Former MP calls on Parliament Hill security to stop racial profiling

Of note:

A former MP who says she was racially profiled by parliamentary security last month is calling on the service to address racism within its ranks.

Celina Caesar-Chavannes said she was questioned by the Parliamentary Protective Service members in June when she tried to access the precinct wearing her parliamentary pin.

The pin, worn by current and former MPs, is meant to grant the wearer access to any building on the parliamentary precinct without having their bags and person searched, she said. But she said security services asked her where she got the pin and tried to do a search anyway.

Caesar-Chavannes was elected as a Liberal MP in 2015 for the riding of Whitby, Ont., but left the caucus in March 2019 and sat as an Independent member until the election that fall.

After she was questioned, Caesar-Chavannes said former New Democrat MP Peggy Nash was able to walk through security without incident.

“Peggy left politics long before I did,” said Caesar-Chavannes. “Nobody’s expecting them to recognize us, but the pin is universal. Security knows what that is.”

Nash was an MP for the Parkdale-High Park riding in Toronto from 2006 to 2008, and regained her seat in 2011 until 2015.

Source: Former MP calls on Parliament Hill security to stop racial profiling

Make way! Creating space for change in Canadian politics

Former MP Caesar-Chavannes and Alex Marland make the case. IMO, a bit unrealistic in terms of solutions and no guarantees that increased diversity will necessarily reduce partisanship and “team player” conformity, or result in greater diversity of thought.

But an important reflection none the less:

There are many ways politicians and bureaucrats can show leadership in response to calls to democratize Canadian politics. Specifically, there are a lot of things men can do, particularly heterosexual white men.

As the largest demographic in Parliament, they can lead the way by stepping back or stepping aside, in order to create meaningful opportunities to engage more women, Indigenous, Black and marginalized peoples. 

Let’s face it, if we are to transform the culture of Canadian political institutions, we must take immediate, deliberate and intentional action.

As co-authors, one of us is the only Black woman MP who served in the 42nd Parliament (2015-19) and is a champion of diversity, equity and inclusivity. The other has interviewed more than 100 Canadian politicians and political staff for a book about party discipline. We met as part of that research, and share a deep concern about the need for the political elite to make room for diverse voices in the House of Commons.

Representation matters

When interacting with politicians, it becomes clear that at different points in their careers they approach politics with distinct philosophies about representation

Some elected officials take a principled stand on big picture issues. Some believe that voters trust them to figure things out, while others feel a duty to follow the wishes of constituents. Far too many Canadian politicians are guided by loyalty to their political party and leader, whereas some are motivated to champion the concerns of people who share similar identities or similar experiences.

Prioritizing the composition of legislatures and looking at public policy through the lens of gender, Indigeneity, race or other identity characteristic is sometimes known as “descriptive representation,” a term coined by American political scientist Hanna Pitkin in her landmark book The Concept of Representation. In it, Pitkin dissects what the contested concept of representation means. She makes a compelling argument that a democratic legislature must be a forum to hear from a diversity of people’s voices. This is important because otherwise these voices are excluded from political debate and from public policy decision-making.

But in what tangible ways can diversity improve democracy?

Identity and intersectionality

Diversity is necessary for citizens to see themselves represented. Since 1867, and before, generations of white, land-owning men were the beacon of political leadership. Since the Second World War, they have increasingly toed the party line, as have others, recruited into a political system that values conformity over diversity. In today’s world, it is important to remember that we are each the product of a variety of different identities that intersect to make us who we are. For some, their different identities add layers of oppression in politics.

Studies have argued that descriptive representation can fundamentally support the principles of democracy. This extends beyond reshaping the composition of legislatures: listening and receiving input from diverse voices can result in better governance and better policy. A good example is research showing that women leaders have been rated significantly more positively than men during the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, women are thought to have exhibited better interpersonal skills in managing the crisis. 

Listening to marginalized voices is needed to help shape Parliamentary decisions. Deliberations around medical assistance in dying legislation (Bill C-7) would have benefited from improved listening to disability groups and racialized communities.

Diversify legislatures

More diverse legislatures can transform Canadian politics in a profound way: challenging the dogma of party discipline that keeps politics organized but corrodes representation. In Ottawa and the provinces, political parties have an iron grip over politicians, and group conformity is expected. 

Why is it normal in Canada that a politician jeopardizes their parliamentary career by taking a public stand different from the party leader? Don’t we want politicians who feel that they can speak truth to power? Homogeneity in party politics might work for partisans, but does it work for constituents? Even MPs become frustrated with democratic institutions when they are reduced to robots, encouraged to vote along party lines and repeat talking points.

Electing a broader array of Canadians can help break down party silos and soften polarization. In workplaces, more heterogeneity can stir internal conflict and rattle group norms. But injecting different perspectives also enriches the ability of a group to come up with creative and innovative solutions. The same is true in politics. 

The more diverse the voices that occupy seats in legislatures, the more political parties can benefit from better policy which, in turn, benefits the public. Sadly, there is little evidence that partisans are open to listening to people willing to rebuff the “team player” mentality that dominates Canadian Parliament. A good way to help change that is to change who is being elected.

This can include white men not seeking re-election in order to create space for others, encouraging people to run for political office, and also helping the newest members thrive when they get there. 

Taking proactive steps toward fewer white men in politics in order to create an opening for others has worked in British Columbia. In 2011, the B.C. NDP introduced a radical policy that when a male legislator vacates a seat, the party must nominate a woman, racialized person or someone from other underrepresented groups in Canadian politics. 

