Ottawa improving vetting process to keep Heritage grants away from groups promoting hate: Hussen

Failure at the bureaucratic or political level, or both? Will the results of this review and the new vetting procedure be made public?

Housing, Diversity and Inclusion Minister Ahmed Hussen says the Department of Canadian Heritage will be improving its vetting process to make sure it doesn’t give money to organizations that espouse hatred — and those that do could be banned from future funding.

In an interview with CBC’s The House airing Saturday, Hussen said the federal government giving $133,000 to the Community Media Advocacy Centre to develop and run an anti-racism strategy for broadcasters indicated a failure of the vetting process.

In posts on social media, CMAC’s senior consultant Laith Marouf talked about “Jewish white supremacists,” referred to some Indigenous and Black individuals using the term “house slave” and spoke about francophones in Quebec using the slur “frogs.”

“The fact that this slipped through the cracks is a slap in the face to the Jewish community and the francophone community, and many other communities, and for that I sincerely apologize,” Hussen told host Catherine Cullen.

The Liberal government has cut funding to an outside group it hired to deliver anti-racism training after it was discovered that one of the group’s leaders made antisemitic remarks in social media posts.

“This incident reflects a failure in the vetting system that not only missed Marouf’s despicable language online but failed to reveal this information later on to correct the error.”

Hussen said department vetting processes will be strengthened and any organization found to have spread hateful views could be barred from receiving future funding.

Organizations would “not only have their [existing] funding cut, but they will be ineligible to receive any future federal dollars — they will be ineligible to apply to any programs from the Department of Canadian Heritage,” Hussen said.

He said no new federal money will be granted by Canadian Heritage until the new processes are in place.

Diversity and Inclusion Minister Ahmed Hussen talks about how the federal government ended up granting money to the Community Media Advocacy Centre and what he is doing to make sure similar mistakes can be avoided in the future.

Liberal MP criticizes initial response

Liberal MP Anthony Housefather flagged the comments to Hussen’s office in July and has said he was “disappointed” in the department’s response prior to the announcement that funding would be cut. Hussen said Saturday he quickly tasked his office with investigating and coming up with solutions, but now wishes the process had moved more quickly.

Prominent Jewish figures in the Liberal Party have been outspoken about the need for action on the funding. Former Liberal MP Michael Levitt, now president and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, said on Twitter he was “utterly disheartened” by the Marouf affair.

“Taking a stand against antisemitism should be a given and yet so few of my former Liberal colleagues have done so. This truly hurts. Jewish MPs shouldn’t be left to call this out alone,” he wrote.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, president and CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said earlier this month the tweets showed a need for revamped oversight policies at Canadian Heritage.

The Canadian Press reported last month that a lawyer acting for Marouf asked for his client’s tweets to be quoted “verbatim” and distinguished between Marouf’s “clear reference to ‘Jewish white supremacists”‘ and Jews or Jewish people in general.

Marouf does not harbour “any animus toward the Jewish faith as a collective group,” lawyer Stephen Ellis said in an email.

Source: Ottawa improving vetting process to keep Heritage grants away from groups promoting hate: Hussen

Trudeau promises complete review of funding to anti-racism group after ‘vile’ tweets

Needed. Will be interesting to see how comprehensive the review will be and the degree to which the  the findings will be public and candid:

The federal government is conducting a “complete review” of funding to an anti-racism group whose senior consultant sent a series of tweets about “Jewish white supremacists,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.

The government has put a stop to all funding to the Community Media Advocacy Centre and is putting in place procedures “to make sure this never happens again,” he said at a press conference.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that federal dollars have gone to this organization that has demonstrated xenophobia, racism and antisemitism.”

Last week, Diversity Minister Ahmed Hussen, who was also at the press conference, cut $133,000 in government funding to the Community Media Advocacy Centre and suspended an anti-racism project it was overseeing after “reprehensible and vile” tweets posted by its senior consultant, Laith Marouf, came to light.

Trudeau’s comments come as other past funding for the organization is scrutinized.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said this week that he wants money provided to CMAC under the Canada Summer Jobs program in 2018 to be clawed back.

He said a grant application by CMAC for $2,882 under the program, which offers work experience to people aged 15-30 and is run by Employment and Social Development Canada, was reviewed at the time by his constituency office in Ville-Marie, Que.

CMAC was approved to receive that amount, but ultimately only got $795, according to a spokesman for Marci Ien, the minister for women, gender equality and youth, who publicly launched the program this year.

“Not a single cent of government money should go to organizations that harbour anti-Semitic views,” Miller said on Twitter. He said he has never met Marouf, whose views he called “despicable.”

A spokeswoman for Miller’s federal department said “clearly, this organization should not receive additional funding.”

“After funding had been allocated, Laith Marouf made antisemitic comments that are reprehensible and inconsistent with the objectives of the Canada Summer Jobs program,” Miller’s office added.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, the CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said his organization appreciates Miller’s “clear and unambiguous statement regarding the importance of government funding not going to groups harbouring and espousing antisemitic views.”

“We call on the ministries involved to be transparent and provide details about their investigations into the systemic failures that led to this inappropriate funding in a timely fashion,” he added.

Opposition MPs are calling for a full audit of funding to CMAC from government departments and through federal programs, including for its involvement in proceedings run by Canada’s federal broadcasting regulator.

CMAC describes itself on its website as a non-profit organization supporting the “self-determination of Indigenous, racialized and disabled peoples in the media through research, relationship-building, advocacy and learning.”

The Twitter account for Marouf, a consultant for the organization, is private. But a screenshot posted online shows a number of tweets with his photo and name.

