Diversity, inclusion minister should act as ‘catalyst’ with cross-ministerial power, say advocates

Some good commentary but more speculation until we actually see the ministerial mandate letters:

Renaming the multiculturalism ministry to diversity and inclusion has drawn mixed reactions from affected communities, as advocates await the release of the ministerial mandate letter to signal whether action is likely to come with the new title, or if it’s just “window dressing,” as some fear.

Within Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s (Papineau, Que.) expanded 37-member cabinet, announced on Nov. 20, multiculturalism has been hived off from the heritage minister’s responsibility, with a separate portfolio for diversity, inclusion, and youth created, to be overseen by Bardish Chagger (Waterloo, Ont.) as minister.

Shireen Salti, interim executive director at the Canadian Arab Institute, said she’ll be watching to see if Ms. Chagger will be empowered to “act as a catalyst ensuring that diversity and inclusion is evenly applied across governments,” and that it doesn’t work as “a stand-alone ministry.”

The role should involve looking at the various functions of government and ensuring that underrepresented communities see some outreach and affirmative action, and that equal opportunities apply across sectors, something Ms. Salti said needs to be addressed for Arab Canadians, who represent the largest demographic of newcomers right now.

Former Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes said she was critical of the position in the beginning, but it presents an opportunity to “shift the conversation,” which in the past has mostly focused on gender-balance, to one that addresses equity for all. It should envelope intersecting identities, including race, class, ability, sexual orientation, and religious minorities, she said, and the gender-based analysis that was applied to government work in the 42nd Parliament should be broadened.

The position should act as an “accountability” check on the Liberals promises, and she said she hopes Ms. Chagger is tasked to work across all ministries to ensure that policy is looked at from an equity perspective. That’s the key, said Ms. Caesar-Chavannes, who is critical of the term “diversity,” calling it a frame that may draw in more people, but doesn’t always lead to systemic change.

Diversity just means numbers, echoed Black Vote Canada’s Velma Morgan, while inclusion means actual participation, she said, and she hopes the minister’s mandate letter is “starting at home,” namely, addressing the dearth of diversity in government offices. It should include outcomes that lead to more people of colour among the political staff surrounding ministers, and those reporting to them in the bureaucracy, said Ms. Morgan.

“We need to have people at the decision-making table so it reflects our community, but also brings the voice of our community to those tables,” she said. “A policy may seem very neutral on the surface but it might have an adverse effect on our community, and if you don’t know the nuances in our community, then you wouldn’t be able to catch them.”

Without specific measures in mandate, it’s ‘window dressing’

To former Conservative staffer Angela Wright, Ms. Chagger’s new title is “very typical of the way” Liberals have done things, and doesn’t necessarily signal a change in direction or adoption of new policies.

“When it comes to diversity and inclusion, they’ve already done all the studies and the reports, and at this point we need to see action and we need to see money from government to signal this is actually a commitment and something they’re going to work toward,” she said.

Anything less than actual money, changes in law, and policy implementation “is just window dressing,” she said.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh (Burnaby South, B.C.) has dismissed the new ministry as “pretty words,” rather than “real actions,” to address inclusion.

Political scientist Anita Singh was equally critical, noting cabinet positions like this one—and the newly formed ministry echoing the Liberal Party’s tagline of middle-class prosperity—are “a catch-22”.

“On one hand, the prime minister is trying to signal that these are issues that are important to his party, but on the other hand, by isolating these ministries, it fails to show how diversity, inclusion, and youth issues are interrelated to other key portfolios,” she said.

The biggest issues for youth, for example, are job creation, housing supply, and education, and so a ministry separate from that core work “makes little sense,” said Ms. Singh, while immigrant groups and people of colour face issues around immigration, credential recognition, and economic growth and housing.

“It is a weird irony that integration is being isolated this way,” she said. “There seems to be a lack of understanding about how these are all interrelated challenges.”