In the 2020 provincial election, the B.C. NDP won a majority of seats, and for the first time in Canadian history a governing party’s caucus has more women than men, as well as more people of colour serving than any B.C. caucus ever elected before. Diversity in Premier John Horgan’s caucus meant that he had more choices to assemble a diverse cabinet. The party’s policy of affirmative action has translated into meaningful, profound change in both the legislative and executive branches of government. Bold action like this is needed to achieve the ideals of descriptive representation.

Ensuring democracy thrives

The principles of diversity, equity and inclusivity are important, and taking action so that Canadian politics are not dominated by one segment of society is necessary to democratize our institutions. Regardless of party affiliation, or political ideology, the urgency of now demands that those with power choose to challenge the status quo. 

To ensure democracy thrives in Canada, politicians need to listen to the voices of those who are often on the margins of our political ecosystem and act accordingly. Gaining knowledge is a necessary first step, and men in positions of authority can help create a thriving democratic landscape by opening opportunities to people who are different than them. 

A good place to start is for men to listen.

Celina Caesar-Chavannes, Queen’s University, Ontario; Alex Marland, Memorial University of Newfoundland


Rejection letter ESDC sent to Black organizations ‘completely unacceptable’: Hussen


Several Black organizations were denied federal funding through a program designed to help such groups build capacity — after Employment and Social Development Canada told them their leadership was not sufficiently Black.

Velma Morgan, the chair of Operation Black Vote, said her group received an email from the department on Tuesday saying their application did not show “the organization is led and governed by people who self-identify as Black.”

The department sent a second email the next day, saying their applications were not approved because it did not receive “the information required to move forward,” she said.

“As if we’re incompetent or foolish and we’re going to believe the second email over the original email,” Morgan said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

She said Operation Black Vote, a not-for-profit, multi-partisan organization that aims to get more Black people elected at all levels of government, is one of at least five Black organizations that were not approved for funding.

The program, called the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative, provides funding to Canadian Black-led non-profit and charitable organizations to help them build capacity. The applications guidelines say at least two-thirds of the leadership and the governance structure must be people who self-identify as Black. The mandate of the organization must also be focused on serving Black communities.

Morgan said everyone on her team is Black. She also said the other organizations she knows about should also not have been rejected for the reason outlined in the first letter.

“If you’re from the Black community, you know that they’re Black-run and Black-focused,” she said.

Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said the initial letter his department sent to unsuccessful applicants was “completely unacceptable” and that he demanded a retraction as soon as he saw it.

In a thread on Twitter Thursday night, Hussen said he discussed with his department’s officials how such a mistake could have happened and implemented measures to make sure it does not happen again.

“I will continue to work with Black Canadian organizations to improve our systems,” said Hussen, who also mentioned the systemic barriers he has faced as Black person.

The department has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Morgan said the Liberal government should hire more Black people to sit at every decision-making table.

“This is an example of what happens when we don’t have representation,” Morgan said.

The Ontario Black History Society, a registered charity dedicated to study, preservation and promotion of Black history and heritage, is one of the groups that received both letters and had its application rejected. In an emailed statement, the organization said ESDC did not provide any reasons for why they were declined outside the two letters.

Former MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who left the Liberal caucus several months before the 2019 election to sit as an Independent, said many of the organizations she knows did not receive funding do not want to say anything publicly. She said they are worried speaking out will lead to the government denying them other funding chances.

“Why should these organizations be afraid of trying to speak up when something goes wrong?” said Caesar-Chavannes, who posted copies of the ESDC letters to Twitter after receiving them from the organizations that had received them.

“That’s the problem with how the government operates.”

Morgan said the letter also came after months of waiting, as her organization applied to get support to purchase equipment and retrofit its facilities in June. She said organizations were told they would get an answer in September but did not hear back until this week when they received the first letter.

“We hardly get any money from the government at all,” she said, while adding the rejection will not affect her group’s ability to operate.

“There are organizations that work with the most vulnerable in our community in terms of mental health or poverty, and those are the kinds of organizations that need the capacity funding.”

Caesar-Chavannes said that the number of organizations that contacted her has grown since she posted about the issue on Twitter.

“It’s dehumanizing that we have to keep proving (our Blackness.) How many different hurdles that we have to jump through?” she said.

Source: Rejection letter ESDC sent to Black organizations ‘completely unacceptable’: Hussen

If Black lives matter, it’s time for true policy action and accountability

From former Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, a mix of the practical (better data, more support to community organizations) to more challenging (more funding despite recent increases and more pressing COVID-19 pressures, immigration or visitor visa changes – not clear which one she advocates, more Black GiC appointments – better data would be a starting point, more Black DM and ADM appointments).

To that list, I would add more thorough evaluations of existing and future programs to improve the evidence-basis for what works and what is more effective.

All are good points for discussion, debate and consideration.

Over the past several days, in the midst of the protests related to the killing of George Floyd and death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto, many people have asked me (and other Black people) this question: what does the government do now? What are the solutions to racism in Canada, Celina?

As much as it frustrates me, and likely other members of the Black community, to be recipients of racism and still be asked to come up with solutions, I will acquiesce to this request, and provide some insights for government colleagues.