One tweet said: “You know all those loud mouthed bags of human feces, aka the Jewish White Supremacists; when we liberate Palestine and they have to go back to where they come from, they will return to being low voiced bitches of (their) Christian/Secular White Supremacist Masters.”

Stephen Ellis, a lawyer for Marouf, distinguished between Marouf’s “clear reference to ‘Jewish white supremacists”‘ and Jews or Jewish people in general.

Marouf does not harbour “any animus toward the Jewish faith as a collective group,” Ellis said in an email.

“While not the most artfully expressed, the tweets reflect a frustration with the reality of Israeli apartheid and a Canadian government which collaborates with it,” Ellis said.

Public records show that CMAC has received about $500,000 in funding since 2016 to act as a public interest group in proceedings run by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

The money came from the Broadcast Participation Fund, an independent body that was stood up by the CRTC to pay for public interest groups’ participation in CRTC matters.

In 2021, CMAC also took part in CRTC consultations on regulations amending the accessibility reporting requirements for broadcasters and telecommunications companies.

According to publicly available documents detailing payments, Marouf and his wife, Gretchen King, whose name also appears on CMAC company filings, were both paid for taking part in the proceedings.

They were paid using money from a deferral account held by Bell, which the company agreed to have the CRTC distribute to public interest groups on its behalf. Bell declined a request for comment.

CMAC did not respond to requests for comment.

But Ellis, Marouf’s lawyer, said the centre’s work had been valuable and contributed greatly to the proceedings.

The lawyer said what “is very clear from CMAC’s filing and the CRTC decision is that if it were not for CMAC’s efforts, Indigenous, racialized and women disabilities groups would have been absent from the proceedings to rewrite CRTC policies to comply with the Accessible Canada Act and its clauses reaffirming the intersectionality of oppressions.”

Peter Julian, the NDP heritage critic, is calling for Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez and CRTC officials to appear at the House of Commons heritage committee when Parliament returns to discuss an apparent lack of “due diligence” before paying CMAC.

“It is obvious there was no vetting at all, and that raises a bunch of disturbing questions,” he said.

John Nater, the Conservative critic for Canadian heritage, also said the minister should answer questions before the committee. “We believe it imperative that the minister provide answers at committee and explain how this was allowed to happen.”

Fellow Tory MP Melissa Lantsman said she will present a petition from her constituents to the House of Commons asking for a public inquiry. She said an independent body should examine all historical funding to CMAC.

She criticized Rodriguez for not speaking out about the tweets. “The most vile thing about this is the silence,” she said.

Rodriguez declined to comment.

Tory MP Dan Albas, who sits on the Commons finance committee, said the government needs to examine all funding of CMAC.

“There has been radio silence over what they are going to do to get to the bottom of it,” he said.

Source: Trudeau promises complete review of funding to anti-racism group after ‘vile’ tweets

Canadian Jewish community expectations:

“What I know is that the minister now has all the information, appreciated the challenge it poses, and has publicly committed to a series of remedies. We will judge him on what flows from that commitment over the coming days.”

During a press conference on Aug. 29, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino (Eglinton—Lawrence, Ont.) announced that the Heritage Department will conduct an extensive review of the funding being distributed through Ottawa’s anti-racism strategy to ensure no additional funds are directed to organizations or individuals who promote hateful content.

Fogel said the review will need to determine what deficiencies in the department’s decision-making process led to a grant being awarded to the CMAC. He added that CIJA will judge Hussen and the Liberal government based on the outcome of that review.

Shimon Koffler Fogel, president and CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, says his organization will be satisfied if Housing and Diversity Minister Ahmed Hussen’s ‘actions support his undertaking and commitment’ regarding the CMAC funding scandal. Photograph courtesy of the CIJA

“If, over the coming days, [Hussen’s] actions support his undertaking and commitment, I think we would be quite satisfied with his management of the issue. But there are many moving pieces,” said Fogel in the email.

On Aug. 23, Liberal MP Anthony Housefather (Mount Royal, Que.) told the National Post thathe alerted Hussen about Marouf’s anti-Semitic social media posts before the issue was reported on widely, and argued action could have been taken more quickly.

Fogel suggested that an appearance by Hussen before the House Heritage Committee would provide a valuable opportunity to address the issues in an open and accountable way.

“There are many dimensions of the issue regarding which there is conflicting information, including when the minister became aware of the problem and what steps were taken to address it,” wrote Fogel. “I cannot speak to the timeline regarding when [Hussen] was first made aware of this specific issue. However, there are many possible explanations for the absence of visible action for a number of weeks. He may have referred it to the department. He may have required legal advice, since a legal contract had to be considered.”

Fogel said the federal government’s response to this funding scandal must include full disclosure about how the grant was awarded to CMAC, and a new protocol regarding future grants that shows the government “has translated its learning into a better way forward.”

“The goal should be not just the identification of where the process went wrong—and in this case, it went very wrong—but more importantly, what generic procedures should be put into place that will ensure such things do not happen in the future,” said Fogel in the email.

The Hill Times reached out to Hussen to ask about Housefather’s claim that swifter action could have been taken in regards to suspending the CMAC funding. A spokesperson for the minister responded that anti-Semitism, hate, and racism in all its forms have no place in Canada, and that Hussen’s office is leaving no stone unturned in this matter.

“We thank MP Housefather for bringing this individual to our attention, as our government does not tolerate this hatred, and we have informed CMAC that their funding was cut and their project was suspended,” read the emailed statement. “We have also instructed the department of Canadian Heritage to identify how CMAC was able to access funding in the first place, and to look for immediate solutions when it comes to properly vetting funding applicants, including any individuals they employ or partner with. Minister Hussen is working with his colleagues to ensure that programs that are both within and outside of his purview are assessed with strong processes, in order to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.”

