Coyne: If the United States was ever a ‘Safe Third Country,’ it is no longer

Likely the best commentary to date on the Federal Court decision.

Will be interesting to see the commentaries and reactions by those who have roundly criticized the STCA loophole, the Roxham Road asylum seekers and the government’s handling over the next few days:

One of the things on which Canadians like to congratulate themselves is our generous treatment of refugees. And it’s true, up to a point. The protections afforded asylum applicants in Canada not only meet the standards set by the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, but also exceed them.

Certainly if you compare Canadian refugee policy with that of the United States, it looks considerably more liberal. But here’s the thing: For particular types of refugee claimants, Canadian refugee policy is U.S. policy. For the better part of two decades, since the 2004 Safe Third Country Agreement between the two countries went into effect, asylum seekers arriving at land-based ports of entry on the border have been routinely turned back, without a hearing.

The premise: As each country deems the other to be “safe” in terms of its treatment of refugees (defined, under the UN convention, as those with a “well-founded fear of persecution” in their country of origin), so asylum seekers may be obliged to apply in whichever of the two they first arrive in. In practice, this means the U.S. agrees to take back those applicants Canada refuses to admit; the flow is almost never in the other direction.

That, indeed, was the point. The agreement was struck at Canada’s request in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when it was feared a flood of applicants, fleeing north from the suddenly less hospitable U.S., would overwhelm the Canadian refugee system. It was vintage Canadian hypocrisy: We would preserve our more generous system by offloading much of its work onto their less generous system.

Well, now our bluff has been called. A Federal Court judge has ruled the legislation implementing the treaty is a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, specifically its guarantees of the right to “life, liberty and security of the person.” The unspoken premise of the agreement, that the Americans’ treatment of refugee claimants may be a little rough and ready, but not so bad as to be intolerable – at least to those not forced to endure it – has been held up to the light of actual experience, and found bogus.

The histories of those who brought the case make harrowing reading: a woman from El Salvador who was raped by gang members, who threatened to kill her and her daughters if she went to the police; a Muslim woman from Ethiopia, a member of its Oromo minority, who had come to the United States as a child but now faced deportation; a family from Syria, also Muslims, fleeing that country’s civil war, only to find themselves in the America of President Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban.”

Yet in all three cases, Canadian border authorities were prepared to hand them back to their U.S. counterparts. Two of the three were spared this fate only because they were able to find a lawyer in time to file emergency stays of removal. The experience of the third, Ethiopian national Nedira Mustefa, is instructive. She was thrown in prison, held in solitary confinement for a week, and detained for a month in appalling conditions: without proper food, in freezing cold, in the same cells as criminals. She told the court she “did not know when [she] would be released, if at all.”

This is not unusual. Evidence before the court showed that those turned back at the border are “immediately and automatically imprisoned” by U.S. authorities, for weeks or even months – as an explicit penalty for having applied for refugee status. They may often find themselves without lawyers, without translators, even without access to a phone. And awaiting them at the end of their ordeal is the very real prospect of deportation, with far fewer legal safeguards than the Canadian refugee determination system provides.

There is no use pretending Canada is not responsible for their treatment, though government lawyers tried. In many cases, they are physically handed over to the Americans by the Canadian authorities whose protection they had sought. Yet there can be little doubt what awaits them on the other side, and little doubt that Canadian authorities know it. It is not the right to live in Canada they are thereby denied. It is the right not to be arbitrarily detained, or to be deported to face death or persecution in their countries of origin. It is, at the very least, the right to have their cases heard fairly, which one part of our laws loudly proclaims while another quietly denies.

As a practical matter, the Safe Third Country Agreement was already imploding under the weight of its many loopholes and anomalies: Applicants who arrived “irregularly,” between ports of entry, were not turned back, even as those who entered by the normal channels were. But now its very premise has been exposed as a lie. Whatever case there may have been for designating the United States as a safe third country while George W. Bush or Barack Obama were president, it no longer exists. Outsourcing Canadian refugee policy was always a morally dicey proposition. In present circumstances, it is untenable.

That isn’t to say that the concerns that gave rise to it are entirely unfounded. The differences between U.S. and Canadian refugee policies are bound to encourage claimants to head from one to the other. Once it is known that Canadian authorities no longer have the legal power to reject their claims out of hand, they may arrive in numbers that our offices are not equipped to handle. But the alternative can no longer be just to turn them back and hope for the best – even assuming we could. Not if we wish to live up to our own lofty ideals.

This was a decision of the Federal Court, not the Supreme Court. The judge has suspended its application by six months. The government may appeal. Or it can use the time to try to come up with a solution. Six months from now there may well be a new administration in Washington. Perhaps it may adopt a less draconian position toward refugee claimants. Perhaps the agreement might even be renegotiated, in a way that gave claimants more incentive to work within the system, because they were less fearful of the result.

But whatever happens, there can be no more pretense. The United States is not a safe third country, and we know it. We have no blind eye left to turn.

Source: If the United States was ever a ‘Safe Third Country,’ it is no longer

Also, a good history and analysis by Richard Warnica:

Lise Thibault slept in the front room, with the window open, so the winter air could slip in and keep her cool. And as she slept, she dreamed. In the distance, outside the field of her sleeping sight, a baby cried. It wasn’t her baby. She knew that, even in her dreams. She was 80 years old then. Her children were grown. They had grown children of their own.

On the baby cried, and Thibault stirred, but she didn’t wake. It was the kind of cry you hear through walls — thin and high and hiccupping. The kind of cry that perks a parent’s ears, no matter how old their children are — the kind of cry you wouldn’t normally hear on a wide, wooded lot in the Quebec countryside, just over the border from Roxham Road.

Thibault opened her eyes and her dream cut short. But the crying didn’t end. It was the middle of the night in late February. Her nearest neighbours were out of earshot. But still the cries carried on. So Thibault rose from her bed. She walked to the window. She looked out into the dark road.

