Former CIC mandarin says several public policies came from minister’s anecdotes |

Article from Hill Times today on the occasion of my book launch. Open event, The 3 Brewers, Bank and Sparks, today between 5 and 7 pm. Look forward to seeing many Ottawa-based people there. Best price for paper version of book ($15, HST and shipping included).

Andrew Griffith offers an insider’s account about the major cultural shift in the public service when the Conservatives formed government back in 2006.

When the Conservatives won government in 2006, the federal public service was not prepared for the ideological change to public policy-making, says a former top mandarin and author of the new book Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism.

“One of the funny things about the relationship between the political level and official level is that we’re both equally certain in our own truth,” said Andrew Griffith, a former 30-year veteran of the public service, in an interview with The Hill Times. “A party comes in, they’ve developed a platform, they’re absolutely convinced they’re right and that they have the truth and they were elected on that platform and, similarly, we in the public service are convinced that we’re absolutely right, we have the studies, the research, the evidence—how can anybody disagree with us?”

Mr. Griffith, a former director general at the Canadian Heritage Department who worked on multiculturalism policy, is launching his new book in Ottawa on Sept. 23 at The Three Brewers, 240 Sparks St., from 5 to 7 p.m.

He moved over to the Citizenship and Immigration department when Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, Alta.) was named the minister in 2008 and took the multiculturalism files with him. Using his experience with implementing multiculturalism and citizenship policy, Mr. Griffith wrote an insider’s account about the major cultural shift in the public service when the Conservatives formed government.

“In this particular transition, the perspective, or worldview, of both sides was so different. We had the Calgary crowd—by and large the Conservative Party wanted smaller government, less government intervention and was more skeptical of the power of government to actually do good,” Mr. Griffith told The Hill Times in a phone interview last week. “We live in the Ottawa bubble, Central Canada, and, by and large, civil servants are small ‘l’ liberals. You know, you don’t join government because you want to shrink it generally, maybe the people in Finance do, but, generally speaking, the people who join government have a belief in the power of government to do good. It doesn’t mean they’re big government people, it’s just a different world view.”

Mr. Griffith said the differing worldviews “sharpened tensions” between the public service and the new government.

“Previous transitions hadn’t had, I don’t think, such a sharp tension. I don’t recall that during the Mulroney government, because, again, it was more of a Central Canadian government,” he said. “They came with strong ideas and knew what they didn’t like.”

In the case of multiculturalism and citizenship policy, he said, the Conservative government’s worldview was a complete departure from that of former prime ministers Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, and Jean Chrétien.

“They didn’t like much of the traditional approach in multiculturalism and everything like that, sort of the old-style focusing on visible minority issues. On citizenship, it was very clear they wanted a stronger reference to Canadian history, military, Crown, etc., and so the way they would come at the issues is we’d have a meeting, and they’d say, ‘Here’s what we want,’ and we’d initially figure it out. In many cases, it appeared very foreign to us in terms of what we knew about Canada, so it took us time to absorb it and react to it and find a way to say, ‘Now we understand it so we can actually work with you,’ ” he said.

Mr. Griffith said several of the policies generated were based on anecdotes that the minister or his staff would bring back and attempt to fix.

For example, in Policy Arrogance, he outlined that in the case of making changes to citizenship rules around “birth tourism”—or dealing with people who planned trips to Canada so that their baby would be born on Canadian soil and be granted automatic citizenship—anecdotes “trumped” evidence he said, because there was very little data to begin with.

“The minister admitted that he did not know the extent of the problem even as he made the case to crack down on birth tourism,” Mr. Griffith wrote. “Officials struggled with this lack of hard numbers as stories emerged in the Quebec and B.C. media.”

Mr. Griffith wrote that the CIC later engaged with medical associations and hospitals to “ascertain the extent of the issue,” but did not consult with provincial health systems that would have allowed them to see how many births were paid or not paid through the public system for which citizens and permanent residents are eligible.

