For Muslim women, Liberal victory a rejection of divisive politics

No surprises here:

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was not subtle about his use of cultural differences as a trigger for fear during the election campaign. His government pressed its case against a Muslim woman fighting to wear her niqab during her citizenship ceremony — and lost. It unveiled a “barbaric cultural practices” tipline for Canadians to report on their neighbours.

He made a debating point of his position that he’d never tell his daughter to cover her face, a moot point unless she converts to Islam. For Muslim-Canadian women the fact that those tactics backfired in the end is a validation of a particular view of Canada.

For Alia Hogben, the executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, it shows that Canadians “are rejecting all the divisive and racist and hate mongering that the Conservatives were doing and they’re showing who we really are. It gives me a huge amount of hope.”

Hogben said that for almost every single Muslim, Harper’s vocal opposition to Muslim women wearing the niqab at citizenship ceremonies as the case of Zunera Niqab, who had taken the government to court over the issue, made its way successfully through then legal process during the campaign, was a source of anxiety.

“During that period it was nerve wracking, depressing and discouraging,” she said.

Hogben said she was worried about these new values that were being propounded by the Conservatives.

“We couldn’t tell if Canadians would lean that way or not and now it’s a huge amount of relief that its been rejected,” she said.

“We’re not saying one party is any better than another, but we’re hoping that they will learn from what went on during the election and the kind of feelings that aroused for and against a group of people and that they will learn from that and make everybody welcomed back into the family of Canadians rather than dividing us.”

In a powerful speech to a crowded room of cheering supporters in Montreal, prime minister designate Justin Trudeau said a woman wearing a hijab told him she would vote for him because she wants to make sure that her little girl has the right to make her own choices in life.

“Have faith in your fellow citizens my friends, they are kind and generous. They are open minded and optimistic and they know in their heart of hearts that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian,” said Trudeau.

Liberal strategist at Crestview Strategy Group, Rob Silver, said there’s no room in Canada for divisive and mean politics.

“I think if anything the niqab issue backfired on Stephen Harper and I think that kind of divisive negative nasty politics will not be seen in Canada for a long time.”

Samer Majzoub, the president of the Canadian Muslim Forum, says by electing Trudeau, Canadians have sent a very strong message to politicians who have campaigned on “hatred and discrimination.”

“They have harvested what they have planted and lost and [were] defeated,” said Majzoub.

“The fact is that Canadians have followed what Canadians believe in—harmony, unity, human rights, that’s why we feel at ease on the subject,” he said.

For Muslim women, Liberal victory a rejection of divisive politics (paywall)

Study says Canada’s three major parties are fielding more visible minority candidates | National Post

My short study quoted in the National Post, along with Chris Cochrane’s analysis (I will do a piece tomorrow analyzing the results and how many visible minority candidates were elected):

Fourteen per cent of the 1014 candidates – or 143 possible Members of Parliament – running for the Conservative, Liberal and NDP parties are members of visible minorities, according to an analysis by Andrew Griffith, former director general for citizenship and multiculturalism at Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

The proportion of visible minority candidates is roughly on par with the electorate, 15 per cent of which consists of visible minority voters.

“All parties are trying to compete for this (visible minority) vote,” says Griffith, who has written a book on multiculturalism in Canada.

Griffith’s study found the Liberals were leading with sixteen per cent of Liberal candidates – or 55 candidates – from visible minorities. The Conservatives and the NDP were lagging behind with 44 visible minority candidates each, amounting to 13 per cent of their total candidates. The Bloc Quebecois fare the worst, with only two visible minority candidates.

The Liberal lead is unsurprising given that “multiculturalism is part of their DNA,” says Griffith.

Visible minority representation is even higher in the 33 ridings in which more than half of the residents are from visible minorities. In these areas, 68 of the 99 major party candidates, including 19 women, are from visible minorities. All of the major parties are represented by a minority candidate in 15 of these ridings.

“These are all battleground ridings where all three parties, at least at the beginning of the campaign, were reasonably competitive,” says Griffith.

