Unvaccinated Conservative MPs should ‘stay home’ from Parliament: Bloc leader

Valid given vaccine mandates elsewhere even if this will only affect Conservative MPs:

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said Wednesday the next session of Parliament should happen in person with any members who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 staying home.

Questions remain about what the return to Parliament will look like for Canada’s 338 elected representatives after the recent federal election saw the Liberals re-elected with a minority government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will name his cabinet next month and Parliament will resume sometime in the fall.

Since the pandemic hit in March 2020, the House of Commons and committees had been functioning with some MPs working from Ottawa, but many others appearing virtually, including, later on, to vote, before the election was called.

Blanchet said he wants to see Parliament resume quickly with MPs having to be fully vaccinated in order to be there in person because now vaccines against the novel coronavirus are more widely available.

His party, along with the New Democrats and Liberals, made it a rule that candidates had to be fully vaccinated in order to hit the doorsteps, but the Conservatives did not.

“They get fully vaccinated or they stay home,” Blanchet said of Conservative MPs who might not have had their shots.

“Parliament should not come back under any kind of hybrid formation … now we know that we can go on with the way this building is supposed to work, and we should not refrain from doing so because a few persons don’t believe that the vaccine works. This belongs to another century.”

NDP MP Peter Julian said in a statement that because Canada is battling a fourth wave of the virus, the party wants to talk to others about continuing some of the hybrid practices when Parliament resumes.

“All of our NDP MPs are vaccinated and we’ve been very clear that federal government employees must be vaccinated too. Getting vaccinated is the right thing to do and elected leaders have a responsibility to set a good example by following public health advice,” Julian said.

The Liberals and Conservatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

The Conservatives saw 119 MPs, including incumbents and new candidates, elected on Sept. 20, after the party spent the race dogged by questions about its opposition to making vaccines mandatory as a tool to defeat COVID-19.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole refused to say on the campaign trail whether he knew how many of those running for the Tories had been fully vaccinated, saying he told campaign teams that those who are not immunized against COVID-19 should take daily rapid tests.

O’Toole is himself vaccinated and has been encouraging others to get their shot, but the Conservative leader says he also respects the personal health choices of Canadians and attacked Trudeau for using the issue to sow division in the country.

Conservative MPs will make their way to Ottawa next week to have their first caucus meeting since the election, where they will have to decide whether they want to review O’Toole’s leadership.

The call for MPs to be vaccinated comes as Trudeau works on bringing in a mandate requiring the federal civil service, along with those working in its federally regulated industries, to be fully vaccinated.

His government has promised to make it a rule by the end of October that travellers flying or taking a train in Canada have to be immunized in order to board.

Many provinces have already introduced a vaccine passport system requiring consumers to provide proof of immunization to access non-essential businesses like restaurants and sports and entertainment venues.

“For the safety of House of Commons staff, translators, pages, security, other MPs and their staff, all parliamentarians should show proof that they are fully vaccinated in order to take their seats in the House,” tweeted former Liberal cabinet minister Catherine McKenna, who didn’t seek re-election, but served for six years in government.

As of Friday, Health Canada reported that around 79 per cent of people 12 and older as having being fully vaccinated, with about 85 per cent receiving at least one dose.

Source: Unvaccinated Conservative MPs should ‘stay home’ from Parliament: Bloc leader

Shachi Kurl on the question [Quebec discrimination in Bills 21 and 96]

Good rebuttal to the unfair criticism and cravenness of Canadian federal leaders:

The question to Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet created a controversy in Quebec, taking on a narrative and a legend of its own. It led the National Assembly to censure me, cartoonists to ridicule me and party leaders to demand an apology.

So here was the question: “You deny that Quebec has problems with racism. Yet you defend legislation such as Bills 96 and 21, which marginalize religious minorities, anglophones, and allophones. For those outside the province, please help them understand why your party also supports these discriminatory laws.”

To those asking me to take it all back: I stand by the question. Unequivocally.

I stand by it because the question gave Mr. Blanchet the opportunity to talk to people outside Quebec, about secularism, about laïcité. He could have shared the Quebec perspective with the rest of Canada. He chose not to.

I stand by it because the Quebec government has or signalled it will override the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to protect Bills 21 and 96 from legal challenges over discrimination. And because the National Assembly included provisions in Bill 21 and 96 to override the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, leaving many Quebeckers feeling vulnerable and as Quebec Superior Court Justice Marc-André Blanchard put it in regard to Bill 21, dehumanized.