The Hill Times contacted Canadian Heritage to ask about the vetting process in awarding government grants for organizations, and about how the process might be refined going forward, but did not receive a response by deadline.

Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman (Thornhill, Ont.), who is Jewish, told The Hill Times that the funding scandal is indicative of a systemic issue.

“Anti-racism in this government doesn’t seem to include anti-Semistism,” said Lantsman. “There is a trust issue now here.”

Lantsman said that she favours a full review of Heritage, the vetting process behind awarding grants, and the timeline of when Hussen was made aware of Marouf’s social media posts.

“There’s a culpability of the government trying to take what they think is quick, corrective action to sweep this under the rug while not addressing the actual problem,” said Lantsman. “I want to be clear. The government has not addressed this as a wider issue, [other] than to cut funding after more than a month after they’ve been caught.”

NDP MP Matthew Green (Hamilton Centre, Ont.), his party’s ethics critic and a member of the Parliamentary Black Caucus, told The Hill Times it would be strange for anyone to pin the blame for the funding scandal specifically onto Hussen, given the decision was made before Hussen assumed responsibility for the diversity portfolio that falls within the Department of Heritage. Hussen was sworn in as minister of housing and diversity on Oct. 26, 2021.

Green said it is the Liberal government’s responsibility to “take meaningful action beyond individual people.”

“What I’m looking for out of this government is not about individual actors within the government, but an actual commitment that they’re going to follow through on the outcomes around anti-racism,” said Green. “This goes well beyond Minister Hussen, who, in the right moments, has said the right things, and I think has supported the right initiatives.”

Green said he supports a review of Heritage Canada, and any government department that deals with “the procurement of outside organizations who may be engaged in harmful behaviours.”

“What we have found within the Liberal government [is] that they speak the language of equity, diversity and inclusion, but it’s often the case that they fail to have the corresponding outcomes in their actual governing, and that is certainly not constricted to Minister Hussen,” said Green. “I think it speaks to the culture of the seriousness of the issue. My hope is that [the Liberals] would hold a high standard of scrutiny and due diligence on funding for all agencies, in all departments, that are government funded … and learn from this situation, and move forward.”

Source: Diversity Minister Hussen will be judged based on result of review into CMAC funding, says Jewish advocacy group

Government multiculturalism-related definitions

As part of its instructions to departments in providing their input to the annual multiculturalism report, Canadian Heritage provided the following instructions to departments, with pages 6-10 providing relevant definitions to assist them.

Not a bad list but interesting that reasonable accommodation is not one of the terms highlighted:

Departmental Plans: Canadian Heritage (multiculturalism), IRCC (citizenship)

Relevant highlights from the departmental plans. No real surprises.

The campaign and mandate letter commitment to eliminate citizenship fees is worded as “to bring forward a plan to eliminate fees for citizenship for those who have fulfilled the requirements for obtaining it.” This suggests that it will take some time which the financial projections, which do not include any impact from elimination of fees, confirm.

The previous mandate commitment to revise the citizenship guide, Discover Canada, remains part of the plan:

Canadian Heritage (multiculturalism) Planning highlights

Canadians value diversity.

In 2020-21, the Department will undertake the following activities towards achieving this departmental result by:

  • Supporting the new Anti-Racism Secretariat, which will demonstrate leadership in overseeing a coherent whole-of-government approach on combating racism and discrimination, ensuring comprehensive and coordinated actions with measurable impact, and fostering continuing dialogue with provinces, territories and our diverse communities.
  • Implementing a new data and evidence approach to promote a better understanding of the barriers faced by racialized communities, religious minorities and Indigenous Peoples; and collecting data and information and conducting research as a means of informing policy and program development and performance reporting on “what works” in anti-racism programming.
  • Delivering more targeted community-based projects to communities, which address systemic barriers to employment, justice and social participation for Indigenous Peoples, racialized communities and religious minorities.
  • Consulting civil society representatives of LGBTQ2 communities to lay the groundwork for an LGBTQ2 action plan that would guide the work of the federal government on issues important to LGBTQ2 Canadians.

Youth enhance their appreciation of the diversity and shared aspects of the Canadian experience.

In 2020-21, the Department will undertake the following activities towards achieving this departmental result by:

  • Supporting projects, exchanges, and forums that allow youth throughout Canada to connect with one another, have a better understanding of what they have in common, and learn new things about Canada’s diverse cultural expressions, history, and heritage, with special emphasis on reconciliation, diversity and inclusion, and official language minority communities.
  • Working towards breaking down barriers to participation and providing more opportunities for diverse youth, such as youth from official language minority communities, racialized and Indigenous communities, and rural, remote and Northern communities.
  • Advancing the government-wide priority of inclusivity by involving young people in federal decision making through its work in 2020-21. For example, the Youth Secretariat will continue to manage the operations of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council, including the recruitment of a diverse and representative cohort of new members in 2020; as well as working with the Privy Council Office to implement the commitment to have 75% of all Government of Canada Crown Corporations include a youth member, as mandated by the Canada Youth Policy.

Planned spending is about $130m. Source: https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/corporate/publications/plans-reports/departmental-plan-2020-2021.html#a4d

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship (citizenship) Planning highlights

Departmental Result 7: Eligible permanent residents become Canadian citizens

In 2018–2019, more than 207,000 people were granted Canadian citizenship, an 84% increase over the previous fiscal year. A significant reason for this increased demand for citizenship was the coming into force of Bill C-6, which amended the Citizenship Act to make it easier and give more flexibility to permanent residents in becoming Canadian citizens. In 2020–2021, the Department will continue updating the citizenship grant operating model and client service tools with the aim of reducing processing times, improving service delivery and client experience, and enhancing system efficiency while maintaining program integrity. The Department will also bring forward a plan to eliminate fees for citizenship for those who have fulfilled the requirements for obtaining it.