First, acknowledge and understand that racism exists. And not just the capital “R” racism that is consuming all the oxygen in our media, but the daily “death by a thousand cuts” microaggressions that Black, Indigenous and people of colour face every day. This is the truth. And there is no reconciliation without truth.

Next, provide adequate, intentional and sustained funding to community programs and organizations that empower and uplift communities. Don’t make announcements about combatting “guns and gangs” in the Jane and Finch area of Toronto while handing over money to law enforcement for the further over-surveillance of an already stigmatized community.

While the area has its fair share of problems, the community has also had a tremendous amount of success – notably highlighted in the film Mr. Jane and Finch (about community advocate Winston LaRose), which recently won a 2020 Canadian Screen Award for best social/political documentary program.

There are organizations like Zero Gun Violence run by Louis March, Trust 15 run by Marcia Brown, and Generation Chosen run by Dwyane Brown and Joseph Smith. Each of these organizations has been working tirelessly to help uplift and empower our youth. Itah Sadu, owner of A Different Book List bookstore, has been raising funds for a cultural centre for the community. All of these individuals are tired of jumping through hoops to get funding. They have demonstrated their ability to effect change and have sustained their businesses with proven results. Our governments could find ways to help them scale up and grow (in the same way they are helping Canadian commercial entities and projects to scale up). This should extend to the government’s procurement processes, as Black-owned businesses are often left out of the conversation, off the list and fail to receive invitations to trade missions.

Additionally, if governments are going to make announcements about investments in Black communities, they should do the math first. Budget 2018 dedicated $19 million to addressing challenges faced by Black Canadians. Such efforts include $10 million over five years to provide more culturally focused mental health programs to the Black Canadian community and $9 million over five years to enhance community supports for Black youth. Additionally, $23 million was allocated to increase multiculturalism funding. Part of the funds were to be used to conduct cross-country consultations on a new anti-racism approach, which will find new ways to collaborate and combat discrimination.

But when you do the math on these numbers, they don’t make sense, and they certainly do not speak to Black lives mattering. Let’s use the example of $10 million over five years for mental health programs (or $2 million per year). There are 1.2 million Black people in Canada. For ease of this analysis, let’s make this number an even million. If we use the current statistics of mental health challenges impacting one out of five people, we can hypothesize that approximately 200,000 Black Canadians are impacted by mental health issues. This budget is essentially allotting $10 per year per person affected by mental health ($2,000,000 divided by 200,000). How TF is that supposed to do anything? How is that going to have impact? Was this investment intentional or some sort of window dressing? Have we been took? Hoodwinked? Bamboozled? Led astray? Run amok?

However, doing the math is only useful if you are putting forward good policy. And please do not let “how well a particular issue will poll” get in the way of good policy. If you are considering how good policy will impact your ability to get re-elected, find a new line of work, because you do not deserve to represent the people who need you the most.

So, here are some policy changes that can be made. They are suggestions, and not in any particular order of priority. They all should have been done a long time ago. (Most are listed on my Top 43 things to do in the 43rd Parliament tweet thread dated December 4, 2019).

Let’s start with the expungements of criminal records for those folks, predominantly Black and Indigenous, who have been charged with marijuana possession. The government has introduced pardons; however, the over-surveillance of Black and Indigenous communities, which is a violation of our human rights, has led to a disproportionate over-representation of these groups in the prison system. It is time to right the wrong. And while you are at it, get rid of mandatory minimums, too.

Immigration patterns for the approvals of visas from Black and Brown countries into Canada is abysmal. This was a topic of countless conversations during the 42nd Parliament; however, very little was done to improve the situation. The government should investigate immigration practices that discriminate against people from these countries and review visa lifts. In the interim, they should increase the number of mobile biometric units, which track information necessary for a visa application, available in Caribbean and African countries.

Domestically, if representation matters, increase the number of Black people in Cabinet and Black people in Governor in Council appointments. Name an experienced Black person to head the new Anti-Racism Secretariat within the department of Canadian Heritage and increase the number of Black political staffers in prominent positions. Honour the spirit of my private member’s Bill C-468, and remove the barriers that exist for Black federal employees to be promoted within the federal system, especially in deputy minister and assistant deputy minister positions.

Lastly, as a former entrepreneur in the area of research, I was heartened that budget 2018 dedicated $6.7 million to create a new Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics at Statistics Canada. This centre will work to improve our understanding of the social, economic, financial, and environmental issues facing groups, including Black Canadians. This new information will help organizations and leaders better understand the barriers faced by the community and will inform future evidence-based policy. So, start collecting and analyzing race-based data, especially around COVID-19, to properly use our limited resources strategically.

Now, I know what you are going to say. “You were there, Celina. If this was a problem with government policy and spending, why didn’t you do something about it instead of complaining now?” And with this statement, you would be partially correct. I was there during the time the announcements were made in 2018 around anti-racism program and funding. But I was not a part of the conversations or decisions involved in the outcome. In fact, meeting attendees were told not to tell anyone about the meetings’ logistics or discussions. They were especially kept secret from me. Additionally, after the announcement was made and I made my frustrations known, I was told that I needed to “get on board” because it looked bad that I was “bad mouthing” the government and the related stakeholder group that had been consulted.

Herein lies what is the biggest impediment to collective progress. Exclusion. The exclusion of voices of dissent and unusual suspects around the table. The ones who will speak truth to power, call out your bullshit and hold you accountable. The exclusion of ideas that are considered “too extreme” because you are too lazy to see the other side of the coin.