I stand by it because what does it say about the state of our democracy that a question is deemed unaskable? Who gets to decide which issues are appropriate to discuss during a federal election campaign? What does it really say about the convictions of our political leaders when they choose to make me a target to divert from their own position on a critical issue of personal freedom?

What does it say about journalism when seasoned reporters and political commentators were shocked that I dared to “go there?” Is the state of our federation so weak that we cannot even raise questions about it?

Alexander Tytler, the 17th-century Scottish philosopher, wrote democracy lasts only about 200 years. A quote commonly attributed to him says that part of the cycle moves from courage to liberty, then to abundance, to selfishness, to complacency, then apathy, and eventually back to bondage. I hope we are not on the downslope of this cycle.

During my silence – appropriate during the election campaign – people encouraged me to educate myself about Quebec. I don’t live there, but I have spent time in places like the Saguenay-Lac Saint Jean and La Malbaie. Operating entirely in French, I experienced a lasting immersion in Québécois pride and history, and in Quebeckers’ outlook on secularism, survival and the strong desire to maintain culture and language. Learning is never finished.

I have heard and listened to what people have said about the question, and the hurt it caused in Quebec. Could it have been phrased differently? Yes. Do I ultimately believe a change in wording would have prevented Mr. Blanchet, Quebec Premier François Legault, and party leaders Justin Trudeau, Erin O’Toole and Jagmeet Singh from exploiting it all for their own purposes? No.

Becoming the story was not a life goal. Yet what happened was just craven politics. What else would Mr. Blanchet have done in the midst of a sagging campaign? Politically, it made sense that Mr. O’Toole, Mr. Trudeau, and Mr. Singh piled on in order to protect their Quebec campaigns rather than stand on principle.

Other things were a little harder to take. Columnists wrote that I was “aggressive,” or “shrill,” likening my tone to that of a “mom,” using “chains” to keep order. The only square they didn’t blot on that particular bingo card appears to be “nasty woman.”

But this isn’t about them. It’s about Canadians. I did the debate as a public service, not to earn gold stars. Some people didn’t like it or didn’t like my style. That’s okay. Polling from our own organization found that 53 per cent of older men found the debate engaging, I’ll take that split. It is notable that number rose to 65 per cent among women 18 to 34. Past, meet the future.

For all the disagreement, and there has been a lot, I’ve had thousands of messages of appreciation from across the country, including Quebec. Notes of thanks for not taking the leaders talking points at face value. People who wrote saying they don’t usually watch the whole debate, but did that night with their children. Teenagers who talked about the debate in class and concluded I was “badass.” Women thanking me for being prepared, fierce, professional and strong.

On the way out of Ottawa, I stopped in Toronto, where I was met at the hotel door by a bellman.

“I think I saw you the other night.” Here we go, I thought to myself.

“And what did you think?”

“It was great!” I could tell he had more to say. He was holding back.

“Look, it’s okay. I can take it.”

“I just want to tell you … I just … I’m really glad you asked that question.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-i-was-asked-to-apologize-for-my-question-in-the-leaders-debate-i-stand/?utm_campaign=David%20Akin%27s%20🇨🇦%20Roundup&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Revue%20newsletter

Would Canadian citizenship be a lifeline to this jailed Saudi blogger? Ottawa ‘not convinced’

Raises some broader citizenship policy issues (e.g., likely sets a precedent for other detained prisoners) and likelihood of impact on Saudi government incarceration of Badawi likely to me minimal at best, counter-productive at worst. That being said, yet another reminder of the false veneer of MBS’s modernization initiatives:

The federal government appears reluctant to grant Canadian citizenship to a jailed blogger in Saudi Arabia whose wife and children live in this country.

Weeks after the House of Commons passed a unanimous motion to ask the immigration minister to bestow citizenship on Saudi dissident Raif Badawi, a source told the Star on Wednesday that the federal government is “not convinced” such an act would help — and fears that a show of public support might in fact worsen his treatment.

As a result, the federal government prefers, for now, to stick with diplomatic “back channels” to advocate for his release, said the source, on the condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

The case appears to be the latest to spotlight the fine line the Canadian government is trying to walk when it comes to using public pressure versus quiet diplomacy on the international stage.

Badawi, who has championed support for religious pluralism and respect for minorities, was arrested in 2012 and accused of using the internet to “infringe on religious values” in violation of a Saudi Arabian law against cybercrime, according to his international legal team. He was later found guilty of the charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a steep fine.