It was late February 2017. Donald Trump had just become president and Justin Trudeau had just told the world, via Twitter, that Canada still welcomed the persecuted and afraid. On Chemin Roxham, where Thibault has lived with her husband since 1968, the border seemed to be fading away. People were walking across — in ones and twos and 10s. They came in families and alone. They walked up a dead-end road in nowhere New York. They crossed a deep ditch and entered Canada, where for a time they became the biggest political story in the country — a lightning rod for debates over border control, loopholes, populism, racism and who is and isn’t a legitimate refugee.

Standing in the snow that night, beneath the amber streetlight, dressed for a different, much warmer world, Thibault saw a young woman holding a baby. A second child, a toddler, stood by her side. “She was so obviously cold,” Thibault said, “and so were the children.” Soon a border control official drove by. He phoned the police, and an officer followed. The mother tried to give him some money, Thibault said, but he refused. Instead, he put the children in the car. “Don’t cry,” he told them. And he drove them all away.

On Wednesday, a federal court judge in Toronto declared that the Safe Third Country Agreement, the border pact that made Roxham Road a thing, violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The ruling validated decades of arguments made by refugee groups, lawyers and advocates for the displaced and stateless. At the most basic level, it also affirmed what activists on both sides of the border have been saying for almost four years, that the United States, under Donald Trump, is not a safe place for asylum seekers and refugees.

As is often the case with legal rulings of sweeping effect, Wednesday’s judgement actually turned on something quite human and narrow. The case was brought by a coalition of advocacy groups, including the Canadian Council for Refugees and Amnesty International, on behalf of several test plaintiffs. Among those was Nedira Jemal Mustefa, an Ethiopian woman who had lived in the United States since she was 11 years old.

In April 2017, Mustefa tried to cross the border at Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, a few kilometres from Roxham Road. After she told border guards she intended to apply for asylum, she was questioned for 30 hours, denied entry then delivered back into the hands of U.S. authorities. She spent the next 30 days in a maximum-security prison in upstate New York sometimes known as “Little Siberia” for its freezing conditions.

For the first seven days in Little Siberia, Mustefa was locked in solitary confinement, an experience she described as “terrifying, isolating and psychologically traumatic.” It was that experience that Federal Court Justice Ann Marie McDonald leaned on in her ruling. The Canadian officials, she wrote, had handed Mustefa over to the U.S. knowing she would be imprisoned, knowing, in other words, that she would be deprived of her fundamental rights under Canadian law.

“The evidence clearly demonstrates that those returned to the U.S. by Canadian officials are detained as a penalty,” she wrote. “The penalization of the simple act of making a refugee claim is not in keeping with the spirit or the intention of the (Safe Third Country Agreement) or the foundational Conventions upon which it was built. … For these reasons, I conclude that the Applicants have established a breach of section 7 of the Charter.”

Ironically, had Mustefa tried to cross the Canadian border a few kilometres away, at Roxham Rd., she would have been allowed in, permitted to make her claim and never would have become a test case. That’s what has long driven critics of the Safe Third Country Agreement, on the left and the right, mad.

The deal, hatched in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, was both incredibly broad and extremely porous. With few exceptions, it meant that anyone crossing into Canada from the U.S., by land, was prevented from making a refugee claim. It worked the other way too. The idea was that both Canada and the U.S. were supposed to be safe, and that would-be refugees should be making their claims in whichever “safe” country they arrived in first.

But it never totally worked that way. Critics on the left argued that the United States was not, in fact, safe. Critics on the right, meanwhile, hammered on the fact that the deal only ever applied at official border crossings. For a long time, those arguments weren’t academic. But they weren’t totally mainstream, either. People crossed irregularly. But never in great numbers. When Donald Trump was elected, the levees broke and the floods began.

Beginning almost immediately after Trump’s election, people starting walking over the border in serious numbers. They crossed in the winter, at great peril, into Manitoba and Saskatchewan. They crossed outside Vancouver and near Niagara Falls. But most of them, tens of thousands of them, crossed at Roxham Road, a dead-end street in upstate New York that ended in a tiny ditch in the Canadian woods.

So many of them crossed, so regularly, that Canadian officials eventually filled in a path over the creek so asylum seekers could roll their luggage across. They hauled in trailers and port-o-potties and built a semi-permanent reception centre on the other side of the border. Mounties would stand and sternly warn asylum seekers they’d be arrested if they crossed, then, once they crossed, help them with their bags.

It was a strange and contradictory thing to witness. And it represented, with each crossing, the strange and contradictory nature of asylum policy under Justin Trudeau. He wanted Canada to look welcoming. It was good for the brand. But he didn’t love dealing with what it meant to welcome so many, so fast.

For months, Roxham Road was the biggest story in Canada. It carried on as a political lightning rod for more than a year. And then, the issue just faded away. The traffic at the border never really stopped. People kept on crossing. But Canadians and Canadian politicians mostly stopped talking about it. The Liberals didn’t love getting painted as soft on border security. The Conservatives weren’t fond of getting lumped in with the angry, anti-outsider right. In any case, when the election came last year, Safe Third Country, asylum seekers, and Roxham Road barely made a ripple.

All the while, in the background, lawyers kept working away at the case that ended Wednesday. And that case means that now, whether they like it or not, the Liberals have to deal with the issues underlying Roxham Road. It is patently clear that the United States under Donald Trump is not a safe country for asylum seekers. Indeed, the Trump administration doesn’t want it to be. That’s their border plan: Make things so inhospitable in the U.S. that asylum seekers never even bother to try. That the Liberal government went to court to argue otherwise was absurd. That they lost was something of a surprise.

What happens next though, isn’t clear. Justice McDonald gave the government a six-month grace period before her ruling comes into effect. In six months, the world could be a different place. Joe Biden could be the U.S. president. The conditions for asylum seekers in the U.S. could be different than they are today. The government could amend the law, appeal the ruling or find another way to punt the issue down the road. Until then, in theory, asylum seekers could still get turned away at a border crossing and welcomed at a border ditch. A system that never totally made sense, one that is now officially, legally, in violation of the Charter, could remain in place.

