juge de la Cour du Québec Bruno Langelier, dans son jugement daté du 18 juillet dernier.

Malgré qu’elle lui a dit à plusieurs reprises qu’elle ne l’aime pas et ne pas vouloir se marier, le fiancé lui répond qu’elle est à lui, qu’elle n’a pas le choix.

Extrait du jugement

« Sa mère lui a dit ne pas pouvoir l’aider, même si elle comprend », souligne-t-il.

« L’adolescente est si craintive de représailles qu’elle n’a même pas osé se présenter au tribunal pour l’audition », observe le juge.

À l’audience, le fiancé a soutenu qu’il était normal d’interdire à sa future épouse de parler à un homme ou de saluer un étranger de la main dans la rue. Il a déploré qu’elle se soit enfuie chez « une fille qui lui enseigne des choses pas correctes ».

Mais le juge, lui, a souligné au contraire comment la famille Al-Atrash avait été d’un grand secours en ce matin d’avril. « Les gens chez qui l’adolescente se réfugie la protègent et empêchent sa famille de la ramener chez elle », a-t-il résumé en ordonnant le placement de l’adolescente dans une famille d’accueil où elle serait en sécurité, sous la supervision de la DPJ.

La loi s’applique à tous

Les parents et le fiancé ont eu tort de croire qu’ils pouvaient appliquer les traditions de leur pays natal en matière de mariage, explique le juge. « Ces coutumes ne peuvent prévaloir dans la province de Québec. Il n’y a qu’une règle de droit et elle s’applique à tous les résidants du territoire de cette province. »

L’avocate des parents de l’adolescente, Me Angie Lemieux, a confirmé lors d’un entretien téléphonique que ceux-ci avaient renoncé à porter en appel le verdict du tribunal.

Quant à l’imam qui a signé le contrat de mariage, il n’est pas identifié dans le jugement du tribunal de la jeunesse. Joints par La Presse, des représentants des deux mosquées de Victoriaville ont dit croire qu’il venait de l’extérieur de la ville.

Il apparaît clair que l’imam […] agit en contravention de la loi.

Extrait du jugement

Pourrait-il avoir célébré d’autres mariages forcés d’adolescentes au Québec ? Pour des raisons de confidentialité, la DPJ refuse de dire si elle a découvert d’autres cas.

« Chaque signalement est analysé afin de nous permettre de recevoir un maximum d’information. Il peut arriver qu’au cours de son évaluation, la DPJ doive signaler d’autres enfants en lien avec les éléments qui lui sont rapportés », s’est contentée de dire Geneviève Jauron, porte-parole de l’organisme pour la Mauricie et le Centre-du-Québec.

« La jeune fille a fait ce qu’il fallait pour que ses droits soient respectés. On entend souvent parler de la DPJ pour le négatif, mais ici, heureusement, les intervenants ont pu sauver une jeune fille et s’assurer qu’elle puisse vivre sa vie dans le respect de ses droits », a commenté Sylvie Godin, répondante politique pour le syndicat des intervenants de la DPJ dans la région.

« On l’a aidée »

Aujourd’hui âgée de 16 ans, l’adolescente refait tranquillement sa vie dans un endroit tenu secret, pour sa protection. Amira Al-Atrash n’a plus de contact avec elle. Elle ignore comment son amie se porte. Mais elle est fière de ce que sa famille a fait pour elle. « On l’a aidée », dit-elle.

L’affaire a laissé des marques, dans le voisinage. Encore aujourd’hui, certaines personnes ne s’adressent plus la parole, ou ne le font que pour s’injurier, à la suite de cette histoire.

De son côté, Amira ne craint pas de se retrouver dans une situation semblable et d’être forcée à son tour d’épouser un homme qu’elle n’aime pas.

« Dans ma famille, si je choisis une personne, c’est moi qui vais choisir. Si je dis non, mon père aussi, il va dire non. »

*Nom fictif.

Ce que le père de l’adolescente a dit au tribunal

« Ici, toutes les filles [de notre pays] ont changé, les familles ont peur. Nos filles, avant de venir ici, elles répondaient à leur mère. Là, elles veulent partir. Tous mes amis ont peur que leurs filles quittent la maison. »

Ce que le juge a répliqué

« Cette adolescente est en droit de s’émanciper et d’aspirer à des réalisations personnelles des plus légitimes que sont de marier quelqu’un qu’elle aime, de vouloir exercer une profession, de décider de sa tenue vestimentaire et de ses fréquentations. Elle a droit à sa liberté de conscience, de religion, de pouvoir être libre de décider de son avenir, et de ne pas être soumise à un fiancé qui contrôle tout et qui l’oblige à porter le hijab. Elle veut être libre et s’affranchir du diktat des hommes qui l’entourent. »

Source: Sauvée d’un mariage forcé à Victoriaville: «Ma famille veut me frapper»

Glitch ‘approves’ Sephardic requests for Spanish citizenship


A computer glitch in the government portal of Spain caused thousands of applications for citizenship by Sephardic Jews to be reported approved even though they are still pending.

The Spanish Foreign Ministry reported the error in a statement Friday.

Under a law passed in Spain in 2015, descendants of Sephardic Jews may become citizens if their application is approved for lineage by the umbrella group of Spanish Jewish communities and the Justice Ministry.

“A technical error occurred in the Justice Ministry’s platform that registers the status of applications made by potential beneficiaries” of the law, the statement said. It added that “no new citizenship was granted” this month.

Approved applicants will be contacted by the consulate processing their application, the statement also said.

In discussion on Facebook groups about the law, applicants from various countries reported seeing their country of origin changed to Afghanistan — the first in the alphabetical list of the world’s countries.

Since the law went into effect, Spain has naturalized at least 8,300 applicants, with many more applications awaiting processing.

Portugal, which passed its law of return for descendants of Sephardic Jews shortly before Spain, has naturalized about 10,000 applicants.

The application window in the Spanish law expires next month. The Portuguese law is open ended.

Both governments said the legislation was to atone for the Inquisition, a wave of persecution that began in 1492.

Source: Glitch ‘approves’ Sephardic requests for Spanish citizenship