Talking about defunding police is apparently an absolute non-starter, though it has been skillfully addressed by women like Sandy Hudson and Robyn Maynard for quite some time. Their core idea is that if you reduce funding for policing, you can increase funding that uplifts communities and you can invest in mental health supports. Are those also non-starters? I hope not.

Lastly, and most hurtful, the deliberate and intentional exclusion of marginalized groups, and in particular, Black female voices from conversations. Everyone thinks they want the Black woman in the room to fill the diversity quota (Black person – check; female – check), but do they really want her opinion? Do they really want her to tell the truth? Or, dare I say, tell them where they are wrong?

If diversity is truly going to be our strength and #BlackLivesMatter is going to be a reality beyond the hashtag, our governments need to be serious and intentional about policy that is inclusive and funding that is sustainable. We are beyond the point of community consultations and rhetoric. It is time for accountability and action. And both need to start now.

Source: If Black lives matter, it’s time for true policy action and accountability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

File typically considered a junior minister

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Disappointing’ cabinet picks show Trudeau still needs to address diversity ‘blind spot’, say advocates

It is always interesting to listen to the advocates. In 2015, if I recall correctly, the complaint was over representation of South Asians (four) and no Black Canadians. In 2019, the complaint is only one Black Canadian without really acknowledging the lack of representation of other groups (e.g., Filipino Canadians, Arab Canadians).

By my count, the current cabinet has four South Asians, one Chinese, one Black, one West Asian and one Latin American (formally speaking, Argentine origins are not classified as visible minorities but nevertheless are perceived as such by the Latin American ethnic media).

The above chart provides a breakdown of MPs by visible minority groups and party (no visible minority Bloc or Green MPs). South Asians form over half of Liberal visible minority MPs.

However, Caesar-Chavannes does acknowledge the geographic, gender and other constraints that are intrinsic in cabinet making.

Aziz, on the other hand, ignores the increased diversity among judges and GiC appointments which is more reflective of the government’s record.

And while I would. be the last to maintain that Cabinet representation is unimportant, I think it is more important to focus on the government’s accomplishments and commitments where the government has a decent record to build upon (e.g., appointments, the increased funding for multiculturalism and anti-black racism and associated initiatives).

Lastly, in terms of benchmarks, the percentage of visible minorities who are also citizens, and thus able to vote and run for office, is 17.2 percent, arguably a better benchmark to use than the total number of visible minorities (:

The latest cabinet picks were disappointing for some advocates of better representation for racialized Canadians in positions of power, including former Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes who offered a plea to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to demonstrate he is correcting an admitted blind spot.

She said that didn’t happen during the Nov. 20 cabinet shuffle, which saw one Black minister named among the seven visible-minority cabinet members, and one Indigenous MP receive a post after a seven-month gap since former justice minister-turned Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould (Vancouver Granville, B.C.) left cabinet in February last year.

Though Ms. Caesar-Chavannes said she understands it’s sometimes “a numbers game” with few elected to pick from—in this case four Black MPs in the Liberal caucus—she said Mr. Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) missed an opportunity and has yet to demonstrate through his actions that he’s addressing the damage caused in the wake of the racist images of him that emerged during the campaign.

Perhaps he thought naming a second Black MP to cabinet would have been “too obvious” or “fake,” but it would have “symbolized an understanding of the tremendous barriers that still exist within these communities,” she said, invoking Mr. Trudeau’s own assessment of his past decisions to don blackface and brownface, including as a 29-year-old teacher.

Former Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes says the prime minister has yet to demonstrate he’s learned from his past, but she’s still hopeful the government will address issues that affect racialized communities and address representation in positions of power. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade

“Please pay attention to the blind spot that you said was created by your privilege and do something to correct it,” she said.

During his second attempt addressing the scandal on Sept. 19, Mr. Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) acknowledged “a massive blind spot” he said was born from his upbringing in “a place of privilege.”

Cabinet is only one area to address that, she said, and she still has hope the government will “do things differently.” That includes appointing more persons of colour to senior positions in the public service, and considering who is staffed in the inner circle. It’s “nonsense,” for example, that the government had only one Black chief of staff, Marjorie Michel, who was named in 2019.

Former Liberal foreign policy adviser Omer Aziz, who wasn’t available for a phone interview, offered a blunt assessment of the cabinet over email.

“White men at Finance, Foreign Affairs, and Justice. White men in the inner circle. An overwhelmingly white political staffer class. But there’s not even a pretence of genuine diversity anymore, which I suppose is a positive development since we can all stop pretending,” he wrote, noting it’s “sobering” to think that the Conservatives “would be even worse, but I still believe we can do a lot better.”

Mr. Aziz has been critical of the Liberal government since leaving in January 2018, saying he constantly felt “sidelined” in discussions during his time, and that minority staff voices in government, in general, were not being empowered and listened to.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama’s late-campaign endorsement “was determinative to Trudeau’s victory,” added Mr. Aziz, but the former president also had a Black attorney general, national security adviser, and homeland security secretary. “Perhaps [Mr.] Trudeau could learn something from the former president about representation and power.”

While this cabinet wasn’t a repeat of 2015, when no Black MPs were named, Black Vote Canada’s Velma Morgan said she was “extremely disappointed” that Families, Children, and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen (York South–Weston, Ont.) remains the only Black minister.