Whatever comes next, the government should be careful. This country has an obligation to treat people who come here, by any route, as human beings. That obligation doesn’t go away just because our closest neighbour has decided it doesn’t apply to them anymore.

Source: Canadian federal court ruling could mean the end of Roxham Road border crossings

Coyne: On reconciliation, development and carbon pricing: Enough with the all-or-nothing rhetoric

Unfortunately, applies to many areas of public policy and debate, where the challenge for any serious government is to seek a balance between different or competing objectives:

Justin Trudeau came to power promising reconciliation, resource development and carbon pricing. On present form, he may leave having achieved none of the three.

The past few days alone have seen deepening national divisions over the paralysis of the country’s rail system by protesters acting, so they claim, in the name of Indigenous rights; the cancellation of Teck Resources’ Frontier oil-sands mine proposal, the latest in a string of major energy projects to be killed, withdrawn or indefinitely delayed; and the rejection of the federal carbon tax by the Alberta Court of Appeal, signalling that the tax’s constitutional status, when it is finally determined by the Supreme Court of Canada, is anything but certain.

There is room to debate the Prime Minister’s particular responsibility for this state of affairs. Was he too quick to raise expectations among Indigenous people about the possibilities of reconciliation, too slow to deliver? Has his approach to environmental regulations been too heavy-handed in principle, too dilatory in practice? Was the whole strategy behind the carbon tax’s implementation, namely to dragoon the provinces into levying it on the feds’ behalf, too clever by half?

But for now it’s worth reviewing just where we have landed and how we got here. Whatever mistakes there were in execution, the basic idea – that reconciliation, development and carbon pricing, far from being mutually exclusive, could be achieved together – was sound enough.

Indigenous people, rather than being the helpless victims of development, could be partners in it, with appropriate mitigation of costs and sharing of benefits. Carbon pricing, instead of impeding resource extraction, could make it more possible, if not by purchasing social licence directly, then by encouraging the reductions in emissions intensity that would do so in the long run. In the decades to come, as the world moved away from fossil fuels, Canadian oil could continue to be extracted and sold as the last best barrel on Earth.

There was, in short, a balance to be struck between these objectives that could simultaneously meet the needs of Indigenous people, the energy sector and the planet. And there was a coalition to be assembled out of the more co-operative elements of each constituency – pro-development Indigenous leaders, socially responsible corporations, market-oriented environmentalists – on the basis that, though none would get all of what it wanted, all would get some of it.

Instead, the debate has been dominated by the most extreme, uncompromising, all-or-nothing voices. While an overwhelming majority of band councils have endorsed project after project, from the Trans Mountain expansion to the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the Frontier mine, a fanatical cult has grown up around the handful of Indigenous leaders in opposition to each.

While an array of business executives, not least within the oil patch, have endorsed carbon pricing as the cheapest and least-intrusive means of driving reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, conservative politicians have mounted their own barricades against it, while proposing vastly more expensive alternatives in its place.

While those with actual responsibility for governing have focused on encouraging more responsible development, including extensive consultation with affected Indigenous communities and the smallest possible carbon footprint, left-wing activists have demanded, with increasing absolutism, that no oil be drilled or pipelines be built anywhere.

So instead of everyone getting something, the growing probability is that no one will get anything. We seem not to care whether we get what we want, so long as we can prevent others from getting what they want.

As, of course, we can. There shouldn’t be any doubt that each side of this conflict can, should it feel thwarted in its ambitions, make it virtually impossible for the others to succeed in theirs. The problem is, so can they; everyone’s got a veto of one kind or another. Yet all seem to think that, while their position is impregnable, their opponents can be made to surrender. And it is this belief that, more than anything, has brought us to this pass.

People who think we can just send in the cops to dismantle all the barricades have not begun to think through how this could be enforced over thousands of miles of rail line.

People who think Canada’s territorial sovereignty can just be waved away, when the very courts on which they depend for enforcement of their rights have consistently ruled to the contrary, are blind to both legal and political reality. People who think we can just shut down the oil sands today have not remotely contended with the consequences, not only for the economy, but the federal union. People who think we can just do nothing about climate change make themselves permanent exiles from power.

But that, alas, is what too many people do think. Only when all sides dispense with the fantasy of total victory will there be a way out of this stalemate.

Source: On reconciliation, development and carbon pricing: Enough with the all-or-nothing rhetoric

Coyne: The virus of Trumpism and his infectious moral failings

Possibly more dangerous than the coronavirus:

Over the past four years, it has been hard to escape the feeling that much of America – and even some Canadians – had fallen under the spell of a cult.

That it is also a political movement does not diminish its cult-like tendencies: the imperviousness to fact, the repetition of certain prescribed slogans, the suppression of the critical faculties, the blind devotion to the leader. And while some of this is present in all political movements, the particular zealotry of Donald Trump’s followers – the willingness to believe what isn’t so, and to disbelieve what is – is something else again.

Indeed, it is not only their thinking that appears to have been taken over; it’s behavioural. What we are witnessing is not so much the expression of a particular theory of government as of a personality type; the replication, on a mass scale, of the leader’s own temperament and bearing, if not the underlying psychological disorders, as if the virus of Trumpism had infected, not just people’s minds, but their souls – their character.

Or, perhaps, revealed it. The funny thing is, you’re almost never surprised to find who turns out to be a Trump supporter and who is not. Though they may never before have uttered the sentiments you hear coming out of their mouths now, there was always, you find yourself reflecting, a certain predilection.

This has nothing to do with how conservative they are. Some of the most committed conservatives I know are revolted by the U.S. President and want only to see the end of him. It has to do with character. It has become, frankly, something of a litmus test.

I hesitate to say this. I’m a strong believer in the proposition that “reasonable people can differ,” that there are two sides to every story, that one’s opponents are at worst mistaken. But Mr. Trump, and Trumpism, represents the triumph of unreason and the suppression of differences. To pay the usual respects to such an unworthy opponent is to do dishonour to one’s worthy opponents..