Though the Heritage office, Ms. Chagger declined an interview with The Hill Times until her mandate letter was issued. The office did not respond to follow-up questions about the renamed ministry, its budget and departmental resources, and whether it marks a change in approach.

These files are coming together because “there are synergies between these different roles,” Ms. Chagger told reporters on Nov. 21, the day after she was sworn in. She’ll also take on the LGBTQ2 Secretariat, created last Parliament, which has been transferred, along with the Youth Secretariat, from the Privy Council Office to the department of Canadian Heritage. The government also previously announced an Anti-Racism Secretariat, under the purview of the heritage minister, and $4.6-million to bring in a “whole-of-government approach” to address racism.

“These are areas that we take very seriously and the fact that it is a responsibility at the cabinet table tells you that we are going to ensure that when we are making decisions, we are making good decisions not only for today, but for future generations,” said Ms. Chagger.

Ruby Latif, a former Dalton McGuinty adviser who has worked at various levels of government and in Liberal circles, said she was pleased the government has taken this “step forward,” calling it a helpful position.

“When you have someone whose specialty [is] looking at inclusion and diversity, it ensures there is a lens being applied to all aspects,” said Ms. Latif, adding she thinks Ms. Chagger is the right person for the job.

Ms. Latif knew Ms. Chagger through Liberal politics, and said the minister’s experience through her work at the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre, before the second-term MP became a candidate, means Ms. Chagger “actually brings that lens of understanding of diversity.”

File typically considered a junior minister

This will be Ms. Chagger’s third portfolio since being elected in 2015. First, she was named small business minister in Mr. Trudeau’s first cabinet, and less than a year later moved to the high-profile House leader post. Now, she’s paired with the Heritage department in a post that’s traditionally been seen as a junior minister, noted University of Toronto professor Erin Tolley.

Asked by reporters if she felt demoted, Ms. Chagger said with cabinet positions, it’s the prime minister’s prerogative. She said she faced the same questions when she was small business minister, and as House leader, and that it’s “important” to sit at the cabinet table.

Ms. Chagger is one of seven people who are visible minorities who were named to the 37-member, gender-balanced cabinet. She’s the fifth racialized minister to take on multiculturalism—the now-renamed portfolio has been the most common assignment among the 20 or so visible minority people who have occupied cabinet posts since Pierre De Bané was named to former prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s cabinet in 1978, soon after the post was first created.

Where racialized ministers are named is noteworthy, Prof. Tolley said, and while it may make sense to have people of colour to serve in positions that deal with anti-racism and multiculturalism, governments should see those objectives as everybody’s responsibility.

“You can’t meet these equity objectives unless white Canadians are doing some of the work,” she said. “If you want to stack up the comparison between symbols and actual outcomes from this particular minister’s perspective, she went from a prominent role to one of less visibility and less importance.”

Multiculturalism has historically been one of the “hot potato posts” that’s been “all over the map,” with governments dealing with it in different ways, added Prof. Tolley.

It was first housed within the old department of the secretary of state, which later morphed into Canadian Heritage, and it’s also lived with the department of Citizenship and Immigration. Some prime ministers had a separate minister of state for multiculturalism, while others didn’t have a minister whose post specifically included multiculturalism in the title, as was the case in Mr. Trudeau’s first cabinet.

Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly (Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Que.) was responsible for multiculturalism in 2015, but it wasn’t brought into the title until now-House Leader Pablo Rodriguez (Honoré-Mercier, Que.) replaced her in the post in July 2018.

Semantics are important to politics, said Prof. Tolley, because it’s an explicit choice.

“The portfolios are not named accidentally,” she said, invoking the middle-class prosperity file as an example of a “symbolic and semantic” choice

“I’ll be curious to read the mandate the letter so see how, in practical terms, that symbolic choice materializes,” said Prof. Tolley, adding she also found it curious that the government isolated “youth” as a particular category.

It suggests something about government priorities, she said, whereas the words “diversity and inclusion” are “doing a lot of work” and are capturing a lot of different interests and identities and categories the government might be interested in. Last Parliament, Mr. Trudeau himself held the youth portfolio.