Twenty-three of these 33 ridings are in the Greater Toronto Area, a key battleground for the major parties. In these ridings, the Conservatives are fielding the most visible minority candidates, with 25 in the race, but are closely followed by the Liberals, who are running 24 candidates. The NDP lag behind with 19 candidates.

“You really have to hand it to (Conservative) Jason Kenny and the people who have made that outreach in those communities,” says Griffith.

But Chris Cochrane, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, says it’s important to distinguish between immigrants and visible minorities, some of whom may have lived in Canada for generations and make up a Liberal stronghold.

“Conservatives increased their vote share spectacularly among immigrants going into the last election but they didn’t do nearly so well among visible minorities,” he says.

Source: Study says Canada’s three major parties are fielding more visible minority candidates | National Post

Can Tories repeat past success in wooing the ethnic vote?

Further to my earlier post Visible Minority Candidates in the 2015 Election: Making Progress, good range of comments by Myer Siemiatycki, Thierry Giasson, and Ratna Omidvar on whether or not the Conservatives can maintain their inroads (most recent polls suggest not).

We will see who is right Monday night:

Opinion is divided as to whether the Conservative Party will be able to repeat its success in drumming up support in the ethnic and newcomer communities in next week’s federal election.

In 2011, the strategy was to “broaden the support of the party and reach out to visible minority communities,” says Myer Siemiatycki, a professor of political science at Ryerson University. “We saw a very concerted and aggressive outreach by the Conservatives.”

That effort proved to be successful. According to an Ipsos exit poll, 42 per cent of immigrants to Canada voted Conservative. The party won 43 per cent of the vote of immigrants who had been in the country for more than a decade. In that same poll, only 37 per cent of people born in Canada voted for the Conservatives.

But this time around it may not work as well, Siemiatycki says. Issues like the niqab, terrorism and security and the Conservatives’ stands on what they have described as “barbaric cultural practices” as well as policies on Syrian refugees, family reunification and citizenship have irked many and perhaps driven away some ethnic or multicultural voters.

Because of that, Siemiatycki gives Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives a failing grade when it comes to wooing multicultural and ethnic Canadians this campaign. Charm won’t be enough in this election, he says. As for the Liberals and New Democrats, Siemiatycki ranks their performance as neck and neck, giving both parties a resounding A for their efforts.

While neither party does the kind of narrowcasting the Conservatives are famous for, they have gone out of their way to include a diverse slate of candidates as well as make campaign appearances in diverse ridings, he says.

More importantly, both parties have strongly spoken out against Tory policies, including family reunification; citizenship, the niqab and refugees, he adds. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and NDP leader Tom Mulcair are trying to win over newcomers and minority communities by arguing that Tory policies are not in the best interest of the country, he says. “It took courage, I think, to stand for minority rights; to stand for inclusion based on diversity and pluralism, tolerance and the rule of law.”

However, Thierry Giasson, professor of political science at Laval University, believes the Tories have been very effective — perhaps just as effective — this time around. They know what they’re doing when it comes to wooing specific ethnic and newcomer communities, he says.

…Ratna Omidvar, founder of the Global Diversity Exchange, a think tank at Ryerson University, believes the Conservatives have made substantial inroads in certain ethnic communities by appealing to “mainstream values within (certain) immigrant communities that are in favour of law and order … I do think the Conservatives have the lead on this.”

Source: Can Tories repeat past success in wooing the ethnic vote? | Toronto Star

Visible Minority Candidates in the 2015 Election: Making Progress

Is the increased number of visible minorities being reflected in party candidates? Which ridings are these candidates running in? And do these candidates reflect the largest groups in their ridings?

Now that we know the names of all candidates, we can answer these and related questions.

But first, as a basis for comparison, how has women’s representation increased in 2015 candidates? The analysis by Equal Voice shows that overall representation from the 2011 election has slightly increased from 31 to 33 percent (still far away from equality), with the relative ranking of parties below.

Women Candidates 2015 Election

To assess visible minority representation I have used candidate names, photos and biographies to identify visible minority candidates. Although not as exact as identifying women candidates (e.g., subjectivity in analyzing photos), it nevertheless provides a reasonably accurate indication of how well Canadian political party candidates represent the population of visible minorities who are also Canadian citizens (15 percent).