Perhaps it was possible, very early on, if you had not been paying much attention, to see him as a sort of necessary evil, a shock to the system – uncouth, sure, a bit rough around the edges, but a rock through the window, as it has been put, of official Washington, a signal that people were fed up with politics as usual.

But it is not possible now. It is not possible to look at all that Mr. Trump is and all that he represents – the pathological lying, the habitual corruption, the serial groping, the casual racism, the glorification of violence, the winking to Nazis, the laziness, the impulsiveness, the childish tantrums, the bottomless ignorance, the vanity, the insecurity, the vulnerability (so skilfully exploited by America’s adversaries) to flattery, the bullying, the crudity, the indifference to suffering, the incompetence, the chaos in the White House, the attacks on America’s allies and support for its foes, the contempt for experts and for expertise, for norms and conventions, for checks and balances, for limited government, for the very rule of law – it is not possible to be exposed to all this on a daily basis for four years and shrug it off or explain it away or accept it as part of the deal without there being something wrong with you.

Because it is the deal – that’s all there is – and it was obvious it was the deal, long before it was revealed that Mr. Trump’s victory in the last election was achieved with the aid of Russian intelligence – with or without the connivance of the multiple members of Mr. Trump’s circle who were in contact with Russian officials at the time – and quite apart from the explicit and documented solicitation of interference by another foreign power in the coming election that was the subject of his recent impeachment and trial.

The Republican senators who nevertheless voted to acquit may genuinely be Trump loyalists, or they may merely be fearful of retribution from the President and his cult followers. But either way, it would be hard to ascribe their decision to a judicious weighing of the facts before them. Not when so many had announced their intent to acquit before the trial, not when the evidence of guilt was so overwhelming, not when the justification on which they eventually settled – “he did it but should not be punished for it” – amounts not merely to a benediction on the President’s past abuses of power but an invitation to future ones as well. “Acquitted for life!” Rudy Giuliani tweeted afterward, not without cause.

To reach such a verdict, in such circumstances, is beyond a mere error of reasoning. It is moral error, and of a particularly egregious kind. These are not, after all, bar-stool yahoos or internet trolls, but senators who are supposed to know better. To say that one disagrees with it, then, is insufficient. It must be condemned, as surely history will condemn it. To be sure, there is danger in the other direction; people are all too ready nowadays to convert any disagreement into a contest of absolutes. So be it. We have to be able to see every shade of grey, including black and white.

We needn’t make too much of this. The people who have fallen under Mr. Trump’s spell, or at any rate bend themselves to his will, may have other compensating virtues; it may be a blight upon their character without being the whole of their character. But neither should we avoid it. It is not just a mistake to make excuses for Donald Trump. It is a moral failing. It may only be blindness – while some might actively applaud him for his depravities, most just minimize them – but it is, at this stage, culpable blindness, if not willful blindness.

To say that Trumpism is a moral failing is not to place his followers, or his enablers, beyond the pale. I have my own moral failings, and so do you. But it is worth identifying it in such terms; it is clarifying. Sometimes you have to, as it is sometimes said of Mr. Trump, tell it like it is.

Source: The virus of Trumpism and his infectious moral failings

Andrew Coyne: You can’t be leader of one country and pledge allegiance to another

Apart from the hypocrisy (which many politicians are guilty), it is the sheer obliviousness.

It is not like the situation in Australia, where a number of politicians found out inadvertently there were considered dual citizens. Andrew Scheer filed annual US tax returns as required by US law.

On the second part of Coyne’s commentary, his questioning the concept of dual citizenship is more theoretical than practical. One can make his arguments but one has to be aware of the practical implications, not to mention the political impracticalities.

For some immigrant groups, travel back to their country of origin to visit family or for business can only be done on the country of origin, Iran being an example. So ending dual citizenship would have a real impact on those who immigrated from such countries.

While largely not an issue for MPs and Ministers, I agree with Coyne’s arguments that leaders should not be dual citizenship for symbolic and practical reasons.

In Andrew Scheer’s case, would the public be comfortable with a dual American-Canadian negotiating NAFTA or other bilateral agreements? Even if only from a perception perspective?

If hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, virtue must be feeling awfully flattered of late.

Hardly had we digested the news that Justin Trudeau, for all his attempts to tar opponents as racially insensitive troglodytes — certainly next to his own exquisitely sensitive self — had made something of a hobby of dressing up as a black or brown person, when we learned that Andrew Scheer, though he and his party had been quick to criticize other party leaders for being dual citizens, was guilty of the same offence himself.

Well, no, the two situations are not quite the same, are they? For while everyone agrees that wearing blackface is deeply wrong, everyone seems equally agreed that there’s nothing wrong with someone being a citizen of two countries — not even a prime minister. “Over a million Canadians hold dual citizenships,” a Liberal spokesperson began in response. “It’s part of what makes Canada great.”

The problem, rather, was that Scheer had failed to make public that he was one of those over a million Canadians, had indeed been “caught hiding” his involvement in part of what makes Canada great, “even as he was ridiculing others for holding dual citizenship.” The issue, then, was not that he had done something inherently shameful — like, say, dressing in blackface — or even that he had hidden this wholly unshameful fact. The issue was that he was a hypocrite.

And so he is — a flaming one. If he has not made quite the same career out of his personal opposition to dual citizens that Trudeau has made of his opposition to racism, he and his party certainly made hay out of the dual French and Canadian citizenship of former governor general Michaelle Jean, former Liberal leader Stephane Dion, and former NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. Just on a level of basic competence: how on earth did he imagine this would not come out?

So all right, he’s a hypocrite — as are those who shrugged at their cases but seem very exercised about his. But beyond the hypocrisy, what is the substance of the issue? Are we right to assume there is nothing wrong with dual citizenship, only with hypocrisy? I don’t think so — as I said then, and as I repeat now.