“This new investigation is likely an act of intimidation, intended to silence Raif and his family as the Kingdom faces growing backlash for its human rights abuses,” said Brandon Silver, an international human rights lawyer and the centre’s director of policy and projects.

The centre says Badawi’s ongoing imprisonment is unjust and it has urged Saudi authorities to include Badawi among the list of prisoners who, as part of an annual tradition, will be granted royal pardons during Ramadan this year.

“Nine years have been long enough. My kids are growing up without their father, and we all miss him terribly,” Haidar said in a recent statement.

A written appeal previously sent to Saudi authorities by Irwin Cotler, Canada’s former justice minister and the centre’s founding chair, argued that Badawi’s “moderate and reasonable voice” did not defame Islam or personally attack authority figures, posed no threat to national security and reflected a “deep patriotism.”

The clemency appeal noted that Saudi Arabia’s “reputational crisis” following the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey, as well as other events, could intensify if the kingdom doesn’t send a “clear signal” to the world it is committed to reforming.

A motion in late January calling on Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino to use his discretion under a section of the Citizenship Act, which allows granting of Canadian citizenship to a person facing “special and unusual hardship,” was put forward by Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet and approved unanimously in the House. 

Thomas Juneau, an associate professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa, said he sees both sides of the argument when it comes to conferring citizenship upon Badawi.

On the one hand, granting citizenship is the morally right thing to do and helps bring attention to the case. On the other hand, there’s a powerful counterargument that granting citizenship could make the Saudi government feel like it’s been backed into a corner and there’s a risk it could dig its heels in because it does not want to be seen as bending to outside pressure.

“It’s not a democracy, but it still has its own domestic considerations,” Juneau said. “It might be reluctant to be seen as responding to external pressure.”

Juneau says this sort of dilemma over whether Canada should exert public pressure on another country or use more discreet back-channel talks to get its way can be seen in this country’s handling of the ongoing detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in China and terrorist kidnapping cases abroad.

“Is it better when these terrorist kidnappings are managed with as low profile as possible or when there’s attention brought to the case? We don’t know the answer to that. There’s still a very serious debate,” he said.

Juneau adds that going the quieter route can invite speculation whether the government is seeking to avoid political embarrassment.

Silver told the Star conferring Canadian citizenship upon Badawi would “give Canada greater standing in its interventions on Mr. Badawi’s behalf, including in requests for clemency and consular visits.”

“As well, (Badawi) is subject to a 10-year travel ban following the completion of his sentence, and Canadian citizenship may also help secure him a passport and safe passage to Canada despite the ban.”

There is precedent for this, Silver added, citing the federal government’s efforts under Pierre Elliott Trudeau to secure the release of Soviet dissident and human-rights advocate Anatoly Sharansky, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison in the late 1970s on espionage charges. According to a 1978 Canadian Press story, Trudeau told Soviet authorities “We would take him off their hands” and that the House had earlier given unanimous approval to grant Sharansky landed-immigrant status. (Sharansky was eventually released in 1986 and flew to Israel).

Asked Wednesday if the government planned to act on the motion regarding Badawi, Alexander Cohen, the minister’s press secretary said in a statement, “We continue to raise (Badawi’s) case at the highest levels and we have repeatedly called for clemency to be granted. We remain in contact with Ms. Haidar and we want to see Mr. Badawi reunited with his family. The recent motion demonstrates the concern of Parliament with regard to Mr. Badawi’s detention.”

Syrine Khoury, press secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau, would not elaborate, saying, “We will continue to raise our concerns regarding (Badawi’s) situation in Riyadh and Ottawa.”

However the government source said Ottawa was “treading carefully” on the question of granting citizenship to Badawi.

“The idea it could confer benefits is tenuous,” the source said.

For one, the Saudis don’t recognize dual citizenship, so giving Badawi Canadian citizenship would basically amount to a symbolic gesture.

Secondly, the source said, there is concern the Saudis could perceive the act of granting citizenship as Canada unnecessarily “meddling” in their internal affairs and potentially hurt Badawi’s clemency bid and result in a deterioration of his conditions. (Badawi is allowed brief phone calls with his wife but is not allowed visitors, according to his international legal team).

Informed Wednesday of the government’s lukewarm position on granting citizenship to Badawi, Silver said public advocacy and private diplomacy are equally important and proved to be an effective combination in getting the recent release from detention of Loujain Alhathloul, the Saudi women’s rights activist and former UBC graduate.