The United Nations Decade for People of African Descent (UNDPAD) Push Coalition, which advocates for Black people living in Canada and was created to push for budget commitments to that effect, has said the cabinet choices leaves it questioning the Liberal government’s commitment to improving the lives of Black Canadians.

“Our community is not monolithic. We can’t have just one person speaking on behalf of us,” said Ms. Morgan, echoing the call for better representation to occur in the federal service and political staffer class.

Proportionality is not enough to address inclusion: LeMay 

In 2015, Mr. Trudeau declared the creation of “a cabinet that looks like Canada,” but several who spoke with The Hill Times said that’s still not the case. The seven visible-minority MPs represent 19.4 per cent of the cabinet, compared with 22.3 per cent of the Canadian population that identifies that way. He also named one Indigenous person, or 2.7 per cent of cabinet. The Indigenous population of Canada is closer to five per cent. Over Mr. Trudeau’s first four years in office, he appointed seven racialized and two Indigenous MPs to his cabinet. Under former prime minister Stephen Harper’s nearly 10 years, he appointed five visible minority and three Indigenous cabinet ministers.

Of the 61 visible minority and Indigenous MPs elected on Oct. 21, 44 are in the Liberal caucus and the only demographic (of those elected in the Liberal caucus) not represented in cabinet are MPs of Arabic descent.

The cabinet includes four women of colour: Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion, and International Trade Mary Ng (Markham–Thornhill, Ont.), Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth Bardish Chagger (Waterloo, Ont.), Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand (Oakville, Ont.), who became Canada’s first Hindu minister, and Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development Maryam Monsef (Peterborough–Kawartha. Ont.), who became Canada’s first Muslim minister in 2015. Cabinet veterans Families Minister Ahmed Hussen  (York South–Weston, Ont.), Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver South, B.C.), and Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains (Mississauga–Malton, Ont.) were also reappointed.

All but Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal (Saint Boniface-Saint Vital, Man.)—who is Métis and the lone Indigenous person in cabinet—and Mr. Sajjan are from Ontario in a cabinet that is skewed toward Canada’s biggest provinces, with 11 in Quebec, and 17 in Ontario.

“Our politics suffers from the lack of proportional representation and this cabinet is an example of that,” said Anita Singh, a Canadian political analyst and expert in Indian diaspora politics, noting the one Asian, one Black, and one Indigenous minister, though all three communities “are much larger and much more diverse than the cabinet shows.”

From an inclusion standpoint, one is never enough, said Rose LeMay, CEO of the Indigenous Reconciliation Group, who also writes a column for The Hill Times.

“Too often, in an inclusion debate, when there’s only one person of colour or a different culture, that person unfortunately becomes just becomes a token,” she said. “We will need more than just proportional around the table. We need our voice to be heard strongly and that will not occur even if we have a similar number around the table—we actually would need more to make the change that we need to see.”

That only one of the six Liberal Indigenous MPs were named to cabinet is concerning, but not surprising, she said, especially after a campaign that “hardly touched on reconciliation.”

Given Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s experience and journey trying to “maintain her credibility,” both with First Nations across Canada and in cabinet, Ms. LeMay suggested a role representing the Crown carries “a significant risk” for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit MPs.

“I wonder how difficult that would be for an Indigenous [person] in cabinet, how to maintain, with integrity, both of those roles,” she said.

‘Top-tier’ posts not given to people of colour

The most frustrating part of this cabinet for Ms. Singh is the posts persons of colour take on, she said, echoing Mr. Aziz’s issues.

All but one of the “top-tier” posts—finance, foreign affairs, trade, environment, justice, defence—remain with a white minister. Some contended Mr. Sajjan at defence, though a big file, isn’t as high-profile.

Similarly, there are gaps in portfolios that control the purse strings and involve “high-profile policy making,” like health, transport, and infrastructure, she said.

“We also see that Trudeau continues the tradition of putting inexperienced visible minority MPs in some of the toughest files and under-appreciated files,” she said pointing to rookie Ms. Anand, where she will oversee the Phoenix pay debacle and fighter jets procurement file, in concert with National Defence. Ms. Monsef, initially in charge of democratic reform in the last Parliament, was an example of that in Mr. Trudeau’s first cabinet, she said.

Others, like Ms. Morgan, don’t see it that way, saying a seat at the table is what’s most important.

Though some have viewed Mr. Hussen’s move from Immigration to Families as a demotion (an assessment he disagreed with at the swearing-in), Ms. Caesar-Chavannes pushed back and said she sees it as a high-impact post that directly affects racialized communities.

Angela Wright, a political analyst and former Conservative staffer, saw the move as a red flag and said she’s “not very optimistic” with the cabinet choices, especially given the Immigration and Public Safety portfolios—two files that disproportionately affect racialized people—are overseen by white men.

It was “shocking” to see Bill Blair (Scarborough Southwest, Ont.) elevated to Public Safety Minister, added Ms. Wright, given his reputation in the community from his time as Toronto’s police chief, where he defended the service’s use of carding.

“That’s a very odd choice,” she said, while Ms. Singh said it’s “continually frustrating that his cabinet does not reflect the actual needs of the communities that require them the most—immigration, Indigenous services, even international trade—continue to be held by MPs that do not come from communities of colour.”