The Department remains committed to revising the citizenship guide and Oath of Citizenship to better reflect Canada’s diversity and, in particular, to include more Indigenous perspectives and history. In 2020–2021, the Department will continue to engage with stakeholders, including Indigenous organizations, minority populations, women, Francophones, LGBTQ2 individuals and persons with disabilities, on the content of the revised citizenship guide to support newcomers in studying for the citizenship test. IRCC also remains committed to completing the legislative work on changes to the Oath of Citizenship to reflect the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

IRCC will engage in a proactive communications campaign to encourage eligible permanent residents to become Canadian citizens by showcasing the value and pride of Canadian citizenship and highlighting the benefits of active and engaged citizenship to all Canadians, especially young Canadians.

Citizenship funding

For the citizenship component, resources are mainly used for assessment activities, administration of tests, criminal record checks, activities to detect and prevent fraud, citizenship ceremonies and development of tools such as citizenship tests and guides. Citizenship planned spending from 2020–2021 to 2022–2023 ranges between $69.2 million and $71.7 million.

Source: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/departmental-plan-2020-2021/departmental-plan.html#core3

Budget 2019: New anti-racism strategy unveiled in budget

An ongoing shift from the previous government’ various cuts to the program. The details remain to be seen. The previous Canadian Action Plan Against Racism (post Durban summit) had largely ineffectual programming with the exception of the collection of hate crimes data:

The government is earmarking $45 million, including $17 million in 2019-20, for an “Anti-Racism Strategy” that will fund community projects that counter racial discrimination.

Sums of $15 million and $13 million will be dedicated to the new strategy in upcoming years, out of Canadian Heritage, the 2019 federal budget shows.

“Around the world, ultranationalist movements have emerged. In Canada, those groups are unfairly targeting new Canadians, racialized individuals and religious minorities—threatening the peace, security and civility of the communities we call home,” reads the budget document, which was unveiled by Finance Minister Bill Morneau Tuesday in the House of Commons.

Anti-racism strategy funding will go toward educational projects and creating programs that help create employment opportunities for visible minority groups. In the budget, the government says that racialized men are 24 per cent more likely to be unemployed than men in non-racialized groups, while visible minority women are 48 per cent more likely to be unemployed than non-racialized men.

The government says it will release details about specific initiatives later.

In last year’s budget, the government dedicated $23 million over two years for cross-country consultations about a national anti-racism approach, as well as to boost funds for the multiculturalism program to address discrimination against Indigenous Peoples and women and girls.

The anti-racism strategy is one of 15 measures in the budget that is part of a “need for federal actions aimed at addressing systemic barriers faced by visible minority communities,” according to the document. Other measures dedicated to benefit racialized communities in this year’s budget include putting $283.1 million over two years towards ensuring that refugees and other claimants have access to temporary health coverage, as well as a dedicated $25 million over five years to projects that celebrate Black Canadian communities.

Source: Budget 2019: New anti-racism strategy unveiled in budget

Ottawa holds consultations on racism behind closed doors

Understand the rationale behind closed-door consultations but at a minimum, the government should be disclosing the names of those consulted shortly after each session to ensure basic transparency and a check to ensure that a balance of perspectives is being heard.

Hard to understand the Minister’s reluctance to use the term “systemic racism” beyond the political. A more constructive approach would be to acknowledge that it exists (e.g., blind cv tests, incarceration rates) but find a way to explain it as patterns of discrimination and prejudice if the “S” word is viewed as too polarizing:

The federal government has quietly launched a series of closed-door consultations on the issue of racism, hoping to avoid heated public debates on issues such as Islamophobia and systemic racism.

“The meetings are not held in public for the simple reason that we want to be able to have in-depth discussions with experts across the country, in which the participants’ comments are not misconstrued or judged,” Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism, said in an interview on Monday.

While no news releases or media advisories were sent out, Mr. Rodriguez has already attended three invitation-only sessions in the Greater Toronto Area, with his department planning on holding a total of 22 meetings before the end of the year across Canada. Mr. Rodriguez said he wants to focus on concrete solutions to specific problems, deliberately avoiding a debate over the issue of “systemic” racism.

“That expression is not a part of my vocabulary,” he said. “Canada is not a racist society, wherever one lives.”

However, two of Mr. Rodriguez’s caucus colleagues, Liberal MPs Celina Caesar-Chavannes and Greg Fergus, have both said they believe in the existence of systemic racism in Canada. The expression is also used in the federal consultation documents, which define the term as “patterns of behaviour, policies or practices that are part of the social or administrative structures of an organization, and which create or perpetuate a position of relative disadvantage for racialized persons.”

Jasmin Zine, a professor of sociology and Muslim studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, said she is afraid the federal consultations are off to a false start in these circumstances.

“If you take out systemic racism, what is left is the idea that people don’t like each other and don’t get along on the basis of negative attitudes about people from different backgrounds. It becomes an individual problem, in other words,” she said in an interview. “So to move away from systemic racism … takes away all issues around power, which is crucial to understanding the system of racism, and it takes away all responsibility from the state and institutions.”

However, Mr. Rodriguez said he wants the consultations to focus on specific issues such as higher unemployment and incarceration rates among members of particular communities, or access to affordable housing. In addition to the working groups, Canadian Heritage has launched a website to gather public comments on the issue of racism.