“From my perspective the name change, it doesn’t really go that much further, unless the mandate letter includes something about equity and outcomes,” she said, and it may be a case of simply renaming what was already there, and “in some ways almost diluting it, because now you’re dumping more and more elements into this bucket of diversity.”

Source: Diversity, inclusion minister should act as ‘catalyst’ with cross-ministerial power, say advocates

White supremacy isn’t a problem just for conservatives — it’s a problem for everyone

Not sure that this commentary by Angela Wright really refutes the points made by Neil Macdonald given the essence of his article was the particular vulnerability of Conservatives to this risk, as demonstrated by some of the CPC missteps (as noted by Wright).

That being said, the overall issues related to white supremacy concern all political players and us all:

There has been no shortage of attention lately to conservative parties in Canada and their apparent ties to white supremacists and neo-Nazis. While it’s undeniable that some conservative politicians have found themselves in hot water over inappropriate statements, a disturbing trend is emerging: one that uses a broad brush to paint conservatives as racists— and racism as a form of conservatism — while ignoring the issue in other parties. This double standard is a political tactic with serious consequences.

A couple of weeks ago, Neil Macdonald wrote a column for this page in which he posited that conservative politics seems to be a “natural home” for white supremacists.

He asked: “Why is it that white supremacists, from the neo-Nazis who threw celebratory salutes the night of [Trump’s] election, to former KKK leader David Duke, to the Charlottesville torchbearers, to the New Zealand murderer, or Cesar Sayoc, the Florida bodybuilder who sent explosives to Trump’s critics in 2018, gravitate right, rather than left?”

The assumption that certain parties are “natural” places for racists and white supremacists, however, ignores the fact many people within these parties are actively fighting against these ideologies, making their spaces anything but a “natural home.” What’s more, it gives other parties a virtual pass, allowing racism festering there to go unchecked.

Loosely organized groups

When I was in high school, my brother’s childhood friend was recruited by the white supremacist organization active on our campus. This high school was (and still is) an affluent, top-ranked public school in the city of Ottawa, located in one of the most staunchly Liberal ridings in the country. Local lore was that the father of one of the school’s students was part of a neo-Nazi group and used his son to recruit other boys who might be sympathetic to their cause.

This is just one anecdote, and it certainly doesn’t prove that neo-Nazism in Ottawa is a Liberal problem. My point, rather, is that white nationalism and white supremacy isn’t one single thing. It is a network of organized or loosely organized groups who actively promote hate, while attempting to recruit vulnerable people to their cause.

Until about 60 years ago, white supremacy and white nationalism were mainstream in North American politics. Human rights legislation started to change that, along with the removal of racist immigration policies by leaders such as former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.

And so, over time, those who have advocated for a Canada dominated by white supremacy have been pushed to the margins. That means that white nationalists are constantly trying to gain relevance by playing with language and infiltrating political parties.

A recent investigation into the far-right in Canada published by The Globe and Mail shows how far white nationalists and white supremacists are willing to go in order to spread their message; they discussed targetting the Conservative party for recruitment by attending party events, as well as how they might push the limits of acceptable speech further to the right, so that their ideologies become more acceptable to the mainstream.

Because white nationalists specifically want to create a white ethnostate, successful recruiting is more likely to happen in political parties where some members are already apprehensive about immigration (some conservative parties) rather than other political parties (like the NDP) who want to rip up the Safe Third Country Agreement to allow more people to claim asylum here.

Inevitably, some white nationalists and white supremacists slip through the cracks, but that doesn’t mean party members or politicians become complicit. Conservatives, myself included, spoke out when the party crossed the line, including with a crass ad about border-crossers, and over Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s appearance at the United We Roll rally in Ottawa.

And within caucus, Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Michael Chong has been one of the most outspoken politicians against white supremacy and white nationalism. He publicly disavowed Rebel Media for promoting anti-Semitism and white supremacy, and after the mosque shootings in New Zealand, Chong specifically named the problem of “white supremacists attacking minorities.”

