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


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 »

MP’s bid to boost French requirements for citizenship could spark House battle

Citizenship is solely federal jurisdiction:

Heads up, House staff: It may be time to dust off those ballot boxes.

Another battle over backbench business may be brewing after the Commons procedure committee backed a recommendation to bar Bloc Québécois interim leader Mario Beaulieu’s bid to impose new French-language requirements on Quebec residents applying for Canadian citizenship from going to a full House vote.

Introduced on Nov. 1, Beaulieu’s bill would require permanent residents living in Quebec to have an “adequate knowledge of French” in order to obtain Canadian citizenship.

Under the current laws, they only need an “adequate knowledge” of one of Canada’s two official language, a standard that applies across the country — prompting concerns that Beaulieu’s proposal could violate the Constitution.

Last month, the all-party subcommittee charged with vetting private members’ bills and motions in advance of their addition to the House priority list recommended that the proposal be designated non-votable — while Beaulieu would remain free to bring it to the floor for debate. But when the two hours automatically allocated for second-reading consideration ran out, it would be dropped from the order paper.

During the subcommittee meeting, Library of Parliament analyst David Groves told MPs it raised “complex constitutional issues” — but could nevertheless be permitted to go forward without being designed as non-votable, since Quebec has “a great deal more control over immigration than other provinces,” and, as a result, “has some unique powers in that regard.”

The three subcommittee members weren’t so sure.

“My wife speaks five languages. French is not one of them,” Liberal MP David de Burgh Graham said. “When she got her Canadian citizenship, we had just moved to Quebec” — where, he noted, he already lived. “She would have had to return to Ontario or stay in Ontario to get her citizenship, and I think that’s against the values of our Constitution, our charter.”

New Democrat MP Rachel Blaney agreed.

“As a person who ran an organization that served newcomers to Canada for many years, I remember helping people in our very anglophone part of the world, in B.C., who spoke only French, and they would still be able to get their citizenship by using the French language,” she observed.

“I am not going to vote in support of moving forward with this, because it simply is not … well, I don’t think it’s constitutional, and it totally undermines the fact that Canada is a multilingual country. That’s something we should all be proud of.”

Eventually, the subcommittee voted unanimously to recommend the bill be designated non-votable — a decision that prompted Beaulieu to exercise his right to appeal, which he did during a special appearance before the full committee last week.

But despite garnering support from the opposition side of the table for his pitch to let his bill proceed to a vote, Liberal MPs used their majority to side with the subcommittee and approve the recommended course of action, although Liberal MP Scott Simms noted that his vote was cast “with reservations.”

Beaulieu does have one remaining avenue of appeal: If he can secure the support of at least five fellow MPs representing at least two recognized parties, he can ask the Speaker to convene a secret ballot vote on the committee ruling.

That’s exactly what New Democrat MP Sheila Malcolmson did last year when the same subcommittee concluded that her proposal to establish a federal strategy on cleaning up shipwrecks and abandoned vessels was simply too similar to a government-backed bill introduced after her proposal was tabled.

The House ultimately rejected her call, which she blamed on the Liberal government for telling its MPs to block her attempt to revive the bill.

Even if Beaulieu succeeds in getting his bill back on the main House docket, he’ll still face an uphill battle in convincing his Commons colleagues to actually vote for his proposed new rules for hopeful citizens. That’s because the opposition members who supported his right to bring it forward at committee made it very clear they’d be unlikely to support it in the House.

Source: MP’s bid to boost French requirements for citizenship could spark House battle

Baloney Meter: How meaningful is the Bloc’s promise to ban veiled voting, oath taking?

Notwithstanding public opinion and wedge politics, likely that the experts have it right:

Constitutional law experts believe banning women from wearing veils while taking the citizenship oath or providing public services would almost certainly be struck down by the courts as a violation of religious freedom and equality rights.

“A ban during (the) citizenship oath ceremony is unquestionably unconstitutional,” says University of Waterloo political scientist Emmett Macfarlane, who has written extensively on Supreme Court constitutional rulings.

“I think a ban on front-line public service workers would also be constitutionally problematic, for similar reasons, although a court may entertain arguments relating to job requirements a little more seriously than it would the purely symbolic arguments concerning the oath.”

Ottawa University constitutional law professor Errol Mendes concurs: “If they didn’t use the notwithstanding clause, it would almost certainly be struck down.”

But here’s the tricky bit: the notwithstanding clause can be used to override only some provisions in the Charter of Rights, including religious freedom and equality rights. It cannot be used to override democratic rights, including the right to vote. Since Duceppe’s promised bill would include a ban on veiled voting, he could find the notwithstanding clause would be of no use to him.

“If the adverse effect was on voting rights, which is not covered by sect. 33 (the notwithstanding clause), it would fall,” says Mendes.

Carissima Mathen, another University of Ottawa law professor, agrees: “I think you absolutely could make a separate (democratic rights) argument because the citizen is being deprived of her right to vote.”

If the bill was limited to removal of face coverings for identification purposes before allowing a person to vote, Macfarlane said the courts might find that to be a justified limit on democratic rights.

However, it might be hard to justify requiring citizens voting in Canada to show their faces for identification purposes when Canadians abroad can vote by mail-in ballots – with no way to verify the identities of those who actually mark the ballots.

The Harper government twice flirted with the idea of banning veiled voting but did not ultimately pursue the matter, perhaps due to the constitutional hurdles.

It introduced a government bill in 2007 which was allowed to languish on the order paper. Conservative MP Steven Blaney introduced a private members’ bill on the same subject in 2011, which then-immigration minister Jason Kenney – the same minister who subsequently issued the directive against face coverings at citizenship ceremonies – called “entirely reasonable.” It went nowhere.

Even if the notwithstanding clause did apply to Duceppe’s promised bill, Mathen points out that its use would have to be approved by both the Commons and the Senate, so it’s “not necessarily a slam dunk.”

The Verdict

Strictly speaking, Duceppe’s promise to introduce a bill banning face coverings during voting, citizenship ceremonies and the provision of public services is accurate. He didn’t explicitly say it would be passed or enacted, although that was the obvious implication.

Given the procedural hurdles facing private members’ bills, it’s debatable whether such a bill would ever see the light of day. Were it to be passed, it’s equally debatable whether it would stand up to a charter challenge or whether the government could invoke the notwithstanding clause to get around the charter.

But of course none of this matters as the intent behind both the Conservatives and the Bloc lies more within identity politics than winning legal arguments.

With respect to the public servant issue (where a ban, as Macfarlane indicates, could be justified on the basis of job requirements), the following table, taken from the National Household Survey, shows the representation of religious minorities in all three levels of government:


This table of course only measures religious faith, not the religiosity of followers and the degree to which they request accommodation and/or they wear visible symbols of their faith (e.g., hijab, kippa, turban etc).

Source: Baloney Meter: How meaningful is the Bloc’s promise to ban veiled voting, oath taking? – The Globe and Mail