“Such analysis would help quantify the extent of the issue, and help inform cost-benefit analysis of any change to citizenship legislation to align Canadian policy with other jurisdictions that no longer allow automatic citizenship upon birth,” Mr. Griffith wrote. “In developing policy and program advice, the paucity of data and analysis made it hard to provide advice on the likely impact of any policy changes. More, the minister’s wishes for early implementation meant there were limits to appropriate due diligence.”

Mr. Griffith told The Hill Times that public servants couldn’t discount Mr. Kenney’s anecdotes, however, because he went to at least 20 community events three weekends out of four.

“His anecdotes had a reasonable amount of weight,” he said, noting that officials did not take the anecdotes wholly; as the people Mr. Kenney was seeing was not entirely representative of the Canadian population.

“He was more in touch with the communities than we were. Our evidence tended to be large-scale research and surveys, which are very valid, and his evidence tended to be anecdotal, but it was such a large base of anecdotes that it was something that we actually had to take into account.”

When it came time to rewrite the citizenship guide, Discover Canada, the public servants working on it “didn’t get it right at all,” so the ministerial and political staff “actually wrote it for us” and the department went from there, Mr. Griffith said.

“Normally that isn’t done,” he said, adding that later, the minister’s office would have “a challenge session” going through each page one by one. “We were able to understand why they wanted it and the why is actually more important than the what because if you understand the why, then you can figure out a way to make it work. It would be difficult at the beginning … and then as you got through those discussions, you could get to more pragmatic ‘okay, now that we understand what you want, we can move in this direction.’ It served as a bit of a dance.”

Mr. Griffith said that while he was “never afraid” to give advice under these circumstances, his four years at Citizen and Immigration Canada was a “real learning experience.”

Writing that experience down “was actually satisfying and cathartic,” he said.

“My intent was actually to provoke a bit of a discussion initially within the public service about the relationship issue between the government and the public service because my sense was that we didn’t manage the relationship very well at the beginning,” Mr. Griffith said about writing the book.

“We weren’t responsive enough to the change in direction of the government so we appeared obstructive at best or resisting or even disloyal perhaps to the incoming government so I think there were some lessons learned for the public service in terms of how we manage that transition that hopefully by having a more open discussion about how we actually deal with a situation where we have an incoming government that has a very different worldview from our worldview in a way that actually doesn’t exacerbate tensions, but actually sort of helps develop a more normal working relationship.”

There was a difficult line between the public servants giving “fearless advice” and putting into practice the “loyal implementation” role, he said.

In the end, Mr. Griffith said, he felt at CIC that public servants were able to balance both, despite going through the “Kübler-Ross stages of grief and loss—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—in dealing with the traumatic challenge to their role, as well as to the long-standing consensus between previous Liberal and Conservative parties on citizenship and multiculturalism issues.”

Mr. Griffith told The Hill Times that, for the most part, Mr. Kenney was “actually quite good” at listening to advice, although “he wouldn’t necessarily accept it.”

While he couldn’t say whether this was widespread in other departments, Mr. Griffith said politicians are likely more drawn to anecdotes than scientific evidence and statistics because they are people’s people.

“This government is more ideological than previous governments. This government does tend to discount evidence. This government does actually tend to cut things that do provide evidence, like the census. All that’s on the public record,” Mr. Griffith said.

“How it works in individual departments, I’m not close enough to know that. I do know from some people that yes, some ministers are more receptive to listening to advice but again that always gets run by ‘The Centre’ [the PMO]. In the end, whether the minister listens or not is almost less important than whether ‘The Centre,’ i.e. the PMO, listens to it,” Mr. Griffith said.

As for whether things will change if and when a new government is elected, Mr. Griffith said it would likely be easier under a non-Conservative government.“My sense is that this Conservative government situation with the public service is probably fairly unique,” he said, noting that if the Liberals or NDP formed a government, they would likely have more confidence in the public service. “But either way, the public service has to be prepared to respond to whatever decision Canadians make at the polls. That’s always the bottom line in terms of the loyal implementation part.”

Bea Vongdouangchanh, The Hill Times, 23 September 2013

Former CIC mandarin says several public policies came from minister’s anecdotes |

Pope wants church to drop obsession with abortion, homosexuality

Remarkable but consistent with his actions and words to date. His humanity and humbleness are moving to all, including atheists like me. Discussing some of the changes with our more religious friends, they feel the same breath of fresh air with his emphasis on our common humanity and inclusion. A remarkable man, confident in his doubts and self-reflection, and likely to be one of those rare transformative figures.