It’s not wrong on a personal level: none of these leaders have done anything wrong, nor have their million semi-compatriates. It’s the law that’s wrong. It is wrong that Canada values its citizenship so cheaply that it allows it to be held simultaneously with another (or indeed any number of others: the arguments for dual citizenship apply equally to treble or quadruple citizenship). And it’s more wrong that it cannot bring itself even to ask of those who seek to lead it that, at a minimum, they should renounce all other allegiances.

To be a citizen of a nation is not like being a subscriber to a magazine, something you can collect or discard at will. It implies a reciprocal relationship, not only a set of privileges (like the right to vote) but also of obligations — to obey the law, to pay your taxes, even in some cases to serve in war. Mostly, it implies membership in a community — the obligations it entails are not what we owe the state, but what we owe each other.

We agree, as citizens, to throw in our lot with each other, to make sacrifices for each other, to put each other first. It is not possible to maintain an equal obligation to another national community — to put both “first” is a contradiction in terms. Elsewhere this is well understood. In countries as diverse as Denmark and Japan, the condition of acquiring a second citizenship is that you give up your first.

Dual citizenship should not be mistaken for pluralism, or openness. It is to Canada’s great credit and advantage that we welcome so many to join us, from all over the world, as it is that we do not expect them to conform to some rigid official identity. We should do everything we can to make it possible for newcomers to acquire Canadian citizenship. All we should ask in return is that it be their only one.

Or if that seems too much, can we at least ask that of those who would lead us? For as much as dual citizenship raises questions about what it means to be a citizen, it does so even more at the level of leadership — at least, if leadership means anything more than mere administration. In any political community, especially in a crisis, a leader must be able to rally the people to his side, to inspire them to make difficult choices, take necessary risks, sometimes to make painful sacrifices.

If they are to do that, if they are to follow where he leads, they must believe he is loyal to them, and to them only. They are unlikely to be willing to make the sacrifices he demands of them if he cannot himself make so elemental a sacrifice as to cast his lot with them — if not irrevocably, then at least exclusively. The notion that a prime minister, in particular, might make laws for one country while being subject to the laws of another — to the point, in Scheer’s case, of being eligible for the draft — is frankly bizarre.

Membership in a community should have meaning. The parties know this: you cannot be a member of one political party if you are a member of another. Why do they treat Canadian citizenship less seriously? Why do we?

Andrew Coyne: Federal leaders have capitulated on Quebec’s Bill 21, and to our shame we let them

Hard to disagree:

Elections are defining moments for a nation: in deciding what it stands for, it also decides who and what it is. In the present election the issue on which we are being asked, most directly, to decide where we stand is Quebec’s Bill 21: the provincial law banning public servants “in positions of authority” from wearing religious symbols on the job.

For many observant persons, particularly Muslims, Sikhs and orthodox Jews, this amounts to a religious hiring bar: the wearing of the hijab, the turban and the kippa are key requirements of their faith, and as such core elements of their identity. To demand that they work uncovered is, in effect, to post a sign saying Muslims, Sikhs and Jews need not apply.

We should be clear on this. It’s not just a dress code, or an infringement of religious freedom, or religious discrimination, or those other abstract phrases you hear tossed about. We are talking about a law barring employment in much of the public sector — not just police and judges, but government lawyers and teachers — to certain religious minorities.

Existing workers may have been grandfathered, but only so long as they remain in their current jobs. Should they ever move, or seek a promotion, they will face the same restrictions. The signal to the province’s religious and, let’s say it, racial minorities, vulnerable as they will be feeling already after the mounting public vitriol to which they have been exposed in the name of the endless “reasonable accommodation” debate, is unmistakable: you are not wanted here. Not surprisingly, many are getting out — out of the public service, out of Quebec.

That this is actually happening, in 2019, in a province of Canada — members of religious minorities being driven from their jobs, and for no reason other than their religion — is sickening, and shameful. That shame is not reserved to Premier Francois Legault or his CAQ government, the people responsible for designing and implementing this disgraceful exercise in segregation, this manifestly cruel attempt to cleanse the province’s schools and courts of religious minorities. It is no less shaming to the rest of us, everywhere across Canada, so long as we permit it to continue.

That is, so far as we are capable of feeling it. But experience has taught us to look the other way when it comes to Quebec, to tell ourselves that it is none of our affair, that we must not raise a fuss when the province explicitly elevates the interests of its ethnic and linguistic majority over those of its minorities, or threatens the country’s life for long years at a time — the beloved “knife at the throat” strategy — to back its escalating fiscal and constitutional demands. We dare not. We cannot. For then Quebec would leave.

So shame does not come easily to us as a nation. We have so hollowed out our national conscience over the years that we think nothing now of selling out a persecuted minority, rather than take a stand in their defence. And the proof of that can be seen in the positions of our national party leaders.

It is a sign of how abjectly they have all capitulated to majority opinion in Quebec that Justin Trudeau’s craven wobbling about — “I won’t do anything about it now, but I don’t entirely rule out doing something sometime” is only a slight paraphrase — looks positively Churchillian among them.

All they have been asked to do, after all, is join in support of legal challenges of the legislation’s constitutionality already filed in Quebec’s courts by private groups — actions that, owing to the Legault government’s invocation of the notwithstanding clause, must be considered long shots at best, based on novel interpretations of those sections of the Charter not covered by the clause, or the division of powers, or the clause itself.

But even that, apparently is too much. Asked at the Maclean’s debate whether he would support such a challenge as prime minister, Andrew Scheer babbled his usual babble as to how his party would “always stand up for individual liberties” as if he were not already on the record that, in the matter of Bill 21, they would never do so. Jagmeet Singh, who would be among the first victims of the bill were he to attempt to find work in the Quebec judicial system, denounced the bill as “legislated discrimination,” without committing himself to do anything about it.

And Elizabeth May? Ah, Elizabeth May. Convinced that the bill was “an infringement on individual human rights” but concerned not to “fuel” separatism, the Green Party leader proposed a “solution” where “we leave Quebec alone, but we find jobs for anyone that Quebec has taken off of their payroll for working in a government job.” Moderator Paul Wells sought to clarify: she’d find jobs “for people who have to leave”? Yes, she replied.