Ms. Singh also noted the regional breakdown, saying it suggests the Liberals are “playing from a 1990s playbook,” targeting “ethnic neighbourhoods” to recruit candidates, but not giving the successful MPs a voice in leadership positions, she said, pointing to Brampton and Scarborough in Ontario, and Surrey, B.C. Compare that to Toronto city ridings “as a microcosm,” where she said there were no people of colour on the Liberal roster, with white MPs in Davenport, Danforth, Spadina–Fort York, Toronto Centre, Beaches–East York, and Toronto–St. Paul’s in a city where 50 per cent of all people are visible minorities.

Source: ‘Disappointing’ cabinet picks show Trudeau still needs to address diversity ‘blind spot’, say advocates

Two MPs are locked in a Twitter brawl over race and identity. Time to talk? | CBC News

Couldn’t agree more with Aaron Wherry (have argued this earlier myself: Maxime Bernier rejects Liberal MP’s apology over ‘check your privilege’ Twitter row):

For months now, two MPs — Liberal Celina Caesar-Chavannes and Conservative Maxime Bernier — have been locked in a very public Twitter battle over identity politics.

Liberal MP Greg Fergus thinks they should actually talk to each other. Face to face.

“It sounds really personal now. And they do work about five metres away from each other,” Fergus said in an interview earlier this week.

An actual conversation might not resolve their dispute. It probably wouldn’t do much to achieve social justice, or to settle the thorny questions about race, culture and identity the two MPs been hashing out in increments of 280 characters or less. But it probably wouldn’t hurt.

On Saturday, Bernier tweeted that Caesar-Chavannes, the Liberal MP for Whitby, believes “the world revolves around” her “skin colour.” That was in response to Caesar-Chavannes chiding him in an interview with the Globe and Mail.

Their mutual animus dates to March, when Bernier criticized the Liberal government’s promotion of funding for “racialized Canadians” and said he thought the goal of anti-racism policy was to create a “colour-blind” society.

Caesar-Chavannes fired back, suggesting Bernier “do some research … as to why stating colour blindness as a defence actually contributes to racism.”

“Please check your privilege and be quiet,” she added — provoking Bernier to invoke “free speech.”

Caesar-Chavannes subsequently apologized and suggested that they get together to chat. Bernier dismissed the idea.

Bernier rejects Liberal MP’s apology over identity politics flareup on Twitter
“We should certainly do everything possible to redress injustices and give everyone equal opportunities to flourish. And we should recognize that Canada is big enough to contain many identities. As a francophone Quebecer, I can understand this,” he wrote.

“But that doesn’t mean the gov’t officially defining us on the basis of ‘intersectional race, gender and sexual identities’ and granting different rights and privileges accordingly. This only creates more division and injustice and will balkanise our society.”

The Jordan Peterson factor

It’s not clear which “rights” and “privileges” Bernier thinks are being granted in this instance. But he is correct to note that, as a francophone Quebecer, he has some special insight into this topic.

As a minister in Stephen Harper’s cabinet, he supported a motion declaring that “the Quebecois form a nation within a united Canada.” In 2015, he supported an NDP proposal that required officers of Parliament to be bilingual.

But this also is not the first time Bernier has recoiled from an attempt by the Liberal government to deal with a matter of social justice.

As a candidate for the Conservative leadership in 2017, he recanted his previous support for Bill C-16, which extended existing anti-discrimination protections to cover “gender identity” and “gender expression.”

Bernier said Jordan Peterson — the University of Toronto professor lionized by many on the political right as a courageous campaigner against the excesses of identity politics — had convinced him that C-16 would infringe on the right to free speech.

Asked by the Toronto Sun in March to comment on the latest Liberal budget — which made extensive use of gender-based analysis — Peterson lamented the Trudeau government’s approach.

“I think the identity politics is absolutely catastrophic … We will see a rise in racial tension and tension between the genders as a consequence of this,” he said. “It’s already happening. We’re introducing problems into a country.”

It’s not clear if Bernier objects to what the Liberal government is doing — or just to the words it uses to describe what it is doing.

But identity politics — focusing on the concerns and challenges faced by specific groups within the larger society — has also been critiqued by the American left in the wake of Donald Trump’s election — the theory being that the Democratic party has alienated white voters in explicitly addressing the particular interests of non-white voters.

For that matter, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau referenced identity politics himself when he encouraged students at New York University to avoid falling into political or social tribalism.

Fergus’s call for a conversation has something in common with both the American critique and Trudeau’s call to voters to bridge the gap between political solitudes.

An ‘inclusive’ fight against injustice

“As we’re dealing with this issue … you have to make sure that you do it in a way that’s very inclusive,” Fergus said. “That people feel that they’re a part of the solution. The last thing I want people to do is to feel as if I’m pointing the finger at them saying that they are not part of the solution or that they’re part of the problem.”

That approach has its limits. (Some people actually are part of the problem.)

But people of goodwill who find themselves in such conversations might feel as if they are being personally accused. So it’s tempting to think that an actual, in-person conversation might do what an exchange of tweets cannot.

Maybe Bernier and Caesar-Chavannes can never convince each other. But for those calling for change — among them the representatives of a Liberal government that continues to push on issues like gender equality, diversity and systemic racism — there’s something to be said for bringing as many people along with you as possible.

“If you’re part of the groups that have been discriminated against systemically over time, how would you feel? You would want these issues to be dealt with because it’s been going on for such a long time and there’s nothing more frustrating than to feel that the cards are stacked against you,” Fergus said.