Pope wants church to drop obsession with abortion, homosexuality – The Globe and Mail.

The Rebirth Of Catholicism – Daily Beast

Pope Says Church Is ‘Obsessed’ With Gays, Abortion and Birth Control – NY Times

Values charter sparks fierce but worthwhile debate: Hébert | Toronto Star

Always nice to have Chantal Hébert’s analysis, as she steps back from the day-to-day chatter and puts it in context. And I think her analysis is correct; while the motives for the Charte are suspect, the reaction within Quebec (and among the federal parties) has been encouraging. Favourite quote:

Common sense suggests that a society that is perpetually consumed by polarizing issues will pay a price. But sweeping them under the rug may take an even higher toll on the democratic fabric of a society — even when that rug is the plush one of the Canadian court system.

Values charter sparks fierce but worthwhile debate: Hébert | Toronto Star.

John Ivison: PQ could learn from Jason Kenney the right way to promote cultural values | National Post

As this is behind the firewall (and it quotes me extensively!), full text below for those who do not have National Post access:

Gérard Bouchard, co-author of the Bouchard-Taylor report on diversity in Quebec, once remarked that Jason Kenney’s reforms to Canada’s multiculturalism policies had brought the Quebec and Canadian models closer — an emphasis on integration over accommodation.

Both Quebec nationalists and Canadian conservatives were suspicious of Pierre Trudeau’s multiculturalism policies — particularly the Liberal tradition of indulging cultural groups just long enough to extract their votes.

In large measure, Mr. Kenney, as Multiculturalism Minister, pursued his own charter of values. But, crucially, he used “soft” policy tools to persuade people to buy into his vision of Canada, rather than the bludgeon of legislation that the Parti Québécois government is proposing in its secularism charter.

As the author of a new book — Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism — makes clear, Mr. Kenney pursued an unabashed policy of integration (often in the face of opposition from his own public servants).

Andrew Griffith was a director general of multiculturalism at Citizenship and Immigration at a time when significant shifts in policy were being introduced by the Conservatives.

“Kenney did make a major shift towards integration … I would argue he brought multiculturalism back to its roots, as it was always about making various communities more comfortable about integrating into the Canadian ‘mainstream’, while preserving their culture, all within the common framework of Canadian laws [and] regulations,” said Mr. Griffiths.

While placing high value on cultural diversity and religious freedom, he set limits and condemned “extreme” behaviour like honour killings that were not in compliance with Canadian laws, identity and values.

In 2011, he even aligned himself with the Quebec approach when he announced that the niqab would not be allowed at citizenship ceremonies, claiming it was not a religious obligation to wear the veil. The next year, Mr. Kenney introduced a language requirement for citizenship applicants, obliging them to provide objective evidence like test results to prove they could speak either French or English.

Mr. Griffiths said Mr. Kenney’s extensive outreach into ethnic communities gave him credibility to take a broad range of positions.

“My take on him is that it is a very rare minister who can both implement more restrictive immigration, refugee and citizenship policies and yet ‘narrowcast’ to individual communities, addressing their concerns while reinforcing broader pan-Canadian messages.”

Mr. Kenney not only stressed integration into the Canadian “mainstream,” he redefined what that mainstream would look like.

Most famously, he revamped the citizenship guide for new Canadians from a very Liberal “A Look At Canada” to the Conservative-friendly “Discover Canada.”

“I think we need to reclaim a deeper sense of citizenship, a sense of shared obligations to one another, to our past, as well as to the future. In that I mean a kind of civic nationalism where people understand the institutions, values and symbols that are rooted in our history,” he told Maclean’s in 2009.

But the guide cherry-picked those symbols to promote the Conservatives’ preferred narrative, with emphasis placed on the military and the monarchy at the expense of peace-keeping, medicare and gay rights.