Building on an earlier study by Jerome Black (“Racial Diversity in the 2011 Federal Election: Visible Minority Candidates and MPs”) showing the diversity in earlier elections, I went through the candidate lists using the criteria above, concentrating on the more diverse ridings.

Out of a total of 1014 candidates for the three major parties, 142 or 13.9 percent were visible minorities. The chart below shows a growth in visible minority candidates for the three major parties plus the Bloc.

VisMin Candidates 2004-2015.001

For the 2015 election, the Liberal party has the most visible minority candidates, slightly greater at 16 percent than the number of visible minority voters who are citizens. The Conservative party and the NDP have slight under-representation (13 percent) while the Green party has greater under-representation (11 percent). The Bloc québécois only appears to have a two visible minority candidates (under three percent of Quebec’s 78 seats).

The chart below provides the comparative numbers for each party in the 33 ridings that are more than 50 percent visible minority, broken down by gender.

VisMin Candidates Top 33 RidingsAdditional characteristics of these ridings, in terms of the candidates, include:

  • Out of the 99 candidates from the three major parties, 68 are visible minorities (over two-thirds). These account for just under half of the 142 visible minority candidates in all ridings.
  • 19 candidates are women (19.2 percent)
  • In 15 of these ridings, all major party candidates are visible minorities;
  • Only one riding, Scarborough Guildwood, has no visible minority candidates;
  • The Conservative Party has the most visible minority candidates (25), followed by the Liberal Party (24) and the NDP (19); and,
  • In general but by no means universally, many candidates come from the larger communities in these ridings, particularly South Asian ridings as this table 2015 Ridings with More than 50% Visible Minorities and Their Candidates shows.

Happy election viewing and seeing how these (and other) ridings go.

Election Watch: Attacks on Multiculturalism May Haunt Tories – New Canadian Media

Good overview by Phil Triadafilopoulos, Stephen E. White, Inder S. Marwah on some of the implications and tests of the Conservative electoral strategy with ethnic voters:

Verbal and physical attacks on Muslim women, graffiti on Muslim candidates’ lawn signs and the growing sense of unease among Canadian Muslims speak to the costs of the Conservatives’ strategy.

And yet, the response of Canadians to these assaults on fellow citizens has been muted.

Polls suggest that Canadians across the country are, in fact, supportive of the Conservatives’ positions. What does this tell us about the state of Canadian democracy?

Canadians’ support for multiculturalism is limited.

First, it suggests that Canadians’ support for multiculturalism is limited. Intolerant or merely opportunistic politicians can count on a reservoir of such support in advancing their agendas if they play their cards right.

The Conservatives have done exactly this: the relatively diffuse spread of Muslim voters, along with a broad-ranging antipathy toward the niqab, made this a worthwhile gamble.

By making the niqab an issue the Conservatives have harmed the NDP’s chances in the province Quebec, making it much less likely that the New Democrats – the frontrunner at the start of this campaign – will emerge with the most seats on Oct. 19.

The Conservatives’ ability to hold onto ridings in both the Greater Toronto Area and Greater Vancouver Area will provide the ultimate test of its strategy.

Second, if such bans become legislated, the ongoing battle between elected governments and the courts will continue.

While Stephen Harper has framed the NDP and Liberal parties’ resistance to niqab bans as being “on the wrong side of the electorate”, they’re on the right side of constitutional laws intended to shield minorities from the potentially unconstitutional preferences of democratic majorities.

We need only recall the overwhelming public opposition to Sikh turbans in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) 25 years ago to see how important the courts can be in preserving minority rights in the face of public pressure.

The coveted new Canadian vote

Finally, the election raises questions about the Conservative party’s longstanding efforts to replace the Liberal party as the “natural home” of new Canadian voters.  

The Conservative’s positions on the niqab currently enjoy support from a majority of Canadians, including new Canadian voters. But the extension of the culture wars into the final days of the campaign may be risky.

If the Conservatives’ strategy is successfully framed as an attack on Canadian multiculturalism and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it may come back to haunt the party.