The granting of citizenship to Badawi, Silver added, would give “great hope” to Badawi and to his family and potentially protect him from future reprisals.

“I don’t think symbolism is something that should be so quickly papered over.”

Source: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2021/03/03/would-canadian-citizenship-be-a-lifeline-to-this-jailed-saudi-blogger-ottawa-not-convinced.html

Yakabuski: Four years after the Quebec mosque tragedy, the Bloc Québécois Leader has learned nothing

Indeed:

Four years ago this week, a disturbed young man walked into a Quebec City mosque and opened fire, killing six people, wounding another eight and forever shattering the blissful innocence of an otherwise peaceful and tolerant community, province and country.

In the immediate aftermath of the slaughter at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec, then-premier Philippe Couillard called on the political class to proceed cautiously in the debate over secularism that many felt had unfairly targeted Quebec’s growing Muslim community.

“Words spoken, words written as well, are not trivial,” Mr. Couillard said. “It is up to us to choose them.”

After all, there is a fine line between defending the secularism of the state – the purported objective of the previous Parti Québécois government’s ill-fated Charter of Quebec Values – and stigmatizing members of a religious minority to win the votes of a nationalist Québécois for whom the protection of their province’s cultural distinctness has been a lifelong preoccupation.

No matter how legitimate the desire of some Quebec politicians to keep religion out of the public sphere – a desire informed by the province’s long struggle to break the stranglehold of the Catholic Church on state institutions – too many of them had succumbed to the temptation of raising the bogeyman of Islamization to win votes among pure laine Quebeckers.

In his infinite smugness, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet continues to demonstrate that he has learned nothing about the dangers of resorting to the kind of demagoguery that Mr. Couillard warned against in the wake of 2017′s fatal events. His refusal this week, of all weeks, to apologize for his smearing of Liberal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra is too serious an infringement of the basic rules of Canadian and Quebec politics to ignore.

Mr. Blanchet embarked on this slippery slope two weeks ago by dredging up old innuendo about Mr. Alghabra’s “proximity” to Islamic extremists in a press release following the Mississauga-Centre MP’s appointment to the federal cabinet. Saying he refused “to accuse anyone,” Mr. Blanchet nevertheless went on to point to “questions” about Mr. Alghabra’s association with “the Islamic political movement, of which he was a leader for several years.”

If there were any doubts about Mr. Alghabra’s alleged coddling of extremists, they were dispelled years ago. Before going into politics, he briefly led a mainstream organization, the Canadian Arab Federation, that, under a subsequent president, veered in a radical direction. Any attempt by Mr. Blanchet to associate Mr. Alghabra with positions taken by the CAF after his stint as president amounts to engaging in guilt by association and, frankly, sleazy politics.

Former PQ leader Jean-François Lisée nevertheless leapt to Mr. Blanchet’s defence, arguing, in a column in Le Devoir, that Mr. Alghabra had demonstrated a “leniency toward [Hamas] that warrants clarification.” Mr. Lisée provided no evidence of said leniency. But then again, what do you expect from a former politician who, in 2016, argued for a ban on burkas in public because terrorists in Africa had “been proven” to hide AK-47s under such clothing.

Mr. Blanchet was given an opportunity this week to withdraw his previous comments and apologize to Mr. Alghabra. He chose to dig himself into an even deeper hole. “The question I raised in an absolutely polite and courteous manner was based on articles in Le Journal de Montréal, Le Journal de Québec and the very torontois and not very indépendantiste Globe and Mail,” he told reporters. “Quebeckers have concerns on questions of secularism and security.”

The newspaper columns and article Mr. Blanchet referenced only served to prove the baselessness of the “questions” about Mr. Alghabra he sought to raise. Unfortunately, besides a few curious journalists, he knows most people will not bother to check. And in the online echo chamber, where baseless innuendo is the bitcoin of political debate, Mr. Blanchet’s “questions” about an upstanding MP and Liberal cabinet minister take on a life of their own.

It is no mystery why the Bloc Leader resorted to smearing Mr. Alghabra as his party prepares to defend a slew of narrowly-won ridings in a federal election expected later this year. The Bloc, which remains nominally supportive of Quebec independence, portrays Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals and their devotion to multiculturalism as a threat to Quebec’s cultural survival. Raising doubts about Mr. Alghabra’s political views serves to plant the seeds of fear and intolerance among a subset of Quebec voters for whom the details do not matter much.