But our political leaders are what we make of them. If the leader of the Green Party can declare on national television that she will stand up for Quebec’s religious minorities by giving them bus tickets, and face no political consequences for it whatever, it is because our own moral and intellectual defences against such nonsense have atrophied.

Even today it is possible to read, on the CBC’s website, an explanation of Quebec’s “new” nationalism, with its familiar appeals to fears of immigration and multiculturalism, as being based not on crude prejudice or majoritarian intolerance, but “on a holistic conception of Quebec society that prioritizes the historical experience of francophones.”

It is only in this context that Legault could issue his extraordinary demand that all of the federal party leaders pledge “never” to intervene in any court case regarding Bill 21. There’s no point to this; he knows they won’t dare. He just wants to watch them grovel. But it’s not just their shame he’s rubbing their faces in. It’s ours.

Source: Andrew Coyne: Federal leaders have capitulated on Quebec’s Bill 21, and to our shame we let them

ANDREW COYNE: It’s time for old-school conservatism and liberalism to defend their common values

Good column:

Why would anyone describe himself as a conservative? While we’re at it, why describe yourself as a liberal? Or socialist? Or libertarian? The point is not that there is anything wrong with any of these — only that there is something right with all of them. Each of the traditions, that is, has something to teach us. Why limit yourself to just one?

Still, people do. The desire to belong to a tribe – or perhaps, to quarrel with another – is one of the deepest urges of humanity. But tribalism, ideological or other, is not just self-blinding. On occasion it leads to madness. Consider the present state of conservatism, a tribe that has, as the past week has illuminated, lost its way, if not its mind.

If it were just a matter of Donald Trump’s racist attacks on four racial-minority congresswomen – the latest in a long series, but arguably the worst — it might be put down to his own personal depravity. If it were just the chants (“send her home’’) of the people at his rally in Greenville, N.C., it might be written off as the ravings of a lunatic fringe.

But Trump, it is abundantly clear, stands atop a vast infrastructure: the Republican leaders who shrug off his abuses for the sake of party unity; the commentators who look the other way so long as he champions their pet causes; the base who are content with whatever he does so long as it annoys the liberal media; and underpinning all, a set of beliefs – superstitions, prejudices, call them what you will – that predate Trump, but which he has helped to make the credo of the conservative movement.

It was convenient that in the same week as Trump was issuing such crude appeals to hatred and bigotry, a group of academics, journalists and politicians were meeting at a hotel in Washington in an attempt to give a veneer of intellectual credibility to Trumpism. The “National Conservatism” conference underlined how completely conservatism, at least in the United States, has been turned on its head.

The conservatism of the post-war decades, a sometimes uneasy coalition of social conservatives, free marketers and hawkish internationalists, has been replaced by a populist-nationalist conservatism marked by hatred of “globalist” elites, hostility to immigration and fear of foreign trade, and by its enthusiasm for whichever strongman will protect America from these.

Where conservatives were traditionally advocates of limited government, wary of government intervention and worried about deficits, today’s conservatives embrace many of the same limitless-government approaches as the left – “collectivism rebranded for the right,” as the Republican-turned-independent Congressman Justin Amash calls it.

Where conservatives were skeptics of change, pragmatists seeking to reconcile the necessity of reform with the wisdom of tradition, the Trumpians are as reckless as they are reactionary, heedless to the social and institutional harm they have caused in the name of Making America Great Again.

And as the conference highlighted, the civic nationalism that American conservatives used to cherish – the nation to which anyone could belong so long as they subscribed to the basic ideals of the American political system, not least its reverence for the equality of every individual under the Constitution – has been replaced by a more culturally-specific, if not ethnic definition, majoritarian and monocultural rather than liberal and pluralist, that is not easily distinguished from xenophobia or indeed racism: identity politics for white people.

Canadians will be familiar with this from, for example, the Bill 21 debate. Still, few in this country would go so far as the University of Pennsylvania law professor who told the conference that, as people from certain cultures were more likely to fit into a “modern advanced society” like the United States, and as those people came mostly from Europe and the First World, and as those societies are “mostly white for now,” it followed that “our country will be better off with more whites and fewer nonwhites.” But not, you know, in a racist way.

This is, as The Economist put it in a recent issue, “not an evolution of conservatism, but a repudiation of it.” The conservatism I grew up with was basically a species of liberalism, part of the same Western liberal inheritance but more alert to liberalism’s potential for overreach. Its mission was, if you like, to save liberalism from the liberals. As such it represented a continuous tradition that, even as it changed with the times, represented certain enduring ideals. How can the very opposite set of ideas also be called conservatism without doing violence to the language?

Perhaps, as others have suggested, this is naive. Maybe there are no permanent or defining principles of conservatism, independent of its practitioners. Perhaps conservatism is whatever self-described conservatives happen to believe at the time. Trump enjoys the approval of 90 per cent of Republicans; even in Canada, according to a recent Abacus Data poll, 46 per cent of Canadian Conservatives have either a positive or neutral impression of him. Maybe it’s time to concede the point.

If so, then perhaps it is time for a more fundamental political realignment. If conservatism is now to mean its opposite, perhaps it is time for conservatives of the old school to make their peace with liberalism – for the two estranged children of the Enlightenment to reunite in defence of its values. The differences between them that once seemed so great look trivial now, compared to what they have in common, and in light of what they both oppose.

Source: ANDREW COYNE: It’s time for old-school conservatism and liberalism …https://www.thechronicleherald.ca/…/andrew-coyne-its-time-for-old-school-conservati…

ANDREW COYNE: Why Conservatives have more at stake than Liberals in Canada’s class war

Coyne, as often happens, nails it. A plague on both houses, but more so for Conservatives:

Liberals, it is true, need to find a way to reach out to less educated voters, but not as badly as Conservatives need to make their peace with the eggheads

Democracy, in G. K. Chesterton’s careful definition, means government by the uneducated, “while aristocracy means government by the badly educated.”