The Conservatives’ ability to hold onto ridings in both the Greater Toronto Area and Greater Vancouver Area will provide the ultimate test of its strategy.

Source: Election Watch: Attacks on Multiculturalism May Haunt Tories – New Canadian Media

Away from spotlight of national Conservative campaign, Jason Kenney runs another

Interesting list of commitments (not in the party platform), reinforcing the link between domestic (diaspora) politics and foreign policy:

He’s [Kenney] been going non-stop since the campaign began, he said, because despite all the inroads the Conservatives have made, demographics and shifting immigration patterns provide new opportunities for outreach.

“We’re not going to retain every vote we have in the last election but I think we’re doing very well,” he said.

He’s doing more, however, than just showing up.

Kenney has made several campaign promises in recent weeks that appear nowhere in the official Conservative campaign platform.

To the Sri Lankans, Kenney promised a promise to expand Canada’s high commission to the city of Jaffna, a provincial capital in that country whose population is mostly Tamil. The Tamil diaspora in Canada is among the largest in the world.

To Iranians, Kenney promised to make it easier for them to access consular services from Ottawa, as opposed to having to travel to Washington, D.C. Canada expelled Iranian diplomats from Ottawa in 2012, leaving the Iranian diaspora without access to services like passports or other government documents.

To the Armenian community, a pledge to opening trade and consular office in Yerevan, the country’s capital.

Armenian Canadians should “return the favour to the Conservative party and its candidates by voting and helping party candidates,” the head of the Armenian Canadian Conservative Association reportedly said, according to a post about the announcement on the HyeForum, an Armenian community website.

While not speaking specifically about those promises, Kenney said the Conservatives have their eye on getting diaspora communities more involved in foreign policy.

“Think tanks, foreign policy commentators say that Canada’s diversity is in principle a great strength for foreign and economic ties around the world and we have never really done that in a systematic way,” he said.

“So we’ve been trying to develop ways to more formally engage the large diaspora communities who are new Canadians to deepen ties with countries of origin.”

The Conservatives have come under considerable fire, however, for how closely they appear to link foreign policy to diaspora politics.

Since 2006, under the Conservatives, 1.6 million people became Canadian citizens, Kenney pointed out.

“There are new communities that have developed in large part since our government came to office and so that’s an advantage we did not have in the past.”

Those Canadians are looking for change just like everyone else, said Liberal John McCallum, and they are not responding well to what he calls the Conservatives’ divisive — and often entirely misleading — approach.

A recent set of ads appearing in the Chinese and Punjabi press asked readers whether Trudeau’s values — described as being about putting brothels in communities, allowing marijuana to be sold in corner stores and allowing drug injection sites in local neighbourhoods — none of those things are in the Liberal platform, McCallum said.

“It’s wrong, on principle, and it’s a sign of desperation.”

Source: Away from spotlight of national Conservative campaign, Jason Kenney runs another | National Newswatch

Election 2015: Party Platforms Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturalism

Now that all the political platforms are out, I prepared this comparative table of the three major parties and their commitments on immigration, citizenship, multiculturalism and related issues.

A number of aspects worthy of note with respect to the Liberals and NDP (Conservatives are largely reinforcing existing policies):

  • Neither party mention repealing C-24 (2014 Citizenship Act) either in whole or in part (e.g., revocation), despite having been clear on the campaign trail and in the debates to do so (save for the Liberals committing to restore pre-Permanent Resident time for international students for residency requirements);
  • The main focus is immigration, with the Liberals emphasizing rolling back some of the changes, the NDP foreign credential recognition;
  • General agreement on refugee policy with some nuances;
  • No real discussion of multiculturalism save for the need for community outreach and engagement as part of a counter extremism strategy, with the NDP also calling for non-discriminatory consular service; and,
  • Both calling for the restoration of the long-form Census.

The link to the pdf version of the table is below (doesn’t translate well into WordPress):

Liberal, NDP and Conservative Platforms

I have tried to summarize accurately the individual commitments. Needless to say, if any readers have any corrections, comments or suggestions, happy to revise this accordingly.