“But it’s also very important for people who are not part of those groups to understand what that feeling is like …

“We have to figure out a way to get along and understand each other. That’s going to be an imperfect and messy process, but we need to talk. And if people are uncomfortable with me talking about it, I want to know why they are really uncomfortable with it and let’s have that conversation.”

Dealing with a problem is better than pretending it doesn’t exist. Talking is better than not talking — even if Bernier feels Liberals are sowing division, and progressives conclude that achieving a just society is more important than his feelings.

via Two MPs are locked in a Twitter brawl over race and identity. Time to talk? | CBC News

Andray Domise: Why I’m #HereForCelina

Valid and needed perspective:

The first thing to know about Black political involvement in Canada is that, until very recently, its success or failure has mostly revolved around managing white perceptions.

This isn’t hyperbole, or even a gripe, but the simple reality of getting elected and keeping one’s seat in a country where Black people make up less than three per cent of the population. For far longer than I’ve been alive, there has been an unspoken understanding in the community that, while the Black politician knows firsthand the frustration, pain, and anger of living in a society that abides our unequal treatment, there is a certain decibel level above which a politician cannot speak. Better to do the work quietly and accomplish what they can for the community, than risk offending the white Canadian who, while benefitting from the systemic racism that keeps him perched atop the social hierarchy, feels unfairly indicted for having his position explained to him.

This is what makes Celina Caesar-Chavannes unique among Canada’s Black political class. The Liberal MP for Whitby not only carries the work outside of Parliament Hill to the broader community, often speaking at events and encouraging organizers to demand more from their elected representatives, but publicly names white supremacy for what it is. Whether speaking to systemic and institutional violence, or individualized racism (e.g. discrimination against Black women’s natural hair, a topic for which she became known internationally), Caesar-Chavannes has, like Rosemary Brown before her, defied the accepted wisdom that Black politicians must face down racism with resolute silence.

And for that, she was named a racist.

In the last few weeks, Caesar-Chavannes has made headlines repeatedly for using Twitter to call out Canadian politicians and media figures who, having no firsthand experience with racism, have attempted to define the terms of its discussion. First, there was her suggestion that Conservative MP Maxime Bernier “be quiet” when Bernier criticized Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen’s language in cheering a budget set-aside of $19 million for programs that serve racialized Canadians. She later apologized for her comment, and Bernier rejected the apology via Twitter, responding that it’s “time we Conservatives stop being afraid to defend our vision of a just society made up of free and equal individuals and push back against those who want to silence any opinion that differs from theirs.”

And then there was her response to Robert Fife, the Globe and Mail’s Ottawa bureau chief, who questioned the existence of “systematic racism” in a CPAC interview. Fife was discussing the Liberal government’s announcement of a strategy to counter systemicracism, and flippantly dismissed the announcement as a “wedge issue,” given that schoolchildren seemed to be integrating well with one another. Caesar-Chavannes tweetedthat Fife’s comments made her question his “ability to investigate stories of the Canadian experience without bias.”

In response, former Rebel Media co-founder Brian Lilley wrote a blog post accusing Caesar-Chavannes of “seeing racism everywhere,” following an earlier claim by Rebel Media owner Ezra Levant that she is “a racist,” and “a disgrace.” In a 20-minute video, Levant claimed that “Canada has been good to her,” implying that Caesar-Chavannes could not have achieved similar success in the “very poor” and “very small” Grenada, her country of birth. He later compared Caesar-Chavannes’s description of her skin colour—“Black, no sugar, no cream”—to Malcolm X’s anti-integrationist coffee allegory, solidifying the assertion that her extremism made her unfit for office. This, of course, triggered a wave of harassment by the Canadian alt-right, with several Twitter users calling her a “racist,” and others descending into racial slurs.

In the messy business of combating racism at the political level, too often the burden of white anger falls on the shoulders of outspoken Black women. In the UK, Labour MP and shadow home secretary Diane Abbott has spoken at length about the harassment and racial abuse she’s faced as a result of her Black skin and high profile. In the United States, Congressional representative and Donald Trump critic Maxine Waters has faced racism not only from the President’s alt-right supporters, but from the President himself. It seems that, whenever a Black woman in office uses her platform to denounce the systemic oppression of Black people, the immediate and overwhelming response is to tear that woman down, paint her as an extremist, and break her will to continue.

For transparency’s sake, Celina Caesar-Chavannes is a friend of mine; the social circles that comprise Toronto’s Black political, business, and media class overlap heavily, and most of us are at least passingly familiar with one another. So it would be disingenuous of me to pretend I have no interest in seeing her succeed, or that I didn’t have a personal stake in promoting the #HereForCelina hashtag on Twitter (which was started by fellow Liberal MP Adam Vaughan, and joined by thousands of Canadians including the Prime Minister) in response to the harassment she faced.

But the backlash that she has faced over the last few weeks is more than an unfair attack on a friend. It has been an instructive guide to the way we deal with racism in this country. We avoid naming the issue for as long as possible (witness Justin Trudeau’s acknowledgment of the UN’s International Decade for People of African Descent almost three years after he took office), and when it is named, we stand by and watch as the whistle-blower is attacked by aggrieved white people who demand gratitude for merely tolerating our existence.

The right-wing attack on Caesar-Chavannes is the scenario that many Black politicians before her have avoided by keeping their heads down in public, while discussing matters of race within the confines of the community. And it demonstrates the importance of discussing these issues frequently and in the open. If, as other writers have suggested, we keep a low profile on discussing matters of race, we inevitably surrender the power to shape the conversation to those least equipped to handle it.