“Identity issues will always fuel passionate debates. Our goal is to get to the bottom of things without getting into a political debate. We want this to be neutral in political terms and to be done professionally,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “We are looking for facts and, most importantly, solutions.”

Mr. Rodriguez, 51, replaced Mélanie Joly as Heritage Minister in a cabinet shuffle in July. His family arrived in Canada in the 1970s when his father – a lawyer and politician – fled political persecution in Argentina.

Mr. Rodriguez said the consultations on racism will cost up to $2-million, with the funding announced in the most recent budget as part of efforts to develop a new national anti-racism strategy. Over all, the federal government awarded $23-million toward new multiculturalism programs earlier this year.

“Unfortunately, Canada is not immune to racism and discrimination – challenges remain when it comes to fully embracing diversity, openness and co-operation,” the federal government says in its consultation documents. “Acknowledging that racism and discrimination are a part of our lived reality is a critical first step to action.”

The issue of racism has fuelled heated debates in the country in recent times. There were acrimonious discussions last year over a motion in the House of Commons (M-103) to condemn Islamophobia across Canada. While the motion did not affect existing legislation, it was roundly criticized in conservative circles and media as preventing any legitimate criticism of Islam.

Consultations on the issue of racism proved controversial in Quebec last year, when the government scrapped planned meeting on “systemic racism” over an outcry among media commentators and talk-show hosts. Instead, the Quebec government rebranded the mandate of the exercise to “valuing diversity and fighting against discrimination.”

Source: Ottawa holds consultations on racism behind closed doors

ICYMI: Federal government to launch Canada-wide consultations on systemic racism

Needed and appropriate follow-up to M-103 report broad emphasis on racism and discrimination across all groups and Budget 2018 funding for multiculturalism and measures targeted issues related to Black Canadians.

But will be difficult to manage and I don’t envy the public servants tasked with devising the consultations strategy and approach. I remember the Bouchard Taylor hearings about 10 years ago, and the recent town hall that MP Iqra Khalid held, that was far from being a respectful conversation:

Ottawa is set to launch pan-Canadian consultations on racism, a topic that has stirred controversy and divisions across the country in recent months.

The exact form and nature of the consultations is still being developed in the Department of Canadian Heritage and has yet to be unveiled to the public. Still, the government said it wants to create a new strategy to counter “systemic racism” and religious discrimination.

As the format for the new round of consultations is being debated, some federal officials are worried the forum could lead to acrimonious debates similar to last year’s controversy over a motion (M-103) to condemn Islamophobia across Canada. The motion, which did not affect existing legislation, was nonetheless roundly criticized in right-wing circles and conservative media as preventing any legitimate criticism of Islam.

Similar consultations have proven controversial in Quebec, where the government scrapped planned consultations on “systemic racism” last year over an outcry among media commentators and talk-show hosts. Instead, the Quebec government rebranded the mandate of the exercise to “valuing diversity and fighting against discrimination.”

According to last month’s federal budget, the coming “cross-country consultations on a new national anti-racism approach” will be funded out of a new $23-million envelope that is geared toward new multiculturalism programs.

“Diversity is one of our greatest strengths and has contributed significantly to our country. We recognize the need to counter all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination and we are taking action to address the ongoing challenges and discrimination that still exist in our society,” said Simon Ross, a spokesman for Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly.

“We will also be consulting with Canadians to develop a national strategy to combat racism in Canada, and we look forward to speaking with experts, community organizations, citizens and interfaith leaders to find new ways to collaborate and combat discrimination as we develop this strategy,” he said.

The new round of consultations will enact a key recommendation made earlier this year by the Heritage committee of the House, which called on the government to engage in consultations as part of efforts to create Canada’s Action Plan Against Racism.

According to the Heritage committee’s report, an action plan against racism would ensure that the government would consider the impact of all policies on visible minorities, similar to existing gender-based analysis.

“Systemic racism occurs when government actions fail to address the needs of certain racialized groups within the population, resulting in unfair, discriminatory practices and outcomes. To expose and prevent systemic racism, a number of witnesses suggested the development of a race equity lens as a key element of a national action plan,” the report said.

Jasmin Zine, a professor of sociology and Muslim studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the government should learn lessons from the debate over M-103 that was “hijacked” by concerns over the definition of Islamophobia.

“They have to be handled better than the initial parliamentary hearings were,” she said in an interview. “In the best-case scenario, the consultations could be a way to recuperate what was lost in the committee process. In the worst-case scenario, it will only reproduce the divisions and the political divides that were derailing this process from the beginning.”

She added the government cannot ignore Islamophobia as part of its study of racism and must not be afraid of confronting the root causes of racism.

“We can’t just wrap things up in nice, liberal, Kumbaya sentiments. We have to look at the issues that are critical for marginalized communities, such as questions of social inequality, power, privilege and the way racism is embedded in all institutions and levels of society,” Ms. Zine said.

Tensions are running high among federal politicians over the issue of racism, with Conservative MP Maxime Bernier accusing the government of exploiting the debate to win support in various communities.

“I thought the ultimate goal of fighting discrimination was to create a colour-blind society where everyone is treated the same,” Mr. Bernier said on Twitter earlier this month.

Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes shot back that research has shown that pretending not to see someone’s skin colour “contributes to racism.”

“Please check your privilege and be quiet,” she responded to Mr. Bernier on Twitter, before apologizing for her language.

The Conservative Party said in a statement that the coming consultations on racism need to be established in a way that unites Canadians.