The enduring value of this distinction was suggested by the ruckus stirred up over the weekend by Amir Attaran, professor of law at University of Ottawa. Responding to a recent Abacus Data poll finding the Tories leading the Liberals by a wide margin among Canadians with a high school diploma or less, with the Liberals ahead among those with bachelor degrees or higher, the professor tweeted: “The party of the uneducated. Every poll says this.”

In the ensuing furor, Attaran tried to protest that he was just stating a fact, but the disdain in the tweet was clear enough to most. For their part, while some Tories quibbled with the data (just one poll, within the margin of error, misplaced correlation etc), most seemed less offended by the sentiment — every poll does show the less formal education a voter has, the more likely they are to support the Conservatives — than by the suggestion there was something shameful about it.

It was, in short, another skirmish in the continuing class war: class, now defined not by occupation or birth, as in Chesterton’s time, but by education. Conservatives, true to form, professed outrage at this arrogant display of Liberal elitism, while Liberal partisans protested that they were not snobs, it’s just that Conservatives are such ignorant boobs (I paraphrase).

The professor compounded matters by objecting, not only that he is not a Liberal, but that he is not an elite, since his parents were immigrants. And everyone did their best to be as exquisitely sensitive (“let us respect the inherent dignity of labour”) as they could while still being viciously hurtful (“not uneducated, just unintelligent”).

There is, of course, much to object to in Attaran’s remark. Not all or even most wisdom is to be found in higher education. Lots of people who go to university don’t learn a thing, while much of what they do learn is tendentious rubbish. A society that sneers at tradespeople is a society on its way to the poorhouse.

Today’s populist conservative is prone to dismiss the analysis of experts, on everything from sex education to climate change, not in spite of their expertise but because of it.

But Conservative rhetoric too often seems to go beyond attacking snobbery to attacking education itself: expertise, knowledge, the whole notion that people who know more about a subject than the rest of us ought to be listened to with respect.

There is a rich tradition, to be sure, of conservative skepticism of intellectuals — recall William F. Buckley’s crack about preferring to be governed by “the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory” than the faculty of Harvard. But the target then was the hubris of intellectuals, convinced they could plan an entire economy or overturn the accumulated wisdom of centuries of tradition, not intellectualism itself: scientism, not science.

Today’s populist conservative, by contrast, is prone to dismiss the analysis of experts, on everything from sex education to climate change, not in spite of their expertise but because of it. A society that sneers at “so-called experts” is a society on its way to the madhouse.

As in most wars, there is fault on both sides. If Trump and Ford voters brim with resentment at “liberal elites” looking down their noses at them, it is not entirely without cause.

And yet we should beware of drawing the class lines too starkly. Graduates of apprenticeships and community colleges are themselves relative elites — 46 per cent of adult Canadians have no post-secondary education — and earn more accordingly: a premium of 12 and 18 per cent, respectively, over those with only a high school diploma.

At the same time, universities are for the most part glorified trade schools. Only 12 per cent of today’s university students graduate in the humanities, the object of so much (deserved) conservative ridicule. The rest are there to learn a trade — only trades of a tonier kind, like doctoring and lawyering.

It isn’t so much about the level of education, then, as the kind of education. (Trump, as he likes to boast, is a graduate of Wharton.) There is a high degree of overlap between “liberal elites” and “symbolic analysts” (in Robert Reich’s term) — people who make their living manipulating words, numbers, images, code.

It is Conservatives who have played the class card more heavily, and with more destructive results.

What is common to all those doctors and lawyers, academics and bureaucrats, designers, artists, and, yes, media people is that they deal in ideas — with the abstract versus the physical, representation versus reality — and are typically good at communicating these to others. Not for nothing are they sometimes called the “chattering classes.”

The ability to do so earns not only income, but social and cultural “capital,” at least among their fellow class members, clustered in the centres of our major cities. That there should be some degree of estrangement between them and those outside is not surprising, but one wishes political leaders would seek to bridge these divides rather than exacerbate them.

There is fault, as I say, on either side for this; but there is not equal fault. Liberal “virtue-signalling” may flatter the moral vanity of the educated classes, but it is Conservatives who have played the class card more heavily, and with more destructive results. Class wars are always toxic, but class wars organized around “is education a good thing” are suicidal.

And not only for society. Here’s the thing: the numbers of the higher educated are growing. The 2016 census was the first to show more than half the adult population — 54 per cent — with some kind of postsecondary degree, college or university, up from 48 per cent a decade before. And it is only going to continue: younger Canadians are more likely to have a degree than their parents, and their children will be more likely still.

Liberals, it is true, need to find a way to reach out to less educated voters, but not as badly as Conservatives need to make their peace with the eggheads.

Source: ANDREW COYNE: Why Conservatives have more at stake than Liberals in Canada’s class war

Andrew Coyne: Will leaders tolerate religious segregation just because it’s Quebec?

Typical trenchant Coyne column:

According to the premier of Quebec, it’s all about pride. Quebecers, Francois Legault claims, are forever stopping him in the street to tell him “‘Mr. Legault we are happy.’ I say why and they say ‘it’s because we are proud.’… To feel this regained pride among our people, who are standing up, advancing, makes me the happiest man in the world to be their premier.”

And what is this miraculous thing that has restored Quebecers’ sense of pride to them? What has prompted ordinary Quebecers to buttonhole the premier to tell him how happy — and proud — they are? A bill that prohibits those in “positions of authority” in the civil service, including not only judges and police officers but teachers, from wearing religious symbols on the job.

Which is to say, that prohibits those whose faith obliges them to wear such symbols from working in those positions. Or if we are really being frank, that bars them to observant Muslims — also Sikhs and some Jews, but really Muslims.

That, according to the premier, is what has caused Quebecers to walk erect again: Bill 21, “An act respecting the laicity of the state,” passed in a special weekend sitting of the legislature, with the help of closure.