While it is quite legitimate to bemoan the excesses of Liberal multiculturalism – epitomized by Mr. Trudeau’s 2015 inanity about Canada having no core identity – it is quite another to seek to scapegoat religious minorities for political purposes. Mr. Blanchet crossed the line. That he did so on the eve of such a painful anniversary for Quebec’s Muslims says quite a lot about him.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-four-years-after-the-quebec-mosque-tragedy-the-bloc-quebecois-leader/

Bloc takes aim at new transport minister over ‘Islamic movement’ ties

Playing ugly identity politics:

The Bloc Québécois is seeking to sow doubt about Canada’s new Transport Minister Omar Alghabra over his association with what it calls “the political Islamic movement.”

Leader Yves-François Blanchet said in a release that “questions arise” due to the minister’s former role as head of the Canadian Arab Federation.

But the Bloc leader said he “refuses to accuse” the minister of anything specific.

Alghabra was the federation’s president before being elected as a Toronto-area Liberal MP in 2006.

Rather than make specific accusations, the Bloc linked to a 2016 article by a right-wing Quebec newspaper columnist that made implications about Alghabra’s past.

“It’s really questions about his past and also the separation of church and state, which is a profound value for the Bloc,” said spokesman Julien Coulombe-Bonnafous.

“We don’t want to raise any accusations, because I don’t think there’s that much.”

In 2009, then-citizenship and immigration minister Jason Kenney opted to cut funding for the Canadian Arab Federation, whose leader at the time made statements that Kenney called anti-Semitic and supportive of terrorist groups.

The Bloc’s attempt to undermine confidence in Alghabra, who was sworn in as transport minister Tuesday, follows his move to distance himself from a YouTuber who has expressed intolerant views toward LGBTQ communities.

Alghabra said in a statement Tuesday night he is a longtime advocate for LGBTQ rights and was “shocked and disappointed” to learn of a video using homophobic slurs that was posted online by Fadi Younes, whose digital marketing agency Alghabra had hired on a contract that has since been terminated.

“I was not aware of these comments before today and I wholly reject them,” said the MP for Mississauga Centre.

“We must combat ignorance, hate or intolerance in our society. I will continue to support LGBTQ rights, as we continue to build a more inclusive and tolerant society for everyone.”

Alghabra has been subjected to innuendo about his background before.

In 2018, Conservative Sen. Denise Batters apologized to Alghabra, who was born in Saudi Arabia, after she wondered aloud why the then-parliamentary secretary for the foreign affairs minister wasn’t questioned about his place of birth while speaking with the media about Canada’s diplomatic dispute with the country at the time.

“Senator, I’m a proud Canadian who is consistent in defending human rights. How about you?” Alghabra tweeted in response to a Twitter post from Batters.

The next day, he tweeted that she had called to apologize, saying he accepted the gesture and said Batters had told him “this is a lesson to all of us.”

Source: Bloc takes aim at new transport minister over ‘Islamic movement’ ties

Bloc to promote bill on French-language proficiency for new citizens

Virtue signalling, given that citizenship is exclusively under federal jurisdiction. Challenge for Liberal, CPC and NDP Quebec MPs and will see if any pander to this bill:

The Bloc Québécois will get to debate a bill Thursday that would require anyone applying for Canadian citizenship in Quebec to demonstrate functional proficiency in French.

Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet says that familiarity with the official language of Quebec is essential amid what he calls an ongoing threat to the mother tongue of most Quebecers.

Currently, most applicants must demonstrate a professional proficiency in either English or French to qualify for citizenship, but a private member’s bill Bloc MP Sylvie Bérubé introduced in February would change that to require French for immigrants who have settled in Quebec.

The chance to debate the legislation comes after Montreal Liberal MP Emmanuella Lambropoulos told the House of Commons official languages committee last week that the idea of a French-language decline is a “myth.”

She reversed her comments following a social media backlash, saying in a statement Saturday her remarks were “insensitive,” that French is in decline and that she hopes to find ways to protect it.

Blanchet said some Liberals threw Lambropoulos “under the bus” in calling her out for her initial remarks, and suggested the governing party was hypocritical in its professed concern for the state of the French language.

“What is insensitive actually is the reaction of the rest of her caucus,” Blanchet said Wednesday. “She probably said out loud what many of them do think.

“I strongly doubt that when they have private conversations in the corners of their caucus they say, ‘Oh, French is in a bad situation.'”