“We hope that consultations on a subject as sensitive as this one will be conducted in an orderly fashion. It is now up to the government to ensure that they are well structured and constructive,” Conservative spokeswoman Virginie Bonneau said.

via Federal government to launch Canada-wide consultations on systemic racism – The Globe and Mail

John Ibbitson on the political risks:

With its message of hope transmuting dangerously into hectoring, the Trudeau government needs to be wary about the upcoming national consultations on racism. The exercise could further damage an already-weakened Liberal brand.

Justin Trudeau won the 2015 election on a promise of transformative change after a decade of Conservative inaction. The new government pledged to tackle climate change, forge a more respectful relationship with Indigenous Canadians and rescue refugees in peril.

Two-and-a-half years later, the national carbon tax, which is the chief strategy to combat global warming, is in peril from provincial conservatives in Ontario and Alberta who vow to scrap it if they come to power.

The inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women is behind schedule and beset with inner turmoil, even as Indigenous protesters and environmentalists vow to prevent the Trans Mountain pipeline from ever being built.

And instead of feeling good about rescuing refugees, we’re told we should feel guilty because so we’re so racist.

Ottawa committed $23-million in the last budget to new multiculturalism programs, including funding that will go to a national consultation on “systemic racism” and religious discrimination. The goal will be to develop a “national strategy to combat racism in Canada.”

This comes in the wake of Motion 103, the non-binding resolution that asserted “the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear,” and to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.”

Conservatives complained the resolution would prohibit any form of criticism of Islam. It would not. More problematic, though, is the notion of an “increasing public climate of hate and fear.” Who says? There is compelling evidence that Canada, with its wide-open immigration policy, is the most tolerant country on earth.

Nonetheless, a committee crisscrossing the country in search of intolerance is bound to find it, and to publicize that finding. This is of a piece with this government’s fondness for making people feel bad about themselves.

You may be proud of your home and your community, but you’re living on unceded Indigenous land, as Liberal cabinet ministers insist almost everywhere they go.

You may consider yourself environmentally responsible, but that SUV you drive is an abomination, which is the whole reason behind the carbon tax.

You may consider yourself free of prejudice, but apparently this country suffers from systemic racism and Islamophobia, which is why we need a task force.

As conservative commentators and politicians are certain to point out, the worst example of religious discrimination under way right now might come from the Liberal government itself. Employment and Social Development Canada has cancelled funding for a summer-jobs program to churches and other religious organizations because they refuse to affirm on the application form that they respect “reproductive rights and the right to be free of discrimination” on the basis of, among other things, “sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.”

There are people of faith of all religions who oppose abortion and who do not condone same-sex acts. On that basis, faith-based organizations have been denied funding, even though the students they would hire would be serving as camp counselors and the like, and would not be asked to proselytize.

This writer can think of another government that believed it was morally superior to the people it served. Bob Rae’s Ontario NDP claimed affirmative action was needed to counter sexism; photo radar was needed because people drove too fast; an anti-racism secretariat was needed because of racial prejudice. Voters did not take this well.

If your government accuses you of being a bad person, you are unlikely to become a better person. You are more likely to change the government.

The Liberals’ sudden and dramatic decline in popularity is entirely reversible. Governing parties often slump mid-mandate, then rebound when earlier investments start to pay off. By this time next year, Mr. Trudeau could be back on top and looking forward to the fall election campaign.

But if the Grits really do want to get back in the voters’ good graces, they need to stop lecturing so much. We’re not as bad as they say we are, and they’re not as enlightened as they think they are.

This new consultation on systemic racism should keep a low profile. ​

Liberal investigation into systemic racism should keep a low profile

And appropriate caution regarding the government’s ability to manage these consultations given both its consultation record and the sensitive and uncomfortable nature of the subject. That being said, while yes it makes sense for the government to focus on issues and entities under its jurisdiction, there is place for a broader conversation regarding systemic racism and barriers across all levels of government and institutions in Canada:

Canada’s self-image is of an open, inclusive society – one of the planet’s most welcoming places.

And in relative terms, that’s mostly true. Ours is an unusually successful national story. But step back a few paces and the picture begins to look ever so slightly askew.

It’s time to face an uncomfortable fact: We have complex societal systems and, yes, they too often discriminate against people on the basis of skin colour, religion or national origin. It is not a collective moral failure to admit that systemic racism exists in Canada – that is, historically entrenched discrimination in the rules, policies and practices governing institutions. It is an acknowledgment of reality.

Anyone who claims otherwise or takes umbrage at the descriptor is invited to speak to an Indigenous Canadian. Or to any of the thousands of black Canadians who have been forced to submit to police carding. Or to an unemployed Muslim woman. The list could go on.

While we are a country of immigrants – Canada has the world’s highest per capita immigration rate; the 2016 census revealed 21.9 per cent of us were born elsewhere – our immigrants tend not to earn as good a living as the native-born.

According to Statistics Canada, new Canadians, who are also often visible minorities, are more than twice as likely to be jobless, and those who do find work earn 16 per cent less, on average, than so-called “old stock” Canadians.

The immigration income gap is real and the numbers indicate it is growing, even for second-generation Canadians. It’s not because Canada admits people with low education levels or insufficient skills – quite the opposite. We choose the best of the best, and then have them drive cabs.

Institutional barriers are part of the problem, the most obvious being a persistent unwillingness to recognize foreign qualifications.

But prejudice is also a factor. A 2011 study by University of Toronto economist Philip Oreopoulos found that fictitious resumes featuring foreign-sounding names or work experience were three times more likely to be tossed aside by would-be employers. The most-cited reason for doing so was concern over language skills, which other research has identified as a proxy for discrimination.