The bill will of course face a raft of court challenges, its prophylactic invocation of the notwithstanding clause, er, notwithstanding. The clause may save the law from judicial invalidation on the grounds of its manifest violations of Charter guarantees of equality or religious freedom, but it does not shield it from judicial scrutiny on other grounds: as a possible violation of the division of powers, say, or of women’s rights, or indeed as an improper use of the clause itself.

Whether the courts will be willing to go to such novel lengths remains in doubt. So we are faced with a question I raised some months ago: is this a state of affairs the country can tolerate? On the evidence, it would seem we can. The government of the second-largest province in the country has just passed a law forbidding the province’s religious minorities from working in much of the public service  — and when we say religious minorities, we are typically also talking of racial minorities — and the reaction elsewhere is … silence. No federal leader issued a statement in response. No other premier spoke up.

Oh, there was some perfunctory criticism from both quarters when the bill was introduced, though in curiously muted language. Justin Trudeau ventured, indirectly, that he didn’t think “that a lot of people feel that … we should be legitimizing discrimination of our citizens based on religion.” Andrew Scheer noted, vaguely, that “a society based on fundamental freedoms and openness must always protect fundamental individual rights and should not in any way impede people from expressing themselves.” Even Jagmeet Singh, whose turban would preclude his employment as a cop or teacher in Quebec, confined himself to observing that “this law that is being proposed is something that divides the population… instead of bringing people together.”

But now even that is apparently too much. Whether or not one thinks some sort of federal action is required — I do not see why it is any less legitimate for the federal government to use its constitutional power to “disallow” provincial legislation than for the Supreme Court to do so, but neither is that the only means at the feds’ disposal — it is extraordinary that it should not even be considered worthy of comment.

If this had been tried in any other province — well, why proceed? It wouldn’t be tried in any other province. But if it were, the feds, the media and the rest of the great and the good would descend on the offending province like Moses from Mount Sinai, full of fiery denunciations of the bigotry that presumably inspired it. But because it is Quebec — and, one suspects, because there’s an election in the offing — we are invited, as ever, to understand, or at any rate to shut up.

We have to avoid the temptation to abstraction. This is not merely an “intrusion on religious freedom” or “incompatible with religious equality” or “a misunderstanding of religious neutrality.” It is a religious hiring bar. Its effect, if not its aim, is to enforce a kind of segregation over much of the public sector.

To be sure, it applies only to some jobs, and not the whole of the civil service, as the Parti Québécois had previously proposed in its “charter of values.” And the government has partially exempted existing employees: while they would not be fired from their current jobs — no tearful scenes for the networks — neither could they move to a new location, take a new job, or accept a promotion within the areas prohibited to them.

But this is small comfort to those Quebecers who might aspire to work as teachers, police officers, judges and so on, whose government has essentially told them: No Muslims (or Sikhs, or orthodox Jews) need apply. Even existing employees who profess these faiths must surely see how limited a future the government has in mind for them. Over time, they may be expected to take the hint, and leave.

We are surely past the stage now where some tenured idiot will attempt to justify this in the name of French concepts of secularism or Quebecers’ scarred memories of their Church-dominated past, but just in case: it is probably no coincidence that Bill 21 should have been passed on the same weekend as Bill 9, another law of dubious constitutionality that would impose a “values test” on immigrants to the province. This is about putting the province’s minorities — religious, racial and otherwise — in their place.

Which leaves the rest of us with a decision to make. Sixty-odd years ago the United States decided it was not prepared to tolerate racial segregation in its schools in the name of “states’ rights.” Will we tolerate religious segregation in the public service on the principle that “what happens in Quebec stays in Quebec”?

HASSAN: What Michael Cooper got right and why

Andrew Coyne captured the issues better (see below):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: HASSAN: What Michael Cooper got right and why

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Coyne: Andrew Scheer rebrands his party and gets it right on immigration

Coyne’s take. The removal of Conservative MP Michael Cooper from the Justice Committee is an early signal that he may have learned from his earlier missteps and that the Bernier’s PPC will have less of an impact:

….The deficit about-face, it should be said, is only part of a larger project on which the Conservative leader is now embarked, the purpose of his current “My Vision of Canada” speaking tour. One part of it is to neutralize any issues on which the party might be vulnerable. The other is to establish himself as a prime minister in waiting and his party as a credible alternative to the governing Liberals.

That this is still necessary is in no small measure due to Scheer’s own actions: speaking at a rally organized by the dubious group known as the Yellow Vests, ranting about fictional plots to subject Canadian immigration policy to United Nations rule, enthusing about Brexit, refusing to say how he would reduce Canada’s carbon emissions. If he was trying to keep voters from straying to Maxime Bernier’s populist People’s Party, it was at the cost of too-closely resembling it.

The most immediate necessity, then, was to rebrand the Conservatives as the Conservatives. The first of the five speeches, on foreign policy, was a solid, if anodyne effort at presenting himself as a statesman; the second, on the economy, an opportunity to recite some familiar Conservative bromides on the virtues of low taxes, balanced budgets and free markets (the deficit climbdown was included in a supplementary effort).

But the third, on immigration, was the most important yet, and the most successful. Not every line rang true, but it was, in the main, an ode to immigration, and to immigrants, as the lifeblood of the country. That it was also an explicit renunciation of the sort of anti-immigrant or racist sentiment that has attached itself to conservative parties across the West was of course also welcome, if essential: not to do so, in view of the suspicions to which he has himself contributed, would have been disqualifying.

But Scheer went much further. At a time when conservative leaders elsewhere, responding to public fears, are demanding the gates be closed, it should be cause for some satisfaction that the leader of the main Canadian conservative party should make such an avowedly pro-immigration speech.

He will have to do much more to make the case for his election. But centrist voters, disenchanted with the Liberals but concerned at the Tories’ flirtation with populism, might be at least reassured enough now to give him a look.

Source: Andrew Coyne: Andrew Scheer rebrands his party and gets it right on immigration