Fifty years in Canada, and now I feel like a second-class citizen: Sheema Khan

Speaks for itself:

“Too broken to write,” I told my editor, after the onslaught of Conservative announcements. The niqab was condemned. Citizenship was revoked for convicted terrorists with dual citizenship. Canadians were reminded of “barbaric cultural practices,” and the federal government’s preference for mainly non-Muslim Syrian refugees was reiterated. Make no mistake: This divisive strategy is meant to prey upon fear and prejudice.

Last May, I wrote that Canadian Muslims “are the low-hanging fruit in the politics of fear. Omar Khadr is exhibit A; Zunera Ishaq is exhibit B. With an October election, it won’t be surprising to see political machinations at our expense.” Yet the sheer brazenness of the Conservatives leaves one speechless; a 2.0 version of Quebec’s “charter of values” is being used to win votes on the backs of a vulnerable minority. The government’s open hostility has given licence to bigots to vent xenophobia. A pregnant Muslim woman is assaulted in Montreal. A niqab-wearing woman is attacked while shopping with her daughters in Toronto. Mosques are taking precautions. Identifiable Muslim women feel a little less safe, and Muslim youth face difficult questions about identity and acceptance.

Don’t expect Conservative Leader Stephen Harper to call for calm; this cynical strategy seems to be working. What does this say about us, and our commitment to a just society?

December will mark 50 years since I arrived from India as a toddler. In Montreal, I experienced the fear of terrorism during the 1970 FLQ crisis and horror after the massacre of 14 women one dark December evening in 1989. My first voting experience was momentous, for I helped to keep the country together in the 1980 Quebec referendum. I did the same during the nail-biter of 1995. Along the way, I never felt any discrimination, any sense of being second-class.

Quebec and Canada allowed me to thrive. I remember the pride I felt when my Harvard University professors told me that Canadian graduate students were the best-prepared – a testament to our excellent undergraduate institutions. And the love I felt for my compatriots during the massive 1995 pro-Canada rally in Montreal. It reminded me of the hajj – a sea of individuals from near and far, united in their love for a noble ideal. Differences melted into a shared vision of the future.

However, the mood changed in Quebec after then-premier Jacques Parizeau’s “money and the ethnic vote” comment the night of the 1995 referendum. For the first time, I was told to “go back home,” while walking my eight-month-old daughter in a stroller. When I moved to Ottawa, a man, proudly brandishing his Canadian Legion jacket, told me the same. Then came the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Although there were a few more incidents, I never feared for myself or my children. On the contrary – friends, neighbours and complete strangers renewed my faith in the basic decency of Canadians.

Now, things feel different. I never imagined that the federal government would use its hefty weight to vilify Muslims. Never in 50 years have I felt so vulnerable. For the first time, I wonder if my children will have the opportunity to thrive as I did. One is a budding environmental scientist; one has entrepreneurial goals; the youngest dreams of playing soccer alongside Kadeisha Buchanan. But the Conservative message is: You are Muslim, you are the “other,” you can’t be trusted and you will never belong.

Thankfully, other political leaders have stepped up; Justin Trudeau, Tom Mulcair, Elizabeth May, the Quebec legislature, among others, have denounced the politics of fear, and reiterated the Canadian value of inclusion. We need more people to stand together against all forms of bigotry, whether it’s against Muslims today, or aboriginals every day.

By all means, let’s respectfully discuss our differences, while weaving a tapestry of shared experiences toward a more inclusive country. Our hearts, like the land, are wide enough to mend broken spirits. As the late NDP leader Jack Layton reminded us so eloquently: “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Source: Fifty years in Canada, and now I feel like a second-class citizen – The Globe and Mail

Muslim women sound off on ‘stupid’ niqab debate

CCMW does good work in research, engagement and participation:

The Canadian Council of Muslim Women held an event Sunday in Toronto to hand out awards and discuss concerns in their communities. There was also an opportunity for debate between political parties on where they stand on issues affecting Muslim women in Canada.

But the debate continued to focus on wedge issues rather than major themes affecting all Canadians. That did not sit well with some Muslim women, who say the topic is “just a way to gain votes” ahead of the Oct. 19 election.