The results were not always appreciated internally, particularly among staff who were forced to turn down grant applications from non-governmental organizations they’d supported for years. Mr. Griffiths notes how some demonstrated the initial stages of the Kubler-Ross grief model — denial, anger and depression.

But there is some evidence that the shift in policy worked. A Citizenship and Immigration Canada survey from the 2012 departmental performance report found that 88% of foreign-born, compared to 81% of Canadian-born, respondents reported “feeling proud” to be Canadian.

Not only did foreign-born Canadians demonstrate a higher level of attachment to Canada, they also had a better understanding of what is required of citizens.

Those findings suggest that a balance has been struck between the majority culture and integration of minorities in the rest of Canada; that, in large measure, sensible public policy has ensured that the fundamental values of the majority have been respected, while allowing new Canadians to preserve their food, music, folklore and religion.

One wonders how many Sikhs, Jews and Muslims can say they feel proud to be Quebecers today?

John Ivison: PQ could learn from Jason Kenney the right way to promote cultural values | National Post.

Reaction to Quebec’s values charter

Charte symbolsSo the draft Charte is out with few surprises. Lots of reaction. Starting with what’s in and what’s out:


Bar public sector employees — including everyone from civil servants to teachers, provincial court judges, daycare workers, police, health-care personnel, municipal employees and university staff — from wearing a hijab, turban, kippa, large visible crucifix or other “ostentatious” religious symbols while on the job.

Allow five-year opt-outs from the ban for certain organizations, but not daycare workers or elementary school teachers.

Require that those receiving or providing government services uncover their faces.

Exempt elected members of the Quebec legislature from the regulations.

Amend Quebec’s human rights legislation, the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, to specify limits on when someone can stake a claim for religious accommodation.


Remove religious symbols and elements considered “emblematic of Quebec’s cultural heritage.” That includes: the crucifixes in the Quebec legislature and atop Mount Royal in Montreal, the thousands of religiously based geographic names (e.g. Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!) and the names of schools and hospitals.

Ban public sector employees from wearing small religious symbols like a ring with a Star of David, earrings with the Muslim crescent or a necklace with a small crucifix.

Eliminate subsidies to religious private schools. The Quebec government currently funds about 60 per cent of the budgets of most of the province’s private schools, including parochial ones.

Ban opening prayers at municipal council meetings, which was recommended by the 2008 Bouchard-Taylor Commission report into cultural accommodation. The Quebec Court of Appeal ruled in May that such prayers do not necessarily violate Quebec’s current human rights legislation.

Eliminate property tax exemptions for churches, mosques, synagogues and other religious buildings.

In other words, some of the deeper aspects of multiculturalism, deeper than the rest of Canada, and arguably less integrative like subsidies for religious schools, would remain, while imposing restrictions on public service employees. And will we have a ‘sartorial’ police measuring the size of ‘discrete’ or small religious symbols?

5 things Quebec’s values charter would do, and 5 it wouldn’t – Montreal – CBC News.

Quebec reveals religious symbols to be banned from public sector

Five key consequences of Quebec’s planned Charter of Values

Reaction in Quebec to the proposal is mixed. While Minister Drainville continues to say with a straight face that the Charte aims at harmony, others disagree, particularly in Montreal, where most of the communities live and work together:

Une Charte au nom de l’harmonie, selon Drainville

Signes religieux: la Charte se bute à un écueil

Mairie de Montréal : unanimité contre la charte des valeurs

Signes religieux – Québec fait fausse route, dit la Fédération des femmes

Charte des valeurs québécoises – Réactions mitigées sur la scène politique provinciale

«C’est une Charte contre les femmes»

Federal politicians have pronounced strongly against the proposed Charte. Particularly striking – and courageous given Quebec politics – that both federal leaders from Quebec, Justin Trudeau of the Liberals, and Tom Mulcair, Leader of the Official Opposition and NDP, have been unequivocal in their defence of human rights and freedoms, as has been Minister for Multiculturalism and Economic and Social Development Jason Kenney, speaking on behalf of the government, although as some have noted, he was less expansive than usual.

Given the Ottawa-Quebec dynamics, and the desire by the PQ to play politique identitaire, this may fit into their game plan to create a wedge issue. But irresponsible politics at best.