So what to do? For a start, our governments could stand to listen more closely to marginalized voices. As it happens, Ottawa is in the midst of planning a national public consultation on racism and religious discrimination. We hope the effort produces some benefit. But recent precedent gives us ample cause to fear it won’t.

The Trudeau Liberals took a worthy idea in the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women inquiry, made a hash of it and likely set it up to fail. It didn’t put enough care into the planning, hoping instead that the symbolic value of the inquiry would alone be enough to see it through.

This government is also insufficiently wary of the dangers of identity politics, as evidenced by the culture war it started after it denied summer-job grants to religious groups that are overtly anti-abortion or don’t support gay marriage.

Plus, it can be a challenge to keep any examination of racism from going off the rails. The Quebec government proposed a similar public discussion after six Muslims were shot dead in a Quebec City mosque last year. That quickly devolved into a partisan bun-fight over nomenclature – you’re painting everyone as racist! – and was subsequently watered down into empty banter about “valuing diversity.”

Ottawa can only avoid those pitfalls by focusing on itself – on institutions like the Canadian Armed Forces, the civil service and the RCMP, and on federal policies and programs.

It must not involve itself in provincial and local issues (such as municipal policing practices), or engage in sweeping conclusions about Canadian society at large. The terms of reference must be perfectly clear and appropriately narrow.

It’s critical to not get this wrong. Ottawa should examine the negative consequences of its policies on racial and religious minorities. All governments should.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, whose city is attempting to reckon with its racist history, said recently, “Here is what I have learned about race: You can’t go over it. You can’t go under it. You can’t go around it. You have to go through it.”

If Ottawa does that intelligently and constructively, Canada might become a better country for it. But we have real doubts about the Trudeau government’s ability to lead such an effort without making a hash of it.

Source: Globe editorial: The problem with Ottawa’s plan to consult the public on racism? Ottawa itself

Why Canada’s Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence is in the wrong department 

Phil is a friend of mine and I have great respect for the work he did while in government and the analysis and commentary he is doing outside.

His logic is sound in having community engagement and deradicalization outside of Public Safety, to distinguish the security function and  community support/resilience-building. As Phil and I have discussed, in theory, Canadian Heritage would be a good home for all the reasons he lists.

But with respect for the people who work in Canadian Heritage, the department, as constituted, is not equipped to provide strong leadership in this area given its focus on its core mandate.

The area that could have possibly taken this on – multiculturalism – has been largely decimated following the 2008 transfer to then CIC (IRCC) and return back to Canadian Heritage in 2015:

First of all, kudos to the Trudeau government for its commitment to the Canada Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence (CCCEPE—that name is way too long, however). The $35-million over five years is an excellent start and, although details are wanting, the government sees the new office  as a leadership post for Canada’s efforts.

This move represents a significant shift in Canada’s prevention of violent extremism approach from the purely hardline emphasis of the Harper government to a more inclusive and more comprehensive one under the new regime. As I have said before, we will always need the hardline tool, but we need to do more in early intervention and counter-radicalization.

One question remains: where should this new office reside? When I was still with the federal government it was housed where it is now, within Public Safety Canada. In some ways, it should stay there if for no other reason than  that department has experienced and capable staff who were part of the amazing success of the shortened efforts under Harper.

But in other and more important ways it should be moved to another department. Let me try to explain why.

Aside from getting a brand new start and being able to put the unfortunate mistakes of the previous government behind us, the biggest drawback to leaving Canada’s Prevention of Violence strategy with Public Safety lies with the very nature of that ministry. Public Safety Canada is the umbrella department for CSIS, the RCMP, Correctional Services Canada and the Canadian Border Services Agency. All these are staffed by dedicated and professional people but they have one underlying commonality: they are all enforcement/punitive agencies. The Prevention of Violence strategy needs to be seen as an opportunity to occur before people engage in activities that are the remit of CSIS and the RCMP in order to work. We have seen in other places like the U.K. with its PREVENT program (which is housed within that country’s version of Public Safety) that communities associate PVE with intelligence gathering and enforcement, whether or not that is what is happening.  Having a ministry responsible for the national spy and law enforcement agencies run PVE creates a stigma that can hamper even the best efforts.  If communities do not feel comfortable and have issues of trust with certain partners, they will not want to participate.

What if the government were to put the new office under the Heritage portfolio? PVE is all about providing communities with the tools to foster Canadian citizenship and reject the empty and violent promises of groups like Islamic State. It is about being or becoming Canadian. Another aspect is the debate over narratives. I have long argued that we need to move away from “counter narratives” to “alternative narratives.” Alternative narratives are an important part of PVE—what better place to locate them than within Heritage, the department that helps foster the Canadian narrative? Our narrative is so superior to that of the Islamic State that if this were a boxing match the referee would have called the fight years ago.

Of course, those with lots of experience in PVE, especially the RCMP which has a longstanding and robust outreach program, would be asked to lend its assistance and best practices. Other partners could also contribute. Canada is—or rather was—a world leader in PVE and many countries look to us for models on what to do. We don’t need to reinvent it, we just need to tweak it to make it better.

At the end of the day it may not matter where the government decides to put PVE. Only time will tell. I am glad to see that those in the centre already recognize some important aspects on how to implement their strategy (tailor the approach to match local conditions, acknowledge that the government does not have the credibility to do PVE, etc.).  Evaluation and measurement of what works and what doesn’t will be critical.  Lots of people put their hands out when government funding is provided and the centre has to ensure that the right people are getting that money. The important thing is that it cultivate good relations with the communities it hopes to work with for the best answers to violent radicalization and extremism are to be found there, not in a government policy brief.