Scheer initially seemed reluctant to come out strongly against white supremacy and white nationalism, but he did finally denounce it as a threat to Canada after Conservative Senator Leo Housakos suggested it wasn’t a threat (which the senator later corrected). Although arguably belated, this shows the party is beginning to take these issues more seriously (though it should be more proactive in the future, instead of waiting until it finds itself facing harsh criticism for tepid or non-responses).

Conservatives, however, are not the only ones who’ve had to contend with racist incidents. During the SNC-Lavalin affair, Liberals were accused of racism by many Indigenous peoples: the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs issued a statement over the party’s treatment of former cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced harsh criticism for his dismissive attitude toward a Grassy Narrows protester.

So why is it, then, that conservatives are painted with a broad brush, but other parties are not?

If the goal is really to end white supremacy and white nationalism — rather than score cheap political points — we should be applauding conservatives who speak out against white nationalism and white supremacy, and encouraging others to do the same.

Conservative parties are essentially being targetted by a group of loosely organized individuals who want to use these parties to spread hateful ideas and recruit new members to their racist cause. It would benefit the entire country to extend these parties support, rather than simply dismissing them as white nationalist and white supremacist-sympathizers.

Source: White supremacy isn’t a problem just for conservatives — it’s a problem for everyone

Can Andrew Scheer fix the Conservative Party’s diversity problem?

Former PC staffer Angela Wright on challenges facing Andrew Scheer, particularly with new Canadian and visible minority voters:

In his victory speech, Andrew Scheer touted the party’s commitment to being this big tent as well as the need to communicate conservative values to a greater number of Canadians. However, there were two statements in his speech—statements that garnered the loudest applauses in the convention—that could prove troubling for the party when it comes to minorities: echoing the dangerous threat of radical Islam and a staunch belief in withholding federal funding from universities that attempt to stifle free speech.

Across North America and Europe, political responses to Islamic terrorism have created a political arena where politicians and their supporters have justified both blatant and consequential discrimination towards Muslims. There is significant support amongst Canadians to commit ground troops to the fight against ISIS, but by framing this as a fight against radical Islam, Scheer gives ammunition to people who harbour prejudicial views towards Muslims. Although many argue that the term “radical Islam” highlights this form of terrorism is a warped strain of normal Islam, it nonetheless reminds listeners the culprits are Muslim, thus offering an excuse for people with biases against Muslims to suggest policies that target Muslims as a remedy. And for Muslims, it may give the impression that the party is using them to advance its policies on global security.

“Free speech,” meanwhile, has been used as a cloak by racists and bigots to spout rhetoric that’s harmful, hateful, and disrespectful towards racial and religious minorities. Scheer must take care to clarify his opposition to firing or silencing university professors with controversial views while maintaining an opposition to hate speech.

More than advocacy for justice and equality, this issue also has the potential to cause discord in the party between those who are advocates of unrestricted free speech and those who want the party to be more welcoming to everyone with small-c conservative values, regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion.

That’s why Scheer should rescind his position to withhold federal funding from universities. It’s imperative to be cognizant of how these issues can be used to target minorities as well as the detrimental impact this has on the party’s image—and its chances at electoral victory.

As a young politician with over a decade of political experience, an Ottawa native living in the Prairies, and a Conservative not tied to previous controversial legislation, Andrew Scheer is best-suited to lead the rejuvenation of the Conservative Party into one that will not bring forth policies and communicate them in a manner that forces racial and religious minorities to choose between their values and racism, their values and xenophobia, or their values and self-respect.

The party’s history-making membership numbers and massive voter turnout in the leadership race show an eagerness amongst Canadians to join the conservative movement and a dissatisfaction with other political choices. The Conservative Party has the money and the membership to win in 2019; all it needs is greater support amongst Canadians.

But it can’t be done without support from racial and religious minorities.

Source: Can Andrew Scheer fix the Conservative Party’s diversity problem? – Macleans.ca