How Kenney, Mulcair and Trudeau took on Quebec’s charter of values

Tories gear up for constitutional fight as parties unite against PQ’s charter

Le prix de ses principes

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair denounces Quebec’s proposed charter of values

Some other reaction and analysis in English Canada:

De-valued promises in Quebec

Controversial Quebec charter exemptions based on idea that some religious symbols have become purely secular

Charter of Values hints that Quebec having second thoughts over mad dash for immigrants

And an opinion piece in Le Devoir in favour of laicité:

La laïcité, enfin!

And unfortunately behind Le Devoir’s firewall, an opinion piece by Gérard Bouchard, one of the co-authors of the Bouchard-Taylor report, and one of the more thoughtful thinkers on multiculturalism and interculturalisme around. Interview below:

Le sociologue Gérard Bouchard, professeur à l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, a codirigé avec le philosophe Charles Taylor de l’Université McGill la Commission de consultation sur les pratiques d’accommodements reliées aux différences culturelles, en 2007-2008. Il juge sévèrement la proposition du gouvernement défendue par le ministre Bernard Drainville pour « répondre au pluralisme religieux dans un état moderne ».

Si le ministre Drainville vous appelait pour vous demander conseil, lequel lui donneriez-vous ?

Je lui dirais que la façon de poser les termes du débat indispose les libertés fondamentales et risque de produire une fracture sociale. C’est donc une mauvaise façon et nous allons nous faire mal. La sagesse consisterait présentement à couper le projet de réforme en deux. Une partie concerne les accommodements et une autre concerne les signes religieux. Sur les signes religieux, visiblement, le Québec n’est pas prêt à se diriger vers un consensus. À mon avis, cette partie du débat sera un échec. Les Québécois seront très, très divisés. Par contre, sur les accommodements, il y a toutes les chances de réaliser un très large consensus parmi l’ensemble des Québécois, la minorité, comme la majorité. Là, à mon avis, il y aurait la possibilité d’en arriver à une loi.

Et tout irait pour le mieux, tout simplement ?

Non. J’ai une autre inquiétude. En parlant des accommodements, le ministre a amplifié toutes les mauvaises perceptions à propos des accommodements. Il a répandu l’idée que les accommodements portaient atteinte régulièrement à l’égalité hommes-femmes. Ce n’est pas vrai. Aucune étude ne soutient ça. Il a aussi répété qu’il y avait une accumulation d’accommodements déraisonnables consentis récemment. Pas de preuve encore. Pas d’études. Rien pour soutenir ça.

Quel autre élément de la proposition vous semble négatif ?

Au cœur de l’affaire, il y a la volonté de s’en prendre à un droit fondamental qui concerne la liberté de manifester sa religion en public, incluant au travail, dans les postes de l’État ou les institutions parapubliques. C’est reconnu comme un droit fondamental par les deux Chartes, canadienne et québécoise, partout en Occident et par l’ONU. Il est permis de supprimer un droit fondamental. Mais il faut alors s’appuyer sur un motif supérieur. Le meilleur exemple au Québec, c’est la loi 101. Elle restreint ou supprime des droits, par exemple en limitant le droit de choisir l’école de ses enfants. Mais il y avait un motif légitime que même la Cour suprême du Canada a reconnu. Je ne trouve pas de motif équivalent dans le cas présent. Il n’y a pas de proportionnalité entre le droit restreint et les motifs évoqués.

Pourquoi est-ce si grave d’interdire des signes religieux aux fonctionnaires ?

Dire que tous les employés de l’État et des organismes parapublics — et ça fait beaucoup — devraient s’abstenir de porter un signe religieux ne tient pas compte de la réalité profonde de certaines croyances. Pour certains croyants, le signe religieux n’est pas dissociable du credo. En se défaisant du signe, le croyant trahit sa foi. C’est pourquoi jamais un sikh ne va retirer son turban au travail. Voilà pourquoi les sociétés doivent trouver des accommodements, dans la mesure où ça ne nuit à personne, sans nuire au travail.

Qu’auriez-vous souhaité alors ?