Meanwhile, reports of a recent tweet — since deleted — by Chelsea Craig, the Quebec director of the federal Liberal party, referring to the province’s 43-year-old language law as “oppressive” fanned the regional firestorm.

Craig posted a subsequent message to Twitter on Wednesday stressing that Bill 101 is important and stating in French that “French is declining in Quebec and it must be protected.”

But the damage was done. For the third day in a row, Bloc and Conservative MPs hammered the Trudeau government with questions about the state of the French language in Canada.

“It makes no sense,” Conservative MP Alain Rayes said in French during question period in the House of Commons Wednesday afternoon.

“Will the prime minister immediately condemn her disrespectful comments?”

Blanchet asked Trudeau whether he agreed with Craig.

“Does the prime minister of Canada believe that Bill 101 is ‘oppressive’ against the English in Quebec” Blanchet asked in French.

The prime minister replied that the government supports the law — known as the Charter of the French Language — and recognizes that in a bilingual Canada, Quebec “must be first and foremost French-speaking.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Wednesday he supports stronger laws to protect French, adding that the government needs to provide more educational tools to foster language development.

Source: Bloc to promote bill on French-language proficiency for new citizens

Blanchet seeks to drive values wedge between Quebec and Trudeau government

Virtue signalling during the pandemic, when Quebec has some of the highest per capita infection and death rates worldwide:

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet is doubling down on efforts to draw a line separating his party’s values from those of the Trudeau Liberals — particularly on the fraught ground of free speech.

Blanchet posted a tweet Sunday suggesting Justin Trudeau’s response to attacks in France that authorities have attributed to Muslim extremists did not go far enough, and highlighted what the Bloc leader called a “disturbing gap” in values that he chalked up to possible “weakness” or “ideology” on the prime minister’s part.

Blanchet said in French that Trudeau is threatening Quebec’s friendship with France. He’s sought to align his province with that country’s “republican and secular” principles, contrasting them with what he called an “Anglo-Saxon multiculturalist doctrine.”

Source: Blanchet seeks to drive values wedge between Quebec and Trudeau government

Blanchet vows to press PM on prof’s use of slur, drawing sharp rebukes from Black MPs

While IMO, the professor in question, Verushka Lieutenant-Duval, used the word legitimately to demonstrate reappropriation, rather telling for Bloc and CAQ leaders to spring to her defence given their overall lack of sensitivity to racism and systemic racism:

A controversy over a suspended professor who used a notoriously derogatory word for Black people in class has stirred strong emotions on Parliament Hill, over whether, if ever, the term should be used.

The heated responses came amid a push by the Bloc Québécois to have the government say unequivocally whether the Liberals, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in particular, supported the professor at the heart of the controversy.

Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet said he was unimpressed with Trudeau’s response Wednesday to a question in the House of Commons, and planned to press Trudeau anew on Thursday.

Blanchet said those subjected to hateful words deserve compassion and support, but using the term in an educational context isn’t prejudicial.

Asked what he would say to those who believe otherwise, Blanchet said: “I have to say that you have very rightfully expressed your sensibility and opinion, which I respect absolutely, but which I do not share.”

The issue has been of particular interest in Quebec, where provincial politicians have come to the defence of University of Ottawa professor Verushka Lieutenant-Duval. So have Bloc Québécois MPs on Parliament Hill.

New Democrat Matthew Green blasted the Bloc, saying that defending use of the offensive word under the banner of free speech opens a path for continued racist attacks on Canada’s Black communities.

“For somebody who has had that word hurled against them from the time I was nine years old … that is a dehumanizing word, it is a form of racial violence,” said Green, who was wearing a Black Lives Matter button on his mask.

“Those that would choose to defend it, what they’re really defending is the prerogative to uphold white supremacy.”

Green party Leader Annamie Paul tweeted that she, not Blanchet, has been targeted with use of the slur “and it stung each time.”

“Before making statements about an issue he clearly doesn’t understand, I invite Mr. Blanchet to contact me so I can explain why the N word remains painful for many,” she wrote on Twitter.

Lieutenant-Duval was suspended after using the term during a classroom discussion last month. She has since apologized.

On Wednesday, University of Ottawa president Jacques Frémont issued an appeal for campus calm, saying inflamed rhetoric wouldn’t lead to a resolution.

The decision to remove Lieutenant-Duval from the classroom was not taken arbitrarily, nor was her academic freedom threatened at any point, he wrote.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said healthy and open on-campus debate needed to carried out with respect for professors and students. There must be a similar context of respect if ever the offensive word is to be used under the umbrella of academic freedom, he said.