“Right now, the federal government is talking about women and [the] niqab, which is not an issue, even for Muslims,” said Zarqa Nawaz, the creator of Little Mosque on the Prairie.

“We’re in a recession, what is the plan to go forward? Those are the things I want to talk about. Not about women in [the] niqab and why she can’t sing the national anthem with her face covered. That’s just stupid.”

Shaheen Ashraf says there’s a negative stigma associated with Muslim garb, which hinders employment opportunities for Muslim women. (CBC)

Maryam Dadabyoy, community relations officer for the National Council on Canadian Muslims, appeared annoyed with the niqab conversation. She says the federal government should be inclusive of all Canadians.

“It’s an issue that won’t go away and it’s not even that important,” Dadabyoy said.

“We need to see a government that just makes us feel more a part of the community and not being ostracized,” she continued. “Not very many women do wear [the] niqab, but it’s being thrown in everyone’s face.”

Muslim women say they feel ‘demonized’

Shaheen Ashraf sits on the national board of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, which hosted the event. She lives in Montreal and says the hotly-debated topic is being heard in her province even though it doesn’t affect her community.

“The whole niqab issue is not an issue for us,” Ashraf said. Instead, she’d like candidates to focus on how Muslim dress affects their ability to move forward in society.

“If you are wearing a scarf, or, for instance, the niqab, you’re not going to get a job. Your credentials don’t count. [Employers] think that if you have a scarf, you don’t have a brain.”

Ashraf states firmly that Muslim women have the right to choose how they dress, just as any other Canadian.

“[Muslim women] feel like they’re being demonized,” Nawaz said.

The upcoming election should be an opportunity for Muslim women to have their real issues heard, the women say.

Source: Muslim women sound off on ‘stupid’ niqab debate – Toronto – CBC News

Zunera Ishaq cleared by court to take citizenship oath wearing niqab

Pretty clear that a large part of the motivation for the appeal is political and to keep issue prominent, given the weak legal case (lack of Ministerial authority to implement administratively):

Regulations have banned wearing of face veils at citizenship ceremonies, but Ishaq challenged the rule and won in Federal Court. On Sept. 18, the Federal Court of Appeal upheld that decision in a quick ruling from the bench. The federal government had sought a stay of the ruling and said it intended to appeal to the Supreme Court.

“I am pleased that the courts have reaffirmed my right to citizenship and to vote,” said Ishaq in a written statement issued to CBC News through the law firm of Waldman & Associates.

“I am disappointed with the government’s focus on my individual case when there is so much more that merits the attention of Canadians at this time,” Ishaq said. “I’m also disappointed that Mr. Harper continually twists the facts of my case for his gain.

“I wish to confirm that I will be identified without my veil for the purposes of the ceremony. This has nothing to do with identity and everything to do with my right  — and the right of all Canadians — to think, believe and dress without government interference,” she said.

Before reciting the oath, would-be Canadians are required to provide multiple proofs of identity. Those who wear face coverings must remove them before the ceremony in private before a citizenship official.

Ishaq is one of two women who have refused to unveil before taking the citizenship oath since the Conservatives introduced the policy directive in 2011.

Conservatives ‘disappointed’

Conservative Party spokesman Chris McCluskey told CBC News in an email, “We are disappointed in the court’s decision, especially as we were waiting on the Supreme Court to hear our appeal.

“We have committed to rectifying this matter going forward by introducing legislation that will require one to show their face while swearing the oath of citizenship. Legislation will be introduced within the first 100 days of a re-elected Conservative government.”

“At this point, the Federal Court of Appeal has made a clear statement that there’s no basis to grant them a stay, that they upheld their previous ruling that this case has nothing to do with the niqab,” said Lorne Waldman, Ishaq’s lawyer, in a telephone interview with CBC News.

“It’s an issue from the rule of law, and the minister acted illegally in creating a policy that went contrary to the legislation, and that’s what this case is about.”

The Department of Citizenship and Immigration must formally invite Ishaq to attend a ceremony. Several are scheduled in Ontario between now and the Oct. 19 election.

Source: Zunera Ishaq cleared by court to take citizenship oath wearing niqab – Politics – CBC News