Charles Taylor et moi, dans notre rapport, nous recommandions l’adoption d’un régime de laïcité au Québec. Il fallait énoncer les grands principes et les justifier. Il fallait énoncer des règles générales de conduite à l’usage des décideurs des institutions. Ce qui a été dévoilé ne fait pas ce travail, ne décrit pas le régime de laïcité qui dirait les rapports entre les religions et les convictions profondes, qui ne sont d’ailleurs pas toutes religieuses, dans notre société. Le gouvernement a tout de suite sauté à des conclusions qui conduisent à la suppression d’un droit fondamental.

Que pensez-vous du droit de retrait de certaines institutions, pour une période allant jusqu’à cinq ans, inclus dans la proposition ?

C’est une affaire difficile à comprendre. Ce droit de retrait se trouve à défaire ce que le projet est censé faire. Premièrement, le problème juridique de fond reste. Deuxièmement, il va en découler une fragmentation juridique du Québec, d’une municipalité à l’autre, d’une université à l’autre. Une jeune étudiante portant le foulard pourra fréquenter tel cégep, mais pas tel autre. C’est assez surprenant. En général, quand l’État statue sur un droit, il le fait pour l’ensemble de la société. Il paraît très étrange de donner aux citoyens la liberté de respecter la loi et des dispositions de la Charte. Troisièmement, cette option donne à la majorité la possibilité de disposer des droits des minorités. On ne peut pas confier la gestion des droits fondamentaux aux humeurs de la majorité. Imaginez où en serait le droit des homosexuels si on fonctionnait comme ça.

​Gérard Bouchard: «Nous allons nous faire mal»

And lastly, some questions for those in favour of the Charte and laicité absolue:

  1. Is this driven by ideology or unconscious prejudice against people with religious beliefs?
  2. Do you assume greater competence among public servants without religious symbols than those with?
  3. Do you view the wearing of a cross as purely secular or not?
  4. When being treated at a hospital, taking a child to day care or school, or getting on a bus, what assumptions do you make regarding someone wearing a cross, kippa, turban, hijab or other symbol?
  5. Is the issue competence or appearance? Comfort or discomfort?

As someone who has been in and out of hospital for more time than I would like to remember, and has been treated with a variety of doctors and nurses, some with religious symbols, some without, competence trumps appearance and I have not been disappointed. Yesterday, it was a nurse wearing a hijab that did my regular blood work; and it was one of the more painless pokes in recent memory.

Quebec Values Charter Round-up

A bit of a longer round-up today.

Starting with Lysiane Gagnon in the Globe:

In Quebec, as in France, secularism often serves as a screen for plain xenophobia. Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right Front National, constantly invokes the tradition of laïcité to justify anti-immigrant policies. In Quebec, the discovery of the concept dates from around 2007, coinciding with the rise of Muslim immigration and a few incidents involving unreasonable demands by fundamentalists.

Quebec wants secularism – for some – The Globe and Mail.

And Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne weighs into the debate:

Asked directly about the Quebec proposal, Wynne said her government will continue to promote diversity in its policies and practices.

“Respecting that diversity, being inclusive and finding the shared Canadian values that we all believe in, that’s what our strength is as a province, so that’s how I will proceed,” she said.

“Other provinces, you know, will make their decisions, but I see our strength as our diversity.”

Ontario’s premier criticizes Quebec’s secular charter, says diversity is strength

And Nahid Nenshi, Mayor of Calgary, continues to play one of the strongest roles in commenting on the negative aspects of the Charter:

‘What we’re looking at under this charter of secularism is intolerance. Plain and simple,’ Calgary’s mayor said, continuing his criticism

Nenshi calls PQ ‘values’ charter ‘social suicide,’ suggests that upset Quebecers move to Calgary and

Calgary’s mayor gives PQ a refreshing blast of mockery over xenophobic ‘values’ plan

And a reminder about the likely real goal of the PQ in proposing the Charter, using wedge politics to support another referendum:

Quebec’s Marois eyeing another sovereignty referendum

While PM Marois helps create a less welcoming, inclusive society with the Charter, she of course also denounces the recent vandalism, likely a hate crime, of the Mosque in Saguenay, but in Montreal, not with a visit:

Marois dénonce le vandalisme commis sur une mosquée de Saguenay

But Muslim Québécois are understandably worried about how the Charter may feed such intolerance and encourage more vandalism and hate crimes, even if other parts of the country also suffer from such incidents:

Des musulmans craignent une montée de l’intolérance

And on a more encouraging note, and broadening the discussion beyond Muslim Canadians, Mindy Pollack, a 24-year-old Hasidic woman is running for municipal office to reach the divide between Hasidic Jews and their neighbours. A reminder that the issue is participation and integration with the broader community that counts:

“It’s really revolutionary,” Ms. Pollak said. “But if we focus on what we have in common rather than what divides us, then we can work toward solutions.”

 Montreal candidate aims to bridge divide between city and its Hasidic heartland 

And lastly, a somewhat confused article by Tahir Gora on what is included in multiculturalism or not, i.e., whether it is deep multiculturalism, with parallel institutions and rights, or shallow multiculturalism, with all living under the same legal system and Canadian and other charters. The Canadian version is the latter, although every now and then, people will push the limits (as we all do in a democracy). The key point is to maximize the common space for all, and whether one wears a kippa, turban or hijab is less important that being with, and interacting with, others of different or no faith

Would Quebec be Able to Deliver True Multiculturalism?

Tolerating intolerance in Quebec- Round-up of Articles

Ongoing commentary on the proposed Charte des valeurs québécoises, starting with an editorial in the Ottawa Citizen criticizing the federal government for its relative silence:

Tolerating intolerance in Quebec.

Andrew Coyne, also in the Citizen, notes the ugly side of identity-based policies, and how that is a ‘hazard of nationalism’, and that it is not unique to Quebec given other examples (e.g., Canadian nationalism’s efforts to contrast everything with America, whether Obama was ‘black’ enough, difference feminism).

Coyne on Quebec: When minorities impose their will on other minorities

And some signs of weakness from the main opposition party in Quebec, the Liberals, in softening their earlier strong position opposed to the proposed Charte:

Signes religieux: la position du PLQ «évolue»

And a more positive opinion piece on the universality of humanity rather than the focus on difference, but overly so in not acknowledging that people have different ways, including faith, that bring them to the universal. Not one size fits all.

La réplique › Charte des valeurs québécoises – Le pare-brise est toujours plus grand que le rétroviseur

Marois believes Quebec will rally behind controversial secular charter – The Globe and Mail

Looks like it will be an ugly fall, with the PQ clearly planing to push their exclusionary and xenophobic Charte des valeurs québécoises. While I understand the particular sensitivities of Québec being a francophone minority in Anglo-Saxon (and Spanish) North America, excluding a wide-range of people from participating in government work has no justification.

Marois believes Quebec will rally behind controversial secular charter – The Globe and Mail.

Initial poll below is not encouraging (75% support for these restrictions) – but we shall see how the debate progresses in Québec and the degree to which the more open, tolerant and welcoming nature of Québec gets expressed.

Laïcité: fort appui au PQ  

Charte des valeurs québécoises: le PLQ pourrait s’y opposer | Martin Ouellet | Politique québécoise

Interesting developments in the ongoing Quebec debate over the need and form of a charter of Quebec values. Main point of the critics: a dividing rather than uniting strategy for Quebec society, and that most values are already captured in the Charter, Quebec laws and regulations.

The Quebec Liberal Party taking a much stronger line that previous liberal governments, where the tendency was to blow with the wind.

Charte des valeurs québécoises: le PLQ pourrait s’y opposer | Martin Ouellet | Politique québécoise.

An independent Canada

Good piece by Robert Sibley on the history and the people that shaped Canada’s becoming independent in the 20s and 30s. And a strong comment on how much the role of the public service may have changed since then.

That’s the kind of visionary counsel — backbone stiffening, if you will — Canadians could once expect from their public servants. You have to wonder, given the current dysfunctional relationship between the government and the public service, if those days are long past, and, if so, how that might affect the country’s future.

An independent Canada