“The discussions about racism lately have been good in raising awareness of inequalities and unacceptable outcomes,” O’Toole said Thursday.

“So how do you find that balance? I think universities are trying to look at that and there should be respect as part of that process.”

Trudeau wasn’t in question period Thursday, but on Wednesday had told the House of Commons that “we all need to be conscious of the power of our words.”

On Thursday, Bloc MP Kristina Michaud asked Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland if the government would defend academic freedom at the University of Ottawa.

“Obviously, our government and I think every member in this House will defend academic freedom,” Freeland said in French.

“At the same time … and this is a difficult thing, we must be aware of the reality and that we have systemic racism in our country and we must also act on that.”

Source: Blanchet vows to press PM on prof’s use of slur, drawing sharp rebukes from Black MPs

Bloc leader apologizes for candidates’ Islamophobic and racist social media posts

Of note (pro forma apologies):

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet apologized Thursday after media outlets uncovered a number of Islamophobic and racist social media posts by candidates running for the sovereigntist party.

“They all regret having shared in the past videos or messages containing inappropriate comments,” Blanchet said in an emailed statement.

“They apologized. As leader of the Bloc Québécois, I add my apologies on their behalf to the entire population of Quebec.”

Blanchet’s statement does not name any of the candidates, though it indicates he has spoken to five individuals — four women and one man.

The apology is almost certainly in response to articles published Wednesday in the Globe and Mail and Thursday in the Journal de Montréal that documented numerous posts, tweets and shared links on Facebook and Twitter by: Caroline Desbiens, a candidate in the Beauport riding; Lizabel Nitoi, running in Marc-Aurèle-Fortin; Valérie Tremblay in Chicoutimi–Le Fjord; and Claude Forgues in Sherbrooke.

The four candidates named in the Globe and Mail and Journal de Montreal articles. (Radio-Canada)

The fifth candidate is likely Nicole Morin, a Bloc candidate in Saint-Maurice–Champlain who was found to have shared a video by the far-right group La Meute.

The four Bloc candidates cited in the Journal article issued identical statements of apology on social media Thursday. The apologies note that Le Journal “considers” the messages Islamophobic, but the authors don’t state whether they agree with the assessment.

Desbiens’ remarks were in a publication promoting a law on secularism in 2013. She said she worried that women would soon be forced to either wear a veil to go grocery shopping or be thrown in jail. She also praised France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Nitoi shared a groundless article about the intelligence of Muslims. Tremblay has shared several anti-Islam messages and conspiracy theories on Twitter since 2016, the Journal de Montreal reported.

Forgues shared a video on Facebook that states “Islam is a disease” and contained other intolerant remarks about Muslims, according to the Journal.

The boilerplate apologies, written in the first person, all say that the candidates did not mean to offend.

The four candidates go on to affirm in their statements their “total and complete support for the values and program of the Bloc Québécois … which in no way advocates measures that go against some communities, whether cultural or religious.”

The controversy lands ahead of the second French-language debate, set for Thursday.

The Bloc Québécois has been building momentum ever since the first French-language debate last week. Polls suggest Blanchet was the big winner of that contest and that the Bloc’s support levels have increased as a result.

Source: Bloc leader apologizes for candidates’ Islamophobic and racist social media posts

Un candidat bloquiste dénonce la discrimination de l’« homme blanc »

Not surprising, given their ethno-centrism:

Dominique Mougin, qui brigue les suffrages dans Saint-Léonard–Saint-Michel, a partagé au cours de la dernière année deux articles du média ultraconservateur Le Peuple. Ces billets dénonçaient la Ville de Montréal et Québec solidaire pour avoir établi des critères d’embauche qui favorisent le recrutement de femmes et de personnes issues des minorités ethniques.

Dans les deux cas, les textes se désolaient que les critères de diversité défavorisent les « hommes blancs », à plus forte raison ceux qui sont « hétérosexuels » dans le cas de l’administration Plante.

M. Mougin n’était pas l’auteur de ces textes, mais en plus de les partager, il a fourni des commentaires pour les appuyer. Le 8 janvier 2019, sous le texte intitulé « Hommes blancs, abstenez-vous de postuler pour Québec solidaire ! », il a écrit que « si on veut commencer à se faire respecter, il va falloir répondre coup pour coup ».

Il est plus que temps que les députés du PQ et du Bloc québécois dénoncent le racisme dont font preuve QS et Projet Montréal.