Levant isn’t fit to discuss Caesar-Chavannes’s racial politics when he missed that her proud “no sugar, no cream” description wasn’t lifted from a Malcolm X speech, but rather a Heavy D song that praises dark-skinned Black women in a culture that has, for centuries, elevated lighter skin. Bernier isn’t fit to discuss racism when he lacks awareness that the white moderate’s mantra of “colour-blindness” is its own pernicious form of racism. And Fife isn’t fit to criticize systemic racism when it seems he isn’t even clear as to its definition.

Eliminating racism means much more than a personal distaste for neo-Nazis and other unrepentant bigots. It means supporting Black women who’ve spoken up about the soft bigotry of Bay Street, written about Canada’s history of policing the Black body, and called attention to the violence of forcibly placing Black children in the care of the state. It means showing up for Black women, like Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who use their political platform to advocate fiercely for an equal society. And it means facing the uncomfortable truth that our institutions—schools, social services, the justice system—were not designed for the protection and equal treatment of racialized Canadians. We’ve long passed the time when white perceptions about our language and our politics ought to be considered when advocating for our lives.

Source: Andray Domise: Why I’m #HereForCelina

Maxime Bernier rejects Liberal MP’s apology over ‘check your privilege’ Twitter row

Lost opportunity for dialogue.

Bernier, the son of a former MP, who represents Beauce, a rural riding with only 1.1 percent visible minorities and overwhelmingly francophone, and Caesar-Chavannes, who represents Whitby, an urban riding with 25.3 percent visible minorities, would each benefit from sharing their life experiences and perspectives, and being more careful with tweets that shut down rather than engage conversations:

Conservative MP Maxime Bernier is rejecting an olive branch from Liberal counterpart Celina Caesar-Chavannes after the pair exchanged barbs on Twitter over issues of race and identity politics.

Bernier, Caesar-Chavannes and Liberal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen were going at each other over funding in the budget that Hussen described as historic for racialized Canadians.

The budget included money for a national anti-racism plan, mental health supports for at-risk black youth and funding to collect better data on race, gender and inclusion in Canada.

Bernier says targeting specific Canadians by race is divisive and contrary to the idea of being “colour-blind,” prompting Hussen and Caesar-Chavannes — both visible minorities — to accuse him of ignoring the fact that minorities are treated differently.

In a tweet today, Caesar-Chavannes apologized to Bernier for telling him to “check your privilege and be quiet,” suggesting they meet in person so they can try to resolve their differences on an important issue.

Bernier replied by saying he isn’t interested in a meeting because the two share no common ground, and says Conservatives should support treating everyone individually without any labels at all.

Source: Maxime Bernier rejects Liberal MP’s apology over ‘check your privilege’ Twitter row

Predictably, Anthony Furey of SunMedia picks up on this without understanding or acknowledging that systemic discrimination exists, it is not only about individuals:

Bernier, a former Conservative leadership candidate and well-known free-market advocate, was initially responding to comments posted by Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, who himself celebrated the budget as “a historic budget for racialized Canadians.” Hussen went on to applaud budget additions that included $19 million for black youth and mental health and $31.8 million for racialized newcomer women.

“I thought the ultimate goal of fighting discrimination was to create a colour-blind society where everyone is treated the same,” wrote Bernier. “Not to set some Canadians as being ‘racialized.’ What’s the purpose of this awful jargon? To create more division for the Liberals to exploit?”

It was these remarks that set Caesar-Chavannes off and veered the exchange into toxic territory. She called on Bernier to “do some research, or a Google search, as to why stating colour blindness as a defence actually contributes to racism. Please check your privilege and be quiet.”

She then linked to a column on race issues from The Guardian, a U.K. publication routinely mocked by critics for it’s divisive far-left editorials.

Bernier didn’t take kindly to being told to pipe down, responding on Twitter to say: “You are aware we live in a democracy with free speech as one of its building blocks, right?”

Clearly feeling the heat online, Caesar-Chavannes offered something of an apology, posting early Tuesday morning: “I am not too big to admit when I am wrong. Limiting discussion on this issue by telling you to be quiet was not cool. If you are willing, let’s chat when back in Ottawa. We are miles apart on this important issue and it is possible to come a little closer.”

Some apology. It seems she’s apologizing for telling him to shut it but not for hurling the privilege accusation, then sanctimoniously implying that she’d be willing to educate him out of his ignorant ways “if you are willing.”

It’s unclear which alleged privilege she was specifically referring to, but Bernier is a Caucasian male.

Caesar-Chavannes generated headlines in December when she complained that working in the House of Commons was like “death by a thousand cuts” due to the constant racist “microaggressions” she routinely faces as a black woman. One example she cited is how a woman in the washroom jokingly told her not to steal her purse, a comment Caesar-Chavannes took to be racially motivated.

For Bernier’s part, he wasn’t too charmed by her non-apology.

“Thank you for recognizing my right to air an opinion. I don’t think we can find much common ground beyond that however. You and Min Hussen implied I’m a racist because I want to live in a society where everyone is treated equally and not defined by race.”

He went on to say it’s important to address injustices but not in a way that divides people along racial lines.

That’s what you get when you throw a low blow at someone, as Caesar-Chavannes did. It’s difficult to come together after such a wall has been tossed up. It needlessly divides.


Source: FUREY: Toxic ‘privilege’ debate rears its head on Parliament Hill