Source: Why Canada’s Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence is in the wrong department – The Hill Times – The Hill Times

Hearing into Liberals’ anti-Islamophobia motion [M-103] showcases confusion, fears of free speech loss

Interesting that the Post seems to be only covering the hearings with CPC-nominated witnesses:

27 Sep:

  • Jay Cameron, Justice Centre of Constitutional Freedoms
  • Raheel Raza,  Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow
  • Peter Bhatti, International Christian Voice
  • Father Raymond de Souza

and not the hearings with government-appointed ones:

25 Sep:

  • Ayesha S. Chaudhry, Canada Research Chair in Religion, Law and Social Justice
  • Avvy Yao-Yao Go, Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
  • Shawn Richard, Canadian Association of Black Lawyers
  • Shalini Konanur, South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario.

Lack of reporter time, or lack of balance?

The Liberals’ anti-Islamophobia motion, M-103, could lead to thought control, oppression, disharmony and the criminalization of non-Muslims, the House of Commons heritage committee heard Wednesday, during some of the most extreme criticism of the motion it has heard to date.

It was a hearing that showcased much of the confusion and polarizing rhetoric that has swirled around M-103 since it was tabled by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid in December 2016, and highlighted doubts about the language of the motion. While the committee is supposed to be gathering recommendations for how to combat racism, several committee members spent much of their time trying to explain what M-103 actually means.

Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin was at pains to clarify that the motion is not a law, that the committee is not drafting a law and that the committee’s recommendations won’t create a new law. The committee is currently conducting a study of racism and religious discrimination, as required by M-103, which was passed in March.

“We’re just doing a study,” said Liberal MP Julie Dzerowicz.

The Liberals spent so much time trying to explain M-103 that, at one point, Conservative MP David Anderson accused them of “filibustering their time.”

“It seems they’ve been more interested in hearing their own voices than anyone else’s,” he said.

Still, some of the witnesses painted dire portraits of what might happen if criticism of Islam were somehow banned in Canada. Jay Cameron, a lawyer with the Justice Centre of Constitutional Freedoms, spent several minutes explaining that M-103 could prevent Canadians from criticizing such practices as female genital mutilation. He also claimed the motion implies that the government should police the thoughts of its citizens.

Source: Hearing into Liberals’ anti-Islamophobia motion showcases confusion, fears of free speech loss | National Post

Canadian Heritage Departmental Plan 2017-18 – Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism-related excerpts from the latest PCH departmental plan, starting with where it fits in the overall departmental strategy and then progressing to the “sub-program” level.

To date, no change in the Conservative government priorities, although these have been updated with respect to the grants and contributions element, where the new priorities are:

  • work toward the elimination of discrimination, racism and prejudice;
  • provide opportunities for youth community engagement; and
  • bring people together through art, culture and/or sport.

The re-integration into Canadian Heritage has not yet raised the profile or influence of multiculturalism. The reduced resources, the dispersion across different branches, and Ministerial focus on more important priorities are likely the main reasons.

Promote diversity and inclusion to enhance Canadians sense of belonging and pride and to promote inclusive economic growth.

  • Deliver a successful year-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of Confederation through a wide range of national and local community events and initiatives.
  • Implement a new and modernized Court Challenges Program, in collaboration with the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
  • Support and enhance our approach to diversity and inclusion through the Multiculturalism Program and other initiatives.

Operating context: conditions affecting our work

“The more people engage with the breadth of our country’s diversity, the more Canadian they become.”

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

The work of Canadian Heritage will continue to play an important role in the lives of Canadians in a dynamic and evolving context. Globalization is creating new domestic and international markets that provide significant opportunities to promote and invest in Canadian creative industries and Canadian creators. The rise of new technologies and digital platforms are changing the way Canadians create, access and experience culture. As the Canadian population becomes increasingly diverse there is an opportunity to build on Canada’s strength in achieving inclusive diversity. In international surveys, Canadians are amongst the most likely to say they are “very proud” of their country. Canada can play an influential role in promoting diversity globally and to share the lessons of its unique historical experience as a multicultural, bilingual, treaty nation with the shared values of human rights. Given the mandate and responsibilities of the Department, Canadian Heritage will continue to play a key role in promoting and celebrating an inclusive society that strengthens and sustains the Canadian social contract and promotes innovation and economic prosperity.

Sub-program 2.2.5: Multiculturalism Program

The objectives of the Multiculturalism Program are to build an integrated, socially cohesive society; to improve the responsiveness of institutions to the needs of a diverse population; and to engage in discussions on multiculturalism, integration and diversity at the international level. The Program provides grants and contributions to organizations for projects and events that enhance intercultural/interfaith understanding, civic memory and pride, respect for core democratic values, and participation in society and the economy. It undertakes public outreach and promotion activities that are designed and delivered to engage Canadians on multiculturalism issues. The Program’s ongoing public outreach and promotional activities include Asian Heritage Month, Black History Month, various web-based resources, and other initiatives. The Program is designed to implement requirements set out in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, including the development of the Annual Report on the Operation of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, which is tabled in Parliament. The Program’s international engagement supports Canada’s participation in agreements such as the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, and in institutions that address multicultural issues globally. This sub-program uses funding from the following transfer payments: Grants in support of the Multiculturalism Program and Contributions in support of the Multiculturalism Program.

Note: This represented a decline from the amount originally transferred from PCH to then CIC in 2008: $8.7 million for salaries, $5.9 million for operating, and $22.8 million for grants and contributions (G&Cs also included funds for the Canadian Historical Recognition Program, which sun-setted shortly thereafter). The Multiculturalism Program had about 80 FTEs at the time of the transfer.