Dominique Mougin, le 8 janvier 2019

Quelques semaines plus tôt, en novembre 2018, sous le texte « L’homme blanc hétéro est écarté par l’administration municipale », le candidat bloquiste décrivait Valérie Plante comme « notre petite mairesse », en plus d’ajouter : « et je ne parle pas seulement de sa taille ».

La Presse a laissé des messages vendredi et dimanche sur la boîte vocale de Dominique Mougin, mais celui-ci n’a pas rappelé. Les deux publications ont toutefois été retirées de son fil Facebook dans l’intervalle.

Avant qu’il annonce la fin de ses activités en août dernier, le média Le Peuple se décrivait comme « un journal qui vise à donner un point de vue différent sur l’actualité québécoise et canadienne ». Il défendait notamment des positions masculinistes, climatosceptiques et antimigratoires.

Invité à réagir au comportement en ligne de son candidat, le Bloc québécois nous a fourni une courte déclaration dans laquelle il indique que « M. Mougin s’est engagé à défendre exclusivement le programme » du parti.

Peur de la drague

Dans un registre moins draconien, un autre candidat bloquiste a lui aussi déploré la condition de l’homme québécois au cours des dernières années.

Claude André, qui se présente dans Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie, a travaillé comme journaliste pigiste et chroniqueur d’humeur dans les années 2000 et 2010. À l’époque, il a alimenté une page personnelle, puis un blogue hébergé par le Huffington Post.

Sur sa page personnelle, en mars 2007, il a signé un « édito » adressé « strictement aux mecs » dans lequel il disait remarquer que les hommes d’ici étaient effrayés par l’idée de draguer des femmes.

« Serait-ce parce que les gars, depuis la garderie au secondaire, ont été élevés par des femmes que l’homo quebecencis molluscus est angoissé à l’idée d’en affronter une sur le terrain de la séduction ? […] Ou encore parce qu’elles ont connu des pères du divorce qui, par remords de ne pas leur donner une vraie famille, les traitent comme des reines que les filles d’ici sont si altières ? », a-t-il écrit.

Joint par La Presse vendredi dernier, Claude André a soutenu que ses textes « d’humour » s’inscrivaient dans « l’esprit de ces années-là ». Il affirme qu’il ne cautionne plus ces idées. « De vieux sketches de Rock et Belles Oreilles, ça ne passerait plus aujourd’hui », illustre-t-il.

« Bashing »

Dans un passé plus récent, M. André a signé un billet intitulé « Le bashing du mâle québécois : ça suffit ! » sur le site du Huffington Post. Dans ce texte daté d’août 2013, il affirmait notamment en avoir « ras le pompon » du « mépris » dont faisaient l’objet, selon lui, les hommes de la province.

Il réagissait alors à un texte publié par la journaliste Judith Lussier dans lequel elle racontait avoir cessé de porter une robe d’été car elle en avait marre de recevoir des remarques déplacées. Son usage de l’expression « violer du regard » avait mis M. André hors de lui.

Déjà que les hommes de ma génération étaient parfois perçus comme des assassins possibles, après les événements de Polytechnique commis par un meurtrier nommé Marc Lépine, faudrait pas non plus que l’on fasse maintenant des Québécois des éventuels violeurs en puissance parce qu’ils répondent – parfois maladroitement, je n’en disconviens pas –, à une impulsion séductrice.

Claude André, dans un texte de 2013

Judith Lussier a dit à La Presse avoir déjà signifié que « si c’était à refaire », elle écrirait sa chronique « autrement ».

« Je crois toutefois que ce texte nous aura permis d’entamer une discussion sur le harcèlement de rue, qui n’était pas vraiment un sujet de discussion à l’époque », a-t-elle ajouté, estimant par contre que la lecture de M. André « extrapolait d’une manière exagérée » et « faisait preuve de susceptibilité et s’inscrivait un peu dans l’idée passive-agressive du “not all men” ».

En entrevue, Claude André a fait valoir que « c’était avant #metoo, avant tout ce qu’on sait sur la culture du viol. Évidemment que je n’écrirais pas quelque chose comme ça aujourd’hui ».

Quant à l’idée du « mâle bashing », elle faisait « partie de la discussion politique de l’époque », selon lui.

Le Bloc québécois s’est dit « satisfait » des explications de son candidat et a souligné que « M. André défend l’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes ».

Source: Un candidat bloquiste dénonce la discrimination de l’« homme blanc »